The following article featured in the National Newspaper on 6/01/2019.
WE are now closer to winning Scotland’s independence than at any time since 2014. As we begin a new year, many make transformational changes to themselves as individuals. It may then also be a good time for us to consider how to build a better independence movement in order to do the same for our country. We can make some resolutions and perhaps work together to ensure that we stick to them.
We can start by being honest with ourselves about how far we have come, and how far we have yet to go. During that promising time of the first independence campaign we achieved an unprecedented shift in public opinion. Although the political environment has changed dramatically in a way that makes independence more appealing to undecideds, our current starting point is more or less the same as the closing days of 2014. Back then, we gave everything we have and we lost. Yet it was as fair a fight as a referendum could be, despite being against a generally hostile media. We should reject all falsehoods that make us feel better. We can fully trust the postal vote system, there was no rigging of the referendum and we lost because we weren’t effective enough in making the argument. It’s time to own our failure, to ensure our success.
We need new voices. 2014 saw a flourishing of new voices unlike anything our country has ever witnessed. Many of these voices now make up a large portion of our political class and commentariat – which is an achievement in itself. Yet the undeniable strength of the independence cause is the reservoir of knowledge and skills held by a mountain of activists across our diverse civic movement. When organising local events we should ask ourselves, “do I know someone with expertise on this issue who hasn’t had the opportunity to speak before?” Encouraging another wave of fresh perspectives that are more representative of all of Scotland is the crucial first step in winning hearts and minds.
We need a more inclusive movement. Our fellow Scots will only get involved if they feel they have a stake in the future that we are building.
We can start by calling out all-male panels when we see them, ensuring we are ready to tele-canvass so those that can’t knock doors can play their part, making space for new Scots and non-white Scots and giving young people a platform. And there are so many other lessons to learn, which we can do by listening to all of our peers.
We should think about the language we use. Do the words we use within our movement encourage engagement? Using phrases like “red tory” derails debate, and calling people “yoons” simply for having legitimate worries about independence does our cause real harm. But if we commit to listening to our fellow Scots first, we can make progress.
We need to campaign. The starting gun of a referendum date will put wind in our sails. But the most important work of listening and debating with each other can happen now. We should think deeply about why we support independence and then we can form a vision of an independent Scotland that can improve lives and be an example of hope in a troubled world. We can take that vision to our streets and communities. Check to see what activism is happening in your area, and consider what perspectives can make it more effective. If nothing is happening, why not start things off? There will be little shortage of people willing to help.
Independence should be a time of transformational positive change across our country, and our movement will help shape the conditions that an independent Scotland will be born into. By holding ourselves to the highest possible standards in 2019 and beyond, we can build a fairer, more inclusive and outward-looking Scotland. We can win a Scotland that future generations will be proud of.