By: Jeffrey Tso
One minute decides the outcome of a battle, one hour the success of a campaign, one day the fate of empires.
– Alexander Suvorov
The end of the United Kingdom. The nullification of a three-hundred year long union which had once all but ruled the world together. This planned referendum for the fate of the Scottish people seemed to promise the dramatic atmosphere of a coming revolution.
True to character, Scotland’s vote was every bit as exciting as the pundits proclaimed, and not only for what was averted by the result. The success of the “no” camp could be summed up to two variables; risk adverse voters and Gordon Brown.
What seemed like an easy affirmation of the people’s ties to Westminster was bungled by the defensive, negative and at times insultingly half-hearted manner of its proponents. The surging tide of Alex Salmond’s pro-independence camp reached a crescendo with the YouGov poll of September 7, which showed them swinging 20% to reach a narrow majority.
It was perhaps this moment that finally decided the outcome of the referendum. Gordon Brown, the awkward and often maligned ex-prime minister came out of the political wilderness to rally his fellow pro-Union Scots. He gave the speech of his life, and almost overnight, redeemed his image.
Despite this remarkable turnaround, the main reason for the United Kingdom’s survival seems to have hinged on the presence of risk adverse voters. Unlike their counterparts which argued for self- determination and freedom, a majority of “no” voters cited uncertainty over the future as their primary motivation. As in the case Canada experienced in the far narrower 1995 Quebec Referendum, these previously undecided voters swing the ballot boxes decisively in favour for the Union.
In the hypothetical situation that Scotland became a nation, these concerns may have swiftly turned into reality. The Bank of England would by no means allow foreign control over currency, forcing the new nation to use to pound without any control over its regulation, or turn to the Euro, an equally uncertain prospect. Companies, banks and capital would stream away, with investors worldwide searching for a more stable environment. Ultimately, the rational calculation about the loss of jobs and increase of taxes won out. Future dreams are after all, less comforting when faced with rapidly approaching reality.
In any case, the United Kingdom has a chance to repair a broken relationship with many of its citizens. With a little effort and this newfound motivation, maybe it might even last.