5 May 2014

The visceral hatred of Westminister politics

Sex, greed, over-centralised politics, and London-centricity – they all play their part in the alienation from Westminster politics that many of us are finding within and beyond the M25.

Were it confined to a turning to populists like Boris Johnson, and Nigel Farage, it might not matter so much. Even the piling up of opinion poll scores for Ukip might not matter so much. But this infection of despair, even hatred of Westminster politics, is most evident and focused in Scotland. Scotland, where our own Channel 4 News poll finds only 14 per cent of people who regard themselves as British first, and Scottish second.

More from Channel 4 News: Yes/No Scotland – special report

Having just spent a week in first the Western Isles, and second in Glasgow, hatred of Westminster is by far the most dominant factor in people who told me they were voting yes to Scottish independence. The theme was constantly repeated to me. For some, voting yes is a long, deep-seated desire for an independent Scotland. But for far more it seems to be a relatively recent desire to have nothing to do with what so many spoke of as “the sleaze, dishonesty, and self-serving London-centric politics of Westminster”.

ScottishVote Scottish independence: the view from Port Glasgow

I have come away from Scotland deeply impressed by the high quality of debate, and the relatively low quality of many of the arguments put forward by the no campaign. I’m equally impressed by the range and quality of people who constantly surprised me by their commitment – often recently determined, to vote yes. My sense too is that where the vote on Scottish independence is concerned, Westminster politicians just don’t get it.

Perhaps it should be no surprise. The coalition government boasts just 12 MPs out of 59 in Scotland. And only one of these comes from the dominant party in the coalition, the Conservatives.

One senses on the ground in Scotland that the government has left it to the 41 Labour MPs, Labour MSPs, party workers, and union members to get the no vote out. But some of them, sniffing the possibility of a yes victory, don’t want to be associated with the “no campaign” when they view their political futures after the vote.

There is no evidence of a positive vision for Scotland from the no vote, just a cascade of negative gruesome warnings about currency, pensions and Europe.


It is as if Westminster doesn’t actually care what happens in the Scottish vote. This as the Sunday Herald, the only Scottish paper to increase its circulation this year, this week also became the first to come out and declare for independence.

Inevitably, as someone who neither lives in Scotland nor boasts Scottish blood, I am bound to view this vote from south of the border, despite visiting Scotland regularly. I am bound too to explore the consequences for the rest of the country if Scotland goes independent. Whilst I suspect the “divorce” will be bitter and difficult, perhaps for years, I believe Scotland has the potential benefit in the long term.

As for the consequences of a no vote, the size of the yes vote is bound to force Westminster to look to maximum devolution (termed “devo max”) – passing everything bar foreign affairs, defence and fiscal policy to Edinburgh. Yet the no campaign rarely mentions such an event. And the three Westminster parties who so willingly came together to reject a currency union with Scotland should independence dawn, have steadfastly refused to come together to pledge “devo max”.

Increasingly it looks as if such an all-party pledge might be the only way to erode the yes vote. Yet it is a move I discussed with many with whom I spoke. A good many said they did not trust Westminster to deliver it.

And no-one talks of a Britain without Scotland. For the rest of us, what will the entity in which we live even be called? Hardly “Great”; hardly “United”; and devoid of many of the isles that constitute the present British Isles. Additionally, the knowledge that the Scots will suddenly have what we do not have – localised governance devolved from Westminster – is in danger of generating fury. Scottish independence is likely to have a highly destabilising effect for the rest of us. We only have ourselves to blame.

For too many in Britain, Westminster’s fiddling is breeding political despair. It is despair that seems to be delivering Ukip south of the border and the possibility of a yes vote north of it.

Follow @jonsnowc4 on Twitter

Tweets by @jonsnowC4