Alistair Darling and Alex Salmond are making their final pitches before the referendum. Photo: Getty
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Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling give their final pitches before the Scottish referendum

Tomorrow is the Scottish independence referendum. The Better Together leader and Scotland’s First Minister are making their last pleas.

Scotland will take to the polling stations tomorrow. As the independence referendum approaches, the leaders of the campaigns on both sides are having their final say.

Polls continue to be extremely close, only just giving a No vote the edge. Three new polls were published last night: one by Opinium for the Daily Telegraph, another by ICM for the Scotsman and a third by Survation for the Daily Mail. They all came out with 52 per cent for No and 48 per cent for Yes. However, they exclude undecided voters.

Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond has written an open letter to Scottish voters, urging them to “wake up on the first day of a better country”.

Here is his message, as reported by the Scotsman:

In these final hours of this historic campaign I want to speak directly to every person in this country who is weighing up the arguments they have heard.

I have no doubt people in Scotland will look past the increasingly desperate and absurd scare stories being generated daily from Downing Street.

Those have no place in a sensible debate.

So in these last days of the greatest campaign Scotland has ever seen, I want to ask you to take a step back from the arguments of politicians and the blizzard of statistics.

For every expert on one side, there is an expert on the other.

For every scare tactic, there is a message of hope, opportunity and possibility.

The opportunity for our Parliament to gain real job creating powers, the ability to protect our treasured National Health Service and the building of a renewed relationship of respect and equality with our friends and neighbours in the rest of these Islands.

But for all that, the talking is nearly done.

The campaigns will have had their say.

What’s left is just us - the people who live and work here.

The only people with a vote. The people who matter.

The people who for a few precious hours during polling day hold sovereignty, power, authority in their hands.

It’s the greatest most empowering moment any of us will ever have.

Scotland’s future - our country in our hands.

What to do? Only each of us knows that.

For my part, I ask only this.

Make this decision with a clear head and a clear conscience.

Know that by voting ‘Yes’, what we take into our hands is a responsibility like no other- the responsibility to work together to make Scotland the nation it can be.

That will require maturity, wisdom, engagement and energy- and it will come not from the usual sources of parties and politicians but from you -the people who have transformed this moment from another political debate into a wonderful celebration of people power.

Does every Country make mistakes? Yes.

Are there challenges for Scotland to overcome? Undoubtedly.

But my question is this - who better to meet those challenges on behalf of our nation than us?

We must trust ourselves.

Trust each other.

In Scotland we’ve always had the wealth, the resources and the talent.

We know that with independence we would immediately be in the top twenty of the richest countries in the world.

But what has emerged in this campaign is something very new.

It has changed Scotland forever. I have met it in every community I have been in the last weeks.

Confidence.

Belief.

Empowerment.

An understanding that if we work hard Scotland can be a global success story.

A beacon of economic growth and a champion of social justice.

That’s who we are as a nation.

We are the land of Adam Smith who said that no society can flourish and be happy if too many of its people do not benefit from its wealth.

We are the land of Robert Burns who loved Scotland dearly and also celebrated humanity the world o’er.

It’s what we can be.

Its why this opportunity is truly historic.

Women and men all over Scotland looking in the mirror and knowing the moment has come.

Our choice, our opportunity, our time.

Wake up on Friday morning to the first day of a better country.

Wake up knowing you did this - you made it happen.

This vote isn’t about me, it isn’t about the SNP, the Labour Party or the Tories.

It’s about you. Your family. Your hopes. Your ambitions.

It’s about taking your country’s future into your hands.

Don’t let this opportunity slip through our fingers.

Don’t let them tell us we can’t.

Let’s do this.

It’s a clear pitch to undecided voters.

The First Minister was also on the BBC’s Today programme this morning, giving his final pitch. He spoke passionately about the debate, calling it “the most amazing thing”. He observed:

I never thought in my political life that I would see people queuing up patiently to register to vote. . . Some people who’d not been on the political register since the poll tax probably. People who couldn’t give a stuff about politicians, including me probably, the BBC, metropolitan leaders. . . [We should] capture some of that enthusiasm, some of that positivity.

However, it was what he lacked in precision that he made up for in enthusiasm. Asked yet again about his plan for Scotland’s currency, still unclear on the eve of the poll, Salmond insisted, fairly vaguely, that, “our proposal is a common sense agreement on our current currency”. He didn't confront the scenario in which Scotland would not receive central bank backing.

Yet he confirmed that, in the event of a Yes vote, “I will say the No and the Yes campaigns are over, we have Team Scotland”. His idea of Team Scotland is to invite figures from across the political spectrum, and both sides of the independence campaign to negotiate in “comradely friendship” for a “best possible settlement for Scotland”.

However, the leader of the Better Together campaign, Alistair Darling, talking on the same programme this morning, called the idea of Team Scotland “deeply offensive”. He was condemning the idea that it was “unpatriotic” not to support the Yes campaign. "He is not Team Scotland".

Darling also criticised the tone in which some of the Yes campaign has been carried out, saying, “unfortunately there are some who have stepped over the mark,” and some had found independence activists “quite frightening”. He gave the example of Yes activists demonstrating outside the BBC.

On devolving further powers to Scotland, Darling said the new powers were announced “months ago”. He said what has been decided in the last stages of the campaign is that there will be a “timetable” for the main parties to sort out their “minor differences” over the details of devolution. On the idea of a “neverendum” following a slim No win, Darling insisted, “no, I think both sides are actually agreed – because I said it and Alex Salmond said it – that this is to settle the matter for a generation.”

He added: “We have all built the UK together and we have benefited from that strength. . . I think it would be a tragedy if that relationship was broken.”

Now both campaigns can do little but watch how their final pitches will affect the undecided 8 per cent (approximately) of voters when they come to make up their minds tomorrow.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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The quiet civil war for control of the Labour grassroots machine

The party's newly empowered far left is trying to wrest control of local branches.

“Party time! PARTY TIME!” A young man wearing a Jeremy Corbyn t-shirt appears on screen and starts dancing, accompanied by flashing emojis of a red rose and a party popper.

“There’s only one game in town and it’s getting our boy J Corbz into Downing Street”, he announces, and to do that, he is planning to explain the “nitty gritty” of local Labour politics, and, promisingly, “give a little gossip on the way”. The man is Michael Walker of online left-wing outlet Novara Media, and the video has been watched more than 38,000 times on Facebook in just two weeks.

So why should Labour members suddenly be made to care about “structures, factions, conference, selections, rule changes”? “There were shedloads of people who got involved in the Labour Party for the first time by knocking on doors during the general election,” Walker explains, “but to make sure that the Labour Party represents their voices as it goes forward, they’re going to need to take getting involved in Labour’s bureaucratic structures seriously.

“There’s a risk that the party structures and bureaucracy will try and shut down participation in the Labour Party just like they did last summer, and we want to make sure that it can’t happen again.”

While the Parliamentary Labour Party is going into recess as a more united group since the election than it had been in the past two years, there is a quiet war still being fought at local level. Now that their man has proved that he could exceed expectations and turn Labour into a solid opposition, Corbynites want to make sure that the centrists cannot keep a hold on the internal party machine.

This involves projects like Walker’s catchy videos, and Momentum’s Your Labour Conference website, which encourages members to get interested in the election of the conference arrangements committee, in order to have more of a say on what gets discussed at the party’s annual conference.

“We recognise the fact that sometimes the Labour Party can be a bit of a labyrinth and something which can be pretty hard to work out, and we want to push people forward and help them get more involved,” a Momentum spokesperson says. “We’re trying to make it more open and more accessible to younger people and help people understand what’s going on.”

With tens of thousands of people joining Labour over the past few months – including around 20,000 since the election – their intentions seem noble: the Labour party internal structure is, after all, notoriously complex. However, it isn’t clear how the existing members who are involved in local organising – a lot of whom are or were until recently sceptical of Corbyn – will deal with this new influx of activists.

“Corbyn supporters are no longer the underdog in the party, and understandably people who joined recently are highly motivated to get their opinions across, so they’ve been turning up in droves at local meetings,” says Richard Angell, the director of Blairite organisation Progress.

“They’re not brilliantly organised but they’re there, and they turned up with this sense of 'we told you so', so they’re starting to win things that they wouldn’t have before the election.”

Centrist and centre-left Labour factions have often been the most organised campaigners in constituency Labour parties, and they’re now worried that if they were to get ousted, the party would suffer.

“Lots of our members are the people who hold the CLPs together – lots of people turned up in certain places to campaign, and the people who organised the clipboards, the data, did the work to make that happen are still a network of moderates,” Angell adds. “If Momentum tried to sweep them away in a vindictive wave of jubilation, it would backfire, and that’s what they have to think about now.”

Though the people at the helm of Momentum have never explicitly called for a takeover of the party at local level, some CLPs are struggling with bitter infighting. Lewisham is home to some of these battlegrounds. With three CLPs in the borough, the local Momentum branch is trying to gain more power in the local parties to implement the changes they want to see at that level.

“There’s an organised left-wing presence in all three CLPs in Lewisham,” a local Momentum organiser, who did not want to be named, says. “We want the CLPs to become outward-looking campaigning bodies, and we want them to be functionally democratic.”

What the branch also wants is to have a radical rethink of what Labour does at council level, and the activist was critical of what the councillors have been doing.

“Under the right-wing, Lewisham CLPs never really campaign on anything – they’ll occasionally have these set pieces, like the Labour day of action on education, which is good, but in reality there’s no one going campaigning on anything,” he says.

“The other thing is about the record of the council - no-one would deny that Labour councils are in a difficult situation, in terms of getting cut again and again and again, but equally at the moment, the attitude of a lot of Labour councils in Lewisham at least is 'it’s not just that there’s nothing else we could do, we’re actually going to go further than the Tories are demanding'."

“It’s not just that they’re saying 'oh, there’s not really anything we can do to fight back against cuts' but it’s also that they’ve actually absorbed all the neoliberal stuff.”

The response to these allegations from a long-term Labour member, who wants to remain anonymous but is close to the currently serving councillors, was unsurprising.

“It is utterly absurd to suggest that councillors want to cut services – Labour members stand for council because they want to stand up for their community and protect local services,” he says. 

“As for campaigning and taking on the Tories, it was the 'right-wing' Lewisham Council which took the government to the High Court over their plans to close Lewisham Hospital – and won. The 'right wing' CLPs worked tirelessly with the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign, and we won.”

According to him, Labour is doomed to fail if it doesn’t unite soon, and he worries that left-wing activists may be getting carried away. “The vast majority of members in Lewisham are really pleased with the result and with the way the party pulled together – locally and nationally – for the election campaign,” he says.

“At the second members' meeting after the election, we had a discussion about how we all needed to carry on in the spirit of unity that we'd recently seen, and that if we did so, we have a good chance of seeing a Labour government soon.”

“It's a shame that some people want to label, attack and purge fellow members, rather than working together to beat the Tories. The more they focus on internal, factional in-fighting, the less chance we will have of seeing a Labour government and ending the cuts.”

Beyond the ideological differences which, as the election showed, can mostly be smoothed over when the party senses that it’s getting close to power, an explanation for the Labour left’s occasional bullishness could be its sense of insecurity.

After all, the wave of new members who joined after Corbyn became leader was hardly welcomed by the party’s mainstream, and the narrative quickly turned to Trotskyist entryism instead.

Momentum also spent many of its formative months being treated with suspicion, as a Trojan horse aiming to get MPs deselected, which is yet to happen two years on. Painted as the opposition to the opposition, activists from the Labour’s left had become used to being party pariahs, and need to figure out what to do now that they are in a position of power.

“They’re behaving like an insurgency still, but they’re in charge”, says Angell. “It’s quite a big change in mindset for them, and one I don’t think they’re really ready for.”

“We have shown that we will campaign for the Labour Party anywhere in the country, whoever the candidate is, to try and get the best result in a general election, and there is no acknowledgement of that from them at all.”

This was, amusingly, echoed by the Momentum activist – if there is one thing all factions agree on, it seems to be that the Labour left needs to figure out what it wants from the party machine it’s in the process of inheriting.

“Momentum nationally had a very good election, it mobilised a lot of people to go to marginals, and got a lot of people involved in campaigning, and that’s a step forward, to go from getting people to vote Corbyn to getting them on the doorstep,” he says, “but it’s another step from actually having a vision of how to transform the Labour Party.”

Marie le Conte is a freelance journalist.