One of the most curious and least reported aspects of the Scottish Independence campaign is the lack of interest shown by most people in England. This is reflected in how Scottish Independence is covered in the media. In Scotland there is an almost daily news item or comment in the media on independence. Usually in the form of a scare story about how bad things will be if we dared to vote for independence. The Scottish editions of English newspapers in particular are very partial to this kind of daily scare story. However these stories rarely appear in their English editions. BBC Scotland’s version of Any Questions – Brian’s Big Debate – nearly always has one or two questions about independence. While the UK equivalents whether on radio or TV hardly ever feature Scotland, let alone Scottish Independence as a question. It is only on the rare occasions when the programme ventures up north into Scotland do you get questions about Scotland. In addition the UK wide TV and radio news programmes rarely mention Scotland.
What is going on here? For what is really surprising is that for the political class in England – not just politicians, but the leading media commentators – Scottish Independence is something to be vehemently opposed. Which they do, at least they do when in Scotland. Up here their uniform line is that Scotland needs the UK. Without the resources of the UK, Scotland would be too poor and too wee to survive as a successful country. Now there is a slight difficulty with this assertion. It does not go down too well in England. For in effect the Unionists are saying that England subsidises Scotland. And why would the good people of England want to subsidise Scotland? If this message were put forward in England as forcefully as it is in Scotland the likelihood is that a majority of English people would vote for English independence.
On the other hand, Unionists in England can hardly tell the truth, which is that England needs Scotland. Not just for its economic contribution, but for the UK to maintain its global pretensions, including that prized seat on the UN Security Council. Every so often this uncomfortable truth will break out, as in this answer from Jack Straw from 2006, h/t to Minguin’s Republic. But it is not an argument that Unionists care to make in England. After all it just confirms that Scotland is a very resource rich country and the UK needs Scotland more than we need the UK.
So we find ourselves in the most curious position where the Unionists mount an almost daily media assault based on lies and scaremongering in Scotland, but keep stumm in England for fear of upsetting the natives. Alas, sooner or later the truth will out
What this also shows is the enormous gulf between the political class and the majority of the population. For the few surveys that have been conducted seem to show that most people in England are quite relaxed about the prospect of Scottish Independence. Which is good news for the establishment of good, friendly relations between the two countries once independence comes.