Thursday, 7 May 2015

The View From The Polling Station

I spent a few hours today standing outside a polling station wearing the rosette of a political party whose identity I'm sure will not surprise regular readers of this blog. The atmosphere was friendly - I saw several parents taking their children with them into the voting booth to show them what democracy looks like. There were a few gripes, and a few "I'm not voting for your lot"s, but they mostly fair enough. The representatives of various parties took turns to hold the leads of the many dogs whose owners took them to the polling station with them, and otherwise chatted quite naturally. Regardless of all the nonsense some of the political parties put out, the UK is still a very healthy democracy - the ongoing sentiment of rolling-crisis is a mirage. Whatever the results of this election - and they are likely to be somewhat messy - the UK will muddle through much as it always has done.

Monday, 4 May 2015

A Timely Correction

As far as I know, the PRC has never retracted, or re-examined, its claims that UN forces in Korea during the Korean war used bacteriological and/or chemical weapons. This is a pity because evidence that has come out since the collapse of the USSR puts it beyond doubt that this never, ever happened. As the USSR council of ministers itself resolved on the 2nd of May, 1953 (after Stalin's death):

For Mao Zedong

"The Soviet Government and the Central Committee of the CPSU were misled. The spread in the press of information about the use by the Americans of bacteriological weapons in Korea was based on false information. The accusations against the Americans were fictitious."

To give recommendations:
To cease publication in the press of materials accusing the Americans of using bacteriological weapons in Korea and China.

To consider it desirable that the Government of the PRC (DPRK) declare in the UN that the resolution of the General Assembly of 23 April about investigating the facts of the use by the Americans of bacteriological weapons on the territory of China (Korea) cannot be legal, since it was made without the participation of representatives of the PRC (DPRK). Since there is no use of bacteriological weapons, there is no reason to conduct an investigation.

In a tactical way to recommend that the question of bacteriological warfare in China (Korea) be removed from discussion in international organizations and organs of the UN.

Soviet workers responsible for participation in the fabrication of the so-called "proof" of the use of bacteriological weapons will receive severe punishment." 
Every so often there is speculation that the CCP may, for example, decide to rehabilitate politicians who at various times had unjustly fallen foul of the historical CCP leadership, most often it is those behind the Tiananmen demonstrations are discussed in these terms. However, this is yet to ever happen, since it is painfully difficult for the CCP leadership to allow admission that it ever failed or was wrong about anything - in fact, since Deng's era it is hard to think of anything new beyond the admission that Mao was wrong an (undefined) 30% of the time that constitutes an admission of failing.

Perhaps something like the Tiananmen square demonstrations is still too recent, and too painful an incident for the Chinese authorities to reopen, but if something now as distant and uncontroversial as the CCP's long-abandoned (and not now taken seriously by anyone) claims of biological warfare in the Korean war cannot finally be admitted as fake, then it is hard to ever conceive of what might be admitted as a mistake beyond the generic admissions of failings during the Mao era. This inability to admit failing creates an ever growing number of controversies which the CCP denies even exists, and an ever-growing list of people aware of these controversies. This attempt to create a "country without history" cannot continue forever.

[Picture: A Korean-war-era Chinese Communist propaganda poster]

Friday, 17 April 2015

Why is political criticism seen as a personal insult?

This graph from Alex Massie's latest post over at The Spectator says a great deal about the current state of British politics:

At heart, the measure of how likely people are to see criticism of the political party they support as a personal attack on themselves is a measure of the sheer tribalism of their supporters, the degree to which they're political loyalties stem entirely from how they see themselves. As can be seen, no party is free of it, but (with the exception of the mildly Welsh Nationalist Plaid Cymru party) the more fringe the party is in nature, and the more extreme its policies are, the more tribal their supporters are likely to be.

Most prominent on this graph are the Scottish Nationalists, whose grass-roots supporter's ability to see any criticism, however substantiated by fact, as an insult to which they are entitled to respond with insults, will be familiar to anyone who has attempted to follow the development of "The 45" on twitter, and their hounding and jeering of journalists insolent enough to report unfavourable news about their leader.  We see similar behaviour from the self-proclaimed "People's Army" of the UK Independence Party, a nationalist movement in all but name. Whilst the Greens are not a nationalist party, that their support stems much more from their supporter's self-image than from any policies in their manifesto is hardly surprising when you consider that the Green Party's manifesto is in large part an un-costed shopping-list of things it is trendy to be seen to believe in.

To anyone those familiar with Chinese affairs, the phenomenon of people defending politicians who do the indefensible, and responding to criticism with angry invective purely because they have been taught to uncritically identify themselves with those politicians is nothing new. To see it become such a mainstay of British poltics is disappointing, however.

Happily, the likely failure of all of the fringe parties to make any great impact after the next election, and the compromises that will have to be made if they wish to make an impact, are likely to result eventually in a more realistic outlook amongst their supporters. For the time being, though, the supporters of the fringe parties can still engage in magical thinking whereby all that need happen is for Scotland/Wales to become independent, or the UK to leave the EU, or for 'neoliberalism' (whatever that is) to be brought to an end, and all their problems can be solved.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Caribbean Notes

Two weeks ago my wife and I flew back into a typically cold, wet and horrid British January after having spent a wonderful time sailing around the Eastern Caribbean on a much belated honeymoon. Before those warm memories are driven entirely from my head, I thought it best to run off a quick post about some of the places we went to, with the caveat that, having only visited these places for a couple of days each, I cannot possibly do each place full justice:

Cartagena, Colombia
The city was surprisingly nice, especially given that I had expected Colombia to be the roughest stop on our trip due to the security situation there. Whilst heavily armed police were in evidence in some parts of the city, however, the atmosphere was relaxed. There was both no sign of the FARC, nor any sign of concern about them.

The old town of Cartagena is a gem, if one with parts that were over-run by tourists. The gold museum, entry to which is free, was a great place to visit, and the food we had at a restaurant in the less-touristified Getsemani side of town was first rate.

Colon, Panama
Sad to say, Colon itself proved to be a quite forgettable and insalubrious town, and the area near the docks had a particularly threatening feel to it - police on bikes eventually rolled up on us as we wandered the streets near the port area to and told us in no uncertain terms that the area simply wasn't safe to walk around in.

By contrast, Portobelo, 40 minutes by taxi from Colon, was well worth a visit. Black vultures flocked around the fortresses of the old town, and the sun beat down upon the bay where, 400 years before, Sir Francis Drake (who the local museum labeled a "pirate") had been laid to rest. We were slightly concerned to see groups of locals with their faces painted black who were carrying long, heavy bats standing at points along our route to the town collecting money from passing cars, until we learned that they were actually celebrating a local festival and were likely dressed as the Black Christ of Porto Belo. The calamari we ate there was simply excellent.

San Lorenzo, across the Panama canal (the locks of which we also visited at Gatun) from Colon proved to be a ruined Spanish fortress standing in the middle of virgin jungle. Standing on the ramparts of the old fort and looking down on the bay below, where brilliant blue water lapped at the edge of dense jungle, you felt you knew what things would have been like there in the days of the conquistadors.

Whilst Colon itself was nothing special, one of my abiding memories of the whole trip was our leaving of the place - a cloud of black butterflies seemed to flock around the ship and followed us until we were several miles out to sea, a strange and beautiful experience. We caught one final, perplexing sight of land - a flare-gun had been fired in the city for some reason - and then as the flare fell, the sun set and we were off on the next part of our journey.

Montego Bay, Jamaica
It's a shame to say this, but the town of Montego Bay also proved to be more than a tad unmemorable, which combined with all the warnings we heard of robberies there (true or not, I don't know), and the continual and tiresome shouting from touts, put us off from doing too much exploring there. Except for a visit to the civic centre to see the exhibit about Sam Sharpe, who was hung by the British in the main square outside the museum 181 years ago this year, we saw little of the town.

Doctors Cave Beach, on the other hand, was immaculate. The coral reef which we snorkeled on was an exquisite riot of colour, with fish of every size wizzing over the coral. Everyone should swim on a coral reef at least once in their life.

Playa Del Carmen, Mexico
Roughly an hour's drive from Cancun, Playa Del Carmen is definitely part of the the same holiday resort world as it's more famous neighbour, which is not to say it was unpleasant. Actually, after the unsettling atmosphere of Colon and Montego Bay it was quite welcome.

The Mayan ruins at Tulum which we visited (we didn't have enough time to get to Chichen Itza) were spectacular, if seemingly over-run by iguanas. It was odd to think that only half the old buildings there have been explored properly, with many more remaining buried or un-protected in the surrounding mangrove swamp. My advice to anyone who wants to go there is to take your swimming clothes, as there is a beach directly below the main tower that makes an excellent break in the middle of a hot Mexican day.

Havana, Cuba
Having lived in China certain aspects of Cuba were not unfamiliar - the propaganda slogans one saw around Havana, for example. A visitor to the propaganda-packed Museum of The Revolucion (the exhibits of which bear only a tangential relation to history) would have found little to choose between it and some of the museums in Beijing.

Others aspects were, for me, quite new - the generally ruined state of many buildings in the capital was something I had heard about but not expected to be so omni-present. Even the North Korean-style monuments at Plaza De La Revolucion looking somewhat time-worn, with cracked and over-grown curb-sides.

Indeed, with the long queues we saw forming outside bakeries, the talk of shortages of basic necessities (although this may just have been a local version of the powdered milk scam - grifters and beggars were, despite what you may have read elsewhere, prominent on the streets of Havana), my wife was reminded of Poland in the 1980's. I have heard journalists ascribe the state of modern-day Cuba to the embargo, but pretty much every country governed according to Marxist economics has ended up this way (the main square in Wroclaw was almost falling apart by the end of the 80's), so colour me unconvinced.

All this aside Havana was definitely an interesting place to visit, many of the colonial-era buildings had a faded grandeur to them, and the people were very friendly. Sitting in the department store at Plaza Carlos III, which opened in 1997, and seeing the new developments and restorations near the port area, it looked like Cuba is on the way to eventually rejoining the modern world and ditching the insane economic policies of the communist era. The US's re-establishment of relations with Cuba will hopefully greatly hasten this. Whether democratic reforms will also occur is impossible to say, but the Cuban leadership is at least likely to try to copy the example of China, and seek to stay in power by resisting any political reform.

Georgetown, Grand Cayman
Going from the dilapidated worker's paradise to the beating heart of one of the world's biggest tax-havens and playground of the plutocrats was quite a switch. Happily the Cayman Islands (over which the British flag still flies) turned out to the nicest and friendliest place we stopped at in the whole trip. My must-dos from the Cayman Islands include the local craft beers, which were delicious, and any of its seafood establishments.

We left port behind a Royal Navy warship, and started our journey back to Gatwick.

[Picture: A local fishing boat in the San Blas islands off the coast of Panama, where a planned stop was cancelled due to rough seas] 

As seen in Havana

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

The United States: Rogue State.

There's pretty much no other way to read the details of the CIA's torture program without coming to a very simple conclusion : that the United States is currently harbouring people known to have committed war crimes of every imaginable variety including many of the very worst short of genocide. Inevitably, other countries, including quite probably the UK, were involved also, but the main driving force behind these war crimes seems to have come from the US's incompetent, scared leadership of the time.

If the United States does not investigate these crimes and punish those reponsible it will be little better than Sudan, Syria, Iran, North Korea, the People's Republic of China, and other countries where human rights are regarded by those in power as having little consequence, except that we may at least hope that the torture program is no longer operational.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

China refuses to allow MPs to visit Hong Kong: a modest proposal

Here's how Britain should respond to China's refusal to allow a parliamentary delegation to visit Hong Kong: just as unreasonably as China has acted in blocking a perfectly reasonable attempt to see whether the PRC was sticking to the terms of the 1984 Sino-British agreement.

Let's start by cancelling the student visas given to the children of high-ranking CCP officials like Bo Guagua and Yang Li. After all, the mantra that Britain is "no longer a colonial power" and shouldn't try to interest itself in Hong Kong and Chinese affairs, then this must cut both ways - there is no reason for Chinese officials to be sending their children to the UK to learn in Britain if British officials cannot visit China to investigate affairs there.

As a second move, let's close down all Confucius Institutes  (Chinese state-funded educational centres, normally based in UK universities) that have been set up in the UK. As all good paranoiacs know, these are basically spy command centres, and tools of cultural imperialism. If "western values" that the UK's parliamentarians might spread like democracy are a threat to China, then by the same absurd logic, bodies designed to teach about Chinese cultural values may also be a threat to the UK.

Finally, if compliance with bilateral treaties between our two countries may not be monitored without accusations of "colonialism", then it is not only British officials who must be barred from travelling. There are a whole raft of treaties and exchange programs (e.g., this one) visit the UK: let's scrap the lot.

But of course, we're too reasonable to do any of this.

[Picture: the original modest proposal]

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Why North Korean tourism is ghoulish and wrong

As someone who has always had a slight yen to see what it is like to live in the world's last remaining Stalinist state, I have sometimes thought about visiting North Korea on tous such as those organised by the Koryo group. The one thing that has stopped me from doing so is the thought that foeign visitors may be used in North Korean propaganda as evidence of foreign support for the regime of the Kims, as well as the potential use of foreign currency earned from tourists in the Kim's various terrorism and drug-dealling enterprises.

A partial confirmation of this idea came in North Korean defector Park Yeon-Mi's live Q&A today in answer to a question about what the ordinary people of North Korea think about the outside world:

 Of course, beyond this, there is the distastefully ghoulish aspect of visiting a country which suffers under such a disasterous system merely for the rarity value, for the bragging rights of saying you saw a totalitarian dictatorship close-up. The nearest comparison would be taking photos at a deadly car-crash merely so you could say you had been there.

Am I wrong about this? At least it seems I am not the only one who thinks so.

[Photo: Tourists chat with local North Koreans. By Norman Harak, via Wiki

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Memories of Serbia

Last year, as my now-wife and I were driving down through the Balkans on our way from Poland to a friend's wedding in Greece, we stopped off in Belgrade for a few days, followed up by a night in Niš. The truly troubled countries of the Balkans - Bosnia and Albania - were saved for our return trip, but Serbia did not strike us as, in the main, a happy country, though it seems churlish to dwell on this given the welcome that many Serbs extended to us whilst we were there.

Most of the damage from the 1999 bombing had been repaired - though there still are ruined buildings in the centre of Belgrade - but there was an understandably suspicious attitude, at least at first, in much of the population to foreigners. Happily Poles are pretty welcome as brother-Slavs, and whatever initial suspicion people had towards us seemed to melt away when they heard we were travelling from Poland (I thought it best not to mention that I was British unless necessary).

One particularly striking memory was walking through the lovely quiet of a Belgrade night-time near the fortress, and looking across the Sava to see the massive Gazprom building with its giant neon sign on the other side. Here, it seemed to say, was an outpost of Russian influence in a country which, judging by the growing willingness of its people to display the EU flag and engage with the rest of Europe, was very slowly slipping away from them.

I claim no real expertise about Serbia or the Balkans as a whole, but still it is not a surprise, given what I saw there last year, to read of Serbian politicians simultaneously feting Putin in what appears to have been a trumped-up excuse to meet him with a parade (the anniversary it is supposed to celebrate does not even fall for four more days), whilst on the other hand talking of how they are irrevocably set on the road to Europe. The Serbs have already been through the grinder of war and want no more of it, though some of their people may have a sentimental attachment to the kind of politics of nationalistic pride amongst Slavs that Putin represents, and which he has used to slice bleeding chunks out of his Georgian and Ukrainian neighbours.

[Picture: The crypt in the church at Topola, final resting place of the Kings of Serbia, where we made a relaxing stop after Belgrade. The wine from the neighbouring vineyard was also well worth sampling] 

Thursday, 2 October 2014

"Caged Birds Think Flying Is An Illness" - The Stand-Off In Hong Kong

And the beat goes on. Having basically provoked these mass demonstrations throughout Hong Kong through their rash bombardment of the of peacefully demonstrating students who originally turned out to protest Beijing's failure to allow the genuine democracy in the territory, the Hong Kong authorities have struggled to come up with an effective way of coping with them.

The Hong Kong authorities first bombastically condemned the demonstrations as illegal. As an example of the kind of world these people live in, Regina Ip's comments that the students actions could lead to another Tiananmen (rather than, I don't know, the authorities unleashing lethal military force on unarmed protesters? Like actually happened in Tiananmen in '89?)  is a stunning example.

Then the Hong Kong authorities, perhaps realising they had over-stepped the mark, started to make more conciliatry and moderate statements. One un-named government official was quoted as saying that "Unless there's some chaotic situation, we won't send in riot police ... We hope this doesn't happen . . . We have to deal with it peacefully, even if it lasts weeks or months." The rather obvious plan being here to wait for the demontrations to make themselves unpopular through the disruption they might cause to the city.

Perhaps this was rather too conciliatory for Beijing's tastes, since the mainland authorities have since then made ever more strident warnings against continuining the demonstrations. A People's Daily editorial yesterday which has been compared to the infamous editorial threatening the demonstrators in Tiananmen square, described the consequences of continuing the demonstrations as "unimaginable". The Chinese Foreign ministry has followed suit by warning foreign diplomats to stay away from demonstrations (never mind that this may well be impossible, given the location of the demonstrators). Pictures of baton-rounds and tear-gas being distributed to police have been circulating on Twiter - the good reputation of the Hong Kong police, described by some as "Asia's Finest", has definitely taken something of a knocking over the last week or so.

Responses from ordinary people on the mainland to the demonstrations in Hong Kong have been somewhat unsympathetic, with this moronic cartoon doing the rounds (if widespread bloodshed does occur in Hong Kong, does anyone seriously think it will not be the Chinese authorities who initiate it?). This explanation has much truth in it -

Of course another explanation is that people on the mainland who are sympathetic to what is going on in Hong Kong are liable to be arrested.

Less easy to understand have been the attempts from some in the Sino-blogo-sphere to seemingly down-play the Hong Kong demonstrations.

One example of this is J Michael Cole's attempt to pooh-pooh the Hong Kong demonstrations as somehow a re-run of this year's much smaller Taiwanese demonstrations against the elected-but-unpopular KMT government's trade treaty with the PRC, a story which the world's news media largely ignored. The idea that a minor - if noisy - episode in Taiwan's domestic politics just wasn't as important as a people demonstrating for freedom from a dictatorship doesn't seem to have occured to him.

Another example is Kaiser Kuo's attempt to draw a straight line from pro-democracy demonstrations to anti-mainlander sentiment in Hong kong. I sure hope this wasn't intended as the smear it came off as.

And what is likely to be the outcome of these demonstrations? Predictions of an early exit for Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung have been doing the rounds, but I cannot believe that would happen as a direct sop to the demonstrators (not least because that would embolden them). Anyway, the CCP has been making supportive statements about heir picked man in Hong Kong - though their talk of "fully trust[ing]" Leung and being “very satisfied” with him do sound a bit like the kind of statements the board of a Premiership football club would make about an embattled manager right before sacking him. If Leung is going, they'll drop him at the end of his term in 2017 similar to the ousting of Tung Chee-hwa, not now.

Still less likely are any concessions from the CCP to allow meaningful elections in the territory. Whilst the broken promise of free elections is what led to these demonstrations in the first place, the CCP is no more likely to deliver on them now than it was, and seems fixed on its policy come-what-may. Pace  McMurphy, since the CCP decided what it was going to do ages ago - likely as long ago as 2007, conciliatory measures from the pro-democracy camp would do nothing to improve the system on offer, but then again neither are demonstrations - though this cannot be known for sure.

Most likely, sooner or later the demonstrators will quit, hopefully having given the Hong Kong authorities and the Chinese Communist Party the humiliation that they so richly deserve, but likely without having acheived much in the way of meaningful concessions. The pro-dem members of the Legislative Council will veto proposals that do not allow them to even run for election, thus preserving the current system where they may run but not be elected. Hong Kong will go back to business as usual - until the next time.

[Picture: Demonstrators occupying Harcourt Road, Admiralty hold a "candlelight vigil" with mobile phones. By Wiki user Citobun]

Sunday, 28 September 2014

This Not What Democracy Looks Like

Thousand of peaceful demonstrators in Hong Kong gathered to protest Beijing's failure to allow meaningful democratic elections in the territory are scattered with tear-gas, whilst Chinese state television reportedly tries to explain the events as a mass celebration of the national holiday. Words fail.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

This Is What Democracy Looks Like

So the results are in, the ballots counted, the results accepted, and the Union preserved by a healthy, if not totally overwhelming margin of nearly 11%. A region voted on its independence without - Moscow take note - the requirement of thousands of Kalashnikov-wielding thugs invading and declaring a suspiciously massive majority for one side.

The cause of Scottish independence has obviously seen a set-back here, though they'll long talk about their 1.6 million votes for an independent Scotland, and anyway thrive on historical remembrances of what might have been going right back to 1707 if not earlier. Unionists like myself cannot rest too easy since 45% of voters voting against the Union indicates that many Scots do not agree that preserving the Union is in their interest - there's certainly work to be done.

Regionalists in the rest of the UK are now beginning to take note of the new powers promised to Scotland. I personally think this will be flash in the pan - other experiments in devolution in England outside of London have been met with outright apathy (particularly the experiment in elections for crime commissioners, which cannot even raise a 20% turnout). The idea that Scottish-style politics will energise the rest of the UK is an odd one when you consider the low turnouts typically seen in Holyrood elections.

For myself, though, playing  very, very small part in keeping the Union together has been a revelation. The next likely referendum in the UK will be those on EU membership, promised if there is a Conservative government elected in the next parliament (though the Conservatives are committed at the moment to staying in), and I intend to help out in them too.

[Picture: Scottish independence referendum results - red is "No", green is "yes". By Wiki user Sceptre]

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

My (Unwritten) Constitutional Patriotism

I attended the Unity Rally in London on Monday, where I took the above picture. Geldof spoke well, and movingly, about the opportunities he found in the UK that he could not find in Ireland, and how it seemed crazy to him, as an Irishman, given the things that drove Ireland to independence, that Scotland should seek it over matters so much more minor and temporary. "If I were Scottish, I might ask myself 'why not?'" he said, "But I'm Irish, so I ask 'Why?'".

 I have to say the last two weeks have left me surer than ever that I am, first and foremost, British, and a Unionist. Some authors on the left have spoken of this kind of sentiment as somehow "fake" or as a kind of evil nationalism (normally whilst ignoring or dismissing the genuine nationalism of the SNP). I can only speak for myself, but I see it as something closer to what the Germans call "constitutional patriotism", but in country with no written constitution. It would be a great shame if this is the last 24 hours in which I can claim it to be so.

  [You can read the BBC report on the rally here. I'm standing to the right of the guy with the sign in the bottom-most picture]

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Say No To A Vote From The Gut.

Scottish voters are due to vote, as is their democratic right, on independence in ten days time. The arguments on the virtues of the SNP's independence plans have been argued and re-argued. By now, if you're not convinced that independence along the lines that Alex Salmond is proposing makes little or no sense, that it will result in economic turmoil, in a country using another's with no say in how its run, in a Scottish exit from the EU, in bad blood, and the end of the most successful union-state, there's little that can be said to change your mind.

The heavy negative impact of independence was why the clear lead the 'No' camp had up until last week made sense, and why the progress 'Yes' has made in recent days in the polls is so bizarre and shocking. My feelings on the issue are much the same as Will Hutton's here:
Without imaginative and creative statecraft, the polls now suggest Scotland could secede from a 300-year union, sundering genuine bonds of love, splitting families and wrenching all the interconnectedness forged from our shared history.

Absurdly, there will be two countries on the same small island that have so much in common. If Britain can't find a way of sticking together, it is the death of the liberal enlightenment before the atavistic forces of nationalism and ethnicity – a dark omen for the 21st century. Britain will cease as an idea. We will all be diminished.

Hutton is right about the character of the feelings pushing some Scottish voters towards voting for independence when arguments based on the facts weigh so heavily against it. He's also right about what the cost would be. I personally will never be able to think of my family in Scotland as foreign, or Scotland as another country, and for me interposing a border between us would be a monstrous act.

There's still hope, of course, that this is all just a blip, that cooler heads will prevail, and that the Scottish people will decisively say 'No' on the 18th of September in the same way they were planning to up until last week. It should also be pointed out that there will be Scottish elections in May 2016, and that whilst Alex Salmond has set a deadline of March 2016, he has no more right to demand such a deadline than he does to demand the currency union that British political leaders have decisively rejected. A win for Unionist parties in 2016 could therefore theoretically render a 'Yes' a dead letter - but this is a slender reed to grasp.

I hope that in time Britain can look back on this much as Canada looks back on the Quebec vote of 1995, where independence also took the lead in some polling before a razor-thin vote against it, and where now the prospect of a split is further away than ever after BQ (the main pro-independence party) was soundly defeated in the last election..