These are extraordinary times for the SNP. Those who predicted that a No vote would dampen the party’s fortunes may be forced to think again.
As a Euro candidate, earlier this year I visited branches right across the country – from Coldstream to Inverness, from Gatehouse of Fleet to Aberdeen. Many of those meetings could easily have been held in someone’s living room.
By contrast, last week, my branch in Cathcart had to hire the local parish to accommodate some of its 800 new recruits. I’ve been a party member for almost ten years – never have I witnessed people queue at the door to attend a local branch meeting.
That’s the legacy of the Yes campaign – the community awakening and political renaissance it sparked right across Scotland. The fact that people are joining the SNP in their droves is a sign that interest in politics didn’t die on September 19 – people are now informed and mobilised and they will continue to campaign for change until they see it happen.
With Yes Scotland no longer in existence many people are turning to the SNP as the most obvious vehicle for change and the 2015 Westminster elections are the first real opportunity for the independence movement to make a breakthrough in the Commons. The question is, how to maximise success and jump from a handful of MPs to winning at least half the seats available.
The First Minister made it clear in his resignation speech that independence isn’t about him or the SNP – it is much bigger than that.
Indeed, politics is much bigger than political parties. That’s why we spent the past two years building Scotland’s largest grassroots movement with 300 local groups and 50 sectoral organisations. We demonstrated that support for Yes was strong across all sectors of Scottish society – in business, in trade unions, in agriculture, in the third sector and beyond. And by the final stages of the campaign the SNP was very much a minority in each and every one of those 350 groups. Party politics was dwarfed by the strength of Scotland’s communities which well and truly took over the Yes campaign.
To win in 2015 we must replicate that broad consensus through a common platform. We can look to our neighbours in other European countries where parties often form one-off coalitions to maximise electoral success.
Business for Scotland, Radical Independence, Women for Independence, the Greens and the SSP – to name a few – each have a lot to offer and each contributed to the 45 per cent support for Yes in the referendum. Let’s use those talents. With the right candidate in each constituency we can build the most progressive alliance to stand up to Tory cuts, fight for Scotland’s interests and campaign for the delivery of full devo max.
On September 18, Scotland voted for change. But the truth is Westminster’s vow has already been broken while Gordon Brown’s “guarantee” has turned into an online petition. With so many Labour supporters choosing Yes and Liberal voters disillusioned with their party’s broken promises, a Scotland Alliance standing on a more powers platform would have all the ingredients for electoral success. And crucially, it would unite both Yes and No voters to claim their rights from Westminster.
Next year’s election won’t be business as usual where people back Labour to keep the Tories out. Firstly because they’re both offering a right-of-centre vision. But most importantly because Scotland has moved on; there’s now a more pressing, much stronger narrative. What’s at stake is the will of the Scottish people – the will of a more empowered Scottish Parliament – and only the Yes movement will be trusted to fight for that will tooth and nail.
These are indeed extraordinary times. And the way we do politics has changed forever. This is not the time for party political self-indulgence. Let’s use the Yes experience to build a “Team Scotland” platform that the majority of Scots can rally behind. To use an old SNP slogan – together, we can make Scotland better.
• Toni Giugliano was Head of Interest Groups at Yes Scotland and a former Euro candidate for the SNP