by Graham Pattie
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I remember the sick, empty feeling in my stomach. The disappointment and dismay I felt, going to bed in the early hours of 19 September 2014. The realisation that we’d spurned the chance of independence in my lifetime. There had been such optimism and hope. We actually thought we were going to win.
I had always been a Labour voter; unaffiliated to any party, but leaning towards the left. At the start of the Yes campaign I had intended on voting No. But during the campaign I became convinced that Scotland actually was capable of being a nation – separate from the union in which we were fast becoming an irrelevance to the Westminster government.
I truly thought I couldn’t feel any worse, but I was wrong. A few hours later Alex Salmond announced that he was standing down as leader of the SNP. The disappointment in his eyes was tangible. I felt bad for him – bad for me, bad for Scotland. Worse was to come. The scenes from George Square, where Yes supporters had gathered, their heads held high with faces painted and saltires waving. The abuse they received from unionists, celebrating their victory with thuggish abandon.
I was proud and furious at the same time. Mostly proud, proud of the Yessers because of their commitment and refusal to back down like defeated upstarts.
When analysis of the vote started to come in there was the sense of shame and embarrassment. It was clear that the vast majority of my generation had voted No. I couldn’t understand it. Why would they do that? How could they do this to future generations? Why weren’t they Yes, the same as me?
The simple answer was that they were not convinced the future was secure outside the Union they had lived in all their lives. Questions around currency, the economy, pensions, welfare, and security played on their minds. None of those issues had been addressed well enough to remove their doubts.
I resolved there and then to join the SNP. I signed up that afternoon. Even though the chance of independence had gone, apparently for a generation, I was determined to make some sort of contribution to the next one… whenever it came along.
When I went to see Nicola Sturgeon on the tour she made after becoming First Minister, I knew I’d made the right decision. I was quite literally inspired. I stood on my feet along with thousands of others to applaud her. I had become a “Nationalist.”
Thanks to the demise of the left and the rise of the right in Westminster politics, I don’t need to tell you what’s happened since that day of despair. Thanks to Brexit and Westminster’s complete arrogance and its disregard of us Scots, our MPs and our opinions, we find ourselves in a place I didn’t think we would revisit in my lifetime: On the brink of another independence referendum, with a totally different landscape.
The SNP has gained tens of thousands new members, many of whom are now activists. It returned 56 MPs to Westminster in 2015, and it gained a victory in the Holyrood elections last year, with the highest amount of votes received by any party in Scotland’s democratic history. On the face of it, victory in a new referendum should be a forgone conclusion. But it’s not! Voters of my generation; those who are 55 and over – who constitute such a large part of the electorate, whilst being the most likely to actually vote – are still also the most likely to vote No. They remain as unconvinced as they were in 2014.
So how do we persuade them to change their minds and vote YES the next time?
The issues which worried them before obviously still do. Currency, the economy, pensions, welfare and security are still the big issues. This time it is essential that these are fully addressed.
We have the advantage. We know how big a concern these things are. We can plan ahead and have the answers ready. We can make a point of emphasising them at every opportunity. Alex was caught on the back foot in 2014, and never really recovered in the eyes of the over 50s, especially on the currency issue. We need to be prepared.
Slow, gentle persuasion is what’s required to change mind-sets. We’re a stubborn lot of old gits. Browbeating and bluster won’t cut it. We’ll just switch off and become more entrenched. As Brexit unfolds, the looming uncertainty will help the case for independence. With a lot of preparation, and steady persuasion, we can be won over, and victory will come to this Yes campaign. Scotland will be free to determine its own destiny, unshackled from Westminster Rule.
Oh, and this I have really needed to say: Saor Alba!
Graham Pattie is a 64 year old father of five from Fife (but born and bred in Tayport), now a single parent to the one remaining teenager who is yet to fly the nest. He works part-time in ASDA with a pension from his previous job. He hopes to retire next February when he qualifies for the state pension. Until September 2014 he had little interest in politics, but Yes Scotland changed all that. Now he is “a supercharged Yesser.” His journey began as a man intending to vote No. He submitted this post to the Butterfly Rebellion saying: “I won’t be offended if this is no use to you.” Graham, this is more use to us than anything we have ever done. Thank you!
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