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