Nicola Sturgeon has announced a national conversation about Scotland’s future, and already the usual suspects are in full froth. You can’t have another independence referendum they cry, because obviously there was a rider to the question asked of us in September 2014 which said that if we voted to remain a part of the UK it was to be for all time, under all and any circumstances, and irrespective of whether the Unionist parties fulfilled any of the promises and commitments they made to secure a No vote.
This piece of small print was written in a special Unionist red white and blue ink that only becomes visible in the headlamps of one of Ruth Davidson’s tanks, so it’s understandable if you missed it. But never fear, Ruthie and her pals are here to point it out for you. It was written with the same special ink as the clause that allowed Ruthie’s party to plunge the entire UK into the economic and political uncertainty of Brexit, but at the same time gives her licence to claim that anyone who proposes a permanent solution for Scotland is committing the sin of creating uncertainty.
Meanwhile Kezia and Wee Wullie Rennie are implacably opposed to another referendum too. At least to a referendum of the Scottish variety. They’re open to the idea of another referendum on the EU. So when they say that they’re open to means of Scotland maintaining its membership of the EU what they really mean is that they’re open to the idea of revisiting referendum questions which haven’t been answered to their liking. For some reason, the mainstream media is very keen to give us the opinions of minor players like Wullie, but give less prominence to the views of a party which has more seats in Holyrood and beat Wullie’s into fifth place. This just might be related to the fact that the Greens are currently more gung-ho for a second referendum than the leadership of the SNP, and their enthusiasm for a second vote makes it very clear indeed that independence is not all about Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP.
What’s been announced today isn’t a campaign to persuade former No voters to change their minds. It’s a vital precursor to a full throated independence campaign. Before you can persuade someone to change their minds about independence, first of all you have to find out what their concerns about independence are. First you listen, only then can you persuade. This is the first step to indyref2 and if you start your journey from a position of knowledge then you will be surefooted throughout.
We live in a country which has been traduced and lied to for generations, which has been told by successive Westminster governments and their Scottish branch offices that we’re parochial, that we’re too poor, that we’re dependent on the largesse of a British government that’s not noted for its humanity and generosity. We’re a country which has been told for decades that aspiring to adequacy is a bit of a stretch. We’ve even been told that we don’t really exist, that there’s no such thing as Scottish culture other than an atavistic hatred of England, and that anyway nations are artificial constructs and so aren’t real or meaningful. Anything to get us to stay in our cereal box and to stop asking the difficult and unanswerable question – just why can’t Scotland do what every other European nation can do? Why can’t we be normal too?
Look about. See the grey drawn faces of mothers who wonder how they’re going to get through the week with food on the table. See the old man with a walking stick who’s deciding whether to top up his electric or to buy food. See the young man who’s never had a job self-medicate on cheap wine to stave off the black well of hopelessness that consumes his days and swallows him at night. See the young family whose dream of a home of their own recedes into the distance as house prices and rents rise but wages stagnate. This is the Scotland we’ve been taught is normal. It’s a Scotland where even small dreams are unattainable. Then look to the hills and see the vast estates and the countryside we’ve been cleared from. In this big country dreams stray from you.
And see the politicians who tell us that this is the best we can aspire to. See the politicians who tell us that we can’t afford to give our elderly a decent standard of living, that we can’t afford to give every child the same chance to succeed. But we can afford the obscenity of Trident. We can afford to bail out the banks. We can afford to allow big corporations to get away without paying their fair share. Well this isn’t normal. This isn’t right. This isn’t justice. We deserve better. And we can attain it. All we need to do is to believe in ourselves and create a system where those politicians are answerable to the people of the Scotland that they condemn to the half-life of abnormal normality. The solution is within our power, within our grasp. All it takes is a pencil marked X. Say yes to yourself. Say yes to the right to hope.
In 2014 the biggest grassroots movement in modern Scottish history established the principle that independence is perfectly possible. We took the notion of independence from the margins of Scottish political discourse and not only put it slap bang in the centre of the mainstream, we made it the most important question around which Scottish political discourse revolves. We established Scotland’s right to normality. We need to take that message to the places it didn’t reach before, to show that there is a better way, that we can aspire and dream of a Scotland where hope isn’t an alien concept. And we can make that Scotland a reality.
We’ve only just started. The indy band is striking up again, hope springs and the dance begins anew.
Audio version of this blog post, courtesy of Sarah Mackie @lumi_1984 https://soundcloud.com/occamshaver/wee-ginger-dug-2nd-sept-2016
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