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A Country On Our Own

SNP Launch Their Manifesto In EdinburghSo 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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12 comments to “A Country On Our Own”
    • Great article and couldn’t agree more. We have to unite to get rid of the tories forever. Slab could have grabbed back a bit of credibility by admitting it was their own fault, both north and south of the border. Instead no doubt they will be pontificating that it was Scotland that let the tories back in, instead of them.

      Makes me wonder how deluded Scottish people have to be to support any Westminster based party. Wake up and smell the coffee, they care nothing for you or I. I have no satisfaction in saying that over the next five years of tory government, they will find out exactly how deluded they really are.

  1. Thank you for this post, James Forrest. It is just what I needed. because I am close to despair for what is to be visited on the people of our country.

    You have helped.

  2. Courage brothers (and sisters) do not stumble. Let us show our strength in the adversity that is sure to come by remaining united.

  3. We must now move forward again and do it quickly before we get bogged down in all the mire that is Westminster. We must stand up and say that this is not democracy when a Country has not agreed with another country because that is what this is. We are not slaves we are a free proud nation that has spoken and we will be heard.

  4. Is there the slightest chance that we might be able to have a wee bit of a a party-before we man the barricades?

  5. The longest journey james begins with but one step we have taken that step,there is no going back,where we can take comfort from is that our tree has many branches and as long as those branches remain steadfast the tree will flourish,we will not let the SNP become just another Labour party,we have an opportunity to completely turn the old political discredited system on it,s head.We have brothers and sisters throughout the world already fighting to throw off the yoke of tyranny,we have so much going for us here in Scotland and have a huge opportunity to show others that there is another way a better fairer way,at least in having NS at our head we have someone who will listen to the people.Although your very impressive article urges caution and I agree “fortune favours the brave” let us take up the certain challenges ahead with confidence /truth/consideration.Saorse Alba.

  6. My whole life and the lives of many of my peers has been diminished as a consequence of the infamy of the ‘left’ in sacrificing Scottish independence in favour of socialist dogma. Fifty years ago my uncle – a Labour Councillor – told me ‘ I understand how you feel about independence son but it’s too late now, we had our chance and we didn’t take it.’ I was so angry then and I am no less angry today. The socialist movement, from where I stand, has proved itself to be as pernicious and deadly to the interests of ordinary people as the the tories.

    I have never waved a flag since I was a wee boy, a long long time ago, at the gala. And yet I AM one of those Scottish ‘nationalists’. The achievement of a living Scotland with its own government dedicated to the interests of the people it was elected to serve is my goal. The creation of a ‘good enough’ wee country characterised by common decency would best serve the interests of my children and grandchildren. Anyone from elsewhere who wanted to share in such a way of life would be welcomed; anyone who saw value in it and wanted to copy it would be welcome to do so.

    My heart bleeds for those who are suffering as a result of the culture of greed here and abroad. The ongoing sacrifice of Scottish lives won’t solve that and I won’t be party to any notion of the greater good that promotes that. The best we can do is to try to lead by example and MOST IMPORTANTLY show others that we will not be persuaded by the dogma of right or left to sell out our own community.

    Scotland is more alive today than it has been for generations, I celebrate that and I am convinced, not withstanding what I have written above, that the months and years ahead will see people in other parts of these islands get organised and engage, in parallel with us, to create a better world for all.

  7. Well said all the commentators…a lot of good sense, and wise words..thank you.
    Forwards… The Jeds say ‘lie forrit’ …I think!!! ;-)))

  8. “We shall overcome” Arthur have no doubt there are so many groups with far reaching clear thinking visions of a freer better Scotland for all it,s peoples.

  9. What a wonderful, well stated and inspiring article. I am and have been afraid since Thursdays momentous outcome that we could not fall back and let the Labour party re-establish itself in Scotland.
    This post and associated comments gives me hope that this will not be the case.
    The socialist movement in England has sold out its values to court power by pandering to the conservative element in England which appear to dominate the thinking and voting habits of the majority of the English. I believe Labour is no longer, and have not been since “New Labour” identified how to win power in Westminster, a socialist movement.
    What appears to be true is that the only way Labour will ever hold power in Westminster is by ignoring much of its socialist beliefs and being more conservative – effectively to identify with those in what is called the centre ground.
    The reality of Westminster politics, like it or not, is that the centre ground is not the in centre of the political spectrum. In England the centre ground is shifted to the right, and therefore any party wanting to own the centre ground will always be a right biased party. Hence the red conservative party – Labour.
    This is upheld I believe by Milibands stupid and ultimately costly failure to build some form of bridges with the SNP leading up to the election and cut away Cameron’s ability to scare English voters with the SNP boogy-man tactics. A common socialist platform. If this would have provided us with a Labour/SNP majority is difficult to say because England is just not a socialist country at its roots.
    With this in mind we must make every effort to consolidate and bring into the SNP camp those voters from other parties in Scotland who are real supporters of socialist ideals, want fair and equal treatment for all, but maybe do not yet see the reality of the right centred Westminster political system, as to all intense and purpose there is no real centre ground to win, except here in Scotland where it is alive and kicking, and can be nurtured and built. This is the only way to build a fair and equal country. It will never be possible with England as the biggest part (and therefore at the end of the day having the most influence) in the Union.
    Therefore Scotland must stand alone. It must stand alone as a country of fairness and inclusion for all its citizens. We must make this message heard loudly and clearly at the 2016 election.

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