Today Ahmed Abdullah Ahmed is being deported, if a campaign to let him stay does not succeed. I was tweeted this link by an independence supporter who argued (she didn’t have to argue with me it would be wrong to deport Ahmed, of course it would!) that Ahmed would not be deported from an independence Scotland. Well, I hope he wouldn’t be: he has been a refugee from Somalia for 20 years, he has lived in Britain for 7 years, he has a sister who has the right to remain in the UK – he should not have to go. (Action today!)
But I haven’t yet seen a definite policy committment from the supporters of an independent Scotland that would ensure refugees and asylum seekers who needed to stay in Scotland would be treated decently and helped to stay. For this to be more than “the sun will shine more often!” happy thoughts, independence needs a constitutional convention, and needs it long before autumn 2014.
“People can be Scottish and British, it’s OK. And if they feel primarily Scottish that’s fine too. But if they leave the UK they won’t be British any more: it stands to reason.”
There’s a general lesson there. Any time you find yourself ending a statement with “It stands to reason!” you are probably wrong. It often doesn’t.
I have a legal claim to be Canadian, because one of my parents was a Canadian citizen. I am Scottish, though I don’t have a Scottish passport. I am European, I’m entitled to a EU passport (though my current one is a year out of date). I am British – and despite Ed Miliband’s confusedly national thinking, voting Yes or No in the referendum won’t take that away from me. The Swiss are European, though not members of the EU: Northern Ireland is Irish and British simultaneously, though not part of the Republic nor geographically part of Great Britain. We’re complicated. Why not?
On Saturday 9th June, the Scottish Green Party formally announced they would not be part of the Yes Scotland campaign, due to disagreements over organisation. Patrick Harvie said:
“We can’t just be there to wave the flag for someone else’s campaign. We’re either involved in shaping it or we’re not. We feel frustrated by the lack of progress towards a genuinely inclusive campaign, and concerned that a non-inclusive campaign will be less likely to succeed.”
Their launch of Hollywood stars in a cinema put off some people. The attitude that the masses are an audience came across in more than one report of the event. Their white male line-up was a tad offputting even to supporters:
Especially the contention it was a very male line-up. There’s no point getting into a numbers game. The biggest impact is created by the people given the chance to make the biggest relevant connection with the audience. Those big connections are made by live speakers, present in person who tackle the issue of independence and say something memorable. They were almost entirely white men.
Even the social media campaign from @YesScotland has been a mess: adding people’s Twitter profiles to their website without permission , not fixing the problem until after it got to the mainstream media, and the utter failure of @yesScotland to be an interactive Twitter account.
But I saw people stopping by the Yes Scotland stall at Leith Gala day on Saturday. (Not crowded compared to the other stalls, but they had a lot of signatures by the end of the afternoon, though certainly not any significant proportion of everyone there.)
I agree with this blog at Better Nation:
And the SNP? For my money I believe their activist base to be sincerely committed to policy above all. They have a range of opinions on the rest of politics, from left to right to none, but achieving independence is the Holy Grail, the defining purpose, the eschatological moment itself. If you asked them to choose between independence with the dissolution of the SNP on one hand, and the status quo – the union with a rampant SNP – on the other they’d choose independence every time.
Which means that grassroots support for independence among SNP activists will need to turn away from the SNP, and, if necessary, from the well-funded but uninterested YesScotland campaign.
Salmond had floated some ideas about the Greens and SNP working together, but “none of them seemed to be concrete”, leaving the Greens feeling shut out of the process.
“We have been knocking on the door and the door has not been opened,” Harvie said. “If Yes Scotland is going to be a broad and inclusive campaign, as it needs to be, it needs to implement shared decision-making about the direction of the campaign.
“I hope that’s what happens, and I would be keen to take a recommendation [to October conference] that we participate on those terms. But if those are not the terms then we will have to find other ways of campaigning for a Yes vote.”
[Update, Holywood Daily, clarifying:
Green MSP for Lothian Johnstone said: “I think it’s overstating the case to say that we’ve walked away from the ‘Yes Scotland’ campaign. We have not.
“The party hasn’t reviewed or reversed any decision. The party hasn’t actually made a decision yet. National Party Council met a week past Saturday and we had hoped to go to the meeting with details of what our working relationship within the campaign might look like, but that’s still to be worked out so the decision was taken, a unanimous decision, that we would wait until national party conference, which takes place on the 6 October, and make a decision then so we could have a democratic discussion between as many of our members as possible.”
Today’s clarification nonetheless came against a backdrop of concerns within the party over inclusiveness of the campaign with Harvie yesterday insisting the Scottish Greens “don’t want to end up simply cheerleading for the SNP”, intimating members could opt to help shape another pro-independence referendum campaign.
Johnstone added: “It’s absolutely the case that the SNP have the mandate, they have the cash and they have the people. But we’d really like to set an inclusive tone now at the earliest stage possible in the campaign. We certainly want to see a broad, participative and inclusive approach.
Added at 13:51: I didn't read the clarification from the Green MSPs till lunchtime.]
Either Yes Scotland becomes inclusive or it stays a minor campaign. whether or not Scots vote for independence in 2014 depends on so many factors outside Scotland, too – the motivator for a lot of people to say “Yes” is the depressing drift to the right of the Labour party in response to the mad rush to the right of the Tories. It is within Ed Miliband’s power to make the UK a country worth voting to stay in, but he shows no inclination to do so. (It is within David Cameron’s power to save the Union by calling a general election in May 2013 and making sure he loses to Labour. But he’s less likely to do that than he is to leave one of his beloved daughters behind in the pub. Oh wait.)
Insofar as Alex Salmond matters to the Yes campaign, the Leveson inquiry (and Salmond’s close relationship with Murdoch) could have an impact, especially if Salmond convinces loyal supporters he’s done nothing wrong while leaving the rest of us with a quite different perception. The problem for the Yes campaign is not keeping loyal supporters loyal: it’s convincing the sceptics and the undecideds and a sizable fraction of those now inclined towards “no”. This they are not doing.
Yes Scotland is aiming to be “the biggest community-based campaign in Scotland’s history, designed to build a groundswell of support…”. The Sunday Herald takes a closer look and suggests that the campaign is borrowing heavily from the approach used by Obama to deliver success. At its heart is the intention to build relationships – through local and national ambassadors, groups, streetwork, local communities and communities of interest and “neighbourhood by neighbourhood and community by community“.
Barack Obama won in the US using this strategy, though also because the opposition was so hopeless. He also managed to present himself as a progressive candidate for change despite being a rock-solid conservative. That should worry people more, if the SNP are looking to his strategy to convince people without actually producing a constitution that would deliver.
And meantime. Today. In the middle of all our complicated arguments about nationality. Why does the UK government want to deport Ahmed Abdullah Ahmed?
That’s what his friends and colleagues are asking. That is what his fellow members of the Integration Network, the football team, the World Spirit theatre group and the Dialogue 4 Destitution group would like to know. Govan and Glasgow is where Ahmed has found a home, and made a new life. He has been a refugee since the age of 7, when his father was killed and the family had to flee their homeland. In 2008, Ahmed’s mother was killed in the ongoing persecution of the minority Bajuni people of Somalia. He has no connection to Tanzania, and would find nothing but danger in Somalia. Ahmed has been welcomed in Glasgow. But the government has targets to meet, so another Glasgow resident is targetted.
If nothing is done he’ll be leaving on a Qatar Airlines plane at 9:30pm tonight. Contact details for Theresa May and Qatar Airlines at the link. We need a policy change not a nationality change to ensure this never happens again. If the nationality change will deliver the policy change, well and good: but it’s for the Yes campaigns to show certainly that it will.