Being somewhat averse to blowing up balloons, never mind anything else, I was somewhat surprised to wake up this morning as an extremist:
Mr Clegg said the Lib Dems vision of Home Rule represented the views of the Scottish people and argued that those who were for independence, or keeping the current constitutional settlement, were extremists.
“All the evidence suggests that is the mainstream of opinion and the extremists are those who either think that we need to yank Scotland out of the United Kingdom tomorrow, or those who say there should be no further change at all,” Mr Clegg said.
“Well, I don’t agree with either of those two extremes.”
Leaving aside the other hyperbole in his statement (I don’t know anyone who wants to “yank Scotland out of the United Kingdom tomorrow”, rather than negotiating a new relationship with the rest of the UK in the wake of a successful referendum), can it possibly be the act of a reasonable person, an honest, responsible or even just pragmatic politician, to label people who believe in peaceful self-determination for their country as extremists?
I wanted to be sure he actually used the word extremist, because I would just about have let him off if he’d just said that independence and the status quo were at two extremes of a spectrum of possible constitutional outcomes. That would have been a poor choice of words, but accurate. But no, he actually called supporters of independence and the status quo extremists. I hold no brief for supporters of the status quo, but this isn’t fair to them either.
Definitions of extremism tend to agree that extremists are people with beliefs or behaviour far outside the societal norm. Recent polling suggests that 39% of voters in Scotland support independence, as against 38% who oppose it, with a large number of “don’t know”s. It also suggests that 65% would support independence if they believed they’d be £500 p.a. better off. Not the most noble reason for voting for independence, perhaps, but it appears that opposition to independence is weak and driven by financial fear (a £500 loss reduced the percentage preferring independence to 21%). Finally, somewhere in the region of 80% (can’t find the figures) would support full financial autonomy, with only Foreign Affairs and Defence handled by Westminster.
Even the lowest of those figures could conceivably produce a majority for independence in a referendum, so I’d love to know where Nick Clegg gets the idea that supporters of independence are extremists “far outside the societal norm”.
Nick Clegg, you’ll probably never read this, but just in case you do, I’ve frequently voted for your party since the 1980s, but you have lost me and you aren’t likely to get me back with personal insults. Your party was tanked in Scotland in May last year, and guess where a lot of your votes went? If you ever want them back… well, don’t hold your breath, oath-breaker, but if you do, you need to get over the fact that the SNP are a legitimate and peaceful political party, with the support of a larger proportion of the electorate than the other parties put together (51% in a recent poll), with many supporters and members including at least one Cabinet minister who are English, with widespread support among Scotland’s ethnic minorities, and with a policy of encouraging immigration. And they got there without the support of any UK or Scottish media, and with politicians like you saying stupid things like this. If that’s your extremism, it seems to me that the world could do with a few more extremists.