September 18th. The sixth anniversary of Indyref. I’m sure I am not alone among Source Direct subscribers in wondering if we will ever see as politically vibrant times again as the summer of 2014, when it felt like there wasn’t a person in Scotland who wasn’t actively engaged in shaping the country’s future. So much of the experience of indyref was eye-to-eye, chatting to someone at their doorstep or on a street stall or at a community meeting. I have vague, fond memories of raucous public meetings of hundreds of people stuffed into dilapidated community halls where the best contributions came from folk just standing up, interrupting the top table and speaking from the heart. In our pandemic times, it’s not even possible to attempt to do any of that – politics has been largely confined to our TVs, laptops and phones, and all the alienation that comes with that.
That’s not the only way in which politics has changed. In fact, the list of things about Scottish politics which are the same as six years past is very short indeed. There is a Scottish politics before indyref and a Scottish politics after.
The huge built-up energy of the independence movement largely went into turning the SNP into the dominant force in Scotland, growing literally overnight into a party with a membership bigger than almost any in Europe. The electorate became polarised between Yes and No, with the SNP’s hegemony of the Yes side making it an election winning machine.
The grassroots movement survived, but in a very different form to what came before. It’s easy to lament how it’s changed, but it is only natural that a movement of the breadth and depth of 2014 morphs into something fundamentally distinct in the aftermath. A positive development is that the depth of ideas and knowledge contained within the Yes movement is now significantly greater than in 2014. For example, a wide range of Yes activists can talk fluently now about questions of monetary policy and independence, and can challenge their own leaders on the substance of these issues. That simply wasn’t the case in 2014, where many of us had a bad feeling about the idea of a currency union but couldn’t really articulate why.
We are now in a strange moment for the independence cause, which has more support among the Scottish people than ever before but with no obvious means of unlocking that polling majority. We have covered the tactical and strategic issues surrounding this stasis on Source Direct previously. These debates are important and will inevitably continue until a resolution is found one way or another, but it is also important to remind ourselves of the collective belief which inspired many of us in 2014, and which has familiar echoes in key moments of history.
That is simply the belief in the power of people themselves to change the world anew, starting with making a new country. That’s a belief that can only become truly distilled when you feel it in motion, which is what many of us felt in 2014. The independence movement should never lose sight of the fact that belief in the possibility of change, and that people themselves can be the force to deliver it, is the oil which greased the wheels of the movement in 2014, and which must continue to do so if Scottish independence is going to maintain relevance into the future.
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