Friday, September 19, 2014

The Scottish Referendum and the Fatal Lesson of Quebec

Well it was a long night and a disappointing one. The YES side in the Scottish referendum didn't do as well as I had hoped it might.

Scotland will have to wait a little longer to become independent. And fear conquered hope.

Scotland voters have opted to continue as part of the United Kingdom after 307 years in an historic referendum vote, although most observers believe there will be a change in the relationship in the coming months. With just one centre of 32 remaining to report, 55.4 per cent of voters had voted No to independence, with 44.6 in the Yes camp.

But while that poor guy in the picture might not realize it for a while, there is still a lot to celebrate.

And the main reason is that strangely enough in the end this referendum did resemble the first Quebec referendum.

Because just like that one was largely won when six days before the vote Pierre Trudeau offered to give Quebec new powers.

This one was largely won by the vow made by the three Westminster leaders three days ago. 

The leaders of the three main parties at Westminster have signed a pledge to devolve more powers to Scotland, if Scots reject independence.

The first part of the agreement promises "extensive new powers" for the Scottish Parliament "delivered by the process and to the timetable agreed" by the three parties.

Which also included a pledge to allow Scotland to protect its NHS or medicare system which the Con regime in London is cutting and privatizing.

The third "categorically states" that the final say on funding for the NHS will lie with the Scottish government "because of the continuation of the Barnett allocation for resources, and the powers of the Scottish Parliament to raise revenue".

Delivering that promise may be very difficult. 

David Cameron is facing growing pressure from Tory MPs after promising more powers for Scotland if it rejects independence.

"I certainly think that people in Scotland should recognise that this is a 'pledge' ... by party leaders, but that is not a guarantee that that would be implemented in the United Kingdom Parliament."

And if just like Trudeau, Cameron doesn't keep his pledge...

And I don't think he stands a chance of doing that, because in his panicked state he promised more than he could deliver, just like Trudeau.

There will be another referendum sooner or later like there was in Quebec, and you know how close that one was.

Because the one thing just about everybody agrees upon is that after 45% of the Scots voted for independence the status quo is NOT an option. 

Not when the referendum campaign has politicized the population to an incredible degree, so people on both sides will expect those promises to be kept.

And not when Scotland will never be the same... 

It's a far more confident country than it was before this amazing referendum campaign. And it will not be fooled twice.

But of course for me the best news is the way the YES side was able to engage so many young Scots in the political process...

Because not only does that tell me that the independence movement has the future on its side. So the struggle will continue.

It has also shown me how we might engage more young Canadians in our political process.

And if we are even half as successful as they were in Scotland, they will help us crush the Harper Cons in the next election.

For which I will be forever grateful to those beautiful dreamers...

Because nobody has ever inspired me more than they did.

So while tonight I share their disappointment.

Tomorrow I will rise again, like progressive Scotland itself.

And fight the Cons in this country even harder.

We will build a mighty movement.

And we will say YES to Canada...

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  1. "This one was largely won by the vow made by the three Westminster leaders three days ago." Montreal Simon

    That at this time is assumption Simon, not fact. At this time we do not know what the underlying reasons for the way people voted, I'm assuming we will start getting that from exit polling data over the next while, and perhaps post referendum polling/surveying. I would be wary of running too far with this belief before there is something more than simple corrolation to base it on, after all corrolation is not causation after all.

    I've had no opinion on this matter because I knew I didn't know enough, and I wasn't going to let my ancestral Celtic heritage dominate my reasoning self when it came to something this important. I will say I have some relief in the no victory, but only because of how it will reduce the inclination of the Quebecois Separatists to immediately start the national torture all over again flush from seeing success elsewhere. I was not looking forward to that byproduct. I watched the birth of the Quebecois nationalist movement while I was growing up, and they have been an ever present presence in my part of the nation ever since until quite recently, and I would love to have a longer time not having them be a significant factor (preferably never again, but I try to be realistic).

    It will be interesting to watch the fallout from this vote, the dissection of the vote itself, over the next several days, weeks, and months. Whatever else, this was at least an honest succession vote, unlike those atrocities Quebec has put Canada through to date.

    1. hi Scotian...forget about the Quebec separatists, nothing that happened in Scotland will affect them in the least. To gain anything from that experience they would have to morph into a progressive party and with Pierre-Karl Peladeau thinking of running for the leadership that won't happen. As for what happened in Scotland you're right that there are probably other causes for the NO win. The fear factor probably helped, especially since Scotland like Canada is an aging society. The still strong traditional attachment to the Labour Party also helped. But I'm sure that in the end it was Gordon Brown's efforts promoting the so-called Wetminster vow will prove to be the deciding factor. The Scots as you may know are a canny people, and if they can get a whole bunch of new powers without leaving the UK they will take them. But the point is that in his panic David Cameron promised more than he can deliver for all sorts of reasons. And that will come back to haunt him...

    2. The PQ is not the only pro-independence party. Both Québec solidaire (my party) and Option nationale had far more cogent takes on the issue in the last elections here. Even Option nationale, which is far more "nationalist" refused the "identitaire" crap and took a very principled stand on nation to nation negotiations and cohabitation with Indigenous peoples.

      It is odd, as strikebuster and cyber-scab herder PKP is an anethema to the trade unionists who are so big a part of the PQ base.

    3. hi lagatta...yes you're right Quebec Solidaire is a much better party than the PQ, and I was very disappointed that it didn't do better in the last election. However, if Peladeau does become leader I would expect an exodus of requisites to that party. It took the SNP twenty years to become what it is now, So our time will arrive...

  2. Since I'm Québécoise, I might remind you that Canada has put Québec through far worse "atrocities". To say nothing of the ethnically-cleared Acadian people, and of course worst of all, the Indigenous Peoples and the Métis nation (horrors, Indigenous AND francophone).

    I remember important strikes here for the right to work and negotiate in French. At its best, the movement here was very much about class and society.

    By the way, lots of Celts among the Québécois as well. Jacques Cartier was far from the only Breton to come here, and many Catholic Scots and later, Irish famine survivors married into Québec families.

  3. It was a great exercise in democracy. Great to see the huge turnout and for the most part a reasoned debate. I think the portability of pensions and the currency question probably where dealbreakers for the no side. In the EU pensions are transferable among members. The Currency is a tougher nut. Use Icelands?

    Anyway it was a great kick in the nuts for the masters of the universe.

    1. hi steve...yes despite my disappointment I can never forget what a great democratic exercise it was. I'm very proud of little Scotland. And it was as you say a great kick in the nuts for the masters of the universe....

  4. The British Government expelled the Acadians, not the Canadian Government, please get that right.

  5. As a women of Scottish heritage and metis I was very disappointed. To me it would have provided an opportunity to show case a really progressive country and how you do that. Neoliberal capitalism is a yoke around the neck of western developed countries.
    Governments say they have no money and yet they gave away the capital tools to change that, whether through international trade/investment agreements, lowering corporate taxation, limiting social welfare welfare programs, privatizing, and deregulating.
    But where the money is in global capital and large corporations. It about looking at which parties are willing to do something about this, rather than nickle and diming the average citizens with indirect taxation.
    We need to move away from identity politics and stay focused on policy.
    What I liked about this referendum was it had so many people focused on policy, rather than mindless nationalism. The pros and cons of going your own way rather than identity. Only focusing on identity limits debate, and is a way of avoiding what that "identity" really stands for and actually supports.

    1. hi Jan...I share your pain, but also your enthusiasm for what happened during that amazing campaign. The way that the people took over the campaign, held their own meetings all over the country, and discussed the BIG Questions that face human society, not the little niggling questions that have come to characterize our politics. Oh well, I feel another post coming on... ;)

  6. The final vote did not surprise me, because people simply will not leap into the unknown unless conditions are intolerable. They wouldn't even do it in Quebec, where conditions have been much worse for Quebecois than they are for the people of Scotland. That said, that 45 percent DID find existing conditions in Scotland to be intolerable should demonstrate to England how seriously this vote should be taken.

    1. hi to tell the truth it did not surprise me either. Scotland is an aging society, and the NO side made many older Scots fearful about things like the currency and pensions. My mother is no shrinking violet and I could tell that she had been frightened by the relentless barrage of negative propaganda.
      Also the Scots really are a canny people and being offered a chance to gain more control over their own affairs would have proved too appealing to resist. But as you point out they did send a powerful message and the Cons in Westminster would be foolish to ignore it...

  7. Anonymous3:47 PM

    I had no doubts about the outcome. The TPTB in Westminster and the 1 square mile London would never allow Scotland to be free. Not to mention what that would have done for other places in Europe such as Galicia and the Basques in Spain, or Austria, to name a few.

    There was widespread fraud, but that was a given too:

    Plus look at the ballots themselves... no registration number, no individualized marks. Anyone with a photocopy machine could had produce as many as they wanted.
    The only real question is.... will the Scots take it or will they cry foul? Is it Scotland "the brave" still?

    1. hi anon...I honestly don't know what to make of the claims of widespread fraud. I would not put it past the Cons in Westminster to try something like that. But unless somebody can lay charges I don't think those claims will go far. Part of the reason is that people on both sides are just too exhausted. But don't worry it still is Scotland the Brave and the dream will never die...

  8. Québec solidaire's take on this: