Thursday, September 11, 2014

Scotch Mist - Occasional reflections on a referendum. No 6 – The psychology of Yes

The referendum is reaching its final days. Politicians are scrambling to put over their messages to the undecided, who may amount to 10% of the electorate. Business leaders have made warnings about the penalties should the result be yes, others affirm their faith in Scottish robustness. The opinion polls have shown a sharp narrowing of the gap and there seems to be a new sense of urgency in the No campaign that was not there before.

A psychologist has pointed out the associations of the words Yes and No, one being positive and uplifiting, the other with negative associations. People like to say yes, to be part of something bigger and to feel they are making a contribution. Saying no is akin to isolating oneself and to go against the crowd, and humans are instinctively herd animals always uneasy about being out of the group. So to allow the referendum to be based on Yes or No was a clever tactic by the SNP. A better balance would have been to have two questions, viz:
  • Should Scotland become independent?; or
  • Should Scotland stay within the United Kingdom?
     Select one answer only.
     Write your answer on one side of the paper only.
     Do not use green crayon. Candidates expressing opinions
     about the parentage of the English,or
     the importance of loch-fulls of whisky
     or anyone threatening to play the pipes for non-payment
     of a gratuity will be the subject
     of tut-tutting and averted eyes.

Anyway, too late to change anything now. This column believes in the union. Small may be beautiful but the UK is in many ways fairly small anyway on the world stage. Let's not diminish it any more.

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