Declan Welsh: The Fight Doesn’t End Here


The fight continues. My friends, comrades, brothers and sisters on either side of the referendum, we have decided to stay in the union. While that was never my preference, democracy has spoken, and we must respect it and carry on. Many of you are heartbroken, and so am I, but there is still a fight to be fought, one that is even more important than independence from the rest of the UK, and it needs us all to stand even a chance of succeeding.

The fight to build a peaceful, fair society. That is what this was about. It wasn’t ever really about a “free Scotland”. At least not for me and the vast majority of people I know who voted and campaigned for Yes. Nationalism, indeed, was a dirty word among these circles. This was a pragmatic choice, which weighed up the likelihood of either choice creating the possibility for fundamental changes to the political system – and came down on the side of Yes. Of course, Flower of Scotland and Caledonia were sung, but can you blame an individual for seeing the chance for a better deal for the workers and downtrodden in the place where they either were born or have decided to live, and feeling that they have to grasp it with both hands? I wouldn’t describe this type of Yes voting as nationalism, but as pragmatism. Whether you agree with it or not is entirely your prerogative, but I, and many others that campaigned, looked at Westminster and thought – I can’t change this from the inside. We looked at the Labour Party; our natural allies; and saw careerist politicians pandering to a political conversation set by UKIP. They were going to be tough on immigration, tough with austerity, support further wars. They were not the Labour Party anymore. The Lib Dems had lost all credibility, UKIP were lowest common denominator, scapegoat politics, and the Tories were, well, the Tories. It seemed an impossible fight. Independence was our chance to shake that system up. To do things our own way, and show our brothers and sisters in the rUK that it could be done another way. We would still stand with them. We would still march with them. And we still will.

The most important thing to do, whether you are a despondent Yes voter, or a No voter who wants social change just as much as this, is to put aside all previous differences. Yes voters: stop demanding a revote. Stop talking about “the 45”. Stop telling people they should be ashamed of voting a certain way. Stop being defeated. Because you are not defeated. The things that you want can be achieved. They can be achieved with the rest of the UK. It might take longer, it might be a harder fight, but it’s the same fight we fought before the referendum, and we have to ensure that political engagement and grassroots activism – the Yes movement’s biggest gifts to Scotland – do not go away. Get involved in politics all over again. Join the CND, Unity, The People’s Assembly, a trade union, a political party, anything you want but make sure you shout, and you shout loud, that the status quo is not acceptable. Stand with No voters, because a great, great number of them want the exact same things as you, they just didn’t see a Yes vote as the answer. That’s ok. If anything, now that it’s over, we can at the very least take comfort in the fact that there is no need for us to be divided.

No voters; don’t gloat. The majority of people I know who voted No do not see this as a victory. They see it as a potential pitfall avoided. Everyone should ignore those who see a No vote as some sort of petty victory over the SNP, or Salmond, or their Yes voting contemporaries. These people celebrate the status quo. The status quo is not good enough.

Labour voters who voted No, hold your party to account on the promises they made. I will never vote Labour as long as I live, because I feel they have betrayed working people too often and with too much indifference to ever deserve to be known as a genuine labour movement. But Labour voters are not Labour politicians. They are people who want social justice. Be more active in your party, because while I will never place my faith in the hands of Labour politicians again, I don’t think I am as apprehensive about the desires of Labour voters. Make your party great again, and we’ll all benefit.

I am certain that “the Vow”, despite being written on top of a serious looking bit of parchment on the front page of a daily tabloid newspaper, will be broken. We may see a federal Britain, and if we do I will be pleasantly surprised. Local democracy across the UK would be a great thing, and would go some way to offsetting the neoliberal consensus we see before us. But I don’t see it happening. Already there have been admissions that the timetable will not be met, and Tory backbenchers have made their own Vow to vote down any proposed legislation which appears to give the Scots everything and the rUK nothing. Which is fair enough, to be honest. The thing that angers me about “the Vow” is not that the rest of the UK think it’s unfair for Scotland to get disproportionately more powers that other regions of the UK; it’s that it was a lie. A lie made to convince people to vote a certain way. It was a skewing of democracy by a political institution who put aside what little differences they had left and promised something they could never deliver to a nation which very nearly decided to reject an entire political system in favour of independence.

But we must not be disheartened by this forthcoming defeat. Or the defeat which is so raw right now. Our movement is a movement against the establishment. It is one which wants to take the power from the powerful and give it back to the normal citizen. Thus, we face the might of the business, media, banking and political elite. We face headlines in the papers saying that banks will take our money to a different country, that businesses will be forced to make “difficult decisions”, that the poor and the ostracised are to blame. We will face many defeats. But we must keep fighting. The fight will never be won until every man, woman and child looks at these systems and sees them for what they are; instruments of oppression. When we, not as a country, not as a union, but as workers, wake up to the fact that the odds are stacked against us from the moment we are born; then we will start to be able to win this fight.

Trust not corporations, politicians, banks or newspapers; but trust in each other. Yes or No, Scottish, Welsh, English or Irish, we all, more than ever, must come together and stand against the oppressors. Together, we can still win this fight.

I voted Yes because I saw a greater chance of achieving social justice and peace in an independent Scotland. The No vote might shift the goalposts but the goal is still the same. And it is a goal too immense, too important, for any of us to even consider not dusting ourselves down, picking up a different banner, and getting on with it.

Declan Welsh
National Collective

Image from Alex Aitchison


About Declan Welsh

Declan is a singer-songwriter based in Glasgow. He performed for National Collective as part of Yestival, National Collective Presents... and the #YesLive event at the Alhambra Theatre in Dunfermline.