Friday, September 26, 2014

First thoughts on the Smith Commission (that's your future, by the way)

The agenda for the Smith Commission is being set by the melange of untested vows and promises mandated by the No vote in the referendum.  But the underlying question for the commission, of which all of the options for control over this or that percentage of Income Tax from Holyrood are nuances, is this.
"From where does power derive its mandate"? Do you devolve power down from the crown, or up from the people?
That was ACTUALLY what the question was on September 18th, constitutionally. The answer SEEMS clear. hence the apparent unthinking and terribly British assumed authority and mandate for Lord Smith and the Unco Guid.
However, in terms of people's actual experience, on both sides, we were sovereign for 15 hours...(as Jim Sillars put it) and we still, I think, feel that way...again, on both sides. Even if it was our sovereign decision not to opt for sovereignty, we still feel sovereign...I think. Am I wrong?
That we still feel that our future is up to us.
My question to the Smith Commission, then, as they watch a wrangle between policy wonks (each of whom will want a "win" for "their guy" ) about angels on the heads of pins, and then seek the approval of Westminster and how do they resolve the basic contradiction which undermines their exercise?
My question for the Political parties, now that they have once again been handed total top down power, apparently, is how do you hold this together? How do you give this monarchical exercise popular legitimacy?
A referendum on the legislation? That would do it? Surely not! For one thing, even if the Unionists were optimistic about the deal, that would transfer sovereignty definitively to the people, and the whole point of the exercise was to avoid doing that.
(This is the deep reason why devo max wasn't on the ballot paper. There is all the difference in the world between a demand from below mandated by a vote of 75% and a "gift" from above)
Even more, another referendum "here" would mean a referendum "there" - that would be irresistable - and God knows we don't want democracy spreading across the whole island, do we? Give the whole of the UK a veto on the "gift" of Devo Max!

So. Just as the "English votes" for English laws" debate fundamentally undermines the principles of Union, so the top down committee to decide Scotland's future decides no such thing. It is yet another titled, bureaucratic caricature of the unsustainable present.
This is not to say that the (former) Yes campaign shouldn't engage with it in good faith. They should. But it won't last. And no matter what the temptations and provocations to walk out or boycott it, the "Team Yes" negotiators should always remember that they still have the future as a hole card. What this means is that no matter what the provocation to "walk out"...our staying with the process is a win...if it is going to fall apart, let no one ve able to accuse us of knocking it down.
As a final thought, the negotiations of the Smith Commission are , strangely, a shadow of the negotiations that "might have been" after a Yes vote.
 (The "low powered vampires" of Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula have just flashed into my head...and I'm going to leave them there.) 
The same considerations ultimately underlie these negotiations now as would have underlain talks after a Yes vote.  The same considerations ultimately underlay the treaty of Union in the first place.
Back in 1707, what Scotland got from the Union was access to markets.  What England got was security...for the Hanoverian succession and Scotland's potential as a "back door" to European invasion.
All the challenges and upsets since, from 1745 to the 45% have ultimately been about and around the same considerations.

Both our tactical choices as voters and campaigners for the elections in 2015 and our attitude to the contingent plans of lord Smith and company which will need approval by the post election Westminster parliament whatever else they will need) should be informed by the same larger political realities.

The greatest reality is that Scotland has already changed forever, and this is going to be reflected somehow in the political sphere in the elections next year and the year after...and it is almost certainly premature and presumptuous of anyone, even me, to predict exactly how that will pan out, let alone what constitutional reflection there will need to be of a political reality that hasn't happened yet.

It may be that the most important thing for all of us to do, including his Lordship and the convened commission, is to sit back for a minute and reflect on the deeper historical realities that have not changed as well as the ones that have.  To take a properly long view of realities that will continue to apply to ANY set of political outcomes or any constitutional arrangements.  London and Europe, for example, will still be there..and we will still be here...and a lot of the things we need from each other we will still need under any circumstances or arrangements.

This is a much longer game than any political party on its own is equipped for. That's why they need us to stay engaged as much as we need them to be as near to honest as they can be.

I am not suggesting that Lord Whoosiz of Whatsit and his two civil servants are going to get anywhere close to a mandated, comprehensive, stable settlement of "the Scottish Question"...let alone the "English question".
But for the wider Yes movement, excluded as we are from the Unco Guid and their deliberations, I would suggest that we treat these talks primarily as a rehearsal for the real thing.  A lot of interesting stuff will come up...and we will need to be talking about it.  That's our role in the new Scotland, after all.
And history will ultimately judge between us - as to whether the immediate and next to immediate results of the referendum were of anything like equal significance to the fact and experience of it.

That same history, I would suggest, has already precluded anything like the status quo, and anything less than a complete constitutional change being tenable or stable for long.  And while we may be less than confident in that reality being recognised and coped with by his Lordship and the assembled wisdom of Scotland's politeratti, we do know that reality wins eventually.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

This is going to be good

The Scots were never big enough to break the Union.  That's always been a job for the English.

So what do we do now?  We've just lost a fight, so our instinct is to pretend we can re-organise and regroup immediately, like Rocky Marciano.  The hive mind of the Yes movement is already a-buzz across social media with plans and hashtags.  We are so busy picking ourselves up off the floor that while we may have grumpily noted that we ceased to be very interesting to the UK media at about a minute past 4 on Friday morning, we probably haven't quite noticed that the way the story has moved on is entirely  in our favour.  Quite bewilderingly, our project of Breaking Britain has been taken up with gusto and the British State.

Might it just be that a narrow No vote last Thursday was the best possible result in the long term? Before you reach for a brick and tell me to stop being such a smart-arse, consider this.

The best imaginable result was a decisive Yes...but that was never on the cards.  The best possible result was a narrow Yes - and that would have united all the politicos of the rUK against us. While a narrow, not even that narrow a No vote has turned them on each other.  Like wolverines in a sack.

And, as it looks to me this Sunday night, they might be doing a better demolition job on this blessed Union of Nations than we ever dreamed of.  And doing it even faster than we had in mind.

Even before the extraordinary developments of the long weekend after the night before, if, up until a couple of weeks ago, somebody'd offered me a 45% Yes vote, I'd have taken it.  If you'd offered me that two years ago, I'd have bitten both your hands off at the wrist in bewildered gratitude. But I never expected the speed with which the narrative of the Break Up of Britain would transfer itself to what has always been the epicentre of the earthquake : London.

The Tory plan for English votes on English Laws - for devolution from the centre to the centre - was always on the cards as a post referendum electoral wizard wheeze to trap the Labour Party.  And in the context of the decisive No vote Cameron was expecting, might have been just that - a crushing blow not only to Scotland but to the prospect of any decently progressive government anywhere in the UK ever again.  That was always the prize the Tories sought that they thought was worth the risk of calling Scotland's bluff.

It was evident that the risk was never taken seriously, as witness the already notorious and evaporating Vow opportunistically scratched in pencil on the back of a wet fag packet...and the front page of the Daily Record...last Tuesday.  A move made in the same spirit of lazy opportunism with which all three UK parties jointly refused to "share" the pound.

They didn't even need to make those pledges, is what's rather comical about the whole thing.  That one Ipsos Mori poll that showed Yes in front that got all of us so excited turned out to have been the push out of the door and into the polling station that the No voters needed.

All the same, the promises and the timetable laid on the table as the restaurant was closing were a vital psychological prop for No Voters, according to the evidence of Lord Ashcroft's exit poll.  They were enough to make No voters vaguely feel they were voting for something, and that a UK that cared about them would deliver them a reward for their loyalty, and that the UK valued them as contributors to a democratic process.

We Yes folk thought that was bollocks.  We thought it was a cynical ploy that would vanish with the morning mist.  But we were wrong.  We had under-estimated the faux cleverness of the Bullingdon boys.

Because Cameron has decided to go ahead with the reform for Scotland and to do so on the timetable that Gordon Brown set out.  But..and here is where the wizard schoolboy wheeze comes in, also to tie the timing of Devo Max for England (basically, the sloughing off of any responsibility for anyone on these islands who isn't already rich) to the timing of those irritating pledges made to the loyal No Voters of Scotland.  That is, he is exploiting promises he didn't mean for a project he really cares about.  Winning the 2015 UK General Election.

After all, Scotland's electoral significance for the Tories is already precisely nil, but this move gives them the chance to paint the Labour Party as putting self interest before the people of England.  Labour, already condemned as anti-Scottish in their former fiefdom, can now be painted as anti-English as well! Labour will suffer a bit in Scotland, probably, but they'll get CRUCIFIED in England.  Result!

So the reward for the loyalty of the Labour No voters in particular, and, with heavy, almost delicious irony, for the slow-minded elephants of the Labour Party, is a trap.  The Tories can now paint the labour party as being anti-English and as standing in the way of "fairness" out of sheer, naked, Party interest.  And the charge will stick.  Because it's entirely justified.  The Labour Party opposed our Independence out of party interest, and now the English are going to feel about them exactly the same way that we do.

It would almost be funny if it wasn't so bitterly hilarious.  It is a quite brilliant electoral ploy by the Tories that will almost certainly secure them a comfortable victory in the UK general election of 2015.  It is also the beginning of the end of the Union, in an even more decisive way than a narrow Yes vote would have been.

This is not just because an awful lot of No voters are going to feel awful like they were made chumps of...that is only incidental.  The real damage to the Union is being done by awakening England to the idea that it doesn't much like the idea of Union any more either.  And if if our feeling that way, some of us, was a problem for the Union, the English feeling that way, and being given an electoral focus for that discontent, is surely going to be fatal to it.

The end of the Union, the Break Up of Britain...or UKANIA, to use Tom Nairn's more useful term, has its roots in the economic and cultural strategy that broke the post war settlement of 1945, abandoning first the principle of full employment, then that of industrial policy and finally the welfare state.  Those things that reinvented "Britishness" in 1945 as a model of social cohesion in the wake of war and depression were progressively and then suddenly abandoned, most dramatically under Margaret Thatcher.  That process was never seriously challenged under New Labour.  It should not have been remotely surprising therefore that the idea of Britain should have been hollowed out along with its social substance.

Devolution in Scotland was always a compensatory and defensive measure against the dominant concomitant of this "national" decline - that is he dramatically enhanced recent concentration of all cultural, economic and political power in the City State of London.  Devolution, at least for us, was much less a matter of asserting our different identity as it was of exploiting that distinctiveness and parleying it politically into the creation of an at least partially protective alternative centre of gravity, cultural, economic and political, here in Scotland that can never rival the pull of london, but can at least negotiate with it..  This has never been an option for the Anglo-Saxons, who confuse themselves with their Norman Overlords, imagining they are the same people.  The English do lack strategic advantages that the Scots have.

At least until last week.  A decisive No vote removing the threat of independence "for a generation" or "forever" according to Jack Straw in the Times, was supposed to remove that marginal leverage from Scotland. We weren't supposed to be able to negotiate any more.  We were supposed to disappear again from British politics, and return into the obscurity from which we have only ever emerged when the Union was under threat.  But a 45/55 split just doesn't "deliver" that stability, no matter how hard both Labour and Conservatives pretend it does - each for their own reasons.

What is more, thanks to the way the Yes campaign was organically grown rather than directed from above, we are clearly not going anywhere.

So now, with the Scottish question still unsettled, for electoral advantage in 2015, the Conservative and Unionist party have just exploded a bomb underneath the very idea of the Union that they've got in their NAME, for goodness sake!  They are leaving the Labour party, cri[ppled, exhausted and corrupted by association, as the only "principled" Unionists standing.  (Apart from the assorted fuck wits who invaded George Square on Friday)

The West Lothian question now pales in to nothingness besides the suicidally incoherent idea of governments elected in the UK that can't legislate on schools and hospitals and immigration. (Unless they're a Tory government, of course).  It's a fundamental attack on democracy in England which the Labour Party have to resist, even though the Tories will make them look undemocratic while doing it.

You can see why Crosby, Osborne and Cameron think it's such a bang on jape.  It will steal UKIP's English nationalist thunder and cripple the Labour Party.  What's not to like?

Well, boys, if any of you had taken any of the bullshit you spouted about how you love the Union seriously, you'd understand that what the Scots failed to to do in the name of Scotland, the Tory Boys are going to accomplish. The,Tory Boys, who don't give a stuff about anyone or anything other than their own narrow bunch of buddies are doing a demolition job on the United Kingdom in the name of England - an England they despise as heartily as they loathe Scotland.

They are going to break up the Union for us.  And we'll help, of course.  We'll join political parties. We'll use the formidable machine of participatory democracy we've invented to focus on the new target of May 2015.  But the arena we'll be working in is still being defined before us and not by us.  Deliciously.   For a week or two, counter to our activist instincts, brothers and sisters, I suggest we pull up a chair and crack open the popcorn.

This is going to be good.

Friday, September 19, 2014


So we decided to give them one more chance...Well, I can't say I'm not grieved and deeply convinced that's awfully generous of us...But after a little gloomy reflection, can I say something I'd never have said while the campaign was "live"?

I don't feel one inch less democratically sovereign in my own country this morning than I did yesterday.  I feel not that I was on the losing side in a war, but in an election.  I think the power of decision is now permanently in our hands.

And that is almost...but not good as I ever thought it could get.

If you'd offered me 45/55 four weeks ago, I'd have taken it.  If you'd offered me that two years ago I'd have bitten both your hands off in bewildered gratitude.

Re,member, everyone, what we've done, in even in terms of rude arithmetic, is take Independence from 30% odd in every opinion poll between 1975 and now...and swing it...50%.

If you'd told David Cameron those figures two years ago...he'd have had a cow.

So...what does this mean?  Well. first, we have wounds to lick.  We also have to hope that some of the things that were said about us  while the campaign was, as I say, "live" will not inform too closely the victory celebrations of our opponents this morning - that "bayoneting the wounded" is not on the agenda of  our Scots opponents - and a more subtle, more devastating vengeance is not on the agenda of our more distant ones.

We and they must remember that this has not been a campaign like any other.  The participants haven't been "professional" politicians - and even the pros on both sides were perhaps more deeply invested in the result than any other completion they'd taken part in before.

(I saw Nicola Sturgeon at about ten o'clock yesterday morning in the Yes shop in Govanhill without her game face on...I knew we were in trouble)

Can I use my wee head start to think a couple of things aloud, as it were, for my own good as much as for anyone else who may want to read this today.

First, we have made a machine for popular democracy together the like of which we have never, ever seen.  We are part of the global struggle for autonomy now, for ourselves as individuals and as members of whatever network of collective identity we choose.  We are not going anywhere.

We are now going to turn that mighty beast to the next phase of what I still believe is a period of profound and unstable change in the politics of two of those collective entities to which we belong, exactly as we would have done if the percentiles had been reversed.

In terms of popular democracy, this defeat, though not to be denied or shied away from, is an opinion poll along the way to where we go next.  But the campaign is a legacy of extraordinary hope, energy, accumulated research and expertise.  We are a million miles from where we were.

For now, the focus of the action, the agency, as we might say, moves to the South for a while...and that's okay...this will take some getting used to. Now our opponents must decide what to do with the mandate they have received.

(I haven't watched Cameron's speech yet, by the way, or read any reaction pieces elsewhere, so I'm probably a bit behind the news...but I feel okay about that for a wee bit! I want to be in this moment for myself first and for my old and new friends, before I get wired back in)

I maintain what I said more than once.  I think this referendum was called reluctantly by the nationalists and seized on by the British State as a chance to kill the anomalous, awkward beast of devolution by taking independence off the table for ever. What will they do now that though the pessimism of the nationalists was justified, the beast is by no means dead? Will Westminster, under pressure from backbenchers and media and a UK population lashed and confused by austerity, resist the temptation to punish us, given the fright they've just had.

Will they, and we, live up to the terms of Edinburgh Agreement, truly and equitably to address the cataclysmic  demand for change that has issued from people who ended up voting both ways?  Will they treat the genie like it was back in the bottle?

Promises have been made that we never properly scrutinised during the campaign.  Those promises have to be kept. We have to see whether and how they are going to do that.  Will Westminster try to impose from on high?  Will the SNP join in the process or be tempted towards strategic side lining from the process as in the past?

Finally a turnout in the mid eighties.  It turns out paradoxically that what probably won it for no was that one opinion poll that put Yes in the lead.  It did what the No campaign failed to do.  It put the negative case.  And whether we like the result or not, as democrats we must agree that it was, as it always is, the right result.  We can choose to interpret this Narrow No as "not yet".  Our opponents can call it "never".  In a way that matters less than the energy released and the pressure and promise of participation in politics on a scale and of a quality that everyone who is a nerd for this stuff, me included, wouldn't have dared to dream of.

We are still, I think, in brand new country.  And I still think that we're better prepared for it..because we gave that new country it's colour, it's fun and its passion.  But that new country isn't Scotland of our hopes yet. The votes are in.  We weren't ready.

This outcome, and its sequel...will be a big test for all the parties.  But it will be a bigger test for us to stay involved, stay engaged, stay on top of them as the process goes forward. I think it is still up to us to keep the "pros" on both sides honest.

 I am confident we'll do that.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


In the unlikely event that anyone reading this is still making up their mind, or hasn't voted yet if you're reading this on Thursday, then you're probably someone who quite fancies the idea of a YES but isn't sure what will happen next? That you are worried about instability and are considering voting No because it seems that that way stability lies?  (certainly that's what the papers and the telly say)

If this description fits you, can I ask you to think about waking up on Friday morning. There's going to be one of four scenarios.  A clear No, a narrow No, a narrow Yes, and a decisive Yes.

Can I ask you to think about these outcomes not necessarily in terms of which one feels the best, but pragmatically.  Which one of these results is the most useful to have in our pocket as we step into the future?

A decisive "No" vote will result, I think, in a sigh of relief from Westminster and a an almost immediate "discovery" that the proposed last minute plans for Devo Max are both unworkable in themselves, and impossible to sell to the electorate in the UK.  I think even a narrow No victory will release a lot of pent up anger in both Tory and labour backbenchers...and the 2015 election is unlikely to be about who can give the sweaties the best sweeties.  It is much more likely to be a "who can stick it to the Scots hardest" competition.

Besides, all those back bench MPs are actually right.  Enhanced devolution is a box of vipers, which is why Cameron didn't want it on the ballot paper. While we tried toi get the mix of powers right, there would be a constitutional crisis every ten minutes..and even if they do manage to cobble something together for 2015, there is still very likely going to be an EU referendum in 2017.  I seriously believe that a No vote is a vote for chaos.  There are already reports not just of mutterings in Westminster, but reports that the precious banks and markets won't regard a patch up job as stable either.  Stability is what they want most, and a sticking plaster over a narrow No vote isn't going to convince anyone that another crisis isn't round the corner.

So we might as well get it over with and vote Yes now.

Not that a narrow Yes win is likely to be a bed of roses.  A lot of people who have been making prophecies of doom and gloom will be tempted, by a narrow Yes, to make our lives miserable enough so that we change our minds.  The narrower the Yes, the longer and more difficult the negotiations.  Conversely, a decisive Yes will mean that the rUK will adjust itself, after a pretty short time, to a reality that is unwelcome, possibly, but that has to be dealt with.  Again, the stability of markets and commerce demand it, just as do considerations of social peace and common-sense.

Like I see, I'm not trying to make an appeal to anyone's idealism here.  But iit is surely very clear that a decisive yes vote is a much better negotiating tool than a narrow one whose Mandate might be questioned by the losing side.  (Especially if it's really close)

Finally, it might well be that for all the campaign has been going on for two years, that it all feels rather sudden - and not just to the Westminster parties who seemed to wake from sleep two weeks ago. It might be that we doubt that we're ready, for possibly good reasons.  But it surely clear now that whatever happens, we're not going back to the status quop.  The change is already with us, and I sincerely believe that a decisive Yes vote will be the best result for social peace, economic stability, and the healing of divisions in what is right now a divided Scotland and will then be a divided UK.  Clarity and stability two years ago may have seemed to lie in a No vote.  Everything has changed.  Everything has already turned.  Maybe change is always here before we feel ready for it.  But i see no better way to deal wiothy the new reality than embracing it.

Go on.  You may as well

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Life and Death

Raymond Williams, the Welsh critic whose lectures I was once privileged to attend (free) as a student  in England, wrote in Culture and Society (1958) these words I have tattooed on my heart:
"There are ideas and ways of thinking with the seeds of life in them, and there are others...with the seeds of a general death"
That is all you know in Scotland, and all you need to know.  
Elsewhere, judging by the papers on Sunday 14th, there may be some catching up to do.

Jeremy Paxman in the Telegraph, for example, having sneeringly dismissed our wee exercise in democracy for years, does now seem to be having hysterical fits of the abdabs...On every point of substance, Mr Paxman manages to be professorially patronising and woefully ill informed at the same time. He also seems to imagine that shouting at us just a bit LOUDER will make us those bloody people who pretend they don't speak English. And that addressing us collectively as Hamish will somehow be endearing? I love England. I love London especially (though it isn't really part of England economically, and hasn't been since the City decided that this island didn't need to make anything other than money any more...which is a rather more relevant piece of history than the usual careless pencil sketch of half remembered cobblers about the Darien scheme.) What has happened is that Britain has been abandoned by the very elite who are suddenly alternating day by by day between..."We love you" and "we'll hurt you" What is different about Scotland is that we have always had somewhere to go. And after fifty years of it not making a blind bit of difference how we voted (as Scotland) in UK elections, we've decided that we'd like some democracy to go along with our nationhood. We wish our brothers and sisters well and hope they follow from our example. And advise Mr Paxman and his ilk that screaming hissy fits are neither effective or particularly dignified.

His is an extreme case, but far from isolated, so may I offer the following general corrective.

Despite what you may have heard or read in all newspapers and's not all about Salmond. He is not our "leader" Neither are we somehow under his control or even influence in many ways. Readers outside Scotland should understand that the panic of the last few days is happening because of the arrogant assumption of a No vote and hence there being no preparation for a Yes vote . You are getting a very blunt and ill informed picture because no one has been paying serious attention . My worry about this is that our achieving democracy and self determination for ourselves will be read as being all about YOU. It isn't. We might think that your electoral choices are eccentric and hence want to disassociate ourselves from them, but there is no animosity or rejection here...from the vast, vast majority of us. We have our share of nutters...who doesn't?...but it has been in the interests of the No campaign to scare Scottish voters by misrepresenting the Yes campaign as wholly an SNP project. But this is nonsense. The SNP has around 30% support (which is why Cameron was so confident, being misled by Labour in London who still think Scotland is their temporarily lost ball) ) So almost as much support for Yes is coming from people like me who do not think of themselves as nationalist. This may be hard to credit...but a consequence, unintended or not, of what is clearly a false picture of Scotland presented to that the same wholly false picture has been presented to the English, many of whom, if the Mail and Telegraph are to be believed (!) now think we wear jackboots under our kilts. It is the responsibility of all of us of goodwill in these islands to calm down and adjust to the new reality. Which is why Mr Rawnsley, (for example)  your prediction that negotiations will (for reasons based on the above misapprehension...that we all hate all of you) be "nasty, brutish and prolonged" is not only unhelpful to all of us. But it implies that when David Cameron signed the Edinburgh Agreement he didn't take it at all seriously. And I hope that's not true.

Cameron was badly advised (by the Labour Party who thought all voters in Scotland belonged to them) that the SNP's support of 30% was the same level of support there would be for independence.  Hence his being caught totally surprise by the NON nationalist surge...from traditional Labour voters.  Cameron still thinks this is about us "kicking the effing Tories" as he put it.  But we've been kicking the effing Tories since 1955.  (to little effect) This is about kicking the effing Labour party.  And THAT is the historical change.  It is very sad that the arrogance and ignorance of the political class have kept English voters in the dark about what is happening.  The "more Powers" nonsense betrays that the elite treats the English electorate with exactly the same contempt as we've been treated for the last two years.  The chickens are coming home to roost.  As are the Scots. No offence intended.  That's just the way it is.  

The New Reality is going to take a bit more faith and preparation from all of us.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Coming home from Coventry.

No campaign spends years talking about uncertainties and demanding answers. Gives last minute offer of maybe something, offered by someone. - Kieran Hurley

21 last thoughts on the way home

1) We should be patient with our friends in England and elsewhere. We've been talking and thinking about this stuff seriously for a long time. The ignorance and arrogance of their media and political class has only given them a week and a half to catch up.

2) As for us, as soon as we dare to consider independence and democratic oversight of our own affairs is the normal condition of a normal country, the argument is over. Even if the referendum isn't.

3) Scotland has always been a nation. It is past time we became a democracy as well.

4) Scotland's identity is under no threat from anyone. Scotland's independence is no threat to anyone.

5) If uncertainty is the sole remaining argument for the status quo, can someone please explain to me why having a measure of democratic control of your own destiny is somehow more uncertain than letting someone else decide everything important for you?

6) The referendum's result may well depend on what side of bed we collectively get out of on the morning of September 18th. This is not to diminish the result. Confidence is the key issue. If we feel happy and confident, it will be "Yes". If we feel scared and miserable it will be "No".  

Which one would you rather?

7) We are not leaving anywhere or separating from anyone or going anywhere. We are coming home.

8) The Labour Party's role has historically been to deliver Westminster Scottish votes like delivering potatoes - by the sack load - for social democracy in the UK. It was the Labour Party that abandoned social democracy before we abandoned them. This is why the delivery of votes by the potato sack that they promised David Cameron isn't working for them any more.

9) We are not just voting for change. We already are the change. Scotland has already changed. Our people have already behaved as a "sovereign" in their own country. We already know more about independence than we think we do. We've already seen what it looks like in the yes campaign.

10) No campaigners complaining of their own sides lack of clarity should consider that The No campaign has actually perfectly embodied the Union, rather than made a coherent case for the union. That is , it has been top heavy, confused, valueless, moribund, patronising and all staged for the telly. Very badly. Which defines the British State very clearly, I would have thought.

11) A campaign which relies on creating fear and defeat for victory is corrupt and corrupting by its nature. It stains all it touches. It's victory would be infamous. By contrast, the positive invention of the Yes campaign is itself a contribution to creating a new, more inclusive, more fun country for us to live in. It's victory would be an act of courage and encouragement.

12) On the other hand, we do have one reason to be grateful for the negativity of the No campaign. Which is, that if we vote "Yes" we are doing it with our eyes open. The future is not a thing not to be nervous about. We will be voting in hope but not in expectation. I can think of no better start.

13) The degree of shock expressed at recent opinion polls by the British Establishment is a measure of the arrogant wilful ignorance of that establishment.

14) The shallowness of the panicked response is an insult not just to those of us in Scotland who have been doing some serious thinking about this, but to the electorate in the rest of the UK, who have been misled and kept in the dark as the democratic revival that is going on here.

15) The establishment fears an awakened people far more on the other side of the Tweed than they have been, up until now, scared of us. They are still scared of us mostly in case we give our brothers and sisters South of the Tweed the same ideas above their station that we've been kicking around these last few months.

16) If I were writing the story of the last twenty years in Scotland as a play, the tragic hero would be the Labour party in Scotland. The first scene would be at John Smith's funeral where Tony Blair sews up the leadership in 1994. This would now be the beginning of Act Five, with Gordon Brown as the voice of doom.

17) The idea that the situation in Scotland is "really" about "anti-politics" ie the hatred of Westminster, is alluring to the London media, but ultimately self serving and misleading.  

18) London politics and media start from the assumption that democracy is in crisis, that the "people" think it meaningless...and so are turning to anti-democrats like UKIP...and by extension, they think, the SNP. This is a grotesque but predictable "it's all about us like everything else" response.

19) What is happening in Scotland is the OPPOSITE of anti-politics. It's a late revival of belief that political change is possible through political engagement. An embodiment of hope that through political action, we can make a better society - a participatory, democratic future. For ourselves.

20) To describe the Yes campaign as anti-politics is myopic at best, and yet more self- flagellation from defeated liberalism at best. Mr Clegg, Mr Cameron, Mr Milliband. Even, yes, Mr Salmond. This is not about you. It's about us.

21) Lastly, Dear England, Dear Scotland...Understand this about our relationship and you understand almost everything.  We each experience our relationship equally but oppositely.  
On the one hand, from the moment the Treaty of Union was signed in 1707, it, and our relationship with England, has never ceased to be the central issue in Scottish cultural and political life.

On the the other, from  the moment the Treaty was signed, Scotland disappeared from English political and cultural life except when the Union was under threat.

If you think it through, it explains why England football fans support "all the British teams" and all the "British" teams don't support England.

It is not a repressive relationship, but it is, inevitably, unequal.

Finally, the core demand of Independence has always been to secure the equality that the Union has never afforded.

We have learned that the only way to become free, to become equal, is to act \as if you already were.

The Union, for both of us, is a neurosis, an illness. For both of us, a Yes vote is the beginning of the cure

Thursday, August 28, 2014

September 19th

Well, I'm writing this on the train to Coventry early on the the morning after what will probably prove to be the highlight of the campaign - if you consider it in terms of men in expensive suits talking over each other on the telly.

Don't get me wrong, I am heartily glad, as a Yes campaigner, that Alec Salmond brought his A game this time. To the extent of wondering whether he deliberately fluffed the first debate with Alastair Darling as a way of lowering expectations so that he could emerge, Martin Sheen like, under the TV lights...

But that is the part of my brain that engages with politics of vital concern like it was a game, like it was a ritual, like it was, frankly, an episode of The West Wing.

And while I am second to none in my devotion to that oeuvre that revolutionised what it was possible to expect to see written on American TV (alas, not British), there has been a whole other campaign happening in Scotland that I have been privileged to be part of that has been moving its feet to a different beat..

And this campaign, cultural, web based and performance based - this cultural campaign, this expression of energy and hope and wit and passion as campaign issues in and of themselves, this argument for More Life in the face of the general cultural death of market nihilism and the dictatorship of the commentariat...this is the one I'm thinking about on the train down today.

I was at a meeting the other day of various Yes folk - bloggers, talkers, organisers - most of whom were too exhausted to speak. Most of whom were impatient at being taken away from the ploughing of their own furrow. The campaign is deadly serious right now.

But these were the fun people too, and we were and are all concerned and agreed that the creative space for proper participation and engagement in the stuff that matters. The making of a better society has already started through this campaign and cannot and will not find itself closed down on September 19th...when the idiot binary question that has prompted the opening up of this interesting and exciting analogue world of possibilities...will be gone.

How do we sustain the energy?

Well first of all - take it from an old man - we won't. Every campaign, successful or otherwise, exists within a paradigm for as long as it lasts, and victory or defeat, everything changes. To attempt to cling to what isn't there anymore is energy sapping and dispiriting.

You have to translate and re-apply the energy with the awareness that it ain't going to be the same focus.

Besides, we are dealing here with a whole bunch of numerically determined scenario situations here, not just with a Yes or a No. How big or small the margin is will... materially and culturally..and dare I say, spiritually...define the territory where we'll need to focus that energy.

A sixty percent victory for a very different thing from a 52% victory. The same is true of the margins of a victory for No. If a No vote won big, if the referendum worked out as being a reflection of where we stated this campaign (with Yes around 30% where it's been for YEARS) and all this had been , apparently, fort NOTHING...well, we'd all of us, I think, be very depressed...including a lot of people who'd voted No. We'd be ashamed, politically neutralised and helpless, like in 1979. (I told you I was old)

We'd find it hard to organise a cabaret. And I wouldn't go to a party unless they were handing out heroin.

But given that this scenario is unlikely...and a narrow win for Yes or No is what we're expecting as of typing this on the 26th of August (not having seen the “Eat your Cereal” advert!) there are practical and spiritual questions to think about when it comes to how to maintain and develop this new civic and cultural democracy we've just invented.

If it's a Yes vote, we want to be part of the conversation about the constitution and design of the new nation. That's what we've already been doing all this time. We'rve been acting, consciously or not, AS IF the future were already here. AS IF WE ALREADY HAD a real participatory democracy in this country. There will be stuff to talk about, meetings to go to, and we will need all the poets and singers we can get to both inform the national conversation and give form to making that future real. And having a few chuckles and tears on the way.

The weirsd thing is, if iot's a narrow No, we have to doi EXACTLY the same.

We have to keep acting AS IF. We have to keep behaving as if we arfe in the early days of a better nation.

For two reasons ; first, because we will be, even with a No vote, living in a changed country. We have already come a long way, but we know now that we are lucky enough to live in a place that we KNOW can change for the better, because we've already seen it.

And secondly, because no one has ever made a better world without acting as if it were already here. No one has ever become free or equal without acting AS IF they already were.

This referendum campaign has all been about ways of seeing. Ways of Thinking. Ways of Being in a present tense that carries the promise of the future, the promise of more life. None of that will change on September 19th. We will still be involved in inventing a future for ourselves...there will be no guarantees about ANYthing, no matter which way it goes...It's just that a YES vote, in ,my opinion will embrace that difficult yet hopeful reality, and a No vote will attempt ( delusionally) to postpone facing reality till the day after tomorrow.

Either way, we need to have a space, physically and on-line, where that energy and invention and talk that we've been doing with National Collective, Bella Caledonia, All Back to Bowie's and in halls up and down the country that have been hosting debates and speeches...can keep happening. There's already some practical chat about how we might do that...plans afoot...and I'm confident there will be enough of us with enough energy not to just "keep it going" but keep inventing it as we go.