You may have read the Murray Foote interview in the National today. I’m not going to report word for word what he said in the meeting last night (I’m no journalist) but instead try to give my impression of it.
He made a very public declaration for Scottish Independence two weeks ago in the Times, citing the blatant contempt of the UK government for devolution as part of his change of view.
The reaction from some of the hard-line unionists was vicious which if nothing else increased his welcome from many in the Yes side.
Often described as author of the Vow, a title I’m sure he’d rather not have, he has faced criticism every time he has tweeted something negative about the Westminster’s attitude to Scotland. “This is what you wanted” “You yes yet?” were probably the mildest.
I was gutted when I returned from the Glasgow HOOP demo to find that I had missed Stewart McDonald MP announcing a talk with him in Langside Parish Church. Sold out in hours and no access for Independence Live.
I wanted to know how/why he had he had changed his mind. More than from just reading an article. He may not think the Vow made much difference but it didn’t feel like that at the time, at least to me it didn’t. (The first attempt at this post had a lengthy rant at the Vow and Gordon Brown here – but that’s the past and I can/will move on from it.)
So yesterday evening comes round and I’m considering muting “England” for the night – have I mentioned how much I dislike football – when I get offered a spare ticket last-minute.
I miss the first 30 minutes so sneak in the back. There doesn’t appear to be an angry mob in the hall; ironically it’s too hot to roast someone. Everyone is listening attentively while fanning themselves with flyers, it’s reminiscent of an American mid-west church minus the white gloves and shouts of “Hallelujah”
When I arrive he’s talking about the Scottish Parliament, says it’s as good as any other. He doesn’t think Westminster will dissolve it, says the time is long past when that could happen (I wish I felt that confident) He talks about Growth Commission report and how he thinks it shows a positive but realistic approach to independence, that there will be issues but they will be tackled. He talks of how his head now aligns with his heart.
He is scathing when he talks about Brexit, saying he was no fan of Cameron & Osborne but that you could do business with them, (yeah that’s the face I pulled too) whereas he call the current “bunch” liars. He has a similar opinion of papers such as the Mail, Express & Sun.
His frustration at Labour is very apparent; that they don’t seem to care that those they represent will carry the biggest burden under Brexit. The Record supported Corbyn as he was the only one of the 4 leadership candidates who voted against Tory budget and austerity. He said he can’t see Leonard as First Minister and doesn’t think Leonard himself can see it happening either. He thinks Leonard’s priority is to get Labour seats in a GE.
We then get onto the Vow
I don’t know whether he’s trying to re-write history to make himself appear more favourable but he tells us of how the Record staff were more or less balanced on the constitutional question in 2014, that he had only been in charge for 6 months prior to the referendum and that he was trying to ensure the paper gave equal coverage including allowing Alex Salmond to be guest editor. During the evening he points out how the paper has changed over the years, from running articles against Mhari Black – which he apologised for – to having her as a columnist.
He says how the Vow was an attempt to get in writing all the promises that the politicians were making so that they could be held to account. He refers back to Nick Clegg and the Student Tuition Fees u-turn, which in my opinion only proves you can’t trust some even when they write it down.
At the same time as he describes the Vow as vague and not promising much he also claims that any further powers ScotGov received were due to it. I was a bit hmm over that but will admit I had to look it up to check what it said. It did get mixed up with the innumerable Gordon Brown interventions which were coming thick and fast at the time.
When I’ve been feeling generous over the last couple of weeks I have said that he has probably been more disappointed with the UK government than us Nationalists, we always expected them to let us down.
I don’t doubt his move to yes. (Unless he brings out a book in the next month – Cynical? Me? Too damn right)
You wouldn’t line yourself up for the amount of flak he has if you weren’t sure. He’s seen it happen to Eric Joyce and Mike Dailly. This is not a man jumping on a bandwagon before it’s too late.
As for the future and the next IndyRef, he said he thought our grassroots campaign looked like fun.
He thinks the unionist campaign will re-run Project Fear (like we didn’t know that already – it’s never stopped) and that they haven’t learnt from the last time.
He thinks we need to stay optimistic, honest, positive and polite and that we need to engage with editors (and alcohol helps). Let them know when we are planning things. He said so much was planned in Facebook groups that often he didn’t know they had happened until afterwards.
He says he doesn’t consider himself an activist but I hope he becomes one. He still has a platform and talks like last night can attract the “Indy-curious” (Stewart did comment on the terminology we use – coming out as Yes etc.)
I hope he does more of these talks and would recommend people going to listen. He’s never going to appeal to the radical left but he might attract some of the additional voters that we need.