Well that anniversary certainly crept up fast. On the one hand it all feels like it was yesterday, yet on the other hand it might as well have been a lifetime ago.
There’s been a huge amount going on over this last year, both politically and personally. As you’ve probably guessed from the lack of activity on here I’ve scarcely even looked at this blog since the last post went up. I’m glad to say that the main reason for that is because all of my energy and efforts have been getting applied practically in attempting make a difference here in Liverpool.
As I was reading various retrospectives over the weekend it struck me that it might be interesting to go back and revisit what I’d written in the week immediately following the vote to see how it matched up with the reality of what’s come to pass.
As I said at the time, nothing in that post was solid enough to be called a prediction – it was all mere speculation. Nevertheless it’s been interesting to try and put myself back in that week, trying to recall what it was that prompted those thoughts.
As we know the SNP membership continued to soar, with Nicola Sturgeon just having confirmed that they reached 112,208 members. However it seems as if, so far, most of those members are happy with sticking to the party line. In fact, if anything, the only thing that might be causing the leadership some difficulties is the pressure being applied to stage a re-run of the referendum as soon as possible.
I’m almost certainly going to get pelters for saying this, but I don’t think that’s been good for either the SNP or the wider ‘Yes movement’. In fact I’d even go so far as to say that many of the groups that made up that movement have become increasingly sidelined in the rush to try and bring about Indyref 2.
Rather than the SNP’s membership surge leading to an increasing level of debate within the party, it actually feels more like it’s led to a circling of the wagons. That makes it increasingly difficult to have a serious debate about the performance of the SNP government (with the performance of Police Scotland being at least one subject that ought to be up for grabs).
The feeling that I get from the Twittersphere is that the future of independence is now seen as being very much in the SNP’s hands, and if anyone has a problem with that then they can either like it or lump it.
Ironically the biggest headache that Nicola Sturgeon may face is being forced to ride the whirlwind of her own members desire to do the whole thing over again as soon as possible. Thus she is increasingly being bounced into outlining a plan for Indyref 2, even though no actual work has been done to fix the gaps and weaknesses of the first campaign.
Looking back over my original blog from last year the biggest irony that strikes me is that it’s actually Labour who have been rocked to the core by a surge in left-wing support. I’ll come back to that below – but first I should look back over what it was that I originally wrote.
The week after the referendum I was urging caution when it came to investing our hopes in a Labour rout. Looking back I think that this was a defensive reaction. Having invested all of our hopes in a ‘Yes’ vote I didn’t want to see people getting crushed a second time if the General Election didn’t go as expected.
In my defence I was always certain that Scottish Labour would get steamrollered (see my notes in ‘A letter to England’), it’s just that I didn’t want to jinx things by investing all my hopes in a false dawn. However come the event the actual result was never in doubt – the only question was whether Scottish Labour would struggle on with a handful of seats, or whether they would go the way of the Tories in ’97.
My comments at the time were also partly framed in the context of discussions that had suddenly sprung up about the possibility of a ‘Yes Alliance’. As attractive as the idea sounded to many people I simply couldn’t see how such a thing could work, and frankly I still don’t. I’ve yet to see anyone explain how such an alliance would work in practice, whether it’s in the case of a Yes Alliance or whether it’s a political pact between Labour and the Greens in England.
As soon as you start trying to work out how such an Alliance might work you immediately start coming up against the cold hard realities of what you would have to overcome.
Firstly, the largest party in any such grouping will have no interest in doing deals with other parties – it goes completely against their interest. Why hand away seats that you can potentially win outright to parties that you have no control over, and who may struggle to win a seat that you would have walked away with.
Secondly, you need to sit down and draw up a list of who’s not going to be allowed to stand where. How does that work when both the Scottish Greens and the SSP draw their strongest support from Glasgow? Were the SNP ever going to stand down their own candidates so that Patrick Harvie or Colin Fox or anyone else could have a clear run? Of course not.
And thirdly, even if such a deal could be agreed then try selling that to the party activists and voters across the country who now have no candidate of their own to support. People don’t like putting in years of work and effort, only to have all of that snatched away from them just as the big prize is coming into view.
The English Left
In the original blog I reserved my harshest criticism for the English Left, who I argued had completely failed to grasp the meaning, motivations and significance of what was going on in Scotland.
Someone must have been taking notice though, because since the General Election it seems like they’re starting to get their act together. However while I’m delighted that Corbyn has upset the apple-cart I still maintain a healthy dose of scepticism.
Labour may now have a left-wing leader, but it is still a long way from being a left-wing party. I also detect a bit of old-school nostalgia in claims that Corbyn can ‘win back Scotland’. Forget it – Scotland’s gone. It’s winning over England that you need to worry about now, and you’re going to have more than enough work on hands doing that.
A big question mark also hangs over Corbyn’s attitudes towards the constitution – what is his plan for Scotland? What does he think about devolution for the English Regions? And that’s before we even get on to the question of how enthusiastic he’s going to be about campaigning to stay in the EU.
Oh yeah – and one last thing. If you’re trying to win over all those voters that you lost during the referendum, posing with a copy of the Daily Record ain’t the way to do it. For independence supporters it means the same thing as Miliband posing with the Sun means to Merseysiders.
The Yes movement
This is one area where I feel my observations were pretty on the money. Written against a backdrop where ‘the 45%’ had suddenly emerged as a rallying point it was obvious that change was on the way.
Since then we’ve seen the dissolution of National Collective and the creation of RISE. Women for Independence still seems to be going strong, with no fewer than 13 Women for Indy elected as MPs.
Indeed it seems that desperately continuing to try and weld different forces together has been a hindrance for a number of groups. The 45% petered out after a few months, with most of that energy seemly poured into ensuring an outright SNP in the General Election. That was probably for the best, however it’s been sad to see Common Weal fading in prominence, partly losing ground following attempts to rehabilitate Tommy Sheridan back into the mainstream.
On a more positive note it is good to see some critical analysis starting to take place with Jim Sillar’s ‘In Place of Fear’ starting to open up a reflective space. It is essential that this process moves forward. If a second referendum is fought on the same grounds as the first it will be bound to lose again
In those days immediately following the referendum there were a few people trying to launch new Indymedia outlets. Apparently born more from hope than from experience none of these new projects went anywhere, although they may have helped to provide some impetus for the creation of ‘The National’.
Feeding off of the creative energy that came out of the vote The National quickly established a place for itself. It will be interesting to see how well it continues to fare over the next 18 months. If it looks like a second referendum is on the horizon then there’s the chance for the paper to really come to the fore. Of course, if that referendum was to result in a second ‘No’ vote then it’s hard to see how The National would continue.
In the meantime most of the key blogs and podcasts that flourished prior to the vote are still going on in some form. ‘Dateline Scotland’ has found a non-satirical outlet in Newsshaft. Bella, Wings, Lesley Riddoch, Derek Bateman Lalland’s Peat Worrier and Michael Greenwell are all still going strong, although in some cases there has been a natural and understandable drop in output.
With next year’s Scottish Parliament elections coming up fast there will hopefully be enough going to help maintain the energy and skills until the next independence vote comes round again. As it surely will.