Gutted. Hurt. Sad. Grief. Angry. Shocked. The list goes on as Yes supporters digest the realisation that the culmination of their hard efforts – over weeks, months and years for many activists – resulted in coming close but not close enough. Many talk with frustration at their fellow Scots. Feart. Shame. Traitors. Fools. We say these things in anger, just one stage of several in the process of coping with loss. That has to stop. We will never win by insulting those we need to win over. And we still have a cause to win. That is the focus of this piece.
As the dust settles, the political landscape has changed somewhat. As an SNP member, we have lost our leader – the most successful politician of his generation – but, thankfully, we are ready to support another whose star shone so brightly throughout the referendum campaign. Likewise Patrick Harvie was a huge asset along with many socialists and those not aligned to any party.
Many have commented upon and indeed praised the YES campaign organisation. There was a time in the first year of Yes that many in the SNP were dismissive of the organisation but I think nearly all would admit now, that the concept was always going to be about grassroots organisation and campaigning, and boy did that happen.
As for the No side? Once the disgraceful scenes of Loyal and fascist Unionism are erased from our minds, reality dawns that the unholy alliance of Labour, Tories and Lib Dems was a temporary fix with no real depth of commitment, unlike the Yes movement. I’m not too sure why Gordon Brown is the hero of the No campaign. I never saw his speeches to carefully selected audiences. Maybe he was the background force to kick the Better Together campaign into shape after the YouGov poll of 7 September sent the markets all jittery.
It’s at this point that my only conspiracy theory kicks in. I don’t think the market went jittery all of its own. The dodgy doom-laden analyst reports from the likes of DeutscheBank were orchestrated by a City Friends of the Union club. A wee short-term hit against ‘Scottish’ plcs will send a message that this self-determination will cost you money. It worked enough for 5% to swing back to No.
Then came the Vow. The promise of jam tomorrow so long as you don’t ask what flavour, what size and how much that jam will cost. By this time, it’s too late in the campaign to get traction to reduce its impact. If this is what Brown devised, then he should get credit. He created the solution for those Scots that wanted more powers but were not quite ready for full powers. Well, some of them.
However, as we read and watch the political fall out in the rest of the UK, suddenly the No vote is beginning to feel like a Pyrrhic victory for Brown and his cronies. Back and front bench rebellion in the Tory party. Agitation from the Northern Labour MPs. Even Plaid are using this to challenge the second class devolution they have in Wales. Has Pandora’s box been opened?
Now what? Calls for the left to regroup to take on Unionist Labour in its heartlands. Others it sounds like time to give up on the dream. The emergence within hours of the result of the 45 twibbon perhaps is indicative of where things can go forward. My initial reaction is that it sounded quite Jacobean. A badge to wallow in grief. But there is another approach and I’m sure many others have thought this too. What if the legacy of Yes was a 45 platform for candidates at the next Westminster General Election in May next year? 45 into 15.
The SNP will kick in to play the vetting and selection of parliamentary candidates very soon. However, as most SNP activists are well aware, voters perceive parties differently in each election. Frankly, Westminster is not for the SNP. Boiled down, we are never going to form the government so why vote for them. It explains why in 2010, all incumbent majorities went up and not a seat changed hands. Now this time round, I would expect the demise of the Liberal Democrats will mean that some of their seats will be vulnerable. Highland and North East seats to the SNP, Borders to the Tories and suburban constituencies to Labour.
As Scotland focuses on kicking the Tories out of Downing Street, Labour are likely to benefit the most. Labour will promise to deliver on devolution which Cameron is finding hard to get his backbenchers to agree to. This assumption, however, only works so long as Scotland is seen out of context to the UK. What if the rest of the UK starts to veer even more to the Tories as Labour’s new found socialism paints them as the return of the Reds? Milliband is promising a big increase in minimum wage (quite rightly), but that isn’t a message Middle England necessarily likes to hear.
If Labour is seen as pandering to the Scots, there is a strong likelihood that there may be an English backlash. It’s at this point that Tories increase their lead.
In Scotland, there is also another possibility. Whilst Scots are not keen on the SNP in Westminster (as a generalisation), would they not be more interested in a 45 Bloc – a grand coalition to reinforce more powers, maybe even fiscal autonomy – to ensure that (1) Tories are not supported in government, and (2) the Vow and more are delivered? This might just be enough for the 35-40% of Labour and Liberal Democrat voters who voted YES, to stick with 45 rather than go back to tribal allegiances. It also shows the rest of the UK, that self-determination is bigger than anyone one man or party. It is a civic force to be reckoned with.