Friday, September 25, 2020

Believe in Scotland conference

Those of you taking part in or following the very impressive Believe in Scotland virtual conference may have seen me earlier this evening in a panel event with Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp and Mark Diffley.  It was pre-recorded a couple of days ago.  I felt slightly sheepish when I watched it back, because I noticed the tagline of the conference is "getting Yes to 60%", something which I had said during the recording isn't actually achievable.  (I did add that it isn't totally impossible that there might be the odd individual poll putting Yes at 60%, but that a sustained 60-40 lead is highly unlikely.) Of course we should aim to get Yes as high as possible, but it would be a terrible mistake to set an overly-ambitious threshold for firing the starting gun on Indyref2 - and Gordon stressed that he agreed with the latter point.

One interesting point that Mark Diffley made is that he feels demographic changes are one of the three main factors that have driven movement to Yes (the other factors being the pandemic and Brexit).  As regular readers will know, I've always been very sceptical about the idea of passive demographic drift producing a Yes majority, because people tend to become more conservative as they get older.  But it's not outlandish to suppose it could have been worth one or two percentage points to Yes over the last six years, which is not to be sniffed at.

On a personal note, I'd also like to clarify that I did not in fact widen my eyes disapprovingly when Gordon mentioned that Mark had worked for the No side in 2014.  It was actually a look of surprise because I noticed that my microphone had been temporarily cut off.  The timing was totally coincidental.  Just wanted to clear that up!

I very much enjoyed watching Mary Ann Kennedy's musical contribution immediately after the discussion.  Although I was vaguely aware that she came out for Yes in 2014, it was fascinating to hear her say that she was "born indy" and that even as a schoolgirl she was incensed by the events of 1979.  Not only is that a useful reminder of how many musicians are Yes, it's also a reminder that having a long association with the BBC does not preclude support for independence.  At the start of 2014, I was in the audience at a ridiculous hour of the night for a live World On 3 episode presented by Mary Ann, and I recall that she asked Yves Lambert for his thoughts on the upcoming indyref based on the Quebec experience in 1995.  He gave an answer that I suspect may have horrified BBC bigwigs listening in London - it was along the lines of "if you become organised, something really special can happen".  After a second or two I realised there were microphones everywhere, and that if I started applauding enthusiastically it would be heard live on Radio 3!

I believe that an edited version of the Believe in Scotland panel discussion may be posted on Facebook at some point, so keep an eye out for that.