How not to convince No voters to vote for Scottish independence

yesglasgowLast week the Hope Over Fear rally was held in Glasgow’s George Square on the first anniversary of the Unionist riots that marred the days after the Scottish referendum result. I watched a lot of it thanks to the splendid Independence Live streaming service (for those unfamiliar with my previous blogs, I’m a Scot living in Bristol) and it was a nice afternoon of people listing to anti-Tory, pro-Indy songs, speeches from political and social activists and someone from the Scottish Resistance.

What? The? Fuck?

The Scottish Resistance are an extremist group of frankly, the sort of nutter that made me avoid voting SNP  when I lived in Scotland as these people are nuts, not to mention they drip with the sort of anti-English bigotry that isn’t helpful one tiny bit. Here’s what they spoke about according to the Vice article reporting on the rally.

I arrived a couple of hours into the rally. Thankfully, this was just in time to catch James Scott, the leader of the Scottish Resistance group, whose speech angled in on what are surely the most pressing concerns of Scotland’s electorate: being proud of the facts we “repelled the Vikings, the Danes and the Anglo-Saxons” in centuries gone by, casting out “traitors”, and stopping the “robbery” of “water, whisky revenue and oil” that’s flowing over the border to England. It was like a parody of everything people say to discredit the independence movement, except it was really happening. This kind of dodgy pseudo-ethnic nationalism was never given any prominence ahead of the referendum, and certainly never given a platform, so it was alarming to see it being cheered along on the fringes of the Yes movement.

The blame for inviting the Scottish Resistance can be plaid at the feet of organiser Tommy Sheridan, an exceptionally controversial figure in Scotland who’s past is fairly well known so I’m not going to dive into that swamp. But surely even Sheridan can see the damage inviting ethnic extremists living in the past does to the Yes movement? Does Hope Over Fear help the movement?

This is the question posed in this Common Space article by Gary Elliott but I’m not going to dwell on the Tommy Sheridan/Hope Over Fear issue as that’s been done to death this week. Once I’m back in Scotland next year I’ll probably attend them, and I’ll be glad to criticise the parts that are dubious and praise the bits that aren’t, but with a second referendum a looming probability as soon as 2017 thanks to the possible result of the EU referendum, but certainly before the end of the next UK parliament the question has to be asked as to how to get No voters to change their minds. This is something Elliott mentions and suggest a solution:

Another welcome development was Colin Fox’s appeal for a new Yes Campaign. Not to call for another referendum, or to carry the same intensity, but to start preparations for the next referendum by establishing a Yes Convention to “discuss the lessons to be learned from our defeat last time and to prepare for victory next time”.

I agree. Looking into Scotland from outside it’s clear there is a shift towards acceptance that independence is coming. When is the issue. If there is an opportunity in 2017 then the arguments have to be fought now and not in two years time when I presume the SNP will push for a second referendum if results go a certain way.

What won’t win over No voters is having the Scottish Resistance given equal footing with serious social activists. Neither will voters be convinced by being called ‘nawbags’, or abused, or pulled apart online by a tiny majority of people who put the conspiracy theory and abuse ahead of debate and conversation, and it’ll be debate and conversation that wins Scotland its independence, not someone ranting about William Wallace at someone that thinks the Indyref was fixed.

Rather that sit in an echo chamber hearing what makes us feel good (and that has a place to energise people to get out), or confirms our bias or worst prejudices, it’s better to listen to why No voters did so, understand why and make sure that next time they vote Yes because one thing is certain that carrying on as a small minority do isn’t helpful in the slightest. So a new Yes Campaign needs to be revived to win the moral, economic and intellectual arguments and get people over to the side of independence and we have to do it sooner rather than later because if the likes of the Scottish Resistance shout loudly over the saner more rational voices, then independence isn’t going to come.

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