What the Yes campaign is doing wrong

Both sides of the Scottish independence campaign have boasted that their movements are non-party political with people from all different political backgrounds working together to achieve a common goal, whether that be Scottish independence or retaining a place within the United Kingdom. However, among the many messages of the Yes campaign there is one that is banded about most often, and that is the one of the democratic deficit – we will be governed by the party which we vote for, so no more will Scotland be subjected to years of Tory rule, as Scotland does not vote Tory. The Yes campaign’s scrutiny of the Conservative party and their policies and any related ideology, particularly UKIP, has been used as a reason to support independence – if you do not want to be governed by the Conservatives again, vote Yes. Also, if you look at the parties who are on the Yes side of the campaign they are all left leaning at the very least, apart from the Scottish Democratic Alliance – albeit they are a minor party.

The problem with this approach by Yes campaign is that not every Scot is left wing nor Tory hating nor Socialist, and by Yes supporters bringing party politics into the campaign, it will and is alienating would-be independence supporters. Can a Scottish Conservative not believe that an independent Scotland can benefit them also?

There is no voice for anyone on the right of politics (that does not just mean Conservatives) from the independence campaign so these people must choose between their ideals and beliefs which they hold dear or independence, some who are life long supporters. This should not be the case and is not the way to win a referendum. Whenever I have mentioned this in the past it has been disregarded with no explanation given, so I put this question to Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and she replied by reiterating the democratic argument that Scotland will get who Scotland votes for, then continuing to make clear her dismay at past and present Conservative policies and, finishing by calling those who support both independence and centre-right politics as ‘brave’. Thus acknowledging the cleavage between the Yes campaign and Conservative voters, but failing to regard it as an unfortunate circumstance or concern that must be rectified, but accepted its existence rather flippantly.

So where does someone who is to the right of the political spectrum, or in fact right of left, fit into an independent Scotland? Effectively, Yes supporters are saying, vote independence for a left wing and/or Socialist Scotland and for anyone opposed to this, there is no place for you. This again, will not gain Yes votes. If things were the other way around and Scotland was a right leaning country which never voted for those of the centre left or left, would Yes supporters who are mostly left wing still support independence knowing that they would probably never gain power for the foreseeable future, at least? Would every other argument for Scottish independence be enough for them knowing that no government will ever represent them? In a way they are imposing a political agenda and on a country that is not even born yet…

Furthermore, this anti-Conservative argument, and UKIP for that matter, is nonsensical. When Yes campaigners boast that voting for independence will liberate the Scots from Conservative government’s because we don’t vote for them, then by the same logic, an independent Scotland will also never vote Green, Lib Dem or Socialist either. In fact, there is more chance of the Scottish Conservatives forming a government than there is of any of these other parties put together, as they have more MSP’s than the aforementioned parties, but this seems to have been either forgotten or just ignored as it does not fit into the Yes campaigns left wing, Socialist, or Social Democratic vision for their new nation. Just as it was claimed that there was no place for UKIP in Scotland, many activists and politicians, Yes campaigners among them, were proven wrong. With the emergence of UKIP in Scotland, and by acknowledging the Scottish Conservative voters, the Yes campaign should realise that their anti-Tory/UKIP stance will not lead to yes votes from this section of the electorate and, in a referendum where ever vote will count, refraining from scrutinising and alienating these people should be a priority.

To win this referendum, the 13.9% of the Scottish electorate that voted for the Conservatives in the last Scottish election in 2011 and the almost 140 000 who voted for UKIP in the European elections must be shown that there are numerous visions for a future Scotland and campaigners must put aside their ideologies and welcome those from across the political spectrum. Furthermore, it needs to focus on democracy and not party politics and to show that an independent Scotland can be democratically competitive and their vision can cater for all.

3 responses to “What the Yes campaign is doing wrong”

  1. John Evans says:

    I enjoyed your article Siobhan. I agree that there is certainly a strong social democratic vibe to the Yes Campaign and many who support it are left-leaning. I don’t, however, think the SNP is so left-wing that there would be no place for right-leaning citizens in and independent Scotland.

    While they frame themselves as centre-left, many of their policies are more similar to a centre-right approach. They don’t back the 50p tax rate, the financial transaction tax or the living wage and many of their policies that seem lefist (free tuition, freezing council tax) are aimed at middle-class voters.

    People leaning to the right may well feel marginalised from a prospective independent Scotland, but I don’t think that the SNP are the trendy lefties they’re often portrayed as being.

  2. Tom Elliot Roberts says:

    There is a right-wing pro-independence campaign group: http://www.wealthynation.org/ However, it is very much a minority voice within the wider movement.

  3. Siobhan S.L Silburn says:

    Thanks for your comment, Tom. I’m aware of Wealthy Nation but unfortunately it is not a part of the official campaign led by Yes Scotland, which I believe it should be part of, rather than having to be something separate from the official campaign which, consequently has led to the marginalisation of WN.