Monday, 15 February 2016

Learning From The Referendum: A Must If We Want To Win The Next One

Recently I was finally able to take the time to read Jim Sillar’s new book In Place of Failure. In this Jim highlights some of the key battles fought and lost by the SNP and Yes campaign and offers suggestions from a socialist perspective as to how we can combat these issues when a second referendum occurs.

What was striking from reading this book was the level of duplicity by the No campaign, which reading it even now provokes real anger. More though was our inability to counter arguments on the economy and pensions which undoubtedly played a role in the referendum defeat.

This book is a vital piece of work from which we can begin to set out honestly and without force or malice, where the major issues in our campaign were and what can be done to fix this. This is an issue which should have been addressed on the 19th of September, however due to the mass membership of the SNP and subsequent landslide victory at the Westminster Elections in Scotland, was put onto the back burner.

With just months to go before the Scottish Parliamentary Elections, the questions of where we went wrong in the last referendum have still to be answered, until we have truly reflected on what needs to change in the referendum 2.0 then we cannot proceed into a new campaign.

There should have been a Plan B on currency, why there wasn’t from the Yes campaign showed an inherent weakness that it was too reliant on the SNP. There should have been a larger push for the ‘grey’ vote, those without access to social and alternative media, who were threatened into a no vote out of genuine fear of having their livelihood stripped from them. Yes community groups should have had a specific pensioner forums, targeting their households, ensuring real dialogue with these voters.

More to the point the Yes vote failed to win because it was too conservative for far too long. Only in the last 6 months of the campaign did we move away from ‘nothing will change’ attitude adopted by some of the SNP higher ups to the message of real social change that independence could bring brought about by the work of RIC, LFI, WFI and many more. Another Scotland was and indeed still is possible. In the next referendum we need to push our message forward, we need to counter ‘expert’ bankers, military brass and supermarket CEO’s who say we’re doomed if we go it alone. Let them debate their evidence for this and see how long it stacks up for. The people of Scotland proved during the referendum that they understand the key issues, they are not needing talked down to, Better Together got away with these claims because we let them hide back under the covers... We can’t make that same mistake again.

The question of timing is now also key. Questions will be asked of the SNP if they decide to play safe for a majority at the expense of putting a second referendum in their manifesto. Nicola Sturgeon also has made the point that an ‘out’ vote in the EU referendum in the ROUK while Scotland votes to remain would trigger a constitutional crisis which would set a second referendum in motion. I have never been one to count on David Cameron or other Tories to put us into a winning position.

It is right that the SNP affirm the hopes of the 100,000+ who joined the party post September 18th seeing the SNP as the vehicle to an independent Scotland. Should they decide to play safe many within the party must surely wonder why they continue to support the SNP when the party themselves have closed off any hope of referendum in the near future.

While I have been critical of the potential destruction of the SSP within RISE, the alliance could prove to be an important factor within this election as will the Greens. While the Green Party look much more likely to profit from spending the post referendum period, growing and developing their infrastructure to accommodate new members, both RISE and the Greens may be able to persuade SNP voters to put enough pressure on the party to ensure a second referendum is included in the manifesto.

The next couple of years will no doubt shape the constitutional argument over the Scottish Independence more than ever. With another recession already occurring, more and more cuts with each passing Westminster budget, an EU referendum and following this election the SNP will themselves have some serious economic choices to make to enact the cuts coming to the Scottish budget.

We need to recognise that our defeat in September wasn’t just down to the bias of the media or the lies of the BT campaign. We have to up our game for the second referendum. In the last campaign we gained 20% points to get to 45%. If we want to get to 60% we have to keep talking about independence, continue to show the benefits for our society, learn the mistakes we made and come out fighting...

Ready for Round 2?    

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