The SNP make great play of Labour’s cooperation with the Tories and the Lib Dems as part of Better Together. I see why they do it: the Tories are less popular than Labour in Scotland, so tying them together has some strategic logic. And yes, those parties have all formed UK governments I broadly disapprove of, in addition to their support for Westminster.
However, treating the No campaign as a unified block implies that the Yes campaign should be treated the same way. And because the SNP are the largest organisation supporting a yes vote, that blurs the boundaries between the party and Yes Scotland even further.
For better or worse, that kind of thinking now means the whole of the Yes campaign will be seen as pro-NATO rather than pro the people deciding on NATO membership after independence has been achieved. This is bad news.
But it also allows the No campaign to lump all us independence supporters in together as well, to treat us as a homogenous group. That can’t help: for one thing, it’d mean we’re all on side with perjurers. You don’t have to be Alastair Campbell to see the downside there. This would also make me indistinguishable from the independent (ex-Tory but pro-indy) Midlothian councillor Peter de Vink, who’s rabidly anti-renewables, or from the grasping and anti-women Alex Neil. I don’t want to be associated with the SNP’s policies on the economy, social justice, or the environment. Yes Scotland isn’t associated with them – it doesn’t have a policy agenda beyond independence – but this kind of rhetoric undermines that argument.
It also means that my previous mix of feelings when I see cybernat bullying on Twitter has changed. Before, I felt sad to see the tone lowered, but during an election Greens were competing for votes with the SNP a little cynical part of me hoped there might be political advantage in it for us. Now we’re all trying to to get a Yes vote (I include only those Greens who support independence here – perhaps about two thirds of the party, roughly) I feel much more aggrieved. I worry that the “ure no true scotsman if you dont vote yes” approach could drag the whole campaign down.
Now, there are plenty of people outside the Greens who I’m proud to work with to secure independence. I have a lot of respect for many in the SSP, and also for plenty of SNP members, activists, MSPs and Ministers. The very impressive NATO debate made me feel quite strong political kinship with the likes of Jamie Hepburn and Natalie McGarry. I like the prospect of some non-partisan co-operation with them, and with people of no party who support the objective.
Because co-operation on an issue doesn’t entail unity on all the others. Caroline Lucas worked with Douglas Carswell on STV, despite being at the left and right ends of the Westminster spectrum respectively. And don’t forget the devolution referendum. Were the three party leaders above really indistinguishable because they wanted a Scottish Parliament in 1997?
It does no-one on either side any favours to lump all their opponents in together, and it cuts both ways. I doubt it helps the cause to tell a Labour-voting waverer that her party is indistinguishable from the Tories.
It’s a pompous hope, perhaps, but it’d be great to see all those campaigning on the referendum working under these two broad umbrellas while recognising the diversity of of our own views and the other side’s views too. The referendum is a simple question: should Westminster have a continued role in making decisions about Scotland’s political future? Whatever the result, those other diverse views will be put to the test at the next election, not during the referendum.