The full version of this article is available on May2015.com.
In the last weeks of the Scottish referendum, the campaigns fought a war over national identity. The unionists cast themselves as “patriots” in a bid to challenge the “nationalists” laying claim to every emblem of Scottish identity – from flying the flag to singing “Scotland the Brave”. Those were the terms Labour’s Jim “Irn Bru crates” Murphy deployed to confront the waves of heckling Yes voters.
“In Bathgate, a man came out of a Poundland and placed a six-pack of toilet rolls on my crates, with a put-down of: ‘Big Man, yu’ve been talking shite for an hour, so here – that’s to clean yer mooth oot!'”
By doing so Murphy was trying to reach those who thought of themselves as more Scottish than British. These were the voters Salmond had to persuade to win independence. And at the time of the Edinburgh Agreement, when support for separation was dwindling in the low thirties, they were keeping the No campaign’s fears at bay.
They made up one of the three big blocs of Scottish voters. The other two were those who saw themselves as purely “Scottish”, and those identifying as equally British and Scottish. Half of the former already backed independence, while few of the latter were persuaded; the relationship was clear: the more Scottish a voter, the more likely they were to vote Yes.