This started so well*. But by the third paragraph it began to descend into pompous, woolly-minded nonsense. And it was all downhill from there.
Fallacy number one. Nobody has ever claimed that the independence movement starts and ends with the SNP. Nor has anybody said that the SNP alone will deliver independence. Wouldn’t it be grand if we could bury these straw man arguments forever. But there’s little hope of that. Incredibly, people still think this stuff makes them sound insightful and intelligent.
What people who really are insightful and intelligent have tried to point out is that independence will no be achieved without the SNP. That the SNP is crucial to the whole process. I really don’t know why some people find it so confusing. To say that the SNP is vital to the independence campaign is no more an assertion that it is the whole campaign than saying the spring is a vital part of a clockwork movement is equivalent to saying that it is the entire movement.
Fallacy two is the notion that the British state can be prevented from associating the independence movement with the SNP. The Yes campaign simply doesn’t have the resources to compete with the British state’s vast and powerful propaganda machine. That machine will target the party and its personalities because it is easier to attack them than to attack the principle of independence.
If you’re smart, you turn this to your advantage. If your opponents are identifying the whole movement with the SNP and its leaders – and you’ve no way to prevent them doing so – then it doesn’t make a lot of sense to join them in attacking the party which now represents the movement in the eyes of the general public. Which is precisely what so many in the yes movement do. The sensible thing is to talk up the SNP and Nicola Sturgeon, not talk them down. Because if you’re talking them down, you’re talking down the whole campaign. Because the whole campaign is associated with them. I know I’m repeating myself here. But I’m desperately trying to get this through to people.
Fallacy number three is the idea that we can sell a Yes vote, but we can’t sell the SNP. This is the party that keeps winning elections. The party that continues to be ahead in the polls even after ten years in power. The party that has won a record three Holyrood terms. The party whose leader gets quite remarkable positive approval ratings. And we have people telling us that we can’t sell this massively popular ‘product’, but we can sell independence.
This argument is even more ludicrous when seen in the light of what was said earlier about the crucial role played by the SNP. Surely if one element of the independence campaign is so absolutely critical, abandoning efforts to persuade people of its worthiness is pretty bloody stupid. While going around whining about how awful the party is must be regarded as self-defeating to the point of insanity.
Fallacy number four – the idea that we will win the new referendum by doing the same as we did the first time. Circumstances have changed. They have changed not least because of the first referendum. It altered the terrain massively. Just as one example, the British nationalists are no longer complacent about their ability to win. which is why they are fighting so hard to prevent the people of Scotland exercising their democratic right of self-determination.
We had plenty of diversity in the first referendum campaign. We lost. We lost in part because diversity can so easily become division. If we are to win, we need solidarity, focus and discipline. The kind of solidarity, focus and discipline that the winning campaign had. Although, obviously, without the rank dishonesty.
Achieving solidarity means the movement coalescing around some point. Focusing its power on that point. And never wavering from that single-minded effort. If a campaign has to coalesce around a point, logic dictates that it must be the crucial point. The point at which the power of the campaign comes up against the wall of resistance. Essentially, that point is Nicola Sturgeon.
There are different metaphors that work here. One might imagine Sturgeon as the point of a spear; the SNP as the spearhead; the Yes movement as the shaft of the spear; and the voters as the arm thrusting the spear.
I also like the idea of the SNP as the lever which will prise Scotland out of the British state, with the Scottish Parliament as the fulcrum and the Yes movement as the force. The important thing that these two analogies have in common is that they both refer to bringing together all of the elements of the independence movement in such a way as to make it effective against the might of the British state.
A diffused movement is precisely what we don’t need. We don’t need lots of faction sniping at one another. While the No campaign was hitting the Yes campaign with hammer blows half the Yes campaign was hitting the SNP with smaller hammers; amplifying the effect of the No campaign’s attacks.
We need to learn from the winners of the first referendum campaign. Instead of as many definitions of independence as there were yes groups, we need a simple, concise message that everybody can get behind. Instead of a forest of policy options obscuring the fundamental issue, we need to separate the debate around being independent from the task of becoming independent.
We need to do things differently. I could say a great deal more about what is required in order to win. But I rather doubt if anybody is listening.
*This was left as a comment on another blog, but it has since been censored.
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