There is a nagging suspicion in my mind that the impetus to abandon our grievances came from these nefarious sources. I can’t prove it – no one can, but I am suspicious. Scotland has some pretty fantastic grievances, some pretty emotive and powerful grievances. It just strikes me that not to deploy them in an independence debate – that had absolutely everything to do with history – was such a monstrous tactical blunder that it couldn’t have originated with a real independence supporter.
It didn’t take a genius to then suspect there was a political reason why such a film wouldn’t be appearing in this chain’s Scottish cinemas. And before you go thinking this is the stuff of conspiracy theory and tinfoil hats, this has happened before. Ahead of the launch of the Outlander series in the UK – just in time for the 2014 independence referendum, the then Prime Minister, David Cameron, approached Sony, asking it to delay the series’ release until after the referendum. Cameron understood well the power of entertainment media to sway public opinion.
It really shouldn’t come as a surprise that we are being spied on by the state. When Jim Sillars said in mid-2014 he was aware of the arrival in Glasgow of British Army intelligence officers from London, we had every reason to trust him. Even if he was lying it would have been the truth regardless; if military intelligence wasn’t watching us and actively working to undermine our campaign, it wouldn’t be doing its job. That is the job of the secret services.
Effective social and political campaigns, then, must be, by necessity, single-issue campaigns – or as near to single-issue campaigns as they can practicably be. This does not mean, as someone once suggested, that other important political causes are to be “sent to the back of the bus.” No one is saying other issues – like gender equality and the campaign to save the bees – are not important. Naturally, they are important – some crucially so. But the fact remains, that a campaign fighting every campaign is limited by finances, resources, and manpower (or people-power).
Scottish independence, as a political aspiration, is not an ideology. It is an idea shared by adherents of a number of political ideologies. The independence movement is a broad church; a political spectrum that stretches from one lunatic fringe on the far-right, with such blood-and-soil nationalists as Sìol nan Gàidheal and its ilk, to the other on the far-left, with the pseudo-academic disco of Marxists, Trotskyists, and Bakuninists. This is a movement that is as politically colourful...
Listening to people in the “grassroots” of the independence movement, as opposed to those who have styled themselves the political, cultural, and intellectual leadership of the movement (the kites and the crows), we hear other objectives. There are those who want independence “for their children and grandchildren,” “for the future,” “to end austerity,” “to put power back in the hands of the Scottish people,” and so on. This is not the independence envisioned by Sarsfield, the leaders of 1798, nor indeed Ireland’s campaign for Home Rule.
This “common man” was never in the original chronicles of the Scottish Wars of Independence. History was written by the elite for the benefit of the elite, it never had the common man and woman in mind – they were always unimportant. The medieval chroniclers went into lurid detail when describing the deaths of knights on the battlefield, they seldom mentioned the village women who were raped and murdered or the peasant farmers conscripted as archer fodder.
Scotland’s sometimes pro-independence left is not particularly large in terms of numbers. It would not be a significant threat to the stability and cohesion of the wider movement if this element decided to defect en masse to Jeremy Corbyn’s side, but we must also consider the weight this group has on social media. At present it seems safe to say that half – if not, more – of the movement’s bigger pro-independence blogs define themselves as belonging to the radical left, but they have been losing traction in recent months. The defection of these certainly does pose a problem.