There’s a running theme going on here, that the No vote in 2014 was an anomaly – a rare victory of progressive, internationalist, inclusive politics over the anti-establishment, isolationist, separatist politics we’re now seeing in the wake of the EU referendum and now the election of Donald Trump. This was the case back even before and just after the independence referendum, where the Scottish Independence movement was being compared to the far-right populist movements of England, France, and the Netherlands:
At the beginning of this essay, we outlined that populism can be seen as a corrective if political parties see it as a signal to address the representative gap that has developed between citizens, public institutions and mainstream politics. However, it was acknowledged that this effort is hampered by the extremely difficult task of bridging ‘representative’ and ‘responsible’ government in a more complex era…
…These dilemmas all takes place against the backdrop of movements for Scottish independence, for the UK to leave the European Union and the steady rise of UKIP. If the economic and political status quo is maintained, populists look set to continue to prosper from the growing gap between representative and responsible government, presenting a clear and present danger to the established order.
– Michael McTernan & Claudia Chwalisz
Most commentary has been focused on UK politics. This is too parochial. The real significance of the No lies at European level. The result dents the hopes of other separatist movements in Spain, Italy and Belgium. The less obvious point is that we have witnessed another defeat for populism at the hands of the emergent Europe-wide grand coalition…
… Populism has been popping up all over Europe since the financial crisis. England’s version is the United Kingdom independence party. Last Sunday, the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats doubled their share in the national parliament, while the anti-European Alternative for Germany party won seats in two more regional parliaments. In France, opinion polls suggest that the National Front’s Marine Le Pen has a serious shot at the presidency in 2017. The Dutch have Geert Wilders. Greece has Golden Dawn.
What all these different populists have in common is nationalism – along with a rather fishy admiration for Vladimir Putin, the Russian President and a model for the chauvinism-plus-authoritarianism combination that is the essence of populism in power.
– Niall Ferguson
Everything of course changed just a few years later. Now, as Europe’s crisis has moved from modifier to modifier – financial and economic becoming firmly political – its effects have spread outward and upward. Discontent takes various forms. There are familiar if updated manifestations of nationalism – UKIP in the United Kingdom, France’s National Front – and the pitch of anti-immigration leaders such as Geert Wilders in the Netherlands. There are protest parties such as Beppe Grillo’s Five Stars Movement in Italy that corral the contempt of younger voters who feel left behind by the ruling class.
The Scottish vote amalgamates both these currents. Listening to the Yes voters and reading the placards still pinned up around Edinburgh, you don’t get the sense of a single unifying platform: The referendum for many became the chance to issue a catch-all protest vote.
– Joel Weickgenant
Of course, the alternative view is rather simpler – that perhaps the forces that won the EU referendum and 2016 presidency also won the independence referendum.
(WARNING: While I’m not going to reproduce any of the material or quotes from some of the individuals or groups listed below on the site, I will be including archived links. While I disagree with many of the views to the most profound degree, neither do I wish to pretend they do not exist: I also want to provide sources for my conclusion as to where they stand on any of the three campaigns. Keep this in mind before you click.)
Let’s have a look at some of the individuals or organisations who were involved with, or supportive of, the winning side in the Scottish independence referendum, EU referendum, and Trump presidential campaigns.
You may think it unfair to tarnish the anti-independence movement by association with the above organisations and individuals (not that such unfairness ever stopped No supporters from doing just that to Scottish independence supporters, of course): after all, plenty of professed left-wing, socialist, anti-war folk supported No, Leave, and Trump – George Galloway being the most infamous example. Likewise, there are plenty of people who support only one or two of the above, and found themselves on the losing side of at least one referendum or election. Of course not every No/Leave/Trump supporter is a racist, or fascist, or any other kind of -ist, any more than every Yes/Remain/Non-Trump supporter was uniquely saintly: the vast majority of people are reasonable, thinking, compassionate human beings who voted they way they did because they thought it was best for them, their family, and their future.
The key difference is that those people have no control over the direction of what happens next. We aren’t getting Super-Devo-Plus-Max, because the parties & individuals interested in such a settlement have no power or opportunity to deliver it. We’re not getting a “Lexit,” because the left-wing Leave advocates have no power in the UK or Scottish Governments. Even in his first few days as President Elect, the likelihood of a tempered Trump is dropping by the day. (Which is not to say there are no anti-EU, pro-Trump individuals who also advocate Scottish Independence: when it was perceived as bad news for the EU or a perceived soft UK, or they just wanted rid of subsidy-junky Scotland, tons of Euroskeptics like Arron Banks, Paul Joseph Watson, and others seemed perfectly fine with it, even encouraging: on the other hand, I doubt Jim Sillars is a big Trump fan despite advocating a Leave vote.)
The people and organisations listed above are 3 for 3. Those above are the ultimate winners, because for God’s sake look around you. Look at the post-indyref UK Government: it sure wasn’t the government Scotland or progressives in England, Wales, & Northern Ireland voted for. Look at the post-EUref UK Cabinet: full of Leave campaigners and the most right-wing elements of the party. Now look at the US cabinet: same story, magnified. Who helped get them there? Who looked to gain the most? Who are the people most antithetical to everything we hold dear?
Either Blair MacDougall, Ian Smart, and others really, truly believe that the movement for Scottish Independence really is the same as the rhetoric which fuelled a Leave vote in the UK and Trump in the USA… or they don’t, and just lie about it. And let’s be unflinchingly clear: even the “moderates” in the “mainstream” parties, not to mention the official No campaign, were not above using their language.
If Scotland wants to be independent they have the absolute right to do so. But I think nationalism is a mistake. And I am half Scots and feel it would divide me in half with a knife. The thought that my mother would suddenly be a foreigner would upset me very much.
– Tony Benn, 18th August 2012
We’ve got friends and relations north and south of the border and we don’t want to make each other foreigners.
– Alistair Darling, 31st August 2012
“I do not want my kids to be foreigners to each other” says Alan Cochrane. #bbbcqt #indyref
– Better Together’s official Twitter account, 18th October 2012
We have the spectacle of a hard line nationalist saying ‘you will still be British after independence’. If you are no longer part of the UK how can you be British? Your friends in Wales, your family in England and your workmates from Northern Ireland will, effectively and overnight, become foreigners.
– Alistair Darling, 10th November 2012
Alistair Darling will today accuse the SNP of attempting to ‘turn family into foreigners’ with its plan to break up Britain.
– The Times, 14th February 2013
The Aberdeen schoolgirl said she and her friends were going to vote to remain part of the UK because they did not want their relatives in England to become foreigners.
– The Telegraph, April 2013
The nature of my work means that I am based in London, like tens of thousands of Scots now facing the same prospect of becoming foreigners in our own land.
– Ian Taylor, 7th April 2013
… In simple terms, why make Sir Alex Ferguson a foreigner?
– Johann Lamont, May 2013
My son, for example, who went to university in England, I think I’d be uncomfortable with the thought that he’s now a foreigner.
– Margaret Curran, 25th May 2013
So says the lady whose policy would make all English people foreigners! Irony is obviously still allowed on Twitter
– George Foulkes, 25th May 2013
Over 3 centuries we have lived together, worked together and frankly we’ve got together: getting married, having children, moving back and forward across our borders. Such is the fusion of our bloodlines that my surname goes back to the West Highlands and, by the way, I am as proud of my Scottish heritage as I am of my English or my Welsh heritage.
– David Cameron, 7th February 2014
Do you wantonly break up a union of 307 years, splitting kith from kin and wounding a nation… They are NOT good reasons for the break-up of a strong, democratic nation in an uncertain world… Nor can we forget how fully the blood of us all is mixed in the families of our four nations, or how freely it has flowed, as one, in war. We are, in tradition and effect, one nation.
– Lieut. General Sir Norman Arthur in a letter distributed by Better Together, March 2014
“Grandpa, will you and Granny be foreigners?”
A wonderful country and people in the grip of a narrow, divisive, arrogant, controlling and insular creed called Nationalism… My grandson in England, aged ten and quarter, looks utterly baffled and very sad at thought of his Grandparents being in danger of becoming foreigners. He keeps asking “Why Grandpa?”
– Dr Richard Marsh on Vote No Borders’ website, 21st June 2014
How will independence affect the identity of Scots like me who feel both Scottish and British? With a home in Scotland can I no longer be British? Will I be stopped at the border every time that I travel between England and Scotland? What will happen to all those Scots who live and work south of the border? Will their place of birth still be their home, or will they become foreigners in their native land?
– The Earl of Glasgow, 24th June 2014
I say to the noble Earl, Lord Glasgow, that yes, they will be made foreigners in their own country. Their own children and grandchildren will be disenfranchised of their birthright.
– Lord Forsyth of Drumlean, 24th June 2014
I do not want my granddaughter to become a citizen in a foreign land, and she does not want her cousins—the children of my other son, who live in London—to be foreigners, with different passports.
– Lord Cormack, 24th June 2014
As regards race, there are different races in the United Kingdom but the Scots do not make up a separate race. Otherwise, if we voted yes on the 18th, my brothers, my sister, my nephews and my nieces would not only become foreigners but would also be part of a different race, which is just unimaginable.
– Lord Maxton, 24th June 2014
Like the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, I have two grandchildren living in Scotland with a Scottish mother and an English father, and two grandchildren living just outside Cambridge with a Scottish mother and an English father. One set of them will be foreigners. Whichever way we go, the family living in England are going to have foreign cousins and the family living in Scotland are going to have foreign cousins.
– Baroness Adams of Craigielea, 24th June 2014
I don’t want my kids to feel like Scotland is going to become a foreign country.
– Ed Miliband, 4th July 2014
However proud Scots may be of their heritage Scotland, by official definitions, is not a nation state. Moreover, the people of today’s Scotland are of the same mixed ethnicity as the rest of the UK… Not only do we share common and deeply integrated ethnicity in the UK, we share a universal culture and a common love of our different regional cultures.
– Tony Rush, 8th July 2014
For sure, there must be change. We must have that, and we will, but not by tearing this country apart. We must stay as family, not become foreigners to each other.
– Harriet Harman, 10th September 2014
Suddenly Scots who work next to us live next to us are our friends, our neighbours, our work mates suddenly become foreigners. Is that not an extraordinary proposition for a nation that had marched together?
– John Major, 10th September 2014
But for me this is a question of the heart and the soul. I don’t want my parents to become foreigners to my children. I don’t want the example of tolerance, fairness and courage Britain has set to disappear. I don’t want our nation diminished.
– Michael Gove, 12th September 2014
The process of separation and vilification is depressing to watch but familiar enough. Scottish nationalists are preparing a rarer trick, last seen in the dying days of Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia. They are trying to break up an existing multi-national state and turn neighbours into foreigners. They want people, who have lived together, worked together, loved each other, had children together, moved into each other countries and out again, to be packaged and bound up in hermetically sealed boxes labelled ‘Scots’ and ‘English’… Hundreds of thousands of Scots meanwhile live in the rest of the UK and hundreds of thousands of English, Welsh and Irish people live in Scotland. They could become foreigners in their own country.
– Nick Cohen, 16th September 2014
This is on you, Better Together. You preyed on fears of “kith” and “kin” becoming “foreigners,” appealed to shared “bloodlines” and “ethnicity,” talked of the turmoil of “borders” and the loss of “our land.” Then your parties and newspapers continued it in the General Election campaign with your Immigration Mugs and tough talk on refugees. You use “foreign” as if it is a curse, an affliction, an undesirable trait – which is exactly what the far-right believes, isn’t it? You do this, and you have the gall to act surprised at the result of the General Election & EU Referendum, and utterly fail to see the same forces at place across the ocean?
And it looks like you haven’t learned a bloody thing.
Twiterstorm tonight. Apparently many Nats don’t undersatand(sic) that “independence” would mean that their English realtives(sic) would be foreigners.
– Alex Gallagher, 6th October 2016
enjoying SNP supporters on my timeline arguing that if we were independent, the English wouldn’t be foreigners
– The UK’s Greatest Economist, 6th October 2016
SNP would turn English people living in Scotland into foreigners in their own country. Of course it’s uncomfortable for them
– Ruth Davidson’s favourite blogger, 15th October 2016
A No vote didn’t stop the forces who were victorious in 2016. In 2014, the No Campaign rode that tide to victory – indeed, you spurred it on with the evocation of its very language – because preserving the United Kingdom was worth any cost. Even if it means turning a blind eye to the deluge looming darkly over the horizon.