Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Referendum retrospectives

Three months past the referendum and we now have retrospectives of it appearing right on schedule.

Last week I bought and read Disunited Kingdom: How Westminster Won A Referendum But Lost Scotland by Iain Macwhirter.  It's an interesting read which manages to be pretty well-balanced given that Mr Macwhirter was a Yes voter, albeit one who was persuaded to it rather than one who was a Yes supporter from the off.  He examines the mistakes made by both sides in the referendum and discusses the unexpected outcome, whereby the 'losers' on the Yes side are moving from strength to strength while the Unionist 'winners' appear to be disintegrating into in-fighting within parties and trying to put one over on the other parties.  I thoroughly recommend this one, although I suspect Unionist readers might find it a little less appealing.

Meanwhile the Guardian have been running a two-part retrospective entitled 'The real story of the Scottish referendum' written by Severin Carrell, Nicholas Watt and Patrick Wintour.  You can read part one here and part two here.  Unsurprisingly this is written very much from a Unionist perspective.  The title is a bit of a giveaway for starters, as is the fact that it's in the Guardian, still cheerleading for the Labour party.  Also there's the fact that Unionists 'plan' while Alex Salmond 'plots' - no bias there then.  In general the tone is very much of approval of the actors in the Better Together campaign and disparaging of those in the Yes campaign.

The articles contain the results of interviews with some of the key players, and are an interesting insight into what was going on behind the scenes of the Better Together campaign.  It has revealed that David Cameron's linking of EVEL with more devolution for Scotland was something he was strongly advised against, but which he went ahead with anyway, to the dismay of the Better Together team.  It also shows that the Queen's so-called off-the-cuff remark to a member of the public, saying that she hoped the Scots would think very carefully about their decision ,was nothing of the kind, instead being a carefully calibrated deliberate act.  So much for the much-vaunted neutrality of the constitutional monarch. 

Both publications point out the major weakness of the Yes campaign, the currency question.  I personally thought we should have gone for our own currency ultimately, using the pound in the short-term while this was set up, either formally or informally.  I understand the insistence on the currency union (they didn't want to frighten the horses), but it was the Achilles heel of the campaign.

I have no doubt we will see more of these retrospectives appearing in the near future.  They will be invaluable in helping us to plan for the next referendum.




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