So it ended in a way that eclipsed our greatest expectations but also reflected our deepest fears.
There are no words that I can say to make today easier on the millions who will suffer as a direct consequence of what happened last night.
It is soul crushing. The enormity of it has not sunk in and it will not sink in for quite a while, but it’s going to hurt and there is simply no way to make that better with platitudes and soft words.
I feel sick for all of them, and genuinely scared for their futures.
It was Neil Kinnock, the last great leader who led Labour into a general election, who said, in 1983, “If Margaret Thatcher wins on Thursday, I warn you not to be ordinary. I warn you not to be young. I warn you not to fall ill. I warn you not to get old.”
Those sentiments seem especially telling at the present time.
As a consequence, all of us should take time to reflect on what has just occurred.
Triumphalism can wait.
Last night we achieved our goals and went some way towards settling the debts of September 2014.
The party which betrayed us and our country has paid a staggering, almost complete, price for that.
But today I do not want to dance on the graves of those who threatened to “bayonet the wounded”.
Today I want to give those who will pay the price for Labour’s greater failure last night their due.
Yet nor do I want to be despondent, because there is significant work to do now.
During this campaign we have emerged as the vanguard of a brand new political movement in Scotland.
Let’s strip away all the rhetoric for a moment, and even suspend talk of the party as a nationalist one, and start to analyse this in a proper way.
The SNP has swelled to 100,000 members.
Scotland voted for them in overwhelming numbers and it was only partly because of the commitment to independence.
Their members stood on a manifesto of anti-austerity, opposition to Trident, investment in public services, an end to the demonisation of immigrants and an agenda of fairness and social justice for all.
I just watched Jim Murphy, effectively a man without a job, give a speech in which he repeated every single mantra that resulted in last night’s rout and whilst it staggers the mind to imagine the level of stupidity it takes not to understand this monumental moment and why we’re here, I know he’s not alone in failing to get the message the voters sent out loud and clear.
Some within the Labour Party, some within the media, and perhaps even some within this movement itself, believe that the destination – independence for Scotland – is all that matters to us and is what drives the engine of all this.
I want to caution those people, in the strongest possible language, that this bears not even the remotest relationship to the truth.
The Scotland we envision will not be Britain in miniature, divided between the haves and the have-nots, where the poor are demonised, where welfare is slashed, where work does not pay, where government talks the language of “rights and responsibilities” but only applies those to people at the bottom. The gravitational pull of the City of London must not be traded for the tyranny of Scotland’s own financial sector, to the detriment of all else. A Scotland without these things is no better than a Britain without them.
A national commitment to social justice must be the foundation stone of everything we strive for.
Independence is not an end but a means to an end with a very specific set of policies and even ambitions beyond Scotland which need to be realised, and it would be an enormous mistake for anyone to forget that.
Whatever the SNP was – their reputation was once that of “Tartan Tories” – those days are done. It doesn’t matter whether this changed out of political expediency or because the party are true converts to the cause; the Scottish National Party is now, whether others like it or not – whether some within its own ranks like it or not – a party of the left.
It is no consolation for the millions of people who are facing hard, hard times with David Cameron back in Downing Street with a majority, but Labour’s night of utter disaster is a direct consequence of the way in which they betrayed all of their values.
It must not be forgotten that they would have imposed their own austerity cuts, that they supported the welfare cap, that they would have punished under 21’s, that they’d have renewed Trident and that they had already moved beyond the concepts of the universal welfare state which they founded and they should have been willing to fight for to the last man standing.
If the people most in need in this country are to take heart – any heart at all – from this result it must be in that we do now have a strong left-of-centre party that is committed to the things that matter to them. It must be in that the army of MP’s who have just been elected from Scotland will argue for them in a way the Labour Party never would have and now never will.
Here in Scotland we have, once again, a mass movement that is dedicated to fighting for the things that matter to us.
But one way or another, every single individual member of this movement, you, me, all of the people who worked for our national victory, must commit ourselves to serving the cause of progressive politics across all of this island.
We have to show ourselves as being above accomplishing one single goal.
The British political system is irrepairably broken. That a progressive Scotland, speaking in one voice, will now be subject to the diabolical consequences of a Conservative government we played no part whatsoever in electing, can no longer support the No voters assertion that the Union is something that it is in any way in our best interests to defend or sustain or see continue.
We will have our second referendum.
We will see our country break free of this, and become a nation which forges its own path and its own destiny.
Before that happens we will set in stone the principles on which last night’s landslide was founded, and eventually even Labour and the rest of the political class on this island will have to come to terms with that, and we will move the middle of the road.
Today that is no consolation to me, or many others.
But it is all the reason I need to limit the introspection and despair to just one day, and to get up tomorrow and begin to move forward again.
Congratulations to all of you who played your role in Scotland’s victory last night.
This is our moment in history, and it is not made less because of what happened elsewhere.
On 19 September, I felt a profound sense of anger at my countrymen and in particular those who had campaigned on lies and fear. Last night we had them in our gun sights and we did not flinch from doing what had to be done. It was not simply an act of revenge, it was an act of cleansing, of wiping away the mistakes we’ve made thus far, of cleaning the slate, of starting again.
Everything has changed.
Thank you, all of you, for the part you played in making me proud of the land in which I was born.
If I, personally, have one consolation it’s in that I was part of this with you …
And there are many more victories to come.
Alba Gu Brath.
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