The Blog

Scottish Independence: Avoiding a 'Yes' With a Bitter Taste

In a future of continuing instability for the EU, with many far-right movements from other EU countries using Brexit as an opportunity for gains of their own, we can strongly voice our support for continued unity and try to help fight for stability.

I have long been a campaigner for Scottish independence. Via social media, blog posts and the Academics for Yes movement I tried passionately to help convince fellow Scots of the benefits of Scottish independence and why I believed it represented the most progressive, positive and outward looking future for Scotland. However, despite the Yes movement persuading a large population of Scots, including a majority from my home city Glasgow, the independence referendum of September 18th, 2014 was lost.

Positivity has been hard to come by in UK politics for me since the tears on George Square on September 19th. And negativity has swept onward at pace with the Vote Leave victory and the right wing Tory revolt it inspires. A line has been drawn, yellow to blue, along the Scotland-England border, marking clear the stark division that has long been growing between the two.

Fig1. - BBC EU referendum result map.

Some might expect, because of this dividing line between Scotland and England, particularly seeing sparks alight for a new independence movement, that joy could be found in the result. Far from it. It is a vote that appears to have come largely from the progress of the ugliest of ideologies; from isolationism, xenophobia and ignorance. No one, and definitely not I, should ever have wanted the route to Scottish independence to come via such negativity.

This absolutely isn't the way that independence should have rallied in the polls once more. I'm heartbroken at the choice that I think people have made for the very worst of reasons. Disillusionment, misplaced trust and separatism cannot be the guiding principles of any country I want to be a part of. I continue to think Scotland should be independent but I am gutted that that may be alongside a weaker rest of the UK that has flung itself towards isolation.

From here, I think we must do all we can, as the Scottish cabinet appears to have begun, to reiterate to our European allies that we are fiercely pro-European. We must do all we can to negotiate to keep our place as part of a vibrant and forward-looking political, economic and civic alliance with the peoples of Europe. This to me is a priority above the continued campaign for independence.

And to the future of the Scottish independence movement? There are a clear number of duties and responsibilities going forward. Many No voters appear to have had their hopeful view of continued integration with the rest of the United Kingdom shattered; their hopes of a peaceful and united collection of nations, continuing to be guided in part by Scottish principles, appears to have become suddenly inconceivable on the basis of this new division.

As England tilts further right we now must endure a Tory leadership contest with a choice of candidates that brings a sour taste to the mouth of most on the Left or Centre of politics. It is now clear that the lurch rightward in much of the rest of the UK appears to continue, despite of the efforts of the SNP, Corbyn's Labour and the Greens. In many ways we have already tried to enact what a No vote suggested we ought to - to fight from within for a more positive future for the United Kingdom. This was done in part by sending a huge SNP envoy to Westminster in 2015. But the achievement of bringing this positive influence to Westminster has seemed scarcely effective, being all too easily ignored by the ruling Tory party.

The disillusioned 'No's join allies on the Yes side in this feeling of helplessness with regards to Westminster with only with a minor delay. However there is a sadness and a bitterness here - a feeling of being misled and perhaps, for some, of being lied to. And bitterness should not be the sole grounds in guiding us towards independence. Yes voters must continue to vocalise the positive reasons for positioning ourselves on this side of the debate. I think this is crucial to avoid Scottish independence becoming just another protest vote attempting to placate the last.

And the main positive? That Scotland's vote to remain can help strengthen the European project in a time of uncertainty and doubt on its future. Strong and confident support from Scotland for being part of the EU has and will continue to show that we firmly believe in the EU project as one worth fighting for. In a future of continuing instability for the EU, with many far-right movements from other EU countries using Brexit as an opportunity for gains of their own, we can strongly voice our support for continued unity and try to help fight for stability.

As I have written previously, it largely appears to me that it is England that is diverging sharply from the united ideological status quo we once had - veering away from the socially progressive welfare state of post-war Britain. This seemed clear as we watched the biting cuts of austerity and continued as we watched the EU referendum debate be steered by Farage, Gove and Johnson. By contrast Scotland appears to demonstrate that we are an outward looking country with a progressive vision for the future; a future within a united Europe. That is what we should focus on achieving, via independence or otherwise.