Although there's (probably) more than two years to go, the referendum on Scottish independence is becoming more of an issue. Unsurprisingly, the Olympics have played a part, and similarities and differences can already be seen between the independence campaign and the AV referendum.
A recent poll showed a drop in support for independence during the Games. It is not clear how these results are affected by the Olympics, but either way, there is still a long way to go. But while Alex Salmond may be many things, he is not stupid. He knows the feeling going across the United Kingdom during the Olympics. He also knows he has two years to make the most of Glasgow hosting the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
Unlike the Olympics, the countries of the United Kingdom compete separately at the Commonwealths. The SNP want the poll just a few months after the Games end, and while surely not the deciding factor, the SNP will hope this have an impact. You can imagine the pro-independence election broadcast on the eve of polling day in 2014. Young children waving the saltire, the Commonwealth being welcomed to Hampden Park, and footage of Sir Chris Hoy winning his final gold medal (in the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome) before retiring.
I'm British. I'm Scottish and British. I think you can be both - they are not mutually exclusive
If I was working for the pro-union side, I would have already asked him if he was willing to help during the campaign. (While not becoming obsessed with celebrities like Yes to AV.)
You'd think that if the nationalists are going to make political capital from the Commonwealth Games, they'll probably do a better job that their feeble attempts to score points during London 2012. Let's not forget that if the nationalists get their way, there will be no Team GB at Rio 2016. The SNP even found it tough to make reference to the British team.
In spite of this, they weren't afraid to lavish it up. The SNP spent £400,000 of taxpayers' money to hire out 'an exclusive gentlemen's club' during the Games. Maybe it was the dizzy cost of this exercise that led Alex Salmond to coin a new word for Scottish athletes at the Games - 'Scolympians.' Yes, that's right, it means Scottish Olympians. If the mindset is this narrow, then bring on the referendum.
This blunder from Salmond was described as a 'political error that was uncharacteristic' by Labour MP Tom Harris. But we all know that there is plenty of time for this to be made up. Those of us in favour of keeping the union only need to look at the referendum on the Alternative Vote (remember that?) to see the dangers of the polls.
Early in that campaign, those in favour of AV were ahead, on a message of small change making a big difference. In the end, the No camp won the vote in May 2011 on a scale of 2:1. After the victory, Dan Hodges, who also worked on the campaign, wrote;
When people propose a change to the status quo, especially a fundamental constitutional change, the emphasis rests with them to make their argument
The Yes to AV campaign failed in this respect. They did not put forward suitable arguments for change. It will be up to those of us who believe in the strength of the union to counter the Yes campaign's arguments in 2014.
There seem to be some early similarities between the Yes to AV campaign and those in favour of an independent Scotland. Neither are particularly sure about what they want. The Yes campaign didn't really want the Alternative Vote. Its leadership (the Liberal Democrats and the Electoral Reform Society) really wanted proportional representation. This surely helps to explain why they found it so difficult to get their message across. Similarly, the independence campaign seem to be uncertain about what their version of Scotland would look like.
One key difference between the AV and independence referendums is how in (or out) of touch those wanting change are. The idea of a 'progressive majority' sweeping the nation was smashed by the AV results. In contrast, the SNP have governed Scotland since 2007, including a majority for the last two years - a majority which the voting system of the Scottish Parliament meant was never 'supposed to allow.' Of course, there's more to Scottish Parliament elections than independence, but Scotland knew where the SNP stood. And still sided with them.
The SNP can't make their mind up whether or not they want an independent Scotland to join the Euro. Although to be fair, if they did want the single currency, you couldn't blame them for keeping it quiet. They don't seem to know whether they'd retain the Queen as their head of state. The SNP will probably seek to retain Her Majesty as the monarch, as it may seem like a better idea to swing voters than President Salmond.
The issue of whether an independent Scotland would be in the EU is also up for discussion. The SNP say yes, a Westminster document says there would be 'no precedent'. Perhaps most concerning is the suppression of information instigated by the Scottish Government. It's as if they don't want to come clean with the Scottish electorate about whether or not they'd remain in the EU if the country was independent. I'd say the people of Scotland deserve the facts.
The Olympics showed some of the best of Britain. It is up to those of us who believe in the strength of the union to ensure it wasn't for the last time.
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