I get it, I really do. The Scottish independence movement exists in a country where the overwhelming majority of the media is opposed, where it actively seeks opportunities to scream SNPBaaaaad from the rooftops at the slightest provocation. And all too often without any provocation at all. I get it, that the unceasing attacks and slights make us feel defensive, beleaguered, threatened, and abused. I get it. It gives us the unshakeable conviction that we’re the real victims of those anti-independence campaigners and British nationalists who constantly claim victimhood. I get it. It promotes the mentality of circling the wagons to defend ourselves from the never ending onslaught. I get it. I feel it. All of us who are involved in this independence movement do.
But never forget that every single one of us is an ambassador for this movement. Every individual who campaigns for Scottish independence, who believes in it, who supports it. We all represent this movement to the world, to the rest of Scotland, to those we seek to persuade to our cause. Each and every one of us is just as important to this campaign and to the future of Scotland as any politician or political figure, no matter how high profile they are, no matter how much influence they wield. We all own this movement. We are all a part of it. This is a grassroots movement, and each and every one of us is a leaf, a flower, a living shoot in the meadow. It exists because of us. It is us. The meadow is not the creation of its tallest flower. The meadow will not die because one stem is uprooted, no matter how big or prominent that it may be.
The responsibility that every individual in the independence movement has as an ambassador for Scotland means that it is all the more important that when our movement faces a moment of crisis, that we hold our heads high, and we rise above the feeding frenzy of the British media. That responsibility means that it is all the more important that we respond with nobility to the ignoble smears of British nationalists. That responsibility means it is all the more important that we comport ourselves with dignity and poise. Because all of Scotland is looking at us right now. It’s not just Alex Salmond who is going to be judged here. It’s all of us, and the way in which we respond to these events.
I wrote yesterday that we must never forget that Scottish independence is not contingent upon the personal behaviour of any individual, no matter how prominent or powerful that individual may be. That remains true today. Independence is about a whole country, not a single person. It is about all our futures, and not about the actions of a single person. The accusations against Alex Salmond, and his legal dispute with the Scottish Government, will have no bearing on the prospects for independence in any way. Brexit is still happening. Scotland is still being sidelined and ignored by Westminster. The devolution settlement is still under threat. But what will influence the prospects for independence is how we as a movement react to what has happened this week.
Here’s the thing. I don’t know the ins and outs of the case that Alex Salmond is currently dealing with, and neither do you. The conspiracy theorising, the counter accusations, the mud-slinging, the casting of aspersions on the motives of the Scottish civil service, none of that is a good look. None of that is doing us any favours. Jist gaunie no. Those who are undecided, those who are not engaged with or invested in politics, they will look upon the reactions of independence supporters and will judge the movement as a whole based upon our behaviour and our response. That’s the real danger to the independence movement here, not any allegations faced by Alex Salmond.
When someone makes an allegation against a powerful person, if we blame it on conspiracy theories, if we respond in hurt and anger, if we react with accusations and counter attacks, if we reply with insults and slurs, it means that those who oppose our dream of a better country can point to our behaviour and say – they don’t believe in a better country at all. They will say – they want a Scotland where the powerful are protected and the weak are dismissed. They will say – they want a Scotland that works for men with influence where women are silenced and traduced. They will say – they want a Scotland that preserves all the old inequalities and injustices but just tarts them up with a tartan bow. You know and I know that those accusations are not true. The power is in your hands not to give opponents of independence that ammunition.
Opponents of independence will not judge us by the best amongst us, they will judge us by the worst. So it is incumbent upon all of us to call out poor behaviour online, to persuade those who express their anger and upset on social media that they need to be calm. This is our movement, it is incumbent upon all of us to care for it. It is incumbent upon all of us as a society to ensure that people who feel that they are victims of sexual misbehaviour are comfortable coming forward to report it, without finding themselves under suspicion as agents of the British state. It is incumbent upon all of us as a society to allow the law to take its course without political interference, without casting aspersions, without rushing to prejudgment.
This is our movement, and the strength and resilience of any movement is not displayed when everything goes well, it is displayed when there is a crisis. Let us display our strength and resilience. Let us display our strength of character. Leave the conspiracy theorising, the insults, the abuse, the slurs, and the aspersions to British nationalist trolls on social media. Rise above it, and we can demonstrate that better Scotland that we all strive for. Times of crisis are times of opportunity, let’s seize this opportunity to show our dignity. Let’s seize this opportunity to demonstrate that the Scottish independence movement really does stand for a better country.
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