Grown-up politics

I get the sense that Carolyn Leckie is close to grasping the essentials of how the new independence referendum campaign must take shape. But there are some troubling gaps and contradictions in her analysis.

For example, she bemoans the complexity of the first Yes campaign and recognises the virtue of a simple message such as that peddled by the Mad Brexiteers. (She might have noted that Better Together/Project Fear benefited greatly from the same kind of concise, uncomplicated message.) But she then goes on to commend an exercise in replicating the confusing profusion of policy options and ‘visions’ of independence that so fatally diluted the Yes message and obscured the fundamental question.

Carolyn acknowledges that the fundamental question is about power. But then she drifts into a tentative approach that only serves to blur the issue. She wants a prolonged debate about the detail of independent Scotland’s constitution rather than accepting that the only thing that really matters is that it will be the people of Scotland who have the final say in approving that constitution.

And, crucially, she fails to recognise that we simply don’t have time for that kind of protracted debate. If we do not sort out the practicalities of BECOMING independent right now, rather than endlessly nit-picking about the minutiae of BEING independent, then those practicalities are going to get massively more daunting as the British state moves to close off Scotland’s democratic path to independence.

While seeming to suggest that we do things differently next time Carolyn Leckie perpetuates what was arguably the greatest folly of the Yes campaign when she implicitly accepts the validity of British nationalist ‘arguments’ on matters such as currency, pensions and Europe. Or, at the very least, fails to challenge the propaganda herself or insist that doing so should be a major part of the new Yes campaign.

She seems to think it more important that the Yes campaign be “free from insult and aggression”. She appears oblivious to the fact that simply to say this is to pander to the ‘cybernat abuse’ narrative of the British nationalists. This is real-world, grown-up politics, Carolyn. Sometimes insults are earned. Sometimes aggression is justified.

The headline itself is symptomatic of the sort of misguided approach I am obliged to criticise. There is no need to “differentiate between the case for indy and SNP policy”. The two were only ever confused and conflated in the minds and propaganda of ideological unionists. The British state worked very hard to ensure that the independence campaign was associated entirely and exclusively with the SNP for two reason. Because it is easier to attack a political party than a democratic principle. And because they appreciate – even if many n the Yes movement can’t or won’t – how absolutely vital the SNP is to the process of securing first a new referendum and then independence.

It is not the case for independence and SNP policy that we must differentiate between. What we urgently need to to learn is the distinction between the Yes movement and the independence campaign. They are different things – although, obviously, connected.

Key words for the Yes movement include diversity, inclusiveness and openness. Key words for the independence campaign include solidarity, focus and discipline. The Yes movement can concern itself with what might happen after Scotland’s independence is restored. The independence campaign must be completely, unequivocally, uncompromisingly devoted to the task of realising that goal.

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12 thoughts on “Grown-up politics

  1. alasdair galloway

    Peter, I think you know this is not going to be positive, but it is written in a spirit of debate.
    First of all I think you presuppose that if there is a simple message, detail below this is only a confusion – “she bemoans the complexity of the first Yes campaign and recognises the virtue of a simple message such as that peddled by the Mad Brexiteers. (She might have noted that Better Together/Project Fear benefited greatly from the same kind of concise, uncomplicated message.) But she then goes on to commend an exercise in replicating the confusing profusion of policy options and ‘visions’ of independence that so fatally diluted the Yes message and obscured the fundamental question.”. I dont agree with that. I personally know folk who voted No who did so on the basis that there was insufficient evidence for them to be sufficiently certain of how an independent Scotland would work. Do you really think people like that will be induced to vote Yes next time, if there is even less detail? Moreover, if there is insufficient detail then you can bet your life that this will be picked on by whatever succeeds BT. A friend of mine says that we will all vote Yes either with heart or with head. The former will vote simply because they consider independence to be normal, but those who vote with the latter (or more with the latter) will need to be convinced, and that needs detail.
    Why not a debate about the constitution. One of the weaknesses of any future Unionist debate will be just how horrifying Brexit could be (this is probably one of the reasons for seeking to delay another referendum – they might actually believe “it will be alright on the night”). Should we not do what we can to put in place the arrangements for a well functioning, small social democracy, or at least the plans for this? Yes the Yoons will take this to task, but they will make capital if there is nothing at all.
    And I dont buy your isolation of BECOMING independent from BEING independent, for the former leads to the latter. Will voters not be concerned, no matter how slick the former is organized, if they feel no one has much of a clue what the latter will look like/ be?
    I think too you actually misrepresent her when you write “she implicitly accepts the validity of British nationalist ‘arguments’ on matters such as currency, pensions and Europe” – she is for instance clear that Scotland should have its own currency. She is right that these issues – particularly the first two, I would say – scared the bejesus out of wavering Yes voters, and pensions concerned older voters as well. These things need to be dealt with – we need to be clear that when independent there would be a Scottish currency, how it would work; how pensions could be afforded (the WM govt got away with murder last time by suggesting that all the contributions made by people in Scotland prior to indy would count for nothing on independence), and of course the situation with Europe is totally different from last time.
    But you save the best till last – that “The headline itself is symptomatic of the sort of misguided approach I am obliged to criticise. There is no need to “differentiate between the case for indy and SNP policy”” Whether this is true or not the fact is that its how it is widely perceived. Why do think the msm hammer away at the performance of the SG at every turn and on the thinnest of pretexts (and sometimes none at all)? Because whenever granny’s operation is cancelled, or wee Johnny’s school report isnt what you hoped it would be, we are encouraged to take it out on independence. Torrance writes this morning that “Soon the Scottish Tories will use the 20th anniversary of the 1997 devolution referendum to make the unpopular but valid point that 18 years of the Scottish Parliament hasn’t exactly delivered on the promise of transformative change.” which is of course utter baloney, but dont imagine that it has no effect on voter perception. As you write yourself ” it is easier to attack a political party than a democratic principle”, but then go on to suggest that “how absolutely vital the SNP is to the process of securing first a new referendum and then independence”. It is, as you say “vital” but not the whole of the independence campaign. You say that key words for the independence campaign are “solidarity, focus and discipline”, but that “The Yes movement can concern itself with what might happen after Scotland’s independence is restored” You say the independence campaign and the Yes movement are connected, but its more than that – they are two sides of the same coin. Last time, I think an error made was to paint a very specific view of an independent Scotland – though not an unattractive one for many voters I would guess. But it is possible to fight the independence campaign by pointing to the range of feasible possibilities and conclude by making the point that the Scottish electorate will determine where we stand once we are independent – surely if there is a point to the whole thing it has to be self determination, the opportunity to make up our own minds? Personally I would doubt if there is much I have in common with Michael Fry, butt we both support independence. We might see a future independent Scotland in different ways, but is that a bad thing?

      1. alasdair galloway

        Peter you really are a big disappointment. You dont seem able to deal even with disagreement never mind dissent. And your response seems limited to “liar”. Stuart Campbell gets a lot worse than you but he has a very interesting repertoire of put downs. You could learn something.

    1. Tony Little

      Alasdair, to a large extent I agree with your comment. To me the message that was lost in the campaign was due to the MSM/BBC support of the Better Together tsunami of minutiae and nit-picking detail. The Yes side, specifically the SNP, were constantly on the back foot trying to answer questions which, frankly, they couldn’t. Because NO ONE COULD. It was a disgraceful ploy of NOT informing the public, and they succeeded. (Both sides in the EU-Ref did it).

      Almost every single one of their arguments were NOT arguments against the principle of Independence, but on some detail of policy that would be completely in the hands of Scots, depending on which party they chose to support afterwards.

      Now, I don’t know if a campaign which only focused on these principles would be enough to win on its own, but I still think any YES campaign needs to be careful not to be sidetracked by a sh!tstorm of detail.

      Currency options need to be better handled, and personally I still think a new (or old) Scottish currency is the way to go. Perhaps pegged to Sterling, but maybe better to a basket of currencies.

      The Pension lies need to be rebutted forcibly this time. We know the MSM/BBC will be gung-ho anti, and they still present the major adversity to Independence so a better tactic needs to be in play.

      Otherwise, we need to find a way to get the reality of Brexit on Scotland out into the public conscience. Time is NOT on our side.

      1. alasdair galloway

        Hi Tony, good to hear from you. Didnt know you frequented this site.
        I agree with you about the msm, and my own view on that is that there has to be “instant rebuttal” – that as they put up the lies they are instantly put back down again. There are though two other issues. One – will they publish the rebuttals? Somehow I dont trust them to do that. This throws us back on social media, but in particular the well informed Yes supporter rebutting their lies. The second is though that many of their lies have already been exposed, which is their problem – the last referendum was highly corrosive of trust in the media – it really cannot go on.
        The difficulty with a “shitstorm of detail” is that the future is inherently uncertain so “questions about independence” are more or less inevitable. Trust will be important, but the yoons are on to that already, though the consequences of Brexit could well blow them out of the water. Currency, pensions – yes – they must be addressed. But to revert to what I was arguing that has upset Mr Bell, the campaign has to get beyond the SNP and to emphasise self-determination, since if a majority of Scots can be convinced of the rightness of that then a lot of detail can be parked – this is something that we can determine for ourselves after independence.

      2. Peter A Bell Post author

        “Currency options need to be better handled…”

        And there we have a huge part of the explanation as to why the Yes campaign fell short of the mark in 2014. Too many people within the Yes movement content to run with the British state’s narrative rather than challenge it. The British nationalist propaganda told you that ‘currency’ was an issue. Did you respond by asking if that was actually true? Evidently not. You just accepted it without question.

        Did you defend the Scottish Government’s perfectly rational and sensible position on currency? It seems not. The British establishment tugged your strings and you dutifully started parroting their line.

        Did you interrogate the threats being made by the British political elite? There’s nothing here to suggest that you did. It looks very much like you were too busy joining in the attacks on Alex Salmond and singing the inane ‘plan B’ song.

        There never was a fucking currency issue! Not until half the fucking Yes movement helped Project Fear create one.

        It seems that some still haven’t learned the lessons of the first referendum campaign. It seems they are determined to repeat the mistakes. I despair.

  2. m boyd

    There is no issue to argue over. The Tories will not allow a second referendum. We have to grasp this fact and deal with it. The only way forward is UDI.

  3. Robert Graham

    keep the message ” simple ” works every time , if we get dragged into the small print arguments again then it gives unionists more scope to lie and confuse ,
    The Only message is Independence the rest will follow , we then have the choice , just now we dont have any choice .

  4. manandboy

    Enjoyed your piece, Peter. I’m with you all the way.

    I have a ‘rule’ when driving, which is to get through on green by whichever lane, and then sort out where I’m going after that, which sometimes requires a lane switch or two.

    To me, Independence is like that, it is the only priority. Get through – then sort what needs sorted.

    No nation is perfect, but not one would choose to be a colony ruled by another nation because of its imperfections.
    WE DO NOT NEED TO HAVE EVERY LAST DETAIL SORTED.
    What we NEED is Independence.

    We have more than enough confidence, ability, friends and resources to establish and develop an Independent Scotland.

    Westminster knows that perfectly well, but will not lift a finger to help. Quite the contrary. The British Establishment has a very expensive lifestyle, which can only be maintained with Scotland’s wealth. Enough said.

  5. JimD

    The main show-stoppers for No’s the last time – currency, banks, pensions – are still there. The first two – nothing new from the SNP, as far as I’m aware, getting on for three years later. We don’t need minutaie but we certainly need more detail and conviction than was on offer last time.

    The third -pensions – was a flat-out Better Together lie but where are the plans to counter it? How do we stand up to the likes of Sadiq Khan phoning up old folks telling them they will have no pension in an indy Scotland? Again, no campaign ideas from the SNP.

    Dialogue between the SNP and their 125,000 members about these issues? If it’s happening, please point it out to me.

    Yes, they are absolutely vital to the process of securing a new referendum and then independence – which makes it worrying that there is a deafening silence on the issues that will be pivotal.

    1. Peter A Bell Post author

      So, the media told you something, and you didn’t think to question it. How is that the SNP’s fault. And because you are ignorant of what is happenng within the party, that means nothing is happening? Listen to yourself!

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