The evening started with a peculiar prelude outside the venue of Govan Old Parish Church. I was handed a leaflet from “Glasgow South West Labour” which attempted to make the case that Independence would inevitably result in shipyard job losses. The tone was literally “doom and gloom” (words actually used in the text of the leaflet) , asserting that jobs are always safe under the UK umbrella, and anything else will lead to disaster and unemployment. This alarming assertion flies in the face of reality - as I know from personal experience. Family and friends have lost their jobs in shipbuilding whilst being continually told that only remaining in the UK protects the industry. A rather clunky and simplistic message designed to provoke a “No” vote, and more proof of my pet theory that Iain Davidson is an active Double Agent for the Independence movement. The campaigning tactics of fostering fear and anxiety , overlaid with a paternal and patronising tone are the blunt instruments of the last century and conjure up a dismal vision for the future under “ Scottish” Labour.
Inside, I was struck by the thoughtful and considered contribution from the First Minister. He outlined a compelling case for how Independence can address some of the social ills which blight our country. It was a message that decisions and political choices can either deal with or exacerbate these problems.
I had not quite appreciated that there is a very damning statistic showing that 700,000 working Scots will be adversely affected by the Tory-led UK Governments ideological welfare changes. Comparing that political cost to the price of replacing Trident brings that stark choice home.
I was also encouraged by his clear promotion of universal provision of health and education, and agree that Scotland is taking a different course from Westminster in this regard. The Scottish government and the SNP has a far more coherent narrative around the benefits of universality, strongly supported by the public. Interestingly, the elements in Scotland that are challenging that consensus are also the parties most active in the “No” campaign – the Tories and Labour. Looking at the erosion of universality and accountable public services south of the border I can only observe that if that is “better together”, then why do many people I speak to ( who aren’t SNP voters )freely state that they value the devolution of some power in Scotland as that’s been a protection against the worst excesses of bank balance led “choices” for health and education. The harsher the rhetoric and crueller the cuts the more it prompts many non political people to wonder whether devolution has gone far enough.
The key theme for me, was his praise of the Scottish Parliament, and political institutions working with civic society in doing all we can to tackle social ills. He was clearly advocating the case for Independence in a social justice context , not for economic or emotional reasons but as a route to showing how we can assert our values of common weal, and action our empathy for fellow citizens – the real better together in Scotland message.
As the Reid Foundation has stated today on their website - an excellent and fair analysis of the nights proceedings “Time and again he made the simple point that it is largely the Parliament – not any one government or any one party – which has protected a social model of government in Scotland. “