This time three years ago I was keeping busy catching up with a different friend every night over a pint, coming to terms with the loss of a dear friend. Mike, a beautiful radge I met when I was 15 had been killed in a car crash and the loss was devastating to the huge number of people whose lives he’d been part of. Thinking about him this year on the anniversary of the accident, it struck me that then, as now, I’d spent the weeks before Christmas running on adrenalin, keeping busy, coping, being with others who’d been part of his life. This year I’ve been busier than ever, spinning a lot of plates and trying to give as much time as I can, not just to my close friends but to the people I’ve met through the last couple of years of campaigning for a Yes vote.
It struck me that the winter tiredness, the low moods, the desperation to keep busy – they’re all just part of grief. I’m grieving for independence – for what might have been and for the opportunities lost. The five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance – are something to which I think we can probably all relate at the end of 2014.
So where do we go from here?
Well firstly, we all need to know that we’re not alone. For me, standing in front of 3000 people to chair the closing session of the Radical Independence conference filled me with hope and comfort, knowing that I was part of something bigger despite our loss.
But as we move towards acceptance – that last stage of grief – I think the old adage of educate, agitate, organise must guide our plans. We’ve all had an enormous education these last couple of years and we need to continue that and make it broader to reach more people.
We absolutely need to agitate. Osborne’s cuts will hammer us all, especially the poorest and we must fight austerity at every turn. But we can’t keep our eyes solely fixed on Westminster. Holyrood holds many opportunities for much needed change and campaigns like the brilliant Living Rent Campaign and the cross party Women 50:50 campaign are great examples of actions being taken now, with the powers we already have.
Finally, we need to organise. So many of us threw ourselves into a new campaign, organisation or political party as soon as the Yes campaign closed its doors. We all felt the need to do something, anything, to keep up the momentum for change. I know some folk worry about dispersing our efforts into different causes, but I think that diversity is a good thing.
It’s clear that different parts of the Yes movement have different strengths. For example,
RIC is fantastic at protests, direct action, mass canvasses and political education; Common Weal develops a common policy platform for us to coalesce around (or disagree on!) and is providing a space for learning and debate at a local level too; and National Collective holds the key to the cultural education that meant so much to so many these last two years. We must play to those strengths and complement, not duplicate effort.
And whilst we were part of one big movement, each of us is different with different passions, interests and skills – we need to follow those passions now and focus efforts on the things we care about and pursue them without waiting to be told what to do. Life’s too short to wait and hope for opportunities to come along.
Three years ago the heartache of losing love and the futures that could have been was probably the hardest time in my life. Since then, I’ve met some of the most incredible people, fallen in love, and been part of a movement that has changed my life. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt, it’s that life must be lived and we must create our own opportunities.