The devout believers of the yes and no camps
Late in the campaign, they couldn’t have left it any later, the o camp has found its passion. At Maryhill Community Centre in Glasgow, Gordon Brown gave a charged almost revivalist speech to a hall of fired up supporters.
He even invoked the marriage vows his clergyman father used to administer – let no man put asunder. I attended a rally in the same building in July and the atmosphere was much flatter.
In all the months I’ve been visiting Scotland, I don’t think I’d seen so many “no” posters as I saw in the room today. Activists at the Brown rally acknowledged they didn’t have them in their windows at home and said that was because they felt intimidated.
In Glasgow’s main shopping precinct, by the statue of Donald Dewar, the yes camp held a charged, open-air rally. Not so surprising that, The yes events are always pretty charged. They shouted at the top of their voices then listened as Elaine C Smith spoke of “changing the world” and daring to dream “utopia”. A yes supporter said to me: “When did you last hear anyone in England talk like that?”
The yes supporters were speaking of how they’d changed Scotland even if they didn’t win. Westminster could not ride roughshod over Scotland any more. What would that mean? How far will the SNP administration and its yes campaign allies feel, in the event of a no vote, they have a mandate to resist UK policies? How will Ed Miliband want to position himself to make sure he can win back Labour supporters who’ve chosen to ignore his message on independence?
Scotland’s left has been the dominant force of this campaign but it spoke with two distinct voices. Both sides claimed the mantle of social justice, never more than in their closing appeals to the voters. Both sides maligned the other’s motives. Yes supporters accuse the Labour party of being indistinguishable from the Tories and the Labour party accuse the yes camp of putting all other causes at the mercy of their obsessive passion for separatism.
Ask supporters in either camp how they’ll feel if the other lot win and the word you hear most often is “devastated”. A yes supporter said she would want to slit her wrists. On both sides I’ve heard supporters talk of emigrating if they lose.
In party polling for elections you normally find a big chunk of people who support a party but disagree with or doubt big chunks of the party line. What’s different about the two camps in this campaign is that about 80 per cent of the support on either side is devout, believing every bit of the team message.
Peter Kellner of YouGov says the figures are so striking it’s reminiscent of the “culture wars” in the US. In Scotland, it’s not about guns or abortion … but on the economy, the constitution, the welfare state, people are entrenched in opposing camps with a lot of people on each side believing they have a monopoly of wisdom and motive.
Whoever wins, that’s a challenging divide to heal.
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