I could talk to you today about the state of the nation. I’m not going to. You don’t need me to tell you that we are now effectively living in a failed state, a rogue state and I think Liz Truss has had quite enough column inches over the past few weeks. I want to talk about us, the independence movement and where we go and what we do. In short, I want to talk tactics and I’m going to start with another imperial power – Ancient Rome.
Rome wasn’t built in a day; it was built on conquest and on the backs of slaves. As Rome pushed out its empire, Rome itself filled up with the people it had displaced. They had no rights and were treated badly. However, it wasn’t always easy to tell a slave from a citizen because they wore the same clothing. One senator took offence at this and brought a motion to the Senate where he proposed that slaves should wear a different coloured toga from citizens so that they could be told apart. However, another senator stood up and said ‘We can’t do this.’ When he was asked to explain he said, ‘If the slaves wear a different toga, they will be able to recognise each other, they will be able to see how many of them there are and they wil organise to overthrow us!’
We’re in the same position as those slaves right now. We’re looked down on. Our movement is supressed. Our events are constantly disrupted as indeed this one was. We need to fight back and key to that is that we need to be able to recognise each other, know how many of us there are and we need to organise. How do we do this?
The first thing we need to do is wear our colours. Today is such an occasion; we meet together and talk and this is vitally important. Don’t listen to those who say, ‘It’s just another march/rally’. Yes it is and the more the better. But it’s not just important for us; it’s important for the presence we bring and for those who see us. Here’s a thought. Imagine for a minute if every football fan that was an independence supporter, took a Saltire or a Saltire in club colours to the game. Imagine if their rivals did the same and if on derby days (Rangers v Celtic, Hibs v Hearts, Dundee v Dundee United) instead of the usual club colours there was a sea of saltires. Imagine if BskyB, the Beeb and other MSM media were forced to broadcast this because they were covering these matches. What message would that send? If you think this is unimportant, go into the local supermarket and see how many Union Jacks you can count on different products. They understand the value of branding and normalisation; we need to do this as well.
The second thing we need to do is to identify and solidify our own vote. This might seem like an obvious thing to say, but I came across a couple of surprises in the Scottish Referendum Study and wanted to share them with you.
Most of you will know that support for independence splits roughly on age. The younger the voter the more likely they are to be yes. The older the more likely to be no. In terms of the younger, around 65 -70% poll in favour of yes . How did this translate into the actual referendum vote?
The answer is it didn’t. In the 16- 24 group, two thirds voted no. Check it out. Why did this happen? It happened because a whole lot of them weren’t registered to vote, didn’t turn up, or both. Furthermore, it means that the no campaign identified and registered their own young voters and beat us on our own ground. We mustn’t let that happen again.
Why does this matter? It matters because since 2014, over 400K people have turned 16 and are eligible to vote. At the other end of the scale, over 400K people have died in Scotland since 2014. Most of them were no voters. Put those figures together and you have 800 000. The difference between the yes vote and the no vote in 2014 was 384K. We spend a great deal of time trying to convince people on the fence, but I would put it to you that we need to spend far more time preaching to the converted. Another group that we need to be mindful of are European nationals. Most of them voted no the last time, because they thought that voting Yes would mean leaving Europe. What do you think they’re going to vote this time? How many of them are there? 234 K. We could win a referendum from a standing start on these groups of voters along – but we need to find them. We need to be going round colleges, universities and all these places and we need to get them registered to vote. They are our base, our rock.
Finally, we need to make sure that when the referendum comes, we can get out the vote. We can only do this, if we know geographically where our vote is. Now is the time to be going round doors and mapping out the streets that we need to go knocking up in our local areas. This is the kind of work that can’t be done any other way, but which wins elections.
I know this may seem a strange speech, but I don’t want to talk anymore about Tories. I don’t want to talk. I want to act. I want to emphasise to you that we are in a good position; but we need to take advantage of it. It’s not flashy and it’s not rocket science, but it is effective and we can do it now. Whether this poll is in 2023, 2024 or 2026, this is the quiet painstaking work that will win us our independence and we need to embark on it now. Let’s talk. Let’s enjoy the day. And lets win our freedom!