Here’s the thing. I was following the online stuff about Angus Robertson’s new pro-independence think tank, “Progress” and was about to sign up and pay my few quid a month – but I still haven’t done it. Allow me to try to articulate some thoughts as to why this is so.
Firstly, if we’re being honest, few if any of us got into this for think thanks and surveys and focus groups. We got into it because we believe in an independent Scotland. End of. And by asking people, “so, what worries you about an independent Scotland?” immediately presupposes that there are things to be worried about, when really there aren’t.
What we should be worried about is the imposition of martial law, food and medicine shortages, the suspension of the Scottish Parliament by emergency post-Brexit measures and a tanking of the economy that by definition weakens our ability to be independent. Asking people about their pensions seems an absurdly timid response. When the ship is about to hit the iceberg, you don’t argue about the make and model of the lifeboat. You get on board, reach dry land and then start from there.
It reminds me of an episode of Father Ted – the one where the philandering Pat Mustard has put a bomb under Dougal’s milk float – with the glaiket Dougal at the wheel. The priests call an emergency meeting. Their response? We’d better just say Mass. I have to be honest with you. When the movement suggests a survey, information gathering, a “fresh conversation”? Something inside me dies a little. I suspect I’m not alone in that.
I think what we need to do is shift the burden of proof. By that I mean two things. Firstly, pointing out the chasm between what was promised (keeping HMRC jobs, frigate orders, renewable subsidies and EU membership) and what was delivered (the loss of the first three of those things and most probably the fourth – although that’s up to us) isn’t project fear. It’s just pointing out what has been carried out, in our name, in plain sight, by people who have long since stopped pretending that they like us. If we hang around any longer we’ll look like the abused spouse who keeps going back, thinking he’ll change, finally, this time. It will look suspiciously like acquiescence.
Secondly, by “changing the burden of proof”, what I mean is that we need to ask those who continue to support the union what on earth is so good about it. Try this – ask any No or Undecided: name me three things that Scotland currently does that it couldn’t do if it were independent? Because there are none. From there, the conversion is: “and what’s more, look at all the stuff we could do, if only we had the powers that independence automatically brings us”.
Finally, I think the whole Progress thing is predicated on a false premise – that we need a clear lead in the polls before we kick off the second and, whatever the result, final campaign. We don’t. We started last time at 27%. We were briefly at 52% before they realised that their lies and threats weren’t working and had to pretend to like us as well – hence the “vow” (which broke purdah, not that that matters if you are part of the establishment).
This time we start from a 45% base that is rock-solid. But I believe it will only rise with the oxygen of a proper campaign. It won’t go anywhere in a phoney war: indeed, we need to ask what happens if we don’t call it? Momentum will disappear like air out of a tyre. It may never return.
History shows that, when the tide is in your favour, you have to ride the wave, scary as it looks. In short then, timing is irrelevant. Independence is either a good idea or it’s not. There will never, ever be a more propitious set of circumstances to call for and to win our independence. We cannot boast then cower, fiddling while Rome burns. We don’t have time to have long meaningful conversations with people. That’s for after we become independent, when the discussion moves on from a constitutional base to a political one – what do we want this brave new world to look like? Who are we? If we don’t do this, what does this say about us? What do I tell my weans? And theirs? That I had a chance to make a difference but bottled it. That I was worried about my pension. That I genuinely couldn’t be bothered.
But we can’t do anything until we are free from the Westminster death spiral. Which is why there should be only one question worth asking:
Should Scotland be an independent country?
Answer that one correctly and everything is available to us. The rest is noise.
There is no time to lose. Let’s finish this.
Fully agree Alec – when I saw that announcement my first thought was ‘why?’… and then ‘why should we spread our attention (or funds) and activity around more and more ‘initiatives’…I’ve signed up to the BfS Ambassador programme and am active in our DGP4Indy group (that one asks for not a penny – relying on donations so far) …there’s no shortage of Indy-supporting groups which do need good information but, as you say/imply, we’re probably at the point where it would be best to go with ‘Independence is Normal – what else do you really need to know’ ..backed up by the failings of and robbery by Westminster, for those who do need that little bit extra …’nuff said…
Agreed. This is my view as well. Also I feel it’s too little too late from SNP side, they’ve left the grassroots to do the work but are now starting a think tank called ‘progress’ at what must be the very last minute
Alec, there is a phrase”information is everything” and I think this nitration informs the independence movement. It’s not the only thing that’s happening, but surely this is one of the many parallel things that we as a movement should be supporting. I don’t think there is a silver bullet single task, but let’s move forward on multiple fronts.
Keep up the articles. Great journalism and wonderfully written.
Can I correct the spelling mistake. “Nitration” should read “information”. Sorry.
I largely agree and have many of the same reservations. This type of information gathering ought to have been ongoing, at the very least since the kick up the backside the SNP got when losing 20 or so MPs. If it is a ploy to inveigle dithering individuals or to appeal to a demographic largely immune at present to other appeals, then fine. But if there really is a dearth of knowledge to underpin another Indy campaign I’m out of here in another year at most if the FM keeps sitting on the fence with a ‘possible referendum ‘. I’m too old to keep supporting the many Indy activists and their crowdfunders forever. The present Westminster government will weaken Holyrood in every way it can over the next year or so. If Indy is not announced soon there will not only be a loss of momentum there may well be no means of having a legally approved referendum or staying in the EU.
With all the attention given the proclaimed injustice to Venezuela’s citizens, it should make it easier to point out to the world how Scotland has been treated unjustly by Westminster. I don’t believe you need to work as hard convincing the people of Scotland, who only need to look at the list of broken promises from 2014. But you must convince convince the rest of the world to stand with Scotland so England understands to keep it’s hands off. The global news media has never been sympathetic, at least not in the USA. That is where any shortfalls of needed supplies should be requested from as foreign/humanitarian aid. I realize it is impossible to feed everyone with urban agriculture and “victory gardens” but it would be good for moral and community spirit to try. AS for martial law, I would suggest a voluntary constabulary force step in where there might develop a shortage of law enforcement, one loyal to Edinburgh and composed of retired or former police and military who will be compensated after independence. Leaving no vacuum for Westminster to install it’s own loyalists before a second referendum occurs.
A very well written and informative article, I share most of the thoughts expressed here, including the perceived lack of urgency by the SNP. I realise that Holyrood is hamstrung by the restrictions imposed on its inception, but think they should be much further advanced on independence. As it stands we have barely enough time to hold a referendum in the case of a No Deal Brexit, and wonder if it would be as corrupted a result as the last one (postal votes, Yes votes on the No pile, etc.). I hope the SNP would dissolve the Union immediately on a No Deal Brexit becoming inevitable, followed by adoption of the new Constitution and a Holyrood election later. The EU have already expressed support for Scotland.