As I’ve been travelling the country on the SNP Depute hustings trail, it is clear that the European Question is going to be the defining attribute of politics in these islands for years ahead. It is important to get it right, and where Scotland voted unanimously across each local authority area to remain, we must remember it was not unanimous.
First published in The National, 6 September 2016
We cannot forget that a significant amount of Scots voted Leave; indeed that there were a lot of reluctant remainers too. Tomorrow, I’m launching a consultation on my website alynsmith.eu/consultation to ask Leave voters to let me know how they’re feeling. I’m not going to write off or ignore 38 per cent of the vote, not least when the Brexit process has not even begun to start. We are committed to get the best deal possible for Scotland. I don’t dismiss any possibility, and I don’t dismiss the idea too that there might be opportunities for us to grasp.
Brexit is a huge unknown. I campaigned to remain in the EU because I am convinced it is the best option for Scotland. But it is not the only option. Right now, things are so much in flux that nobody can see all the possible outcomes. We must be wary not to become prisoners of anyone else’s agenda, least of all an agenda that our opponents control. As ever, we will do what is best for Scotland.
I think there were a number of reasons why people voted Leave, but I want to actually hear from Leave voters, not second guess them. As the reality of Brexit emerges I want to maintain a dialogue. I’m pretty confident that the Brexit a number of folk thought they were voting for is an entirely different Brexit from that which will be delivered.
Because where, as a democrat, I respect Leave voters, it is safe to say I have little respect for the Leave campaign, even if books will be written about how effective they were in England.
Arguing against the Leave campaign was like trying to bottle a noxious fog. Mostly, they were a series of garden variety rentahack shills paid to be spokesmen (I don’t recall one woman) and give a media illusion of a campaign. However, they were well financed, well advised and well organised, playing the BBC with its own rules, backed up by paid workers to give the illusion of activity, but otherwise absent from Scottish life. They targeted the real anger that exists, the palpable discontent with the status quo, the economy, and played to the worst in human nature. They made promise after promise that they will simply not be able to keep, not least because most of them have slunk back into the shadows, to count their fees in the consultancies and lobbyshops.
There was also, lets be honest, a poor campaign on the Remain side. It was a star-crossed exercise from the start. In Scotland there was a lack of leadership locally in big parts of the country, combined with either a lack of interest, lack of energy, or a misplaced belief that “we should just let sleeping dogs lie, son”. We were tired, physically, after the Holyrood campaign, and among some SNP folk there was a feeling that if it is David Cameron or Nigel Farage then a plague on both their houses. Having said that, the campaign we ran (no matter how little coverage it got in a UK context) was positive and did win, but misconceptions are still out there.
From my experiences thus far, I believe that Leave voters fall into three broad camps: those who were never touched by the Remain campaign; those who voted for a series of promises; and those who reject international cooperation within the EU and want to see sovereignty as close to us as possible.
All three will be playing close attention as the details of Brexit emerge. All three want to see a party and a government that wants to get the best deal for Scotland. And all three are groups that we cannot afford to ignore in our journey towards independence.
Personally, I have met many Leave leaners who came round to the idea of Remain, just as we all know No voters who are now considering independence. Shutting them out in the cold and saying “No, we’re not interested in what you have to say” is a surefire way to alienate a chunk of Scotland’s society.
So, Leave voters, I want to hear what you have to say, so please, keep in touch. The journey towards independence is an important one.