By Jason Michael

WELCOMING PEOPLE TO YES is all-important. There is no doubt that winning a Yes vote for independence in another referendum will depend entirely on our ability to win No voters to the idea of independence and making them welcome within the embrace of the independence movement. But, in acknowledging this, we are faced with the question of the welcome we should extend to so-called high-profile unionists. Of course, and without equivocation, we must welcome everyone who voted against independence in 2014 who has since changed their mind. But this does not mean we must lionise them and sit at their feet as though they were gurus of progressive thinking. It does not mean, necessarily, we should give them platforms.

Here I would like to speak about my attitude towards Murray Foote, the former chief propagandist for the unionist Daily Record newspaper. This was the man responsible for “the Vow,” the lie that fronted his paper two days before the people of Scotland went to the polls in 2014. First, and this is important, I must say that my discomfort with Foote is not based on personal ill-will or animus. He and I have never met, and I have no reason to dislike him as a person. But I dislike – I loathe and despise – what he did as editor of that paper in the closing days of the independence campaign.

He claimed, when he addressed the audience at Yes Pollock, that “abuse will not convert a single soul,” but, yet, he himself is the proof to the contrary. He abused his position as a newspaper editor and in so doing he abused the people of Scotland. One of his victims was a woman I loved – my grandmother, a woman who throughout that campaign was daily terrorised by the sordid and vicious behaviour of the Daily Record, the BBC News, and every other instrument of “Project Fear.” On 18 September 2014 this frail, elderly woman went to the polls in tears to vote against her better judgement because people like Murray had convinced her a No vote would keep her children and grandchildren safe. She, like so many other older voters in 2014, will never have a chance to go back to the polls.

Murray says that he does not believe the Vow was a deciding factor in the No vote, but he is wrong. It offered people a third option after they had been bullied and harassed into thinking a Yes vote would hurt them and their loved ones. The false promise of the Vow – nothing but an empty and deceitful IOU – saved them from having to vote No against independence, against the prospect of a truly better Scotland, and offered them instead a provisional No in lieu of something better – something that was, from the day it was written, a callous and deliberate lie.

It only becomes more difficult to be reconciled to Murray Foote when he says he had always supported the principle of independence, that in the referendum debate of 2014 his heart and head were in conflict. Yet, in his heart and his head he always knew he was manufacturing the very lies that would instigate that same conflict in the minds of people all over the country. And, in spite of accepting the argument for independence in principle, he went ahead and promulgated one of the greatest lies told to the people of our country – that there was a third option. Believing in independence – in principle – it was not his head that stopped him supporting a chance for a better Scotland, it was his pay packet and bonuses – it was his lack of principles that made him a No voter.

At his talk in Pollock he listed off with great ease the reasons why Scotland should now be independent, and not one – not a single one – of these reasons did not already fully exist when he put together the Vow. He spoke of austerity and the nature of the British nationalist politicians to which Scotland must be now condemned without independence. Nothing of these were new, certainly not to a well-informed and intelligent newspaper editor. Not even Brexit was new. Brexit was not the result of a referendum. It was the fruition of toxic xenophobic and racist opinions being drip-fed to the people of the United Kingdom by papers just like the Daily Record for decades. In 2014 all of this was well known to Murray Foot, a man who in principle believed in independence – and still he took the money and produced the Vow.

This is no reason to hate Mr Foote. Perhaps I might have done the same. One can only imagine that the hireling wages of a newspaper editor willing to turn his back on his principles are quite substantial. Every man has his price. But the fact remains, that having turned his back on what he says he believed in principle to be true in order to produce such a propaganda coup for the British establishment – the same establishment now bringing us Brexit, Murray was a bought and paid for mercenary – and mercenaries are not “converts.” They have shown by their past actions – and misdeeds – that they are willing to be bought by the highest bidder.

Our struggle for independence is not yet over. In fact, it is safe to say that it has not yet truly begun – and the masters that bought these mercenaries before still have a war chest, still have very deep pockets. Our taxes and our resources are funding them. Their reserves are vast and the number of presently unemployed mercenaries is many. While I want them to vote Yes next time, and while I would be more than happy to pour guys like Foote a cuppa, I am extremely uneasy with this movement’s willingness to platform them and trust that they are the very people to win over “soft Nos” like they themselves once were. This depresses me.

Actually, it is because of what Murray Foote has said that I reject this argument. He himself said, as he was telling his listeners at Pollock not to abuse people as he once did, that we must “persuade by the strength of [our] arguments.” This was what we were doing in 2014. It is what we are doing now. Independence is not what he says it is; a mere tugging on the heart. Independence is and always was a rational argument – and one we have always been able to make well. What undermined that rational argument was the constant stream of lies being produced by mercenaries. Now, at least, and thanks to the conversion of men and women like Murray Foote, we know the power of these lies and how they were produced. We are in a better place than ever before to make the rational argument for independence, and we can do that without sitting at the feet of paid liars.


Calling Scotland Pod5: Journeys from No to Yes

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