Scotland has essentially three types of self-identified unionist now: Greater Englanders, SNP-haters and regular folk.

Greater Englanders. The Scottish Tories own this type. They deprecate any notion of Scots choosing a non-Tory direction, understandably, and see their role as supporting a right-wing, Brexiteer, UK administration governing Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland but made up entirely of English MPs[1]. They’re comfortable with the unionist v independence divide in Scotland because this has enabled the Tories to become THE party of unionism and therefore far and away the main Scottish opposition. This type includes entities like Scotland in Union, an obvious Tory front group which has successfully suckered some Labour-minded members of the Scottish establishment into thinking they’re above party politics.

This lot are moving steadily towards 30% mark in Scottish polls and hope to chip away at the SNP’s right wing in future. The SNP themselves don’t believe they can hold power forever, and the bookies think that the Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson will be Scotland’s next leader (independent or not).

SNP-haters. Scottish Labour’s leadership consists of two factions; confused-ex-Blairites and Corbynites-having-fun. They really don’t like each other and their aims are close to diametrically opposed, but they’re united in their hatred of the SNP from the olden days. In Scottish Labour’s actual leader’s case, who applied for work experience with the SNP during those olden days, this distaste for both SNP and independence admittedly looks like a (poorly-selected) position of political convenience taken by a captive of the two factions.

The Corbynites-having-fun have little interest in winning elections. They share more than they let on with the Greater Englanders. They defend anything which comes up from London and prefer a right-wing UK run by English MPs to a centre-left Scotland. They quietly like Brexit, too. Their position is dictated by a combination of their own hatred of the SNP from the olden days and their enjoyment of Corbyn’s moment in the sun.

The confused-ex-Blairites hope that if they demand independence from their own leader in London for long enough while demanding the opposite for Scotland itself then one day the tide will turn and they will be able to implement something or other which they say definitely won’t be Blairism. No-one, not even them, understands what that something or other might be. The confused ex-Blairites take their cue from former politicians and a fabulously rich Scot or two who just can’t see beyond their old ways.

For now, the leadership of both Scottish Labour factions seem to agree that if they present the broad independence cause in Scotland as being no wider than the SNP from the olden days, then Scotland will just about vote No in Indyref 2 and this will preserve enough list seats to keep most of them in a job.

Regular folk. These are folk who gave plenty of thought to both sides of the argument in 2014. A lot of them still support Labour. They don’t have much truck with the Scottish Labour leadership’s inability leave behind their hatred of the SNP from the olden days. And they’re puzzled about why the same folk would prefer a long-term UK Tory administration to a centre-left one in and independent Scotland. Some of these folk voted No last time in fear of being forced out of the EU and the related economic risk. Others like them chose independence in 2014 and plumped for Yes. This time around, all these regular folk are thinking again about what to do in these new circumstances.

It hardly needs to be said that these regular folk will decide Scotland’s future. The other two groups are pretty much best ignored.


[1] Go on, unionists, and point out that there is a single Welsh person serving as a junior minister in real UK government department; which rather proves our larger point……

19 Responses to Today’s Scottish unionists – Greater Englanders, SNP-haters and regular folk
  1. I was enjoying and appreciating Eric Joyce’s analysis right up to the point where he offers his definition of such “Regular folk” as there may be among Scottish Unionists. The claim that, “These are folk who gave plenty of thought to both sides of the argument in 2014.”, is dubious at best. It assumes that these people were making an informed choice .But it does so without considering the quality of the information which formed the basis of that choice.

    As I have argued in an article written today in response to a piece by Alex Massie ( the media abysmally failed Scotland during the first referendum campaign. To the extent that voters were reliant on the mainstream media for information, analysis of the options presented in the first independence referendum – and that must surely be considerable – then they were tragically let down.

    With your indulgence, I offer the following extract from that article.

    “It was, of course, entirely proper that the arguments advanced by the SNP and others should be be properly examined. But there were two sides to the debate. There were two choices being put to the people of Scotland. There were two prospectuses being offered. Only one of these was ever examined. While it would be audacious to pretend that the examination of the Yes prospectus was in any sense “proper”, it would be downright disingenuous to claim that there was any serious examination whatever of the prospectus being proffered by the British sate. Given what we now know about the utter worthlessness of that prospectus and the despicably dishonest manner in which it was sold, the scale of the media’s failure to challenge established power remains the Serengeti’s-worth of elephants trampling through the living-room of Scottish politics.

    By uncritically accepting the Union as the entirely satisfactory standard against which all other options had to be measured, journalists were not doing their job. By misrepresenting those other options, whether through malice or indolence, they were colluding in the British establishment’s propaganda campaign. Simply by dint of their asymmetric approach to examining the issue, journalists were, wittingly or otherwise, aiding and abetting the effort to manipulate perceptions of the choices. By taking as a given the fundamental assumptions of the ‘Better Together’ slogan, they were facilitating Project Fear.

    It is no exaggeration whatever to say that the British media has been guilty of doing a serious disservice to a democratic system which relies for its proper functioning on the ability of the electorate to make informed choices.”

  2. I’m of the opinion that the leaking Labour Right, moving to Tory Ruth will eventually stop. The remainder will be ‘in limbo’ – voting Labour like robots, but unwilling to touch Tory. Lets call them the ‘R’s

    What this means for a referendum is moot. If we can persuade people Tory is ‘No’, then just like they persuade people SNP is ‘Yes’, we reach a voting impasse for the ‘R’s.

    But lets examine another #indyref (Eric – this needs a whole blog), here’s my assessment.
    EU residents = Yes (were NO)
    Farmers = Yes (were NO)
    Fishermen = Yes (were NO)
    The under-25’s = Yes (some were NO)
    Edinburgh – heavy pro EU = Yes (far more than before)
    Sane ‘soft NO’ = Yes more likely.

    Brits = NO NO NO.

    Its how many identify with ‘Brit’ amongst the ‘R’s. Or do they identify with the ‘Sane’? Note that non of the above ‘Yes – were NO’ are definite, but the swing, the persuasion of those who do on other soft No .. its going to be different.

    I could discuss my reasoning on all of this at length. Needless to say, knock me down 1st 🙂

  3. A pithy, somewhat ‘tongue in cheek’, but entirely recognisable cast of characters. I imagine ithis mapped as a Venn Diagram. I wonder if there is a strong case for a WATP category? Possibly as a sub-genre of SNP Haters, although there would be a significant overlap with Greater Englanders. (A characteristic typical of this sub-classification is frothing but, predictably triggered, perms-rage. Naturally this overlap would be coloured orange).

    With regard to Scottish Labour, as a SNP member, I do sometimes feel we spend a disproportionate amount of time celebrating the demise of Scottish Labour (probably more so at Branch and individual members level), As a entity of political influence, they have long since become non-viable. Their only continuing relevance remains in how many more of their ‘stauncher’ voters, they leak to the Tories. Essentially, this distraction can undermine our capacity to counter the current Tory variety (i.e., Ruth Davidson for a ‘No Surrender’ Stronger Opposition sub-category) of defenders of Unionism.

    Ultimately, as the article points out, there is really no point getting exercised about these lost causes – mute and block’ and move on.

    As the piece concludes, Regular Folks need to be our main focus. The biggest conundrum here, as I see it, is that Regular Folks tend not be an identifiable, homogeneous group, therefore, by definition, will require lots of different means of engagement. What might work with, say my Mum will not necessarily work with many (any!) others.

    I think the Phantom Power short videos could be a hugely powerful tool here, IF we can get them circulated widely enough. Continuing on this theme, I really hope there is a place for voices like yours, and others, in the organisation of Yes2, at a strategy level. Again, this only a personal view, but I think we could do with dialling down on some of ‘happy-clappy’ stuff this time round – I just don’t think it chimes with Regular Folks.

    Lastly, having jotted down the above, I don’t feel particularly optimistic at the moment either. (Curiously). The groupings, however we categorise them, seem too entrenched and intractable. The idea that because we started st 30 odd % the last time and reached 45%, that we’ll make the same sort of gains is just so naive. Of course, I hope to be proven embarrassingly wrong.

    Lastly, if the bookies predictions ever transpire, I will emigrate (Independence or not). ‘Shudders’…

    • Thanks very much for this, Caroline. Yep, RFs not a homogenous group, virtually by definition, so needs all sorts of different approaches. We should start with your Mum, though! Phantom Power’s stuff is great and we’ll embed that here shortly. I agree it’s a tough task altogether, but it’s important to remember those folk who voted Yes but say they’ll vote No this time. We can surely get HALF of them back?

  4. I’ve seen Ruth Davidson’s status as bookies’ favourite for next FM mentioned in numerous places and am always at pains to point out that her odds are 6/1, equating to a 14% chance i.e. not very likely at all! Its not accurate to say that the bookies think she’ll be next FM when in fact they’re saying there’s an 86% chance she won’t be! Other than that spot on Eric and I thank you for always bringing a unique and interesting perspective on this debate 🙂

  5. Interesting description of the landscape, with which its hard to disagree.
    My one caveat is that the bookies make the blessed Ruth Davidson favourite to be FM in the next Scottish Government, whether we are independent or not. First of all the prospect is extremely unattractive – so much so that if I thought that becoming independent would bring that to power I might even vote No.
    Secondly, I wonder if the bookies have been overwhelmed by the avalanche of mush that has been directed her way, which seems to be largely on the basis of a couple of decent appearances on QT and one on HIGNFY. In my weekly critique of Torrance in the Herald on Monday, I showed that relative to the SNP vote, she has helped the Tories to recover from their near death experience of 2011, but even with the support of Unionist Labour voters she only got them back to where they were in 2007. For her to get any further we would be looking at Labour being reduced to as much a nonentity as the Liberal Democrats.

    • The bookies will be reflecting the bets, and it’s quite possible that wealthy Tories are having a bit of fun. That said, it’s worth thinking about what happens in the event that the SNP one day lose power in Scotland. At the moment, it would surely seem to be to an alliance of resurgent Tories, resurgent lib Dems in the wake of a further Labour collapse and an independent MSP or two?

      In an independent Scotland, the SNP would likely still be in charge for a while. Over time, natural gravity would assert itself and you’d surely get a realignment which ensured that Scotland’s natural centre-left leaning kept the Tories out for good? Why does Labour’s leadership want to prevent this? It’s a terrible mistake.

  6. Sounds to me like an accurate summary.

    I wonder if tactically the SNP haters have to be practically wiped out (politically speaking) before we have a chance of winning an Independence referendum.

    • I think there’s always room for hating in politics – so maybe they’ll get to the bottom at 10% or so. They don’t hold the power to prevent independence, though. I think it can be done without them.

  7. I used to decry this very poster for being a unionist.

    And his driver/sycophant, who went by the name of Grahamski.

    If you were ever in actually in contact with him Eric, tell him it’s OK.

    We understand….

  8. i have been coming to this conclusion myself. bares thinking about.

  9. I have tried to categorise unionists myself. My categorisation is somewhat different – including categories for sectarian types and trolls – but I can agree that the regular folks are really the only ones worth caring about.

  10. There’s another group who make up the regular guys, and that is those who would normally be smpathetic to Tory policies, but are scunnered by the antics of May and Johnson and who genuinely fear a hard Brexit. Many own small businesses or work in the financial sector. They are not going to be voting SNP in any hurry, but they too are re-thinking their position on independence.

    • That’s interesting. You should develop that a bit more. I’m pessimistic, to be honest, but I could be wrong…..


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