Be a Voice for Hope Beyond Hopeless Union

In making the case for independence I have long argued that we all want the same thing. It doesn’t matter which political party you vote for, whether you live in a high-rise in Calton or a croft in Carloway, it doesn’t matter how much money you have, the colour of your skin, the football team you support or the god you never pray to. We all want the same thing.

We want happiness and security, we want to breathe clean air, to not have to worry about money, to have access to good healthcare and education, to have opportunities to work, access to culture and hope for the future. We want a fairer, more equal society where we can thrive.

In Scotland today, as part of an unequal union of nations, there are too many that don’t have these things and live in little hope that they will arrive any time soon. In a hopeless union, we are hopeless.

I read Bella Caledonia’s ‘The Crisis and Opportunity of the Independence Movement’ early in the morning and couldn’t stop thinking about it. So much of the work I’ve been doing over the past year relates directly to much of what Mike has written about.

It would be easy for independence supporters to sit back with a single malt, bask in the glory of positive polling, guffaw at Boris Johnson’s latest calamity and think that a “crumbling union” means independence is an inevitability. It is not – not without a massive amount of work to change the conversations we have and speak directly to transient and undecided voters.

There are three areas the movement needs to discuss if we are serious about growing support for independence, avoiding the division we witnessed with Brexit and winning a referendum, whenever it may come along.

The first point, as noted in Mike’s article, is how we move out of the echo chamber and talk to people who still haven’t made up their mind. When I think back to my own early activism it was attending marches – Stop the War, Anti G8, Anti Trident, Pro Palestine … all causes I supported before marching through city centres, running from police kettles and blocking roads. But these events did something wonderful, they made me feel part of something, made me feel part of a movement and solidified my belief in the cause.

It might be the case that a massive march organised by AUOB only attracts existing independence supporters, but they do galvanise that support and the people waving those flags will be the same people that set up a street stall in a dreich Kirkcaldy so that they can do their bit and spread the word.

But it’s who we spread that word to that’s important. We need to do something to reach the transient and undecided voters and to do this we need to be softer, less ‘Yes’ and definitely not party political.

In setting up Voices for Scotland a massive amount of research was carried out to assess what we need to win independence. Part of that research showed that the people who voted No in 2014 but could move towards independence thought that the Yes/No labelling and debate was divisive and off putting. They said the same about party politics, which is, by its nature, divisive.

What we at Voices identified was the need for a civic non party political organisation that gave people a platform to to talk about what matters to them. Covid popped our balloon, just as we were about to launch various initiatives to get people together. Since the end of the summer lockdown we’ve had to move everything online, first to re-establish ourselves and host events that bring people together and as we move forward, we’re introducing ways in which people can connect and tell their stories online.

We’re starting this with Be A Voice which we’re launching next week then we’ve something much more ambitious in the pipeline for early 2021.

By moving away from party politics and putting the movement in the hands of people across Scotland who have stories to tell about why independence is important to them, we are much more likely to reach those voters who have yet to make up their mind and head towards indyref2 with constant polling above 60%

This moves on to the second point, on the importance of the independence movement being a civic movement.

In the past few days the Conservative party’s anti-independence playbook has been clear for all to see. Attach the independence movement to the SNP and criticise their record in Government. This seems to be all they have other than calling us separatists and the party of government in Scotland the ‘Scottish Nationalist Party’.

Independence is a people’s movement towards a fairer, more equal society. It is not owned by any one individual or political party and it’s really important that it stays that way. This is why we may not have one single independence campaign like in 2014 and why there is a role for Voices for Scotland, AUOB, the Scottish Greens, the SNP and others to play their part in building and galvanising support.

A recent YouGov poll on independence showed that support for independence has been growing, in part, because people are dissatisfied by Westminster’s handling of the covid crisis. It is now our job as independence supporters to show these recent converts to indy the positive case for independence and the pathway to achieving what we all want, a fairer, more equal, wealthy and happy society.

The third point is on timing. When are we going to have another referendum? Really the only people that can answer that, or give us an indication, are the high hiedyins in the SNP. Uncertainty over timing of indyref2 is creating a pressure cooker effect with the most ardent supporters of independence – a tactic the SNP has used time and time again to secure votes in elections.

In the lead up to the Holyrood election next year the SNP must set out a timetable for the next referendum. Of course there is the Westminster obstacle, but if the party wants a mandate, they need to make it clear to voters what they are voting for.

Without it the pressure only builds. I was literally shouted at during a meeting last year for suggesting that the earliest we should hope for a referendum would be 2022. Remember the clamour for a referendum in 2020? We don’t need a referendum as soon as we can get it, we need it when we’re ready to win. We need it when the time is right, when we have a plan and a case for what an independent Scotland will look like and how it will work.

For many people there are still too many unanswered questions and now is the time for the movement to educate, inform and share information and stories so that we have what we need to speak to undecided voters. We need to recognise that where we are now is a very different place to 2014 and as such, we need to be a very different movement.








Comments (15)

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  1. Axel P Kulit says:

    Very good points. Make the YES movement easy for all political persuasions, point out to Tory voters that they are more likely to be a significant force after Independence and ask people if they would support independence should the pandemic suddenly vanish. There are a lot of ways to make it cross party

    1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

      But I thought the whole point of independence was to reduce the significance of the Tories as a political force, thereby clearing the way for the Second Coming.

      1. Axel P Kulit says:

        Do I detect a hint of sarcasm?

        We will need all shades f political opinion after independence, thought today’s neoliberals have shown they are dangerous to the wider society.

        1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

          But we have all shades of political opinion now; so what will independence change?

          1. Axel P Kulit says:

            At the moment, as I see it, the YES movement reflexively reject anything proposed by Tories and to a great extent by Labour.

            It risks becoming an exclusively left wing organisation and in my opinion that is not good.

            The movement, at least what I have seen is not politically inclusive and there is a hatred of Tories (whatever the colour of the rosette) justified, in my opinion, by the behaviour of the Tories we currently see in power in South Britain, that may stop them considering independence as an option.

  2. john burrows says:

    The concept is good. I commend your effort. One caveat though.

    Without honest identity from contributors, the site will be swamped with the hatred and poison of trolls, and the irrational zealotry of fanatics.

    I sincerely hope you can handle the efforts they will make to crush your spirits, in a bid to destroy your creation at birth. Don’t let them get you down. Purge them ruthlessly, if they cannot be reached.

    But remenber, everyone can have a bad day and spectacularly miss the point. Always keep an open mind, even for the trolls and fanatics.

    Social Media has unleashed all our ‘Monsters from the Id’ – a Forbidden Planet movie reference, for all you young ‘uns. If you can help folks reach the humanity within them though, it can go a long way to help them exercise their own personal demons.

    Stay away from football too. Their is no greater threat to civil discourse in Scotland than bating each others footie teams. The modern version of the clans around here.

    I wish you the best of luck.

  3. SleepingDog says:

    I think it is well past time we should be looking at replacements for party politics and representative democracy. These have been overtaken by the potentials of modern communications technology and a general lack of deference as incompetence, corruption and sometimes malevolence in elected representatives becomes more visible, though transparency in UK politics remains an aspiration rather than a reality. Models of deliberative, participative democracy will likely increase people’s confidence that they can ‘do politics’ as they participate, as long as they see progress made.

    Some of the most off-putting (shouty?) voices for Independence may even come from inside the movement, although this is subjective of course.

    Yes, I agree that reaching a high tide of independence support and getting a binding decision from it, so that every reasonable person believes “we voted for this, fair and square”, is the overriding concern, and a hasty narrow ‘victory’ in a controversial referendum will be counterproductive and produce a significant backlash. Other countries have managed overwhelming support for their independence breakaways, and we should at least be aiming for a minimum of 2:1 support, in my view.

    However. I feel that individual voices are too compromised in this case. It is the larger collective opinions (such as stop terrorising other countries with nukes and stop waging aggressive wars) that are clearest articulations of policy foundations. The idea may be to reach the latter, but by promoting the former, that goal may be obscured. In other words, developing a site that is more focused on problems and solutions, like the popular open software/technology development sites, is more helpful in guiding discussion along productive lines, while allowing structured dissent. You don’t really want people asking the same questions all over the place, or reacting to (real or imagined) personality rather than the issues most relevant. The tendency toward self-promotion and grandstanding should be nipped in the bud, as well as minimising the possibility of later-discreditable voices which then derail a policy discussion. Moderation needs to be clear, transparent and effective too.

    I guess one or more of these experiments is likely to succeed and feed into further iterations of civic discourse. Although at the first signs of success, interests will be attracted. My feeling is that deliberative democracy may work better when it binds and constrains, as in participatory budgeting. Where voices are limited to give everyone a say, not just the loudest. Where speakers are in some sense accountable, and eligible. Where a lot of thought goes into designing efficient ways for people to interact on topics they care about, answer questions they are knowledgeable about, discover important issues they were not previously aware of, learn how to make collective decisions, and so on.

    1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

      I don’t think we need to look far for alternatives to party politics and representative democracy. There are loads of models out there.

      Most people are happy with the status quo, however. As anyone who’s worked in community development will tell you, it’s a b*gg*r to try and get folk to participate in grassroots democracy, which tends to be the jealously guarded province of the usual community activist suspects. People are generally happy to sit back and let others take on the hassle of governing community affairs and to limit their participation to complaining when things go wrong.

      The biggest problem, next to the fact that people generally can’t be *rs*d getting involved in community governance, is the question of who’s going to manage the process, including the technology through which the participants’ communication will be mediated. Who’s going to ‘structure’ the dissent? Who’s going to ‘guide’ discussion along productive lines? Who’s going to ‘nip in the bud’ ad hominem conflicts and ‘the tendency toward self-promotion and grandstanding’?

      The French revolutionaries instituted a parliamentary ‘dictatorship’, headed by a Committee of Public Safety, to organise their revolution, to promote confidence and compliance, and to serve as ‘arsenals of public opinion’, and the Russian revolutionaries followed suit by instituting a ‘dictatorship’ of the proletariat to do the same. What form would your structuring, guiding, and regulatory ‘dictatorship’ take?

      1. Axel P Kulit says:

        “As anyone who’s worked in community development will tell you, it’s a b*gg*r to try and get folk to participate in grassroots democracy, which tends to be the jealously guarded province of the usual community activist suspects. People are generally happy to sit back and let others take on the hassle of governing community affairs and to limit their participation to complaining when things go wrong.”

        I am not sure why this happens, but perhaps they feel this is politics, involves sitting on committees and is boring. The activists you mention may be driven by obscure motives. Perhaps the people who sit back feel they have little time to spare and want a life after eight hours at work, two to three hours commuting and that community activism will damage relationships with family and/or their health.

        And as you imply, the activists may freeze people out.

        1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

          I think it’s just part of a dependency culture that’s been around in our country since time immemorial, a lack of the entrepreneurial spirit that, instead of saying ‘they’ should do something about it, says ‘we’ should do something about it. What Erich Fromm called our ‘escape from freedom’, which is also an evasion or abdication of responsibility for one’s own destiny.

          Our dependency culture isn’t something that will change overnight, on a political whim; it’s something that needs to be cultivated historically, perhaps over several generations. And, of course, those who would govern the conduct of our lives – our politicians and ideologues – have a vested interest in seeing that this doesn’t happen and we remain in or state of dependency.

          1. This is kind of like Fromm meets Tebbit.

          2. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

            Don’t let the word ‘entrepreneurial’ bewitch you. I’m using ‘entrepreneur’ in the original, more general sense of ‘one who undertakes’, rather than in the narrower sense of ‘one who takes financial risks in the hope of profit’. The salient contrast is between agency and suffering.

            Though, about 15 years ago, I was called a ‘Thatcherite’ by a career community activist at a community health consultation event in Niddrie, for suggesting that residents should take direct action to address some of the health inequalities they were experiencing, rather than wait for government agencies to bureaucratise them away; so I’ve certainly got form.

      2. SleepingDog says:

        @Anndrais mac Chaluim, there can never be one answer to ‘what is the best political system’, I guess, but the stress should be on improvability, and that may require parallelisation of competing structures and making political participation interesting (which is why I think we need to look to games for inspiration). Corruption cannot simply be a one-way process, otherwise we would never see it diminish, so learning from effective anti-corruption behaviours is also essential. Educational practices have a large role, and levelling downwards so that political office does not bring personal rewards is probably a good idea. Experimentation will be required. There is a place for live, participative thought experiments and practising deliberative democracy in virtual environments which have stakes of value to participants.

        However, since my own belief is that we need to give non-human voices the majority vote (in a manner of speaking) on a range of political decisions, my requirement would be to dial down the effect of human voices. There are objective measures of ecosystem distress which could be used as a component, for example.

        I suppose the classic approach is to get people to come up with sets of rules that they will be bound by, which is what the various constitutional conventions are for. As a corollary, the removal of harmful double standards will be required (much mocking of the Westminster incumbents is on that basis).

        For collective intelligence to manifest, each participant in the complex system should be an adaptive node that will fall under self-regulation by the system: in other words contribute to collective sanity, or fall into faintness as connections to them naturally wither. This is not the way that social media behaves at the moment, but then there are strong interferences by anti-democratic and irrationalist interests. But there is no reason why I should like any given emergent form; the more powerful humanity gets, perhaps the more terrible.

        1. Blair says:

          Multiple paths provide choices which is very important but despite our market driven economy our governments are providing us with very little choice by setting one size fits all for all irrespective of individual family needs. We do need an improving system which utilises old & new methods.

          What Scotland requires is to have full powers in order that it can deliver a fairer system for all who live and work in Scotland and respect the community democratic choice. Having the results of two referendums it is fairly clear that total independence is not the preferred route: Scotland”s people would like to retain European membership.

          England is not willing to share currency if we break from UK therefor it would be sensible just to accept that we will be using the Euro.

          We know that Europe is not going to provide a utopian experience but at least it will provide us a better chance than that what we have been experiencing.

        2. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

          Funny you should mention online gaming as a possible inspiration for engineering a new participative political system. This is precisely the premise of Alejandra Guibert’s dystopian novel, The Vatican Games, which I read yesterday. It was published early this year, before the onset of the Covid palaver, by the innovative Clink Street publishing outfit. I found the prose a bit clunky, but it’s well worth a read if your interested in future politics.

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