The vision of independence is one of a through road on which power is brought back to Scotland, enabling us to tackle the problems neither Westminster nor Scotland’s unionists have any interest in addressing. The bottom line is that we can do nothing to better Scotland without first returning state power to the country. We may be able to see the problems we face. We might even see the causes of these problems. But there is precious little we can do to change things without first winning independence and in so doing taking the power we need to effect the change we want.
Recently, I have attracted the attention of such a troll. This person, as is to be expected, has an anonymous profile and uses that anonymity to bully and intimidate social media users who happen to disagree with his “radical” political opinions. Over the past couple of weeks pro-independence bloggers have been putting out fires started by an accusation by Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard and the leadership of the GMB Labour-affiliated trade union that a blog published by the pro-independence blogger Gareth Wardell was an anti-Semitic attack levelled at GMB activist Rhea Wolfson.
Sectarianism is a serious social problem in our country, for sure, but there is little we can do about it when it happens outside institutions. We can’t police people’s homes to stop parents poisoning the minds of their children. The best we can do here is improve diversity awareness and education in schools and hope some of it sticks. But racism, prejudice, bigotry, and sectarianism thrive in institutions where such cultures have gone unchallenged and allowed to fester.
Gillian Martin MSP published an article on her personal blog eleven years ago that has returned, as these things often do, to bite her on the bum. She described transgender students – people over whom she was in a position of power – in the most disgusting way imaginable. She reduced some of the most personal and treasured truths of their beings to worthlessness and shame. Since then she has deleted this horrible post and two years ago she made a full and unreserved apology for what she had written.
It gets worse for unionism, however, with individual unionists clutching at straws in their efforts to delegitimise the independence movement’s grievances and invent their own. Examples of this abound, and we are well familiar with them: The claim that the Scottish government’s baby boxes will only result in the incineration of our wee bundles of joy, that Scottish infrastructural investment – lauded everywhere else in the world – is here nothing but a “vanity project,” and that independence will only hasten an invasion by space aliens (yes, they said this).
People the likes of Labour’s Jim Dempster, Hugh Gaffney, and Davie McLachlan, and the Tories’ Robert Davies and Alastair Majury ought to be held personally responsible for their racism and bigotry, but we must acknowledge that this is all part of a much larger thing. I can do as I usually do at this point and remind people that this stems from ideas of racial supremacy at the heart of British nationalism – which it does – and that these passions are being stirred up by politicians for political purposes – which they are, but it is bigger than this.
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.
Both the Labour movement and the Labour parliamentary party have been the greatest let down for the working class in the entire history of industrialisation and its aftermath, and – as far as we are concerned in Scotland – it can remain what it has become. The left in Scotland has shifted to the Scottish National Party and the independence movement. We have begun to waken up to the fact that if we are to make things better for ourselves then we have to do it for ourselves.