campaigning

The Yes campaign may have won the #indyref

Update: The SNP now look on track for 60,000 members after hitting 50,000 yesterday and now standing at 59,000 (as of 1pm Wednesday – no signs of slowing, either). They have overtaken the Lib Dems’ and UKIP’ total British membership numbers by a long stretch. Meanwhile the Scottish Socialists are processing over 2,000 membership applications and the Greens over 3,000 (plus hundreds more in England, too). 

The SNP’s doubled membership means that over 1 in every 100 Scots are now members of the party – a higher proportion than party memebership of ALL parties across the UK as a whole. A back of the envelope calculation puts the membership fees gained from the over 33,000 new recruits shows if they all paid:

  • The recommended fee – £5 a month: The party would rake in £2m in extra subs for the next year
  • The lower fee: £3 a month: £1.2m in extra subs for the year ahead
  • The minimum fee: £1 a month: £400,000 extra for the next year

That’s a lot of money (in addition to the tens/hundreds of thousands that will have been donated over the past week – genuinely). It’s also 33,000 additional foot-soldiers who have an experience of campaigning.

Something incredible is happening in Scotland – people are actually getting excited about democracy. Meanwhile a poll puts the SNP on 49% for Holyrood and catching up with Labour for the Westminster election next year. 

The article below was originally published at Left Foot Forward

With pro-independence parties seeing record-breaking membership growth, the indy camp could be the real winners after all

Who do you think won the Scottish independence referendum on Thursday? You’d probably have a fair claim to say it was the unionist campaign, winning 55 per cent of the vote.

But a few facts suggest that in the long run, it could be the parties that campaigned for independence.

Why? Over the past three days, membership of the SNP has risen by at least 14,000, nearly half of which joined in the 24 hours after polls closed. To put that into perspective, that was the SNP’s total membership ten years ago. They’ve now added that since Thursday night.

This now makes the SNP by far the largest party in Scotland with over 45,000 members – far more than both UKIP and the Lib Dems’ total membership across the whole of the UK. It’s also, according to a Green Party activist I spoke to, nearly four times Labour’s membership in Scotland.

It’s hard to even accurately assess the extent to which people want to sign up: the SNP’s website crashed on Sunday for two hours when 500 tried to join in one hour. There were fascinating stories circulating on social media – such as an extended family of 18 people simultaneously resigning from Labour to join the Nationalists.

This has to be a total rarity in modern British politics at a time when membership of the mainstream parties is stagnant or plummeting. People are, whisper it, actually getting excited about politics.

It’s not just the SNP that is facing this surge either. 2,500 joined the Scottish Green Partybetween polls closing and Saturday evening – a faster rate than the SNP. Earlier this year the Greens had just 1,200 members in Scotland, meaning in a few days they have doubled or more in size. The impact? They could end up with over dozen MSPs in nine month’s time; their highest ever.

It’s hard to fathom the impact that could have on politics north of the border. The combined membership of the England & Wales and Scottish Green Parties is now around half that of the Lib Dems nationally. They’re gaining ground, a fact reflected in the polls, too.

Even the Scottish Socialist Party has seen a minor revival, with another 600 members in the two days following the referendum.

I could go on. But the key issue isn’t the numbers here – as impressive as they are – but the issue of why, and what impact this could have on Scottish politics.

Yes Scotland shared a Facebook status pointing to the astonishing recruitment figures (it was shared over 2,300 times). Of the more than 1000 comments, almost all were from new activists. And many are deeply interesting.

One of the most popular comments appears to sum up the mood:

“I will not lie down and accept this result. I will not suck it up, and move on. Nobody achieved anything in life by rolling over and accepting the status quo. I will continue to hope for an independent Scotland in my lifetime. I’ve never really taken an interest in politics before this referendum, but today I’ve become one of the 4000+ people to join the SNP in the last 24 hours. We are the 45 per cent and we will not be silenced.”

Another:

“We lost the battle but were not losing the war.” Again: “Yesterday we cried, today we move forward with renewed determination to claim what is rightfully ours.”

All these reflect the fact that the referendum was not the end of the road, but perhaps the start of a process. Many were disgruntled with the BBC and the rest of the almost entirely unionist press, 70,000-strong allegations – however ridiculous – of vote rigging, and the apparent reneging on promises to grant further devolution just one day after the referendum.

But they were also impressed by the principled move of Salmond to stand down upon losing the vote, and the vibrant radical grassroots campaign which mobilised working-class people who had long been ignored by neoliberal politics.

Those activists are now becoming party political: “Now that there’s no referendum campaign to be involved in, these people, who have been politicised for the first time in many cases, are looking for some political activity to get involved in – they’re not going back to their sofas,” Edinburgh Greens’ membership secretary Mike Williamson told me.

They also, crucially, have experience of campaigning that will help them in next year’s election. Paper members they shall not be.

The vast reawakening of the democratic spirit in Scotland on the Yes side in the months running up to the #indyref suggests it is a political resurgence that will not go away quietly. We can laugh at the rhetoric of ‘We are the 45 per cent’ [the total Yes vote] – but the major party leaders may not be laughing come next year’s elections. Johann Lamont’s own constituency voted overwhelmingly for yes, after all.

With pro-independence parties all seeing record-breaking membership growth (and thus resource growth – finances and feet on the ground), it looks like the indy camp may be the real winners after all.

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The Twitter generation takes to the streets – UK Uncut ‘Pay Day’ in Truro a big success

Truro was put on the political map on Saturday, with over 20 activists from all over Cornwall shutting down tax-dodging stores in the city as part of the UK Uncut ‘Pay Day’. Demonstrations took place in over 50 towns and cities across the country, with Truro’s protest listed among the most successful in newspapers – from the Observer to Socialist Worker.

Meeting at 11, campaigners marched from Lemon Quay to Topshop chanting ‘Philip Green, pay your tax’, referring to the notorious tax-dodger who is advising the government on ‘austerity’ measures. The police, in stark contrast to the Met in London, were friendly and enabled the peaceful but effective protest to go ahead without intimidation or violence.

The group immediately filled Topshop, leafleting customers and shutting down the whole store for some time. After occupying both floors, we eventually agreed to leave, but maintained a similar level of disruption outside. Though the aim was to pressure Philip Green, a large part of the day of action was about informing the public, so hundreds of leaflets were given out and many interesting conversations took place with shoppers. The level of public support was encouraging, with a number of people thanking and congratulating the demonstrators.

To add to the festive mood the 20 or so activists sang Christmas carols – but with a twist, ‘O tidings of Greedy Billionaires’ one of the more popular anthems of the day. The ‘Big Society Revenue and Customs Entertainment Division’ gave Christmas shoppers a mixture of serious political sentiment and seasonal cheer.

Over the course of the day many other Arcadia-owned stores were closed, with BHS, Evans, Burton and Dorothy Perkins temporarily shutting down as students, trade unionists and other local groups picketing the retail outlets.

The security in all the stores was double or even triple the usual amount. But through quick discussion and fast paced decision-making and mobilisation, we were able to achieve a lot with limited resources, something that is becoming a theme across the country with extremely localised and grassroots campaigns springing up under the UK Uncut banner via Facebook and Twitter.

Towards the end of the day we returned to Burton, which had previously been picketed but not completely closed. Going in one at a time, we were able to fill the store with anti-tax dodging activists and then blockade it from within. With protesters both inside and outside, it became increasingly embarrassing for the often aggressive security to continue keeping the store open.

Surprisingly, the Evans occupation was arguably the most successful, with just five protesters mingling inside the store, and then upon the blow of a whistle blockading the entrance. Posters were put up while a large crowd gathered outside. After around half an hour of singing, chanting and occupying, we were ‘escorted’ out by private security.

Despite the freezing temperatures, actions like these took place all over Britain aimed at forcing Phillip Green to pay the £285m of tax he owes us, for Vodafone to pay back the £5-6bn they recently dodged, and for other companies such as Boots (who avoid £84m a year) to end the corrupt practice of tax-avoidance which takes place while ordinary people struggle to buy food for their families.

There will be more UK Uncut actions in the coming months, and more demonstrations in Truro to come. Democracy is being put into action, and the lack of top-down leadership seems, at least for the time being, a huge benefit to the anti-cuts cause.