The Brexit vote fatally undermined many anti-independence arguments to the extent that it takes outright dogmatism for ‘No’ voters to refuse to even re-consider their position. Yet few ‘Yes’ supporters are daft enough to think the polls would have shifted overnight. Rather, the Brexit vote made the argument for Scottish independence in Europe much more sellable over time through rational, reasonable, fair argument to people who voted ‘No’ with an open mind. Robin McAlpine of think tank Commonweal has been arguing for a practical plan to get Scotland to independence, and he’s quite right too. There’s a super Newsnet Podcast with Robin and Derek Bateman here. As a wee contribution, here are 6 groups of people (some overlapping, of course) who will be pivotal in moving Scotland from ‘No’ to ‘Yes’.
Middle-Scots who need more convincing. A relatively large group of present No voters are ‘soft unionists’. That is, they’re not hostile to independence per se and few are Tories, but in 2014 they just weren’t convinced the risk of independence was worth it. A lot work in the private sector – quite a few in oil and gas or in the supply chain. But many in the public sector too. They have mortgages and car loans; some are living off occupational pensions built-up over a lifetime of hard work. In his excellent piece (above, and podcast), Robin talks about the post-oil economy. Yet while that’s of course the right plan into the future, we should remember that most people who put green issues at the top of their voting priorities are already on the ‘Yes’ side. Persuadable middle-Scots needs to be convinced that their best chance of economic security and prosperity in future extends from being at the centre, not on the margins, of Europe. And on one final generational upswing in the oil and gas industries. That’ll depend on the perfectly realistic prospect an eventual £50+ dollar a barrel price and a serious effort by government to concentrate the benefits right across Scotland now and into the future through taking long-term economic diversification very seriously indeed. It’ll also mean showing such folk that many impartial experts already agree that an independent Scotland juxtaposed with a marginalised England would certainly benefit Scotland’s legal and financial service sectors. In many ways, these people are the key to mainstream media support for independence.
Scots on the further left. Many Scots of the further left who feel that Jeremy Corbyn is a super thing are already in the Yes camp, and some are fans of Brexit. But quite a lot aren’t either. A chunk of that latter group believes Corbyn can win a UK election. He can’t. These people need to be persuaded of the truth that Corbyn as prime minister is a pipe dream – all they’d be doing by voting ‘No’ again is ensuring that English Tories run Scotland for years and years to come. Of course, that persuading might be easier after the next general election, but in the meantime it’s perfectly realistic to expect such people to move to Yes through listening to rational argument. If they want politicians of the further left who aren’t hopelessly removed from a serious shot at power, the only rational choice is to achieve that by voting ‘Yes’.
Anti-Corbynite Labour supporters. Not all Labour anti-Corbynites in the centre and on the right of the Labour Party have opted for columns in the Daily Telegraph. It’s true, there’s a group of Labour folk who’d prefer Tory unionism to independence and they won’t waver. But there are plenty of regular Scottish Labour people who want Labour, or some successor perhaps, to hold power in Scotland again. They’re persuadable that with English Labour moving way to what they see as the unelectable left and there being little chance of many Westminster UK seats in Scotland, the only way of being relevant once again is by accepting independence. These people believe in social democracy and loathe the idea of a Tory ascendancy. They may not come to love the SNP, but many of them can be moved to vote Yes because that’s simply the rational way to ensure democratic values they believe in can prosper. It’s also their only way back to political relevance.
Labour politicians. Some Labour politicians already have one foot in the independence camp. They’ve made their support conditional on the UK’s situation in the EU remaining largely unchanged from the present. In theory, they’re saying; “wait ’til we see what the UK Tory government comes up with in 4 years time”. That’s a holding statement; they’re keeping their powder dry for a few months to see how things pan out with the UK Labour leadership. After that – “put our trust in the Tory right wing, David Davis, Liam Fox and the Brexiteers”? Give us a break! No, many of these people will accept very soon that independence offers them their only chance of remaining in the political mainstream. They won’t lead – they’ll follow; so if they seen movement in the areas above, they’ll move to ‘Yes’ and bring other Labour folk with them.
Liberal Democrats. In many ways, Liberal Democrats supporters are the most pragmatic voters of all. They tend to go where the influence is. In this way, they often see their role as mitigating the worst excesses of either side of the political spectrum. They’re suffering now because of their support for David Cameron’s government, yet most Scottish Lib Dems who haven’t already defected were of the centre-left, not the centre-right wing of their party. Their only way to influence is in the context of an independent Scotland and the step from the pre-Brexit ‘devo-plus’ to a post-Brexit acceptance of Scottish independence is a short, pragmatic step which their Scottish leader, Willie Rennie, will take if he thinks it’ll help his party. In an independent Scotland, it’s easy to imagine Scottish Lib Dems and anti-Corbynites in Labour finding a common home. Whatever, most reasonable Lib Dems will be open to the argument that an independent future holds far more promise than one with Scotland under the thumb of the Brexiteers.
‘New Scots’. Call them what you will, this group – particularly those who came from England to live in Scotland – make up around 15% of the population. Being older on the whole, they turned out to vote and being unconvinced that change would serve their personal interests they voted overwhelmingly ‘No’. And yet these folk tend to love their new country and often – especially after Brexit, which makes them feel like their old country of England is looking rather alien – they’re looking with an open mind at being persuaded that independence in Europe – not Brexit – will give them the security they need.
Above all, Yes folk to must remember is that there’s no need to cynically separate ‘segments’ and tell them each contradictory thing – as is not uncommon in politics. Quite the opposite, in fact. Rather, what’s needed is simply to show each group why the same independent future will serve all their best interests, and Scotland’s too. Consistency and reason are key. The fear and dogma of hard unionists are sooooo yesterday.