Yes Edinburgh West meeting minutes 5 March 2018

Yes Edinburgh West meeting minutes  Newliston Arms  Mon 5 March 2018

  1. Ian Grant opened the meeting by welcoming everybody, and introduced our speakers, Hugh Cullen from the SSP, Maggie Chapman from the Scottish Greens, and Bob Murray, who is unaffiliated to any party, on the subject of “How we can win our Independence”.
  2. A Livestream is available for people who couldn’t make the meeting.
  3. There were 14 attendees, with over 100 following on Livestream. Email addresses given will be added to the mailing list unless anyone objects.
  4. Bob Murray opened by pointing out that he was representing 99.6% of the Scottish electorate – those who are unaffiliated to any party – party members and activists are very much a tiny minority. His view is that there are 5 routes for us to win: wait and see (maybe England will want rid of us), independence imposed by the UN, winning a second Indyref authorised by the UK, winning a Scottish Indyref or election on the issue of independence followed by UDI, or UDI without a further democratic mandate. It may happen through one big event – a commitment to independence by a major celebrity or newspaper, a major meltdown by a senior politician, or a new Prime Minister (Corbyn or Rees-Mogg?). Whatever happens, the unionists have played all their cards before and can’t play them again (Vow, stay in EU, oil running out) whereas the Independence cards are still there, and stronger (democratic deficit, Trident, childcare, Westminster’s economic incompetence and social welfare cruelty etc). When canvassing, Bob confronts people’s preconceptions by stating that he doesn’t need to live in an independent country – but he does want to live in a country which is fairer, more equal, happier and healthier – and the current state is not going to give us that.
  5. Maggie Chapman from the Scottish Greens said she believed there will be a second Indyref, which we will win because of the Yes groups throughout the country. We will win because most people want to live in a different kind of country, with fairer social and economic policies, better environmental policies, and being outward-looking in peace. We will win because the UK state is a shambles – we can point to the evidence of NHS England, Grenfell, racism and xenophobia, precarious work, and Brexit, where it is difficult to see how the circumstances of Ireland, Gibraltar, Wales and Scotland can ever be resolved. Failure to achieve Brexit would result in an angry English electorate and a political move to the right, while Brexit will lead to a poorer economy, with reduced public services and increased taxes for lower earners. We will win by re-imagining the kind of country we want, with power at the lowest democratic level. We will win because the Scottish Parliament has become the focal point of Scottish politics, as Westminster descends into chaos. We must focus on those who can be persuaded, and recognise that there are now more “don’t knows” than before. We must avoid an adversarial tone, hone the mass appeal (e.g. basic income, industrial strategy), reach people who aren’t politically involved, who are ignored and/or shafted. We must understand our local areas and the power structures within our communities. We must build conversations with the right people, listen to them, engage them in conversation with simple local messages and a positive picture of an independent Scotland. We must stop talking to ourselves, arguing on social media and talking to entrenched “No” voters.
  6. Hugh Cullen from the SSP argued that independence is a progressive step, and that the independence case is as strong as ever – we are seeing the worst ever decline in real wages, a chronic shortage of affordable housing and a feudal political system. In the 2014 Indyref, we failed to convince those who were socially, politically and economically better off, and stuck too much to continuity of the current system (e.g. the monarchy). Support has waned since then, because the SNP hasn’t fought for independence enough since 2014. The SSP position is that voting to Remain in the EU was the lesser of 2 evils – it stops us making a transformational case. To win, we must not tie independence to the EU (it’s another example of the democratic deficit (ask Greece and Catalonia), and Brexit may not be as bad as predicted); we must make a compelling, inspiring economic case (including a Scottish currency); we must learn from Catalonia about the importance of an authorised referendum; we need a vision of the country we want to live in (like Scotland’s Future, but a joint effort across all independence-supporting parties); and we need to emphasise the deep crisis of the UK state – particularly its takeover by corporations and a ruling class. Karl Marx said “out of complexity comes clarity”.
  7. There then ensued a lively question and answer session. Peter Curran made the point that we need a helicopter view of what’s happening, to see the UK as a dysfunctional monarchical conglomerate which has never worked well, and agree our core beliefs for a country which delivers equity and justice. Gerry Mulvenna passed on some comments from the Livestream audience.
  8. AOCB: Ian finished with some announcements:

8.1 We are planning a voter survey and a leaflet drop in local areas in March

8.2 Ann Rayner is joining a “Scotland the Brand” event on 10 March, others welcome

8.3 Ian gave an update from meetings he had attended – the Edinburgh & Lothians conference, NHS for Yes and Pensioners for Independence

8.4 Next meeting will be 2nd April

You’ll find us on Yes Edinburgh West website, Facebook , National Yes Registry and Twitter. Have a look at our Eflets, book previews, film previews and our Library of topics on Scottish Politics, including Independence.

Theresa May is dragging the UK under. This time Scotland must cut the rope.

Britain is politically dead from the neck down. Leaving the union may be risky, but staying is worse

Here is the question the people of Scotland will face in the next independence referendum: when England falls out of the boat like a block of concrete, do you want your foot tied to it?

It would be foolish to deny that there are risks in leaving the United Kingdom. Scotland’s economy is weak, not least because it has failed to wean itself off North Sea oil. There are major questions, not yet resolved, about the currency it would use; its trading relationship with the rump of the UK; and its association with the European Union, which it’s likely to try to rejoin.

But the risks of staying are as great or greater. Ministers are already trying to reconcile us to the possibility of falling out of the EU without a deal. If this happens, Britain would be the only one of the G20 nations without special access to EU trade – “a very destructive outcome leading to mutually assured damage for the EU and the UK”, according to the Commons foreign affairs committee. As the government has a weak hand, an obsession with past glories and an apparent yearning for a heroic gesture of self-destruction, this is not an unlikely result.

On the eve of the first independence referendum, in September 2014, David Cameron exhorted the people of Scotland to ask themselves: “Will my family and I truly be better off by going it alone? Will we really be more safe and secure?” Thanks to his machinations, the probable answer is now: yes.

In admonishing Scotland for seeking to protect itself from this chaos, the government applies a simple rule: whatever you say about Britain’s relationship with Europe, say the opposite about Scotland’s relationship with Britain.

In her speech to the Scottish Conservatives’ spring conference, Theresa May observed that “one of the driving forces behind the union’s creation was the remorseless logic that greater economic strength and security come from being united”. She was talking about the UK, but the same remorseless logic applies to the EU. In this case, however, she believes that our strength and security will be enhanced by leaving. “Politics is not a game, and government is not a platform from which to pursue constitutional obsessions,” she stormed – to which you can only assent.

The frantic attempts by government and press to delegitimise the decision by the Scottish first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, to call for a second independence vote fall flat. Her party’s manifesto for the last Scottish election gives her an evident mandate: it would hold another referendum “if there is a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will”.

Contrast this with May’s position. She has no mandate, from either the general election or the referendum, for leaving the single market and the European customs union. Her intransigence over these issues bends the Conservative manifesto’s pledge to “strengthen and improve devolution for each part of our United Kingdom”.

Her failure to consult the governments of Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland before unilaterally deciding that the UK would leave the single market, and her refusal to respond to the paper the Scottish government produced exploring possible options for a continued engagement with the EU after Brexit testify to a relationship characterised by paternalism and contempt.

You can see the same attitude in the London-based newspapers. As the last referendum approached, they treated Scotland like an ungrateful servant. “What spoilt, selfish, childlike fools those Scots are … They simply don’t have a clue how lucky they are,” Melanie Reid sniffed in the Times. Now the charge is scheming opportunism. “We hope the Scottish people call Sturgeon out for her cynical, self-interested game-playing,” rages the Sun’s English edition. If you want to know what cynical, self-interested game-playing looks like, read the Sun’s Scottish edition. It says the opposite, contrasting the risks of independence with “the stick-on certainty of decades of Tory rule with nothing to soften it”, if Scotland remains within the UK.

Whenever I visit Scotland, I’m reminded that Britain is politically dead from the neck down. South of the border, we tolerate repeated assaults on the commonweal. As the self-hating state destroys its own power to distribute wealth, support public services and protect the NHS from ruin; as it rips up the rules protecting workers, the living world, our food, water and the very air we breathe; as disabled people are pushed off a cliff and poor people are evicted from their homes, we stand and stare. As the trade minister colludes with the dark money network on both sides of the Atlantic, threatening much that remains, we shake our heads then turn away.

Sure, there are some protests. There is plenty of dissent on social media; but our response is pathetic in comparison with the scale of what we face. The Labour opposition is divided, directionless and currently completely useless. But north of the border politics is everywhere, charged with hope, anger and a fierce desire for change. Again and again, this change is thwarted by the dead weight of Westminster. Who would remain tethered to this block, especially as the boat begins to list?

Scotland could wait to find out what happens after Brexit, though it is hard to see any likely outcome other than more of this and worse. Or it could cut the rope, pull itself back into the boat, and sail towards a hopeful if uncertain future.