Yes Scotland – one year on

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By Colin Fox

It’s been a year since Yes Scotland was launched amid the glitz and glamour of an Edinburgh multiplex cinema where independence activists mixed with Holyrood politicians, Hollywood stars and lottery millionaires.

Blair Jenkins, the Yes Scotland CEO, announced in his Annual Report last week that 375,000 people had signed the ‘Declaration for Independence’ adding ‘we are on schedule for our target of one million’. He also pointed out that after 3000 people attended the 32 local authority based launch meetings more than 1100 Yes groups have subsequently been established across the country.

And he noted that his since his early objective was to get Scotland talking about independence this was another target being reached. Moreover his pledge ‘to build the biggest grassroots political campaign Scotland has ever seen’ is also on schedule for 2014.

Successes

And yet for all these successes the polls stubbornly suggest only 35 per cent of Scots are in favour of Independence. And here Blair Jenkins put the best spin on this unwelcome fact he could by saying ‘we never expected to be ahead at this stage.’ Maybe, but we would all have welcomed it!

Notwithstanding the polls ‘Yes Scotland’ has been an undoubted success. This alliance between social democrats and socialists, between businessmen and trade unionists, between supporters of independence on the left, and right has grown and grown. Its role is not to develop policy but to maximise support for Independence. It rightly states that the kind of independence Scotland opts for will be determined by the Scottish people themselves in the 2016 Elections.

And it is clear the public understands the distinction between this coalition and a party. Indeed many have suggested its ‘divisions’ emphasise the plurality of opinion behind independence. The SSP for example has made it perfectly clear from the beginning that we favour an Independent socialist Scotland that is a modern, democratic republic.

On the other hand there are those who dismiss ‘Yes Scotland’ as ‘a front for the SNP’. And whilst it is true the Nationalists are its most powerful constituent part, this claim foolishly ignores the crucial role the SSP and Greens play both in broadening the organisation’s appeal and in counter-posing the type of independent Scotland we prefer.

Notwithstanding these differences we are all agreed that Scotland’s social democratic values are more likely to be advanced within an independent settlement.

And it might be argued that in the year ahead it is incumbent on all of us to make clear that independence is the progressive option in this debate. The SNP’s emphasis on the civic case for independence that ‘those best able to make decisions about Scotland’s future are the people who live here’ can be married to the Greens’ central belief that democracy works best when it is local and close at hand.

And for our part the SSP highlights the democratic reality that Scotland’s working class majority will be better off freed from the chains of the UK state.

Whilst our shared objective then is to win the Referendum we retain the right to debate tactics, centrally whether the ‘softly, softly’ approach favoured by the SNP – keep the Queen, keep the pound, keep NATO membership – is more likely to succeed than that message favoured by the Greens and the SSP that the independence case is at its most potent when it stresses how much things will improve for the vast majority.

So how are we to turn the polls around in the year ahead? For me there are two key challenges.

There’s the materialist one, as it were, where as people ask us ‘What is independence for?’ we reply ‘It is about your job, your wages, your conditions at work, your pension, your benefits, your NHS, your plummeting standard of living.’ In other words we  connect our cause with their anxieties and hopes for a better future.

The worst recession in 80 years hardly helps the No campaign stress ‘the benefits of the Union’!

And secondly, we must all develop ‘Yes Scotland’ into a stronger force, one that takes the case for independence to the movements against austerity and the cuts, against under-employment, against Trident and all allied to Scotland’s social democratic core.

Crucial role

And here SSP members can play a crucial role in their local ‘Yes’ group. I have enjoyed speaking at many fantastic ‘Yes Scotland’ meetings this past year. I have been delighted by the warm welcome our socialist ideas have received in this mass movement.

Our party is widely respected for our ability to raise the independence message with passion and conviction within the trade union movement and in ‘the schemes’.

And we can show some important successes in both these regards throughout the past year.  Our essential message to all Independence supporters in the crucial year ahead is borrowed from Martin Luther King who famously said, at a similar time to this, ‘Keep your eyes on the prize’. The polls can and will be turned around if we remember that we offer the people of Scotland the one commodity that appears to them to be in such short supply at the moment, hope.

We offer them a powerfully attractive option and we say ‘Come change the world with us on 18 September 2014’.

Colin Fox is SSP cospokesperson and a Yes Scotland Advisory Board member

This article appears courtesy of Scottish Socialist Voice.