According to figures I’ve found, Scotland’s population last year was 5.3 million, which is about 8% of the UK’s total population of 64.1 million.
Everyone in England (including me) is now thoroughly alarmed at the prospect of 8% of the UK population becoming divided from the rest. All the party leaders have decamped to Scotland to campaign for the No vote. Nigel Farage too. Even ex-PMs Gordon Brown and John Major (no sign of Tony Blair though). It’s all getting very emotional:
Ed Davey just told BBC Radio 4’s WATO that our country as we know it “could be pulled asunder a week tomorrow” and that the time has come for the emotional case for the Union.
He said: “I think this emotional pitch is just right. We’ve had all the rational arguments. I feel emotional about my country, our country, the United Kingdom as we know it, could be pulled apart a week tomorrow. Britain, which we’ve all grown up with, for 500 years, could change a week tomorrow. It’s absolutely right that we don’t just talk about the currency, the jobs that will be lost and all that sort of thing, but we talk about what makes us special as a family of nations.
But where were they all when 23% of England’s adult population was “exiled to the outdoors” on 1 July 2007? Wasn’t that an equivalent division in British society? Where were the voices back then appealing to reason (or emotion)?
There was almost complete silence. Overnight smokers became non-persons to be completely ignored by everybody. And the smoking ban is now hardly ever mentioned.
If Scotland were to be treated the way smokers were, there’d be a brief report at the end of the BBC News that Scotland had just seceded from England, and a couple of interviews with people saying they were “glad to see the back of them”, and “it’s lovely to be scot-free now.” And then Scotland would never be mentioned again. And if it ever was mentioned, people would act as if it hadn’t been mentioned, and talk about something else.
The difference, though, is that the Scots have politicians to speak on their behalf. Smokers have never had anyone speaking for them. David Cameron (a smoker) didn’t speak up for smokers. Nick Clegg (a smoker) didn’t speak up for smokers. Charles Kennedy (a smoker, and Lib Dem leader until 2006) didn’t speak up for smokers. There’s a very long list of politicians who could have and should have loudly protested, but didn’t.
In my view, what’s happening to smokers is actually far worse than Scottish independence. Because Scottish independence really only affects Britain. It’s a local problem. But smoking bans are now ubiquitous almost everywhere in the world. And given a total world population of smokers in the region of 1.5 billion, that’s 1.5 billion people being “exiled to the outdoors.” And then forgotten.
It’s a terrible, terrible thing to do to people. And there will be terrible, terrible consequences.