David Pratt marches at the head of an army of straw men to do battle with windmills. For want of a “clamour of voices and rumbling of dissent” he invents it. The yells of “Unionist apologist” and “England-supporting quisling” exist nowhere but in his self-righteously hectoring prose.
Far more prevalent than the “negativism” David Pratt rails against is the form of negativism in which he indulges. The nagging, niggling negativism of those who place themselves above and apart from the Yes movement the better to cast a condescending eye over all its doings and tell us it’s doing it all wrong. The negativism which holds that diversity is great, so long as it is limited to attitudes and perspectives approved by some self-appointed elite. The negativism which celebrates inclusiveness, so long as it doesn’t include those who express their passion for independence or their detestation of the Union in terms as robust as they are honest.
I have the utmost respect for David Pratt as a journalist. I greatly admire his work as a foreign correspondent. But I wonder what in his wide experience has brought him to the belief that Scotland’s voters are such delicate blooms that even to raise ones voice in their vicinity is to cause them to shrink and wither. I wonder, too, what it is in his observations of various political cultures that leads him to conclude that politics is improved by making it the exclusive province of an educated elite possessed of a certain erudition and eloquence.
My experience may not be as broad and wide-ranging as David Pratt’s, but I can, think, claim intimate acquaintance with the extraordinary – some might say unprecedented – grass roots democratic movement which emerged in Scotland in the early days of the 2014 independence referendum campaign. I know that the strength and power of the Yes movement is attributed to a diversity that recognises no limits and an inclusiveness that allows no exceptions. There is no “Yes, but…”.
There is a view, to which David Pratt would appear to subscribe, that the independence campaign must be conducted in a manner calculated to avoid offending anybody who might possibly claim to be offended; instantly disowning any voice which is reported as having ruffled the dubiously fragile sensibilities of those who stand to gain from being allowed to dictate the terms of debate. The inevitable result is a campaign which is weak, insipid, vacuous and endlessly apologetic.
Then there is the view that the independence campaign needs to be assured, assertive, uncompromising and most definitely unapologetic. I subscribe to this view and will promote and defend it in every way I can using whatever language I deem appropriate.
Many voices! One message! This is the Yes movement that I know. And if some of those voices are coarse enough to make even me wince, I welcome them nonetheless; because even the coarsest of voices is better than the silence of disengagement, alienation and apathy. Even the most vulgar voice raised in righteous anger is preferable to the silence that allows injustice to persist.
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