In 259 days we can and will win.That such a sentence can be written at all is a feat of some doing, and no doubt we are standing on the shoulders of giants who have brought us to this possibility.

It’s not going to be easy. We have all the might of the British State ranged against us, a docile press, a disfigured broadcaster and decades of carefully nurtured self-doubt standing in our way. Things will get dirty and every effort to disrupt or derail a national conversation will be attempted. The pure-farce of staging ‘Armed Forces Day’ on the same day as the 700th Commemoration of Bannockburn is a classic example, though one so nakedly stupid it’s very likely to backfire.

There’s some positives. James Kelly lays out 10 Reasons to Be Cheerful here looking at the cracks in the establishment coalition, and the depth of the No campaign’s strategic incompetence is heartwarming. We also have the guarantee of the ongoing unveiling of a venal Westminster club class, which seems to have no end and no limits, and progressive forces and radical voices are massively behind the Yes vote (aside from the odd bit of Uncle Tom-Foolery).

But what else do WE have going for us?

Our main strength is that the debate is happening  at all. What have we here? A Scotland racked, retching  and rampant with intestinal dissent. The truth is the union doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

We have I think ten key assets on our side:

  1. A growing sense of Self-Belief. The too wee, too poor, too stupid narrative is already backfiring as hundreds of thousands of people say to themselves:  “Eh? What do you mean I can’t / we couldn’t defend our country, make good social policy, transform childcare …” The barrage of misinformation doesn’t stack up. Now it’s just pissing people off.
  2. A Mass Grassroots Campaign of highly motivated activists and campaigners bringing vast energy and creativity to the table, every single one of which has exactly the same New Years Resolution: to work harder and to think smarter to bring about a Yes vote. In contrast the No campaign is Astro Turf, and it’s foundering on a dispirited Labour base being asked to campaign on Tory values.
  3. The No vote is softer than the Yes Vote (i). While the real task is to win over the Don’t Knows and inspire (somehow) the politically disengaged Don’t Cares, there’s evidence that the No vote is based on pragmatism not core belief, and this makes it vulnerable in a way that the Yes vote just isn’t. This hasn’t really been commented on.
  4. The White Paper gives Yes campaigners a reference book, a set of authoritative answers and a credibility that the No brigade lack. Scare stories and fabrications may make good press but their impact is fleeting and, by definition, in the long term, flimsy.
  5. More Powers – for the people who wanted some form of Devo Max and feel frustrated that it’s not on the table, there’s strong evidence this is a winner for Yes and a loser for No. While Pro-union parties are keenly aware of the desire for greater home rule they are also incapable of providing it. They can’t do it in the timeframe, even if they wanted to and could achieve consensus. Devo Max is triple-locked. John Curtice, Professor of Politics at Strathclyde University, says the issue has the potential to “change the tenor” of the campaign. “If the pro-union parties’ promises come to lack credibility in voters’ eyes, the referendum race could become a little too close for the No side’s comfort.” That’s an understatement from the Professor.
  6. Progressive Scotland. The Yes campaign has the asset of the organised and burgeoning progressive left and the sense youth and vitality of the Green Movement. That organisational energy can’t be discounted. Integrity has strength and the counterpoint of ‘All of Us First’ against the menu of austerity unionism and it’s attacks on the poorest in society and what Joyce McMillan called ‘boss class miserabilism’ is clear.
  7. The Realm of Possibility. The connecting tissue of each of these strengths is what Kenneth White would call ‘an opening out’. This can be seen in the ‘Nordic Horizons’ or the repeated examination in the Scandic progressive model (whether that’s social policyor food). But this isn’t just about tax systems it’s a way of seeing relations and geography and power.Irvine Welsh puts it very well: “If we rid ourselves of the political imperialist baggage of the UK state, new possibilities emerge. For example, it would become feasible for Ireland, as an established sovereign nation, to see itself as part of a shared geographical and cultural entity. This, in turn, brings potential opportunities for the continued development of the peace process in Northern Ireland. The idea of the political independence of England and Scotland leading to conflict, hatred and distrust is the mindset of opportunistic status-quo fearmongers and gloomy nationalist fantasists stuck in a Bannockburn-Culloden timewarp, and deeply insulting to the people of both countries. Swedes, Norwegians and Danes remain on amicable terms; they trade, co-operate and visit each other socially any time they like. They don’t need a pompous, blustering state called Scandinavia, informing them from Stockholm how wonderful they all are, but (kind of) only really meaning Sweden.”
  8. Plus, we have the Art Cave (‘to the art cave – let’s go!’)
  9. Don’t underestimate The Power of Positive Thinking. As David Greig put it:
    “Over the last few months I’ve seen Independence based discussions on topics as diverse as crowd sourced constitutions, peak oil, Iceland’s collapse, arts policy in Finland, land reform, wildness as a concept, Black identity in Scotland, the function of defence forces, bilingualism and brain development, immigration, pensions… and the list goes on. Almost every area of public policy seems to be up for grabs. It’s a far cry from the political debate in the rest of the UK where the only area of discussion left to us seems to be whether we get a little bit more or a little bit less austerity. In the context of independence the parameters of politics suddenly turn out to be more malleable that we thought. The pound, the monarchy, Trident – nothing is a given any more, not even the idea of Scotland itself. Should Shetland be part of Scotland? Should Newcastle? This new malleability is married to a practicality that gives even ordinary political discourse an extra piquancy. Change is possible. Put simply, the Independence debate allows us to explore every aspect of our national life and ask ourselves the question – ‘does it have to be like this?”
  10. Finally, In Death there is Life. This was the year Margaret Thatcher died. Some mourned, few here. The British State treated her like their most honored statesman. Scotland still bares the scars and each day we see the continuity of her ideology in new forms. This September we can vote Yes and make sure that her policies remain interred forever or we can see them perpetuated by the man who wept at her funeral for his protege.

So as you raise a glass tonight – think of the possibility of emerging from a land where George Osborne is Chancellor, where ‘we’re all in it together’ is a phrase on the lips of a Bullingdon Club Cabinet, think instead to ‘A joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity’.

Let’s do it. This is the year for independence.

Belief is all.

Happy New Year.

(i) An ICM poll commissioned by the Scotsman newspaper found that the No camp’s lead disappeared if voters could be assure that independence would make them just £500 better off. Under such circumstances, 47 per cent of voters backed independence, with only 37 per cent opposed and 16 per cent saying they did not know.

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  1. Steve Bowers says:

    Very good piece, I’m loving all the positivity from YES.

  2. umbra13 says:

    Point 3 is key. Much of the contemporary public sphere is one of depoliticised managed spaces (shopping centres, arenas); its experience is one of novelty – throwaway inconsequential choice. Such a mundane “politically disengaged” way of life has no real impetus to make a decision for something different. Can the potentials at point 9 capture imagination sufficiently to overcome that inertia?

  3. Thanks Mike. That was just the sort of cheery-up I needed before a long nightshift.
    Some good new stuff for the reading list too!

  4. Does anyone remember the tabloid press trumpeting about 6 months ago, the ‘news’ that Ladbrokes announced that someone had bet £100,000 at odds of 1/12 ( to win just over £8000) on a NO vote.
    The odds are now 1/4 and shortening almost daily.( If he had placed his bet today he would have stood to gain £25,000)
    So not only did he place a stupid bet, he placed it a stupid time.
    He must be one of these super whizz-kid bankers that inhabit the Deep South.
    One born every minute

  5. David McCann says:

    Thanks Mike. A thoughtful look back at 2013, and optimistic view for 2014, well worth sharing.

  6. I wonder if I’m not alone in having been at festive season parties when the small-talk’s all twittering a way in full chatter, then there’s a lull, and somebody mentions the unmentionable, and everybody’s glancing at each other with pregnant smiles wondering – “is it safe?” – and then some brave soul sets out their position one way or another, and for the next hour there’s no other topic on the agenda, even the glasses stop being filled up, with some deep listening from both sides (women’s voices especially strong and deep); and in the end everybody agrees that whatever’s going to happen it’s making us explore our identities, and core values beyond just money, and a sense of entering a year in which we have a future where we are the participants and agents of action like never before?

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Yes, that was my experience as well Alastair. I think it’s opening up …

  7. andyshall says:

    Still many assumptions being made IMO. The SNP is asking Scotland to believe it can have a race to the bottom on corporate taxation in the style of the RoI and still have a Scandavian style social democracy. The economic case needs to be made on the basis of real policies not wishful thinking.

    1. douglas clark says:


      Is that it?

      The entire case for or against independence is to be reduced to the rate of a tax most of us were unaware was even being levied?

      As a country we are stinking rich. The current distribution of that bounty is at the behest of Westminster. It is part of the glory of Westminster that it manages to distribute wealth ‘upwards and inwards ‘ rather than “downwards and outwards”. There is no rhyme nor reason to that, but imagine a society where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer? Recognise it?

      For that is planet UK.

      Do you think it will be ‘no change’ under an independent Scotland? Do you honestly think that wealth distribution will not be an urgent matter for whoever takes over after indepenence?

      Anyhow andyshall, it is a reductio ad absurdum arguement that you present. I forget, could you remind me of the degree to which India, for instance, havered over their equivalent of corporation tax? Whetever that equivalent was it did not break their will for an independent nation. Or how strong an influence did it have on the American Revolution? Utter, trivial rubbish.

      It is this sort of navel gazing that satisfies a Unionist’s belly button and attempts to trivialise a fairly important issue, viz:

      “Should Scotland be an Independent Country Yes/No”

      We can work out our tax regeime after independence. We have quite a number of the world’s leading economists consulting on the subject right now.

      1. andyshall says:

        Douglas – I have no doubt that Scotland is perfectly capable of being an independent state. The point I was trying to make is about what that state would actually look like.

        Around 70% of Scottish exports are to the rest of the UK and if there is a monetary union with the rUK which effectively means the Bank of England having much the same role as Germany has in the Eurozone then the degree of inter-dependence becomes even starker. As I say none of this prevents Scotland seeking it’s own path but to pretend that the economic issues that actually affect the quality of people’s lives and their life chances is some sort of trivial side show seems naif at best. The 2/3rds of Scotland that are not (yet) convinced of the benefits of independence require something more substantive and convincing than simply condemning the neo-liberal order that currently blights the world.

        There are options that an Independent Scotland could follow including nationalisation of land and natural assets, it’s own currency and so on but I have seen little evidence that those that are likely to hold power if the Yes vote prevails have given any real consideration to those ideas or have fully explained what the economic and fiscal reality would be.

        The American Revolution was by the way strongly influenced by both economic and political issues including the issue of westward expansion while India’s push to independence was also influenced by the negative effect on her industries of Imperial preference.

    2. bellacaledonia says:

      It’s not about the SNP.

      1. douglas clark says:

        You are right. It is about having self-respect more than anything.

        What it might also be about is a renewal of our collective ability to care for each other a bit better than Westminster choses to. It is that sense of collective responsibility that probably does identify us as something different from the Westminster caucus. It is probably a view shared by many other people in these isles, however they have rarely been given the opportunity to give it practical impementation.

        We have that chance.

        When the consensus of thought is so divergent from the folk that we allow to rule us there comes a point where the signal to noise ratio does your head in. I arrived at that point a few years ago.

        I now find that there is absolutely nothing a Unionist politician could say to me that would persuade me to vote no.

        For two, perhaps fundamental reasons:

        Firstly that the whole damn lot of them are careerists. It is really all about finding a suitable ‘sound bite’ to place in our heads with the sole intention of worrying enough people that their march towards a very large pension fund is unhindered. It is for that reason that the debate is stuck in trivia. It really doesn’t matter whether we join the Euro, keep Sterling or have our own currency. It really doesn’t matter whether we reduce or increase corporation tax. What matters here is whether we respect ourselves or not. Those that cast doubts and fears at us are self-serving. I have no truck with them.

        Secondly, I actually trust the people around me, the people that live here, to make a fist of a positive result. I am increasingly concerned that we are being told that we are in some sense inadequate. For we are not. How does it work, in the head of a BT advocate, to denigrate your electorate? Quite which form of Stockholm Syndrome are they applying?

        Anyway, as you say, it is not about the SNP. It is about whether you think you can make a difference or not.

        I kind of hope that a majority in the referendum will step up to the mark. Otherwise we have ‘bought the farm’ as they say.

        There is no status quo. It might take Westminster a number of years, but a state indivisible, a state united forever will become a mantra. We will become, forever, Madrid, rather than Barcelona. You ain’t seen nothing yet.


        Off topic perhaps:

        There was a train, once upon a time, called the ‘North Briton’. It used to run into Queens Street in Glasgow, having wended a fairly weary way up the nation from Leeds no less! How blessed we were back then. How close to London! My heart sings! Nothing of that epic travellogue survives.

        It is rumoured that the last passenger to alight was a certain Mr G Brown, perhaps weighed down with a suitcase of juicy dosh.

        Anyway, it is just a rumour.

  8. douglas clark says:

    It seems to me that the British Empire stand thusly:

    met a traveller from an antique land
    Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
    Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
    Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
    And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
    Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
    Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
    The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
    And on the pedestal these words appear:
    “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
    Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
    Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
    Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
    The lone and level sands stretch far away

    It is over.

  9. douglas clark says:


    On the subject of the Bank of England, a misnomer of the first order, it is not at all clear what the final settlement will be. If we don’t get a settlement to our liking then we can probably walk away from the UK’s debt mountain. Whether we should, or whether we can are not mutually exclusive. They will be the subject of negotiation. If rUK attempts to play hard ball then the realistic option of a debt free independence beckons. I doubt very much that in a post independence vote, pre independence per sé that the rUK will play that card. If they do, well, let them. An independent currency backed by our enormous amount of oil is nowt to be worried about.

    (What, incidentally, is this sweetheart deal that some folk seem to have for a currency? Unless one is carting it home in a wheelbarrow, they are all much of a muchness to me. I have seen QE2 on the telly, I do not need to be reminded of her on every coin.)

    Indeed it might well mean that we could make our way in the world a bit better. Assume for a moment that we are debt free and in need of an airforce. Do you imagine for that moment that we would not have every major arms industry on the planet attempting to sell us planes and attack helicopters?

    Do you imagine that we are unable to set up our own embassies throughout the world? Perhaps one’s that don’t charge our exporters for, err, exporting product.


    I could go on all night about the potential that Scotland has if it places itself on the world stage.

    The issue is frankly not about any of that. It is about whether we are grown up enough to take responsibility for ourselves or not.

    300 years ago or so, we were. Did we regress or summat?

    1. andyshall says:

      Douglas – 300 years ago Scotland’s elite bankrupted themselves with the Darien scheme and got England to bail them out.

      As for Scotland and the rUK debt this may be of interest:

  10. douglas clark says:


    Thanks for the link.

    On the basis of that Scotland will take a proportionate (population based) share of the debt. Which seems fair enough to me, remembering if you will that that also gives us a commensurate share of the assets. So Messrs Ebell and Armstrong have to factor that in to the equation. I wonder, for instance, if they have considered the likely value of Crown Estates, or more unlikely the value of having a base for their Trident Submarines? I could go astronomical on those figures. Even on a day to day basis.

    It also occurs to me that the creditworthyness or otherwise of an Independent Scotland, it’s ability to pay it’s debts allows, in their scenario, for Westminster to set the price of that risk. I doubt that that will be allowed to happen, at least not unilaterally., which they appear to assume.

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