Two years ago today, the moment which shook the Establishment of the United Kingdom to its very foundations. A poll resulting in near panic ,Union at all costs, cancelled appearances at short notice by a Prime Minister and the leader of the ‘opposition’ at PM’s Question Time to dash off to Scotland, one to speak to a sanitised behind-closed-doors ‘safe’ audience, the other to be bewildered, beguiled and left unable to answer basic questions by two young Glasgow lassies with a wean in a pram and a mobile phone.
The flag of Scotland, having steadfastly refused to go up a pole, eventually was hauled up, much against its will, atop 10 Downing Street, in a sudden show of love for Scots. Trainloads of ageing Westminster former socialist politicians were dragged out of their luncheon engagements to shove grannies, who were only going as far as Crewe, out of the way, to get comfy seats north, arriving at Glasgow to be met and accompanied around their meet-and-greet the Scottish peasantry walkabout (“Hi, my name’s John, I’m here to listen to your views. I spend your tax money on caviar and cigars, what do you do?” ) by a guy on a rickshaw with a sound system playing Darth Vader’s Empire music declaring “ Behold! Our Imperials Masters are amongst us”… Only in Glasgow….
Suddenly, miraculously, the Governor of the Bank of England had a change of mind. No, there was absolutely no way a currency union could work. That’s not what he’d said previously, but the polls hadn’t said Yes was ahead previously. HM the Q, breaking with her usual protocol outside Crathie Kirk, in an off the cuff remark that subsequently has been admitted as being not so much off the cuff as more blatantly off the Better Together strategy board, passing comments suggesting that Scots should think ‘very carefully about the future” before making their decision. Nice move Dave, puurrr.
Just around then we had market sensitive information and decisions about financial services somehow making their way into journalists email accounts, and onto the news, on repeat every hour, before meetings of the financial services groups making these decisions had actually finished. We had journalists reporting that awkward questions asked of key figures in the Yes campaign had gone unanswered, when clear evidence to the contrary existed on social media.
We had Bob Geldof give a passionate speech in Trafalgar Square pleading for Scots not to leave. We had sports people, celebrities, billionaire writers and business people, actors by the score, all begging for another chance.
Then there were the promises. Vague suggestions of cross-party agreements, ‘Vows”, resolutions, “As near a Federal State as possible” timetables for change “Change whilst retaining strength and security” more promises, “Faster and safer change”. A constantly fluid maelstrom of nervous pleading, off the cuff for the most part, and formulated on the run, all to be reneged upon or denied should the vote go well on the 18th September. The normal purdah rules applying to such referenda completely ignored.
Project Fear went to Defcon 4. The sky would fall in, aliens would invade, who’d save us from the Russians? There would be another ‘Great Depression’, the pandas would be removed from Edinburgh Zoo, every major business currently trading in Scotland would leave, despicably, Scottish children would not be eligible for treatment at specialist clinics for life threatening illnesses, and Scotland would be banished from the EU!
With a starting base of 45%, and knowledge of what has gone before, will we be ready for all of this the next time………..?