A wee anecdote.
My son Magnus was working today so I claimed his match ticket. Writing this, I’m on the bus heading for the football in Glasgow on the supporters bus. The craic is brilliant, as always. We stop in Girvan to pick up some folk at the Celtic pub. We have a pint while doing so. Naturally.
So I’m having a Guinness when Rab comes over. Rab knows the cut of my gib. Rab is a retired, second generation Scots / Lithuanian Celtic mad Tory voter. Good luck with picking the bones out on that one.
Anyway, he buys me a drink and we’re having the blether. He takes issue with the “Tory Scum” banner that was displayed in Perth ahead of the leadership hustings earlier in the week. “The SNP should know better” he says.
It actually leads to a really good thrash about stuff. I point out it’s not an SNP banner – it’s an anti-Tory / pro-Yes banner. And that actually there’s no reason to conclude that these were SNP members (they probably weren’t). And that around 30% of Labour supporters in Scotland support a second vote on independence. And at least some Tories in Scotland would be up for it – I mean, devolution salvaged a Scottish Tory representation that was precisely zero after being wiped out in the election in 1997. Savvy Scottish Tories will surely be hedging their bets. They’ll be holding office, maybe even parliament office, in the post-indyref era. And, of course, you are free to vote for the Tories (or anyone) in a self-determining Scotland. And free to vote them out. The most exciting thing – we agreed – was finding out what the political consensus was in a Scotland that got a government it actually voted for, rather than a hardline version of one it hadn’t voted for since 1955.
His other objection was with Nicola Sturgeon who “has pissed a lot of people off”. I mentioned that she had an election record that folk would die for and approval ratings that shame just about every significant party leader in the UK. If she’s pissing people off, at least she’s pissing off the right people. Plus, next year we’re voting for a principle – self-determination – and not a person.
So now we’re talking about what you’d want from a leader. What I like about Nicola Sturgeon is her focus on detail – which meant she knew there was a process in which you could write to the Supreme Court and they would be bound to determine the competency or otherwise of Scotgov to call a second plebiscite. Which means that, whatever happens, there’s going to be a democratic process of some description as early as October 19th 2023.
So I got back on the bus and wrote down a few “take-homes”.
1) Rab’s right. The banners – the Tories are deeply objectionable, but displaying them is a tactical own goal. As Napoleon said, never interrupt your enemy when they’re making a mistake.
2) We need this to be primarily about democracy and fairness. We should appeal to what Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature”. At this stage it isn’t about independence – it’s about having the freedom to choose it. That’s something shifts the burden of proof and it’s something that unites us all.
3) Rab and his demographic are the people who will be key to winning the prize next year. Let’s have lots of conversations, in Girvan pubs and everywhere else. Whatever our faults, Scotland does grassroots political discussion brilliantly. What a fabulously interesting and engaged place Scotland is, and what a time it is to be alive.
I’m nearly in Glasgow now.
In every sense, it’s game on.