Wednesday, 8 October 2014

The Fearful Victors

Today I witnessed an interesting exchange between some Yes voters and No voters on Twitter.  The No voters were demanding that the Yes voters should accept the verdict of the referendum.  They called the yes voters 'sore losers' and 'childish', and told them they should be 'working towards making things better'.  The Yes voters were also told that they should not be taking over public spaces by holding rallies, and that by doing so they would destabilise Scotland.  I'm paraphrasing, but this is genuinely the sort of sentiment being expressed.

For people whose side won the referendum, the No voters seem to be a pretty fearful bunch.  They seem to be terrified of the thought of the Yes side continuing to campaign for an independent Scotland.  I wonder what it is they fear.

Do they fear the unknown?  It's a possibility.  Humans tend to like sticking to what they know, even if what they know is not a good situation.  They have strategies to cope with the known, and human brains like to stick with well-trodden paths, as it takes less energy.  Another referendum would mean No voters having to think about the issues of Westminster rule vs Holyrood rule, and I think in most cases it leads to cognitive dissonance, which is an uncomfortable feeling that people prefer to avoid.

I tried asking one of the No voters the following: if the situation had been reversed, and Yes had won by 55%, would they have continued to campaign for a United Britain?  They vehemently denied they would.  I think either they were lying or they are very rare amongst No voters.  But even asking this question seemed to frighten them.

I think one thing we need to work on is getting people more familiar with what it is that Holyrood can or can't do.  For example, today it was announced that the Dutch company Abellio has won the franchise to run Scotland's railway services.  Of course there was much derision from the Unionist parties.  Many people seemed to think that the Scottish rail services should have been nationalised, and that the SNP were simply showing that they are 'Tartan Tories' by awarding the franchise to a private company.  What they don't realised is that the SNP government had already extended the existing franchise as much as they could, and that they had no option but to award the new contract.  Nationalising the rail services is not possible under the Railways Act 1993, which does not permit government-owned companies to bid for franchises.  As the awarding of rail franchises is a reserved matter to Westminster, it's not possible for Holyrood to act outwith the terms set out in the Act.

This is just one example, but I think if we start the process of gradually educating people about what the Scottish parliament can or can't do, this might be enough to tip the balance next time.

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