Winning Minds

This won’t be a particularly wordy or thoughtful post, because I’m tired and not full of enthusiasm at the moment. I’m sensing a general fatigue has come over many of us, so I’ll keep this short and pointy.

I voted No in 2014 for a couple of reasons – the main one being that I feared Scotland would be out of the EU. Now that we really are on our way out and I can see the damage up close, my eyes are fully open to the possibilities for Scotland taking its place as an independent country within the European Union (or least EFTA). Not only can we become independent, we can become spectacular, and I truly believe we can succeed, which is why I want to see independence in my lifetime. And I believe I will.

To help fulfil this wish, I want to share some insight into my experience as a No voter. I hope these points are received in the spirit in which they are given – with a resounding Yes vote as the ultimate goal. I’ve seen quite a few assumptions about No voters since moving over to Yes, and I fear these might be holding us back. Again, this is my experience. Your mileage may vary. But perhaps it will get us talking about ways to move forward when it comes to convincing others to vote Yes when the time comes.

  1. Not all No voters are unionists. I’m certainly not. The political construct of the UK didn’t factor into my vote at all, which is probably why I’ve been able to change my mind. I don’t believe many true unionists would ever change their minds, so worrying about them is pointless. If you want to change minds, target No voters like me. We do not have an emotional attachment to the Union and we’re happy to be convinced.
  2. Prominent No voters did not influence my decision in any way. As I said before, it was almost completely down to the EU for me, so anything JK Rowling said didn’t matter one bit. Furthermore, Eddie Izzard’s love bomb made no difference. There is no point wasting time pointing out that these celebrities are wrong because it doesn’t matter. For many, they are not mind changers. People may agree with them, but they are most likely not people who are willing to be convinced.
  3. Project fear didn’t scare me… much. Yes, there was a niggling worry that it could all go pear-shaped if we left, but I *knew* that being out of the EU would be catastrophic for Scotland – and to be fair, nearly every fear I had then is coming to pass now.  But the warnings from Alistair Darling, Gordon Brown, and Jim Murphy had no bearing on my vote. And that stupid Vow? I couldn’t even tell you what it said.
  4. This point is going to be hard to hear, so please remember that I’m trying to help. The Yes campaign didn’t do the best job it could to convince people like me. There was nothing emotional about the way I voted – I only wanted facts. I wanted a definitive answer on currency, a central bank, how we’d manage monetary policy, and the EU. You may argue these questions were answered, but I can assure you I wasn’t satisfied with the official information put forth. Again, I’m not trying to be difficult – but if we are to win we must make sure that any fears people have about things like pensions, the EU, currency, banking policy, etc are alleviated completely, and answers given to satisfy sceptical rather than already-accepting minds.
  5. This point you might like better than the last (it’s closely related) – I wanted to vote Yes. I really did. Voting No was horrible because I could see that the Yes side were voting for hope and for something better. I wanted very much to join in, but I couldn’t because I was not convinced we’d be ok. In fact, I thought we’d be worse off. It wasn’t because I didn’t love or believe in Scotland. It wasn’t because I didn’t think Scotland was capable. It was because I didn’t think there was a coherent plan for how to move forward outside of the EU.

Since moving from No to Yes, I have been so warmly welcomed by indy supporters, and for that I’m grateful. Brexit was a hard kick in the teeth, and I have very much appreciated exchanging the fear and bleakness of Brexit for the hope of a better future for Scotland. I want to help any way I can, so please – ask me anything. I will be honest. And I’ll do everything I can to make sure we win this time.

39 thoughts

  1. I really appreciated your thoughts on being a No voter. I completely understand your stance then and now. All Yesers & Nos should read and share as there are many out there like you. Again. Thank you.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Well said. I agree with even the hard bits. We need to get the positive messages out to, as you say, people thinking like you were. Sooner the better too as Westminster are desperate to use our assets and take away our parliament.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent thanks.

    When I was canvassing in the Borders, it was clear to me that many many No voters would have liked to vote Yes, but were held back by exactly the concerns you define in your blog. It seems to me that the 2014 referendum was sprung on the SNP by their unexpected majority in the 2011 elections. They (and the wider Yes campaign) weren’t really ready. With the policy work now being done by Common Weal, by the SNP Growth Commission, and by the Scottish Independence Convention, I hope that next time we will be ready with good answers.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Perhaps it was a bit rushed, I’d not thought about that, but I had worried the Brexit deadline might push things along too quickly this time. We need to be ready. The good news is we won’t be asking people to give up the status quo this time. It’s gone.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I’m an SNP member. Alistair is spot on. The 2011 majority was totally unexpected – a mathematical fluke due to the fact the Scottish Parliament electoral system is not perfectly proportional. That bounced us into a premature referendum.

        I was at National Council (which is the quarterly not-public policy forum). Remember support for independence was 30ish percent. SNP membership was a fifth of what it a is now. I’d say there was serious apprehension then about the referendum. About the numbers of people we needed to convert. The only possible way was to reach beyond the Party and snowball it. Which was done. But which also ceded control to Yes Scotland. Which then was a bit unfocused and lacklustre.

        Compared to then we are in an immensely stronger position.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. I tend to agree with point 4. I spent a lot of time delivering the Yes newspapers but I did wonder if they would sway anybody. They were pretty poor – £5000 better off but so vague; oh look, the Proclaimers back indy, that’ll help. I think Yes gave up on them in the end as the number of pages got fewer and fewer. We can’t fudge the really important stuff this time. The SNP need to get their act together. The PPB on the eve of the GE was cringeworthy. Give people some facts and treat them like adults. Talk ourselves up because nobody else will!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve been really pleased with Nicola Sturgeon since the EU ref, and I was not a fan before that. Perhaps too much is being put on the SNP. Sure, they are pro-Indy and must ultimately provide a government plan, but we can’t leave all of this up to them. I’m just not sure what to do. Going along to Yes meetings sounds great, and I look forward to it. But at the end of the day, it’s individuals that will do the heavy lifting when it comes to convincing our friends and neighbours. We just need the hard data to do it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You might want to look at the new group Scottish Covenant Association. It’s brand new so teething problems going on with new members but I’m sure that’ll sort itself out. Its purpose is to get signatures throughout the whole of Scotland, on paper to give the government an indication of Yes supporters. They are in the early stages of organising this with lawyers etc to make sure it’s all above board and acceptable.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Lovely wee article! Any future referendum is likely to have the same sticking points (minus the EU security) and it seemed that currency was possibly the biggest issue, so would it have helped if the Scottish government simply announced to drop the pound and either pursue our own currency or adopt the euro (assuming EU membership)? I got the impression that changing away from the pound would be a deal breaker for a lot of people and it really spoiled the debate constantly flogging the same point. For me, I would switch currency in a heartbeat for independence and I couldn’t understand why our currency would deter people in a decision that was so much bigger.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A pegged currency could easily solve this issue, and I truly hope it’s what the SNP decide to do. I believe we need a central bank and the ability to set our own monetary policy. This will take time, though. But if I know it’s coming, I’m sure I could easily sell the idea to others.

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  5. Very good article. I particularly agree with points 1, 3 and 4.

    In terms of the Vow, I’ve never really believed it changed anyone’s mind. It may have solidified thoughts in some folk’s minds if they were wavering but were still likely to vote No, but I don’t believe for a second that anyone saw that and thought “yep, that’s it, I’m voting No instead.” I think too many of us overplay its importance, partly because it allows us to blame the Daily Record instead of ourselves and our failure to convince enough folk.

    And in terms of the fourth point, I think we were too ready to go “we’ve answered that question, so stop pretending we haven’t.” Clearly our answers weren’t satisfactory for folk. We can blame the media for telling people these questions were still “unanswered”, but the frustrations I’ve heard expressed to me personally by non-unionist No-voters since the referendum do not sound like people duped by the media – they were and are valid concerns. I think some people perhaps saw our desire to have a Sterling Area as a lack of confidence in the Scottish economy, despite what we said to the contrary. And a fair few of our plans did seem a little made up on the hoof, or “it’ll be alright on the night”.

    Overall, people need to stop thinking the 55% of No voters were stupid – if you’ve not been convinced by the argument for change, then voting to reject that change is a rational response. Arguably, it is the only rational response. We’ll win when we convince a majority that independence will benefit them – and that means repeating and refining our responses to people’s questions until they’re satisfied with the answers.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m very happy to read your comment because it sums up a lot of the concerns I had – especially the bit about it being alright on the night. The lack of a plan for setting monetary policy bothered me. Why be independent if the BOE still sets your interest rates? What do we do if we need to adjust those to control inflation? Or even worse, deflation?

      I do think Yes will have an easier time of it now. We are not asking anyone to give up the status quo. There isn’t really a leap of faith to be made. With a coherent and credible plan to address things like currency, the EU, the economy, and infrastructure (we will need it when people start migrating from the rUK), we will win.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I think that there are some very valuable lessons for the Yes campaign to take away from this. It’s great to hear from those who voted No last time, because it allows us to find out why – and what we need to do to convince others to vote Yes next time. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. For over 40 years I’ve believed that Scotland should be self-governing. But could it survive? The official line was that it couldn’t. All the politicians apart from the cranks in the SNP said that it couIdn’t. There was no real economy. Everything was run from outside Scotland. Were they right?

    Then in 2014, I found other sources of information on the internet that indicated otherwise and they made a lot more sense. They said that independence wouldn’t be easy but it was certainly possible. Then I began to see that there was a lot of misinformation coming from the Unionist side. Civil servants became political. The BBC will never have my trust again.

    The only thing I worry about Scotland being an independent country is, with the exception of the SNP and Greens, the quality of the opposition parties. I assume that the SNP will become the Scottish Labour party (a real one this time) but we need an effective opposition and the quality of the current Tories and Lib Dems is dire.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Your concern is super valid! Just seeing what having no effective opposition has allowed the Tories to do is terrifying. I don’t see Scotland becoming a one-party state, but I do wonder what will become of parties who rely on backing from the south.

      I will admit I worried a bit about the Scottish economy, but from a different perspective. For Scotland to flourish, there had to be a plan in place to protect and nurture a fledgling economy – especially if the WM threats to make trade difficult came to pass. I didn’t see one. I have absolutely no doubt, though, that Scotland has the foundations to become one of the best economies in Europe.

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  8. Thanks for that. Useful and interesting.

    “I wanted a definitive answer on currency, a central bank, how we’d manage monetary policy, and the EU.”

    I think the difficulty here was there _could_ be no definitive answers on these. They’d very much depend on the policies of whichever government voters elected after Indy.

    The SNP tried to cover all of this in the White Paper, but had to tread a very careful line between what the options were and what they, the SNP, would champion. Even then, they were criticised for over-emphasising the SNP-favoured policies, even by supporters of Yes. And also then criticised by BT fro not being definitive enough.

    I can’t see a solution to this one second time around, either. There can be no absolutes without them being party-political by necessity, and if they are that then they risk alienating voters who don’t like those particular policies or party.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had a twitter chat with someone who said exactly the same thing this morning, and I agree up to a point. There are institutions (like the BOE) that must exist outside of government, irrespective of political parties.

      I’m a strong believer in countries controlling their monetary policy. They currency union idea brought out last time was not acceptable to me. But maybe I was wrong. I’m happy to be convinced otherwise if there is another way.

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      1. Very good! They look great. I really like the one explaining what’s devolved and what’s not. Just as the EU has taken some of the blame for Westminster’s policies (which led to Brexit), Holyrood is sometimes accused of making decisions that are reserved to Westminster. I’ve no doubt this confusion hurt the Yes campaign in 2014.

        I have a confession, and it’s not easy to make – up until recently, I didn’t know the difference myself, and I’m still unsure about some devolved powers. Having watched BBC politics programmes (including the recent GE debates), I noticed many newsreaders and interviewers didn’t know the difference either. To me, it’s one of the most important agendas Yes needs to push – understanding what Scotland is able to do now and what it could do in future. A lot of the can’t-do attitude comes from not understanding the powers Scotland has right now. This also plays into the Great Repeal Bill – explaining the threat when the powers we do have at the moment are taken back by Westminster. This is a huge motivator for voting Yes!

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  9. Thank you for taking the time and thought in this. I don’t think you will find many Indy supporters taking issue, or disagreeing. However, I do think there is a fundamental difference between your mindset, and other die hard No voters. I reckon there is at least 30% of the population that simply cannot be persuaded. They support the monarchy, and idea of ‘Great’ Britain. They believe great refers to an all conquering Empire, when in fact it denotes the biggest island.
    You are clearly saying you have an open mind, but the info has to be better. It really doesn’t matter what info is presented to the 30%, because it’s irrelevant to them.
    Scotland is a wealthy country, that could easily flourish independent. Let’s hope we get there before we are sucked into the vortex of Brexit.
    You are the demographic we need to convince, and I think we have come a long way since 2014, we just need the open minds to get us over the line.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You’re right – and I don’t think we should bother with true diehard unionists. It will upset them and us, and it takes up finite energy. I do not want to live in Brexity Trumpland and will do what I can to prevent it happening!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! It’s an interesting take on the subject, and I hope you will get involved in your local Yes campaign. The more former No voters who get involved and tell us what their thinking was, the better we can make the next campaign. Welcome!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and for being so candid. I can’t disagree with any of the points. No. 4 is perhaps the most prominent. Many Indy supporters have done a lot of reflection and that currency issue comes out. As does the media and BBC which has lost all credibility with me and many others from the Indy camp.

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    1. Thanks for taking time to read it. I didn’t believe the BBC was doing a poor job, and then I saw them offering ‘balanced’ information from people saying Brexit would be great. They often let this nonsense go unchallenged. When Question Time became The UKIP Show, I stopped going to them for news and information.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I don’t mean to be rude but your article brings up a few good points whilst for me missing a category of “No voter / potential Yes voter” for whom I think there will never be quite enough information to finally convince them to vote Yes.
    People who “want to vote Yes but” and who in all probability would find life in an independent Scotland not a great deal different from their current lifestyle.
    They are just too comforted by the devil they know and too focused on the details they can’t or won’t know unless we get a Yes vote.
    Regardless of the level and quality of information that is provided they’ll still want more and better.
    At some stage you have to have faith in the potential of the people of Scotland to come good and fend for themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I understand what you’re saying. I was a no until Brexit. The SNP’s willingness to fight for the EU convinced me to vote yes, so that was enough information to overcome my objection to independence in 2014. People will have had different reasons for saying no – and you’re right – they can’t all be addressed in such detail as to satisfy every single one. But the detail doesn’t have to be all-encompassing. It just has to be enough. And without the status quo to fall back on, providing enough should be a straightforward task.

      And you’re not being rude at all. If we don’t discuss this stuff like grownups, we’re never going to get anywhere. Thank you for taking time to read and share your thoughts. It’s very much appreciated, even if we don’t agree on every little thing.

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  13. Well, at least you’ve changed your mind 👍 The worries you had about currency, etc are understandable and had logic. What I’ve learned is, that’s the point. The oppo will use your own doubts to ingrain your own fear. Personally, I can never find any well thought out arguments from WM. Watch them, their only form of debate is attack. (People are afraid of their own power. However, every day they become less so.) We’re living under a regime in the UK right now that has no clarity of thought for the general population. Their raison detre is only to provide to maintain the powerful. Scotland’s people do not benefit from our own input. Soon, we will.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As much as I dislike negativity, I am beginning to think it might be time for Yes to use some. Brexit is going to be catastrophic for Scotland, and that’s not an opinion. The people of Scotland need to understand what we’re in for if we stay shackled to Brexit Britain. For the other side, there is no longer a ‘let’s keep things as they are’ argument. Last time, it was up to Yes to sell their argument. This time, it should be no’s turn.

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  14. I voted yes and will again. I think we should go the whole hog and join the EU as an Independent country adopting the Euro as our currency, but what about the armed forces? What will happen to all the Scots serving in the army just now for example? It would no longer be the British army! Will Scotland have an Army? Just curious really. Does anyone know?

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