Yesmas Ceilidh

I’m still extremely proud of Yes Inverclyde’s achievement during the referendum: if our almost 20 point increase from predicted result (20%) to actual result (49.9%) was replicated in every Scottish constituency, we would’ve walked it. But while the referendum is over, the struggle for Scotland’s future continues.

YESmas

So, I’m going to use my wilderness to for a bit of local promotion. On the 13th of December, Yes Inverclyde is hosting a fundraiser to raise money for the next few months, up to about the General Election period.

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Independence Live in Inverclyde

Independence Live

Once again the Eye of Independence roved over to Inverclyde – this time, Independence Live staged an event at the Crawfurdsburn centre in Greenock. Imbedding is disabled, but you can view the video on Youtube.*

A number of important & influential figures from Yes Inverclyde were present: at the table were Ronnie Cowan, campaign manager and Our Supreme Leader; Gary Forbes, Port SSP revolutionary and Yes Inverclyde Shop stalwart; Jenn McClafferty, one of the many Labour supporters who’ve torn up their membership cards in the wake of New Labour’s antics; and Mary McGlashan, one of the heid Women for Independence Inverclyde division. A number of others, such as Fiona Cook (formerly of Labour for Independence) and Ian Ramsey (formerly of the SNP) were present and contributed. Microphone duty was handled by some bearded longhair in a leather jaikit.**

Topics of discussion ranged from how to bring the message of Yes to the 55% (in our area 50.1%), disagreements on just how evil New Labour are and how much hatred of them is preferable, whether we should keep up the positive campaign or start scaring the wits out of No voters with the reality of a No vote, pros and cons of a Yes Alliance, stories and anecdotes from their times in the referendum campaign, and the occasional interjection of percentages and number crunching from that bearded guy. Most of all, though, were great suggestions of ways to move forward, how to engage and enrich the community, and what to do next.

*Link updated. An earlier version of this post linked to the “raw footage” which started recording before the meeting itself took place.

**Also should point out: at around the 48m mark, bearded gentleman mentioned an MP discussing the closure of the Clyde coastguard station – the MP in question was actually Iain McKenzie, not Jim Murphy. In fairness, you can see how the two could be mixed up:

Iain McKenzie & Jim Murphy. Or Jim Murphy & Iain McKenzie?

Iain McKenzie & Jim Murphy. Or Jim Murphy & Iain McKenzie?

The Agony and the Ecstasy

Inverclyde_Vote_Result

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.

Rousing the Sleeping Giant

cropped-holyloch.jpg

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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You Can’t Shut Us Up

Inverclyde_Council Offices

“Inverclyde Cooncil Chambers. Ye will ne’er airt oot a mair wratchit byke o’ flot an deeviltry. We maun be caitious.” Big-Wan Kenobie

Why are politicians among the few occupations you cannot have sacked for incompetence?

Just about every other profession – doctor, researcher, engineer, accountant, butcher, baker, candlestick-maker – relies upon the competence of the individual. If a doctor regularly misdiagnoses or wrongfully prescribes medication, they are struck off the register. If an engineer screws up in calculations or measurements, they’re given the heave-ho. If a candlestick-maker’s wares accidentally start an inferno, they’d likely be fired. So why is it that politicians can only be persuaded to step down when they wreak untold havoc upon communities through incompetence, corruption or sheer wrong-headedness? Why must it come to outright illegal activity before action is taken to remove them?

It’s no coincidence that another two jobs from which you seemingly cannot be terminated as a direct result of inability are journalists and bankers. And it’s no coincidence that the three occupations which seem most profoundly opposed to Scottish independence are politicians, journalists, and bankers.

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Adventures in Canvassing

Erm, no, not THAT kind of canvas...

Erm, no, not THAT kind of canvas…

It’s one thing to rant online about independence: it’s quite another getting out onto the street and conversing with folk in a public setting. So for a good few months now, I’ve been getting involved. I’ve attended meetings for organisations as diverse as Radical Independence Campaign and Christians for Independence; I’ve handed out leaflets at stalls; I’ve delivered newspapers, and have the ink-blackened hands to prove it. And I’ve had a brilliant time doing so, meeting all sorts of people from all angles of the upcoming referendum, engaging with the people in the area I live in to a degree I never felt comfortable with before.

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Yes Inverclyde at Notre Dame High School

Last month, Yes Inverclyde had a night at Notre Dame High School. While we were encouraged to bring along undecideds, it seems in Inverclyde there aren’t that many people who haven’t made their decision. While out leafleting in the underpass at the Oak Mall, we either received cheerful thumbs-ups, or surly scowls – but I will note that there’s a very, very malleable part of the No contingent who seem willing to hear out the case for Yes.

I can’t quite tell how many undecideds were at the event, though there were certainly one or two very vocal Nos there (I think the same gentleman from the BBC Referendum debate at 1 hour 15 minutes) which was most welcome. And I even mustered the courage to ask a question (at around an hour 27 minutes):

My question was very much a Deil’s Advocate: I myself consider myself socialist, but there is a fairly substantial non-socialist contingent who I think could still be convinced to vote Yes. It’s all well and good having all the socialist parties on our side,* but this isn’t an election – it’s bigger than that.

*”But Labour/Lib Dems!” – I said socialist, not champagne socialist.