Sweet success means Scotland will never be the same again

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Leader Nicola Sturgeon at the "SNP 56" at Westminster last May.

Commentary by Derek Bateman

Mhairi Black will know how this feels…you wake up with a mouthful of sand, the Orange Order big drum is pounding, your stomach thinks you’ve eaten anchovy ice cream and you wonder if you’ve already died.

After a moment or two, you wish you had. Aargh! The hangover. That’s what I get when I remember we have five years of a Tory government ahead– zealotry unplugged.

So why can’t I suppress a feeling of optimism and release, a kind of heady excitement about where we now are and about the future? Everybody I meet says something along the lines of unbelievable result, but a Tory government…urgh, sentiments I share 100 per cent, except in my case the balance tips in favour of buoyancy.

Mhairi Black: A breath of fresh air
Mhairi Black: A breath of fresh air

I guess I take all the questions and doubts, the what-ifs and worries, ball them up and throw them in the bin. I do so because our country has changed. It doesn’t matter how you view it or which side you’re on, the amazing thing is that the Scots are different today from two years ago.

A transformation that social anthropologists would identify as group change has occurred, altering our view of ourselves, the world around us and our direction of travel. It’s the realisation that we are united, sure and defiant. We stand for something.

Isn’t there a hint of rebellion in those smiles of the MPs taking ownership of Westminster, a look of insubordination, of nonconformity? There is a touch of daring, a cockiness we admire and which formed the basis of the young Alex Salmond’s appeal. I see in their faces beamed back to Scotland the collective thrill of knowing “we did it. Look. Here we are. This is where you sent us. We made it.”

I saw one tweet describing how some of them stopped on the way home to show respect at the William Wallace Memorial in Smithfield. It said Tommy Sheppard wept. I hope that’s true. The battles of the past belong there but we are all connected with our ancestors and take inspiration from them. And in that moment they seem to say: this is who we are.

I’ve spent my life hating the cringe that tells us we somehow need approval to be ourselves – our vernacular culture, the way we talk – as if there was a higher being judging us. It is the very basis of the inferiority complex that stains our national character and leaves an opening to acceptance of failure as if second best was all we deserved. If you let them, others will judge you and for me my nationalism is a response to that. I went from blaming others to realising this is my life and my country and my decision. I choose Scotland.

The Wallace Memorial at Smithfield, London
The Wallace Memorial at Smithfield, London

They said it couldn’t be done, the Scots would collapse when their bluff was called on  independence and in the end they were right but did they get a fright? Did they end up panicking and promising the world to save their skins? Oh yes, I think so. And now an election where even I thought it was beyond us, we did it again – rocked them back on their heels with a ground shaking result that still hasn’t been truly quantified for its long-term implications. We wiped the floor with them…all of them. Gordon Brown. Darling, Davidson, ‘my-family-will-be-foreigners’ Curran, McDougall, Murphy, the Alexanders, the Daily Mail, the Express, Cochrane, the online Union Nutters and every Brian Wilson-Michael Kelly Establishment apologist…can you hear me? You took one hell of a beating.

And was it based on identity? Well, all national politics is. That’s why we have a Welsh Senned, Stormont and a Proud-to-British Prime Minister. It’s why Labour are now wondering why working people don’t identify with them. The important thing is that identity isn’t the sole purpose of your politics but a frame within you make politics work. That’s what we have been doing – framing a politics that suits us, the Scots, developing positions that broadly suit the people who live here and defining what kind of country we want to be.

That’s precisely what Labour should have been doing instead of trimming to meet the aspirations of people who live elsewhere with different needs. I read that leadership candidate Yvette Cooper described our amazing result as based on ‘anger, fear and division’…what an ill-informed, arrogant and bigoted woman. I fear with that kind of dismissive ignorance of progressive politics, Labour will never again win Scotland.

Labour are making mistake after mistake in England and in Scotland – where I suspect a fudge will mean a list placing for Murphy (the best place to be next May, not a constituency), before he agrees to move aside. This is about Jim’s career, not Labour, and never about Scotland or democracy.

The Tories in seven days have unleashed the dogs of war which may provoke a reaction in the North and will certainly increase SNP support bringing forward the constitutional schism that sets Scotland free.

I was in touch for the first time in 20 years this week with someone who has devoted his life to the cause and we expressed the elation of change brought about by people educating themselves, others joining up, door-knocking, arguing, some blogging but all believing…believing that only cowards are scared of change and that they will always tremble before the naysayers…believing that there is nothing – including huge majorities – that can’t be overcome if you work hard enough.

That belief frightens the Unionists because to them it is irrational. But it is no more irrational than their belief in Britain, it’s ‘values’, its planned poverty, its nuclear weapons and its Tory class war. That’s their belief system.

The real triumph today is looking at the greatest election win in our history and knowing that enough of us came together, believed and would not be deterred – exactly the spirit we will need to make independence work. It is our preparation. Look at the electoral map from coast to coast and let it sink in…this is our country. We did this.