It’s only the first week of the new year and already there’s good news for the yes campaign.
Another “senior Labour figure” has come out. No matter how hard they try to keep them under lock and key and far from the public gaze, they are managing to find a way out. And it takes balls to do it, to look the movement they’ve belonged to all their days in the eye and decide to break cover. To declare that they will be voting in September for Scotland to become independent.
Officially, Labour will shrug its shoulders and suggest that these are yesterday’s men and their views matter not a jot. But they do matter. To date, we’ve had a former Lord Provost of Glasgow, Alex Mosson, a former leader of Strathclyde Regional council and President of COSLA, Sir Charles Gray, and now. a former Leader of Lothian Regional Council, John Mulvey, all declare that they will be voting yes. These are big beasts in old Labour circles. Their willingness to make such public declarations of support for independence matters too. For they signal a shift in the air and in the ranks.
The yes campaign needs to chip away at the bedrock of Labour support, to persuade more of them to follow its lead and not Better Together’s, if it is to have a hope of turning around the polls and closing the gap in voting intentions. It matters too that it is members of the old Labour guard who are coming out. The staunchest section of the population stubbornly clinging to the old ties that bind are those aged over 55. They need role models, politicians they’ve known all their voting lives and whose views they respect, to persuade them otherwise.
It’s fair to say that Yes has the far left and the new left pretty sewn up. But their votes are not enough, nor are they particularly representative of the population at large. They also need the old left to come on board; for more of the votes that Labour used to weigh in certain parts of the country to journey from no to undecided to persuadable to yes.
But the campaign also needs the right-of-centre, or centre-right, sections of the electorate to vote yes. For Conservatives and conservatives to drop the unionist part of their beliefs and choose independence too. The launch of Wealthy Nation at the end of the auld year was just as important at this latest Labour declaration. It might make for uncomfortable bedfellows for some on the yes side but folk need to get – as the SNP always has done – that this is about more than them, that all votes count and more are needed.
The crucial coalition is around voting for independence; how we all envision what an independent Scotland might look like and achieve comes second. Once we’ve arrived, we can de-couple and form new alignments shaped around our quite different visions and views of what we want our country to be. The key, at this stage, is for us all simply to agree that independence offers the best hope of better and different.
And if we have to hold our noses in order to rub along in our movement, so be it. Working together in pursuit of a common goal doesn’t mean we have to put each other on the Christmas card list. This is something which Better Together appears to have grasped more readily than those on the yes side, though whether the public front translates into a workable and working movement on the ground is less convincing.
This is what Yes Scotland needs to focus on, gathering all these disparate groupings, sectors and individuals into a cohesive, campaigning whole. It can be done and if we are to succeed on 18 September, it must be done. The signs of a pincer movement on both the left and right of Scottish politics are promising.