As we approach the New Year, I have one wish for my YES voting friends: please drop the 45 slogan, it’s time to move on. The 45 served a purpose in the aftermath of the Indy result. It gave us all on the losing side the required lift and it gave us the impetus to move forward. That purpose has now been served – lets bin the 45.
Who could have imagined the way events would transpire since the 19th of September. First you have David Cameron linking our future devolution to English-Votes-For-English-Laws (EVEL). EVEL conveniently hadn’t been raised once during the referendum campaign. Then you have the resignation of Johann Lamont, claiming Scottish Labour is governed like: “a branch office of London.” And subsequently referring to some of her Westminster based colleagues as ‘dinosaurs,’– cue Alanis Morissette in the background. And much to the delight and ridicule of the 45, New Labour replaced Lamont with pro-austerity, pro-Iraq, staunch Blairite Mr. Jim Murphy- more on his appointment shortly. Finally sandwiched in between Labour’s meltdown, we had the disappointment of the Smith Commission. Unionists will argue ‘vow delivered”, nationalists will argue ‘vow broken’. A tad predictable on both sides, the true judge will be the electorate in the coming elections. Now here is why I feel it is time to move on.
The 45 would make perfect sense if our movement were utterly dejected by the NO vote. It would make sense if we were void of ideas and vehicles to carry forward the campaign for independence. But we are not. The opinion polls since the 19th read like an obituary for the Scottish Labour party. Whilst pro-Indy groups like Women for Independence and Radical Independence continue to grow in numbers and influence. YES supporting parties now have a combined membership of well over 100,000 people. For the first time ever, there is now a daily newspaper – The National – dedicated to Scottish independence. Supplemented by a vibrant social media in the shape of Bella Caledonian, National Collective and many others. The independence movement in Scotland has never been bigger – not even on the 18th of September. Thus the 45 serves no purpose going into 2015.
Maybe it’s just me, but I do worry that the 45 has taken on an air of self-righteousness. If we are to truly move forward and build a majority for independence, a sober analysis of our campaign and its failures is essential. I lost count with the amount of people I met who said to me: “I’d love to vote YES but…” And it is the ‘Yes But’ voter who is most put off by the exclusive nature of the 45. During my time knocking on doors, I met many ‘I’m alright Jacks.’ Folk who were living the highlife, people who had it so well they were loath to change anything about their lives. Aside from those folk, the vast majority of people I spoke with were all too aware of the challenges facing most of society in Austerity Britain. The majority of voters I encountered detested the rise in foodbanks; the drop in wages, the increase in the cost of living and all other social concerns we at the YES side shared. Nonetheless our campaign failed to convince a majority of these people to vote YES. Furthermore, it is now these very same people who are beginning to feel silenced and ridiculed by the 45. Whether we like it or not, the accusation that the 45 is ignoring the majority of Scots is something that must be taken seriously. Let me be clear here: no one owns the saltire, nor does anyone own the right to be Scottish, or any other non-quantifiable idea of patriotism. Most importantly no one on either side of the debate has a monopoly on what’s in Scotland’s best interest. As such, behaving in a manner that dictates that your voice is the correct voice and all others are redundant is sheer stupidity. And a side note, any talk of ‘traitors’ or ‘treason’ is disgusting and likely to shrink the 45 not grow it. I’ll debate till I’m blue in the face with anyone who says Scotland shouldn’t be an independent nation, as I’m sure most of the 45 would do. But in doing so we must never lose sight of the fears and opinions of our fellow Scots. If we are all honest, we can point out where our campaign fell short. Our response to key issues such as; currency; pensions; job losses and EU membership just wasn’t good enough to convince the majority to vote YES.
Above all else though there is a minority in the 45 who are hell bent on lowering this debate to the gutter. Throughout the referendum anyone who supported the YES side and subsequently argued the case for independence, was deemed a ‘cybernat’ by the media and prominent Unionists. The nasty side to the ‘Cybernats’ was all too evident when J.K Rowling donated money to ‘Better Together’ or when Blair McDougall et al tried to engage in Twitter debates. We all know that anyone who threw around terms like ‘traitor’ or ‘scumbags’ or any other derogatory slur are not in anyway representative of YES supporters. We also know that for every ‘Cybernat’ there is an equally vile ‘Britnat’. You only have to look at the abuse Andy Murray received when he came out in favour of a YES vote. Yet the term ‘Britnat’ never took hold during the referendum debate. And that’s because the amount of abuse aimed at prominent YES campaigners didn’t get anywhere near the media coverage as that aimed at Unionists. Perhaps the most telling of this bias could be seen in the two cases of ‘The Egg’. Mr. Jim Murphy was hit over the shoulder with an egg when he was out campaigning in his: ‘100 days 100 towns,’ tour of Scotland. What was the media reaction to Jim being egged? It was non-stop coverage from every media outlet possible – and quite rightly so. However, here is where my gripe comes in. Another Jim was also the victim of an egg assault, although this assailant didn’t have the accuracy of the YES voter. Mr. Jim Sillars, when touring Scotland in his Margo Mobile, was subjected to eggs thrown at him and not only eggs. Jim Sillars received a vile handwritten note in Fife that read: “Thank Fu*k Margo the Mouth is dead”. What was the reaction to the abuse aimed at Mr. Jim Sillars? Did we hear nonstop reports about how ‘Britnats’ are getting out of control? Did we hear demands from newspapers to get Mr. Darling and co to call off the attack dogs? Of course we didn’t, the media had absolutely nothing to gain from reflecting the evil side of ‘Britnats’. It is said media who will report every vile manifestation of the 45.
Since the emergence of the 45, Mr. Jim Murphy has been appointed the leader of the branch office. My personal feelings – as a socialist – on his appointment is one of sheer delight. Anyone who wants to substantiate the claims of ‘Red Tory’ has ample ammunition to do so with Jim in charge. Regardless of how much he talks-the-talk, promises the world, or says he’s changed, he can never erase his voting record – he is the personification of a ‘Red Tory’. Therein, the lessons of the ‘cybernat’ must be learned. The personal abuse and vilification of Mr. Murphy has played perfectly into the hands of those who want to see Mr. Murphy do well. The 45 cannot, must not, reduce the debate on his politics to attacks on his person. Doing so plays right into those who would have us believe abuse and personal vilification are dominating the political sphere, when the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. Scotland has never been more alive, more energetic and more susceptible to honest debate about our future. We are all intelligent enough to have sophisticated, friendly debates about the direction in which our good country should go. In doing so I won’t stop calling Labour members ‘RedTories’, but there is no need for a degrading noun after that term. Educating those that you wish to share your views will always be far more effective than shouting or typing profanities at Iraqi Jim.
As we move into 2015 and the upcoming election, one challenge faces the 45 above all else. The 45 have been effective at holding rallies and dominating the social media world. Yet how productive can the 45 be when it comes to winning elections?
I’m not one for agreeing with Blair McDougall, but there is one particular interview he has given since the referendum that rings true when discussing the 45. With a reflection on the George Square celebrations he said:
“I was watching 10,000 people in George Square dancing and celebrating a week out from the vote! If I was the campaign manager I would been tearing my hair out. If they were ‘No’ voters I would have been down there saying ‘get out and knock doors”.
And from an unlikely source there is the best bit of advice anyone could give you for moving forward. A 45 rally, a 45 sticker, a 45 wristband, none that will win you elections.
So friends, lets drop the 45. We have doors to knock.