Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Independence 'an opportunity we shouldn't pass up'

The view from Inverness Castle, following the River Ness south
In one of the major streets of Inverness is the Yes campaign office. Prominent with its bright white ‘YES’ on a blue background, it’s hard to miss, and inside, every surface is covered in brochures, leaflets, bowls of badges, piles of car stickers and eager staff wanting to chat to visitors. Almost as significantly, it is positioned right by one of the busiest bus stops in the town. While I’m inside, I can hear people talking about the campaign as they wait for the bus to take them off to work.
‘It’s why we chose this spot,’ a man in the office tells me, ‘it’s fascinating hearing people interact and discuss it [the referendum]’. Seated on the bus stop bench, an elderly woman is chatting to a young tattooed man in a hi-vis jacket; they both seem convinced Yes voters. Inside, a volunteer is collecting badges and literature for a day’s campaigning; it feels like a professional operation yet both are volunteers. It’s a bit of contrast to the No office round the corner, up a street towards the castle, not the back of beyond but lacking comparative footfall. Peering inside earlier, I could see towers full of literature still encased in bubble wrap. On their window, big Yes stickers have been stuck over their slogans. There is something inadequate about the office; perhaps a sense of complacency.

A Yes campaign newspaper
‘They don’t have to persuade anybody,’ the chap in a faded blue shirt inside the Yes office tells me. ‘That’s what we’ve got to do. The No campaign are paying students, and for their accommodation, to distribute their material, we don’t.’ He says it’s well known and noticed around Inverness, but it’s not a claim I can verify at the moment. Inverness, though, is noticeably more pro-independence than the other places I have recently visited. More stickers tagged to bus-stops, posters strapped to lampposts, Saltires painted on guitars.
The guitar belongs to Willie Campbell, who is in town tonight. The musician, once with indie band Astrid – described by the writer Kevin MacNeil as ‘beloved, would’ve-could’ve-should’ve-made-it-massive-band… the greatest pop group the North of Scotland ever produced’ before imploding in ‘rancour’n’remorse’ – is playing at a couple of venues; I catch him at Lauders in Church Street. He performs with verve, singing his own songs, along with a smattering of covers, including a Neil Young number. He’s a very keen supporter of independence.
‘I think this is an enormous opportunity and we shouldn’t pass it up.’ I ask him why he thinks the demand for independence has come now.
‘It started with the creation of the Scottish parliament, and the SNP, slowly getting more and more power and doing well with it. The SNP have gone more left wing, and certainly more so than the government in Westminster.’
He thinks the result will be very close but hopes a late surge from those who haven’t voted before, particularly the young, will swing it towards a yes vote.
‘This is engaging people that are not normally engaged in politics’ he tells me as we chat outside the venue, before he has to dash off to another gig. ‘Hopefully thousands of people who wouldn’t normally vote will turn up.’
And he adds: ‘One thing that really annoys me is people assume that if you are voting Yes, you are voting for Alex Salmond. My hope is after a Yes vote, a strong Labour Party would emerge. That would get my vote.’
The last Labour government ‘were a big disappointment’ he says. It’s a sentiment I hear repeatedly.
A newspaper I picked up in the Inverness Yes office has a ‘Yes’ and ‘No’, what happens next column. The box at the top of the ‘No’ column reads ‘Tory government at Westminster we haven’t voted for’.

Another Tory government the first risk of a No vote, warns literature
‘The Tory party is toxic,’ Doug Haywood, a Radical Independence activist in Aberdeen tells me. ‘Very few people trust a Tory politician. If you tell people a Tory policy, without the brand, they might agree with it, as soon as you add the word Tory, they’re against it.’
Back in the Yes office, the man believes the desire for independence has always been there, but since the creation of the parliament at Holyrood, more and more Scottish people have seen it can be done while at the same time seeing politics in Westminster drift away from what they think is important.'There is still a lot of resentment towards the Thatcher government up here. People like Brown and Darling failed to achieve what people hoped as the Labour Party shifted further and further to the right. And Blair really lost the Labour Party for many up here.' 
And he is another convinced there will be a large surge for yes. ’If you’d asked me a few weeks ago I would have been unsure but now, I'm more confident. It's much closer. Particularly amongst the young, there's a lot of excitement and enthusiasm.'

No comments:

Post a Comment

The comments expressed do not necessarily represent the views of the blog.