“IF SCOTLAND votes for Independence I’ll move to England”. I have heard a lot of people saying they’d move to Northumberland and no doubt cause a property boom…
I said this in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation last Thursday.
And then, from nowhere these words came to me; “I’ll feel a more Scottish as an émigré in England than I would in Sturgeon’s Scotland, and that’s the truth”.
It sums up how I feel, and I was surprised how emotional I was. I have said it to others since and they feel the same. Scottish and British.
The interview was in the Oxford Bar in Edinburgh, picked because it’s the local of fictional Edinburgh detective John Rebus. The fact his creator Ian Rankin thinks he would be a No voter and Ken Stott, one of the actors who has played him thinks he voted Yes, was for the journalist, an outlandish example of the division in Scotland.
David Bone, Donald Lewis and I were there representing Scotland Matters.
We got off to a good start, because the pub was busy, and when I asked the customers if they objected to us talking about our opposition to independence they all said they were with us all the way. Most of them listened to what was being said and at the end an Englishman from Oxford came up and congratulated us, saying people down South think it’s all a done deal and had no idea of the strength opposition, failures of the SNP in the last 12 years, the division they have caused and the lack of any compelling plan for what an independent Scotland would look like.
At the moment the SNP is, individually, miles ahead of Labour, Conservative and Lib Dems in the polls for the Holyrood 2021 elections, and even more so when you add the growing percentage of its allies, the Greens.
Together, they are on track to win a majority in 2021 and, as Alex Massie said in the Sunday Times this week, “possess the moral weight and muscle to force another referendum”.
Getting ready for 2021 is Scotland Matters’ main thrust. This means getting the message across to the politicians that our supporters – the voters – want them to give us some leadership and form an effective opposition to take the SNP/Greens to task every single day and start looking like they want to be the next government and by adding “and if we were the government this is what we would do” to every criticism of them.
It is clear no one opposition party is currently in a position to have an overall majority so we want them to think about coalition and tactical voting.
It also means engaging more of the 95% of voters who don’t get to hear about what is going on, don’t care, are put off by politics or are too afraid of losing their jobs or business revenues to speak out – a disturbing, sinister feature of the last 12 years.
There are no Scotland Matters Twitter or Facebook pages, we rely on supporters to share the content on our website – articles, letters from the papers, who to contact, research reports and our update emails – on their own email, social media accounts or in conversation with friends, colleagues and family. This is working well and many of our supporters have started to write to the papers and join radio phone-ins
We also believe that holding regular meetings with guest speakers from all parties is a great way for people to network, hear from experts, see that they are not alone, and get out from behind their screens and escape the social media “Bubble”. Since our launch event in May this year we have had 5 meetings, in Fraserburgh, Stirling, Glasgow and two in Aberdeen, a total of over 300 people have come along to listen to speakers such as ex Labour MP Tom Harris, former CBI Scotland Chairman Sir Iain McMillan, Aberdeen Lord Provost Barney Crockett, MSP’s and MP’s including Peter Chapman, Mike Rumbles, Colin Clark, David Duguid and, on education, Carole Ford and industrialist Conrad Ritchie
Working with others we also raise subjects that the Holyrood opposition seem to avoid, for example our petition proposing a two thirds threshold for referendums which got 2,500 signatures, coverage in the papers and empowered two MSP’s at least, Mike Rumbles and Alexander Burnett, to raise what seems to be a taboo topic.
Our biggest activity at the moment is supporting and promoting the tactical voting campaign.
This is one initiative that required astute and wide usage through Facebook, boots on the ground, a scrupulously non-party approach and collaboration between groups and people. UK Union Voice have some brilliant memes; humorous and pointed, which are being shared among hundreds of thousands of people along with the tactical voting “wheel” which highlights the party to vote for in each Scottish constituency to enable either retention of the seat by a Labour, Lib Dem or Conservative, or actually winning more seats off the SNP. Key targets are the seats of Pete Wishart, Stephen Gethins, Joanna Cherry – and Ian Blackford, where we are helped by Labour and the Conservatives “sitting back” to give the Lib Dems a clear run at the SNP.
It is having an effect; tactical voting is being talked about, more people are volunteering to help candidates, and we can see on Social media the SNP don’t like it.
It will definitely make a difference on 12 December, but the real battle will be in 2021 and the lessons learned from this general election will be put to good use for that campaign that decides the Indy Showdown.