What’s the story? #IndyScot

Scotland-map-web2

Who is writing the referendum story & why it matters. By Michael Gray

George Orwell said ‘History is written by the winners’. If he had somehow lived to see Scotland 2014 he would have met the exception to his rule.

Last weekend Nicola Sturgeon has grown effortlessly into her role as First Minister. In tandem the SNP party machine has defied political custom by becoming an even more dominant force following the referendum with over 85,000 members. This is symbolised by how they and the wider independence movement told the story of the referendum from the morning of the 19th.
Alex Salmond’s resignation was swift. He celebrated the referendum process, called on Scotland to hold Westminster’s “feet to the fire” on more powers, and appointed the wider movement of activists in Scotland as “the real guardians of progress…who I predict will refuse to go meekly back into the political shadows.”

He was telling a story and it was powerful.

Meanwhile, the unionists breathed a sigh of relief. While crowds cried in George Square, No Campaign politicians admitted that they didn’t feel like celebrating. They were glad of mere survival – as their unambitious campaign had always intended.
In contrast to Salmond, there was no clear story from Johann Lamont on victory. In fact Labour figures like Margaret Curran conceded that there had been a lack of vision from the No Campaign. She promised a tour of the Labour heartlands which voted Yes. The ‘victors’ were begging for forgiveness for the sins of Tory alliance.

Then Johann Lamont resigned with an almighty bang. Undermined by London Labour, she brandished her Westminster comrades as “dinosaurs” who treated Scotland like a “branch office”. “Scotland voted for home rule not London rule”, she added.

Cue bitter, Labour introspection.

Yesterday there was a late and rather lame attempt by Labour to re-write the independence story through a Unionist frame. In the Labour supporting Daily Record opinion poll results were weirdly skewed. 28% of Scots “NEVER” want another referendum. Meanwhile Anas Sarwar talked up social division like a late party pooper who just wants everyone to go home. The fact say 60% of Scots want another referendum including 38% of No voters, and the dust hasn’t even settled from the result.

I find this approach hilarious and ultimately self-defeating for what remains of Labour in Scotland. It’s clear Scotland has changed, and the challenge is for everyone to recognise that change. Ironically many of the referendum ‘winners’ are in a state of denial. Compare the stories.

The Independence Story

A) Democratic Renewal

Scotland was energised, thousands were organised, groups formed and have continued that will set the agenda in Scotland. Over 70,000 people have since joined pro-independence parties.

B) The Soon to be Broken Vow

After the result, the Yes Camp claimed the ‘vow’ won it for No. The claim was that the media stunt by Brown & Cameron on “substantial more powers” was enough to persuade 25% of voters to stay within a reformed union. Now the pressure is on for those parties to deliver to these high expectations or face the charge that they won on a false prospectus.s.

C) The Lies and Threats

The Yes Campaign maintains that voters in Scotland faced considerable economic and diplomatic pressure and a wide misinformation campaign to vote No. This included major companies with political links coordinating negative statements, the united Westminster establishment pouring in resources, and a hostile press and broadcast representation.

D) The Future and a Better Country

Many Yes Campaigners have immediately shifted their focus from the result to the future. This includes the general election, specific campaigns, new media projects and remaining politically active in the SNP, Green and SSP. Despite the No vote the vast majority of the Yes Campaign understand the importance of supporting social progress on the road to independence.

E) Till Next Time

The Yes Campaign highlight that the vote was close and there will be a future referendum. 45% or 1.6 million people was a huge achievement, they say. The surge in support for independence and the public enthusiasm – especially in certain urban towns – has made independence normal. As a result the SNP no longer talk about a future vote ‘once in a generation’ but ‘depending on the view of the people’.

The Unionist Story

A) The Will of the People

Unionist figures have stated the self-evident democratic truth that people in Scotland want to remain within the United Kingdom. They say that there was a clear and decisive result in favour of the UK through a democratic process and this result should be respected.

B) Diversion Completed Now Let’s Unite

Labour figures reverted to type after the vote by calling on Scotland to unite and kick the Tories out of office. Constitutional issues, in their view, are a distraction from social inequality, jobs, health, education and other issues.

C) A Divisive Process

Sections of the media loved Jim Murphy getting hit by an egg, demonising online communication, and talking up threats, anger and potential violence. The story of a divisive referendum is a perfect way to discredit the process and ensure that a future vote never takes places. Therefore unionists today are once again talking about ‘fall-outs’ and ‘broken friendships’ to depict a society scarred by political disagreement.

Who’s winning and why does this matter?

It’s clear that Yes Campaigners have a better story about the referendum. They’ve also been far more successful telling their story while unionists have been complacent or divided.

The language of the referendum has continued to a great extent. Yes figures remain ambitious, defining themselves by ‘change’ (although now with an added anger at Labour) and spurred by continued democratic energy.

Unionists have tried to move beyond the referendum while tapping into this new enthusiasm for politics. Johann Lamont tweeted this four days after the referendum:

Let us be the crusade the Labour Party was put on earth to be. We are the change makers. Let us change the world. #Lab14
— Johann Lamont (@JohannLamont) September 22, 2014

Having spent several years deriding the idealism of independence, it was and remains impossible for this to appear genuine. Nicola Sturgeon has taken this opportunity to claim that the SNP is now the de facto party of constitutional and social change.
The way the referendum story has been told will define how Scotland remembers the experience. It will influence whether there will be another vote (at the moment it seems likely) and shape the elections which take place along the way.

Many significant changes have occurred in a short time. This is one. Independence is simply a better story than the union.

@GrayInGlasgow



Categories: Commentary

25 replies

  1. Where’s Shetland on this map?

    • It’s an illustration

      • An illustration of how Shetland is forgotten?

      • That’s an excuse, not a justification, and just feeds the notion that the yes campaign too often reflects Lowland concerns alone. Remember, it’s Shetland’s oil, and from the perspective of the Northern Isles it hardly matters whether the resulting revenues are grabbed by Westminster or Edinburgh. Let’s not forget that when the issue was raised with Nicola Sturgeon she blew a raspberry at any idea of self determination for Shetland.

        If the Westminster Government had published a map of the UK which didn’t include Scotland on the grounds it was “just an illustration” would you have been OK with that?

    • I did this illustration, the only reason I didn’t put Shetland on was I wanted to make square cards and Shetland skewed the proportions (I’d either have to make tall cards or make the rest of Scotland tiny) In retrospect I should have done a wee box with Shetland in it but I was young and lazy and intended to flog the cards to tourists in Edinburgh who don’t know shit….

  2. Nicola Sturgeon has set out a prospective within the challenging context of having no opposition of any significance. Soon we will see a challenger from the weak and lost Labour ranks.
    NS should use this period of the phoney war to take more Labour ground by meeting with the social partners from the Unions, the third sector and business; a troika she should harness strategically.
    With Murphy as Labour’s leader, the unions may look to back NS , breaking Labour’s traditional monopoly on the TUs.
    NS must use this period to negotiate a team of candidates from within the new SNP selection rules. that will defeat Labour in May (18-22 seats).
    NS should also make an appearance at the opening of the RIC conference on Saturday to thank the popular forces and the autonomous left for their support within YES.
    NS should look at her cabinet and make a couple of changes but only a couple to reflect her difference.
    NS needs to bring to her first Parliamentary session that sharp new social democrat vision and establish her new line.
    Time is not on her side with a GE only 20 weeks away.

  3. Independence will come and its not so far away now.If I was of a Machiavelli mind,I might think that Alex Salmond knew that we would not manage to get our nose in front as we peaked too early.Gave the unionist a chance to muster up some wild promises,but we have one from what our base was then and is now, then we have won a grand victory.We have also seen a new enlightenment of our people becoming more aware about how politics work and more political,we are out and will not be going back in our boxes ever again.I do also think that we can have the majority of M.P.,s in the Scottish contingent in Westminster ,and if its EVEL and SVSL we can legally vote for independence with English opposition not being allowed to interfere.Could Alex have foreseen this?did he plan it?

  4. “Yes figures remain ambitious, defining themselves by ‘change’ (although now with an added anger at Labour)”

    …much more than anger – a deep determination to see them utterly destroyed at the polls, reduced to a rump of say 5% support. They are not just dinosaurs but death-eaters, sucking the spirit from the Scottish people. Scotland cannot move forward as long as Labour holds any sway amongst the electorate. We must get them off the road to be able to advance.

    • Judging by the people I met at the SNP meeting to evaluate the new and existing membership of the Party, there is whole lot of anger but it is being well chanelled to the progression of Independence. In how to stop them cheating again and in how to control the media and how we improve Scotland.

      • I know what you mean, hektorsmum, but the phrase “control the media” is open to serious misinterpretation. We do not want/need to control the media, but to ensure a fair, balanced and above all honest media.

      • I’m afraid there is as much chance of them not lying, as us “controlling” the media,h. The opposition parties aren’t really much of a problem, it’s the M.S.M bigging them up to be the greatest thing since sliced bread, that’s the crux of the matter.

    • Hi punklin. I like your ‘death eaters’ analogy, ‘sucking the spirit from the Scottish people’. It is so true. This was exactly how the negative no campaign worked. Fortunately, 45% of voters were immune to the destructive influence, whilst in the coming months, I believe that immunity to the death eaters will increase as many in the no camp realise what little faith they had in themselves and their own land. It is quite breathtaking to see the positivity in the Yes camp and the ability to see through the deceptions of the Unionist parties. A vote for the Union, was simply a vote for the bankers, the multi-nationals, the elite and an attempt to strengthen the ring-fencing of power.

      Anton – I think if you dig deep enough, you will find that it is not Shetland’s oil. Shetland, like Orkney, is an enclave of Scotland. Both Orkney and Shetland, as part of Scotland would benefit fully from Independence. Whether they believe or understand that I do not know. However, they have been influenced by the wealth on their doorstep and the ‘little deals’ and the spin that the UK does to keep them on-side. In most maps of Scotland used for illustration, Shetland is generally missing, as it is further out. I suspect this is an over site more than anything else.

      I am a scientist and I naturally look for evidence in support of statements or reasoning. In my observations of the workings of our SNP-led Scottish Government over the last few years, I have come to appreciate and trust them as I see what they have achieved, in terms of social justice etc. In examining their promises and looking at subsequent actions, I have seen that they follow up their promises with appropriate action, despite the restrictions on budgets imposed by Westminster. Therefore, I believe that both Orkney and Shetland would benefit more fully in an Independent Scotland. I do NOT trust Westminster politicians, nor the Unionist parties in Scotland, as all the evidence dictates that they are not to be trusted. Broken promises, lies and receipt abound with them. They spend their time promising, in order to obtain votes, and in point-scoring and deliberate spin, in order to confuse and hide facts.

      • Incidentally, I also have to say that I have observed how the Green Party engage in Parliamentary discussions at Holyrood and I have been extremely impressed at the valuable questioning and deliberations made by them, in order to facilitate helpful discussions and debating. They are a valuable resource to our Scottlish Parliament.

        Shame about the branch office parties, such as Labour and the Tories who do not deal easily with facts.The Liberals are nice, but totally ineffectual and all too easily led.

      • Please read “receipt” as deceit (in the last paragraph). Apologies as this was written in the early morning.

    • Punklin

      My words exactly. 🙂

  5. Orwell was right, history is indeed written by the winners.
    It’s just that sometimes ‘the winner’ is not instantly obvious.
    The Unionists believed that The Referendum’ was ‘the war’ but it was only a Campaign along the way.

  6. George Orwell said ‘History is written by the winners’. If he had somehow lived to see Scotland 2014 he would have met the exception to his rule.

    This depends how you define a victory.
    Westminster was aware that Devomax would have been a vote winner in the referendum as did AS, therefore Westminster didn’t want this as a refendum question.
    Westminister assumed that a decisive no would be the referendum result and the status quo would remain.
    What happened was a lie to gain a victory, the promise of devo max.
    The refendum result has shown that voters were persuaded by this offer and then voted accordingly.
    45% voted for independance, another 14% voted no on the assumtion of devomax the rest voted no for the status quo.
    A victory for devomax at 59% the result Westminster didn’t want in the first place.

    The loser in this case is Westminster.

  7. Independence is a process. Unfortunately, the vote on 18th september came too soon.

    However, what Alex Salmond did was to open Westminster’s Pandoras box and invite everyone to have a good look. It’s clear that the majority did note like what they saw. To that end the only game the NO campaign had was scaremongering.

    Scaremongering can not sustain a nations hopes and aspirations. The tactic was to obtain a NO vote at any cost, without any consideration of winning the (metaphorical) peace. All it has done is buy the Union some more time. A stay of execution.

  8. ‘History is written by the winners’.

    Let’s not forget that the no campaign were the actual winners. Scotland might well be an exception, however barely two months have passed since the referendum and it’s way too early to be making sweeping statements that ‘we’ in the yes movement are making history. We face many serious challenges in the months and years to come.

    How sustainable is our movement? Where will it be this time next year or the year after. For me, there has been a serious lack of reflection from our side on why we lost. All too easily we blame others – ‘lying unionists’, ‘the BBC’, whilst no voters are constructed as dupes and fools. There is a danger that we are living in a self perpetuating bubble (something social media encourages) talking only to ourselves.

    How do we come across to outsiders? The SNP conference at the weekend often looked smug and complacent. When Salmond and Sturgeon did a tour of the crowd, with banal music blaring in the background, full of sycophants clapping on cue, I actually had to turn it off.

    The bigger point I am making is that there is a danger that we are talking to ourselves, patting one another on the back, and forgetting to ask difficult questions about where exactly our movement goes from here.

    Orwell once wrote that in order to defend socialism you have to attack. The same might be said of the independence movement.

    • +1. Even the General Election is a long time away yet. Much more work needs to be done even to consolidate on what has been achieved if this isn’t to be a high water mark. Saying that Scotland has “changed utterly” doesn’t make it so, and without concerted efforts it can all dissipate. Worse, the 45% could become frozen in time as a perpetual 45% without understanding (and addressing) the concerns of the 55, legitimate or otherwise.

  9. Scotland renews itself, by that I mean the natural cycle, i.e. the old pass on, new are born, people emigrate & arrive and politics & alliances alter. In other words the state of the nation is always fluid, the one constant being change.

    If you trace out each of these threads, they point to growing self determination.

    Set against that back drop there is a discernable desire for change. This can be traced back to the mid-seventies, culminating in the 1979 vote (an absolute democratic obscenity inflicted by labour on Scotland!).

    However it has taken 18 years of tory rule compounded by a blair / brown continuation of that rule coupled with an illegal war, a collapse in the banks, westminster scandal after scandal and all uk resources being poured into London; to focus Scottish minds.

    The bbc and other media have shored up the unionist position and misrepresented the nationalist position, their role and influence cannot be understated. Where would labour have been in Scotland without the bbc and other media, i.e. the late and greats, supposed independent journalists and some of the current crop.

    Going forward, we have the disintegration of labour in Scotland, an EU vote, renewal of trident, new oil found off West Coast & North Sea (Oil Fund), broken vows, rise of right in England, growing inequalities, disclosure of activities in westminster involving senior ministers in 70s / 80s, NHS under pressure in Scotland (it will have disappeared in England), more westminster scandals, more wars for the uk to join, a positive socially responsible agenda being followed by SNP at Holyrood and I could go on.

    In the future months and years ahead the divisions, real and perceived will widen between Scotland and westminster as will the direction each wishes to follow. I give it a maximum of five years for the union, but take nothing for granted. Independence must be worked for. But equally we must have a level playing field. westminster must not control our news and views. This includes the bbc and others coming under Scottish control, N.B. not under Scottish government control, but controlled and monitored independently in Scotland and being seen by Scottish people and beyond that those monitoring are truly independent.

    C McK

  10. Having seen the dishonesty of the Westminster MPs (the expenses fiddles), the incompetence of a series of governments (the Crash, the National Debt and the rising deficit), the support for the casino bankers and their turning our real money into monopoly money, the praise for the City of London laundromat at the Lord Mayor’s dinners, the rank amateurs they install as Chancellors of the Exchequer, the dogmatic (not pragmatic) top-down politics, the privilege and associated nepotism amongst the public school elite, the unelected and unelectable ‘lording’ it over us, the warmongering at our expense, the use of pressed labour on poverty wages, the antics in the Westminster village or Chimpanzees’ tea party (Derek Bateman), latest sub-plot (‘ Plebgate’), and most seriously of all the need for foodbanks and charities helping out the vulnerable in poverty —–having seen all this —– the majority of Scots voted to continue with the Westminster comedy show.

    What is the matter with us? Are we all masochists who really like to see our hard earned taxes spent on warfare and the preparation for it and on force-feeding the already obese London economy? Can we really take pride in a nation which sees the invasion, occupation, destruction and massacre of the occupants of another country as ‘punching above our weight’? Do they not see that the lodging of nuclear weapons and the radioactive pollution of our beautiful country is an insult to us all?
    In the light of all this, we voted NO.

    ‘Proud to be British’ cannot have been one of the reasons!

  11. Thanks for that Gordon. You got a lot off my chest. You are so right. What you have said needs somehow to be communicated to those who voted NO. The decent among them need to be shamed to either put up valid arguments for their position or live with the conscious awareness that they are simply too self-centred to care.

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