Many of the articles which have been written in the aftermath of the independence referendum have been suffused with anger and frustration at the dishonest campaign of fear and smear fronted by the Labour Party. There was probably some value in getting that off our collective chests. But we now need a clear-eyed strategic focus on the future. And we must not fall into the same mistakes which Labour made in 2007 and 2011.
In 2007 Labour were in denial about losing the Scottish Parliament elections. They did nothing to address the reasons why they had lost, and instead wallowed in hatred of the SNP. The overall SNP majority in 2011 may have been a surprise, but there should have been no real shock that Labour did so poorly.
The SNP and the broader Yes movement must not mirror those mistakes. For all the legitimate concerns about dishonest vows and media bias, the blunt truth is that we lost on the 18th of September, and the Scottish public will have little patience with anybody who does not demonstrate very clearly that they respect their wishes.
The challenge before us is to build the broadest possible constituency of support for strong and meaningful autonomy, whether we call that Devo Max or Federalism or Home Rule. We need to be reaching out to those amongst the 55% who are genuinely committed to a stronger Scottish Parliament. We need to be pressing for the inclusion of Scottish civil society in the discussion of the powers that we need to build a fairer and more prosperous Scotland. We need to insist on gender balance within that process, and as a fundamental and necessary priority in order to deliver meaningful change.
The next electoral test will be the 2015 UK General Election. The UK media will frame this as a choice between Labour and Tory. We can already see both parties lurching further to the right as they compete for UKIP/Daily Mail votes. The Tories are promising to squeeze the poor to deliver tax cuts for the rich, but Labour are promising to match Tory spending cuts. The Tories will make their pitch with anti-EU and anti-human rights populism laced with dog-whistle racism.
Our strategic focus and messaging needs to be clear that the priority is to defeat the Tories and ensure they have no mandate to impose their ideologically driven, small-state neo-liberalism on Scotland. This will best be achieved by defeating Tory candidates in Scotland and electing MPs who will put the interests of Scotland first. Labour are not our real enemy, they are a failed strategy for defeating our real enemy. Talk of seeking revenge on Labour is a silly distraction from the positive campaign we need to wage to protect and empower Scotland. And anti-Labour diatribes are a turn-off for the voters we need to reach out to.
There have been calls for a Yes alliance incorporating the SNP, Greens and independents to put forward a slate of candidates in 2015. If such an alliance could come together around a positive proposal for autonomy it could potentially be very attractive. It will not be easy to put together, and it will be a high risk strategy given that the media will focus on Cameron and Miliband.
Whether there is an alliance or not we will need to compete with Labour for votes. Lets compete on a positive vision about how we can best protect Scotland from an extremist Tory party and their damaging economic policies. Lets be clear on how we can reject ideologically driven austerity, create jobs and reduce poverty. Lets demonstrate that we have listened to Scottish voters and that we are reaching out to build broad support for a strong Scottish Parliament.