Scottish Independence Referendum Weekly Update

Emmanuel Dalle Mulle's picture

Amy Clarke of the University of Queensland, Australia and Emmanuel Dalle Mulle of The Graduate Institute, Geneva, bring us the sixth of a series of weekly updates on the Scottish Independence Referendum.  Feel free to comment on this post.


This update is being sent out early on the day (GMT) of the referendum vote (Thursday, 18 September), and not surprisingly there is a lot to cover as the debate crescendoes. Polls have naturally been a primary focus for many this week, particularly after recent indications that the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ camps are drawing closer together. The BBC’s Poll Tracker currently shows the following results (we only report the last survey for each polling company):

  • Survation, 16 September 2014: 48% ‘No’, 44% ‘Yes’, 8% Undecided.

  • ICM, 16 September 2014: 45% ‘No’, 41% ‘Yes’, 14% Undecided.

  • Panelbase, 12 September 2014. 47% ‘No’, 46% ‘Yes’, 7% Undecided.

  • You-Gov, 11 September 2014: 50% ‘No’, 45% ‘Yes’, 6% Undecided.

  • TNS-BMRB, 4 September 2014: 39% ‘No’, 38% ‘Yes’, 23% Undecided.

  • Ipsos-Mori, 3 August 2014: 54% ‘No’, 40% ‘Yes’, 7% Undecided.


James Curtice’s poll of polls put the No at 51% and the Yes at 49%, once undecided voters are excluded. The Yes has certainly gained ground during the last month, but it seems to have fallen short of making a compelling argument concerning the economic prospects of independence. On the other hand, in the last couple of weeks the Better Together Campaign might have been eventually able to convince more voters that devolution will be improved after a No vote.


Coverage of the rallies, events and popular contributions to both sides of the campaign has been prominent this week. Brian Wilson (MP) has claimed in a 15 September article for the Daily Record that a nationalist demonstration held outside the BBC Scotland Headquarters was intended to intimidate journalists covering the referendum. The Orange Order held a parade through Edinburgh this week, attracting an estimated 15,000 people and substantial press coverage. Their claim, that Scottish nationalism is divisive and evil, was explained in a piece by Paul Hutcheon for the Herald Scotland on 13 September. More recently, a pro-Union rally held in London and attended by a number of non-Scottish celebrities (including Bob Geldof, Al Murray and Eddie Izzard) has attracted criticism on social media, as Charlotte Meredith explains in coverage for the Huffington Post.


International coverage of the referendum has also grown significantly over the past week, as have the publications by various commentators. In an opinion piece for The New York Times published on the 14th of September, Niall Ferguson (Harvard University) discussed his ‘bafflement’ at the fact that the issue of independence was even being considered. Daniel Larison responded to Ferguson’s article in a piece for The American Conservative on 15 September, in which he offered a contrasting view to Ferguson’s claim that many Scottish-Americans were against Scottish independence. This has in turn been considered by Noah Millman, also for The American Conservative, in an interesting discussion about the difference in opinion between ‘Scottish people’ and ‘the people of Scotland’. Writing for the Herald Scotland, Michael Collins has suggested that the rest of the world would think Scotland was ‘mad’ if it voted to leave the United Kingdom. Sean Thomas has also reflected on the international lessons to be learned, and suggested in an article in the Spectator that a vote in favour of Scottish independence could irrevocably alter both Scotland and England’s national character.


Another prominent feature of the debate this week has been concerned with the underlying issue of nationalism as a philosophy and movement. Academics have not entered the fray, though. In an article for the International Business Times, Lianna Brinded and Marc Vagas have reported the recent claim by British author Philip Kerr that Scottish nationalism is based on racism and hate. Declan Lynch has described the nationalist movement as a ‘deadly’ and ‘incurable’ virus in an article for The Independent; while in a piece for The Guardian author C. J. Sansom has described the nationalist campaign as a ‘zero-sum game’. By contrast, English musician Billy Brag has claimed  that the nationalism promoted by the SNP is civic, while that of the British National Party is ethnic.


The Scottish referendum has also directed media attention towards the international consequences of Scottish independence and to other European countries that are confronted with nationalist movements calling for self-determination. The Wall Street Journal discussed the possibility that the UK could lose its permanent seat at the UN Security Council as a consequence of a Yes vote, while Peter Martino, from the Gatesone Institute, argued that Russia could take advantage of Scottish secession to annex Eastern Ukraine. At the same time, on the Huffington Post, Robert McNamara suggested that ‘Scotland is just the tip of the Iceberg’, The Financial Times reminded us that ‘Catalan activists look to Scottish campaign as an object lesson’, the Russian Times revealed that the Okinawa independence movement is ‘looking to Scotland for inspiration’, and the Globe and Mail published an interesting editorial arguing that what Scotland, Catalonia and Quebec show is that ‘the unity case needs constant remaking’.


In other news,

  • Jordan Shilton has discussed the issue of socialist opposition to Scottish nationalism in an article for World Socialist Web Site, published 15 September;

  • Aric Toler has written an interesting piece for Global Voices that discusses Russian interests in the Scottish independence debate;

  • Nigel Farage (Leader of UKIP) has publicly criticised the Better Together campaign, and compared it to the defeat of English forces at the 1314 Battle of Bannockburn;

  • Fraser Nelson for The Spectator has suggested that recent comments made by former deputy leader of the SNP Jim Sillars should be seen as evidence of the ‘darker side of nationalism’;

  • Kevin Maguire has written an opinion piece for The Mirror in which he laments the expenditure of public energy on the nationalism debate, suggesting instead that this energy should be channeled into discussing other political issues; and

  • The Guardian newspaper has published a 13 September editorial in which it is claimed that nationalism is not the answer to social injustice; a move that has in turn been criticised by Gilad Atzmon for Media With Conscience News;

  • If you read nothing about the Scottish referendum in the last months, the New York Times has published a useful Q&A for you to catch up;

  • Spanish European Affairs Minister, Inigo Mendez de Vigo, intervened in the debate over Scottish EU membership, arguing that Scotland would need to re-apply, the process would take five years and the new state would have to join the Eurozone;

  • Joseph O’Leary on disproved the claim that, without Scotland, the UK would be doomed to permanent Conservative rule;

  • On September 15, First Minister Alex Salmond ruled out another referendum for the next generation if Scotland votes No;

  • Professor Peter Frakopan, Oxford University, imagined how the Bizantine Empire would have dealt with Scottish independence.