The momentum behind a “yes” vote for Scottish independence continues to gather pace.
Tomorrow’s Sunday Times poll by YouGov puts the Yes campaign ahead at 51 per cent, with No on 49 per cent when undecided voters are excluded (even when they’re included, ‘yes’ are still ahead by two points: 47-45). In the space of four weeks, ‘No’ has blown a 22-point lead.
I think back to long childhood summers spent some way to the north of Inverness. The past may, very literally, about to become another country.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph (before the latest poll), Charles Moore:
If you look at the list of British prime ministers since 1900, about half of them have been full Scots or of Scottish descent. Non-Scots quite often represented Scotland. The half-American, half-English Winston Churchill sat for a Scottish seat for many years, and so did Herbert Asquith, who came from Yorkshire. The first Labour prime minister, Ramsay Macdonald, who was entirely Scottish, sat for a Welsh seat, as did the equally Scottish Keir Hardie, the first leader of the Labour Party.
This intermingling is an example of what, in other contexts, people now celebrate with the word “diversity”. So complete has it been that it is barely regarded as such. It is British cultural self-confidence. Now we might be about to lose it. . . .
The interesting question is, Why? Never before in the era of universal suffrage would there have been the faintest chance of Scotland voting Yes. What has changed?
Of course it relates partly to Scotland’s century-long economic decline. It has more, though, to do with the idea of Britain. When that idea was strong, it acted magnetically. As it has faded, it has produced centrifugal pressures. Some countries weld themselves together through a constitution, like the United States, others through ethnicity or religion. Britain did it chiefly through its Parliament. Parliament weakened: so did Britain…
…In 1972, the House of Commons voted to subordinate itself to what was then called the European Economic Community. It handed power up, away from itself and from the people it represented. The effects were cumulative rather than immediate, but by the end of the Eighties, they were apparent in most areas of British life (hence Mrs Thatcher’s anger during her last years in office).
…Under Tony Blair, Labour’s response to this decline was not to restore Parliament, but to empower other institutions to make up for it. His Human Rights Act effectively confirmed that the rule of law – one of Britain’s most famous achievements – must now submit to exterior judicial authority. Hence, in the era of Islamist terrorism, people who hate us and wish to do us harm can live here, unextradited and on benefits. It was not easy to feel proud of being British when Abu Hamza was waving his hook on the streets of north London.
Part of the same process was the de-legitimation of British emblems. I remember suggesting to the organisers of the vast Countryside March in London in 2002 that everyone taking part should be issued with a Union flag. “Oh no,” they said. “We’d love to do that, but we’re advised that the flag has become a symbol of racism.” Racism? That flag interweaves the symbols of four nations!
Into this vacuum of confidence have rushed other forces. . . .
And, yes, there’s a lesson for these United States in this unpicking, this unraveling . . .