Independence: Have It Your Way

This week, Paul Kavanagh (aka “The Wee Ginger Dug”) gave a talk to the City of Stirling branch of the SNP in what can only be described as a morale-boosting, motivational address for fellow independence travellers.

It’s a talk, which he explained was something he does on a regular basis the length and breadth of Scotland. As with many non-SNP members in the independence movement, he has his views of how to win independence and many of them I agree with.

For independence, we must increasingly let it be ‘whatever people want it to be’, i.e. the important detail of whether we are in the EU, Nato or continue to have a constitutional monarchy can be decided after we gain independence.

I am more than certain that research into voting intentions ahead of the first Independence Referendum indicated that there a group of key switherers sitting on the fence. What they needed was certainty about the transition to independence being low risk. Little difference to what we have just now but potential to get even better. Hence the White Paper proposition that offered a seat at the EU and Nato top table, the pound, the Queen and a tartan version of whatever the UK government currently provides.

It was appropriate at that time for the voters who were mostly likely to need convincing. Importantly, it probably did most of the shift from 25% to 45% support for independence, at that time.

Fast forward three years and a Brexit result later, it is clear that the need to accommodate people’s ‘certainty’ by painting a future that is not really that different, won’t work. Those that have a clear view of independence as a means to an end, e.g. greater economic, environmental and social justice, or simply to establish an isolationist sovereign state, are no longer prepared to remain committed to an ideal that does not address their desired end state.

Therefore, the proposition going forward into a new Scottish Referendum must have at its core: independence is what you want to make of it. By all means, set out a core constitution but international trade, defence, currency and head of state are the elective options after the core mandatory module of independence is secured.

There have been calls for a pan-independence movement policy platform. This is doomed to fail. The minute that the options for visioning what the goal is, we will lose people. If there is one lesson of Brexit that Remaining Scots should learn, it’s that it is no longer important for the independence movement to set out the finite detail of what voters are being asked to vote for. Keep it big, keep it simple.

By all means, the Greens, Radical Independence Convention, CommonWeal and the SNP, can fashion how they would dress the independence supermodel, but we must be clear that it is but one opinion of how things may be in the future. Interestingly, we need to get Labour, Lib Dems and even Tories to outline what would an independent Scotland look like if they were faced with trying to govern it.

No more must we be boxed into negativity about justifying the detail of our individual visions for independence, we must get No voters to dream a bit about how they would run things. Once they start to get a taste for thinking about how they harness an independent Scotland, then we will start to see a shift towards independence-framing.

The Republicans have used framing as a successful political communication tool for decades. Frame your proposition metaphorically according to how your audience prefers to think about politics, rather than how you might see things for yourself. By using their language and thought process, it becomes harder to destroy the vision.

1 Comment

  1. At last, We are starting to think clearly again!
    Can’t fault anything in this article. Let’s work with ALL our friends!
    I remember thirty years ago, an SNP candidate telling me that, if I thought the SNP was fighting for independence, just for Scotland to then be run by the Labour Party, he wanted nothing to do with that!
    I said then (I was and still am a member of the SNP) , if the Scottish people decide to vote Labour, after Independence, that would be as a result of a democratic process, I couldn’t see that as a problem.
    It is still my view, that after independence, I’ll trust the people who chose independence, to democratically elect whomsoever they will!

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