One recent Friday evening I drove with a man called El Tigre to a vegetable farm on the outskirts of Vancouver. El Tigre—whose real name is Raul Gatica—is a political refugee from Mexico who now runs the Migrant Workers’ Dignity Association (MWDA), a not-for-profit body set-up to represent the interests of foreign labourers in BC. He was given the nickname by the workers at some point, but he can’t remember when or why. “Maybe it’s because I’m small but brave and formidable,” he told me. “I don’t know. Something like that.”

At the farm, Raul introduced me to a dozen or so labourers, most of whom were also Mexican. Their stories were all the same. The work is backbreaking and a single shift can last for up to 12 hours. They live on-site in cheaply constructed housing units. The pay is abysmal. The employers are bullying and punitive. They felt isolated, invisible, and abused. “We want the same rights as Canadians,” one guy said, as he lifted bundles of lettuce and pak choi from the earth. “It’s a simple thing to ask.”

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Alex Salmond’s belief that independence will be achieved on the back of a “rising tide of expectations” is drawn from recent Scottish political history. It’s no coincidence that support for the SNP boomed in the 1970s following the discovery of oil and gas in the North Sea and then slumped in the ‘80s as the UK economy entered a severe downturn.

The near doubling of Scottish rates of poverty and unemployment during the Thatcher era sapped Scotland’s economic confidence, reinforcing the defensive and conservative instincts of the Scottish electorate. No doubt last week’s news that British economic output has begun to recover after the worst recession in living memory was greeted with the same sense of relief in Bute House as it was at the Treasury.

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