The Mathematics of Scottish Independence

Recently an English friend that I haven’t seen in ages suggested that I might hate all things English. I suspect that she thinks that because of all the pro Scottish Independence stuff I post on Facebook. I felt hurt at first but then I realised that it’s not her fault. The London based media has been lying to her about the Scottish Independence movements for years.

Yes I said movements. As in it’s not just the SNP. The Green party is pro independence, so are the various socialist parties. There are pro independent Labour supporters. There are unaffiliated groups like Women for Independence and YesBikers. Most of us don’t hate the English. Particularly not English Scots For Yes – a group of English born people who are vocal in their support for independence and their belief in an inclusive future for Scotland.

Of course that proves nothing. There are pro Trump gay republicans but that doesn’t change the homophobic and transphobic nature of his administration. Saying that some English people are pro-independence therefore it’s not anti-English is like saying that you can’t be racist because you have a black friend.

I’d like my English readers to put their preconceived notions about the SNP and Scottish Nationalism and the Union to one side for a moment and look at the maths.

  1. The first past the post system used for Westminster elections inevitably skews to a two party system.
  2. The Scottish electorate is too small to influence who wins at a Westminster election
  3. Since the Scottish electorate can’t get them into power the Westminster parties have no reason to pay attention to the needs of the Scottish electorate.
  4. Therefore Scotland puts more into the Union than it gets out.

You don’t have to believe me on the problem with first past the post. Here’s CGP Grey explaining.


The Scottish population, and thus electorate is tiny compared to the rest of the UK. If you don’t believe me you only have to look at the last two elections. In each one the whole Scottish electorate could have voted Labour and we would still have a Conservative Government.

Once upon a time this wasn’t such a huge problem. The industrial working class in Scotland could make common cause with the workers in north of England and south Wales. Scottish farmers had the same interests as farmers in the rest of the UK. The Peterhead fishing fleet could unite with the fishermen of Cornwall and Suffolk. It’s become a problem because the rest of the UK has swung to the right politically and because advances in polling mean that politicians now know who they have to appeal to in order to win at Westminster and it’s never us.

I know that you’ve been told that Scotland is dependent on the Union. That Scotland is a nation of subsidy junkies. Think about who it is that’s tell you this. The same people that won’t subsidise a spare room for a disabled child’s medical equipment want you to believe that they’re subsidising an entire nation. In the end it doesn’t really matter though. If Scotland is a drain on the rest of the UK then we should be taking responsibility for our own economy and standing on our own feet. If it isn’t then the UK Government has been lying to all of us and basically stealing from Scotland.

In the future these mathematical inequalities will only get worse. Westminster politicians are stuck chasing thinner and thinner slices of the electorate who can actually affect the outcome of the election. Scotland didn’t vote for Brexit and it will probably be  worse for us than for the rest of the UK but we’re stuck with it. See my Tapas Bar post for how that feels. The Scotland that’s depicted in the UK press looks nothing like the Scotland I see when I look around. It’s starting to look like the UK government is ramping up to remove powers from the Scottish Government, maybe even get rid of the Scottish Parliament completely.


Bonus Maths:  When London hosted the 2012 Olympics the whole of the UK paid for it, including Scotland. The Scottish share of the bill was at least £165 million. When Glasgow hosted the 2014 Commonwealth Games it was paid for by Scotland. The rUK share of the bill was ZERO. The new Queensferry bridge across the Firth of Forth was paid for entirely by the Scottish Government. Scotland is paying towards the cost of the HS2 rail project even though it doesn’t come north of the border and will probably increase travel times from Edinburgh to London. Estimates of the exact share paid by Scottish taxpayers vary and the oft quoted £3.64 billion estimate is from an anti HS2 organisation.


The Tapas Bar Analogy

The other morning I was lying in bed thinking about the Scottish Independence referendum, Brexit  and the now probably inevitable IndyRef2. I was thinking about how to explain to my husband’s English relatives how the whole thing looks from this side of the border. I came up with the Tapas Bar Analogy.

You’ve gone out to a Tapas Bar with your two friends. They’re physically bigger than you and they have more money. You like the Tapas and the bar but your “friends” keep ordering on behalf of the whole table. They keep ordering stuff you don’t like, eating the few things you do like and you’ve already agreed to split the bill. Whenever you bring this up they tell you to shut up because you have less money than them and your share of the bill is smaller. Now you feel guilty because they clearly don’t think you’re paying your way.

So you say, “Let me move up the table and start my own tab. That way I’ll only have to pay for the stuff I like and you wont have to worry about me paying my share.”

They do not like this suggestion. They take it personally. They get really upset (maybe you have a discount card or maybe the waitress is flirting with you). They beg you to stay, they say they’ll let you order, they offer to buy the next round of drinks, they even suggest that the Tapas Bar might not let you order for just one person. You’re in two minds about it but eventually you agree to stay.

At which point they let you choose which one of the 3, nearly identical potato dishes, you’re going to share. Then they insist that since you chose it you can pay for it. The next round is water. They ignore or insult everything you say.

Then they get really suspicious that the staff are all illegal immigrants. They decide that you should all go somewhere else, somewhere better and when you disagree they physically drag you out of the bar. At which point it becomes clear that they don’t actually have a plan. They don’t have anywhere better in mind and everywhere else seems to be closed.

It’s cold and dark and you’re stuck outside the warmth of the Tapas Bar pleading with the bouncer to be allowed back in while your “friends” try to persuade you that you’re better off with them.

The Illusion of Control.

One of the hardest things adults have to do is to deal with the fact of our own powerlessness. This is not a thing we like to talk about. They don’t make motivational posters about it.  The terrible paradox of adulthood is that we’re responsible for ourselves and those who rely on us but we often have very little control over what happens.

Oh how we love to cling to the illusion of control. To the idea that self sufficiency is possible. We cook a meal from scratch and we’re proud of how we did it for ourselves all while ignoring the hundreds of other humans who farmed, gathered or caught the basic ingredients and they many thousands of others in the supply chain that got it to our kitchens. We are none of us independent.

And we have so little control over our circumstances.  This time last week I was a European. I was a citizen of the EU with all the benefits and responsibility that entails. It’s a pretty sweet deal – guaranteed human rights, safety at work regulations and freedom of movement.  This week not so much. And there was nothing I could do about it.

I voted, as most other Scots did, to remain in the EU. There was nothing I could do to stop the lies told by the pro-Brexit politicians that were magnified by the pro-Brexit press and then repeated by the BBC and others. I can demonstrate all the critical thinking in the world but it will still only be seen by the people I know. I can look at a headline in the pro-Brexit press and know that it’s a lie and I can find the paragraph in the body of the article that proves it but that’s not going to change anyone’s mind.

Now we are out of Europe. My money is worth less than it was last week. Soon prices will rise. I have no control over either of those facts. Oh sure I can choose what to spend my meager funds on but I’ve got no control on how far they go and you can only cut back so much.

My First Minister is in Europe right now trying to negotiate for Scotland to stay but it’s not looking good.  The EU is angry enough at the UK to want to give us all a sound kicking. The future of the EU relies on persuading wobbly member states that leaving sucks. You’d think they’d be delighted to let Scotland stay but that would mean recognising Scotland as a country in its own right and some member states (Looking at Spain here) would rather fuck Scotland over than risk their own autonomous regions getting the idea that they could be countries too.

So my country could be stuck in limbo for 2 years or more. We can go for another referendum but we’ve seen twice now how many of the press will straight up lie to get what they want and how few of the people are good at spotting that. The Westminster Government is likely to be hardened against the idea of Scottish Independence. They may refuse permission to hold the referendum and they might ignore the result if they don’t like it. There’s a part of me that wonders how they’d stop us if we really wanted to leave but there’s another part of me that really doesn’t want to find out.

My life is considerably more fucked than it was this time last week and there’s nothing I can do or could have done to change any of this.

I don’t have a snappy conclusion to add to this. Just hold each other. Tell the people you love that you love them. Be grateful for what you have but know that no matter how hard you worked for it there are others out there who worked just as hard and got nothing.

I’m not suggesting that effort is useless, just that it’s not the only factor. So I’ll leave you with a saying that my Dad was fond of. He used to quote a famous golfer (I don’t know which one, probably Gary Player or Lee Travino) who said of a ‘lucky’ shot, “The more I practice the luckier I get.” It’s a good thing to remember. It’s also important to remember that golfers often get hit by lightning.