At the start of the year we bring you an article by Iain Lawson. Many of you will know him. He explains who he is if the first part of the piece.
I write this in the last few days of 2015 which has been a brilliant year for those of us who support Independence. We deserved it after the enormous disappointment of the referendum where despite a great campaign and the conversion of hundreds of thousands of our fellow Scots to Independence, we narrowly failed to win. Unionists I am sure hoped that was the end of it but as we all know now it was but the start and 2015 saw a huge increase in SNP membership and stunning victories across Scotland in the General Election.
I joined the SNP in 1986 and was a senior office bearer and member of the National Executive for a great many years throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s so I was heavily involved at the top of the Party throughout that period. Today I am no longer a member, not through choice, but because I am the Honorary Consul for the Republic of Estonia in Scotland and I am not permitted to be an active member of any political party while I hold that post. I therefore decided to become an active non-member of the SNP instead!
At that time the SNP was very different to today, it was always short of money, it had a much lower level of membership and was largely sustained by the dedication of its activists. That included those who devoted a huge number of unpaid hours to run the Party, both organisationally and politically for no reward other than to see the vision of Independence enhanced. Thinking of those people they included Alex Salmond, Nicola Sturgeon, Kenny McAskill, Alex Neil, Gil Paterson and many others, sadly many of whom are no longer with us. I mention this because even today with our vast membership, with our many MP’s and MSP’s and their staffs of full paid workers the success or otherwise of any future referendum will still be determined by the host of unpaid volunteers that represents the Independence army that will be required to take the message to every home in Scotland.
As we enter 2016, I am very confident of the future. This is for several reasons a few of which I outline below.
The day after the referendum I was flattened. I thought we were going to win. I had spent the last few months of the campaign reliving the Govan By election, touring round the country full time with Jim Sillars on the Margo Mobile visiting housing estates across the country and trying to build the momentum towards YES in those areas. We were tasked with converting Labour voters to the cause of Independence and we knew from the reactions we were getting in the huge schemes of Scotland, East and West that we were being very successful. As we all know now it was in the more affluent areas of Scotland where the problems lay.
I am sure most unionists thought that morning that it was all over, but it was far from over. That morning a smirking David Cameron came out to speak to the media in front of 10, Downing Street and expressed his delight at the result and then in a dreadful error of judgement announced EVEL. It was now England’s turn he said. Now to most YES activists this wasn’t a shock, many had warned that the Westminster reaction to a No victory would be damaging to Scotland. No, the people that were most shocked were the No voters, those who had believed the vow and thought and expected a much more constructive and positive reaction from the Prime Minister. Since then it has only got worse, the Smith Commission proposals, which were already very weak, have been diluted further and every single amendment to the Scotland Bill put forward by at least 56 of Scotland’s 59 MP’s were rejected out of hand at Westminster. So for my first reason to be confident for the future is the abject failure and contempt shown to Scotland since the referendum and the absolute certainty they have learned nothing from the referendum experience. I have now met significant numbers of No voters who are now quite certain they will vote YES in INDY2 whenever that may come.
My second reason for confidence is the economic mismanagement of the UK economy which is in an increasingly hopeless position. With UK debt now over £1.6 trillion, a huge £222 billion PFI time bomb ticking away and bringing many public bodies to economic ruin and a huge balance of the trade deficit which is worsening despite attempts to prop it up by selling extremely valuable properties in Central London to rich Russians and Arabs, the Westminster decimation of our manufacturing abilities and ludicrous reliance on the increasingly vulnerable financial “muscle” of the City of London leaves a huge and growing gap that promises disaster in the not too distant future. The fact that we are also watching an action replay of massive housing bubble in London and the South East, which is being sustained only through government designed housing giveaways that have nothing to do with helping house buyers but are really indirect subsidies to try and maintain ridiculous house prices a little longer. This is not a sustainable position and will collapse at some point in the next few years. The price of all this, within the UK, is going to be higher taxes, less public services and welfare provision. It is not an attractive prospect and an Independent Scotland will become increasingly attractive.
My third reason for confidence is the calibre and performance of our elected MP’s and MSP’s. I think we were all aware that Nicola and her team at Holyrood were all very capable and doing a great job but I have been very pleased with the calibre of the many new MP’s at Westminster. Here I must pay credit to Stirling SNP who had an excellent webpage that provided links to every one of the maiden speeches. I watched them all and every one was good, many were better than good, many were excellent and a few were exceptional. Some of the newer faces deserve special mention Tommy Shepherd is a rare talent who speaks with credibility and humour and on matters which resonate with voters. As a Paisley buddie I take particular pride in the election of Mhairi Black, who was a colleague of Jim and myself on the Margo Mobile and who has made a massive impact since her election. Some old friends like Roger Mullin, Ian Blackford and Brendan O’Hara are also some “oldies” to watch I would forecast.
Finally I turn to my final reason for confidence in 2016, the most important of all. They are you, the thousands of people already out there knocking doors, delivering leaflets, recruiting more members, raising funds. It was wonderful the surge in membership that occurred following the referendum and the message that sent out about Scotland not giving up on our freedom. Now these new members must be involved in the campaign this year.
I am going to be cheeky in conclusion. I may in some cases be teaching folk to suck eggs but can I suggest something you do now, if you have not done so yet, is organise home visits for every member of the Party in your area. Go along and introduce them to the branch, don’t send a letter, go in person. Explain there are lots of things they can do to help, deliver leaflets in their street or the one next to them, fold leaflets, enter data on a computer, drive activists, man a stall or an office. We have jobs for everyone, irrespective of age or fitness level. Don’t leave without getting a commitment for them to do something…even the smallest task. I urge you to do it now as the nearer to May we get the more involved everyone gets in the campaign and time then becomes difficult. By doing this work now, you will enjoy vastly greater numbers helping, lessening the load for all or allowing you all to do much more than was possible in the past
It is crucial we get another SNP MAJORITY Government, it is the only way Scotland retains the ability to ensure a fresh referendum if circumstances are favourable for a certain win. That makes the election huge and creates the absolute need not to gamble and make it SNP 1 and 2.