Outside the marginals

a commentary on the politics that followed the UK 2010 & 2015 elections

London media and Scottish Independence

In Tuesday’s Guardian George Monbiot bemoans the (mainly London) media coverage of the Scottish Independence Referendum.

Living within their tiny circle of light, most senior journalists seem unable to comprehend a desire for change. If they notice it at all, they perceive it as a mortal threat, comparable perhaps to Hitler. They know as little of the lives of the 64 million inhabiting the outer darkness as they do of the Andaman islanders. Yet, lecturing the poor from under the wisteria, they claim to speak for the nation.

… But to those within the circle, politics still begins and ends in Westminster. The opinions of no one beyond the gilded thousand with whom they associate is worthy of notice.
The Guardian 16 September 2014 : How the media shafted the people of Scotland

I accept the examples of “gilded circles” which always make me feel queasy, but I wonder whether good old (bad old?) geographical remoteness plays a bigger part?

From afar we can read Scotland’s Future with a degree of emotional detachment and be annoyed by its presumptuous assertions masquerading as certainties. (Its realisation presumes such a degree of benevolence from the spurned part of the UK with the “Sovereign Will” of the Scottish people trumping any yet to be expressed Sovereign Will of the rest of us as to be breathtaking.) Just looking at the unresolved issues of currency, EU membership, in NATO but anti-nuclear, no borders but a different immigration policy etc. risks concluding that independence (on the prospectus being voted on now) is preposterous – from afar.

Being on the spot, or in my case a few miles too far South to be enfranchised, it looks different. Westminster appears as an inept, incompetent, possibly corrupt colonial power that will always put London and its hinterland at the centre of any policy decisions. Any opportunity to break from this out-dated, out-worked, out-of-step structure triggers so many emotional responses – particularly from those who see themselves as Scottish well before they see themselves as British (a hierarchy of identity that those from the imperial capital find hard to understand).

Scottish separatists can either be blind to the imperfections of Scotland’s Future as a prospectus, or they can be optimistic about the dowry of benevolence required for all those aspirations to be granted. It matters not because all these short-term “process” issues are trumped by the argument “we can elect our own government” and no longer have “one foisted on us by the detested Westminster elite passively supported by so many English voters”. In the short-term you are prepared to accept (temporary) currency confusion, (temporary) exclusion from supra-national groups, and the creation of a very real border (particularly if rUK leaves the EU). You accept them in the emotional belief that it will in the long-term create a better Scotland for your retirement and for your children and your grand-children.

Voting for independence has to be an emotional decision. Determining the means of getting there probably should be a rational decision. The tragedy of today’s vote is that those going to the polls have to choose either an emotional decision (“YES – for self-determination”) or a rational one (“NO – at least not on the asserted aspirations”).

Back in London, I fear that the “UK Media” has not got its mind around this true tragedy. And its inability to properly criticise the UK’s present governmental structure has inevitably lead to today – with the Scots finding themselves able to redefine not only their own nation, but the rest of our nation as well – whether we like it or not.

In the London/Westminster bubble:
If the Scots vote yes, there will be wounded confusion, but
If the Scots vote no, will there be a sigh of relief followed by continued stagnation?

In case of a “no” possibly not, because of the great big steaming land-mine laid in the last week by the three un-mandated amigos who seem to believe that the House of Commons will vote through super-devo as a sort of Danegeld to the Scots for not “leaving us” (and breaking the PM’s heart). There will be either an almighty row with English MPs becoming far more nationalistic that even Salmond and co., or it will be kicked into the long grass until after May 2015 – or even until after a EU referendum in 2017. In either case there is a risk of Westminster being seen once again to betray Scotland – meaning that the next time there is an Independence proposal, it will trigger an even stronger emotional response from those who are separatist inclined.


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