Belief in Scottish independence may see nationalism outperform current poll ratings…

Kevin Toolis provides a fascinating take (h/t John at Nuzhound) on the quiet unionist syndrome noted here yesterday when he looks to Northern Ireland for lessons to draw for Scotland which will in the Autumn time begin to pick up speed in the run to an election… For its adherents Nationalism, he notes, “possesses an intrinsic moral good” which “trumped all personal sacrifice..”

…Whatever the polls say, the Yes believers are likely to turn out in far greater numbers to vote as they have an unequivocal belief in their cause. This nationalist base is far more united and no amount of negative arguments, economic or otherwise, will deter them.

Inevitably, the No camp has a far harder task. How do you get your electorate to get up in the morning and go to the polling station to positively vote No? The No camp can appeal either by dangerously sophisticated complex constitutional or economic arguments. Or they can drive their voters to the polls negatively by blind fear.

The lessons of Ireland are however of little comfort for Unionism. Regardless of who picks up the bill, the political prizes usually go to those with the sharpest nationalist defined goals rather than a luke-warm marriage bed of compromise. If the nationalists can set the clock, the agenda, for everything to be measured up against the “N” of nationalism then all countervailing arguments, and the cause of Unionism, are doomed because all those political positions will always fail the SNP nationalist bar test. There is no positive ground for the Unionist camp to occupy, just a slow defeatist retreat towards the nationalist position.

That ascendant nationalist party will in time strangle and destroy the half-hearted, equivocating political rivals. “Compromise” is indeed a dirty word in nationalist politics.

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  • Ruarai

    The contrast with NI attitudes may be more relevant here than any comparison. The contrast is that in NI people approach these questions with little sense of what having or losing governing power means – since no one has any real experience of exercising any.

    In Scotland, people have always associated their vote with someone who may become Prime Minister and the leader of a party that will yield real political and economic power.

    For that reason, arguments grounded in material realities have much more influence in Scotland than they currently do in NI’s tribal performance art.

    That’s not to say the Nationalist argument in Scotland collapses upon connecting with economic realities (the Scots are perfectly capable of governing themselves, despite unionist hysteria), it’s simply to say that the small questions of policy intention are likely to prove much bigger drivers of voter preference in Scotland than they presently are in NI.

    NI has much catching up to do in this respect.

  • Alanbrooke

    It’s the same argument that told us Communism is inevitable. Nothing is, the status quo is more likely to hold.

  • Ruarai[2.21] Alex Salmond must be looking forward to NI unionists going over to appear on tv debates in Scotland to, what amounts to try convincing Scottish voters not to believe in themselves, and the Scots viewers will, in turn, know from the NI unionists body language that they are making the Union argument for their own selfish reasons, not the future of Scotland, as they fear the cold winds from England after a Scots exit.

  • JH

    “It’s the same argument that told us Communism is inevitable. Nothing is, the status quo is more likely to hold.”

    To be fair there might be a bit of confirmation bias there on your part. Plenty of fairly radical change has happened even in recent times that has gone well against the status quo.

    After all, communism didn’t force devolution of power from the central UK Government then proceed to take almost unprecedented control of that power.

    Nor did it turn it’s electoral fortunes around within basically two parliamentary terms.

    If instead of looking for precedents, of which there are few, you look at trends, both inside and outside of Scotland, the story looks very different.

  • DC

    can you think of any states that have broken away and become newly and truly sovereign under – for want of a better term – western democratic capitalist conditions? Rather than eastern europe where new states were created as a new style of governance was needed after the collapse of communism – if that’s what you were meaning re trends?

    Great article though, nationalism has centuries of historical grievances to sustain it and draw on (to those that draw a lot of strength from history – the past is a foreign country they do things differently there). Regardless of the modern lifestyle that the existing state offers nationalists will take this for granted. the results will be interesting as to whether unionist-minded people in n ireland should keep up with appeasement of all things green here, as what’s the point given half a chance flags and all will come down here anyway, may as well keep on dancing till the music really has to stop eg alliance taking the flag down maybe one or two or three electoral terms ahead of its time to make people feel better. whenever it will likely come down for good anyway despite alliance’s attempt to try and prevent that on good relations grounds, take a look at Derry if people think this flag position will last. is it really going to be a case of regardless of what you do – nationalist demands if given in to – just like over-indulged children – will in the end become insatiable. so – why bother?

    generally nationalism and any new state will have to contend with the power of the most dynamic economic and social system in history – capitalism. It has always trumped nationalism.

    Basically – money talks. There is definitely safety in numbers. look at the mess of ireland – one serious crash during its EU free movement period and rather than hang about to rebuild ireland, around 1 million migrate to england lol. Cracker spirit there lads and lassies – feck off to england where the money’s at!

    perhaps a silent-ish pro-union campaign really is the best one at this stage?

  • Alanbrooke


    believe it when it happens. So far after 2 years of totally dire campaigning by both sides the polls are more or less where they started,. 13 tedious months to go.

  • JH


    Oh boy.

    I’m going to keep my reply short by assuming you’re being facetious.

    You complain about nationalism and then immediately give off stink about flags.

    I actually agree with you. Since the Thatcher-Reagan era, economics trumps almost everything else. Which is why I suspect there’s a nascent movement towards small regional/nation states in Europe; currently manifesting itself in the Scottish and Catalan independence movements.

    As globalisation increases, small, agile economies do best. You’re right about Ireland, the collapse was devastating. It should have ruined the country for a generation. Yet we’re talking about growth already. Same with Iceland. 250,000 people and a banking collapse that would’ve shaken a state 10 times the size. And yet they’re back in strong growth.

    I understand you’re upset. There’s a large contingent of people here who I suspect are very scared. They see their former enemies in government, buoyed by a growing voter base that has made them share minority status within a generation. They’re worried about the narrative and who’s going to write it. I have a certain amount of sympathy for that. But it helps to keep some perspective.

  • JH


    I’m looking forward to it myself, either way it should be very interesting! 🙂

  • DC

    Relatively speaking Spain is not long out of fascism so maybe that could explain Catalan still rumbling on? It’s only really getting breathing space now?

    I didn’t mean to be smart i was just putting it out there and if you can point out one state as mentioned i would be interested to think about that, i just genuinely can’t think of one that comes to mind other than those newly created states post communism…

    And it is clear that thatcherism has been harmful to one nation stuff, harmful if not fatal to one nation toryism – as it ruined industry which used to bind a lot of people together under british banners of british gas and british rail etc etc, in fact in wiping out so-called propped up failing industries, thatcherism just ended up propping up failed banks instead. From one extreme to the other – that’s where we are at today imo.

    may as well just stuck with propping up industry only on a smaller scale, but no need to wipe it all out and replace it with nothing ruining the lives of the people that lost their jobs and communities. madness esp for scottish relations re england and westminster governance.

  • Tochais Síoraí

    Much of the No vote in Scotland seems to be very soft. All to play for.

    @DC ‘… serious crash during its EU free movement period and rather than hang about to rebuild ireland, around 1 million migrate to england lol…..’

    Did you pull that figure from your arse? Net migration from the Republic is around 50,000 a year (90 out, 40 in) at the minute. More to Oz than England over the last few years, , I reckon.

  • DoppiaVu

    “As globalisation increases, small, agile economies do best”

    What, like China?

  • DC

    Hi – TS.

    Yes, a million irish persons in post-crash movement to London might not be that accurate, the figure is closer to 900,000 and is taken from the 2011 census which will include irish that moved to London before and indeed after the crash – i guess this is what happens when you hang out online with Ulster Press Centre!

  • JH


    Actually China’s a great example.

    Would you like to go live in China? I mean not taking the wealth you’ve accumulated in this much smaller, more open economy but actually living as the average Chinese worker or farmer does?

    Didn’t think so.

    It’s true they’ve had massive growth in the last decade but let’s face it, they’ve had plenty of growing room. Per capita GDP is still a fraction of the UK and Ireland’s, life expectancy is almost ten years behind.

    Assuming, of course, you’re talking about the Peoples’ Republic of China and not the Republic of China (Taiwan), which separated in the late 40’s, has a fraction of the population and GDP per Capita and LE much closer to western countries.

  • Tochais Síoraí

    @ DC

    Not accurate????. Not even close, old chap There are 129,807 people in London born in the Republic of Ireland. a drop of 2.2% from 2001. You’ll find there are just over half a million ROI born people in all of Britain. And the majority of them have been there for decades.

    Although thiese are just the UK 2011 census figures. Maybe you have a better source?

  • DC


    Main article: Irish migration to Great Britain

    …Today, millions of residents of Great Britain are either from the island of Ireland or have Irish ancestry. Around six million Britons have an Irish grandfather or grandmother (approximately 10% of the UK population).[13] 900,000 ethnic Irish people live in the capital (12% of the city’s population);

  • DoppiaVu


    So, to prove your assertion about how smaller economies will do best in the future, you use the fact that the Irish may have accumulated wealth in the past?

    Sorry, that doesn’t work. There’s no logic to that comparison at all.

  • DoppiaVu


    Actually, just re-read your post and I think I slightly misinterpreted what you said wrt accumulated wealth.

    However, your argument still doesn’t stack up as you are talking about human rights & quality of living standards that have already been banked by most western nations, both big ones and small ones. That’s got nothing to do with the assertion that smaller economies will do better in future.

  • George

    Yes, a million irish persons in post-crash movement to London might not be that accurate, the figure is closer to 900,000 and is taken from the 2011 census which will include irish that moved to London before and indeed after the crash – i guess this is what happens when you hang out online with Ulster Press Centre!

    That figure is wrong, actually so wrong I can’t believe you actually serious in posting it.

    Taking the crash as starting in 2007, the CSO figures are as follows for total emigration from Ireland:
    2007 – 42,200
    2008 – 45,300
    2009 – 65,100
    2010 – 65,300
    2011 – 76,400

    That gives a total of around 295,000 compared to 146,000 in the five years prior to that.

    Of those 295,000 people, 62,300 went to the UK.

    However, I should add that of those 295,000 who emigrated between 2007 and 2011, only a total of 112,800 were Irish, the rest being other nationalities.

    Taking into a account that a significant number of Eastern Europeans, Africans etc might have emigrated from Ireland to the UK in the last 5 years too, the figure for Irish people going to the UK is likely to be around 30,000.

    I might add that in the same period (2007-2011) a total of 55,100 people immigrated to Ireland from the UK.

    So if anything more British people are coming here than Irish people going to the UK. But don’t let facts get in the way of you believing that 900,000 Irish people have moved to the UK since the economic crisis began.

    If at some point you are interested in facts, the figures are all here:,and,Migration,Estimates,April,2011.pdf

  • Morpheus

    Don’t forgot about the 100,000 who returned home to Ireland in that period as well George (again CSO figures)

  • DC

    That figure i posted is what it is. I didn’t put it there myself you know.

  • DC

    on wiki i mean.

  • George

    I am sure that a significant percentage of the migrants to Ireland were returning emigrants but either way I really just posted those figures to show we are not talking about a haemorrhaging population.

    Now if DC had been talking about the good old 1980s Ireland it could perhaps have been a different story. This crisis just doesn’t have the same all-encompassing sense of hopelessness as that period when everyone was leaving and nobody was coming.

  • Tochais Síoraí

    DC When confronted with facts and figures from official sources you resort to wikipedia’s ‘ethnic Irish’ numbers i.e people who include those with Irish ancestry and indeed many people from NI. Enough said. Perhaps the only explanation is that you’re deliberately trolling here to get the topic away from the original subject matter & we’ve taken the bait. So back to Scotland, everybody………

  • DC

    i had that figure in my head and associated it with my comment as proof of the pulling power of bigger cities and economies – ok it wasn’t as accurate as i thought, understatement.

    but like i said – the figure is what it is. i genuinely remembered that figure.

  • turnpike

    295,000 is about 7% of ROI’s population, an equivalent emigration in the UK would be 4, 200,000!! And it’s the brightest and best. However, leaves plenty of room for a few NI ‘plastics’ to move down….

  • Tochais Síoraí

    Ok, DC – there are indeed a lot of people in Britain proud of their Irish ancestry and indeed many who’ big up’ their Irishness because it’s very trendy, don’t you know. Maybe this could be the weekend where you yourself embrace your inner Irishman and come the next census you could be self-identifying as an Irishman in the UK (although I’d say you’ll probably be British in the (reunited) Ireland census!)

    Now, Scotland voting yes is currently at 7/2. Looks a bit long to me. And Yes is at 41-42% on the % market.
    What think ye all of those odds?

  • JH


    “you are talking about human rights & quality of living standards that have already been banked by most western nations, both big ones and small ones.”

    My point was to demonstrate that even huge growth in an economy can flatter to deceive when the GDP per capita shows that most people live far below the poverty line. I’m indicating that China’s growth comes more from the (long overdue) opening of it’s markets and thus a ‘normalisation’ in global terms, rather than its size being a positive factor in its growth.

    In short I suspect even China would do better if it was a loose federation of smaller, independent states.

    “That’s got nothing to do with the assertion that smaller economies will do better in future.”

    It does, if only to show that the exception to my assertion is a giant state with a centralised, communist government. Since it’s unlikely that any of the countries we are talking about will assume that particular character my assertion stands.

  • JH

    I meant a loose federation of *fiscally* independent states. Before the pedants come on and say you can’t be ‘independent’ if you’re in a federation. You can be, economically!

  • Barnshee

    The sheer unmitigated joy that would result in England should Scotland. N Ireland (and the ROI) just fuck off and sink some 1000 miles west would be unconfined.

    A burdensome residue remove

  • George

    “295,000 is about 7% of ROI’s population, an equivalent emigration in the UK would be 4, 200,000!! And it’s the brightest and best. However, leaves plenty of room for a few NI ‘plastics’ to move down….”

    I don’t think it is brightest and best who are leaving. Also I am afraid this isn’t leading to any more room being made than in the UK.

    An average of 350,000 emigrate from the UK a year, with British citizens accounting for 150,000 of that figure. That’s 0.25% of the population. On average, 22,000 Irish citizens emigrate each year from Ireland. That’s 0.5% of the population.

    Number of births in UK: 807,000 which is 1.3%
    Number of births in Ireland: 74,000 which 1.7%

    In other words, between the jigs and the reels, Ireland and the UK’s populations are on very similar growth trajectories. A much different situation to the 1980s.

  • Barnshee[11.20]While the loss of Ni[The loan to Dublin is to be paid back and there’s little or no animus toward people from RoI, the loss of Scotland would matter in English political circles as the UK would then be seen globally as England, and two economically unviable add-ons. The official full name of the UK after a Scottish exit would have to be renamed and Union flag replaced,while if only NI was ditched, the UK title would the remain ‘….of Great Britain’ period.

  • Kensei

    I’ve seen this effect claimed a lot but can anyone actually show it in practice?

    To be a little reductive, there are only 2 worthwhile narratives in politics:

    1. Those bozos will mess everything up!
    2. Time for a change

    One seems to trump two for me unless a tipping point has been reached; even then it’s not always sure. Even after a devastating crash and an unpopular Prime Minister, the Tories still could not win the last election. People are small-c conservative, in the main.That’s why the No forces in Scotland are running “Project Fear”. It’s likely to be effective.

    There just aren’t enough true believers on either side.

  • Barnshee

    ” political circles as the UK would then be seen globally as England,”

    The English see the UK ” ” globally as England, For political reasons -mostly the English succession- they have politely tolerated( and indeed funded) the rabble in rain soaked Ireland and the back stabbers in Scotland who sold out their fellow countrymen via the ” clearances”

    The need for the Union is no more

    Scotland will vote to stay in the Union An English parliament will come into being Eventually the regions will receive the tax collected in that region.

    If more is required the regions will be invited to raise it themselves ( in a manner compatible with English Fiscal systems) Watch the shit hit the fan

    The English paymaster will continue to rule the show

    If you don`t like it foxtrot oscar

  • RG Cuan

    New poll shows only a 9% difference between the two camps. The Yes vote continues to increase slowly and the gap is decreasing…

  • HeinzGuderian

    I guess it all depends on which poll/newspaper spin you run with ? 🙂

  • terence patrick hewett

    @ DC

    As an engineer I rather disagree with your assertion back there that “Thatcherism” did all that damage to industry. The world is driven by business, science, engineering and technology. The development of the transistor by Bardeen/Brattain, at AT&T Bell Labs in 1947 and the mass production of same, wrought changes in society that dwarfed any of those achieved by political philosophy. The invention the World Wide Web by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989 has ensured a barely controlled dialogue between millions and has changed the world forever. Thatcherism did shackle the unions; all the better for industry; allowing it to compete internationally.

    The essentially luddite attitude of the British union movement creates the impression that technological advance can be resisted; it can’t, and it is a cruel deception to say that it can. The false reality of non-job creation will always, in the end, be engulfed by the tsunami of technological change. We now make as much as we ever did, except that now we are into high-value high technology products not low value mass production.

    The unpalatable truth is that Artificial Intelligence is about to sunder the link between economic growth and jobs and the relatively inexhaustible supply of ever cheaper computing power will have profound effects upon the order of society; certainly within the lifetime of our children.The word “machine” covers a whole host of devices. Currently an enormous part of our life is now controlled by mathematical algorithms once set in motion, chunter on until they reach their conclusion. These systems and devices remove whole swathes of functions completely.

    These are not the fulminations from the overheated brain of a techno-nerd; these technologies and proto-technologies are already in place here, now. Advances in computing, quantum computing, materials, nanotechnology, biotechnology and cognitive science will change the world in ways we cannot hope to predict. But what we have to appreciate is that devices inspired by artificial intelligence are not intelligent in the sense that they are sentient beings; they have no moral sense and no real intelligence; it just appears that they have these qualities.

    We can no longer afford to view the future as a place that can look after itself: if we do then the future will devour us.

  • RG Cuan

    The poll you linked to HEINZGUDERIAN is from the beginning of May. The one i referred to is from the weekend.

    It’s still all to play for in Alba.

  • Barnshee

    I prophecy with confidence

    1 The SNP will lose their control of the Scottish assembly
    2 Scotland will stay in the Union
    £ The SNP will remain as a SF style rump sucking frantically on the tax payers teat (nd bleating in much the same way)

  • Michael


    You might well be correct in your prophesying (I don’t know you, so have idea whether you have a track record with that). However I hazard a guess that if there is a No vote in 2014 that in fact there’s every chance the SNP will win the 2016 Holyrood election. Why, if they were to loose the referendum you might ask. Well, for the same reason they won a majority in 2011, that is the Scottish electorate (regardless of their views on independence) see them as standing up for Scottish interests than Labour or the Lib Dems (the Tories not being in the running to win Holyrood elections).

    So, they are unlikely to be a rump. Also, if you cared to notice, SF and the SNP are rather different beasts.

  • Michael

    @Barnshee. I detect sour grapes and passive aggressive victim mentality in your comments – you seem to be labouring under the delusion that everyone hates the English, hence your declaration that there would be rejoicing if Scotland, NI and the RoI (not Wales, or were they forgotten) should head off and sink in the Atlantic.

    I hadn’t realised the English (or at least you) were so full of hatred what a pity – there’s already enough hatred in the world without you adding to it. Peace and love.