Below is the text of the speech by SIU's Chairman, Alastair Cameron, at our Glasgow supporters' event.
Welcome to this Scotland In Union Glasgow event. Some of you are here because you have supported us over the last few months — financially, online, or otherwise. To everyone who has helped SIU already, and to all of you sparing your time this evening: thank you. For those who are new to SIU, I’d like to start by reiterating what Scotland In Union is: we are a not-for-profit, non-party and all-party, pro-UK movement, committed to promoting Scotland within the UK.
SIU launched in March this year, and we have established ourselves as the leading formally-constituted non-party pro-UK campaign group. We’re not the oldest non-party group, nor do we (yet) have the most supporters, but we have a great platform from which to build, and we are gathering momentum, particularly in the last month or so. This platform is sound, not just in terms of rationale, but also practically. We are properly constituted, as a company limited by guarantee; we are registered with the Electoral Commission (as a non-party campaign group) and the Information Commissioner; we have a proper bank account, proper bookkeeping and our accountants were engaged months ago – matters which might feel particularly relevant if you’ve seen the front of the Daily Record today.
I won’t reiterate all our achievements since March – you can read about some of them on our website - but I think the most important thing is that we have helped a lot of people to feel more positive about our political situation, providing hope and encouraging them to take action and get involved. The recent development about which I am most excited is that we now have our first member of staff (all we have done previously has been done by volunteers, on a small budget). Andrew Skinner joined us a couple of weeks ago, and has already made a huge difference to our vital online presence, and will soon be working on more local activism projects. (Sorry, if I am a bit cagey, that’s because this speech will be going online, and we don’t want to reveal all our plans in advance.)
We have the same clear vision for the future that we had at our launch. We look forward to a time when people in Scotland no longer consider themselves and others as ‘Yes voters’ or ‘No voters’; when flying a saltire is patriotic, not political; when more people understand better the benefits of the United Kingdom; when Scottish politics is about policies, not powers; and business and individuals invest in Scotland because they value stability.
Scotland In Union will continue to support the moderate majority, based on three strategic themes.
The first theme is the cultural and emotional theme, helping people to feel happy to be British and Scottish, and dispelling the negative, narrow grievance culture on which the nationalists thrive (and which some of their senior representatives seem to flaunt – Angus Macneill, Pete Wishart, come on down if you are here?). We want the best for Scotland AND for the UK. We support Team GB, not just the Scottish-born athletes within Team GB – and we will do so during next year’s Olympics. The saltire is our flag, and so is the union flag our flag.
The second theme is helping people to understand the benefits of the UK — the rational theme. In a logical world, this would be sufficient: the benefits to Scotland, the rest of the UK, and indeed to the world of a strong, positive United Kingdom have been rehearsed many times. I’m delighted that one of guest speakers this evening is Neil Lovatt, a leading light in the online campaign to demonstrate to fallacy of the separatists’ economic arguments. Expect to see more of this from SIU in the early months of 2016. We will also highlight the non-economic benefits of being part of the UK, such as the benefits of a British passport, the influence we can have in the world as part of the UK.
Our third theme is the political one. We are not a party, but we believe we have a role to play, particularly in the run-up to the 2016 Holyrood election. We will remind people that political debates should be about tax, spending, health, welfare, security and the other functions of the state, rather than indulging empty separatist gestures at the expense of running the country properly. We will support and amplify the main pro-UK parties holding the nationalists to account, and we will not let the SNP gloss over the uncomfortable parts of their record in government.
People sometimes ask if we are anti-SNP. My answer is that we are not willingly anti-anything, and we want to take a long view and help make people in Scotland more comfortable with being part of the UK, but in the short term it’s pretty hard not to oppose a party with a constitution which states the single overriding aim of separation, and it’s right to criticise a government which works towards that aim, either directly (who wanted that referendum, apart from the SNP?) or more stealthily, such as through meddling with the school curriculum.
In the run-up to the 2016 Holyrood election, therefore, we will get involved in political campaigning. I can state right now that we will not be running a tactical voting campaign, but we will be active, with leafleting, advertising and other projects - if we get the right resources. We will remind people that the SNP have been in power since 2007. We will highlight how they have not used the powers which they already have, and continue to demand more in order to distract from their true aim or to cover up their failings in government. And we will highlight how that party’s desire to eliminate dissent leads them to embrace policies which increase central control (police centralisation, or the named person state guardian proposal).
Nobody can predict the Holyrood result yet, but we can all do our bit to demonstrate that the SNP do not speak for the majority of people in Scotland. SIU already has good, informal relations with other grassroots groups and with members of all the pro-UK political parties. You can help us too, either with direct support to SIU, or by doing things which support our aim — whether it’s spreading the word, online and out here in the real world; donating, to help our activities; countering nationalist propaganda online or in discussion with friends; writing to MPs, MSPs or newspapers; or canvassing and leafleting.
We are prepared for the long haul, but we can take the task one step at a time. We look to the long term, when a referendum is unthinkable, just as it seemed about ten years ago (before the low-turnout 2011 Holyrood election, and before the Weirs won the lottery), but we will also be active in the short term, and we will look to have an impact in May. You, as our supporters, can help to make this happen – do something, no matter how small, for the UK every day. If we all work together, we will get through this current period and once again see a united Scotland, secure and comfortable in a United Kingdom. Thank you.