My earliest memories of Castle Street, Dalkey, were Saturday mornings in Dom McClure’s barbershop with my father. Dom had cut my Grandad’s hair, my Dad’s hair and now mine.
As usual when I peeked into the shop on a Saturday morning, Dom put on his best Scottish accent – which he called “Scotch” – gently mocking my grandfather, who came from Scotland to Dalkey in the 1920s. According to Dom, both my grandparents, who I never met, had “shocking Scotch accents”.
They must’ve been the only people to emigrate to Ireland back then, when it seemed that half the nation was leaving. After independence in Ireland, being in a Scottish “mixed marriage” might also have brought its own difficulties, but if it did it was never talked about. Growing up, my Dad always told me that I was half-Scottish and the Scottish dissenter gene was something to be proud of. I think he was getting at the endemic sleeveenism that he saw all around him.
This bond with Scotland was made flesh in the form of Ally’s Army in the 1978 World Cup. Scotland’s side was the dream team, with Dalglish, Buchan, Gemmill, Robertson, Jordan, McQueen, Souness and the like. They were going to win the World Cup – until they crashed against the giants of Peru and then Iran. Having Scottish grandparents was enough to allow me follow Scotland openly without compromising my loyalty to Johnny Giles’ Ireland.
My Scottish cousins have always had a huge sense of being Scottish, yes British too, but Scottish first. Talking to them in the past week, they referred to the Yes campaign as a “national movement”.
The Scottish vote is a referendum between a cause and a country.
The country is the No side and the cause is the Yes side.
The No side has cornered itself into trying to run an ordinary general election, with lots of negatives about economics and finance. This is the ground it has decided to fight on, maybe because its ranks were stuffed with party apparatchiks.
But when you are up against a cause, technocratic arguments get on people’s nerves. The No side is taking the “if you knew how difficult all this was, you’d come to your senses” approach. The difficulty with this tactic is that this morphs into a patronizing lecture very quickly – particularly when one of the aces of the other side, is that the ordinary Scot is being lectured by remote, disinterested technocrats and Tory toffs.
In contrast, it is much easier to galvanise people around the emotion of a “cause”, with its unifying common historical bond. The Yes side is appealing to a romantic, one-off dream rather than the dull day-to-day, week-to-week book-keeping exercise of running a country.
Put simply, Scottish identity beats accounting identity any day.
Looking at the polls, among committed voters it’s a dead heat. This is a huge gain and movement for the “cause” in the past few weeks. However, this means that more and more undecided voters are going to choose to vote Yes as they convert their electoral ambiguity to a voting intention. This is crucial in determining the final days. If the conversion rate of the-don’t-knows continues in the next week as it has been doing in the past few days, its all over for the Unionists. The nationalists will win easily.
My sense is that the momentum is with the nationalists. It’s hard to see British Prime Minister David Cameron or Labour Party leader Ed Miliband moving the Scots in the No direction. Both constitute a red rag to even the undecided.
One is an Etonian who tried to bully them for months and the other is only campaigning because he knows that without Scotland Labour hasn’t a hope of winning in a rump UK.
Now to the economics. The Jesuit-educated, Canadian/Irish, Bank of England boss Mark Carney claimed yesterday that a currency union between an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK would be at odds with sovereignty. This is simply scaremongering. After all, an independent Ireland had a perfectly functioning currency union with the UK from 1922 to 1979. It lasted 57 years and was only broken when we decided to hitch our wagon to Germany.
As for the EU – a friend of mine in the EU told me they have the new Treaties in a drawer marked Scotland. All this about the Spanish veto is scaremongering, too.
Should Ireland be worried economically? Do you remember when Ireland simply painted over red British post boxes in a lovely emerald green and claimed a new post service? The Scottish can do the same. They have an economic blueprint for direct foreign investment, and it just means taking the IDA’s brochure and putting the St Andrew’s Cross on it and heading off to the United States to look for business.
They will give the same tax breaks, with a workforce that is a fraction of the price.
That’s the truth.
In one move, “the only English-speaking, corporate-tax-friendly country in the EU, with good schools and golf for senior management blah, blah” unique sales pitch goes out the window. Worse still, when the Scottish become Scottish and not British they might even become as well-liked around the world as us! They are good at marketing, national brand management and re-writing imperial history if they have to.
An independent Scotland will play the Irish card all over the world in terms of investment. With sterling as its currency, it will probably be more flexible than us in the Euro – and when England leaves the EU then Edinburgh as an investment location for all those fleeing American banks could look a much more attractive alternative to Dublin.
Worth thinking about?