Salmond and Sillars Speak in Arbroath

Calls on the “community of Scotland to claim leadership of the independence campaign”

In a Wee ALBA Book meeting in the Meadowbank Inn Arbroath, at which he shared a platform with Jim Sillars for the first time since the Scottish Referendum of 2014, former First Minister Alex Salmond said;

“For the first 60 years of the SNP’s existence, Westminster basically laughed at Scotland’s hopes of independence. That all changed with the Jim Sillars Govan by-election victory of 1988. From that date, the primary establishment emotion was fear, turning to outright panic in the referendum campaign of 2014. Now, given the trials and tribulations of the SNP, they have reverted to laughing at Scotland’s aspirations once again.

It is the task of ALBA and the rest of the independence movement to re-present the goal of independence with the credibility that the SNP have thrown away. We need the hard yards of policy formulation, the inspiration of a socially just and prosperous country and the potent electoral threat of candidates who place independence first, foremost and always.

The ALBA Party will play its part in seeking to gather together an independence coalition for the final push to independence. If we can mobilise the power of the people, then the Westminster establishment will not be laughing long.

Here at Arbroath in 1320 it was not just the political hierarchy but the whole “community of the realm” who declared for Scotland’s claim of right to freedom. Now in 2023 it is the community of Scotland who need once again to assume leadership of the independence movement.”

Former SNP Depute leader Jim Sillars said: 

“ For Unionists, it has been Christmas every day this past month. They say it is all over for independence. They are wrong. Our movement is not going to fold its tents, and slink away from the political battlefield.

Why, despite a daily horror show, is the level of support for independence still so high?  Two reasons: first, the SNP is only a part of, but not the whole of the independence movement; two, because that 45-48 % know, from hard experience, that  Scotland must escape being handcuffed to the declining, failing British state, if all of our people are to obtain a good life in a good society marked by decency.

In the real world outside the deep trench of trouble my party is in, a clear analysis shows that this is a golden opportunity time, to show why that escape from the British state is essential, and so win over people to the substantial majority that should be our aim.

The unionist case that won in 2014, that for Scotland to survive, we had to shelter inside the beneficent, large, powerful economy of the United Kingdom, is being exposed as false every day of the week. 

As one headline in the Daily Telegraph put it: “The UK is a poor country pretending to be rich.” The British state is living on an international credit card. The word that defines the British state isn’t growth – it’s debt.  

The  UK has been in repeated economic troubles since 1945.  I have lived through them all. Two major shocks – the 2008 financial crisis, and the mishandling of the Covid pandemic accelerated its decline. It isn’t independence that it is all over – it is the UK pretence to be what it isn’t, that is all over.

What Tom Nairn argued years ago is unfolding before our eyes. The institutions of the British state are crumbling. Monarchy besmirched. Parliament no longer an exemplar of effective government.  Its armed forces reduced to the point they couldn’t defend Cornwall, never mind the rest of this island. The Bank of England now a repository for failed economists. The Police dysfunctional. The Church of England in theological crisis. The NHS no longer able to deliver, as it used to. A civil service that no longer functions. Nothing that matters to people now works in the British state.

With the British state rapidly declining, the choice before all Scots is clear: stay with the decline, get poorer, live permanently with a food-bank economy, watch as young Scots flee the country - or escape, break the political link, and use the enormous energy resources we have to rebuild our economy and society.  That choice cannot be avoided.

If we are to escape, which is the only rational decision a clear-thinking adult can make, then the independence movement must face up now to its immediate responsibility.

That means decisive action as a movement distinct from parties. A bitter lesson has been learnt. Never again must the movement give monopolistic power to one party. We have to reverse previous practice. The movement must give direction to the parties, and set the electoral agenda.

The movement must become unambiguously autonomous, with its own “United for Independence” national organisation – a reconstruction of the all- embracing organisation that provided a broad platform to its various components to stand together, and took us in one magnificent campaign from 29% to 45%. That model worked.  We need its successor now.

There is nothing new in saying that. From all over the movement we hear the cry for a single national organisation. But we need to do it, and do it now.  All over our movement people have been working on policies. All doing their own thing.

Better than having done nothing? Yes. But we are not talking to each other. We are not testing each other’s work by discussion, and critical debate.

We need to bring everyone and their ideas together – produce coherence, and provide every activist with a solid body of policy to campaign on. A body of policy that will win us the intellectual high ground –make us fit to wipe the floor with the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the OBR, the Treasury, and all the other nay-saying Think Tanks, and so enable us to build such an overwhelming majority that no one on this earth will refuse to recognise. 

I have deliberately spoken about the movement, not parties,  because the movement is the priority right now. Parties, as electoral instruments will become important again in due course, no longer dictating to, but taking their lead and direction from a well organised national movement.

Many voices say we need and want a single national organisation. No one can stop us. So, let us exercise the necessary will power to create it.

"I can think of no better place than Glasgow Green, and no better day than 6th. May,  for taking the decsivise step to a national organisation"

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