All around Scotland, people are going to extraordinary lengths to help deliver a Yes vote.
There’s the woman I know who works long hours hundreds of miles from home, who uses travel time to organise stuff and then every weekend at home, doing stuff. There’s the man I met out at a mass canvass over from France for five weeks at his own expense and the young woman who turned up at a Yes stall from Canada, having jacked her job in to spend the summer in Scotland, campaigning.
There are folk using up every available bit of unpaid and paid leave from work to play their part. Some have put their businesses on the back burner so they can spend as much time as possible campaigning. There are the retireds, who have put in a lifetime of work, now spending all day, every day out on the stump, putting many younger folk to shame. And the folk who juggle work, home and campaigning? How they manage it I do not know.
There are friends of a friend who all work in overseas development who have arranged leave to be back for the last couple of weeks and vitally, to vote. And there are folk who have clocked up ridiculous amounts of road miles, criss crossing Scotland to speak at public meetings in venues big and small, just so they can reach another undecided voter.
It’s incredible and it’s humbling.
But then there are the ones sitting on their arses doing hee-haw. And the ones who should be doing way much more than they are. And if what I’m about to say strikes me off their Christmas card lists for ever, well I was probably never on them to begin with.
There are those who think it enough to be a member of the SNP. I recall doing the phone round to check folk’s availability for polling day in 1997 and being told by two members that they were planning to go to a flower show that day and couldn’t help. There are plenty like them: SNP members, some of whom have paid their dues for decades, who have never been seen in a campaign, ever. But then, this isn’t just any campaign: it’s the campaign to deliver the fundamental purpose of the SNP. So you’d think that they’d all be doing everything they can to help deliver a Yes vote? A wee leaflet delivered? A window poster up? Time spent aff social media and out there engaging with voters in the real world? Nah. If anyone can explain the psychology of it all to me, I’d be obliged.
But there’s worse.
There are SNP folk in elected positions who are a rare and endangered species of campaigner, often turning up just for the photocall rather than the graft. Or for the last ten minutes to greet all the actual campaigners returning from a work session and glad hand them. Now, I know how hard it is to be an MSP, MP or councillor. The hours we expect our politicians to put in are ridiculous. Many councillors, in particular, are still trying to hold down jobs and occasionally, also have a semblance of family life. And there are those elected representatives who live to campaign and have undoubtedly put in as many, if not more hours than their activists in the independence referendum. Some of you have literally spent your entire adult lives getting us to this point. I know who you are, you know who you are and you are all amazing. But we all know who the other ones are too. And get this, other ones, we are all talking about you and there are few compliments.
So my advice is this. There are two aims of SNP membership; the furtherance of all Scottish interests, which you serve well in your elected capacity, and independence for Scotland. Some of you appear to have forgotten about this one somewhere along the way. There are five weeks in which to rediscover your raison d’etre and get out there with your local Yes group and work like a dog to find every yes vote and every undecided. Because here’s the thing: based on your performance this summer – if Nicola Sturgeon, the Depute First Minister, didn’t think it appropriate to have a summer holiday, I’m not sure why you felt the need – some of you will be struggling to get re-selected, never mind re-elected.
Then there are the Yes folk for whom imagining a better Scotland has become all consuming. Apparently, no matter what happens on 18 September, Scotland has changed forever. And this requires some to be engaged in supposedly secret discussions about what they do next. Well, I’ve news for you. We all know what’s going on and if you really think that Scotland will change with a no vote on 18 September, you’re not nearly as clever as I thought you were. Somewhere, your involvement in this campaign has become all about you and not about Scotland. So stop plotting, planning and preening and focus on the main prize. There will only be spoils to go around if there’s a Yes vote.
And there will only be a Yes vote if everyone gets out there talking to undecided voters and the switherers. Because most of them want to vote Yes. They just need to be reassured that it’s the right thing to do, and that can only happen by listening to them and helping them arrive openly at the decision they are nurturing deep within. Scottish voters are no daft. If they sense that the Yes lot are just in it for themselves, then they’ll conclude that we are just as bad as the lot who control Scotland now from faraway Westminster and the institutions which hold power closer to home that keep them in their place. And they’ll opt for the devil they know and vote No. So cancel the meetings and the chats and go and do something more useful instead. Like chap a door.
Because until and unless everyone parks their agendas, then the main one – the only one – is compromised. And how we could have arrived at this point, where folk who claim to support the cause of Scotland’s independence, have other priorities more compelling than this, is beyond me.
It’s not enough to believe in independence. Like fairies, it won’t magically appear if we all just clap our hands and chant. Nor is it enough to imagine a better Scotland. If we want it to happen, we have to get out there and make it so. This referendum is far from lost. The polls are not telling the whole story but you will only know that if you are out there engaging with voters.
A Yes vote is within touching distance, but we will only cross the line if everyone is focused on achieving it and putting in every spare minute of every day doing whatever they can to reach the voters who just need a little encouragement to trust their hearts, their instincts and yes, their heads. And that’s at least a quarter of the electorate. Still.
So, I’ll say it once more, just in case the point got lost. Park your agendas, for there is only one. For the next 47 days, everything else can wait.