Jacobites and Jacobins: the problem with Yes fundamentalism

Posted: November 29, 2014 in indyref, politics and ideas
Tags: , , , , , , ,

It all seemed so positive at the time.

In the run-up to the referendum, many, many thousands of people took the time to educate themselves, and each other, about how we in Scotland are governed. Information came to light about taxation flows, media coverage, oil revenues, voting records, expenses payments. Everywhere, people were interested in politics.

I always wanted that to happen, so the last few tumultuous months before the vote were quite dizzying to live through.

I voted Yes. I was sure it was the right thing to do.

It was an article of faith on the Yes side that lots of citizens had journeyed from No to Yes, but no one ever headed in the opposite direction.

Well, more than two months after September 18th, I look around me at what the Yes movement has become. And I think I want out.

It all seemed so positive at the time. But last week the Yes movement entered its imperial phase, signalled in particular by the massive SNP celebration event at the Hydro in Glasgow. And the jubilant tone of the thousands of Yes voters glorying in that event and others finally tipped me over the edge.

It’s that tone that makes me suspect the movement was built on a fundamentally flawed conception of power all along. It’s that tone that makes me question the credibility of the leaders who have emerged from the Yes movement, and the cheerleaders who hero-worship them. And it’s that tone that makes me doubt the progressive credentials of the entire enterprise.

It all seemed so positive at the time. But I’m increasingly concerned that the Scottish public sphere faces a serious threat from authoritarian, sanctimonious Yes fundamentalists.

And that’s the very opposite of what I thought I was voting for.

Allow me to explain.

I used to think that “cybernats” didn’t exist outside the heads of Labour activists. Maybe they didn’t. But, dearie me, there are plenty of them around these days.

(Cybernats, to the uninitiated, are supporters of Scottish independence and, usually, the SNP, who spend their time online, harassing people who disagree with their worldview.)

Indeed, until recently I’d only ever really been concerned about cyber-Labs: angry Labour supporters who use Twitter to lambast political opponents, real and imagined.

There are still plenty of them, too, although oddly they seem relatively cowed at the moment.

What follows draws at times from my admittedly subjective impressions of the tenor of social media over the last couple of months. No doubt my experience is far from the whole story, but as a non-aligned Yes voter with no party axe to grind I hope my reflections are free of especially egregious bias.

I want to reflect on four events from the past week and then draw some conclusions from them. I’ll begin by discussing the SNP event at the Hydro, before considering the Radical Independence conference that took place on the same day next door. I’ll look thirdly at the launch of the National newspaper, before reflecting on the fall-out from Gordon Brown’s (rumoured) decision to stand down as an MP at the next election.

Scottish Peronism

Since the referendum, the SNP has claimed a remarkable spike in membership, now approaching a four-fold increase towards the 100,000 mark. Not unreasonably, the party decided to arrange a roadshow of public events around the country at which the leader-elect, Nicola Sturgeon, could address the party faithful. When the party swelled in numbers, the demand for tickets for these events was such that the party was able to upsize to much bigger venues.

That was the SNP’s first real clanger in ages. The leadership should have resisted the temptation to sell out the Hydro. Always leave them wanting more, as Elvis used to advise. And, more importantly, don’t give your opponents the opportunity to accuse you of hosting a mass nationalist rally.

The photographs from the event at the Hydro are quite bizarre. My favourite is reproduced below:


Stewart Hosie, there, headlining Woodstock.

Now, clearly the SNP are quite a moderate, sober party, and they have deservedly been elected in Scotland on the basis of their technocratic competence. But events like these, and images like the one above, imperil all of that.

In recent times the SNP has positioned itself as the natural party of government in Scotland. No harm in that – maybe they are. But, more worryingly, they’ve started to present themselves as the only legitimate government of Scotland.

The SNP presents itself as speaking for and on behalf of Scotland – sticking up for us against the perfidy of Westminster. See Sturgeon’s Twitter feed for examples of this – the Unionist parties are now referred to routinely as “Westminster parties”. They don’t represent Scotland – the SNP do.

Now, to give them their due, the SNP claim to speak on behalf of all Scottish people. They are positioning themselves as a One Nation party. They aren’t trying to represent SNP voters alone. In that sense a saltire has been draped across the entire electorate, and they have all been claimed for the SNP. We’re all Alex Salmond’s bairns.

But the trouble is, by othering the opposition as un-Scottish, the SNP are seeking to shut down any voices other than their own, plus some unthreatening fellow-travellers. And that is unhealthy for a democratic political culture. If the voters are encouraged to suspect the opposition of being secretly out to undermine Scotland, what happens when the SNP themselves make mistakes? Who is left to believe in?

Nicola Sturgeon is a remarkable politician, as is Alex Salmond. It’s testament to their abilities and track records that the SNP are in this position in the first place, and it’s perhaps understandable that the party’s senior figures haven’t known how to handle it. But they have surely undone some of their good work over the last few years by presenting themselves as the only legitimate, authentic Scottish political party, and celebrating themselves with a stadium tour.

Imagine the No parties had held a stadium celebration, with Darling’s name up in lights. Or someone peripheral like Alan Carmichael. Triumphalist, flag-waving demagogues! The SNP would have had a field day.

And the pity of it for the SNP is that they are actually good at governing Scotland. They’ve been very effective since they took power in 2007, at a time when the Labour Party were turning into the shambles they’ve remained ever since. The danger is that the SNP now start to resemble a mid-20th century populist party, and eventually lose credibility.

The ingredients are there:
• identification with the nation, alongside heavy hints that other parties are not identified with the nation;
• the attempt to crowd out other parties as unnecessary to the business of governing Scotland since they know what needs to be done;
• hostility to the neighbouring government, and the attempt to base their own governing legitimacy in their opposition to it;
• mass rallies;
• a romantic air of dewy-eyed defiance.

I worry about the SNP, I really do. Where did this outbreak of Peronism come from?

Scottish vanguardism

I should stress at this point that I evoke Peronism as a mere figure of speech; as an illustration of a certain governing tendency. The actual historical conditions of Peron’s Argentina and Sturgeon’s Scotland are, of course, completely different. But if you want to identify more literally with unrelated political movements, look no further than last week’s Radical Independence conference.

It took place next door to the SNP’s flag-waving extravaganza, and attracted 3000 people. This is amazing: 3000 people at a Radical Independence event! Unimaginable a year ago. And I’m sure there were lots of good things going on last weekend – indeed, many dear friends of mine were there and loved it.

But three aspects of the event have freaked me out.

Firstly, the conviction among attendees that the Yes movement is somehow aligned with Syriza in Greece, and Podemos in Spain, and the Catalan independence movement. Really? I think you’d struggle to find anything substantially in common with the Greek and Spanish experiences. And as for the Catalans, the only real similarity is that they’re seeking to walk away from their neighbours at a time of need, just like we did.

But that might be a bit harsh. More annoying is the combination of leftist vanguardism and Scottish manifest destiny that has infected supposedly radical conversations since the referendum.

To explain, there is a conviction (that word again) among fundamenalist Yessers that “the 45” possess a privileged understanding of the direction of history, and that independence is inevitable. Therefore, people who voted against independence are barriers to progress. This is the classic false consciousness trope – those people were wrong and don’t understand what’s good for them.

This sense of being the vanguard of a better future society shaped most of the Radical Independence workshops, and particularly the keynote speeches (with the notable exception of Patrick Harvie, who has retained his objectivity throughout).

The sentimental “we shall overcome” tone is new – no one really spoke like that before the Yes campaign lost. Everyone was at pains to stress how un-nationalist they were. And they were! But suddenly there’s something magical about Scotland that will guide her to independence. This stuff is not just embarrassing – it’s making people turn their brains off.

For example, I have read countless reports of the Radical Independence conference that culminated in utter jubilation because Tariq Ali assured everyone that independence would happen.

Tariq Ali!

People are genuinely listening to him as if he’s some sort of Nostradamus figure.

I thought the David Icke stuff was bad, but this is really weird.

It seemed at times during the referendum as if the Yes campaign was so embattled it would flail around in desperate search of any allies at all. The consequence of this has been an uncritical willingness to cite the most bizarre sources as evidence in support of the cause. I’ve written here about how Lord Ashcroft’s opinion polls have been seized upon by people who should know better (including Salmond) as “proof” that young people voted Yes – when in fact the sample sizes were microscopic, largely unusable, and if anything indicating that young voters were split down the middle. And since when was Lord Ashcroft a popular voice in progressive politics?

But far, far worse than any of that was the People’s Vow.

The event climaxed, in what sounds like an all too organismic sense, with the reading of a National Covenant de nos jours.

Where do you start with this? The People’s Vow is a classic piece of vanguard rhetoric. It doesn’t matter if we lost the referendum, it argues – we know better than the voters “who weren’t quite ready this time”. That’s the 2 million voters who weren’t quite ready. That’s a lot of voters. And, ready or not, the People’s Vow dictates terms on equality, land reform and other matters.

Who are these “People”, exactly? Are the people making the vow, or is it made on their behalf? And by whom? And is it also made on behalf of “the 55%” who weren’t quite advanced enough to understand their historical responsibilities?

It sounds to me like an act of breathtaking arrogance, frankly. Worse, it sounds a bit like Jacobinism.

The conference lapped this up, remarkably. A conference of supposed radicals, blind to the lessons we’ve learned from the history of radical, Jacobin vanguard groups, all of which claimed privileged insight into the direction of history and led their societies to disaster.

Good news

The 3000 people at the Radical independence event, and their 12,000 compatriots next door at the SNP’s last night of the proms gig, provided a ready audience for Scotland’s new newspaper, the National. Not uncoincidentally, it launched on the Monday morning after those events, following a flurry of excitement on social media over the weekend.

I haven’t bought the National. I’m assured that it contains good journalism, and I like some of the writers. No worries on that score. And I’m not even that bothered about the Herald stable’s opportunism in launching another Yes-friendly paper to make some money. That’s capitalism. Good luck to them.

It’s the jubilant attitude of the readers that winds me up.

It doesn’t actually matter that the National features talented journalists and writers. The people who are buying it would buy it even if it just contained loads of lorem ipsum placeholder text, and the odd photo of Stewart Hosie rocking out on the Pyramid Stage.

It’s a badge of honour. A newspaper.

It’s been a masterpiece of marketing, incidentally. Timing the launch for after the Yes movement’s big weekend was clever, and the construction of a narrative of scarcity – there are only 50,000 copies to go round 1.6m Yes voters! – was deftly handled. Best of all, the Herald’s publishers knew that Yes voters would fetishise a Yes paper as “theirs” and mobilise behind it in the post-referendum culture wars.

I’ve been amazed at the clumsiness of the SNP in publicly celebrating the National. After all of their complaints about state broadcasting during the referendum, they give their imprimatur to a newspaper?

And no one on the Yes side sees any contradiction between bemoaning partiality in news coverage, and then launching a Yes propaganda sheet?

Some journalists need to ask themselves if they have lost their objectivity.

I identified with the Yes movement because it was full of people open to evidence, to new ideas, to free thought. What happened to that?

The Yes side is now busy reading newspapers that reinforce the narrative that they were right and everyone else was wrong. I’m unconvinced that the cause of political progress is aided by this.

All political careers end in failure

The fourth event that alarmed me this week was the reaction to rumours that Gordon Brown will step down as an MP next year.

Older readers may remember Brown as a key figure in the rebuilding of the Labour Party in the 1980s and 90s. He was a heroic figure in Scotland and beyond. He was. And he dominated Whitehall in his time as Chancellor, bullying Blair relentlessly to get his own way on public spending. The result was a transformation in the state of our public services, unquestionably for the better. If you remember school, and now visit a school, your mind will be blown.

Somehow all of this is outweighed, in the minds of Yes voters, by his determination to argue for the preservation of the United Kingdom.

He gave a brilliant speech in the final week of the campaign and has been credited with swinging some wavering Labour voters back into the No camp.

Now, only people in the Westminster village could believe that one speech by one semi-retired politician determined the result of our independence referendum. But even if it had done – what is the problem with Brown disagreeing with the Yes campaign?

I have to acknowledge that he probably knows more about economics that I do. I recognise that he was qualified to speak. Some of his arguments meant nothing to me but his intervention can hardly be explained as a career move. He actually meant that stuff.

When word spread that Brown was planning to leave the Commons in 2015, the 45 were out in force on Twitter to condemn him.

Now, he was one of the two most important people in government for thirteen years, and a senior Labour figure in opposition for a decade before that, so there are inevitably a number of dark tales to tell about his career. But I know of no politician with a stronger commitment to eradicating child poverty. He never gave Blair a moment’s peace in his efforts to divert treasury funds to progressive causes. And the rejuvenation of our schools and hospitals (imperilled once again by the Tories) was largely down to him.

And he’s the ogre? What have the Yes politicians ever done to compare with that?

And this is the problem with the Yes movement’s obsession with punishing the Labour Party. Labour might well be a mess in Scotland. That’s a given. And for me the party’s leadership made an unfathomable error in commanding the membership to campaign for a No vote, rather than leaving it up to individuals to come to their own view.

But they aren’t actually the baddies!

If you think Gordon Brown is the personification of an evil party, then you either got interested in politics last month and haven’t finished the reading, or the Yes propaganda has warped your mind.

Yes fundamentalists, especially SNP activists, need to be careful that they don’t creep into GOP/ Tea Party-esque culture wars. Personality assassinations have been all too prevalent in Scottish politics for years, but the practice now risks discrediting the entire business of politics. When the career of a genuine giant of British politics is dismissed as a footnote because he opposed independence, we’re all diminished.

Jacobites and Jacobins

For me, much of this comes down to ideas of power and agency.

The rhetoric from the SNP, reinforced by a tidal wave of bile from people on Twitter with “45” in their picture, is that all Westminster politicians are at it. They fiddle their expenses (apparently no MP should have an allowance to fund a constituency office) and only ever turn up to Parliament to vote themselves a pay rise. Exhibit A here is an image shared widely on social media of the Commons chamber mostly empty for an emergency debate on devolving further powers to Scotland, and a packed chamber preparing to divide on the question of MP salaries.

Now, there are a couple of obvious points here. Firstly, if MPs spent all of their time in the Commons they wouldn’t be able to do anything else, like serve on committees, or deal with constituency business. Secondly, there is a bit of a difference between an afternoon debate and an actual Parliamentary vote.

But the danger of this rhetoric is that it denies the possibility of change through traditional politics. Remember that the Westminster system is based on representative democracy. Imperfect as the system is, MPs are actually voted in by human beings. Power is then exercised on the basis of expressed political will.

Just as importantly – the very fact that these points are being made so widely suggests that the referendum wasn’t the educative experience it felt like at the time.

Yes fundamentalists have found out lots of isolated facts – like the proportion of votes Gordon Brown attended at the Commons, or the value of Scotland’s taxation contribution to the Exchequer – without the broader political perspective that would help contextualise and make sense of them.

Consider recent Yes contributions on the subject of poverty. To listen to 45ers on Twitter you’d think all No voters actually want poverty to exist. The idea simply doesn’t occur to anyone that No voters might have consulted the same sources available to Yes voters, and concluded that a country without a plausible currency might not be the best bet for lifting living standards.

It has become a truism that Westminster causes poverty, while independence would eradicate it. Quite how a free Scotland would be sheltered from the pressures of the global economy is unclear.

This is not to say that independence wouldn’t have been a good thing – I remind the reader that I voted yes with great enthusiasm – but rather that Yes fundamentalists are no longer able to hold political ideas up to objective scrutiny either way. Everything is reduced to the binary independent/ not independent, and Bad Things are blamed on being not independent. Scotland’s nationhood status is, frankly, an insufficient explanation for all political phenomena.

A curious disjuncture has been allowed to go unchallenged between the SNP government’s assertion that it could make everything better, if only it had more powers, and the rejection by the Yes movement of the legitimacy of traditional (Westminster) politics. The Radical Independence conference was in many ways the high water mark of Yes anti-politics in this respect – the “Westminster” parties were routinely booed and the system seen as rigged, while vague programmes of political decentralism were advocated.

I can’t get my head around this.

Now, the Common Weal is the most interesting experiment in decentralised, community politics to emerge from the Yes movement. Its supporters are attracted to the network on account of its non party-aligned character, and they seem to have freedom to pursue local agendas within a fairly loose shared commitment to “social justice”. But Common Weal activists seem to be completely relaxed about the SNP entering its imperial phase and shutting down the very possibility of parliamentary opposition.

Why haven’t alarm bells rung anywhere? These two models of politics are completely incompatible.

Perhaps the Yes movement is now suffering due to a excess of charismatic leadership and a lack of intellectual leadership.

How else can Yes fundamentalists keep the following ideas going in their heads at once?

• Decentralising power is good, such as through networks like Common Weal;

While at the same time:

• The Scottish government needs more power.

These are contradictory ideas.


• Independent Scotland will be a real democracy, unlike Westminster, representing ideas squeezed out in UK politics;


• Everyone should vote SNP.

At a stroke, the commitment to pluralism evaporates.


A conception of politics I find rewarding and stimulating is the “politics of everyday life” discussed by the late Bernard Crick. This theme of political thought takes seriously the idea of the personal as political – human relationships reflect and forge power relations, so are a legitimate and productive subject of political consideration.

The Yes movement used to be beautiful because it seemed to be about respecting difference and supporting human flourishing. The Yes movement was a carnival. It was fun, and it was funny. And by being fun, and funny, the Yes movement transformed people’s conceptions of what political campaigns could be like.

It’s not funny anymore. The Yes movement has hardened and lost its groove. The mocked up images on Twitter are just grumpy these days, or sanctimonious.

And anyone who is suspected of being less than 100% committed to Scottish independence is subjected to relentless sniping and abuse on social media. The journalist David Torrance must have the thickest skin in Scotland considering the grief he’s given online for having a critical perspective on the SNP leadership.

(On that note, I really hope Salmond regrets writing his arsey letter to the Herald slagging Torrance off after the referendum. The Yes movement hadn’t exactly covered itself in glory in terms of supporting journalistic independence before then, so letters to the editor from the First Minister seeking to intimidate fellow-citizens are pretty low and unimpressive.)

It’s important for individuals in a political community to respect the moral autonomy of other individuals. We all have our own stories, and our own motivations, and we all base our political ideas on our own experiences. The 2m Scottish voters who opted against independence did so for their own reasons. It’s unacceptable to belittle and attack them for reaching a different conclusion from the same evidence.

The electorate is always right, so they must be respected. Voters aren’t stupid. They don’t need ambitious Yes activists speaking for them and explaining why they “weren’t ready”.


The weeks since the referendum have not been good to the Yes campaign.

Feeling like the bullied, Yes fundamentalists have become the bullies.

Perceiving media bias against them, they have taken solace in media biased in their favour.

Certain that Westminster is undemocratic, they crave unopposed SNP government.

Furious at September’s show of strength by the UK state, they glory in mass rallies and projections of power.

And convinced of their moral authority, they seek to silence any dissenters on social media.

It has been observed that the ’45’ iconography seized upon in the aftermath of the referendum echoed the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion. Whether or not people intended this association, there is a resonance. The Yes movement has started to unconsciously love its defeat.

There is a death-urge that underpins the recent iconoclasm. That tone that Yes fundamentalists can’t help but adopt these days has a dewy-eyed, fatalistic quality to it: a sepia-tinted despairing sense of glorious defeat. That’s a dangerous tone. It’s erratic and irrational and neglects the consequences of actions.

To make matters worse, the Jacobite attitude is combined with another eighteenth century trope – Jacobinism. The Jacobins were the vanguard movement par excellence, convinced that they alone understood the direction of the French Revolution and possessed of a privileged entitlement to bend events to their will. This didn’t end well.

This is a toxic combination: Jacobite sentimentality and death-urged recklessness merged with Jacobin vanguardism. It’s reminiscent of nothing so much as the National Covenant, when Scottish people presumptuously convinced themselves of their entitlement to make a pact with God.

The National Covenant led to disaster. And Yes fundamentalism will hardly lead anywhere happier if it continues down its current, demented path.

Count me out of this shit.

  1. Clicky Steve says:

    Interesting read, articulating things that few others are, so good job.

    You’ve touched upon lots of issues here, with results in a lot of different thoughts and feelings; all of which would take a whole series of blog posts to respond to, never mind a single comment! Because of that, I’ll just talk about one thing: the general theme of the blog; disaffection with the ‘Yes movement’.

    You know I am ardently pro independence. However, I did not get actively involved in any ‘yes’ politics before the final week or so before the referendum. I never attended any gatherings in George Square, never handed out leaflets or went to a National Collective meeting… Hell, I didn’t even read Bella Caledonia. I kept my political discussions for those close to me… Only even blogging about my thoughts near the referendum itself.

    None of that was by accident. I have long since been put off the sort of activism involved after disappointing experiences as a politically engaged young person. I don’t think flyers or parties where everybody sings from the same hymn sheet are helpful, and just breed the sort of factionism that you’ve described above.

    What finally got me enthralled was something else… Something that I think was the real ‘yes movement’. The spirit of everyday people who had no affiliation to any of the common weal, national collective, or anything else… rising to the surface and transcending all of the tribal shit that had gone on before. That for me is what was breathtaking and inspiring.

    But that moment had to pass, whether the outcome was yes or no. Now, things have returned to how they were before, and none of the yes affiliated organisations or outlets do anything for me… But then, they never did in the first place, so I’m not sure why I expected that would be different now. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve tried to get involved, and either been ignored or dismissed. The same old story of any groups on the left of politics I feel, sadly.

    The clowns that come out of the woodwork on social media are nothing new, and I have been pounced on in the past for pointing out that somebody who wrote an article saying something about how the arts ‘shouldn’t have a place in the vote’ that was held up by the Tories as an example wasn’t actually saying what rabid cybernats presumed.

    So what am I trying to say? I don’t see it as a ‘movement’ that has lost steam, that you no longer feel attached to anymore. I believe that what we felt a connection to had very little to do with any of the groups involved, and was separate from… And bigger than… What we are seeing now. The idiots and the politics of the pro independence movement have always been there; we just forgot about them for a while because something bigger came to life.

    The question is how to take the inspiration and engagement we felt collectively in that moment and roll with it. I’m not sure how that’s possible. I hope it is, but I haven’t seen it yet.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. bigsunnyd says:

    Another vital, difficult post Ian.

    A point of contention followed by a point of agreement:

    Re: “the conviction among attendees that the Yes movement is somehow aligned with Syriza in Greece, and Podemos in Spain, and the Catalan independence movement”, as a (potentially) guilty party my ego wants me to split the difference between “People at the RIC conference thought Yes was(/is) the same as these” and “People at the RIC conference were(/are) interested in staying conversant with what’s going on elsewhere, particularly where that involves working towards more participatory forms of democracy and against austerity economics”.

    This is not to deny the potential blurring or simplification of these two positions, but while I’m tired of saying or hearing “I’m not a nationalist but an internationlist” I’m more desperate that ever to not just limit my focus to what’s going on in my garden.

    For my part, I was more interested in Podemos, Syriza, the Ritzy Cinema Workers and the Focus E15 Mums than I was in the CUP and Québec solidaire because I am not particularly interested in independence as an end unto itself. That said, I did take the rep from Québec’s warning of the dangers of dissolving into your nationalist party to be a pertinant one – our circumstances are not theirs, but I can see how grinding away towards an endlessly deferred goal could smooth the rough edges off and leave a smoothly buffed SNP logo in their place.

    On now to the agreement!

    My alarm bells started to ring when Robin McAlpine (whose energy and motivational skills cannot be understimated) talked about Common Weal’s “opponents” in a post about Common Weal Leith’s poorly considered job advert for voluntary barristas. There was so much to love in that post, so much of the stuff that drew me to Common Weal in the first place – a focus on letting go of centralised control, an acceptance that this would mean Common Weal wouldn’t always be what McAlpine wanted it to be, a commendable commitment to letting people find their own ways of working, etc. And yet, at the end, there it was: “I think we’ll need to get used to every action from every local group being used by opponents to attack us.” Such an old politics phrase, that – one thinks to Nixon, listing enemies. Now of course I’m sure there are people out there who want to see Common Weal fail for a variety of reasons – it exists in an old-politics world, after all! – but I also saw a lot of criticism of the advert in question from people sympathetic to Common Weal’s aims. Hell, I had a few pops at them for it myself!

    I’m still excited about Common Weal, still keen see what we can do with it, but that gave me pause. I can’t get along with my bathroom mirror, so perhaps you’ll understand why I might not be comfortable to label anyone who disagrees with something I’m attached to as a baddy – sadly, I see ever-louder performances of this routine from various Yes-related factions on a daily basis.

    The hashtag problematic stuff here is easy to build on – it requires insular thinking and big feeling, and this knackered laptop activist can certainly see the appeal of that.

    Working to develop genuine, de-centered, carnivalesque politics… now that’s a much more difficult and worthwhile goal.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hello! Thanks so much for this thoughtful and brilliant response.

      To be honest i wasn’t even convincing myself with the Syriza paragraph 🙂 your point is very well made. As i mentioned to another wise respondent on Twitter who made a similar point, i quite like leaving in my stupid ideas 🙂 i certainly accept your distinction as completely valid.

      Interesting point about the Common Weal, too. That post did strike a dischordant note and was maybe no more than a reflection of a busy man being over-stretched on a particular day. I’ve certainly been there – and i’ve written many, many worse sentences than that one by McAlpine! But perhaps he did the CW network a service by inadvertantly reminding everyone to be on guard against simplistic, binary systems of thought. They can get into your bones, after all.

      Thanks again for taking the time to plough through my post and for replying so generously – it really is appreciated.



      • bigsunnyd says:

        Heh, that’s a very fair point about that line from McAlpine – I’ve written worse lines today, no doubt! Some of the defensiveness around that issue still made me sit up and take note, but I’m hopeful that Common Weal can make good on its promise – got a meeting coming up so we’ll see how that goes!

        Re: Syriza, etc, I’m the same prick that made that point on Twitter – as an old fashioned bore I won’t make a point once unless I think it’s worth making four more times after that!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Cináed says:

    A really interesting article which articulates quite well a lot of the feelings I get when I read ill-informed posts, or have to listen to ridiculous assertions from other Yessers.

    I wouldn’t want to over-analyse this impulse just too deeply, though, and here’s why.

    The campaign mobilised hundreds of thousands of people who, up until now, have never been interested in politics of any sort. They’re people who, whether through disinterest or cynicism, have never been politically engaged. I know a lot of them – they are disproportionately represented on my Facebook. These are people who found a new, sudden energy from the prospect of helping to build a new nation in their own image. Independence, and the prospect thereof, has been something of a national awakening. This was our long overdue 1848. That moment when a people recognise that they have a right to sovereign equality, and become aware of, and articulate that fact – it’s beautiful.

    Those folk aren’t schooled in the ways of politics. They haven’t had the debates, or maybe the higher education. They don’t do the jobs ordinarily associated with political activists. They’re most usually genuinely working class, and proud of that fact. They aren’t polished in their words, and they aren’t refined in their actions. As you write, they pick up isolated, individual facts and run with them.

    For example, I have friends who have no comprehension of why sharing Britain First posts about locking up radical Muslims or supporting ‘our boys’ in foreign warzones should* be anathema to any Yes campaigner. They want an independent Scotland without radical Muslims, and which supports ‘our boys’, and see no contradiction in that. And, having pointed out just how foul Britain First are, I’m not minded to try and ideologically corral them any further.

    This is the realism of a mass political movement. Yes, you can educate your compatriots, and yes, if they’re speaking – and spreading – empirical untruths, pull them up. But you’ve got to be tolerant. Nobody is born speaking, or thinking, like a centre-left politician. Not everyone will evolve, politically, in that direction. And a lot of folk, simply put, will never be as smart or articulate as you. If the Yes campaign does have elements of Peronism readily observable, it’s because he and his wife mobilised the apolitical as well. As did Ghandi and Martin Luther King. But we can do analogies to death, so I’ll stop.

    That’s the reality of where we are. But consider, if you will, this point.

    The energy of our movement is one which has coalesced into something ever more coherent, and – dare I say it – disciplined. That’s natural for any movement. And it’s good, because the parties and vested interests arrayed against us are neither coherent, nor disciplined.

    Cast your mind back to why you were a Yesser in the first place, and what it was you wanted. Most of those reasons and rationales are still there. Now, however, we’re no longer a plucky underdog, manned only by wild-eyed Celtic peshmerga. We’re a mass movement, capable of sustaining a party of government, our own media, and scaring the powers that be shitless.

    I’ve spent my life in political skirmishes, armed only with ideological sword and targe. I’m one of the peshmerga. In consequence, I’m rather fond of the shiny new ’45 tanks we now have to park on pristine Tory lawns.

    Liked by 4 people

    • “The campaign mobilised hundreds of thousands of people who, up until now, have never been interested in politics of any sort. They’re people who, whether through disinterest or cynicism, have never been politically engaged.”

      Hi! Hello! Yes, I’m one of them! I wrote about it here:

      Totally agree with the main thrust of this, but one wee niggle…

      “Those folk aren’t schooled in the ways of politics. They haven’t had the debates, or maybe the higher education. They don’t do the jobs ordinarily associated with political activists. They’re most usually genuinely working class, and proud of that fact. They aren’t polished in their words, and they aren’t refined in their actions. As you write, they pick up isolated, individual facts and run with them.”

      Hmm, no I’m really sorry, but I completely disagree with this point. I’m from a working class background myself and yes, I’ve had the benefit of a university education, but I could point you to dozens of people from my home community who are just as articulate and educated about political issues as I am – often even more so!

      Also, on the point of not understanding that Britain First should be anathema to a progressive movement as Yes… I’ve encountered a worrying amount of people who think feminism has no place in Yes, but call themselves social justice advocates, and these folk are often from educated, middle class backgrounds. Such cognitive dissonance isn’t just a working class problem.

      Otherwise, spot on. The dreadful shake we gave the establishment never fails to thrill me. 🙂


  4. Hi Ian.

    Important post which covers a number of problems. It’s certainly well written criticism, although I’d be interested in terms of what you think are solutions and the ‘next steps’. You get closest to that when discussing enlivened, local, independent politics. And I agree that’s the most important task.

    I’ve been to many meetings since the referendum mainly through working with Common Weal – from Clydebank to Dalkeith to Oban to Glasgow etc (over 30 groups have set themselves up) – and I was at RIC.

    I disagree with your broader assessment that politics is worse as a result of this increase in participation. Some of these ‘fundamentalisms’ are simplistic expressions of documentable truths. The House of Commons is corrupt. Gordon Brown abandoned his socialist roots. The print media is imbalanced. So while some of these expressions may be disagreeable, I still find abuse of power and resulting inequalities of greater concern.

    Three points to conclude:

    “I haven’t bought the National.”

    You should. The fanfare, as you note, is largely unrelated to its content. It’s more STUC than SNP. It’s contained plenty of criticism, including from myself, and has largely focused on inequality rather than independence.

    To link point 1 and point 2, here’s my article in Thursday’s edition on the SNP program for government:

    Don’t look back in anger, Nicola: http://grayinglasgow.com/?p=493

    “Now, the Common Weal is the most interesting experiment in decentralised, community politics to emerge from the Yes movement. Its supporters are attracted to the network on account of its non party-aligned character, and they seem to have freedom to pursue local agendas within a fairly loose shared commitment to “social justice”.”

    I’m glad you think so!

    “But Common Weal activists seem to be completely relaxed about the SNP entering its imperial phase and shutting down the very possibility of parliamentary opposition.”

    Given Common Weal contains independents, socialists, greens, SNP, it’s essence is supportive of debate across the progressive spectrum. For an example of where that positions much of the thinking so far, so the article I linked to.


    “How else can Yes fundamentalists keep the following ideas going in their heads at once? • Decentralising power is good, such as through networks like Common Weal; While at the same time: • The Scottish government needs more power.”

    This is an important point, mainly of language. The Scottish government does need some more powers, but for me further devolution and independence was an opportunity to localise powers like other European countries benefit from. It’s more powers for communities in Scotland, not the central government.


    Liked by 2 people

  5. Steve Sayers says:

    Reblogged this on Steve Sayers and commented:
    Extremely enlightening

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Alex says:

    The Spectator has identified those images supposed of MPs debating their pay and expenses. One is Prime Minister’s Questions, 5 September 2012, another voting during the Second Reading of the Higher Education Bill 27 January 2004 which introduced controversial university tuition fees, and the other MPs meeting for the first time following the General Election on 18 May 2010.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! I saw this after i posted the piece and was worried it looked like i was passing off the work of others as my own 🙂 impressive digging! I had no idea the images were wrongly labeled – just thought they missed the point a bit. The plot thickens! Cheers 🙂


  7. TP says:

    Some of your fellow “yessers” actually strengthen your point. One of the “45” disgracefully compares themselves to a “Peshmerga”. A vast number of 45’ers support Hamas and also attended the “dont bomb IS” protest in Glasgow. Both groups who slaughter and kill Peshmerga on sight yet the 45’ers regularly wave their flags at their gatherings and/or protest to stop Islamic State being bombed….as they fight the Peshmerga and the Kurds ask for our help. Other than some of the stupid comments about 45 tanks on Tory lawns, or whatever emotionally unstable militant rhetoric that 45’er uses, everyone knows you are right. Just the most ardent Yes cultists wont. In fact, people you think are friends will do everything to shut you down or argue with you now that you have displayed sentience and spoken out against the cult in any terms other than unwavering positivity about how they are the force of moral good and England & No Voters are evil and must be slain or saved.

    Thanks for a good read though.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. RevStu says:

    It’s a shame the core premise of this post is such tommyrot, as it’s a well-argued and thoughtful piece of tommyrot.

    I’m not sure exactly what it is you wanted of an SNP that lost the referendum but then found 70,000 new members on its books. To cower away in a corner licking its wounds and wallow in the stench of defeat?

    Any political party on Earth in that situation would grab it with both hands. The tour and the Hydro gig in particular energised and revived supporters who just weeks earlier had been shattered and despairing. The Nats can’t afford the luxury of moping with a general election just months away, they need upbeat activists with a sense that they’re part of something big, not a battered minority.

    —- “And, more importantly, don’t give your opponents the opportunity to accuse you of hosting a mass nationalist rally”

    This sort of whimpering cringe is incredibly dispiriting. WHO THE HELL CARES what your opponents accuse you of? They’re your opponents, it’s their JOB to slag you off and they’ll do it whether you hold the rally or not. Christ, how many times were Yes supporters called Nazis either directly or by heavy implication during the campaign?

    —- But the trouble is, by othering the opposition as un-Scottish, the SNP are seeking to shut down any voices other than their own, plus some unthreatening fellow-travellers.

    Oh dear God. We live in a democracy, and one in which the vast majority of the media is hostile to the SNP to one degree or another. They haven’t the remotest power to “shut down voices other than their own”. Labour in particular are the SNP’s biggest recruiting sergeants, and by most assessments (and a recent poll) more Yes converts were turned by “Better Together” than by “Yes Scotland”. The more Scottish Labour’s hapless collection of D-listers get on telly the more the SNP like it.

    —- “If the voters are encouraged to suspect the opposition of being secretly out to undermine Scotland, what happens when the SNP themselves make mistakes? Who is left to believe in?”

    See that microscopic dot in the far distance, visible only through high-powered binoculars? That’s the horse. Bolt the stable door if it makes you feel better. The SNP aren’t to blame for the mass disillusionment with the old parties – the old parties are. Voters make their own minds up about this stuff.

    And of course the party has welcomed The National. For a start, on principle it should be welcoming ANY new newspaper published in Scotland as the others shed jobs at a rate of knots. But the overwhelming one-sidedness of the Scottish print media desperately needs addressing for the sake of democracy, and the SNP shouldn’t just stand by and HOPE that happens, they should do everything in their power to help it in the vital early days. They should step back once it’s established, but right now it needs all possible support – not just for the SNP’s good but for Scotland’s.

    —- “Some journalists need to ask themselves if they have lost their objectivity. ”

    There’s no objective journalist on the face of the Earth and there never will be. Journalists are human. They have no obligation to be objective, only to be honest. They fail in that obligation on a daily basis, let’s not give them an even more impossible one to fail at.

    I’m going to skip past the embarrassing fawning over Gordon Brown, both for length and because I’d be unable to address it without losing my temper over this contemptible, cowardly excuse for a politician and his record of appalling failure, betrayal and lies, never mind his wider part in the New Labour project that has done more to destroy democracy on these islands than Hitler ever managed.

    —- “Common Weal activists seem to be completely relaxed about the SNP entering its imperial phase and shutting down the very possibility of parliamentary opposition.”

    Sigh. Again, the SNP have no ability to “shut down the very possibility of parliamentary democracy” even if they wanted to. But extraordinarily, you seem to have overlooked that the key political event on the horizon is a *UK* general election, conducted by First Past The Post.

    Under that system, the SNP simply *is* the only alternative. There isn’t one chance in a million of a Green MP being elected in Scotland next year. It would be criminally irresponsible from both the SNP’s perspective and that of the wider Yes movement to suggest people voted for fringe parties in May – only the SNP can actually achieve anything for Scotland. (PS I’m not a member and never have been.)

    The situation will be different in 2016, but 2016 is an awfully long way off right now, and fighting the wrong battle at the wrong time is a surefire way to lose both.

    As for Radical Independence and their student-debating-society manifesto – hello? They’re *radicals*. That’s what they *do*. The clue’s in the name. Of course there’s going to be a heap of pie-in-the-sky idealist fantasy in it, get over it. Start worrying if it appears in the SNP manifesto, not before.

    Nothing fundamental has changed in the Yes movement. Some people are a bit louder and angrier since September, because they feel they’ve just been cheated out of the most important thing in the world, and they’ve got some justification for feeling that way. But that anger is being overwhelmingly turned in a positive direction – the Hydro rally was a good-natured pantomime, not the Two Minutes’ Hate. People came out of it smiling, not snarling. Stop getting your knickers in a twist about a few loons at the extreme, because they’ll always be there no matter what your cause.

    Liked by 9 people

    • Thanks Stuart – genuinely flattered that you’ve taken the time to read and respond to my piece. I hope you’re right! Consider me shaved by Ockham’s razor 🙂


      • Caught out as a Labourite


      • bigsunnyd says:

        RevStew is correct in his outline of the forces that ensure that “only the SNP can actually achieve anything for Scotland”, at least so far as the next big show goes, but is this not part of the anxiety of the moment, as expressed in this piece? The Yes movement was multidimensional, and the idea that only one part (the one with the most traditional political experience behind it, which is most well integrated into the way things are) is currently in a position to affect change is not necessarily in keeping with the hopes/fears/desires of Yes voters. Nor is the idea of keeping your concerns under wraps for “the greater good”.

        Me, I like things messy and conflicted and self-confident enough to be self-aware, but then I’d struggle to win a pub quiz let alone an election. Looking at those who are good at winning elections, I’m not going to get too sad about that.

        Re: RIC, I’m not sure if “student debating society” is a better or a worse dis than “aka Trot convention”, but it’s slightly less groan inducing than a Hitler reference so I guess we should take what we can get.

        Still not a fan of auld Gordo, but like I said, I enjoy a bit of disagreement. That’s why I love Chrisdarrochthefirst’s satirical commentary on the impulse to cast anyone who questions you as the enemy though – a classic (#classic) post, that.


    • diabloandco says:

      Glad I stayed to read your reply – I am so angry with the MSM and those who fall for the derogatory comments by the likes of Cochrane , Crichton and Carrell .

      Triumphalism? Imperialism?
      None of those – merely the people of Scotland waking up to how they have been suppressed , repressed and oppressed.
      All of which has been aided and abetted by a hostile media.

      I am more than a little amazed that it has been such a peaceful , optimistic movement and has not descended into rage and violence incited by the media.


  9. chriscrowing says:

    Reblogged this on Glas-alt and commented:
    I’ve been trying to put this into words myself but it’s done so much better here.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. catboyd says:

    I posted this on Facebook too, so it only seemed right to post here too. At risk of seeking defensive, I feel like the people’s vow stuff is out of context, it was about continuning RIC as an anti- austerity movement in which anyone could be a part of, regardless of their vote on the 18th of September, and I’d sincerely apologise to anyone who thought that the people’s vow was predicated on any kind of arrogance. The overall point was that even tho the referendum is over, we still need a social movement and that should go back to our founding principles- social justice, green energy, no to NATO, and so on. I’d consider the inclusion of the New European Left who don’t have the similarity of Scotland and referendum etc as the opposite of Jacobinism. I think it’s a good space for non-dogmatic and non-sectarian discussions about the Scottish Left, beyond yes/no dichotomy. Interesting piece tho.

    Liked by 6 people

  11. Dan Heap says:

    On the button in general, but reads like someone who spends too much time on the internet. Most of your criticisms are accurate, but you extrapolate from cybernats to the Yes movement as a whole.

    The point about the SNP needing intellectual leadership gets lost, but for me, this is one of the central issues. Its absence is at the heart of why the Yes Movement appears so scarily amorphous and directionless at the moment. Independence is off the agenda for at least 10 years, and both the SNP and broader movement – but the former especially – need a big idea on which to focus their attention and energy. It could be social justice or it could be Scotland as a pioneer of local and community empowerment and public involvement – Holyrood has long had the power to do this, but it hasn’t been used. Without this, the voting public are going to tire of the Yes movement and the SNP pretty soon.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Brian Millar says:

    An interesting article well presented and put. It is flawed but that does not concern me. The majority of it demonstrates moderate to high intellectualism. Draws on parallels not necessarily seen in main stream politics. References and direction to “Jacobites & Jacobins”, Scottish Pluralism, Peronism ( assuming reference to Eva Peron totally misrepresented when equating to Nicola Sturgeon), Common Weal etc etc etc. So it would be fair to recognise that all voters should now recognise … total silence? Allow the ‘silence’ to perpetuate knowledge and understanding following the Referendum Result? Allow voters to blindly place their X in the imminent election based on – silence? American systems of generation of pre-voting are being demonstrated now in Scotland rallies, propaganda, rhetoric, voice and factual demonstration.This clearly is wrong given the “Woodstock” reference? Woodstock was a drug infested, free sex rebellion aimed against USA administration the war mongering government of Vietnam fame. Where students were shot and killed on campus? All should be silent? The Tories should silently continue with their Welfare Reforms – IDS is such a silent man?The Labour Party silently do what they’re good at – nothing, but do it quietly? Liberal Democrats need do nothing, nobody hears them anyway. UKIP the current darlings of Scottish Politics – sorry – UK politics – the next UK Government elect – should they not be a few decibels more – silent? What precisely did you want your article to convey? ~~Silent applause?


  13. ScotBrit2014 says:

    As a NO voter this might actually be the first actually objective and critical account of not only the Yes campaign but also the aftermath of SNP triumphalism.

    I have yet to read a dissection of the official YES campaign. As the defeated party – if it ever has pretensions to victory in the future; the first step is surely a dissection of why it was defeated.

    Shouts out to media bias and the Vow just offer a convenient distraction from internal criticism and reflection.

    I grant you that the media was pro-UK (shock horror – this should have been known and in the context of a 2 year campaign a more convincing strategy prepared to counter it) and that Vow might have solidified the NO vote – but it appears that the YES campaign was totally unprepared for such an offer or attack.

    It is like the yes campaign pitched on the battlefield expecting a frontal assault oblivious to the enemy flanking force coming from behind it.

    The reason i think yes failed – and you can disagree with it if you want – but it is a reasoned assessment is that the YES campaign went to the country without its currency policy being settled. It was a currency based entirely on ‘what if’ and agreement with others, who were on record as saying they were not going to agree.

    The yes campaign maintained this was a bluff and thus asked the Scottish people for unconditional trust on their assessment in this regard. A big ask, if you ask me. The threat of debt abandonment turned this policy shambles into a catastrophe.

    As a NO voter – i realised that vast majority of MSM was pro-UK so i actively looked for the yes media to see what was being said as a means of judging the strength of argument and to perhaps gauge some sort of insight as to the outcome. I was not impressed. I don’t believe I ever read a single critical or introspective account of the Yes campaign. It was all uncritical passion and energy – but when it came to facts and policy (which is what most rational people look for) all you got was stories of scaremongering and bias. It just looked like a bit of a cult.

    I have never been a fan of the SNP – but all my preconceived notions of its authoritarian tendencies have been affirmed by its reaction to Scotland saying no. The implication being that Scotland got it wrong, and how dare it had the temerity to reject the SNP.

    The SNP needs to wake up and see where this road leads. I suspect that it is actually ok with it.

    Liked by 4 people

  14. Emma Johnson says:

    I thought it was an interesting thoughtful read, and I agreed with some of it – here is where I am not sure that I agree: Let me put it to you that it’s not the SNP’s fault lab/lib/con have rendered themselves essentialy unelectable. It would be beyond saintly (and would put their sanity in question) if they did not grab the opportunity for votes with both hands. The problem you identify with weak opposition in Holyrood is real, but is structural. Labour cannot function as an effective opposition because, in the words of their *own ex leader* they are a branch office of the Westminster party. The weakness of the opposition is symptomatic of Unionist ideology; of course if you are an ambitious unionist politician you will go where the power is – Westminster. Note that Jim Murphy only came home to lead Labour after his career was going nowhere in London. For the SNP, and other independent sympathising parties serving in Scotland *is* the highest calling they have, so they attract the best and brightest. Although there are exceptions. I agree the lack of effective opposition is unhealthy although to be fair to Nicola Sturgeon, she has never said that No voters are all lacking in integrity. The opposite is true.
    The problem will,I think, continue until we are either a) properly federalised with a definite limit on how far that goes, that has the assent of a strong majority or b) are independent, the SNP dissolves itself and we have parties on a left/right basis only. You can’t expect the SNP to play both sides of the field at once, if Labour want to be a serious opposition that is up to them, not the SNP, but for the reasons outlined above not only do I think that won’t happen, I think it can’t.
    Anyway, as I said above this is well written and worth chewing over so thanks for writing and sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Matt Noble says:

    I agree with a lot of points in this article, but there’s a lot I disagree with as well. There certainly is a worrying and loud minority in the pro-independence movement who correspond to your description of “Yes fundamentalists”, and I was definitely uncomfortable with many aspects of the SNP rally last week, but some of the criticism of the wider pro-independence strategy going forward is unfair in my opinion.

    I feel the two “contradictions” put forward are particularly unfair:

    “Decentralising power is good” versus “The Scottish government needs more power”

    The extra power being advocated for the Scottish government is power that currently rests at Westminster. Just giving this power to whoever happens to be in government in Holyrood might be a long way from an optimal goal, but at least it’s an improvement on the current situation. There’s not necessarily a contradiction there.

    “Independent Scotland will be a real democracy” versus “Everyone should vote SNP”

    The context for advocating that everyone should vote SNP is a Westminster election. Hell, I’ve joined the Green party and I’m probably still going to vote SNP next year because voting Green would be a wasted vote given the voting system. I don’t see how we gain anything by splitting our vote. We’ve got to play by the rules of the game we’re playing, even if it’s a game we’d rather leave behind.

    I’m also a little disappointed to read that you “want out” of all of this, whatever it is we’re all part of, and whatever it would mean to leave it. As you correctly say, we are in need of intellectual leadership, there is a risk of the whole thing collapsing in on itself through people getting carried away – that’s why we need smart people who aren’t afraid to criticise.

    For myself, I put in hundreds of hours of work canvassing and leafletting before the vote so I’m certainly not about to give up on the hope that we have at least something to build on going forward, but I’ve no idea really where we go from here. Next year’s election falls at the same time as my final exams at university, so I doubt I’ll be doing any campaigning there. I think I’m just going to quietly sit on the sidelines and watch what develops in the coming months, throwing in my two cents wherever I feel it’s appropriate.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. marga says:

    Writing from Catalonia, I read this article obviously from a different perspective, so apologies for any misunderstandings.

    I feel that the writer is missing a really important thread in the independence movement – its resonance in today’s Europe. It IS very similar to the Catalan movement, in ambition, motivation, enthusiasm, mass involvement – very Mediterranean, I used to think, but then Scotland caught up.

    From following both movements closely, I feel Scotland is in many ways a complete mirroring of the basic situation in Catalonia. Hostile central government, socialist dilema and disintegration, empowerment of the people, disengagement of official Europe, corrupt press, won’t go on. Can you follow the Catalan press? Vilaweb has an English reporter, many other Catalan sources are available in translation.

    Obviously I can’t match the intellectual level of this article, and won’t even try to. However, I think it is astray on several other points, which I will just throw in.

    Far from painting the opposition as evil, Sturgeon has surely said she will not rule out working with Labour. I listened to her first FM’s question time, she continually asked for cooperation, to be greeted with incomprension by the other parties, all fired up to be adversarial – are they now looking for other weapons, or are they capable of working, as Goldie used to do, for the good of all and not just their interests? Not clear which way it’ll go. Depending on who gets in as Labour leader.

    Lastly, maybe you should hold off criticising for now. It is a difficult time for any campaign, managing the aftermath. I remember the sense of vacuum after the intense “Consultas” (mock local elections) movement that swept Catalonia a few years ago, and the struggle to hold together the energy until a country-wide formal structure was formed to support the still valid drive for independence.

    So in summary, don’t give up on Yes, it is still evolving. Nor on the SNP – what would I know, but Sturgeon is showing signs of the will to tackle what for me was one of the SNP’s weaknesses, its failure to tackle the Scottish establishment (hence by the way I think part of their trouble with the media and the press). And what’s wrong with demanding more power if you want to redistribute it (starting with land ownership).

    Anyway, thanks for the strong input, but just don’t rush to judgement too soon.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. bonnie price shuggy says:

    “I have yet to read a dissection of the official YES campaign. As the defeated party – if it ever has pretensions to victory in the future; the first step is surely a dissection of why it was defeated.”

    That’s pretty much what I was going to say and I’m a rabid saltire waving yesser.

    I’m not quite seeing why a radical movement can’t break new ground in rigorous self critique – if it’s that radical.
    That’s not to say there should be too much navel gazing and infighting.

    Sometimes, even Euan Mccolm and Duncan Hothersall were right, it’s painful to say but why exactly was it a good idea to stage a pro indy play ? What was the point of driving around in cars blaring big country on voting day when no one was chapping doors to get out the vote ?

    Where were the RIC on voting day in Easterhouse, Muirhouse etc ? There’s no point in registering people if you can’t get them out to vote because you’re hungover from the march down to parliament the night before.

    Why on earth did anyone buy into the idea that National Collective were in any way effective ? They were not, they were not, they were not. They had (yet again) no capacity for self or group critique and the majority were not particularly strong creatively – they were the people that go to the art school disco at weekends and affect what they think is the art student persona, the bridge and tunnel crowd that pretend to be new yorkers for tourists.

    These are easy targets though – the fact is Yes faced overwhelming odds all the way through the campaign though and that can’t be ignored – these were older, more top down institutions though, which are still eroding as we speak. For all their faults – they nearly did it and they actually took the establishment right down to the wire.

    That’s right, a complete bunch of fannies took the establishment all the way to the very, very end. With a bit of self examination and some quality control, its possible to win another referendum.

    Without it we would have the very Scottish prospect of losing the next one by an even bigger margin.

    I don’t think the answer is to have a formal news channel or an actual proper big boys newspaper, that’s a bit cargo cultish, as is having rallies and so on.

    For me there’s a weakness in copying any sort of outward forms of other movements.

    Not sure if any of this can be framed in terms of past political movements either, this is social media plus some horizontal aspects of other movements which I won’t name here but could equally sell out the hydro.

    Also, please don’t think that because we want indy that means anyone is getting a cushy job at the end of it, having accountability means just that – some people not only want rid of those opposing independence, but the means to remove the people that campaigned for it as well – a complete and utter reset.

    Liked by 2 people

    • RevStu says:

      I think the reasons there’s been no major critique of the Yes campaign are numerous:

      (a) it would be predicated on the notion that the campaign was a failure, which isn’t necessarily true. Obviously it lost the referendum, but winning in the circumstance was an enormous task, and sometimes if you’re Partick Thistle you simply have to acknowledge that keeping Real Madrid down to a 2-0 lead in the first leg was pretty good going. 45% is a very strong base to build on, and more than almost anyone thought we’d get until very late in the day.

      (b) the reference above to “the first leg” was very deliberate. The Yes campaign is not over, whether a second vote might be three years away or 10 or 25. And therefore it’s not going to be especially helpful to turn on ourselves now.

      I have a great many beefs with various parts of the movement, but even when supposed allies were attacking Wings Over Scotland in the most outrageously offensive ways I bit my tongue, because there’s nothing our opponents would love more than for us to tear ourselves apart with infighting. That’s still the case.

      (c) the Yes campaign was an incredibly diverse grassroots movement with no real hierarchical structure. That in many ways was its great strength, but it also means that no one person or group of people was really responsible for it.

      If I disagree with National Collective, or Women For Indy fall out with the Common Weal, who gets to pull rank? Who’s “senior” there? You might as well pick out one cat at random, shout at it for a bit and expect that the entire cat species would behave differently in future.


      One of the most insightful things I heard anyone say in the aftermath of the vote was “Maybe we had to lose this one so that there’d be no argument second time.” What they were getting at was that if we’d got, say, 51%, all hell would have broken loose. WE’D have regarded it as decisive, but every trick in the book would have been pulled and there’d have been no guarantees that Westminster would have played fair.

      By losing (and I’m in no way suggesting it was a deliberate strategy) we gave the Unionists the chance to deliver on “devo max”, and it looks like they’re going to fail big-time. Polls suggest that people are already unhappy, with Labour haemorrhaging support and two polls finding a Yes majority within weeks of the vote.

      It remains to be seen whether the public buckles under the massive media barrage over the next five months and is suckered into believing that we have a new powerhouse Parliament. It’s not beyond the bounds of possibility by any means. But if they’ve been lied to one time too many, then the next referendum will deliver a Yes majority that’s beyond any debate or dispute.

      By chance, the planets are in a favourable alignment. A likely second Tory-led government and an EU referendum provide a legitimate and plausible opportunity for a second vote sooner than any of us would have imagined. This is not the time to disintegrate in backbiting and introspection.

      Liked by 3 people

  18. Sesame says:

    I stumbled here via Reddit and want to thank you for this article, which helps me think through some of my feelings since the referendum. I’ll just copy what I said there as it’s 2am. Thanks!:

    Thanks for sharing this. Brilliantly sums up some of the unease I’ve been feeling since I voted Yes, and articulates it better than I could.

    I think some of this is due to two separate populations of people with different reasons for voting Yes in the first place: the first (which included me) because Yes represented a chance to achieve the left-leaning policies that the major parties in the UK would never bring us, and the second because independence itself was the goal. Of course it’s easier for me to be exclusively in the first category, as I was born in England and so nationalism itself has as little appeal here as it would in England. But I think a lot of the commentary since the vote forgets why many of us voted Yes in the first place: not as an end in itself but the way to achieve social and political change. I’m happy that the SNP have done well in the aftermath but I’ll be unhappy if they win a vast majority and assume the mantle of “only valid Scottish party”. In all likelihood I won’t be voting for them, like them as I do: I may have to educate myself on whether the Greens approximate some of my values. We continue to need plurality, decentralisation and informed and open debate, not closed-ranks loyalty.


    • yesindyref2 says:

      Currently there are 41 Labour MPs, so as far as Westminster is concerned Scotland is a one party State, and has been since Thatcher. From 1999 for 8 years Holyrood was ruled by a Labour / LibDem coalition, so that made Scotland even more a one party state, with that one party being Labour.

      In 2007 the SNP upset the apple cart and knocked Labour off the coconut shy. In 2011 they demolished the coconut shy itself – for a time. In 2015, hopefully, the SNP will knock Labour off the Westminster benches. So perhaps that makes Scotland then an SNP one-party state. But how exactly is this any different from the whole UK, where there were 18 years of a Tory one party state, followed by 13 years of a Labour one?

      That’s democracy for you, it’s not perfect. If it was, 100% of people would be engaged, we would all “Claim our Right”, and there would be no need for political parties at all. You’d have elected officials to perform the functions we told them to do, and special interest groups to make their case in a totally unbiased and professional media, we’d all cast our votes and off we go.

      Well, democracy isn’t perfect, but hopefully it is, at times, progressive.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. yesindyref2 says:

    Well, you certainly stirred up some reactions, I got here via a link from, errr, elsewhere. Rev Stu says mostly what I’d say, and by the way, I often disagree with his views, well, sometimes anyway. I didn’t follow his blog much before the ref as I did my own thing – a “cybernat” but like most of us, not like the way you think of us.

    You were in the Labour party and became unaligned. I was unaligned right up to after the referendum, in spite of having supported Independence for 40 years. I joined the SNP and to be blunt it doesn’t sit easily with me belonging to any party, but I did it to show continued support for Indy after what could have and was expected by Unionists to be, the death of the YES movement for a “generation” if not for ever. Well, they certainly got that one wrong.

    And that was the importance of the Hydro (I was there), and the other events. To show the world, and yes, the world was still watching, that Independence was not just not dead, but was very much alive and, indeed, inevitable. And with so many YESsers distraught after the Referendum it was to reinvigorate, reinstill with morale.

    It not only worked at the time, it worked the moment the Roadshows were announced after SNP membership more than doubled (at the time), and not only did it work, it was neccessary.

    As for wanting the “death” of Labour, well of course. We want pro-indy MPs, preferably 59 of them at Westminster, not just to continue the progress for Independence, but to force delivery of the Smith Commission report – and all the rest that it should have contained if we had Labour, Conservative and LibDem MPs and MSPs that actually cared about Scotland, rather than their flaming selfish party.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. longshanker says:

    Excellent piece.

    The front four or five rows at the Hydro consisted of people wrapped in saltires who would have cheered anything any SNP bod said on stage. More than a bit creepy and worrying.

    As for Yes fundamentalists, Stuart Campbell is the epitome of a Nationalist fundamentalist.

    He exemplifies the stereotype and churns out the turgid clichés of big ‘N’ Nationalism. For example, in his reply to you:

    “I’m going to skip past the embarrassing fawning over Gordon Brown, both for length and because I’d be unable to address it without losing my temper over this contemptible, cowardly excuse for a politician and his record of appalling failure, betrayal and lies, never mind his wider part in the New Labour project that has done more to destroy democracy on these islands than Hitler ever managed.”

    More than Hitler ever managed? Gosh. Can’t say I’m a fan of big Gordon, but I don’t remember him bombing any ballot boxes on these islands. Do you?

    That type of statement by Campbell epitomises Yes fundamentalism. Everyone should be on their guard against it. You claim to be ‘flattered’ that such an extremist read your piece, yet he is a beacon for the very Yes fundamentalism you’re railing against. Reappraisal needed there I’d suggest.

    Campbell’s part of the problem you highlight in your piece. It’s possibly why the SNP are tentatively, and in some cases highly publicly, extending the hand to him.

    You’re right to be worried. There are elements of a 17th century covenanting zeal in the air in Scotland today: aggressive intolerance. Your piece covered them brilliantly.

    Keep up the good work.



    Liked by 5 people

  21. Calgacus says:

    I agree with RevStu – tommyrot. In fact I want out of this shit.


  22. Glad that someone’s noticed what I did before the vote. Have never been a fan of the either/or type of thinking. And how can anyone claim to be in favour of democracy if when they lose the vote, by whatever difference, they adopt THE TONE. Yes I have noticed it too. And I agree with one of the comments above now the Yes Movement have lost this vote, shouldn’t they be regrouping, and seeking how to make sure the things they got wrong this time, they get right next time? Well if I was a power-seeking democrat that is what I would be doing. After all they came very close to a win. Who would have thought that even a year before the vote?

    I was and am a No voter, but I cannot help but admire the massive progress of the Yes vote. It’s just a pity that it is tied so unforgivingly to one party. Indeed I bemoaned the lack of energy of the No voters compared with the Yes. We were on the whole too complacent and almost paid the price for that.


  23. Alec says:

    Exhibit A here is an image shared widely on social media of the Commons chamber mostly empty for an emergency debate on devolving further powers to Scotland, and a packed chamber preparing to divide on the question of MP salaries.

    Now, there are a couple of obvious points here.

    Not least that it’s not true, as Abraham Lincoln said of much of what we seen on the Internet.


    Liked by 1 person

  24. smiling vulture says:

    SNP majority 2011,shocked them never mind unionist establishment.So began a slow fuse of re-energised talk of Scottish Home Rule.(left off ballot paper by unionists)Scottish electorate left with stark choice,Independence or were not telling you pre-vote but more powers.Unionists always said Independence was 25/30% max-well that stat is up the creek.My feeling of the 55% NO,silent majority,my mother.Shes contented in the union,non political.(liberal)For myself I get punches from both sides(Federal Union)perversely a vote for SNP general election 2015 will be the only way to deliver a federal union #smithcommission a huge disappointment

    enjoyed your thoughts thou


  25. I haven’t had time to read all of the replies here, so apologies if I’m repeating.

    There’s a lot here I agree with. While I have some time for the SNP, the thought of any one party dominating Scottish politics terrifies me. I am not sure why this is an argument against independence, as you imply at the beginning – it’s happening without independence. But either way, it’s got to be avoided.

    For me, the challenge for the pro-independence left in Scotland is building up a second pro-independence party – either the Greens, or a coalition including the Greens and others on the left – to ensure there’s serious debate within the ongoing yes movement, rather than an increasing desire to all ‘stand behind the flag and party’.


  26. SG says:

    An excellent analysis. Thank you.

    I had many reasons for voting No but had considered myself a ‘soft’ No: open to the possibility of switching sides in a future referendum.

    However, everything I’ve witnessed since the vote (much of which is included in your analysis) has hardened my position. The hubris of the Hydro event was breathtaking. And to see the governing party of this country tweeting with instructions on how to subscribe to its newspaper of preference was, to my mind too, an enormous error.

    My sense is that “the 45” wish to keep talking to themselves and not bring others into the fold. And all the while, there are social justice issues where we already have the powers to make a difference, e.g. educational attainment, student support packages, and yet I see no critical analysis of these issues in the indy-supporting media.



  27. Reblogged this on wakeupscotland and commented:
    The most read article on this website is the one by Ewan Morrison ‘Yes: How one word silenced a nation: my journey from yes to no’. It is interesting to see that some Yesses are now voicing their criticism of the Yes movement and some of it is similar to what Ewan was saying. So we thought it would be worthwhile reflagging an extremely thoughtful blog which appeared on the faintdamnation blog site.


  28. Alex says:

    This reads a little like a hipster disowning a band once it begins to become popular.

    Although I agree with some of your criticisms, they seem directly mainly at the movement behind YES rather than the original ideas themselves.

    You obviously felt strongly enough about independence in the first place to vote YES and your reasoning was sound. Perhaps you can try and persuade some of the newbies who are stinking up the ship to change their ways, rather than just leaping overboard.


  29. Indy says:

    I find this interesting mainly because of the complete lack of awareness that the SNP didn’t control the Yes movement & doesn’t control ‘the 45’. The simplisticness of the 45 type tweeter is because that is how people talk on twitter. They are not of the political class. If it’s ugly and rough around the edges that’s cos people are like that. Right the way through this the association of the saltire waving George Square independistas with the SNP surprised me. The SNP were out knocking doors. The SNP of the indyref was a party that had a pretty well established membership most of whom were quite media savvy. The SNP of today is quite different. It has members who probably only became politicised during the indyref. They will likely do things that make the professional political & media classes cringe. That’s why they are labelled ‘zoomers’ But they will do things, they won’t be lost to apathy any more. That’s a good thing. If anyone regrets being part of that they aren’t thinking straight.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. mb says:

    I can’t be as judgmental or cynical as you. Of the yes and no voters that I live and work beside, most of them agonized over the ballot and all of them voted with the best of intentions. Online and in print there will always be a viciousness that we don’t see day to day. It’s a different world. More importantly, before and after the 18th, for me nothing characterizes yay or nah more than genuine concern.

    I don’t like the SNP. But the situation now in Scotland is that they’ve pushed us so far that we are stuck. Stuck between soon to come English only laws in the UK parliament and an unopposed SNP Holyrood government that won’t pass any legislation if it damages their reputation and the path to independence.
    I would love to be like you. To walk away. To continue voting Labour.
    But it’s hard to see how this helps. The damage is done. No alternate party right now will repeal creation of the Scottish parliament. Because of the terms of devolution, all future Scottish governments will be forced into applying only seemingly innocuous/superficial legislation and if it’s the SNP it will focused on centralising to build a stronger scotland to face off against England. And we’ll still be punched in the gut from incoming English devolution.
    I’ve hard unbelievable figures for SNP membership. Unless some astonishing act of god mobilises some other side, I think the only way for the SNP to be challenged is after independence. After independence, the main issue of the SNP would be off the agenda. They’d have to reband and given their reputation in other areas of policy besides the yes campaign, they’d hopefully be chucked out or they’d need to drastically improve their management. After independence Scottish politics takes on a whole new life. It would probably resemble UK politics in everything but foreign policy. I suggest we’d even see some extreme right wing groups. But honestly this is all preferable to the ongoing limbo between Westminster and Holyrood that we can’t seem to escape from.
    Unless someone like Jim Murphy has a magic trick up his sleeve which is extremely unlikely consider how contentious he is, I think it’s best if oft quoted 5-10% who were ‘tricked’ by the ‘vow’ join the 45. I don’t see any other more realistic way in which we can move past this


  31. Sonic says:

    Two events you didnt attend and a paper you haven’t read?

    Might be worth doing a smidgin more research there.


  32. alan reid says:

    Sir, I joined the SNP in 2007 because I was sick of the anti SNP/Scottish independence attacks from all forms of media.

    I’m really not interested in the SNP, but I believe for Scotland to reach it’s potential, it must regain FFA, although I would prefer indi.
    The SNP is the best way to get this.

    I voted for yes, NOT for the SNP or Salmond.

    If we had got indi, I would have ripped up my SNP membership card, job done, then I could vote for the party that I really want!, (green)

    Your post of course has a point, but until we get FFA/independence we are stuck with the SNP, they are not perfect, but they are all we’ve got.


  33. soarergtl says:

    It’s good article, and I am sure you don’t want or need a perspective on it from an English person, but here it is anyway:

    The ‘Yes’ side lost.

    I do not have an opinion on this – I believe it was correct for the people of Scotland to make this decision. But they made it, and democracy should mean that the decision is respected. I do not see this in the continuing ‘Yes’ campaign. If you don’t accept that you lost, you don’t accept democracy.

    As regards your politicians being better than those at Westminster – I think you are mistaken. The are politicians first and foremost, Scots second. As such they say what they think will bring their side advantage, not what is best for their country. I looked in vein for either side to lay out the advantages to the people of voting Yes or No. I didn’t see them – just turgid appeals to emotion over rationality.

    The currency fiasco probably lost the vote for Yes, but the No side had no decent answers either as to what would be best of the people, and why.

    To an unbiased observer (though one probably hated by one side of the debate) it just seemed like internecine warfare with neither really knowing what they were fighting about. The calm voices of reason on both sides were drowned out by the demagogues.

    Just like they are in the rest of the UK.


  34. James says:

    Been nodding so much reading this I was beginning to get a sore neck…some good responses too.
    I can’t help thinking that some of this post-referendum activity comes from a desire to focus the energy that was generated during the indyref campaign. I think some people have joined the SNP because they needed to do *something*. It’ll be interesting to see how long it is sustained and how fractured it might become as different ideals for the future start to emerge. It is healthy though that it comes under examination like this – as any political ideas/movements should

    But I think some people have started to lose sight of why they wanted Independence – if it really was about becoming a Social Democracy and all that, then keep on moving on that direction within the democratic structure that’s been agreed.
    But if it is now a case of Independence at all costs then you’ve become one of those Nationalists you tried to distance yourself from.

    OK – I voted no, but I have respect for the aims of a lot of the Yes campaign – social justice, addressing poverty etc. For me it was a decision about how this could be achieved and on what scale (Scotland or UK-wide). But I was (am) often made to feel like it is literally impossible to hold those views and still be a No voter. The tone of the debate got more than a little self-righteous.

    Also – I found the lack of respect paid to some no campaigners was unfair too. Do people honestly believe that lifelong Labour or Lib-Dem supporters, people who go out campaigning during dreary unexciting European or Council elections because it’s what they believe in – do they really deserve to get abuse online because they don’t agree on one aspect of the constitution. Are they really “Red Tories” just because they agree with the Conservative on one issue?

    I was always a bit jealous during the indyref that the Yes looked like it was having more fun and getting more engaged but as the article above suggests that goodwill seems to be making way for something more unpleasant.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. See Above says:

    It’s pleasing to see Rev Stu say it’s not time to disintegrate into backbiting and introspection.

    Presumably that excludes the WetNats and BBC-appearing “scabs” he’s criticised since September 18, the hypocritical nasty wee so-and-so he is.

    Liked by 1 person

  36. As a longstanding SNP member all I would say if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck. The SNP’s raison d’etre is an independent Scotland.

    The Yes campaign went from 23% support in 2012 to 45% support in September 2014, in most people’s eyes that is a sizable swing to Yes. In September for every 11 Scots who voted NO, 9 voted Yes. A future referendum could be won by the Yes side with as little as a 6% swing.

    I find some of the posts of Facebook or elsewhere by the self anointed 45er’s hugely cringe worthy in their anger and lack of self awareness but they strongly feel the people of Scotland were scared and lied to, to secure a No vote. That is a matter of opinion but national media bias in favour of the NO side is not.

    I sense the greatest recruiting sergeant for the SNP was David Cameron’s EVEL announcement on the 19th of September and the stuttering, failure of the Smith Commission as its Unionist negotiators had to check constantly with London before they could do anything. In study after study it is clear 70% Scots want FFA and a new (federal or confederal) Union.

    Holyrood is not the problem, Scots do not see it as Blair’s ‘Parish Pump Parliament’ and since 2007 it has made a positive contribution to Scotland, another reason why FFA has wide spread support whether you are a No or a Yes.

    As to the SNP’s current dominance; the SNP can not do much if their supposed opposition is spending more time in a state of civil war between Murphy’s Scottish Blairites and McLuskey’s Unite Union for control of Labour’s ‘Scotch’ region than thinking about Scotland. Nor can the SNP be responsible for Labour’s Scotch big beasts such as Darling and Brown doing a runner to avoid the fear of being dumped by their electorate in May 2015 on current polling figures in Scotland.

    I find the continued attempts by folk on the ‘No side’ to expect everything to go back to ‘normal’ in Scottish politics is as insular and naive as many of the 45er’s posts. The discussion remains is the status quo with a hamstrung Scottish Parliament being offered powers by the Smith Commission which will have no impact on its ability to resolve Scotland’s underlying poverty and inequality – let alone build its economy – enough? Will Smith’s fig leaf offerings keep an increasingly wobbly political union together or simply accelerate the end of the Treaty of Union?

    What happens next will have little to do with the 45’ers, RIC, No voters or even the SNP; it will be down to the stupidity of the two Westminster Parties – the red and blue Tories.

    EVEL in the UK Parliament breaks the Union just as effectively as a Yes vote on the 18th of September would have done as EVEL is beyond its legal and constitutional powers to impose as it will require a fundamental change to the Treaty of Union under article 19. A fundamental change the UK Parliament has already conceded is out with its powers to do as this can only be negotiated and agreed by the original, sovereign, signatory parliaments to the Treaty of Union. To do so requires the recall of the sovereign parliaments of Scotland and England from their temporary suspension. Once that happens can anyone see either sovereign parliament agreeing such a change and returning to oblivion? (McCormack vs Lord Advocate; 1953)

    The real irony is most Yes and No voters in Scotland have more in common than they would like to admit – what is best for Scotland.


  37. Already a lot of replies and a lot of reading here so I’ll just pose a question – what is it that you are opting out of with your final statement ‘count me out of this shit’?

    I see that you wrote the following just before the referendum:

    “The Scotland I want to live in is nuclear-free. It has a balanced and sustainable economy. It guarantees legal equality and works towards social equality. It doesn’t treat the Highlands and Islands as an afterthought. It decides how much of the budget should be spent on education and health. And it looks outward to continental Europe and the Nordic States.

    These seem like entirely achievable aims in an independent Scotland, but they are almost certainly all impossible as part of the UK.”

    I assume that you’ve not changed your political aspirations over the last couple of months?

    Basing your position as diametrically opposed to those who shout the loudest isn’t generally a good way to go about your business I find. Have faith in the positive change that we can enact as democrats and keep fighting for it… these are my intentions, regardless of who is shouting.

    Liked by 1 person

  38. Political Tourist says:

    Interesting read.
    2 million voted No out of 4.2 registered voters.
    Bit alarming for a Westminster that was talking about an Empire only a couple of generations back.


  39. Onwards says:

    An interesting read.
    I can see your point at the celebratory and defiant nature of some of the recent rallies. But I think it is a bit of a stretch to hint at anything sinister.

    I’m also unsure of what you meant by your final sentence.
    ‘Count me out’ of any triumphalist or fundamentalist attitude.?
    Or giving up on the idea of self-government, full stop ?

    1. Regarding the vocal tone of the YES side, I suppose the obvious reason is to visibly demonstrate that people still want change, and Scotland won’t just be put back in the box. It was a narrow defeat, not a knockout blow.
    The focus has naturally changed to the SNP as the most effective way to keep pressure on for maximum devolution as a ‘consolation prize’.
    And after all, it is what most of Scotland actually wants.
    We can already see that the Smith Commission proposals are far short from Home Rule or Gordon Browns promise of federalism, and without high SNP support, there is the obvious danger they could be watered down further.

    2. No-one is claiming that others don’t want what they think is best for Scotland.
    But any SNP claims to be a national party of Scotland, should surely be seen in context of the path they offer for Scotland to become a nation state.
    And until then, to seek maximum powers and responsibilities for Scotland.
    Some people will naturally see that as being the more ‘pro-Scottish’ side, when there is a battle between two ideologies: Scottish and British Nationalism.

    It would be foolish to pretend there hasn’t also been a huge visible rise in British nationalism in the last few years. Union flags are all over supermarket food,and every second TV show is the Great British something or other.
    We also see the more sinister side in the rise of UKIP, Britain First and anti-European, anti-immigrant hysteria.
    By comparison, it looks like the SNP have a progressive and internationalist outlook, and have made great strides in matters of equality – hardly things that ‘resemble a mid-20th century populist party’

    Perhaps that should be weighed against any outrage at back-slapping party rallies and welcome support of the only independence supporting daily newspaper..


  40. Fundamentalists tend to be abhorrent. There are a precious few positivist ones however, who’s fundamentalism is an uncommon sense drawn only from lucid reasoning. I doff my cap to the OP.


  41. Thanks for this. I voted yes too; ardently and proudly. Three months on though, I’m beginning to wonder why. It was wonderful at the time, but now, I’m ashamed to be associated with many of them. Thanks for this, you’ve perfectly articulated how I feel after indyref.

    Liked by 2 people

  42. […] and a subsequent lack of focus deepens accusations of ‘Scottish Peronism’ (‘Jacobites and Jacobins: the problem with Yes fundamentalism’ ) and other commentaries speak to discontent and fear of the Yes movement morphing from a positive […]


  43. James says:

    “I haven’t bought the National. I’m assured that it contains good journalism, and I like some of the writers. No worries on that score. And I’m not even that bothered about the Herald stable’s opportunism in launching another Yes-friendly paper to make some money. That’s capitalism. Good luck to them.

    It’s the jubilant attitude of the readers that winds me up. ”

    I am not saying you are actually saying this… but this is how it reads… because a provincial political party had a big rally and a few members, we should go back to voting Labour, read the Record/Telegraph/Guardian and be miserable (presumably go back to blaming immigrants or something for the democratic deficit/Westminster incompetence/London-centric policymaking).

    We can then label anyone who may offer a decent enough solution to that as quasi-fascists? Is that not just the pretty poor strawman that was trotted out during the referendum? Are these ‘Yes fundamentalists’ any different from the ‘No fundamentalists’ (some of whom have commented here)?

    Why not argue for some change in the UK that can bring these ‘Yes fundamentalists’ on board? Nope, lets shout fascist at these people, who you undoubtedly met and liked during the referendum and, then, realised the whole cybernat thing was a ludicrous Daily Mail inspired PR line.

    The problem with the SNP is that they have very little power to abuse. The Smith Commission should have made sure that real decisions could be made in Scotland so we could actually implement things discussed in the referendum. Instead, we are going to get hysterical nonsense about cybernats instead of discussing what was always important. Decisions that matter take place at Westminster, and it is so flawed and imperfect, secession of its constituent parts is the most feasible way to change that. If you have a better idea to that I am all ears. Jim Murphy? That’s the big change Better Together has offered up? Christ, that’s depressing.


  44. bridey8 says:

    The referendum debate lit a fire under UK politics and awakened Scots to the possibilities of a different way of doing things. It was a fun while it lasted but hey, now I want out because a few supporters have torn the erse out it ?

    A bit of panic about the Hydro appearing over the top is nothing compared to the ideas of a fairer society, scrapping trident and putting “all of us first” as Common Weal would have it. The Hydro looked like a Scotland home game but without the risk of getting beat. I wish I had gone. Some amount of emotional outpouring was inevitable after a such a long campaign and, lets not forget, at a time when there was plenty “now that’s it settled, lets move on” unionist rhetoric flying about. We even had clowns like Jack Straw calling for Independence to be made illegal.

    You raise concerns about activists appearing relaxed about the SNP shutting down parliamentary opposition. For me this has more to do with people putting their faith in an Independent Scotland providing an environment for consensus politics across a wide spectrum of parties. Unopposed SNP government is a means to an end and any alarm bells ringing should be over the current UK illusion of a two party option that can never provide any real opposition.

    I am sorry but when compared with voting NO for that crock of shit that is the status quo, then YES did know better. Fear about lost pensions was something very real and very difficult to dispel on the doorsteps. The fact people had concerns over the currency proposals whilst could apparently remain relaxed about the massive expansion in Sterling (twentyfold in the last 30 years) thanks to the monopoly that Government has handed to private banks. The vast majority of this money has been channelled into property and financial markets and this is the reason why Westminster and vast majority of self-serving, millionaire politicians cannot be fixed.

    As for the National, which is cause for more concern – the launch of a pro-Indy newspaper being leapt upon by the YES faithful or the fact that no such daily existed during the debate ?

    Don’t count yourself out of this shit. Get the sleeves rolled up and get back on with trying to change things. Oh, and by the way SuperBroon is a psychopath.


  45. Iain says:

    Re the part about the new powers being a fig leaf and inconsequential.

    There is a point of view that sees the Smith Commission’s new powers as giving the Nats too much leverage. Even power over road signs is suspicious.


  46. […] about independence as renewal, to a more skeptical attitude to the Yes movement in recent weeks. My Jacobites and Jacobins piece got a bit of attention and seems to have sparked some discussion, which is flattering. I […]


  47. […] itself. Apart from the above gem, this blog has identified alarming Jacobin tendencies (as did this wonderful piece by disillusioned Yes voter Ian Gillan, @faintdamnation), and a view of Scotland’s place in […]


  48. gcyule says:

    Having read this again makes me think again, cybernats should give themselves a history lesson about 1745 and the lead up to it,who was on what side, and finally it didn’t take the new MPs long to delve into the trough they so publicly hated


  49. […] Jacobites and Jacobins: the problem with Yes fundamentalism […]


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