At the time Yes Scotland was set up, I wholly approved of the separation of the SNP and the rest of the Yes movement. I have been forced to reconsider in the light of subsequent developments. Not that I’m saying it was a mistake. At the time, it seemed like the sensible thing to do. And it was probably necessary. Then!
But this is now. The next independence referendum campaign WILL NOT be simply a rerun of the first one. We have the benefit of experience now. It would be stupid not to take advantage of what we have learned – both from our own campaign and from the anti-independence effort. They won. something they did was effective. Let’s learn from that.
With hindsight we can see that the, sometimes very forceful, shunning of the SNP by the rest of the Yes campaign played right into the British establishment’s demonising of the party. Because independence is inevitably and irrevocably associated with the SNP, we were effectively asking people to vote for them in one breath and saying we wanted nothing to do with them in the next.
Separating the SNP and the Yes movement was a mistake. It created a weak spot which the British state – ever the masters of divide and rule – were able to take advantage of. With many on the Yes side showing themselves all too willing to be used.
We must not make the same mistake again. The entire Yes campaign must embrace the SNP, not as a political party, but as the de facto political arm of the independence movement.
The British nationalists will attack the SNP because they know that this is the most effective way to undermine the whole independence movement. As they did before, they will completely ignore the other pro-independence parties (OPIP) and organisations such as Labour for Independence and Women for Independence unless and until they can be used against the SNP. They will completely disregard everything people like Patrick Harvie say unless and until they say something that can be spun as a ‘blow’ to Nicola Sturgeon.
That’s realpolitik. We may not like it. But we’re not going to change it. Certainly not in time for the coming campaign.
Learning the lessons from all of this we must present a united front. Instead of joining in with the anti-SNP rhetoric, everybody in the Yes campaign should be defending the SNP to the very best of their ability. And if they can’t, then they should just keep quiet. It simply makes no sense to damage the tool you need to get the job done.
A lot of people don’t like to hear this. Even as I write it, I’m not comfortable with it myself. In normal circumstances this kind of ‘devotion’ to a political party would be anathema to me. But these are not normal circumstances. So I urge everyone who is unequivocally and unconditionally committed to the cause of independence to avoid the customary knee-jerk reaction and just think about what I’m saying. If bringing our government home is important – which it certainly is – then it is surely worth the relatively small effort – sacrifice, if you will – of putting aside personal animosities, policy agendas and partisan loyalties for a year or so in order to win the prize.
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