On Thursday, Sept. 18, Scottish citizens will vote on whether they want to stay a part of the United Kingdom or break the union that has existed for more than 300 years and become an independent country. While most polls have suggested that the "No" vote has the edge, there are signs that the British government is beginning to get a little worried that their margin is shrinking.
This week, that anxiety became evident in an article aimed at Scottish voters, posted to both the British government's Web site and Buzzfeed. Titled "12 things that £1400 UK Dividend could buy," the post attempted to explain that each Scottish citizen would be more than $2,300 better off each year if they remained part of the United Kingdom.
To make this point, they used Lego. Yes, the post shows miniature figures using their £1,400 to buy things like fast food:
Or go see football matches while drinking a meat-based hot drink:
It's cute, perhaps, but "12 things that £1400 UK Dividend could buy" hasn't been too warmly received. Here's just a small sample of the criticism directed at it:
Undeterred by beer and bingo row, govt decides to offer Scots things they enjoy. You know, pies, bovril, fish&chips.. http://t.co/mXCPBXiwcJ— kiranstacey (@kiranstacey) June 5, 2014
Either the UK gov has lost its mind, or there is an agent provocateur in the Scottish independence no campaign https://t.co/8iNjisdqEe— Alex Nice (@AlexNicest) June 5, 2014
If I were Scottish, this would deffo make me to vote no. I only understand wealth in units of fish suppers. https://t.co/fKbJAhwe8M— Mike Morris (@MD_Morris) June 5, 2014
As the Guardian put it, the list seems to "portray Scots as shoeless, sun-starved, football-obsessed fish supper addicts, with poor grooming habits and such limited imaginations that their favoured activity at the Edinburgh festival is eating hotdogs."
"This is the kind of patronising attitude to Scotland we have come to expect from the Tory Treasury — presumably the establishment elite think we spend all our time eating fish and chips and pies," Scottish National Party (SNP) Treasury Spokesperson Stewart Hosie MP said in a statement.
The logic behind the article is understandable. The economic effects of independence on Scotland are clearly one of the most important factors that voters should be aware of when they make their decision in September. It's also very complicated and not totally clear what would actually happen (BBC Scotland has a good roundup of some economic papers dealing with this). This new post cites financial analysis from HM Treasury, though SNP disputes its findings.
In trying to explain something quite complicated, the British government has actually elucidated something quite simple. Economic factors may well play a big role in hopes for or against Scottish independence, but much of the "yes" vote will likely be made up of people who are disillusioned with London's Westminster politics.
Channel 4's Jon Snow noted this recently:
Having just spent a week in first the Western Isles, and second in Glasgow, hatred of Westminster is by far the most dominant factor in people who told me they were voting yes to Scottish independence. The theme was constantly repeated to me. For some, voting yes is a long, deep-seated desire for an independent Scotland. But for far more it seems to be a relatively recent desire to have nothing to do with what so many spoke of as “the sleaze, dishonesty, and self-serving London-centric politics of Westminster.”
Many of these people likely feel that Scotland is ignored by London's political elite, or worse, ridiculed as England's poorer, weaker, less-sophisticated neighbor. Using Lego to show how a Scottish person can buy fish and chips seems to confirm that view.