It’s A New Dawn, It’s A New Day

For me, May 6 will always be remembered in quotes: from Mike Russell’s magnanimous victory speech to Labour apparatchiks’ tired attempts to wish the result away on-air, right through to the choice words from Tom Nairn, Alasdair Gray, Hugh MacDiarmid that dominated my Twitter feed yesterday. This was a day for memorable turns of phrase, for noble sentiments proudly enunciated, but the words that really resonated, that will stay with me long after the dust, didn’t come not from the great and the not-so-great. They came from those closest to me.

‘I felt like I was walking into a different Scotland,’ a good friend in Edinburgh – who, like myself, is an Irish émigré here – texted yesterday morning. That afternoon I bumped into an English guy I play football with. We’d never talked about politics before, we might never do so again, but yesterday we did. He’d voted SNP in both votes, yet doesn’t support independence: ‘I’m English, for god’s sake. But I like what I’ve seen here in the last couple of years.’

There has been countless column inches dedicated to why the SNP won such a huge victory – doubtless even as I type this more shotgun analysis is being sprayed across print, the web, radio, television – so I’m not going to bore you here with my own tuppence worth on that. Likewise, I think the psephologist’s view on the prospects of a ‘yes’ vote in an independence referendum are hardly worth the iPad they’re printed on given the SNP’s performance on Thursday. Instead here are a few chaotic impressions from the worse kind of emigrant, the indolent hack, on what yesterday – and tomorrow – might mean.

First off, this could be a start – but not the end – of a victory for what Hardt and Negri would call ‘subaltern nationalism’ in Scotland, a vision of a society based not on exclusive notions of belonging and identity but on open-ended dialogues. A future Scotland based not on ethnicity, on romantic notions of Braveheart and Bannockburn, but on social justice and sustainability. A Scotland not of rabid Anti-Englishness but of myriad cultures and creeds. The ‘could’ at the start of this paragraph is intentional – yesterday’s stunning result, and even a successful independence referendum, are a sine qua non but not necessary and sufficient, to borrow the language of logic.

This future Scotland is in no way inevitable, it will have to be fought for against the forces of conservatism, both within the SNP itself and across the Scottish political system. It will also need a credible, coherent vision that can unite all those who live in Scotland – and not just all Scots (again that’s the émigré talking) – to create a genuinely democratic, post-national space, separate and distinct from the increasingly lopsided pull of Westminster.

Arguably the most remarkable aspect of yesterday’s vote, from where I was watching in the centre of Edinburgh, was not the scale of the SNP’s victory, nor the rush of the London media north of the border to cover what I’d been assured was a ‘dull’, ‘uninteresting’ election whenever I pitched an idea to an editorial desk south of the Watford Gap. Instead it was the intangible, but marked, change in atmosphere that seems to permeate the city, a intravenous shot of self-belief that I had never felt before in over seven years, on and off, of living in Scotland. As another Irish emigrant friend (yes, there’s lots of us!) said, ‘I didn’t even vote for the SNP but you can almost feel the sense of something big happening, something changing, as you walk around the streets’.

Scotland has shown that it is no longer content to be a second-class satellite of a union that is built on a global city and a depressed, and increasingly unloved hinterland. Now is the time to start defining what it wants to be instead.

The SNP won this election on a positive vision for Scotland, winning independence (I know I said I wouldn’t write about it but…) will require this and then some. The squeezing of the Greens on Thursday was one of the rare downsides of the day, but their message must not be lost. An independent Scotland is worth nothing if it is built on smoke and mirrors finance and rapacious multinationals attracted by rock bottom corporation tax rates – only a sustainable, green Scotland, one in which the fallacy of continuous growth is finally abandoned, can actually succeed in building on the change that so many voted for on Thursday.

Finally, I would hope that this election, paradoxically, brings the dissolution of the SNP one step closer. There is no place for a nationalist party in an independent nation, and I look forward to the day in which the various strands of the SNP, left, right, green, pro-business, separate out into their constituent parts in an independent Scotland. For now, though, the challenge is constructing and articulating a compelling vision of Scotland based not on oil and banking but renewables and community. Impossible? Well, that’s what they said about an SNP majority in Holyrood.

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  1. maxwell macleod says:

    What beautifully written nonsense.
    The people I have spoken to, perhaps a dozen, have all said that they found the notion of an independent Scotland dreadful ( Thats not entirely true I did speak to one guy in Australia who was very excited ) but that they recognised that Mr Salmond was a brilliant politician and that both labour and the libs looked like spent forces.
    Nowhere did I notice this ” What a brave new dawn we are living in .” feeling though I would understand that this must be a sentiment felt by Nats after their brilliant and doubtless exhausting campaign, for which they should be congratulated.
    But all around were seeds of hope and optimism?
    Aye right. Well done, but stay real.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      What a dreadfully negative response Max. Many many people Ive met feel exhilirated and genuinely optimistic for an opening future …

      1. Steven H says:

        Yes, it’s always a wonderful new dawn when your own party wins…

        No-one I know is exultant about it – except an SNP staffer I know, and my brother, who voted SNP and is nevertheless resolutely non-political.

        Be careful – you know what precedes a fall…

      2. Duncan Gammie says:

        I may be a sentimental Nat, but I can second the feeling of optimism and certainly of hope that out of this election something new and positive can be fashioned from out with of the clutches of the dreadfully smothering negativity and spiteful politics of the union parties.
        Not all agree with the idea of independence, however those that voted for the snp, and many for the first time, are at least open to the dialogue and debate that this will bring happy with the knowledge that they will be responsible for the decision when it comes.
        Maybe now that there is a mandate for debate we may begin to hear more about the positives self determination can bring rather than the apparently endless list of negatives the scaremongerers can muster.

  2. Scottish republic says:

    I like what I read here.

    A Scotland built on a new visionof social justice and enterprise of the spirit.

    A fine article.

    Ignore the Brit nat comment from MM.

    His agenda is his; we have a country to build.

    1. James Hunter says:

      Think MM fancies himself for the Labour leadership. He’s got the tone right at least.

  3. mhairi mcalpine says:

    Good article.

    The Snp victory doesn’t necessarily show that the population want independence, but it does show that they are not frightened by it.

    That alone demonstrates a new confidence in Scotland deteining her own future.

  4. Isla Browning says:

    Maxwell were the dozen or so people you spoke to about the future of Scotland chosen randomly? Even if they were I think it unlikely that a the view of around 12 people is representative of the population as a whole. It was an exciting result. There will certainly be interesting times ahead.

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