Val Waldron: What will be the tipping point? No one knows but we need to stay alert

Ben Wray

Common Weal campaigner Val Waldron assesses the political landscape for the independence movement and finds risks and opportunities that can only be succesfully navigated by a movement that is both alert and tolerant in its outlook 

REALITY TV has its moments. Who remembers, or will admit to watching a feature on The Secret Life Of The Zoo (C4), where a Hercules beetle with one leg missing and a misshapen spear (Mr Wonky Horn), quietly wandered over to Athena, the newly introduced female, while two macho males locked their resplendent horns in a fight for her attentions?

As analogies go, I am not suggesting that the Yes movement is wonky, although we do have our warlords and aspiring alpha males. However, the scenario reminds me of a speech by Lesley Riddoch at the RIC conference earlier this year. Lesley portrayed an optimistic possibility that something might come from left field, while the big beasts and the big ideas slug it out inside and outside of the independence bubble. She used the example of a relatively obscure constitutional issue that finally tipped over the Norwegian public in 1905, to win a massive majority vote for independence from Sweden, after many years of campaigning. It may not be the 62 per cent Scottish pro remain vote that wins us the prize, nor the possible adoption by the SNP of the Growth Commission report. If the GC is adopted as our economic model, and we pull the duvet over to the centre right a bit, do we risk leaving the poor uncovered and exposed to the elements?

With every leaflet given out in the rain by hardworking Yes groups, another possibility arises that one more question will be asked about the viability of the union. Every time the big question from 2014 is asked “what about currency?”, there is the chance that they will be pointed in the direction of Common Weal, for instance, for an alternative vision to the Sterlingisation option of the Growth Commission report, or the currency union of the 2014 campaign. The grassroots is vibrant and ever developing. The debates rage about the big issues and the big beasts. That’s the background, and the campaign. Where are the tipping point issues that will finally push us way over the line and, crucially, take the population with us? Without a decent majority Yes vote, will the constitutional issue ever be fully resolved? 

Issues affecting us across the constitutional and party political divide are not in short supply. The naked cynicism and disregard for Scotland and our devolved parliament was clearly highlighted by the insulting 15 minute power grab debate. The ensuing SNP MP walkout, to a sneering, jeering Tory soundtrack resulted in a substantial increase  of SNP members. Did they come from non aligned Yessers or the Soft No/undecided population? The concern for our devolved parliament would certainly appear to be a cross-constitutional affair, as did revulsion for Trump’s visit in July, where we marched and rallied shoulder to shoulder with our No voting friends and family. Trident, and the Living Rent campaign against Serco’s abysmal treatment of asylum seeker tenants are, likewise, issues that are not the reserve of Yes voters.

READ MORE: Building Our Common Future: The Common Weal Journey

And what of uniting issues on the Right? Farming and Fisheries? Arguably every reserved issue, from the appalling treatment of benefit claimants, to that of the WASPI women affects everyone, regardless of their view on our constitution, has a potential to mobilise us away from Westminster politics, and yet it would appear that much of the visible activism remains the domain of Yessers.

A sea of saltires and occasional cries of “free the Unicorn” may deter some who are not ready to join what could be perceived as our club, but If polls are to be believed, we see the recent emergence of a slight majority for Yes. Notwithstanding the margin of error, and the need for a series of such polls, which would result in a more reassuring trend, there is certainly cause for believing that a no deal Brexit will turn the heads of a good few undecided voters. However, we need to ensure that this interest is not dissipated by a Project Fear that threatens to have folk reach out for the all-in-it-together mindset, even if that means that we all sink together in a huge UK registered vessel.

Whether or not we’ve come a long way from the Indy lite vision of 2014,  there are worse things than the status quo. A political vacuum can allow for emerging far right ideas to infest our political landscape. We are not immune to this. What might that tipping point be, that issue from left field that finally unites a nation that says “No More, it ends here!”? No-one knows, but in the meantime, we need to be alert, listen, keep the ideas coming, leave off the insults, and be tolerant and accepting of the fears about the massive changes and further risks afoot in the face of that great unknown that is Brexit.

Picture courtesy of Stuart Rankin