Faded Yes All Stars

img_4797As we debate Section 30, here’s a word for the jaded, the tired and the disillusioned.

While some folk have been jubilant, many people (even, especially Yes voters) have expressed a quiet despair at the thought of another referendum. A kind of collective groan could be heard across the country from people who, as I heard repeatedly last week ‘Had just about recovered from the last time’.

Particularly for young people, for many of whom the indyref was their first and only real political experience, the campaign was brutal, the result tragic and the scars lasting. Many people ‘gave their whole selves’ and in doing so became vulnerable in a way they had never been before.

Hiding behind cynicism and an affected facade of aloof slacker nihilism, is the default position for many. The indyref changed that and allowed people to step-off that space and ‘commit’.

Losing wasn’t just bad, it was awful. It felt terminal. You had to look around and realise that a majority of people you lived alongside didn’t want to govern themselves, and, worse than that, didn’t think they could. Dependence won.

And the experience of losing by being lied to, and watching the machinery of the British State ramp up propaganda over and over was, for many people, just overwhelming.

But there’s another thing that’s making people feel disillusioned.

The quality of our own campaign, and our own apparent inability to reflect, change and hold dear to certain principles is a draining disappointment. If once the idea that constitutional change was inexorably connected to social change – unlocking the potential for transformative and radical political change, that aspiration seems to have seeped away, captured not just by professionalism but by sell-out.

If Stay Gold seemed to haunt the campaign of 2014 – politics of three years later seems dominated by far-right populism, bouge sell-out and a vague reformism that seems to have capitulated to a seperation of ends and means and been reduced to an insipid flag-waving. As social media has turned from a giant playground of connectivity into a bitter network of rancour, a movement has itself split and splintered.

But the ScotRef, when it comes – will not be Indyref2.

The danger is that people don’t want to be made vulnerable again. They want to don their protective jacket. Being idealistic and giving yourself meant you lose. For lots of people it wasn’t just about losing their ‘youth’ it was about losing their faith, not just in their own nations capacity to act, but in people. That’s a pretty powerful combination.

It’s easy to scoff. People from both sides deride such bruised activists as ‘snowflakes’, a term we didn’t even have then. Some Yes campaigners scorn people who are tired or disillusioned as lightweights, while others from ‘the other side’ laugh at such naivety.

But there’s another side to this. We witnessed a process of mass (self) education. The networks and skills that were created then haven’t disappeared. The political lessons need to be understood and a dialogue about self-protection (on and offline) needs to be developed.

So what are the lessons learned? Here’s ten:

1  The best manifestations of the independence movement were the self-organised which embodied the values and methods of independence. Top-down campaigning is disempowering and unconvincing. Means and ends count.
2  The whole Yes movement was consumed by the spectacle of itself.
3 It was mostly the Yes side that engaged with and inspired people, and we can do that again. ‘UK:OK’ wasn’t – and can’t be inspiring. ‘UK:OK – Bad Foreigners’ still less so.
4  No party can win a referendum on their own.
5  Women need to be central not peripheral to any campaign in voice, in tone and in leadership.
6  Social media is very effective at some things and virtually useless at others. We need to know the difference.
7  Emerging projects and groups need structures transparency and process.
8  Leadership can and will take new forms. Multiple leadership is better than singular leadership.
9  Fear can be compelling, but not endlessly so.
10 Shouting at people doesn’t work.

Suzanne Moore has written that: “Scotland did not vote for independence, but it embodied an idea of what independence may be about, what an engaged populace may look like, what a civic identity could be. I take it for granted that self-determination is a progressive value, so have always supported it.”

Bernadette McAliskey told us that we had taught Ireland what ‘self-determination’ means again, and that was important.

I completely understand that people are mentally exhausted, disenchanted by politics, disillusioned about the potential of independence, wary of nationalism and tired of tribalism and the binary simplism of referenda. I get it. But this is an opportunity to break the British state and to re-make anew. This opportunity is a privilege. People in countries across the world don’t get the chance to be ‘jaded’ or bored when they have the opportunity to change broken and corrupt structures of power.

A few days ago Kirsty Gunn wrote:

“For we shouldn’t need to have referendums, should we? Our elected politicians, in full-time jobs as politicians, with all the information and statistics to hand that we, with our own jobs, don’t have time to read through and quantify…. They’re supposed to be doing that job for us … Look where that referendum got us. We can’t hope “the people” will speak for us. “People” are too busy working and bringing up their families and trying to make ends meet. And besides, not all of us want to be “the people” anyway. We want to be individuals who have informed, reasonable, interesting debate. We want the language to match and the politicians to step up to the plate. We, “the people” are really just you and me.”

This kind of insipid belief in politicians with “all the information and statistics to hand” is a weird disavowal. It’s a regression and a reject of citizenship. It’s a sort of Cath Kidston politics.

The best of the independence movement is the opportunity to transform Scotland, to raise aspirations and expectations and to create our own future. This can be done by acting collectively, by being open to real change and by shifting from the cycle of constant reaction to a different rhythm of listening and response. We have the tools and the nous to win, but only if we stop blaming everybody else for the last time and break out of our own comfortable-silos.

Two key things have changed since 2014 that will make the next time utterly different. The economic case is still absolutely primary, but on new ground. We won’t be fighting against a British economic case grounded in feelings of supreme confidence and respect, but a financial state drowning in debt and a faltering currency. We shouldn’t mimic the old faltering financial institutions and economic models (‘Export! Growth!’) but create the conditions for the circular economy to grow. The second is that the comedy gold of desperate Love-Bombing isn’t going to happen this time round. As Paul Mason notes:

“Scotland’s desire for independence is being cast no longer as simply unwise (as in 2014) but unjust. It is being subtly reframed by the English right as a form of theft, disloyalty, disobedience and disruption, a wilful sabotage of the Brexit process. If the left and centre of English politics do not resist this – and consciously offer something different – this anti-Scottish resentment story will become the core of the new English ideology.”

In some ways that’s a harsher environment to campaign in but at least it’s more straightforward. The illusory idea of Britain as some forward-thinking multi-cultural entity is gone. Today they are talking of evoking a ‘Henry VIII’ clause to smooth the passage of Brexit.  

The challenge is to (re) make the radical case for independence, to transcend tribalism and create a new movement of energy, hope and vitalism based on a vision of social justice, which, given the toxic air we breath and the rallying cry to do nothing but consume quietly, is a sedition in itself.



Comments (33)

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  1. Jim Bennett says:

    Wonderful stuff!

  2. bringiton says:

    I see your Henry the V111 act and raise you our Declaration of Arbroath.
    They are now asserting that there is no longer any British union,just England.
    How refreshing,truth for a change.

    1. But its the actual UK Govt citing Henry VIII – not some nationalist outliers? The actual ******* government …

      1. bringiton says:

        Yes,I understand that which is why I said that the union parliament which was founded in 1707 now appears to be invoking English laws which pre-date it,as does quite a bit of Scots law and custom which alternatively,they reject.
        I suppose they could pass a law which says that the union is over and that Scotland now belongs to England (isn’t that what they are doing anyway?)
        EVEL or what?

        1. frank casey says:

          Speaking as a Scot of the republican persuasion living in S.E .England even seemingly rational neighbours still confuse the whole land mass of these islands as England and I have to constantly disabuse them. I find the Henry v111 reference an interesting historical comparison. I suspect that some look back longingly to that time when they could inflict ‘Rough Wooing’ on us. I find the chain of discussion in Bella very heartening. Even when the comments are at variance at least there is a forward moving discussion in progress. In contrast, the Westminster clique reach in to their toolkit and bring out the same outworn blunt instruments

  3. jamero66 says:

    It like to add to lesson No.10

    10. Shouting at people doesn’t work, finding common ground does.

  4. glynbeddau says:

    Why did stay gold haunt the campaign ? I’m asking as Welsh!an who supports Indy it loved First said Kit

    1. Hi – I love them too. It was haunted because it came out around that time and speaks of hopes and dreams that are dashed. It’s a beautiful song.

  5. Alan Bissett says:

    Excellent post, Mike. I have close friends – ordinary, working-class guys who always believed themselves completely voiceless – who were indeed inspired and engaged by the Yes campaign, who truly felt we were about to turn a corner into a better future, away from a status quo that had let them down and again and again. They now feel jaded, defeated and without hope, exactly as you describe. They’ve been put ‘back in their box’. Their faith not only in Scotland but in politics itself, in the prospect of any kind of positive change, has been completely shot through. If the next Yes campaign doesn’t reignite them then nothing – literally nothing – ever will again. This, of course, is exactly what the British establishment want.

    Your first three points interest me most:

    “1 The best manifestations of the independence movement were the self-organised which embodied the values and methods of independence. Top-down campaigning is distempering and unconvincing. Means and ends count.
    2 The whole Yes movement was consumed by the spectacle of itself.
    3 It was mostly the Yes side that engaged with and inspired people.”

    The rallies, songs and events were indeed hugely inspiring last time around – and gave us a sense of our own scale and mass – but anyone who is going to be convinced by them has already been convinced by them. We need to do less marching and more organising.

    I’m struck by something Blair McDougall said: “I looked at George Square five days before the vote and saw that the Yes campaign had started their victory celebrations already, while we were still out knocking on doors.”

    Anyone who is serious about a Yes vote needs to join their local community group and focus not on rallies but on door-to-door campaigning, leafleting and stalls visible in their local area. If soft No’s are going to be persuaded by anyone at all, it’s going to be by the people from their own community that they see every day, not by parachuted-in party apparatchiks.

    Another advantage of this community-led approach is that you simply can’t afford to irritate the people you live cheek-by-jowl with and who you are likely to bump into in the local pub. This – along with the learned social cues of face-to-face conversation – has the effect of tempering the discussion and making it more respectful, which is much harder in the shark-tank of social media.

    Twitter is good for sharing information and links with each other but it is not campaigning, and the tendency to get mired in pointless tit-for-tat with the opposition is strong.

    It’s not enough anymore to wait for someone else/the SNP to do the work for us, and believe that all we have to do is put an X in the Yes box on the day, every one of us has to be out there pounding the streets and working for it this time.

    1. Agreed, that’s what I mean by ‘The whole Yes movement was consumed by the spectacle of itself’.

      1. Alan Bissett says:

        I get that. I believe it to have been a naive, but perfectly understandable, enthusiasm from people suddenly energised by politics for the first time, newly-discovering our own potential. But we are experienced now, and have to replace that excitement with a dogged pragmatism. It’s telling that the machinery of the British state didn’t expend energy on rallies and cultural campaigns, but on identifying and transmitting to the Undecided sector of the electorate who would swing the vote, with a laser-like precision. We need to do the same now.

  6. manandboy says:

    I was devastated – but I got over it.
    I was disillusioned – but that passed.
    I was deeply disappointed – but not any longer.
    I was disgusted by no-voting Scots – but everyone’s different.
    I made mistakes – but mainly through inexperience.
    I was crushed by the odds – till I remembered David & Goliath.
    I thought we were on our own – now the EU is with us.
    I wanted to blame the SNP – but it wasn’t their fault.
    I really thought we would win first time – now I know better.
    I counted it a huge loss – but the Yes Alliance gained 100,000+
    I wanted Independence for myself- now it’s for others.
    I thought Democracy would be enough – BT thought different.
    I now know the truth – I’m not giving up.

  7. Alistair Livingston says:

    I wrote a Grasmci inspired article last year, after discovering that Hamish Henderson had translated Gramsci in the 1940s. I will now remake/remodel ahead of the next referendum.

    “In Scotland then, there are two fronts in the war of position. One front is the struggle is to secure independence. It is a counter-hegemonic struggle directed outward against the UK state and aims to break-it up. This in turn requires building up solid support for independence among the doubtful, people who voted No in 2014 but are no longer certain if that was the right decision. It also requires keeping the ’non-nationalist’ Yes voters on board, especially the more active ones who campaigned for a Yes vote 2012-14.

    The second front is the runs parallel with the first. Here the struggle is internal and is another counter-hegemonic struggle, directed against the forces of reactionary nationalism. This struggle ’ must consistently produce relations of democratic control and mobilization wherever possible, together with institutions of direct democracy which are consciously antithetical to bureaucratism in all its aspects.’ The aim is to ensure that, when it comes, independence will involve substantially more than simply hauling down the Union flag and raising a Saltire in its place.”


  8. kate macleod says:

    As the woman you casually or arrogantly dismiss points out the (working class) people that middle class people want to be active campaigners may not be able to as their working conditions & lives leave almost no room for activities outside the struggle to survive. actually this is sort of true of many lawyers,doctors etc. too, time wise, not survival wise.

    and if working people do give up their little leisure for campaigning it is academics, journalists, artists, politicians of the middle class who will be feted and rewarded most.

    non minor celebrity activists should know they will be repaid in some or many ways. is independence itself a reward ? no. a standard neo liberal SNP govt in the EU is a perfectly possible outcome.

    making political and elected representatives directly accountable, sackable by the public and more truly representative is important for the above reasons and because many people don’t want to be an activist. for a start it puts you in the line of abuse ,not only from opponents but your own ‘side’, for a finish there will often be neither money, nor work – tenuous or otherwise, nor respect at the end of it.

  9. Colin Mackay says:

    This, along with Gerry Hassan’s recent article, really is essential reading for the campaign.

  10. Jo says:

    I listened to the debate at Holyrood yesterday. I don’t mind telling you I could have wept at points it was so hostile. I would call the contributions from some shocking so poisonous was the content.

  11. MVH says:

    I think of of it as separate shifts. The Yes campaign were massively successful in raising the vote to 45%. But they were exhausted and many were burnt out after the referendum was lost and #the45andrising shift took over. The grassroots campaign for #indyref2 was on, with it’s agenda of annihilating the Red Toies, losing the BBC getting new media etc. I expect it will be a new shift that takes over for #Scotref. Some hard core will be part of all three campaigns and you’ve got to wonder are they career politicians or do they actually have a life?

  12. john young says:

    We should try not to “muddy the waters” too much keep it simple,do you want to determine the future of you and your children,or do you want forever more to be on your knees.

    1. What does “muddy the waters” mean?

    2. Wul says:

      Do you want Scotland to be:

      A) An independent country?
      B) A dependant country?

  13. john young says:

    It means do not get drawn into discussions that are really not relevant to the core question,do you want to govern yourself? or forever be on your knees,we can get enmeshed in all sorts of financial arguments when nobody really knows fcuk all about the world of finance,if they did they would have known about the last 2/3 financial disasters,every country is at the mercy of the financial high rollers,we should keep it as simple as possible,most people get lost in the “muddy waters”.

    1. I never understand how you are going to pull this off, asking people ‘do you want to govern yourself’ without answering any other questions about what kind of country this will be. Its just not possible nor is it desirable.

  14. Jac Gallacher says:

    Great timing Mike, many of us are feeling drained and a bit daunted at what we know is ahead.
    I fully intend on conserving my energy and using it wisely, getting along to educational and inspiring talks by the likes of Common Weal, Lesley Riddoch and Bella ( of course) to get back my Indy-oomph.

  15. James Dow says:

    What manner of Scots are you talking about, and are they really Scots?
    “They now feel jaded, defeated and without hope”
    Just as well previous generations didn’t embrace those sentiments, for the brave new world would have taken a lot longer to emerge. Just as well my father didn’t feel like that after serving five years at war in Nth Africa,Sicily, and Italy and then emigrating to Australia with two trunks two small children and approx 100 pounds. To a land we knew nothing off and nobody in. I was a boy of six when we left Edinburgh.
    Who are these so called Scots that inhabit my homeland. Where is the courage, the passion, the indomitable will and integrity of being and purpose to persevere, where is the belief in the extended Scottish family, where is the love and spiritual bond and subsequent empathy?
    It is probably just as well I am writing from OZ for had we remained I know I am one Scot that would have harboured distain for what appeared to be most of my fellow Scots during the Referendum.
    Having been in a pipe band a a piper since boyhood I was raised up surrounded by archetypal Scots. Over the course of some sixty odd years invariably as new members joined from Scotland they would all make the observation ” you know your all more Scottish than we are back home, our reply ” we know”
    Since emigrating in 1952 I returned to play in the 2005 Tattoo
    I wrote this poem
    Own Goal
    The modern Scot has little to cheer
    Comatose, trnquilized with football and beer.

    I remain so tragically disappointed with Scotland.
    Sorry that’s wrong Scotland is beautiful, but it appears most of its inhabitants are unworthy of being identified by her name, and are anything but beautiful. For Gods sake find some courage, be more selfless, just pretend to be Scottish you might even fool yourselves into believing you actually are Scottish.
    I would give all that I am for my land, the beautiful, living, magical, mystical land that I sprang from, my ancient homeland, Scotland.
    James Dow

    1. MBC says:

      You didn’t experience Thatcherism then. And the defeat of the miners; the mothballing of industry. It sucked the life out Scotland.

    2. Alf Baird says:

      Excellent advice James Dow, and confirmation if needed that Scotland should give a constitutional vote to all of our diaspora (like Italy, Turkey etc) rather than to the one million automatic cultural No voters from rest UK who come here to take advantage of our superior/lower cost public services yet seek to thwart our very nationhood.

  16. Craig P says:

    >>The challenge is to (re) make the radical case for independence,

    I don’t think that is the challenge, that challenge was won hands down last time.

    The real challenge is to make the (small c) conservative case for independence as that appears to be what the electorate want.

    1. Hi Craig, if that’s the aim then we are really just talking about switching a conservative government in London for a conservative government in Edinburgh. I dont really see the point of that and it’s not something I am interested in achieving. Switching flags is pointless. The point is to reclaim and transform this country.

  17. john young says:

    James Dow pretty much spot on,the history of our land is full of sell out and treacherous acts,England destroyed us in 1745 and what was left of the best/bravest was sent abroad or conscripted into the British war machine to fight for greater England,there would have been no British Empire without them,downside being their offspring identify more with Britain than they do their own country.You see very little outpouring of pride in our country we hardly fly our flag we are taught about Great Britain in our schools,little of Scots history,compare ourselves to Eire who took everything that they could hit them with and came out the other side,they are proud of their land and bow to no one,we have a huge Orange Order that hold sway,that have allegiance to the crown and are sworn enemies of their own land,remember when after “the Boyne” Protestants and Catholics were on the point of joining for a united Ireland when up stepped Sir George Knox saying don,t worry I will play the Orange card,needless to say divide and conquer,ere it ever was/is.

  18. e.j. churchill says:

    ‘frames’ and ‘narratives.’

    How George Lakoff of you. Occasionally … a cigar is just a cigar.

    Official, institutional hatred of GB as part and parcel of indyref# is fact-on-the-ground. Don’t blunt it, for it is your ONLY hope of 50+1.

    ‘moral’ is a loser – it always is.
    there is NO business case for Scotland.
    hate is your only sharp weapon.

    ’tis sad



    1. Independence Live says:

      UK is 1.8 trillion in debt and Scotland does not control its own economy. YES that is a business case for independence.

      Hate and project fear I leave to you.

      1. e.j. churchill says:

        Nah, innocent I am. True neutral, non-dom here.

        But you’re not correct. With some ‘dependings,’ you can safely ignore debt. GB is one of several countries (USA RUSSIA, FRANCE, GERMANY, ITALY, CHINA, INDIA, JAPAN. BRAZIL, ARGENTINA) that have no expectation of paying their debt. And although it looks bad, debt is not especially harmful unless it is front-loaded, and GB debt is, at +13yrs average is a high class problem.

        Deficit, OTOH, is a killer, and Scotland has plenty of that.

        IL, you might look up what a Business Plan is … start in Investopedia.


  19. Alf Baird says:

    ““For we shouldn’t need to have referendums, should we?”

    We don’t, and most nations have become independent without them. Independence was achieved in May 2015 when 56 SNP MP’s were elected to represent the sovereign will of the Scottish people. They had and still have the constitutional right to assert Scotland’s independence.

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