He was talking about public service reform when he said we should “reconsider the basic principles of the way we organise and try to measure them not against the ‘givens’ but against the contemporary reality, the potential and possibility opened up by change.” But this challenge is laid down in ‘The Forces of Conservatism’ chapter in his book, where he outlines the constant battle he faced against the fiercely defended status quo throughout his time in office. That’s because however much change is a fascination, it’s also something humans feel inherently uncomfortable with. It is no coincidence that one of the most lauded books of 2013 was The Examined Life by psychoanalyst Stephen Grosz that deals with exactly this.
But what’s this got to do with Scotland? A lot, I’d say. As we see the Government and the Better Together campaign firmly pitching their stalls on the ‘future uncertainty’ ticket, in my view the chances of seeing Scottish independence become more and more of a long shot. The ‘no’ campaign are widening the perceived gulf between the comfortable norm and what the future might look like intentionally and cleverly.
The campaign began by focusing on the ‘little’ things, raising questions about identity and economic stability if Scotland exited the union, but now the big guns are being brought out. By focusing phase two of the campaign for togetherness on currency and EU membership, the no campaign are taking people to a future that looks so different, that is so uncertain, that they hope people will retreat and choose to stick to the secure, familiarity of today.
With just a third of Scottish people now in the ‘Yes’ camp, according to YouGov, it seems like the forces of conservatism will reign strong.