For me, today is a day of sadness

by | 14 Jun 2022

This ought to be a day of excitement and anticipation. It isn't, at least not for me. Today is a day of sadness and regret.

Some of my days are angry days (you make have noticed). Some days are hopeful, some days are all about frustration, some days a kind of pure despair. Today I am mostly sad.

In theory at least today should have been ‘the big coming together’, the moment when the independence movement was able to put aside its differences and unite in a common cause. The reason for my sadness isn’t just that it didn’t happen, its that, for the time being, I can’t see the conditions under which that would be possible.

Doing my best to be balanced here, half of the movement has come to believe that the other half is somehow ‘at it’, pretending that indyref is coming for the sole purpose of control and suppression of dissent. And that half of the movement seems sold on the idea that the critical half is nasty, not interested in independence, driven by hatred.

At the grassroots level these are largely stereotypes that don’t stack up. There are hyper-loyalists and there are incredibly angry people but the vast majority are closer to my position – sadness rather than fury. Sadness (in my experience) that they want to believe and struggle to. Or sadness that they can’t see why old friends don’t trust them any more when they put forward in good faith what appears to be a cast-iron guarantee from their leader.

For those in the movement who are ‘instrumental indy supporters’, largely in the cause on the basis of what independence can change or make different, my sadness is how little they believe any more. It is hard to blame anti-nuclear voices or anti-poverty voices for having deep suspicions given the Nato-Growth Commission dominance.

The Growth Commission itself is a cause for very deep sadness. This woefully substandard piece of work has the support of almost no-one (a considered discussion of over 15 pro-indy organisations of all sorts found not a single one that was willing to defend the Growth Commission). Yet still it dominates.

I’m sad for the people I grew up with, the ones that baby-sat me in the 1970s and 19080s. Those lifelong independence supporters are either desperate to believe that this time the promises they’ve been given are real, or don’t believe the promises any more and now increasingly doubt they’ll see independence in their lifetimes.

I’m sad for my unionist friends. I believe they must be dragged into this tense national debate again at some point and I believe they have to stop behaving as if this is a settled issue (it clearly isn’t).

But I have always wanted to treat them with respect. If they are to be dragged into what I can only accept can be a bitter and at times unpleasant debate, it should mean something real. I fear that they are going to be marched up a hill they don’t want to be up and marched back down again. I know how that feels on my side of the fence and it isn’t nice.

But above all I’m sad about the sheer scale of the damage which has been done to the independence movement by all of this

I’m deeply sad for those who are just playthings in the middle of this. I feel a harsh, deep sadness for the people who represent ‘failure’ in the rather pointless collection of bog-standard charts and graphs that represent today’s ‘new case’ – the poor, the disenfranchised, migrants, the young.

I am sick of them being used as props to criticise a Westminster regime when the Holyrood regime has done next to nothing for them either. I go a bit beyond sad when I see poverty being used to justify the need for austerity (the truly dishonest pitch of the Growth Commission). I’m really quite sick of poverty being treated like a rhetorical trick to wield in debate, not a national disgrace you actually do anything about.

I’m sad that I’m in part of a movement where I’ve long known my views don’t matter. My hopes and opinions carry no weight whatsoever with an elite class who have other agendas. Nothing I’ve been able to do over the nearly eight years since indyref one has brought any kind of positive engagement.

I’m deeply sad that this cause so dear to my heart is so ill-served by intellectual content. Whatever that document released today is it is not a new case for independence. It is nothing more than a series of comparative graphs of some arbitrarily selected countries compared with the UK. It makes me sad that independence doesn’t seem to take itself seriously.

But above all I’m sad about the sheer scale of the damage which has been done to the independence movement by all of this. I’m sad about the toll this has taken on people I care about. I’m sad that being marched up and down the hill at increasing speed is hurting people. I’m sad that this is happening for reasons nothing to do with the wellbeing of the movement and its members.

And I’m sad that, whatever your social media bubble is telling you, this feels nothing like the first day of a major independence campaign. I mean, it wasn’t even the top item on the Scottish Government’s own news digest for the day.

I’m sad, deeply sad, about the state of the cause of independence. I’m sad that it has become this meaningless, all platitudes, no real content.

So now one of two things is going to happen. Either people like me are wrong and this really is the beginning of a well-thought through push to make Scotland an independent country, or others are wrong and this is just one more pantomime being staged for other reasons entirely.

This time next year we’ll know who is right and who is wrong, and whatever version of that emerges, I’ll still be sad. Sad because none of this should have happened. Sad because none of this needed to happen. Sad because I don’t know how quickly we can undo what has been done.

My guess is that deep anger is going to take hold soon, right across the movement. But my fear is that even this may not be enough to clear the air such that a restart is possible.

I woke up sad today that I could find nothing in me with the capacity to behave like today is what it was claimed to be. I go to bed sad, believing we’re blowing it. And it leaves me to contemplate the only positive that I can find out of any of this.

Because I have one other kind of day I didn’t mention at the beginning; I have determined days, days when I will not sit down or give up. Those are most of my days. Whatever happens next, wherever this sadness leads me, however todays events end up, I know at least that I have the capacity not to give up and not to walk away.

It may not sound like much. But for me today, anything I can hold onto is something I’ll happily grasp.

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