Pat Kane: That’s no way to win a referendum

Working and campaigning to get rid of Trident is a positive move that could swing No voters. Picture: Getty Images
Working and campaigning to get rid of Trident is a positive move that could swing No voters. Picture: Getty Images
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TALK of Cameron victory being best bet for a Yes vote next time round is no help for independence campaign, writes Pat Kane

Probably best to tackle the burning idea head on. Would most supporters of Scottish independence, in their heart of hearts, prefer five more years of Tory-dominated UK government, to a term dominated by Labour? And that because the former would be a quicker, almost certainly bumpier, but probably more decisive route to another referendum – and this time, victorious – on a nation-state?

I want to convince No voters that the case for independence is constructive and principled

Here’s my answer: No, I wouldn’t want another Tory government, as a lever to independence – or indeed, under any circumstances.

As a Yesser (always a Yesser), I don’t think that a Tory context would actually deliver a majority vote in a legal referendum for independence.

That’s even if it were offered to us again by a Tory-led Westminster government. And even if that was triggered by a mandate for parties putting an indyref in their manifesto at Holyrood, or from some UKGov shenanigans around an in-out Europe referendum. I wouldn’t desire it, because I don’t think we’d win it again, under those Tory-led conditions.

The recent extensive Edinburgh University polling on attitudes to the independence referendum – which confirm almost exactly Lord Ashcroft’s panel results immediately after 18 September – tells me why.

Just over 70 per cent of the Yes vote was essentially dominated by a desire for democratic sovereignty, with only 20 per cent believing it would make Scotland better off economically.

By comparison, well over half of the No vote (54 per cent) was based on insecurity about the outcome of independence – whether specifically economic, or more generally and systemically.

We now know the power of that 70 per cent: a revived sense of citizenship, of feeling like democracy and your vote actually matters again in Scotland, despite the croaks for doom from the houdies of the UK and global economic establishment. The YeSNP (yes, I’m sticking to the term) has massively benefited from this, to the point at which they look like being the third-biggest party in a hung Westminster parliament.

But I’m sure the SNP inner circles can also hear the message coming from the attitudes behind the No vote. On an unprecedented turn-out, a majority of Scots – older, more affluent, less urban – could not make the leap, across what turned out to be not that large a gap: the SNP’s “indy lite” retail offer of continued currency, bank regulation, energy markets, Queen, Commonwealth, Nato, BBC, change everything so nothing much changes… Even yet: the answer was No.

The straight Unionist commitment of just under a third of Scots, drenched in history and emotion, deserves respect and honour – the largest single element of the No vote, in the Edinburgh University survey.

But the majority opinion was that a Yes vote would threaten the dearly-won securities and stabilities of millions of people’s lives and livelihoods – a worry about it being a more precarious system, not a strange new identity. That was the powerful victory of “Project Fear”.

Of course, the sometimes chilling co-ordination of UK media and the British deep state to create a climate of fear and confusion over the prospects of Scottish self-determination – evidenced by the Sturgeon “French memo” stushie over the last few days – was a huge factor in the No vote.

I know we have a countervailing public sphere of networks, blogs, think-tanks, campaigns and new commercial publications to read, discuss and financially support. Call it Project Share.

But how many inroads does this continuing Yes exuberance, its mood, modes and media, make into the frowns and doubts of the 55 per cent? I would suggest, not very many.

And the reason is that the No vote was a systemic vote – a commitment to an apparently stable means of progress, rather than an apparently unstable one.

How do independence activists get their winning share of this systemic vote? Well, one way is certainly to improve and toughen the indy offer, with a lot of quiet but serious research. The labour of love required to establish an independent country should not be underplayed again.

If we have taken ourselves to a new level of smart citizenship in Scotland, we have to dare to take it to another level again. No more Jedi mind-tricks or hand-waving of the “there shall be a sterling zone” or “Nato will accept us minus our nukes” variety.

To make a new system credible, you have to share the Swot analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) with the people. Not just brand it up, and try to burn it into their hides. But another way is to seize the unexpected opportunity presented by the YeSNP surge to Westminster. I don’t think you can underestimate the Scottish domestic effect of a cohort of non-Labour Scots MPs pushing for anti-austerity, a non-privatised NHS, a non-renewal of Trident, the abolition of the House of Lords, a proportional voting system, and who knows what else on a centre-left “progressive” agenda.

Might this threaten the YeSNP with becoming “Yellow Labour”, the case for independence vitiated by every smiling joint press conference, heralding the next mildly leftwards nudge of a Miliband administration?

Or could it as easily be regarded as a coherent, ethical Scotland helping to improve the governance and conditions of its nearest big neighbour – whom one would want to be balanced, even-tempered and well-disposed, especially after independence?

So when exactly does the next shot at Yes vote come in that scenario? I’m not sure. But I want to convince No voters that the case for independence is constructive, principled and will result in a better social and economic system.

A good way to do that is to show progressive intent, within a system the majority of Scots citizens have currently voted to remain in.

We won’t get the chance to do that, waving our fists futilely at a Tory-led majority composed of the cynical and the intolerant.

A climate of fear and loathing, as the No victory proved, dispirits and troubles the willpower.

Progress is the Yesser’s best weapon, short or long-term.