The Point
Last updated: 27 June 2022. sky thinking for an open and diverse left

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Radical Independence Conference


 Radical Independence Conference: the beginning of something new in Scottish politics?


This is an exciting time to be living in Scotland.

Something is happening and change is in the air, and we say this as a magazine not normally prone to hyperbole.

The Radical Independence Conference on Saturday 24th November may well turn out to be the most important gathering of the Scottish left in recent years. Since the debilitating split of the SSP in 2006 the Scottish left has been in the doldrums, but the RIC offers evidence that it is now at last emerging from the political swamp it’s been wading through these last few years. With even the normally cynical media estimating around 800-900 people in attendance, turnout at Saturday’s event was impressive. But high numbers were not the only thing of note. The event was well organised and the marketing slick and professional, something unusual for the left. There was a genuine coming together of diverse voices around a broad platform, and a palpable enthusiasm both to help win the independence referendum and to present a radical and progressive vision for an independent Scotland. This was a genuine ‘big tent’ – which may not have suited some – but the International Socialist Group, who initiated the RIC, should be congratulated for their role in putting this together.

It was also good to see more than just the ‘usual suspects’ in attendance. Many young people attended the event and it was encouraging to see fresh faces and a new generation coming through not tainted by the past.  Socialists of all major tendencies and types were there, alongside Greens, issue campaigners, trade unionists in number, and radicalised students. We were particularly pleased to see SNP activists in attendance, including some councillors.  The Point was reminded of the 300, 000 people who voted for the Socialists and the Greens in the 2003 Scottish Parliament elections.  That represents a potentially huge block of voters that could sway the outcome of the independence referendum in 2014.

The RIC demonstrates that the Scottish left has not gone away, and that if it steps up to the plate then it still has a serious role to play in Scottish politics. The question now is: where do we go from here?

The Point believes that the RIC should not stand outside of the Yes Scotland Campaign, or in counter position to it, but work in tandem with it while retaining its organisational independence and its socialist message of ‘another Scotland is possible’. We believe that was the ‘sense’ of Saturday’s gathering, and we welcome the statements of Yes Scotland and Alex Salmond noting the contribution of the RIC and its commitment to securing a Yes vote. It was heartening to see many RIC delegates lining up at the Yes Scotland stall to sign up to that campaign.  There is no contradiction in being part of both.

The YES Campaign is where we need to be, not simply standing on the sidelines yelling ‘no to cuts’ or counter-posing socialism in the abstract to independence.  We are all opposed to austerity.  We all support working people struggling internationally against it.  But the Scottish Government currently receives an ever reducing block grant from Westminster and has no borrowing powers.  The most direct route to protecting Scottish working class people from Coalition cuts and austerity for the rest of this decade and beyond is through independence. Independence opens up the possibility of serious economic and social change - because Scotland’s natural political gravity tends to the left.  To fail to understand this is simply…to fail.

In the past sections of the left have been too self obsessed with their own signature issues and sometimes lost sight of the bigger picture, speaking in a language few ordinary folk relate to.  Whilst the tragedy of Gaza, or the role of American imperialism in the world, or the nature of the Cuban state are critically important issues, they are not the primary concerns of most people in Scotland right now. Instead of talking at people we must engage with the broad sweep of humanity in Scotland, highlighting how independence can address their concerns and priorities. This means engaging with people on the issues that matter, including decent, long term jobs on proper wages, secure and affordable homes, cheaper energy bills, health and education that is world class and free at the point of need, a Scotland where our young people have a future and where all of our people feel safe and enabled in their communities. We need to be able to explain how public ownership, participatory democracy and a redistributive and progressive taxation system can help achieve these things and more, and why full independence for Scotland could help deliver them.

The independence debate can appear complex, yet the referendum will simplify matters. You either vote yes or you vote no. No in betweens; none of this business of yes, but only if we abolish capitalism, or increase corporation tax, or leave the EU the next day and abolish the monarchy the day after that. For most progressives and socialists who support both socialism and independence we have always known that they are a process more than an outcome.

The Scottish left needs to be part of that process.

The inaugural Radical Independence Conference was a massive step in a new direction. Of course, even a flock of swallows does not a summer make, but the road is open, and a whiff of political spring is in the air.

Once again we say thanks to all of those who helped organise what could – potentially - be a landmark day in the history of the Scottish left

External links:

Bella Caledonia

Bright Green

George Monbiot

Green Left


The Jimmy Reid Foundation

Richard Dawkins

Scottish Left Review

Viridis Lumen