Gerry Hassan has an interesting article for the Scottish Left Project entitled Message to the Messengers: What do we do after Yes? In it he lists and comments on some of the myths of the indyref which he claims are still held on to by some and which need dispelling. It is an interesting piece, but not very illuminating, which you can read in full here. The Wilderness of Peace blog has done an excellent job of refuting Hassan’s many points, and you can read this riposte here.
I want to pick up on one of Gerry Hassan’s so-called myths which needs dispelling. According to Mr Hassan, Yes and No are over. They are not the future. There is no future in them. They belong to the past – and died on September 18th. The Yes/No binary has to be lost to allow the emergent new voices, spaces and movements which came forth in the referendum to grow, be set free, and find a place to flourish which is not dependent or related to the independence referendum.
Now, strictly speaking this is not really a myth. There is a Yes/No binary, it is just that Mr Hassan wants us all to leave it behind and let it die. Now this is exactly what Unionists have been calling for ever since the referendum. So it is a bit surprising to read Gerry Hassan endorsing this Unionist call. Particularly as he gives no convincing reason as to why this should happen. The various emergent new voices which came forth during the referendum all seem to be doing a very fine job of growing and finding places to flourish. It is a pity that Mr Hassan did not seem to think fit to ask any of these new voices for their opinion on the relevance of the Yes/No divide. As far as I can make out, they all seem to be quite explicit on which side of the divide they lie.
For,contrary to Mr Hassan the Yes/No binary is still relevant. More so than ever I would argue. Though the Unionists won the referendum it was never made clear just what kind of UK we were asked to endorse. This is not just about the infamous Vow, which came very late in the day. Throughout the campaign, Unionists of all sorts made it crystal clear that a No vote was not a vote for no change. It was just that their assorted promises were extremely vague.
We still do not know what kind of Union will emerge post referendum. In this respect the Smith Commission has done Unionists no favours at all. Their proposals are underwhelming for most Scots, while the mere mention of additional powers for Scotland seems to arouse some rather unedifying responses from most English MPs. Not to mention that the Smith proposals say nothing about Wales or Northern Ireland.
The point that Mr Hassan seems to have missed is that for the time being the Yes/No divide is as much about genuine constitutional change for the whole of the UK. Can the UK transform itself into a federal or near federal state? One that gives proper recognition to all the component nations that make up the UK. One that at long, long last begins to transfer power, both political and economic, away from London to the rest of the UK.
Those in the No camp are still, judging by their contributions to the Smith Commission unwilling to even contemplate such a transformation of the UK. So Yes and No remains an accurate and useful dividing line. While most of us on the Yes side will continue to put forward the case for independence, in the meantime we are more than willing to join forces with others across the UK in arguing for genuine constitutional change. The UK state in its current form needs to be broken up and reconstituted. You are either in favour of this transformation or not – Yes or No?