Support for independence has never been this high before. And when you consider what lengths the UK establishment went to and what they threw at us with their unrelenting negativity, their manipulation of everything from the international money markets to the output of the British Broadcasting Corporation it is remarkable that so many voters refused to wilt.
Analysis of the referendum result shows that it was the elderly and the ‘well to do’ that were the mainstay of the No vote. Edinburgh’s conservative financial services sector, Aberdeen’s oil industry, the professional classes and rural Scotland all rejected self-determination.
On the other hand, the poorest urban Scots living in some of the country’s most deprived conditions and those with young families showed the greatest defiance of what the UK state threw at them.
Notwithstanding the No vote, Scotland is changed forever by this result. The Westminster parties must deliver extra powers for Holyrood or face an independence vote landslide next time and they know it.
And the extraordinary success of the biggest grassroots political campaign in Scottish history has led more than 50,000 people to join the three independence parties. In five days following the referendum, 2,500 people applied to join the Scottish Socialist Party. So much for political parties being dead! That claim is exposed today as starkly as the one that earlier claimed ‘public meetings are dead’, as thousands of people packed into village halls and community centres the length and breadth of Scotland, night after night.
The Scottish Socialist Party has never seen such a level of interest before. No socialist party in these isles ever has. We spent £1,900 on postage alone sending out 2,500 membership packs. (Financial donations to help offset our costs are of course always welcome.) And we are proud to have responded to each application within 48 hours.
SSP members in Edinburgh, already exhausted by their efforts to get out the Yes vote and up all night at the Ingliston count, responded wonderfully to the call for volunteers to help with ‘Operation Welcome’. Our local branches are now following up each new member with an invitation to get involved in SSP activities.
The new political situation poses many new challenges for the independence movement. How do we keep the issue uppermost in the public mind? Some people have called for the broad independence movement to all vote for the SNP in next years Westminster elections for example.
The SSP will not do so. Our central objective remains the building of a mass socialist party in Scotland capable of leading the working class to an independent socialist Scotland – a modern democratic republic. On the other hand, there has been talk on social media about standing ‘Independence Alliance’ candidates in all Scottish seats at that election.
The SSP will of course explore all such suggestions as may emerge in the weeks to come and continue to work alongside all others in a genuine broad, multi-party ‘alliance’. But we will not abandon our central mission of building that mass socialist party.
The SSP is also surprised to hear of socialists joining the SNP. Our advice to socialists in this country today is, as it always has been, ‘If you are a socialist you should join a socialist party, not develop illusions that non-socialist/capitalist parties will advance our cause.’
The SNP is not a socialist party and, to be fair, has never claimed to be. This week, another one of its MSPs John Wilson from Central Scotland left the party over its pro-NATO stance. So we re-iterate the only socialist party in Scotland with the experience and the capacity to attract mass support happens to be its most successful one, the Scottish Socialist Party. That is clearly the conclusion another 2,500 people reached last week.
This time next year we may find none of the extra powers promised by Gordon Brown in the last ten days of the referendum have materialised.
The Tories may be back in power and conducting an ‘In/Out’ referendum on Europe. In such circumstances Jim Sillars has suggested making the 2016 Holyrood elections the ‘independence elections’.
His plan sees the SSP, Greens and SNP making it clear that if these three parties emerge with an overall majority we will immediately begin negotiating the terms of Scotland’s independence.
The 2015 Westminster elections and the Holyrood elections of the following year therefore offer the independence movement in Scotland the chance to raise the issue afresh, in new political circumstances, and show that the important matter of self-determination has indeed been deferred and not defeated.