The Agony and the Ecstasy

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Two weeks on. This may be the last post I make for a while. I cannot say how long it will be until I return: I still need a few days to collect myself after all that’s happened over the past two years of my life. It’s been the proverbial roller-coaster of ups and downs. I think I’ll be taking a break from life in general. Read some books. Draw. Finish Bannockburn - lord knows if anything needs finished, it’s that. Play video games. I can’t remember the last time I played Skyrim.

But before I leave, I would like to impart my experiences of the 18th and the early hours of the 19th of September, 2014, as I saw them.

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For As Long As A Hundred Of Us Remain Alive

Yes InverclydeYou can’t put out all our candles.

If I had any regrets throughout this campaign, it’s that I was too openly optimistic. I do not regret believing that Yes would win, not for a single second – any second spent worrying about a No vote was a second wasted in misery and despair. So I put it out of my mind. But I do regret that I thought everybody had this exact same mindset. I truly believed that once galvanised with the belief in independence, every single Yes voters would be like me, and all the people I’ve come to truly love at Yes Inverclyde. I truly believed that it would be a Yes vote, because I couldn’t understand anyone who came into the shop not being willing to stand on their feet for close on 20 hours. I shouldn’t have simply trusted in that. At the end of the day, we needed boots on the ground. We simply didn’t have enough of them – if we had even a hundred of us at Yes Inverclyde, we could’ve soared.

I’m so sorry to all who’ve lost hope. But all I have to say is to look to Inverclyde. We are 1.5% of Scotland, which is amazingly close to the 1% Scotland is compared to the European Union – makes you feel a bit like Scotland in miniature. In our area, the 16-29 year old demographic is 16.6% of our population – 18.3% is the average for Scotland. The significance of this is a smaller amount of potential young voters who seem to have been more likely to vote Yes – and the Lord Ashdown post-referendum poll bears that out. Sadly, at the other end of the scale, the 60+ demographic are 25.6% of our population, while the rest of Scotland’s is 23.7% – and again, the Lord Ashdown post-referendum poll shows that the 60+ are much more likely to vote No. You’re looking at almost 5% of the vote. Or, in real terms, there are 20,000 60+ voters within the Inverclyde electorate, but we are lacking 3,000 16-29 within the electorate. So, we have about 2,000 extra older people compared to the Scottish average.

With these demographics, we were predicted to get 20% Yes. We have a higher than average elderly population, and lower than average young population. We were all told we weren’t going to take Inverclyde – we just had to do the best we could, get as many Yes voters as we could for the overall count. We’d have to steel ourselves with the reality that we’d lose the battle, but hope to win the war.

Final results? It was so close only 86 people decided the count. Out of 54,572, we got 27,243 – statistically a dead heat, to the point where we needed two recounts. Far from the “resounding” victory our soon-to-be-ex MPs and MSPs assert, Inverclyde’s No majority was a wafer-thin 0.2%. If we canvassed Kilmacolm and Quarriers’ Village (which were not included in our region, it was given to Renfrew – for some reason canvassing was done by Holyrood regions but the polling by Westminster, or maybe the reverse, I still haven’t slept much), I can practically guarantee Yes would’ve taken a substantial proportion of the No votes they returned. If you consider only the areas Yes Inverclyde did canvass, then Yes Inverclyde did win.

Yes Inverclyde tanned No’s hide, bloodied its nose, blackened its eyes, rattled its bones, fought to the absolute finish. We went the 15 rounds.  They came into this fight expecting to crush us, to sail to a comfortable 70% or 80%. They had the might of Westminster, every single daily newspaper in Scotland (including the Greenock Telegraph despite its protestations of “impartiality”), the entire British media, the wealth of billionaires, a campaign of despicable lies, and the substantial support of the Orange Order on their side. We had about 20 regular campaigners and another 30 grassroots, and a wee shop on Cathcart Street for the last few months. When all was said and done, Inverclyde went from a “2 out of 10″ in expectations for a Yes vote, into the 6th best percentage for the whole of Scotland. They could only scrape by with a mere 86 votes out of 54,572. 0.16%.

My heart goes out to all who’ve lost hope, whose candle of hope has been snuffed out, but mine hasn’t. Nor has the hope of any of my friends at Yes Inverclyde. But we’re not going to win based on the good intentions of sympathetic Yes voters, or moral support from outside observers. That is the lesson of the referendum for me, a variation on something Elbert Hubbard once said: “Those who say it cannot be done should stop interrupting those who are getting it done.” Far too many were interrupting us, and not nearly enough of us were getting it done. Let us learn from this lesson.

“As long as a hundred of us remain alive…”

There are a hell of a lot more than a hundred of us yet.

One Week To Change The World

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It seems all of a sudden, the world has noticed us. The news has been near constant in its appraisals and comments on the referendum. A single YouGov poll showing the merest of Yes leads – a mere 51% – has thrown the entire United Kingdom upside down. The masters of the three Westminster parties have marshalled their forces and flown to Scotland. The Big Beasts of Labour have risen to shake their awful manes at the calling of the Establishment. Heralds have been sent to the Tory Elders of the Shires to mobilize. The UKIP contingent are consolidating their power as the Orange Order prepares the greatest march in the group’s history. All to stop the Scots from voting for independence.

The fearmongering has failed to stop the growth of the Yes movement. The bargaining has failed to sway the reluctant. The lies have failed to obscure the truth.

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Rousing the Sleeping Giant

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September falls roughly between two important Gaelic harvest festivals: Lughnasadh, the beginning of the harvest, and Samhain, the end of harvest and beginning of the “dark half” of the year. It is a time of change – historically, culturally, and climatically. People prepare for change in September.

Across the water from my home dwells a sleeping giant. Such slumbering titans are common in world mythology: given humanity’s penchant for pareidolia, it’s natural such breathtaking views as the Firth of Clyde would transform the hills of Argyll into a great green-breasted goliath. Giants abound in Scottish mythology: Benandonner was the most infamous, as the destroyer of the Giant’s Causeway and rival to the Irish giant-hero Finn McCool; the descendants of Beira in the story of Finlay and the Giants; the Big Grey Man of Ben MacDhui. Many locations in Scotland are associated with giants – the Giant’s Cave of Tail Burn; the Giant’s Cairns at Old Deer; the Giant’s Chair at Dullane Water; the Giant’s Dyke hill fort at Tonlgnad; the many Giant’s Graves of Shetland, Colonsay, Argyll, and Perthshire; the Giant’s Leg of Bressay Island; and the Giant’s Steps of Pitlochry.

But the giant which must be woken from its dreams in September is not a mythological creature – it is the power and will of the people of Scotland, whose voice has been stifled for too long.

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No More Lies


Your metal soundtrack for the post is provided by Iron Maiden

To anyone who’s only just becoming involved in the campaign for Scottish Independence, it can be extremely difficult for longtime campaigners, or even folk like me (I only really started campaigning properly about the time the referendum was announced), to elucidate to complete newcomers exactly what it’s all about. There’s just so much to say! Democracy, accountability, equality, social justice, environmentalism, identity, anything and everything. It’s particularly difficult when undecideds bring up the “big issues” as dictated to them by the UK establishment: what currency will we use? What about our pensions? What about jobs? All things you’ll read in Better Together literature.

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So I got this through the door yesterday. Crumpled, bashed, rudely handled, I dared to imagine the courier: an angry youth? An impatient jobseeker? A Liverpudlian bussed up courtesy of Anas Sarwar? Whoever it was, they didn’t seem to care if it got battered about.*

As with Alistair Darling’s visit, it’s one thing for you to see this on the television or the internet, even out on posters and billboards on the road to Glasgow. But to have this in your home, intruding on your personal space… Well, how best to explain to people who have no idea of anything about the referendum exactly why my immediate reaction was to wonder what the most insulting origami creature I could make from the leaflet? Their nonsense has been discredited hundreds of times by now, by the indefatigable Wings Over Scotland, NewsNet Scotland, Bella Caledonia, National Collective, Craig Murray, Derek Bateman, Paul Kavanagh… really, too many to list. Then I thought: this leaflet may well encapsulate everything wrong about Better Together for me. To my utter amazement, I believe a case could be made that every single statement in this leaflet is wrong. But it more than just wrong, as in inaccurate or in error – it is a lie. It is deliberate. It is concerted.

I know, I know, how could that possibly be true? Even the most fraudulent of politicians have some sort of basis in truth, don’t they? Surely the entire Better Together campaign has something going for it, some genuine points in favour of the Union? It seems completely irrational that the side which is still currently ahead in most polls is so tenuously gossamer-thin. Yet as far as I’m concerned, it is.

So I’ve decided all I can do now, after years of explaining, is to be perfectly and utterly blunt. I will go through this leaflet, and explain why everything in it is not only incorrect, but dishonest, and be as concise and uncompromising as possible.

PEOPLE OF SCOTLAND – THEY ARE LYING TO YOU.

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Mony a Mickle Maks a JINGS CRIVVENS HELP MA BOAB

When I started out on this political-ish blog, I tended to average half a dozen or so viewers. I was very happy to have those regular readers, especially so early on.

My best post in terms of viewership was a wee while back, when a Facebook share brought 187 viewers. No bad, thought I: I didn’t expect them to stick around long, but my average went up to a dozen or thereabouts.

Monday’s when it all changed. Shares on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit brought 1,771 new visitors to the site. Jings, thought I: I dearly hope I can keep enough interested readers to stay for a while, maybe even a few dozen regular commentators.

On Tuesday, I was at the Yes Inverclyde Shop from 12 to 10, helping those last unregistered voters get on the electoral role (and trust me, there’s more on that to come). So I couldn’t check to see if my latest blog post on Alistair Darling’s trip to the Beacon had more success.

24,884.

That’s 24,884 people. From all across the UK – all across the world, for that matter. They came here. To read my wee blog.

Why this particular blog, I have no idea: I didn’t feel any different writing it, and I don’t know whose eye I caught. But regardless of why and how, I thank you, one and all, most sincerely, for coming by and reading – even those who disagree with what I say. I couldn’t have dreamed for such a viewership, and I shall endeavour to make my blog worth returning to: my misadventures in Yes campaigning, my further thoughts on democracy and such.

As of right now, 20,388 more people have visited the blog. And I didn’t even think to post a funny cat picture.