I’m sure that you all know the feeling when someone tries to insult you but in your eyes actually compliment you. When you’re accused of putting Scotland first (Ed, are we still allowed to say Scotland?), and you proudly plead guilty. When you’re accused of being stuck to your principles and you have no excuse, yes you are guilty of saying what you mean and please m’lud I also mean what I say!
That’s roughly how I’ve been feeling over the last few months!
And the reason is the accusation that we are somehow now a “one party state”. Note that none of our unionist opponents found anything wrong when it was labour who had a unionist one party state, but now that we have taken their toys and made them stand on the naughty step? Oh well, that’s a very different story. One party states which suited them because whatever else Labour might have been, the Establishment knew that fundillymundilly, it was never going to be a threat to their cosy little circles of patronage and cronyism. And what irks them most is that the electorate’s choice was simply that they could only trust one party!
Now, the political plates in Scotland have moved and the picture looks very different. A cohesive, knowledgeable and principled group of MPs are in London “to settle up not settle down”. Who cannot and will not allow themselves to be treated as the “country cousins” come to the big city. They cannot be bought off with the usual beads and baubles which proved so effective in the past.
But, as I said at the outset, there is more than a grain of truth in the “one party state” jibe and it’s making very uncomfortable reading for the unionists. Especially when they have to read the by election results! Despite the fears of many, including me, neither the SNP nor the Nationalist movement have receded since the referendum. As you are well aware, we have made huge leaps forward. We have progressed most obviously in simple numbers; some 85,000 new members since Indyref1. But perhaps the most significant change has been not in the numbers but in the quality and diversity of our new members.
In my own Branch we now have local business people, self employed, trade union officers, community activists and many others as members rather than as supporters and in some cases rather than as “againsts”. We’ve had to organise a crèche at Branch meetings, we have significantly more women coming to play an active part in all of our work and perhaps best of all some of these new members are occupying key posts in our structure and driving us all forward. I am sure that this will also lead in turn to more people considering becoming candidates and that will inevitably continue to drive the quality of our elected representatives ever higher.
What is becoming obvious is that in our corner of the world, the SNP is becoming the Party which has room for all and in sharp contrast to our opponents, actually makes these new members welcome. They bring new skills, new perspectives and new questions to everything we do. We no longer just do what we have done for years, because someone will always question why and suggest changes. Some will work and some will not but by constantly questioning and challenging ourselves we will continually get better at everything we do. Sure, losing the comfort blankets of habit can be uncomfortable for those of us of a “certain vintage” but the advantages and advances we can make more than compensate. Just ask Angus Robertson which group he prefers?
We are becoming a “one party state” in the sense that the SNP, like Scotland, has room for us all. For generations, Scots went abroad to build new Nations and Countries. Now there is a generation who are building that new Country right here. It’s being built all around us and sometimes it’s hard to discern the changes. There are other times such as in May when the demolition team moves in and you cannot but notice the change! Slowly, but surely, there is a new country being built and because so many of the builders share that aim of a better, fairer and greener Scotland it is being built to serve all of our people not just one class.
The Scandinavian model is often held up as a model to aspire to and it is grounded firmly in making life better for all. That is the kind of Scotland I see growing around me. It is a Scotland which has started to throw some of the chips off it’s shoulders and in accepting responsibility for itself is now beginning to see what can be achieved by working together rather than fighting someone else’s battles.
I think it was Kevin Mckenna who wrote to the effect that his family had never considered voting for Independence because it was never a realistic option until Indyref1 came along. For many, many Scots that will ring true. The referendum made Independence possible and as the facts changed so too did the views of hundreds of thousands of Scots. Ok not quite enough on 18 Sept. But, having done their own research and learning, these people will not go quietly back into their box far less into the night. It is a recognised factor in training that when people find the information rather than being told or shown, they remember much more. Those who have done their own research and found the evidence know that a better Scotland is not only possible; it is essential.
They will continue to work together to achieve it and if that determination, that resolution, that commitment is what unionists choose, out of fear, to call a “one party state” then we are guilty as charged! Scotland is a multi party democracy but when labour and the libdems lie down with the tories who can fault the electorate for choosing the one party that they trust?