The Sex Pistols, Life of Brian, Frankie Says Relax. It's the age-old story - if you want to make 100 percent certain that absolutely everyone has heard about something, the simplest method is to try to ban or censor it. We must therefore conclude that, in Scotland, the anti-independence 'Better Together' campaign was deeply concerned that a short video entitled 'The Top 10 Unionist Myths - Debunked' simply hadn't been brought to a wide enough audience. As a result of the publicity generated by trying to have it pulled on the grounds of copyright infringement, it has now racked up well over half-a-million views - the equivalent of 10 percent of the entire population of Scotland.
This wouldn't have been quite such a catastrophic blunder if only the video hadn't just happened to be one of the most effective pieces of pro-independence advocacy ever produced. Slick, funny and irreverent, it rattles through the No campaign's stock arguments at breakneck speed, and blows a hole in each and every one of them using language that everyone can understand. It's bang on the money with its facts, too, although as you'd expect in such a short video there are a few rhetorical sleights of hand to keep things moving along.
The only point at which a viewer is in any real danger of being misled is when the video deals with 'Unionist Myth No. 6', namely that Scots must stay in the UK for 'altruistic' reasons to prevent England being doomed to perpetual Tory rule. The counter-argument deployed is that virtually every general election since the war would have produced exactly the same result with or without Scottish participation. However, the video's specific claim that "1974 would still have been Labour" doesn't really stack up. In the absence of Scotland, the first election of that year would have produced a minority Tory - rather than minority Labour - government, and consequently Labour wouldn't have had the same momentum going into the second election. And even if the second 1974 election is looked at entirely in isolation, Labour would have secured only minority rule without Scotland, and would have had very little chance of seeing out its full five-year term.
But surely 1974 is a special case due to the closeness of the results? Well, yes and no. It's true that there has been no other clear-cut example of the Conservatives winning in England and still being frozen out of power at Westminster. The snag is, though, that it's only relatively recently that Scotland has decisively detached itself from UK-wide voting patterns, and as such there have only been a small number of opportunities for such examples to occur. There's not much point dwelling on the fact that "the 1955 result would have been the same without Scotland", when the Tories actually polled higher in Scotland that year than they did in the rest of the UK. Even as recently as 1979, the Scottish Tories secured more than 30 percent of the popular vote, and more than 20 Commons seats. If they had instead suffered their now customary humiliation of winning fewer seats than there are pandas in Edinburgh Zoo, the comfortable working parliamentary majority Mrs Thatcher enjoyed upon taking office would have been wiped out.
So modern Scotland, viscerally anti-Tory as it is, can probably be expected to have a slightly greater impact on future UK general elections than past history might suggest. It's categorically not the case that Labour can't win without Scotland, but there might be occasions after independence when a potential majority UK Labour government is downgraded to a minority. (You might think that's no bad thing if it prevents Middle Eastern countries from being illegally invaded.) And there could also be occasions when a Tory minority is upgraded to a majority. The present parliament is a perfect example - if Scotland had been independent at the time of the 2010 election, the rest of the UK would currently be ruled by a majority Tory government.
I don't seek to downplay the gravity of that. The Liberal Democrats may have sold their souls to get into government, but they can probably still claim with some credibility to have taken the edge off some of the Tories' worst right-wing excesses. So in this particular case Scottish votes have made a real difference to the lives of people in the rest of the UK. What I would question, though, is whether making that difference can in any sense be considered an act of 'altruism'.
We really need to take a step back here, and recall why it is that we as Scots embarked on the journey towards self-government in the first place. When London Tories imposed the poll tax on a country that hadn't voted for them or it, they may well have honestly believed that they were doing it altruistically - that they were saving us from ourselves, and from the stupidity of our socialist votes. But we said no, and understood for the first time the vital importance of having a government that we voted for ourselves. Doesn't England deserve the same dignity? We may think that a country that actually wants George Osborne as its finance minister must have gone astray somewhere, but in a democratic system it should probably get what it votes for all the same. Two countries each trying to 'help' by imposing unwanted governments on the other isn't the healthiest basis for a neighbourly relationship.
In any case, it's perfectly conceivable that Scottish independence will have a counterintuitive effect south of the border. Faced with a steeper electoral mountain to climb, Labour might finally be forced to face up to the destructive idiocy of its addiction to a majoritarian voting system. A switch to proportional representation would usher in the prospect of progressive governance even when - as is the norm - the Conservatives are the largest single party. Removing the crutch of the Scottish Labour bloc at Westminster might just turn out to be the most precious gift that Scotland has ever given the English left.