Yes, no, definitely maybe – part 2

A banner at the Trafalgar Square rally in support of the Union

A banner at the Trafalgar Square rally in support of the Union

More excellent writing on Scottish independence has emerged since my post on Friday.

Two particularly well-wrought comment pieces in favour of a No vote both describe the intellectual journey of the author (apologies for employing the ‘journey’ metaphor there – must have been watching too many TV documentaries).

In Justine Brian’s Why I hope that Scotland votes ‘No’ she reveals that “over the past three years, I’ve become an ‘accidental Unionist’.” Quite an evolution for someone who was an ardent supporter of Irish freedom.

Justine  – who heads up the brilliant Debating Matters competition – attacks the fragmentary character of the Yes campaign, characterising its hardliners as:

A broad mix of everyone that’s fed up with the status-quo: those cynical about Westminster politics and politicians; those who think capitalism is unfair but doesn’t know what to do about it; those who used to be part of the Left but, disgruntled by defeats in the 80s, and disgusted by a society that doesn’t look as they wish it did, are quite happy to trash their own nation as a minor act of anti-Tory revenge, in the hope that they might be slightly bigger fishes is a much smaller pond.

As with the superb Kenan Malik article highlighted here, the powerful momentum of her analysis sweeps us towards a hard-hitting conclusion:

If we want to change the world, to reinvigorate a sense of agency, to reclaim politics from a detached political elite, we cannot do so through narrow identity politics. We need new ideas and an understanding of why the world looks the way it does, and we achieve this better together.

Debate figures large in author Ewan Morrison’s Yes: Why I Joined Yes And Why I Changed To No. It was what he describes as the cultish, brook no argument character of the Yesses that made him question whether he was on the right side.

 I realised there was no absolutely no debate within the Yes camp. Zero debate – the focus was instead on attacking the enemy and creating an impenetrable shell to protect the unquestionable entity. In its place was a kind of shopping list of desires that was being added to daily.

The atmosphere amongst the Yes campaigners he encountered reminded Ewan of his days within the SWP:

As a ‘Trot’ we were absolutely banned from talking about what the economy or country would be like ‘after the revolution’; to worry about it, speculate on it or raise questions or even practical suggestions was not permitted. We had to keep all talk of ‘after the revolution’ very vague because our primary goal was to get more people to join our organisation. I learned then that if you keep a promise of a better society utterly ambiguous it takes on power in the imagination of the listener.

He picks apart what the chaos of yesses hiding under the Yes banner will mean in an independent Scotland:

The dream will die as soon as the singular Yes gets voted and Scotland then turns into a battleground of repressed and competing Yesses. Once the recruitment machine has served it purpose it will collapse and the repressed questions will return with a vengeance.

It’s not proved easy to find great writing for the Yes camp, which has surprised me. There’s been little to match Jamie Jauncey’s rhetoric, as discussed here. Perhaps that’s my prejudice in the matter showing itself – I’m a universalist, so I want to see fewer borders and greater common cause, not atomisation. That’s why I particularly enjoyed John Simmons’ recent post on writers and connections – A state of interdependence – and his powerful deployment of John Donne’s No man is an island entire of itself.

But I did find one more notable Yes piece. I disagree with just about everything Russell Wardrop argues for in The Aye Road, but I enjoyed every word. It’s a punchy, ruffian of a piece, somewhere between a transcript from a heated TV discussion and a speech to a mixed crowd at a referendum debate held on a hot Friday night in a distillery. It had me smiling all the way through. Here’s a gobbet:

I’m taking the Aye road. Since the massacre at Kelvingrove I have been looking for evidence this precious Union is worth the candle; concrete proposals the poor cannon-fodder of No could posit with poise; one or two reasons to be cheerful, not three.

I envy anyone who has had certainty this past while and I can groove to a narrow Naw if that’s the will of my fellow voters. In Mibby Aye, Mibby Naw I said I might bite yer hand off for 49% for Yes because that could be the best of both worlds. I no longer believe this and reasons for me to cast Naw vamoosed with my trust in Better Together.

And finally, the London Loves Scotland rally in Trafalgar Square last night was also a warm spirited affair, but a touch refined – more Laphroaig than Bell’s. I’ve never been to such a polite public gathering. Two animated women near me chanted ‘Please say no! Please don’t go!’, which sounded like a well-mannered lyric by Noel Coward.

On stage, Dan Snow set the historical context brilliantly, Al Murray made us laugh, Jenny Colgan read a poem about what the United Kingdom means to her, Eddie Izzard was wry and imploring and beautifully manicured, and then – against my expectations – Bob Geldof delivered a moving, progressive speech big on universalism and democracy. We also had a rousing recital of Auden’s cross-border epic Night Mail.

And that seems like a fair point on which to end this two-parter. If you know of other writing of merit please tweet me @66000mph. Now we move towards the time of last-minute interviews, speeches and soundbites – short-form punches to the other side’s nose, perhaps even a poetic line or two that voters will carry in their hearts to the voting booth. The election draws close, the result just a few days away. To recast some of Auden’s words, All Scotland waits for her.


PS Just seen Strategies to save the Union by Rishi Dastidar: don’t share the sentiments but love the style.

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