A Psychological Post-mortem of the Scottish Independence Debate

saoralbaShould Scotland be an independent country; YES or NO? This was the question posed to us on the 18th of September 2014. It was, arguably, the most important decision we have had to make in the last 300 years, if not in our entire history as a nation. The level of engagement was something never before seen in Scottish politics and it has left a mark on the Nation’s psyche. As the world watched, we made up our minds. As we look back, we try to understand how we came to our decision.

All decisions are not equal. They range from the mundane and routine, such as what shirt will I wear today? To those which influence our destiny. As psychologists, our working lives are spent trying to understand people’s decision-making. Why are some people compelled to self-harm, isolate themselves or become pre-occupied by hand-washing? We hope that our training and experience help us to understand what drives these decisions, and to work with people to develop more helpful alternatives. Often, a powerful force in decision-making is fear, a frequently understated part of the human condition. During the referendum fear was cited as a staple of the better together campaign (BT), yet more detailed examination was overlooked.

From the outset we must acknowledge our own bias as three committed YES voters. We cannot separate ourselves from our convictions or prejudice, even as psychologists. The views we express here are not necessarily those of our profession, employers or colleagues. We are not attempting to offer a comprehensive or definitive answer to the question of why Scotland voted NO. Similarly, we do not wish to infer that a NO vote was wrong, or could not have been the result of a rational decision-making process. Instead, we are offering a combined, personal reflection on some of the psychological factors that may have been at play during the referendum, and how the better together campaign may have made a YES vote more difficult for some. In order to do that, we need to examine the role of fear in our decision-making in closer detail.

Fear and the Old Brain: React First, Think Later

Our purest fear is generated in the limbic-system of our ancient mid-brain, which developed early in our evolutionary history. Primal fear is experienced by many living creatures and is a survival mechanism. It is part of our so-called fight-or-flight response; designed to alert us to threats, and seek safety. At this level fear is primordial, and generated by what psychologists call primary cognition: thinking that is intuitive, sub-conscious and difficult to control. This is an obvious survival advantage when you consider our automatic reactions to loud noises, heights or poisonous creatures. Each could represent a risk to survival and so it makes sense that over the aeons we have become instinctively averse to them. However, this system can also malfunction. It can be overly-sensitive and make errors that prevent us from taking healthy risks.

Self-Determination Theory (SDT), a theory of motivation originally developed by psychologists Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, states that humans have three basic psychological needs: control, competence and relatedness. In environments where these needs are satisfied we are generally happier and healthier. If these needs go unmet, we are more susceptible to a host of negative outcomes, to feeling unfulfilled, and to lack confidence. Meeting these needs has helped us to survive as a species, so it makes sense that some of our primitive and universal fears represent threats to these needs; fears of uncertainty, failure and separation. Consider then, the strategy adopted by the BT campaign in relation to each of these needs.

Our sense of control was undermined and uncertainty escalated by refusal to pre-negotiate any terms on leaving the UK, while at the same time absolute answers were demanded on issues like currency and defence. As individuals, we were told that our personal economic circumstances would suffer from price hikes and risks to our pensions and investments. Lord Reid allegedly suggested ‘If in doubt, vote no’ as though, in the face of such a momentous decision, a Yes vote must feel 100% risk-free. Our competence was questioned and the risk of failure was played upon by claims that our industries were incapable of supporting us and only successful because of support from our place in the Union. We were told we would lose power on the international stage and “it just doesn’t add up” as though independence was a simple equation that the YES camp had failed to calculate properly. When it came to our relationships and fears of isolation, independence was labeled “separation” and discussed in familiar, negative and evocative terms such as “divorce” and “break-up”. Our membership of the EU was cast into doubt, even as the UK Government contemplated leaving the EU itself. Newly formed borders would make us ‘foreigners’ and world leaders would shun us. On the other hand, we were the darling sweetheart of a “family of nations”, with a rich history of achievement and co-operation, wherein we were already the fortunate recipients of significant powers and soon more to be hurried through to Edinburgh. We were ‘love bombed’ by MPs including the Prime Minister as well as celebrities, the Saltire was raised above Downing Street and British identity was promoted.

Of course, one might be tempted to put this all down to careful consideration and genuine concern. Yet, even the BT campaign chief, Blair MacDougall, acknowledged that the negative focus of this campaign was chosen primarily because it was so successful. Effectively, it was a means to an end. As polls drew closer, how willing were BT to push the fear factor? All-in-all, the effect was to heighten our instinctive, sub-conscious fears on the one hand, and offer reassurance in the status quo with the other.

Fear and the New Brain: Rational thought, or not?

Clearly, as humans we are not just emotional automatons, we are also considered, rational and logical. This type of thinking originates in our neo-cortex and particularly our frontal lobes, a relatively recent addition in evolutionary terms. When making decisions we examine evidence, weigh-up the pros and cons and consider the implications. We like to think that we make decisions with our heads, as well as our hearts. However, it is also the case that even our conscious, considered thoughts are primed and influenced by threats to our basic needs. Partly, this is down to the fact that our minds operate under what has been termed the “efficiency principle”. The brain uses short cuts to preserve energy in a world full of information. This is great for efficiency, but a consequence is that our decision-making becomes heavily biased.

Faced with decisions, we tend to choose options only with known outcomes (The Ambiguity Effect), we stick to what is familiar, with change interpreted as a loss (The Status Quo Bias), we tend to pay more attention to bad news (The Negativity Bias). We don’t change our minds easily, preferring to search-for and interpret information that upholds our existing beliefs (The Confirmation Bias). In fact, changing our minds creates a specific form of mental anguish termed Cognitive Dissonance; an unpleasant state characterised by holding opposing sets of ideas at one time. These new beliefs or ideas are often dismissed in an effort to regain a more comfortable psychological state.

While it is true that examining our thinking and challenging our pre-existing beliefs can lead us to change our mind, this is usually an uphill battle (as most psychologists will tell you!). To change our minds we have to be presented with challenging information that is personally relevant. It also has to be there long enough, and presented consistently enough, so that we don’t simply dismiss the discomfort it creates. This raises the importance of access to impartial media as part of the decision-making process. Consider then Professor John Robertson’s claim that the mainstream media was highly biased in favour of BT. In particular, the very formats that are most difficult to avoid and carry most authority with the general public (TV, Radio, Print) were those that seemed most in favour of NO.

What about Personality?

Clearly, we’re all different. Individual differences are also likely to have played a role in the decision-making process. The field of Political Psychology provides some interesting findings that suggest ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ personality types. In particular, two personality traits, “conscientiousness” and “openness to experience”, have been linked to political persuasion. ‘Conservative’ types tend to score higher on conscientiousness: pre-disposed to being organised and self-disciplined. They also score low on openness to new experience: preferring familiarity, concrete thought and tradition. Conservatives also seem to be more sensitive to threat-related information than liberals, and on average demonstrate an enlarged amygdala, the brain’s threat ‘trip-wire’. Conversely, those with a more ‘Liberal’ personality type are more likely to have lower levels of conscientiousness, tending to be more flexible and relaxed and score highly on the openness to experience; more likely to be creative, curious and abstract thinkers.

In the referendum, not only did a YES vote imply a range of new experiences, it also became associated with a more liberal political ideology. The NO campaign, however, seemed to endorse the existing hierarchy of the British establishment and maintenance of the status quo. Lord Ashcroft’s poll of 2000 voters suggests that political persuasion did influence how people voted, Conservative voters were the most staunchly Unionist, with 95% voting to reject independence. Further, we become more conservative when we are frightened; therefore, Better Together’s ‘Campaign of Fear’ may have influenced the political persuasion of some from the bottom-up.

Winning Hearts and Minds

In this context, it is surely remarkable that 45% of the population voted YES. It was also unusual in political terms that 19% moved from NO to YES, with opinions usually staunchly polarized. It goes against political and psychological trends. So why did they do it? Why did people endure uncomfortable cognitive dissonance, choose the ‘riskier’ option, and opt against the status-quo?

For some it seems likely this arose because their basic needs were not being met. Self Determination Theory argues that we will be more motivated to take risks if we a chance to better meet our needs. Indeed, Lord Ashcroft’s Poll suggests that those from the highest areas of deprivation were more likely to vote YES. In their book ‘The Spirit Level’ epidemiologists Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett report that growing socioeconomic inequalities contribute to disempowerment. While this disempowerment may have made it more difficult for people to have the confidence to vote against the status quo, the YES campaign focused their positive message on areas of deprivation. They provided people with support, information and the promise of tangible change. This might have empowered people with the confidence to take a risk.

Access to alternative sources of media (including social media and emergent websites such as ‘Bella Caledonia’ and ‘Wings Over Scotland’) may also have informed people. This may have contributed to a wider shift in attitudes by challenging threats and alleviating concerns. This may be reflected in the greater levels of support for Independence from the younger demographic, to whom these outlets are more accessible.

The Way Forward

We argue that one effect of the BT campaign was to escalate fear in a way that may have made the risks involved in a YES vote more difficult for some to take. Given that the BT campaign has acknowledged the strategic use of fear, it raises questions about the validity of their claims. Since access to accurate and impartial or balanced knowledge provides one of the most powerful antidotes to fear, questions about media bias are important to reflect upon. It is possible that one failure of the Yes campaign in this context was a seemingly steadfast resolve to their opposing, positive message. Hope is also an antidote to fear, but has to take it into account. This is especially true for the people who’s minds the Yes camp were trying to change. An alternative may have been to better acknowledge a more realistic level of risk, and outline its management. When a range of opinions are given fair voice we have the opportunity to make empowered and enlightened decisions, rather than choice driven by fear.

Comments (86)

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  1. Onwards says:

    Agree with the conclusions, and I do remember seeing some of that attitude from several YES campaigners.

    Arguments that “No-one is promising that independence will turn Scotland into a land of milk and honey, but if you have more powers, you have more options”

    It’s the same logic that will always ensure a demand for more devolved powers.

    And it’s hard to argue against.

    More powers will always trump fewer powers.

  2. Veronique says:

    Reblogged this on V's Blog and commented:
    My thoughts about IndyRef are caught in the campaign rolled out by the unionists at the latest time – 2 days – when they thought they may lose Scotland.

    I could do nothing but scorn their attempts because they did not sway me one iota. What they did do was lift my hypocrisy meter sky high and hyper-sensitive. My abiding disappointment is with the fear that swayed 5% of the Scots to vote against their self-interest. That saddens me more than anything else because no one can overcome fear except the feart.among us. Sigh!!

  3. ianpatterson2014 says:

    This was a well put together analysis of what has happened; and I wonder if another simple formulation might ‘hold water’ too?

    I was wondering about an interpretation from Tajfel’s ‘Social Identity Theory’ (Tajfel 1981, 1982) in which it seems that when people categorize themselves as an ‘Ingroup’ member, the Ingroup serves as a reference for social comparison and people then adopt the prototypical Ingroup attitudes and beliefs as their own.

    The BT campaign made great capital of the Ingroup status of the NO campaigners, emphasised in their case, as the ‘status quo’ of the UK. Thus, with the Outgroup (or YES campaigners) tacitly identified as ‘the nasty Nats’, seeking to violate the integrity of the (UK) Ingroup, they effectively became ‘the enemy of the people’. As long as that was kept up – and it was, right to the bitter end – there was a good chance of NO success, because, ‘that’s how it works’.

    The campaign was also effectively reinforced by some simple behavioural psychology, such as the ‘treat’s on off via the Smith Commission – all of which may have served as reinforcement for what I have just suggested!

    What we must do next time, however, is not to repeat the mistakes of last time (and I think there were numerous examples…). Ideas such as these need much more effectively to be drawn upon, if the same appalling result is not to be repeated. Let’s hope ‘people in positions of influence’ learn from these things, anyway.

  4. ianpatterson2014 says:

    Correction: re Smith Commission: “…treats on offer…”

  5. Brian Powell says:

    Analysis of the voters is important, what would be equally, or possibly more important, was the No voting politicians.
    Given the importance of the decision, I had expected, at least at the beginning, there would be open debate among Labour politicians. But we now have it confirmed, it was the position of the UK Labour Party at Westminster that was paramount in their considerations, voters and the people of Scotland didn’t figure in their thoughts.
    For Labour, as a supposedly social democratic party, the people should have been most important and deserving of being made aware of how Labour saw the future for Scotland, and what they were going to do for people in the future.
    What we got was tactics and a wholly General Election type campaign, driven only by winning against another party. They failed utterly to stake a place in the debate that can be looked at with any pride.

    1. benmadigan says:

      The party is the british labour party and it does what it says on the tin, just like the BBC,

  6. I voted yes and would (will?) do so again, in the hope of escaping from a system weighed down with the trappings of long gone Empire, where there is no alternative to free market foolishness on offer, and where politics has lost sight of its primary function – to promote communal well-being. Having said that, there was a highly rational argument for NO, put forward most clearly by JK Rowling; there would be such a range of issues to be negotiated as part of independence, not least the currency and partition of the existing national debt, and Scotland would be negotiating here as very much the weaker partner. In these circumstances, fear (some would call it caution) is rational, and does not need to be anatomised away. As for the alleged sudden 5% swing to NO, this is based on comparison of the outcome with one single outlier poll, rather than with the steady situation shown by those that preceded it.

    1. gooner69 says:

      If you vote yes you would not escape the tories like you think. Instead you will always be under the tories.

      1. Justin Fayre says:

        Thomas Jefferson, one of the founder fathers of the American Independence Movement
        “When the people fear the Government you have tyranny.
        When the Government fear the people you have liberty”
        Try substituting people with people of Scotland.
        You can even substitute Government with Media.
        It’s quite interchangeable.

  7. Justin Fayre says:

    Excellent incisive piece that explains so much.
    I feel that it ignores one vital component. A component that to me as a lay person needs further research. A component that is uniquely Scottish.
    Learned Helplessness In The National Psyche. ( or Glorious Failure j
    This is something I tried to highlight in my blog ‘Mrs Scotland A Victim Of Domestic Abuse?’ in January last year. https://justinfayresweeklyrant.wordpress.com for info.
    Any comments would be appreciated.

    1. benmadigan says:

      Interestingly Tim Pat Coogan, a well known irish historian, writer and journalist, used the same term “learned helplessness” when discussing the reaction of the irish to the 19th century famine in his recent book The Famine Plot.
      So “learned helplessness” does not seem to be uniquely Scottish.
      I wonder if there are any examples in Wales?
      Could it be unique to the celtic fringe countries in the UK? if so, why?
      Like yourself, i am looking forward to hearing our posters’ views

      1. jacquescoleman says:

        I doubt if it is unique to any ethnic group. The working class English in Northern England are in such a group now since they don’t appear to be willing (or able?) to do anything to save themselves from the horrors of poverty and unemployment current in their midst.

  8. Monty says:

    A lot of good points and ideas here. The most consistent and largest part of the yes vote though seemed to be middle aged white men who always were in favour of yes but as this group is conservative with a small c why was this the case?

  9. John says:

    Very well written article. One factor I believe in the rise in support for YES was many people reached over-saturation level of being frightened into voting NO. With each new scare story people began to question why Westminster was so desperate to keep Scotland. Also people took exception to being patronized, especially by people like Dave and Gideon and as we know Scots can be very thrawn when being told what to do. I am not sure whether the polls leading up to the referendum could be believed, so not entirely sure the vow (which did look like a pirate map) did actually sway voters towards NO. However we know 45% of us will not change our minds next time and with each year that passes many of the NO voters will meet their maker and will be replaced by young YES voters.

    1. MBC says:

      Agree. The fearmongers over-played their hand. It’s led to an awakening instead.

    2. jacquescoleman says:

      The polls afterwards showed very clearly that the Vow changed the votes of 10% of people who had been thinking of voting YES. The Vow bribed them to think DEVOMAX was being offered.

      1. The Broon speech coupled with the ‘Vow’ gave them an easy option – I doubt in their heart of hearts, they actually believed that ‘DevoMax’ was ever on offer.

        1. Justin Fayre says:

          I remember that great philosopher Paddy Power Bookmaker saying after his organisation overtook the Irish Government in turnover.
          ‘You have to adapt and survive or stay static and perish’
          I just wonder if there’s a percentage of the population following that example and changing into a colder more heartless type to match the Media mood or maybe just to fit in. Certainly a lot of arrogant, angry and shallow people about in my area

  10. Taranaich says:

    I realise the authors are psychologists by trade and so highly mindful (commendably so) of their own bias, but I think they’re being far too generous.

    “Similarly, we do not wish to infer that a NO vote was wrong, or could not have been the result of a rational decision-making process.”

    Why not? Yes voters think a No vote was wrong, No voters think a Yes vote was wrong. This shouldn’t be controversial.

    Unfortunately, it is difficult to come to any other conclusion from the evidence you place here. When many of the arguments for voting No are demonstrable falsehoods (“your pensions would stop being paid,” “you won’t get blood or organ transplants from the rest of the UK,” “they won’t build the new navy ships”), I find it exceedingly difficult to defend the No vote given the appalling lies and misrepresentations of the campaign. I certainly cannot call a decision process which was overwhelmingly manipulated by the near entirety of the media, establishment and many businesses “rational” either.

    “Why did people endure uncomfortable cognitive dissonance, choose the ‘riskier’ option, and opt against the status-quo?”

    Perhaps it’s because they realised the status-quo IS the “riskier” option compared to independence. What would you prefer, being governed by the people we vote for who have proven their competence – or continue to suffer with England, Wales and Northern Ireland under a kleptocratic Old Boy’s club which has devastated the UK’s economy, industry and society over the past 30 years?

    1. Monty says:

      I suspect you would not be high on the list of people to defend the no vote

    2. Doug Daniel says:

      It depends on what you mean by “wrong”, though. They’re not using it in the sense of a right/wrong answer, which wouldn’t be controversial; but rather in the sense of being morally wrong or irrational, which although perhaps not controversial to many Yes voters, it would certainly be controversial among those we want to get onside for next time.

      In light of what the article is putting across – that in terms of how the human brain works, a No vote was actually a rational response to the information people had available to them and their own situations – then they’re quite right that it wasn’t “wrong”, even though lots of us would say it was indeed wrong in other senses. We need to understand why it was rational for some if we’re to stand a chance of making it irrational next time.

  11. Fran says:

    Have also seen this as an abusive relationship Justin, and expressed it. I just think you need to be very very careful when talking about ‘learned helplessness’ regarding abused women. It can too easily verge into the territory of blame or criticism. An abuser will always blame his partner for his behaviour and this has to be challenged. It is a myth that women are abused because they allow it and that somehow the abuse will stop if they just ‘stand up to him’. Some women pay for that with their lives. Abuse is the full responsibility of the perpetrator.

    1. Justin Fayre says:

      Fair comment Fran and something I didn’t appreciate at the time.
      The issue I was trying to highlight was the battle between the conscious and subconscious on a National Level. The conscious mind knows the right thing to do whereas the subconscious has been programmed to choose the irrational option.
      As I said take the National Football and Rugby teams as exanples.

      1. “The conscious mind knows the right thing to do whereas the subconscious has been programmed to choose the irrational option”. I am teetering on the edge of going off-topic but I just do not believe this is correct. Most human life is lived unconsciously; indeed if this was not the case I suspect it would quickly become obvious that the conscious mind is not ‘up to the job’ of managing body and life; if, indeed there was anyone left to report the fact. I suspect that the wholly critical view of the unconscious stems principally from (the later) Sigmund Freud; based on his interpretation of Schopenhauer. Ironically the early Freud seems to have discovered the facts about the abuse of women and children (in Paris and Vienna) at a time when society was wholly incapable even of acknowledging the evidence as facts – over-simplifying, the medical phenomenon came under the heading of ‘hysteria’ ; Freud almost paid the price of his career for publicising the discovery, and he retreated (I suspect Charcot already knew very well, but the young Freud seems to have been ambitious).

        I have tried to pack too much into one paragraph but I hope the argument is sufficiently clear.

  12. Darien says:

    Exit polls and pre-ref voting intention data suggests up to approx. 90% of the 2m ‘No’ voters were made up of just three quite distinct groups.

    Group 1: 650,000 pensioners (approx. 65% of all voting pensioners of about 1m)
    Group 2: 600,000 middle class/professionals (65% of this segment of under 1m)
    Group 3: 650,000 English-born residents in Scotland (80% of about 800,000 total)

    Each group therefore accounts for approx. 30% of the No vote. It would be interesting to analyse each for key motivations. Initial brief thoughts might be:

    Group 1: pensioners – obviously feared exaggerated effect on pensions
    Group 2: middle class/professionals – doing well out of union, traditional/conservative
    Group 3: English-born residents – probably the least excited by Scottish nationhood, and possibly in fear of it.

    Psychological analysis seems to reflect quite well the dominance of these 3 groups.

    1. John says:

      Group 1 are dying out at the rate of about 45000 per year and being replaced by mainly YES voters. I know of a number of Group 3 who decided to up sticks during the referendum and a number who threatened to leave if Scotland became independent. So as SNP gains more MPs and MSPs and ref2 becomes more likely more Group 3 (at least the NO voting variety) will follow those who have already left. Also there might be an influx of people attracted by the possibility of an independent Scotland. So likely the NO vote will be diluted quite considerably over the next few years.

      1. Bernicia says:

        @ John. Do you live in lair on a remote island and own a white cat?

      2. JBS says:

        Good for you, Bernicia, keep reminding everyone that the Labour Party stood shoulder to shoulder with the Tories and the LibDems in Better Together. You’re doing the SNP’s job for them.

        I hope you’re not a Scottish Labour activist. No, wait, I hope you are.

      3. Mick d says:

        John, good riddance to the no voters in group three. Always said they shouldnt have had a say in the referendum, unless resident in scotland for at least five years.

    2. jacquescoleman says:

      Correction. There are 400,000 English in Scotland and according to aftermath polls 73% of them voted NO. They were a huge factor in the loss of the Referendum and it was little to do with psychology

      1. Darien says:

        Correction – there were 400,000. However pre-ref it is believed there was a sig increase in registrations within this group, incl those with second homes or properties in Scotland, many with multiple occupancy. Has been very little post-ref analysis on this. Add in tens of thousands of students. The dramatic rise in registrations and turnout was not solely due to poorer Yes voters, as some seem to think.

      2. Mick d says:

        Agree jacquescoleman, and i resent the fact they had a decisive influence in my country’s vote on independence.

  13. MBC says:

    I never felt the ‘love-bombing’ made one iota of difference to No voters. If anything it inclined the swithering towards Yes, since it had such a strong whiff of desperation as well as insincerity about it that it made you automatically suspicious. It also revealed the gulf of incomprehension of us Scots and the indyref. The ‘love-bombers’ didn’t understand that this was about self-determination, not Anglophobia.

  14. Monty says:

    I suspect that the yes vote had a conservative core of committed independence voters such as some life long SNP supporters. As the yes side would have had little traction with conservative no voters who would be as unlikely to change support as conservative yes voters this is partly why the yes campaign went for more left leaning voters and younger voters. Suspect both sides were a much wider mix of opinions and backgrounds than polling suggests. As they were both minorities and their votes could be counted on conservative yes voters and radical no voters were ignored by both campaigns and did not fit into the narratives of the two campaigns or the media and so were invisible

  15. MBC says:

    I think the point about control is a very good one. It concerned me too that we might be shafted during negotiations. But I was reassured by the teams that the Scottish Government had assembled. Plus, I knew from studying the history of the British empire that in all cases of decolonisation the British tried as far as possible to arrange matters so that business and trade could continue uninterrupted. There was never a wrecking design. Stability and a smooth transition were always the aims. It would not have been in England’s interests to have weakened a future independent Scotland when we share the same island and have so many areas of co-operation. Above all there would be the utmost effort to steady any fears in the financial markets by the UK authorities given how important the financial sector is to the English economy, and to Scotland’s too.

    Not everybody is as au fait with imperial history though and I can appreciate that was a big issue for many people. I think a lot of No voters were not proud to vote No. That’s why they’re so quiet. They just thought it was the best thing they could do in the current circumstances of all the myriad of unknown.

    1. John says:

      I had some concerns about post independence negotiations after a YES victory, but not enough to make me vote NO. But reassured by your knowledge of post colonisation history that trade would continue to benefit both sides.

      I tend to think that for NO voters not proud of the way they voted (and a reason for their silence) the vow was a good excuse to use to explain their decision.

    2. Jim Morris says:

      Your analysis of Empire contraction flies in the face of reality for many of the former colonies. The Raj resulted quickly into partition, India, Pakistan, and eventually Bangla Desh with great loss of life involved. South Africa led to Apartheid. Rhodesia to Zimbabwe. Uganda to Idi Amin. Nigeria to Biafra and now constant civil war. Scorched earth would be a better description of the historical exit strategy

      1. Bothy Basher says:

        ‘The Raj resulted quickly into partition” no it didnt – it took hundreds of years.

      2. MBC says:

        You’re right Jim that despite the best intentions decolonisation was sometimes a mess. But that was never the plan from the British side though it was often the result of their control freakery. What happened was that the British would typically concede too little too late. The indigenes, long pent up, became fractured and frustrated, and as the British began loosening their grip, rebellions ensued whereby co-operation towards liberation broke down and one group fought another for their particular vision. Broadly the same thing happened in Ireland. Parnell had led a parliamentary group for home rule. There were several home rule bills which failed but one was introduced in 1914 and achieved, I think, a second reading. But in August, suddenly, unexpectedly, WW1 broke out, and the bill was kicked into the long grass. The war was supposed to be over by Christmas. When it wasn’t a more revolutionary group decided to take things into their own hands, in Easter, 1916, and was brutally put down. There was by this time a major war on and the British were disinclined to go gently with rebels. This brutality left its own poisonous legacy. After the war Sinn Fein, a more revolutionary group was elected but refused to take up their seats in London, setting up an administration in Dublin and declaring UDI. At this impasse negotiations for the transfer of powers to a civil administration in Dublin began and this was eventually delivered but the arrangements were not radical enough for some and resulted in the Irish civil war.

        The handover of power in Hong Kong was a peaceful transition as it was in most other parts of the British empire.

        If there’s any message here, it’s keep the heid. Build bridges not chasms.

  16. David Allan says:

    Hi Darien should we permit English born residents (your group 3 650,000) to vote next time? It would appear that excluding their votes the BT Campaign would have lost. I’m for Scots born residents only next time!

    1. I have to question the accuracy of this statistic to be frank. I am an English-born Yes voter and I know (and know of) many many other non Scots-born supporters of Independence. Don’t forget that us “foreigners” have actively chosen to live, work and raise families in Scotland and are not merely here as an accident of birth. You may be surprised by the commitment many of us “new Scots” have to the country and its people. I spend much time defending the pro-independence movement against accusations of “narrow nationalism” – please don’t make me misguided or a liar.

      1. Monty says:

        It would also mean that Lesley Riddoch, Craig Murray and a fair number of SNP msps and members would not get to vote.

      2. Bothy Basher says:

        Well said Han. Let’s ignore race based politics such as Mr Allen’s.

    2. Shaun says:

      This kind of bigotry does little to advance your cause.

      1. Bernicia says:

        Ya, das ist gut mein Shotlander volk…And how will we identify them? Make them wear a rose? Scotland…like a giant hot tub, all welcome so long as you don’t fart! Or like Narnia, all we need to do is get rid of that evil queen and spring will come and we can all have a shot shagging Mr Tumnus!’….yayayayayadayadaayda

      2. JBS says:

        You’ve lost it, Bernicia, totally lost it.

      3. Fordie says:

        Hardly helpful to describe someone who is highlighting a fact, as a bigot.

    3. David, I am also a non-Scot Yes Voter and understand that it was necessary for Scottish Government to be inclusive of all in the People of Scotland regardless of origin. Also, it was a pleasure on various encounters to find many English supporting Yes. I agree that it is understandable that English would vote No, as a Yes (depending on reasoning and education) would be a threat. However, if the Yes would have been guaranteed to Win with excluding us, even though not a good move, I would have gladly surrendered any right to vote.

    4. Doug Daniel says:

      Considering the No campaign were forever trying to make Yes voters out as ethnic nationalists, I don’t think this would help matters much.

      1. Bothy Basher says:

        ”It would also mean that Lesley Riddoch, Craig Murray and a fair number of SNP msps and members would not get to vote.”

        Yes and Bernicia too. LOL!

    5. Mick d says:

      I agree with you on this issue david allan.

  17. Bernicia says:

    mmmmm..Intersting article! I heard that BT employed Uri Geller to fly around with Darling/ Miliband/ Brown and Osborne/Cameron/ David Bowie (not Clegg. far too liberal) in a helicopter over Scotland on polling day using collective telekenisis to move people’s pens into the No box on the ballot papers. They all concentrated really really hard while chanting ancient brythonic prayers to the ‘ Great Badger God of the origional Britons’ Moritasgus. It was Euro 96 all over again and Gary Macalistair’s missed penalty! Sneaky!!!!! Quick lets have another referendum!

    1. Justin Fayre says:

      Brilliant Riposte. I love it.
      Mind you I have also sent a letter to Vern Cotter. Head Coach of Scottish Rugby, congratulating him on his use of psychologists and motivational experts to transform a team of extremely talented individuals weighed down by being described continuously as ‘losers’ into a potentially top class outfit.
      I’ve also asked him if he can work this magic on the rest of the people of Scotland.

    2. JBS says:

      Your spelling is a little better but your credibility is still zero.

      I was going to ask you to lift your head out of the sand, but realised you can’t because then you would have to face up to the prospect that your beloved Labour Party is going to lose a sizeable number of Scottish seats at Westminster.

      In Scotland, Labour sowed the wind; it shall reap the whirlwind.

      1. Bernicia says:

        You sound like like my primary six teacher…she was a spelling Nazi too.

      2. JBS says:

        Could it have been the case that she was just trying to educate you? Then again, I think you see Nazis everywhere.

    3. Justin Fayre says:

      Nice riposte.
      After saying that, following the apparent success Vern Cotter the Scottish Rugby Coach has had in transforming a talented bunch of lads weighed down by years of conditioning into thinking they were losers into a confident, successful and happy unit (yeah I know its early days but trust me on this), I have written begging him to turn his motivational skills to 55% of the population.

  18. junius45 says:

    Any particular reason why Shetland is absent from maps shown on Bella? have we sold it back to the Danes or something.

  19. macart763 says:

    They used fear as a tool.

    What more need be said?

    1. Bernicia says:

      At a cinema near you staring ‘Eck’ the Salmondernater and Al… ‘i’m no ones darling’.. Darling…. Indy ref 2…’this time it’s personal’

      1. Monty says:

        Alex is away down to terminate his favourite club Westminster. He told them I’ll be back

      2. macart763 says:

        And apparently some people are quite comfortable with that.

        Who knew?

  20. Bothy Basher says:

    ” Most human life is lived unconsciously;” says John S W. Could be, but you might want to look at Gurdijeff’s comments on this.

    1. A ‘three centres’ thesis, if I understand it? Thank you; I have not read Gurdijeff. I was approaching this from a ‘harder’ science perspective; the neurobiologist Kandel on memory; or the neuroscientist d’Amasio, who wrote this in ‘The Feeling of What Happens’ (2000):

      “The unconscious, in the narrow meaning in which the word has been etched in our culture, is only a part of the vast amount of the processes and contents that remain nonconscious, not known in core or extended consciousness” (Ch.7, p228). He then lists that which is ‘not known’ (five headings, but with extensive implications), and concludes that it is “amazing, indeed how little we ever know”.

      I might add that it seems to me that contemporary philosophers appear to have a greater problem (probably too great!) adequately accounting for consciousness……….

  21. Bothy Basher says:

    December 30, 2014 • 13:56
    You sound like like my primary six teacher…she was a spelling Nazi too.

    She didn’t beat you hard enough.

    1. Bernicia says:

      I know, if only! A man can still dream though!

  22. jacquescoleman says:

    Bernicia is going no more than trolling now. Ignore it.

  23. jacquescoleman says:

    going should be doing

  24. iceman63 says:

    As psychologists, the authors show a remarkable lack of self awareness.
    It us predicated upon denial. The majority of Scots voters voted to stay in the Union. That fact is something that we as Yes voters must accept if we are to move the debate forward and build a better nation. Every single Yes commentator has concluded that this majority behaved out of fear, or of being duped or misled. The campaign on both sides used a variety of questionable psychological triggers, appeals to emotional unreason, attacks on individuals, and fear – for every Unionist scare tactic, there was an equal and opposite Tory demon. By denying this truth, the authors are forced to invent and select pieces of “evidence” to back up their flawed hypothesis. In effect, the article uses a confirmation bias to justify a hypothesis based upon the denial of an unacceptable truth.
    This is standard protective behaviour. Entire religions ( Christianity and Judaism as examples) build entire world constructs on such thinking.
    The real danger of this justification of a false hypothesis for Scotland, is that it elevates Yes voters to an intelligent, intellectually superior, courageous and morally upright population whose legitimate and unanswerable aspirations have been thwarted by a cowardly, stupid,old, greedy, morally inferior grouping.
    Such thinking will eventually lead to a permanent schism in Scottish society.
    Such schisms are common place when Nationalist sentiment is given a moral or intellectual veneer of superiority.
    At worst, the thinking behind this article sets the scene for an emergence of an ugly, intolerant, proto-fascist form of Scottish Nationalism. We see evidence of this every day from Nationalist commentators. The political bounce for SNP in the wake of the referendum defeat is, in many ways, similar in its emotional appeal to victimhood, injustice, national self expression as panacea and deliberate magnifying of difference to that of UKIP

    1. david steel says:

      yawwnnnnn !

    2. morj42 says:

      agree. confirmation bias used to criticise confirmation bias will serve only emphasise or differences going forward and we need to move forward. We need access to media info both print, broadcast and online that has journalists and writer from all sides of the debate being heard. Crowd sourcing is a valid sources of funding but tend to be supplied by supporters. I need reassurance that new media blogs and other sources of news online comes from unbiased sources otherwise we are left with propaganda on both sides that slants an argument one way only and pre selects information to make us agree with their argument. For instance, are all tory’s or unionists scared of change, or all poor disenfranchised? Or could we say some Tory’s were better informed than myself in business affairs and so more aware about potential risk of a independent Scotland??? And could we also say some poor voters were angry and felt disenfranchised in to making a protest vote? I suppose our view depends on who we read. Want I wanted was facts and editorial scrutiny no matter what the source. I find the broadcast media a better place for that until blogs and other online content are answerable to the same set of outside scrutiny. Do blogs employ writers from both side of the argument of instance? I can’t say print and all broadcaster journalists escape the experience cleanly. But they still seem more answerable that new media journalists.

      1. morj42 says:

        apologies for typos. typed quickly and no time to spell check as I’m late!

  25. MBC says:

    I couldn’t agree with the point the authors made that those of a liberal inclination are less conscientious…

    I suppose it might depend on how you define conscientiousness, but I take it to mean the quality of being dedicated and hard-working, rather than as I think the authors infer of ‘liberals’ – having pangs of angst about this or that injustice but not getting off your backside to do anything about it.

    Sure, there is a type of pseud liberal who is all gas and no gaiters. But many (most?) liberals are grafters and work in a totally dedicated and focused and selfless way for a better society.

    I think liberals are being inaccurately impugned!

  26. Wull says:

    I am told, on good authority, that when the British were getting ready to exit Northern Rhodesia – now Zambia – they drew up a plan that would have left the Copperbelt in British hands while giving the rest of the country independence. They did not get away with it, but the fact that they even thought about it speaks volumes. The Copperbelt was immensely rich in mineral wealth, and already had enormous mines in place. This was what really interested the UK, and nothing else.
    If there had been a Yes vote, you may be equally sure that the North Sea oil would have been a huge bone of contention in the negotiations that followed. Everything would have been done to ensure that the rest of the UK continued to profit as much as it could from the ongoing revenues from that source. Even during the campaign there was a cynical undercurrent, formented from interested parties south of the border, suggesting that the Northern Isles would either opt for their own independence in the event of a Yes vote or choose to remain part of the rest of the UK, as if that were possible.
    There is no legal or historical basis on which either of these two options could ever be justified. The Northern Isles have never been indpenedent nations, so they are not in a similar situation to Scotland, and the only reason why they have ever been part of the UK is because they were part of Scotland at the time when the 1707 Union came into existence. They had been Scottish, moreover, since the reign of James III. Having been part of Scotland for almost 550 years it is certain that no other nation has any claim on them (and if any had had a claim, it would in any case have been Norway, not the rest of the UK).
    These legal and historical realities did not prevent the fomenting of this idea of Scotland being dismembered in the event of a Yes vote, with Orkney and Shetland being separated from it. Underneath it lies the very old assumption that Scotland is not and never was a nation. That view, demonstrably mistaken from both a legal and a historical perspective, has had a very long run in English history. It goes all the way back to Edward I and beyond, and It still affects – should we say, afflicts? – those aspects of the English political psyche which might be termed ‘imperial’.
    Unshackling not only ourselves, as Scots, but the whole of the British Isles from our own imperial past, whether as victimes or perpetrators (and we have been both) is the nub of the matter. Liberating ourselves – and others with us – from the multifaceted aspects of the ‘imperial psyche’ which has afflicted all the component parts of the present UK, in multiple and diverse ways, is the essence – at least in psychological terms – of what the contemporary movement for Scottish independence is about.
    This movement is bound to succeed in the long run because the old imperialisms are actually dead in the water, belonging to a bygone age, but they continue to live in our psyches like a ghost, haunting our minds and controlling our imaginings. The referendum campaign was a major event not just on the political but on the psychological level, because it went some way towards exorcising this ghost. But the exorcism is not yet complete.
    It is not only the Scots who need to be liberated from this unhealthy guest inhabiting the living-room of our minds, but the English too, and everyone else in these islands. The ramifications are different here and there, and from one person to another. Make no mistake, the journey on which we have set out will culminate in a massive psycho-political shift, all round. And there is bound to be massive resistance to such a shift; people do not like change. They fear it, even when they want it. They make the ghost their friend and he comforts them, because that – so he pretends to himself – keeps him alive. Except for the terrible fact that he is already dead; it is just that he does not want to lie down.
    The coming independence of Scotland, and break-up of the Union, is a psycho-historical as well as a psycho-political event of huge proportions. It will eventually overcome not only the imperial-dominating but also tthe the internally colonised psyche. Scotland should have been the anti-imperial nation par excellence; instead she became imperial herself, and participant in her own destruction. The time has come for her to regain her soul, which all the same she never quite lost.
    Seismic change that is simultaneously historical, political and psychological is immensely threatening. Resistance will be strong, on all sides, as former securities disappear off the face of the earth. That they were false securities, based on thin air, will not lessen the impact of their removal. We will have to learn to breathe anew, quite differently from before.
    This started with a reflection on Scottish oil, the Zambian Copperbelt, and imperialist dreams of dismembering Orkney and Shetland from an independent Scotland. We were going to say that you can see the contours of the same mentality in the Smith Commission. The Scottish exchequer may have whatever lies underneath Scottish soil, because we don’t think that will amount to very much, but don’t you dare touch what lies under Scottish seas. No matter what we say in our propaganda, that’s still worth a fortune. Therefore it’s British, and the proceeds come to Westminster.
    For some people Scotland is a colony, and some Scots go along with just that, contenting themselves with being internally colonised and fearing to be themselves, determined never to become everything they might be. Play safe; wrap your potential in a napkin, and never dare to use it. Or ….
    Fear not: the Zambians didn’t lose their copper, and Scotland won’t lose her oil; she will use her resources well enough. Yet these are minor matters; only symptoms, really. The bigger thing is what is going on underneath, that seismic change – historical, political, psychological, affecting everything, and everyone. Nothing can stop that change, which is already happening. It includes Scottish independence, but it is much much more than that, part of something far bigger. So, hold tight, slay your ghosts, grow in confidence, enter the coming world ….. And, above all, fear thee not.

    1. John says:

      Well said Will.

    2. Mick d says:

      Great post wull.

  27. Lochside says:

    Conditioning by society and experience consolidates itself in the unconscious and therein our beliefs and attitudes are formed. If you take a group of people, say a nation, subjugate it; belittle It;, keep its history, language and culture from successive generations for say..three hundred years and put all levers of wealth and power several hundred miles away. What would happen if you offer it Independence from the ‘Mother’ state?
    But this offer is undermined further by blatant lies and bribes against self determination unleashed as a media blitz on this nation. The miracle is that 45% allowed themselves to let cognitive dissonance resolve itself positively. Gordon Brown’s phoney ‘Vow’ allowed waverers to return to default in sufficient numbers to win for ‘No’.
    For English residents, the above psychological influences have been the opposite case, hence their percentages were reversed.
    Imperial conditioning influences colonisers negatively towards the ‘natives’. Unfortunately, as economicand employment factors will continue emigration from England, those ‘NO’ mindset percentages will sustain. On the contrary, the skilled and economically able and enlightened YES voters will emigrate in large numbers if we do not grasp independence. And so we have a short time frame numerically to win the argument.

    1. Darien says:

      “we have a short time frame numerically to win the argument”

      This is correct. That is why Scotland must ensure the 30+ SNP MP’s elected next May use that majority to declare independence. Sovereignty of Westminster is all imperial Britain understands; a ‘Scots majority’ is as sufficient today as it was at the start of union. Either way (i.e. referendum or DI) trust is not their thing.

      1. Shaun says:

        But what happens if Scotland doesn’t actually want independence?

        What would be handy if someone could give us a poll or a referendum on it or something…

      2. Bernicia says:

        Apart from th 50 ish % of legislation that comes from the EU as directive which Imperial Britain rightly incorporates into law.

        How do you numerically win an argument?

    2. Mick d says:

      Exactly, plant enough amongst us to dilute us down. Similar to the plantings in ulster, then the natives are in the minority.

  28. steamroller says:

    From The Mirror review: of Charlie Brooker’s 2014 Wipe: But if the events of 2014 have left you confused, tucked away in this hour-long programme is an entirely serious piece from documentary maker Adam Curtis about why we’re all being deliberately manipulated into a constant state of bewilderment about what goes on in the world. It’s an astonishing piece involving one of Vladimir Putin’s inner circle to delight conspiracy theorists.

    Worth applying his analysis to the Indyref:

    In case anyone missed it… at 28.20 min


  29. James says:

    First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win. Mahatma Gandhi.

    The referendum for a strong minority of the Scots people was only the beginning. The rest is hearts, minds and reassurance, which is more than any of the other parties could ever possibly hope to achieve. Under Nicola Sturgeon, I believe the SNP will go from strength to strength. As for the other three parties, their days could well be numbered. –

  30. The Vole says:

    Reblogged this on The Orkney Vole and commented:
    This vole got excited about this post by Bella, This stuff that really matters – we have to understand what our friends like the Hogboon and the Trow are afraid of to win them over. The critique of our strategy matters – read the last paragraph.

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