It seems, to me, rather unfortunate that, in the process of debating the most important political decision in our country’s history, we are always dragged back to one issue. “I don’t like Alex Salmond, so I’m voting ‘No’.” It seems a key argument being used by a large number of people intending to vote “no” in September and is of constant annoyance to those on the Yes Campaign, many of whom, myself included, do not like or vote for Alex Salmond or the SNP.
This has been a back and forth for as long as the debate has been going on, with the various blogs, websites, and news sources that back a Yes vote constantly having to retaliate and try to convince people that it’s not just about Eck. With all that’s been said on the matter I reckoned that I’d just leave it, surely people were beginning to get the message now and surely there are enough posts saying the same kind of thing. However, a number of my friends (and some bloke I ended up chatting with in a pub yesterday) seem to be ardent “No” voters on this very premise.
So, I’m going to try my level best to dispel this myth.
This referendum is not about any one party, least of all any one man; it’s about us. The referendum in Scotland is about how we choose to rule ourselves, about getting the chance to elect our own governments and make the decisions that affect us in country we live in. In shortest terms, it’s about democracy.
If we take a look at the wider Yes movement, we see a great many organisations campaigning for a “Yes” vote, for example;Yes Scotland(non-Partisan, grass roots campaign), Radical Independence (Socialists/Far-Left), the Scottish Socialist Party, the Scottish Greens, Teachers for Yes, Academics for Yes, Yes LGBT, Business for Scotland, National Collective (Artists and Creatives), Labour For Independence… the list goes on and on, and the SNP are only one of that list.
The wider Yes movement is perhaps the biggest grass-roots campaign in British political history. Yes Scotland, the official campaign for Scottish Independence was set up at the announcement of the referendum as a non-partisan campaign supporting independence. It has sprouted many local branches run by volunteers from all kinds of political affiliations, it’s views are very simple: Scotland can and should be an independent country. It doesn’t endorse any particular SNP policies and was not behind the White Paper.
Then there are the massive number of campaigns that have popped up around it too. Labour for Independence, set up by Labour Party activist Allan Grogan, is made up wholly of members of the Labour party or people who are Labour supporters – given the political landscape of Scotland, I don’t think many of them vote SNP. The Radical Independence Campaign is a hard-left campaign for a socialist Scotland, not exactly your garden variety SNP supporters. Business for Scotland and other centre-right groups made up of members who would ordinarily vote Tory have sprung up looking for a Scotland that helps businesses (outside of London anyway…). And let’s not forget the other parties supporting independence; the Greens and the Scottish Socialist Party.
To summarise all of that, the Yes movement is a very intricate and diverse tapestry of different ideas and visions, the visions of the SNP are only one part of that tapestry. All, however, share a common idea that Scotland would be better as an independent country.
So, you may be asking yourself, why is it, then, that I only ever hear about Salmond? Why is he the one people on the news are bigging up? Well, it’s mainly down to one reason, a reason which Ian Hamilton Q.C. summed up quite nicely:
“Referenda, or referendums, are quite uncommon, so the press seem to think that this is a fight between the SNP and the other political parties. It’s nothing of the kind.”
He is quite right here, of course. Most of our big political decisions are ones fought out between two parties or groups of parties, the prime example being elections. A whole host of options are thrown at us by the different parties and then we are asked to vote on them and decide. And the big decisions in Parliament, such as NHS reform, are always fought out there, we don’t get a say and it’s between the parties anyway.
Now we come to this odd situation of a referendum, we haven’t had one in quite a wee while and they generally don’t happen all too often either. Add to this, now, the idea that this is the biggest political decision Scotland has ever, or likely will ever, make. Surely such a big decision has to be a battle of party politics, because we know that the ordinary people are never involved in politics!
I will grant you that the SNP are the ones who called for a referendum, but to be fair nobody else was ever going to do it. However, in this case it is the ordinary people who are running the show, debating, campaigning, canvassing, etc. The party political side of things will still rain on in Holyrood, but that’s only because nobody has changed Johann Lamont’s speech since last year. But out on the streets, it’s the people who are doing the leg work, everyone on the Yes side of things has dropped their party affiliations and political differences to work for one thing.
So, with the vast number of normal people giving up their time, wondering around, asking questions, organising meetings and other events, surely we should notice that this really isn’t about the SNP, much less big Eck? Well, once again, Ian Hamilton Q.C. sums things up for us.
“It suits the ‘No People’ to bring in this element of confusion; ‘Oh, if you vote yes that means you’re SNP.’ It’s nothing of the kind.”
This is rather unfortunately true and, I don’t want to sound all conspiracy theorist here but, the mainstream media are primarily based down south – the BBC has a substantial amount of government funding – and it ultimately suits them to have the Scottish people vote “no”. Better Together, being made up of the biggest parties (and the UK Government) have been able to play on this spectacularly and have allowed the media to churn out story after story relating to “Alex Salmond’s campaign for independence.”
Yes, this is a huge abuse of power on the part of the media and Her Majesty’s Government, but there’s an issue for another time.
What I have noticed over the past few months as the debate has heated up is that those who intend to vote “no” are, for the most part, not entirely politically savvy. Now before you blow your tops, I am not saying that they are all stupid, I am simply saying that the majority of those I have spoken to haven’t really read much into the debate – most of them just want to stick to the status-quo because that’s all they’ve known.
But there is another reason, put very aptly by the bloke in the pub I mentioned earlier who said to me, “I just go by what I see on tele.” And there it is again, the mainstream media are, in order to protect their own interests, perpetuating this “element of confusion” which convinces the politically apathetic (sadly much of our population) that a vote for independence is a vote for Alex Salmond.
It has meant that, in order to get the other side of the story, one has to look into other sources like the vast number of blogs and websites that have sprung up around the campaign. Whilst the writing on some of these is excellent and truly thought provoking, it’s quite unlikely that you’re ever going to really convince someone who is quite politically apathetic to actually go and look at these sites.
And why are these sites never promoted in our mainstream media? Because the vast majority of them do not support or endorse the SNP. The all offer a different take on independence and, god forbid, should anyone ever see these sites, they might realise it’s not about Salmond after all.
This debate is about something much bigger than Alex Salmond or the SNP. It’s about you, it’s about your children and it’s about every generation of Scots to come. So guys, if you’re about to tell somebody that you’re only voting “no” because you hate Salmond, do a bit of reading first.
And regarding our source of the day, Mr. Hamilton?
“I haven’t been a member of a political party for quite some time, and before that it was the Labour Party, not the SNP.”