Ever since the election results were announced early on Friday morning, Scottish social media has been full of people announcing that they opposed another independence referendum but given that the people of Scotland have voted for one, they now support it. There have been numerous people posting on social media that they voted no back in 2014, but given the chance would vote yes, their minds have been changed by the way in which Scotland has been treated by the Conservative government throughout the Brexit process, by the inescapable fact that Brexit cannot now be avoided, and by the realisation that the UK is facing another five – or more plausibly ten – years of majority Tory rule that Scotland doesn’t want.
Although the scale of the SNP’s victory last week fell somewhat short of 2015’s post-referendum result, the 2019 Westminster General Election was more profound in its implications for Scottish politics. The 2015 result was about two things, about punishing the Labour party for getting into bed with the Tories in the Better Together alliance, and about ensuring that those Better Together parties were put on notice. In 2015 Scotland wanted to let the parties of British nationalism understand that we expected them to fulfil the promises and commitments that they had made the previous year in order to win the referendum. It was not about demanding another independence referendum, how could it have been.
2019 was a very different election in a very different Scotland. Having been put on notice by a Scotland that was still willing to give them the benefit of the doubt as recently as 2017, the anti-independence parties were told in this election that Scotland demands the right to revisit the independence question. That demand came about because the Better Together alliance has failed miserably to deliver the UK, and Scotland’s place within it, which they promised in 2014. 2019 was the election when Scotland said, “Enough already.”
The independence movement is now in a much stronger position that it was this time last week. We no longer have to listen to Jo Swinson telling us that there’s no demand for another independence referendum because the SNP lost seats in 2017. We no longer have to listen to Jo Swinson, and no longer have to listen to her pretending that she does so really live in Milngavie. Honest. At least, we no longer have to listen to her until the Lib Dems ensure that she gets a peerage, and then she can join the long list of failed UK politicians who got rejected by the voters but who can still influence our public life and influence our laws. And that, all by itself, is a good reason for independence.
We are in a far stronger position, but it doesn’t mean that independence is nailed on. We have one almighty fight on our hands against a Tory establishment which will play every kind of dirty and underhanded trick in order to prevent Scotland exercising its right to democratic self-determination. But the signs are good, because we can now count on the support of thousands of people who have recently come over to the cause of independence or who have switched from solid support for the UK to being undecided. Their support is important, vital even, because the only way that we can win independence is to convert a significant body of former no supporters to the cause of yes.
As a movement we need to do two things. Firstly we need to welcome new supporters with open arms. This movement will not flourish on self-righteousness, it will not prosper by treating new supporters with disdain. Everyone has a right to change their mind, indeed it is a brave and courageous thing to admit that you were wrong. It’s not something to be castigated for. If you are an independence supporter and you react with suspicion, disgust, and anger towards people who voted or campaigned for no in 2014 but who now seek a yes vote, you’re doing independence campaiging wrong. The best people for persuading soft no voters or undecideds to the cause of yes are those who have themselves taken the same political journey, not those of us who have always been firm in our belief in independence.
Secondly we need to encourage and support those who don’t support traditional pro-independence parties like the SNP, the Greens, or the Scottish Socialists, to organise and campaign within their own parties. Above all, this means encouraging and supporting Labour for Independence. As opinion polls have shown, there is a large and significant body of pro-independence sentiment amongst Labour voters, any Labour activist or politician who seeks to drag that party towards recognising that reality must be applauded. It is a fact that the more support that there is for independence within other political parties, the easier it will be to counter the media narrative that independence is purely an SNP project. This will make it easier to attract soft no voters and undecideds who dislike certain SNP policies, or individual SNP politicians, but who are open to persuasion on the broader issue of independence.
The task we have as a movement is to capitalise upon the political victory that the independence cause won in last week’s general election. We will only win by ensuring that the pressure for a referendum does not dissipate, that the subject remains at the top of the Scottish political agenda. We need to ensure that Boris Johnson and his acolytes realise that we’re not going away. It is the political and social pressure within Scotland which will both bring about an independence vote, and ensure that when the vote does happen there will be a majority for yes.
There’s no short cut here, no clever clever legal ruse or trick to bring about independence, there’s only the slog of campaigning. This is a political issue, and it will be resolved through politics, not the law. That doesn’t mean that there should not be legal challenges where appropriate, there should, but none of that will negate the need for us to keep campaigning, to keep the pressure up. At every turn, at every juncture, we must highlight the hypocrisy and lies of a Conservative government that treats Scotland with contempt. The Tories are terrified because they know that we’re winning. Let’s make sure that they stay scared all the way through 2020. We need to campaign, persuade, march, and protest. We need to blog, to post, to make arguments, to spread the word, to speak with our friends and families. Next year we’ve all got a starring role in Scottish history.
My husband Peter arrives from the USA this week to live in Scotland. It’s been a long and arduous process to get his visa, but finally he’s able to start his new life in Scotland. We’ve got a lot to do, and also need a bit of private time. On top of that I’ve scarcely stopped over the past few weeks with the election campaign, I’m knackered and need a wee bit of down time. I will still be about, but won’t be posting blog articles just as frequently this week as I have been. If anyone fancies writing a guest post, please get in touch.
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My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.
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