“Don’t Write Off the North-East” – Doug Daniel

After last year’s General Election, there were suggestions that the Yes movement needed to forget about areas like Aberdeenshire, Angus and Moray, and focus instead on the urban working-class areas that were more favourable to us in 2014. It was a forgivable over-reaction to the shock of seeing a dozen Tories win seats, but unfortunately this idea just isn’t going away.
Activists in these areas – some of the most experienced in the movement, with organisational skills honed over multiple winning campaigns – have good reason to feel perturbed when the idea is raised. After all, it was those very areas that kept the independence flag flying through the 1980s and early 1990s, providing the SNP with all its seats in the UK Parliament.
Even when the party doubled their seats in 1997, it was again the kind of rural constituencies that some say should be written off and abandoned to the Tories – Perth, North Tayside and Galloway & Upper Nithsdale. Urban areas didn’t start leaving Labour until the 2003 Scottish Election, and even then, they were in the North East – Aberdeen North and Dundee East.
Any strategy that writes off big chunks of Scotland, especially ones with such a strong history of backing pro-independence parties, is flawed. We may not have made a strong enough case to convince the North East as a whole to vote Yes in 2014, but that’s no reason to assume the case can’t be made – if anything, it shows we need to reassess whether the last campaign focused too much on certain areas to the detriment of others.
A referendum is not an election. “Core vote” strategies may work in a First-Past-The-Post election where you can get a majority on under 40% of the vote – but nothing short of 50%+1 will do for us. We may have fallen just 5% short last time, but that doesn’t give us the luxury of being able to pick and choose who we try to convert.
And let’s be clear here – we do need to convert folk. There’s a popular idea that we can win the next referendum primarily by getting non-voters from 2014 out to vote. Even ignoring that planning for a turnout of over 85% is unwise to say the least, it seems ambitious – naïve, even – to assume the next referendum campaign will see non-voters suddenly coming out to vote, when the biggest game-changer in Scottish political history failed to inspire them last time. If anyone thinks there just wasn’t enough effort put in to get out the vote on the 18th September 2014, they can’t have been out getting soaked while chapping doors at 9:30pm.
Scotland is an incredibly diverse country, but the arguments for independence are as true for the North East as anywhere else – we just need the right message. Huge swathes of Scotland have been ignored by Westminster, and if independence isn’t about putting that right, then why are we even bothering? It’s about improving all of Scotland, and for folk to believe we’re serious about that, we need to campaign the same way – you don’t convince folk in the North East that they won’t be ignored after independence with a campaign that ignores them before independence.
Ask yourself which scenario is most likely to provide the best platform for taking Scotland forward after a Yes vote in the next referendum: huge Yes majorities in a few densely-populated urban centres outnumbering significant No majorities everywhere else; or solid Yes majorities (or as close as possible) across Scotland? Once you’ve done that, ask yourself which scenario is more likely to come true if we write off certain areas before the campaign has even begun.
Every area of Scotland backed devolution – we can do the same with independence.
13/08/2018 – by Doug Daniel