openDemocracyUK

The Radical Independence Conference convinced me last year

After living there for three years, Alys has been persuaded to campaign for an independent - and radically different - Scotland - and encourages you, if you can, to come to the Radical Independence Conference in Glasgow tomorrow.

Alys Lander
22 November 2013
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Radical Independence Conference 2012

I have never sat down to set out the reasons I support independence, and I'm sure I'll only cover a few of them here (and that they will all deserve entire blogs devoted to them). Basically I'm a feminist, a green, a supporter of equality and a fan of justice, and I think independence will help with all of those causes. If you need more reasons, then come to the Radical Independence Conference tomorrow. For now, here are some of my arguments.

There is a democratic deficit in the UK. The current government makes this easier to see (and if you need some help, just look at the below graphic to explain the stark gap between the views of Scottish people and the actions of the Tories). This deficit does not just exist between London and Scotland of course. The UK government is doing a terrible job at representing people from Sheffield, Monmouth, Cornwall, and pretty much anywhere outside of the richer boroughs of London. I think that the closer the decision makers are to the areas their decisions will affect, the better. And I guess a simpler way of saying that is that I trust my friends to make the right decisions for Scotland more than I trust Dave's friends.

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I believe that an independent Scotland can be a progressive nation. One which values people equally, protects the environment and is a global leader in social justice. I don't think this will be automatic – independence is no panacea – and I believe a yes vote is simply the start of a bigger struggle. But I believe it gives us more of a chance to create the nation that we want than remaining part of the UK.

There should be discussions about if and how democracy is working for everyone in the UK. Everyone should have the chance to engage in debate around their future. And I really wish that the discussions about how a country should look would reach beyond the borders. If you're reading this from outside of Scotland, imagine a situation where asking a simple yes/no question to somebody in a pub can illicit a long and winding discussion about democracy, immigration, gender, community ownership or the economy. This is a reality in many parts of Scotland, and no matter what the outcome of the vote, I am incredibly grateful for conversation that the referendum has given us.

And if the discussions which have emerged just since the referendum was announced have been thoughtful, passionate and inspiring, just think of the discussion we can begin on September 19th as we plan our new nation.

I love living in Scotland, I have loved it since I moved here 3 years ago for many reasons, but for the last year I have loved it because of the discussions about how we can make it better. It is a unique place and time, and I feel incredibly lucky that I am living here through this period of national debate. To be able to see injustice and talk about how we can fix it; not just shrug and say 'well, maybe in 5 years once we get rid of the Tories'. To get to the core of what we believe in, and find a system which represents that. This is a privilege.

And although I do worry that the glimmer of independence stymies action, as activists in Scotland pour their energies into a yes vote and fail to march on Westminster (but that's a whole different blog!), the draw of creating and living in a just society is a huge one.

Scotland is a different country to England. This seems like a trite statement. But Scotland feels like a different country from England. Or certainly the England of Dave and George and Boris. You only need to spend time here to realise that. To see the ease of engagement with the Scottish Government compared with the UK Government, or to talk to neighbours, shopkeepers and taxi drivers about what's in the news that week.

I haven't always been a supporter of independence, and in many ways I have been pushed towards my position by the arguments used by pro-union campaigners. Not just the 'project fear' of Better Together, but also arguments based on a sentimentality which does not sway me. I need more than an ok country or a simple life and I believe independence will bring us closer to a country we can be proud of.

Many people I've spoken to in the Labour party have rubbished the 'myth' of Scotland being ideologically different to RUK, often citing the fact the Edinburgh was run by Conservatives a mere 50 years ago. Well, yes, fine. But that was 50 years ago. We have had devolution since then. We have a parliament based on the values of wisdom, justice, compassion and integrity. And times can change.

Of course not everyone in Scotland is a progressive lefty. Of course there are bigots and bandits and bullshit. But the more you repeat the myth, the more people want to live up to it. Racism and injustice are 'just not Scottish', and we can become the country we want to be.

One argument which comes up when discussing independence with friends and family in England is often “Oh but it would be such a shame for Scotland to leave the UK”. And I agree, it would be a shame. On a sentimental level, I like Britain (empire aside). I don't want to live in a different country to my mum and dad. I don't particularly like the idea of national borders and I don't want to add to them. I think the Union Jack looks better on the top of a mini than the saltire.

And it would be a huge shame to leave the UK for a Scotland which is barely better. It would be a shame to swap Westminster for Holyrood, to keep the pound and the queen but lose our historic union. It would be a shame to escape the coalition government while those in the RUK cannot. And it would be a shame to build a new nation which does not fulfil its promise.

But that is not enough for me. For me, more of a shame would be to let this opportunity pass us by. To baulk at the task of building a progressive nation because there might be difficult tasks ahead. To resign ourselves to a union which does not benefit or represent us because we lack the courage to strive for something better.

So come along to the conference on Saturday. Begin conversations with people you don't know. Dream big and think about what might be possible. I don't just want independence. I want a radical independence. And I will fight until we get it.

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