Last week, on Wednesday 15th November, we held a fundraising dinner in London's Caledonian Club. Here is the speech from our Chief Executive Pamela Nash.
It’s a pleasure to welcome friends old and new here tonight, and I am humbled by your support for our campaign to keep Scotland firmly in the UK.
Earlier, you heard from our founder Alastair Cameron. Many of you know Alastair, who with his friends has created this organisation from nothing but a clear vision, a passion for Scotland staying in the UK, and their persuasive nature used to recruit supporters to advise, promote and fund this organisation.
Their achievement has been truly remarkable, and they could not have done it without the support of our fantastic volunteer activists, and the great, small, but perfectly formed staff team that we have, who work tirelessly for our cause.
Scotland in Union aims to do two things:
- Firstly, to solidify Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom by promoting the positive case and campaign against another referendum.
- Secondly, to help repair the damage that was done by the referendum and reunite Scotland.
No issue has ever divided Scotland more than the constitutional question. It split families, strained friendships and sparked many an argument down the pub.
What is all too easy to forget, when we have become so entrenched in our political ‘sides,’ is that we have more in common than that which divides us.
Jo Cox, the MP who was murdered in the heat of the hatred stirred up in the Brexit referendum, will be remembered for highlighting this.
Let’s think back for a second.
Both sides argued the best thing for Scotland was to keep the pound, to have a common defence arrangement with our neighbours and allies and to maintain a single market across Britain for goods, energy and financial services.
What were the opportunities of independence?
More economic growth, fairer social security, improved childcare, investment in the NHS and a better society - all of this would be unlocked with a Yes vote, their campaign argued.
Except these are all ambitions shared by many of us on the No side…
...it’s just that we knew they would be easier to achieve within the Union.
So, we must reach out to those who voted yes, but prior to the referendum had not given independence much thought, remember that only 28% of Scottish people wanted independence before the SNP won power in the Scottish Parliament in 2011.
I must confess that I never thought of myself as being particularly pro-UK or pro-independence before the referendum debate, and I know that many felt the same.
It wasn’t a necessary choice to have one of these labels before it was forced upon us by the SNP.
I remember as a teenager writing “Scottish” rather than British on the landing card when I went on my first foreign holiday.
I also remember my first taste of feeling British when I went to work in Manchester at 16, and started listening to BBC Radio 1’s multitude of accents rather than Glasgow’s Clyde 1.
These are simple, daily experiences and choices.
People were comfortable being interchangeably Scottish and British, and feeling more Scottish did not equate with wanting independence.
We must recognise that people were forced to take a side, and give them a route out of that trench that has been dug so deep.
If this division remains cemented then there will always be uncertainty, and the danger of separation will only be the next political crisis away.
Now, debating the constitution is not what I got into politics for.
That drive is unique to the nationalists.
I was humbled to be elected in 2010, to represent my hometown, in the House of Commons.
I entered politics as it was the best route for me to contribute to improving the quality of life for people throughout this country, and beyond. This gave me the platform to campaign and vote for change, and was a dream role.
Unfortunately, this ended abruptly when in 2011 the SNP won a majority in the Scottish Parliament, and with it the mandate to hold a referendum on whether Scotland should leave the UK.
This completely dominated the rest of my time as an elected politician.
Every speech, campaign, action then had to be considered through the prism of independence.
It was, and remains the challenge of the day in Scotland.
And so, it must be faced it head on.
I am pleased to be speaking in London tonight to friends and supporters from all over the UK, who clearly agree.
The campaign to strengthen Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom does not end at Gretna Green; it is for people throughout the country, and I am delighted that Tom Holland and Dan Snow have joined us tonight to give the after-dinner speech; to highlight just that.
In 2014, thanks partly to Dan and Tom, the people of the UK sent an unequivocal message to Scotland – they said, “we want you to stay”.
And we responded in kind.
In September 2014, we affirmed our place in the UK, proudly and decisively, through a fair and democratic referendum.
The subsequent behaviour of our SNP representatives in Westminster may have led some of our friends to question whether we meant it.
June’s Election gave us the chance to reassert our desire to stay part of the UK
Scotland sent 21 of the nationalists home to think again.
This included the SNP leader Angus Robertson and a certain former First Minister Alex Salmond.
Don’t worry too much about Alex though, I understand a new career in broadcasting beckons thanks to one of his political heroes, President Putin.
I have no idea what Putin, a narcissistic demagogue, intolerant of anyone who disagrees with him, who misguidedly believes his approach will return his country to greatness, could possibly see in our own Alex Salmond.
Joking aside, the SNP are in bad shape – that much we can agree on.
Scotland has woken up to their mismanagement of public services after a decade of decline.
The collapse in oil revenues, which was sadly not unpredictable, has demolished their lightweight economic case.
And Brexit, for better or worse, hasn’t galvanised the Yes movement the way Nicola Sturgeon had hoped, particularly as a third of her supporters backed actually backed it.
But please do not write them off.
Please do not think this is job done.
While they still command the support of a significant part of the country, they remain in power and able to exploit every opportunity that comes from such a fraught and unpredictable political environment.
They are determined and they are patient.
Let’s be clear:
Their greatest weapon would be our complacency.
Remember, they only have to win this debate just once.
So…what can we do?
Our team are already working hard by…
- Reaching half a million people every week online and promoting the positive case for Scotland to stay in the UK
- Running street stalls throughout Scotland
- Challenging and rebutting the myths of the nationalists.
For those of us in Scotland, one particularly painful element of the past few years in the rise of nationalism has been the adoption by pro-independence campaigners of Scottish culture and symbols, most prominently shown by the bastardisation of the Saltire.
This is not the flag of nationalists, it is everyone’s flag.
So, soon our supporters will be celebrating St Andrew’s Day throughout Scotland, for some it might be a quiet drink, but there is everything from a pub quiz to ceilidh dancing planned.
And we will be celebrating Burns Night in January too.
Lets be clear, no political group has a monopoly over our culture, it belongs to everyone who lives in or as an affinity for Scotland.
With your support tonight, and beyond, we will be able to do so much more…
- We will be able to develop our website and expand our social media operation to target key demographics and new audiences to drive our message home.
- We will be able to host a range of events that give a platform to a variety of speakers to widen our appeal.
- We will have the means to commission research and polling which evidences our arguments in the media.
- We will be able to pay for traditional and digital advertising to target hard-to-reach audiences.
Through this we will continue to make clear that a divisive second referendum would be damaging to Scotland.
And, just in case, we will also be ready for another referendum, should it be forced upon us.
We already have a fantastic team of active volunteers throughout Scotland constantly on the campaign trail. With your help, we can recruit and train more regional organisers to increase our ground campaign capability.
We are currently establishing our first Scotland in Union Students group in St Andrew’s University; with your help, we could roll this out and support students across Scotland’s universities and colleges to make their voices heard and support our larger campaigns.
These are practical steps to embed in public life a full-time campaign to extol the virtues of Scotland in the UK and counter the divisive rhetoric of nationalism.
And I tell you, friends.
It must be us and it must be now.
If not us, who?
If not now, when?
Waiting to start when IndyRef2 is already inevitable will be too late.
We have a real opportunity now to embed a full-time campaign and have an established message that Scotland does best when it’s in the UK.
By coming along and contributing tonight, you have stood up to be counted.
Thank you so much, for all you have done to support Scotland in Union and help us to work to keep Scotland firmly in the UK.