Back To Work
So we lost. It was a hard blow. Much, much harder than I expected. I had never thought we’d win. But, hope weakened my defences and so when defeat finally came the blow felt devastating. Like everyone, I spent some time crying and some time raging and some time drinking, and some time in disbelief. But the sky is blue, the autumn leaves are on the turn, and the Ochil hills still look every bit as bonny in the sunshine as they ever did. It’s time to move on, now, and think clearly about what happened.
We lost because we didn’t persuade the middle class that independence offered them opportunity. We didn’t persuade rural Scotland that it would reduce their peripherality. We didn’t persuade those who grew up with a better Britain that independence honoured those old values. We didn’t persuade people for whom Britishness is a central plank of indentity that an independent Scotland would nourish and respect that identity. Most crucially of all, we didn’t persuade England, or more specifically the English left, that it could survive without us. The result was, in those final weeks, a feeling arose that if we voted Yes we’d be yoked to a grieving, lunatic, hostile nation to the south.
So it’s no use getting pissed off about bias or nursing conspiracy theories about vote rigging because we lost and we lost by way more than a fraction. We lost by a lot. To birth a country properly we needed 60+ percent of the population who would be willing to face the hard work of independence and we needed the a warm & healthy relationship with rUK to set us on our way. Neither of those things were possible this time. If Scotland is ever to be an independent country in the future we will have to address all of the reasons why we lost with clarity and honesty and we must set about building into the bones of our polity the solutions to those problems.
It’s also no use going on about another referendum in the near future. Talk like that will alienate even many Yes voters. Electorates don’t like being played as mugs. We asked. They answered. The next time the question is asked it can only be because a sizeable majority of the electorate demand it. Apart from anything else, consider the risk. A country can lose an independence referendum once and still, just, consider itself a country. But lose an independence referendum twice? For the SNP to hold another referendum without a near certain guarantee of a positive outcome would be, to my mind, almost criminally irresponsible with the nation’s sovereignty.
Scotland will be independent in the end, in some form or other. Whatever independence comes to mean within a Europe of the future, Scotland wll be that. But for now we have to accept that we are a semi-detached nation. Semi detached is not bad. Not bad at all if you grew up in the 80’s, like me. So now, it’s time for us to stop looking backwards and to make the best of what we do have. Scotland has enormous advantages. We have an educated electorate, a functioning parliament, and the goodwill of a large majority of our people. There is an awful lot we can do. It’s up to us to govern ourselves with all the powers we have to the best of our abilities. We must behave like independent citizens of an independent country in waiting.
See all that talk about protecting the poor & the vulnerable? We have to do that. All that talk about land reform? We have to do that. All those new policy ideas? Get them implemented. Gender equality? Now, please. The referendum brought many marginalized voices to the fore? That doesn’t stop just ‘because parties don’t need their votes anymore. See how we finally noticed there’s a middle class elite who run Scotland? That needs shaking up… and there’s so much more.
Scotland needs to be entrepreneurial & forward thinking but that means we as individuals have to learn to take risks and box clever. We have use technology & networks. We have to learn how to make financial models that support our work. We have to try stuff out. Scotland needs decentralised government & localism but that means us taking responsibility for ourselves. We have to get involved with our communities – join the Community Council, work in the community garden, participate in organizing the Gala. Above all, every time we organize a meeting or event we must remember the lessons of Indy and ask ourselves – is there 50/50 gender representation here? Is this meeting structured so that more than the usual confident suspects get their voices heard? Is everybody here who needs to be here?
Lastly, and urgently, we need to get ourselves down to England and Wales and over to Ireland so we can get a conversation going with our friends and neighbours about how the people of this archipelago can develop together in the future. Can we be a British Scandanavia. We need to discuss identity, and shared values. We need come to terms with the past – past hurts we’ve done each other, and the enormity of the past hurt we together inflicted on the world in the form of empire.
So, you know, phew… that’s a lot to be going on with.
It’s comforting to nuzzle into defeat because defeat removes responsibility. What sweeter way to spend a lifetime than drinking to the memory of a glorious future that never happened. That’s the old Scotland. I grew up with that and I don’t want to go back. For a few days this summer I had a taste of what it would be like if we took responsibility for ourselves and it was intoxicating. I want more please! So come on, let’s get out there: join that party, start up that internet project, found that business, stand for election, form a transition town, write that book. Do you remember that sentence; the one we emptied of meaning by overuse? Well, today it feels suffused with possibility; as necessary and new minted as if it had been written for this moment alone -
‘Work, as if you were in the early days of a better nation.’
24th Sept 2018