Balance: the #Indyref2 tone
I can’t have been alone is taking a large, nervous gulp as the Daily Record’s front page flashed on my iPhone screen last night. It was unequivocally momentous — with all the stirring significance of the First Minister’s address just a few hours earlier. Where were you when you discovered the paper of the ‘vow’ (for which we ought to bear no grudge…don’t shoot the messenger and all that) threw its full weight behind a second independence referendum?
The Record’s swift and furious response to the reality of Brexit largely mirrors my own personal experience over the last 24 hours. Several close friends who voted No in 2014 awoke to a feeling of bewilderment, abandonment, and betrayal. From the straight up switchers to the subtle but resolute No voters — intelligent, engaged people are using this opportunity to take stock.
It isn’t a hard reach. One of the only ways I have been able to console myself over the past day is being secure in the knowledge that at least we have a recourse — at least we’re not trapped by the very worst elements of the Conservative party like our friends in England, bound to a bleak and bombastic Brexit steamroller which charges ahead with little or no idea of how to calm the hysteria they have whipped up. Take a moment to think about the voters of Hackney, or Belfast, or Gwynedd, for whom the finality of this vote must weigh heavy.
We are the lucky ones, and we have a responsibility to act in the face of political catastrophe. We owe it to ourselves to take a serious — indeed, a patriotic — look at the kind of country we want to live in, and consider the tools we have at our disposal to shape that future.
I say this particularly to friends who voted No. I understand why you did so — I do. You were told that we would be secure in the European Union. You were assured of the stability of the United Kingdom’s monetary structures. Above all, you were assuaged of any fear that Scotland would be subject to precisely this kind of democratic deficit.
You were asked to lead, not to leave. I understand that appeal — it’s not an unreasonable case, and it is of the utmost importance that friends who voted Yes understand this. It is absurd to blame those who voted No for the way the Better Together case has so spectacularly unravelled over the last few years. They made their choice to vote for union based on a bona fide case for stability, continuity, and reform. Many of those No voters are hurting. Chris Deerin’s very personal piece is the most eloquent expression of that unionist disorientation. This certainly isn’t the union they voted for.
The way the independence movement reaches out to people like Chris — people who simply don’t know where they stand in Brexit’s wake — matters a great deal.
The very worst way to reach these earnest No voters is by gloating. During 2014, the most irritating hashtag made its way into our discourse — #YouYesYet. Strident, aggressive, and simplistic, the message embodied an unfortunate undertone in the Yes campaign that seriously undermined the campaign’s overriding tone of hope, positivity, and inclusiveness. #YouYesYet assumes the case of independence was obvious, that you had to be some kind of unrepentant Saul of Tarsus type figure to possibly vote No. It belied a failure to understand why anyone would possibly vote for the union.
People need time to process their new reality . This is vital, because given the time to really consider where Scotland now stands, two clear developments will begin to emerge: that Scotland is now demonstrably divergent from most of England (as opposed to the visceral feeling of independence that many of us already felt); and that a vote for independence is now a solution to a real and tangible problem, rather than an alternative to a relatively cosy status quote.
This solutions-driven narrative is crucial. When presented with the opportunity to give something a punt, Scots have now demonstrated in two referendums that they would quite prefer not to. Using the catastrophe of Brexit as a benchmark — and make no mistake, the economic earthquake of that vote will blight every community in Scotland — it is not difficult to see how this voting pattern cannot stand. It is in our nature to vote for solutions rather than ‘gripe’ — to feel like we are doing our bit to mitigate a national crisis which was not of our making.
The independence campaign needs time, too. Fully 48 hours after Brexit, it cannot hope to convince even the most die-hard nationalist that it has all the answers. We simply do not know what action is necessary to secure our place in the EU … and that’s OK. To rush to judgement would set the new campaign to protect our EU membership on the wrong course, and counter that solutions-centred mission which must drive a new referendum.
The tone we set today must strike a balance between the positive grassroots fervour of 2014, countered with a realisation that our job is to bring new people — all of whom voted No — into a place where they can envisage Scotland at the top table of Europe, rather than at the rump of Brexit Britain.