How the Yes was Lost: What has become of the yes campaign?

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

The mood surrounding the yes campaign pre September 18th was positive, upbeat and exciting. There was a belief that voting yes could truly change the country we lived in and a belief that voting yes could send a strong message to the establishment and that it could truly try to disrupt the neo-liberal political agenda that had been running rampant for thirty years. I suppose it was rather idealistic to believe that a liberal nationalist vision of independence where they wanted to cut corporation tax would challenge the neo-liberal consensus.

It’s been relatively quiet round here on matters of post referendum discussion. That’s because the standard of post referendum discussion has been embarrassingly bad. Last week, this article was published and described the situation in the yes campaign extremely well. Although I think there isn’t a lot more I need to add, I think it’s important that as many of us on the yes side as possible, come together to speak out against the atmosphere.

At the moment, the yes campaign is like a moody teenager who didn’t get it’s way and is in one of those sulks- like when you wanted your lip pierced when you were thirteen and your mum said “No…not until you’re eighteen.” They’ve barged upstairs and slammed the door-they don’t want to speak to anyone who thinks they might be wrong, or wants them to see things from another point of view- or want them to come up with a better plan. The word democracy was thrown around a lot during the independence campaign, but afterwards, democracy doesn’t appear to be high on the yes campaign’s agenda. Let’s look at their desire to crush and destroy the Labour party in Scotland. The Scottish Labour Party is in completely dire straits at the moment and of course members know it. The dichotomy of most of the yes movement towards the Labour party is becoming increasingly disturbing. As a left wing Labour member, I totally understand that the Labour party let people down whilst it was in power. It also did some great things: the national minimum wage, the peace process in Northern Ireland, devolution and increased LGBT rights. For many people though, the bad far outweigh the good: the Iraq war, New Labour’s inability to shake off big business and that people’s wages STILL had to be topped up with in-work benefits such as working tax credits and child tax credits. In a short time, at least nationally, Labour do seem to have realised that they have to distance themselves from New Labour thinking- they have distanced themselves from big businesses by calling for an energy price freeze for two years. This means that there would be a government imposed price control on utilities. When we live in an era of profit over people, an era of neo liberal individualism, this is a serious achievement. The Scottish Labour Party needs Neil Findlay to become it’s next leader. We need someone with a proven track record of actually believing in class politics and putting them into action through campaigns such as anti-blacklisting and involvement in the trade union movement. With this, we can begin to outflank the SNP from the left.

The number of people who want to see the end of the Labour Party is somewhat troubling to me, a Labour member who voted yes. The people who voted for and support the general aims the current government should not be advocating the destruction of it’s main opposition. That isn’t democracy. That sounds like a cult of personality to me. The parties of government need to be held to account by an effective and robust opposition. How do we hold the government to account without an opposition? You can’t, really. And perhaps that is the SNP’s plan.

Something I also found troubling was the 12,000 strong audience who piled into the Hydro in Glasgow last month to listen to new SNP leader and new first minister give a speech. In a time when people are supposedly politically apathetic, it was a good result for getting people involved again. But the flag waving and the foam fingers emblazoned with SNP slogans and branding was a strange sight in a seemingly democratic country. Another event that took place last month, on the same weekend as Nicola Sturgeon’s speech was the Radical Independence Conference. Bigger than it had ever been before, the Clyde Auditorium was taken over by a coalition of left wing nationalists, who, according to many articles published over the weeks since, were very keen not to be seen as nationalists. What is, and has been blatantly missing from the pro independence discussion is class. As a socialist, it makes me incredibly uncomfortable for a room of so-called ‘socialists’ to give a second thought to class. Class has always been incredibly important to the Scottish electorate. There has always been a wonderful notion of class consciousness in Scotland and a proud history of a class based Labour movement. So why didn’t the yes movement take that with both hands? A movement placing nation above class is detrimental to workers and the working class. Radical independence rejects working with Labour affiliated trade unions which alienates hundreds of thousands of people in Scotland.

Another point the article from Promised Joy articulates is the equation of the SNP and their almost hero-like worship of Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon is Argentine Peronism. An early advocate of the third way ideology, Peronism rejected the extremes of capitalism and capitalism and embraced corporatism as a way to negotiate tensions between the classes of society. For opponents, Peron’s style was dictatorial and to quash opponents, he often accused them of being unpatriotic. For many Labour members and no voters, this is a similar kind of way in which their opinions were dismissed by tub-thumping yes supporters. If you were voting no, then you didn’t have the best interests at heart. No voters were like the parents of the moody teenagers, who wanted their own way, but were trying to be reasonable. Many no voters had serious concerns about the currency we would be using in an independent Scotland. These concerns were fobbed off by the yes campaign who saw them as the no campaign’s derailment of the yes cause.

Despite being told we would live in a more democratic country in an independent Scotland, it doesn’t feel like they are practicing what they preach in a Scotland as part of the UK, with their futile attempts at destroying the opposition parties who didn’t support their stance. The rhetoric that the Labour Party let Scotland down because they campaigned for a no vote is dangerous because it doesn’t touch on what needs to change in the Labour Party and why the people of Scotland actually were let down by Labour.

The rejection of a class based movement within the yes campaign appears to be, to a lot of people, why they lost. To finish, I’ll give an anecdote that really conveys the atmosphere and attitudes of the tub-thumping, Labour hating, creme de la creme of the yes campaign.

A friend of mine, an ardent supporter of independence before it was cool to talk about Scottish independence has had to put up with something of a witch hunt in light of the new pro-independence “The National” being released. They accused him of lying about being Scottish, about being a politics student and voting SNP in 2011. They believed a true yes voter should support a yes leaning newspaper despite the fact he found it to be little more than propaganda.

To convince people that voting yes would be beneficial, not just for Scotland, but the rest of the United Kingdom, the yes campaign has to stop trying to derail it’s opposition of which lots of yes voters are actually members of. We need a robust democracy in which to discuss the best future for Scotland. We can’t do that if we turn into a one party state, which is what lots of pro yes campaigners are inadvertently advocating. People also need to be friendlier to others online. Discuss politics in such a way online as you would in real life, without resorting to over used cliches such as ‘red tories’. Instead of working to make independence happen, start fighting in campaigns that would actually be beneficial to people now.

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One comment

  1. Hi there,

    A well written piece which captures most of the mood that is going round at the moment. As a Yes voter, but not a Labour Yes voter, and not an SNP Yes voter, I can see where you are coming from.

    Whilst I can empathise with many of the thoughts and feelings I must say that I feel the Scottish Labour Party have, possibly inadvertently, caused part of this. Since the SNP have come to power I have got the feeling that Scottish Labour have displayed the same “sulky teenager” like behaviour towards the SNP. At times I have felt that Scottish Labour’s attitude towards them has been pathological, puerile and downright damaging to themselves. I may have misunderstood but many a time I have felt they have displayed a sense of “entitlement” to the Scottish vote and a deep sense of “how dare they” towards the SNP. What I see now is a reaction to 7 years of this coming back at Scottish Labour.

    I do not condone this one bit and absolutely agree with the dangers of a one party state and the benefits of a strong opposition but would also add that opposition doesn’t necessarily have to be made up of one party. A system where there are only two main parties to me is also fraught with dangers. After all there are usually two sides to every story but the truth is usually somewhere in the middle. I would like to see ALL parties flourish in Scotland because then a greater number of the people are then represented.

    I also agree that we should definitely talk about how many of us feel after the referendum. Whilst I was disappointed, not because I didn’t get my message across to the establishment, but more because I believe it would have worked better for all (all constituent parts of the UK), I am not a sulky teenager in any shape or form. I am content to accept what the majority voted for, but I am not content to simply disappear into the background. I am involved in politics because I care about the people around me. As I have said before, I am not one of the 45 or 55, I am one of the 100 that wants the best for Scotland. I still genuinely believe that Scotland would fair better as an independent nation and I will continue to think that, but I also won’t concentrate on it to the detriment of all other matters. There are still hungry children and adults, there are still social injustices, there are still democratic deficits, there are still environmental calamities, to be dealt with whether we are independent or not.

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