There's a very good word to describe a situation where a government sustains its power in direct contravention of a democratic vote, and that word is 'dictatorship'. There are two very good words to describe a situation where the government of another country seeks to retain control over a nation that has freely chosen to be independent, and those words are 'colonialism' and 'imperialism'. All three words fully apply to the threat issued by a spokesman for the Tory/Lib Dem coalition government that, unless Scotland gives way to all of London's demands in the negotiations on independence, the referendum result would simply be ignored, and Scotland would remain subject to Westminster rule against its will.
Like apologists for so many other would-be dictators down the ages, the anonymous Tory source tries to excuse the planned power-grab by indulging in a touch of victim-blaming, but his logic is utterly fantastical. It seems an independent Scotland would have no right to consider itself a successor state to the UK, and it would therefore have no right to any of the assets of the UK such as sterling - but it would nevertheless have an absolute responsibility to take on a proportionate share of ALL of the UK's liabilities. If we failed to dutifully bend over and accept such a ludicrous double-standard, London would feel obliged to simply carry on governing Scotland on a colonial basis, with all pretence that this is a "voluntary union" finally consigned to the dustbin. It's rather like a divorce settlement where the husband gets to keep 100% of his assets, but the wife has to give up 50% of hers - and she's gently reminded that if she doesn't consent to this equitable arrangement she'll be locked in the attic for the rest of her days.
Although the threat is probably meant sincerely, the good news is that a) it makes a Yes vote more likely because it will help open the eyes of undecided and "soft No" voters to the profoundly anti-democratic character of the same London establishment that claims to love and respect Scotland ("welcome to reality" as Ed Balls would say), and b) it doesn't have a hope in hell of actually working in the real world. The one and only circumstance in which the Scottish government would ever issue a unilateral declaration of independence is a situation where the people have voted Yes and London defies the people's will. Such a declaration would command the overwhelming support of Yes and No voters alike, not to mention the people of England who have a considerably greater sense of honour and fair play than their political representatives. The international community would also have little choice but to recognise Scotland's independence, given the right to self-determination that is enshrined in international law. In other words, a Yes vote moves us way beyond the position where the London government can simply choose to 'keep' Scotland - although clearly that penny has yet to drop.
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2014 has so far been notable for a significant number of particularly bizarre "referendum polls". There's been what feels like endless polling of people who live in other parts of the UK (none of whom have a vote), and of course there was ITV's regional poll of voters in the Borders and Dumfries & Galloway (a disproportionately anti-independence region that contains just 5% of the electorate). Now we have the weirdest one of the lot - a Populus referendum poll of over-50s (a disproportionately anti-independence age group) who live throughout the UK, meaning that only about 8% of them actually have a vote in September. Just how many more niche No-friendly groups will the media want to poll between now and referendum day, I wonder? Will we see a YouGov poll of Orange Order members? A ComRes poll of Sark residents with the surname Barclay?
Unusually, the over-50s poll has a big enough sample that the results of the Scottish subsample can be considered statistically credible - but only if they were properly weighted, and its not at all clear whether they were or not. For what it's worth, though, older Scottish voters in this poll are more likely to support independence than Ipsos-Mori have been suggesting, but a touch less likely to support independence than Panelbase have been suggesting. That probably means that Populus will slot in somewhere close to the average if they ever get round to conducting a full-scale poll of the real electorate (ie. people over the age of 16 who actually live in Scotland).
The most encouraging set of figures are these -
20% of over-50s in Scotland have become more pro-independence over the last year.
12% of over-50s in Scotland have become more anti-independence over the last year.
As the organisation that commissioned the poll has noted, the debate is clearly
shifting votes and the gap is narrowing as a consequence. Welcome to reality, Mr Balls.