In 2011 the SNP won the most remarkable landslide victory. We won from Caithness to Cumnock. We won in every city in Scotland and we won across every social class, securing votes from all backgrounds. We won this astonishing victory on a manifesto that had a range of measures to improve our society and community at every level and we were rewarded for the good government we had demonstrated in the previous four years. We pledged to retain free education, keep free prescriptions and freeze the council tax. It was what could only be called a ‘One Scotland’ platform. We secured support and votes from all demographics and from people from all social backgrounds. 
On September the 18th, the Yes vote scored almost exactly the same percentage share of the vote that the SNP secured in 2011, but the composition of that vote could not be more different. The Yes vote was more class-based. It was larger in working class areas and areas of high deprivation, but it was depressed in areas of affluence and parts of Scotland with a large middle class and rural community. Much has been made of the demographics of the No vote and, whilst it is true we failed to reach the majority of over 65s, we also failed to reach large parts of Scotland’s middle class. We have to take responsibility for that and ask ourselves why the independence project failed to to be an attractive proposition to so many parts of aspiring and middle class Scotland.
It is true that there was a correlation with parts of Scotland with a residual Tory vote and a high No vote. The Tories were the most enthusiastic “No-ers”. They secured the Government that Scotland didn’t vote for and were, therefore, less inclined to be attracted by the democracy arguments. They also felt the greatest attachment to the idea of a sense of ‘Britishness’ and attachment to the UK state. But we have to acknowledge that there were many middle class voters beyond the depressed ranks of Conservative voters who could not be convinced of the case for an independent Scotland. It is this group that we also have to address and convince as we develop the SNP and grow the Yes consensus.
The developing narrative of the Yes case, particularly in the closing months, was one of radical social change. Most of the modelling offered beyond that, which was promoted in the white paper, came from the left.  Whilst we must be grateful for the intelligent and persuasive way that the case was developed, there just did not seem to be the same success in securing the support of a sceptical middle class. Groups like Business for Scotland worked tirelessly to demonstrate the opportunities of independence to a predominately middle class business community, approaches to middle class voters seemed almost half-hearted.
What we must do as a party now is get that ‘One Scotland’ message back on track and reinforced, listen to the concerns of “middle Scotland” and understand more clearly why so many of them felt they could not join us in supporting our nation’s independence. To Labour, the SNP are still the ‘tartan Tories’ and to the Tories we remain ‘radical left wingers’. That demonstrates to me that we are in just about the right place. What we must not do is abandon this ‘One Scotland’ approach of the last Scottish election. We must continue our commitment to social justice and redistribution with an attractive range of policies that also appeal to aspiring Scotland. 
The referendum suggested that there is a desire for real and substantial change, but if we are to radically transform our community, we must take the whole nation with us. When we, therefore, get out and debate and discuss the way forward for our nation, let’s remember that we are ‘One Scotland’ and it is this ‘One Scotland’ that we hope to continue to lead. 

5 thoughts on “A ONE SCOTLAND

  1. Drew Campbell

    Fascinating article, Pete. I whole-heartedly agree the SNP are very well placed on the Centre Left, and I certainly believe the party gives a strong lead with its clear, progressive voice in Scottish politics. Its competence, boldness and integrity in government at Holyrood stands in stark contrast to the previous Lab-Lib administrations. However, while it’s true the percentage share in the referendum was similar to the 2011 landslide, the turnout was very different: under 2 million in 2011 against 3.7 milllion in 2014. And as we all said again and again through the campaign: “A Yes vote is not a vote for the SNP!”

    Something like 900,000 folk voted for the SNP in 2011, but that would include many people like me whose natural first vote was Green. In East Kilbride, where I stayed in 2011, we did not field a Green candidate for the first time since 2003, and so I happily voted for the fabulous Linda Fabiani because:
    1) I know her personally, and respect, admire and trust her as a person and a politician, plus
    2) I would have ranked her second anyway and first voted Green in the knowledge my vote would have caught up with her when it boiled down to a head-to-head with the sitting Labour cynic Andy Kerr, who
    3) I also know personally but do not respect, admire or trust, and therefore
    4) hoped Linda could oust the scheming, vacuous mouthpiece.
    And, as history records, she did!

    My point is this: A lot of people lent their votes to the SNP in 2011, and the AMS voting structure can distort actual support. The 1.6 million who voted Yes were voting on, and for, something entirely different. No SNP or senior Yes strategist planned or foresaw the blossoming of the grassroots Yes movement, vibrant in communities, diverse in voice, innovative in engagement. Indeed I’d suggest it was Patrick Harvie’s initial stand against the top-down command structure of Yes Scotland that was the catalyst for that great flowering.

    Politics has changed. The staggering influx of new members to the Greens, SSP and especially the SNP is a tremendous and exciting manifestation of a heightened political engagement amongst the Scottish electorate but I’d wager you this – the vast majority of those new people are not interested in narrow party poltiical strategies. Independence won’t be won playing the old Labour games of pernicious sectarianism or short-term electoral advantage, nor can we build the broader, deeper consensus through one monolithic party.

    Diversity and a relaxed attitude to the breadth of the movement is key. Malcolm Tuckeresque / Blairite control-freakery is so last century. All the Yes parties – and most especially the SNP – will benefit if we can transcend trading of blows with Labour and the other tories to embrace this far more profound movement of the people.

    We are the 21st century. We are the future. We are Scotland.

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  3. formerdundeeman

    Reblogged this on A Former Dundee Man and commented:
    A common theme we’re seeing is that of exploring why the middle-classes are not supporting independence. I have my own theories pertaining to the middle class still being comfortable enough, fearing the “great unwashed” Scotttish underclass, not wanting to risk even a few weeks of uncertainty or a minor drop in current income, and a delusional belief that a NO vote was for keeping things as they were – when everything says that the Neocon Westminster is going to squeeze the middle class dry. Connecting to the middle class to making it clear that nothing will be the same and one cannot turn a blind eye to the plight of others thinking it has nothing to do with them.

  4. allanwils

    So where are this Middle Class at other elections ? 1 MP and 3 MSPs, I think these facts blow your ‘Middle Class didn’t like us’ idea out the water

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