Self-belief, not arrogance
Five years ago, at the count in Inverclyde, as I watched the referendum result unfold, I was full of hopes and aspirations for a new emerging nation. Early in the evening when the Clackmannanshire count was announced we knew we had lost the referendum. Mathematically victory was still possible, but the writing was clearly on the wall.
Later the same evening we lost Inverclyde by 86 votes. We had moved from 26% YES to 49.9% YES, but a loss is a loss. Like me, many people were consumed with disappointment. The dream was shattered and as the adrenaline left our bodies so did the energy that had fuelled our activism. And yet we kept our dignity and supported each other through difficult days.
The General Election of May 2015 gave us an opportunity to start to set things right. And the resulting 56 SNP MPs made it clear that the dream had not died. In the next General Election in 2017 it was apparent that the momentum had stalled and that many voters who had turned out in 2015 had become less motivated and maybe felt less engaged. Politics is a long game and it can do that to people. Especially when so many face the day to day struggle of finding work, putting food on the table and keeping a roof over their heads. It’s understandable that many of those who do not live in a political bubble are less inclined to vote if the end game is not immediately obvious.
The last five years has seen many changes in the political landscape. We have experienced two General Elections, a council election, a Scottish Parliament election the European Union referendum and the European Union election. But the biggest change is that despite Scotland voting 62% to remain in the E.U. we find ourselves in the unforeseen position of being taken out of the European Union. Unforeseen that is except to the genius that wrote in page 23 of the SNP manifesto in 2016, “We believe that the Scottish Parliament should have the right to hold another referendum if there is clear and sustained evidence that independence has become the preferred option of a majority of the Scottish people – or if there is a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will”. That person deserves a pat on the back because that statement encompasses perfectly why we need another independence referendum. And its not just because the outcome of Brexit will damage Scotland, it’s because the process of Brexit has shone a light on Westminster. It has asked difficult questions of the UK Parliament functionality and the machinery of the UK government. It has illustrated perfectly the disfunction that exists between Westminster and the devolved parliaments. It has highlighted the disdain for the Scottish Parliament that emanates from Westminster and it has magnified the incompetence of UK government ministers in their dealings with both the devolved administrations and the European Union.
A Westminster establishment that ruled by right has been asked to demonstrate professionalism and competence in the modern era and it has been asked to to do that in the public eye. And it has failed. While the UK Government continues to flounder, the next Scottish independence referendum will hinge on our self belief. Do you believe that Scotland should be governed by the people of Scotland for the people of Scotland? And the answer must be a resounding YES.