Weds 10 Sept: 08:10pm - polls polls polls
I've been in Glasgow today doing various things - including currently attending an event organised by the excellent Jubilee Debt Campaign on global economics and a fairer Scotland. It's one of many examples of how the debate has broadened hugely, and thousands of people have engaged in the sorts of politics they may well not have otherwise.
In the meantime, a Survation poll is out today.
Obviously this is a bit of a downer for Yes campaigners, in that the poll had been heavily trailed, and many thought this meant yes was ahead. But it does show, in effect, that the race is incredibly close.
On the train to Glasgow, the men next to me were discussing how they were going to convince one of their mums to vote yes. When I got there and sat in a cafe, the people on the table next to me were discussing how they'd been out canvassing for yes the night before. It's clear that yes is still the underdog, but it has a phenomenal movement behind it. This is going to go down to the wire, in a way that Westminster just never thought possible.
Weds 10 Sept, 14:10 on identity
There are a lot of conversations which have been going on in Scotland for a while now, but which people in the rest of the UK are only just catching up with. One of these if about identity and nationhood. For the benefit of those just catching up with all of this, I'd l just like to outline a few key ideas about this.
1) a nation is usually defined as an imagained community.
2) a state is, basically, a government.
3) nationalism is often seen as something along the lines of the idea that the borders of a state should be coterminus with - should correlate to - nations - to imagined communities.
I'm kind of skeptical of nationalism, partly because I don't particuarly see why imagined communities should have much to do with practical questions of governance, and also because I don't think it's possible to have one imagined community in one area - what, for example, about Scotland's traveller communities - often, travellers identify with their own nation. Etc.
Here's what worries me: many people who should know better are expressing that they feel an emotional need to be in the same state as someone in order to be in the same community as them. They don't want to be "divided" from their friends and family. My imagined community, and that of most of my friends, includes university colleagues now scattered around the globe. It includes activists I have Skype meetings with on the other side of the planet. It isn't bounded by geography, and it certainly isn't defined by the sharing of a state. The idea that someone needs to have the same Prime Minister as me in order to be a part of my community, in order for me to feel bonds of solidarity or love with them, is utterly absurd.
And yet it is this emotion, this soft British nationalism, which much of the No campaign, and particularly the "Let's Stay Together" movement trades on. Usually, it's inoffensive muddled thinking. But once in a while, people say things like "I don't want my friends/relatives to be foreigners". And that's just xenophobic. And I've seen too many good people who aren't xenophobes spreading this offensive claptrap in recent days.
Let's be clear. "Foreigner" is a construt of xenophobes and has no place in modern political discourse. There is nothing about having a different government from someone that makes them less loveable or less friendly. Any attempt to claim that there is should be given the short shrift that it deserves.
Anyone who feels a genuine saddness at the loss of their Britishness, on the other hand, should be calmly reassured that identities don't depend on your government, Scotland will still be a part of the island that is Britain just as Norway has remained a part of Scandanavia. It's understandable that people worry about how the change will impact on their sense of who they are, but the identity is theirs, and nothing needs to be taken from them.
Weds 10 Sept, 13:44 Standard Life and the effing Tories
I said yesterday that Cameron would presumably use his pulpit well while he's up here. So far, he seems to have communicated two messages: Standard Life's worries (tied up with a jittery stock market), and that we shouldn't use this as an excuse to "kick the effing Tories".
On the first - it now seems that fear of the financial markets is more likely to deliver a no vote than is the no campaign. Of course there are many people who genuinely think we're better together. But it also seems reasonable to assume, given the closeness of the polls, that there are many people who would rather vote yes, but who are voting no out of fear for their savings.
They shouldn't worry to much. Stock markets fell after Obama was elected. Investors don't like uncertainty. They tend to rally afterwards, once people know what's happening. Because, good investors see opportunity in everything, once they know what it is. I'm much more concerned about how many people will see investment opportunities in a new country being set up, and the need to fight them off when their ideas are bad for the rest of us, than I am about the flight of capital. Likewise, Standard Life threatened before the 79 and 97 referendums that they would leave. They never did.
On the second, it seems an odd PR strategy. Like, if someone in a school yard fight said "don't kick me there, it won't hurt at all if you don't kick me there". Of course, he's right. Kicking the Tories isn't a great reason to vote yes. But understanding that we have a system which consistantly puts a particular sort of person in charge, and that the name for that kind of person is "Tory" does make sense. And anyway, many more are voting yes for the chance to build a better country, not just to tell Cameron and his palls where to get off.
Weds 10 Sept, 08:30: On the saltire and satire.
First, we've a couple of great pieces on the referendum today - first, from Anthony Barnett, co-founder of openDemocracy and of Charter 88, we have a thank you letter to Scotland. Second, we have a great article by life-long peace activist Molly Harvey and her husband, the former leader of the Iona Community, John Harvey. Do check them out.
Also, I just wanted to write another quick note about the saltire incident. For those who missed it, Cameron announced that he'd fly the Scottish flag over Downing Street. Much to everyone's mirth, as they raised the flag, live on Sky TV, it fell down. I popped into an office building, and was giggling at all of this. The guy in reception asked what I was laughing about, so I told him the first half - that they'd announced that they were going to fly the Saltire over number ten.
He didn't believe me. He laughed. He said "um, really..?" He still didn't believe me. I then told him about the falling down. He laughed even louder, but doubted even more. Then he watched the video.
The saltire on Downing Street is a powerful symbol in this campaign. It's a flapping sign that they don't have a clue what we're talking about. The no campaign has long been obsessed with nationalism and identity - how they feel "British" or how they're proud to be "Scottish" (why? as a diehard SNP activist said to me last night, how can you be proud of an accident of birth?). The yes campaign has focussed, as the SNP has for decades now, on the failures of the British State and of London rule. Sometimes, the Saltire has been clumsily used to represent that. But all of that meaning is lost when it flutters above Downing Street. It becomes a blue and white signpost, which reads "our democracy has failed us so much, that we have no idea what you people are talking about". It is a perfect piece of satire on the no campaign. No. Not quite. One thing would be funnier... if they had tried to raise the saltire, and it had refused to go up... oh, yes.