Friday, September 26
What might Czechs conclude from the Scottish referendum result?
It was interesting to see how in the final week before the referendum, the Czech media devoted much time and space to the Scottish referendum. I suppose much of this interest derived from the recent history of this country, which also split up. Possibly the references by some Scottish nationalists to the Czech case as some kind of example may have driven this interest too.
In the end though, Scotland said no, and 55-45 is decisive. It happens that I have group of very good Scottish friends whom I met last week in London, and all but one would have voted No.(Living in London they were denied a vote) Here are some conclusions I might offer my Czech friends now that the results have been considered
1. Be skeptical about opinion polls, especially if they are commissioned by Rupert Murdoch (or indeed, Andrej Babiš!) In the final fortnight, the UK was in ferment because it seemed the poll figures were narrowing fast; then a poll for a Murdoch newspaper actually put the Yes camp ahead. Rupert Murdoch personally supported a Yes vote, and this poll by an amazing coincidence suggested his side were winning. It wa
2. s utterly false. The final result showed a wider gap than any poll in the last two weeks suggested. The poll for Murdoch ought to be put under scrutiny, and I wonder if generally there are tight enough rules to ensure the integrity of opinion polls relating to elections.
2. Scotland showed how a mature democracy works. The turnout of 85% was Scotland’s triumph. It is a simple reminder to Czechs that democracy works when you participate. While one side was disappointed, nobody can claim that they did not know, or have a chance to debate, all the arguments.
3. Giving 16 year olds the vote is not a good idea. This was a nationalist idea and they tended to say that those who expressed doubts were patronizing and underestimating the young. Yet I wondered how many 16 year olds had studied economics enough to understand the currency question, or studied politics enough to understand the EU question. It now turns out that in this group, 71% voted Yes (according to ). In the 18-24 group only 48% voted Yes. Draw your own conclusions from that.
4. Scotland wasn't impressed by the CZ-SK separation. Although the nationalists held “Czechoslovakia” up as an “example” they were not at all clear what it was an example of. They mainly mentioned that no war broke out (unlike in Yugoslavia). They totally failed to show evidence of a direct link between separation of Czech and Slovak states, and increased prosperity. Several of my Scottish friends asked me about this, and were astounded to learn that there had been no referendum before the separation.
5. Scotland decided that small isn’t so beautiful. It was always an irony that Scotland is generally less Euro-skeptic than England. It prides itself on being “European”. Sensible Scots soon realized that Scotland could not expect as a new country to be automatically re-admitted to the EU. They also realized that in a range of business and political spheres they would have more influence and shelter as part of the UK.
My Scottish friends and I go back more than 30 years. When I first met them I was shocked by their depth of feeling against the English, which especially emerged whenever the two countries played football. I really feared that they would want to vote Yes. But in the end they showed that they could put their emotion to one side. After all they lived and worked in London. They saw the benefit of freedom of movement within the UK, and of the career opportunities London gave them. The lesson there for Czechs is perhaps in their relationship with the EU. You may not agree with everything that is done within the EU. But it provides opportunities for Czechs as individuals and as a nation. My Scottish friends help to shape the UK as individuals; they choose to vote in London because that is where they live. And Scotland still exercises its voice in British politics. 59 of the 650 UK MPs are from Scotland. In the end, despite many reservations, the Scots decided “Better together”. That is probably the single most important message for Czechs.