Enemy? What enemy?

Thought I’d visit the Voices for Scotland website to find out who this Alyn White character is and maybe find some clues as to where he gets his half-baked ideas from. I knew right away that I was on a Scottish Independence Convention site because the first thing I saw was a demand for money. This is before I’m even offered any information about what Voices for Scotland is or what their ideas are. Having read Alyn White’s column I’m now thinking that getting the demand for money in first was probably a good idea.

Turns out Alyn White is the Campaign Organiser for Voices for Scotland. Which may be a good career move for him. Voices for Scotland evidently consider him the man for the job. Ah hae ma doots! Looking at his ideas for the campaign to restore Scotland’s independence I kept thinking a was getting the opening spiel from one of those eager, hungry-looking young people who accost you in the street for some reason anxious to know whether you’re satisfied with your current electricity and gas supplier. I don’t even know who my electricity and gas supplier is. Which could be taken for apathy. But which could also be evidence of quiet satisfaction.

Having lived through the Winter of Discontent – which lasted for seven years between 1978 and 1979 – I am inured to power cuts – which are, in any case, rare enough and brief enough not to wear out their nostalgic value. Having had a mobile phone for about 25 years, I am well aware of the futility of tariff-chasing. The hunt for the perfect call, text and data plan can become as damaging a preoccupation as addiction to gambling, but without the rewards. At least with gambling, you get the thrill of the occasional win. With tariff-chasing, you get no more than the fleeting illusion of the ideal tariff before some spotty wee nyaff sneeringly and/or gleefully informs you that the perfect tariff is still eluding and you’re being ripped off.

My point is, young Alyn here doesn’t sound like he’s organising a political campaign at all. And certainly not a campaign such as the campaign to restore Scotland’s independence. There is no sense that he appreciates the reality of Scotland’s predicament. There is nothing to indicate that he has the slightest appreciation of what we’re up against. My distinct impression is that he hasn’t got a clue.

“We’re the “Yes campaign” you’ve been looking for, just with a wee bit less “Yes”.”

I can see that as the strapline for a bank. It’s twee enough to be rendered in cross-stitch, framed and hung on the wall above the display cabinet with the glass animals and the seashell crinoline ladies and the unidentifiable holiday souvenirs from Tyrol. (There were a lot more expletives in that sentence when I first wrote it. Almost every second * word.) What I don’t see is an approach to the campaign that is in keeping with the nature of the endeavour. And certainly not appropriate to the kind of vicious, malicious, unprincipled, fanatical opposition we face.

The impression of a total lack of awareness is hardly lessened on reading the following willie-dribble.

“Yes/No labelling can be divisive and implies that someone who voted No in 2014 was wrong and that they are different to Yes voters.”

If I had hair I’d be tearing it out by now. There is no way to express, without resort to those expletives, how much I detest this sort of pretentious, vacuous, corporate guru-speak that has more to do with sounding wise-ish than with designing a campaign which addresses the realpolitik. It is wrong in every way. Yes/No labelling isn’t divisive. It’s merely labelling a division which is already there and which isn’t going to go away just because you stop calling it what it is. Those who voted No in 2014 were wrong. Many now know and happily admit just how wrong they were. And they were different. That’s why they voted differently. They were different in all or most of the ways that it was necessary to be different in order to come to a different conclusion.

This is not Disney! It’s Tarantino! This is not a corporate ‘bonding’ and team-building and box-ticking away-day at some country house hotel, FFS! It’s a campaign to save Scotland! Literally, to save this country! It is not some horribly stilted ice-breaking game or embarrassing and pointless role-playing exercise. It is an existential battle between diametrically and irreconcilably opposed positions. In the blue corner, the idea of Scotland as a nation with a distinct identity and a distinctive political culture and aspirations informed by democratic principles such as popular sovereignty and progressive ideals. Something like what Alyn White refers to; but considerably less saccharine.

In the red corner, the ancient structures of power, privilege and patronage which define a British state that has grasping ambition instead of laudable aspirations and no more scruples than social conscience. The British political elite is not merely being awkward about a new referendum. They are intent on eradicating the Scotland we know and eliminating any possibility of the Scotland to which we aspire.

Alyn Whyte is probably a decent enough chap. If you were running a charity dedicated to rescuing maltreated llamas, I’m sure he’d do fine. But that’s not the Yes campaign. And, by the way, it is and shall remain the YES campaign no matter what some marketing whiz-kid wants to do to prove his radical credentials. This is not a sales exercise at all. The usual parallels between political campaigns and product/service marketing have been left behind. The metaphors which may have been useful are now misleading. Very misleading.

Generally speaking, the people who pester you in the pedestrian precinct to give them just a minute of your time so that they can persuade you to give them as many minutes of your time as it takes to get you to sign something don’t face a barrage of lies and disinformation and smears and people with megaphones yelling at potential sign-ups that if the pen so much as touches the paper the sky will fall and Scotland will be reduced to a film set for post-apocalyptic action dramas made by Netflix.

In any circumstances, a political campaign must be designed mindful not only of the objective it seeks to achieve but also of the impediments that will be thrown in its path by those determined that the objective will never be reached. Quite simply, it is necessary to know the enemy. I get no sense that Alyn White is even aware there is an enemy.



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6 thoughts on “Enemy? What enemy?

  1. I believe what we have for campaigning for independence is already the right thing – lots of discrete YES groups, with their own ideas and ways of thinking, coordinating when they want to, not when they don’t. I see this as distinct from the political – having one main large coordinated political party can be beneficial for adding strength, politically. (If it has the correct leadership)

    When I hear things like ‘divisive’ – my mind wanders into the territory of wondering if Scots have ever wholeheartedly agreed on anything? This is a generalisation, of course, and is just a hypothesis based on feeling rather than fact, but: I think that Scots, Scottish culture, our psyche, whatever, are just generally disagreeable – we hold opinions and voice opinions as individuals, and do not generally agree with each other – on everything or much – but have a tendency to ‘agree to differ’. I think this is what gives us the label of being fairly tolerant – we would have died out by now if we took offence at another’s (usually changing) opinion. I’m mainly looking at this from a historical perspective, but I think it’s true today. I just don’t think our culture fits well into this model of supreme powers or one coordinated voice – we just can’t be that. And we don’t need to be that. I suppose I’m saying, being ‘divisive’ is in our souls, but not just on one issue, it’s on all issues.

    So, to independence, we should have a majority in agreement on that one issue. But we will never all agree on one tactic, or having one voice, on how to go about getting it. So, I think, let everyone do it their own way – share ideas and opinions and form larger groups when opinions align – but folk shouldn’t be forced into an overarching ideological group. The political is meant to be our ‘one voice’.

    This, to me, is the reason that all those repeated rallying calls to unite under one Yes movement/banner/convention or whatever just never works, we don’t want to unite to be dictated to, we want to unite to voice our opinion on one issue only, in a way that gets the result we want. The SNP are in a very unique position in Scotland, and one that cannot last, where they have been lent our support to do the dirty politics of Westminster for us – no wonder we all bicker and moan when they appear to be stagnant and talking about everything except independence, we don’t agree on any of the other things!

    This is also why the independence marches are so successful – we can agree enough to walk from A to B (and a few other rules), and it’s for voicing our support on one issue only – but also, we are not told what to wear, or to support any other issue, or some can support another thing at the same time, some can have the music they want, or banners, or etc – the expression of support is up to the individual.

    So: Independence marches, absolutely the best way we can express our support and still stay in our comfort zones.

    Dunno about anyone else, but I will be so glad when we get our independence and we can start bickering normally again – there is going to be so much fun fractious politics! I reckon that if we get a good solid, short, constitutional document written up to protect us from ever having a leadership selling us out again right at the start, we can then get on with happily fighting amongst ourselves again, in the kindest possible manner, of course. (I do realise not everyone thinks politics is fun)

    This is my first attempt at voicing these thoughts, so any criticism welcome so I can polish it a bit (or drop it!).

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    1. I have a theory about why Scots are so thrawn: it’s the legacy of disempowerment. We’ve never had the opportunity to be self-directing, come to a consensus, choose one leader, and co-operate to just get on with it as a team. Take the flak for our mistakes or grow confident in our achievements. We were nearing a republican moment in 1705, nearly overthrowing monarchy when that was cruelly snatched away from us by a coerced union with England, removing our parliament, the one arena where we could have slugged out our differences, just to save the English monarchy we shared. That left us with an entrenched medieval aristocracy in place and lording it over us at home, while affairs of state went to a distant parliament run by the English. We were left in thrall to an unreformed aristocracy that we have yet to overthrow. Our republican moment was gone. We regressed into infancy like sullen resentful quarrelling children. We know what we don’t like but are less agreed on what we do like. Ours is a case of arrested development.

      But it wasn’t always like that. We used to be very good at co-operation, feared for it. ‘The Scots are so clannish’ – ane fo a’. Solidarity still lingers and tingles as an ancient memory and can still be revived.

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      1. Arrested development I would say, definitely. But I think all the thrawn stuff started well before 1705 – the clan structure itself is just a form of feudalism – the image of highland clans being violent was and is portrayed by the British state and not true, and the in-fighting was caused by the English then, we were very much already in disarray before 1707 because of hostile outside influences slowly eroding society for centuries – but still the majority of the people were very much against the Union.

        I am going back to the Romans – very little is talked about or investigated on the society that existed before and during Roman invasions and occupation – this is mainly because of Anglo Saxon obsession with Romans and the Roman Empire (and not the locals) – but the archeological evidence points to a very peaceful, active, Iron Age society (NOT how the Romans portrayed us), trading and living, but with no central governance and no money. One of the theories on why the Romans couldn’t get a foothold is that the cost of occupation when there was no administration already in place was too high (they used to destroy, take over existing administration, remove men away into the army, collect taxes, so absorbing the region) – they occupied Scotland in places longer than thought, and evidence says they traded with locals (food, crops, livestock) but only for a few years at the time. So I believe there was a culturally advanced society – trading with England, Ireland and Europe – over the Iron Age period I.e. Pre Roman through to after-Roman – that was peaceful and not in need of lords or ladies or kings or central governance, or money even.

        Obviously the world has moved on from then, and we need different things etc now, so I am not suggesting we go back to Iron Age society (but remember that age lasted several thousand years, it wasn’t a blip) – it would have been nice if we could have developed without outside interference, where would we be now? But I guess a lot of countries think that – but how we are portrayed throughout history by the British state and the Romans before it (they started the propaganda thing) is very very wrong – we aren’t warmongering savages – we are peaceful community-minded people that tend towards complacency unless threatened – if the threat is unseen and underhand, that’s when we have issues.

        Sweeping generalisations – but my point is that what we are told about ourselves, our culture and society, is just wrong and has been for over a thousand years (a fairly long time) – but that also makes me amazed at the resilience of the Scottish people to hold out for as long as 1707. Getting our independence back will not be getting any easier I think, and being canny in the short term is needed, and some amount of protection while we build up strength and our own culture again – and we are not ‘the same’ as the rest of the British Isles, we were never infected by the glorification of Roman Empire building.

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      2. Ah so, my theory is, that if we could fight off the Romans for hundreds of years without any central administrative control – then we don’t particularly need one now – we just need confidence in ourselves, in doing it our own way – what is comfortable for us – instead of everyone telling us the ‘right way’ to do it – these right ways are other peoples’ ways, and we don’t need to to do it that way. Being told we are doing things wrong and we are powerless erodes confidence. I am saying we are doing things right, and the power of each individual person doing what they can, is the power of change. Complacency and silence is our enemy.

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  2. If you look at YES Scotland, a lot of people think its material was rubbish, well I do anyway. And its website was useless, all it had was Blair Jenkins saying “That’s great”. About any report that called Scotland sh..ugar. But what it did help do was generate grassroots, it was set up for that. Where it went wrong was expecting £20 million in donations and paying 6 people £100,000 a year. and after the Ref nobody could use the website to get a list of YES groups to make contact. But that’s another story. Where it succeeded was in helping to generate a total disparity of YES groups – and people.

    Well now what’s happening is people want to take control of all that independence in the grassroots, put their name to other peoples’ work, and pretend it’s their own. While demanding donations!

    Well **** off.

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  3. It certainly wouldn’t get the cynical old codgers vote, but it might motivate the youth?

    Whilst I support the principle of a properly financed independence campaign distinct from the Scottish Government, the reservations I have about that is who would head it? Who is enough of a heavy weight?

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