The lovely aspect of Andrew O’Hagan’s conversion to Yes was the way it cut across the grain of despair being heavily promoted by the champions of Scotland the Province.
The self-styled Unionist lobby has feasted on the contrivance that they somehow ‘won’ an election they comprehensively lost. They have delighted in cramming Scotland back inside a box marked Useless. In their hubris they have claimed an ascendancy that in reality looks more like an electoral spasm.
This year’s general election in Scotland was a vote of revenge for many when the chance came to round on the nationalists who had so discombobulated them. There has after all to be a reason why a Liberal in the North East would vote for a Brexit Tory knowing it would damage their own local economy more than anywhere else in the UK. (We await the government’s report confirming this. So far they are afraid to publish). To abandon every progressive principle of your party and betray its history in order to replace committed, professional representatives with amateurs and careerists from the Rotary Club speakers’ committee, is, like Brexit, a stunning act of self-harm.
That’s what happens when you vote out of revenge – you vote against one thing and forget what you’re getting in exchange. As Ruth Davidson has just admitted, you got a Tory Party devoid of policy. She is now seeking ideas that can be turned into proposals for government when surely that’s what elections are supposed to be about.
Anyone voting for her candidates in June got a pig in a poke – a know-nothing MP (one of whom is holding surgeries by appointment only) and a party without policy. Still, they chased the SNP. And, of course, they delayed a referendum, which may be the last hope of escaping a disastrous Brexit. I fear North East Liberal voters who turned to the Tories may fit Blackadder’s barb at Baldrick: ‘I’d bump into cleverer people at a lodge meeting of the Guild of Village Idiots’
Still, however politically bewildered, they have delivered for the increasingly frothing commentariat a prize that has eluded them for a decade – a blood lust of vengeance which is sweeping away all reason, all nuance and balance. Witness David Torrance in the Guardian.
Add in the desertion of part-time Nationalist voters back to their natural home of British Labour and it could be presented as the wilting of the Yes flower. I’ve spent some time worrying away at the concept of voting Labour in Scotland while supporting independence and concluded that, as always, people should be true to themselves and act accordingly. All are welcome when it comes to the cause. I’m just confused by the message since, if everyone did the same, and voted Labour, there would assuredly be no independence for Scotland. Indeed if only a few thousand more did so, independence would be further away than ever. Nothing will delight the Westminster oligarchy more than SNP voters deserting to Labour. Go figure.
So the O’Hagan intervention was a welcome shaft of light reminding us that if we want real change, it will only come through self-government. By definition, we ourselves will make the decisions on the Scotland that we want. That’s the whole point. It doesn’t guarantee any of us will get exactly what we’d prefer, but that’s because it’s a democracy with diverse views. But we will get Scotland’s wish, not England’s.
And that’s become the defining point since Brexit – the realisation that the Union itself has become a myth. There can only be a union between willing partners who deal with each other equitably, or at least with mutual respect. I agree with O’Hagan that the Supreme Court ruling proved that even the latest devolution settlement was a stitch-up allowing Scots to be overruled at will. The lack of a Unionist foundation can be found in the dismissal of Scotland’s separate EU vote. ‘It was a UK decision’, we are told as if to confirm the English majority in Parliament that ensures we will always get what they want. I’m increasingly with Alf Baird on this; Scotland is today a province of greater England more than it is a partner in Union.
As it happens, I see advantages in Union and believe that after independence there will be a close relationship mirroring some of the joint arrangements we have now. As a Borderer, I know the strength of feeling in favour of it and respect articulate views in support. But where is the justifying case for Union? The endless sneering at Scotland and its aspiration and threats of currency withdrawal and retaliation hardly speak of partnership or respect. Yet that appears to be what vocal support for the UK is reduced to.
O’Hagan reminds us that not all political thought is frenzied and partisan. Outside of the Daisleys and the Deerins, the alt right Oor Wullies, the Scots doubtful about independence are not zealots. The somewhat scary partisans of Scotland in Union with their extremism do not represent Scottish Unionist opinion any more than Scottish Resistance represent Nationalism. And anyone can be converted to the other side. Andrew O’Hagan himself was an unflinching critic as was Tom Morton, now both openly campaigning for our side.
There is no reason to think the wider public is any different. How long will it take voters who turned Tory to see how ineffectual their MPs are and how the party is pursuing the decimation of their own economic base?
When will lefties see through Corbyn as a man who talks left but who is as unquestioningly Unionist as Ruth Davidson and would exult in the extermination of the SNP?
It remains the case that those of us who are proudly Scottish Nationalists have in our hearts a cause, one that transcends political parties and can unite Scots. Even those who have moved back to Labour have not abandoned the aim of independence.
To support the Union today demands acceptance of the most shambolic bunch of liars and jokers who’ve ever held high office in Britain. It means watching as they turn somersaults with red tape and taxpayer’s money trying to buy back what we currently have to no advantage. Britain has been turning into a dystopian pantomime under the Tories (and Liberals). Now the show has hit Broadway and the whole world is watching.
The logic of O’Hagan’s case is compelling. His words inspire. And they speak to a truth the Unionist hardliners cannot bear – however slowly, the transformation of Scotland can no longer be stopped.by