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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 policy – or 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.”
- Plus, we have the Art Cave (‘to the art cave – let’s go!’)
- 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?”
- 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.