There seems to be a new frenzy of enthusiasm for an immediate second referendum on Scottish independence. The contempt with which Scotland (and Wales and Ireland) have been treated through the Brexit process, the role of the House of Lords, the coming economic chaos and the unacknowledged but obvious rise of a new virulent English nationalism have all stoked frustration and anger. So too has the media lies and distortion – whether through collusion with a fetid elite or a conscious manipulation through Dark Money and Stinky Data.
But the conclusions drawn from this bitter experience seem to combine a wrong analysis of almost all of the major events of the day, from Brexit through Trump, from Cambridge Analytica through to the Catalan referendum. It’s as if people have taken all of the wrong conclusions and put them in a large jar marked: “Let’s Make a Really Crap Case for Indyref 2”. There’s several strands to this truly dismal prospectus being trundled out about the social media sphere.
One of the key new ‘ideas’ is that the White Paper was useless in 2014 (partly true) and so instead we should just dispense with policies, any details or a vision of where we’re going. This is a kind of blend of the worst subterfuge of Alexander Nix with the lies of the Trump and Brexit right. Barrhead Boy writes:
“Elections, Referendums are never won by policies they are won by feeling, mood and narrative we have to control those and we do it in several ways firstly highlighting the paucity of the British Union . Make them justify their British Union, remember the 3 things question? Elections are about Sales & Marketing, not policies, policies are for the anoraks the chattering classes and the commentators. Can anyone remember any policies that won Brexit? However I bet you all remember the two slogans which won it, one on the side of a big red bus £350,000,000 and the other phrase ‘Take back control’ Trump won in USA on two slogans “Lock her up” and “Make America great again”
It’s difficult to know where to begin about why this is such a disastrously terrible position to take – but lets just say that if you’re wanting to form a new democracy, basing your campaign on the most recently exposed corruption of democracy isn’t great.
Father Jason takes this baton on one step further and argues that: “Independence will not be won by making the case for independence. We’ve tried that already.”
But I thought in doing that we took a low 30% up to a high-water mark of nearer 50? Was that a fail?
That was achieved by patient, relentless and positive campaigning, reaching out beyond your base and being conscious of how you were being perceived.
Then, echoing the Cambridge Analytica mantra he continues:
“Feelings, not well-reasoned and politely delivered arguments, win votes in the modern political context. Better Together won in 2014 not because it convinced anyone Scotland was incapable of statehood, but because it terrorised just enough of the electorate to persuade them to vote for the status quo. Feels trump reals in modern politics, and whether we like that fact or not we had better bloody get used to it. Independence will not be won in Scotland with what Pete Wishart recently described as a “persuasive new case to overcome deeply held convictions.” Independence will be won by the side that can inflict the most discomfort on the other.”
This may have you feeling deeply uncomfortable or you may be gleefully anticipating a herd of unchained unicorns, but just to check back with you, the indy movement which prided itself on being civic, left and progressive-focussed is now being championed by people who want to focus not just on the key ideas of Brexit and Trump but of Better Together. That’s quite a Butterfly Rebellion.
When Father Jason says: “The next time we are on campaign we should be painting the ugly pictures” – I wonder what he means?
This is a riff on Jason’s friend Peter Bell who famously champions angry people just shouting at other (possibly angry) people as a political strategy.
This idea against ‘complexity’ is widespread.
The activist Melissa Iacone @meljomur writes: “I think it needs to be far more simplified. Not to ignore specific issues, but to make it more emotional this time.”
“I believe too many people are over complicating the independence question.”
So ‘simple and emotional’ is the key to success we’re told. I’m not sure how much of this is explicitly brought from Cambridge Analytica, Trump, Brexit and Better Together but it seems very plain. The reality is that in all political campaigns Means and Ends matter. As Audre Lorde wrote: “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house”.
I can think of no worse idea than basing the campaign for Scottish democracy on a mirror of that of the far-right and the movement of lies that was (and is) Better Together and Brexit.
It’s not all bad.
There’s lots of solid action and organising and community-rooted campaigns. There’s lots of positive energy. New campaigns and initiatives are emerging fast. The Indy Pledge is a brilliant sign of awareness.
I don’t know what the best time is for the next independence referendum is.
But I do know that to launch into it without a strategy for overcoming the political, legal, and cultural obstacles and urging people just to act is mindless.
The absolute belief that we will win any referendum ‘because we are right’ is a mistake. We can win and we should win but we need to choose the grounds to have that battle on and we need to step outside the bubble of the sub-culture that most of this debate takes place in. If we don’t we just repeat the mistakes of 2014, and the result will be the same.
There’s a world to be won and a country to be reclaimed.
Much / most of the No campaign’s promises have been exposed as shameless lies and nonsense. The unfolding Brexit process leaves Britain a laughing stock of xenophobic triumphalism. The lessons from Catalonia need to be learnt. The lessons from 2014 need to be reflected on. An entirely fresh project needs to be allowed to emerge with core values and new ideas, rooted in communities and passionate but calmly rational, that is what will win.