DOES CAMPAIGNING MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

I was in two minds whether to publish this email or not. On balance I decided to do so because I, and I am sure many of you, have asked yourselves at times is all the effort we have put in over the years been worthwhile? Winning Independence is not a fast business. It takes huge efforts by many people, all working together over an extended period and success is not a frequent visitor. Setbacks and disappointments also interrupt the journey. so when Ashley’s email arrived last week it served to remind me of just how long I have been at this, just like many thousands of others. It’s also my birthday today so I hope I can be forgiven a bit of reminiscing.

I make no secret of my concern at the current lack of direction visible at this time and it is all too easy to lose hope. Ashley’s email lifted my spirits immensely to discover my campaigning had encouraged Ashley to join the fight for Independence and that his commitment was still there some 33 years later. That fills me with great pleasure and pride. Ashley was lucky, his first campaign in Govan in 1988 resulted in one of the most stunning victories ever recorded in elections in Scotland and he must have also been ecstatic with the creation of the Scottish Parliament at the turn of the century. The phrase I hope people will take from his email is that the SNP were a “fringe party” at the time. No longer after that night. It is my hope I can contribute to Alba experiencing the same success in the near future.

Name: Ashley

Email: 

Message: Hi Iain

Just wanted to drop you a wee note by way of a thank you – I have and am thoroughly enjoying reading your blog and watching Through a Scottish Prism – thanks for all your output and analysis in the past year. I also just wanted to thank you for your contributions to Scottish politics and the SNP/ independence cause.

I joined the SNP at Govan in 1988 at the tender age of 16 – there were a few “firebrands” like yourself, Jim Sillars, Kenny Mackaskill, who really put fire into the movement and inspired many young folk like myself into politics. You had such amazing campaigning panache, putting the SNP, which was then still almost fringe, into the heart of the action with incredible campaigns such as “Say No to the Poll Tax”, “Send Nirex Packing” and “Save Scottish Steel” campaigns. It really was a few great campaigners like yourself who laid the ground work for the successes in the later 1990s, which built to IndyRef1 – I always thought it was a great shame and loss for the movement you didn’t enter the Scottish parliament then and remain more central to the SNP leadership. ( Editors note: two years previously I had invested my life savings into creating a new business in Estonia and for my young family’s sake that had to be my priority).

I joined you and Jim Sillars on a few of the “snappy bus” campaign tours for Scottish steel, i think in 1990 ? – trips to Clydebank, Vale of Leven, Ayr, Paisley etc with a team of activists on the wee van. I recall on one occasion the “snappy bus” being pulled over by the police as it had no seating on the back where some of us were standing while traversing the M8 – I think you had to get Gil Paterson to come out and fit a bench! I also vividly recall you with a plastic collection bucket in Clydebank shopping centre, so successfully you declared the campaign had become self financing! I joined the 3 day sit-in (sit-out?) and fast outside old St Andrews House which you and Jim led, and the torchlight procession from Calton Hill is a great memory. What a night in a sleeping bag on the wee strip of lawn outside St Andrews House, with the likes of Barbara Mullin, Alison Hunter, Jim Sillars and yourself. As young man of 17 / 18 it was great to be involved in these and your campaigning flair made these feel really exciting – your barnstorming oratory at conferences is still vivid in my memory. As are your musical comedy performances at the conference night party! ( editors note: they were certainly comedy!}

I’d also just like to thank you, somewhat belatedly, for being a really nice, warm and caring guy, a true gentleman – every day we were out on the snappy bus you always bought the wee team of mostly very young activists lunch and you were always such great fun and great company – you and Jim always went out of your way to make time for and engage with the younger activists – a real inspiration, a role model and a genuine catalyst for the rise of the SNP in 2000s. Wishing you all the best and looking forward to your coming outputs.

Yours for Scotland, Ashley

ENDS

It has been a good week for compliments. I returned from Greece to find my copy of Jim Sillars memoirs book and I have now read it. It reminds me of what a fascinating history many of us ”old timers” in the Independence Movement share. How the SNP grew from fringe to being central to Scotland’s political future. Jim and I are close friends, we don’t agree on everything but it would surprise people just how often we do share identical views. As Jim states in the book it is important that people can disagree but still respect each other’s viewpoint and remain friends. That ability to keep everyone onside is not a strength of the current SNP leadership. Anyway he is far too generous to me in his comments as like Ashley’s comments about me I have, while not entirely agreeing 100% always been an admirer and respected Jim’s ability, and his confidence to be his ”own man” and stand on his principles. We could do with a lot more people like him amongst MP’s and MSP’s in Scottish politics today! We would not be in this mess! People like Jim would never tolerate the Government of Sturgeon the Timid. Neither do I.

I am, as always

YOURS FOR SCOTLAND

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A Difference of Opinion by Jim Sillars

Was published on the 2nd September and is a must read by those of us who have been engaged in the Independence battle in the last five decades. It is available from Amazon and many other outlets.

28 thoughts on “DOES CAMPAIGNING MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

  1. Firstly Happy Birthday Iain (from another person with an October birthday!)

    Lovely email from Ashley. Campaigning back in the day when independence was the priority not your pronouns, must have been great!

    Other than indyref1 I’ve not been a campaigner, merely a voter who wanted indy and voted for it for decades. I salute you and the others that put the graft in for years even when you knew it was certain defeat.

    Jim is right we don’t need to agree on everything and the ability to disagree civilly is one that the SNP could do with regaining. I remember when Nadira Murray read out Craig’s letter to conference and he mentioned how he was on the opposite side to most of Alba on GRA reform. To paraphrase – if two people agree on everything then at least one isn’t thinking!

    I won’t ask how many candles will be on the cake though 🙂

    Liked by 9 people

  2. Happy birthday Iain. Political activism needs to be balanced with existential realism. We are living in turbulent and often dismaying times which require both personal and collective resilience to endure. We have to combine the energy of the lion with the patience and focus of the heron?

    Liked by 8 people

  3. I am hopeful that with the efforts of bloggers like your good self, Jim Sillars and Alba will get us out of the fine mess that the Murrell’s Laurel and Hardly routine have got us into.

    I endorse Ashley’s comments – thanks Iain for your contribution and (not sure how) many happy returns but have a great day.

    Liked by 13 people

  4. Many happy returns and many more!

    I too am pinning my hopes on ALBA but the hatchet jobs keep coming and the dishonesty shown by those elected is quite astonishingly disgusting.

    Liked by 11 people

  5. Happy birthday Iain and many more of them. Thank you for your blog and all you have done in the fight for independence for our country.

    I only wish that there were more like you, especially in Holyrood instead of the spineless and gutless crew that we now have.

    Liked by 15 people

  6. I’ll add my best wishes too Iain, happy birthday sir!

    As I’ve said in the past, you made a huge impression on me way back in the 1980s when I was still voting Labour like a sheep. Your fire and passion was a like a burning gas jet! Imagine my astonishment when I learned you had been a Tory member. I was astonished at myself for agreeing vehemently with the words of a man who had been in such a party, and it opened my eyes to the fact that there were many good people in all parties. And many snakes in Labour.

    Thank you for your inspiration and tenacity, it is humbling.

    Liked by 7 people

  7. Many Happy Returns – campaigning is so different now it seems to me all about tearing lumps out of one another on the internet, rather than putting forward a good case for whatever you are campaigning on. We need the old firebrands to push the cause, but we need the young with young legs to get the message out and onto the doorstep. All this takes organisation and money, so we also need to be prepared to put our hands in our pockets too. Getting the voter out of the house and into the voting booth is the hardest job, but that is where the success lies. Once you have caught your fish (on the doorstep) you must land it, even if that means personally going around on the voting day and driving them there. it is a lot of hard work – a lot of organization – and a lot of dedication to your cause – but there are no shortcuts. all this takes time and time is running out – I can only hope that Alba is beavering away putting it all together now for the most important campaign in our history – for if they do not make the breakthrough at the local elections I do not have any hope for a breakthrough at the 2024 general election. Note how everything that sturgeon talked about will come into effect in 2023, their campaign has already started. Now that she has subdued the Green Party, she is into bed with the Tories, now going on ‘away days’ together, if I heard correctly at FMQ. All to freeze out Labour and keep the SNP powerbase intact – but NS should take note if you play tag with the Tories you will always be hep.

    Liked by 8 people

    1. Hear, hear, to all of that! I suppose I’m fortunate, campaigning, for me, was always a joy, always fascinating. You’re spot-on about the younger members (and their much more capable leg legs for those tenement stairs); many of them were truly inspiring people.

      Liked by 5 people

  8. The true heroes are the ones who never give up the fight, you’ll well and truly on that list along with everyone else here and Happy Birthday.

    There is another problem we are facing and that the Newspaper The National and how it has no commitment to Independence at all other than selling papers and promoting Sturgeon and its bias against the Alba Party.

    I’ll give you two examples just published over two days,

    1 being Cllr Jim McEleny see my twitter account below for my video taken of what was written on the rag’s website.

    2 An article in The National today, I’ve now started calling this paper the Rag.

    https://www.thenational.scot/news/19633396.first-minister-signals-spring-update-concrete-decision-indyref2/

    The headline states “First Minister signals spring update for ‘concrete decision’ on indyref2”

    then it goes on to state “NICOLA Sturgeon has indicated that she may be able to make “concrete decisions” in early spring about holding second independence referendum.”. I decided long ago that this paper wasn’t interested in the cause of Independence but had seen an opportunity to make money from both the Yes and No whilst playing both side against one and other, this is who I see this. So, I decided to stop my subscription and I no longer leave comments. I just wondered what other people thoughts where on the so-called Sturgeon own rag.

    Liked by 8 people

    1. At it ‘s inception I thought it was a bit late to the party – I felt that had those involved been that keen they might have started before the Indy Ref and not as a Johnny come lately mopper upper of the disenchanted/bereft independence supporters.
      I did buy a few copies but have long since given up on that, I am not even interested enough in their progress to click on links supplied by others.

      Liked by 7 people

  9. You’ve called it just about right, for me, if a little more kindly. Well … if I’m being honest: many, many times more kindly. It’s a despicable little publication!

    Liked by 6 people

  10. It isn’t easy maintaining political focus over time, especially when the goal-posts keep moving, and clearly beyond the FM. Who’s appreciation of the law is either woefully inadequate, or she simply does not feel herself bound by international human rights law. Well, she’s the product of a broken justice system that draws its authority from the Crown in Parliament, rather than the sovereignty embodied in the people of Scotland.

    https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/international-theory/article/cooriginality-of-human-rights-and-democracy-in-an-international-order/0680D78C0C964F680E004DE10D5799EB

    Like

  11. A very Happy Birthday, Iain, hope there’s cake! 🍰 What a great letter from Ashley, it reminds us of what we’ve lost but also what we need to do to get more young folk involved in being proud of, and wanting the best for, our country and ALL it’s people, not just those chosen few in the current Scot gov.

    Have a great weekend.

    Liked by 5 people

  12. Happy Birthday young’un

    A difficult question and one which will promote much debate I am sure. First I must state that I have done it all so I do have experience. The views of readers will change between 18 and 80.

    My honest thoughts on it.

    First the positives.

    Marches and public rallies.
    A great tool – it motivates those “For the Case” and cannot be ignored by the undecided. The press can ignore it or play it down but the public who seen it pass through their town or City cannot be fooled.

    Large local campaigns such as a by-election or local Event
    It works well because of the large numbers you can put into an area. A visual impact that works. An example being a Party Conference in a town or City.

    Phone canvassing
    Far more successful than door knocking. That is why the Tories use it. For some reason people will talk on the phone who would not answer the door.

    Election voting chase up calls
    This works…but it works for every party

    TV and Radio
    It works great IF you are a Unionist Party. However it goes negative if you are an Independence Party.

    Social Media and blogs
    It works. I may not like it but it is here to stay. It has a big reach.it provides information and fact sources. It creates thinkers. ( not to be confused with the ranking side of Twitter)
    Online placed adverts, links, short video clips.

    Billboards
    They work and the short simple sound bites are horrible but they do cut through with the general public.
    Field Posters, flag flying etc come under this visual message.

    Stalls
    Mostly attract the already converted but the do often pull in the truly undecided and can be very successful.

    The negatives

    Flyers though the letter box
    They go straight in the bin with the other junk mail.

    Door knocking
    People do not want you on their door at night when they have just got home or when they are seeing their kids or having a meal. They do not want to engage on a Saturday morning when they are trying to get to the shops or go visiting. I did this for years and I remain unconvinced of its usefulness.

    Polling
    It works if you are already winning but a new Party doesn’t even get listed as an option. Very like TV leaders debates. If you are not on the stage it is academic regarding their effectiveness.

    Party Political Broadcasts
    You have to be winning to qualify so a negative for new Parties

    Now back to the letter at the start of the article. Yes campaigns can pul in new blood. However how many of these do we lose when they attend the boring branch meetings going through the dry agenda like automatons?

    The big boys want the public to switch off from politics. The Tories love a low turn out.

    On Independence I think we need something simpler and AUOB sounds like a good motto and a few hundred thousand strolling through Glasgow or Edinburgh with or without Party banners would be a good place to start.

    I look forward to the avalanche of posts telling me why I am wrong because debate is in the positive box.

    We need to change as society changes. Doing what we did 40 years ago doesn’t sound smart. We should start with facing reality Sound Bites like “Take Back Control”, “Get Brexit Done” work. You can have hours of logical discussion tipped by a short advert phrase. I may not like it but the evidence is ther.
    We risk being bogged down once in debates about currency, Defence, Border Controls endless drivel. While Boris is working on drivel about “On a Cliff Edge”

    Wave your Saltire proudly and demand Independence as a Right….we don’t need to explain what we will do with it.

    Liked by 10 people

  13. Best Birthday wishes, Iain. I strongly agree with Ashley, it’s a great pity that you went abroad, though understandable. Your barnstorming oratorical style would have been a wonderful thing to hearken to in Hollyrood down the years and would’e had an immeasurable impact.

    I’ll confess to have been well to the Left of Gordon Wilson and your good self, in most areas, but being late of the Communist Party, how else could it have been? It is heartening to find, all these years later, that your ardour for Scottish Independence hasn’t diminished one bit, and dare I say it: with your senior years your analysis has taken on a noticeably redder bloom lol.

    Keep up your excellent work.

    Liked by 3 people

  14. Ashley’s comments on the engagement of young people at that time caught my attention.

    There seemed to be just such engagement in the run-up to the 2014 referendum, but from what I can see, that has dropped off.

    We seem to have lost a lot of young people to the Greens and perhaps we need to increase efforts to convince them they can achieve more elsewhere.

    For example, the fact that we are 97% energy sufficient and we could be providing Scotland with clean, low-priced energy but are prevented from doing so by UK fossil fuel energy surcharges. This is the sort of issue where we could re-engage with young people. The only solution to this is Independence. And the Greens are nodding dogs to the SNP do-nothingism on that.

    Happy birthday, Iain. You and Jim continue to be a massive inspiration to the movement.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I reckon engaging younger voters is essential to maintaining momentum towards self-determination, and we also need to protect them from the ‘dark side’, as they generally haven’t figured things out yet. I certainly hadn’t. How to do that is not my area of expertise, so all I’d suggest is social justice may be interest to those who see their life opportunities being sacrificed to the interests of British nationalism.

      Architectures of intergenerational justice: Human dignity, international law, and duties to future generations
      https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14754835.2015.1106308

      Liked by 4 people

  15. Happy Birthday Iain and much thanks for bringing this blog about. It’s totally on the right lines for the majority of Scottish identifying nationalists and republicans such as myself. Keep up the good work!

    As for campaigning: I was always an Independence supporter but resisted joining the SNP as I am not fond of cliques/clubs etc. But the Indy Campaign in 2014 was great, as it was a broad church and I loved the canvassing and talking to the unknowing, never mind the undecided !

    Foolishly, I joined the SNP and found it to be as expected, lions led by donkeys. I even voted for a complete chancer, who I believed would be a half decent msp..he wasn’t, just another rainbow woke waste of space. I resigned after the 2017 debacle and carried on with the A.U.O.B.

    But we need a media presence and more importantly impassioned leaders, who are not ex SNP. I’m sorry but Sillars, Salmond etc. are yesterday’s men. We need new blood, but where is it and how can it make itself known?
    I support ALBA, but fear it is structurally a facsimile of the SNP with the same mistaken template of embryonic factions within and no clear sovereignty first agenda.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Happy Birthday Iain!

    I go back to the 1970s in SNP membership but believe that the best campaign for Independence was in the Scottish Election of 2011 – 69 MSPs our of 129 – never to be repeated. It was a campaign won on the best of old techniques and the new emerging ones. The Party was united in campaigning on one message – Independence.

    The national campaign was based on the choice of Independence for the electors and what this could do for Scotland’s future, based on the modest success of the minority SNP Government since 2007.

    Here in Fife, the SNP swept the constituencies with early campaigning, except for Cowdenbeath where Labour’s exceptionally popular Helen Eadie held on. Even in Dunfermline, the SNP jumped past the scrapping Labour and LibDems to take the seat from 3rd place – unheard of in the rest of Scotland.

    It was a time of huge optimism for the Cause of Independence. Alex Salmond, our both charismatic and strategic Leader, had done very well. Then, cracks started appearance, two in particular:

    1. The 2011 Parliamentary success had attracted in relatively young SNP members (with little experience outside the world of politics) who now found a comfortable, warm seat, with status, and with £60k plus pa salary, rather than the £25k or so they were use to. What’s not to like?

    2. In such a comfortable environment, other interest besides Independence started raising their heads through single action groups, usually of a sexual or social engineering nature. It was apparently okay to seek to campaign for other causes, before we actually arrived at our prime Cause of Independence!

    These matters were bubbling away as we entered the 2014 Referendum with with an energetic campaign under Leader Alex Salmond who was in fine form. However, several things acted against us:

    1. We already knew that the whole UK Establishment was against us and we gave them plenty of campaigning ammunition to fire against us. And, why oh why, were we using the wrong voting franchise in a SCOTTISH Independence referendum? Doomed to failure, as a number of later voting analyses has shown

    2. Alex made a fundamental mistake in not even discussing “Plan B” for an independent currency if London wouldn’t “allow us” to share the pound sterling. Many a Nationalist said to me, if required we’ll set up our own Scots pound!

    3. IMO, many people had turned against Independence because of the sort of Scotland the SNP was leading us to, related to what the Government had already done and planned to do. Again IMO, a large majority of the general electorate (not political activists) is more interested in their future pensions, financial security, employment and social relations, rather than political Independence! It’s THEIR image of the future that counts.

    I’m sorry we lost the referendum and by such a huge amount – 55.3% to 44.7%, a LARGE margin of 10.6%. Alex should not have resigned. All he did was open the door to Nicola Sturgeon with all her woke policies who, with all her “cult”, is very cosy in devolved power. All the indicators tell me that another referendum route will be far more difficult next time – and certainly not in my lifetime.

    Poor Scotland! A far better strategy and campaigning tactics will be need next. Sorry to be so gloomy!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ‘Again IMO, a large majority of the general electorate (not political activists) is more interested in their future pensions, financial security, employment and social relations, rather than political Independence! It’s THEIR image of the future that counts.’ I agree with that.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Hello,

    I only saw Lochside’s posting at 5:21pm AFTER submitting my earlier one.

    I completely agree with him/her when he/she says:

    “I support ALBA, but fear it is structurally a facsimile of the SNP with the same mistaken template of embryonic factions within and no clear sovereignty first agenda.”

    I completely agree with not copying the SNP’s structure, even Women’s Committee, with its recipe for friction and sectarianism. It should all be about winning Independence – everything else is in the second or third division place.

    It’s the core aim that matters – all else dilutes the message and is a route for turning potential Independence supporters off.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Belated birthday wishes, Iain, hope you had a great day. We stand on the backs of people like yourself, Jim, Kenny and many more. I’m so sad and disappointed that today’s SNP are not up to the mark. We now have Alba to carry our hopes for an independent nation forward – my sincere hope is that they will not let us down! All the best to you and thanks for your blog, always interesting and informative. Sorcha

    Liked by 1 person

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