I have never voted SNP. I probably never will. Alex Salmond (in his speech at the last SNP’s conference before the referendum) this afternoon appealed for the votes of those on the left who have never voted SNP to join him to secure independence. He’s preaching to the converted in my case. I am a late convert, but climbed off the fence a few months back, after decades of opposition, or at the very least, indifference to independence.
Alex Salmond wants the votes of those who don’t particularly like him and/or don’t particularly want an SNP government. This is exactly the right thing to do. Nicola Sturgeon adopted the same approach in her speech yesterday. It is an approach every supporter of Scottish independence has to adopt, regardless of how long they have campaigned for this.
Did I agree with every word of Alex Salmond’s speech? Nope. But I was surprised how much I could echo enthusiastically. Am I surprised at how pissed off BBC Scotland’s political editor Brian Taylor is? Or his equally right-wing colleague Glenn Campbell? Do I find it odd that they are foaming at the mouth at the so-called ‘desperation’ of the SNP for daring to woo Labour voters, an eminently sensible and politically sophisticated approach by the SNP leadership? No, I’m not.
Better Together are all at sea. They’re up shit creek without a paddle. They cannot and will not unite. They hoped to win by default as the pro-independence campaign turned in on itself. In reality, the many differences within our campaign are being handled with considerable maturity. More than I expected.
On NATO, the Monarchy, Sterling, economic policy… Of course there are differences. And these will reemerge in time, especially during the post-referendum negotiations. Nevertheless, we are prepared to grant sovereignty to the Scottish people. Let them decide on matters like a shared currency, timetables for getting rid of nuclear weapons, whether we can tolerate an hereditary head of state or not, or membership of NATO or not.
All these things are matters for the post-independence settlement. Supporters of Scottish independence are happy to put them all on the table, as we all trust in our ability to convince the electorate, or to abide by the wisdom of crowds if and when we are all individually told by the voters to go home and think again.
However, despite Alex Salmond and others making a very good case for democracy, he underestimates the attractive power of what is being proposed. He, Nicola Sturgeon et al are actually missing a trick or two. We want to win the Labour voters who feel in their hearts that Johann Lamont, Alistair Darling, Ed Miliband et al are letting them down. Badly letting them down. And they are right.
Alex Salmond and Nicola both set out the stall of the SNP with policies that Labour voters are passionately in favour of. These are policies that Labour politicians on both sides of the border no longer support. At best, they only pay lip service to supporting these polices. Every single one of these highly popular polices are to be negotiated away by Ed Miliband and by Ed Balls. They are mere bargaining chips to be negotiated away to secure a coalition with Nick Clegg’s toxic no-hopers. Alternatively, a majority Labour government will tear up its manifesto policies to appease the very same big businessmen who brought the global economy to its knees a few years back.
To the extent that prominent Labour MPs or MSP do support these polices still, they refuse to put their heads above the parapet given that this is now deemed electorally unpopular with a Tory establishment that Douglas Alexander is out to court.
The reality is that the speech that Alex Salmond made today is the kind of speech that Labour voters would like to hear from the lips of Ed Miliband and his front bench, a speech they refuse to endorse despite the fact that this would actually inspire sufficient Labour voters to reverse the decline in Labour’s poll lead over the Tories.
The reasons Scottish Labour voters need to endorse independence is not just because the polices that are being offered by any government that stands a chance of winning elections under independence are the ones they want. More important than that is the fact that the Scottish people need independence to liberate ourselves from the tyranny of first-past-the-post that denies voters on either side of the border anything more than Hobson’s choice.
David Cameron or Ed Miliband? Why on Earth should the Scottish people, or the people of England and Wales for that matter, have to settle for a choice like that?
On 18th September this year, Scotland’s Labour voters can join hands with everyone who supports the right to self determination of the Scottish people.
Do we grant the people of Scotland the right to decide how to prioritize investment in everything by bringing everything within a genuinely democratic system? We would then be able to use tax and spend powers to pay for education, health, pensions, affordable homes, health and safety, decent wages, jobs based on social need not private greed?
Or, alternatively, do the Scottish people seriously think we are better together with corrupt war mongers like Tony Blair? A Prime Minister who did nothing in his years of office but camouflage the increasing polarization of wealth until five rich parasites owned more wealth than the poorest twenty percent of society?
Do the Scottish people want to cede sovereignty to those intent on destroying the welfare state to allow them to cut more of their taxes, while wasting a fortune on obscene weapons of mass destruction? Let the people decide. But how can we do this when the United Kingdom’s first-past-the-post electoral system, in combination with a broadcast media that denies the left any real access to the voters, transforms general elections into the sickest of sick jokes?
One last point. There will be a broad, united campaign to bring all of Scottish civil society together to draft a constitution to take society forward. All the parties of Better Together promised the right to recall in their manifestos. This proved one more betrayal of the electorate. But Scotland can put this into the constitution. No more Maria Millers. No more corrupt politicians who overstay their welcome. Let’s win our freedom, and in the process set an example to our English brothers and sisters to join us in a truly civilized democracy fit for the twenty first century. And our Welsh brothers and sisters too, of course.