Over the weekend Theresa May hinted that she’s going to go full out for a hard Brexit, and prioritises controlling immigration over retaining British membership of the single market. This is despite the fact that prominent Leave campaigners during the EU referendum insisted that leaving the EU didn’t mean leaving the single market. We’re facing the worst case scenario, the hardest possible Brexit, which is likely to wreak havoc on the economy and do appalling damage to job opportunities and living standards.
Then the Chancellor Philip Hammond announced that a Britain outside the single market could find a new future as a tax haven, and abandon the current European style social model. That could have a catastrophic effect on social benefits, pensions, social security provision and the NHS. All the more so because the Dutch recently made clear that they’ll veto any trade deals with the UK if Britain seeks to make itself into even more of a tax haven than it already is. The future of the UK is looking bleaker and bleaker, our worst fears are becoming realised. This is not a country in which it’s safe to be poor, to be sick, or to grow old. If we want to maintain our commitment to a decent standard of living for all our citizens, the only possiblity is through independence.
If we want to win the next indyref, we need to do something about the substantial majority for No which currently exists amongst those of pensionable age. That means we need to speak to our grandparents and parents and try to find out what’s preventing them from voting Yes, and give them the answers that can put any fears they may have to rest. And while we’re doing that, we also need to speak to them about the very real threats that the Tories are making to dismantle the welfare state. There is a very real prospect that those of us of working age will have to work much longer than our parents or grandparents in return for a much lower state pension. That’s if there is such a thing as a state pension by the time those in their teens or twenties get to pensionable age.
It’s a fact that the longer Scotland remains a part of this dysfunctional UK, the more precarious the future becomes for those of us of working age or younger. We need to do all we can to reassure Scottish pensioners that their existing pensions are safe and secure and will continue to be paid after Scottish independence, but the truth is that if you vote against independence in the mistaken belief that it’s the only way to ensure your pension will continue to be paid, you are putting at risk the chances that your children and grandchildren will enjoy the same pension rights that you do. Another decade of Tory rule will see to that.
Before going any further, I need to make it clear that I don’t believe all pensioners are rampant unionists. I know that’s not the case. There are many thousands of older people who not only voted Yes, but who actively support and campaign for Scottish independence. But that said, it is a statistical fact that people of pensionable age are more likely to oppose independence, and that’s a problem that the Yes campaign needs to tackle. I believe that tackling it requires a two pronged approach, firstly to reassure older people that their pensions, the NHS, social care services and the like will be safer with independence than entrusting them to an increasingly right wing Tory government that’s hell bent on isolating us from Europe. And secondly we need to speak to people about the disadvantages, risks and downsides to Scottish public services, pensions, and social security provision by remaining a part of the UK.
I tweeted “We need to start talking to our parents & grandparents about how their fears for their pensions mean they’re depriving us of ours.” It must be a full moon, because Unionist Twitter went batshit mental. Although to be honest batshit mental is its baseline state. You’d think that I’d actually tweeted, “We need to tell our grannies that if they don’t vote Yes we’ll throw them from a bus.” And in fact that’s exactly the gloss that Labour stalwart Duncan Hothersall put on my tweet. Because talking to your granny about your own fears for the future is of course exactly the same as elbowing her off a number 60 bus and onto a busy road.
Others told me that what I’d tweeted was the most vile and disgusting thing they’d ever heard. And these are people who cheerfully retweet Brian Spanner. How dare I threaten pensioners in such a manner. It was far more of a vile and disgusting threat than when Better Together phoned up pensioners before the independence referendum to tell them that if they voted Yes their pensions would no longer be paid. Others insisted that it was greedy and selfish. Hoping that we can maintain a system that ensures that younger people continue to have the same rights to a state pension as their grandparents is clearly an act of utter selfishness on the part of independence supporters.
Having spent the day blocking and muting screaming people who insist that they are viscerally opposed to nationalism while having flegs in their avatars, it’s clear that any proposal from an independence supporter to pitch an appeal directly to older people in order to persuade them of the merits of independence hits a very sensitive nerve in the Unionist camp.
The projection is strong in them. They won their No vote in no small measure by terrifying the elderly, so they are convinced that any initiative from the Yes movement is likewise going to be similarly fear inspiring, negative, and bilious. The anger, odium, and sheer hatred emanating from the die-hardists in response to the idea was overwhelming. So clearly, it’s the right strategy. The Unionists are utterly terrified that older people might change their minds once they learn the truth about Unionist threats.
We don’t need to persuade everyone of pensionable age who currently doesn’t support independence. We only need to persuade 10% of them. And the very best people to address the concerns of older people are their younger family members. Sure, some are a lost cause and always will be, but if we can persuade just a minority to see why they should support independence, then we will win. So we need reassure our older family members that their own pensions and NHS services will be safe, but also let them know that they need to support independence in order to give the same assurances to their children and grandchildren.
No one wants to shove yer granny aff the bus. We want to keep her on the bus. But if Scotland votes No a second time, then the bus and all of us on it will head straight over a red white and blue Brexit cliff.
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