It rather goes without saying that I agree with every word Jim Fairlie has written. The expression ‘of one mind’ has rarely been more apt. There are, however, one or two matters that are worthy of comment.
I think it important to be totally honest about the extent to which the independence movement has allowed itself to be manipulated by the British state’s propaganda machine and the ruthless political wiles which have been honed over centuries and are now deployed with the casual ease of second nature become first instinct.
When I talk about the independence movement, I mean the WHOLE independence movement. The fact that we’ve fallen into the habit of referring to ‘the SNP and the wider independence movement’ as if they were two quite distinct entities nicely illustrates the very point that Jim Fairlie makes about divide and conquer which the British state tends to deploy as a matter of course having learned nothing from the lessons of history. I freely, if somewhat shamefacedly, confess to having myself too often and too readily made this overly strong distinction between what are actually just aspects of the same phenomenon. This despite the fact that I am aware of the manipulation that’s in play. Which perhaps attests to the insidious power of that manipulation. I need to be more aware! We all do!
Saying that reference to the independence movement should at all times include the SNP is not, however, the same as saying that the movement behaves as one. The only point on which I diverge slightly from Jim Fairlie’s analysis is when he asserts that “our support has the elasticity and determination to take the strain of process debates to agree a strategy that will deliver independence”. I’m not so sure of either the elasticity or the determination. Not because the capacity or potential is lost to to the movement but because the will to tap that capacity and realise that potential has been overtaken by a combination of weariness and frustration.
In the period immediately following the tragedy of 2014 I frequently opined that the Yes movement had matured since its inception in the early years of the first independence referendum campaign. There was ample evidence of this maturity in the way the movement acted. But even as I delighted in it I could not help but be aware that just as purposeful maturity followed the often clumsy enthusiasm of youth, so it was the precursor to old age and decrepitude. The observation that youth is wasted on the young applies. The Yes movement has aged rapidly under the stresses and tensions of the last few years. And it’s starting to show.
I remain to be persuaded that the creaking joints and aching muscles of the Yes movement are capably of responding to the urging its now wise old brain. Nothing would please me better than to be proved wrong. It would gladden my heart greatly were the independence movement able to “agree a strategy that will deliver independence” and unite behind that strategy. But I see little evidence of that. And considerably more evidence that, as will happen with movements which are vulnerable to the malign influence of the British state’s tactics, diversity has become division has become factionalism – the cancer that kills any movement.
These personal doubts aside, I am in full agreement with Jim Fairlie. Not only in respect of his analysis but also with regard to his conclusions and recommendations. The strategy he outlines is the strategy behind which the entire independence movement SHOULD unite. It is not only obviously that right strategy it is the only strategy. It might be amenable to the odd tweak here and there – greater emphasis on renouncing the Section 30 process, perhaps – but we genuinely have run out of options. And we’re running out of time. Whatever motivates those who insist we must give the failed strategy one more try – and I accept that this is well intended – they are wrong. We can argue later about the wisdom of treating the Section 30 process as our ‘gold standard’ when it was always one of the British state’s ploys. Right now, we need to move on. And we need to do so while there is still hope that the ageing Yes movement can be roused to one final effort.
Which brings me to my final point. The strategy outlined by Jim Fairlie – a strategy which differs in no significant way from that which I have long advocated – has obvious implications for the coming Scottish Parliament elections and how they are fought by and on behalf of the SNP. But it is important to recognise that the implications are more far-reaching. This change of approach must be informed and underpinned by a fresh mindset. This is not merely tinkering with tactics. Adopting the strategy urged by Jim Fairlie, along with the appropriate shift of mindset, changes the fundamental nature of the independence movement. And it changes our nation.
The Scotland which approaches the constitutional issue as a nation determinedly asserting the sovereignty of its people and the exclusive competence of its Parliament is a very different entity from the country which behaved as a subordinate meekly petitioned a superior for the boon of permission to exercise an inalienable democratic right. It is a Scotland acting as a nation. It is a Scotland people can more easily envisage being a nation. It is a Scotland at last ready to cast off the Union and restore its rightful constitutional status.
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