Self-determination thwarted. For now.

And the anger is still and quiet now – and leaden in ma thrapple. Squatting grim on every in and out breath. It’s Westminster. And I am just this wee wummin from a wee village in Lanarkshire. Powerless to do owt but rage on social media and bore folk who don’t care. Shifting the deckchairs on the Titantic ma Granpa used to call it – politics talk and raging about politicians is as useful as that.

We had the wake on Friday. Fellow 45 percenters gathered for food and booze and reassurance in a warm and friendly place. And whilst George Square hosted the ugly evil face of Unionism and British Nationalism we stared down the momentary loss of hope with that clarity born of practice.

We laughed. Got drunk. Tried to make sense of it all.

I am angry that I allowed myself to hope so much. Got taken in  by some positive polls and the fact that so many I knew seemed to be leaning to ‘Yes’. I’d known all along that No would out.

Some commentators claim the 45% as a win of sorts. Evidence of progress. They point to the constitutional storm that’s been unleashed UK-wide as victory. And in many ways, they are right.

But I’m not yet there. It still feels like what it is: defeat.

I wanted an Independent Scotland. I wanted a born-again democracy. I wanted to be cut free from the corruption of Westminster and those Party machines. But I respect the decision and will work with what we have.

I apologise in advance, for I am using this post as a means of exorcising some demons – a riposte to those whose words and actions hurt so much during the campaign.

I want to start looking forward and being positive. But before I can do that I must look back – if I am to make sense of some of the most painful bits of the last few months and weeks.

  1. ‘You’re a fascist’ and ‘you’re a racist’: those ones hurt folks. Every time you likened Salmond and the SNP/Yes Campaign to Hitler and his Gestapo, you flagged the depth of your contempt for almost 50% of your friends and family. Ok. Ok. Insults are meant to hurt. So from that point of view it was successful. But did you really believe that one? Because if you did then I worry about your capacity to engage in civil debate and discussion and about the thought process that could allow you to conclude that my assessment that Independence offered an opportunity to renew and strengthen democracy, was synonymous with a political movement that machine murdered millions on the basis of ethnicity and religion… I worry about the sincerity of your current magnanimity… I wonder whether your smiling mouth says one thing and your mind thinks quite another…   And if you didn’t believe it but said it anyway… well… 
  2. ‘You’re turning your back on (Proletarian) Internationalism’: Yip. If your definition of ‘international’ is ‘the United Kingdom’, then I suppose I am/did. Independence would have meant a border – and I know you internationalists don’t like those. Despite the fact that co-operation between states is always possible and that there are a great many ways in which our interdependence can be articulated – ways that do not require full legal and constitutional Union. Ways in which the unique local voice is recognised and respected. Perhaps, if you’d really looked at the outline proposals, you’d have realised what was being described was a mature partnership based on mutual respect. It’s the ‘mutual respect’ that’s missing in the current relationship. Bear in mind it didn’t take union with South Africa for me to express my support for the ANC. It didn’t take political union with all those anti-labour countries for me to campaign and to lobby for fellow trade unionists facing imprisonment for their activism. Think global. Act local?
  3. ‘Project Fear’: Yes, it’s a well-tested campaigning strategy – the dissemination and propagation of Fear can secure the votes of the susceptible. It’s despicable. But ‘politics is a dirty game’ and ‘the end justifies the means’? Only it shouldn’t be and it doesn’t. It’s legitimate – desirable – that you question and cross-examine the offering. You’ve got to ‘test’ your opposition. You have a duty and responsibility to do that in a measured and reasonable manner. Your job is not to strike fear into hearts. It’s not to create panic that economic Armageddon is assured; that pensions will go unpaid; that food will be scarce and over-priced and that folk will need to go over the Border on shopping raids. It’s not good or proper to use your Old Boy network Establishment power to orchestrate a mass media and Big Business/Banks onslaught. To meet with the supermarkets and agree with them their press releases – each announcing big price rises in the event of Independence. To leak business sensitive information to your Government owned Broadcaster – detailing the planned movement of a state-owned Bank’s registered office and spinning this as a massive loss of jobs and business for an Independent Scotland (latterly denied by the Bank – but the damage had been done). Do you recall conceding – to a person (Alistair Darling – you remember this?) – that an Independent Scotland could be an economically successful country? But of course, that would be why it was all the more important you stage-managed the impending economic meltdown scenario.
  4. ‘the Markets won’t like this’: Now, this one I understand and expect from those on the Right. But from those of you on the Left? Ha. Black-burning shame on you for battering Yes with financial advice from such ethical luminaries as Credit Suisse. To use the very arguments from the very people who are used to keep you down. Used to defeat your arguments for your ‘socialist’ nirvana. Yes, yes. From a Labour perspective you conceded that argument a long time ago. Blair taught you the value of political expediency and real politicking. Power wasn’t to be achieved until you’d sold every principal – and then the exercise of that power left you without any detectable values and unelectable for at least another generation. But the rest of you? 
  5. ‘but Labour will win in 2015’: you still don’t get it, do you? a) You likely won’t but b) Labour, Conservative, LibDem – you’re all the same. Indistinguishable when it comes down to it. No vision or value that couldn’t be abandoned or altered or sold if there was the least suggestion power would follow cosmetic change. An £8 minimum wage? Is that ‘the big idea’? Really Labour? You all need to listen, really listen to the people who are turning away from the ballot box in their droves. Because many are turning to the very rabid, xenophobic Right. And I don’t just mean UKIP. UKIP sound almost reasonable in comparison to the EDL or the BNP. No, you need to listen to those who feel disenfranchised. Who feel utterly abandoned by Westminster. Who feel they have no voice. And who are repelled by Westminster’s expenses scandals and sex scandals and lies. They need to feel that they have some say over how they are governed and they need to feel that what matters to them will be reflected in policy and action. If you are all losing to the far Right it is because in your arrogance you thought you didn’t need grassroots activists (inconveniently reminding you of promises made and not kept and wanting a say in policy design); and in your arrogance you have travelled far, very far, from the people you say you represent.
  6. ‘it’s all about the SNP and Salmond’: No. It really wasn’t. Of course the initiative came from the SNP – the White Paper etc. But look at the Yes people. Really look. From the Radical Independence Campaign to the National Collective to Women for Yes; Academics for Yes; Business for Yes; Teachers for Yes; Students for Yes; the Greens; the SSP; the pensioners and the 16 and 17 year olds and the mothers and fathers. They were your friends; fellow workers; your family. And you treated them with contempt when you stated time after time that it was ‘all about Salmond and the SNP’.
  7. But we’ll have an SNP government for decades if Yes wins’: And if the Scottish electorate vote for SNP Governments in open and free and democratically constituted elections tell me why this would be an evil? Admittedly this anti-democratic little gem was said most often by Labour’s folk. Which probably hurt even more. Because it emphasised the naked ‘power at all costs’ ideology they operate by. And no – I don’t buy the argument that you can have social justice without ethical behaviour.
  8. ‘I love my family. I’m voting No.’: And because I voted ‘yes’, I don’t love my beautiful family? Ugh. I despair. You really need to apologise for that one.
  9. ‘the vow’: here we go again. Back of fag packet promises made by the toxic trio of Cameron, Clegg and Miliband. Pushed by the bankrupt ‘great clunking fist’ Gordon Brown. A last minute promise that surely breached ‘the Edinburgh Agreement’ and reassurances given that there would be no ‘last minute policy changes’  designed to undermine the Referendum choice. And which were – foreseeably – hitched to ‘the West Lothian’ question by Cameron as soon as the ‘No’ was announced. I’ve no argument with ‘English votes for English issues’ – so get on with it Miliband – stop trying to safeguard your Scottish MPs. Strengthen the party in England – and you’ll not need them.
There’s so much more.
But I know. This is boring stuff for those who have no connection with the politics or interest in politics generally.
One last thing though. Sorry, bear with me.

On Saturday. In the clear light of a beautiful midday I became another statistic: an ex-Labour Party member who signed up to join the Scottish National Party.

And for those who know the bitter tribalism of Scottish politics they will recognise that for the major conversion that it is. 

If it’s nationalism to want to bust the Bankocracy of the Westminster/British State then, yes, I am a nationalist. If it’s nationalism to want to see progressive and radical change that empowers the electorate and gives them a strong voice then I am proud to be a member of a Scottish civic nationalist party.

There. I’ve said it. ‘Nationalist’. A word that I’ve been taught to despise. And yet I now find myself embracing.

I struggled to explain why until I stumbled on its perfect articulation. It was Billy Bragg who managed to sum it up for me here: 
“In Scotland, Wales and Ireland nationalism is the name given to the campaign for self-determination. James Connolly gave his life for the nationalist cause; John MacLean, perhaps the greatest leftwinger that Scotland has produced, was in favour of independence and campaigned for a Scottish parliament.
Both recognised that the British state was highly resistant to reform, and that the interests of working people were best served by breaking with the United Kingdom.
England’s dominant role has meant that it has never felt the urge to be free of the British state. As a result, the nationalism that has emerged there has been ethnic, seeking to unite the indigenous population against the perceived threat of outsiders. And for all of us in Europe, ethnic nationalism casts a long shadow.
Given that dark legacy, it is unsurprising that many on the left have a knee-jerk reaction whenever they hear the word nationalism. However, close inspection of the respective manifestoes of the SNP and the BNP should give pause for thought.
The ethnic nationalism of the BNP is there for all to see – a plan for a society that excludes people on grounds of race. The programme of the SNP takes a diametrically opposite position – an inclusive society based on where you are, not where you’re from.
This is civic nationalism – the idea that all citizens should be engaged in the process of deciding where society is headed, not just getting their hands on the tiller once every four or five years. It utilises the n-word because democracy on a national level offers the best opportunity for fundamental change.”

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6 thoughts on “Self-determination thwarted. For now.

  1. A Scottish friend living here in Dublin said that he was worried the no vote would mean that nationalism in Scotland would become anti-English in a way it admirably wasn't in the run up to the referendum. That perhaps intersects with Billy Bragg's point about ethnic nationalism. (I hadn't seen that article; I'm glad that I now have seen it as it's really well-expressed.)

    Great post.

  2. Thanks.

    To be very honest I've worried about the post. One friend – who voted 'no' (and that may or may not be relevant) – labelled it a 'bilious rant'. I've examined it for bile – and concede there may be a hint of it. But mostly it is an impotent bellowing disappointment. Not with the result (though I was disappointed!) but with the way in which the No campaign was conducted. And with the naked 'power at all costs' – which just demeans us all in the end. I thought better of the left in particular. I thought there would be a reluctance to use the weapons which are generally used against them. I was wrong – very naive of me really.

    Nationalism in Scotland has come a long way since the days of Wembley English v Scotland football matches and running battles. There was a time – before the Constitutional Convention I think – when Scottish national identity might well have simply been defined as 'not English'. But there's a cultural renaissance – and culture is no longer confined to 'anything as long as it's not English'.
    Bragg's article was excellent. It was the first to articulate what I felt to be true. I was trying hard at the time to defend myself against accusations by 'No' colleagues that I was a 'fascist' and 'working class traitor' and 'anti-solidarity'. Jings – the left can be vicious when it wants to be…
    The 'No' result is the worst of all worlds. We have the promise of Devo-Max – which basically means the devolution of all the worst bits but without the necessary budget. I foresee major problems here if Westminster devolve responsibility for some welfare benefits and limited power to raise taxes for instance – but control of revenues doesn't follow.
    And folk in England surely must feel the inequity in the system. I'm afraid that if there's not reform for England too then anti-Scottish feeling will increase.
    Over the last year I've been in England several times and folk wanted to talk about the vote – but it was along the lines of: 'you get a big subsidy from us; we'd be glad to be rid of you…' There was an understandable resentment because they'd been fed the line that Scots were whingers and subsidy junkies and that it was English taxes that kept us in free prescriptions…

    I had this hope that Independence might lead to mutual respect – we'd be partners, working together, as opposed to supplicant beggar/beneficent master.

    Things are changing I suppose. And change – at that macro level – always did take a long long time…

    Ach well. At least the Queen was 'purring'. 🙂

  3. Wow. I really can’t believe some of the garbage you’ve heard, in terms of the fear and the political vituperation.

    It’s been many, many years (probably since reading “Homage to Catalonia”) since I stopped thinking of left or right in my politics, so much as small, and since I started thinking that anybody who has a knee-jerk opposition to small, local government is emotionally fascist, no matter how pink or democratic or freedom-loving they believe themselves to be. Nationalism is problematic, sure, but it’s not as though Scotland can or should be identified as a nation so much as a pre-existing, formerly independent country that was colonized by the purchase of debt in very recent history.

    Also, the European Union has a lot of drawbacks and a Byzantine, undemocratic organisation, but it made it practical, if complicated, for Scotland and a bunch of other places that won’t be allowed to go it alone either, to go it alone.

    I’m sorry people have been so douche-y about the whole thing. Point 8 is particularly inexcusable.

    • Yip.
      It was all that – and it’s continuing.
      ‘Lost’ a former colleague (trade unionist Labour Party card carrying) who decided to ‘unfriend’ me. Had a laugh about that. But only after the initial: ‘I am a bad person’ playground type internal response to someone deciding ‘I’m not going to be your friend anymore’. I’d have welcomed a full blown ‘fuck off’ from her. Passive aggressive nonsense.
      It’s the ‘democracy’ bit that got me out of my bed. And you put it perfectly: ‘anybody who has a knee-jerk opposition to small, local government is emotionally fascist, no matter how pink or democratic or freedom-loving they believe themselves to be’.
      Left and right here – all the No-sayers – they all proved just how fascist they really are. No concern about how the votes were got – it is all about power and hanging on to it.
      And no. I’m not surprised. I knew all that – in the abstract intellectual way you ‘know’ things. But it’s still bad when you really really see it up close.

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