I have spent the last two days staring at a blank page. Blank, that is, but for the title at the top – ‘What next?’. I set out to explore options for the independence movement now that the opportunity offered by the 2021 Scottish Parliament election has been squandered. It was an opportunity for Scotland’s cause to take a massive leap forward. But it was not to be. My inclination now is to explore the reasons for the failure to make it the ‘Independence Election’. But it’s difficult to do this without descending – or appearing to descend – into the realm of blame and recrimination. It is necessary to understand those reasons. But there seems no possibility of rational discussion. The polarisation so horribly evident on social media poisons all political discourse. What has come to be regarded as the SNP/Alba divide is a chasm that will not be bridged by reason. Every attempt falls into the abyss of prejudice and tribalism.
That divide can be defined in many ways. Each dichotomy is risibly simplistic in isolation. In aggregate they account for the complexity of the dynamic at work. But it is in the nature of these things that vanishingly few people get any further than the first ‘explanation’ that aligns with their prejudices and preconceptions. The trenches are dug deep on both sides. Once in either of those trenches nothing can be seen but what is in the trench with you. It’s well nigh impossible to see over the parapet. If you did, all you’d see is the trench occupied by the ‘enemy’. Nothing long survives in the no-man’s land between. Who ventures there comes under heavy fire from both sides. Nobody’s leaving their foxhole.
In such circumstances the deceptively simple question posed in the tile – ‘What next?’ – becomes a devilishly intractable problem. The politicians with the power to act have neither incentive nor intention to do so. The politicians with no power to act can’t obtain that power without becoming just like the politicians they seek to replace. People gravitate to one or other depending on whether they are attracted more by the illusory security of the comfortably familiar or the faux boldness of the superficially novel. Small ‘c’ conservatives rally around Sturgeon. Wannabe radicals flock to Salmond’s banner. All gradations are lost. Only a list of antonyms remains. Wise and cautious and mature face off against foolish, reckless and juvenile and never the twain shall meet.
Of course, in the real world nobody is ever entirely wise or completely foolish. Caution and recklessness coexist in all of us. But this not the real world. It is the world of partisan politics. The world of tribalism. People think themselves wise who merely fail to perceive their own foolishness. They consider themselves cautious only because they haven’t properly considered consequences. An observer from another planet might wonder how a group of people who all profess exactly the same objective might fall into two apparently irreconcilable camps. What might we say by way of explanation other than that these are people. And people are shite.
What next? That’s actually two questions. There’s the question of what I’d like to see happen. And there’s the question of what is actually likely to happen. What I’d like to see is the Yes movement coming together to conduct a massive, coordinated and disciplined program of collective direct action – demonstrations, boycotts, strikes and the like. Peaceful civil disobedience targeting, not Westminster or the Tories, but the Scottish Government and the SNP. The aim should be to force the Scottish Government to initiate the process of restoring Scotland’s independence. What I anticipate is that there will be no such campaign. There will be protests at Holyrood and maybe Bute House. But they’ll be small, sporadic and ineffectual. Instead of banners and placards demanding an end to the Union there will be the usual anti-Tory stuff. The message will be confused. Nothing will be achieved.
Attempts may be made to organise boycotts. But the essentials will be missed. So there will be no impact. Every time somebody comes up with a good campaigning idea somebody else will take it into their head that they can improve on it and soon there’s a proliferation of different implementations none of which is sufficient to have any significant effect. That’s just the way the Yes movement is now.
I will be accused of being negative and overly pessimistic. I will be urged to have faith and be patient. I’m negative because there is nothing positive to say unless one resorts to fantasy. I’m pessimistic because I’m a realist. I see what is. Not what I wish was. Those who urge me to have faith do so because they cannot offer me the reason that hope requires. They tell me to be patient when what they really want is that I should be as wilfully blind as they are to the real and imminent threat that looms over Scotland. I don’t do faith. I can’t be unaware. I can’t unknow what I have come to realise about Sturgeon and her cabal or what I have recognised about Alba Party. I can’t be oblivious to what is being done to my country by malign forces both external and internal. I can subscribe to neither the faith-based position of the SNP camp nor the fantasy-based position of the Alba camp.
Which leaves me in that wilderness between the trenches. A lamb bleating in the desert. Not that I have any qualms about being a lone voice. Or feeling that I am. But there are only so many ways to say the same thing. There is nothing new to be said. Or nothing I can think of. There’s nobody listening in any case. Or too few. I read Stu Campbell’s latest and perhaps last article with a mix of despondency and anger. Despondency because I recognise only too well the truth of what he says. Anger that there is so little space for such truth in what Scotland has become.
I’m hardly the one to author a hagiography for Stu Campbell. And I reckon it’s not yet time for a eulogy. But if Wings Over Scotland is to be no more then that is a tragedy for the independence movement and for journalism. It is hard to imagine the Yes movement without Wings Over Scotland. There’s all too few places where you’ll find principled, responsible, forensic journalism such as Stu Campbell offers. Whatever else he may be, I believe Stu to be an honest and an honourable man. Perhaps not a likeable person. But I never wanted him as a friend. I wanted him as a voice. A voice that Scotland desperately needs. A voice that is in danger of being silenced entirely by the warring tribes. The voice of reasoned dissent.
If I were asked to name three things which, for me, represent the spirit of the Yes movement I’d have to include Wings Over Scotland along with All Under One Banner and National Yes Registry (as both an organisation and as a proxy for the network of Yes groups all over Scotland and beyond). Scotland has been the richer for that spirit. Should that spirit be lost, Scotland will be irretrievably diminished. Stu Campbell’s words struck my ear as the death-rattle of the Yes spirit. The Yes movement is very much bigger than Wings Over Scotland. But the Yes movement cannot be other than less without it.
What next for Scotland’s cause? What is possible? What is credible? The most honest answer I can give is, nothing. Nothing will be done. The Scottish Government under Nicola Sturgeon will not act on the constitutional issue. They will not ensure a free and fair referendum on ending the Union. They will be no more effective in defending Scotland against the ravages of rampant British Nationalism than they have been for the past six years. Which is not effective at all. The spirit of Yes is not yet quite dead. It will not be killed. But it may well die for the want of action that engages the spirit. It won’t be routed. It may well just wither away.
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21 thoughts on “What next?”
Thanks for this brutal reality check . We are at a point where our spirit is being crushed and the tide of independence is faltering. I hope it’s not too late.
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Thanks once again Peter. I must admit when I heard about Wings I felt a sense of despair. Please, please don’t you give up; yourself and Grousebeater are needed more than ever.
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Wings was Indy Ref 1 – and getting rid of Unionist MPs afterwards, it helped greatly elect 56 SNP MPs with only 1 each left for the Unionist parties. The ungrateful SNP never thanked Campbell for his efforts.
AUOB was between IR1 and IR2, where we all marched – until it became yet another critic of Sturgeon and an advocate for Alba, and hence lost its big umbrella neutrality. It can not recover that with the current leadership, you only have to look at twitter for the opinions and retweets. The SNP never thanked AUOB for their efforts.
Indy Ref 2 will be different, way different – and it needs to be.
Indy Ref 1 was indeed moving Independence out of the realm of some extreme nutters like me and thee, and into the mainstream. That got it to 45%. Between times the likes of AUOB got it to 50%. IR2 is convincing the rest that not only is Independence normal, but we can afford it, and we need it.
IR2 needs to be more polite, more open, less strident and insulting. And more informed.
As long as we don’t expect any thanks from the SNP…
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I am prepared to to pin blame for last week, and lay it at the door of the SNP leadership.
I don’t think it is entirely all due to the First Minister, but she was a major part of it, with her uncalled for, and unbecoming comments on Alex Salmond during the Election, and her refusal to point blank have anything to do with his suggestions, or to encourage the SNP support to vote ALBA on the List.
The Establishment Media in Scotland were also to blame.
It has to be admitted, some of the “Super Majority” talk from ALBA was misplaced.
The sad, and actually quite shocking fact is, the SNP attitude towards ALBA is exactly the very same Labour in Scotland holds towards SNP.
Salmond did try to be dignified and conciliatory, but all to no avail.
And also, the voters, well, the general voter it seems, for not paying due attention.
I was hoping they would, but they clearly didn’t.
And sometimes we are led to wonder the motives of the First Minister.
But at any rate, things are as they are.
We can only hope the ALBA “threat” to SNP will force its hand.
For surely SNP must know, and the First Minister must know, the voters will not allow much more time to be wasted.
Something has to give.
We can’t keep going on like this. And the hope is, the First Minister will do as she says, and go for that IndyRef 2. But asking to Legislate in say, 2022, isn’t quite the same thing as having it then.
But, depending how it is done, the timescale they set for it, and any UK Govt. involvement, it doesn’t look too promising at the moment.
How we make it happen, well, we will have to see what if any new opportunities present themselves.
However, one can’t help but think we have to start almost all over again, but with this time SNP playing the role Labour used to have, right up ’till 2015, and ALBA in the role of up and coming SNP.
But as the 2015 General Election showed, just as Labour got wiped out in an instant, so too might SNP.
But, but, but, it would be so much better if the two of them could end this unhelpful situation, and manage to work together. Scotland needs them to do just that.
Work together? Alba Party has zero MSPs. Zero power. Zero leverage. Zero influence. Why in the real world would the SNP have anything to do with Alba? What would they have to gain from working together with Alba? What for would this working together take?
We have to get out of this realm of fantasy politics and start dealing with the world as it actually is.
Peter: The National today (Sunday) is giving space to those who claim that the SNP did win a majority, or, certainly, that YES won a majority. It seems that the penny may be dropping – too late, of course. We are back to asking for another S30 blah, blah, blah, or… something… The world as it is, is a pretty cold place. If we want independence, we are going to have to do what it will take. I believe we can do that, but at what cost, now, remains to be seen.
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My hope is in Now Scotland and AUOB. We have to recapture the spirit of Yes in terms of grassroots activity, not diktats from on high. Although I notice AUOB are getting it in the neck for not being SNP cheerleaders, which is being recast as being “pro-Alba” even though the organisation didn’t take a stance last week, because their purpose is in their name: ALL Under One Banner.
I say my hope, but in reality I’m more depressed politically than I’ve been in my life. I actually feel worse than I did on 19th Sep 2014, because at least then we had a united movement. Sturgeon has destroyed that for petty partisan gain. She’s the terrible manager you had who could only maintain control if the employees were too busy fighting each other to realise she’s shite at her job.
I just keep reminding myself that the SNP are an ever-decreasing part of the movement for independence, albeit the one in office. Since their ambitions are limited to be well-paid devolution apparatchiks. they will become increasingly distant and irrelevant. We will have to get our independence in spite of them, not through them.
The question for me (at my age) is whether I’ll still be around when we get another chance.
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What’s next is obvious: Five more years of Scottish politics that are exactly the same as the last five years. Pretty much nothing changed at the election. Must be the ‘brexit effect’…. Or maybe the ‘independence surge’…. Or somesuch.
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At least there was a larger turnout to vote for more of the same.
Thrilling stuff. Not. Moribund is the descriptive term.
Perhaps the only thing of note is that Scotland is now so right-wing that now there isn’t a single socialist party in Scotland.
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And there’s a question – where on earth are the SSP?
They turned into Rise and found that hardly anyone in Scotland is interested in the means of production being owned by the workers any more. After that they evaporated as a Scotland-wide political movement. I think Scots are hugely more interested in parking fees than co-operative ownership nowadays.
If you want to look into it, Buckinghamshire is more left-wing than Scotland now. By quite a margin really. Our center-right neo-liberal government run by corporate lobbyists and advertising consultants is howlingly popular.
Apparently, Scottish radicalism now means the Alba Party, who want to privatise the government’s response to the climate emergency (I think their economic brain candidate owns a hedge-fund consultancy and lives in Hong Kong). Seriously. And so it goes……
It’s ironic that most of us non Sturgeon devotees , think the dream is over. Whilst the Sturgeon believers think that Nicola is going to deliver independence. They think the election was a massive success.
She is just seeing out time. She’s good at that.
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I wouldn’t say most of us think the dream is over.
But we do think SNP might be over, if it doesn’t push more for Independence!
But as it is, we rely on SNP for the time being.
But, if it prevaricates over much, it will be swept away just as Labour has been swept away.
The big problem we do have, is lack of time to wait to see if that has to happen.
We have more or less run out of time.
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” Waiting for Godot’ …. a situation where they are waiting for something to happen, but it probably never will.
Will there ever come a time when – the majority – of the people of Scotland act to regain the independence of Scotland, and I emphasise deliberately – the majority.
What next – under no circumstance must we allow 50% to remain unsure of Scotland’s future as an independent country. That to the exclusion of all else would be our greatest and most tragic of all failures.
I do not dismiss your analysis in any way,and I stress that as powerfully as I can – but what is next – lies in our ability to determine and put into action the factors that will ensure that – majority.
What your analysis and your thoughts recognise are some of the factors that might be considered, their possible potential and perhaps disturbingly their weaknesses,
What next – we have unfinished work to do.
It may seem persnickety, Mike, but it’s not 50%. As much of half that number are hardcore ideological British Nationalists or unapproachable Unionists. Half of the remainder are totally disengaged from society, never mind the democratic process. Of the remaining 10-15% there are precisely ZERO ‘soft NOs’. Which is why the soft persuasion strategy has failed so abysmally for the last six years. All the votes that can be got by soft persuasion have already been got. By definition, they can’t be ‘soft NOs’ if they’ve held out this long.
The Yes campaign must target that 10-15% with an entirely different form of campaigning. These are people who have switched off. They’ve heard the independence message. They’ve long grown bored with it. It doesn’t affect them. It doesn’t touch them. It doesn’t rouse them. Get them angry and you’ll get them voting Yes. Light a fire under them. Whip them up.
These are people who won’t take notice unless something is happening. It has to intrude forcefully on their lives. it has to be personal.
We have to get loud. Shouty. Forceful. Emphatic. Assertive. Appeal to the sense of injustice. Something they personally are entitled to is being withheld from them. Something that belongs to them is being taken away. The Union makes them less. The Union cheats them of their rights and robs them of their status. It makes them second-class citizens in their own country.
We need an emotional appeal. We need an injection of revolutionary spirit. We have to risk putting off as many as we win over because the half that we win over is all we need.
“We have to get loud. Shouty. Forceful. Emphatic. Assertive. Appeal to the sense of injustice.”
Absolutely, if they can’t understand you when you ask for a pint and and a toastie and make it snappy, just should louder at them. Bloody furriners. Why can’t they just speak our language? It ain’t fair.
You know me well enough to know I hope that I used the 50%, basically to be brief. Agree with your dissection into its component parts, but within my 50% I also had in mind those we have come to believe are (again to be brief) the Yes community, will they all stay thus without wavering: 1) I don’t personally assume there won’t be waverers and 2) we need a totally determined part of the Yes 50% to achieve what you outline.
The loud shouty part of what you suggest I completely agree with, and I have not one scintilla of doubt that what happened yesterday in Kenmure Street is testimony to that approach both in and of itself but because its sends a clear message that the MSM/Westminster cannot ignore. Of course both MSM/Westminster will react as to be expected – Priti Patel saw a mob – both symbolically and practically I saw Scotland emerge from that van.
“These are people who won’t take notice unless something is happening. It has to intrude forcefully on their lives. it has to be personal” – here, is where my own perhaps greater emphasis lies, not least to give confidence to those who may waver or simply give up within the yes movement.
I’ll join you on the barricades whenever, but will continue to try to develop some of the ideas we have discussed – both develop and put into action.
(Meet/talk again soon!)
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Yes, this: “These are people who won’t take notice unless something is happening. It has to intrude forcefully on their lives. it has to be personal.
We have to get loud. Shouty. Forceful. Emphatic. Assertive. Appeal to the sense of injustice. Something they personally are entitled to is being withheld from them. Something that belongs to them is being taken away. The Union makes them less. The Union cheats them of their rights and robs them of their status. It makes them second-class citizens in their own country.”
‘oh but we need to reassure people we can afford it, what currency, what banks, where will the money come from’ and 937 other non-questions which will never have a good enough answer. Enough of this crap and more of what PAB said!
So, lets drill down to exactly how the currently not-interested are directly affected by the union. Point up the injustices that affect them directly. Get them demanding better, and quickly. Over to you Peter, this is your lead. People are shite. You’ll have to keep telling them to focus. Plenty others see that too. We’ll do our best. People listen to you. Use it.
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Apologies for taking so long to approve your comment, Anne. I hear what you’re saying.
I’d just like to make a quick observation at this point. I warn you that we’re straying close to the realm of sexist stereotypes here. But I hope not too close. I’ve frequently been told that my thinking on the mater of the ongoing Yes campaign is distinctively the product of a male mind. That my ideas about being more forceful and assertive – even aggressive – is just macho man stuff. Although this is certainly not true, it wouldn’t bother me too much if it was – at least to some extent. If it works – and I genuinely think it would – then it really doesn’t matter where the thinking originates.
What is interesting, however, is that I get at least as much support from the girlies as the chaps on this. I haven’t kept records and can offer no statistical analysis. But if anything I’d say I get more comments such as yours from women than from men. I haven’t given this a lot of thought. But it intrigues me a little because at least in terms of those sexual stereotypes, it is a bit counter-intuitive.
Anne makes a very telling point in her comment, ‘it has to be personal’. Selfishness or for that matter apathy is in many instances the rock on which progress founders.
Right now women’s right to safe spaces shortly to be denied by the proposed GRA bill is the driving force behind women’s demands to up the ante. It will intrude forcefully on their lives!
Unfortunately that same sense of awareness is insufficiently embedded within the Scottish electorate that they would seek to challenge the intransigence of Nicola Sturgeon in not converting the numerous mandates delivered to prosecute the case for Scottish Independence.
Does the Scottish electorate really believe continuing dominance by Westminster over Scotland will not at some point soon intrude forcefully into their lives and affect them in a very personal way?
Women must be supported in their fight to protect sex based rights, it is personal, it will intrude forcefully in their lives, consequentially that of their families.
Wake up Scotland and MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD!
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