I’m not sure Kevin McKenna’s experience of Referendum hustings is representative of the whole. The Yes campaign in particular seem to be reaching out in parts right across the vast swathe of land that is Scotland.
But he makes a pertinent point about just how unwilling, or unable the country’s political elites are to deal with people who cannot be classed as white, middle class or liberal.
Like for instance, the Orange Order:
I’ve attended a few referendum gatherings and while they have been entertaining, and occasionally inspiring, what they have not been is representative of all parts of Scottish society. In the main, the audiences were affluent, professional and university-educated. There were political activists there, too, and trade union officials.
I acknowledge that there are many who had previously been politically disengaged who are attending these meetings but, with some exceptions, this has been a campaign conducted by white, middle-class liberals. Each night in Scotland, there are utopian visions being shared of a land flowing with milk and honey and where the people will be the most tolerant and educated on the planet. Lions will be lying down with lambs all over the shop.
But while we are all going to sleep with pictures of tartan unicorns dancing in sun-dappled glens, we shouldn’t be disdaining the Orangemen and what they are representing in this campaign, which is a dose of scrofulous reality. These people may be grimly clinging to an old and outdated model of Scotland, but that’s only because modern Scotland has impoverished them, dismantled their neighbourhoods and their industrial hinterlands and shut down their schools.
And then we mock them for their adherence to God, Queen and country. In the same way that we deride any among us who persist in going to church in smart, enlightened, modern Scotland. In the meantime, we empower our increasingly antagonistic and out-of-control police force to stop, search and detain young, working-class men in the west of Scotland for singing songs about Irish history.
The people who will decide the referendum will not be those in the chattering, political classes but the tens of thousands in the housing schemes across the country whose children are underfed and who are exploited by employers paying very low wages.
Their voting records are not high and so we tend to ignore them at a Westminster or Holyrood election. Well, they’re voting in this contest – and so both sides had better start properly to understand their language and their curious ways.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty