Why ‘the 45’ is no longer fit for purpose

(This may seem like a trivial issue, but I think it is actually quite important.)

Very quickly after the results of the referendum came out, people started talking about ‘the 45’ – meaning the 45% of voters who had supported Yes.

Indeed, when I started this particular blog, I called it ‘We are the 45 – we’re going to be the 55 (or more)’ – yes, a bit naff, but I had something I wanted to say and needed to quickly create a space to say it.  I also, for a couple of days, had a ’45’ in my Twitter profile photo and regularly used the #the45 Twitter hashtag.

In the meantime, you’ll notice this blog has changed its name. That is because I no longer think we should use ‘the 45’ as an identifier for ourselves as Yes voters. If we need to identify ourselves by how we voted, I would suggest we call ourselves… ‘Yes voters’. Radical, I know…

So what is wrong with ‘the 45’?  Two things in particular come to mind:

  1. it is exclusionary: surveys suggest 25% of No voters voted No because they believed the offer by the British nationalist parties of (undefined) ‘more powers’ – so using ‘the 45’ divides us from these people, who are actually almost on our side in this debate.  ‘The 45’ tells them that we got it right in September 2014 – but they did not.  It tells them we were smart enough to realise that the offer being made was a pig in a poke – but they were not.  It tells them we are ‘true believers’ and long have been – but they are not.  These are attitudes of exclusion, even if unintentionally so.
    I remain convinced that many in the 55% would have joined the 45% had the civilised but exciting debate we were engaged in not been drowned out by the lies, distortions and wilful misinformation of the British state. By this, I mean things like the lie about pensions being under threat from a Yes vote, the lie that Polish and other migrants would be expelled if Yes won, and much much more. Those working for the interests of the British state perpetuated these lies (take a bow, BBC News!).
    Furthermore, the British state is only interested in the 1% – this is something we have learnt from the Occupy movement. I suspect many in the 55% think the British state is interested in them. It is not. The tools of the British state are not designed to work for all, or even for a majority. They are designed and work for the 1%, nobody else. But we, the 45% are interested in (almost all of!) the 55% – our vision is broad and inclusive, and it offers space for the involvement of all.
  2. it also (inadvertently, I think) makes a link to The ’45 and Jacobitism – and that’s not a link I want to be associated with.  As Christopher A Whately puts it, ‘Most Jacobites were irrevocably committed to the idea of indefeasible hereditary right on the part of monarchs.’  That’s hardly where I want to be!  The Bonnie Prince Charlie songs etc. are all very pretty and so on, but the ideals of the Jacobites have more in common with the No campaign’s desire to preserve the unelected House of Lords than the Yes campaign’s desire to create a new democratic system!

So ‘the 45’ may have been useful as a rallying cry in the brief period after the referendum but now I think it no longer serves that purpose, or at least, it does not do so for me.  Now, as I said in my previous posting, we need to work together with No voters, within certain parameters.  The terms of cooperation must allow for self-definition of all parties, especially since many of the calls for co-operation on the No side come from people who themselves behaved in a profoundly divisive and manipulative manner during the referendum debate, such as Duncan Hothersall from ‘Labour’:

My response to this was:

I’d add this from Yes campaigner Natalie McGarry:

I do think this is important. Those of us on the Yes side lost, the No side won. However, it is NOT for the victor to decide how the loser should react or understand themselves – accepting such a pattern is simply classical imperial behaviour (of course, you might say that’s hardly a surprise, given we’ve been struggling against the British state, of which ‘Labour’ is a key part!).

So, it’s for us to decide how we describe ourselves and we should do that as we see fit and in the terms that suit us best – but ‘the 45’ is not a term I want to use for myself. When it’s relevant, I’m happy to say that I was and remain a ‘Yes voter’.

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5 thoughts on “Why ‘the 45’ is no longer fit for purpose

  1. I sympathise with these concerns, Michael, but the meme is out there and not going away. I’m personally happy to identify with the very large minority who voted for a self-governing Scotland with full available powers. I do think that a ’45 plus’ approach can break down the possible exclusivism of the ’45’ label. Thankfully, any Jacobite associations (which will be lost on most people, and which as you say are not intentional) are very marginal indeed. I certainly hope the Radical Independence, Common Weal and other consultations come up with a successor label/hashtag/meme for the movement, since ’45’ or ‘Yes’ both carry the problem of a link to an event which, while it will have wide resonance for some time, will soon start to recede from immediate awareness as other events and elections overtake it. In the meantime, I’m not so bothered about it. Of more concern are people who should know better perpetuating a ‘rigged poll’ conspiracy theory, which just makes them and us look ridiculous, and the ‘declare independence after an SNP outright majority’ stuff, which shows desperation and lack of respect for democracy. The focus instead needs to be on (a) providing infrastructure and direction for social movements for change, (b) possibilities of realignment within and across political parties, © collaboration on extracting maximum devolution of powers through upcoming constitutional debates, (d) looking to maximise the effective use of existing and any new powers, and (e) building realistic resistance to austerity economics. But those are just my initial, general thoughts…

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    • I agree that these things will recede, but ‘the 45’ is more divisive, I think, than saying you voted Yes – the latter links more directly to a personal action, the former makes that personal action part of a collective identity, and that kind of identity is a really problematic one (I think). In writing this post, I’m trying to discourage the creation of that collective identity

      I most certainly agree re: the conspiracy theorists.

      Regarding the next steps, my inclination is to agree, but it’s not enough, and that means the next steps regarding independence are important to consider. But I’ll not say more on this just now, as I’m drafting a longer blog posting already on precisely this theme, hopefully ready for sometime in the next few days…

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  2. Entirely understand where you and Sarah are coming from. I thought Kevin Borthwick made a thoughtful response to Sarah which explained why some of us are less worried than others by the 45 thing (I’ve kept my twibbon, and probably will until something else comes along) and why it may have gained so much response: ‘At this particular moment, I believe people are simply looking for their voice to be heard where previously it was silent. The level of engagement is at an all time high and we must continue to encourage this dialogue and involvement wherever it springs up. The people using social media to express their views are not trying to build a “bunker” behind a name like the 45%, I believe they are looking for a place to express their views and let their voice be heard. The “We are the 45%” Facebook page, for example, has over 167,000 likes, #the45 is trending on Twitter and it has also had press coverage. Many of the people using the aforementioned Facebook page have already expressed doubt about the name but bear in mind that the organiser of the page only set it up as a “digital meeting place for grieving Yes voters.” The dialogue is flowing freely and the vast majority of it is positive and it is already moving away from its original purpose. Let’s wait and see where we are when the dust settles in the coming weeks…’

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  3. Pingback: “You can only come to the morning through the shadows”: Indyref 2014 – a No voter writes | Thinking In The Public Sphere

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