What a panic’s in their breastie!

What a different two (or three actually) polls make.

First, the Panelbase poll conducted by the Yes campaign shows a record high of 47% support for independence among women with the gender gap virtually closed.  Hurrah for us!  And especially Women for Independence who right from the onset – even before Yes Scotland was formed actually – realised that women would take longer to make their minds up, that women needed to be listened to rather than talked at in this campaign and be offered space beyond traditional political hierarchies in which to engage. Our instincts have proven to be spot on.

Second, the sensational YouGov poll for the Sunday Times putting Yes ahead for the first time in the campaign.  It’s a slender 2 points but the momentum is all ours.  A wiser owl than me told me of recent Irish referenda experience.  In each and every one, the vote started shifting in the last few weeks.  Once it does, it doesn’t stop: all the other side can hope to do is slow down the shift enough to prevent it reaching the finish line.  It looks like the efforts the No campaign have made in the last week to achieve this have failed.

But hard hats on and heads down (though our tails are clearly up).  To coin a phrase, there is no room for complacency.  There’s a lot to do and everyone who wants to see Yes win the day on 18th September must redouble their efforts, continuing to target the key voter groups of Labour supporters, working class voters, women and people aged under 40.  According to Peter Kellner at YouGov, these are the voters who have shifted the most in the last few weeks.  Everyone in local Yes and grassroots groups must focus on reaching more of them, each and every day between now and the 18th.

As for the No campaign?  Well, you can promise jam today, jam tomorrow and jam the next day but it won’t wash.  Like dodgy market traders with a palette of shop-soiled goods to offload before they perish, they are frantically trying to cobble a “more devo” offer together.

Like the offer they should have allowed to go on the ballot paper from the start.  Or even the offer they should have made months ago.

But then, they promised us more devo at the start of this campaign.  And Messrs Naw, Nay and Never managed to come up with competing claims that amounted to a begrudged attempt to hold on to as much as they can and give away as little as they thought they could get away with.  Who’ll believe them now? The Scottish people are not buying I’m afraid.

The hard hats are needed because we are also going to be assaulted with an aerial bombardment of fear and smear like no other.  The British establishment is fighting for its continued grasp on power and control.  The Labour party is fighting for its very political existence in Scotland, if not elsewhere.  David Cameron is possibly fighting for his job.  What is about to rain down on us will be unprecedented in its severity, weight and virulence.  So this is a time for cool heads, calm hearts and onwards, forever onwards.  One doorstep at a time.

That’s presuming of course that they can stop fighting like ferrets in a sack.  It’s already started.

Unnamed backbench Conservative MPs have started calling for Cameron’s head on a plate:  “If Lord North went in 1782 for losing the American colonies, I can’t see how Cameron can stay, frankly.”  Note the language there:  it betrays how they really view Scotland.

Cameron is being blamed for allowing Alex Salmond to out-strategise him by one former Minister, especially on the timing of the referendum.  Again, betraying that they understand nothing of what is going on in Scotland right now.

And also, that it is still all about them.  Secret talks are apparently being held to force a leadership contest by parachuting Boris in through a parliamentary by-election.  The calculations on what happens if Scotland votes yes are all about shoring up their rump and being in a position to hold onto their seats at the UK election in 2015.

But the Tories are not just fighting among themselves – they’re turning their fire on their erstwhile Naw partners, Labour.  Apparently, it’s all also Labour’s fault for failing to deliver its vote.  Which again mistakes that this is about parties and even, as I opined here, that Labour has a core vote these days in Scotland.  The Scottish Tories are rock solid – but then that was to be expected.  It’s Labour whose support is haemorraghing.

Poor Douglas Alexander is the one coming under fire with particularly nasty personalised attacks.  Why him?  He isn’t the leader of Better Together – Alistair Darling is.  Many other Labour figures, including Scottish ones, have played much more senior roles.  The attacks on him whiff of jealousy, of score settling and of seeing off his credentials as a Labour leadership contender.  Yet, if any senior Labour figure has tried to create a positive narrative for the Naw lot, it’s him.  At various points, he’s been pushed out of the picture by others jostling to lead the front line.  With very few following his messaging.  Why?  Because they all thought this would be a skoosh and it was a platform for them to see out their twilight years basking in shared glory or from which to jettison them into the limelight and potential leadership roles. It seems to me that he and Brown are the two working their hardest to retrieve the situation.

But therein lies part of the problem.  For all that Gordon Brown is still a respected political figure in Scotland – and revered by the media to embarrassingly gauche levels – he is still yesterday’s man.  He may understand UK politics but having served his entire career on that stage, he is out of touch with the dynamic of Scottish politics.  He – and others – do not get us anymore.  That is at the heart of their problem.

As it is for the whole Naw movement, as Rory Stewart – he of the failed attempt to create hands across the border and build symbolic cairns and other irrelevant nonsense – attests. “A Yes vote would represent a failure of the entire political class. I think it’s the greatest constitutional issue we have faced for 300 years and it has not been treated like that. In the 19th century, this would have been like the great reform act. It would have engaged the whole nation and its politicians for years.”

Yet, the debate that Scotland has been having has been like our own great reform act, our own democratic renewal, with people of all ages enthused, engaged, debating and deliberating.  It has captured our imaginations and our attention.  The whole nation has been enthralled.  If the rest of the UK (but primarily England, for this is what they mean when they say “we”) failed to notice, or care, or contribute positively, that’s its problem.

But “we” as Scotland, as a nation, have awoken and to tar us with the brush of indifference is inaccurate and unfair.

Our political class – on the Yes side at least – have not been found wanting.  There is no failure of leadership here.

But it’s not actually about them.  What has happened in Scotland isn’t about them, but about us.  All of us.

There’s no failure, simply success.  To get to where we are today, with Yes leading by two points twelve days before the vote, having had everything but the kitchen sink thrown at us from on high by the British establishment, big business, world leaders, the UK Government, the British media, rich people with deep pockets, and all those with their hands currently on the levers of power, is little short of astonishing.

It’s not a failure but a triumph.  Of the will of the Scottish people to stand up and say no more.  No more waiting.  No more empty promises. We want this one opportunity to create a better life for everyone who lives here.  And most especially of all, we want the chance to create a better future for our children, our grandchildren and the generations yet to come.

 

 

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What are you doing on 18 September?

So, two weeks to go.  All these years and months and we are nearly there.

Isn’t it exciting?  Scotland’s people get to choose their future in fourteen days.  But getting folk to actually vote takes more than hope and crossing fingers.  Both sides – Yes and No – are working on their Get Out the Vote plans.

There are those of us who have been planning a lifetime for Referendum day.

Many have been working towards this day ever since it was announced by the First Minister.  The hours they have spent getting us to this point cannot properly be quantified.

But even among the most ardent Yes supporters, there will be many who do not realise how important the day is itself. Nor the work and effort that will be required to Get Out the Vote (GOTV) for Yes.  If you are an ordinary person, enthused and brought into politics by the prospect of voting Yes, if you have never been involved in a political campaign before, then you still might not realise that we need you.

The Yes campaign needs everyone who is voting Yes and who supports a Yes vote to get involved and help.  So never mind planning where you are going to be on the night and who you are going to be watching the results with.  Forget planning for a carnival atmosphere (win or lose), there is work to be done before that.  And we need you.

You can help with your local GOTV activity.  If you can, get the day off work so you can help on the ground.  I won’t bore you with details here, but everyone can do and contribute something.

If you can’t get the day off, can you help in the evening (or even before work in the morning, or if you work shifts, before you go to work)?  The polls are open 7am to 10pm – there’s stuff to be done every minute of every hour and it needs people to help do it.  Even if you can only spare an hour, that will make a difference.

So, if you can help your local Yes team, contact them.  Most have Facebook groups and/or twitter accounts and are easy to find. Or use Yes Scotland Events to track down activity in your area (there’s no need to wait until the 18th to get involved!)  Most of these events also have local contact details – they’ll be delighted to hear from you.  Trust me!

But if you can’t get off work or don’t want to be “out there” helping, here’s what you can do, largely from home, in these last two precious weeks and on polling day itself.

  • make a list of all your family and friends you know who are still undecided or swithering on how to vote; contact them, have a conversation, tell them why you’re voting Yes, encourage them to ask questions, point them towards information
  • if you have lots of undecided friends or neighbours, organise an “at home” – get them all over to yours to enjoy good company, convivial atmosphere and get them talking; make sure you have information available they can take away with them;
  • next weekend, why not turn your world Yes?  it’s only for a few days but we need everyone who is Yes to say it loud and proud; so poster every window, get stickers on your car, wear a Yes badge everywhere you go (but not to places where you’ll get in trouble or upset folk) and on Referendum day put balloons up, anything and everything you can do, do to create colour; most local Yes campaigns now have shops and street stalls where you can pick these things up
  • and while you’re getting stuff for yourself, get extra and share it with neighbours, friends and family who are also voting Yes – encourage them in the last week before we go to vote, to say Yes loud and proud
  • now make a list of all your family and friends you know who are voting Yes; on the Monday or Tuesday before we vote, email and phone them; remind them how important it is that they go and vote Yes on 18th; check to see if anyone you know needs a lift to go and vote
  • on Referendum Day itself, vote early – the polls open at 7am and tell everyone you know through social media that you’ve voted Yes and why you’ve voted Yes; encourage like minded friends and family to do the same and use your social media to remind everyone you know to go and vote
  • your list of family and friends you contacted earlier in the week?  Contact them again today, just to check that they have all been to vote, do it at teatime, that way if they haven’t been yet, there is still time to encourage them out the door (or go round and get them yourself and take them!)

The point of this wee list is that we can all do something to make sure Scotland votes Yes on 18 September.  Even if you stay away from the campaigns themselves – it’s okay we won’t be offended – and do your own thing, there is something each and everyone of us can do.

So between now and Referendum Day, set aside just an hour to do at least, some of what is listed above.  It will make all the difference and it will help change our lives forever.

 

Why No’s video appeal to undecided women won’t work

Normally in my house, a pot of lentil soup is made every week. It’s been a staple of both boys’ lives, all their lives, and they love it. I make better lentil soup than anyone they know. I learned how to from my Gran.

It’s been a rarity in recent times so on Monday, I decided to fix that. A pot was duly made. I burnt it. I burnt lentil soup. Boy Wonder, somewhat in awe at my spectacular fail, is now seriously questioning what has happened to his mammy. So am I.

And I’m writing this, surveying the wreckage that is my house.  I hoovered at the weekend but not that you’d notice.  Since then, there have been so many folk piling in and out with deliveries and the like that it looks like I’ve not hoovered for months. There are piles of clothes everywhere, dried, en route eventually to bedrooms (wardrobes and drawers might be stretching it a bit).  

There are bits of paper. Hunners of them. In strategically placed piles on every surface.  And boxes.  Of leaflets, materials, and other campaign paraphernalia.  I try heroically several times a week to clear the dining table only for it to fill up again with campaign flotsam and jetsam almost immediately.  We eat in whatever corner happens to be bare at the time.

But I know this is not a normal woman’s house.  Women everyday open their doors to me and their houses gleam and sparkle. There is order. There is not a speck of dust to be seen.  Women – even busy working women – still take pride in their home. They might grumble about the division of labour, that even though they too work full time, sorting school bags and shopping and washing and ironing still largely falls to them. But they do it, even grudgingly, Because home is where the heart is, in all senses.  

And what will these women – the undecided women still making their minds up how to vote on 18 September – take from the No camp’s video?  

Forget the words, it’s the images that will stay.  Here’s a woman who sits down with a cup of coffee in amongst the crumbs and debris of the morning rush hour.  And then gets up to go to work without shifting a dish or wiping a surface.  She might be a woman I can identify with, but not them.  hey’d never dream of leaving their homes in that state. They’ve missed their target audience completely, probably because the video was made by men. 

For they’ve also managed to patronise these women. Suggesting they don’t really like their husbands and partners, and worst of all, think poorly of their children – all the women I engage with speak with pride and love when asked about their families. That the reason they’ve not yet made up their minds is because they’re bored with the referendum dominating all conversations – not my experience – or because they don’t know enough about everyday politics to come to an informed decision – well wide of the mark, I’m afraid.

Many who have yet to make up their minds are indeed waiting for a quiet moment, to sit down with all the information and go through it, and decide. They know there are only a few weeks left but that’s enough time.  Until then, they carry on, carrying on.  Absorbing the mood music all around them, chatting with friends and family, raising queries, listening to those they trust.  But also engaging with folk – like me – who bother to pitch up on their doorstep, who don’t evangelise, who empathise with the big decision they have to make, and who listen to them and try to offer a factual account of the ifs, buts and maybes. I explain I come from a Yes position but I try to be honest and acknowledge that there are unknowns.  

But I also set out the bit No don’t want them to hear. That a No vote might not offer the best of both worlds actually. That women haven’t had a fair deal from Westminster. That there are known risks from voting No – £5 billion cuts in the next two years to the block grant will put spending on public services they care about under strain like never before. 

None of that subtlety was evident in their video. In fact, it contained downright lies. There is no uncertainty over pensions: the DWP itself has said that folks’ pensions are safe. Just as if they chose to go and live in Spain now, as ex-pats in an independent Scotland, the state pension will still be paid.  Private pension providers based in England already pay out pensions to people living in other countries, why would they not for Scots in the future?

Many women I’ve listened and chatted to are worried about their children’s future. So I give them the astonishing fact, supported by independent research, that this generation of teenagers and twenty-somethings is likely to be the first generation ever to be worse off than their parents. Thanks to austerity and the running up of huge levels of government debt, there’s very little left for them.  They will be paying for it all, all of their adult lives. They are hurting already and that’s why so many of them – and the polls now show that a majority of voters in their twenties are now likely to vote yes – are choosing the one opportunity offered by independence for a better, different future.  I encourage these women to talk to their sons and daughters, grandchildren, nieces and nephews and find out why they are voting yes and to think about that when they come to make up their own minds. 

I also encourage them to listen to and read other women’s stories, of women who didn’t start out yes but arrived there. To see if there is anything they can identify with from what they say.

Everyone on the Yes side is having a lot of fun with this No video. David Greig came up with a brilliant mini-play/pastiche on twitter last night. Robert Florence’s take on the messaging is laugh out loud funny (but also hits hard at its inherent sexism). 

But the most powerful counter to it comes from women themselves.  If you do one thing today, encourage undecided women you know to watch Women for Independence‘s video.  It’s a simple, direct appeal to women of all ages, from all parts of and communities in Scotland to make their voices heard. There’s no insulting of women’s intelligence, no misleading on the issues, there’s not even any crumbs needing cleaned up,