I’ve been an SNP man for all my voting life, and I owe it all to my mother. My family are from a very work-conscious background, albeit not necessarily working class, so they were big Labour voters. My mother, however, has been dedicated to the SNP since she could vote. She was there for “It’s Scotland’s Oil,” she stuck through the ridicule for their “paranoia” (later vindicated, and to this day there are files regarding the SNP still sealed for reasons of “national security”), the fractures of Siol nan Gaidheal and the first SSP, where nobody took them seriously.
I was disillusioned early on: I saw what Blair did with New Labour, the Conservatives were the Conservatives, and as soon as I heard Charles Kennedy say he would’ve supported the invasion of Afghanistan (but not Iraq), I knew I couldn’t vote for the Lib Dems in any conscience. The only party which represented my values at the time was the SNP, and I would be damned if I would vote tactically if it meant supporting a war that could never achieve its aims. Right now, little has changed: I’m still an SNP man, and in the event of independence, I don’t know if I could stomach any of the Westminster parties’ regional branches in Scotland continued existence.
But that’s not to say I’m SNP only – on the contrary, I greatly value alternative parties. We NEED them. My views, my values, my favoured policies are my own – but not everyone shares them. So there needs to be more parties which reflect the views, values, and favoured policies of the rest of the populace. The Westminster style is of The Government and The Opposition, a dualistic approach that treats the governance of society like a bitter game. The Scottish parliament is different, despite the best efforts of its Westminster branches: the more reasonable members and ministers work together for the betterment of Scotland.
That is why I’m an SNP supporter who’s also a proud and unreserved admirer of the Greens, the SSP, and particularly groups like Radical Independence Campaign. I have many agreements and disagreements with all these parties, but I most assuredly respect them as genuine differences of opinion – not the cynically musteline pseudo-beliefs of the vote-chasers in Westminster. The foundations for a new kind of politics are already here in Scotland: what about a new kind of electorate?
I attended Indyclyde, a fundraising event on the 18th of April in my home town. I’ve become vaguely pally with several of the organisers, including the astounding Sean Paul O’Connor. This is a young man with the combination of vision, passion and intellect who can challenge the state of the world: if he was born in 334 B.C. he’d give Alexander the Great a run for his money. So with no small support from his equally passionate mother and the RIC, Indyclyde attracted 150 people for a night of speakers, comedy, song and good cheer – certainly enough for a big shiny banner!
We had talks from Shona MacAlpine, Johnathan Shafti and Cat Boyd; comedy from Nessa Johnstone & Callum Rodgers; music from Zara Gladman (of Lady Alba fame!) and a whole medley of bands; a general night of boisterous merriment. Zara even serenaded me for a bit! I spent most of the evening outside chatting, though, couldn’t really hear anything inside.
Big social gatherings are far from my thing. If you called me an introvert, I’d ask you how the hell you broke into my underground vault. But I made the effort, because things like this are important – and there’s something different about Yes events which puts all my social anxieties and fears completely at rest. Everyone there, from all walks of life, all backgrounds, creeds, ethnoi and nationality, could rely on one thing – they all agreed on Scotland’s nationhood. It’s a pretty great icebreaker, if nothing else: “so, how did you come to the conclusion that Scots should govern themselves?”
It can be a bit overwhelming. Being in the company of people where you knew, if absolutely nothing else, you weren’t going to disagree with them on the matter of Scottish Independence, is an incredible feeling. I felt that if tensions ever got high, we could just remember what we were here for: any tension was floundered by the tide of passion.
And passion it is: whenever a gentleman spoke on independence, I felt the part of my mind which locked in the determination to march through the Gates of Fire by their side. Whenever a woman spoke, I fell the same rush of love and mad adoration that almost saw my knee bend reflexively as I rummaged in my pocket for a phantom engagement ring. (Profuse apologies to Shona, Cat and Zara!) It was love, love I felt for these people: manifested slightly differently (I didn’t want to marry any of the gentlemen, though maybe it was just that none of them were my type), but love all the same.
This is what struck me the most: when was the last time I felt that kind of shared community united by a common political aim? I’ve felt it at Howard Days, where people all across the world congregate in little Cross Plains, Texas to talk about their favourite author; I’ve felt it at conventions, gatherings, and others meetings for similar purposes. But for politics? This was new to me – why? After a generation or more of concerted disenfranchisement by the Westminster machine, where low turnouts suit them just fine, the idea of politics being corrupt, self-serving and cynical was normalised. People started to believe that it was always this way – and that it always would be so.
Sean Paul O’Connor showed otherwise. Cat Boyd showed otherwise. Politics in Scotland is already changing – regardless of the vote in September, a new Scotland is coming. A Scotland where the people are more and more engaged in the running of their own affairs; a Scotland where politics unites rather than divides communities; a Scotland that welcomes and integrates rather than shun and partition. An independent Scotland will simply ratify this change, make it certain, make it official.