Stirring up nationalism

Despite the No vote, the Scottish referendum shows just how powerful a force nationalism remains.

The big challenges facing mankind — peace, climate change, prosperity, social justice — are not going to be solved more easily by having more states. And solving them might possibly be made more difficult.

High turnouts are always to be welcomed. But it’s telling that record numbers turned out in Scotland to vote, not in normal elections where parties offer choices on policies. They did so simply to assert that they want a separate state. Had they succeeded, you can be sure that any post-independence election, with real societal choices at stake, would have had a far lower turnout.

Quite how a separate state bureaucracy, complete with another set of embassies across the world, would help us face any of the big societal challenges is unclear. But it is clear that politicians can stir people up on the basis of their tribal identity more easily than they can on issues and policy choices. This does not augur well, anywhere in the world.

At least on this occasion, Scottish voters saw through the seductive rhetoric and voted to keep this Union together.

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