When I was asked to speak here tonight I wanted to know what the theme for the evening was and Ian told me it was “be prepared”.
Of course, the first thing that comes to mind when you hear those words is the Scouts. Now, I was never in the Scouts, but I was in Boys Brigade. From what I remember the only thing that prepared me for was jumping hobby horses and marching but as you can probably tell neither of those have really featured prominently in my life!
But as well as badges for Camping, astronomy and dragon boating all the way through to survival skills, the Scouts, along with other similar organisations, is partly about a sense of community, belonging, shared history and culture.
If you meet someone as an adult who was in the same group as you there’s an instant connection.
It’s part of our tribal nature as a species and managed correctly it can such a unifying force.
It’s actually quite lovely that 2 people can bond over something like that. It happens in all sorts of walks of life, cycling enthusiasts, computer gamers, knitters, skydivers, any time you meet someone who has similar interests to you then you can have a connection because they’re a little bit like you, they’re an honorary tribe member. Now that all works great from an inclusion perspective, the key is to make sure it doesn’t become Exclusionary. “you were in the BBs, I was in the Scouts therefore I don’t like you” This is kind of how things are with the Scottish independence movement.
There are a huge, diverse, group of people who believe Scotland is best served as an independent country just as there is an equally large and diverse group who disagree.
It’s all too tempting to think that we have more in common with those who share our views on things like that than those disagree. I’m sure we’ve all had that moment where you see a car with a Yes2 badge on or even the original one and have a wee smile “one of us”.
And that’s fine, as long as you don’t see someone with a Better Together sticker and think that means they’re NOT “one of us”. It may well be that apart from agreeing on independence there’s not much else you share, even what an independent Scotland might look like or what its relationship with the rest of the world will be. We have to be prepared to find common ground with those we disagree with every bit as much as those we agree with.
Now, I was mainly invited here tonight because of the “work” I do on Twitter and with my blogging and videos where I’ve set myself up as a self-proclaimed media expert. What that actually means is that I subject myself to watching and listening to the BBC and other news outlets and have the time to do it. If my wife and I had kids I’m not sure I’d be able to commit quite so much time to it but thankfully my wife is very understanding. To give you an example, if I’m working from home and can have the TV on in the background I start with BBC Breakfast, then it’s onto the Wright Stuff, after that it’s Newsroom Live on BBC before Daily Politics followed by the 1 o’clock news. As you can imagine I’m an absolute hoot at parties, I actually thought the character from the SNP’s video might have been aimed at me, “Davie’s on about politics again” is something I’ve heard many a time.
So I listen to the interviews, I read between the lines, and sometimes the lies, and I try to inform or educate people as best I can. There are countless times when a news report on Reporting Scotland has been a distortion of the facts or is presented in such a way as to obfuscate the truth.
We only have to look at this week’s coverage of the Brexit transition deal and the Tories’ broken promises. Had that been the SNP we can guarantee that the headlines would have been about how the SNP have been accused of betraying voters, but when it was the Scottish Conservatives who had promised just a week before to the fishing industry that we’d be leaving the CFP in March 2019, what were the headlines?
Wall to wall coverage of how “disappointed” they were and how they would “seek assurances” from the Prime Minister. The Tories in Scotland were being set up as the party that gets things done, the party who can achieve at Westminster where the SNP with their 56 MPs failed. The change to VAT charges for the police and fire services weren’t because of concerted pressure from the Sottish government over a period of months and years, they were because of the 13 Scottish Conservatives.
The message was clear, vote for Tories and Scotland will be heard, vote for anyone else and you won’t. Ignoring that if we were independent we could have simply made the decision for ourselves.
So when the clause 11 amendments didn’t come as promised it was presented as simply an administrative issue where there wasn’t enough time to make the changes, don’t worry, they’ll be introduced in the Lords.
Now for anyone who doesn’t know, the clause 11 section of the UK withdrawal bill is about where the powers coming back from Brussels will be held and administered. It’s the reason the Scottish and Welsh parliaments have had to put through their own withdrawal bills an it’s yet to be seen if those will be challenged in the courts.
The UK initially wanted to control over 100 previously devolved powers but now wants to keep 24, including powers on fishing, to be controlled by Westminster until such time as they have decided what the common frameworks should be which will “maintain the integrity of the UK single market”
which of course doesn’t exist, it’s just a nice piece of terminology they can use so the argument can be “why is leaving the UK single market OK but leaving the EU single market is a disaster”.
To the average voter who doesn’t spend 6 hours a day listening to news that can be a compelling argument, but of course it ignores several key facts, not least of which being that the EU single market comprises of over 500M potential customers while the rUK is 60M.
It also suggests the UK would refuse to trade with its closest neighbour and former partner while placing itself as a new international hub of free trade. It ignores that Ireland had a similar trading position prior to joining the EU but now export far more to the EU than the UK. If the Cambridge Analytica scandal has taught us anything it is that the emotional cut through of the “UK single market” message is much deeper and easier to achieve than outlining the ways in which its wrong.
As the old adage goes, if you’re explaining then you’ve already lost.
We have news programs, newspapers and radio shows covering politics in this country, we have the state broadcaster and commercial channels, we have a supposedly diverse group of media outlets, and yet the almost 50% of voters in Scotland who support independence are represented by one national weekly newspaper, no radio stations, not one TV channel or even program, and we have a Commonspace online news outlet which takes as much time opining on the ways the SNP are harming the Yes movement as they do promoting the cause of independence itself.
We have the Wings Over Scotland website which is much derided, mainly due to the editor’s acerbic attitude on Twitter, but we don’t see the Herald similarly traduced despite the often insulting and derogatory views which David Leask espouses online. There is little or no representation of our point of view in the media and even when those who do support independence manage to make headway towards appearing on the so called mainstream media it is almost always after they have tempered their views somewhat or can be counted on to say something that will have the Twittershpere howling the “no True Scotsman “ fallacy of “you’re no yesser”.
Look at people like Cat Boyd and Angela Haggerty, two women who have taken all manner of abuse online from all sides and for reasons ranging from the boots they wear to the colour or cut of their hair and sometimes even based on the views the present.
I have often robustly challenged them online in regards the logic of their positions on independence and their seeming support for Corbyn’s Labour, but I do not doubt for a second that in the run up to the last independence referendum they will be campaigning hard for a Yes vote.
Having said that, free speech goes both ways and all too often people who have these platforms forget how hard they had to work to get there and what it was like when they were the ones pushing to get their voices heard.
On the BBC’s Politics Scotland program with Gordon Brewer last week Angela was on as a commentator and suggested the Scottish Tories were doing the Standing Up for Scotland bit while the SNP had been quiet on the situation in regards the Tories’ broken promises on fishing.
She was pilloried online, including by myself, with many asking why on earth she would say such a thing. We have journalists in order to inform, to challenge the orthodoxy, to bring things to our attention that we wouldn’t normally know about. So the idea that the SNP had been quiet on this was what she should have been challenging, not confirming.
Fergus Ewing and others had been consistent on the issue and had been trying to get their views put across but if you watched the news that day all you will have heard is about how “angry” the Scottish Conservatives were at being “let down”.
There was no real analysis of this at the time, but let’s take a second to think about what happened here.
During the snap general election the Tories had only one real national campaign in Scotland which was “No More Referendums”.
No more choice. Don’t ask me questions, just you get on with whatever you like and don’t bother me. That’s what they thought of the people of Scotland.
And to a large extent it worked. People did seem tired of big changes and choices. But on a local level the campaign, especially in the north of Scotland, was about picking up the pro-Brexit votes from the SNP.
A good electoral strategy, but it meant making the argument that voting for a Scottish Conservative would mean Scotland had a voice at the heart of government rather that just those 56 SNP MPs making noises, turning up to debates their unionist colleagues would normally ignore and getting admonished by the speaker.
Indeed, when the dust settled and there were 13 Tory MPs in Scotland those communities must have been thrilled.
Finally they had MPs who would get things done, get them out of the hated CFP and out of Europe.
Doesn’t matter that 62% of the country voted to Remain in the EU, as we are constantly reminded 1 Million Scots voted to leave and since theirs in the voice that agrees with the UK, theirs is the one that is listened to.
There is a minority government in place and those 13 MPs should hold real sway and real power, them going against the government could bring it down so surely all they needed to do was put up a united front and argue for what was best for Scotland.
If, as Angela suggested, the Scottish Conservatives were indeed doing the Standing Up For Scotland bit then the UK government would argue hard for their constituents who voted them in for this very reason and get them out of the CFP otherwise they would rebel right? They signed a letter saying exactly that.
Then, a week later, after having been told by the Tory chief whip to “stop whining, it’s not as if fishermen are going to vote Labour” they bravely put their tails between their legs and agreed to vote for the withdrawal bill rather than bring down the government.
I’m old enough to remember when Scottish Tories had some backbone but does anyone here think Ross Thomson, Colin Clark, Stephen Kerr, Douglas Ross, Kirstene Hair or any of the unseen 13 have one of those?
Does anyone here think any of them will really stand up for Scotland when it matters?
Most of their questions at parliament have been about the SNP and their decisions at Holyrood. If they were so concerned about decisions at Holyrood then why did so many of them give up their seats there for a chance to go to Westminster.
On the BBC Sunday Politics program this week Gordon Brewer couldn’t get passed the first sentence of accusing Tories of betrayal over fishing without saying of the SNP ”critics say this this doesn’t sit with their policy of taking us back into the EU”.
The SNP have consistently, since its inception, been against the CFP in its current form and have argued for years for reform while a deaf eared UK government wouldn’t even send a Scottish Minister to talks when the UK minister wasn’t available and instead sent a Lord who knew nothing of the brief.
That’s how much the Tories cared about fishing in the past but now that there was a chance it could win them votes or stop an independence referendum and all of a sudden it’s the main thing they care about and certain BBC political commentators are happy to promote them as the only ones who will look after the fishing industry.
I’m not sure how many of you have ever subjected yourselves to watching Sunday Politics but it’s amazing how often you’ll hear “In a moment I’ll be speaking to a Scottish Conservative but earlier I spoke to so and so from the SNP”.
Now this is a two part process, one is to be able to edit it but also so that the upcoming live chat with the Tory or Labour commentator can rebut anything they just said with no right of reply for the SNP commentator.
On this occasion Brewer claimed the CFP is one of the pillars of the EU, no it isn’t.
He employed a car analogy about liking cars but being opposed to steering wheels to compare to the SNP’s stance on being pro-EU membership while against the CFP, when in fact it’s an optional extra more like xenon adaptive headlines.
Unfortunately and embarrassingly for Gordon, the live interviewee was Colin Clark, who had previously signed a letter claiming the Scottish Tories would vote against the UK withdrawal bill, who says “we’re completely clear” before doing a complete 180 on what they said a week ago about threatening to vote against the EU withdrawal bill.
But apparently that’s OK because the Scottish Fisherman’s Federation UK (to give them their full title) isn’t going to cause a stooshie, they’re now happy that in 2 years we’ll be out of the CFP.
They seem completely oblivious to the obvious fact that access to our waters is going to be traded away by the UK government for something that benefits the UK, even if it’s to the detriment of Scotland.
In effect, Scotland is being held hostage by the Scottish Fisherman’s Federation.
One of the biggest problems for the left in this country is arguing amongst themselves about who is more left than who while those on the right are just happy with to be in the same room as other people who think as they do.
The biggest problem for Yes movement at the moment is arguing among ourselves about what kind of change we want to see while those who support the status quo just look on with bemusement.
We need to be prepared to put questions of what kind of Scotland we want to see to the back of our minds and agree instead that we should be making the decisions.
We should be taking back control.
Not handing even more of it over to Westminster who have consistently proved that they will always work to the benefit of their establishment even if that is to the detriment of Scotland.
The question is often asked what’s the point of independence as though it’s not the natural state of almost every country on the planet.
The question should be what’s the point of the union and we have to be prepared to be bold and honest when we answer that.
They make deals on our behalf that aren’t of our best interests, they trample on devolution when there’s a possibility the Scottish government might have some real power to alter, the sell our resources out as expendable when there’s something that “benefits the UK,” ie the South, and they ignore or dismiss our every wish unless it comes from the mouth of a Conservative lacky who already agrees with their position.
The only way Scotland’s voice is heard in Westminster is when it comes from the mouth of a unionist MP. The ones who are ultimately beholden to the UK party of which they are all, without exception, simply branch offices to.
We have to be prepared to be bolder, more honest, more emotional, to pull our punches less and be less afraid of being accused of being offensive.
Seeing our resources traded away for things that aren’t in our interest is offensive.
Seeing the UK government keep for itself powers that should be ours is offensive.
Seeing demonstrations of thousands of people standing up and linking arms around our parliament completely ignored or misreported by the BBC is offensive.
Being lied to by the state broadcaster and told that our vote and our voice doesn’t matter is offensive.
We are a nation. We are a country of bold and brave men and women who have for millennia stood against tyranny and for justice but when it comes to the tyranny of the British state over the people of Scotland or the injustice of consecutive UK governments trading away or squandering our resources and we are sadly, meekly, obsequious.
Nothing in this life worth having is ever going to be handed to you on a plate or as a choice at the ballot box that the powers that be haven’t already stuffed or rigged the game. Not to say "we wuz robbed" in 2014, but that the insidious nature of our wholly biased media is a method of political control. We have to be prepared to be honest and admit that, then we have to be prepared to do something about it.
The last independence referendum will not be won by the SNP.
It will not be won by politicians.
It will be won by the people of Scotland.
It will be won when we each speak to our no voting or unsure friends and those who voted Yes in 2014 but have since changed their minds. It will be won when we get back to working together as a Yes movement, not a left wing socialist pre-prepared country in a bag solution, but a movement for change for all Scots of all persuasions.
It will be won when we stand together and say enough is enough and we’re doing this ourselves from now on.
If each of us persuades just ONE person to change their vote then our independence is assured. I’m prepared for that, are you?