Martin Hannan: Vow gave No voters courage

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What a pity that Edinburgh University leant its illustrious name to the tosh that was last week’s “stunning revelation” that the Vow was not the main reason for people voting No in the indeyref.

The YouGov survey for various professors and researchers at Edinburgh, Glasgow and Sussex Universities apparently found that only 3.4 per cent cited the promise of more powers for Scotland as the main reason they voted No.

The survey is entirely typical of a lot of the academic work regarding politics – it just told us what we already knew and had little to do with real life.

Of course the Vow was not the main reason why 55 per cent of those who voted on September 18 plumped for No. There were much greater reasons behind the No vote – and as an SNP member, I have to say that the Yes side has still not addressed these issues with any great intellectual rigour.

Belief in Britishness, unanswered questions over the ramifications of independence, and possible economic trouble were by far the main reasons for a No vote – they always were, with fears over the currency and pensions as the main areas of doubt.

We on the Yes side tried to answer those doubts, and in the end we failed, and that’s why these issues must be examined fully and a correct approach to them must be adopted long before the next referendum, whenever that may be.

Yet the Vow was very decisive in one respect, and that is something academics know little about – the effect on people’s voting intentions of a piece of political theatre. For the Vow was indeed a political masterpiece, a stroke of genius – interestingly, one cooked up by a 
journalist, not a politician – and while it did not convince people in itself to vote No, it made a massive impact on the campaign.

In the closing weeks of the campaign, the momentum – a huge but unquantifiable force in politics – was all for Yes until the Vow. Check the polls and you’ll see I’m right. Enter the Vow, and at a stroke the momentum was stopped, and even reversed.

For all of a sudden there was a solid reason for those who were frankly scared to admit they could be No voters to stand up and be counted. Like many Yes campaigners, I detected a definite shift in some people’s views in the final days of the campaign, and it was all to No – so if it wasn’t the Vow that did it, what did?

Politics is not prescriptive or definitive, and its best practitioners will always tell you that it is well-nigh impossible to gainsay all the outcomes in politics.

For if it was all so easy then we could all vote tactically in May and get the candidates in or out to suit our political needs.

I think those people calling for tactical voting are no better than pimps. Your vote is a precious thing and should be used by you to state your beliefs, and not be a chattel to be traded in a tawdry exercise more akin to prostitution than politics.

The Vow gave a lot of people the courage to state their true convictions last September. Let’s all have that courage again on May 7, and say No to tactical voting.

Future looks bright for Custom House

I am very glad to see that Edinburgh City Council has managed to bring forward the salvation of Custom House in Leith. It’s a great building, dating back to 1812, and its preservation for the community is something we should all welcome.

Praise to the council – I don’t believe I’m writing this – and the Scottish Historic Buildings Trust for combining to give Custom House a future.

Once the Trust has possession of Custom House, I expect the local community to rally round and give Leith a new centre that will be a real bonus to the people of the port.

Florence is twin to be proud of

There will be those who say that it is a waste of money to have a civic visit to Florence to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the twinning link between Edinburgh and my other most favourite city in the world. I am not one of them. Indeed, I would say we don’t spend enough on this twinning arrangement.

Cockatoo flies in face of adversity

I have written before about the dreadful mess being inflicted by the Borders Railway on businesses from Edinburgh to Galashiels.

The worst case I know of is The Cockatoo Restaurant at Millerhill, owned by my friends, the Glass family. Some 13 months after Network Rail summarily closed the road that brought its main trade to its door, The Cockatoo is at last looking forward to the road reopening.

The usual good food and drink and a friendly welcome will be there at The Cockatoo, but I know I am not alone in thinking that the owners got a very raw deal from the construction of the Borders Railway. I’ll be keeping an eye on their claim for compensation for this disastrous time.


Just wondering what brainbox devised the recent roadworks in and around Cameron Toll. I have been hearing horror stories of people trapped in their cars for ages

by inadequate planning.