Craig Berry, electrical engineer and writer on energy and technology, says it was convincing arguments that changed his mind on independence, not simply the changing conditions of UK politics
IN 2014 I voted No. It’s not something I’ve particularly tried to hide, but it is something which I feel was a mistake. It’s important to understand that it wasn’t political conditions that convinced me to support independence; it was something far more effective.
It’s difficult to go beyond your political boundaries, especially in some social groups. What certainly wouldn’t have convinced me to change my opinions were political conditions like the Tories winning the general election in 2015, or England & Wales voting for Brexit, or Boris Johnson becoming PM.
When you are trapped within an ideological bubble, you will always be able to rationalise political events to fit a narrative that is suited to your own ideology, rather than allowing these events to shape that ideology. It is easier to say that Boris Johnson is a problem, rather than a symptom of the problem of the British state. I can rationalise his foolishness within unionism and isolate him as a figure rather than confront the wider problems which can often go against my own self-interest.
I managed to change my mind in 2015. It is difficult to give an exact date because moving ideology is a process rather than a single, identifiable event. It takes time and effort. When you are consistently faced with arguments filtering through from the other side, you will be faced with difficult questions. You will reach a point where you will need to confront these questions. Once you have an answer, you will adopt these into your own political ideology. However, this will continue to happen until your ideology doesn’t fit the evidence you have in front of you.
This moment is perhaps the most important. People who are isolated from their old political ideology are in a middle space where they try to make sense of the world. This is where the independence campaign brings people into the movement, because they have the answers. When they help shift your focus away from Boris Johnson and refocus onto the British state, they can explain how independence fits into this narrative.
This is where I believe the independent movement is lacking today. There was no independence campaign in 2015 to make me shift to being an independence supporter. The SNP haven’t been active enough in arguing for independence beyond political conditions. Yet, Common Weal has continued to make the case for independence beyond 2014. For them, the debate wasn’t over, and it was their ideas and their active campaigning which was able to filter through to me when I found myself isolated from my ideology.
With Common Weal continuing to tackle the vital questions of independence and deliver effective answers, this helped me question why I voted no. They helped me understand, in a respectful manner, why I was wrong to support what I supported. I wasn’t afraid, I was wrong, and they helped me understand that. The work that they’ve done is a credit to the independence movement which often feels like it is in paralysis.
If we want to bring more people on that journey from No to Yes, we need to have a prime mover. We need to have an active campaign which is continuing to tackle the difficult questions and challenge people’s ideas. With an active campaign, we can offer people a positive vision of what Scotland can be, giving many people who are in the position I was in, the light at the end of the very dark tunnel we are in. We can offer people a Green New Deal for an independent Scotland and give them a voice in shaping it.
We are five years on; it’s time to start speaking to people and build our support.
Picture courtesy of Ariel G!