19 Sep 2014

Ten conclusions from the #indyref

There’s enough results in to say a victory for no looks highly likely, so here are some initial thoughts…

BRITAIN-SCOTLAND-INDEPENDENCE-VOTE1. Fear works. If the entire media and all major political parties tell you doom is coming it can mobilise people to vote. I see the big turnout areas – Falkirk, Stirling- as delivering the no victory. And as I’ve pointed out before some of the fear was justified economically, especially on light of the interventions from Mark Carney.

2. The SNP could not mobilise anything more than its base. What swung the yes vote from the mid-30s up to where it ends up was a) some big city Labour heartlands swinging towards yes and b) the youth mobilisation in urban areas. The SNP basically failed to offer a radical vision that convinced people and the other, radical yes campaigners were only strong in urban areas. Combined, they did not produce an Obama effect for the simple reason Salmond is not Obama. Labour meanwhile stemmed it’s losses by delivering the vow of more fiscal autonomy and no change to the Barnett formula. Basically there are two kinds of Labour heartland now – the salariat which stuck with no and the excluded urban areas which partly went yes, especially in Glasgow. (I may be simplifying so let’s see the breakdowns)

3. The two key variables at Westminster now are how much tax autonomy Scotland gets and how much voting rights Scottish MPs lose in return, the reciprocal trade offs involved in both mean there is a constitutional question looming: not a crisis but certainly a turning point. There’s talk of a “constitutional convention” here – over land rights, smaller councils. Maybe UK will need one to pull off “the vow”.

4. If what really matters to London is fiscal stability then we might see a bigger offer on fiscal devolution than people expect, combined with a ban on Scottish MPs voting on English issues. Both things hurt Labour, who have the most Scottish MPs and the least radical programme on tax devolution.

5. This is just act one in a political drama. Next come the conferences then the election, then the Euro referendum. In all of them the plebeian anger and energy unleashed in Scotland has the potential to happen in England too. I’ve commented before on how potent the Dan Snow/Eddie Izzard thing was, so it may not only be UKIP that benefits – and I am not just talking elections here. Politics is about more. Yes, weirdly, prefigured what the Euro-out campaign could look like in 2017 in England.

Keep up with the #indyref results – live updates here

6. About two weeks ago Britain appropriated the referendum as a British story. It subsides now – but there is still a Scottish story. That mass activist movement – on the streets and online – will flow back into specific issues; bedroom tax, ATOS, NHS. Fairly certain there will be a Scottish Syriza/Podemos formed that will chip off Labour support – and that adds to an emerging problem for Labour. Basically, Scottish electoral dynamics become very fluid: if Scot Labour MPs can’t vote on English issues, the point of having them slightly wanes.

7. People asking: will we get the never-ending referendum? No. The size of the victory should ensure that. But to avoid a rerun of this in ten years time needs some kind of permanent solution that I’m not sure a flaky coalition can deliver by May 2015.

8. If yes had won, the British state and the political establishment would have been shattered – physically and morally. It would, people said, have allowed a Scandinavian style social democracy experiment onto the British Isles. The lesson of this referendum is you don’t get such major changes for free, or overnight. In fact they rarely happen. But the talk of Nordic style transformation masks the fact that, especially after “the vow”, Scotland will be a big- state, welfare-ist society with relatively high social cohesion. It will be very different, approaching qualitatively different, to England. And it will be successful; so you will have two models on one islandĀ  – the real problem will be for the non-prosperous areas in-between.

9. People understood the issues – especially young people. The education system was a continuous space for discussion of the economics: by the end they were well mapped in people’s minds. I suspect the internet generation was a transmitter of arguments in all directions, and no fairly clearly caught up with yes in use of social media towards the end.

10. Scotland is a brilliant place. It’s cities are full of young, polite educated people, unique businesses, and on top of that now vibrant political debate. Where the crowd in George Square goes now I don’t know.

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