Old faces and big guns

Without question, Cat Boyd gave one of the best speeches at the Scottish Independence Convention (SIC) event last Saturday. But, invigorating as much of what she said was at a superficial level, I was very conscious as I listened to her that she is, indeed, one of the “same old faces”. And what I was hearing was more of those “grand statements”.

It’s difficult not to be roused by rhetoric urging us to “reclaim the banner of protest”. It is all to easy to accept an analysis that says the Yes movement lost because it was not radical enough. That we failed because we didn’t offer a sufficiently inspiring vision of what independence could mean. It is easy to blame the Scottish Government’s White Paper. It’s easy to claim that the SNP let the Yes campaign down by not being bold enough.

The fact that it is easy to do these things should make us hesitate. Maybe it’s too easy. Maybe we’re missing something. Maybe Cat Boyd is right when she says “next time we’ve got to be nimble and new”. It certainly sounds right. It may even make it into the category of “grand statements”. But maybe it’s not the whole story. Perhaps we need something else. Or something more.

Cat Boyd’s condemnation of the 2014 White Paper is sadly reminiscent of so much that we heard from the ‘righteous radical’ wing of the Yes movement during the first independence referendum campaign. A sweeping statement about “tax cuts” that echoes themes that were prominent in the British media. A shallow critique that recalls the narrative promoted by the British state’s propaganda machine. A symptom of the failure to properly recognise the purpose of the White Paper.

It was no part of the purpose of the White Paper to set out a rigid prospectus for an independent Scotland. It was not a manifesto. It was not a prescriptive policy agenda. It was a broad vision formulated on the basis of principled pragmatism. It was intended to balance the aspirational with the uncontroversial in order that it might be a document which the entire Yes movement could unite around.

The left woefully failed to recognise this. Relentlessly concentrating on the potential of being independent, they tended to neglect the practicalities of becoming independent. They railed against the blandness of the White Paper’s content while stubbornly unaware that the boldness lay in the idea of independence itself, and not in the plethora of stuff that was appended to this idea by diverse parties, organisations, groups and individuals. They failed to realise that, in a very real sense, it didn’t matter what the White Paper said. So long as it wasn’t littered with glaring factual errors or ludicrously fanciful notions, it would do. It would suffice. It would be enough. So long as the whole Yes movement accepted it for what it was, it was all we needed.

There was no point in any part of the Yes movement tearing into the White Paper, because it didn’t commit them to anything. It didn’t commit Scotland to anything. It didn’t even commit the Scottish Government or the SNP to anything. OTHER THAN INDEPENDENCE! Joining in the predictably hysterical reaction of the British establishment was utterly pointless and tragically counter-productive. By undermining the White Paper, large parts of the Yes movement inevitably undermined the idea of independence which was at the core of the document.

What really irks the political realists among us is that the left could so easily have supported, or just ‘gone along with’, the White Paper without in any way compromising their blessed principles. It would have cost them nothing. And it may well have won us our independence.

Cat Boyd says we need to be “nimble and new”. By which I understand her to be saying we should just do more of what the Yes movement did last time. When we lost. Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned from the fact that we lost while being “nimble and new” – which the original Yes movement surely was. Perhaps we should be looking to what else might work. Perhaps we should be looking at what worked for the No campaign. Because they won.

Maybe it’s not nimbleness and newness that we need so much as focus and discipline.

Maybe, before we can have our new politics, we have to beat the old politics at its own game.

We can be sure that #indyref2 will be a gun fight. Let’s not go into it armed with lots of pretty plastic scissors. Let’s turn the Yes movement into one massive gun. The biggest, scariest cannon we can make it.

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12 thoughts on “Old faces and big guns

  1. brobb

    “Relentlessly concentrating on the potential of being independent, they tended to neglect the practicalities of becoming independent…Maybe it’s not nimbleness and newness that we need so much as focus and discipline”

    Totally agree with this Peter. It’s no time to get carried away by what we might want to change, or how we can create some sort of utopian society. We need to win independence first. While there is much to admire in some of the radical ideas proposed, the flip side is that they risks scaring off many moderate/conventional voters. The focus and discipline of the SNP is what has got us so far and we ignore this at our peril

  2. Corrado Mella

    It has been said – ad nauseam – that Independence for Scotland is not an end, but the very beginning.

    In a reductio ad absurdum, it could well be the beginning of a new Scottish radical left and the end of the monolithic SNP that, achieved its main goal, could eventually scatter around in its many facets.

    Scottish Independence could also mean a resurgence of a Labour and – why not – space for a Conservative party, but with their own proper Scottish connotations, unaffected by the gravitational pull of England and its sheer numbers.

    In a way, the drive to Scottish Independence is a pipeline, and anyone with a stake in the future Scottish political spectrum should – obtorto collo if it’s the case – squeeze in and push everyone else so we can get out at the other side.

    Once we’ve spilt in the new seas of Independence, every political inclination can climb aboard its own vessel and propose to navigate to its destination, hoping to attract as many passengers as they can.

    Those that can offer safe passage, a pleasant voyage and a nice destination will see us where we want.

    Some won’t start, others sadly will sink in the way, and we will be ready to help. But we need to get to the port of origin first. A place where to start to plot our own route.

  3. Hugh Wallace

    During indyref1 I was massively enthused by the likes of Cat Boyd. I thought it was only me that harboured ideas of such an idealistic nature and it was wonderfully comforting to know I wasn’t actually alone as, for some odd reason, I seem to attract Conservatives and conservative people as friends so am usually the only utopic person in any given conversation. But, even then I knew that pragmatism was the way forward to win the argument for independence. In all the canvassing I did (it was a lot) I know I lost us a few votes (realistically, I didn’t really as they were never going to vote Yes) by bigging up the idea of a more socially just independent Scotland. Some people, many people, are only interested in securing their own vested interests and while I object to that attitude on so many levels I also acknowledge that we need those people to see the benefits to them of an independent Scotland and vote accordingly. (Hopefully a hard Brexit will achieve that for us…)

    Full disclosure, I’ve always voted SNP because independence is the single most important thing that could benefit the Scottish people but I am more naturally inclined towards the Green or socialist side of things. The SNP are a bit too ‘big business’ for me. Or so I thought. But I would have voted for any party offering Independence at any non-violent price so I never really took that much notice of how any of the governments at Scottish or UK levels operated beyond broad terms because it didn’t matter how well they did as it still wouldn’t be as good as I wanted them to. I joined the SNP in 2014 and since then I have paid a lot more attention to the actual policies that the SNP are enacting in government. I realise much more the importance that business plays in shaping a successful society (if you want the tax money to redistribute you need the profits to be made in the first place) and my position has shifted towards the centre. What I see is an SNP government which is doing far more to make the lives of ordinary, not so wealthy, Scots better (or mitigating how bad things could be) than all the rhetoric from more ‘right thinking’ political organisations or individuals has ever achieved in my lifetime.

    What I have come to realise is that CB and her ilk are not really interested in change. For them to be relevant there needs to be poverty and injustice and a massively unfair society to rail against and I’m not even convinced that they truly want Scotland to become independent if it means that they no longer get to stand up and make a lot of noise. They would rather stand on principle than get behind a party that is doing its utmost (in very difficult circumstances) to make real lives better. Too many ‘right thinkers’ of the left cannot see past their narrow ideological frame of reference that they never actually observe or understand what most people want. The radical left are like the Tories and the Labour party which depend on the existence of the other in order to position themselves to win votes. Unfortunately instead of aligning themselves against the hard-right UK Tory government, the radical left-Yessers are aligning themselves against the moderate-centrist SNP. One wonders if this is a deliberate policy so as to undermine the Yes cause or simply stupidity.

    How about we buy the house first, then worry about rearranging the furniture?

    1. brobb

      “What I see is an SNP government which is doing far more to make the lives of ordinary, not so wealthy, Scots better (or mitigating how bad things could be) than all the rhetoric from more ‘right thinking’ political organisations or individuals has ever achieved in my lifetime”

      Well said Hugh, I totally agree

  4. Vestas

    Cat Boyd is interested in Cat Boyd. End of.

    She’s one of the many “Indy-but” commentators who make a living out of the discussion of indy but would suddenly be looking for a new income stream post-indy.

    Want to be “radical”? Do it when your country is independent – it won’t get there with the “radical left” helping the unionists by arguing about stuff WE CAN’T DO NOW!

  5. bringiton

    There is no doubt,as you say Peter,that Project Fear won our referendum and the same tactics were used by both sides of the EU referendum except that it appears fear of foreigners trumped all other arguments.
    The unionists are already lining up the story that Scottish independence will cause even more uncertainty than they already have created,so why bother.
    We have to make the prospect of an extreme right wing government in London in perpetuity the scariest of all ideas for the Scottish electorate (Tories excepted).
    I think that will concentrate minds and swing things in our direction.

    1. David

      “We have to make the prospect of an extreme right wing government in London in perpetuity the scariest of all ideas for the Scottish electorate (Tories excepted).
      I think that will concentrate minds and swing things in our direction”

      Spot on. This is what we need to use to move the old died in the wool slaberites to move from no to yes. We need to make them make a choice not between Unionism and nationalism but between perpetual Tories and an independent Scotland free from Tories.
      We also need to convince the EU nationals living here to get out and vote yes. A significant number of them did not vote in indy1 because they did not believe they had a stake in the fight. This has changed and we really need to counter the majority of English voters living in Scotland who will always be a no and this is a sure way of achieving this. Remember, a small majority of indigenous Scots voted yes. We really need to be focusing on the 20% of voters who are swayable as opposed to the 40% of no voters who will always be no.

  6. BM

    Hugh hits it on the head.
    Voters don’t want to hear about Radical ideas because Radical ideas means change, not always for the better, and that scares ppl..
    What voters want to hear is that their jobs and living standards are safe. That their kids still get educated, our NHS is still free and so on. In other words no Change.
    That was what the No camp offered them, whether this was through lies or threats or whatever it succeeded.
    We, next time round must convince them that these things can only be achieved by independence. Once we achieve that, then Independence can be achieved.
    After Independence has been won and with that the emergence of new parties, then would be the best time for these radical ideas to come forward & further the aims of the country.

  7. Cadogan Enright

    Cat Boyd was one of those so-called ‘yessers’ who riased her voice against challnging the BBC if I recall correctly? But the fun continues

    Scotland https://informscotland.com/bbc-reporting-scotland-bbc-misreporting/

    I’d say Reporting Scotland is challenging The Scotsman in the race to extinction


    And more fun in Stirling and Falkirk today https://informscotland.com/photo-opps-billboards-daily-schedule/

  8. manandboy

    Cat Boyd announced on QT that she did not vote at EU Ref16. For a self proclaimed political activist, that’s not nearly radical enough for me. I prefer people who earn their living from politics, to join the rest us and vote.
    Cat defended herself by claiming solidarity with the 44% of Glaswegians who also didn’t vote on June 23rd 2016. Historically, those Weegies who don’t vote, are not understood as representing the most politically responsible among Glasgow’s electorate.
    Prominent among the Radical Left, Cat may be, with an image that TV producers and newspaper editors like, but then so do a thousand Tories, and they don’t cut it either.

  9. twathater

    I remember that episode M&Boy , I thought to myself what an embarrassment admitting that you didn’t vote on national TV yet wanting people to take your opinion seriously , I must admit I had seen her name mentioned on different blogs with mixed views of her , I was willing to give her the benefit of doubt but unfortunately what I seen on qt was a young lassie so much out of her depth, I am not deriding her as a person as I don’t know what she is like personally but fragmenting or undermining the only CAUSE IE INDEPENDENCE is not on

    INDEPENDENCE FOR SCOTLAND first and FOREMOST then we can all vote according to our beliefs

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