Scotland has been governed since the Union in 1707 by a series of locally unaccountable local elites each with their power derived from subservience to the bigger, wider, British elite of which they form the cadet branch, deriving satisfaction from being effective servants of that wider unaccountable interest.. On the most banal level, this explains why our devolved politics at Holyrood have been both quietly efficient behind the scenes in private while resembling a screechy playground fight in public. “It's Oor Baw!” they all cry, as if Scotland was a single piece of property to be screeched over in public and efficiently controlled in secret.
As indeed, in some senses, under the stewardships of successive hegemonies, it always has been run and screeched over. It is this pre-democratic sphere of privilege, safe from London because un-regarded by London, and still effectively unaccountable in Scotland, that is now seriously threatened.
The question in the referendum can be ultimately rephrased as: Do You Think that Political Power in Scotland should be in the gift of a sovereign Scottish People, or remain in the gift of sovereign power invested in the Westminster parliament? Put the question that way and you understand why they will move heaven and earth to stop us.
It is also why the anti-nationalist Scottish National Establishment is so steadfastly and paradoxically running away from power and responsibility. They are used to power without responsibility, is the explanation. They’ve come to prefer it that way. It is not power they fear, or even nationalism they oppose, ultimately. It is effective democratic oversight. It is democracy itself they’re afraid of.
There is something finally rather primitive at the base of our democratic under-development. The Scottish Middle Class, which includes the Labour-voting, publicly employed middle class, tends to support the Union because, ultimately, they don’t trust the people in the next street.
This is why from the Scottish Law Society to the BBC and CBI as well as Labour dominated local government, the powers that be in Scotland are in the No camp. Devolution has already exposed them and made them vulnerable and scrutinized in way they’re not used to, and they fear that independence might finish them. But "the people" was the fiefdom from which first the Scottish Unionists and then Labour drew their “deliverable” vote, once upon a time. And while first the Protestant Ascendancy, then the welfare state and mass employment and housing lasted, they did indeed deliver a stream of MPs and real leaders through their passive, un-consulted, barely visible and slavishly reliable electoral base. That this political base began to disintegrate, along with the collective provision and mass employment on which it was founded, was an obvious sequel, and it seems curious that Labour, for example, should have been taken so much by surprise. But they were. Even having lost two elections in a row they barely seem to credit it and act as if some terrible mistake will soon be corrected and everything will return to normal.
A return to normality is what they are gambling on in September. They only took the gamble because they were certain that our fearfulness, our inexperience of self-rule, would still slavishly deliver the vote they wanted. They are not so sure now. They will move heaven and earth to stop us. By contrast, if the Yes side can persuade the people of Scotland that it’s “Independence” that is “normal”, and the only real expression of sovereignty and of democracy, then heaven and earth can’t stop us.