I had an opportunity to see ourselves as ithers see us when I was invited to take part in a debate on the Scottish referendum at the biannual conference of the German Association of Historians.
All the other participants were German. They were impressed both by the Yes campaign’s success in arousing interest in politics among the young and the economically disadvantaged, and the peaceful way in which the referendum campaign was conducted.
One history professor, who is normally resident in London, said she hoped the English would take up the Yes campaign’s calls for a fairer society. While personally glad that the UK would stay together, she was sorry that the politics of fear had defeated the politics of hope.
A politics professor was critical of scaremongering by European Union officials, pointing out that negotiating entry need not have taken long. Unlike most new applicants, Scotland already meets the criteria for EU membership, and even temporary exclusion would raise problems that Brussels would rather avoid.
It was generally agreed that the No campaign’s most effective weapon was to refuse to consider sharing sterling, since that created uncertainty for business and roused fears about what currency pensions would be paid in. With 45 per cent voting Yes, and an unknown proportion of the 55 per cent voting No influenced by fear or promises of change, the referendum hardly seemed an overwhelming endorsement of the Union. One question raised was: will Scotland be betrayed because the promises are contradictory and the timetable unrealistic?
(Prof) George Peden