New Yes 2

10665854_10152475630558300_2359716553460408087_nThe second in our new series inviting people who have only recently come over to supporting independence to describe their own personal and political journey.

Quoting Lenin is not usually my first response to events, but these words are unusually fitting:

‘There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen.’

As a typically self-assured undergraduate politics student at the time, and an albeit passive member of Scottish Labour, I supported remaining in the United Kingdom from the moment the Scottish National Party swept to victory in May 2011 to the day I cast my vote in September 2014. I wanted to shield Scotland from the economic uncertainties of independence; to protect our place in the world, and maintain my political identities: Scottish, British, European, and social democratic. I voted Remain for largely the same reasons, though I’ll happily accept that – like the UK – the European Union has its share of infuriating imperfections.

I fell asleep on my couch whilst watching the results come in, in the middle of the night. When I woke up it was all over. At first I was stunned: how could people have voted for something so ill-advised? Then I was angry, at an inept Remain campaign as much as I was at the pro-Brexit politicians who had lied and deceived to get the result they wanted, and who would soon disappear off into the political wilderness, leaving it to literally anyone else to clean up their mess.

The one chink of light was that the people of Scotland had voted as I had. With the exception of reconvening the Scottish Parliament, never in Scottish political history had those who chose to exercise their franchise voted so overwhelmingly in favour of one option on the ballot paper. As I watched the First Minister speak between the Saltire and the Flag of Europe, I found myself agreeing with her every word. Before the vote I had felt that independence in the aftermath of Brexit would be an overreaction, but the reality is that the disparate results of the referendum signify much more than lower Euroscepticism in Scotland than in the UK. They represent how far we have drifted apart, and the very different futures we now face.

Scotland didn’t just vote to stay in the EU. We voted for a drastically different future, to live in a completely different country, from our neighbours to the south. We voted to live in a country which is open, welcoming, and forward-looking. They voted to turn inwards, to pull up the draw-bridges, to turn to the frankly neo-imperialist vision of Britain which the British-nationalist right have dreamed of for decades. We chose to look to the future, they to the past; we chose an interdependent and cooperative world, they chose isolationism and the lie of ‘sovereignty’. Clearly, it is not possible any more to be both British and fully European; I am not sure to what extent it is possible to be progressive and fully British any more, or at least to what extent one could now get away with saying they’re British without following it up with a ‘but…’

This isn’t about the EU, and it isn’t even about the UK. This is about the kind of country we want Scotland to be: a full partner in the European family, pushing forward progressive politics alongside the continental left, or a sidelined nation chained to a regressive state which scales down our ambitions in the name of dogmas and dog-whistle politics. There have been decades in Scottish politics in which nothing has happened and we have simply drifted with the tide, we cannot allow the coming decade to be one of them.

The result of the referendum makes it impossible now to maintain those identities which progressive No voters have balanced for so long. It also makes it impossible for Scotland to maintain the place in the world we have sought to fulfil for many years, that of a socially, economically, and politically progressive beacon. We face indefinite shackling to a state which opposes and is determined to undermine everything we believe our country should be. There is only one direction we can move in now to avoid that.

Of course, there are still the niggling economic questions: what about the currency, what about trade, what about the deficit? Contrary to the received wisdom, the North Sea is not the only component of the Scottish economy, nor is Sterling all it’s cracked up to be, and who’s to say we would lose trade with the rUK, especially if they gain Single Market access? With respected economists like Glasgow University’s Professor John McLaren arguing that an independent Scotland would be more than able to adjust and to perform as well as any other advanced industrial economy, the economic questions we face are much more about whether we take control of our own economic future or allow a broader UK electorate to jeopardise it against our will, whether by austerity or some other economically illiterate dogma.

For me, the morning after the referendum came with a jarring moment of clarity. The UK I believed in no longer exists, if it ever did. Those on the Scottish left who voted No two years ago face a clear choice: do we keep calm and carry on, allowing ourselves to sleepwalk into a regressive union in which our values will be marginalised, or do we accept that if we want to live in a progressive and internationalist country that we need to seize that for ourselves?

This isn’t about the EU, and it isn’t even about the UK. This is about the kind of country we want Scotland to be: a full partner in the European family, pushing forward progressive politics alongside the continental left, or a sidelined nation chained to a regressive state which scales down our ambitions in the name of dogmas and dog-whistle politics. There have been decades in Scottish politics in which nothing has happened and we have simply drifted with the tide, we cannot allow the coming decade to be one of them.

Comments (27)

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  1. bringiton says:

    “British” foreign policy with regard to the EU has been to do everything to maintain access to the single market but as much as possible to undermine the political union.
    They have been a thorn in the side of the EU from the very beginning and I am certain will not be missed in Europe’s capital cities once the economic adjustments have taken place.
    Brexit has simply clarified a position long held by the London establishment and it is up to us Scots to now decide whether we continue as part of Europe or part of England.

  2. John Page says:

    Great piece, Mark
    Thank you
    John Page

  3. scotty says:

    Welcome to yes. Now go convert yer pals.

  4. Elaine Black says:

    Thank you for saying what we all feel – those who were yes before and now – so beautifully.

  5. Moira Macaulay says:

    Very well put and very honest. I am a Yes voter and SNP supporter and yet somehow I have felt a bit scared re independence since the Brexit vote. But you are right. I don’t want to be part of a post Brexit UK outwith the EU.

  6. Steven Milne says:

    What is the pro independence movement going to do to attract people who believe in the market economy, individual liberty and small government?

    Rhetoric proclaiming socialism and progressive politics is going to turn such people off.

    1. John Page says:

      Are you genuinely interested in that or are you a troll? Would you like to give your vision of an independent Scotland in the EU with its own flourishing business enterprises?
      Thank you
      John Page

    2. Melville Jones says:

      Perhaps you did not notice that even the authority areas that voted Labour, LibDem and Tory, all voted to remain. Are you not able to realise that Scots who want independence range from the left, centre and right; we just don’t want governance from a parliament that we did not usually vote for, and do not care a toss for anyone north of the border!

  7. Punklin says:

    I know labour are in meltdown but if the Scottish branch broke away and came out for independence would we be sure of victory? Sadly aint going to happen.

    1. Mark McGeoghegan says:

      I doubt it would settle the debate. Frankly, the party campaigned assiduously for a No vote and saw much of its based dissolve after voting Yes; I don’t think the party’s position would make much difference in a future referendum.

  8. Graeme McCormick says:

    Steven, welcome foreign graduates of Scottish universities to establish businesses here.

    Can you name a policy by the Tories which is more pro business than the SNP government’s ?

    1. Steven Milne says:

      That is a good suggestion Graeme. I think Brexit will help in this scenario. I can recall 2 separate occasions in my working life when I had massive problems in employing very capable non EU citizens (one Chinese, one Indian).

      In the 80’s the Tories implemented various policies which benefited both business and society as a whole e.g reducing taxes, ending the power of unions to impose restrictive practices, privatising utilities which were grossly inefficient under public ownership. Can’t think of any initiatives by SNP which have had such positive results.

      1. John Page says:

        So you are a troll, then

        1. Steven Milne says:

          Well if trolling means asking pertinent questions which challenge an attitude of groupthink then I suppose I must be a troll.

          1. John Page says:

            I think the most pertinent points are your poor manners in ignoring Mark’s article and your deceit in pretending to seek views on a free market Indy Scotland.
            Thank you
            John Page

  9. tartanfever says:

    thanks for the post Mark, an enlightening read.

    Interested when you say

    ‘who’s to say we would lose trade with the rUK, especially if they gain Single Market access?’

    Every response that I’ve read from EU officials says there will be no single market access because the UK simply will not accept the 4 freedoms. I’ve now read that at leat 15-20 times in the last two weeks. In fact, even the official leave campaign had it in their literature, that leaving the EU means leaving the single market.

    What am I missing here ? You seem quite positive about single market access ?

    1. Mark McGeoghegan says:

      To be fair, I was making a rhetorical point.

      The reality is that post-Brexit trade between the UK and EU will fall somewhere on a scale between no free trade, and single market access. I believe that a UK-EU deal will fall further towards the ‘few tariff barriers, few non-tariff barriers’ (or Single Market-minus, so to speak). In such a scenario, the proportion of Scotland-rUK trade affected by independence will be minimal.

      The more precise point is that this argument, that we will sacrifice our almost £50bn/year worth of trade with rUK by going independent, is premised on the assumption that there is no free trade between the EU and UK post-Brexit. That will absolutely not be the case, it’s an argument from absurdity.

      Best,
      Mark McGeoghegan

  10. Big Jock says:

    Every country has economic issues. Scotland will be normal in that respect. We are not a basket case and we are not Utopia.

    Being a nation is about reflecting your identity in the world and representing what the populas vote for. The UK has never really reflected Scotland. It does not represent us today in any shape or form.

    While welcoming you to yes. I don’t share your British identity. To me being British was about trying to extinguish the nation of Scotland. Not something I ever wanted to be part of.

    1. Alf Baird says:

      “…… being British was about trying to extinguish the nation of Scotland”.

      A timely reminder of the reality, and arguably ‘they’ have succeeded in the sense that Scotland remains prevented from making or even being involved in making any of the ‘big’ decisions affecting our nation (e.g. EU membership, not going to war, immigration, aye e’en oor ain leid and Scots language TV station etc).

      The article refers to the ‘cost’ of independence, however there are many who now recognise that independence is absolutely priceless, giving as it does the opportunity for the Scots people to make any and all major decisions affecting our nation.

    2. Mark McGeoghegan says:

      Thanks for the constructive contribution! On the economic issues, John McLaren’s piece for Scottish Trends (http://scottishtrends.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/2nd-referndum.pdf) is good. Scotland would face challenges but would have the fiscal and monetary manoeuvrability to handle them via a period of adjustment.

      One of the points you made is, I think, really an important one. One thing I was trying to say is that the abandonment of British identity has become necessary in order to maintain other identities, namely ‘European’ and – to some extent – ‘progressive’. I would have been one of the many people who identify as ‘more Scottish than British’ before the referendum, but would no longer include the British part.

      British identity always being ‘about trying to extinguish the nation of Scotland’, well, I can understand where that perspective comes from. The difficulty here is that identities are subjectively defined and I think it’s important always to understand the definitions other people are working with, otherwise we cannot engage in any kind of meaningful discussion about them. People who identify as British do not see that identity as you do. Scots who identify as British need to re-examine that identity and what it means, including the interpretation you’ve offered. Identity politics will be important in any future referendum and any future Yes campaign will need to engage former No voters’ identities on their terms, making constructive arguments as to what ‘British’ identity is and why.

      So your point on identity is well taken.

  11. Crubag says:

    I think we are going to drift with the tide, for the next five or ten years at least.

    The SNP won’t call for another referendum until the dust settles and they see what kind of deal the UK is going to get. Ireland will be the litmus test. If hard borders are imposed there, then the economic impact on Scotland of a IN Scotland and OUT rUK would overwhelm the arguments put forward in 2014.

    A longer game is necessary, but that is only won if we play. I don’t see the SNP putting time and thought into developing the institutions and economic development plan needed. Can a Yes campaign reassemble itself and provide the thinking needed?

    1. Alf Baird says:

      Scotland has arguably been drifting for the last couple of hundred years, reflecting the fact so many of our people (our ‘greatest asset) had to emigrate as a consequence of ongoing unionist mis-management.

      I agree that it is surprising the SNP has no real economic strategy, far less any economic vision for Scotland. But then again most of our parliamentarians have very limited if any real industry experience, ditto our UK ‘Home’ civil servants. How can they be expected to develop policies for something they know so little about? Is not the state of our economy in large part a consequence of the dilettantes in charge?

  12. Mr Anderson says:

    Hi, good piece. I felt the same as you but for me the political union of the UK was broken between 1997 and 2003, I have never been a full supporter of the SNP, having said that they have mostly represented my views. I don’t think I can fully commit to a party now, due to being burnt so many times by new labour and the lib dems.

    My family, were staunch labour supporters for decades, devastated by the passing of John Smith, then Blair and his war came, the media manipulation of that and the absolute disdain for the public, that killed the UK identity we had, I stopped voting or being interested in politics, until the SNP tried to forward a motion against the war in 2003, the realisation then was that Scotland has a voice and it is different.

    1. John Page says:

      Same for my family…….contrast Blair on Iraq with Harold Wilson on Vietnam.

  13. Stoker says:

    I’m a bit late to the party Mark but just want to reiterate reply numbers 2 and 3 above.
    Also, in your quest to convert, you may find Wings Over Scotland’s Wee Black Book a useful tool.
    Welcome to the Yes family and thank you for the article.

  14. Thomas Valentine says:

    The Scottish Tories and Labour are running around trying to convert YES supporters who voted Leave. But I think most will realise that trapped in an isolationist UK with England’s voters keen to slap Scotland down isn’t moving nearer to independence. If they survived all the years of biased unionist supporting media they clearly feel strongly in favour of independence.

    Even if 2014 YES supporters are beginning to merge with 2016 YES2 supporters we should remember the earlier supporters had one bag of motivations and the later ones a different bag. Laid out how different are they ? Will any new campaign accidentally push a percentage of 2014 away? Should we steer away from the detail before to the big concept ?

    1. Mark McGeoghegan says:

      There’s significant overlap between Old and New Yes (if I might use those terms). Certainly, soft No’s who are now DKs or Yes are likely to have the same motivations as Old Yes voters, just last time they chose to err on what was portrayed as the side of caution. It should be remembered that many soft No’s were supporters of Home rule and devomax.

      That said, if the Independnce movement want a larger majority than 55% then broadening the ideological argument will be necessary.

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