|Douglas Alexander (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
As I write this, the buzz-word of the moment is "reconciliation". The idea is being put about that Scotland will require some sort of healing process after the referendum. The implication being that the referendum itself has somehow been damaging to Scotland. We are effectively being told that the exercise by the people of Scotland of their democratic right of self-determination has been detrimental. The referendum is portrayed as an act of self-harm.
From the incoming Kirk Moderator, Rev John Chalmers, we have a proposal to hold a special service three days after the vote so that everybody can come together, sing a few hymns, listen to some pompous cant from the pulpit and do a bit of good old religionist forgiving. Quite what it is that those participating are supposed to be forgiving isn't quite clear. I can only suppose that the meenister wants us all to give absolution to the agents of Project Fear who have spent the last few years talking Scotland down at every opportunity, peddling lies and smears, and generally poisoning what should have been a civilised debate on a question of fundamental importance to the whole nation by treating that process as if it was just another of those unseemly electoral squabbles that characterise the debased politics of the British state.
Those who have sought to mislead and deceive and intimidate the people of Scotland into forfeiting their sovereignty are to be given a free pass. Very nice for them, I suppose. But should we really be encouraging such people to think they can behave as deplorably as many of them have with total impunity?
Coincidentally, I'm sure, the Rev Chalmers's proposal for a "service of healing" came at the same time as British Labour's Douglas Alexander was calling for a new cross-party consensus after a No vote, to heal the political and social division he alleges has been caused by the referendum. He says he wants nationalists to “join us to work together in the task of making devolution work, not proving devolution wrong”.
The "us" to which Alexander refers is, of course, the very Westminster elite that fought tooth and nail to prevent the people of Scotland ever having a say on the constitutional question. The same British politicians who have now had at least two stabs at "making devolution work" and, by their own admission, have failed. The very people who have made the referendum politically and socially divisive by their behaviour throughout the campaign.
If the referendum campaign has taught us anything it is that we should treat with the utmost caution everything said by British politicians. The plausible high-minded piousness with which Alexander preaches unity of purpose should not blind us to the ulterior motives behind the fine-sounding rhetoric. We should never lose sight of what the true purpose is. We should always be mindful that the overarching priority for Alexander and his ilk is the preservation of the structures of power and privilege which define the British state.
When Alexander talks of "making devolution work" he is actually asking that we abandon the aspiration to have Scotland be as other nations in favour of an anachronistic, anomalous arrangement that serves only the interests of the ruling elite.
When he implores us not to prove devolution wrong he is actually urging us to oblige the ruling elites that he serves by not pointing out the massive flaws in devolution arrangements designed to suit the purposes of the British state rather than serve the needs of Scotland's people.
Whatever else may be said about Douglas Alexander, he is one of the No campaign's better speakers. He has a knack of imbuing even the most vapid, vacuous nonsense with a degree of spurious importance that is at least sufficient to persuade the British media that his speeches warrant acres of newsprint, hours of air-time and much ponderous analysis. All the more reason, therefore, to be aware of the sub-text and wary of the underlying implications. Never take his words at face value. Always examine them in the context of the anti-independence propaganda campaign and the contribution they are intended to make to that effort.
The No campaign's techniques could hardly be described as subtle. The dishonesty has been blatant, the smears shameless and the scare-mongering obvious to the point of being ludicrous. But this is not to say that there aren't more insidious elements at work. The recent despicable attacks on Yes campaign supporters Chris and Colin Weir, for example, have been widely condemned as one of the more wantonly malicious acts perpetrated by the anti-independence campaign. But, apart from the obvious attempt to turn the public against these perfectly decent folk, the more insidious purpose was to de-legitimise the referendum. To plant the idea that the referendum cannot not be legitimate because of the way the Yes side is being funded. To bring the whole process into disrepute and thereby cast doubt on the validity of a Yes vote.
In part, at least, Alexander's latest offering is in the same vein. It suits the purposes of the anti-independence campaign to portray the referendum process as inherently flawed. By making a big fuss about the need to heal the political and social divisions caused by the referendum Alexander's aim is to convey the impression that it is the referendum itself that has been the cause of political and social division and not the often highly reprehensible conduct of those directing the No campaign. Alexander is, in the words of Lesley Riddoch, fanning imaginary flames. The superficially conciliatory tone conceals a malicious intent to foster resentment and rancour.
Let nobody be fooled! This is no honourable effort to deal with the aftermath of a No vote. Alexander is laying the groundwork for a ruthless crushing of Scotland's independence movement by a triumphant British state emboldened by its success in cowing the people of Scotland into ignominiously submitting to the Westminster elite. If the people of Scotland can be intimidated into throwing away the unprecedented power that they will hold in their hands on Thursday 18 September, what further indignities might they be persuaded to endure?
Alexander's speech is redolent with the pathetic, emaciated thing that suffices for political vision in the middle and upper echelons of "Scottish" Labour these days. A sour craving for a return to business as usual where the collie dugs in red rosettes could take the people of Scotland for granted and the British establishment could relax in the knowledge that fractious Scotland was in a safe pair of hands.
British Labour politicians in Scotland have clearly demonstrated that their loyalties lie with the old order and the old ways. But Scotland has been changed by the referendum campaign. Its politics have been dramatically altered. I'm not sure that it is possible to turn the clock back as Alexander so dearly wishes. It is likely that any attempt to do so will have unfortunate consequences.
I am not one for harbouring grudges. I abhor the thought of an aftermath to the referendum which sees Scotland's politics being contaminated by resentment and recrimination. We need only look at the way "Scottish" Labour has degenerated since being ousted from power to see where this leads. We should be prepared to welcome with open arms those who genuinely want to see Scotland flourish. But those who have served Scotland ill during the referendum campaign have no right to expect that they might simply pick up their political careers again as if nothing had happened. Those who previously gave their allegiance to the economic and political elites of the British state will rightfully face the difficult task of persuading us that they now seek to serve the interests of the people of Scotland.
Whichever way the vote goes on 18 September, it is those who have urged the people of Scotland to forfeit their own sovereignty and reject their nation's rightful status who will face the greatest test. The onus will be on them to justify the tremendous sacrifice that will have been made if they are successful in persuading people to vote No. And if the people of Scotland choose not make this great sacrifice then they will inevitably be asking some very hard questions about whether those who have spent years telling us independence would be a catastrophe for Scotland can realistically be expected to work towards proving themselves wrong.
It is right and proper that politicians should answer for their words and deeds. It is entirely fitting that they should face the judgement of the electorate. No amount of worthy-sounding platitudes about "reconciliation" from religious or political praters should exempt politicians from that fundamental requirement of democracy.
This article which was first published in the Yes Clydesdale Aye Magazine.