The 2014 referendum caused a shift in the fault lines of Scottish politics. The age old battle between left and right moved into the background and Yes and No became the political identity of the present. But that referendum is done now, it is in the past. We are looking at another referendum probably in 2017 but its not the same question because the UK has changed fundamentally and it won’t be all the same people that are going to vote Yes next time.
The United Kingdom that people voted to stay with in 2014 has become another country, it has begun to project an image of itself to the world that is both alien and singularly unattractive to many who voted No last time. I believe that the core Unionist vote in Scotland is below 25% and that the other 30% of voters they won over sit on a sliding scale towards acceptance of Scotland as an independent nation. If many of those 2014 voters who liked the idea of an independent Scotland but voted No with heavy hearts fearing risk, uncertainty and even change itself can be won over then the result could easily be 60% Yes and 40% No next time. Add the 177,000 EU citizens who mostly voted No because they feared the loss of our EU membership, and managed correctly a decisive Yes vote is achievable.
This is not 2014 the past perceived balance of risk has flipped completely from Yes to No. Instability, crashing currency, out of the EU, no trade deal, a lessening of respect and position in the world, No plan A for leaving the EU never mind a plan B, the UK of 2014 has started to self destruct. Scottish independence has moved from a risk in the eyes of many to the opportunity of a lifetime. We must stop pigeon-holing people as No voters and redefine them as “Potential Yes voters”. It’s only two years but the timescale for the next indyref was chosen by voters outside of Scotland who have fundamentally moved the goalposts since 2014 and made that past result null and void. Those potential Yes voters may still be bruised and reluctant to change sides but as the game has changed they need to know that changing to Yes is not an admission that they were wrong last time, just that as the circumstances have changed so dramatically that they can vote Yes next time and justify that to themselves as being right both times.
We must not place barriers to conversion in their way, we must not try to insist they admit they were wrong. We must not be smug or try to score points, we must not fight the 2014 referendum again as this is a different situation all together. There has been a fundamental change in circumstances, a material shift, or we wouldn’t be able to justify a second referendum and so its a different question when you look at the bigger picture, in a different time and for many potential Yes voters it will generate a different answer.
In South Africa they healed the hurt of generations through a Truth and Reconciliation commission. Those that had perpetrated racist hate and terrorism and other terrible crimes told the truth and were forgiven allowing them to move on as a nation. We have far less to forgive on both sides, can we therefor not hear the truth, accept that this is a different vote, forgive, move on and ensure that every potential Yes voter is welcomed with open arms, their questions answered calmly with patience and humility, creating an atmosphere of light rather than heat?
We have all been on a tumultuous emotional journey. I was almost broken by our loss in 2014 and last Friday I felt first deflated, then joyous that my side had won in Scotland, then angry, very angry, then hopeful for independence and now I feel more determined than ever but it is not a war or a battle about to commence it is simply a new opportunity to discuss, educate and inform our friends and neighbours of the benefits of running our own affairs. We still have questions to answer on affordability, and on how our relationship with the EU will be managed but now that potential Yes voters are listening so we need not shout, we can talk quietly and confidently and assure them that even old enemies can be come new friends, new allies in our mission to build a better, fairer, more sustainable, equal, more confident, entrepreneurial and prosperous nation.