Don’t Take Your Foot off the Gas
As momentum gathers and independent bodies note the swing in favour of Yes, Ben Wray warns against complacency.
There will be plenty of smiling faces at the SNP conference today and tomorrow. Yes is on the rise, No is in crisis and the world’s diplomats are whispering that something big is going to happen in September. Confidence is a great thing; there would have been more yes campaigners out over the past two months than there would have been in the four months previous, and not just because of the weather. But confidence can easily slip into complacency, and this is what I see as the biggest danger for the independence movement now and something Salmond and Sturgeon would do well to avoid in Aberdeen this weekend.
First of all, we shouldn’t forget yes is still behind in the polls. I’ve seen some independistas argue that we are better off being a little behind until the last month or two for various tactical reasons.
Rubbish. It’s better to be ahead in a contest like this as undecideds will want to feel like they’re with the majority, plus any other mentality is a breeding ground for activists taking their foot off the gas.
Secondly, the disaster of Better Together shouldn’t lull us into a ‘sit back and wait for them to **** up’ mentality. Again, I’ve seen some say if yes plays it safe, keeps repeating a consistent line then the no side will be so repulsive as to guarantee us victory. Passivity won’t work. The thing about undecideds isn’t really that they lack information, it’s that they lack persuasive information: neither side has been worthy of the voters embrace, so the voter pleads for more third-party information.
I would hope that Salmond and Sturgeon have some tricks up their sleeve – committing to set the minimum wage at the living wage rate is an obvious option that is low-risk and high reward. UK corporations are going to defend their buddies that have helped them out for so long anyway, it’s the low-paid working class we need to worry about not Standard Life and Shell. There’s lots of other commitments Salmond and Sturgeon could make which would provide the working class with hard evidence that there lives would be better with a yes vote. France have just banned work emails after 6pm so workers can actually enjoy their non-working lives without the stress of their job hanging over them, why couldn’t Scotland do the same?
The counter-attack approach Salmond has been deploying since the start of the year has worked well because Better Together have been so blundering, but to count on that continuing to work until referendum day would be foolish: Man Utd tried to sit back and wait for mistakes for 180 minutes against Bayern; but eventually the floodgates opened. British imperialism has a dazzling repertoire of global resources it can draw upon to turn the heads of Scots voters, so we need a few pro-active plans of our own.
The final danger of complacency is to become paralysed by the ‘positive campaign v negative campaign’ dichotomy. The reason No are losing isn’t simply because they are negative, it is because the people behind the negative message have overseen the biggest fall in living standards in over a century. Scots haven’t fallen for the establishment’s propaganda simply because it rubbishes Scotland, they haven’t fallen for the establishment’s propaganda because they have no trust in an out-of-touch British elite that look the same, talk the same and have the same policies.
My point is this: there’s nothing wrong with being negative about the terminal decline of the UK, as long as it is combined with a positive message about what the alternative is. We should be turning the tables on Labour: if you support the welfare cap, then how is voting no in the referendum and for Labour at the next general election going to stop 34,000 children (‘If the Cap Fits’) from being pushed into poverty by that policy? The SNP should follow Adam Ramsay’s lead (‘Scotland isn’t different, it’s Britain that’s bizarre’) in finding innovative ways to outline how the UK is not normal on any reasonable social and economic European comparison. It should highlight the fact that Westminster is no normal democracy either: it has an unelected House of Lords that is bigger than the House of Commons, and since 1571 has had a ‘City of London Remembrancer’ (‘The Corporation of London’) who is the ‘oldest institutional lobbyist in the world’ and sits to the right of the Speaker of the House ‘to protect the interests of the City of London Corporation in parliament’ – he is briefed on all bills before they are passed into legislation. Labour should be asked whether they believe the Remembrancer is looking after the interests of the people of Scotland?
I am not the bearer of bad news: yes is on the rise and things are looking promising. But lets not take our foot off the gas; Scotland still needs to be won to its independence. The recent poll boost should not be a moment of vindication for SNP delegates in Aberdeen – nothing has been won yet – it should be a moment to feel emboldened to make the case for yes unbeatable.