The following is the text of a speech delivered at the
#AUOBPerth March & Rally on 7 September 2019.
Five years ago, at about daft o’clock in the morning of Friday 19 September, I walked out of that building over there feeling pretty bloody dejected. I’d been at the count for the 2014 independence referendum and, of course, by that time we all knew the outcome.
The day before – Thursday 18 September – something truly extraordinary happened. What we had in Scotland on that day was democracy in its purest form. For 15 hours the people of Scotland held in their hands total political power. TOTAL political power.
By the early hours of the Friday morning we knew that, as a nation, we’d chosen to hand that power back to the British political elite. No wonder I was bloody dejected.
I don’t have to tell you. Most of you here will be well aware of how that No vote struck us down.
But we weren’t down for long! Within hours, the Yes movement was revitalised and reinvigorated. Within hours, our networks were buzzing again. Within hours, we were off our knees and on our feet!
Looking around me today I see that, five years on, we are still standing! We are standing tall! We are standing strong! We are standing and we are marching and we are working to rectify the mistake we made five years ago!
We are still Yes! We are all Yes! We are always Yes!
I was surprised at how quickly the Yes movement recovered. But not half as surprised as our opponents. They thought the independence campaign would just evaporate! They thought Scotland had been put back in its place; back in its box! They thought we’d give up!
I have a message for all those who would deny Scotland its rightful status in the world. We are NEVER giving up! NEVER!
You can disrespect us. You can decry us. You can denigrate us. But you cannot deter us and you can NEVER defeat us!
A cause whose time has come will not be denied! Democracy will not be denied! Scotland will not be denied!
Independence is inevitable. It is inevitable because any constitutional settlement which succeeds in terms of the aims, ambitions and objectives of the British state necessarily fails in terms of the needs, priorities and aspirations of Scotland’s people.
Which is just a fancy way of saying that independence is inevitable because we will not settle for anything less!
I say that independence is inevitable. But that doesn’t mean we should not or need not be concerned about how we get there. When I say “how we get there” I mean both the process by which we come to a referendum and the manner in which we conduct the campaign to win that referendum.
In relation to both the process being followed and the campaigning strategy, I have been somewhat critical of our First Minister and the SNP leadership. There are, I’m sure, those among you who will consider that an understatement.
I have been critical of what I regard as wasted time and squandered opportunities. I cannot help but note that, despite an insistence on the efficacy of an approach which mirrors that taken in the 2014 campaign, the polls have barely twitched in all the five years since then.
I ask the question – if this relentlessly ‘positive’ approach is effective, where is the effect?
I ask the question – if the strategy of selling independence on the doorsteps like an over-50s insurance plan is the way to succeed, why have the sales figures flat-lined?
I ask the question – why is this strategy not being scrutinised and radically different alternatives considered?
I have been critical of the lack of urgency in Nicola Sturgeon’s approach. Her calmness amidst the chaos of British politics is admirable. But Scotland’s predicament is parlous. The threat to our democratic institutions and our essential public services and our very identity as a nation is real and imminent.
When you see the sole of a boot about to come crashing down on your face, that is not the time to be passively pondering the pattern of the tread. That is the time to be taking evasive or defensive action!
I have been critical of Nicola Sturgeon’s obstinate commitment to the Section 30 process. I don’t have time to go into detail on why I consider this to be folly. I will make only one point.
Nicola Sturgeon insists she will adhere to the Section 30 process because she wants to avoid any legal challenge to the outcome of the referendum. I say we should have no fear of such challenges.
If Scotland is not prepared to face challenges – in court or anywhere else – to its constitutional claim, and the always democratic means by which that claim is pursued, then Scotland is not ready to be restored to the status of an independent nation.
Independent nations which are worthy of that designation do not seek to avoid such challenges. They stand ready to confront and defeat them.
If Scotland’s cause is worthy; as I believe it to be…
If Scotland’s cause is just; as I believe it to be…
If Scotland’s cause is righteous; as I believe it to be…
…then it is a cause that we should be prepared to fight for. And it is a cause that we should be prepared to defend against any and all challenges!
The choice now confronting everybody who calls Scotland their country is between the Scotland we know, the Scotland we aspire to, the Scotland we hope to bequeath to future generations; and a Scotland conscripted into the service of those forces which put Boris Johnson in power!
We must recognise and convey to others that it is the Union which gives Boris Johnson power over Scotland.
It is the Union which allows the British political elite to impose austerity on Scotland.
It is the Union which allows them to treat the democratic will of Scotland’s people with cold, callous contempt.
Brexit isn’t the problem – the Union is the problem!
Tory austerity isn’t the problem – the Union is the problem!
Boris Johnson isn’t the problem – the Union is the problem!
We have a way out. It is a way which may not be simple, but is certainly uncomplicated. We must dissolve the Union.
We must persuade the people of Scotland of the urgent need to dissolve the Union by informing them in an honest and forthright manner about what the Union means for our nation and our democracy and our dignity.
We must then hold a referendum in which we ask them the question, do you want to dissolve the Union?
And we must fervently hope that, having learned the harsh lessons of the mistake we made in 2014 and for the sake of all Scotland’s future generations, the people answer YES! YES! YES!
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