I’ve just returned home after a week away and I’ve described some of the independence related observations in another post. But the complete highlight of the week was meeting one of the unsung heroes of the independence movement, John Jappy.
I’ve introduced readers to John Jappy previously (and if you want to read his articles – and you should – then please follow that link) but I would like to do so again having now actually met the man (and, it should be well and truly noted, his formidable and able wife Christine who is equally involved in the campaign for independence and the CND over many, many years). John is in his 80s but has a very sharp brain on his shoulders and is actively involved in furthering the cause for Scottish independence. He is a retired civil servant who had access to the UK Treasury’s books in the late 60s and through the 70s (so before and after the discovery of oil) and has written about in his blog and spoken about it on YouTube.
There are many voices in this independence campaign but I think John is probably one of the pivotal ones in that he is able to provide personal insight into the financial situation that exists between Scotland and the rUK in a way that many of us cannot. Without his interventions it would be so much harder for the Yes campaign to claim the truth that Scotland has been contributing positively to the UK economy for so many years, and not only since oil was discovered. John’s voice allows us to shine a light on the years between the 1921 (or 1922) and 1990 when the UK government was very reticent to disclose how much money Scotland pumped into the UK economy. John’s membership and active involvement with the SNP over the years has no doubt allowed that party to more actively push forward their ideas that have led to this referendum taking place. I may be putting two and two together and making five, but I can’t help but wonder if it isn’t information supplied by John to a younger Alex Salmond that enable him (and others) to uncover the McCrone Report, hidden by Westminster governments for 30 years, which detailed the sheer scale of North Sea oil and its potential impact on the ideal of Scottish independence.
John has been reblogged on several independence websites including Wings Over Scotland and Newsnet Scotland (it was one of these sites that led me to him in the first place) but other than a collection of his own posts he only has a brief presence on Twitter, so his online profile is pretty low and it would be easy to overlook him and his contribution to the independence debate.
John and Christine are neighbours of my mother’s and have been for over 20 years. Which means that when I was but a school boy they were neighbours of mine too. What a great shame that I didn’t get to meet these two wonderful people before now! But such is life and it was a great pleasure to final shake John’s hand and thank him for providing me with the evidence that supported what I had always believed to be the case; that Scotland more than paid its way within the UK. We had a great chat and they were delighted with the ‘art work’ on my wee blue #YesPleaseVan and asked me to leave it parked outside their home the following day where it would get maximum viewing from motorists on their way between Ullapool and Inverness. I could hardly refuse, could I?
Before I left, John gave me a copy of his book ‘Scottish Independence and other essays’ (Inchbrakie Books, 2014) and I got him to sign it as I am sure it will be worth millions in years to come. I don’t know if there are any plans to make the book available for sale but I think it should grace every independence campaigner’s bookshelf alongside Lesley Riddoch’s ‘Blossom’, ‘Yes, The Radical Case for Scottish Independence’ by James Foley and Pete Ramand , ‘The Common Weal’ by the Jimmy Reid Foundation or Cat Boyd and Jenny Morrison’s ‘Scottish Independence, a feminist response’ (other suggestions gratefully received – please leave a comment below).
Meeting John taught me a valuable lesson about not getting too focussed on your own little sphere and ignoring what is going on elsewhere. There is a whole level of campaigning going on that those of us on the internet and those of us living in the big cities of Scotland are probably completely unaware of. This is the campaign of writing letters to local newspapers throughout the Highlands and it has been going on for years, with John Jappy being one of several individuals who regularly writes to the likes of the Stornoway Gazette, the Inverness Courier and John O’Groat Journal, to name a very few. This has been going on for years with campaigners for independence – usually members or of the SNP – engaged in a long-term programme of drip-feeding ideas into the minds of readers. John said to me that a letter in a newspaper is worth 2000 political leaflets posted through the door as leaflets often get dumped straight into the bin whereas almost everyone reads the letters page in their local paper.
Wings Over Scotland has right pointed out that the vast majority of Scotland’s daily newspapers are owned outwith Scotland and are not supportive of independence, but the major papers are not the only story, especially in the rural areas where word of mouth and local news, rather than the internet, is the most favoured medium of communication. I am sure that in all the rural areas of Scotland similar methods of persuasion are being used and we internet warriors need to remember this. While it is fair to say that independence will be won in the big cities of the Central Belt, it could easily be lost in the rural areas, so we neglect them at our peril.
The other thing that meeting John taught me is the power of connection and the importance of all of us Yes campaigners reaching out and offering ourselves as positive examples of what independence will bring. While John and Christine have been in the SNP for decades and are well connected within those circles in the Highlands, it was also apparent that they had little knowledge of how the rest of the campaign was going or how diverse and widespread it was. It was a pleasure to be able to tell them about all the things that have been happening (and there is so much more I could have mentioned but didn’t have time for) and how people the campaign interacts with are viewing the prospect of independence. And it was doubly pleasurable to see that they both took great comfort from hearing my view that the campaign is going well and that we are going to win this.
Many people will need the comfort of knowing they are voting with the majority and the winning side in order for them to vote Yes. So, get out there folks and tell your friends and family and those you meet that Yes is going to win. If they are having doubts you will reassure them and the more positive we all are the more likely we are to win.
But John had his own positive story to tell. He recounted that a day or two before we met he and Christine had been on a bus with other local pensioners on their way home from Inverness and crossing the Kessock Bridge heading north when they saw a HUGE day-glo orange Yes sign in a garden right at the end of the bridge. What was wonderful, he said, was the reaction from all the other people on the bus (8-10 people) who were all delighted to see the sign. And, he said, he had thought that half of them were Tories and committed No voters!
A couple of days later I was honoured to be able to give John a lift in the #YesPleaseVan, flag flying, to a village social occasion and plenty of people saw him arrive so he was, no doubt, the talk of the town, if he wasn’t already (and my mother is outed as a Yes supporter too I guess). Talking of my mother, she told me that one of her neighbours is probably going to vote No but has said she would vote yes if John Jappy was in charge of the SNP rather than Alex Salmond. Ah well, it is not good thinking that everyone you meet is going to make sensible decisions on a rational basis, is it?
Anyway, it was a great pleasure and an honour to meet John and Christine Jappy last week. A mutual acquaintance said to me, ‘John is a legend’. I concur but would add that he is a gentleman of the highest order too and when Scotland becomes independent we need to remember the man and all he has done for the country.
For John’s sake, please vote Yes.