Great events require great changes; great change requires fresh thinking from those who observe, interpret and try to influence both events and change.
Up until now, The Point website has existed as part of our broader platform – including facebook and twitter – and has taken the form of a quarterly in depth magazine. Over two and a half years we published dozens upon dozens of articles covering a huge range of subjects from a left perspective – local and topical, international and historical, cultural, philosophical and scientific. As a non-party Scottish publication that supports 'socialism, independence, the environment and peace' our 'issues' averaged latterly over 30, 000 unique readers per issue, and our articles from a wide range of the left spectrum, sometimes controversial, sometimes against the grain, often saw heated debate on their accompanying threads.
We promised 'red sky thinking for an open and diverse left' and by and large we believe we delivered. Averaging 16 articles per issue that would cover ongoing and relevant debates within the movement, we would also cover stuff not normally covered in other left publications and we avoided simply being a digest of what the various left groupings were saying. We had articles written by seasoned activists from the SNP, SSP, Greens and Solidarity, as well as leading left thinkers and academics – and just as importantly had articles from first time writers and grass roots innovators.
It is our intention that none of that will change. But, like everyone else who was involved, The Point was also affected by being part of one of the greatest campaigns any of us have ever been involved in – the Scottish Independence Referendum.
The NO vote in that referendum may yet prove to be the biggest pyrrhic victory the British State and its political agents and apparatus have ever 'enjoyed'. A deafening cacophony of lies, half truths and distortions from a compliant press and a treacherous Labour Party saw an 11-9 win on September 18th for No. But far more importantly, it saw a decisive change in consciousness among whole layers of the working class in Scotland who now identify themselves with the democratic aspiration to run their own country, and who identify that aspiration, not with national chauvinism or exceptionalism, but with a desire for radical social and economic change and a passionate internationalism.
Commentators beyond enumeration have written and talked about how politics in Scotland has undergone a seismic change; on how it is that it is the pro-indy parties in Scotland who have taken on swathes of new members; about how aliens landing from Proxima Centauri might mistakenly conclude that YES had won – such is the buoyancy of Yes campaigners, of the 45%; that this May's General Election might yet see an unheard of thing: Labour losing the General Election in Scotland to the SNP, perhaps even while winning or forming a minority government at Westminster.
It became necessary in the course of that great campaign for YES for this publication – which has always supported Scottish Independence – to nail its colours firmly to the mast, to become, not a just a commentator, but an active persuader, and while this was principally done through the immediacy of our facebook page, the online magazine also in the final months of the campaign became essentially a tribune for a YES vote. With our facebook page regularly getting 50, 000 plus interactions a week, and top pro-indy articles in the magazine being read by thousands, we became a highly effective social media pump for pro-indy memes – second in Scotland only to the established 'Big Three' platforms; Bella Caledonia, Wings Over Scotland and Newsnet.
But a price was paid, of course. More immediate pro-indy stuff meant less time and space (and energy) for articles on other subjects. This is an imbalance we will now strive to redress. The Point will always be committed to Scottish Independence – but we have a wider audience that also wants to see those articles on UK politics, Green politics, international developments, on history and culture and science and socialist ideas, who want reflective, critical writing as well as call to action pieces.
The issue we face then is how to move to the next level, and combine the popularity and immediacy of our facebook page with the quality and unique virtues of The Point online magazine at its height. After some deliberation, it seemed clear to our editorial board that our signature 'quarterly' magazine style format, which had served us well, was no longer fit for purpose. How could a quarterly magazine keep up with a new, faster moving zeitgeist, both domestically and internationally? Why attempt to attract the attention of thousands every 16 weeks for a great product when it is possible to have an ongoing updated product on a weekly or twice weekly basis?
All of the Point platforms - webpage, facebook, twitter and blog - are produced entirely on a voluntary basis by a small handful of individuals, most of whom are in full time work. How best do we use the time and energy available to us collectively in a way that maintains the ethos of the Point but updates our format that allows our broad left and socialist readership to have an ongoing, engaging and participatory experience?
All of these questions seem to 'point' us to one answer: dispense with the quarterly magazine format and become a constantly updated, day to day, week to week site in the same way that Wings, Bella and Newsnet are; mixing digest type posts from a wide range of sources, linking with our own fb and twitter feeds, as well as original written material on a regular basis that maintains the high standards of ideas and discourse we have set for ourselves in the past. This will be our aim over the weeks and months ahead, and we hope you will join us in that endeavour, as readers, debaters and writers. We hope to continue to grow, and to grow organically.
Much has happened since the last 'issue' and the post-referendum Point editorials and articles; Alex Salmond has resigned and been replaced by Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland now has a daily pro-independence newspaper, the idea of a YES Alliance was widely discussed and supported and didn't happen, Obama announced the restoration of diplomatic ties with Cuba; Syriza has been elected in Greece, genetic modification (of a strict type and for strict medical necessity) has become legal in the UK. It can seem as if we are living through developments at an accelerated pace. But it is no 'curse' to live in interesting times.
Not at all.
We hope you enjoy the new format Point, and, as always we'll be very interested to hear what you, our readers, have to say.