Scots won’t reject independence – but they’ll vote “no”

Many people in Northern Ireland object to outsiders’ views about what will happen here, so I have been clear about avoiding taking an opinion on how Scots should vote next September. However, it is predictable how they will vote. Barring something dramatic and unforeseen, it doesn’t take Nate Silver to work out that they will vote “no”, probably by approaching 2:1.

They will not do so because they are opposed to “independence” – indeed, as I have written before (and again as a matter of fact), Scots have by and large already psychologically left the UK.

They will do so because it is almost impossible to win “change referendums” in developed democracies. It is almost impossible because the “change” is risky and, by and large, people prefer evolution to revolution and what they know to what they don’t know. It is easier to manage, after all!

The outcome of the referendum, given how fundamental the question is, will (again, factually) make surprisingly little practical difference. Either way, Scotland will govern its own domestic affairs (no doubt including welfare before long, as Northern Ireland does), but share a currency, a Head of State and EU/NATO membership with England. Put that way, why vote for “independence” and make the ride less certain, when the outcome is more or less identical?

Risk aversion is change aversion. It’s human instinct. And none of this means that Scotland will not in due course become independent – but it will do so by evolution not revolution. That’s why the bookies are giving the “yes” side a 1-in-6 chance of winning. That sounds about right to me.


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