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What the Scotland Yes campaign should admit

Julian D. A. Wiseman

Abstract: it would be decent of the Yes campaign to admit that it was allowed three big advantages: including the voters it wanted; excluding those it didn’t; and choosing the date. Further, it could admit that it was dishonest to pretend that brotherhood is not a two-way thing.


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Contents: • No; • A task remaining; • ‘Wishful thinking’.


Scotland has chosen, and chosen no. Phew: better for all of us.

 A task remaining

But the Yes campaign has a task remaining.

Please could the Yes campaign acknowledge that it was allowed all the advantages. The Yes campaign chose the voters, including the sixteen and seventeen year olds, happily not admitting that it was because they were more likely to vote Yes. The Yes campaign chose the voters, excluding those born and bred in Scotland but currently outside, happily not admitting that it was because they were more likely to vote No. (I have voted in UK elections from New York, but I know Scots who couldn’t vote in this from England.) Even the date was chosen to maximise the chance of a Yes, 2014 including the Commonwealth Games in Scotland, the Ryder Cup in Scotland, and the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn.

It would be decent of the Yes campaign to admit that these were advantages. The Yes campaign could go further, and admit that one side being allowed all the advantages is less than perfectly democratic.

 ‘Wishful thinking’

There were also two errors by the Yes campaign. Indeed, the ‘errors’ lie somewhere between wishful thinking and outright dishonesty.

If Scotland had chosen to be foreign, the rest of the UK would have honoured that decision to maximum possible extent. We’re happy to agree with France a deal that benefits us, but it must benefit us. That same policy applies to a deal with Norway, with Ireland, and everybody else. Deals with an independent Scotland would have been subject to the same test. Scottish voters would not have tolerated their politicians failing to extract from London the most in return for the least; and it would have been the same in the other direction.

But the Yes campaign argued, in effect, that Edinburgh could treat London as foreign, but that London would treat Edinburgh as a brother. Brotherhood much preferred, but brotherhood is and must be a two-way thing. And has been chosen: hurray!

The Yes campaign could admit that claiming one-way brotherhood was, well, perhaps ‘wishful thinking’.

— Julian D. A. Wiseman
London, 19th September 2014

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