Enough Neverendum, Please

     Over the weekend, Nicola Sturgeon once again talked up the possibility of another secession referendum if the people across the United Kingdom vote to end the country’s EU membership without a majority of Scots backing it. Once again, she used the emotive language about Scotland being taken out of the EU “against our will” and just as well, she cited this as a “significant and material change” that should trigger a second referendum despite the last result on this matter not even being two years old. Other than this, she said that a referendum would be held “if there is clear and sustained evidence that independence has become the preferred option of a majority of the Scottish people.”

     The problem for the SNP is that this does not appear to be case now and does not look likely to be the case for several years, if ever. Facing this, Sturgeon appeared to put the brakes on a second referendum at the SNP’s main conference last November by stating that another referendum would not be called until “strong and consistent evidence” of a change in public opinion occurred, and it has been suggested that support for independence would have to be at or around 60% for a sustained period of time in opinion polls. Such polls have showed that despite the surge in support for the SNP since the referendum, there has not been a corresponding rise in support for separation – with most surveys either showing a tie, a pro-Union majority, or something within the margin of error.

     If the First Minister called for a referendum under these circumstances and lost, it would truly set the SNP back for decades, so one would have thought that the SNP would put their signature issue to one side and instead, focus all energies on governing Scotland under the circumstances handed to it by the voters in September 2014 – that is, Scotland as part of the United Kingdom, and if the polls significantly changed in favor of independence, then the SNP would get its chance.

     But this is the SNP and at the top of their party constitution is its commitment to independence; they can’t be content with governing Scotland under the current arrangements because separation is their raison d’être, and for many of its supporters, the idea of an SNP not focused on “The Cause” is inconceivable.

     So, at the party’s spring conference in March leading up to the Scottish Parliament election in May, Sturgeon announced that instead of a firm referendum commitment, she and the party would seek to launch an initiative this summer to “patiently and respectfully” convince those who voted No in 2014 that Scotland should secede from the Union on the basis that it “really does offer the best future for Scotland.” This would not be, she claimed, about browbeating anyone or disrespecting those who continue to support the Union, but about listening to what people have to say and addressing the concerns they had from the last time around.

     Last Sunday on Twitter, Ms. Sturgeon reiterated much of this in a video announcing the launch of the SNP’s campaign manifesto for this year – talking about the initiative starting in the summer and encouraging people to be a part of it, so that a majority for secession can be built. One can only assume that the First Minister hopes that such a majority (and a sustained one, at that) will exist within the next five years before the end of the parliament which will be elected in May – in effect, so that she can call that referendum that she cannot lose (and at her party's manifesto launch on April 20th, she said she would "very much" like to hold a second independence referendum within the next five years).

     So much for once-in-a-generation/once-in-a-lifetime.

     Alongside these plans for a renewed separation push are the continued threats regarding the EU vote and its outcome if Scots vote for the UK to keeps its membership in the bloc, but the British people as a whole vote for the UK to end its membership, with the added proposition that Holyrood ought have the ability to call a referendum in such circumstances. Indeed, such threats makes it appear as though Scots have no voice or vote on the matter; the “against our will” rhetoric suggests that Scots literally do not have a vote on whether UK remains a member of the EU, so that the people of England, Northern Ireland, and Wales have the right to vote in the June 23rd referendum, but Scots do not.

     Nothing could be farther from the truth as the people of Scotland will have a vote just like any other Briton throughout the United Kingdom. All votes will count equally and only the overall UK result matters regardless of how the vote plays out in different parts the UK, and this goes for nationalists north and south of the border because only the United Kingdom (and not its constituent parts) has membership of the European Union.

     With regard to the SNP, their push to keep separation and the constitution at the forefront of politics, as well as talking up the possibility of another referendum, amounts to what appears to be an obsession which gets increasingly tiresome and wearisome by the day.

     Many people expected that the decision of the Scottish people would be respected and would stand for years if not decades to come, so that people of all stripes could move on and focus on the challenges that Scotland and the UK in its entirety face and must tackle. Instead, the SNP has treated the result as little more than a speed bump, and are arrogantly moving along as if the referendum never happened, or at the very least, as if the result is irrelevant despite the terms of the Edinburgh Agreement which both Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon signed, and despite both of them claiming that the referendum would be once-in-a-generation/once-in-lifetime. Some of their acolytes patronizingly claim that the result from September 18, 2014 was merely provisional or temporary, and that the voters either didn’t know enough or were too “scared” to cast an informed vote. They also say that people’s opinions and attitudes can change in the course of time.

     This may be true, but wait can’t the SNP wait? Why can’t they show some respect for the fact that Scotland voted No and not treat the people as if they were misguided children who will soon learn the error of their ways?

     If the objective of the SNP was only to achieve that best governing/constitutional arrangement for Scotland, then they should be committed to focusing on what they can do under the present system as well as the new settlement that is gradually being phased-in. However, it appears they are not even giving time for the new settlement to work; it’s almost as if they are afraid that it will work and show that secession is not necessary, as the SNP and their supporters would have people to believe – not as though it was ever needed to begin with.

     More likely perhaps is the sense that the party needs to keep the separation conversation going and prevent it from being overtaken by more important day-to-day issues such as health, education, transportation, welfare, housing, taxation, economic growth and opportunity, and a host of other things which can be dealt with as Holyrood acquires powers akin to that of – perhaps more powerful than – a province or state in federal system, such as in Canada, the United States, Germany, and Australia. They can’t let it go because this is what motivates the core of their base. If anything, it would appear that the SNP is more concerned about its internal party management than anything else – holding the core which wants separation at all costs along with those who vote for the SNP for other reasons where separation is not the most important issue.

     And of course, the SNP also need to appear in near-constant mortal combat mode against (big, bad) Westminster. Why focus on governing and make tough decisions when they can blame others for their problems and further claim that only breaking up the UK will solve those problems?

     Indeed, it feels as though the referendum has never ended. Before the weekend following the referendum was over, independence supporters were claiming that media bias, voting fraud, and other supposed “misdeeds” were responsible for their defeat. Others shouted foul play and “betrayal” by Westminster over The Vow (which has been delivered), whilst still others turned their rage toward the three main pro-Union parties – Labour and the Liberal Democrats in particular – and joined the SNP to defeat them in the hope of bring about another referendum. At the top, Alex Salmond made suggestions about separation being achieved through other means, such as UDI – a unilateral declaration of independence. His successor has downplayed this scenario, but she has done her bit to unnecessarily fan the flames of discontent along with other SNP politicians and supporters – stoking division and resentment with the rest of the UK, which have not been helpful in healing referendum wounds or achieving political stability or certainty.

     Since the referendum campaign itself began in 2012, Scotland has been in a near constant state of political campaigning – with the referendum itself and the EU elections (which functioned as a pre-referendum proxy) in 2014, the UK general election in 2015, and the Holyrood election and EU referendum this year. Next year will come local elections at which the SNP is likely expected to do very well and extend their post-referendum dominance to council chambers throughout Scotland.

     After this, providing that there are no snap elections and no other referendums, Scotland will have about two years free of significant political campaigning.

     Regardless of how the votes fall this year and next year, there will be many Scots who I suspect will be pleased at the prospect of having some time without an election or referendum on their minds, as well as perhaps the day-to-day and wall-to-wall campaigning which have become regular features over the past several years with back-to-back elections and referendums (with the added bonus of focusing on Team GB at Rio 2016).

     To repeat, it probably cannot be expressed enough how quite wearisome and tiresome it has become – all the years of claims and counter-claims, arguments and counter-arguments, debates, advertisements, rallies, social media postings (and the drama they can generate), broadcasts, speeches, polling numbers, and everything else under the sun with seemingly no end in sight.

     With regard to the SNP in particular, their insistence on keeping up talk – in various modes – about independence and future referenda is very wearisome, because again, it’s almost as if the referendum never came to an end.

     Simply put, people are getting tired of this; they've had enough of the upheaval and wrangling of the last several years, and desire a break from it - at least 15-20 years - because it does feel as if their lives and all of Scotland have been put on hold by the SNP's obsession. Furthermore, and speaking as an impartial observer, there is a possibility that all the talk of trying to build support for independence may well hurt the SNP because there will be a perception that the party is putting independence first, rather than Scotland first, and the two are not the same.

     At some level, the people will have enough of the constitutional obsessions of the SNP, especially with the enhanced powers of Holyrood which will be available for the SNP to use. Prominent independence supporters such as Darren “Loki” McGarvey have voiced their displeasure at the SNP’s timidity and lack of progressive action on several issues, and have said that in the grand scheme of things, it’s not all about independence.

     Indeed, some have said – explicitly and implicitly – that so long as Scotland is part of the United Kingdom, the SNP ought to do all it can with the powers it has to improve the lives and prospects of the Scottish people and should not wait for independence to do it. More to the point, it should prepare for the prospect that Scotland will never become independent and that each year it excuses itself by claiming “well, if only we were independent…”, it will only hurt itself and “The Cause” in the long term as the clarion calls for separation become increasingly stale.

     On this point, I would go farther and say that it should be the duty of any Scottish Government of any political stripe to work toward delivering positive outcomes for the people and if need be, it should do so with assistance from the UK Government. We already see this with the city deals for Glasgow, Inverness, and Aberdeen, and I believe that there is much potential for greater cooperation for the benefit of Scotland and the United Kingdom in its entirety.

     However, in order to achieve this potential and to truly move Scotland forward, the constitutional debates must be put aside for the time being. The people of Scotland need to decide whether they want a party that offers little more than continuing down the road of obsessing about independence and perpetuating a neverendum. The SNP had its chance and it’s time to move on. Enough is enough.

Tunnock's Getting the Last Laugh

Image Credit:  Derek E-Jay  via  Flickr   cc

Image Credit: Derek E-Jay via Flickr cc

     At the beginning of this year, I admittedly knew little about Thomas Tunnock Limited – popularly known as Tunnock’s – the family-owned confectionary bakery company based in Uddingston, Scotland. My faintest memory of it up to that time were its famous tea cakes being featured as “dancers” in the opening ceremony for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

     This changed dramatically as those tea cakes and the Tunnock’s company became embroiled in a Nationalist-induced firestorm not long after the new year had begun. Chiefly, there were Nationalists who became incensed that the best-known product of this Scottish company was now being branded as “Tunnock’s Great British Tea Cake’s” - inspired by the BBC's wildly popular and award-winning Great British Bake-Off - and photos of ads featuring this on the London Underground were widely shared on social media. In addition, it was believed (falsely) that the company had removed its iconic Lion Rampant – one of Scotland’s national symbols, featured on the Royal Standard – from the packaging of its products.

     For outraged Nationalists, this amounted to the 126 year old company rejecting its Scottish heritage and the visceral angst was on display to see via the good ole’ cybernats, many of whom voiced their vehement disapproval by calling the company “traitors” and saying that they would never purchase Tunnock’s products again, and indeed some went out of their way to throw out Tunnock’s products they already had and also plastered Nationalist slogans on such products on supermarket shelves.

     All of this would have been amusing enough to witness, but then came Scotland’s blessed freedom fighters, the Scottish Resistance! Led by their fearless leader James Scott, the so-called Resistance called for a national boycott of Tunnock’s and all of their products, and then they marched to Uddingston to take on the mighty company by staging a protest outside their factory and headquarters. The protest was attended by only a small band of the true believers, but that didn’t stop them employing over-the-top theatrics, such as man smashing a box of the marshmellow biscuits with a sledgehammer and speeches over a bull-horn condemning Tunnock’s for its “treachery” toward Scotland.

     Adding to the controversy was the fact that the current managing director Boyd Tunnock CBE – grandson of the founder and the creator of the tea cake – was a prominent supporter of keeping the United Kingdom together during the referendum campaign in 2014 and said in response to the criticism of his company: “The vote said we’re British. We’re Scottish; however, we’re still in Britain.”

     Three months following this stramash, it would seem that Tunnock’s is having the last laugh. The boycott campaign has backfired spectacularly as the Lanarkshire-based company reported that its sales have soared by 10% in the first quarter of this year. First quarters, according to operations director Fergus Loudon, are typically a “quieter time” for the firm, but in contrast, the beginning of 2016 showed a tremendous increase – a “real boost” – and Loudon attributes it to the publicity generated by the furious Nationalists and their failed boycott, further stating:

“It meant the Tunnock's name was being talked about all over the world and people are still talking about it. It prompted a lot of people to go out and buy tea cakes and has been fantastic for us in terms of sales. There was a definite spike.”

     Not only this, but Loudon also said that in fact, the company is struggling to keep up with demand as it sells hundreds of thousands more of its snacks in the UK and throughout the world, with the firms order book “full to overflowing.”

Tunnock's HQ in Lanarkshire. Image Credit:  Geograph  © Copyright  Lairich Rig  and licensed for reuse under this  Creative Commons Licence

Tunnock's HQ in Lanarkshire. Image Credit: Geograph © Copyright Lairich Rig and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

     This has turned out to be quite well for company that is proud to promote its Scottish and British heritage, and a spokesperson went out of his way to say that the company was not ashamed of its roots in Scotland and further, that the change in branding was not meant to cause offense. He reiterated that the Lion Rampant remained on their packaging, and would always remain there, but also stated that in the end, the fuss raised by the Nationalists “has been good for us.”

     Indeed, it is very good for the family-owned firm, its 500 employees, as well as the local economy, and since January according to the Scotsman, they have:

“released a range of merchandise in the wake of the success of the marketing strategy, including teddy bears, mugs, clothing and key rings, which they hope people will purchase to show solidarity with the company.”

     My personal solidarity with the company began within days of the controversy coming to the fore and while the reaction on social media continued to play out for several days. As I was shopping at one of the supermarkets here in Savannah, I decided to take a look at the British section of the International products aisle to see if I could find the tea cakes at the root of the brouhaha across the Pond. They were not there for sale, but I did find the Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer Biscuits and purchased them.

     I must admit that I have a low appetite for sweets and candies, but I felt a need to lend my support for this company which had come under fire for its branding choice and for its owner – nicknamed the Willy Wonka of Tannochside by the Times – supporting the pro-Union campaign. So at home, I tried one out, and it was quite good; it was not too sweet and had refreshing taste.

     On Twitter early the next morning (early for me, anyway), I tweeted out this message:

“Couldn’t find #TunnockTeaCakes, but did find these tasty wafer biscuits from this great British company in Scotland.”

     The tweet contained pictures featuring the front and back of the wrapping. Sure enough, there was the famous Tunnock’s logo proudly featuring the Lion Rampant and the Tunnock’s Boy on the front, while the back prominently featured this for the home location:

PRODUCT OF THE UNITED KINGDOM. MADE BY THOMAS TUNNOCK LTD.

34 OLD MILL ROAD, UDDINGSTON, GLASGOW G71 7HH, SCOTLAND

     This support for Tunnock’s was much-appreciated, and received positive attention from many people, and among them was a Twitter follower who offered to send some tea cakes my way.

     It took a while for them to get here as my friend was busy with things going on at home in Scotland, but they did finally get here in late February in a beautiful box which made me think it was my birthday. Indeed, the it really felt that way because the package contained a panoply of Tunnock’s products: Snowballs, Caramel Logs, Caramel Wafers, and of course, the “Great British Tea Cakes” – all of them with the Lion Rampant prominently featured on the packaging.  There was also a nice card with a tartan cloth and wooden thistle ornament. Inside card was a heart-felt and meaningful message which read:

Hi Wesley,

Sorry for the delay, life is quite hectic these days. Added a few more to help you get over the wait.

Enjoy

The special Tunnock's Treat I received from a friend in Scotland. Image Credit: Wesley Hutchins

The special Tunnock's Treat I received from a friend in Scotland. Image Credit: Wesley Hutchins

     This was totally unexpected but greatly appreciated for the way that he went out of his way to do all this, for he did not have do, and I shall remember this token of friendship from across the Pond at an individual level, as well as part of the greater relationship between the US and the UK.

     As for the sweet treats themselves, I was very pleased to try out the tea cakes at last, and they did not fail to impress. The milk chocolate combined with the mallow on the inside and the biscuit base made for a delectable taste which cannot be compared to anything I recall having in the States, but which is popular and well-known in the Kingdom. Meanwhile, the Snowballs – which are much like the tea cakes, but with marshmallows covered in frosted coconuts – were pleasant despite my lukewarm taste for coconut. The same was true for the Caramel Logs, which are like Caramel Wafers with the addition of the coconut bits coating the outside, though still a nice treat.

     So thanks to the howl of the Nationalists, Tunnock’s is doing better, it has greater international exposure, and I have become a loyal patron of this great British company from Scotland, of which every Briton throughout the United Kingdom can be proud.

Still Together and the Path Forward

The "Aerial No" in Edinburgh just days before the referendum.

The "Aerial No" in Edinburgh just days before the referendum.

     Today would have been the day that Scotland became an independent country and when the United Kingdom would have been broken up.

     Thankfully, it is not. The people of Scotland saw through the dubious, dodgy, and threadbare claims of the separatist case pushed by the Yes campaign, led by Alex Salmond and the SNP. The people debated and argued throughout a two year long campaign in which all of the issues were discussed at length. During this campaign, there was almost constant media coverage of the campaign and the issues at stake; there were claims and counter-claims – in print, on television and radio, on various online platforms. Indeed, with all the back-and-forth going on between the positions and people on both sides, it’s a wonder that many of us didn’t lose our heads!

     It was an emotionally training and exhaustive campaign – the likes of which many of us had not ever witnessed – and the world watched to wonder if the United Kingdom was on the verge of dissolution. Indeed, as the campaign went into its final month, the Yes campaign caught up and it looked as though they might have had a shot at their prize.

     In the end, after all the speeches, rallies, leaflets, ads, marches, bean counting, pronouncements, and flag-waving, on September 18, 2014, the people voted decisively to maintain the United Kingdom and to preserve over 300 years of history, heritage, and relationships – economic, social, cultural, and political. The people said quite politely and in a fair and legal democratic referendum: “No, Thanks”.

     We should all be thankful for the result, for it spared Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom from unnecessary and untold upheaval on many fronts. A bullet was dodged and one of the greatest countries in the world was saved.

     However, there’s no denying that the SNP – far from being mortally wounded – has gone on to dizzying heights as a political party. Successfully capturing the 45% of Scots who voted Yes and trading on the popularity of their new leader Nicola Sturgeon, they won all but three of the 59 UK parliamentary seats in Scotland at the General Election in May 2015 – becoming the third biggest group in the House of Commons and in terms of its membership, the third biggest political party in the United Kingdom.

     Now, there appears to be little sign of them slackening in the opinion polls, and they are projected to win an unprecedented third term in government with another majority – thereby likely keeping the separation and constitutional issues at the forefront of politics in Scotland. Scores of voters who tended to vote for the three pro-Union parties have bolted to the SNP, and there are no indications that they are coming back soon.

     In the face of this, the SNP’s opposition is divided between those parties – Labour, the Conservatives, and the Liberal Democrats – with Labour and the LibDems at historic lows and the Tories seeing something of a small revival since their 1997 wipeout, but nothing in the way of providing the numbers and political muscle to provide a strong opposition by any single party.

     In the circumstances – especially with most polls still showing a majority or dead-heat on the independence question – some people such as columnist Alex Massie have come to the conclusion that Scotland has too many parties, and that if the vast majority of Yes voters are fueling the SNP’s rise to around 50% in the polls, then it stands that No voters need to have a party of their own – a single “Unionist Party.” They believe that the pro-Union/anti-Union split and a focus on constitutional arraignments are the new norm and that, in Massie’s words, “the great political realignment spawned by the referendum is not over yet”, and in this vein they believe that a Unionist Party must be formed out of a merger of the three main parties and the UK Independence Party (UKIP) in order to give a proper voice to those who voted No, mount an effective opposition to the SNP, and “offer a plausible alternative to the SNP’s constitutional vision.” Given that the SNP is effectively (in practice, if not in rhetoric) a centrist party, a Scottish Unionist Party would run largely parallel to them and differ only on the national question. As Massie put it, the SNP and SUP would be “rather like Caledonian versions of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael [in the Republic of Ireland], parties sharing the same part of the political bandwidth, but ferociously opposed to one another.”

     In many ways, I must say that this is an enticing prospect. There is sound logic behind, and in theory, would very much help at providing an effective answer to the SNP. The problem is that theory is just that – theory – and there are three main problems with the creation of a Scottish Unionist Party.

     Firstly, how would it work in terms of political ideology outside of advocating for the Union? It may be easy to say that it would be a centrist party to appeal to most people, but realistically, how would it accommodate those members, activists, and voters from Labour, the Tories, the LibDem's, and UKIP? If you can't get the vast majority of those who voted No to back a Unionist Party because of differences over non-constitutional policies, then where will they go when their parties have been merged into it?

     Secondly, how would it work in relation to the House of Commons? Would the party vote with a whip unto itself or would left-wing MP’s be able to vote with Labour and right-wing MP’s with the Tories?

     Thirdly is the concern that a party whose raison d'être is “Unionism” will only entrench the referendum dividing lines and make for – and I say this with no disrespect – a Northern Ireland-type situation in which politics and society are perpetually focused on and organized around the constitutional issues. This “are you pro or anti UK/indy” dynamic plays into the SNP’s hands as elections become less about real policies and what is happening in the world.

     Of course, there once was a Unionist Party operating in Scotland, but that party (which lasted from 1912 to 1965) was basically the Conservative Party in Scotland and took the Conservative whip at Westminster before formally merging with the Conservatives in England and Wales; a new (serious) Unionist Party would have to capture the vast majority of those who voted No from across the political spectrum in the Labour, Tory, and LibDem traditions. However, it is hard to see that happening; it was tough enough keeping the Better Together campaign rolling as a competent operation staffed and fronted by people who were (and still are) opposed to each other on virtually every other issue save for the constitution.

     Now make no mistake: I am a head, heart, and soul supporter of the Union – economically, socially, culturally, and politically, and I dearly wish for the United Kingdom to survive as a country forever. However, I am simply not convinced that the creation of a new Unionist Party is the best way forward.

     Most post-referendum studies have shown that among No voters, only around a third did so primarily out of affection for the United Kingdom and being British; much of the rest did so out primarily out of concern for their personal economic interest and because the case for separation was not convincing, which perhaps explains why some them do not label themselves a “Unionists.” Their support for the Union is not – at least primarily – driven by sentiment and the sense of historical connection to the rest of the UK. As such, they are not the type of people who support the Union come what may and appeals to Britishness and waving the Union Flag may not be helpful among them; they are the people who said that they would have supported separation if they were £500 better off individually, and so their support must not be taken for granted.

     Many of them are primarily concerned about the economy and prospects for themselves and their families, and they were convinced in 2014 that they were better off within the United Kingdom. Who’s to say that at least some of them may not be convinced should another referendum be held – God forbid – within the next few years?

     At the very least, polling ought to be done to find out what kind of support a Scottish Unionist Party would have, and especially if the vast majority of people from all three main parties are willing to join and vote for it. Without that polling however, I am willing to bet that with all of the practical obstacles facing it, an SUP will not likely gain traction as an effective counter-weight to the SNP.

     Going forward, the best option in the long-term will be to support the existing Union parties, who need all the help they can get to recover themselves to respectable positions at all levels in Scotland, especially Holyrood. Indeed, as Holyrood obtains more powers over people’s lives, it will be incumbent upon each party oppose the SNP and offer viable alternatives to the people of Scotland, with a focus on making life better for people on issues such as education, policing, healthcare, welfare, transportation, housing, and – above all – the economy, and moving away from the constitutional issues as much as possible.

     We are already seeing some rumbles of dissatisfaction within the SNP ranks, with the recent announcement on tax policy - keeping the top rate of tax in line with the rest of the UK - being just one area causing some consternation in some sections of the party. To be true, there may not be enough dissatisfaction with the SNP in time for this upcoming election, but it’s there, and Labour, the Conservatives, and the Liberal Democrats need to be ready for those who may become disillusioned and are ready to give at least one of those parties an audience. This, I believe, is bound to happen as the SNP stays in power over a longer period of time with more powers over people’s everyday lives than any previous administration at Holyrood and perhaps find it difficult to please it's broad church of socialists, neo-liberals, progressives, environmentalists, fossil fuel promoters, free-marketers, free traders, social democrats, and hard-core nationalist's.

     However, this is not to say that the Union does not need defenders advocating on its behalf day in and day out, and that’s where campaign groups such as Scotland in Union (SIU) and United Against Separation (UAS) come into play.

     UAS first came about during the referendum and played a major role in it as the “Vote No” page, and like its current name suggests, it is against breaking up the UK and has played more of role in opposing the SNP and pointing out its many contradictions and duplicity on several issues, while SIU came about more out of the aftermath and division caused by the referendum, and is more about promoting a positive message about Scotland and its place as part of the UK, and is not necessarily as much of an “anti-SNP” organization. As such, they are genuinely complementary in various ways – UAS is bigger with more “Likes” on Facebook and has more of an activist edge; SIU has more of a mainstream media presence, and conducts research and polling on Scotland and the Union. Broadly they have the same goal, but with just a slightly different approach.

     Both of them are doing a good job with what they are doing, and last night, SIU held a special gathering to mark this day when Scotland and the UK as a whole dodged a bullet. Going forward, UAS and SIU need to continue on by promoting and supporting the UK, and the ideas that the UK is better for having Scotland and Scotland is better for being in the UK. Their success will be an end to the dominance of the SNP, as well as the reality that separation and nationalism are not good options for Scotland. The byproduct of this will be more Labour, Tory, and LibDem members in Holyrood and Westminster in a much hoped-for return to non-constitutionally aligned politics.

     At an individual level, more people among us need to get involved with UAS and SIU, and volunteer their time leafleting, manning stalls on the streets, knocking on doors, having conversations with people, hosting/holding events, being active online, and generally doing all they can to help spread the word about the Union and its benefits to Scotland, along with how the UK in general is made stronger with Scotland. Part of this should be to make a social and cultural case for the UK in tandem with the economic case, so that there can be an even stronger case against the SNP – one that talks about the UK as a whole and how Scotland makes it what it is because of its people and many other contributions.

     This is likely going to be a long-term effort which will require a lot of work and sacrifice. None of us wanted the referendum and all that has transpired since, but this is where we are, and we have to take this thing one day at a time. There will be progress and setbacks, but with time, I do believe that all of us can do something to make a difference in helping to keep the United Kingdom together in a positive, bold, and confident manner.