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.
I’m confident that Yes will win the referendum. I don’t waste my time wondering about the possibility of a No win: in that eventuality, the embarrassment of being wrong will be the least of my concerns, so why let it occupy my time? But it will be hard work. As I’ve said before, No voters are not the enemy. I want independence for their sake, as well as the Yes voters. I won’t harbour any resentment to No voters at all – they’re the ones who’ve been lied to by Westminster, by their MPs, by everyone caught up in it. The No campaign is nowhere near as great and vibrant on a grassroots level as the Yes campaign.
This is illustrated beautifully by Inverclyde. The port towns of Greenock and Port Glasgow were part of the Red Clydeside, and so part of the very beginning of the Scottish Labour movement – the Massacre on Cathcart Street and subsequent defiance testify Greenock’s involvement in the Radical War, John Maclean himself wrote a pamphlet specifically for “the Greenock Jungle.” So naturally Inverclyde has never fully let go of its Labour past, even when the party itself has left them behind. As such, since Labour opposes independence and the SNP, it follows that Inverclyde would be No. Indeed, we were told fairly early on that Yes would not “win” Inverclyde – we would have to try our best, but our little corner of Scotland would probably be red on Referendum Night. You’d think, then, that Inverclyde would be lost to the Yes Movement: a sea of No Thanks, Better Together, No Borders, and I’m Voting No posters perhaps punctuated by some forlorn Yes.
That’s not what I’ve been seeing. Of course, we see the very occasional No Thanks – there’s even one on my own street – and Gourock and Kilmacolm will be a struggle. But Greenock, Port Glasgow and Inverkip have never lost their socialist ground, and many Labour supporters have come to realise that it is only independence which will see the excesses of New Labour stripped back to Labour’s original roots – True Labour. The SNP have made significant gains, only barely losing out in the last Holyrood election, and the SSP have a foothold.
But this is most obvious in the people. It’s often said there’s a silent majority of No voters who will carry the day of the referendum: well, if No does indeed have such a large presence in Inverclyde, it’s very quiet indeed. We have a dedicated core of a dozen or so coordinators, and about forty regular activists and campaigners. The No campaign seem to struggle to reach double digits. Pro-independence activists are unpaid volunteers; pro-Union volunteers have been offered £25, plus £10 expenses. Our canvassing has shown support for independence consistently in the 40s, while support for the union hovers in the 20s and 30s – leaving a very large proportion of undecideds compared to most polls. When Nicola Sturgeon came to Gourock, the meeting was open to all regardless of voting intention; when Alistair Darling came to Greenock, it was by invitation only.
Yet this is not enough. There are around 56,000 people in the electorate of Inverclyde (44,000 assuming an 80% turnout): that means we’ll have to get around 28,000 (or 23,000) to win Inverclyde over for Yes. 50 regular campaigners for tens of thousands of people is not enough. The Better Together campaign have the coffers of the British Establishment and the vast majority of the UK press on their side, and the (officially registered) support of the Orange Order, who continue to maintain a presence in Inverclyde. Inverclyde Council has already banned referendum signs on public property – which includes lampposts and other “street furniture” – in a move that would be unusual were this council not already rather unusual.
We may have more genuine grassroots. We may have international support. We may even be ahead in the polls for the first time since the official campaign started, with only 11 days to go, and the momentum still with us. But it is not enough.
My little Wilderness of Peace has reached 80,000 views in the past week alone: with such a great audience, I hope to spread this message to the people of my home constituency and beyond. That message is we have not yet won. The British Establishment will stop at nothing to keep Scotland in Westminster’s clutches – history has shown that. I know that Yes supporters who already campaign have no time for complacency – their dedication is beyond reproach. But for those who have never mustered the gumption to canvass, deliver, donate, or otherwise contribute to the campaign, I implore with you: act now.
Get canvassing. It’s not as difficult as you might think: treat people like reasoning, thinking, compassionate beings, and you’ll do fine. Always go canvassing in pairs, or more: regardless of how dedicated you are, your personal safety must always come first. Passion is good, but aggression or hostility helps no-one. Gen yourself up on the literature: get yourself a copy of the Wee Blue Book and keep it on hand at all times, take copies of it to give to undecideds or Soft Nos. Yes Inverclyde has a number of copies, including larger-print copies suitable for those with eyesight problems, and we’ll be giving them out. Most importantly of all, listen to what the people have to say. Listen to their questions, their worries, their concerns, their hopes and fears. If you can answer them, great: if you can’t, then make a note of it, and do your best to get back to them when you do know.
Get leafleting. There are many pieces of campaign literature from all dimensions of the campaign, from official Yes Scotland to Labour for Indy, Scottish Socialists, Radical Independence, and more. Have a lot of English diaspora in your area? Get in touch with English Scots for Yes. Poles? Polish for Yes. Pakistanis, Indians, Bangladeshis? Scots Asians for Yes. Chances are there is a dedicated pro-independence campaign specifically tailored to just about any community in Scotland. And, again, get yourself a copy of the Wee Blue Book.
Get donating. Mony a mickle maks a muckle, an that’s nae mistake! Yes Inverclyde’s shop recently had a Fun Day to raise funds for the final week of intensive campaigning. I’ve created art for the shop, with all proceeds going fully to the campaign, including a limited 18-print run of 9 independence-related satirical cartoons, on display and available for purchase at the shop itself:
Get contributing. The time for politics to be a private matter is past – this is the most important decision to be made in the history of the United Kingdom, we cannot afford to keep our heads down. Of course we cannot force people to discuss anything they do not wish to talk about – that’s their prerogative – but the more people talk about independence in an open and friendly setting, the more comfortable the politically-shy may feel about opening up about their concerns. Politics being a private matter has been very useful for the establishment: “keep your head down, don’t talk about politics, don’t think too much about it – just carry on voting for what your dad and grandad voted for, everything will be fine.” But we can’t let the norms of a past generation scupper the hopes of our future.
Westminster’s panic following the 51-49 Yougov poll announcement is illustrative of the potential Scotland has, of the power of the Scottish Giant. Why would they keep bribing Scots with more powers only when support for independence increases? We’ve seen it in 1979, in 1997, and we’re seeing it now. Devolution is simply a larger, more comfortable cage in which to imprison the Scottish Giant. Devomax is allowing the giant to see how weak the bars holding it in are, and offers a view of the whole wide world beyond its jail. But up until now, the Scottish Giant has been sleeping, sedated, tranquillised, by the British establishment, who must keep it in a state of perpetual torpor, or risk it realising it has been imprisoned – and filling it with terrible resolve. Once the Scottish giant has risen again and shattered its manacles, the Welsh, Irish, and English giants will follow. For Wales, Northern Ireland and England are in their own prison – if only they knew it. And then, the giants of other nations will see and hear what has happened in the British Isles, and start to rouse themselves from their sleep.
We have another 11 days to rouse the sleeping giant.