After the low of the referendum defeat many Yes campaigners are picking themselves up, dusting themselves down and asking “What’s next?”. Those that voted for a fairer, independent future and who lit up the campaign with energy, creativity and fire are now starting to wonder what they can do to continue the fight. Some of the groups that fought under the Yes banner have raised their standards again and posted statements of intent like National Collective or Robin McAlpine from the Common Weal, whose powerful piece sums up the thoughts of many now aching to push forward after coming so close:
We lost. Get over it. Every second we spend licking our wounds is a second we lose for the fight. And fight we must. And fight we will. We made much of this land our Scotland, not theirs. So now we hold our territory. Then we take theirs.
Wipe your eyes. On your feet. Grab your stuff. Let’s get started.
The SNP and Scottish Green Party have seen unprecedented levels of new members over the weekend. The former having increased it’s membership by some 14,000 at the time of writing! New groups are also springing up, from the Scottish Independence Party to the loose knit umbrella identity of The 45, referring to the 45% of voters who chose independence. On the other side there have been many anecdotal reports of Yes supporters cancelling their Labour memberships in protest at way Labour conducted their campaign, siding with the Tories and turning their back on the poorest in Scotland and fighting against what should be traditional Labour values of a fairer, more progressive Scotland.
Then there’s all the individuals on Twitter and Facebook making themselves heard, vowing to continue pouring their energy into achieving independence for their country now the campaign is over. This is fantastic, awesome spirit by a momentarily defeated movement.
But we must also recognise that we lost.
It may not have been a fair fight. There may even have been isolated discrepancies in the voting as some have suggested (though I don’t give much credence to a conspiracy if David Icke is one if’s proponents). But at the end of the day there was a record turnout for a modern-day vote in the UK and 55% of that turnout voted No. We can’t crow about the triumph that was the turnout, singing the praises of a politically engaged electorate, then complain about the result and sign online petitions for it to be re-run!
We have to accept that we lost the referendum and another one is off the table now for the foreseeable future. That was our chance at achieving independence in this decade via a peaceful, democratic vote and it’s now gone.
Independence cannot be a short-term goal now, it is back to the long game. For the last 3 years we’ve been in a sprint to the referendum, steaming forward with everything we’ve got but now we’re in a marathon and its steady pressure and a close eye on our opponents which will win the race.
So what’s next?
The issues that energised much of the Yes campaign – a desire for a fairer Scotland, more accountable government, no nuclear weapons and protecting the NHS can still be achieved. We need to fight for each individual issue and make sure it stays on the agenda. Keep the conversations going that we had in the run up to the referendum. Stay involved with the groups that were so energised over the last few years.
Independence may be out of reach for now but it is still the long-term goal. To reach that we must push Westminster to not just deliver their promises of nearly useless increased powers, but to exceed them. The power to raise taxes which can never be used isn’t a real power, it’s just a way to cut the block grant given to Scotland through the Barnett formula. Real powers would allow us to control the economy of Scotland and help those most in need through changes in welfare and pensions. From there it may be a small step to independence.
We have a short window when we can successfully push for those powers and that window is open now. With further devolution on the agenda, not just for Scotland, but for Northern Ireland, Wales and England then suddenly we may be able to fight for the devo-max solution that is federalism in all but name. England should have devolution from the UK, but not English votes for English matters within Westminster. Due to the funding arrangements there are no English only matters in that den of corruption. Every change to English public services funding has a direct impact on the block grant passed to Scotland. For Scottish MPs not to vote on those matters risks throwing away what little influence we have on our own funding right now.
Any fudge along the lines of restricting MPs voting rights or granting the limited “powers” promised in the panicked run up to the referendum is just postponing the inevitable. Over time the unfairness of that fudge would be too much to bear and independence will be back on the table. The only way for Westminster to put this to bed is to put in place full devolution to all the members of the Union and make Westminster a federal parliament. They can scrap the ridiculous House of Lords while they’re at it.
But we can’t blow everything on cries of another referendum. That ship has sailed. For a start, Westminster will never agree to it and we’d lose the air of legitimacy we enjoyed first time round.
What comes next is a fight for every bit of power we can grab for Scotland. Join a political party, SNP, Greens, SSP, and punish Labour in the general election for turning their back on their heartland and abandoning those they are supposed to serve. Deliver a stronger voice for Scotland in this union. Scotland have voted to stay within it for now but that doesn’t mean we slink off in silence. Get involved. Write about what you want to see in your Scotland. Talk about it. Keep in touch with the movement YOU formed over the last few years and push our opponents every inch of the way.