Where next?

So we are back to doing what we did remarkably well during the #indyref campaign – Yes folk sitting in meetings with other Yes folk agreeing with each other.

But this round of meetings is necessary. There are lots of enthusiastic newbies – folk who just a few short months ago, wouldn’t have dreamed of sitting in a draughty hall talking politics.  Now they are queuing to get in:  all are most welcome. As are those who’ve been involved before – for decades, years or just days.

We need to vent a little behind closed doors – it can’t all be positive and onwards and upwards, without first letting off a little steam.  People are masking a lot of pain and there needs to be a collective howling at the moon.

As long as it lasts for five minutes only.  And most definitely isn’t played out on social media or in endless protests about how the vote was rigged or how the meeja did us down.  Or how we was robbed.  Or how folk were duped.

This much we all know already: playing it all out on a loop over and over won’t get us anywhere.  I get the feeling from some that they are surprised at what the British establishment threw at us to thwart our ambitions, that Shock and Awe in the last week was unexpected by some.  Still, now you know: welcome to the world of the SNP for all of its existence.

Yet, in the last ten years in particular, the party worked out how to deal with it, to work with it (needs must) and how to get round it to reach the hearts and minds of Scottish voters.  The party learned to leave aside the politics of grievance and engage with the aspirations of Scottish people.  There’s a wee lesson in that for all the Yessers, about what works and what doesn’t in this game.

It would have been helpful for Yes Scotland to have hung around even for a couple of weeks beyond the vote to facilitate the greetin’ part of these meetings.  But apparently all the staff were let go the day after the vote, the Chief Executive is apparently in or en route to his holiday home in Florida and the organisation is toast.  Not even a cheery email newsletter goodbye or well done or thanks to the many thousands of volunteers who helped to pay the wages at Hope Street, as well as actually fought the campaign out there .  Ah well.  Still, at least we ended the campaign with more Facebook likes than David Cameron.

So, fifteen minutes of howling and gnashing and wailing is required.  But then, it’s onwards. Time not to get mad, but even.

Everyone agrees that we need to keep the movement alive.  Some are already way ahead of the curve – a new board for Common Weal; a funding venture for new media activity over at Bella Caledonia; a merger between Newsnet and Derek Bateman; a Women for Independence event which was over-subscribed not once, but three times (we’ve settled for 1000); plans for a RIC conference in November that over 7000 have said they want to go to.

And all those folk joining the SNP, Scottish Greens and the SSP.  Funnily enough, some of the self-same meeja who did the cause of independence down are sceptical about the membership claims.

Let me re-assure them.  Having volunteered for an hour in SNP HQ processing online applications, I’m not actually sure that the official tally is keeping up.  When I left after my hour, there were nearly 38,000 applications to be processed.  We hadn’t made much more than a very small dint in the total. And that’s only the online ones.  The phones were going constantly and the postie had delivered plenty by snail mail.

It is a quite astonishing and almost inexplicable phenomenon.  Of the few applications I processed, there is no real pattern in membership: there are men, women, young, old, rural, urban.  But a lot from the West of Scotland, a lot of trade union members and a fair few with university degrees and from the professions too.  Labour should be very afraid.

And then there’s a new SNP leadership to be determined, hopefully after a contest of ideas.  And a new Programme for Government – please make it radical and bold, something we can all get our teeth into.

And new powers coming in 2015 to get acquainted with.  There’s also the new, more powers’ process which is owned currently by the politicians but which many of us – especially on the Yes side – think should incorporate some kind of citizens’ element.  How to achieve their contribution is something that needs worked out.

This public consultation element is actually key.  Most polls over the years have suggested that a majority of Scots want control over everything but defence and foreign affairs to be devolved – devo max – or at least, a devo much more than most of the parties have offered to date.  Labour will try to drag the offer down to its level, from the starting point of the Conservatives’ Strathclyde Commission proposals. Ensuring the Scottish public – brimful of enthusiasm for the politics of ideas and still having #indyref related conversations on trains, in pubs and in workplaces – gets a say and gets what it wants requires resources and resourcefulness.

And what to do about all those communities and people who not only registered to vote for the very first time, but actually voted in unprecedented numbers?  Who voted for their one chance in a lifetime, who believed in hope, who got that this was absolutely about transferring power and control?  Do we just shrug our shoulders and say sorry, it’s all going to stay the same?  Do we let them slip back into disengagement and disenfranchisement?

Then there’s the need to build a bridge, rather than a trench (as Andrew Wilson so deftly put it) between the 45% and the 55%.  We can probably ignore the top 25% of the No grouping.  They’re the diehard Unionists and the Scottish part of the establishment and the uber rich in the country who really don’t get that we need a fairer society all round. And of course implacable pensioners (though not all are).

But that leaves 30% to coax across – some are already Yes buts who on the day became reluctant Nos. Others rationalised their decision to hold on to what they have by not being persuaded that Scotland could be a successful, independent country; that Scotland just isn’t ready yet to go it alone; that there are too many risks, uncertainties, unanswered questions about our economic potential.

So we need to work out how to remove these fears, but there is also something in leaving them alone to find their way home. Six billion of cuts to the Scottish block grant, interest rate rises, ongoing pay freezes, more austerity cuts from Westminster (whoever runs the show), the likelihood of Labour not winning the UK election next year and the distinct possibility of UKIP in coalition with the Tories – all this is bound to take its toll on the left-leaning middle classes of Scotland who voted for the comfort of a continued feather-bed courtesy of the current settlement.

Where next is the cry from the Yes movement?  Well, immediately it’s off to Holyrood today to lend our family’s support for a good-natured celebration of all that we have achieved in the last few years and to make our contribution to the food bank collection.

After that?  Who knows.  All or at least some of the above.  The swarm continues; some are jockeying for Queen Bee position (and I don’t mean Nicola Sturgeon) and a hierarchy is definitely forming, or being deliberately formed (check out the new look board of Common Weal…); though some worker bees stubbornly refuse to conform and seem content organising themselves. The fact that the first Where Next meeting in Edinburgh was organised by someone who just wants to keep it going, rather than any group or branch or body, speaks volumes.

This round of Yes meetings might be necessary but once the greetin’ is over and we’ve all had a go at determining where next and what next, can we just form a plan and get on with getting there?  And vow to stop spending time sitting in rooms – real and virtual – agreeing with each other.






9 thoughts on “Where next?

  1. I asked on another forum for the reasons some voted no and here is one of the replies

    I’ve always felt British and Scottish.
    -I’ve been involved in lots of things that were truly a British effort which representatives from all parts of the UK. For example, I was in the TA, I volunteered at the Olympics and at the Commonwealth Games. During the Commonwealth Games, my job was to work with the Northern Irish team and it was lovely to work so closely with a home nation.
    -I truly believe the opportunities I’ve had in life were due to being British and all home nations chipping in to the pot in order to provide opportunities for all four nations.

    As I say, these were the least important reasons. As in regards to the nuts and bolts:
    -Currency. The four options on the table were all awful. A currency union wasn’t guaranteed and even if we did get it, it meant we were giving the rUK huge fiscal control and were giving up our seats in Westminster where we could have control over it. Option 2, using the pound without a back up was massively risky. Option 3, the Euro was not going to happen quickly so it meant relying on another option for at least a few years and the final option of creating our own country was not particularly fiscally viable (considering it cost Norway £60 billion to establish their own currency, which was roughly speaking our whole budget for the last financial year).

    -The economy. Linked to the currency issue, of course. Obviously independence was a huge risk that could go either way. Most economists were agreed that there was likely to be short-mid term economic decline. Norway was in recession for 47 years after independence and we just had no idea how severe our economic decline would be or how long it would last but the markets were making it clear that there would be a decline of some sort. At least in the rUK we know that our economy is in recovery and we are the fastest growing economy in the G7. Why would we want to give that up for the complete unknown? Having looked through the figures pretty extensively, I just did not see a strong financial case for an independent Scotland.

    -The EU. Salmond’s suggestion of 18 months for entry into the EU was EXTREMELY optimistic and, in the view of most, unrealistic. Belgium, Italy, Spain and Romania all have independence movements that they want to keep under control and since three of those countries have a veto, entry for us would always have been problematic. It is very unlikely we’d have been given good terms on entry, certainly not the terms we have as the UK.

    -Defence. The defence strategy of Salmond was almost non-existant. We live in turbulent times and expecting everyone to be nice and play fair is lovely but unrealistic. Also, Salmond kept talking of getting rid of Trident but did plan to take an approach similar to Norway in regards to NATO nuclear subs and letting them enter into Scottish waters whenever they wanted. I’d rather have nuclear subs that we control in our waters than subs belonging to any Tom, Dick or Harry. Also, NATO membership wasn’t guaranteed for an independent Scotland and as an independent state we would lose our strong place in the UN security council (the UK is currently one of 5 permanent members).

    Then, finally, there was some big picture decisions:
    -I felt it was very naive to believe that we’d somehow achieve social justice under Holyrood. Politicians are politicians and I see very little differentiation between the politicians in Holyrood and Westminster. At Holyrood there is a bit of a better socio-economic spread than at Westminster but there is still corruption. We all know the saying about power corrupting and I believed that the more power Holyrood got, the more corrupt our politicians would get. It would be no better than the situation we’re in….certainly not long term.

    -We’d be swapping the rule of Westminster for the rule of the EU once we were finally accepted. Personally, I think the EU is a crueler task master than Westminster is. We wouldn’t have the power and voice in the EU that we currently have as the UK and we would be under their thumb far more than we currently are.

    -Lack of direction. Independence seemed to be all things to all people. The socialists were dreaming of a socialist utopia, the greens were dreaming of a green society, the billionaires of massive tax cuts for businesses. There was no way to give everyone what they wanted and I felt that people were voting for a Yes expecting their own miracle and ultimately they were going to be very disappointed.

    -The idea of social justice being for all. Even if we were in a financial position to increase social justice (which I don’t think the figures reflected that at least short to mid term), why should we take that and run with it? What about the poverty in Manchester or London?

    -As for Salmond and the SNP, I realise there was another Scottish election coming up but the discussions of the next two years if we voted ‘Yes’ were in SNP hands. I didn’t trust them and found them rather incompetent so even if it hadn’t been for the plethora of reasons above, I wouldn’t have felt particularly comfortable in giving Salmond and co the go ahead for entering into negotiations on behalf of us in order to forge our way into independence.

    All in all, I felt that the case for independence was weak. I felt the poor would become poorer and opportunities would lessen. As it so happens, I think the vote being so close has created a shock and that we will see changes at Westminster. Probably not massive changes but I think people have been given more of an interest in politics and if people keep using their political voices, then real change is possible. Up to now, a lot of the problem has been political apathy and maybe this will change that.

    • Jane – exactly the information we need – a bit overwhelming though – I would find those arguments difficult to refute without sounding vague. But those were the circumstances the YES found ourselves in, there really was not a lot of really definitive economic data to counteract the ‘economic risk’ argument. We know that as a modern fairly wealthy nation with oil! it would have been sorted out in time – any short-term economic hardship would have been well worth the sacrifice to break away from the westminster dead hand. Anyway – I shall send that on to SNP HQ – we cannot know if another referendum might happen in the future, so next time we need to be ready – scottish central bank, EU pre-negs, scottish navy base etc. But on to Home Rule for now.

  2. I agree with your comments about the howling at the moon. It is not just about building on the 45 but it is also about keeping that original support.

    There were many of us who started No – in my case because I am a Labour supporter – and then came towards Yes. We faltered under the Shock and Awe of the economic predictions, but when we got to the polling station our hearts pounded (as did our heads) as we hovered over the ballot paper and decided for Yes.

    But we still had concerns.

    We were worried about how our views would be considered in a discussions with the UK. We didn’t expect it to be plain sailing and wondered why the Yes side thought everything would fall in place so easily, but we were willing to take the plunge.

    We were a little frightened by a protest outside of the BBC. We wondered about whether it is right for politicians (on either side) to be shouted down in the street and didn’t blame the campaigns but wondered about whether this was an indication of a split in our nation.

    We worried about the demonisation. As a Labour supporter, I don’t believe that the Party leadership are evil or corrupt. I believe they are misguided, they got it wrong. And many of us will happily vote Labour in the next General Election.

    We shared the disappointment of Yes campaigners, but don’t want to re-run the referendum next month or even next year.

    So time for reflection. Time to truly understand who the No voters are, but also who the Yes voters were. No assumptions please.

  3. I think we are at a cross roads,there is a huge enthusiasm for change. Many got the argument that a yes vote didn’t mean more SNP government,it meant we then proceeded to a national forum to change ,to escape politics that we have now.
    If we are not careful,that enthusiasm will diminish to a nos where it will be hard to affect any real change.
    I’ve been interested to see the various well known voices give their opinions on what we should do, telling us how to think ,mocking some for not knowing “political process”,and as you say, jockeying for postion. It reminds me of a village council.A group of well meaning folk get together and many leave after the forceful ones get their say and way, and the rest go Ah fuck it .
    During the referendum many folk gave their time,dug deep to buy t shirts mugs you name it.
    They didn’t and don’t know how”it’s done”. So whilst I appreciate the ” on message” view, folk want change,some were not convinced so I’d suggest considering not doing the same as before.
    Let folk ask questions no matter how daft it may sound to politerati,let them shout and scream let them do what the hell they want,in time we will all come back down to earth.
    Then point out in plain terms why some of the things being talked about are not that likely (dodgy voting) but don’t discount anything because one instance of rigging,peeping at ballots,IS breaking the rules,so you can’t say on one hand keep to the rules then say oh we all peep it’s the done thing.
    It will be a big mistake if there is no place in the whole process for “newbies”
    Most of the folk forming committees now are in their own right ok folk .Some newbies won’t want to get involved at the coal face they will prefer having their proxy speak for them,but there will be many newbies who will be frankly good for the process to be our proxy on the various groups.
    It may be that the method used now would be enough to drag us over the line should there be another referendum, we should consider thinking different( which is where the newbies come in” to get us just over the line but a huge majority because that will be a better place to start from.
    Of course if the above sounds bollocks then that’s fine too I’m trying to make the point that we are all as important as the FM DFM etc etc so if you want to speak out, speak out if not that’s fine too 😄
    To a future Independent Scotland

  4. Would be interested in just how geographically spread out the new membership is.
    Would the 4 YES areas be more represented than the 28 No areas.
    Glasgow v Edinburgh.
    Dundee v Aberdeen.
    Urban v rural.
    Just curious.

  5. I (with no standing, I admit) would like to see some rallying around the fracking issue.

    Massive popular dissent as per the recent “consultation” exercise, ridden roughshod over by Westminster goons.

    If there’s a possibility that decisions over fracking would be devolved, doesn’t that make the whole question moot ahead of concretisation of the avowed “powers”? I wonder what traction a campaign on that basis would have.

    Best of luck, anyhow, from (for now!) South of the border 🙂

  6. Was having a cuppa in Aulds today. Just as I was leaving three people sat down at the next table. The man joked about Scotland’s Mickey Mouse money ( and I know he was joking and wasn’t offended) then they began to talk about the vote. One woman, Scottish, said to the man & woman who were English, ‘I’m glad THEY didn’t vote for that thing…the referendum last week, it would have made me booking my flight more difficult.’ I considered this for a moment because I did not want to appear anti-English, then I said politely and quietly, ‘Excuse me, I couldn’t help hearing your comment. I voted ‘yes’ but that aside, could you please tell me why independence would have made booking a flight more difficult?’ They all looked at me, as did other folk in the shop. The Scottish woman mumbled, ‘Well passports,,,’ ‘But we’re in the European union,’ I countered. I sensed then that ‘the force’ was not with me, so I smiled, thanked them for their time and wished them a happy visit to Scotland.’ What really upset me was the Scottish woman referring to herself and own nation as ‘they’ as though she was not part of our family. If there is a level of national confusion about identity, maybe that’s why ‘no’ got their votes. I would just like to make sense of why folk voted ‘no’.

    • Hi Kathleen – the scottish woman will be in the ‘I’m alright jack’ camp, unaffected by the economy, untouched by reports of so many people in scotland suffering hardship and sees no necessity for change. She sees the YES people as a threat to her existence, cosy or fragile, and therefore in her eyes YES people are “they”.
      Just as an aside, in the interest of the ongoing campaign it would be useful if every YES person asked as many NO’s just why they voted no. We can then collate over time a very good understanding of the issues/concerns/doubts we need to address in time for the next time (if ever) we need to argue the case for Indy. For instance one guy I know stated scotland’s inability to deal with it’s ageing population without the UK as good enough reason to vote no

  7. Dear Scottish Burd (yr name /nom-de-pleume wid be better) – where/when was the Voice of the People gathering organised ? and this ‘Where Next’ event you refer to, I haven’t seen any mention of it on social media. Maybe a wee bit to go on the communication side. Also, the SNP is taking in thousands of new members, how do you think that might impact on SNP policies given that most of the new people will be ex-labour. It would be good to see Tommy Shepard / Alan Grogan in positions of prominence. I am a member of SNP and I go on the website for info…..it’s got naff all !, ok understandably it will be suffering a bit from post-ref and dealing with surge in members – but it is the shop-front of the party. I’m sure there will be plenty young techy/website types that could be full-time employed in upgrading the website. Just re=read what I’ve written – sorry it’s a bit negative.

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