And Edinburgh and Glasgow
Are like ploomen in a pub,
They want to hear o naething
But their ain foul bubbub . . .
Hugh MacDiarmid, from “A Drunk Man Looks At The Thistle”
In last week’s referendum Glasgow voted Yes whereas Edinburgh voted No. To be precise: all the Glasgow constituencies voted Yes and all the Edinburgh constituencies voted No.
Well, like duh. The poor voted Yes and the rich voted No. Everybody knows that Glesca is full of proles and that fair Edina (“Scotia’s darling seat!”) is the home of respectable folk.
The problem with that simplistic assessment is that it overlooks the likes of Craigmillar, Drylaw, Granton, Muirhouse, Niddrie, Pilton and so on. Glasgow may have most of the most deprived areas in Scotland, but by no means does it have all of them. If you want to find the explanation for the voting difference between the two cities then you need to look instead at the other end of the social scale.
Edinburgh is a natural city. All of the built-up areas are within the city boundary. When you see the sign telling you that you’re leaving Edinburgh then, in most places, you’re already in the country.
Glasgow, on the other hand, is very different. Instead of the boundary surrounding the conurbation, it falls well within it. Something that confuses visitors is that when you reach the boundary sign there are still some miles to go before you get to countryside. I’ve met many who had moved to the area from elsewhere and thought they had found a house in a “nice” part of Glasgow, only to discover that it was actually outside the city itself. (This used to matter when, for example, nursery provision varied across local authorities.)
All of the comfortably-off districts in the East are within the city of Edinburgh. Many of the equivalents in the West lie outside Glasgow, however: Bearsden, Bishopbriggs, Busby, Giffnock, Milngavie, Newton Mearns, Whitecraigs and others. Those Glaswegians who stay in affluent areas (strictly, those classed as being within the 10% least deprived) amount to only 4% of the city’s population.
The largest Edinburgh constituency is that of Edinburgh North and Leith. Now, you might have expected that Leith of all places would have voted Yes. Perhaps it did; we can’t tell. The problem is that Leith is lumped in with Stockbridge, the New Town and Trinity and that will be the reason that the result for that constituency as a whole was 60% for No.
There are poor people in Edinburgh just as there are in Glasgow. The difference is that many of the comfortably-off “Glaswegians” don’t in fact live inside Glasgow and don’t therefore vote in the city’s constituencies, whereas the equivalent in Edinburgh do.
To compare like with like, you would need to amalgamate the Glasgow City voting results with those for East Renfrewshire and East Dunbartonshire, which returned 63% and 61% for No, respectively. If you do such a recalculation, then the referendum voting figures for that notional “Greater Glasgow” become 50.95% for No and 49.05% for Yes on a 78.79% turnout, i.e. a small majority for No. That’s quite a different message to the one we’ve seen discussed so far.
The data aren’t available to allow a subdivision of the Edinburgh constituencies to create two entities equivalent to the Glasgow City vs East Ren/Dun split; but, if it were possible, my money would be on it showing a similar divergence to that occurring in the West.
That said, the figure for Edinburgh as a whole was 61% for No, significantly greater than the 51% for Greater Glasgow. I’ll come back to that point in my next post, part 3 of this mini-series.