In the aftermath of the Scottish independence referendum, Allan Little of the BBC writes that “Two Scotlands have emerged”.
“Those who voted “Yes” have spent the last two years pioneering a new way of engaging in politics; two years imagining a better country. They are not going to un-imagine it now.
Their campaign often seemed more like a carnival than a political rally. That carnival is going to go on.”
Two Scotlands have emerged because people were given the power to choose. Suddenly, people had a new and profound choice to make; they had to think about how they wanted to be governed. The choice was between the economically and politically powerful but pervasive and unbalanced partnership of the British and Scottish States, and a less powerful and less pervasive Scottish State alone.
The innate urge for liberty, for self-determination, in all humans is prompting the embittered 45% to ask themselves “why can’t we be governed in the way we want?” “Why must we, who peacefully disagree, obey the majority?” There is no reason why, in fact. It is perfectly possible and moral for them to be governed in the way they want. But that’s not going to happen, at least not in their life time. And they know that. This is a source of frustration.
It is this denial of freedom of action to peaceful people, inherent to democracy, that is at the root of the resentment felt by the 45%, whether they are conscious of it or not. Every human being wants to be free to think and act. And the only thing that’s ever stopped them is ancient political systems and philosophies premised on the belief that they shouldn’t be. But none, including democracy, has ever possessed a sound argument for why they shouldn’t be.
This whole episode has had, I think, a positive effect in terms of the political ideal of liberty – particularly the result. It has raised many people’s consciousness about what degree of freedom they have, even as smaller collectives, such as the 45% who voted “Yes”. I’ve even seen people on twitter suggest that cities like London should have similar political and economic independence to that which Scotland had the chance to have. This tweet was even featured on the BBC’s rolling coverage of the referendum. That’s pretty radical stuff for this day and age. Encouraging.
1.6 million people in Scotland wanted to be governed by a much smaller State. That’s great. Best of all, a whopping 71% of those people were aged sixteen or seventeen.
73% of those who voted “No” were aged sixty five or over. This tells us that the big State is most popular with those to whom it has made all the promises, and least popular with those whose wealth, however modest, is earmarked to fulfil them. But then, that’s hardly surprising.