Tonight, however, we have managed to lift the veil. Most of the suspicions I have had about the sickness within AUOB and most of the sources I have listened to have proven to be correct. There has been a profoundly diseased culture growing at the head of this organisation. Earlier tonight Neil MacKay, the current director of the AUOB, and Carol McNamara, chief administrator, came onto Scotland at 7 on Broadcasting Scotland with me to answer some fairly serious questions myself and others have had. Their candour was commendable. What they had to share was quite obviously difficult.
It is a source of immense frustration to me that the grassroots of the independence movement have been completely left to their own devices since 2014, rather than being kept under some form of structured leadership or guidance by the pro-independence political parties. Naturally there are those who would not like this. There are those who see party-political involvement as a threat to movement autonomy, sure. Others imagine it would leave the SNP open to attack for every infraction committed by some over-enthusiastic bampot, sure.
Openness and transparency do not undermine unity. They strengthen it. Lovers, brothers, sisters, and friends can tell one another uncomfortable truths. They can exchange cross words. They can even – and often do – have open pitched battled. But real and authentic relationships are not destroyed by such openness. They are strengthened. Silence, avoidance of the hard truths, disequilibria of power, and abuse foster environments which are highly toxic and inimical to true unity.
There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that this was a lie, that it was deliberate and calculated, and that it was the product of a group discussion. Yet, we could have easily gotten past this. In the piece I wrote I acknowledged the success of the marches and congratulated AUOB for what it has achieved. All that I asked was that the guys don’t lie to us again. They are not our leaders. Manny, Gary, and Neil are events coördinators. We must always be given all the facts and given the freedom to make up our own minds – all the time and without exception. We are an independence movement!
Lies are corrosive to political movements. Sure, they wanted to ensure we had a massive turnout – and we understand that – but that AUOB lied about what the police had said – which may even actually be a criminal offence – means our trust in what they say in future is damaged. It may come as news to some, but independence movements are sometimes the target of police violence. Of course, we want to keep things democratic and peaceful in Scotland, but in the event things ever go a little Barcelona we really need to know that those organising and leading marches...
Independence and the People’s Vote campaign, while both aligned against the present London government, are also in profound political opposition. Independentistas looking for a People’s Vote in order to mitigate a Brexit deal made by the British government are lending support to the union by ignoring the fact that Scotland has already rejected Brexit. The people of Scotland went to the polls on the day of the EU referendum and voted to remain in the European Union.
Many reading this piece will no doubt be concerned that intolerance of Siol nan Gaidheal is itself intolerance, and the last thing we want to be is intolerant. We are an “inclusive” movement after all. But this paradox has been dealt with before, by the Austrian-born philosopher Karl Popper. After the horrors of the Holocaust and the defeat of Nazism in Europe Popper reasoned – rightly – that it is not intolerance to refuse to tolerate the intolerant.
At Dumfries on Saturday the good people of the town who chose the union and lent their vote to the Tories got to see first-hand the good nature of the Yes campaign. It filled up their hotels and restaurants, the chippers were queued out, and the pubs were jammers. They saw smiles, they heard laughter, they say people from all over Scotland come to their town, and they were included in these people’s courageous vision for Scotland – and for Dumfries. And up at the Burns monument in their town they saw their unionism; fleg-waving nationalism, complete with Nazi salutes.