RECENT CONVERSATIONS and internet posts have left me with the feeling that the independence argument is in fact won, and the ice-sheet of No that’s been stifling the hopes of younger generations is beginning to crack and break up. First up is the dog-walker, whom I reported on earlier, who had a visceral hatred of nationalists because of what they were doing to the country he loved. Leaving aside the question of why loving one’s country isn’t nationalism, this man is trapped in circular, content-free thinking:
– I love my country.
– How do we know you love your country?
– Because I want it to stay in the UK. That’s where it belongs.
– How do you know it belongs there?
– Because it does. And I love my country.
This isn’t political or social thinking, this is emotional masturbation. And the problem for these people at the high end of the No scale is that, when faced with facts or concrete thinking, they have nowhere to go: they can only retreat into vitriol. There’s a glorious instance of this in the comments to an article by Lesley Riddoch – surely the least vituperative of commentators – in today’s Scotsman , where the level of vilification is beyond belief, and is a disgrace to any society claiming to have a tradition of constructive debate. We should take heart from this. When the campaign gets going, the No side’s only resource will be evidence-free fervour, and that’s not going to withstand the well-argued set of benefits that the Yes side is going to be promoting.
Overall, the more closely the more you look at the Unionist output, the less content you find. Chokka Blog’s latest post (to take an example) rests its case on “the bonds of moral solidarity that bind us”, but he doesn’t tell us what they are: for that we have to wait for Part II, and it’s now three months since Chokka Blog posted anything. Perhaps he lost confidence in the bonds of moral solidarity when he saw the UK Conservative Government hounding immigrants, sanctioning benefits, murdering spies with nerve-gas, bombing Yemenis, and breaking up families by deporting foreign wives and mothers. The Scottish popular press has taken a different approach, inexorably trivialising the debate, with attacks on minimum alcohol pricing, the baby box, and the cost of the First Minister’s temporary accommodation – all stories that were deconstructed by the independence website Wings Over Scotland. Wings has time and again shown how empty the Unionist anti-SNP claims are, and for this is of course vilified daily – “vicious underbelly to the independence campaign”, “scum”, “bastard”. But the only substantive accusation made against the site is that the blogger, Stuart Campbell (it’s a one-man show) lives in Bath. These are not arguments, and none of this is a threat to the case for independence. You would expect Unionists to start rebutting the main planks of the independence case – you’d expect them to say what’s wrong with using our own resources to deliver prosperity, with having our own immigration policy, with creating a fairer society embodying social democratic values, with deciding for ourselves whether to leave the EU or to keep Trident, and with not being the submerged one-tenth of a voice in the all-UK Parliament. But none of these gets an airing.
Of course, to say the argument is won doesn’t mean the vote is won, and there will be varied opinions on how best to do that. It will be unpleasant on the personal level, because the Unionists will scream and have tantrums. It may also become unpleasant on the political level, if the UK Government starts removing devolved powers and abolishes the Scottish Parliament. But there’s nothing like knowing how good your case is to keep you engaged and moving forward.