Objective One

At the heart of a campaign is the common cause. When all else can be qualified, debated, amended or dropped, the core objective must be inviolate. Whatever the disagreements on preparation tactics and post-event consequences, there can be no debate about objective. The ultimate aim is an inspiration to all and is the focus for all, wherever else they find points of difference.

I was wondering about this as I took part on the Radical Independence gathering on Saturday and heard uplifting contributions about re-making our society as an egalitarian community, creating a genuine democracy uncorrupted by corporate power and rejecting the neoliberalism of a market economy.

This is a powerful and intellectually-driven agenda which Scotland has been lacking since Labour shuffled off its radical skin and, more recently, socialist votes were hoovered up by the SNP – aided by internecine implosion.

I personally engage with the message and think it has echoes throughout Scottish society. I have deep admiration for those who have been carefully crafting it and who have the chutzpah to promote it to a growing audience. So why do I hesitate?

One reason is a recent communication from one of the originators of the New Scotland who was worried that my own wish for independence was identity-based and therefore exclusive and could be used by the No campaigners as a sign of division – that is, you’re either one of us or you’re not, in which case, we reject you.

As I said at the time, it isn’t individual identity I’m talking about, rather it is  allegiance to nation because the referendum offers a choice between two national entities – Scotland and Britain. So my argument is that you have to choose which you prefer to run the government, either the nascent Scottish state or the existing UK and the choice indicates your preference. That leads to a question for No voters: If you think of yourself as a Scot, why do you choose Britain as your governing country? If nationhood is the benchmark for all the other nations on earth, why do you accord a lesser status to your own country?

So my correspondent wanted the choice to be between how the country should be run rather than which country you preferred because that was potentially divisive. So as I listened at the conference I imagined myself to be a different kind of Scot, rather than, as I am, a member of the liberal-minded media city set – a shopkeeper from Forfar perhaps, a fisherman from Fraserburgh or a farmhand from the Borders. I still want change, I know society isn’t equitable and I do believe in the Scots but do I readily grasp that Scotland – despite my vote electing the SNP, despite the referendum itself – is “not a democracy” as one speaker said or that “corporations run the country” as did another?

If I have a few thousand in the bank, if I’m a promoted teacher on a professional salary, if I’m comfortably off in retirement with no mortgage, am I one of the “rich that is voting No?” If I am one of that constituency – a baby boomer maybe – and I’ve done alright and I’m seriously toying with a Yes vote, will I find that language engaging or will I shy away from being told I’m a capitalist pariah in a class war? Part of the problem with casting No people as the privileged is that, if it were true, it seems they are in the majority, according to the polls, so tactically that is a self-harming assessment likely to damage your prospects of winning them over.

We are immediately into classification of course. Who is rich?  We know that in Scotland they are getting richer, no doubt, but the figures show there are only 25,000 people known to be earning over £120,000 a year. If they are the rich who are voting No then the Yes campaign has little to worry about even if they all back Better Together. My point is that that there is a thick layer of Scottish society which is gainfully employed on a good income or retired (ditto), home-owning, investment-holding, car-polishing and holiday-going. Are they the target of the class war?

Now I’m not being disingenuous. I know the real target is multi nationals and party funding, lobbyists and greasy handed politicians and a global corporate structure shaping our affairs to their own advantage, not that of the people of the world. But I think a campaign strategy has to be subtle enough to include all possible support and the genuine danger here is that those respectable Scots who love their country and are thinking maybe the time has come to cut her free to flourish will recoil if they get a sense – via the media – their vote is to create a socialist republic.

For many out there I suspect it is already a personal struggle to rationalise to others more sceptical why they are planning to vote for independence. Challenged on questions many Yes campaigners take for granted, – How can we afford it? What happens when the oil runs out? – switchers remain unsure and lacking in the confidence to articulate their views. The last thing they need is to be asked if they are now socialists opposed to the corporations who bring up the oil, who export the fish, beef and lamb, provide their pensions and employ their family.

Applying my earlier correspondent’s test to the conference, I see a real danger that the whole Yes movement can be dressed as a divisive class war with, as its target, not the rich of which there are vanishing few, but middle Scotland, playing into the hands of Better Together and their narrative of keeping things as they are because of fear of what may lie ahead – a message designed for respectable, deferential Scotland which also happens to be Most-Likely-to-Vote-Scotland.

I subscribe to the demand for radical change and believe Scotland can be a beacon for others, but in the beginning, in the first few days of a new nation the real risk isn’t globalisation, it is disinvestment – of people, companies, investment funds and economic credibility. I don’t believe that will happen in any significant way but we have to guard against a rocky start so the transition can be smooth as there are no guarantees. And this leads to the key point: None of these dreams of change will have meaning without a Yes vote. It is only then that the hopes of a nation can fly and everything must be focussed on the one aim – the common cause. No one should be told – or allowed to think – they are not wanted in the new nation because every one of their votes counts the same. It is one thing Better Together have never wavered from. Their content and tone is often offensive but they are not interested in nuance or morality, only in winning. That mentality – however unattractive to dreamers among us – has to be replicated by Yes. It is the core objective without which everything else turns to dust.

I’m not criticising the ideals and the inspiration behind the movement and I accept fully that some idea of what the new country can be like is needed as a guide and to give a reason for voting. But we are entering the difficult phase when all views and attitudes will come into play and I worry that there is a tendency to be too prescriptive about the country after Yes which can repel as many as it attracts. My personal approach is to focus on what no one can dispute or deny – my right to vote Yes because Scotland is my country and my home and deserves to fulfil itself through joining with the other nations of the world and there we will find our feet as an independent people forging the country we want.

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0 thoughts on “Objective One

  1. Derek, I think you enjoyed your lunch today? You are thoughtful as ever, though, I believe that BT has the problem of being cast as Uncle Fester, who denegrates everything, and can’t see the positive case of our people getting up of their knees. ‘YES’ is not a narrow Church, we are Jock Tamsin’s bairns, we are pluralistic, as Mcilvanney says we are a ‘mongrel’ nation, Come all’ye.

  2. There can be many possible futures, Derek. For myself, that is the main attraction of independence. We get to choose that future, not Westminster. We will only end up with a socialist republic if the majority of folk want that.
    I find that exciting, not scary at all.

  3. Interesting article and one I tend to agree with. I’ve always been sceptical about the economic case for independence. It seems to me that if your desire for self determination comes down to whether you’d be better off, then the corollary of that is that if Better Together prove that you’d be a pound worse off then you’d switch to No. To a certain extent that also applies to the ‘Vote Yes to get rid of the Tories’ theory. Why vote for independence for transient party political reasons?

    I intend to vote Yes for the simple reason that I’m a fundamentalist. Scotland should never have given up her statehood in 1707, and the time is long overdue for us to reclaim it. All else follows from that.

  4. Like the article and find that it resonates with my own opinion.
    I am retired, and after a lifetime of work (left school at 14) am reasonably well off, a house with no mortgage a car in the driveway and take two holidays a year. I am by no means rich however when I read “The rich are voting no” statement I felt a small shiver of apprehension about the implications contained in those words.
    I have supported independence for Scotland for over 50 years and have worked for it all of my adult life thus far and will be voting YES and converting others. This is not the time to take ones eye off the main objective and while I want a fairer society I do not fully agree with all the aims of the Radical Independence movement.
    Where does this place me?

  5. Roibert a Briuis

    Its like I said before here, do you hand your wage packet to your mom and then she hands you back some pocket money and tells you what to spend it on……now don’t be going down the pub or into the betting shop. OR do you leave the nest and make your own way into the big wide world. Most of us I imagine are out there making our way in the world, why our country should find that a difficult transition AND why anyone would consider voting no is something I cant quite comprehend. Surely the Scottish blood and spirit will win over the mummies boys when the votes are counted. If not we are going to be totally fcuked by the westmonster zoo lot.

  6. You are right that those with comfortable lives question the “scary separation” that BetterNo have been pushing. Which just means that we have to appeal to their children and grandchildrens future. In fact, the next generation will more than likely struggle to be even close to what their parents and grandparents may have achieved. It’s kinda what I am trying to do at the present time, though even some of the well-off retirees’ are beginning to feel the pinch!

  7. Bang on the money for me Derek; this is where the likes of Labour come unstuck – ( The Proud Scots, True Scots, Brit/Scots, Scot Brits, Glasgow Irish, blah, blah, blah)
    Im with you – I only want to be known as a Scot who lives in a ‘Nation State Scotland’ fully governed by its citizens /residents) for its citizens / residents.
    Not a watered down version of a notional subservient territory of North Britain controlled ultimately by a remote chatering class of chinless wonders ( including proud BritScots)
    Christ we had the great puddin on the Marr show today going on about the ‘Olympics’ and how we wont be able to cheer Mo Farrah in future (FFS !)

    Cue the flatulent Gski (anytime soon ?)

    • My worry as Derek so rightly identifies is NOT that we like-minded individuals more or less agree on the wonderful opportunities about to be on offer but its those in the “bottle half empty” side of the discussion who we collectively need to nurture. Talking to the converted is easy we must talk to the undecided.

  8. Very, very good article. My thoughts entirely.

  9. Scotland

    This is my country,
    The land that begat me.
    These windy spaces
    Are surely my own.
    And those who here toil
    In the sweat of their faces
    Are flesh of my flesh,
    And bone of my bone.

    Sir Alexander Gray

  10. I totally identify with this experience, Derek. I am already a Yes supporter, albeit I’ve never been an SNP member. I identify myself as a trade unionist, and have never wanted to join a political party.

    I took an anti-SNP, Labour-voting trade unionist friend to an RIC meeting in Edinburgh early this year. The speakers were great – Susan Archibald, the disability rights campaigner, Kevin Williamson, Alison Johnstone, and a PCS member Cat Boyd, who each spoke for about 5 minutes.

    Then it opened up for questions. After 45 minutes, I gave up and left, the “questions” rapidly having become SWP grandstanding. My friend had walked about several minutes earlier, and told me “that’s an hour of my life I’ll never get back”. They wouldn’t engage anyone who wasn’t already committed.

    Listening to Kevin Williamson being lectured by an agit-prop social worker who objected to his suggestion we use Swiss-style technology to engage people in politics (because Switzerland is so right wing!), and didn’t understand Scottish sovereignty, let alone how it differed from the English variety, was painful.

    Maybe I’ve just been around too long, but I’d met these people, or their archetypes, at anti-racist events, anti-poll tax events, and every other political campaign I’ve been near.

    In fact, I can remember them arguing AGAINST independence as being anti-working class for most of my political life.

    A friend of mine in the republican movement told me he’s uneasy at finding the SWP now on his side “I like them o’wer there, where I can see them”. 😉

    The strength of the independence movement is it’s variety, so I won’t knock RIC, but, unless I was just very unlucky, it’s definitely not for me!

  11. Derek-

    If the ‘rich’ in Scotland are frightened into voting No against their moral instincts, they can look forward to living in the kind of ghettos which already exist in London – ‘gated’ communities where you pay for the privilege of getting on first-name terms with private-hire security guards, and you can’t scratch your arse without it being recorded (for your own safety, of course).

    Dystopian? Perhaps, but it’s a reality down there. (I have a relative who lives in such a place, in Canary Wharf – has its own gym, restaurant, and a roof-top pub which charges a kick-in-the-arse off £10 for a pint.) Somehow, I can’t see such enclaves lasting long anywhere in Scotland if there is a No vote, especially if there’s any suspicion of trickery.

    People who shepherd one another into such places may feel ‘safety In numbers’, but – if the numbers you quoted are anything to go by? – they’d have to weigh up that perceived comfort/reassurance against the fact that they’re making themselves very easy to identify.

  12. I agree wholeheartedly, and feel the same way.

  13. Thanks Derek. When I heard some of the comments about the Conference I thought that it was only me that was vaguely uncomfortable that we were getting back into the class war. There is no doubt how I will vote, Yes, but some of our Radical Independence contacts don’t see to understand that they actually need votes – I’ve had discussions with some on Facebook. Ah well one more problem. Reminds me for the Trots who were busy stabbing the old Labour in the back.

  14. Everyone in the end will vote with their heart, rich and poor. And there are many ‘rich’ who want Independence too.

  15. I thought it was quite funny when I was watching Borgen the other night and one of the MPs in Birgitte’s new party said “are we a mass movement or a mass of movements?” and I instantly thought of RIC. That might be a totally unfair way to characterise it, but I can’t get the picture out of my head of various minority-pursuit groups latching onto the mass of people, trying to get an audience for their particular pet interest. From a few tweets I saw about one of the workshops, it sounds like that’s probably not too far off the mark, and the whole “the rich are voting no” thing does make it sound a bit like people are trying to use independence to carry on class wars. Obviously that’s been such an overriding success in recent years…

    I’ve got to be honest, one of my main hopes for independence is getting away from Us vs Them politics, where we stop polarising everything between various subsets of people and just learn to accept that we all have our part to play in making a success of things.

    Except unionists, of course.

    (Need I point out my tongue was firmly in my cheek there? Just in case one of our favourite BritNats reads it and pretends to take offence.)

  16. This is an excellent piece, and nicely gets right to the point. The objective of independence is simply that Scots for the first time ever (the auld Scots Parliament was undemocratic) can choose the Government of their country, Scotland. Only with a YES vote can we choose the way forward, whether that is socialist, neo-liberal or whatever – although my guess (and hope) is that Scotland, the land of Hume and Smith will not copy ‘template’ philosophies, but rather create its own model of statehood.

    Like others above have stated, I do not wish to be British, nor do I cling to the many mythical vagaries of ‘Britishness’ (Englishness, by a different name). I am Scottish, Scotland is my country, so I can see no reason whatsoever for it being run by a Parliament in another country. It really is that simple.

  17. I agree with the article. During the independence march in Edinburgh I was struck by the prominence of left-socialist groups and I must admit I felt uneasy. I spent a good part of my working life doing business in various Scandinavian countries, and in many ways I would like to see Scotland eventually emulate them. While they have created what I would consider to be fair societies, they are business friendly and not socialist. Of course socialists exist in all these countries but they are not allowed to wreck their economies Labour Party style. I never heard the kind of rhetoric of class warfare that is commonplace in Central Scotland in any of these countries, where anyone with a corner shop is a class enemy. Having travelled extensively in former communist states I would be astonished if Scots, given a free vote, would choose to go down that particular socialist road.

  18. I don’t think the left/green bloc pose a serious threat to the Yes vote – i.e. they will significantly deter undecideds.

    For those inclined to vote No, they may help rationalise that decision (depending on how much air time they are given) but on inspection, they are not significant political players either collectively or individually.

    A future Scotland will resemble any other mature democracy with two to four parties contending for the centre ground and socialist, green, and economic liberal outliers.

    These parties aren’t strong enough to contest constituencies and in the 2011 election collectively won only 113,000 votes, mostly for the Greens.

    The biggest political winner in the new Scotland is much more likely to be a centre-right party, although the SNP will fight to keep the “economic liberal” standard including corporation tax reduction, there could still be space for a “small c” conservative party as in other European countries (e.g. Norwegian Conservative Party – the current government there – Venstre in Denmark, one or more of the Swedish Alliance coalition or the Finns Party).

  19. I was raised in the ‘roughest’ scheme in the city I grew up in. I was a very angry young man growing up. I had a troubled family background, passed between guardians (family and others) until the age of 16 when I took matters into my own hands. That said, I’d ended up at a decent school due to my academic ability and found myself mixing with kids from a totally alien background to my own. I made friends, visited their homes at weekends, played with their mechano sets; watched TV and played Nintendo in their bedrooms. And, my God, how I wanted my life to be like theirs. They never came to my house – in fact, my best friend’s mother banned him from playing with me because of where I came from (I later discovered that she’d grown up on the same scheme).

    It was all so unfair: I was smarter than these kids so why did they have so much more than me? Why were my biological parents such fuck-ups while theirs were loving and considerate and actually wanted to spend time with them?

    I was determined I was going to break this cycle. I was possessed by it. I worked for 4 years to save up enough money to go to university and I studied a subject I had no real love for or interest in solely by virtue of the fact I knew I would make a ton of money at the end of it. My kids would have all the chances I never had in life. I’d have the last laugh over people like my old friend’s mother – one day I’d look down my nose at HER.

    I went to work in the oilfield and by virtue of hard work and no little ruthlessness, I became the youngest person with ‘Senior’ in front of my job title by a margin of around 10 years, highly respected in my particular area of expertise. I found myself conducting business deals in some of the world’s worst hellholes, liaising with the kind of shitheads you generally think only exist in movies (and most of them worked for government authorities). I saw people and the environment being exploited around me but I convinced myself that, since I wasn’t directly involved and that this was just the way things were, my conscious could be clear – at least in terms of my own culpability. After all, I didn’t create the system. In any case, nothing actually illegal was going on since it was those shitheads who were writing the laws in the first place. And besides, I was still a socialist at heart; I gave 10% of my money to charity; that counted for something, right?

    Now, don’t get me wrong. I work for a company with an extremely strong ethical and corporate social responsibility mindset. We have gone into some of these hellholes in the past few years and taken our own initiatives to try to improve the lives of our local employees and communicates at large. We conduct our business properly, even when it costs us a helluva lot of money to do so. But then I work for a Scandinavian company, and I’ve no hesitation in saying that the Scandinavians currently offer the best model for society that exists on this planet and that rubs off on their people. The Scandinavians, in general, just can’t abide inequality. It’s alien to their DNA and makes (most of) them genuinely angry and upset. I can see the UNICEF HQ from my apartment window in Copenhagen and take pride in the fact that I’m also part of this society (and could get my citizenship tomorrow if I liked).

    But that said, our company is still part of the system and we aren’t going to change the world all by ourselves. The world is going in entirely the opposite direction we’d like it to, where social responsibility is replaced by personal responsibility and nothing else. We live in dangerous times. We’re literally on a path back to the dark ages and I just can’t bear it any longer.

    So long story short. I’ve told my employer I’ll be retiring at the end of next year, still in my 30’s. I’m saying goodbye to my 6 figure salary and have decided to put my management and engineering skills to better use in the NGO field. I’ve already started parting with my savings, some of which have gone to, ironically, the CW project (thanks guys).

    By all accounts, I’m one of those rich people who will be voting “No” despite the fact I’ve been in the SNP since I was old enough to join and was representing them in mock elections at school (I never lost) since the age of 11.

    The RIC are right: this is a class war, but they should be very careful about who they’re targeting. The middle-class are as indoctrinated as the working class. They’re the essential bridge that the super rich have to hold up as an example to those in poverty as some kind of realistic aspiration – “if they can do it then so can you, you lazy bampots”.

    You might think I’m the last person who should contradict that. After all, I did it, and look where I came from. All I would say to that is 1) no one should have to go through what I went through to get to where I am, 2) No one should have to do the kind of things I’ve done to get to where I am, 3) it helps to have an IQ in the 140’s but that’s generally uncommon, 4) the uplift of a few does not a healthy society make. It’s time to uplift society as a whole.

    These speakers should be careful. Divide and rule is the name of the game and the middle-class are just as much victims of the big lie as the working class. Mark my words – the middle class’ days are numbered in any case – their wealth is being targeted as we speak.

    Our enemy is invisible at the moment. We need, first of all, to get them out into the open. We can’t do that from within the WM system. We’ve long since passed the point of no-return for any hope of WM reform – the institution itself is hermetically sealed off from democratic scrutiny.

    Independence is the only hope of a genuine revolution we have. The RIC need to step back for a moment and realise that, just because they’ve woken up to some of the realities, doesn’t mean they aren’t playing patsy to the 1% when they go after anyone who doesn’t live in the East End.

    • I’d had too much caffeine when I wrote the above. In my now calmer state-of-mind, I’ll sum my advice to those more radical voices up as follows:

      Target the system: not other people. It’s just possible that some of those people are actually on the same side as you.

      When you’re selling your message on the doorsteps, tell your audience that it’s the system that needs to change; don’t paint a target by telling them it’s “all thae rich bastards”.

      If we can change the status-quo and get some real representation then the rest will take care of itself but let’s get over the line first. I’ll continue to lend my support to common weal. Having enjoyed the experience of living in a more equitable society (Denmark) for a number of years I don’t just ‘think’ it makes sense; I know it does! I earn good money and I pay a very sizeable chunk of it back to the Danish taxman, and I don’t mind doing it either (otherwise I’d have moved somewhere else)!

      p.s. I had a long discussion with a good friend of mine, living in similar circumstances, on this subject very recently. I’d always considered him to be a hardened Tory (and Salmond-hater) and he knows I’ve always struggled to reconcile the life I live today with my upbringing and, hence, am still very much left-leaning (though not a “Nat”). So, we’ve always had a kind of unspoken acknowledgement that we shouldn’t get into very deep political discussions lest we diminish the otherwise high regard we have for each other. This time I dared to break our little unwritten-rule and asked of him only one thing: “please read the white paper”.

      To my utter astonishment, he told me he’d not only read it but asked if I’d been following common weal. Now he didn’t confirm he’d switched sides. He told me it was hard to argue with a lot of what he was reading; that “something had to change”, and “for Glasgow most especially”. He sounded like a man who was genuinely wrestling with his conscience in terms of what decision would be best for Glasgow and Scotland, and he sounded painfully (almost physically) aware of the responsibility that comes with having a vote in this referendum.

      All I can add to finish is that, if Yes and the JRF are making people like my friend, above, reconsider their own paradigms – and with almost a year to go – then BT are in even bigger trouble than I thought. I’d thought his views were so entrenched I didn’t even have him on my list of people to work on…

  20. The Labour politicians, Lamont and Sarwar, say the SG is giving tax handouts to the big companies, so, very bad. The right wing commentator I saw, can’t remember the name, said the RIC is the real face of Independence, very left wing, so, very bad!
    Hilarious and strangely sad at the same time. These are the deep thinking politicians who are in waiting if we don’t vote Yes!

  21. Reading all your comments does my heart good. Shame that RIC seems to becoming a haven for the more extremist left wing tendency from what you say Derek. I maybe wrong but I never thought that common weal was about reducing us all to one level. I can understand the desire to get rid of the class society and the rule of a British Establishment but you don’t do that by alienating your own people. However I do believe like others above have said that we Scots are a pretty sophisticated and canny political bunch and can see through such narrow minded ness.

  22. I’m a very simple guy at heart. I believe in the concept and principle of independence period. Collective independence on a national level and individual independence, the right to choose your own path, make your own successes and failures and to take responsibility for your actions. If you believe you live in a country not a region, then there is only one principled choice to make. If you want to retain some form of union, work with others to form something greater, then consider a confederation where your country still retains its democratic right to choose. But a political union where you give up those freedoms? A union where you pretend a national identity whilst allowing others to choose your path and decide your ideology for you? That is self delusion on a grand scale. You are at that point handing your right to any form of self governance over into another’s care and hoping for the best.

    We’ve been given a chance here to decide who and what we are. We’ve been given a chance to decide on whether we’re grown ups if you will. Independence isn’t about proving how much better we are than others, its about showing how much better you/we can be making your own choices in life.

    • Spot on Macart. I agree with you 100%. I support independence because I’m a democrat – everything else flows from that.

      • There isn’t an argument they possess David, that could ever have changed my mind. Its not and never has been about the economy for me, or even clashing political ideologies to a degree although there is something in there, I’m not really a political animal. No for me its about a very basic human right, the right to choose your own path and make the best of yourself that you can. That is independence, the freedom to choose.

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