The Point
Last updated: 19 June 2017.

...red sky thinking for an open and diverse left

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Micro-Point: Taking Back What's Ours

Each week in the new look Point we'll have a short rant or article espousing a specific idea. This week Steve Arnott calls for a Scottish Government Commission on

aaa Public Ownership

 

An idea whose time has come?

 

The SNP have undertaken a consultation with their thousands of new members on policies for the 2016 Holyrood election.

The Point is a left, pro-indy platform with no party allegiance, but undoubtedly we have many readers within the left of the SNP...so we'll throw our half a groat in and hope some lefts in the SNP pick it up and run with it.

We would like to see the next Scottish Government truly turn back the tide of Thatcherism and neo-liberalism by establishing a public commission tasked with three things

1) establishing what industries/services should, in principle, be in public ownership/de-privatised/protected from privatisation in an Independent or Devo Max Scotland (the banks? energy companies? public transport? oil and gas exploration? etc etc)

2) to spell out in detail the economic and social benefits and arguments for public ownership

3) and to establish how - as cheaply as possible, and in the shortest time scale - the Scottish Government can take the necessary assets into public ownership and shield others against any possible future privatisation.

The commission should include leading left pro-indy academics such as Jim and Margaret Cuthbert, Prof Alyson Pollock, Prof Mike Danson, as well as trade unionists and people with both public and private sector experience. It should begin with a mandate to work within the principles established by the Common Weal movement, and the substantive understanding that there are in life things we all depend upon and need that should be be publicly owned and directly accountable, and not subject to the profit motive.

It should report by the middle of the next Parliament, and its findings, if accepted by the democratic will of Parliament. should be written into a future Scottish Constitution at the first opportunity.

How about that for a policy that could change the social and economic map of Scotland, and expose Scottish Labour's new found 'left' credentials as the shallow thing that they are.

Interesting Times - or how the left should learn to stop worrying and love 'the curse'

Gary Fraser argues that the left in Scotland should embrace change and get organised.

While there is no doubt that anyone who has ever lived finds their own times interesting, these are especially interesting times to be living in Scotland. The 'yes' campaign, which captured the imagination of so many, does not feel or act like it was on the losing side – witness the growth of the pro-independence parties, the recent rallies including Scotland's First Minister's tour of the country and the gathering of Scotland's Radical Independence Campaign at the tail end of a historic year.

Yet, I sense that the referendum dust is beginning to settle and we are now entering a new phase in Scottish politics. This article is concerned with how Scotland's radical left moves forward in 2015 and beyond.

Terminology is important here. By 'radical left' – and I do accept that the term 'radical' is somewhat nebulous – I am thinking of all those positioned outside the mainstream parties, including the SNP. I regard myself, reluctantly sometimes, as a part of this broad constituency.

For what it's worth, I still consider myself a socialist, usually out of conviction, but sometimes, to paraphrase the late Christopher Hitchens, because no other label will do. Recently, an old Marxist friend bemoaned the fact that the Radical Independence Campaign had not defined its politics in ideological terms. This I believe, contrary to my Marxist friend, is one of RIC's strengths. 

In an age which some political scientists refer to as 'post- ideological', ideological labels are without doubt problematic. For example, many of the people labelled 'left of centre' are quite often, complacently uncritical of the status quo. Rather than a genuine centre-left, they constitute more what Tariq Ali refers to as an 'extreme centre'.

The same can be said for much of what passes as 'social democracy', once understood as re-distribution of wealth coupled with an interventionist state. Today, the most consistent social democrats I know are those who get labelled by others as being on the 'far left'.

The general point I am trying to make is that ideological pigeonholing is problematic. Moreover, I quite enjoy the fact that we live in a political world that evades capture by competing 'isms' and perhaps this is something that Scotland's new radicals ought to embrace.

The referendum has been good for the left. Just how good remains to be seen. There is an argument, and I have heard people prominent in the 'movement' make this point, that radical ideas are now a part of the mainstream. I can see why people say this, but I'm sceptical.

For me, despite the optimism generated, the 'yes' campaign represented what Ralph Miliband said, in describing another context, was a tactical difference within a strategic consensus. That strategic consensus, if it is to have a label, can be broadly defined as neo-liberalism.

'We are not yet done with neo-liberalism' said the late Stuart Hall commenting on the financial crash of 2008. For me, as someone influenced by the Marxist tradition, I find it interesting how the dominant narrative of Scotland's radicals in the twenty first century is the narrative of Scottish nationhood.

Something significant is at work here. It is not the abandonment of socialism for nationalism as often crudely framed, but rather a response to the institutional failures and historic defeats of the traditional working class movement to change society.

Since the late 1980s politics in Scotland has been filtered through the prism of national identity. Of course, inherent in this discourse is some lazy thinking. For example, the tendency to see everything that 'Westminster' does as innately bad implies that there is something inherently good about Scotland. The fact that we Scots no longer vote Tory in significant numbers has led some of us to the conclusion that this is proof that neo-liberalism is an alien ideology imposed on 'us' from elsewhere.

I have heard key people on the left argue that Scottish independence would 'unleash the forces of social democracy', whilst others assert that the Scottish people are ready for socialism – all that is required is finding the correct vehicle. These assertions are problematic for a number of reasons.

Firstly, they ignore the extent to which neo-liberal ideas permeate the upper echelons of Scottish society, from the mainstream parties to our public sector institutions. In regards to the latter, I am thinking about the Scottish Government's obsession with managerialism in education, health and local government or the draconian cuts to budgets in Scotland's thirty two councils.

We also need to think carefully about the ways in which neo-liberal practices permeate public consciousness and behaviour, from mass home ownership to the rise of the consumer society. I often get the impression from listening to the left that neo-liberalism is something that is done to people, which forgets the fact that at root, neo-liberalism involves a complex set of internalised social relationships.

Strategic thinking about the way forward requires a broad discussion about what it is Scotland's radicals stand for. The 2014 RIC conference spelt out clearly, and sometimes obviously, what we are against, and that list is endless.

But I can't help but think that the Scottish left is often trapped in the language and narratives of another era. For example, the constant need to talk about how much we hate Thatcher (I was 12 when she left office!) or 'new' Labour, or to construct our own politics cloaked in a romantic nostalgia for the post-war welfare state.

The 'we know what we are against narrative' can be found on many issues. It leads to a safe politics with a tendency to think in slogans. Take the issue of welfare reform for example. We know that the left is against the 'bedroom tax' or the scandal of ATOS yet the wider arguments around 'workfare' or what universalism means in a world of targeted provision are seldom discussed.

Neither have we spelled out a coherent strategy on job creation, shifting the narrative from employability, a current obsession with the Scottish Government, to decent employment and the role of the state. I am, of course, making a generalisation here, and I do accept that groups such as the Jimmy Reid Foundation and now Common Weal are starting to grapple with these issues.

Returning to more immediate priorities my own view is this: Scotland's radicals need to move beyond the national question and engage in a strategic discussion about how we best develop a radical policy agenda within the existing powers of the Scottish Parliament.

There is a sense that it's only a matter of time before Scotland becomes independent. As someone sceptical of any claims that history is pre-determined, I'm not sure I agree. But I do know this. When compared to history our own lifespans constitute the blink of an eye. The first phase of devolution lasted from 1997 until 2014 and who knows how long the second phase can last.

One way forward might be this – we need to park our current talk of 'yes alliances' and talking up spurious strategies on how we arrive at independence in five years' time. We need to get over Gordon Brown and the so-called Vow, the BBC, and the pre-occupation with 'wiping out the unionists' at the next election. Our goal should be to develop a radical and realistic (the two are compatible) policy agenda which helps to increase the electoral representation of the radical left in the Scottish Parliament in 2016.

This strategy is problematic. My own view is that the constituencies of the Greens and especially the current crop of socialist groups are too narrow to achieve this aim to the full. The argument made by some in the SSP that socialists were excluded from the Smith Commission because the establishment was frightened of them is merely wishful thinking. The sad fact is that the SSP was not invited to Lord Smith's table because it has no parliamentary representation.

In conclusion, I came away from the RIC conference with the nagging thought that social movements are one thing, but they bring with them the danger of creating a lifestyle politics big on opposition but lacking in influence. Furthermore, social movements without democratic structures are always in danger of developing the characteristics of what Gerry Hassan calls a 'soft vanguardism'. The issue Scotland's radicals need to address is the organisational one. If we can resolve that, then I am hopeful that parliamentary representation can follow.

Gary Fraser is a PhD student at Edinburgh University

This article first appeared in the Scottish Left Review

http://www.scottishleftreview.org/article/which-way-forward-is-left/

Reality check on 'the new reality'

 

Reality check on the ‘new reality’: Scottish politics after the referendum

 

The reaction by Yes campaigners to the defeat we experienced in the referendum has genuinely taken me by surprise. There is an old saying that ‘victory has a thousand fathers but defeat is an orphan’. I woke up that awful Friday morning on the 19th definitely feeling like an orphan. Before discussing the result with anyone I had taken down the window poster, removed the car sticker and started to think of a life beyond the yes campaign.  

I had anticipated that others would experience a similar reaction to this historic defeat and would be planning their gradual retreat from political hyperactivity into a period of quiet cynicism and eventual disengagement. However, for the time being, the opposite is occurring. It seems that the Yessers are not quite ready to give up. The SNP’s membership has doubled to quite spectacular figures. The Greens and the SSP are also reporting thousands of new recruits into their ranks. Social media is buzzing with articles, papers, strategies, boycotts, meetings and planned gatherings.  In addition to this, local yes groups, so I am told, continue to meet. The Common Weal project has produced an entire raft of interesting ideas. RIC is in a flurry of excitement – reporting high attendance at branch meetings and a November conference which is apparently so big that it might be impossible to find a suitable venue to house everyone.  

Some are arguing that we can have another referendum in six years’ time. Robin McAlpine has already provided a detailed strategy on how we arrive at another date with destiny. Only this time, we win. Meanwhile, a proposal is underway for a Yes Alliance in 2015 to ‘wipe out’ the ‘unionists’ once and for all – no easy task mind you, given that the ‘unionists’ are over 2 million strong and won a majority of support in 28 out of 32 local authorities.

It seems the movement is on high alert, what military commanders call ‘war footing’. How close this is to reality I don’t know - even as I write this, I’m aware that too much time spent on Blogs distorts one’s view of reality.

My own view is that we need to stand still for a moment. Scotland is fast emerging into a new political reality with the sands constantly shifting. We know that the yes campaign, without doubt the most progressive campaign in living Scottish memory, has changed the political face of modern Scotland. Yet, it’s too early to judge the lasting extent of these changes, and any conclusions based alone on what yes campaigners say should be treated with caution.

I am also concerned that the hyperbole of the past few weeks cannot, indeed, will not be sustained and that despite the current buzz, the political, social, economic and psychological effects of this defeat could last a generation. Barely a week after ‘winning’ the British establishment is embroiled in another war in Iraq, in the same week that those on benefits are told that their benefits are to be frozen for two years. Meanwhile, devolution max remains as uncertain and messy as ever. The ‘vow’ looks likely to be a broken one, but then again reaching a quick solution on such a complex array of issues was always problematic. And now that Cameron has opened up the question of English votes on English laws, Britain could be discussing constitutional processes for a very long time.

The nature of yes is also problematic. Hitherto, I have described it as a campaign as opposed to a movement. A movement certainly exists within yes, but its size is probably smaller than many make out. The movement is not the 45% of Scots who voted yes. The Scots faced a binary choice, and one that a majority didn’t want to make – we know that ‘devo max’ or ‘fiscal autonomy’ is the preferred option of the Scottish people. The 85% turnout is more than impressive, especially from those alienated from traditional politics. But again,  a note of caution. This was a referendum of historical proportions, and there is no guarantee that people will continue to stay involved in the political process. In fact, defeat could make some even more cynical.

The biggest component part of yes is the SNP, who delivered this historic moment which has transformed our political landscape. For this we owe them a great deal of gratitude. Yet, despite delivering the referendum there was always a number of problems with the SNP. The first one is obvious, namely that the SNP won power which enabled them to deliver a referendum but a vote for the SNP was a protest vote and not a vote for independence per se. The SNP is used by conservative (small C voters) in rural areas to punish the Tories and Lib Dems, and in the central belt they are seen by many as the best way to punish Labour. The SNP has played this game of political chess well, but in so doing they lost sight of the scale of the pre-figurative work that is necessary to win the masses to independence. This counter-hegemonic project, to use a Gramscian term, is unlikely to succeed in a two year campaign, although we came pretty close.

The lack of pre-figurative work, was demonstrated by the fact that certain SNP policies were never popular, even amongst campaigners, most notably the currency union which was a constant headache. If there is one policy that cost us votes it was this one. Jim Sillars, ‘nonsense of stilts’ – perhaps the most memorable one-liner of the campaign, and one that helped our opponents and for that reason was probably best kept private, nonetheless summed up the mess. Too be fair it was the best of a bad option. I firmly believe and did so throughout the campaign that a country that is not confident enough to have its own currency is a country not ready for, or wanting independence.  

Other policies were also problematic, for example, their insistence on cutting corporation tax, their lack of clarity on the future of local government and their refusal to engage critically with the nature of Scotland’s relationship to the EU, which looked at times as if they wanted to substitute one democratic deficit for another. I’m not saying that Scotland should leave the EU, but perhaps a list of alternative options could have been provided. Moreover, the constant desire for ‘positivity’ a term I dislike, a tactic inspired from the SNPs 2011 General Election campaign, might with hindsight have been a mistake. I would have liked to have seen more substance mixed in with a more bellicose style – one of the leaflets I handed out actually looked like a travel brochure, whilst their newspapers were an exercise in banality. In the final analysis fear won over hope and perhaps we should have had our own project fear. This is a serious point. It was only towards the end of the campaign, when we played our own fear cards, the biggest being NHS privatisation, that we started to shift the polls in our direction.

The post referendum SNP is going to be an interesting beast to observe and it is this beast which is going to determine the direction of the independence movement in the years ahead. The cynic in me thinks that those 70,000 or so who have joined in recent weeks and are expecting to turn the SNP into a social movement or a quick vehicle to deliver another referendum will soon be disappointed. I suspect that they will discover that the SNP is a top down machine with a professional bureaucracy that has to reach out to broader constituency for its own survival. Nicola Sturgeon has already stated that she will be First Minister for all of Scotland and not just the 45%. This strategy is not about winning the 55% to independence but reassuring them that for the time being, and it could be a long time that the SNP parks the national question. Senior figures in the party are already arguing that it would be ‘crazy’ to go into the 2016 election promising another referendum.

In this context, the idea of a Scottish wide Yes Alliance in 2015 is highly unlikely. For starters, those outside the beast, despite the hype, are not in a strong enough position to demand it. Furthermore, my guess is that any hint of anything involving the word ‘yes’ will undermine the SNP’s strategy of ‘reaching out’ (Sturgeon’s words) to the 55%.  

In addition to this, a ‘Yes Alliance’ is fraught with difficulties because the SNP runs the Scottish Government, which in turn controls local government. This means that the SNP will inevitably become embroiled in the messy business of managing austerity which in time will allow their left critics to characterise them as ‘neo-liberal’. Too be fair to the SNP they are in a difficult position. As we said repeatedly throughout the campaign, they are in office not in power and the democracy (or lack of!) argument was the beating heart of the campaign. But there is no easy way out of the trap. The idea of demanding that local authorities set ‘needs budgets’, in effect illegal budgets, is misplaced adventurism; easy slogans to make when standing on the side-lines but simply put, it is not going to happen; besides there is no real demand from communities for such a strategy – witness the poor council election results for those anti-cuts campaigners who advocated such a position.

The SNP could ‘educate’ their constituents on the nature of the democratic deficit and link this to independence. In this scenario, every single councillor could issue a statement saying that they are voting through cuts under duress. But again this is an unlikely scenario. Instead what we are likely to get is a managerial response from SNP politicians about ‘competent governance’ and ‘tough decisions’. I already know of some SNP councils who are discussing ‘buildings rationalisation programmes’, e.g. someone somewhere in a council bureaucracy near you has a list which includes on it the potential closure of your library, your community centre, your leisure centre or any other public building that could be axed.  

How we take forward radical politics in a practical way in the new reality is going to be a challenge.

The yes campaign constructed a narrative that the British state was incapable of reform. In this simplistic narrative, everything we disliked could be blamed on Westminster. Now in the post referendum reality, there is a real danger that this narrative could lead us down a blind path to the fatalistic conclusion that no progress can be made without independence. This is a nationalist dead end.

The reason, I believe, why the yes vote was impressive was not because of any set of specific policies - in fact, the policies as previously noted were problematic. The reason why almost half of the Scotland voted yes was that the campaign sparked, especially amongst the poor, a radical imagination, that ‘another Scotland is possible’, even a marginally better one.

Yet, even had we won the extent to which a small country like Scotland could reverse three decades of neo-liberalism, whilst continuing to swim in a neo-liberal sea, was always a difficult proposition to make. The Nordic examples we looked too for inspiration all started from a strong social democratic base which is being constantly challenged by neo-liberalism. The idea that we could start from a neo-liberal base and work our way towards some form of social democracy, never mind socialism, always looked like a mountain that was too big to climb. In reality, what the SNP was offering was a different version of neo-liberalism from that served up by Westminster. I have heard this described in the book ‘The SNP From Protest to Power’ as ‘neo-liberalism with a heart’. It was a variation on a theme or in the words of Ralph Miliband describing another context, a ‘tactical difference within a strategic consensus’. It is in this context that we need to frame the SNPs position on the currency union, their insistence that the Scottish economy would be dominated by the Bank of England, the position on the EU, NATO and the reduction of corporation tax. I still think it was the more progressive option, principally because it opened the door to other possibilities, but we need to remember that on the fundamental issues of the day we were arguing about more about emphasis than we were substance.  

I want to end with some thoughts on the future of the left outside of the SNP. This referendum has been good for the radical left, which appears to have finally turned a corner. Where it goes next will be interesting. We also know who the real enemy is in Scotland; Labour. As I have written before the Scottish Labour Party is a vehicle for keeping the poor, and the poorly educated sections of the working class in line. A cursory glance at the yes vote reveals that it was those with the least stakes in the neo-liberal system who voted yes. But the left needs to talk to a broader constituency than just the poor. And it needs to talk that talk in a new language which acknowledges the diversity of modern Scotland.

What form this takes I’m not sure. Common Weal sounds interesting, although slightly manic, but I do like the idea of a ‘think and do tank’ and reading between the lines the narrative has shifted beyond the stale binary socialist versus capitalist narrative, and the obsession with the word ‘class’ that has dominated radical left politics for too long.

RIC may also hold the key to a new left. But if, as I believe, that the independence moment is parked, then RIC will require not just a re-branding but equally a rethinking about its core purpose. I have heard some in the RIC movement say that we need to ‘reach out’ to the poorest communities who voted yes. Okay, ‘reach out’, but what exactly are you offering them? If it’s a wish list of radical left fantasies then I pretty much guarantee you now that this will lead to nowhere.

For me, the real task is to try and increase the number of lefts in the Scottish Parliament in 2016 and this requires serious thought about organisational issues. There are a number of possibilities out there – a Podemos model sounds interesting; but we need to avoid getting too carried away with the politics of what has been described as movementism. This is a politics big on opposition but lacking in influence and all too easily it descends into a life style politics that is exclusive to people who cannot devote their entire lives to politics i.e. most ‘normal’ people. Furthermore, it is quite often based on simplistic analyses and lazy slogans and quickly fizzles out leaving the activists only talking to one another. Despite its claims to be democratic the politics of movementism also contains within its own narrative what Gerry Hassan has referred to as a ‘soft vanguardism’ a point that should be carefully thought over, especially as some will inevitably position themselves for a political career. Nothing wrong in that, but they need to be accountable. I don’t see the point of creating a new party either and I don’t think the existing parties will want that either. If you are a socialist, or consider yourself too left for the SNP, then you ought to join the SSP or the Greens, although an electoral alliance or electoral pact might be worth exploring.

In conclusion, I’m still not sure if we are at the end of something or the beginning of something. I hope it’s the latter. Describing the fall of Communism, the philosopher Claus Offe in a clever, and very post-modern comment, remarked that we had entered a ‘tunnel at the end of the light’. If the light was socialism then we are still crawling around in that tunnel and who knows it might be an endless one, certainly endless in terms of our own life spans. I can live with that. The age of big bang ideological politics is over. This does not mean that change cannot happen only that radical change will need to be thought out in realistic terms. I apologies for ending with an acronym from the lexicon of managerialism but we need change that is SMART, i.e. specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and targeted. The referendum contained each of these ingredients and significant sections of our country men and women demanded change.

We need to respond; if we can find the right vehicles, adopt the correct strategies, and develop real policies that can be fought for in the here and now then we can keep the Scottish radical imagination alive.

 

Gary Fraser

Building a YES Alliance

 

 

An Idea whose time has come?

So the referendum is over. Let us pause. Let us consider. This is a moment for the most careful and delicate reflection. We Scots have created, in the last two years, the most extraordinary political movement this ancient nation of ours has ever seen. It has fallen just short of its first objective and so we are now faced with the question - where do we go from here? Perhaps we need to start with first principles, and ask if there are any possibilities we can easily rule out. I think there is one obvious one on which I hope we can all agree.

 

It Is Never Over

We Scots have been in this game for a very long time. The best part of 1200 years in fact, ever since our country was formed through the historic alliance of the Picts and the Scots. Or perhaps I should say since England was formed, shortly after us. Ever since then our neighbours have been seeking to conquer and subjugate us. They have never been able to do so militarily. Bribing, blackmailing and cajoling us into the union in 1707 has been by far their most successful strategy to date. Even so, in 307 years the union has proved incapable of submerging our Scottish identity beneath some invented 'British' one. Britain is, to quote Salman Rushdie, 'a country insufficiently imagined.' If there is one thing we have learned from all of that history, it is this: it is never over. Last month we had a bad day, but we've had bad days before. We lost a battle, but the war never ends. We will return. So if you were a 'No' supporter, and are in any way tempted to think the 18th of September's result was in some way final, I'm afraid we're going to have to disappoint you. We will never give up, never go away. Why?

"For so long as there shall be but one hundred of us remain alive we will never give consent to subject ourselves to the dominion of the English. For it is not glory, it is not riches, neither is it honour, but it is freedom alone that we fight and contend for, which no honest man will lose but with his life." - Declaration of Arbroath, 1320.

Do not make the mistake of thinking this is somehow no longer relevant in this day and age. It is well over twice as old as the union, but it is every bit as relevant today as it ever was. This is because many of us still take it deadly seriously. Feel ourselves bound by it. And there are a hell of a lot more than a hundred of us. Upwards of 1.6 million in fact. "For so long..." It is a statement in perpetuity. "Never..." Is that clear enough for you? No matter what anyone says, or does, we will fight on. And we will raise our children to do the same. Best everyone understand that now and save us all a lot of time and trouble. It. Is. Never. Over.

 

A Death In The Family

That's what the morning of the 19th felt like, I know, to many of us. However do not be dismayed. Since then we have licked our wounds, picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off and got ready to start all over again. The first thing that was decided, in many cases, was to keep the teams together. All of the facebook groups, pages, websites and, most crucially, grassroots organisations on the ground, will keep going. This is important because it is vital not to lose the extraordinary levels of political engagement the referendum campaign engendered, especially amongst our young people. Let's not teach them, as many of us were taught in our youth, that politics is futile. That is what the forces of reaction want them to believe. Let's keep them involved. Not to do so would be a betrayal, not only of them but of everything we have worked for together for the last two years.

 

So What Next?

Since the referendum tens of thousands of people have joined the SNP and the other pro-independence parties. This is further evidence that the movement isn't going anywhere but is here to stay. The next electoral test will be the Westminster General Election next year. There is a considerable appetite amongst grassroots 'Yes' activists, particularly those in the Labour heartland areas which returned the highest 'Yes' votes, to take this opportunity of punishing the parties (and politicians) which behaved so disreputably in the campaign. It's not just payback though. It's another chance to show those young people that participation in politics can make a difference. We are already seeing the formation of a 'YES Alliance,' intended to be a co-ordinating movement for all the local 'Yes' groups, all the pro-independence political parties and the many independent indy supporters and activists who have been a part of the campaign up to this point.

 

What Kind Of Movement Will This 'YES Alliance' Be?

So far there seem to be two schools of thought regarding how the national movement should proceed from here. Both have focused on next year's Westminster election. One which has been mentioned a lot is that we should all get behind the SNP, as the largest pro-indy party, in the hope of securing a majority of WM seats at that election. The other proposes that the alliance should take a more prominent role in co-ordinating and ensuring that the SNP and other pro-indy parties and independents do not end up fighting each other, thereby splitting the pro-Yes vote. I have been an advocate of such a broad movement, even prior to the referendum itself. Had we been successful, I argued that the nation would be best served by as many as possible of us coming together, at least initially, to guide us to independence and accomplish those things on which we could all agree. Now, given the outcome of the referendum, I believe it is even more imperative that we stand together. The movement in the lead up to the referendum was so exciting precisely because it was so broadly-based, because we were all united to a common purpose. We must not lose that now.

There is still much we can accomplish. The time for parties to campaign on their differences will be in the 2016 Scottish elections. Holyrood has PR (proportional representation), which allows for a diversity of views to be represented. That is a good and healthy thing. However the point we need to make, in the first-past-the-post Westminster elections, is that our movement has not gone away and is still capable of uniting for our common goal. This means ensuring the maximum chance of victory for pro-indy candidates in all constituencies. Now while it may be true that the SNP has the best chance in the majority of seats, this will not be the case in all seats. There are some where I know the Greens believe they are better placed, and there are some in which others may stand the best chance. I am thinking, for instance, of places like my own home town of Clydebank. Let me take a moment to say a few words about Clydebank. As some may be aware I returned from a lengthy exile in Australia in order to take part in the referendum campaign. I returned to the town I was brought up in. When the referendum was first announced I thought it might be difficult for us to prevail in such places, because they constituted the Scottish Labour heartland. I was wrong.

 

My Home Town, 'Yes' Central

Clydebank has a proud radical history. It was once, of course, a shipbuilding town. The shipbuilding town, home of the legendary John Brown's yard, builder of the greatest liners of the 20th Century. The famous rent strikes of the 1920s made it the epicentre of 'Red Clydeside.' The UCS work-in cemented that status. By the time I was growing up there in the 60s and 70s this had, by a process of evolution, made it one of the safest Labour seats in Scotland. However, by the time I arrived home it had become clear that, despite the trenchant opposition of the Labour Party, Clydebank was going to deliver a resounding 'Yes' vote. And this was indeed borne out by the result. West Dunbartonshire was, as you're probably aware, one of the four council districts that returned a 'Yes' vote, 54%. The town of Clydebank itself however was more like 65-70%. How had it come to this? Well, this photograph I took on the eve of the referendum may offer one clue:


 

A lot of people, from many different places, liked the photograph. I like it. I was lucky with the light of course, and the Titan crane is an iconic image of the town. Clydebank people liked it too, but for them it was also tinged with great sadness. The reason for that sadness is that it's a photograph I could never have taken when I last lived in the town. Not because of what's in it, but because of what's not in it - the shipyard. The shipyard which gave birth to Clydebank! Now it's 'the famous Titan crane,' but when I was growing up it was just one of a forest of cranes. One of the former operators told me last year that to him and his colleagues it was simply 'Crane Number 6.' It wasn't even the tallest, several others reached higher to dominate the skyline. Even so, I couldn't have photographed them from that vantage point, because the southern side of the town's main street would have been in the way. All of that has gone now, the heart of the place torn out, leaving just that single memorial to a riverside that was alive with the sound of an industry that is now dead and gone. When the opponents of independence gravely warned that a 'Yes' vote would be the death of shipbuilding on the Clyde the response from Clydebank was a hollow laugh. "What shipbuilding?"

 

A New Hope

However, despite all of that, what I found on returning to my home town was not despair, not a community crushed by the weight of its sadness and its loss. I found a people bloodied but unbowed, a spirit undaunted, and the flame of hope and optimism kindled anew. A sense of unity and common purpose, unknown since the UCS days, was abroad once again. It was the 'Yes' campaign that had united people and given them that hope. And how was this achieved? By 'Yes Clydebank' being a broadly-based, non-party political movement of ordinary Bankies! Not party activists, real people. Labour bussed in their people to put up posters and the like, but they couldn't compete with all the posters, stickers, signs and Saltires put up by the townspeople in their own windows, in their gardens, on their cars, and anywhere they could find to put them. The party animals returned on referendum day to hand out leaflets at the polling stations, but were greatly outnumbered by the local campaigners who of course, being locals, knew many of the voters they were canvassing. The adults proudly took and wore the proffered 'Yes' stickers, and their kids grabbed the balloons as quickly as they could be supplied. From 7am when people were waiting as the doors opened, right through until 10 when they closed there was hope and optimism and even joy in the air.

After the polls closed many of us repaired to the Lucky Break snooker club, unofficial headquarters of the 'Yes' campaign, to watch the results come in. I hadn't had a chance to eat until then, so by the time I arrived the place was already packed. And what an atmosphere! Hundreds of people had packed the place, which occupies the building that was once the Woolworths store in our former high street. There was singing and dancing, flags were being waved, it was genuinely exciting and exhilarating. And all this for a vote, an exercise in democracy! I have never known anything like it in my entire life. I have literally nothing to compare it to. It was unique. You could never get such a thing for the sake of a political party, no matter how progressive or honourable it might be. This was people power, of a kind my generation, and those younger than mine, have only ever glimpsed rarely, on our TV screens, from far away places.

And that is why I am urging you, wherever your political sympathies may lie, please don't throw that away! We must not return to politics as usual. We must keep that spirit alive. It is bigger than any party, bigger than any politician. We must not have Yes parties and Yes supporters standing against one another in the Westminster General Election. We must stay united, and we must do that by building on the grassroots organisations like 'Yes Clydebank' that have been the great success of the campaign. By standing together, by speaking as one next year. That is the way to nurture this movement, this thing of beauty we have created, and that is the way to send the strongest, loudest, clearest message possible to Westminster, by ensuring a strong 'Yes' majority and a rout of the unionist parties all over this land.

Let's build this Yes Alliance, build it out of those grassroots movements that energised so many people who have never been involved in politics before, and then let's give it a victory!

 

 

Derek Stewart MacPherson

Three weeks to go, an appeal to fellow citizens of Scotland: Colin Fox

The Point marks 21 days to go till the referendum with a magnificent seven appeals to undecided voters from both rank-and-file activists and leading figures in the YES movement.

Colin Fox is national co-spokesperson of the Scottish Socialist Party and sits on the YES advisory board.

 

With voting now underway in the Independence Referendum – the first postal votes went out this week - there can be no doubt the ‘Yes’ campaign has engaged the people of Scotland on this issue in a way never seen before.

The last two years have seen Scots debate crucial political questions to an unprecedented extent. The level of political participation has been extraordinary and that is down to the ‘Yes’ side. ‘Better Together’ would rather this entire discussion was not taking place.

Sitting on the ‘Yes Scotland’ Advisory Board I am privileged to observe this phenomenal grassroots movement with hundreds of energised and motivated local groups up close.

Despite seventy polls over the past 2 years predicting a No vote on September 18th the result hangs in the balance because there are so many unknown quantities, not least the level of turnout in Scotland’s huge working class communities.

The received wisdom has it that the higher the turnout the better it is for a Yes vote. Both sides expect 80% of voters to cast their ballots. The turnout in Holyrood elections is usually around 55%.

The Scottish Socialist Party has been the standard bearer of the left in the Independence movement for the past 16 years. Together with the SNP and the Greens we founded the Scottish Independence Convention in 2005. Our case for an independent socialist Scotland has added an important political dimension to ‘Yes Scotland’ and helped to build the biggest grassroots movement this country has ever seen.

The socialist case for ‘Yes’ is simple and clear. Working class people will be better off economically, socially and politically. An Independent Scotland could be the world’s 14th richest country [measured by GDP per capita]. We would finally be able to address those appalling social problems Westminster ignores; the child poverty, fuel poverty, food banks and chronic shortage of affordable homes.

And there is a profoundly important democratic question at the heart of this debate. Britain is not a country. It is that most unusual phenomenon in the world today, a political union of 4 countries. Scotland on the other hand is a country. We are a nation. We are not a region or a province of anywhere else. We are therefore just as entitled to self-determination as any of the world’s other 270 nations.

Supporting Scotland’s democratic right to self-determination doesn’t therefore make you a Scottish nationalist. It makes you a democrat. The SSP stands in the same democratic socialist tradition as the ‘Red Clydeside’ leader John Maclean and Edinburgh’s James Connolly executed by the British for his part in the Easter Rising in Dublin in 1916.

A Yes vote brings forward great opportunities for working class people. The relative balance of political forces is far more favourable to Scotland’s social democrat and socialist ‘centre of gravity’ than the ‘neo-liberal, warmongering consensus predominant at Westminster.

 

The ‘No’ side says, in effect, that ‘ this is as good as it gets’. ‘Scotland gets the best of all worlds. We have a strong Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh and vital influence at UK level via Westminster’. But this is not true. We don’t have a strong Parliament at Holyrood. My daily experience as an SSP MSP from 2003-2007 was to be told what I couldn’t talk about by the Presiding Officer. He would rule ‘you cant talk about unemployment and under-employment in here….you can’t talk about the worst anti-union laws in the whole of Europe in here…. you can’t talk about pensions in here….or the national minimum wage…or Iraq…or Trident. Those are matters reserved to Westminster.’

And if we had ‘vital influence at Westminster’ as Alistair Darling suggests we would not have had Scottish soldiers killed in Iraq, or the bedroom tax imposed upon us against our will, or Trident, or the privatisation of the Royal Mail, or the poll tax before that.

Of course none of the economic, social or political advances inherent in the Yes vote will happen automatically. They will need to be fought for. But a ‘Yes’ vote represents a huge political opportunity to advance the left of centre, progressive, social democratic and socialist vision the majority of Scots want to see. For the socialist movement independence is about profound change. A ‘Yes’ vote unleashes powerful forces demanding change.

The SNP leadership has sought to convey the message to ‘middle Scotland’ that independence is nothing to be alarmed about, that they will preserve their way of life and their privileges. ‘We will keep the pound, keep the Queen, remain in NATO, keep the BBC, maintain the hegemony of finance capital.’ And in his proposal to assemble ‘Team Scotland’ Alex Salmond aims to pack the negotiations with ‘pro-business’ voices from the SNP and the ‘No’ camp. Needless to say he has offered no place to the SSP or the Greens despite our crucial role in ‘YES Scotland’.

Despite Salmond’s wishes the left is well placed to influence those negotiations. If we can mobilise those huge new political forces energised by the ‘Yes’ campaign we can ensure all the promises of ‘prosperity, fairness and democracy’ made to the working class majority are delivered. For whilst I have no doubt the corporations will aim to pressurise the SNP after September 18th, we on the left can bring our own pressure to bear by mobilising those working class forces who will have delivered victory in the Referendum itself.

 

Malediction Upon The Naws

This is one of the most passionate, forthright and - in the deepest of senses - true pieces of writing to come from the rank-and-file YES campaign yet. Some won't like it because of it's forthrightness, but it is what many of us are thinking. And as for those who it is aimed at - NO voters - 'the truth never hurts unless it ought to.' Let's hope a few read this and pass through a 'dark night of the soul' to emerge healed and voting YES.

Since we posted this piece by Steven McBrien on our facebook page it has had over 900 shares, and nearly 70, 000 views. Read it and see why.

 

 Steven McBrien is a member of the National Collective and a life-long campaigner for independence.

 

Malediction Upon The Naws

Dear No Voters,

I think it’s finally time for me to say this. I’ve been mealy-mouthed and temperate for a while, but I’m actually going to come out and say it now, because I no more respect your right to defend the United Kingdom than I do your right to defend elitism or religious bigotry, or anything else that is patently, blatantly wrong.

If you are planning to vote No to the chance of governing yourselves, if you think that all women and all men are equal only if it benefits your wallet, if you believe in even attempting to defend privilege by birth, if you believe in sitting back and watching while the Tories systematically dismantle the NHS, if you give any kind of credit to the pledges of a Labour party and a Liberal party who jumped into bed with the Tories in roughly the time it takes the average human being to blink, if you believe nuclear weapons can be in any way justified, and that it’s fine to tell the rest of the world they can’t have them, but you of course can, if you think that once the yoke of paying for the upkeep of this obscene armoury is removed, we somehow won’t be a million times better off both financially and ethically, if you think that you will no longer be British because, despite being born on the island that for millennia has been called “Britannia”, you are not part of the pathetic remnants of a long-dead empire that still covers part of Ireland and which insists that people on the island of Ireland identify themselves as “British”, if you believe that a Westminster-centred media is telling you the truth about how wealthy your country really is, if you believe any of this laughable, fear-motivated propaganda campaign that would have made Josef Goebbels goggle in disbelief, if you believe Ireland can have open borders with the UK but Scotland can’t, if you want to justify Scotland repeatedly refusing Tories only for them to get into power to make laws for you and your children anyway, if you take seriously the words of three political parties who have betrayed you time and time again, if you think that a Conservative or UKIP-dominated government will have any kind of mandate to offer you more powers when you have already refused more powers and are rendered politically impotent after a NO vote, and even as there is growing opinion down south that Scotland must “pay a heavy price” irregardless of whether it votes NO or not, if you think Scotland won’t be totally crucified in the event of a NO victory next month, if you wave a flag that claims to speak for Britain but doesn’t even mention Wales, despite retaining the red saltire of a country whose citizens fought and died to break away from the UK nearly a century ago, if you want your kids to be subjects and not citizens, of a monarch who is somehow allowed to be called Elizabeth II even when your entire country didn’t even have an Elizabeth I, if you think that your hatred of one person should affect the future of five million people, if you think this referendum is all Alex Salmond’s doing when the people of Scotland gave him the mandate to hold it in the first place, and a huge percentage of Scots openly give up their free time to actively support it on a daily basis, if you listen to a Let’s Stay Together campaign that sends you letters signed by bleating millionaires, and which is fronted by the son-in-law of the Duke of Westminster, one of the richest men in Europe and a Scottish landowner who stands to lose millions in Land Tax in the event of a YES vote, if you think that a Scottish parliament that was specifically designed by its Labour founders to resist an SNP government is “democratic”, if you think the powers of that parliament can’t be revoked in a heartbeat, if you believe campaign literature that constantly quotes the Tory-founded and wildly pro-business IFS, if you think the Financial Times was joking about Westminster deliberately lying about our oil bonanza, if you think Forbes Magazine was merely kidding when it stated that no-one can stop us from using the pound, if you think Gibraltar, the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey can use the pound but Scotland somehow can’t, if you think that other countries who welcomed independence wouldn’t have given their right arms for the oil we have when they were starting out, if you think we won’t become a trade and exports and renewable energy powerhouse in spite of our almost-perfect situation and geographical location to do just that, if you think little countries can’t do it when the Top Ten Richest Countries in Europe and the Top Ten Richest Countries in the World are undeniable testaments to the contrary year after year, if you believe that getting a democratic say in what actually happens to your own country is anything but a good thing, if you imagine that the socialist movement once known as the Labour Party still actually exists despite having had its heart ripped out by a war criminal twenty years ago, if you think a nation of world-famous inventors, entrepreneurs and engineers can’t govern themselves when the rest of planet Earth can, if you imagine that a nation of five million people and a nation of fifty-six million people can be united fairly on anything other than a federal basis, if you believe in an honours system that increasingly seems to resemble the Sex Offenders register, if you think that foreign wars in which our young men and women have been, can be and will be sent to needlessly die in dust-covered countries thousands of miles away are justified, if you think a political system in which only two sitting prime ministers have ever even set foot on the Shetland Islands, 34 years apart, can be defended, if you hand your pay packets into your neighbours, for them to give you a “percentage” of it back, if you voluntarily keep your neighbours’ stockpile of weapons in your own house, if you believe you are not entitled to the pound your forefathers sweated, worked and died for over three hundred years for, if you think that, even if we somehow had to give up the pound we won’t have to give up, we couldn’t deal with a currency change when we’ve all spent decades trying to persuade people to accept Scottish notes in England anyway, if you believe the words of people who tell you constantly that you can’t do it, if you think a massive inferiority complex is good for you, if you call an entire nation with a world-famous culture and identity wanting to govern itself “separatism”, if you don’t do things because you’re just too scared to do them, if you support unilateral military action over the international law a hundred million people died to gift to you, if you vote for a relationship that is so unbalanced and unfair that you are actually threatened and intimidated for even entertaining the thought of upping sticks and leaving it, if you think you are somehow economically better off with a financial capital that is hundreds of miles away in another country, if you believe in a union borne out of corruption and intimidation, and against the wills of the people of England and Scotland, if you uphold the rights of financial terrorists to do as they please while the poorest in society suffer for it and bail them out with their own money, if you think that these ridiculous bailouts are even necessary in the first place after seeing Iceland telling the corporate criminals to get lost and now reaping the rewards by prospering as the eighth richest country in Europe, even while we get treated to more and more foodbanks, library closures and hospitals shutting down, if you are seriously planning to defend before the entire planet an unelected upper chamber with 92 hereditary peers, whose archaic rules have been out of date for centuries and whose 775 members earn £300 a day just for turning up, if you believe that a political system which denies office to Catholics is anything other than totally abhorrent, if you treat the most negative, fear-driven and insulting political campaign in modern history with anything other than the total contempt it so richly deserves, if you think that an entire nation rising to its feet before the world, only to whimper “Sorry! We can’t do it!” before sitting mutely and meekly back down again will somehow not become a global laughingstock, if you honestly think you won’t spend the rest of your lives woefully trying to defend yourselves to the people who come after you and who demand to know why, if you live your lives obeying the instincts of fear and cheerless pessimism over the instincts of hope and possibility, if you are planning to defend any or all of this bullshit while the world watches you doing it, then I don’t question your political beliefs, I don’t question your motivations and I don’t even question your consciences. I actually question your fucking sanity.

There have been many misconceptions in this debate; the biggest one, however, is that it is we YES voters who somehow have to defend our arguments. We don’t. We don’t have to defend them. You’re the ones who should be defending your beliefs. If you don’t believe in basic human rights, if you don’t believe in democracy, if you choose to uphold privilege and royalty over equality and justice, then it’s time for you to start defending your beliefs, because I for one will never, ever, ever stop attacking them. Whether you “win” in September, or whether you lose, I will attack your beliefs before the eyes of the world, and I will go on attacking them relentlessly and pitilessly, either for the rest of your life, or for the rest of mine. I will attack them when you wake up, I will attack them when you go to bed, I will attack them in your dreams and I will attack them in your nightmares, I will attack them in writing and I will attack them in voice, I will attack them at Christmas and I will attack them on your birthday, I will attack them from the streets and I will attack them from my home, I will attack them in the spring and I will attack them in the fall, I will attack them with glee and I will attack them with rage, I will attack them in print and I will attack them in public, I will attack them until I die and I will ensure that others will go on attacking them after I’m gone, I will attack them and attack them and go on attacking them until you cover your ears and snivel in wretched despair. I will tell the entire world what you believed, and exactly what you tried to deny to your own posterity; I will holler it to the heavens until I have no voice left to screech with, I will set it down in print so that every single one of the unborn billions that come after us can marvel at it. I will tear your pathetic excuses for arguments all the new ones they could ever have torn and I will pour scorn upon you and your miserable beliefs until the breath leaves my body. Do you understand what that means? Do you?

It means that you’ve already lost.

Three weeks to go, an appeal to fellow citizens of Scotland: Tommy Sheridan

The Point marks 21 days to go till the referendum with a magnificent seven appeals to undecided voters from both rank-and-file activists and leading figures in the YES movement.

Tommy Sheridan: Hope Over Fear tour, Co-Convenor, Solidarity

 

If Scotland is to become an Independent nation on September the 18th then all of us advocating a Yes vote need to convince those who have not yet made up their mind as to why they should vote for Independence. We have to try and persuade people to have the confidence to take their own destiny in their hands. Many other countries that have fought for Independence over the years have actually had to take up arms to fight for that type of sovereignty. We’re getting the chance without one single bullet getting fired. All we have to do is to go to a ballot box and put a cross beside “Yes” and we can become a nation.

Politicians and commentators are keen to tell us what this referendum is about. I can tell you what it’s not about.

The Independence debate is not about narrow nationalism. I am not a nationalist. I have been an Internationalist all of my political life. Some people have said to me, “You know, Tommy, you’re a socialist. Are you not abandoning the working class in England and Wales, who’ll never get rid of the Tories if Scotland goes independent?” It’s a myth deliberately promoted by people who know better. In all of the elections where Labour have won a majority in Westminster, they didn’t rely on the Scottish votes. But, since 1955, 32 years out of the 60 years since 1955, we’ve ended up with Tory governments that we never voted for. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a country where you actually get the government that you vote for? Is that too much to ask? It’s called democracy. If we choose Independence then never again will Scotland have a Tory Government it didn’t vote for. Solidarity does not stop at a country’s borders. I have supported workers and peoples in struggle all over the world and that wouldn’t stop just because Scotland had the right to elect its own government and make its own decisions.

The referendum is not about the SNP. From those promoting Project Fear we hear constantly, “It’s all about Alex Salmond”, “Do you really support the SNP?” Yet this vote is bigger than any single political party. This vote is about the very future of our country, of our children, of our children’s children. This referendum isn’t about whether or not you like Alex Salmond or you support the policies of the SNP or The Scottish Government’s white paper. My vision of an Independent Scotland certainly won’t be shared by the higher echelons of the SNP. I don’t want to be part of Nato. I’m not interested in putting the monarchy on a diet. I don’t want it slimmed down – I want rid of it! I also don’t want oil, and gas, and electricity to be run for private profit. I think it should be nationalised along with our railways and the post office and run for social need. If we win the vote then I will put my energies into campaigning for a socialist Scotland but first of all we need a majority on September 18th.

Voting for independence isn’t the end destination - It’s only the start of the journey towards a new type of Scotland where we can start to reverse the trend of inequality by having a small country that puts social justice and equality at the forefront of its policies, rather than being a mere sound-bite that is discarded at the first opportunity. That is not the trajectory of politics at Westminster where all the main political parties are united in their desire for austerity policies that make the poor pay the price for the mistakes of the rich.

The referendum is not about the past. It’s not about historical battles but the struggles of the future. This vote is about whether your country is going to put people before profit. About whether Scotland is going to send young kids to die in illegal wars; about whether Scotland is going to spend money in giving kids a decent, healthy, nutritious free meal, and whether Scotland is going to have a publicly-owned health service, and a mail service, which this Westminster Government is privatising in England.

The main issue with the referendum is not, as BitterTogether would have us believe uncertainty. Of course there are issues that will have to resolved and negotiated. Not every i will be dotted or t crossed if we vote Yes. But it’s not uncertainty that is the main problem – its certainty. The certainty that a No vote on September 18th means more austerity on September 19th.

These Tory spivs and millionaires don’t think they haven’t gone far enough with cuts to public spending or the pay and conditions of workers. This government has already introduced a programme of billions of pounds worth of cuts and they’ve now announced another £40 billion worth. There is no escape from the wicked austerity consensus by voting Labour. At every time Prime Minister’s Questions, Cameron and his cabinet of millionaires goad Ed Milliband: “What would you do? Are you going to reverse the cuts?”

The reality is Labour are not going to reverse a single cut. They’ve said, “We’ll do it differently.” They’ve even said they wouldn’t do it as quick, but they will do it all the same.

We have an opportunity on September 18th to say we are taking a different path, making different choices.

The choice to not sell off our health service to the Tory’s rich friends.

 A choice that values humanity itself.

The choice to break from decades of the disastrous foreign policy of the British state and to stand shoulder to shoulder with oppressed peoples the world over.

That we actually recognise something called human solidarity.

Where we actually believe that our old folk should be looked after.

We actually believe that our children should get a decent start in life.

We actually believe in something called the “welfare state” that looks after people from cradle to grave rather than stigmatising and hounding them.

Where we can be a country that welcomes immigrants from all over the world rather than persecuting and blaming them. 

Where we say that we are not going to waste billions of pounds on offensive, inhumane and barbaric weapons of mass destruction currently based on the Clyde.  

I think that they, above all, represent everything that’s wrong with the world. We’ve got kids starving, we’ve got children dying of easily preventable diseases, like cholera, because we don’t have enough money to spend on medicines. But there’s always enough money to spend on nuclear weapons.

We are a small country that is absolutely rich in land, water, the ability to generate energy, not just in relation to gas and electricity, but from wind and wave power as well. We have got an abundance of universities. We have got fantastic engineering capabilities. We’ve also got something which, personally, in an independent Scotland I’ll be fighting hard for, I can never understand why it is, that we’ve got a publicly-owned health service, and a privately-owned pharmaceutical industry. Why the hell should we allow them to rip us off? Let’s have a publicly-owned pharmaceutical industry to feed our publicly-owned health service. That’s the type of things we could do in an independent Scotland.

I have spoken at over 70 meetings across Scotland during this campaign and addressed over 14,000 people. At every one I make the same appeal. Vote YES and lets begin the process of transforming our country for the better and making it an example of how there is another way we can chose to run our society.

Let’s build a triumph of hope over fear. 

               

Three weeks to go, an appeal to fellow citizens of Scotland: Karen Hendry

The Point marks 21 days to go till the referendum with a magnificent seven appeals to undecided voters from both rank-and-file activists and leading figures in the YES movement.

 

Karen Hendry: single parent and anti-bedroom tax activist

 

The road to independence and how I got here.

Referendum, independence, you can, you can’t but what about plan x, y and z? The build up to the referendum has been one of the most exciting but exasperating things I have ever witnessed and one that will stay in the memory of myself and many others for all different reasons. With around 20 days to go I’m sitting reflecting on how I came to be a yes voter, a yes campaigner and all I can boil it down to is history and my own life experiences.

I was born in 1977 into a single parent family, my mum worked full time and we lived with my gran and papa. My papa was a miner who had survived a lifetime down the pits and lost his brother in the Kames disaster. Politics was always a lively affair in our house with the old we vote labour never Tory Tories are bad and when the miners’ strike came around I seen this with my own eyes. School friends suffering as their daddies were on strike. We were wee, but we knew that something wasn’t right with what we were hearing at home and seeing on the news and the curses and oaths when “her” (Margaret Thatcher) was on the telly. These things shape wee minds and stay with you through life.

We watched our communities struggle, people leaving to find work, people being out of work and the spark going from our neighbourhoods as everything slid there was no money no hope no sign of things getting better.

We were lucky as my papa had retired just before the strike and my mum worked nightshifts in Blackwood Brothers carpet factory in Kilmarnock so we at least had the pension and her wages other families weren’t so lucky.

Then the word came that Blackwood’s was paying people off and my mum was one of them. It was the only job she had ever known, and was trained for, but it was cheaper to get the work done abroad so the workforce was being cut. This came at a time when my gran’s health was declining and she needed help and support to manage day to day living so my mum became her carer at a time when carer’s rights and allowances were meagre (bit like today really for the service they provide and the money they save the government and their own families). So she became my gran’s carer and later my papa’s carer. The work of carers paid, unpaid and through carer’s allowance is generally unrecognised for the work they put in regardless if its family or not.

From this wee snippet of my life you can where my path to independence started. We are your average working class family and one that when the Westminster government wants to wage war on the poor are the first to suffer.

I left school and worked in Falmers jeans for 4 years until it started paying off people as the work was being done abroad cheaper and the brand was being sold to Matalan but not the workforce.

2001, I had my daughter who I have raised myself for 13 years. You know, one of those sponging single parents who worked and studied full time from college right through to graduating from university with an honours degree. And this is where I saw that we really could change the rotten system we had and that the chance of a fairer more equal society was there with independence.

Rewind to last year and we see the introduction of the bedroom tax and the eruption of the demeaning Atos assessments. This hit my mum a double whammy. Her home had 2 spare bedrooms (the home incidentally which had been rented for over 50 years by her parents) and then Atos declared her fit for work by seeing if she could lift her arms, never mind the other health conditions and the 4 page prescription list!)

I ended up being the vice chair of the Scottish anti-bedroom tax federation and also protested alongside Glasgow against Atos. The stories you heard from people about the persecution and humiliation they had been put through would have made the quietest person angry.

The pressure put on the Scottish government by the Scottish anti-bedroom tax federation led to the bedroom tax being mitigated in Scotland for the financial year 2014/15. This was a massive victory for us and showed that people power does work and can influence government. Unfortunately this is still ongoing in England and Wales, the media doesn’t show protests etc, that have been happening there around austerity, many people in Scotland have no idea how shielded they are compared to our English and Welsh cousins.

So why am I a yes voter? I’m a yes voter because I believe we can build a fairer society which doesn’t treat its poor, disabled, lone parents, low earners like a burden. I took advantage of the free tuition here and earned an honours degree, the first person in my family to ever have went to university I want that option to be available to my daughter when the time comes 6 years from now. I want to be a part of building a new modern nation where everyone has a chance regardless of age, colour, physical ability or financial position.

I want to be part of a modern nation where government listens to its people and their views on policies and consults with groups or individuals before ideas become policy. I don’t want to be stuck in a time where the poor, disabled and marginalised are blamed for everything that is wrong in society, where food banks are considered the norm, where we are fed lies and nonsense to blame everyone apart from the ones who are in control.

But most of all I want my daughter and future grandchildren to grow up and flourish in a country where no one is left behind.

Three weeks to go, an appeal to fellow citizens of Scotland: the Indy Girls

 The Point marks 21 days to go till referendum day with a magnificent seven appeals to undecided voters from both rank-and-file activists and leading figures in the YES movement.

 

The Indy Girls

As we face the final days of our right to self determination, The Indy Girls reflect on the
journey:  We started out as a small group of friends who found each other through a common belief that every person in Scotland should be treated as equals and have the right to run our own affairs - like any other nation in the world.

Everyday we have been growing in numbers and growing in strength of character and self belief, and every Indy Girl who now wears a badge feels empowered like never before  - it's an amazing feeling to experience.

From our quiet beginnings when we met to chat online and in person, when we went out leafleting and to the first Indy Girls meeting way back in May, we have always made it clear that we are a people's movement, not aligned to any political party or ideology.
We believe in people, and we believe in our own abilities, regardless of background.

Not only has that never changed, it has in fact it has become stronger as we travel up and down the country to various events, meetings and even discussions on our own streets.


The people we are talking to have shown true passion and vision for what we can achieve when we vote YES. Everywhere we've been, from T in The Park, Gay Pride, Wickerman, Common WealthGames, Edinburgh Fringe, and the Freedom Convoy, the collective confidence is evident for all see and feel.

On our own streets the young people have finally got something to look forward to in lifeas they never have before. What the media and the NO camp have ignored from the beginning are themassive opportunities and endless possibilities that are now nearly upon us.


There is no lie in saying that we will need more public servants.
There is no lie in saying that we will create our military services.
There is no lie in saying that we can protect our NHS.
There is no lie in saying that we will get rid of Trident.
There is no lie in saying that we can invest in the future of our children.
There is no lie in saying that Women's rights will be enshrined in the constitution.
There is no lie in saying that we can achieve better funding for Education.
(Many people can only go so far due to funding.)

How do we know this?

Because it's down to us - each and every one of us - to take control of our own destinies and to make it happen. The politicians can only take us so far - we have the chance to write our own futures like never before.

At times it won't be easy, and mistakes will be made, but they will be OUR mistakes. They will be part of growing as a people and a nation!

All through history the Scottish people have shown what great problem solvers we are - that's whatall the Scottish inventions were about - Scots came up against obstacles and found a way roundthem.

Everywhere we go now, people are realising their own potential, and daring to dream ofabetterlife,andthe reality is that we CAN! Scotland has a chance like never before, and it may never come again ... we should be running at it this with our arms wide open to embrace it!

The media have done nothing but complicate and distort the question, as has the Labour Party in Scotland, for their own self serving reasons. For all the questions and queries we have are challenges that every other country faces everyday. They all survive, and we will too, but we willnot just be surviving any more, we will be thriving and growing collectively!

"This Happy Nation" which every one keeps referring to has never been apparent in our lifetime - it a joy to now meet so many people with smiles on their faces, and to have things of such magnitudeto discuss.

The Wealthiest Nation is not what we are looking to be - we are looking to be The Happiest Nation!  When people are happy the stress is lowered, and when stress is lowered people live longer ...illness, and especially auto immune illnesses are commonly triggered by stress, as are some heartconditions. That's how we start to combat our mortality rates.
A Happy Nation is a healthy nation ... remember that!

We understand there are a lot of other issues to be dealt with, but this will be the start.

When people are getting up in the morning to build something better, and not just getting up to make ends meet, the collective belief and community responsibility will return. When we are looking after our own "Wee Society" we won't need to be told by David Cameron how to behave in his "Big Society" ... This year the world has seen that we are already doing it!

What a powerful message we can send, as we show the hand of friendship to all the nations around the world, and we can tell the David Cameron's, President Obama's, Alistair Darling's, Jim Murphy's, Tony Abbott's, and ever other person who thinks they have the right to tell us that Independence is good for everywhere else but not Scotland, to mind their own DAMN business.

Those are the realities of voting YES!

The Indy Girls would like to thank everyone who has been on this journey with us - it has been a massive team effort from you all. We would not have achieved half of what we have done without the effort and input and support you have given us - in our meetings, events, our local towns, on our Facebook pages and all our local groups who have supported us through our journey.

Family and friends have also given up their time, and contributed every step of the way, and have had to see a lot less of us than usual -  we salute you all!

SO - Are you feeling empowered?

Do you believe in your own abilities?
Do you believe in self determination?
Do you believe in your own future?
Do you believe that we are all equal?
Do you believe in the opportunity to build something better?
Do you believe in The People of Scotland?
Are you an Indy Girl?
Do you think Scotland should be an Independent Country?

Then vote YES!

 

Three weeks to go, an appeal to fellow citizens of Scotland: the Greens

 

The Point marks the 21 days to go till referendum day, with a magnificent seven appeals to undecided voters from both rank-and-file activists and leading figures in the YES movement.

 

Scotland’s Future – A Green Perspective

James MacKessack-Leitch, Green Party Convenor in Moray.

The debate on which we have embarked upon is about far more than whether decisions should be made at Westminster or Holyrood. We have the opportunity to ask ourselves what kind of country we want to live in; what kind of society we want to build; what kind of economy we want to run; and how to do so while protecting the environment around us.

Few generations have the opportunity to answer such defining questions, and it’s a crucial time to do so. All of us - Scotland, the UK and the whole of humanity - are facing unprecedented challenges in the 21st century, largely of our own making.

For decades, the world has been dominated by an economic model which has allowed the exploitation of people and natural resources on a scale never seen before. As a result we’re seeing a return to levels of inequality not seen for nearly a century. This same economic model is systematically destroying the environmental conditions on which our civilisation depends. And over recent years we’ve seen this economic model begin to fail even in its own terms – yet most politicians can’t see beyond the simplistic mantra of getting back to business-as-usual.

Greens around the world have been making these arguments for years. We’ve been leading the 21st century case for transformational change in our economy, our society, and our politics. What’s different now is the opportunity Scotland has to take control of that future and build a political culture that’s capable of transformation.

We live in an uncertain world. Much of that uncertainty is a result of the damage we have done ourselves. Voting Yes to Scottish independence will not reverse that damage overnight, but it will open the door to a better future, if we choose to step through.

Right now, I am sad to see the utter dominance of the debate by the economy and currency, because to my mind the solution is both simple and obvious.

In the short term of course we can use the pound, but it’s not a long term option, and it’s clear that Scotland will only be able to exercise full economic independence if we stand ready to develop our own currency. That’s it.

Continuing in the vein of slaying the elephant in the room, there are those who still make the case for a Yes vote with tired old slogans about “Scotland’s oil”. Even if there was no environmental consequence from burning fossil fuels, Scotland’s remaining reserves would only offer an economic future for a few more decades. I want an independent Scotland to be successful far longer than that!

Instead we must support a more diverse range of petrochemical uses which don’t involve greenhouse gas emissions. Scotland has the skills to do that, and with the remaining portion of oil and gas income funding public investment in renewables to replace future revenue, we have the opportunity to make this transition rapidly. The UK will only ever see North Sea oil as a revenue source; Scotland could see it as a springboard, taking us from reliance on polluting and finite energy sources to the clean technology of the future.

But what really drives me is the opportunity to create a true democracy.

Our politics is too often conducted in a polarised, confrontational atmosphere and in a situation remote from those that it affects. This is very much evidenced by the present London-centric system, and people feel disconnected with the decision making that affects our everyday lives.

Greens want to see that power returned to the people, not just from Westminster, but from Holyrood, and Local Authorities as well – independence is a first necessary step on that road, because the best decisions are made by local communities that are fully engaged, not in offices dozens, or hundreds, of miles away.

After all, our local authorities provide the public services we value most highly and use daily: children’s education, road repairs, care-homes, social housing, planning, public transport, parking, waste collections, cultural events… the list goes on. Despite this, less than 40% of us vote in elections and local government has been largely ignored in the debate on Scottish independence.

The referendum debate gives us the opportunity to rethink how all our powers are distributed. Whether we form a new country or remain in the UK, a stronger local democracy must be delivered in Scotland. A Yes vote will resolve the long-standing question of whether more powers should come from Westminster to Scotland, but also opens up the space to decide how we should share those powers across the country. A Green Yes vote in September is for a ‘double-devolution’ of power - bringing far more power to local communities, and recognising that power is granted from the people, up, not the government, down.

This isn’t wishful thinking, the unprecedented grassroots movements in the referendum debate show that people can be engaged in politics, that we can debate the issues that affect our future, and that ultimately, we can find the solutions ourselves and in our communities, without the need for a distant and centralising parliament.

There is no doubt that we have the ability tread a progressive path in the world, and if we can take this opportunity there is a chance to build a new political culture that is capable of transformation, and that provides future generations with the basis of a fair, just and sustainable society.

Can it be done?

I cannot predict the future any more than you, but there are two things I have learnt that helped me make my decision: hope beats fear, and nothing that’s worth doing is ever easy. 

That’s why, on the 18th September, I’ll be voting for a Green Yes. 

External links:

Bella Caledonia

Bright Green

George Monbiot

Green Left

Greenpeace

The Jimmy Reid Foundation

Laurie Penny

New Left Project

Newsnet Scotland

Richard Dawkins

Scottish Left Review

Socialist Unity

UK Uncut

Viridis Lumen

Wings Over Scotland

Word Power Books