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Forum Post: the vote in scotland

Posted 3 years ago on Sept. 27, 2014, 10:38 a.m. EST by flip (7101)
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A snap surveyfollowing the vote found that among the 109,500 voters aged sixteen to seventeen, empowered with the ballot for the first time ever in the UK, an overwhelming 71 percent favored secession. Voters aged twenty-five to thirty-four also backed independence by a majority of 59 percent. The referendum’s turnout, a remarkable 84.6 percent (which surpassed 90 percent in some areas), exceeded that of the last UK general election by almost 20 percent. Disaffection with Westminster, the National Health Service (NHS), and other cuts to public spending were overwhelmingly cited as the paramount issues by Yes partisans....................................................... A recent opinion survey suggests that a majority of the British electorate, including a majority of Conservative voters, want higher taxes on the rich and believe utilities like rail and energy should be brought back into public ownership. In this regard, the average citizen stands markedly to the left of what passes for respectable conversation at Westminster and Whitehall, or on the BBC. That such views remain so marginal within mainstream political discourse in spite of their apparently cross-partisan appeal is deeply revealing. In the face of a state whose aims are so antithetical to democratic sentiment, some channels remain open for political expression. Many simply stop voting. Tellingly, the average voter turnout in UK elections has dropped since the 1970s, reaching a nadir of 59 percent in 2001 (Tony Blair’s second election as leader of the Labour Party). The widely resonant and much publicized calls for electoral abstention by comedian Russell Brand suggest that many people regard their non-voting as a kind of political act. A much smaller number have turned to parties like the Greens who lack significant parliamentary representation. In recent years the British right and far right have also enjoyed a moderate renaissance with UKIP — fronted by the privately educated ex-banker Nigel Farage — being only the latest vulgar iteration of organized parochialism and xenophobia. All of these options suit the British establishment just fine, since they offer no real opportunity for effective democratic resistance to its technocratic antipolitics. More likely, they foster alienation and atomization. And if people blame immigrants, foreigners, Muslims, or public spending for a catastrophe wrought by bankers and their allies in the political class, all the better………………………………………… In his 1972 rectorial address at Glasgow University Jimmy Reid, a former communist and later Labour Party member who joined the SNP before his death in 2010, immortally summarized the sensation of political alienation: Alienation is the precise and correctly applied word for describing the major social problem in Britain today… It is the cry of men who feel themselves the victims of blind economic forces beyond their control. It’s the frustration of ordinary people excluded from the processes of decision-making. The feeling of despair and hopelessness that pervades people who feel with justification that they have no real say in shaping or determining their own destinies. Scotland’s referendum result demonstrates that in the face of such alienation, there may be hope as well as despair. Thanks in large part to a generation that has grown up knowing only a Britain defined by neoliberal austerity and airbrushed antipolitics, the Yes campaign grew from the “narrow concern of a bourgeois civic nationalist party” into a confident assertion of Britain’s radical political conscience. Confronted at every turn by the ostensibly ineluctable truth that “there is no alternative” to neoliberal capitalism, and by the intransigent insistence of elites that the future is just a horizon of austerity, antipolitics, and alienation; that social solidarity is a retrograde indulgence too expensive for the competitive, individualistic twenty-first century; that access to decent employment, healthcare, and education should be acquired privileges rather than inherited birthrights; that democracy is a trivial inconvenience; Scotland’s younger generation responded last week that an alternative does exist, and is theirs for the taking.

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