Time to show the door to the lu­natic fringe killing the in­de­pen­dence move­ment with its bile

Sunday Herald - - GUEST COMMENT - BY ROSS GREER MSP Ross Greer is a Green MSP and was the com­mu­ni­ties co-or­di­na­tor of Yes Scot­land

IT has been a tor­rid few weeks for the Yes move­ment. The deeply per­sonal at­tacks on good peo­ple do not make the cam­paign for in­de­pen­dence look like some­thing a new ac­tivist would get in­volved with or that a float­ing voter would even give the time of day to. It would be a ter­ri­ble mis­take to pre­tend this is all new, though. It is only the lat­est, an­gri­est round of be­hav­iour from a fringe who should have been called out, and if nec­es­sary cast out, a long time ago for their ac­tions.

These con­flicts of­ten seem to boil down to a deep di­vi­sion be­tween those who see in­de­pen­dence as the end goal in it­self and those for whom it’s a means to an end and part of a much big­ger de­bate about the kind of world we want to live in. The is­sue isn’t po­lit­i­cal pri­or­i­ties, though – de­bat­ing those pri­or­i­ties is healthy. The is­sue is be­hav­iour.

Take the ex­am­ple of what has been hurled at Cat Boyd [a prom­i­nent Yes ac­tivist who co-founded the left-wing Rad­i­cal In­de­pen­dence Cam­paign] since she voted for Labour in June. From the hys­ter­i­cal, vit­ri­olic re­ac­tions you would have thought she per­son­ally stuffed enough bal­lot boxes to lose the SNP 21 seats. Those losses were, in fact, a mix of the in­evitable and the party’s own fault.

The at­tacks on Boyd have sat along­side full-blown de­nun­ci­a­tions of “fem­i­nists”, the “LGBT move­ment” and “so­cial jus­tice war­riors”, and calls for “their” ex­clu­sion from the move­ment.

Coin­ci­dently, I’m sure these com­ments come over­whelm­ingly from older, white men. I’d be fas­ci­nated to hear their strat­egy for win­ning next time with­out women, the LGBT com­mu­nity, any­one suf­fer­ing from in­equal­ity, or their friends and al­lies. When they tell you that equal­ity and so­cial jus­tice mat­ter, just not as much as in­de­pen­dence, what they’re re­ally say­ing is they’ll throw you un­der the bus with­out a sec­ond thought if the big­otry or bul­ly­ing di­rected your way is com­ing from one of their own.

Who ex­actly does that per­suade and what does it say about the kind of Scot­land they want?

The other re­ally no­tice­able pat­tern has been that those lead­ing the hordes against Boyd and oth­ers were nowhere to be seen in 2014. While they were sit­ting at their key­boards froth­ing bile, those they were and still are cas­ti­gat­ing for “not re­ally be­ing pro-in­de­pen­dence” were out ev­ery day knock­ing on doors, hold­ing public meet­ings, or­gan­is­ing hun­dreds of new vol­un­teers and ac­tu­ally win­ning Yes votes.

I’m quite fa­mil­iar with this. Hav­ing left a univer­sity course I’d just started to work full-time at Yes Scot­land, as well as run­ning the Green Yes cam­paign, these “zoomers” still reg­u­larly ac­cuse me of be­ing some­thing other than an in­de­pen­dence sup­porter.

Given my role in Yes Scot­land’s com­mu­ni­ties team I met more Yes vol­un­teers than al­most any­one else dur­ing the ref­er­en­dum. Rarely did these ob­nox­ious key­board war­riors ap­pear in the flesh and rarer still did they do so to come and knock on doors and meet ac­tual vot­ers. It was typ­i­cally only to get a photograph with a high-pro­file guest.

In hind­sight, that was a bless­ing. It is quite clear that this fringe has noth­ing civil to say to other Yes cam­paign- ers never mind un­aligned or soft No vot­ers. In the ab­sence of a cam­paign since, though, their non­sense has come to in­creas­ingly dom­i­nate the Yes sphere and de­fine us all. We need to deal with that, not ac­cept it as just a “colour­ful” el­e­ment of our move­ment.

This ex­clu­sive, ag­gres­sive neg­a­tiv­ity isn’t just off-putting to vot­ers, it’s push­ing out de­cent, hard­work­ing Yes cam­paign­ers who sim­ply can­not bear be­ing associated with those who scream “quis­ling” at tea­cakes.

Their cult-like be­hav­iour makes the Yes move­ment look less like a for­ward-fac­ing cam­paign for a new na­tion and more a dwin­dling band of hard­lin­ers af­firm­ing that “they were there” in 2014 and launch­ing re­lent­less at­tacks on those who don’t live up to their con­spir­acy-tinged idea of what an in­de­pen­dence sup­porter is.

Some would have us be kind to them. What kind of hypocrisy is it to pro­claim that we must all be po­lite to the big­ots but not tell those same big­ots to cut their vit­riol for the sake of those they are at­tack­ing?

The SNP lead­er­ship know the dam­age this fringe does to in­de­pen­dence it­self and to their party but they have, with a few hon­ourable ex­cep­tions, stead­fastly turned a blind eye to it for years. Al­though frus­tra­tion with this be­hav­iour is wide­spread, only their party lead­er­ship have the po­lit­i­cal strength and cred­i­bil­ity with the zoomers them­selves to sort it. So why aren’t they?

The Yes move­ment needs a hard re­set. If we’re to be a move­ment which can take most of a na­tion with us, it’s time to show the door to those who think misog­yny, ho­mo­pho­bia, trans­pho­bia and vi­cious at­tacks are a price worth pay­ing if they come from “one of ours”.

Big­ots and bul­lies aren’t my peo­ple and they shouldn’t be yours if you be­lieve in a bet­ter Scot­land.

In 2014, we built a move­ment which was hope­ful, op­ti­mistic and open to all. Every­one who be­lieved Scot­land’s fu­ture should be in our hands was wel­come. A nasty few have abused that wel­come, push­ing oth­ers out of the move­ment with their be­hav­iour and dam­ag­ing our col­lec­tive rep­u­ta­tion.

If we’re to live as if we’re in the early days of a bet­ter na­tion, we need to deal with this.

Photograph: Shut­ter­stock

Ross Greer MSP says that ‘rarely did these ob­nox­ious key­board war­riors ap­pear in the flesh and rarer still did they do so to come and knock on doors and meet ac­tual vot­ers’

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