“When the facts change, I change my mind, what do you do Sir?” John Maynard Keynes is reported to have said.
Let’s just recall the feelings on the morning of September 19 2014. Despair, depression and dejection were the high points as I came to terms with what had happened on the day to be forever known as Black Thursday, I wanted to chuck it all in, move to Spain and live out my remaining years without another canvass pack or leaflet run. Ever.
In the following days, tens of thousands of people changed their minds. Some had been out campaigning for a YES vote, others had just wanted Independence to happen but not worked in the campaign. But for them all, one fact had changed; the lies and deceit of the official NO campaign joined with the ludicrous bias of the mainstream media in Scotland had persuaded them that they had to change their mind and join the only party who could make Independence happen. Many others joined parties who saw the logic of Independence and had made common cause in the YES campaign.
Now we are in another mind changing phase. Ok, there are some who take it to an extreme like Kez and Owen Smith the would be Labour leader. Writing in the Guardian last week he said
“Knowingly marching off to electoral irrelevance is a gross betrayal of the people who all Labour members and supporters – new and longstanding – came into politics to help. If we give up on winning the next election, or falsely claim to be on course to win it, we become accomplices to every Tory cut and will condemn Britain to a decade of doom.”
“Our party is down to 27% in the polls, that would mean one million fewer votes than in 2015. Yet, faced with electoral oblivion, Jeremy surrounds himself with people who agree with him, rather than reach out to the whole country. Too often he seems content to be leader of his own fan club rather than the next prime minister, defining himself against his own party instead of the Tories. If we carry on like this, there will be a generation of children only knowing a Tory government. It happened in the 1980s, and I’m in this contest to stop that happening again.”
But despite that knowledge, despite his assertion that Jeremy will face “electoral oblivion” he refuses to even countenance the idea that Scotland should be able to escape “a decade of doom”. Well currently he does. Or at least at the time of writing he opposes. As example; Smith said he would not oppose another referendum “if the Scottish people chose that’s what they wanted and there was agreement in the Labour Party” But he also said “I just don’t there’s any need or desire for it”
As John McDonnell put it “ On the future of Scotland, Owen Smith has gone from thunderer to blunderer in less than 48 hours”
The problem for both Kez and Smith is the same, it’s not just being inconsistent, it’s the cardinal crime of failing to think through an idea and come to conclusions which are rooted in facts!
The outcome of the Tory Civil War on Europe on June 23 has once more changed the essential facts of the case for Independence in some very significant ways. Firstly of course the claim that only a NO vote would guarantee our place in Europe was exposed as the lie we all knew it was. But it was exposed as a lie which would cost money, jobs and security and entirely on the altar of English xenophobia. The brutal fact is that even the Brexit campaign knew they were talking rubbish and did not expect to come close, far less win. They still cannot even define, cannot even agree on, what Brexit means in the simplest terms even now 10 weeks after the vote. Many Scots chose to stay in the UK on the strength of that lie.
But when the facts change many change their minds and it is our job to make the process of changing minds as easy as possible.
That will require not only responses to the current changing political and economic environments but also a fluid response as the meaning of “Brexit” finally becomes clear whenever that actually happens. It will require a clarity on what Brexit will cost us and also a capacity to recognise that there will be some who will gain from the process. It may in the short term at least be easier to export when the £ is at €1.17 than it was at €1.28. Just as we need to highlight that it becomes so much more expensive to import at those figures.
For many small to medium sized businesses in Scotland the prospect of having to pay tariffs and suffer the time lags of border controls will hit their prospects of exporting fresh produce to European markets.
Perhaps even more Brexit will demand that we not only reach out to those who voted NO on Black Thursday but that we help them re-examine the cases for and against Independence. It demands that we help them to make that leap just as we have helped hundreds of thousands already to come to the SNP. It demands that we welcome them and encourage them to make that final change not because we have more “patriotism” then they have. Not because we “care more about Scotland” than they do. Not because we can sing Flower of Scotland better than them. No, the needs of Scotland demand that we do so because the facts have changed and with that their minds may be open to change.
We will win Independence not on a wave of emotion or pride but on a solid analysis of the economic, social and political benefits which only Independence can bring.
We will win Independence not because of or on the back of an appeal to the heart but on the cold, calm, rational process of changing minds.
Those who voted NO are not traitors or cowards! They simply voted for what they believed was best, for themselves, for their families and for their country. We will win Independence when they see that the case for Independence is stronger, more believable and presents a better future than the case for the Union! Let’s welcome each and every convert with open arms and hearts, that way and only that way lies Independence.