I know I said I didn’t want to give the Other Party any more advertising, but sometimes, something comes along that just minces yer heid.
It seems everyone has their own ideas about “what went wrong” in the first referendum campaign. That’s good: it shows a movement with many different points of view and interpretations of the campaign. It’s also extremely necessary, as I’ve become more and more aware that the vast majority of the independence movement – that is, the voters themselves – may not have actually campaigned for a single day throughout the first referendum. This is not a criticism: it is the current political reality in the UK, where only a small proportion of party voters will be members, and a smaller proportion still will be active members who go out and leaflet, canvass, and campaign. We’re still recovering from decades of disenfranchisement and disillusionment, to the point where Scotland’s turnout in the EU referendum can be criticised for being “low” despite it being the second highest of any referendum Scotland has participated in.
I cannot place blame or fault in those people. In another reality, I could easily have spent the most important months of our nation’s history at home, occasional comments on internet forums and online articles being the extent of my contributions towards the cause. I know I spent most of my adolescence on the periphery of Scottish politics: I kept out because I felt a lack of knowledge, a dearth of confidence, and a general antipathy towards politics in general. Given the quality of the brave new era of the reconvened Scottish Parliament was the myopic mediocrity of the Scottish Executive, can you blame me?
So, I decided to do something about it, and got involved following the official launch of Yes Scotland. After the referendum, I joined the SNP, and got involved in the last two elections, as well as the European Union Referendum. Having campaigned for the last four years practically non-stop, sometimes I forget that this is something I’ve come to fairly recently in life – sometimes I forget that not everyone who voted Yes, or SNP, or Remain, was as madly political as I was.
So, since we’re all talking about how to win the surely-inevitable indyref2, I thought I’d share some of my observations from the last four years of campaigning.
There’s an old saying about my birth month: March comes in like a lion, and goes out like a lamb. It refers to how the weather in early March tends towards the savage and cold, while the end of the month is warm and clement.
The same could be said of the 30th of July’s March for Independence, in many ways.
The number of times a Trident submarine has had some sort of calamity would be hilarious if it wasn’t so utterly horrifying.
How many times have you read, or heard, some variation of “Nicola Sturgeon doesn’t speak for me” or “the SNP don’t speak for Scotland?” Usually it’s by people who didn’t vote for the SNP. Frequently it’s by people who include non-voters on their side, making preposterous arguments that the SNP are in fact only representing a “tiny minority” of Scots when you include people who didn’t – or couldn’t – go to the ballot box.
I understand when people say that the First Minister, the Scottish Government, or the SNP as a party don’t represent their beliefs, interests, or policies. That’s the nature of party politics. But to say they do not speak for Scotland is rather confusing: for if the democratically elected First Minister, or the democratically elected Scottish Government, or the third largest party in the British Isles, do not speak for Scotland… then who, exactly, does? The next largest party in the Scottish Parliament has barely over a fifth of the popular vote. Same with the third largest, which has been plummeting every year since the Scottish Parliament reconvened. The former third largest party in the UK is now the smallest party in the Scottish Parliament, with less than a tenth of the voters’ support.
Much is made, fairly so, about the SNP gaining 95% of Scottish seats in Westminster based on 50% of the vote. Nonetheless, the SNP candidates in no less than 35 of those constituencies won on an overall majority – which means that 59% of all Scottish seats were represented by individuals with over 50% of the constituency vote. None of the three non-SNP seats were won on anything like such a majority – only a few thousand votes, and Scotland would be entirely yellow.
Nonetheless, social attitudes surveys show that there are situations where the response from those interviewed suggested a divergence between the electorate and the elected. One of these is Trident – and it’s something I think we seriously need to talk about.
I unfortunately caught a bit of Reporting Scotland yesterday. Scotland’s economy “failed to grow” in the first quarter of the year, because low oil prices put “a real spanner in the works”; unemployment was down, but so was the UK’s as a whole, so it isn’t that big a deal; yesterday’s thunderstorms cause transport problems, which naturally means economic chaos. Money, money, money. The price of everything, the value of nothing. This, concurrent with much crowing from British Nationalists as they contort George Kerevan MP’s statement about an independent Scotland needing to “cut its budget coat to fit its fiscal means” – surely a metaphor that could just as easily substitute “cut” for “tailor” or “alter” – into some sort of tacit admission that Better Together were right all along.
Then I learned about exactly how much money the BBC gains from Scottish license fees, and how much it spends here.
That the BBC faces an existential crisis in the event of Scottish Independence is one thing: you could argue that even if the UK as we understand it now ceases to exist, the actual island of Great Britain would still be there. But here, we see exactly what the BBC thinks of Scotland – and how much it is willing to put back into Scotland. Scots contribute £320.1 million, only to get £98.1 million spent on “local content” – that is, Scottish content.
Bear with me for a moment while I talk about a weird internet series, and how it relates to the state of the BBC today.
So goes the meme, that about a quarter of people recorded as voting Yes in 2014 are estimated to have voted Leave in 2016. I don’t know why British nationalists are so triumphant about it: do they think that quarter of Yes voters are going to vote for the UK over the EU or something? Evidently a fair amount of them must be independence supporters who thought that voting Leave would bring their goal of independence closer to reality.
Now whatever could have given them that idea?