One year to go and, dear Andrew, I’m listening

An open letter to Andrew Wilson

Dear Andrew

I’ve been reading your columns this past few weeks and can’t help thinking, egotist that I am, that they’re more than a little directed at the likes of me.  I’m writing this letter to let you know that they have indeed got me thinking and –  music to  your ears – listening.

You’re fond of starting your pieces with a wee homily or quote (I thought Dumbledore’s treatise on leadership was top class, by the way).  So allow me to start with a wee story of my own.

Forty years ago, Chile was subjected to a brutal military coup. That event and its devastating consequences for the democratically elected government, its supporters and indeed, anyone suspected of harbouring non-right wing thoughts featured briefly on the news agenda. And now we have a wee film – the brilliantly titled Nae Paseran – documenting the brave and bold actions of a group of workers at the Rolls Royce plant in East Kilbride who took a stand against the coup.

The year after the dictator seized power, the workers refused to service engines on his planes and they refused to let them leave the plant so others could complete the contract. It took four years for warrants to be obtained and they came for the engines in the middle of the night, scuppering the workers’ chances of making one final stand.  But they had the last laugh:  the engines had been inside crates all this time, never serviced nor oiled, and were completely useless by the time anyone got near them.

I  say laugh, but actually they were deadly and earnestly serious. Pinochet was using planes with engines like these to drug activists and then drop them comatose out of planes and into the Pacific ocean. Even in those much slower news days, the men at the factory were well aware of what was going on.  And decided to withdraw their labour in support of workers in Chile who were being tortured and detained.  And in support of their fellow human beings, in a country few of them would ever get the chance to visit, and their rights to be who they wanted to be.

It’s the kind of supremely Scottish tale of gallusness that deserves wider legend in our contemporary history.  But it also depressed me faintly.

The prospect of middle age inclines us all to flights of melancholy for times past and the way things were. You and I were weaned on marches, rallies, protests and stands of one kind or another.  My mother refused to take me to the supermarket in the 80s, so fed up was she – who had taught me all the politics I know – with my consumer boycotts.  But fast forward 30 years, and I have a son whose heritage is being denied him through our education system, even at its most basic level.  In Primary 3, he came home drawing the Union flag as Scotland’s, having been taught this by his teacher. And this year, he was asked to choose a country to study and present to the class: one of the options was the United Kingdom.

While I’m pleased to report that some of the nurture won through and the chicklet chose Denmark, we both know that the unsubtle reinforcing of the establishment and its mores in childhood can be life-shaping.  If anything, the establishment has raised its game in recent years, perhaps as the threat has become more real than fancy.  The result of instilling conformity is that ultimately, few tend to kick against the traces:  without going into the complex reasons why, there are damned few these days prepared to practise the art of solidarity or stand up for what they believe in, as the Rolls Royce workers did then.

But this vignette also serves to remind me why I believe in independence and what it might achieve for Scotland and her people. Not to go back – we’ll leave the misty-eyed eulogising to Gordon Brown and his ilk – but in order to go forward. That Rolls Royce workers’ tale ultimately fills me with hope.

For I don’t want to live in this Scotland anymore:  I want to live in a different Scotland.

Where social justice is more than just a soundbite; where inequality is challenged and addressed.  Where rights are embedded, upheld and promoted.  Where every single one of us is valued and nurtured.  Where we take our place in a commonalty of nations, through a range of unions, alliances and agreements.  Where we turn the chip on our shoulder into an asset: a willingness to speak up for the interests of the wee nations and little people everywhere.

I know you share these aims, though we might differ on the detail of what they might mean. That’s a good thing and something else to give us all hope, that there are lots of ideas on what an independent Scotland might look like and be.

And that’s your issue really. That too many of us are focused on what happens afterwards that we’re forgetting that we have to get there first.  It’s been a regular and trenchant criticism in the comments on many pieces I’ve blogged over the past year.

But my retort – and I think it’s a legitimate one – is that that first year should have been the forum for debate, to allow a thousand ideas flourish. Instead, the party you and I both still call hame chose to shut things down, triangulating where it saw policy issues that might prove tricksy as the big day hove into view. It did so too early and assumed we were all marching to the same beat, when some  of us needed space to catch up with the leaders.

There is a luxury of occupying the cheap seats watching the action unfold, rather than having to be front of house to hold a line. It’s why when invited on to panels and programmes to give a view or three, I purposefully describe myself as a pro-independence supporter. Representing only myself gets only me into bother, a point which seems to pass some by.

Your last two columns state plainly that it’s time to put away such childish things: your backstage pass to the main actors in this production means we should pay heed to what you are suggesting.

So I have been pondering, as probably we all have, at what being one year from this date with destiny means.  And what it should mean to us all.  And how we should reflect that in our sayings and doings.

Your plea is an eloquent and heartfelt one.  It is absolutely about where our priorites lie.  Which is why I will do more – leafleting and canvassing, but more too of the small conversations, the blethers on one to one which make a difference.  And more panels and meetings, as many as I can manage.  And I will arrange to buy more annual leave next year and devote every minute of it to persuading people to choose yes.  I know you – and many like us – are making similar choices.

But a plea from me – there are lots of agendas in the mix, people with an eye on this ball, but on others too. They need to set those aside and focus, utterly, on the only game in town. And remember why they got into this game in the first place.

We only have this one chance:  there won’t be another in our lifetimes.

I doubt I’ll be blogging anytime soon on the benefits of NATO membership or on why the monarchy is a good thing, but on the crucial tenets of the platform, I am perhaps a lot less off-message than you (or others) imagine. It’s maybe just that all those years in the back row have given me the luxury as well as the ability to see things in shades of grey than simply in monochrome.  Something I’m sure you recognise. So, craving your indulgence, I’ll continue to express things in a language and tone that works for me. And I think, occasionally works for others who are inching their way towards yes.

So, I’ve been thinking and listening. To you and others, and I will continue to do so, especially when you’re right.

This is about we, not me. And about us, not them.

And more than anything else, it’s about getting us to the starting point of a journey which promises to be full of twist and turns, which has as much uncertainty as it has clarity, which is desirable nonetheless because of the opportunities it offers, which people have given over their lives to achieving, which can give our children and our grandchildren a future quite different from the present.

It is a journey which will never end, so long as we work like never before to persuade people to embark on it.

I’m looking forward to seeing you on the other side and us all setting out on that journey together.

Yours aye,



9 thoughts on “One year to go and, dear Andrew, I’m listening

  1. @ Tattie Scones “I’m sure that it would not be your intention but I’m wondering if comments such as your own might put someone else off appearing on current affairs shows?”

    It most certainly was not & would not be my intention.

    I feel that was a cheap shot.

    Especially as Kate can go on telly to a wider audience where some don’t knows have more chance of seeing & hearing her views about the leader of the Yes campaign & ” possibly” put people of voting YES with her opinion. Which is what I was getting on the doors.

    If I have to keep my opinions via comments to myself, then there are times when those that do get the chance to appear as you say on these programmes, should keep their opinions to themselves too. Stick to the POSITIVE when you get the chance to be heard & seen I say.

    PS, I like Kate Higgins, that is why I joined her blog.

    I just want Kate & all of the YES voices that DO get the chance of being seen & heard on that very bias BBC, to sound positive about the YES side. If they are disappointed in something the yes campaign has done or got wrong, don’t go on these shows.

    The NO side never does, they never go against their side even when they tell blatant lies. They never apologise, look @ Bailey @ Lamont who are not being hauled over the coals for their lies this past week alone. And they are not being hounded by the BBC to get them into the studio to answer for those lies either, if they are, they are obviously turning that opportunity down.

    Nobody in the yes campaign has to lie, just don’t be so publicly bloody honest against your own side.

  2. Hi Kate (who left a reply) I am sorry to hear how you are feeling. Nothing worse than feeling that there are things hampering you. It sounds like you are working hard. Would it be good to have more support about the best was of responding to comments when the people you are speaking to are not positive about voting Yes next year?
    Kate (Higgins) though is not responsible for delivering independence, we all are. I don’t agree with her either about her comments about Yes on that occasion but it’s good that we have people like Kate getting invited on to current affairs programmes. It’s not long ago that we would not even have been guaranteed anyone on who supported independence. We may have a way to go until we achieve equality but I think that we should be encouaging as wide a range of voices to contribute to the debate. I’m sure that it would not be your intention but I’m wondering if comments such as your own might put someone else off appearing on current affairs shows?
    As I said, I didn’t agree with Kate’s comments on that occasion but even if she had made a mistake, not saying she thinks that, but so what! None of us are perfect and we do the best we can and do what we believe is right at the time.
    I well remember Kate a few years back in the SNP. I didn’t always agree with her then either but I found her an inspiring woman who really made me think there was a different way to go about things. I’m glad she is contributing to the debate even when I don’t agree with her.
    I look forward to continuing campaigning with the diversity of those in the yes camp and hope that we can all support each other. I’m glad to know that whilst I am working away in my own way, both Kates and everyone else, are adding their own contributions. We may have different points of view on some things but we all agree that the best people to make the decisions about Scotland are the people in Scotland.

  3. For me it is simplistic,first independence and then we choose the rest.

  4. Better. Onward!

  5. Well said ‘Kate’ ie the last commenter. You are spot on.
    The estabishment/MSM/Project Fear just love so called ‘honest’ campaigners.
    Why can’t they see that? If we can just win our country back we can have the biggest rammy ever and elect who we want? Maintaining one’s absolute integrity for example over NATO is wonderful but does it do anything to achieve a nuclear free Scotland if we lose the vote?

  6. Superb Kate. Much more tactful and diplomatic than I could be..

  7. I’ll be brief. The above comment makes me despair. Whilst I understand your passion and frustrations at opportunities for ‘positive’ msm opportunities, you are asking an individual to toe a party line. That is what I deplore most in politics, when I know someone is lying to others and themselves (eg every week on qt). In a free and democratic society, the one many are all desiring to work for in the form of ‘the common weal’ you cannot ‘command’ disingenuous #spin on the part of anyone who sits on your side of the fence. That’s not that far away from the regime the Rolls Royce protestors were standing up against. Instead, do your utmost to educate, stand up, correct, reason, and inform wherever you see an opportunity. And they are everywhere. But never take away an individual’s critical thinking. None of us, not even the SNP are above that. And I hope they’d be the first to say it.

    • Never did I ask anyone to LIE never did I ask anyone not to have personal THOUGHTS, nor do I ask anyone to toe any party line.

      So get YOUR facts right…

      All I ask is they do not make matters worse for the YES campaign of which they profess to be part of. Because they get the chance at some telly time.

      It is the LIARS in our politics that have turned people off voting, so why would I ask anyone to LIE…

      Go right to the core of the problem that troubles you and VENT to them… Especially if it is your side.

      The YES campaign need all the help it can get from the people on the ground,
      Because of BIAS in the MSM in favour of the unionists.

      Let them get out & have to traipse the streets to get their point across to the people of this country, just as the yes campaign have to do. And when it comes to lies, my goodness the YES side have got a long way to go to catch up with Project FEAR..

      When have we ever seen or heard a Unionist DISMISS any of their lies?
      Or Criticise them for real lies. NOT mistakes…

      That is why I was so saddened to see & listen to Kate hand it to them to do even more damage than what in truth was actually necessary.

  8. “This is about we, not me. And about us, not them.”

    Remember that the next time you are sitting in the TV studios then Kate, & doing the BBC’s job for them, by slinging the MUD towards your fellow YES supporters, YOU did not make life on the streets or doors easy for anyone after that little performance.

    Even members of my family who NEVER use the internet for anything political, found it easy to pull me up, because they saw & heard you on news night, have a go at the YES campaign. When Introduced as a Yes activist.

    You are entitled to your opinion & views on any matter of course, but when the Independence brigade have NO support from the MSM in Scotland as it is, interviews like you gave, just proved to some DON’T KNOWS. That it might just be best staying as we are, as YES is NOT as HONEST as it makes out to be. It can’t be SHE said so & she is for Independence!!!

    And that was said to me, by don’t knows. So whatever else you do, IF you really want to see a YES vote, you can’t slag off the YES campaign on TV where most people do get their information from & believe every word as after all it was on the TELLY…even IF they get a bit sloppy, it was NOT the crime of the century & it was not I am sure THE BIG STORY at that time, but then any story against YES is always made out to be the BIGGEST story of the day, & you just helped them along, because BBC saying it is ONE thing, a pro-Independence activist saying it, means it HAS to be bad…

    Not everyone is interested enough in politics to want to learn more, some just LIKE the look of a person & believe what they say HAS to be true, MOST however, believe everything the BBC, Scotsman, Herald, Daily Record, and more, spouts in favour of the Unionists IS the truth.

    Because let’s face it it is after all the FAITHFUL TRUSTED BBC…

    In your position, IF I was annoyed at something the YES side said, did, or whatever, I would have a go, but at THEM & in private, because the UNIONIST have the MSM on their side already.

    And by god Labour has as much to answer for in this country as the tories ever had.

    Because Scotland DID trust them, yet they did more harm to the poor and created even more millionaires. And they should be jailed for the PFI deals they set up, so that ever council that needed to build, would pay dearly through their ever increasing Council Tax they forced on the poor in this country year after year.

    The SNP may not be the party of most peoples choice, but at least, they are responsible for giving us this ONE chance in OUR lifetime to sort our country out.

    And for that, anyone who cares about this country NO matter their political affiliations, has to be grateful for that opportunity, I am not sure about NATO, but I do know I want TRIDENT GONE…, nor do I want to keep paying for a ROYAL family, & I would prefer another referendum on the EU.

    But there is still time for those little matters to be sorted out by governments of the future no matter which party, that SCOTLAND does vote for & gets, in an INDEPENDENT Scotland.

    But WE need all the help we as activists can get also, & you have to help us, NOT hinder us, as I felt you did with that Interview. So please, DO think as a WE, & not just yourself next time you get the chance to speak to the COUNTRY via the TELLY.

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