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.