Being out of the country for scarcely more than a couple of days I missed the publication of the Ipsos-Mori poll for STV which concluded that 53% (of respondents and with a margin of error of 3%) would vote ‘Yes’ if there were another independence referendum. I noticed it when I caught the tail end of yesterday’s Scotland 2015 on BBC2 (available online for another month). Within the constraints of format and time there was quite a nuanced discussion based on the poll between Sarah Smith and journalists Magnus Garnham and Andrea Mullaney. I only parted company with Mullaney’s concluding comment that
we are all starting to move towards a point at which we think independence is an inevitability, it seems to be the route we are going.
To be fair, Mullaney had preceded her statement with two judgements, that
- the SNP were unlikely to promote another referendum until some of the fundamentals changed, and
- people were all ‘electioned-out’ and had no appetite for another referendum soon.
Smith reinforced this second conclusion by reminding us that within another year or two we have a Holyrood election and an EU referendum. The STV poll also said that while half of those responding said they’d like to see another referendum within five years, 58% said within ten (that of course means 42% don’t want one at all within at least ten years).
The SNP were quoted as describing the poll result, which also produced a forecast for next year’s Holyrood election, as ‘sensational.’ Well, they would, wouldn’t they? But as Harold Wilson famously said, a week is a long time in politics – let alone five or ten years.
The one aspect of this I wanted to pick up here is of that of course independence (excuse me, separation) is not ‘an inevitability.’
There is a technique in the brain science of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) called ‘creating your own future history.’ Put simply, this says that if you believe in something strongly enough, and reinforce that belief constantly through disciplined and structured thinking, you can create what you wish to in your own life. Entrepreneurs and sports people are often cited as prime examples of the success of creating their own future histories, the people who say that from the age of ten they only ever dreamed of creating or winning x, y or z. Belief, self-belief it hardly needs saying, is at the heart of this. Challenged as to why this is effective erstwhile-Glaswegian positive thinking guru Jack Black says ‘It only works.’ In other words, along with the science there is also an element of faith.
Who does this remind you of? Nationalists by any chance? They certainly fit the bill of wanting to create one very specific future history. They certainly think of little else. And they certainly have faith in their belief, faith that is often beyond rationality.
I said in a post a month ago that I would write an article answering the challenge occasionally put to me of ‘What’s the vision that you unionists have, then?’ I’m afraid events (aka family holiday, Messrs Corbyn and House – separately – and this poll) have all conspired against my good intention to address that subject. But it does strike me that my observation on this poll is relevant to the question I posed. Because the one thing the nationalists have is vision. Luckily there is no single vision beyond separation and the one party that could achieve it has, to be charitable, a mixed record (see for example the FT’s recent devastating judgement on The SNP’s incompetence as a party of government).
The problem with the NLP business of creating your own future history is that not everyone’s future history can be created. It’s the fallacy of the popular endorsement of American equality, ‘Anyone can become president!’ Yes, anyone can but not everyone can.
All this makes it more important that those of us who believe in sticking together in some form of United Kingdom do not give up. The struggle (because that’s what it is) needs to be carried out on all fronts. My apologies for the martial language but it only reflects how the nationalists see life. The seeds of what is needed lie in this article and many other places, from the legitimate criticism of the SNP’s record in government, through constant awareness of the nastiness of some strands of nationalism and the many practical advantages of being in the larger union of the UK, to alternative vision(s) to the nationalists’ one obsession.
I’m sorry Ms Mullaney. We are not all starting to move towards a point at which we think independence is an inevitability. It’s not the route we are going. And it’s highly unlikely to happen (that’s a bit of NLP for you!).