THE In/Out campaign is already well under way ahead of the forthcoming EU referendum, even if we don’t yet have a timetable for when the vote will take place.
At this early stage, opinion polls suggest the UK will opt to stay part of the EU, with In holding a 12-point lead over Out. However, we know from the experience of the independence referendum that polls can narrow. In 2012, just about every opinion poll gave the No camp a lead of at least 20 percentage points. Two years later, No triumphed but the margin had been cut to 10.6 points.
So far, the evidence suggests that most Scots do not want to leave the EU. Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister, is tuned into that mood and yesterday reiterated her opposition to the referendum, stating that her government would “work to protect Scotland’s interests” by staying within the EU. It would be a surprise if she said anything else, given the lengths the Yes campaign went to in a bid to convince voters that Scotland would remain a member of the EU as an independent country.
On this occasion, Ms Sturgeon finds herself on the same “side” as her political rivals who stood opposed to the SNP during that independence referendum. Circumstances have thrown them together, although it is hard to imagine Ms Sturgeon sharing a platform with some of those she will be aligned with.
Where opinions diverge is over her demand for a double majority, which would mean a European Union exit would only be possible if all four nations of the UK agreed to it. This, says the First Minister, would ensure Scotland could not be forced out against its will.
The “double lock” strategy is more about political positioning than reality. The SNP cannot deny that Scotland voted to remain in the UK, and by doing so, accepted UK governance. The EU referendum will be based on a simple UK-wide vote, and cannot take account of differences within the UK. Even the leader of the SNP’s Yes colleagues, Patrick Harvie of the Scottish Greens, admits a Scottish veto will not be granted.
Ms Sturgeon and her party have much to offer in the EU debate. “We believe very strongly that Scotland’s interests are best served by being members of the European Union and we will argue that case strongly and positively,” she said. It would be better to keep her party’s focus on that positive case, rather than be sidetracked by the distraction of campaigning for a veto that will not be permitted.
That positive campaign should be heard here in Scotland, and the First Minister can also take her message beyond home territory. She has gained a profile beyond Scotland, and earned a reputation in the rest of the UK as a highly capable debater. If she wants Scotland to stay in the UK, her political skills could also be put to use south of the Border.
Why Latin is a dead (good) language
ECCE! In pictura est puella, nomine Cornelia.
If the above makes any sense or even looks vaguely familiar, you were most likely a child of the 1970s or 1980s, and this was your first encounter with Latin in a textbook at school in Scotland.
Back then, every schoolchild had been told by some naysayer or another that Latin was a dead language and therefore a waste of time. If the language was in decline then, that trend has continued apace. Thirty years ago, the number of Scottish school pupils who studied Latin to Higher grade in session 1985-86 was 933. By last year, the figure was just 258 – and that represented a five-year high.
The demise of Latin is a pity, when it still has so much to offer. The argument that it is a dead misses the point: no-one is looking for a conversation. Instead, what Latin offers is a better understanding, and execution, of the English language.
As well as being the original of a third of English words, Latin gives a solid grounding in grammar which, for those who were paying attention at school, gives this “dead” language an everyday use.
Of course, the study of Latin has often been accused of elitism. How refreshing, then, to find an educational programme in Glasgow is using Latin to improve literacy levels in deprived areas of the city. This is an inspired idea. For primary pupils, who are at a receptive age for learning languages, there is the additional attraction of the story of the Roman world, and the excitement of legend and mythology. Nothing grabs the attention at that age like a bit of adventure and fantasy. It might not lead to a lifelong love of the Classics, but it might just give these children a better chance of building a sentence.