Indy Scotland: we must listen, learn, & lead

The twists and turns of Brexit are unprecedented. A small group of Tory self-styled elitists are running the whole show. It’s like a poorly scripted costume drama, without plot, action, romance, comedy or human interest elements: people don’t feature. The most miserable and unbelievable characters endure. It was the worst of times, it was the ‘worser’ of times, it was the age of nae wisdom, it was the spring of nae hope (apologies to Dickens). Act one of the Tories’ tale of hubris, arrogance, implosion and selfishness, is about to end. No need for sense, problem-solving, good decisions or brilliant communications. Continuing as a box-office flop, the show: ‘Austerity-led Brexit’ is described by critics and punters alike, as the most damaging peacetime act by any UK government. According to audience members, exit stage-right-wing, the show must go on regardless. In this leadership vacuum, where will empty first, the boxes, circle or stalls? While the curtain falls on this impending Dickensian farce, time to change the venue, costumes, set, actors and plot! In Scotland something different is in play.

The conditions have been met met for a peaceful revolution in Scotland, this has not been easy. The past three years have been challenging for Nicola Sturgeon, MSP, the First Minister of Scotland. From an early stage her moral courage was obvious. She was the first leader in the UK to announce support for and value our European residents. In December 2016, the Scottish Government published ‘Scotland’s place in Europe: our way forward.’ This document set out their proposals to prioritise remaining in the European Single Market and Customs Union, emphasising the need to retain freedom of movement and a request to ‘repatriate’ all devolved powers from the EU to the Scottish Parliament. This was the first written proposals for Brexit, years ahead of the UK Government. This report was ignored by the UK Prime Minister.

In June 2017, Nicola Sturgeon had to deal with the Tory snap and vanity General Election, and a sustained period, whereby the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament were unceremoniously and deliberately sidelined, ignored or deceived from all aspects of Brexit progress (or lack of).

With the whole of the British-state machinery, mainstream media, print and TV against her, Nicola Sturgeon, her MPs, MEPs and MSPs have been treated badly. Despite this, the First Minister obtained a triple-locked mandate to allow the people of Scotland a chance to consider their constitutional future, should these very events in Westminster occur. They did occur, the mandate is extant, that said, Theresa May tells us there is no mandate for an independence referendum in Scotland. She lied. Let’s use the mandate now and watch Scotland rise. How the UK Tory Government subsequently treats any such formal request will be unsurprising. Indeed, in recent days, the Tories have already leaked that if Nicola Sturgeon requests a Section 30 Order for a new independence referendum, it will be refused. This is a desperate final act of neo-colonialism and arrogance. Good move, tell Scots they cannot do something that has been democratically mandated from the Scottish Parliament; so folks get some popcorn in for that show! Seriously, this is not fair or in any way objective, informed or considered. The Tories are hapless failures in public office, that will never change. They are highly-motivated to thwart Scottish independence, regardless of the needs and wishes of the people of Scotland.

Throughout this whole ‘cluster boorach’ (thank you Mike Russell, MSP) Nicola Sturgeon has behaved in a highly-professional, communicative and ambassadorial manner. Respected internationally, she has provided vision, leadership and commonsense analytical-thinking, while the leaders of all other political parties have been lost in a mist of incompetence, malaise or sheer obtuse behaviours. It is no exaggeration to state that Westminster is an international joke. Global trust and confidence in the UK Government has evaporated. Such criticism is both overdue and well deserved.

Currently, the whole Yes Movement in Scotland is on tenterhooks. Sometimes this nervousness manifests itself as criticism on the timing of the next Indy referendum: too soon or go for it now! This is a critical decision, where leadership comes into sharp focus. It would be a mistake of catastrophic proportions to launch a campaign without proper planning and contemporary answers to the difficult questions being understood and impressively covered-off. Every Indy activist must respond confidently to any questions that concern genuine no voters. These are the folks who are open to being convinced of an argument either way. The people who will base their eventual decisions on whichever side of the campaign sounds most convincing, most confident and appears most reliable. There is little point in wasting time with staunch British Nationalists. This particular group will never change their minds, and they will under no circumstances vote for self-determination in Scotland. Also, the British establishment will go to extraordinary efforts to ensure people take action against their own interests; and it’s up to these individuals to spot deception.

Never has the necessity for Scottish independence been so obvious, compelling and urgent. In fact, across the movement, creating and maintaining a sense of urgency is crucial. The new Indy campaign has started, a ‘soft launch’ if you like, but be in no doubt, good people are already building the case and campaign methodology. Every week this is building momentum. Nicola Sturgeon has said consistently for nearly three years that she will announce her views on independence, once the ‘fog of Brexit clears… and the terms of brexit are known.’ Within weeks (her original statement stated by spring 2019 at the latest) she will announce a compelling, rational and decisive case for Indy. Let’s see what gets announced leading up to and during the SNP Spring Conference 2019 in Edinburgh (27-28 April). Regardless, we have reached the point where Brexit must be uncoupled from Indy-thinking. From this point onwards, there is no longer any need whatsoever to continue to link Brexit and Indy. The requirement for Indy always stands alone. Brexit was a passing symptom, the underlying cause is the broken union, unfit in every way for Scotland’s wellbeing, prosperity and international standing.

The final Indy campaign will be very different to the historical 2013-2014 penultimate iteration. Campaign methodology is being updated. Lessons have been learned, new ideas are being put forward, and the approach will be stronger, clearer and even more determined. Key players are highly-experienced, leadership exists at all levels and this must be exploited. Like before, a one-team approach will be essential. The focus needs to be on maximizing our sphere of influence, as some things cannot be changed. Personally, I won’t spend too much time trying to change hard anti-Indy folks. If the past five years haven’t made them question the continued viability of the union, nothing ever will. Focus on folks’ uncertainty, focus on the future, and always focus on your own behaviors.

Looking forward, the campaign must be defined by three things:

1. Effective leadership – leaders at all levels listen, support, and inspire;
2. Clear messages – instill trust, confidence and a belief that Indy is achievable and an improvement over continued union; and
3. Enthusiasm – positive attitudes, being open, transparent, and welcoming.

Leadership has more books written on it than most topics, it clearly has many facets, definitions and opinions as to what is effective. For me, specifically for the Indy movement, I think leadership will be effective when leaders know what is needed, when they can convey key messages in a manner that is understood, when leaders and followers are inspired to set an example, to engage, and to act in a positive way that gets them the necessary results. We must tell stories that are compelling and inspirational. Let your enthusiasm infect your audience, listen (and show you are listening) to them, acknowledge people, value their contributions and efforts. Behave as if Scotland is already independent and a better place.

Support for Indy is and will continue rising. People tend to support change when they feel part of it and are included at the earliest stage in the journey. I have worked with many great leaders, they may well have had many different traits, yes weaknesses or vulnerabilities. These leaders had two key things in common. Firstly, I trusted and believed in them, and secondly they inspired me to follow them and do the right thing. The most effective Indy leaders share the common vision of a better nation, a Scotland rising.

Enthusiasm and positive energy is highly-infectious, couple this with strong messages and an ability to describe what a future Indy Scotland will look like, what we will stand for, where we see ourselves, is essential. This campaign should be less about statistics and figures and more about what is possible for future generations; winning hearts and minds through clever use of facts and features; while describing the early days of a better country. We need to act in every way, like we are already an independent country. Nicola Sturgeon has already started. This campaign is about our children and theirs. Looking forward, this time not being afraid to describe why the UK is no longer in Scotland’s interests (never was, never will be). We need to talk about the ways in which the UK has diverged from Scotland. At times, this campaign will be a brutal, unrelenting, toxic and thoroughly nasty affair.

The UK Government will tell lies, and those liars will face little or no consequences in Westminster. All British nationalist parties will behave, vote and campaign as a single-entity, a ‘unionity.’ In political terms it is the SNP versus the British establishment. In voters’ terms, it is about the normalization of Indy. Why wouldn’t it be? An emphasis that Scotland, as an existing ancient country, should be reconstituted as a State. Especially, as there is actually no business case for the union to continue, with Scotland as a highly-unequal and peripheral member. Gone is the Tory pretence of ‘lead us, don’t leave us.’ Their only message now is ‘shut up and do as you are told, or their will be consequences.’ The imminent consequences will be a fast attack on the powers of the Scottish Parliament, where it will be their highest-priority to completely destroy the Scottish Government and reduce the Scottish Parliament to a parity with Lincolnshire Council, therefore negating its continuance completely.

The next stage of the journey is near, that being said Scottish independence is not a destination, merely a point of major interest en route. Two choices exist, nothing else. The people of Scotland alone must decide. Vote to accept a perpetual Tory UK Government or vote to renew the State of Scotland and rejoin the world of nations. We must professionalise our behaviours, so the Indy side remains, at all times, dignified, good-humoured, appropriate, respectful and robust. No divergence, no splits; differing views of course, but ultimately one Indy Movement.

Toughen up, this is serious. No more faffing. Indy can be won on the streets, on doorsteps, in the pubs, at dinner tables and workplaces. It will not be won on any social media echo chambers. As leaders, we must inspire trust and confidence, whereby the large numbers of currently undecided potential voters out there are convinced and passionately believe that an independent Scotland is better than the status quo. Momentum is growing into the unshakable belief that Indy must and will happen, whereby there is no longer any place for a do nothing option.

The Indy super-group, that wonderfully flawed band of vile separatists, will split, once the final Indy gig has ended, no encore required, this band will never reform. Until that glorious day, please listen and learn, and shed more light, less heat.

Larbert Loch, Scotland

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