Commentary by Carolyn McCole
Apparently it was a “General Election”.
This is the third act twist which nobody saw coming.
Some people thought it was a re-run of the Indy Ref. Some confused the poll with a ‘Corbyn for President’ election. Some considered it another EU referendum. Others thought it a poll on how solid our Brexit should be (Hard? Soft? Medium density fibreboard?)
Some even thought they were voting for a strong and stable leader – granted that was only Teresa and Phil, but still those votes were cast in good faith.
Many profiteered from this carefully cultivated confusion. For Ruth Davidson it distracted voters from her Westminster Government’s record and right-wing diktat of doom. It allowed Kezia Dugdale to portray Jeremy Corbyn’s popularity as her own. For the Lib Dems, it gave them a fleeting reason to exist.
Consequently, the results of this messy ballot are just as untidy. Now the country sits swivel eyed, looking for someone to blame…..
Of course it’s easy to chastise Theresa May. It was selfish to call an unnecessary election and left the other parties with little time to fund or consider their campaigns.
Sure, we could point the finger at campaign teams. Some were more focused on tactical voting than issues of reserved policy.
Yes we could blame the media, who discussed devolved matters and often held the wrong government to account.
But aren’t we forgetting another significant player?
I’m now going to say the thing you’re never supposed to say. Isn’t it time the electorate took its share of responsibility for the circumstances in which we find ourselves? Yes it is up to the campaign teams to communicate their message and the media to examine the issues in a balanced manner, but it’s also up to the voters to educate themselves on the realities at hand. The only antidote to ‘Confusion Theory’, being clarity.
Maybe people grew disengaged with politics when they forgot that by casting their vote – or not – they are responsible for the results.
Teresa May is forming a Government. She has the blank cheque she asked for – because we gave her it. She has commenced Brexit negotiations because the people of the UK voted for it. Scotland could still be dragged out of Europe because we voted to stay part of that UK.
Yes this is democratically dubious, but Scotland rubber stamped that dubiety on the September 18 2014. In the space of a week we retreated from holding the entire British establishment in the palm of our hands to wilfully climbing back into our box, confirming we were cool with whatever. Whether Brexit will be hard or soft, open or closed, is no longer within our control. The people of Scotland should recognise these embarrassing realities before we cast another ballot. We as the UK, as the ‘One Nation’ we voted to be, have agreed to everything already and it’s too late now to ask what that means. Confusion won.
That’s the thing about democracy – sometimes you get what you voted for. As far as I can tell, the electorate has received exactly what it requested. Maybe we all need to accept some share of the blame.
You might think this point is applicable to everyone else. But I voted yes too and I include myself in the shared culpability. Did I personally do enough to expose the confused arguments with which we were bombarded? Did I talk to enough voters? Or perhaps more accurately, did I make it easy for them to talk to me? Did all of us in the Yes camp accommodate strategic confusion by allowing our opponents to dictate the boundaries of debate?
We need to collectively recognise our mistakes, at every level, in order to avoid making them again should we ever have the chance. The 2014 campaign was an inspiring display of hope, creativity and momentum – but ultimately it failed. In order to win, we must build on the successes of 2014 and reflect honestly on our weaknesses.
Let’s not forget, this second chance is still only a possibility. Since Brexit, many in Scotland have referenced Indy Ref 2 as though it is a certainty, rather than a potential lifeline we’ll be lucky to secure. If we’ve learned anything this year, it’s that nothing is certain. Not everyone gets the chance to re-sit a failure and if we do, it’s an opportunity that cannot be wasted with repeat mistakes. The first being for anyone to take it’s inevitability for granted. The second being to indulge confusion.
If we want a referendum then we have to build the appetite for independence first. This doesn’t materialise by setting a date, or reconciling the legal minutia of Section 30, though both those aspects are important. It’s a desire that’s cultivated by offering a clear and imaginative vision of what an alternative future could be. With no confusion. No mess. A timely escape route from little Brexit Britain. A recognition that we are all responsible for whatever choice is made.
A lack of solid Westminster Government combined with the unfolding shambles of Brexit negotiations, provides the Yes movement a chance to create an offer of stability where there is none. The stability that people thought they were voting for in 2014. It is an opportunity for the Yes movement to profiteer from carefully cultivated clarity and choice, in contrast to the established confusion. Otherwise, we only have ourselves to blame.