Can you remember five years ago? Can you imagine Scotland five years from now?
Gordon Brown was the PM, the SNP were still a minority government in Holyrood, Iain Gray’s Labour were fancying their chances of taking over in eighteen months time. David Cameron was the leader of the Conservative opposition and Nick Clegg was someone who still had the backing of students across England and Wales.
Many would have predicted a Conservative victory at Westminster in 2010, some thought Labour could hang on to power and some would even have predicted a LibDem-Conservative coalition. Few, if anyone would have dared to imagine Nick Clegg’s party committing mass political suicide over their student fee pledge and support for Conservative austerity. Who would have dared to bet on Ed Miliband becoming Labour leader over his brother David?
Five years ago I wouldn’t have thought an independence referendum was going to happen. The reason is that I wouldn’t have thought that the SNP would gain a majority in Holyrood – but that is what they did. The Unionist parties were forced to address the issue of Scottish Independence and we all knew that once the referendum had been agreed to by Westminster that the British media and the full weight of the UK establishment were going to be against the case for independence. What I didn’t imagine was quite how devious and manipulative the UK establishment were going to be. Equally I would not have imagined how creative and inspirational the pro-independence campaign was going to become.
Last Thursday returned a No vote by a margin of 10%, and a swing of 1 in 19 changing their mind would reverse the result. That is not an overwhelming endorsement of the UK. Scotland is a country that is awakening to a new and powerful grassroots democracy which is set to challenge the entire political establishment across the British Isles. If there is anything that we have learned from the independence campaign it must surely be that the UK establishment is vulnerable and will strike out when it is threatened. To successfully compete with the establishment and their tools of power the independence movement must grow and learn, develop and mature from last Thursday. I have no doubt this is going to happen.
Can you imagine Scotland five years from now?
We live in what must be the most politically exciting period in Scotland’s history and my imagination is awash with potential scenarios for where Scotland is going in the years ahead. One thing is certain to me and that is we cannot regress to where we were five years ago. Where the hope for a fairer, more prosperous Scotland motivates me, the fear of Scotland reverting to the same old self-destructive red Tory voting habits sends a bolt of energy through my body. Nothing would be more damaging to Scotland at this time in history than if the myth that we need to vote Labour to keep the Tories out next May gains traction. We must slay this myth with absolute conviction: Labour ARE the Tories.
The different factions of the Yes movement have been united by their desire for a fairer Scotland, and the belief that this is best achieved by having the powers to affect change in our country wielded by the people who live and work in our country. This unity of purpose is not going to change in the near future and it can achieve dramatic changes. Imagine a House of Commons with only independence supporting Scottish MPs after the May 2015 Westminster election. Imagine a Holyrood with a commanding majority of pro-independence MSPs after the 2016 election. If anything close to these election results occurred then the absolute initiative is with the pro-independence parties. We will have the mandate to define what devolution should come to Scotland and in my own opinion anything less than complete “devo-max” (all powers excluding defence and foreign policy) would result in a groundswell for another independence referendum. Should we gain “devo-max” then we will already have many of the powers that independence provides and the debate moves onto much more certain areas such as should we have Trident based in our country and should we be engaging in illegal wars. In short independence is but a small and certain step from there.
I am excited about what we are creating in Scotland. We know what kind of country we want to become, let’s continue to build that country and five years from now we can amaze ourselves at how far we have come.