By Mike Small
Looking back at our posters now has a different feel. In new circumstances they take on new perspective. Some are just unbearably sad now, others come into their own, like this, above. The referendum was supposed to settle things once and for all. The ‘settled will’ is a handy off-the-peg political cliché. Nationalist foxes are notoriously riddled with bullets but there’s seems little for the victorious No contingent to celebrate as the Yes movement begins to morph into something far stronger. Strangely the No’s seem mired in existential uncertainty. The victors seem to visibly diminish while the vanquished are emboldened.
What the hell’s going on?
Key factors mean that defeat has galvanised not crushed the independence movement.
The credibility of Scottish Labour, after it’s Death-Pact-of-Unity with the Tories in Better Together is in tatters, helped none by Miliband’s conference amnesia. While pundits cooed over Gordon Brown’s Dunkirk spirit, his bravery, acumen and speechifying have led to nothing. His lauded Vow, once branded as ‘Devo Max’ ‘Home Rule’ and ‘as close to Federalism as you’ll get’ now seems to be worthy only of a petition. Land campaigner Andy Wightman characterised it as: “I’ve set up a petition 2 ask folk 2 ask me 2 do what I said I’d do when I asked them 2 vote for thing I’d do if they voted (or something)”.
The SNP’s MP Pete Wishart has written to the Speaker pointing out that the debate secured by Brown for the 16th October is an end of day adjournment debate, which will last (at most) half an hour, is un-amendable and cannot be voted on or even discussed.
This is Brown’s Tuition Fees moment.
As Scottish Labour faces disarray and a potential rout if a talked-about cross-party independence electoral pact is forthcoming, other parties are in revival.
The SNP, which was supposed to split asunder in defeat has been re-born with over 75,000 members, dwarfing it’s nearest rival Labour’s supposed 13,000. Neither Hampden nor Murrayfield could hold them. The Scottish Green Party, almost more remarkably, has seen it’s membership more than quadruple with an increase now totalling almost 6,000 members and the SSP’s membership has increased from 1,000 to almost 4,000.
It’s not just the political parties that are resurgent.
Almost all of the alternative media outlets are announcing major expansion plans, radical ‘think and do’ tank Commonweal have ambitious development plans, discussion is under way about the potential for a Podemos-style party of the left, and RIC have had to consider using both Indy Cities (Glasgow and Dundee) for a simultaneous double-conference to cope with the demand as there’s no venue big enough to hold them. Women for Independence are meeting tomorrow in Perth a 1000 strong sell-out.
What’s motivating everyone?
A sort of gallus adrenalin fuels much of the Yes movement, still reeling from a historic and tragic loss, many crashing from dizzy idealism to the prosaic brutality of The Smith Commission. No voters muttering ‘reconciliation’ and repeating the mantra ‘we all share the same values really’ are appearing out of the darkness, their hair matted with the guano of chickens coming home to roost.
Other motivating factors include the reality of George Osborne’s gleefully announced austerity package, promising the poorest 10 million households they would face real-world cuts and his sinister pronouncement that you don’t ‘set the poor free by giving them more money’.
Bojo’s ‘permission to purr’ evoked a permission to puke response.
But whilst the Yes movement may seem oddly ascendant (a You Gov poll by John Curtice claiming the SNP could return 26 MPs at the General Election next year), the question remains: to do what? Polling at 49% of the vote suggests that the SNP are far more likely to hold the balance of power than UKIP after the general election.
But can the wider Yes movement beyond the SNP realign, recompose itself and develop a strategy to take forward into the General Election and beyond?
Yes if independence campaigners can move beyond the bitter disappointment of what they perceive as having our countries future thrown away by selfishness, fear and stupidity, and instead reach out to the very people they feel culpable for that folly.
Yes if Nicola Sturgeon can harness the amazing new energy within the SNP.
Yes is the Scottish left can recapture the drive and imagination from within such disappointment and steer the parties new and old to an agenda for real change.
This thrawn celtic stoicism gives a strange kind of hope. Hope too from the reality that 45%+ of people don’t want to be part of Britain, and of the remainder many were driven to vote No by a campaign of fear and intimidation. That’s an unsustainable way to govern a country.