Last Thursday’s cover story makes alarming reading, Alex Massie arguing that Alex Salmond may come close to achieving victory in September’s vote.
Alex wrote: ‘It is beginning to be appreciated, even in London, that Alex Salmond might just win his independence referendum in September. The break-up of Britain will have begun, David Cameron will have to contemplate being Prime Minister of a rump country — and HMS Britannia will be sunk, not with a bang but a whimper. It will be due as much to English indifference as Scottish agitation.’
I would still put my pound sterling on a No vote, and current odds for independence are around 7/2; but I suspect that ultimate victory will probably go to the SNP. There a number of reasons why the union is doomed.
Firstly, as Alex Massie has said before, even if Salmond wins 40 per cent of the vote, that is a moral victory and will lead to demands for a new referendum at some point soon. Two-thirds is usually the minimum requirement for constitutional changes in countries with written constitutions, because it suggests a consensus; any society in which more than a third of the population supports a change in the status quo is a divided one.
People generally don’t like living in divided societies, which is why they will tend to move towards one mainstream view; what normally happens is that once a rising idea has reached a tipping point it then becomes accepted as orthodoxy. Although some ideas do grow and then recede, Scottish independence, which has risen from a single-figures idea to one closing in on half the population, may well reach that tipping point.
It will also benefit by cascades; people think that it will eventually happen, so they get behind it in expectation.