Right across the spectrum of the independence movement certain symptoms are being felt, pointed out and discussed. Alarm bells are sounding right, left and centre, and people are getting worried. They are getting a little paranoid. We are reading everyday of people accusing others of being spies and disguised members of what used to be Better Together. Others are attacking previously well-respected groups of now sidling up to the new unionist status quo. Various and numerous permutations of these incidences are happening all over the ship. These are the symptoms of in-fighting, and it is probably safe to say that we have all had some experience of this by now. It’s unnerving, it’s worrying, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise. In fact in-fighting is a common feature of defeated causes. Invariably the vanquished, throughout history and the world over, turn in on themselves before ever the victor sets the conditions. We may not all be familiar with this pattern, but this is precisely what we are witness to at the present.
In Scotland’s independence movement we are fortunate because we were not exactly defeated. Our common experience has all the trappings of defeat, and our emotional reactions are the same as those who have been crushed, but were not crushed. Carrying 44.7% of the country meant that we were within striking distance of our greatest national aspiration. With days to go it was the Westminster alliance that was implicitly accepting defeat when very public fall outs began to emerge from the heart of the Unionist campaign. At that moment each of us could taste the flavour of a referendum win and see the path to independence. It didn’t happen, and that realisation came as a powerful blow. Still, we are standing now with greater numbers than we had at the start of the campaign, and a mandate to push for another referendum or another route to our desired end. With all the anxiety now arising from the visible tensions in this colossal number, perhaps we haven’t remembered that Scotland is a country of many divisions from which a potent unity was formed. We are a class divided society, an urban and rural divided society, an age divided society. All of these divisions came together in a powerful surge towards independence. Now that this has been temporarily delayed it seems natural that these pre-existing divisions become more visible.
All of this might go some way to explaining the new diversity in the wider movement that is a cause of concern for a great many people. People will drift back to their own securities and communities now that the intensity of the campaign has ended. This is not a cause for worry. We are not going back unchanged; we are not returning to our homes unchanged. The momentum and the force of this movement have changed us radically. Scotland has been politicised to an extent that it is like few other countries, and this will not easily be forgotten or put away. Scottish people are now far more in tune with the issues that have fuelled our need for separation from Westminster; poverty, nuclear weapons, resources and illegal wars to name a few. More of us understand these ideas now than understood them in the past. Our eyes have been opened to the work that still needs to be done. There was palpable disappointment in the numbers who never voted in Glasgow and the western central belt. Other than the unfair apportioning of blame to the over fifty-fives, we have heard grumblings of the lost million. Can we really say that they never voted because they were lazy? No, we can’t.
Yes, their doors may have been knocked, and they may have been approached in the streets. Yes campaigners and volunteers did a job that astounded the world. For all of this work they were not reached, why? They were not reached because it was always going to be more than pin badges, leaflets and dedicated Yes campaigners. Somewhere in the region of one million Scots, many more the truth be told, are living in the prison of a social crisis. Britain has created a social monster where inequality is an aspiration. What we have to remind ourselves constantly is that those at the tail end of that beast suffer more than the want of food and adequate housing. Their estrangement from the quality of life many of us take for granted has deprived many of these people, our sisters and brothers, of a basic level of trust in society and in the politics that shape it. A great deal was done to address this real problem that affects the lives of so many, but the result of the referendum has told us in no uncertain terms that more has still to be done. A just and fair Scotland, an independent Scotland, is not possible – it is not even conceivable – until we have put this to rights. This is not the job of the Butterfly Rebellion, it is not the job of the Yes or independence movement, it is not the job of the government. It is the job of each and every one of us. Why can’t this be the task that unites us again?
– Butterfly Rebellion