I’m informed that Tom Gallagher, Über-Unionist supporter of British nationalism because British nationalism isn’t nationalist at all, has taken some time out of his busy schedule of frothing at the mouth about Gaelic imperialism in order to accuse me on social media of being a paper tiger who appeals solely to a dwindling audience of extreme nationalists – and that only so that I can flog stuff and ask for crowdfunding. Not because any of us might genuinely believe that independence is the only route to a better and fairer Scotland. Heaven forfend that supporting independence might be founded in a recognition of the moral bankruptcy of the British state.
The occasion for the foam this time has been an article in the Scotsman written by Darren McGarvey, aka Loki, which Tom thinks is the bee’s knees. Darren made his usual criticisms of everyone else in the independence movement with whom he disagrees, which is just about all of us. I’ll gloss over the fact that if you’re a pro-independence campaigner and you find yourself being retweeted approvingly by Tom Gallagher, you’re probably not doing it properly. But that’s by the by.
However Darren’s article did make some very reasonable points, none of which haven’t been raised previously by others in the Yes movement. We do as a movement need to reflect more upon the reasons we lost in 2014. We should recognise that the great majority of yes voters and no voters have far more in common than that which divides us. We do need to reach out beyond the core of the movement. We need to move on from the phase of protecting the core of Yes support from the storms that hit us in the aftermath of the defeat of 2014. All of this is true. All of this is being aired and discussed already by those of us who campaign for independence. None of it is new.
Naturally the point in Darren’s piece that attracted Tom’s approval was the predictable criticism of others in the Yes movement. Tom thinks that the only way in which the Yes movement can progress would be for it to ditch those whom Tom particularly dislikes. I’m proud to say that one of those odious individuals is yours truly, and probably just about everyone else who has ever blogged, written, or stood on a public platform. Mind you, looking to Tom Gallagher for advice on how to advance the goals of the Yes movement is a bit like asking John Wayne Gacy for tips on how to make clowning more popular.
However the truly tragic thing is that Tom clearly believes that he’s one of the majority of No voters who occupy the central ground in Scottish politics along with the majority of Yes voters. Tom’s argument might have a tiny measure of traction if we could believe that there were circumstances and arguments which could lead Tom to be persuaded by the merits of the independence movement, if only independence supporters distanced themselves from those nasty people who upset him by wilfully producing Gaelic maps of Edinburgh just to annoy him. Despite the fact that absolutely nothing would ever persuade Tom of the merits of an independent Scotland, he still seems to believe that he’s somehow amongst those that the Yes movement seeks to reach out to and that we need to listen to his counsel. It’s kind of touching in its self-delusion.
Simply put, the Yes movement doesn’t need to persuade every single person in Scotland to vote for independence in the next referendum. We only need to persuade a majority, and we’re almost there already. So we only need to persuade a relatively small number of people. That’s what really scares Tom and the other hard liners. Their precious Union is a very fragile thing indeed. No one in the independence movement is remotely interested in trying to make a pitch for independence that’s going to appeal to Tom Gallagher and the other representatives of Scotland In Union. That would be like trying to sell the merits of individuality, freedom of choice, and self-determination to the pod people from Invasion of the Body Snatchers. So thanks for your advice Tom, but in the words of the Better Together campaign – No thanks.
Most people who voted no in 2014 aren’t Unionists or British nationalists. Many of them are open to the idea of Scottish independence, they just weren’t persuaded by the arguments on offer at the time or felt that the time wasn’t right. They’re the people that the independence movement is making a pitch to, not the Tom Gallaghers of this world. Work is already well advanced to discover the best ways to reach out to those “soft no’s” – but none of us in the Yes movement harbours the slightest idea that people like Tom Gallagher might be amongst them.
Real Unionists, real British nationalists, they are only a small minority of the people of Scotland. They are the ones who will never vote Yes. They are unreachable. Basing a campaign on strategies to reach out to people who are unreachable is a campaign that’s going to lose, which is precisely why Tom wants a Yes campaign that’s trying to achieve the impossible. The one thing he doesn’t want is a Yes movement that’s effective in reaching out to people who are actually persuadable. So like other Yes supporters, I won’t be wasting my time on trying to sell independence to Tom Gallagher or people who wave Union flegs on their social media avatars but claim that they’re not nationalist at all.
The Yes movement is a chorus, but a chorus contains many different voices. We each have different roles to play in an effective movement according to our own individual strengths and talents. I can be most effective in helping to animate and enthuse the core support of the Yes movement and helping local groups to organise themselves into the foundation of a mass national movement. That’s what I am devoting my energies to. It’s local groups and their members who will be reaching out to soft no’s and undecideds all across this country and persuading them of the merits of an independent Scotland.
Without an engaged and energetic core the independence movement won’t have anyone to do the persuading, no matter what strategies or arguments we possess for reaching out to people who haven’t made the journey to yes yet. Effective and winning campaigns need to look outwards to attract new support, but they also need to look inwards to encourage, enthuse and energise those who are already part of the movement. You need both in order to win. And we’re going to win.
Tom Gallagher is upset because this paper tiger has real bite, while he’s merely just a bit catty.
The Wee Ginger Dug has got a new domain name, thanks to Indy Poster Boy, Colin Dunn @Zarkwan. http://www.indyposterboy.scot/ You can now access this blog simply by typing www.weegingerdug.scot into the address bar of your browser, the old address continues to function, the new one redirects to the blog. The advantage of the new address is that it’s a lot easier to remember if you want to include a link to the blog in leaflets, posters, or simply to tell a friend about it. Many thanks to Colin.
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