Gather Ourselves Together

The reaction to the First Minister’s announcement this past Friday has been decidedly mixed. Some considered it a perfectly balanced and ultimately realistic approach; others have criticized it for excessive caution or repetitious platitudes. Where you lie on that sliding scale seems to correlate with how much you trust the SNP, the Scottish Government, and the First Minister, to deliver the intended 2020 timeline for the next Scottish Independence Referendum despite the monolithic obstruction that is the UK Government.

Whatever you thought of the announcement, it is clear that it is beyond time to get things going again. There has been a considerable vacuum left by Yes Scotland since its dissolution three months after the 2014 Referendum. Many groups and initiatives have attempted to fill that void – All Under One Banner, the SNP’s new Yes campaign, the revived Scottish Independence Convention and its Voices for Scotland campaign – but for various reasons, none have truly captured the movement in that sense of united purpose felt in the run up to 2014. Personality conflicts, party dynamics, internecine disagreements, campaign fatigue, and lost momentum have taken their toll on the movement’s structural integrity.

Getting the disparate independence supporting groups together is the primary goal of the National Yes Registry.

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Grassroots vs Astroturf

Here’s a thing that happened on Saturday.

It’s something that’s been controversial for a while, not least because it took place 5 days before a snap General Election – despite the fact the event was organised long before the election was even suggested. Some SNP candidates & supporters asked folk not to attend the rally, but to campaign for their pro-independence candidate in their individual constituencies. Other SNP figures were at the march themselves.

I’ve already written my piece on marches, but it bears repeating again: the SNP is not the Scottish Independence Movement, the SNP serves the Scottish Independence Movement. The SNP candidates are focusing on getting elected, so of course they will be looking for more canvassers, leafleteers, and campaigners. But even if something like 1 in 50 voters in Scotland is a member of the SNP, that means there are an awful lot more independence supporters who aren’t members, maybe not even voters. Obviously some people at the march will be members of the party – but pretending that independence is the sole dominion of the SNP, the Greens, or indeed any or all of the pro-independence parties, is pretending that Scottish Independence is a party-political issue.

And who does that serve?

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London Calling in Moving Pictures


Yesterday, Inverclyde for Independence (aka Aye for Aye, it works on multiple levels) hosted a special screening of London Calling, the documentary adaptation of G.A. Ponsonby’s London Calling: How the BBC stole the Referendum.

I think it’s important to note that the documentary isn’t really for the activists who check Newsnet & Wings at breakfast: there’s nothing new in terms of information in this documentary. What it does have in spades is the power of visual media, which is effective at conveying information in a way that text simply does not. There is something different about when you read about, say, Nick Robinson presenting an incredibly misreading report, and actually seeing the events as recorded and as reported. Another clever technique is juxtaposition of conflicting information, like when audio of a BBC report on the Luxembourg Foreign Minister’s “warning” about Scottish independence plays over the text of the Luxembourg Embassy’s letter which criticises that very report. Great use of dissonance.

Although the information is all well-trodden ground, it all seemed fresh through the use of interviews. We had commentary from prominent independence campaigners, international figures, and more than a few familiar faces, which I won’t spoil for readers (you’ll just have to watch it yourself). The interviews were all conducted to an excellent quality, with each talking head providing valuable thoughts with the benefit of hindsight. To my surprise, there were even explosive computer-generated special effects – literally explosive. All in all, the production values were excellent, to the point where I could easily imagine seeing such a documentary on television (albeit not the BBC, for obvious reasons!)

For criticism, I suppose the only flaw I can think of is unavoidable: even with the wealth of information included, there is always a lot that’s left out of the documentary. Any one of the major events featured could have been expanded into short documentaries of their own: the No Borders Project, the Barroso Gambit, the Robinson Deception, and so on. What’s more, there are many things not included – like the NHS cuts story given near wall-to-wall coverage despite being a complete fabrication – though, of course, there are only so many minutes in an hour.

London Calling does a great job consolidating the most important points of the book in a manageable format. I think staunch independence supporters will enjoy the production values and recalling the memories of the referendum: our audience certainly enjoyed booing a certain former Secretary of State for Scotland in his mercifully brief cameo. But I think it will be particularly valuable for those most important to the continuing campaign for independence – though who are undecided, reluctant, or unconvinced. By presenting the key facts in a highly polished, compelling, and engaging documentary, I really think this will be vital information.

Even now, after all these elections and referendums, there are people who don’t want “propaganda” fed to them – leaflets, magazines, newspapers, whatnot – but who nonetheless feel starved of information. By virtue of not being directed or funded by Yes Scotland, the SNP, or any other governmental or political outfit, London Calling may just be what those voters need.

Winning Independence

Indyref2_Tai Chi

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.

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Metamorphosis & Ecdysis


Right now, the next campaign for Scottish independence is in a state of metamorphosis. Staunch Unionists are now Independence Campaigners; people who mocked and were mocked are now on the same page; our common cause – to do what is best for the people of Scotland – is clearer than it was before.

Plenty of “Was No, Now Yes” supporters don’t want to engage in any flag-waving, anthem-singing, saltire-brandishing displays of patriotic pride: I fully welcome that, as there were plenty of people with that mindset in the first referendum campaign. Other “No to Yes” supporters still love the idea of Britain, its history, its culture, and its people: they, too, are just as welcome, just like English Scots for Yes, EU Citizens for Yes, and more. We’ve had plenty of campaigns alongside Yes Scotland and the SNP who have their own ideas of what independence would look like: RIC, Common Weal, Wealthy Nation, Business for Scotland, the whole gamut of political and economic perspectives. I think a group composed of former No voters, campaigners and activists would be welcomed with open arms.

But where, then, does that leave the original Better Together – what is happening with the No Campaign?

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Why You Should Vote for Stuart McMillan & the SNP

Stuart McMillan MSP from David Newbigging on Vimeo.

There are plenty of great reasons to vote for Stuart McMillan that are applicable to any other SNP candidate. Support Scottish independence? Vote for Stuart McMillan! Support the Council Tax Freeze, abolition of the Bedroom Tax, and the removal of nuclear weapons from Scotland? Vote for Stuart McMillan! Want to keep further education tuition, prescriptions, school meals for young primary children, care for the elderly, and concessionary bus passes free? Vote for Stuart McMillan!

But let’s look at things from a more intimate perspective – to look at the constituency of Greenock & Inverclyde itself. Any SNP MSP can claim credit for SNP policies – but what about Stuart himself? What has he brought to the people of Greenock, Gourock, Port Glasgow, Inverkip, & Wemyss Bay?

In other words…

Why should I vote for Stuart McMillan?

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Staying the Course


I didn’t really want to do a personal blog about Stuart McMillan, the candidate for my area. I figure his record speaks for itself, the polls are good, response on the doorstep has been greatly welcomed. In any case, a personal endorsement seems somewhat redundant, since I’ve included his name and picture on every blog post I’ve done for the past month.

Yet sometimes I remember things. Things from the referendum campaign; the General Election campaign; this campaign. One of these stories occurred to me tonight, as the campaign team met for polling day preparations.

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One Overriding Aim

One Overriding Aim

The aims of the Party shall be:

(a) Independence for Scotland; that is the restoration of Scottish national sovereignty by restoration of full powers to the Scottish Parliament, so that its authority is limited only by the sovereign power of the Scottish People to bind it with a written constitution and by such agreements as it may freely enter into with other nations or states or international organisations for the purpose of furthering international cooperation, world peace and the protection of the environment.

(b) the furtherance of all Scottish interests.

Constitution of the Scottish National Party

Sometimes it’s nice to know that I agree with Unionists on some things. For all the whispers about the SNP “backtracking” on independence, that they “never really wanted a majority/referendum/independence at all,” that it’s all about money and power and influence, it’s good to know that our most determined ideological opponents are fully aware that independence is always foremost to the SNP. Scotland in Union, Unite Against Separation, and all those other organisations who view independence as a profound existential challenge are all too aware that presenting the SNP as “soft” on independence is more dangerous to their cause than to ours – for after 80 years campaigning, no one can seriously claim the SNP are not truly dedicated to Scottish independence. Especially not now, where we are so very close to tipping the balance.

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