Everyone else seems to be doing it this week, so I thought I’d have my own shot at a blog post saying how – in my opinion – we can win the next independence referendum. It’s now looking highly likely that we’re going to have one, a whole lot sooner that anyone expected. I’m no more privy to the inner thoughts of the Scottish government than anyone else, but if pushed to make a guess about it, I’d say that the indyref2 will be called shortly after our new caring and sharing Tory PM cares to press the Brexit button and shares the UK’s excision from Europe with us. That could mean we’re looking at indyref2 as early as next spring or summer. Eek.
It’s still not outside the bounds of possibility that we won’t have another independence referendum. It may just be possible for some deal to be wangled that allows Scotland to remain a part of the EU and the UK, but that’s as likely to happen as the Labour party becoming a united happy force, dedicated to opposing the Tories and not each other. The so-called reverse Greenland would require the active cooperation of both the Conservatives and the EU, neither of whom have shown themselves disposed to look kindly on the idea. The recent comments from the office of the French PM clarified that – that the UK must leave the EU, although France is open to the possibility of an independent Scotland remaining a member. The official position of Labour in Scotland is a hopeful fantasy, but the rest of us need to deal with the real world, and in the real world there’s another independence referendum on the horizon.
First off, we need to remember who the targets are. It is deeply counterproductive for parts of the independence movement to attack other parts of the independence movement for its supposed lack of ideological depth / snarky Bathdom / not being sufficiently left wing or working class / whiney rapperness / smug diminutive reddish caninity / etc etc (delete as appropriate). The only people who benefit from such attacks are the Unionist establishment.
The targets of an independence movement are those in power who oppose independence, not those who have a different vision of what an independent Scotland should look like – those are arguments for having after the event of independence. If you still aren’t able to get to the playground, arguments about who gets first dibs on the swings are irrelevant. So let’s focus ourselves on the British Unionist establishment which blocks the democratic will of the people of Scotland. That’s what independence is all about after all, unchaining the unicorn and unleashing that democratic will. Leave attacking other independence supporters to the Unionists, that’s their job not ours.
The next indyref will be quite different from the last one in some important ways. Next time we will not face a phalanx of 50 Scottish Labour MPs telling us we’re better together with their dysfunctionality. Next time what’s left of the Labour party in Scotland is likely to take a more nuanced position on independence. Next time it’s even possible that some of the mainstream media outlets which opposed independence may be more positive and open to the idea of Scottish self-determination. But we’re still going to face the concerted opposition of the British establishment and the BBC. In fact we may well be looking at an even more hysterical Project Fear campaign next time, as the British establishment knows as well as we do that indyref2 is more likely to produce a vote for independence.
There are lessons to learn from the last campaign. The last campaign was too closely associated with specific policies of the SNP. The independence campaign ended up getting bogged down in arguments about proposals to reduce corporation tax, about NATO membership, and about retaining the monarchy. These are not arguments either for or against independence, they are simply possibilities of independence just as raising corporation tax and ditching NATO and the monarchy are equally possibilities of independence.
An independence referendum campaign is not a party political event. It’s a national event. It cannot be the property of any single political party. Party politics has got us to the point where we can have another indyref, but it’s not going to win it for us. So we need to fight the next indyref on the basis of principle not policies. The principle that whatever happens in Scotland comes about as the result of decisions taken by a government elected by and accountable to the people of Scotland. Independence means that the people of Scotland are sovereign in our own land, nothing more, nothing less. What we decide to do with that sovereign power is for the people of an independent Scotland to decide.
That said, we do have to address some of the specific policies of the last campaign which contributed to the failure of the Scottish national movement to break the chains. The issue of the currency looms large. I’m no economist. I’m no politician either. But it seems to me that irrespective of the economic rights or wrongs of the proposal to enter a currency union with the rUK, selling it to the people of Scotland relied upon the Westminster government agreeing to cooperate with an independent Scotland prior to the event of independence. They’re never going to do that. We cannot go into the next indy campaign being seen to seek favours from Westminster. That means we start from the position of setting up a Scottish currency, and then Westminster requires Scotland’s cooperation in taking on a part of the UK’s humungous national debt. If it was up to me, I’d say, let’s set up our own currency and you can stick your UK debt up your arse. Which is why I’ll never be First Minister.
We need to go on the attack ourselves. We need to point out the disadvantages and uncertainties of remaining a part of a United Kingdom outside the EU where the Tories look like being in power for the foreseeable future, and possibly for decades to come. We need to point out that the economic argument against independence is in fact an argument that Scotland has been impoverished and economically damaged by the UK Treasury and the British state – it is not an argument against independence, it is an argument that we need to get away from those who are causing Scotland such damage as quickly as we possibly can.
The indyref will not be won on social media. Much as it might be fun to argue on Twitter with someone whose ID describes them as NoXXXX on the list of Stu Campbell’s Zoomers, engaging with them is a waste of time. You’re not going to change their minds. The way to change minds is to engage with real people in the real world, and in order to do that successfully we need to produce information in formats that can be absorbed by people who don’t use social media. Some groups and sites have already made valuable contributions there. We need more of it. Social media is immensely valuable. It gives the independence movement a means of communicating, enthusing its supporters, and spreading ideas and knowledge. But we have to take that out into the real world.
Organise. Organise. Organise. Let’s get the band back together. If there’s not a Yes group in your area, start one. Join the SNP, the Greens, Rise, whatever party you feel most aligns with your beliefs and dreams of a better Scottish future. Because independence will only be won through our own work, our own determination, and our own capacity to make our dreams a reality.
Three hundred years ago as the parliament of an independent Scotland was closed and merged into Westminster, it was described as the end of an auld sang. It’s time to sing again, in our many and diverse voices. We can do this.
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