Now is the time for leadership, or risk reopening the rift with business
- 45 group plans boycott of leading businesses
- Worrying backlash after the vote may hit investor sentiment
Scotland will wake up this morning in a fractious mood. If last week was about hope, this one will be about broken promises.
Both sides in the independence debate are crying foul and demanding the other be called to account. Worryingly, there are undercurrents of discontent that threaten to turn nasty.
The nationalists claim the Westminster parties are already reneging on their vow to devolve further powers; the unionists are criticising their opponents, including First Minister Alex Salmond, of failing to abide by a pledge to accept the result of the referendum and work together.
Far from resolving the independence issue the referendum campaign has exposed differences which will be difficult to heal. Some may dismiss the hardline nationalists as fringe fanatics, but they are rallying around the 45 cause, inspired by a famous rebellion and their percentage vote last Thursday.
We must hope that the calls for further change by either side remain within the democratic process and that the ugly scenes in Glasgow city centre last Friday do not turn into a pattern of misbehaviour. As if to prove how eclectic and all-embracing this campaign has been I was reminded of the much larger numbers engaged in peaceful activity such as donating to food banks in an interesting exchange of tweets with the violinist Nicky Benedetti last night. My point was that the media could not ignore the Glasgow incident, even if it was isolated,
But will it be so? Last night there was an edict purportedly from the 45 which declared plans to boycott leading businesses “that scared Scotland”. Among those on the list are the retailers Asda, B&Q, John Lewis, Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury’s. Others include Barrhead Travel, the BBC, Clydesdale Bank, Daily Record, Lloyds Bank, RBS and Standard Life.
The reason for the protest is as pernicious as it is obvious. This is not the Scotland that the Yes campaign wanted to create. At least I hope not. Whatever next? Burning books?
No wonder businesses were in fear of a Yes vote if this is what they could expect. There were warnings of some form of retribution against those that opposed independence and that process appears to have begun. It is shameful and should be condemned by the country’s political leaders. Business leaders should demand it, as this public hostility – however small – is potentially cancerous and could impact negatively on business investment and attitudes towards Scotland.
Sadly, Mr Salmond is only stoking the flames. Today in the Daily Telegraph he is reported to be claiming that Scotland could resort to some form of unilateral declaration of independence. So much for letting the Scottish people have their say and abiding by their verdict.
This sort of belligerent language from Scotland’s leading politician creates a new and dirtier phase in Scottish politics and stains the country’s relationship with the other nations of the UK.
I wrote last week that the campaign and the rallies around the country were akin to an uprising and would be described as such if we were watching events such as these unfold overseas. It is a revolution of sorts. For now, a quiet and, in the main a good-tempered revolution. But it has all the makings of something nastier unless someone gets a grip of the situation and shows some true leadership.