Sunday, 22 July 2012

It’s time to achieve.

We underachieve because we’re taught to.

In all walks of life we, humanity, underachieve, and in Scotland a great many of us underachieve.

It’s something ingrained in us, the establishment tells it to us daily, it’s re-enforced at so many levels that we should underachieve, that we, the great majority, should not “get ideas above our station”.

This “education by our betters” is severely working against us in the referendum.

Scots from birth are taught to respect authority. Deference to royalty, to “the establishment” is bred into our very bones. Now some uppity nationalist types are trying to convince mainstream Scots to cut these ethereal shackles we’ve worn since early childhood and stride out into a brave new world with purpose, drive and determination.

So far, according to the polls, they’re not meeting with much success.

Consider the history of Scotland’s people. They’ve undergone three centuries of clearances. Apathy remains triumphant above all emotions after such an interminable scourge.

Certainly the clearances haven’t always been called such, nowadays the term would be politically incorrect, but they’re with us still in one way or another, and they’re all engineered from Westminster.

Consider the 1700’s, there were two armed rebellions followed by mass clearances. In the 1800’s clearances continued as people were evicted to be replaced by sheep. These are firmly enough in the past that they can safely be called such. The people had no choice, no hope, no future; they could emigrate or face a future devoid of hope and promise, with barely a subsistence living to be eked out for those that remained.

I grew up after two world wars had somewhat cleared the men of the previous generations of Scots, in the ‘60s there was a new term, the “Brain Drain” for those who like our predecessors had no option but to leave our shores. There was no future for them in Scotland, no perceived chance of excellence.

The numbers of dislocated Scots are close to 1 in 6, that’s far exceeding the norm for most nations with a long and prosperous history of academic innovation, invention and technical excellence. Consider, almost 1 million of the current generation of Scots will be forced from their land of birth as they seek better opportunities, opportunities that are not largely available to them at home.

The politically correct term these days has changed from “dispossessed” to “Diaspora”.

While there will always be human migration, this high percentage for such a sustained period from such a small and relatively geographically isolated nation as ours is almost unprecedented.

Ireland had such levels of emigration during the period of Westminster rule.

Emigration does not happen without severe drivers, the average individual does not just up sticks, abandon family, friends and relationships without severe social drivers. The impact of losing the best and brightest in such significant ongoing quantities will be devastating to any society. A small society, such as Scotland’s cannot bear it for many more years.

Of those left behind, many are herded together into a quasi underclass. They are told not to get “ideas above their station”, not to expect much more from life than “the social” and perhaps the bottom of a bottle or an empty syringe, both of which held escapism from their plight, regardless of the damage inflicted upon society.

This is the underclass, this apathetic and disadvantaged group for whom we must find a message. It is the folk of the schemes and high rises, the apathetic, that we must reach and convince if the referendum is to be held and won.

We must do this because we live in a democracy, because each of their votes is worth exactly the same as anyone else’s, and because above all the Union has failed them so dramatically and extraordinarily.

This is why the polls typically and consistently show that independence as a concept is a much more vibrant and alive amongst the lower socio-economic strata. They have already been let down by the status quo. They have been abandoned by the establishment.

The “No” campaign will never reach this group, they know only too well the problems of overcrowding, of ATOS, of reduced benefits and more stringent criteria forced upon them by the establishment. These votes are there for the taking, but the “Yes” campaign will never reach these people in a meaningful way with TV celebrities or talk show debates.

The biggest issue facing the “Yes” campaign is motivating the supporters of its cause in these demographics to actually vote. If 80% enfranchised themselves the result should be a landslide for the Independence movement.

The biggest mistake the Holyrood campaign for Independence could make would be to treat these individuals with disdain or promises of “Jam tomorrow”. These are individuals who are stuck in a trap of social deprivation and immobility; they see no future for themselves or their children, but they can see through false promises.

We need to give them hope, not so much for the immediate future, or for themselves, as the truth will not allow that, and these people may be stuck, but they are not stupid. Scotland needs to give them hope of a better future for their children than their parents had; a better future than they currently foresee.

If we can convince the schemes by and large to vote for independence it will outweigh any publicity the “No” camp can bring to bear. A “Yes” vote from Scotland’s largely forgotten underclass who have the same hopes, dreams and fears as the rest of us will deliver this referendum.

The “No” campaign is primarily relying on three classes of individual, those it can fool into voting “No” through wooly statements about “better together” without substantive arguments about how. It is relying on the votes of the relatively small minority of individuals who have actually personally benefitted from the Union, such as peers and MP’s, and mostly it is relying upon those it can scare into voting “No” with tales of doom and fear of the unknown.

The “Yes” campaign is stalled for the present because it is relying on the core independence vote, it has yet to expound the ideas of the Scotland of tomorrow, the Scotland where not just a referendum will be “made, built, tested and delivered in Scotland” but so will a future for all our children. It has yet to get the message out how it will achieve this, how it will provide opportunity to stop the present day deprivation or clearances. In the face of a hostile media the “Yes” campaign may never be able to deliver this message with any form of sustainable success.

It is because of this that the present grass roots approach must work, but right now it is far too limited.

There are venues appearing in high streets and shopping centers, and while these are good they are not enough.

There are venues appearing on the internet to raise funds and organise marches and events, while these are vital they are not enough.

We need venues like the Tupperware parties of yesterday, where the individuals supporting independence get into the schemes, lower the apathy levels, raise the flag and provide motivation to folk to break the cycle, to exercise their franchise and to show up at the polls.

There is one thing above all the inhabitants of the schemes, our youth, the drug dependent, the unemployed, and those who see life through the bottom of a glass all know, and that’d be that whatever the reason they’re there, the status quo simply doesn’t work for them.

It’s time to give them motivation, it’s time to at least organise a referendum day party on every scheme we can reach, in every neighborhood we can get to, on every block and in every street. It’s up to us to get people motivated and to turn out.

It’s up to our generation to begin tackling apathy, for the loss of apathy in the electorate is the one thing the establishment fears.

It is time to show Scotland will no longer settle for being dragged down by Westminster; that Scotland is not a Greece, a Spain or Portugal who is slowly dying within Europe’s other Union.

We have two years to succeed, and we still have the ability.

It’s time to achieve.


  1. AS always Hazel, an excellent and thoughtful article. We need to inspire and give hope to those who have little or none. I like this wee quote from Robin McAlpine in his recent paper to the Scottish Independence Conventio
    "On referendum day, you will have the opportunity to choose the Scotland you want. If you vote No you will have that choice only once and then you hand the real decisions back to London..

    If you vote YES you will have the chance to choose your Scotland, not only once, but again and again from then on.
    Scotland will always be your choice.

    Vote YES. It’s your Scotland for ever.

    It’s your NHS. Forever
    They’re Your Jobs. Forever.
    They’re Your Schools. Forever.
    It’s Scotland’s Choice. Forever.

    1. Isn't that the truth... ours forever, to chose.