By Alasdair Galloway
If we abjure violence, then there is a creative issue of what can be done by the wider community. Much of course, is already being done – blogging, various Yes organizations already exist. But do these two things not themselves point to weaknesses? How much of the former involves independence supporters talking to each other (and sometimes falling out)? With regard to the latter is a plethora of organizations a sign of strength of a sign of dispute and division?
What can be done about them? First, blogging is an essential and valuable quality of the independence movement, but the issue is how to get these messages out into the wider community. One opportunity – which the Unionist side has been aware of for some time – is letter writing – the Green Ink gang as Wings labelled them. Oh yes, we can laugh at them – Mad Jill for instance is always good for that. We can write that they need a new script – I did that in the Herald the other day. But how much influence do they have?
I think we need to appreciate that the status quo remains the default position – people may leave it and some may come back, but it is still default, particularly for the media. As Chomsky points out defending the status quo is often easier than attacking it – for one thing the arguments are usually more familiar and can be presented much more briefly. For instance, such as “how can Scotland afford to be independent”, or “the rest of the UK won’t allow it” are often presented with not a shred of supporting evidence – it’s just obvious, innit?
But arguing for independence is much more difficult. First of all, the Unionists really only have to attack any independence proposition – “it won’t work” – as we already know the UK. However, we not only have to defend our proposition – “Scotland, an independent country” (but can it be?) – but also criticise the UK because what we suggest has to be “better” in some aspect.
Then there is the media. As John Robertson has pointed out till he must be blue in the face, Reporting Scotland is a serious problem because of its reporting of, particularly the Scottish Government. Then we consider the newspapers. Of all the papers sold and read throughout Scotland I can only think of one – The National – that adopts a regularly positive view of independence.
What I am trying to get at here is that the occasional letter is not going to achieve much – it’s too indiscriminate and lacks much in the way of coherence (other than supporting independence). What is needed is a more strategic and (dare I say it) planned campaign to the media. For instance, not just responding to the recycled crap being put out by the other side, but an approach which is proactive – i.e. not just responding to Mad Jill, or Peter Russell, or Alan Sutherland, but developing a positive view of what an independent Scotland could be. Let’s see them on the back foot, reacting to what we write.
To be honest I have very little idea how something like this would work, other than it is going to require a large number of people. One thing I have learned from interacting with the Herald Letters Page, is that its editor Drew Allan likes to get a wide range of people involved in discussing any topic – so let’s give him that!
The mechanism, I am not going to lie, is very unclear, beyond that social media is probably our friend. But I have a whole load of questions whirling in my head – is it hierarchical (I certainly don’t think so, but can we make it coherent if not)? How does it work out a position on a widely defined issue? Discussion? But what if someone dissents from it and wants to say so? Can we afford folk who want to “do their own thing”? Or is independence just too important for this?
Beyond that of course there is extra-parliamentary activity. Much of this has been undermined by the pandemic, but I struggle to see how demonstrations by such as AUOB can be a “bad thing” – it brings the movement together and confirms the independence movement is not just a small bunch of cranks.
There are loads of things wrong with this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZwMVMbmQBug (though please spend five minutes of your time watching it), but Boris Johnson is the best asset the independence movement has right now (closely followed I suspect by Gove) and we have to exploit this ruthlessly. How many people are “mad as hell” with Boris and his policies? Remembering Chomsky’s view of presenting a critical view, we must normalise criticism of the UK as an inappropriate (or just wrong) source of our government.
Perhaps, going even further, there will be a need for peaceful and non-violent civil disobedience. At one level this need by no more than demonstrating – or instance sitting down in the road. At another level the aim would be to make Scotland ungovernable (or less governable) – for instance mass non-payment of TV licences (my experience of TV Licencing is that they are pretty good at chasing down the occasional miscreant – but a LARGE part of Scotland?). Tax is probably beyond our reach – most of us have tax deducted before we lay our hands on it. Perhaps this is the area where originality will be most valuable.
But the take-home point is that the movement needs to be less diffident about this – “oh no, we cannot have illegality” – we don’t – we have a means to an end. Let’s stop apologising for ourselves, particularly as anything we might do pales into insignificance compared to corruption going on down at Westminster.
But please, please can we have a debate about this? If my view that there is unlikely to be a referendum until after May 23 is right then should we not talk about how to use this time to best effect?