Scotland

À partir d’aujourd’hui, demain nous appartient

“À partir d’aujourd’hui, demain nous appartient”

A somewhat malicious translation of this most famous of Quebec nationalist songs would be ‘Tomorrow Belongs To Me’. This rather unfortunate title reflects the youth of the movement for an independent Quebec in its early years and the belief that each new generation would be more inclined to support independence than the last. Moreover, these new generations of nationalists would be replacing elderly voters largely hostile to Souverainism. Nearly four decades (and two referendums) later, this optimistic (complacent?) title looks ironic. Quebec’s younger voters – who grew up and came to maturity in the era of the Neverendum – are notably unenthusiastic about separatism, and in recent years the nationalist movement has suffered a series of humiliating defeats in both federal and provincial elections. Generational and cohort politics are more complex – and far less predictable – than is sometimes appreciated. The lazy belief of the Quebec nationalists that all they had to do was wait until all the old people were dead and ultimate victory would be theirs is responsible to a considerable extent for the bedraggled state of the movement today.

Obvious observation

Time is a strange thing sometimes. To those of us south of the Tweed the Scottish referendum already feels curiously distant; no longer a thing of the now, but a part of the recent past. Presumably this would not have been the case had the result gone the other way. Further reflection is likely, but for now I will just make an extremely obvious point (though, like most obvious points, it has not really been picked up on much in the media).

Below, I have listed the ‘No’ percentage for all Scottish local authorities in descending order and have bolded those that deviated from the overall result by more than 10pts (in either direction)…

Orkney – 67.2
Scottish Borders – 66.6
Dumfries & Galloway – 65.7
Shetland – 63.7
East Renfrewshire – 63.2
East Lothian – 61.7
East Dunbartonshire – 61.2
Edinburgh – 61.1
Aberdeenshire – 60.4
Perth & Kinross – 60.2
Stirling – 59.8
Aberdeen – 58.6
Argyll & Bute – 58.5
South Ayrshire – 57.9
Moray – 57.6
Angus – 56.3
Midlothian – 56.3
Fife – 55.1
South Lanarkshire – 54.7
Clackmannanshire – 53.8
Falkirk – 53.5
Na h-Eileanan Siar – 53.4
Highlands – 52.9
Renfrewshire – 52.8
East Ayrshire – 52.8
North Ayrshire – 51.0
Inverclyde – 50.1
North Lanarkshire – 48.9
Glasgow – 46.5
West Dunbartonshire – 46.0
Dundee – 42.7

Just four local authorities in bold then; Dundee for Yes (a city with a consistently strong SNP presence since the 1970s and with a vanishingly small Conservative vote), and for No; the two Border authorities (somewhat self-explanatory) and Orkney (also no shock; Orcadian suspicion of even devolution is a long established phenomenon). Comparisons with Quebec were made throughout the campaign, but the levels of geographical (and social) polarisation seen in the two (actually Quebec had two, but let’s ignore that) referendums could not be more different.