The Why of No

The next big step on the road to independence is underway: a national survey with the aim to reach as many Scottish voters as possible with their views on Scotland, independence, the European Union, and several other issues. Before the independence referendum, we were asking how they might vote: this time, we’re asking them why they voted the way they did.

It’s a crucial difference, and I’ll wager this is a primary reason it’s received such vigorous, diversionary opposition from avowed British Nationalists like Adam Tomkins:

Proof that intelligent people can also be incredibly stupid.

… That’s 3 words, Mr Tomkins. But then, Scots also said No to your party running either Parliaments, yet here you are.

… Mr Tomkins, we’re asking people why they voted No. It’s not a question with a binary Yes or No response.

Activist: (to voter) Why did you vote No?
Mr. Tomkins: We said No.
Activist: Actually, Mr Tomkins, I was talking to this voter, not you.
Mr. Tomkins: Yes, and we said No.
Activist: (turns to voter again) So, why did you vote No?
Mr. Tomkins: Didn’t you hear me, we said No!
Activist: (ignores Tomkins) I would just like to know what were your reasons for voting No?

Here is the Scottish Government actively engaging with No voters. They’re looking to ask them directly what they think. They want to know the reasons they voted the way they did, their fears, their hopes, their concerns, their ideas… And the response from one of Scotland’s MSPs is to butt in, answering for the voters. For someone so determined that the People of Scotland be listened to, why be so dismissive of this dialogue? Surely one would want the people of Scotland to say, en masse, exactly what they think of Alex Salmond’s Nicola Sturgeon’s separatist dream, embarrass and humiliate and mortify her, so there can be no doubt whatsoever that the cause of separation is dead in the water? If the case against independence is so unassailable, then why not prove it – better still, let the people prove it, once and for all?

Perhaps it doesn’t matter to him and his party. As long as they put the cross in the right box, the reasons didn’t matter: the result was the same, whether voters were British Nationalists like himself, or people aching for a Federal UK run by Keir Hardie’s successors. No means No – and his party gets to decide what No means, regardless of what No voters might actually have wanted. Even if the majority of No voters voted explicitly for the former Prime Minister’s Home Rule promises, that doesn’t matter – Westminster decides what No means. Anything beyond that’s a waste of time. Get on with the day job, Nats.

Or is there more to it than that?

The independence referendum was marked by Better Together’s curious reluctance to debate. You would think they would relish the opportunity to tackle the Separatists head on before a crowd of potentially undecided voters – after all, the case for independence has apparently been in tatters for decades. Yet I can’t count the number of times someone from Better Together simply wasn’t available for a debate, or had to cancel, or simply refused to share a platform with some vile cybernat or another. For anecdote’s sake, I’ve found that while a fair number of the firmer British Nationalists I’ve talked to on the doorstep were more than happy to just rant a bit about Separatism and Deficits and Black Holes and whatever else, there was also a significant few who refused to even talk about it. That’s their prerogative, after all: we can ask to listen, but they don’t have to say anything, do they?

This all goes back to what I was saying recently – a significant number of No voters are genuinely frightened of independence and their supporters. They truly believe the horror stories about an independent Scotland, and have the impression the Scottish Government are sinister, malevolent insurrectionists only a few steps away from putting English people into camps and declaring war on England. They’re usually elderly, receive all their information about the world from television and newspapers, and faithful voters of the Other Party. They’re the ones who were told they would lose their pensions, that they would have to stock up on supplies, and that they must never ever open your doors to those dangerous Nationalists. They must make up a considerable proportion of the 70-80% of over-65s who are so strongly opposed to independence that they’ve completely tipped the scales of the pro-independence under-65s.*


It sounds unbelievable, but I’ve met these people. Sure, some of those over-65s are British Nationalists, or vote for the UK Government Party, or are risk-averse, but we shouldn’t underestimate just how frightened a lot of them are. Inverclyde has one of the largest elderly populations per head in all of Scotland. Many of our care homes were off-limits: we simply weren’t permitted entry. An elderly gentleman demanded I remove myself from his property before he called the police. One night, campaigning with my Mam, I heard a scream. I turned around from the door I was about to knock, to see Mum saying hello to a tiny shaking woman, absolutely scared out of her wits. After Mam tried her best to present a calm, nonthreatening manner, the lady gasped “No! No thanks!” before slamming the door shut. And, again, I can’t even count the number of people who came into Yes Inverclyde utterly terrified that the SNP would “take away their pensions.”

If I were a more cynical man, I might suppose that it is this is what the likes of Adam Tomkins are worried about: they’re concerned that the lies they told pensioners about the Scottish government, their money, their homes, their lives, and their futures, would come back to haunt them, just like all the other things they said. For now, the “Silent Majority” is useful to British Nationalist politicians: if No voters don’t tell the Scottish Government why they voted the way they did themselves, then the politicians can speak for them. Put words in their mouths.


It’s going to be tough. I already spent most of the referendum campaign – and a fair chunk of the subsequent elections, too – listening to prospective voters’ stories. It’s a different animal listening to someone saying that they voted No – past tense – knowing the official result. Even worse when they say they’d vote No again, and it wasn’t because of their love of Britain, so much as their fear of Scotland. Tough it may be, but it needs to be done.

British Nationalists love to say they speak for The Majority, yet they belong to parties that the majority of Scots did not vote for at all: indeed, the majority of Scots who voted in the past two elections voted for explicitly pro-independence parties. When the official result of the referendum came in, the minority of Nevers – British Nationalists who would never vote for independence under any circumstances – took that as a majority endorsement of their ideals. They thought No meant Never, and so stridently crow about it, as if every one of the 2 million people who voted No were just as Britophilic as they were. That’s the problem we’re seeing right now with the Leave vote in England & Wales: the extreme British Nationalists are emboldened, and decided that they will speak for the majority, even if only a fraction of Leave voters did so for the reasons the more odious politicians extol.

The British Nationalists have had their say – indeed, they won’t shut up about it. We know what they think. But there are not 2 million British Nationalists in Scotland. We want to know what they think. Perhaps it isn’t just the independence movement who should shut up and listen to them.

*Also, note the lack of 16-17-year-olds in that poll.


30 thoughts on “The Why of No

  1. I Clark says:

    Just to be clear, since I have not been following the news recently (and have only became aware of the national survey today), the ‘talk to the hand’ graphic above was created by an independence supporter to parody negative Britnat responses to the survey. Yes?

  2. lawcom says:

    Wow asking questions has really scared them getting people to actually question the nature of independence terrifies them people may actually find out the truth if they start wondering and will use our thoughts against us lol

  3. benmadigan says:

    lovely article outlining the Unionist mindset. have re-blogged here

  4. Macart says:

    Neatly done as ever Taranaich and very much along the lines I’ve been thinking.

    What was it? Two failed challenges to the legality of the survey and an online petition from the Tories within the same day? Mibbies just me, but young Ruth and her chums have made themselves appear rather desperate, needlessly obstructive and foolish than usual.

    No mean feat to be sure. 🙂

    • Macart says:

      Heh, should say ‘rather more…’ 🙂

    • alharron says:

      When the major British Nationalist newspapers (M***, Express, Telegraph) all devote multi-page spreads on the same subject in the same day, with comments from prominent British Nationalists, they clearly have a problem with it…

      • Macart says:

        Yes, they do and the attacks on the FM today have been fairly grim by the usual suspects. They are clearly terrified of the survey and what it could mean if there is a clear desire from the electorate to revisit the constitutional issue.

        With the sheer numbers involved it would take a fair old amount of spoilage to ignore the result and if it is the one we hope it will be, then no government would dare ignore a popular mandate. It would also blow the whole ‘there is no appetite’ meme out of the water and leave a considerable amount of egg on many weel kent faces.

  5. Kangaroo says:

    To combat the pension issue the SG needs to Guarantee the pension. So if the rUK pension is reduced because Scotland is independent then the SG should make up any difference caused by for example currency differences.

    • alharron says:

      I believe the Scottish Government did guarantee pensions last time around, but with The Material Change in Circumstances, they’ll have to tailor it for an rUK outside the EU.

  6. Kangaroo says:

    It makes things very difficult if they won’t even discuss. Its no good arguing facts with people who see things through an emotional prism. Which is what your up against with people who simply don’t enter into discussion. You may as well chap the next door because you will be wasting time otherwise.

  7. theendoftories says:

    What if most of Scotland did vote Yes and the National Survey proves this, what then?
    Little wonder the Tories are in panic mode if this proves to be the case. Do they have the numbers to scupper the project? Sure, online using the survey form, different story on the doorsteps.

    • alharron says:

      If more people surveyed said they voted Yes on the 18th than voted No, then that could mean a few things:

      1. Most of the people who weren’t surveyed (refused or simply missed out) were been No voters, which stretches the “silenced majority” theory;

      2. Most of the people who voted No in 2014 have moved away or died, with comparatively more Yes voters still around;

      3. A percentage of No voters recalled their vote incorrectly for some reason, as there’s a recurring meme of former Yes voters now claiming they would vote No (likely EU skeptics who put being out of the EU before independence);

      4. The volunteers’ results were inaccurate;

      5. The 18th of September result did not reflect the true sovereign will of the people of Scotland, be it as a result of margin of error, how folk felt on the day, or a collection of other causes.

      Whatever the case, I think the European Referendum has shown that the all-powerful British Establishment is not invincible, if it can allow a minority within its ranks to overwhelm the result.

      They’ll try to scupper it, no doubt. But they have Article 50 to keep an eye on…

  8. Wombat says:

    Agree that people were more worried about their pensions and the currency converter rates of their holiday money than the plight of the majority of Scots on low/no pay. Heard it a lot at work.

  9. Magnus says:

    “The serpent is crawling inside of your ear
    He says you must vote for what you want to hear
    Don’t matter what’s wrong as long as you’re alright
    Pull yourself stupid
    Rob yourself blind”

    • alharron says:

      Hmm, a message to the independence movement: Be Quick, or Be Dead?

    • Douglas says:

      We are up against a very difficult, underhand and cunning opponent (Fluffy excepted!).
      The rational case for No is crumbling (for example some rationally voted No because they wanted to be certain of staying in the EU) but the bigger battle is for those kept fearful.
      The response to the National conversation has some very disturbing subliminal undertones:
      ‘Just say no’… Isn’t that an attempt to subliminally use the campaign to protect children from abuse? Plants a mental association with Child Abuse
      ‘No means no’… Plants the association with Rape.
      Subtle but effective shutting down the conversation.
      They want to keep the fearful ‘Huddled masses’ from hoping enough to even consider ‘yearning to be free’.
      We need to find a way to reach those fearful No voters.
      Mass media will have limited benefit for us. It will only be possible to win through one to one discussion with those we know.
      That is why this conversation is so important (and feared by No).

      • alharron says:

        You’re quite right on the “just say no”/”no means no” associations, Douglas, and one of the reasons I find them deeply distasteful.

  10. Brian says:

    I voted YES. I keep hearing/reading comment that the tide is turning in favour. Where is the evidence? Why a “National Conversation”? This sounds like something the Tories dreamed up to make it look like they’re interested in people’s opinions.
    What happened to the “Summer of Independence” initiative that we were promised?
    Journalists like Tomkins talk nonsense, we know that. But who is exposing his lies and distortions of the truth? The SNP continue to act as if by ignoring him and his like they will go away. They won’t, instead they’re getting stronger. Online media is not yet strong enough to counteract MSM propaganda, maybe never will be. I’m beginning to think more and more that independence remains a pipedream.

    • alharron says:

      Brian, the evidence is that every single poll since the 18th of September 2014 has shown a larger percentage for Yes than 45%, with several showing Yes in the lead – and, most importantly, that every poll which includes 16 and 17-year-olds since the EU Referendum has shown an outright majority. That in itself is indicative of a shift.

      The National Conversation is important for the reasons I mentioned in other comments: it provides evidence and information while bypassing the propagandists and opinion-formers.

      I’m pretty certain events happened to the Summer of Independence: it would’ve been much easier to do that if the UK voted to remain, rather than trigger an outright constitutional crisis.

      I’m with you on the mythbusting, though: we need to do a lot more to tackle these distortions. This is something all independence supporters should bear in mind, but the SNP naturally have much greater resources available.

  11. Brian says:

    Thanks for your reply. So, it’s taken 2 years for the SNP to have a post Indyref listening exercise. Not exactly fast off the mark. I’m guessing if UK had voted Remain, no such exercise would have taken place then?
    I really don’t know what SNP are up to, and yet in terms of policy in Scotland, esp Education their ambitions are bold and a delight to hear.

    • alharron says:

      I think they just truly weren’t expecting the sheer number of new members, then they weren’t expecting to get 56 MPs, and so forth. For all it seems they’re this mighty, well-oiled political machine, they’re still “mortal,” so to speak. Most of my SNP pals are viewing their handling of the currency issue as one (not the idea of a currency union itself, just the way it was presented & explained), and there are plenty of lefties who want to make their own changes.

      I just hope the Yes Registry gets going: after the Holyrood elections, we need to get the Yes Alliance working together again.

      • Brian says:

        An honest answer…thankyou. I agree, makes sense.
        But they need to catch up fast, otherwise the moment will come and we will not be ready.

      • Brian says:


  12. Marconatrix says:

    I think in the end timing will be crucial. WM will probably, eventually, by hook or by crook, find some way to wriggle out of Brexit. So it´s important to get IndyRef2 in while the uncertainty remains. That is our window of opportunity.

  13. […] September – The Why of No. I’ve been out and about, canvassing, leafleting, talking with all sorts of people throughout […]

What're your thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.