It’s now the end of an active year in Scottish politics. Writers on both ends of the Nat-spectrum (Scot to Brit) are ruminating and reflecting sagely about various elements of the referendum campaign, and are offering affected and patronising advice on aims for the coming year, informed by naturally assumed superiority of knowledge.
In the continuing discussion on the future of Scotland, a common sentiment appears from both No- and Yes- voters: That people now need to get along and work together for the common good. These observations are made by those who are, in the least, comfortable, and at best, privileged, and therefore in a position to assess Scottish politics from a disinterested angle. The real and increasing threats from TTIP, austerity, fracking and perpetual war are omitted.
One example is Blair Jenkins of the Yes Campaign, who plays the proud father. He doesn’t know that much about your school subject, but you did damned well in your exam, and he knows you’ll do even better next time.
According to Jenkins, “Scotland has changed forever”: Those who were in Yes Scotland (non SNP-dominated groups are notably omitted) are “still possessed of conviction and determination, the belief that change is necessary and possible”. Not only that, but what we have now is people “enthused by the prospect of a better nation” and “a new self-confidence around, more than strong enough to survive the disappointment of defeat in September”.
“It brought folk together, giving them a sense of community and of being part of something bigger. It was a team game.”
Laden with platitudes of unmitigated positivity, we can see that Jenkins is eager to draw out successes from a defeat. However, none of these observations in fact point towards concrete change in society. To hold up the spirit of a campaign as an indicator of meaningful societal change is naïve and unhelpful.
For the future, Jenkins asserts:
We cannot make progress by leaving half the population behind, which is why continuing dialogue is essential. And from my own experience before and after the referendum, I know there were many No voters who came close to voting Yes. We have to continue to find common ground with them.
This is either disingenuous or misguided. If the latter, it demonstrates that Jenkins is hopelessly bereft of political nous. Firstly, the huge medley of groups campaigning for a Yes spoke – to varying degrees of concern – about social justice, and offered plans to achieve goals of social change. The No camp talked about the pound, the Queen, the EU, the British army. If after hearing the positions of both sides after two years and you voted No, the chances are you are fairly right wing. The inverse is generally true for Yes voters (with prominent exceptions such as Christians for Independence and Business for Scotland). Secondly, given the first point, how can two groups with diametrically opposed national, social, political and economic aspirations for the same country sit down and agree on a strategy?
In fairness to Jenkins, he seemed to write the rubbish in a good spirit, while an article written shortly after[i], with similar calls, by one Sandy Wilkie, is as unpleasant as brillo-pad toilet paper.
Sandy voted No and is in favour of a federal British state. Like almost every No voter, he prefaces his arguments with a declaration of being proud of his Scottish heritage. He describes himself as a “left-leaning idealist” despite campaigning for the Labour Party. He talks at length about what he did, what he wants, what he engaged with, what he challenges. Needy yet narcissistic, it reads like CV by an English and Philosophy student.
“The vocabulary of Scotland,” writes Wilkie, “has to change from Yes to No, from Us to Them, to We.” With this groundbreaking paradigm shift, he presents his new hashtag: #OneScotland. What does this hashtag seek to do in Scottish politics?
“#OneScotland approach… is a pragmatic – not idealistic Braveheart – response; it’s an adult approach not a childish ‘we will not co-operate one’” Keeping in the vein of the pragmatic adult, he continues:
To me, #OneScotland is about mutual respect, tolerance, collaborative working, future-focussed energy and a positive vision in terms of improving social, economic and environmental inequalities.” It’s also about “working together with fellow Scots, born or adopted, to show that we are mature enough to live with shared values.
Perhaps thousands of people who worked together for a Yes vote, to achieve those aims, lost because of their immaturity.
Wilkie goes on to relate a sad tale. He contacted Nicola Sturgeon the benefits of “a #OneScotland philosophy to our divided nation”. On Twitter. He even took the liberty to offer himself as a panellist at her recent tour of Scotland. There was no response from the head of the Scottish nationalists, not even a ‘Who the fuck are you?’ He was totally twignored.
Regardless, Wilkie’s resolve remains, and he calls for “a grown-up national conversation”. What will this post-puberty discussion focus on? “The real issues such as food banks, NHS funding, poverty, land reform, the environment and the whole democratic process.” Essentially, everything that Yes campaigners talked about for two years, and sought to address, but in the context of the British state!
The specific plan for this is so comical that it deserves to be quoted in full:
So here is the deal. This is where it gets serious. We get the best political and cultural minds in Scotland round the table in March 2015. Think of it as a modern reincarnation of the medieval Court of Scotland – orators, bards, makars, poets, musicians, ambassadors and representatives of church and state. For one night, and one day, only, we break bread and craft real actions out of the indyref fires that still rage around our land.
The medieval comparison and self-congratulatory tone aside, this looks like an attempt to copy something the Radical Independence Campaign did. Twice.
Wilkie asks who is up for it, and asseverates: “With the support of The National, I can make this happen if the will is there.”
In case it was unclear half-way through, this article is about him, his hashtag and WilkieFest 2015. The obsession with the child/grown-up dichotomy is both condescending and telling; the underlying assumption is of course that the author is the ‘adult’ while the reader – or a significant section of society – is the ‘child’. This particular adult has chosen to side with the Labour Party and the British state. He is the quintessential political careerist, opportunistically working towards self-promotion. Wilkie is an intellectual mollusc, slithering up a dirty window, attempting to peer into the boardroom of bourgeois politics.
While Jenkins may be misguided in analysis and patronising, he did assist with the campaign for independence, and today remains a proponent of Scottish self-determination. Wilkie, however, worked with the most reactionary forces of Scottish politics during the referendum, but now seeks to present himself as someone above it all, and in favour of all the causes those in the independence campaign championed.
[i] Sandy Wilkie, The National, ‘End Yes/No labels for #OneScotland’, Letters and Comment (23rd December 2014)