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New Case for Independence

It starts with a leaflet

Cristina Ertze

I felt something yesterday that disturbed me. It’s the kind of feeling I would get when I realised I have forgotten something really important I was meant to bring at a work meeting or when I forgot to fulfil a promise I made to my kids. In one word: panic. I had to check myself before taking a breath, since I am usually the culprit and sole producer of my guilt panics. But this time I am sure I have done nothing wrong; I’m innocent… Why then did I get the deep worries? Why that familiar pain at the top of my stomach? Well, because I am an indy supporter and campaigner and I have spent the last 12 years of my life trying to convince folk to vote YES. Why would that produce any negative reactions deep in my gut? I can assure you that I have not changed my mind and I am as pro-independence as I ever was. It’s that leaflet. The one with the big colourful YES at the top and the twee photo of a mother and baby on the front that got pushed through some of our letterboxes earlier this week. 

As soon as I saw it I felt disgusted. It’s not the mammi and babbi which bears all the boring and repetitively unimaginative signs of having been designed by someone who couldn’t be bothered. It’s that horrendous, bold and highlighted headline: 

“INDEPENDENCE IS ESSENTIAL FOR YOU, YOUR FAMILY … AND TO GET RID OF THE TORIES FOR GOOD”

So why I am so uncomfortable with it? I agree that Independence is essential for a fairer society under the current circumstances. All good there. But then… wait a second! Did they actually print something that states “independence is essential (among other things) to get rid of a specific demographic within this country for good”? I mean, it’s bad enough as it is, but to be honest, party politics are my least favourite kind of politics and I think we have all seen a great deal of nastiness from one side or another at multiple times in our lives. Which is why I have only ever had a short-lived membership to one party and I cancelled it years ago… name-calling is just not the way I like to fight my fights. But this is not supposed to be a party-political leaflet. This purports to come from a non-partisan YES campaign. The grassroots champions, the one that will keep those party politicians in check… Clearly not. I would still have plenty of beef with the headline if it used “No voters” instead of “Tories”, but it would at least be less cynical in its deceit.

That’s it then, that’s the YES movement completely absorbed into the SNP. Those of us who don’t consider the current SNP a party we would gladly subscribe to, but are independence supporters, can just give up the fight, because this organisation doesn’t feel like what it says it is. It seems to make independence purely party political.

But again, as annoying as this is, the open and very obvious SNP takeover of YES is hardly a surprise and it is still not what I find deeply disturbing about that headline. They are actually (actually!) saying that if you are a conservative voter, you must pack your things and go. There is no place for you in The New Scotland. No allowance for you to think differently from ‘us’. And that’s it ‘us’. I am part of that ‘us’ aren’t I? I voted YES in 2014. I of course would vote YES again tomorrow and the day after tomorrow and until Scotland would gain its independence. I believe the United Kingdom is a failed administration and an unequal partnership. YES, Scotland should be independent… YES, I identify with the independence movement… YES I live within the ‘US’. 

But, hold on a second. I don’t believe that people who think differently than me should pack their things and go! I certainly don’t agree that this is essential for me and my family. I actually have many pals who are unionists, Tories, Labour, Greens… they provide richness to my life in many ways and one of them is by being different from me. Another one is by accepting me as I am, with my politics, with my ethnicity, with my own religious and philosophical views; they don’t seem to need to agree with me to accept my existence in their environment. And I feel the same way about them. We sometimes debate, we sometimes let live. But I have never, ever, been told that I should be gotten rid of. And I cannot be part of an ‘us’ that demands this from its individuals.

I felt similarly hurt by a certain statement that a certain orange-toned president of a wealthy western nation made about my country and its people when in his 2016 campaign launch rally. Remember, I’m Mexican and he actually said “They’re rapists… And some, I assume, are good people” in front of thousands of already racially motivated unhappy people. In the same speech, he later explained in detail how Mexico (as a country) would take America’s jobs, because you know, it is trying to be better and pull out of poverty. He actually in the same speech said the words: “It’s coming from more than Mexico. It’s coming from all over South and Latin America, and it’s coming probably — probably — from the Middle East. But we don’t know.” What, because of, we’re all brown, and poor, and clearly savages who are not worth that ‘American Dream’ we all grew up gawking at on every film and tv programme? Mind, some might be good people. Mind. 

I don’t think I need to remind anyone about the cruelty and abhorrence which this way of thinking and this way of rallying a following has resulted in. Within its own borders and outwith. Because remember, we’re rapists, criminals, the lot! We shouldn’t really try to build on our industry or manufacturing because that would cause stress to people within America who would not get that factory job and instead would need to fill in the slavery jobs usually filled-in by the rapist and scummy Mexicans. He very clearly wanted to ‘get rid of Mexicans for good’ and it was ‘essential for his followers and their families’. 

But ok, I have no intention of being simplistic. There are hundreds of years of history and waaaay too much background feeding the unhappiness on both sides of the anti-Mexican argument and in my opinion, Trump was just the result of it all. So of course it is not completely fair to compare it to this new YES rhetoric. You can’t help where you were born. There are borders between countries, and whether folk agree with it or not, they are there to be respected. OK.

Ah, well, the discomfort in my gut is not single layered, you see? I also happen to be the grandchild of refugees from the Spanish Civil War at the beginning of the 20th century. There we have another occasion when this YES pamphlet would have been quite happily adopted by the people in power. Franco wanted his way or the high way. Forget diversity, forget that some of the ethnicities and cultures within the kingdom of Spain are the oldest in European history… that is just inconvenient and outdated. Forget that they had very specific voting, organisational and philosophical patterns within their demographics. They would not agree with him in his vision of ‘One Spain’, and thus they had to go. And they did. Those who didn’t get murdered had to flee; those who stayed were persecuted, their children taken away and ‘re-educated’. These were people within the same country.

These were all Spanish citizens; no Mexican ‘bad hombres’ there. They just believed in another way of governance, in another set of morals and philosophies. The fascist persecution and abuse was most obviously directed to the ethnic diversity within the kingdom, but in my grandmother’s case (she was born and bred in Madrid) it was her father’s socialist ideals and affiliations that almost caused their death by execution (if they hadn’t fled to Mexico). 

Surely not even the most fervent of ‘us’ YES voters, would want that… would we? Surely, whether ethnically or nationally different, whether socialist, conservative or neo liberal, we ALL deserve a place in the country we call home? Surely we deserve more than that, even. We deserve to have a voice. We deserve freedom of speech and freedom of beliefs. We deserve not to be the subjects of a mass rally calling for our removal.

I DO NOT and will NEVER ally with any system who openly proposes the eradication or exile of people based on their philosophy, religion, race or identity. I don’t even want to be part of a movement whose leaders sound like they think like this. I cannot be part of this ‘us’.

5 thoughts on “It starts with a leaflet”

  1. You’ve either missed the point entirely or this is disingenuous. It says “GET RID OF THE TORIES” not get rid of tory voters, the point is quite clearly that Scotland doesn’t vote tory but gets tory (or sometimes red tory) at every turn. Labour conyinuously position themselves as the only antidote to tory rule, is this an attack on democracy too? Like you I despise the control the SNP have over the yes movement and look forward to a day when we have no need for them as a party. However attempting to present this some sort of attack designed to quash free speech is hopefully just a misread but frankly I expect significantly better from Common Weal……

    1. Really?

      So – your defence here is the leaflet just wants rid of the ‘tories’
      I genuinely don’t see any difference between that and the OP’s point.

      So – in your own words – you hope people who have right of centre or even very right of centre views will NOT have a party to represent them? How slippery a slope is it before folks like you get to decide what and how many parties there are. Thats not the indy Scotland I voted for.

      Sorry mate, but you’ve made a complete mug of yourself with that hot take.

      An indy Scotland will – by definition – not have an SNP. It will splinter into factions (sadly it did that under Nicola’s rule and before indy is even close) and I for one welcome a Scotland where a richer spread of parties represent us all (but hoping for selfish reasons some dont get as many votes). Thats democracy.

    2. Billy Fakename

      So, it’s fine for Tory voters to exist as long as there isn’t a Tory party for them to vote for?

  2. George Sutherland

    Very much agree with you Cristina. It is one of the reasons (the other being financial) why I rarely attend “All Under One Banner” marches as at least one of the banners display a message that I fundamentally disagree with.

  3. Dr Angela Maxwell

    Perhaps it’s just me… but I read that leaflet title as urging Scots to get rid of Westminster Tory politicians ‘for good’ ie the Tory UK governments that Scots haven’t voted for since 1955. To me this is not directed at Tory voters, neither is it directed at the ‘Scottish’ Tory party, which would clearly still exist post independence, but at last would no longer be a WM puppet.
    The author is conflating the treatment of individual Mexicans by the US, mainly Republican, administrations with the possible consequences for Tory voters or even ‘no’ voters in an independent Scotland. Of course fervent unionists may wish to move away from Scotland when we’re independent. That would be their choice. No one has ever suggested that they would be deported or indeed that the former UK parties would cease to exist.

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