Like many people, the campaign for and eventual result of the Scottish Independence Referendum is what finally pushed me over the brink and transformed me from a politically opinionated into a politically active person.
Grieving for the loss of opportunity as so many were, I wholly identified with the idea of being proud to have been on of the 45% (actually 44.7% but let’s not quibble over decimals) who voted for progressive change and self-determination.
However, independence wasn’t the only issue that concerned me and on looking into the manifestos, records and conduct of a few parties I decided that the Scottish Greens, rather than the SNP were the best fit for me to continue my newfound enthusiasm for politics.
As time has passed after the referendum, it’s been heartening to see membership of the Yes-supporting parties soaring, the decision of organisations such as National Collective and Radical Independence Campaign to persevere and the nascent development of new progressive groups like the Scottish Left Project and a push for new Scots-owned and pro-independence print media.
Less heartening has been the way ‘the 45%’ has become a rallying call of bitterness and exclusivity, almost an example of ‘hipster’ politics (I was into indy before it was cool…) and combined with rampant conspiracy theories (some plausible, some really not) it’s shown the worst side of the ‘cybernats’ as reactionary, unreasonable fringe types.
Similarly, it seems that every time I look at the comments on a Scottish Greens post on Facebook, especially regarding campaigning for the upcoming elections, I see a host of posts lambasting the Greens for daring to campaign on their own banner, rather than taking a year or two off to allow the SNP a clean run at the progressive vote.
I can’t help but think that attitude is fundamentally flawed, firstly because disillusioned Lib Dem and Labour voters are probably more likely to vote Green than SNP due to ingrained rivalries and the SNP’s oft-overlooked centre-right tendencies in some areas but also because the Greens exist as a distinct party from the SNP for a reason, or rather a great many reasons of differing policy, principle and organizational modus operandi.
The whole concept of a Yes Alliance is based on the idea that we believe in a better, more democratic, more representative and more progressive Scotland. The effective proscription of ANY viewpoint is not conducive to that vision and the obsessive one-party drive for independence by any means is indicative of all the worst connotations of ‘nationalism.’
The beauty of the Yes campaign was its diverse and inclusive nature, the way that representatives and members of almost all parties (even the Conservatives) spoke in it’s favour, the way it attracted and inspired people from all walks of life and races, the way it spoke of hope, democracy and co-operation.
I remember reading an article which compared the monolithic and centralized Better Together to a lumbering giant, swiping at the thousand butterflies which made up the Yes campaign and I feel that is the spirit that we need to maintain because Yes never did equate to the SNP and it never should. An independent Scotland should not be a one-party state and adopting a one-party approach to achieving it would be a mistake, becoming equally as monolithic and lumbering as that which we seek to free ourselves from.
For my part, despite all my passion for the Greens, I am still considering a tactical vote for the SNP as in my constituency the SNP need to make up around 12’600 votes, necessitating a swing of around 16%, which would seem inconceivable under normal conditions, but still far more likely than the Greens making up 19’000 votes (a swing of 49% or so…) necessary to unseat Labour (who I’m sure most of us can agree are a toxic option at this point.)
Thereby, I’m minded to vote for the SNP in First-Past-The-Post elections, as the ‘least-bad-candidate-who-might-actually-win’ but will campaign for the Greens and vote for them when more democratic and representative systems are at play.
Still, to vote so tactically sticks in my craw and it really rankles that the practicality of doing so is imposed on me by an unbalanced and unfair ‘democratic’ system. Hell, if I’m honest, being browbeaten into doing so by online peer pressure, people telling me that my preferred vote would be wasted or make me a ‘splitter’ or similar is more likely to compel me to tell tactics to bugger off and I’ll vote for principles instead.
We have to remember that ‘the 45’ is never going to be enough to win a binary question referendum and we have to make the Yes message as inclusive as possible – this does not equate to ‘vote for the SNP or you are a Unionist/Tory/traitor/fascist.’
Independence will not be achieved by the SNP winning every single Scots seat in next year’s elections and even the most hopeful predictions* tend to leave the SNP short of a wipeout by about 10-15 seats and the best realistic hope is a majority of seats in Scotland (30 or more from 59, which would require 24+ gains), but by returning a Yes-supporting majority in the Scottish elections the year after, which could/should lead to another referendum and thereby turning the 45 %into at least 51%
* Calculated at electoralcalculus.co.uk, assuming the 45% all vote for the SNP with the votes mostly coming from the Labour vote, with Lib Dem & Tory votes as indicated by current opinion polls.
Thereby, it is unhelpful to turn the 2015 campaign into an SNP one alone, as this would alienate a fair degree of the 45%, never mind looking to convert the 200’000 No voters needed to make a referendum campaign in 2018 or 2020 a winnable one.
The drive for progressive change must be reasonable, inclusive and peaceful. Online bullying, co-option into one particular viewpoint or party or the promotion of ‘the 45’ as an exclusive, confrontational club is not the way we want to go about this.
So, campaign and vote for the party that most moves you or vote tactically if you want to, spread the message of progressive, democratic change in whichever peaceful, non-aggressive way that pleases you.
The momentum is with us and we must not falter and adopt the tactics of our opponents. A victory obtained through excessive centralization and bullying would be a bitter one indeed.
We agree on a vision for a better, fairer Scotland, so let’s be better, fairer and win in the right way, as a thousand butterflies, a kaleidoscope for democracy and freedom.