Scotland&#039;s future https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/14262/all cached version 17/12/2018 21:26:55 en One year on from the indyref: making the Scotland of the future https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/gerry-hassan/one-year-on-from-indyref-making-scotland-of-future <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Six observations about Scottish society, a year on from the referendum.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/scottish-parl.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/scottish-parl.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="233" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>Scottish public life has dramatically changed in recent times – the SNP 2011 first landslide, the independence referendum, and the 2015 tartan tsunami.&nbsp; </p><p>Yet Scotland, like everywhere, is about more than politics. In this and other areas there have been huge changes, but also continuity and conservatism, the balance of which we are still trying to make sense of, and with huge consequences for the future of Scotland and the UK.&nbsp; </p><p>Take the indyref. It didn’t come from nowhere. It came in the context of wider change in Scotland – of the decline of the traditional establishment and the old unionist order, and of the potent culture of deference, authority and of people knowing their place which for so long hung over large aspects of society.&nbsp; </p><p>The indyref changed many things. But it has become a well-worn cliché to say it has changed everything. What it has done is act simultaneously as a spike, watershed and a catalyst to further change in public life. It will take years to establish the balance between these different forces and, nearly a year after the vote, the pattern of these different dynamics and their impact is still evolving.</p> <p>Post-indyref – after the dramatic explosion that amounted to a ‘Big Bang’ – there is now an element of stasis, retrenchment, and across much of public life, a mixture of an impasse and passing time waiting for something to turn up: usually meaning the next Scottish Parliament elections, and for some the second indyref. There is a passivity, and even blockage, in this for all the noise.</p> <p><strong>1. Scotland 2015 </strong> </p> <p>How can we accurately describe Scotland today? One year after the indyref what are the contours and characteristics of public life? First, the SNP is obviously ascendant. There is a powerful Nationalist hegemony which has replaced Labour as the party of power in most walks of life beyond a few enclaves of local government in the West of Scotland.</p> <p>Significant elements of civil society have gone from being props of the Labour extended state, to without any real change of heart, moving seamlessly over to the Nationalists. The purpose of the new found SNP dominance is two-fold. First, to maintain and strength this state of affairs, and second, to prepare the conditions for making it more likely to win a second indyref in the near-future.</p> <p>This brings us to one of the central paradoxes of the present. Despite everything - the rhetoric, the appeal of the SNP and the weakness of pro-union forces - there is no substantive work going on to improve and put detail on a future independence offer. Instead, what there is at present is an element of wish-fulfillment, positioning and even in some places, bluster. </p> <p>For once, Alex Salmond and Jim Sillars seem to be united on the fundamentals: Salmond calling another referendum ‘inevitable’, while Sillars wants one as soon as is humanly possible.</p> <p>What inhabits parts of Scottish public life in this summer of 2015 is a very different set of impulses: a desire to continue punishing the Labour Party for its sins, how to express anger against the bias of the BBC in the indyref and make them pay for this, and numerous other low-level conflicts such as the long running saga between Alex Salmond and Nick Robinson, previously BBC Political Editor. Whatever your view on any of these – for or against – they look suspiciously like displacement activities.</p> <p>They are easy and obvious targets for those so minded, and more simple than assessing why the indyref was won for the forces of the union, or getting down to more serious, long term political activities. Much easier and attractive to continue to seek revenge against the Labour Party and BBC. </p> <p>This isn’t exactly the embodiment of the best of the democratic spirit of the indyref, and masks the exact opposite: an age of conformity and anger which hides a strange noisy passivity: of waiting for the next wave of change to come along after the SNP win in 2016, which begs the question: then what? </p><p><strong>2. The state of the public sphere</strong>&nbsp; </p><p>A major ingredient in this is the current state of the public sphere – namely – the arena of public life where social interaction and discourse takes place. To Jürgen Habermas this is where the very notion of what it is to be ‘public’ is made, in opposition to ‘the private’ (interests, goods) and where ‘the common’ is created.</p> <p>The public sphere of Scotland is distinctive, partially autonomous, and saturated with cross-border and transnational media operations, as well as cross-fertilised by the British public sphere (which on many occasions means London public sphere), UK politics and media and communications.</p> <p>The Scottish newspaper industry is in dramatic long-term decline – and has now been since the turn of the century. In the past week Newsquest, owners of <em>the Herald</em>, <em>Sunday Herald</em> and <em>Evening Times</em> made yet another round of redundancies reducing their papers’ appeal and future prospects; <em>The Scotsman</em> long ago become a pale imitation of the once confident Edinburgh paper it was. </p> <p>The main broadcasters, BBC and STV, face huge pressures and constraints, from the political, to commercial, technological and demographic factors. The BBC (which I will return to in a forthcoming piece), for example, in Scotland (along with Wales and Northern Ireland) is seen as a disposable negotiating point by BBC London top brass. </p> <p>BBC Director General Tony Hall, it was recently revealed, stated to the Tory Government that they would have no alternative than to shut BBC Radio Scotland along with BBC Wales and Northern Ireland, all local radio stations, and BBC2 and BBC4, as a result of paying entirely for the costs of the over-75s licence fee (1). Such a revelation shows the running scared nature of those at the top of the Corporation, and how little they understand or care about Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland and ultimately, the very fabric of the UK. This is a leadership of cultural bankruptcy and political defeatism which beggars belief and doesn’t augur well for the BBC’s future.</p> <p>This decline has not yet led to a transition to a new culture. The emergence of social media has not adequately replaced the role of traditional media. An example of this was when the <em>Daily Telegraph</em> ran their ‘story’ on the Nicola Sturgeon-French Counsel memo – which was alleged to have recorded that Sturgeon had said, in opposition to her public pronouncements, how she preferred post-2015 election, a Tory Government. It took Severin Carrell, <em>the</em> <em>Guardian’s</em> Scotland correspondent to do the journalistic thing of checking with the relevant parties. As a result, he quickly refuted and undermined the entire <em>Daily Telegraph</em> story. This while <em>twitter</em> and social media was alive with claim and counter-claim (2). Traditional media can have its uses.</p> <p>There is the place of ‘the third Scotland’ – the self-organising, pro-independence groups which emerged in the indyref. Some have adapted subsequently: Women for Independence and the Radical Independence Campaign being two examples. But others haven’t, either closing or not living up to their potential at least for now – National Collective and Commonweal being good examples here.</p> <p>A year ago at this time, the air was filled with radical rhetoric and left (and left-nationalist, as well as straightforward nationalist) boosterism – about how this or that group were going to make the new zeitgeist and become the new insiders. Now a number of the same people have either gone away and given up, joined some of the elites such as the SNP, or bemoan the direction and agenda of the SNP under Nicola Sturgeon. Last year the SNP and the wider self-government movement were two distinct, if over-lapping entities. Now they have become much more synonymous with a future threat to the independence cause: namely, what happens when the SNP’s appeal begins to fade as all parties do (3)? Where will the ‘third Scotland’ be then?</p> <p>Perhaps this overstates the change. There was over-optimism last year, and over-pessimism in places now. This veering from one set of hyped up hopes to resignation over-plays the scale of change last year on the eve of the indyref, and similarly, shifts too far in the opposite direction this year. The spirit of 2014 pre-indyref always had an element of wish-fulfillment and sort of Pot Noodle radicalism: just add water, and hey presto, you can have your own Nordic designed Scottish social democracy. The over-statement and inflated hopes of then, don’t mean we have to deflate hopes of change now, but instead recalibrate how we think and do such things.</p> <p><strong>3. The Old/New Scotland divide</strong></p> <p>One of the biggest issues is that of over-simplifying change – into an old/new Scotland dichotomy. This states as all old/new paradigms do that once we lived in an age of darkness, simplicity and ignorance, and now we live in light, liberation and complexity. This has been done so many times people should be aware of what it is about: whether it be the Old/New Labour distinction or Old/New Glasgow it is always about the new caricaturing the past to discredit it and over-state the change, all in the name of rebranding and reinvention. The same is true of the Old/New Scotland.</p> <p>Scotland has, anyone would concede, changed in all sorts of ways. But this clearly isn’t a Year Zero moment. There are lots of continuity between past and present. For example, Scotland once had a Labour hegemony, now it has SNP dominance. The two have some striking similarities. They are both ‘Big Tents’ in political appeal, which have had a distinct centre-left agenda, combined with being quite conservative on a range of issues, and advocating social justice. Neither has on the evidence advanced either redistribution of power within Scotland, or to those most in need, for all the rhetoric saying otherwise. </p> <p>Neither have been in action and deeds radical beyond the illusion to the distant promised land: ‘socialism’ for Labour in its early days, ‘independence’ for the SNP, with both conspicuously undefined. Large parts of Scotland have played along with this dance. It took until the New Labour era for sections of Scotland to realise that for all the talk the party was the epitome of the political establishment and a cartel party. Now the same is happening with the SNP. Iain Macwhirter has called the SNP ‘left-wing’, compared the SNP and Jeremy Corbyn agendas, calling them ‘similar’, and in discussion on this, commented that: ‘We’re talking about what the[y] stand for not what they do. Look at SNP 2015 manifesto’, with Alex Massie retorting, ‘Perhaps it would be more useful to talk about what a party of government actually does?’ (4). </p> <p><strong>4. The hold of ‘unspace’ and ‘undemocracy’ in public life</strong></p> <p>Scotland’s public life and public sphere haven’t changed as much as some claim. In my academic study of the public sphere in Scotland, ‘Independence of the Scottish Mind’ (5), I examined the evolution, location and pressures on the public sphere. It has been situated in a culture of what I called ‘unspace’ and ‘undemocracy’ – with deep historical roots, a partial and negotiated autonomy and distinctiveness, and significant influence from outwith it – in particular from the rest of the UK (and London especially).&nbsp; </p><p>The world of ‘unspace’ and ‘undemocracy’ is familiar to anyone who has lived in Scotland. It represents the priority, authority and entitlement of ‘official’ voices and perspectives, a built-in bias to a narrow bandwidth and groupthink, and a lack of alternative, dissenting voices (this does not of course preclude individual exceptions to this rule; there are always counter-tendencies to any set of orthodoxies). The only sectors in society who are unfamiliar with this state are those deeply embedded and orientated towards elite and insider groups: whether in politics, business or civic life.</p> <p>This culture’s grip has been weakened by how Scotland has evolved, including over the indyref, but it is still there. Institutional power still exists. There is the legacy and expectation of prominent, privileged interests, a propensity to groupthink, the tradition of one party dominance which pre-devolution was about how a ‘Scottish lobby’ gathered its forces vis-à-vis Westminster and Whitehall, and a lack of pluralism and diversity in public life. </p> <p>There has been movement in all this, which should be welcomed, but the walls of orthodoxy haven’t crumbled yet, and are still standing. The scale of change shouldn’t be caricatured in the old/new divide. It takes years to change a culture, and part of ‘unspace’ and ‘undemocracy’ is about elite and class power, part about a sort of internal colonialism (not in the Michael Hechter sense (6)), by which people have internalised the constraints and compromises of public life (BBC Scotland being a good example here with many skilled, committed journalists and staff who feel restrained and restricted). </p> <p><strong>5. Where are we after the indyref?</strong></p> <p>This is the Scotland post-indyref. There is for all the energy, hope and engagement of last year, an absence of substantive debate, a tangible feeling of conformity, and a lack of independent perspectives and dissent. There is a stasis in much of politics and public life, an absence of in-depth research and thinking, and critically, a lack of resources for developing these kind of resources – whether in NGOs, trade unions, churches and think tanks. This could even be described as where civil society has got to after ‘civic Scotland’ – that 1980s term for polite society respectable rebellion.&nbsp; </p><p>What do we do individually and collectively in such a situation? To some it is enough to support one political party, usually the SNP, and in other cases, one of the other pro-independence parties. Others take succor that all of this can be put up with this side of independence, and real change happens post-union. </p> <p>First of all, we have to understand where we are. This entails recognising the limits of radical and left Scotland rather than buying the myth and mythology that we have always been this romantic, restless nation. Scotland has never been, despite it often being said, a socialist country or ever had a majority socialist vote. The only way to arrive at such an outlandish claim is by counting the entire Labour vote as ‘socialist’ – and as if by magic 1945 and 1966 can then metamorphosis into majority left votes (by adding it to the Communist and ILP votes in 1945 and former in 1966 (7)). But that is pushing at it considering the nature of the Labour vote and coalition.&nbsp; </p><p>Radical democrats and dissenters have always historically been at the margins of society and politics in Scotland. This has been aided by the sequential dominance of one party over significant periods of time: the Liberals in the 19th century, the Labour Party in the second half of the 20th century, and now, the SNP in the early part of the 21st century. This pattern is about more than one single party’s characteristics and the rise of the constitutional question.</p> <p>The establishment this week of the new left party – RISE – which stands for Respect, Independence, Socialism and Environmentalism (and with no connection to George Galloway’s ill-fated Respect) is a positive development (8). The party, coming from the impetus of the Radical Independence Campaign, will have an uphill struggle initially making an impact in the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections. It is a serious, strategic enterprise, and one which post-2016 could differentiate itself from the narrow menu of the established parties (Scottish Greens exempted). </p> <p>They could aid a debate which tackles real progressive concerns. This would include not just an economically viable version of independence, but one which is an alternative economic vision to the market orthodoxies of our age, tackle education and health inequalities, how working class children are being hurt by a range of actions including college cuts and more, and how not all of this is the fault of Tory austerity. Or the union. Some of it is about home grown choices.</p> <p>There is the absence of policy informed debates. Moreover, while ‘evidence based policy’ as a panacea is a chimera, evidence free policy seems to occur too often in too many Scottish debates. The lack of any serious redistribution to those in need and poverty over sixteen years of devolution has to be addressed. The council tax freeze, no student tuition fees, free care for the elderly, no prescription charges are frequently cited as proof of Scotland’s social democracy, and redistributive intent, but they redistribute to those on above average incomes. The recent decision by IPPR to establish an IPPR Scotland is, considering its profile and impact as one of the UK’s most influential centre-left think tanks, in this context, significant. </p> <p><strong>6. From first to second wave self-determination: an open tribe Scotland</strong></p> <p>Neither of these developments on their own alter things. What is required is nourishing a culture and ecology of self-determination, whereby numerous initiatives, bodies and organisations emerge that are focused on a different Scotland, politics and public sphere.</p> <p>Many of us thought this was beginning to emerge in the indyref campaign, but this can now in retrospect be seen as a first wave of self-determination – one of experimentation, grass roots and citizens’ initiatives, and of a fluidity, hybridity and adaptability which went with the spirit of the moment: with people doing things at sometimes great cost to themselves financially or time wise for the greater good.</p> <p>This is a different environment. What is required now is to learn and adapt from all of this and develop a second wave of self-determination. This would entail understanding the lack of permanence of many of the initiatives of the indyref, the limits as well as the upside of activist based politics, the unsustainability in the long run of crowdsourcing as a model for setting up un the long term bodies, and the perennial problem of left-nationalist boosterism and believing the hype of your own rhetoric. Rule one for any campaigners as Public Enemy once warned is: Don’t Believe the Hype! This is in short about a culture, ecology and infrastructure for self-determination. </p><p>An outline of second wave self-determination would entail:</p> <ul><li>- A culture of independent voices and thinking; recognising the need in the Scottish public sphere for greater diversity, pluralism and open exchange than it currently and historically has exemplified;</li><li> </li><li>- Refusing to accept orthodoxies even when they are your own, or from people and perspectives you agree with; and being suspicious of the tendency for groupthink and emphasising consensus in society – which narrows debate and the variety of voices;</li><li> </li><li>- Living in a Scotland which isn’t defined by Yes/No closed tribes; or by ‘othering’ viewpoints which are different to your own;</li><li> </li><li>- Accepting that not all of the limitations of Scotland are the responsibility of external factors: UK Tories/Labour, British elites and the union. Such a perspective makes people think change is easy (get rid of Tories, Labour, union) and stops an honest reflection on the shortcomings in Scottish society and our historic collective responsibilities: the role of home grown elites, the conservatism of Scottish Labour, SNP and others;</li><li> </li><li>- From this, encouraging debates which focus on reducing and eliminating poverty and hardship in our society, abuses of power and discrimination, rather than as some of the blame external forces do using every issue merely as a battering ram against Westminster rule;</li><li> </li><li>- Nurturing spaces and places which challenge the ‘official’ voices of ‘unspace’ and ‘undemocracy’; and recognising that diluting a long tradition and practice of a closed, conformist society and its transition to a more open one, doesn’t happen overnight, and at the present Scottish society sits in a fragile interregnum between the old and potential new;</li><li> </li><li> </li><li>- Developing resources and funding which support the above and which give sustenance to a wider culture which includes detailed public policy research – one which includes depth and reflection – as well as the big picture.&nbsp; </li></ul><p>An important element of this is giving shape to what a culture of self-determination actually is, and in what way it is different from focusing narrowly on self-government or independence. Self-determination is about individuals, communities and societies and shifting power and permission; self-government is a narrow political project, and too often the SNP have described independence as being about ‘the full powers of a Parliament’: i.e.: not about 99.9% of Scotland, but a political class change. </p> <p>Some of this undoubtedly began in the first wave, but we have to dig deeper, be bolder, braver, and more radical; listen more to those we disagree with, empathise and not just label those with differing positions; and be less tribal, partisan and hectoring. There isn’t a route from the politics of 45% for independence by invoking ‘the 45%’, telling the 55% they were hoodwinked, conned or even worse, victims of false consciousness. An independence majority that is overwhelming and emphatic only comes from understanding the 55%: their hopes and fears, their attachment to Britain, and the risks they didn’t want to take with an independent Scotland. There is no future in a closed tribe Scotland of the 45% thinking it can browbeat its way to a narrow majority. What kind of society would that be? Not a very attractive one, and not one placed for the challenges of the 21st century.</p> <p>Central to this is embracing detail, critique and scrutiny. It is now, for example, seldom commented upon that the Scottish Parliament has become a bit of an empty shell – with political power sitting elsewhere – namely, the Scottish Government. This has accentuated under the SNP with a parliamentary majority since 2011, but goes beyond this. For all the hope of ‘new politics’ under devolution, political power post-devolution never sat in the Parliament, instead being situated in the dense array of networks and elites which have administered society for years. These have been barely more than ruffled by the experience of devolution, and the Scottish Government coming from the nexus of the Scottish Office situated in this set of relationships has been well placed to continue things as they were before. The Scottish Parliament has been the new kid on the block and upstart, and has sadly yet to find its proper place.</p> <p>The tasks of the next five to ten years are to nurture the second wave of self-determination, hold power to account, create different centres of ideas and change, and make real the process which has barely begun – namely, to democratise Scotland. Even more fundamentally, it would be about doing change differently and embracing an open tribe kind of politics and society.</p> <p>Too much of current Scottish politics resembles the old Labour conceits with a fresh coat of paint on them. Many in the SNP seem content with the notion of capturing political power and using the undemocratic institutions of public life to affect change. This has an uncanny resemblance to how Labour has historically done its politics across Britain: wanting to capture the British state and all its assorted non-democratic bodies for the greater public good irrespective of the public’s views. It did not work for Labour in the past, and it certainly will not work for the SNP today.&nbsp; </p><p>An independence of the Scottish mind is about a different Scotland – a society which isn’t just formally self-governing – but which does things differently, talks and thinks about itself different, doesn’t treat some of its citizens as other, which looks after those who are in most need and most vulnerable – and also understands the need to shift power, voice and the boundaries which differentiate us. And that in so doing we have to be wary of the allure of abstracts not connected to practice: whether it is anti-austerity politics or allusions to ‘the sovereignty of the people’ and ‘popular sovereignty’ without ever scrutinising the domestic democratic deficit built over decades by Scottish elites and institutions.</p> <p>Lots of this will not be easy, much of it will not be predictable, but instead, messy, contradictory and challenging. But that is the world of the 21st century, the state of the global economy from the eurozone to the Shanghai Stock Exchange and the Scotland of the future. We are already in a transition from the highly ordered and controlled Scotland of the past to a society more disputatious, fragmented and interesting. There can be no going back to a safe, closed Scotland, even if some our elites and even progressive opinion, pine for it, compared to these unsettled times.</p> <p>The Scotland of the future is up to us collectively: a public becoming active agents in the making of their own history and nation. It is daunting in many respects, but one filled with promise and potential no previous Scottish generation has ever had. That requires more than ever that we embrace a very different radical politics to what we have seen before – one that embodies the spirit of our times: adaptive, open, constantly evolving and connecting actions and words, big picture and detail. </p> <p><strong>Notes</strong></p> <p>1. Jasper Jackson, ‘BBC warned George Osborne it would have to axe BBC2 and BBC4 due to cuts, <em>The Guardian</em>, August 18th 2015, <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/media/2015/aug/18/bbc-george-osborne-bbc2-bbc4-cuts">http://www.theguardian.com/media/2015/aug/18/bbc-george-osborne-bbc2-bbc4-cuts</a></p> <p>2. G.A. Ponsonby, ‘Scotland’s ‘alternative media’ has a long way to go if it is to succeed’, <em>Newsnet Scotland</em>, June 13th 2015, <a href="http://newsnet.scot/?p=115087">http://newsnet.scot/?p=115087</a></p> <p>3. Adam Tomkins, ‘One Year On (… Nearly)’, <em>Notes from North Britain</em>, August 19th 2015, <a href="https://notesfromnorthbritain.wordpress.com/2015/08/19/one-year-on-nearly/">https://notesfromnorthbritain.wordpress.com/2015/08/19/one-year-on-nearly/</a></p> <p>4. Iain Macwhirter and Alex Massie, <em>twitter</em>, August 18th 2015, <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=We%27re%20talking%20about%20what%20the%20stand&amp;src=typd">https://twitter.com/search?q=We%27re%20talking%20about%20what%20the%20stand&amp;src=typd</a>&nbsp; </p><p>5. Gerry Hassan, <em>Independence of the Scottish Mind: Elite Narratives, Public Space and the Making of a Modern Nation</em>, Palgrave Macmillan 2014. </p> <p>6. Michael Hechter, <em>Internal Colonialism: The Celtic Fringe in British National Development 1536-1966</em>, Routledge and Kegan Paul 1975.</p> <p>7. Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher, <em>British Electoral Facts 1832-2012</em>, Biteback 2012.</p> <p>8. RISE at: <a href="http://www.leftlaunch2016.scot">http://www.leftlaunch2016.scot</a></p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/gerry-hassan/tartan-tsunami-and-how-it-will-change-scotland-and-uk-for-good">The tartan tsunami and how It will change Scotland and the UK for good</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/gerry-hassan/disunited-kingdom-and-confusion-in-britain%E2%80%99s-political-elites">The disunited Kingdom and the confusion in Britain’s political elites</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Scotland's future Gerry Hassan Thu, 03 Sep 2015 23:11:11 +0000 Gerry Hassan 95679 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Review - "The People's Referendum" https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/harry-blain/review-people%27s-referendum <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Peter Geoghegen’s new book weaves together local stories and histories to provide subtle insights into Scotland’s political future.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555395/15085037737_1d3b7ddd7f_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="George Square on September 17, 2014"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555395/15085037737_1d3b7ddd7f_z.jpg" alt="Rally in George Square before the Scottish independence referendum." title="George Square on September 17, 2014" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>"The constitutional question rumbles on, unsettled." Flickr/Phyllis Buchanan. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p><a href="http://www.luath.co.uk/peoples-referendum.html">Peter Geoghegen, <em>The People’s Referendum: Why Scotland Will Never Be the Same Again, </em>Luath Press Ltd.</a></p><p>Recent headlines proclaiming <a href="http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/d97d49ce-877d-11e4-bc7c-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3NJ4q19Qq">“Oil rout would have wrecked an independent Scotland’s finances”</a> (the Financial Times), <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/jeremy-warner/11231933/Low-oil-prices-are-burying-all-hope-of-future-Scottish-independence.html">“Low oil prices are burying all hope of future Scottish independence”</a> (the Telegraph), or <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/dec/19/oil-price-challenge-north-sea-scottish-nationalists">“Oil price fall poses challenge for North Sea industry – and Scottish nationalists”</a> (the Guardian) show us that our journalists are capable of following market trends, adding up and comparing numbers and scrutinising the assumptions of a government White Paper. What they also indicate is a persistent failure to go beyond <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/joe-lafferty/scotland-on-eve-of-historic-choice-review-of-gerry-hassan%27s-caledonian-dream">what Gerry Hassan has termed</a> the “accountancy versions” of the independence debate, where the Edinburgh elite and the London elite argue over inflated and fudged figures, feed their talking points to the media, and treat the public as customers rather than citizens.</p><p><span>The greatest success of Peter Geoghegen’s new book is its total rejection of the “accountancy versions” of Scotland’s referendum. Instead, he sets out to document “the myriad personal and collective excursions taken by people across Scotland during the campaign” and his “own personal journey both as a journalist and an emigrant” at this defining moment in Scotland’s history. We hear from Orange Order members in North Lanarkshire; residents of Coldstream, “the only town in the UK with its own army regiment”; communists in West Fife who wept when the Berlin Wall fell; and Catalans raising Saltires in George Square. In this sense, the book follows in the tradition of politics and history from “below,” which has recently found particularly fertile ground in the context of the independence debate (see, for example, Chris Bambery’s </span><a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/Peoples-History-Scotland-Chris-Bambery/dp/1781682844">“A People’s History of Scotland”</a><span>).</span></p> <h2><strong>Little Ireland and Little Moscow</strong></h2> <p>Himself a member of the Irish Diaspora in Scotland, Geoghegen looks into the politics of this community in the town of Coatbridge (“Little Ireland”). Sharing his conversations with local unionists and nationalists, he contrasts the polarising conceptions of “Britishness” in Northern Ireland with “the more utilitarian and transactional” attitudes of Scots: “‘What does the Union do for me?’ ‘Am I better off within or without?’” </p> <p><span>Similarly, local stories shed light on the role of the left in the referendum debate. Geoghegen travels to Cowdenbeath, the area that “returned Britain’s last Communist MP, Willie Gallacher, between 1935 and 1950,” and the small village of Lumphinnans, known locally as “Little Moscow.” Interviews with Willie Clarke, often described as the last Communist councillor in Britain, bring forward the socialist case for independence, and flow neatly into reflections on the crucial role of the Radical Independence Campaign, which “under banners that proclaimed ‘Another Scotland is Possible’… criticised the SNP’s centrist vision of a low-tax, social democratic independent Scotland and called for a return to class politics.”</span></p> <p><span>This succinct summary of the leftist argument for independence was, to a large extent, absent from the pages of Britain’s liberal press. Guardian columnists like Will Hutton </span><a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/06/will-hutton-10-days-to-save-the-union-scottish-independence">scrambled for federal solutions</a><span> on how to “stop the independence bandwagon,” while Seamus Milne </span><a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/11/salmond-scotland-no-escape-tory-britain">wrote</a><span> that “Scots voting yes for social justice won’t get it from a party signed up to corporate tax cuts as the recipe for independence.” Perhaps more remarkably, despite his well-deserved reputation as a critic of the British establishment, Owen Jones’ </span><a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/dec/28/year-grassroots-powerful-elites-democracy">end-of-year reflection</a><span> – “The year the grassroots took on the powerful – and won” – did not discuss Scotland. A comment on the piece read: “Yes Scotland was the biggest grassroots campaign that Britain has ever seen and yet not even a mention of it. Odd.”</span></p> <p>Odd indeed. Presumably, these prominent commentators were unaware of or didn’t have much faith in the “over 350 totally independent campaigns, each set up by activists, each self-funded, none centrally controlled” that <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/robin-mcalpine/butterfly-rebellion">nearly brought</a> Britain’s political class to its knees. Refreshingly, Geoghegen acknowledges the presence of these groups and largely treats them with the seriousness that they deserve – although more questioning on why some self-described radicals (such as George Galloway) sided with the Union could have provided further insight into the tensions between class and national politics in Scotland.</p> <h2><strong>Overlooking cultural movements</strong></h2> <p><span>To be clear, “The People’s Referendum” does not claim to be “an exhaustive account of what happened in Scotland on September 18,” let alone an autopsy of the left. Yet its otherwise comprehensive attempt to tell “the story of the campaign” from the perspectives of “ordinary people” rather than “pollsters or politicians,” runs aground slightly in its treatment of the cultural and artistic aspects of the debate.</span></p> <p><span>After appraising the politics of nationalist poet, Hugh MacDiarmid, Geoghegen asks “should we really expect our writers, whether MacDiarmid or anyone else, to be cogent political voices, too? Probably not.” Then, he points out that “Unionists trumpeted JK Rowling’s backing so loudly that one could be forgiven for thinking Hogwarts was an electoral district,” and that “Janice Galloway, Irvine Welsh and a plethora of belle-lettrists all publicly called for a Yes vote.”</span></p> <p><span>Beyond this brief summary, there is no analysis of the impact of writers like Welsh on Scottish popular and political culture, and a lack of attention on groups such as </span><a href="http://nationalcollective.com/">National Collective</a><span>, which brought together artists, writers and activists, and organised (among other events) </span><a href="http://nationalcollective.com/yestival/">“Yestival,”</a><span> a month-long festival showcasing “the best of Scottish culture with help from communities across the country.” For me and many other young people, these cultural movements were central to “the story of the campaign” – and have a key role to play in Scotland’s future. They should not be treated as an afterthought.</span></p> <h2><strong>What nationalism? Why nationalism?</strong></h2> <p><span>The book is peppered with quotes about nations and nationalism, from Walker Connor on national “self-awareness” through myths and stories; to David McCrone on “stateless nations”; Benedict Anderson on the “imagined community”; and Etienne Balibar on nations as “retrospective illusions.” For students of political science and sociology, these quotes can become tiresome, but they are interwoven with a collection of stories and experiences that hint at wider trends.</span></p> <p><span>Taking us to Catalonia and Republika Srpska (the Serb autonomous region in Bosnia) Geoghegen argues that notwithstanding many differences (for example, the “civic” nationalism of the SNP is contrasted with the “unashamedly ethnic” nationalism of Serb politicians) there are common themes across Europe. “All these sub-state nationalist movements are – in some way – a response to crisis, whether political, economic or even existential. If small (or smaller) is not quite beautiful, it is preferable to the present order, better able to buttress the nation (however defined) against the slings and arrows of late modernity.”</span></p> <p><span>Although the stories from Barcelona and Banja Luka provide a general context for the diverse origins of these movements, the analysis of Scottish nationalism is at times incomplete. For instance, when we hear about the importance of common myths and stories as forces for national identity, there are mentions of William Wallace and the battle of Flodden, but nothing on Scotland’s “egalitarian myths.” There persists “a </span><a href="http://www.scotsman.com/news/gerry-hassan-equality-must-begin-before-it-goes-on-1-3248831">deeply rooted belief</a><span> in Scotland that we, as a society and community, prioritise and value the idea of equality,” even while “the 1:273 ratio between Scotland’s wealthiest and poorest households in wealth” suggests that “this is most definitely not who we are in reality.” How is this myth constructed and sustained? How did it influence the referendum debate? I suspect its importance “for ordinary people” was more pronounced than 16</span>th<span> century battles.</span></p> <h2><strong>So what has actually changed?</strong></h2> <p><span>Any reader should be sceptical of a book based on the claim that things have changed forever – such claims are often lazy and exaggerated. However, Geoghegen has the ability to illuminate fundamental political changes in clear yet subtle language. The referendum’s impact on the Scottish media is captured in the words of an “elderly gentlemen” who now refuses to watch British television and instead gets his news from Russia Today, while the description of a simple scene from Jim Murphy’s “100 streets” tour strikes at the declining relevance of Britain’s political class: “Murphy’s Irn Bru crates were a representation of working class Scottish culture dreamed up in a party office and delivered by a man who, like many others in both campaigns, had never held a job outside politics.”</span></p><p><span>More broadly, the book argues that “[t]he independence referendum did not just expose cracks in the Labour party – it laid bare fissures in Scottish society itself.” The epilogue warns of “wider dangers” associated with the “inchoate new normal” in Scotland, if all issues are “refracted through the ‘national question.’”</span></p> <p><span>Many Scots are enjoying this “new normal,” and would argue that the “national question” is a means to an end: a new, inclusive politics, a greener economy and a more compassionate society. While Geoghegen worries that we risk losing sight of “the dull but vital business of quotidian politics,” I worry about getting mired again in this business, which is too often based on the idea of “tough” and “complex” decisions being left to the “experts.” And yet, his overarching question remains vital: can the “dynamism of summer 2014” be sustained? The answer, of course, is in our hands.</span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/gerry-hassan/scotland-and-eu-tale-of-two-referenda">Scotland and the EU: a tale of two referenda</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/fran%C3%A7ois-alfonsi/independence-movements-are-riding-wave-of-optimism-in-europe">Independence movements are riding a wave of optimism in Europe</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Scotland </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> uk uk Scotland Civil society Democracy and government Scotland's future Labour Party Institutions Direct democracy Devolution Constitutional settlement Britishness Harry Blain Tue, 06 Jan 2015 00:01:00 +0000 Harry Blain 89338 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Raising the Blue Labour saltire on a sinking ship https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/adam-ramsay/raising-blue-labour-saltire-on-sinking-ship <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Labour's crisis in Scotland requires more than a charismatic leader and some dusty ideas from north London.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen shot 2014-12-16 at 14.54.13.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen shot 2014-12-16 at 14.54.13.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="347" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Scottish Labour's new shadow cabinet</span></span></span></p><p>In 2006, at its annual conference, a student called Tim Cobbett was elected to the Executive Committee of NUS Scotland. That might seem an odd place to start a discussion of the astonishing decline in Scottish Labour. But consider this: it was, I think, the first time in the history of the organisation that someone had run against a Labour Student candidate, and won. </p><p>Now consider this: other than Neil Findlay, every single candidate for leader or deputy leader of Scottish Labour was at some point involved in student politics in Scotland. This isn't at all surprising: campus politics has long been a vital recruiting ground for the party, where it finds people and where it teaches them the art – or, perhaps more accurately, the sport – of political organising. As the unions and Labour's connection to them have corroded, this has become more important than ever. </p> <p>In that context, finally, consider this: eight years after Tim Cobbett's victory, there is now not a single Labour Student on the executive committee of NUS Scotland. The president comes from the radical left, and campaigned openly for a yes vote. His only opponent when he was re-elected earlier this year is a member not of Labour, but of the SNP.</p> <p>It's not just student politics. Estimates of its membership vary from 7,000 to 11,000. The former figure would mean it's smaller than the Scottish Greens. Even the latter put it as perhaps 1/9th of the size of a fast growing SNP - and the fact that it didn't publish how many people voted in the leadership election (unlike in 2010) implies they don't want us to know. I am told that, at their leader hustings in Glasgow, they had around 200 people: the previous day, just up the road, 12,000 SNP members had gone to see their new leader. </p> <p>Those membership figures will have practical implications: money for the coffers, activists for the streets. The SNP now averages more than 1,500 per Westminster constituency – huge numbers of whom learnt their leaflet runs and canvass patter during the referendum, huge numbers of whom are chomping at the bit to erase Murphy's party from the Scottish electoral map.</p> <p>Perhaps most significantly of all, the SNP trade union group now has more members than the Scottish Labour Party. The Scottish Left Project, the group set up by the socialists who organised the 3000 strong Radical Independence Conference, include among their ranks some relatively senior trade unionists. The day Murphy was elected, they launched a disaffiliation campaign. It's surely a matter of not if, but when: there are already rumours that senior TUC figures have left Labour in the wake of the Smith Commission, and I hear the Co-op Party is considering abandoning ship. </p> <p>The final corner of Scottish Labour's base is its local councillors. And the cause of the decline there is perhaps different to that elsewhere. As a condition of coalition in 2003, the Lib Dems secured from Labour an agreement to introduce proportional representation for local government. And so since 2007, Scottish local authorities have voted using the Single Transferable Vote. Up against a fairer voting system, Labour lost about a third of its councillors. They went from outright control in 12 of Scotland's 32 local authorities to only two. </p> <p>Although they experienced a small bounce-back in 2012 at the cost of the Lib Dems, the loss of their councillor base has removed organisers from communities across Scotland – for, often, it is councillors who do regular canvassing, organise leaflet runs and local fundraisers. It's councillors who channel information from doorsteps to the party HQ and it's councillors who recruit new members and make them feel welcome at their first meeting.</p> <p>Opinion polls show what's happening on the surface of a sample of the sea, but they reflect the broader currents beneath. On the day the new leader was announced, a new survey came out giving the SNP 43% and Labour 27%. On a universal swing, that would give the SNP 47 seats and Labour 10 – compared to their current 6 and 40 respectively. But, remarkably, as Peter Kellner at YouGov points out, it is impossible for the 17% swing against Labour since 2010 to be universal: there are some seats in which they didn't get 17%, and though the electorate may sometimes want to, it cannot give parties negative scores. And so they must be losing a disproportionate share of their support in areas where they previously had more of it – meaning that it's possible they will lose more seats than the polls indicate.</p> <p>The figures on trust are telling too. Half way through her second term in government, 48% of Scots say they trust Nicola Sturgeon. On his first day as Scottish Labour leader, only 24% said they trust Jim Murphy. Most remarkable of all, by 19% to 15%, David Cameron is more trusted north of the border than Ed Miliband.</p> <p>It's no wonder. The decline of Scottish Labour has taken place over more than a decade. But over the last two years, the people of Scotland have taken a magnifying glass to their politics. Looking closely at the party that most had historically supported, they found it deeply wanting. The party which Jim Murphy and Kezia Dugdale have inherited once had deep roots across Scottish civil society. Now, it feels, it could blow over in the lightest of storms. </p> <p>It isn't clear to me whether or not it would be possible for any leader to address the scale of this crisis – partly because there is only so much a leader can do in the face of the brutal force of history, and partly because any leader would have to emerge from the party, and in many ways, it's the party that's the problem. This latter conundrum was aptly demonstrated by Murphy's victory this weekend.</p> <p>The first sign that he was the wrong choice is that he was the obvious one. A charismatic public speaker who enlivened the referendum campaign with his hundred towns tour, a man whose personal story reads like a “best of” history of the left over the last 25 years (fleeing apartheid South Africa, competing Scotland's purge of the Tories in 1997 by winning their safest seat north of the border) and “A Big Beast From The Real Parliament” (as they still seem to see it), it seemed clear from the outset that Murphy would see off his challengers. </p> <p>There are, in fact, contexts in which Jim Murphy might have been exactly what Scottish Labour needed: a decade ago, back in the boom times, you can imagine him articulating a saltired Blairism from Bute House in a way Jack McConnell never quite could. But if the members of Scottish Labour believe that the laws of physics still bend to the rules of the Labour leadership ballot, they are sorely mistaken: Scotland isn't going back in time to 2004. When they needed someone not just to turn their ship around, but to completely re-build it, they have voted for a captain to rally the sailers and raise the flag as it sinks beneath the waves. </p> <p>There are three problems with Jim Murphy. This first is that he is tied so inextricably to Labour's past decade. At a time when it's clear to everyone that Scottish Labour needs to dramatically break from Blairism, he is a well known supporter of the Iraq War, Trident and austerity. Whatever pretty words he uses to pitch himself to the left, he's got a voting record at Westminster going back 17 years showing otherwise. Labour's problem isn't so much that they say the wrong things, but that people have come to the conclusion that they don't really believe anything. It's not that they need better policies (though they do) it's that they have to actually believe in them. </p> <p>The second is that he is inextricably tied to Labour's recent past. If the problem facing the party is that a significant portion of its base voted yes, then one of the most prominent and, in some ways, aggressive figures from the No campaign is perhaps not the person best placed to win them over.</p> <p>The third is that he is tied to his own past. Scotland's a small country, and social media has shrunk it further. Whether or not the tales of bullying and nastiness dating back to his time in NUS are true, they keep appearing in my Facebook and Twitter feeds from disgruntled members of the Labour party whose dislike of him is more personal than political. They needed a unifying figure, and they got a man who seems to have spent a lifetime making enemies.</p> <p>Neil Findlay offered solutions to at least some of these problems. One of the reasons for a lack of talent and experience in Scottish Labour is that, in Holyrood's AMS system, they didn't allow candidates (with exceptions for incumbent MSPs who had notionally lost their seats on boundary changes) to run both in a constituency and on the list. In 2011, significant numbers of now experienced SNP regional list MSPs unseated Labour constituency MSPs. But rather than some of these people returning through the proportional top-up system, those who replaced them were new to Parliament, and, often hadn't expected to be there.</p> <p>For the most-part, there were good reasons they hadn't been selected in what were thought to be winnable positions. But, once in a while, they were people who the leadership had tried to shut out, because they were trouble-makers. Democracy has a habit of being chaotic enough to open up cracks for the light to get through. For Labour, Neil Findlay was just such a glimmer – a clear chance for the party to indicate that it had freed itself from the clutches of the Westminster consensus. But you can always rely on Scottish Labour to stamp on any sense of hope.</p> <p>Despite all of this, it would be a mistake to write Murphy off. After all, he just won an election with a healthy majority. Apart from anything else, he appears to have some understanding of the scale of the challenge he faces, and it's worth watching his attempts to tack about. Since his election on Saturday, I have counted five key messages from him: that he's the candidate of change, that he's a socialist, that his party is united, that Labour won't lose any seats to the SNP in 2015, and that he's a Scottish patriot. </p> <p>The first four of these are untrue, though they are statements of intent rather than lies. He knows there is a need for change, but the sort of change he means can be measured in <a href="http://www.scottishlabour.org.uk/blog/entry/jim-murphy-kezia-dugdale-unveil-new-shadow-cabinet">his cabinet reshuffle today</a>. It seems reasonable to say that those appointed fall into two categories. First, there are people who were already on the front bench but have been given a new job there: former leader Iain Gray, Jackie Bailie, Greame Peason, Claire Baker, James Kelly, Neil Findlay. Sarah Boyack is rewarded for her leadership run, and goes from minister to secretary.</p> <p>Then there are those who have got promotions. Jenny Marra was co-chair of Murphy's campaign. Neil Bibby, is a former chair of Labour Students in Scotland who worked for Murphy before he was elected an MSP. Mary Fee's background is in Usdaw, one of the few unions which supported Murphy's leadership bid. Ken Macintosh has been an MSP since 1999 and his constituency at Holyrood is effectively the same as Murphy's Westminster seat. Murphy backed him in the last Scottish Labour leadership election, and he's certainly not new. </p><p>Among the 14 people who will attend the new shadow cabinet, other than his two opponents themselves, I can only find one person <a href="http://www.scottishlabour.org.uk/page/-/Email attachment/Publication of MP MSP MEP votes Final.pdf">who didn't vote for</a> both of the winning candidates: Hugh Henry, an MSP since 1999 who's held a range of positions in his time and can't really be muted as 'new blood'. </p> <p>Murphy wants Scottish Labour to be seen as a socialist party because he has come to the conclusion that this is the best way to win, but his team looks like exactly the same Labour party as before, only with a couple of younger faces: faces of people who likely joined when Tony Blair was leader. He says he wants to unite his party, but he seems unwilling to give jobs many people from outside his own support base. Despite the rhetoric, the changed Labour really doesn't look very different.</p> <p>Which brings us to the one thing he's said so far which is probably true – that he is “patriotic”. This was, in fact, a frequent trope from his corner of the Labour Party throughout the referendum. Better Together's twitter account still describes itself as “the patriotic all party and no party campaign”, and the first point in his five point plan for Scottish Labour, <a href="http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2014/12/jim-murphy-unveils-plan-rewrite-scottish-labours-clause-iv">as unveiled in the New Statesman</a>, is “making it clear that Scottish Labour is a patriotic party”. Added to the second point: “declaring Scottish Labour a party which represents Scotland first”, and there are two ways to interpret what he's doing.</p> <p>The first is triangulation: Murphy is trying to steal the SNP's spots, pitching Labour as a party of Scotland, and a party of the left. Second, I'm told that Murphy was a part of the Blue Labour crowd, back when that was The Thing after the 2010 election - and it looks very much like this is, in some ways, the ideology he is pulling on. </p> <p>Blue Labour was the movement associated with Ed Miliband's then guru, Maurice Glasman, who made a name for himself by declaring that the party should be about “faith, flag and family”. This helped shape the 'One Nation' narrative (I've never yet had a good answer to the question 'which nation?'). The newly elevated peer disappeared from the scene when he said some dodgy stuff about immigration, but it seems Jim may be putting a white cross through Blue Labour's flag, and attempting to steal the SNP's spots.</p> <p>This strategy is, I think, bound to fail, for a few simple reasons. Triangulation has always been about winning power while losing the argument. If the only aim of either party is to get into office, then sometimes it makes sense. But the SNP has at least one more aim: winning independence. And if Scottish Labour accepts entirely that the political terrain in which it operates is Scotland, if it gives up on its soft British nationalism (“the unity of the British working class”), if it helps the SNP by itself articulating its own left-leaning Scottish national myth, then this might help Labour nudge towards short term power. But it will also push Scotland closer to independence. </p> <p>In fact, for Labour, it's worse than that. One challenge the SNP has always faced is that they want a modern, left leaning Scottish national story to exist, but they don't want to always be the people telling it – because banging on too much about Scotland puts off the more traditional Labour voters they are aiming to win over. So if they can leave Labour to build the story, then they can get on with winning over Labour's voters.</p> <p>The second reason it's bound to fail is that the SNP are just as adept at triangulation, but, being in government, they have a bigger stage. Where Labour has shown any leadership, Salmond and Sturgeon have been happy to follow, and then to ensure that they get the credit. As soon as there was any serious pressure on the SNP to back a 50p tax rate, for example, <a href="http://www.politicshome.com/uk/article/109053/nicola_sturgeon_i_would_be_minded_to_introduce_50p_tax_rate_if_holyood_had_the_power.html">they did</a>. </p> <p>And, thirdly, this triangulation won't work because the voters who have swung from Labour to the SNP have done so not because they are soft nationalists who love a saltire, but because they are soft socialists who see the SNP as sitting to the left of Labour. Sounding like a patriot will do little to win those people over. </p> <p>If all of this sounds bleak for Murphy, that's, largely, because that's how things are – but for one glimmer of hope. One of the key reasons Labour has fallen apart since 2007 is that it's been driven more by hatred of the SNP than by a coherent plan of its own. Murphy is utterly loathed by many yes supporters. There are huge numbers who now see their primary job as destroying him and his party. And, that kind of hatred eats movements alive. </p> <p>If he can wind his opponents up until they look as bitter, nasty and directionless as his party has appeared for most of the last decade, then maybe, just maybe, he will have tricked them into giving him a chance. If they just ignore him, and let him get on with tacking and jiving in a hunt for long shifted trade winds, it seems fair to assume his party slowly, gradually, loyal supporters still fondly clinging on, will sink.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> uk uk Scotland's future Adam Ramsay Tue, 16 Dec 2014 14:56:08 +0000 Adam Ramsay 88937 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Scottish Labour: the never-ending soap opera that matters https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/gerry-hassan/scottish-labour-neverending-soap-opera-that-matters <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The crisis in Scottish Labour has been long in the making, and needs to address its root.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Labour-Scotlandj-300x300.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Labour-Scotlandj-300x300.jpg" alt="" title="" width="300" height="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>Scottish Labour loves talking about itself. The evidence for this is everywhere in the last few days, in print media, TV and radio studios, and social media. </p> <p>Organisations which have lost their way, which are in decline and crisis, often do this as a displacement activity. Think of the Tories ‘banging on’ about Europe, or the BBC post-Savile. Such behaviour is never a good sign. It makes people think their internal obsessions are important, and that the minutiae of such debates matter to the public.</p> <p>The first lesson for Labour is that lots of what it is doing does not matter at the moment. Labour has become a soap opera, one with diminishing ratings. If it were say ‘Eastenders’, it would be one where most of the original cast and big hitters (Angie and Den) have left, it is reduced to the B, then C list, and no one knows who is in it apart from a few fanatics. </p> <p>The only reason the show remains on the screen is that no one has the energy or interest to pull it. Scottish Labour is the longest running soap opera currently on the go in the country. It is longer running than its main competitor for attention, drama and inadvertent comedy – Rangers FC. That’s not an honour.</p><p><a name="_GoBack"></a>As if Scottish Labour did not have more pressure on it an Ipsos-Mori poll came out on Thursday which turned many of the conventional assumptions of politics north of the border on their head. Scottish Labour’s Westminster heartlands have always been taken for granted, but this poll put the SNP on 52% to Labour’s 23%, which would produce 54 SNP seats to Labour’s four, on a swing of over 25% from 2010. This state of affairs more than likely won't happen, but it underlies the topsy-turfy nature of politics now, the fluid mood voters are in, and that these are uncharted waters in Scotland. Labour cannot just count on Scotland to deliver 40 MPs without trying.</p> <p><strong>Seventh time lucky</strong></p> <p>Scottish Labour is away to choose its seventh leader in the devolution era. The word ‘choose’ is a revealing euphemism because it took until the fifth leader (Iain Gray) to have a proper election. The four previous leaders all emerged from a variety of shadowy procedures and politicking: from Donald Dewar’s coronation, to Henry McLeish, Jack McConnell and Wendy Alexander.</p> <p>Lamont’s comments that Scottish Labour has been treated as a ‘branch office of London’ brought forth many responses. There was blanket denial from Westminster from the likes of Anas Sarwar and Ed Balls, to so far, complete silence from Ed Miliband.</p> <p>Much of the public discussion that ensued assumed that Westminster Labour and attitudes were the main problem. This amounted to a blank cheque to Scottish Labour, and ignored that many of its problems were made by its own hand and home grown. The party’s lack of strategy, direction and purpose are all significantly down to Scottish made choices. Its pathological detestation of the SNP which so hurt the party’s judgement, was born, maintained and reinforced in Scotland. </p> <p>This attitude, born of Willie Ross and ‘tartan Tories’ and the 1979 downfall of the Callaghan Labour Government aided by the SNP, has got much worse under devolution. It is as if Labour has had to find a strategy of differentiation, even if a negative one with regard to the Nationalists. Post-2007 the response of Labour politicians such as Lamont and Margaret Curran has been in the words of former First Minister Jack McConnell to get ‘too angry at the SNP for taking control’. </p> <p><strong>The leadership issue and the power of democracy</strong> </p> <p>There is the over-concentration on leadership as the solution, perhaps understandable when there is a sudden leadership vacancy. Yet much of the commentary of the last few days has been on the merits of candidates who were never going to run. Did anyone take the idea of ‘former politician’ Gordon Brown returning to ‘frontline politics’, a place he thinks he currently doesn’t inhabit as an MP?</p> <p>There is a sensitivity to be managed if an MP such as Jim Murphy becomes leader. This will involve him standing for the Scottish Parliament as soon as he can, preferably at the time of the 2015 Westminster contest. A related problem is the danger of a dual Westminster leadership of Murphy and Anas Sarwar remaining as deputy. That would create a problem of perception about where power sits. It would seem to say Labour’s 38 MSPs aren’t simply good enough to supply one of the two leadership posts and that instead the party has to have ‘dual control’ from Westminster. </p><p>Democracy matters. Both the enactment of it and what it results in. Labour is stranded with the tripartite Electoral College (parliamentarians, individual members, and trade unions and affiliates) to choose its leader. Bequeathed to the party in 1980 in the Bennite insurgency, it has proven a problem from the moment it came into operation with the 1981 Benn-Healey contest, and often not in ways first imagined. British Labour abandoned it earlier this year; Scottish Labour has yet to do so. </p> <p>The college with its labyrinth procedures makes it hard to move against unpopular leaders: latter day Blair, Brown, or Miliband today. They make contests where an early winner appears, and secures a landslide and virtual coronation: Kinnock in 1983, Smith in 1992, Blair in 1994. This forecloses, rather than aids, debate. They have also been used for blatant party management fixes: in 1998 to stop Rhodri Morgan becoming Welsh leader and in 2000 to prevent Ken Livingstone running for London Mayor on the Labour ticket. In both the fixes were achieved, but at huge cost, and eventually, later on, Morgan and Livingstone were elected to the posts the Labour leadership had tried to deny them. </p> <p>Scottish Labour has used the college twice: electing Iain Gray in 2008 and Johann Lamont in 2011. On both occasions it provided no detailed breakdown of the results beyond aggregates in each of the three sections. Thus, no figures were provided for how many individual party members or trade union members and affiliates voted. This was one suspects because of the low turnout in the trade union and affiliates section, and threadbare nature of individual party membership which the party has not revealed for over four years. </p><p>Democratic elections are a chance to debate, invigorate and renew what you stand for. Scottish Labour first got into the habit of avoiding such elections, producing four leaders by a variety of means other than democratic mandate. Then when it eventually and belatedly embraced democracy it had forgotten its renewing potential, because it had not in recent years practiced the politics and practices of discussion and debate. </p><p>The 2008 and 2011 contests with lots of candidate hustings meetings, did not even begin to address the deep malaise which had set in at the heart of the party. This was even more tragic after the 2011 SNP landslide, because the upside for a defeated party in being rejected by the electorate is that it is a release and liberation, and this allows for the beginning of a fightback: Labour after 1983 and the Tories after 2005 being good examples. Labour has squandered the positive effects of getting a good kicking from the voters. </p> <p><strong>What went wrong with Scottish Labour?</strong></p> <p>Scottish Labour once stood for something positive: a definite, clear-cut worldview which could be described as administrative labourism. It was not radical or very left wing, but it delivered big things: it built homes, New Towns, lifted people out of poverty, brought Hydro-Electric schemes to the Highlands, and championed an active, interventionist state. </p> <p>The world moved on. Scottish Labour’s very success produced the seeds of its own downfall. By contributing to changing Scottish society by its herculean endeavours, it left people wanting more than small-minded Labour councillors running everything. People became more aspirational and individualist; the party did not adapt. Successive UK Labour Governments hit economic troubles whether at the hands of devaluation or the IMF, and the SNP emerged as an electoral threat in what were once Labour heartlands.</p> <p>The party that came to embrace devolution and then legislate for a Scottish Parliament was not a happy one. It was one ill at ease with modern Scotland and politics. Added to this the logic of a Parliament pre-devolution had become wrapped in a host of negative reasons: to out-manoeuvre the SNP (to ‘kill nationalism stone dead’ said George Robertson) and to institutionalise anti-Thatcherism. Labour in 1999 had no real answer to what the Parliament was positively for and what kind of politics and Scotland was it meant to advance. This vacuum at its heart was to time and again cost it dear. </p><p>The party 47 years after the SNP erupted onto the scene, and a decade and a half after the establishment of the Scottish Parliament, appears lost, bewildered and confused. It has in recent years in opposition engaged in a mindset of retreating into a comfort zone which can only be described as a bunker, one inhabited by a few war weary survivors who have dedicated themselves to the cause. Unfortunately, for the party, the quality of advice and expertise has been questionable to poor, and exasperated the party’s already multiple problems. </p> <p>To take a couple of examples. There was the Devolution Commission, which between 2013 and 2014 was watered down at the behest of Labour MP opposition. The final report contained plans on new tax powers, envisaging them being allowed to go up, but precluding them from being cut, as this could have aided the SNP’s tax competition instincts. All the party cared about in this instance was shooting the SNP fox, instead shooting itself in the foot!</p><p>Then there was the Paul Sinclair inspired strategy of pursuing Alex Salmond over a hotel bill in Chicago which went on for months. Salmond had been there with his entourage on official business, but Scottish Labour raised it week after week in the belief that they had to diminish and tarnish Salmond. It was a new low for Scottish Labour, and one which in its ‘get Salmond at all costs’, provided totally ineffectual and counter-productive. </p><p><strong>Murphy’s Law, Blairism and ‘Stockholm Syndrome’</strong> </p> <p>This brings us to Jim Murphy. Firstly, there is the existence of Murphy’s Law. This states that the amount of abuse and invective arising on social media is directly related to and a measure of how serious a politician the person is. Many Nationalists fear Murphy.</p> <p>The question is what direction would he want to take Scottish Labour in? Some such as John McTernan have indicated that he can and must stop ‘the separatist agenda’ inside Labour. Others such as Owen Jones see him as an ‘arch-Blairite staunchly pro-war Westminster politician’, which means that Jones does not care much for his brand of politics. </p><p>Increasingly the terms of reference used to explain Labour machinations: ‘Blairite’, ‘moderniser’, even ‘left’ and ‘right’ are meaningless. There isn’t a very powerful, radical left in Scottish Labour, and hasn’t been for as long as anyone can remember. These terms need to be put in the dustbin of history, as terms such as ‘Gaitskellite’, ‘Bennite’ and even ‘Brownite’ have been previously. </p><p>To Owen Jones in <em>the Guardian</em>, the problem is primarily about the Scottish party’s ‘embrace of Blairism that left a progressive vacuum the SNP was able to fill’. What embracing of Blairism is this beyond in the early days of devolution the use of the Private Finance Initiative? To some on the left, any connection to the realities of the modern world is proof of Blairism, and with this comes a one-dimensional reading of the world, problems and solutions: the latter to be found in a nostalgic yearning for the past certainties of class politics, whether it be the 1980s or spirit of ’45. </p> <p>John McTernan in a ‘Daily Telegraph’ piece this week observed that strange world of Scotland post-referendum. The party that won, he argued, has thrown it away (Scottish Labour), and the one which lost it is acting as if it has won (SNP). McTernan argued that a myth has arisen post-vote of a ‘wildly left-wing, working class country’ which it would be disastrous for the SNP leadership to embrace, or Labour in a ‘clear red water’ strategy. However, in resisting demands for greater autonomy, McTernan has to create a caricature, dismissing such calls as ‘a clue to the Scottish Labour disease: the party has internalised the SNP’s abuse, and even come to believe it. It’s a kind of political Stockholm syndrome’. <br /><br /> </p><p>Breaking free of the party’s so-called ‘Stockholm syndrome’ is one of the central keys to Scottish Labour’s future but not in the way McTernan means it. Over the trials and tribulations of devolution, Scottish Labour has developed and clung to a dependency relationship with British Labour. It has looked to it whenever it has had problems, while British Labour has stepped in whenever it has judged that the Scottish party is, in its judgement, not up to it. The last few years are littered with examples: the first Scottish Parliament election campaign of 1999, the 2007 contest which the SNP narrowly won, and the recent referendum campaign. </p><p>Such a pattern was repeatedly evident in Lamont’s leadership: from Major Eric Joyce and the Falkirk selection, to the related Ineos/Grangemouth dispute, and the controversy over how to mitigate the effects of the bedroom tax. In everyone of these high profile controversies, the Scottish party leadership was kept out in the cold or marginalised by Westminster Labour. Henry McLeish, Jack McConnell and Wendy Alexander as leaders all had problems of one kind or another with the Westminster leadership. McConnell now presents these disagreements as being not about policy, but about party administration, but it did not seem that way at the time, and more crucially, party devolution plays a central role in the evolution of policy and ideas; one isn’t really possible without the other. </p><p>Scottish Labour has to break this pattern of a relationship whoever becomes leader. Whether Jim Murphy or someone else they cannot appear as Westminster’s man or woman in Scotland. The relationship is one which isn’t working for either of the parties. It results in the Scottish party being diminished and infantilised, and always believing its problems are the fault of others, even when it might be Scottish Labour MPs. It prevents growth, self-awareness and learning from mistakes, such as 2007 and 2011. But British Labour doesn’t gain from it beyond trying to hold the line and maintaining 41 MPs coming to Westminster. Seeing Scotland continually as a problem means it becomes a problem, and one which is not understood; witness British Labour’s lack of interest or understanding in Scotland until the last few weeks in the referendum. </p> <p>The origins of the current malaise in Scottish Labour go far back beyond the mistakes of devolution or alleged perfidy of Blairism. They can be found in the limits of what the party turned into under decades of administrative labourism, namely a party and politics based on an ‘entitlement culture’ of a political class, and a language of describing Labour voters as ‘our people’, as if the party always knew best. </p> <p>It is a long road back from the years of patronage and preferment, and seven years into opposition Labour hasn’t seriously begun a politics of renewal. The first steps in this would involve publicly understanding and recognising the limited, controlling politics it practiced when administering large parts of Scotland. An apology and mea culpa for taking the people for granted, and reflecting that the old ways were no longer appropriate, would offer some kind of break between the past and the politics of the present and future. </p><p>Second, Scottish Labour has to do and say things which people hear and listen too. An apology would be one. Developing a distinct Scottish Labour politics would be another. Declaring a new relationship between Scottish and British Labour is yet one more possibility. A unilateral declaration of independence would certainly make people take notice, but the party lacks the courage and resources, and it would look a little out of place just weeks after banging on the merits of ‘Better Together’. </p><p>Finally, and perhaps just as radically Labour has to learn to stop going on about the SNP and the constitution. The first is the default position of most media commentary outside Labour: that Labour has to get over the Nationalists. But on the second, the commonplace media and public consensus is to believe that all answers political will be found in fine-tuning the constitution and constitutional change. It will not. </p><p>The most radical, far-reaching and powerful thing Scottish Labour can do is to live up to those words and intent: to be proudly Scottish and Labour. That would mean spending less time on constitutional change, devo max and devo lite, and instead talking of classic Labour issues, and in particular, social policy and social justice. </p><p>Labour cannot out Nat the Nationalists on the constitution, but it can authentically talk and make its own issues of low pay, poverty, insecurity, the rising numbers of children, workers and pensioners in poverty, and how to give aspirational, but anxious Scotland a voice and champion in our political system. It could also address wider issues than just a welfarist politics, such as public sector change and innovation, wealth creation and the economy, which it has not talked about in at least a generation. </p> <p>Scottish Labour has to be authentic, speaking and representing a country and society it is both comfortable with and had a huge role in bringing about. There is a sizeable constituency out there for such a political message, but will Labour after fifteen years find the courage to advance and nurture change, challenge the vested interests in its own party, and take back some of its ‘natural’ territory from the SNP? Such a set of challenges involve more than a change of leader. They entail cultural and generational change, and a party that has learned from its mistakes.</p> <p><em><strong><span>Liked this piece? Please donate to OurKingdom </span><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/donate"><span>here </span></a><span>to help keep us producing independent journalism. Thank you.</span></strong></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/adam-ramsay/14-quick-thoughts-on-resignation-of-johann-lamont-as-scottish-labour-leader">15 quick thoughts on the resignation of Johann Lamont as Scottish Labour leader</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> uk uk Scotland's future Gerry Hassan Fri, 31 Oct 2014 09:20:12 +0000 Gerry Hassan 87292 at https://www.opendemocracy.net 16 thoughts on a dramatic Scottish poll https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/adam-ramsay/16-thoughts-on-dramatic-scottish-poll <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A poll today in Scotland gives the SNP 54 MPs to Scottish Labour's 4. Here are 16 immediate thoughts.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen shot 2014-10-30 at 16.07.32.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen shot 2014-10-30 at 16.07.32.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="343" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Pie chart by STV</span></span></span></p><p>A Westminster election <a href="http://news.stv.tv/scotland-decides/297729-stv-poll-labour-would-annihilated-if-general-election-held-tomorrow/">poll for STV today</a> gives the SNP a huge lead over Labour. Specifically, they're on 52%, with Scottish Labour on 23%, Scottish Conservatives 10%, Scottish Liberal Democrats 6%, Scottish Green Party 6%, Ukip 2% and 1% support for others.</p><p>With a uniform swing, they say that would give the SNP 54 out of Scotland's 59 MPs, with Labour getting 4 and the Lib Dems hanging on to one. Whilst various polls recently have looked pretty good for the SNP, this one shows a big shift in support. </p> <ol><li><p>STV say this poll, if replicated in May, would give the SNP 54 out of Scotland's 59 MPs. If Plaid Cymru hold onto their three (and I think they are looking good in another two seats on top of that), that puts the two parties together on 57 MPs: exactly the same number of seats that the Lib Dems currently have.</p> </li><li><p>Scottish polls like this are generally quite soft. In England, there is a very small pool of people who will swing between the two biggest parties. Look at how voters in Scottish local elections, where candidates are ranked in order of preference, vote, and you find the opposite is true – the SNP and Labour rely largely on the same pool of voters, and they're pretty willing to switch between the two.</p> </li><li><p>Scottish polls are also soft because people vote very differently in Holyrood and Westminster elections, but they don't necessarily think so hard about that differentiation when they are talking to the woman from Isos-Mori on the phone. At this point before the last Holyrood election – which took place only a year after the 2010 Westminster election, it always seemed to me that people were not really answering what they were being asked – how will you vote in Holyrood – but, rather, were saying how they had voted in 2010. Once the Holyrood election arrived, however, it was a different story.</p> </li><li><p>That doesn't mean that this poll is wrong. People are very angry with Labour, and may well feel that they don't want them representing them in Westminster.</p> </li><li><p>The poll in itself is also significant. The more that the media talk about how this election will be good for smaller parties, the better it will be for smaller parties. If the SNP break into the UK media narrative for this election, that will be excellent for them. This poll may well be enough to do just that. Likewise, if the SNP can plausibly say "we're better placed than Labour to beat the Tories here", then that'll potentially bring them a bucket load of tactical votes.</p> </li><li><p>It's easy to focus on how this poll is about the melt-down in Labour. But it's also worth noting that it's the first I've seen since Sturgeon became de-facto SNP leader. For years now, unionists have vilified Salmond. The problem with this personalising strategy is that it means he's been able to walk away, take all of that flack with him, and reveal a relatively unsullied party to carry on the struggle.</p></li><li>It is clear, though, that this is in part because of the Labour melt-down - with the field work done over the weekend right after Lamont resigned. Each of the candidates for leader will have got a bit of a fright as the figures emerged today - but how it impacts on the result, we're yet to see.</li><li><p>In part, this is about the changing nature of Westminster elections in Scotland. If Scots see themselves as participating in the same way as people in the rest of the UK do, then Labour are likely to do well. But if Holyrood is really the locus of Scottish politics, and MPs are the delegates sent to do a particular job at a faraway parliament, the dynamic is very different.</p> </li><li><p>It's worth noting that the Greens are up significantly in this poll as well – on 6%, meaning the pro-independence parties are on 58%. This makes the possibility of a Green MP in the context of a pact of some sort with the SNP are serious proposition. </p> </li><li><p>UKIP are on 2%, despite their recent gains South of the border. It seems the referendum was bad for them.</p> </li><li><p>I have been saying to Labour people in London for a while now that they might want to think about what they would offer the SNP in coalition negotiations. They never seemed to take the point seriously. I suspect now they might.</p></li><li>Part of what's happened here is that, as has often been discussed before, people have engaged in politics during the referendum. They have looked more closely at each party. This is the reaction to Labour when it's actually scrutinised. Whilst much of this crisis has been made in Scotland, Labour across the rest of the UK shouldn't imagine that they would fair any better under similar scrutiny.</li><li><p>The thing that some in the SNP and Plaid have said they will demand if they hold the balance of power, their condition for making Miliband Prime Minister, is <a href="http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-1359-Nationalists-Well-only-back-Labour-if-they-scrap-Trident">the scrapping of Trident</a>. </p></li><li>It seems that securing significant more powers for Holyrood (and the Welsh Assembly) - more than either Labour or the Tories would ever want to offer - will be an inevitable condition of any deal too. If Westminster thought it could kick such questions into the long grass, it might soon find it is in fact kicking itself in the crotch.</li><li><p>One poll is one poll is one poll. I tend to prefer the average of polls as a more reliable indicator of what's actually going on. But even if this one is 5% out, it's still mind blowing. But at the very least, lots of people will be waiting with baited breath to see what the next one says...</p></li><li><p>...that said, the longer term story is clear here. The referendum - and the conduct of the various parties during it, has significantly changed Scottish politics, possibly forever. </p></li><li><p><em>*update* and another thing... anecdotal evidence is that there were lots of people who voted no, but felt pretty upset about doing so. It might well be that, as well as hanging onto former Labour and Lib Dem voters who voted yes, the SNP and Greens are picking up a number of people who voted no but felt, as one woman put it to me "it broke my heart", and, on top of that, others who feel that, now the referendum is out of the way, they are able to vote SNP because they like them for other reasons/think they'll stand up for Scotland, etc.</em></p><em><strong><span>Liked this piece? Please donate to OurKingdom </span><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/donate"><span>here </span></a><span>to help keep us producing independent journalism. Thank you.</span>&nbsp; </strong></em></li></ol><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/adam-ramsay/14-quick-thoughts-on-resignation-of-johann-lamont-as-scottish-labour-leader">15 quick thoughts on the resignation of Johann Lamont as Scottish Labour leader</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/adam-ramsay/westminster-2015-will-snp-shake-things-up">Westminster 2015 - will the SNP shake things up?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> uk uk Scotland's future Adam Ramsay Thu, 30 Oct 2014 16:14:49 +0000 Adam Ramsay 87308 at https://www.opendemocracy.net 15 quick thoughts on the resignation of Johann Lamont as Scottish Labour leader https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/adam-ramsay/14-quick-thoughts-on-resignation-of-johann-lamont-as-scottish-labour-leader <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont has resigned, slamming UK Labour for being too controlling. Here are my 15 immediate thoughts.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/lamont.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/lamont.jpg" alt="" title="" width="202" height="250" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>&nbsp;</p><p>Johann Lamont has resigned as Scottish Labour leader, <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-29765415">issuing a stunning statement</a> on the total failure of UK Labour to give her any autonomy. Here are some quick thoughts.</p> <ol><li><p>it's worth remembering that there were pre-referendum tensions between Scottish and UK Labour about how much devolution they ought to propose – with a number of Scottish Labour MPs suggesting they'd boycott the Scottish Labour conference because they couldn't be seen to endorse Johann Lamont's proposals.</p> </li><li><p>Johann Lamont probably never expected to become leader of Scottish Labour. They have a policy which usually stops MSP candidates running in both constituency seats and regional lists (unless they are an incumbent whose constituency has had the boundaries re-drawn). This meant that, in 2011, when they lost a lot of constituencies, even though they picked a number of seats back up on the list, they were different people – often, people who no one ever expected to get in. </p> </li><li><p>Some of the surprise MSPs have become entirely anonymous. Some of them have been successes. One such person is Kez Dugdale – who was a campaign manager in Edinburgh, and also one of the candidates on the regional list for the Lothians region (which includes Edinburgh). Because she and her colleagues performed so disastrously in the constituencies (not that she necessarily gets the blame), the top up seats on the list kicked in, and she found herself replacing the MSPs whose job it was she was working to save. </p> </li><li><p>Kezia is widely tipped as the MSP (rather than MP) most likely to replace Johann Lamont. I think it would be a mistake for her to run. Kez is 33. She may well be the best person for the job, but from a selfish perspective, it's a terrible time to be Scottish Labour leader. She has time to wait it out, let someone else do the hard work of losing the next election, and then come in when the party is on the up. She could well be the next Scottish Labour First Minister. That seems unlikely if she becomes leader now – they have a huge hill to climb, and it feels to me like it'll take them more than one leader to get them there.</p> </li><li><p>Likewise, though she is undoubtedly an impressive performer, Kez has always been a bit of a high wire act. And, as leader of the opposition, if she slipped, everyone would see.</p> </li><li><p>Other people tipped for a future leader include Jim Murphy, who recently ruled himself out (though there was no vacancy at the time) and Gordon Brown. </p> </li><li><p>Jim Murphy is kind of charismatic, but a Blairite. There is a big bank of right wing votes in Scotland going begging – because the Tories are toxic, the Lib Dems are now in the same pool as them, and UKIP are nowhere. So he could well slot into that gap. But that's a hard place for Scottish Labour to sit – with the dominant party of Scottish politics to their left...</p> </li><li><p>Gordon Brown is clearly the best person if you are Scottish Labour, but why would he take the job?</p></li><li>Given Lamont's statements, it seems impossible for it to be an MP rather than an MSP that replaces her.</li><li><p>On the tensions – it's worth remembering that there were always widespread rumours that interference from UK Labour was why Henry McLeish really quit, and he has been vocal in recent weeks calling for an independent Scottish Labour Party. It's interesting to see Jack McConnell, the only other living former Labour FM, wade in immediately on Lamont's side.</p> </li><li><p>From a UK perspective, it seems Miliband is doing a tour of the country, pissing off all of the main bases of his party. He's gone for the unions, then the immigrant vote, and now he's after Scotland. It's a bit like Tony Blair's clause 4 moment, only, this time, it's not a way of saying “we've changed”, but, rather “we're promising more of the same”.</p> </li><li><p>In the Scottish Tory Party leadership race, the loser, Murdo Fraser, re-ignited an idea he'd been talking about for years: an independent Scottish Tory party, along the lines of the old Unionist party. It seems this debate as now ignited in Scottish Labour as well – and is almost certainly not going to go away, now that there will be three senior ex-Scottish Labour leaders calling for a model along those lines. Surely the long term future of both Labour and the Tories in Scotland is independent parties, in sibling relationships with their respective friends South of the border. That means Scottish politics becoming more different from the politics of the rest of the UK, long term. And that will only mean more pressure for further powers for Holyrood.</p> </li><li><p>In her resignation statement, Johann Lamont says that Holyrood, not Westminster, has become the centre of Scottish politics as a result of the referendum. I think she's exactly right. The implications of that are terrifying for Labour – if Scots vote in Westminster elections the way they do in Holyrood elections, then Labour can expect to lose a swathe of its MPs to the SNP.</p></li><li>It's pretty rare to see a politician resign on principle. And that, in practice, is what Lamont has done. Good for her.</li><li>Scottish Labour are in real, real trouble. Perhaps UK Labour will start to notice - though I'm not sure what they can do about it. They should have seen this coming years ago. Their failure to do so is, ultimately, a sign that their internal democratic functions are utterly broken - and so is the Labour party.</li></ol> uk uk Scotland's future Adam Ramsay Sat, 25 Oct 2014 00:35:12 +0000 Adam Ramsay 87145 at https://www.opendemocracy.net #indyref, power and dancing stars https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/alen-topli%C5%A1ek/indyref-power-and-dancing-stars <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Scottish referendum introduced much needed chaos and taught people to think about power and politics. We need to bring its spirit to all of the UK.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a title="&#039;Stars Over the Cuillins&#039; - Glen Brittle, Isle of Skye, Scotland by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, on Flickr" href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/adrian_kingsley-hughes/15027952201"><img src="https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3924/15027952201_5af37d2f55.jpg" alt="&#039;Stars Over the Cuillins&#039; - Glen Brittle, Isle of Skye, Scotland" height="252.9" width="450" /></a> </p><p><em>"One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star." - Friedrich Nietzsche </em></p><p>I was thinking of how best to explain my favourable position towards the Yes vote during the Scottish referendum campaign to my colleagues at the university and my Anglo-American flatmates. After having given the same reasons that were already stated time and time again in the media, ranging from the different possibilities on the settlement of the currency issue, EU membership and the North Sea oil reserves, the above quote by Friedrich Nietzsche came to mind. I thought to myself, this perfectly illustrates how I feel about it and what I think the British politics desperately needs: embracing the chaos of the unexpected and giving a chance to the possibility of becoming a dancing star (a happy and more equal society, in other words).</p> <p>Most probably due to the strong Enlightenment legacy and post-Victorian ethics, people in Britain are especially prone to rationalism and scientism, more so than to, let’s say, emotionality. (I am giving this, perhaps over-generalizing, observation as an outsider, as a continentalist who has spent the last three years of his life in Britain.) When the latter overpowers the first at a critical moment, people are more daringly open to new possibilities and less calculating when faced with risk. The Scottish independence referendum was one such key moment where I was hoping that people would have been more willing to take this leap of faith, especially those who didn’t stand losing much. All that repetitive foreboding talk about “plunging into uncertainty” and “not being worth the risk” from Alistair Darling was drawing upon exactly that: the anticipated lack of audacity. When I asked my English flatmate about the surge of the Yes vote support in the infamous YouGov poll just two weeks before the referendum, he quickly brushed off my apparent excitement at the news: “When people actually go to the polls, they will think… hard before they cast their ballot”. </p><p>During the campaign, J. K. Rowling tweeted fervently: “Big day in Scotland tomorrow #indyref. My head says no and my heart shouts it…”. When I first read it, I thought she was saying, my head says no and my heart shouts yes. Perhaps those would be her words in the wizardry world of Hogwarts, but in the pragmatic and cold-blooded world of numbers and reasonability, it is easier to say what is expected of you. Yet, as John Harris has discovered in <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/video/2014/sep/23/britain-after-scotland-independence-referendum-political-future-video"><span>his short documentary</span></a> for the Guardian, the possibility of the new is fueling the ordinary people of Scotland to continue with their efforts for a different future even after the referendum. They have ingeniously adopted the name “the 45” (percent) which will hopefully make them even stronger in influencing the more institutionalized machinery of the established parties, such as the still surging SNP and the decimated Scottish Labour. </p> <p>The 45 percent slogan brings back to memory the 99 percent line used during the excitement of the Occupy movements around the world. Those were the heydays of protest fervour and coming winds of change… only that they never came. What is different today perhaps, and this is probably the reason for the relative failure of the Occupy in bringing immediate socio-political change, is that the 45 percent movement is not shying away from the system of established politics. They cooperate with and within it, allthewhile keeping their activities autonomous and independent. This may even lead to the establishment of a new party force on the Scottish political scene, who knows? But what is even more important is that the word power is not seen as something dirty anymore, nor the practice of politics. What needs to happen next is for such empowerment to spring up in other parts of the UK, especially at a time when the three main parliamentary parties are weighing the pros and cons of different abstract technicalities in the discussion of promised constitutional changes, which would also address the given “vow” in the Scottish referendum campaign.</p> <p>The same way that the Scottish political body was reinvigorated in the last weeks, a similar political re-engagement would be more than welcome in the more southern ends of the Kingdom. If the three main party leaders won’t be ready to take this risk and give a substantial say to the British people on the changes to their political system, their credibility will further diminish as patience with Westminster politics is wearing thin. If the recent party conferences are anything to go by, it doesn’t look very promising. More austerity and cuts to the provision of public services will only further strike the poor youth and the working class, as it has been shown in <a href="http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/british-youths-betrayed-259m-cuts-4030687"><span>the latest report</span></a> <em>The Damage</em>, commissioned by the biggest public sector union Unison.&nbsp; </p><p>It is not only the front between ordinary people and those who have been elected to represent them that is open in this ongoing struggle for social justice. There is another one entrenched between the more affluent parts of the country, especially London, and the many more impoverished areas whose voices are barely represented at the top level of politics. The comfortable complacency of the former can only be disturbed by the more numerous group of the latter. When such moment will come, remains to be seen. For Scots it was the independence referendum. For the rest of the UK it will be...</p> uk uk Building it: campaigns and movements Great Charter Convention Scotland's future Alen Toplišek Mon, 20 Oct 2014 08:17:27 +0000 Alen Toplišek 86875 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Labour can be forced to unlock democracy in Scotland https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/cailean-gallagher/labour-can-be-forced-to-unlock-democracy-in-scotland <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Calls to destroy Scottish Labour on the pro-independence left are misguided. There is still a deep affection for the party in much of working class Scotland, and this can be mobilised by those who yearn for democracy.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/CrowdsinGeorgeSquareonBloodyFriday3.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/CrowdsinGeorgeSquareonBloodyFriday3.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="356" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The red flag in George Square, 1919.</span></span></span></p><p>The democratic source of independence was like the spring in <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_de_Florette"><em>Jean de Florette</em></a> - blocked by jealous cretins who would only see it used it for their own selfish advantage. UK-wide parties and capitalists combined to crush the aspiration for autonomy. Like the tragic farmer, our weary Yes campaign died in fitful anguish before the source ran free. But the story is not finished – on doorsteps and streets&nbsp;the story was heard, that deep down beneath the barren field of Scottish politics there lies the democratic means for social empowerment.</p> <p>Democracy has long been stifled by UK governments and by the jealousy of British Labour. In Scotland, Labour has tried to divert the self-governing aspirations of many of its voters with promises of further powers and more devolution. As Yes Scotland Labour Coordinator it was therefore encouraging to see the support for independence build among Labour voters: in spite of the Labour leadership, thousands of voters came to believe the&nbsp;best future for Scotland would be with a Labour government&nbsp;in an independent Scotland.</p> <p>If this Labour surge to Yes is in any doubt, look at findings in the polls. The number of Labour voters backing Yes&nbsp;<a href="http://yougov.co.uk/news/2014/09/07/scotland-yes-blitzkrieg-wipes-out-no-lead/">doubled in a month</a> between August and September, from about 18% to over a third (35%) according to a Yougov poll. Another survey found that a full&nbsp;<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/sep/12/scottish-referendum-too-close-to-call-says-icm-poll">42% of those who voted Labour in 2010 are now backing independence</a>. A further poll said voters would <a href="http://www.scotlandnow.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/labour-would-power-holyrood-after-4182474">back a Labour government at Holyrood</a> in the first elections after independence. The prospect of an empowered Labour party in an independent Scotland may well have helped to <a href="http://www.heraldscotland.com/comment/columnists/agenda-if-labour-dies-tomorrow-many-will-cry-long-live-independent-labour.25340031">fuel the rebellion</a> of so many Labour voters who voted Yes. </p> <p>Of course, this is only one analysis. Who knows just what motivated Labour supporters to vote Yes, and how many of them were tipped back to No? The Yes votes were not simply about getting a government that empowered working people and their families. But nor, surely, were they votes for the shallow programme of state-driven social reform offered by the Scottish National Party, or the worthy but comfortable aspirations of the Green party, or the utopian assertions of a radical campaign that spun visions of Scotland’s future out of Nordic stereotypes. The fact is that hundreds of thousands of voters abandoned faith in Labour and joined in the wide movement for Yes, representing the greatest democratic rebellion Scottish Labour has ever seen.</p> <p>When this demand for democracy did break out, Labour leaders did all they could to divert this principle into their own agenda – with a timetable for devolution, a pledge, a guarantee. Gordon Brown, wielding the shovels of the British state in those great clunking fists, started channelling the spring of pro-independence sentiment into the ‘Home Rule in the UK’ silo. The leaders’ promises, alongside Brown’s appeal to ‘security’ and ‘solidarity’ of the union, seem to have halted the stream to Yes. This was perhaps because no-one explained why only independence could give the Scottish people the potential to share economic power from below, by increasing wages and instituting collective bargaining, and using various other tools of an independent country to increase workers’ power. The SNP’s agenda said little or nothing about challenging the ownership of assets and the concentration of power in the hands of the rich. The radical case was vocal but unconvincing, giving few credible plans for government. In any case, the Labour tide to Yes was halted.</p> <p>So how should democratic socialists go about rebuilding this rebellious tide, and what should they learn from the apparent success of Labour’s end-game? Some people, furious that Labour diverted the demand for independence, are determined to <a href="http://mairnorarochwind.wordpress.com/2014/09/24/why-anyone-but-labour-sets-back-the-home-rule-cause/">extinguish the party’s support in Scotland</a> by exposing the undemocratic and self-interested agenda of Scottish Labour. But these people are blind to the barriers that block popular rebellion, and underestimate the size of Scottish Labour’s deep support. Of course Labour has undemocratic methods and principles that are consistent with preserving its power in Britain. Of course the leadership of established parties will constantly create new barriers and means of blocking the demand for democracy. Most of the time, ordinary voters accept that in politics you get what you’re given.</p> <p>By blindly opposing Labour, the Yes left is failing to contend with the obvious political paradox: that people’s support for parties that undermine democracy will always be stronger than their belief in the principle of democracy itself. That would be true in an independent Scotland as much as in the UK. It is tempting during the referendum fallout to <a href="http://mairnorarochwind.wordpress.com/2014/10/03/common-weal-limited/">(re)form left cliques</a> and <a href="http://thepeopledemand.org/">new projects</a>, which will present principled challenges to political parties. A better tactic is to use democratic moments like referendums and elections to loosen the political elite’s strangle-hold on parties, and make popular empowerment an imperative that existing parties - including the Labour party - must adopt. This requires engagement with the parties, their structures and traditions.</p> <p>There remains a deep attachment to the Labour party and its principles in the labour movement and in communities throughout Scotland and the UK. Fighting those who make society unequal, and ruthlessly confronting the elite levels of corporate, civic, and political life will be a task for members of the Labour party, both in Scotland and across the United Kingdom. There is also a growing belief that Scottish Labour should demand that more powers come to Scotland to enable this confrontation with the powers that be. That is why <a href="http://mairnorarochwind.wordpress.com/">Roch Wind</a> is prepared to critically engage with efforts at reform within the Scottish Labour party – both the ‘<a href="https://www.facebook.com/labourforscotland2014">Labour for Scotland’</a> initiative that is being launched today, and the <a href="http://www.campaignforsocialism.org.uk/">Campaign for Socialism</a> meeting next weekend. Both seek to pressurize Scottish Labour onto more radical, democratic and socialist bases, and force the party to respond to the demand for social and economic empowerment that caused such a rebellion among Labour voters last month. </p> <p>Inevitably, many frustrated pro-independence campaigners on the left will back the SNP in future elections, and work in the new constellation of left-wing groups to rearticulate the democratic and emancipatory principle that helped drive the vote to Yes. But as they build their projects, they should not dismiss the campaign for a democratic socialist Labour party in Scotland and across the UK that aspires for a fair distribution of wealth in our economy, and directs people’s collective strength into a programme of socialist renewal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p> uk uk Scotland's future Cailean Gallagher Fri, 17 Oct 2014 23:00:11 +0000 Cailean Gallagher 86926 at https://www.opendemocracy.net 14 lessons from the Scottish referendum https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/adam-ramsay-peter-mccoll/14-lessons-from-scottish-referendum <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A month on from Scotland's independence vote, here are 14 lessons it taught us.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/scare_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/scare_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="444" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p><strong>1) People care </strong></p> <p>The concept of apathy has always been offensive: it implies that people don't care about their neighbours, their families, or even themselves. No. The problem is that people are alienated from politics. They have been convinced that engaging in the world as a citizen will do nothing to transform it. It's been said a thousand times, but the Scottish referendum showed that when people do think they can make a difference, they most certainly do engage.</p> <p><strong>2) Now is the time for radical politics </strong></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/disarmabomb.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_small/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/disarmabomb.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="160" height="231" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_small" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>When the Yes campaign launched two years ago, the SNP talked about attracting business to the glens and yes support sat at around 30%. But as socialists and Greens mobilised thousands to a much more radical message, Yes Scotland and the SNP followed their lead. They became convinced that the road to a yes vote ran up the left. </p> <p>They explicitly campaigned for nuclear disarmament, with the yes office distributing car stickers saying “bairns not bombs”. John Swinney shut up about corporation tax cuts, fessed up to his Keynsian instincts, and pledged to borrow billions to end austerity. Nicola Sturgeon spoke again and again about the evils of the benefits sanctions regime and Salmond talked about the horrors of the Bedroom Tax. Even the business wing of the Yes campaign explicitly called for an industrial policy and for free education – putting it to the left of Labour. </p> <p>And that's before you consider the more radical parts of the campaign. CND handed out, across the country, an instruction manual “how to disarm a nuclear bomb”. The Radical Independence Campaign, under the slogan “Britain is for the rich, Scotland can be ours” won the support of thousands of people in abandoned, working class areas by highlighting the opportunities for policies more radical than will ever be permitted in Westminster. </p> <p>This isn't because Scots are much more left wing than English people. It's because the Westminster consensus is a long way to the right of the people of Britain. That Yes Scotland got more votes than any political party in Scottish history, and increased its support by 15% over the course of the campaign by talking about such radical ideas tells us something important – people are ready for radical politics. That's as true in the rest of the UK as it is in Scotland.</p> <p><strong>3) People can change their minds</strong></p><p><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen shot 2014-10-17 at 12.42.19.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen shot 2014-10-17 at 12.42.19.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="213" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></strong><em>Image via <a href="https://twitter.com/PollBludger">Poll Bludger</a></em></p><p>Much of current politics in the UK seems to be plagued with the idea that no one can ever be convinced of anything. Politicians use focus groups to find out what people already think, and repeat it back to them. But in the course of this referendum, around 15% of Scots shifted from supporting no to voting yes – in politics, it's important to remember that it is possible to persuade people of your case.</p><p><strong>4) Canvass!</strong></p> <p>There is a really easy way to communicate your campaign message directly to people – go and knock on their doors and talk to them. It's time that the English left learnt to do this – first, because we convince the people we're talking to, but also, just as importantly, it's the best way there is to get good at explaining your ideas in all of your other communications channels. I have never understood press officers who think they know how to persuade people of something through the media, but never go and talk to the people they are trying to persuade to see if their messages are effective. It's easy to knock on doors, and we should do it much, much more.</p> <p><strong>5) Our support lies in the working class </strong></p><p>People in working class areas were much more likely to vote yes. Partly, there's a question of identity there - “British” has always been a label used more by the elite (apart from among ethnic minority communities in England and Ulster loyalists). But largely, it's because the less well off you are, the less stake you have in the world as it is, and the more stake you have in change. </p> <p>Too much of the left has become convinced that we are basically a middle class club, and that working class people are bigots. Persuading us of this self-fulfilling prophecy is the greatest trick the right ever pulled, and we have to stop believing it. </p><p><strong>6) Build your own media... </strong></p><p>The yes movement was built up around its own alternative media – Bella Caledonia did a brilliant job of this, but was not the only example, and hopefully openDemocracy contributed a bit too. Most of the traditional media will always ultimately be a part of the establishment, and so cannot be relied upon to communicate the key arguments for radical changes. </p> <p>In particular, what was important about the alternative media was its role in movement building – in bringing new people into the campaign and in communicating within the campaign: I doubt many of the people who started out as no voters or undecideds were avid readers of any of the prominent Yes sites. But their yes voting friends and relations were, and it was through these that they found their arguments: you've got to preach to the choir to get them to sing. </p><p><strong>7) ...but don't ignore the traditional media </strong></p><p>The point at which the yes campaign started to catch up was the second debate: an absolutely traditional TV moment – if one which couldn't be filtered through their editorialising. If the yes campaign had ignored the newspapers entirely, would the Sunday Herald have endorsed? The demographic among whom it lost heavily – older people – is that which is least likely to be on social media, and most likely to rely on old fashioned newspapers, radio, and telly. Whilst we need to do everything we can not to rely on the old fashioned press, we can't get away with ignoring it entirely.</p><p><strong>8) Build your own organisations</strong></p><p><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/maxresdefault.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/maxresdefault.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><br /></strong></p> <p>The Yes campaign didn't just consist of a series of actions organised by loose collections of individuals. It started by establishing a number of organisations – the Radical Independence Campaign, National Collective, Women for Independence, Scots Asians for Yes, Common Weal, and others. Often, these were in practice hubs for a loose collection of individuals, but the fact that there were more permanent platforms allowed organisation around them, and gave people a license to participate. </p> <p><strong>9) Join a political party </strong></p><p>The people who have benefited most from the referendum are the yes campaigning parties: the SNP, Greens and SSP. This is because parties provide a permanent structure with a clear set of values and regular meetings you can come to and activities you can get involved with. They should have internal, democratic processes through which they can renew themselves, replace their leaders and, in the case of these parties at least, change their policies. </p><p>Huge numbers of people got involved in the yes campaign without being a member of any party, and every campaign must be built to attract people like this. But many thousands of those people have since decided that, for the long haul, they need to be in a party. If we're asking what lessons the left outside Scotland can learn from the Yes campaign, it's worth starting by asking what lessons the people involved learnt. And the most obvious one is that thousands decided that they did want to be in a political party after all. </p><p>And remember that parties aren’t static. With trebling in membership of both SNP and Greens, the parties are now totally different – those who’ve joined must take some of the referendum spirit with them. </p><p><strong>10) The markets will bully </strong></p><p>As the referendum reached its crescendo, there was a clear feeling amongst hundreds of people I spoke to that they didn't really listen to or care what Westminster said. They didn't believe a word of it. They did, however, worry about the markets, about companies threatening to leave, etc. Of course, big businesses will make similar threats whenever any radical change is on the cards, and it's important we remember this and learn how to cope with it – another reason that radicals shouldn't rely for support on those who have too much of a stake in the system.</p> <p><strong>11) Demographic differences are real </strong></p><p>Different polls from voting day tell slightly different specific stories, but they all have the same trend. Old people were much more likely to vote no, and so were women. For progressives to win, we need to find ways to reach out into a range of demographics...</p> <p><strong>12) You win by making your rulers fear you</strong> </p><p>Wales has long been seeking more powers for its Assembly. There have been two commissions into the question, recommending just that. But they haven't got those powers. Scotland had a referendum, and forced the British state to its knees. We haven't got the promised powers yet, but we certainly now have a better chance of securing them than Wales – and if Wales does, it will be in part because of the Scottish process.</p> <p>This is an important lesson for the left – too often, our campaigning organisations put their resources into writing a detailed report and then politely asking for the changes it recommends, as if our rulers will concede to rational demands. If you want to win change, it's much more important to mobilise a mass movement for it, and to directly confront power until it is forced to compromise.</p> <p><strong>13) 16 and 17 year olds can absolutely be trusted to vote </strong></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Ross-Votes-at-16.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Ross-Votes-at-16.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="263" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>Having watched the way in which 16 and 17 year olds engaged seriously with the referendum, even many of those who most avidly opposed giving it to them in the first place now think they should always have the right to vote. Here's what Tory MSP John Lamont, who previously opposed the move, had to say on the matter <a href="http://www.bordertelegraph.com/news/borders/articles/2014/10/01/511252-msp-supports-votes-for-16-and-17yearolds/#sthash.vUQ5EO3m.dpuf">to the Borders Telegraph</a>:</p> <p>“I was hugely impressed by the level of engagement and understanding that our young people demonstrated; We should be very proud of them. Now that they have been given the vote and demonstrated their ability to participate in politics, I believe the time has come to allow 16 and 17 year olds to vote in all elections.” </p><p>Our experience - and lots of people have said that they found the same - was that 16 and 17 year olds were often <em>more</em> engaged and so more informed than older people. They<em> </em>cannot go back to being shut out of our polling stations.</p><p><strong>14) It's the economy stupid </strong></p><p>Before the campaign started, research showed people would change how they voted based on whether they felt it would make them £500 better or worse off. And ultimately, two years later, that's largely what they did. People voted no because they weren't sufficiently convinced of the economic case for a yes vote. </p> <p>What's interesting about this is that it's not like there is much of an economic case for the status quo – median wages have fallen 8% since 2008, and our recession has only ended because of a growing housing bubble. But change is always more frightening than the status quo, and as long as the right can tell people that a radical change will risk pensions, huge numbers will fear it too much. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/adam-ramsay/17-things-about-this-weeks-scottish-independence-shenanigans">17 things about this week&#039;s Scottish independence shenanigans</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/adam-ramsay/13-things-about-this-weeks-scottish-independence-shenanigans">13 things about this week&#039;s Scottish independence shenanigans</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> uk uk Building it: campaigns and movements Great Charter Convention Scotland's future Peter McColl Adam Ramsay Fri, 17 Oct 2014 23:00:01 +0000 Adam Ramsay and Peter McColl 86912 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Scottish independence: what would Alan Peacock have said? https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/christian-herzog-simon-worthington/scottish-independence-what-would-alan-peacock-have-sai <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The leading Scottish economist stood up to Thatcher over advertising on the BBC, but died a month before the referendum. What would he have thought?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/obitpeacock.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/obitpeacock.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Alan Peacock</span></span></span></p><p> In an historic vote, Scotland has decided against independence. Clearly, the decision for Yes or No was based on weighting up expected benefits (e.g. more responsibility for legislation) and possible negative implications (e.g. losing the British pound). Speaking from a German perspective, most people here seem to be relieved that the future of the European Union is not put in question. Still, it is by no means our concern to assess the decision of the people of Scotland. Instead, we take the vote as a way of asking what Alan Peacock would have said, or, rather, to review what he did say about Scottish devolution and independence.</p> <p>Sir Alan, eminent economist, <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/11011038/Professor-Sir-Alan-Peacock-obituary.html">died on 2 August 2014 </a>in Edinburgh, aged 92. He was most famous for chairing the <em>Committee on Financing the BBC</em>, dubbed the Peacock Committee, which delivered its report in July 1986. In the report, Peacock rejected Thatcher’s desire to fund the BBC by advertising, proposing instead a long-term strategy at whose end – in alignment with the agenda of the Institute of Economic Affairs, then one of the leading British Think Tanks – the BBC would be subscription funded, albeit a public service provision would continue. </p> <p>Had the Thatcher administration done their homework, when they appointed Peacock as chairman, they would have known in advance that he was markedly independent-minded. A clear hint can be found in the early 1970s. </p> <p>From 1971 to 1973 Peacock was a member of the Royal Commission on the Constitution, set up by Harold Wilson’s Labour government in 1969. The Royal Commission preceded the first Scottish devolution referendum in 1979, which has been much discussed during this year’s campaign. It ran for five years, costing the taxpayer an estimated £483,993. The Kilbrandon (initially Crowther) Commission’s task was to examine the functions of the central legislature and government in relation to the several countries, nations and regions of the UK, considering standards of good governance. Eventually, the Majority Report of the Commission argued in favour of devolved, directly-elected Scottish and Welsh assemblies, rejecting the notion of Scotland and Wales as separate nations or the application of federalism to the UK.</p> <p> Peacock did not sign the report, disagreeing with the interpretation of the terms of reference (which he found too narrow) and the conclusion. Together with another member of the Commission, he authored a detailed Memorandum of Dissent which became a largely self-contained alternative report.</p> <p> Peacock argued that partial devolution for Scotland and Wales is an essentially unstable position because the English regions would become discontent with their inequality of political rights. However, what Peacock took as a more compelling issue than political devolution or independence was economic freedom. As he wrote in his book <em>The Political Economy of Economic Freedom</em> (2007, p. 268):</p> <blockquote><p> With political devolution, the individual citizen is still faced with a high opportunity cost in trying to influence legislators to provide services efficiently so that they conform to his perception of what he should be obliged to pay for them. I would be the first to agree [...] that the policy of assigning to individuals more responsibility for their own welfare presents formidable difficulties of implementation. However, having embarked on this policy, which has had widespread if reluctant acceptance, a concentration of effort on overcoming these difficulties, notably in the field of the regulation of industry and the professions, appears to me to have much higher priority than embarking on a constitutional change which has been made to look much easier to implement than in fact would be the case.&nbsp; </p></blockquote><p> The result of the referendum means we cannot now find out if constitutional change would indeed have been so difficult to implement, though expectation that it would may have been a significant factor in voting behaviour. During his lifetime Sir Alan was interested in public choice and the expansion of individual freedom. Politically, the vote alone met these objectives.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> Scotland </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> uk uk Scotland UK Democracy and government Power where? Nations, regions, cities Great Charter Convention Scotland's future Simon Worthington Christian Herzog Thu, 16 Oct 2014 08:32:27 +0000 Christian Herzog and Simon Worthington 86832 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A parallel moment not to be missed: for old nations, new times https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/anthony-barnett/parallel-moment-not-to-be-missed-for-old-nations-new-times <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Anthony Barnett on the rise of UKIP at a particular moment for Scotland and England. <em>(<em>Video)</em></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p>On the eve of the Scottish Independence Referendum, Luath publishing launched a <a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1910021644/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&amp;camp=1634&amp;creative=19450&amp;creativeASIN=1910021644&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;tag=opendemocra0e-21&amp;linkId=H25KCM4NJRVEMJ3E">collection of essays</a> by the foremost Scottish political philosopher and theorist, Tom Nairn. Anthony Barnett was one of the panellists and he took the opportunity to talk about the interesting coincidence of two moments of the break-up of Britain: what had already been achieved by Scotland's referendum and the rise of UKIP. You can find this comparison at the following times: at <a style="color: #1155cc;" href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sS287GmhpCw&amp;t=8m54s">8mins 54sec</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a style="color: #1155cc;" href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sS287GmhpCw&amp;t=75m16s">1 hr 15 mins</a></p> <p>Enjoy the whole of this celebratory evening of an 'Enlightenment philosopher's' lifelong work. Speakers at the book launch also include Pete Ramand, Jamie Maxwell, Isobel Lindsay, Tariq Ali, and Neil Ascherson as well as Tom Nairn. <em>(Video, 1 hr, 23 minutes)</em></p> <iframe width="460" height="300" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/sS287GmhpCw??autohide=1&showinfo=0&rel=0" allowfullscreen></iframe> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Scotland </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> uk uk Scotland Democracy and government Scotland's future Anthony Barnett Fri, 10 Oct 2014 17:38:35 +0000 Anthony Barnett 86708 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Big business bypassed democracy in the Scottish referendum https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/liz-murray/big-business-bypassed-democracy-in-scottish-referendum <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Whilst NGOs and civil society politely facilitated discussion, big business waded into the Scottish referendum with overblown threats. Does free market capitalism really walk hand in hand with democracy?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/RBS.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/RBS.jpg" alt="" title="" width="303" height="166" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>&nbsp;</p> <p>Higher food prices, destabilisation of the financial markets, a drop in the value of Sterling, job losses, capital flight, the next great depression...</p> <p>All of these things, and more, were being predicted by big business and the financial industry, and faithfully reported by the mainstream media, in the months, weeks and days before the Scottish independence referendum.</p> <p>In what was a free and democratic vote for the Scottish public, undemocratic business voices waded in in an unprecedented and blatantly unethical way, demonstrating the power that the corporate elite (from wherever it is in the world) has in the UK. Whichever way Scots were planning on voting, they could be forgiven for feeling like they were, at best, being patronised and, at worst, being held to ransom by the increasingly dramatic predictions that were being made by big business as the vote got closer.</p> <p>In contrast, civil society organisations such as NGOs, the churches, academic institutions and most of the trade unions went to some lengths to provide balanced information and engage the public in a way that allowed them to consider both sides of the debate.</p> <p>While there were business voices on both sides of the referendum debate, the interventions of big business, multinationals and the financial industry were almost without exception in support of retaining the Union. Senior executives of BP and Shell <a href="http://www.standard.co.uk/business/business-news/scottish-referendum-bp-and-shell-urge-scotland-to-vote-against-independence-9724063.html">pretty much instructed the public to vote No</a> (for more detail on BP’s influence on the independence referendum I’d recommend this <a href="http://platformlondon.org/2014/09/26/bp-and-indyref-the-need-to-constrain-corporate-influence-in-our-democracy/">recent blog from Platform</a>). RBS, Standard Life, Lloyds, TSB, Clydesdale and Tesco Bank all threatened to move their headquarters to England in the event of a Yes vote. Asda suggested that food prices could rise in an independent Scotland. Then it said that actually they could fall, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/12/12/asda-scottish-independence_n_4433722.html">but only if politicians abolished the tax known as the large retail levy</a>. </p> <p>The Financial Times reported on September 9, after a poll showed the Yes vote in the lead for the first time, that, "<a href="#axzz3CoIKQD2C">Asset managers, investors and pension savers are moving billions of pounds out of Scotland</a>". Deutsche Bank’s predictions were perhaps the most dramatic, <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-29189320">claiming that a Yes vote would result in economic circumstances that were ‘incomprehensible’</a> and predicting another great depression.</p> <p>I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised by any of this. With one eye on the balance sheet and another on the likely response of shareholders to the outcome of the referendum, big business exposed the extent to which the international markets and the profit motive drive them and their behaviour, and how strongly they can react to any perceived threat to the neoliberal status quo. But we should be angered by it – and the fact that these statements, predictions and (let’s face it) guesses in support of mainstream economic thinking were given such disproportionate prominence. </p> <p>We are endlessly told that free market capitalism and democracy go hand in hand. But what we saw in the run-up to the independence referendum is that, when the chips are down, they are actually incompatible.</p> <p>With political engagement at phenomenally high levels in Scotland, and the focus on devolving power, now is the time to recognise the undemocratic influence of big business and to stop this interference in the future. </p><p><em>Find out more about <a href="http://www.wdm.org.uk/about-wdm-scotland/about-wdm-scotland">the World Development Movement Scotland</a> here.</em></p> uk uk Scotland's future Liz Murray Fri, 03 Oct 2014 07:30:35 +0000 Liz Murray 86385 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Looking through a distorted window: English reflections on a Scottish referendum https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/beth-kahn/looking-through-distorted-window-english-reflections-on-scottish-referendum <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Seeing the Scottish referendum from outside Scotland, it was too easy to entirely misunderstand it.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/IMG_8621.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/IMG_8621.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Maxim Edwards</em></p><p>Reading coverage and opinion from England on the Scottish independence referendum has been a strange experience. It has been like looking at someone you know and love through a distorted window: the image is contorted to the extent that you can barely recognise the person you’re looking at anymore. There is a sense in which people who have never lived in Scotland or been involved in the political debate in Scotland just don’t get it. This is what has become so abundantly clear reading and talking to people in England about the referendum. It’s not just that they disagree with those in Scotland campaigning for independence it’s that they don’t really understand the situation at all. </p><p>English observers have received most of their information through sources that are based in England and on the whole are against independence (only one newspaper the <em>Sunday Herald</em> backed independence, no UK newspaper did so). At best the information comes from people who don’t understand at worst it comes from people who have deliberately distorted the picture. Research from John Robertson suggests that in the coverage prior to this year pro independence views made up only 2/5 of the views covered on British TV. Furthermore, prominent BBC journalist Nick Robinson has been criticised for cutting footage so as to suggest that Alex Salmond did not respond to his questions. This does not make it easy for the English to grasp what has gone on in Scotland. </p> <p>Many people in England just don’t get why many Scots would back independence. Some originally believed that it must be some sort of xenophobic anti-English sentiment or simplistic patriotism. According to this view the enthusiasm for Scottish independence is part of a dangerous sort of nationalism moving across Europe that comes with a hatred of outsiders: a form of dangerous fascism. Many with good political sentiments are wary of any form of nationalism and find the idea of pride in a particular nation deeply problematic. I was once one of those people. I didn’t recognise the fundamental difference between nationalism in a dominant country that wishes to celebrate and extend that domination and be seen as better than the rest of the world and the nationalism of a country that is currently ruled by a larger unit or outsiders and wishes for self-determination: a country that wishes to have power over its own affairs rather than to dominate others. It is also vital to recognise that nationalism does not have to be based on an idea that there is a particular race or culture that is special or should dominate a region. However, the first important truth to realise about the majority of those who support independence in Scotland is that it’s not really about nationalism at all. To explain what I think it is about and why it is so hard for those in England to understand I’m going to have to tell a bit of a story.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen shot 2014-10-01 at 13.23.30.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen shot 2014-10-01 at 13.23.30.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="344" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Photo: Maxim Edwards</span></span></span></p> <p>I was born and brought up in England (where I now live) but spent 5 very formative years living in Glasgow. It was my first real home as an adult and by the time I had to leave for work I felt fully a part of that world. So much so that I find it almost impossible to support the England football team and after a few drinks I often find myself trying to claim a Scottish identity (much to the humour and confusion of the people I’m with). Whilst living in Scotland I got into politics: activism, campaigning and following events at Holyrood and Westminster. At that time independence was not really on the agenda. It was something I talked to people about and learnt to understand but it was not a major topic of debate like the Iraq war, student fees or privatisation. In those days even when people voted for the SNP at Holyrood elections this was not primarily because they supported independence. In fact at the time many SNP voters did not want full independence for Scotland. There was a majority against independence (calculated by the Sun at 58% compared with 22% in favour) even when the SNP got 44% of the popular vote and a majority in the largely proportional parliament. Whilst living in Scotland I learned to appreciate the fact that Scotland is another political world. The playing field is just fundamentally different compared to the rest of the UK. This is what explains why so many Scottish people voted for independence this year and why so many English people just don’t get it.</p> <p>As a left leaning open minded person there was a wealth of real political choices in Scotland. There were plenty of leftist groups to choose from and there were radical parties that had even held seats in the parliament. The Greens had at one point held seven seats and a party called the Scottish Socialists had also had 6 representatives in Holyrood from 2003-2007. Meanwhile in the centre the SNP and the Scottish Labour party were battling to out social-democrat each other (and the SNP were winning). The SNP picked up policies from the Scottish Socialists including scrapping prescription charges, introducing free school meals and replacing council tax with a more equitable system in order to gain votes. Making a stand against privatisation and private public partnerships was a vote winner. Votes in parliament declared a majority against nuclear weapons of 71:16 with 39 abstentions. </p><p>While I was in Scotland the parliament introduced free care for the elderly. It became clear to me that things that south of the border we had been told were impossible were actually happening right here in Scotland. Whilst in Glasgow I witnessed the SNP take a majority in a proportional parliament (a very rare thing) on the basis of scrapping council tax and replacing it with a system based on earnings. I realised that Scotland was a world in which the post-Thatcherite consensus was not being followed. Political reality in Scotland is something that many left leaning England dwellers can only dream about (free old age care, free higher education, proportional representation in parliament, the protection of the NHS from privatization). While temping at the Scottish Government I witnessed some business present the case for a private sector measure to try to reduce absenteeism in the Scottish NHS through a system where ill employees must phone up a call centre who would give them medical advice and seek to identify whether they are really sick. The businessmen had been successful in selling the service to parts of the NHS in England. </p><p>However, I was delighted to hear from civil service superiors that although they liked the plan, outsourcing of this kind was politically impossible because the SNP government would never support paying a company to give medical advice to absent NHS staff. This shows how different things are in Scotland. However, the fact that much of the civil service in Scotland hires temps through agencies that take a large cut of the money and offer no benefits or guaranteed hours shows that Scotland is not yet an anti-neoliberal paradise. In this political world joining the Labour party was to support conservativism it was just not a viable option for someone with progressive politics. And all this was before the fall of the banks and the financial crisis. </p> <p>Another difference about Scottish politics concerns participation and attitudes of working class people in Scotland. In Glasgow talking politics at the bus stop is not as taboo as it is in some parts of England. People express their views. Political discussion is not just for the intellectual middle class intelligentsia and the political elite. Even more importantly working class people have political options when it comes to the ballot box. If they are sick of the Labour party and the Tory party because they seem only to speak for the interests of big businesses and forget working people they have many options. Meanwhile in the North of England those who quite rightly see through the major parties have only UKIP to turn to. And many are willing to turn there to stick two fingers up at the political elite regardless of the fact UKIP contains plenty of that elite and does not support any of the things they are interested in.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/IMG_8629.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/IMG_8629.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Maxim Edwards</em></p> <p>What my time in Glasgow taught me was that the political situation in Scotland is different. What is not fully grasped down south is that what is possible politically is fundamentally different north of the border. It is this fact that has led so many left-leaning Scottish residents to back independence. Independence gives them a chance to have a society that is different to the neoliberal one that the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are aggressively rolling out for the UK. The stepping up of neoliberal policy and the strict austerity that the coalition has imposed and the Labour party has only criticised in a limited manner is very different to what the majority of Scots support. It is a threat even to the devolved services because it can reduce their budget and force them to make cuts to public services. The fact that the Labour party has pledged to largely stick with conservative spending plans and not reverse cuts to services means that many left-leaning Scots see no hope whilst remaining in the UK. Meanwhile independence offers the chance to pursue an anti-austerity agenda through a proportional parliament and to promote these policies to an electorate committed to a strong public sector. Once this is understood it is no longer a mystery why so many left leaning Scotland residents are pro-independence. This is not about the SNP being a social democrat party. They are committed to neo-liberal economic policies like cutting corporation tax to attract foreign investment although they also support more Keynesian public investment in industry. Rather it is about having an electorate and a parliament open to ideas outside a neo-liberal consensus. It is this situation that makes protecting the NHS, getting rid of council tax, providing care for the elderly and not charging for university vote winners. The situation isn’t perfect. Scots are more in favour of abortion rights, less anti-EU, more against privatisation, but share similar views to the rest of the UK on questions like gay marriage. However, it remains true that debates and policies that are impossible in England can happen in Scotland. </p> <p>Given the differences discussed above it is no wonder that there is a disconnect between Scotland and England that makes it difficult for those south of the border to understand what is going on. The political world is just different in Scotland. This means that when the Westminster political elite, London journalists and people living in England turn their attention to something going on in Scotland they are likely to misunderstand it. They have an understanding of politics in England: they know the constraints, they know the limits of reasonable opinion, they know what makes you ‘loony lefty’, unelectable or seem economically incompetent. However these limits and the spectrum are different in Scotland. Furthermore the parties they are observing have different platforms in Scotland, there are additional parties and the balance of power between those parties is different too. This can leave people at sea if they look at Scottish politics through an English frame.</p> <p>All the experiences and understandings from my time living Scotland come from before the political earthquake that has been the build up to the referendum. I have not been a part of the society as the massive changes have taken place. I have only been able to look on from abroad (I was in Germany last year) and try to get snippets of what has happened. This means that there are now no doubt ways in which I don’t really ‘get’ what is going on. Furthermore, my experiences were predominantly Glasgow based and say nothing of society in Scotland in general. In fact the referendum results from rural areas show that Glasgow is not representative. </p> <p>The referendum campaign has brought many young and working class people in to the debate and on to the voting registers than ever before. This is a huge development. While I was active in Scotland I saw the beginning of return of young people to politics. When I first started attending rallies it was the baby boomers who dominated. Young people of my generation weren’t particularly interested. But five years later this was changing and fast. The referendum campaign has seen an explosion in political participation by this generation as they rally round the chance to actually make a difference.</p> <p>I arrived in Glasgow the weekend before the referendum to crowds of motivated, articulate and informed people talking about the referendum. There were songs and chants but there was also debate. The city was abuzz with referendum talk and campaigning. There was a movement. I arrived wishing to see what was going on and hoping to see a good campaign and a reasonable debate. I left with the shocking realization that Glasgow was going to vote yes and that a radical change to politics was actually possible. I have never before been able to see first-hand or been part of a campaign for radical change that has had a real chance of winning. Those on the left who have been part of the official yes campaign, Radical Independence Campaign, Green Yes, National Collective, Labour for Independence, Women for Independence, English Scots for Yes, Yes LGBT, Scots Asians for Yes and any other pro-independence networks should be immensely proud of what they have achieved. I am really in awe of them for creating such a strong and diverse movement. On the left we are used to being in the minority and facing an uphill battle. The yes campaign started with such a battle and made huge gains despite not having the backing of the media or the majority of elites. This is a huge positive development. It inspires me to think that there may be hope for radical political change in the UK yet. It suggests that it is not impossible to build a movement for positive change that is capable of winning.</p> <p>In most elections people are asked to back one party or another: to select one group of elites to rule over them. However, the referendum was a directly democratic event: it asked people to make a choice themselves. This is part of why it had so much power to get those who dismiss politics as a farce to participate. The fact that people were voting not for some elites to rule was not fully grasped by the BBC who showed pictures of ‘campaign head quarters’ as the results came in and talked about votes <em>for</em> the yes campaign or <em>for</em> the better together campaign. These votes were not <em>for</em> a campaign. They were votes in favour of a particular decision. Talking of those video streams of campaign headquarters there was a stark difference between the young careerist political types shown at ‘Better Together’ headquarters with their smart dress and rosettes showing party allegiances and the rag tag collection of people at the media office for a part of the yes campaign that the BBC showed. Although these people looked predominantly middle class they did not look like wannabe prospective politicians from good universities and moneyed backgrounds (the type you usually see at campaign headquarters). Furthermore, they did not declare themselves as ‘the campaign’ but a part of a wider movement doing some media stuff. This showed how the yes campaign brought about a different kind of politics. It was not just the debating society types hoping for a career in politics that were involved in the campaigning.</p> <p>The weekend before the referendum, where Sauchiehall Street meets Buchannan Street at the Donald Dewar statue, masses of friendly smiling people who turned up to support independence. Being in the crowd it felt to me like Scotland was becoming a democracy of the kind civil society champions like the Scottish Enlightenment thinker Adam Ferguson and communitarians like Michael Sandel endorse. It felt like a demos had emerged where people actively and loudly engaged with politics. Whilst outside the BBC protesting at the poor journalism mentioned earlier in this article a woman started to explain to me how single mothers were being imprisoned for not paying their license fee. Her enthusiasm and passion for political issues was clear as was her fearless discussion of them with anyone she came across. If Scotland can keep this up then there is a chance for a better future. I just hope that the energy, interest and commitment that the vote inspired can be maintained and used to make gains and improve life in Scotland and the wider UK. Already, there has been an ongoing debate as to how to move forwards and remain engaged. I hope that something beautiful can come out of this debate.</p> uk uk Scotland's future Beth Kahn Thu, 02 Oct 2014 08:15:30 +0000 Beth Kahn 86440 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Referendum week at the Green Yes TARDIS https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/sarah-beattie-smith/referendum-week-at-green-yes-tardis <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>For twelve hours a day for the last nine days of the referendum, Sarah ran a Green Yes stall from an old police box on Leith Walk, Edinburgh. She wrote these thoughts on polling day.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Green%20Yes%20tardis." rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Green%20Yes%20tardis." alt="" title="" width="460" height="118" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Green Yes TARDIS on Lieth Walk - Ric Lander</span></span></span></p><p lang="en-GB">For the last nine days of the referendum I campaigned out of an old Police Box on Edinburgh’s Leith Walk. I wrote these thoughts on polling day.I hope they reflect the ups and downs, the tears, the dancing in the rain with a huge grin on my face. Here’s my time in the Green Yes TARDIS...</p> <p lang="en-GB">The first day, I arrived at an empty TARDIS to meet Laura – a woman I’d never met before who simply wanted to help. We started with a chair on which to put some leaflets. We smiled at passers by, offering them a Green Yes leaflet and pausing to have conversations with undecideds. On that first day I had one woman shout in my face that I didn’t understand economics and then stand and call me “disgusting” and “a traitor to the British Empire” while she waited for the bus. Needless to say, the first two insults hurt a lot more than the third.</p> <p lang="en-GB">I met a woman in her fifties who’d never voted before. She asked us how it worked – did you do it online or did you have to go somewhere? And was it just the 18th or the 19th as well? Later a family of incredibly thin, haggered looking folk came past. Only the mum was registered but she was voting yes. The man and teenage daughter asked how they could register, not realising they’d missed their chance. As we talked, they hungrily scrambled for the caramel wafers I had on the table. Eventually I gave them the whole tub and it was gone in seconds. For them, change can’t come a minute too soon.</p> <p lang="en-GB">By the end of the day, we had 300 likes on the facebook page and the offer of a table for our leaflets. We collected more posters, leaflets, badges, stickers and the ever popular Stewart Bremner-designed Green Yes t-shirts which sold out almost instantly. The offers of help from volunteers flooded in and the sunshine kept spirits high.</p> <p lang="en-GB">Days two and three were long – we were out 8-8 every day – and involved a mixture of people bringing us cakes and thanking us for our efforts and the odd No person telling us to “fuck off you bastards”. The number of volunteers grew and the increase in Yes supporters was tangible. On the Wednesday I watched as an increasing number of very thin, ill looking men started to gather a little way down the road. After an hour, the Care Van turned up to give out soup and sandwiches. One guy told us he had registered for the first time so that he could vote for something better than this. Another didn’t even know there was a referendum.</p> <p lang="en-GB">Thursday brought Bernie – a man who’d slept in a doorway the night before and who had spent every penny he had on alcohol. He took a banana from my wee fruit bowl and wolfed it down with glee before regaling me with tales of watching his much loved Rab C Nesbitt videos in the hostel where he sometimes gets a bed for the night. He went off to ask his housing officer if they could help him find out whether he was registered to vote so he could vote Yes.</p> <p lang="en-GB">On Friday the fabulous folks from National Collective came by with tunes, the big Yes sign and bucket loads of energy. It was truly infectious and kept us going, even when a passing commuter spat on us and called us vile.</p> <p lang="en-GB">By Saturday, we could hardly move for volunteers, including my partner Nat who was up from London for the weekend. We had people leafleting the Walk on both sides, others delivering the message to voters at home and more still building the buzz at the TARDIS with tunes, thanks to a good Labour pal.</p> <p lang="en-GB">With 15,000 Orange Order marchers in town, tensions were running high. We had thought that we’d be safely out of the road, but then realised that we were right next the Edinburgh Masonic Club – a popular hangout for Orange men. As it happened, most of the folk who passed us draped in Union flags or Orange regalia were perfectly polite and we were relentlessly cheerful back. That said, one of them told Nat he “deserved to be hanged”. We’re still not sure if it’s because he’s black, a Yes supporter or just surrounded by Green things. That night we were urged to pack up early by fellow Yes supporters who’d had police tell them to shut up shop for their own safety. We reluctantly followed orders but by 7pm, there was still no sign of the apparent trouble. </p> <p lang="en-GB">Sunday was cheerier, with TradYes musicians, sticker-giver extraordinaire five year old Aedan and his dad Niall, a shiny new table and an awful lot of donated cake. In the afternoon we welcomed the brilliant Independence Choir who brought their special brand of cheerful Scottish singing to the streets. That afternoon I took a wee break to see a couple of friends whose birthday I’d missed the night before. In the pub we bumped into a couple of Tory Better Together campaigners (Iain McGill and pals) and in a wonderful act of kindness, one of them put a tenner behind the bar for me and my friend to buy a drink with. We wished each other well and shook hands.</p> <p lang="en-GB">By Monday we had over 900 likes and over 30 volunteers taking shifts to spread the Yes message. Despite the dreich haar turning to drizzle and then torrential rain, we kept our spirits up. The wonderful Laura and her husband donated a beautiful green parasol and Teresa used her sailing and climbing skills to rig up some tarpaulins. Just enough for us to stay dry(ish) while we danced and grinned and chatted and listened.</p> <p lang="en-GB">On Tuesday the rain had passed and we welcomed what felt like several hundred media bods to the Tardis as Patrick Harvie and Alison Johnstone – our two MSPs – joined volunteers from around the world to campaign with us for Yes. Some lovely guys from Bristol unfurled their incredibly impressive 100ft banner, urging us to say Yes. Later, some young Greens from across Europe came out and leafleted with us. I overheard one talking to an undecided, saying “I’m from Slovakia – we’re independent and you can be too, more successfully than us!”.</p><p lang="en-GB"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen shot 2014-09-29 at 11.11.44.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen shot 2014-09-29 at 11.11.44.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Young Greens from Germany, France, and Slovakia at the Green Yes TARDIS</span></span></span></p> <p lang="en-GB">After another handful of folk telling us we were disgusting and that as Greens we ought to be ashamed of ourselves, unthinkingly following our leader into economic oblivion, we packed up, ready for the last day of campaigning on Wednesday.</p> <p lang="en-GB">Wednesday came and with it, my 29th birthday. The ridiculously brilliant Alys Mumford took the key off me and opened up early so I could have a lie in. When I arrived at lunchtime, I was greeted with a *TARDIS shaped* birthday cake, singing, a banner, poppers and a giant badge. I am truly blessed with the most wonderful friends. </p> <p lang="en-GB">The rest of the day was full of last minute conversations with undecideds – more so than any other day. They knew how important the decision was and were desperate to talk through their concerns and be given good enough reasons to vote Yes. One guy spent about an hour with us, arriving as an ardent no and asking us to convince him otherwise. He left with a Green Party membership form and a yes badge. Job done.</p> <p lang="en-GB">As we packed up that night, a woman I’d spoken to the previous day came past with a gift. A potted white heather as good luck. I couldn’t help it. After the abuse and support, the laughs and the generosity, I burst into tears on her. </p> <p lang="en-GB">The week taught me so much about people – about our capacity for selflessness, hope and relentless positivity in the face of heartlessness, empty promises and negativity. I truly believed in my heart that we could have achieved independence, but even though we didn't, I know we’re ready for much needed change and that there are countless people in Scotland and beyond who are ready and willing to graft to make it happen. Thank you to all the incredible people who have helped out. We can still build a better Scotland.</p><p lang="en-GB"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen shot 2014-09-29 at 11.15.47.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen shot 2014-09-29 at 11.15.47.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="612" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Scottish Green Party co-convener (& Dr Who fan) Patrick Harvie, at the Green Yes TARDIS.</span></span></span></p> uk uk Scotland's future Sarah Beattie-Smith Mon, 29 Sep 2014 10:08:03 +0000 Sarah Beattie-Smith 86375 at https://www.opendemocracy.net After the Vote https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/molly-harvey-and-john-harvey/after-vote <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Gutted, saddened, and recommitted to ridding Scotland of weapons of mass destruction.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/*FASLANE.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/*FASLANE.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Scottish Peace Network Vigil at Faslane, 20 September 2014 (Harvey) and HMS Ambush</span></span></span>It’s hard to find words to say how we feel after the Referendum vote last Thursday. To say we feel gutted and deeply saddened seems hardly adequate, but there is no point in pretending otherwise. And we feel this, of course, not just for ourselves, but for the tens of thousands of our fellow citizens who really thought that we had a once-in-a-lifetime chance to try a new way of living and working together, which might even offer a way forward for the many, many thousands in the other parts of these islands who want the same as we do, or something very similar.</p> <p><span>But it didn’t happen. We fully accept the view of the majority, and we recognise that there are also tens of thousands on the NO side who also want change, albeit wanting it in a different way from us. So we will now seek ways to work together with everyone to bring about change in the way we govern ourselves in these islands, and help to bring about the more just, the more equal, and the fairer society which we all long for. And we take great encouragement from the huge involvement of our fellow Scots, of whatever persuasion, in this debate — 85 per cent of the electorate voting on such an issue is something to be very proud of, and grateful for, and we must not let such enthusiasm and energy dissipate.</span></p> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-small'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/MOLLY_1.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_small/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/MOLLY_1.jpeg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-small imagecache imagecache-article_small" style="" width="160" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Molly Harvey at Faslane</span></span></span>We joined about 80 people on Saturday, from the Scottish Peace Network, to hold a short Vigil at the gates of the Nuclear Submarine Base at Faslane, to recommit ourselves to the campaign to remove from Scottish, and hopefully from British, waters, these weapons of mass destruction against which we, with so many others, have struggled for decades. This was a healing moment, as it helped us to remember that we are still engaged in specific actions for justice and peace — and we were very grateful for the opportunity.</span></p> <p>So we go on. We’re still alive, even if a bit subdued right now.&nbsp;&nbsp;But we are full of hope, and so grateful that we are able to express our honest opinions in a democratic way, and live together with those with whom we may disagree. Not everyone has such a privilege!</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/molly-harvey-and-john-harvey/scotland-towards-more-just-and-fair-society">Scotland, towards a more just and fair society</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/molly-harvey-and-john-harvey/against-poverty-and-nuclear-weapons-for-kindness-and-indepe">Against poverty and nuclear weapons. For kindness and an independent Scotland</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/adam-ramsay/referendum-has-transformed-scotland-labour-should-be-afraid">The referendum has transformed Scotland. Labour should be afraid.</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/adam-ramsay/westminster-2015-will-snp-shake-things-up">Westminster 2015 - will the SNP shake things up?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> Shinealight uk ShineALight Scotland's future Shine A Light Molly Harvey and John Harvey Fri, 26 Sep 2014 09:12:28 +0000 Molly Harvey and John Harvey 86265 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Britain is on borrowed time: the future of Scottish independence https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/gerry-hassan/britain-is-on-borrowed-time-future-of-scottish-independence <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The British state has bought itself some precious time. If it does not use it wisely, this debate will be back in a decade and Scotland will produce a second referendum.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Scotland voted No to independence. In answer to the question, ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’, 1,617,989 voted Yes (44.7%) and 2,001,926 voted No (55.3%) in a massively impressive turnout of 84.6%: the highest ever anywhere in the UK in post-war times.</p> <p>The result, and campaign, will be rightly mulled over and analysed for years, but in the fast moving aftermath it is important to lay down some thoughts and calm-headed thinking. Scotland has changed and shifted in how it sees itself and its future, as a political community, society and nation. Crucially, how others in the rest of the UK and internationally see Scotland, has dramatically and permanently moved. </p> <p>It has made and unmade political careers. Alex Salmond who brought the SNP to victory in 2007 and 2011 has resigned one day after the vote; Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is the clear favourite to take over the leadership. David Cameron after facing the prospect of political defeat in the last few days, knew he was fighting for his very political life and that Tory plotters were out to get him. Despite the No victory there were continued Tory maneuverings, anger and lack of comprehension over the deep-seated crisis of the union.</p> <p>The arc of this long campaign involved three distinct phases: the phony war from the election of the SNP as a majority government in May 2011; the slow boiling of November 2013 from when the Scottish Government’s White Paper on independence was published to August 2014; and the last hectic, frenetic, chaotic period leading up to the vote.</p> <p>Each of these was very different. The first saw the negative framing of independence by its opponents; the second the cautious case for independence find a platform and audience; while the last witnessed the rollercoaster of the late Yes momentum, intervention of the British political establishment and corporate and banking classes, and then late emergence of Gordon Brown and the myth that ‘he saved the union’.</p> <p>There were epic moments. When Yes briefly took the lead in one poll two Sundays before the vote something fascinating happened. People in Scotland reflected and became aware that they had a collective power that they could use, that frightened the British establishment. They quite liked this feeling, and took some pleasure in seeing an out of touch, insular and arrogant elite, quake and quiver. This was a fundamental shift in how people see themselves, irrespective of the result.</p> <p>There were the multiple proposals from the British political classes in the last few weeks. Scottish mythology has a pivotal place for former Tory Prime Minister Alec Douglas Home’s intervention in the 1979 devolution vote in which he said ‘no is not a no’ and supposedly undermined the devo vote. That appears miniscule to the rush of pro-union initiatives as the vote approached – which came to the sum total of four.</p> <p>In this there is the mantra of ‘it was Brown wot won it’ put forward most enthusiastically by the great man himself. Brown came forth several times into the long campaign, like Sinatra making serial comebacks from retirement. Particularly in the last two weeks he offered his own timetable for further devolution (which all the pro-union parties agreed to) and then found his old style voice - evangelising and preaching the old socialist gospel. This went down a storm with Labour Party audiences, had traction, and yet also illustrated a deep disjuncture between actions and words.</p> <p>The independence referendum showcased the narrow appeal of all Scotland’s traditional parties. This is true, for all the hype and self-promotion, the limit appeal and reach of the SNP machine and how it does politics and political engagement. Yes Scotland, the official independence campaign, were in reality an extension of the SNP, the same strategists, advisers and priorities defining both.</p> <p>There was a lack of warmth, humanity and acknowledgement of doubt in the SNP’s version of independence. This could be seen in the absence of lived stories, experiences and language, with the exception of the occasional intervention from Nicola Sturgeon. This resulted in people being offered a prospectus which required being taken on faith and being a true believer, while often talking the discombobulated language of the management consultant.</p> <p>What has fundamentally changed is the boundaries and characteristics of Scotland’s political community. The record turnout of 84.6% has to be seen against the backdrop of two factors: the first the previously low turnouts in Scots only referenda (1979 63.6%; 1997 60.4%); the second being the long run of truncated electorate contests which began with the ascendancy and domination of New Labour and which has left a toxic legacy of cynicism, lack of trust and contempt of politicians. </p> <p>The idea of the public as passive, inert spectators and with it the notion of politics as a minority report pastime, no longer holds. Instead, across the country a new energetic, dynamic political culture emerged which reshaped public debate and conversations. </p> <p>It could be seen in the massive turnouts which saw poorer and disadvantaged communities turn out in record numbers. What I called ‘the missing Scotland’ – the voters who haven’t voted in a generation or more – re-emerged as a potent political force which has the potential to reshape long term politics. It was also seen in the re-imagination of public spaces, the emergence of flash mobs and protest, and a culture of celebration and carnival on the Yes side. </p> <p>The other dimension found expression in ‘the third Scotland’ – the self-organised, independent minded supporters of independence – who have had a very different and distinct politics from the SNP. These groups: Radical Independence Campaign, National Collective, Common Weal, Women for Independence and several others, saw independence not as an end in itself, but as a means to an end. </p> <p>They brought DIY culture, network politics, flat organisations and part of a new generation of young people into public life. They did things which were messy, fuzzy, creative and fun. They staged happenings, art installations, and national tours across Scotland, and in the case of Radical Independence they door stepped and challenged Nigel Farage when he came to Edinburgh last year. All of this contributed to a different kind and feel of politics which circumvented the ‘official’ version which was a high bound to command and control as any part of Westminster. </p> <p>Scotland has finally become a democracy which is a watershed moment and transformation. Previously Scotland had never had what could be called a democratic moment. Pre-union, it had been an absolutist pre-democracy; post-union, it was defined by the ‘holy trinity’ of three elites: the Kirk, law and education which shaped autonomy for most of the 18th and 19th centuries.</p> <p>That institutional gridlock morphed into the expression of a quasi-corporate state from the 1920s and 1930s onwards which formed the foundation of the post-war welfare state settlement. This gave Scots an anchor into a progressive British citizenship, resistance to Thatcherism, and a place for an elite support for devolution to grow and be nurtured. Yet, for all its avoidably centre-left sentiment this was never a culture or practice of democracy; in recent times this order has weakened and in places collapsed.</p> <p>The new political dispensation will, with the demise of the old order, be less predictable and controllable. It raises the question of what will Scotland’s new radicals and progressives do in this new environment post-indyref? Is there sufficient room beyond the panglossian Yes and pessimism of No. Can the managerial, technocratic SNP find a different way of doing politics? And what of the Scottish Labour Party who found themselves on the winning site, but who seem to have learned little about how to do campaigning and understand the terrain of politics and their opponents? Then there is the attachment of a large swathe of voters to Britishness and the union, some of whom might constitute a culture of ‘shy Noes’ and a supposed ‘silent majority’?</p> <p>The challenge to the new radicals will be if, and how, they can give voice to the new energy and dynamism. One option is to form a new left orientated party which will face the challenge of how it finds form and looseness which does not constrain or control its potential too much. Some of this will be more difficult and have less room for manoeuvre in the light of the No vote.</p> <p>In the aftermath of the vote things began to move very quickly. From Scots Labour MP Tom Greatrex came the observation that despite the No victory it represented ‘a last chance’ for the union; similar language was used by Tory right-winger Bernard Jenkins. </p> <p>Welsh Labour First Minister Carwyn Jones declared that ‘the establishment almost lost the union’ and that ‘the old union was dead’. Constitutional expert, and pillar of the British liberal elite opinion, Vernon Bogdanor stated that the indyref ‘was meant to close a debate, but instead it has opened one’, or more accurately several ones: Scotland, England, Wales and the future of the UK.</p> <p>One Labour MP pronounced to me in the morning after that it was ‘back to normal’, oblivious to the lack of the normal across Scotland, the UK and most of the West. The head of state, the Queen, resisted calls during the campaign by Cameron and Tory supporters to be dragged into the debate, and then proclaimed after the vote, ‘we have in common an enduring love of Scotland, which is one of the things that helps to unite us all’. </p> <p>Scottish society and politics is in a profound state of flux and change. The SNP will remain centrestage post-Salmond and their project of self-government and independence will reconfigurate and re-emerge in a new form, content and language. The party will undoubtedly under the leadership of Nicola Sturgeon shift to the left, focus more on the West and Central Belt, and speak in a way aspiring to win over more former Labour voters.</p> <p>Where does this leave Scotland and the UK? The close vote is not a bold reaffirmation of the union. Within hours of the polls closing and the result becoming clear, the three party pro-union deal of Labour, Tories and Lib Dems fell apart, as Cameron announced that any further Scottish devolution plans would be conditional on addressing the English question, without consulting Lib Dems, and with Labour’s Ed Miliband indicating his opposition.</p> <p>This gives the union a significant open window in which it has the chance to change and embrace far reaching reform. That has to be about more than ‘more powers’ to the Scottish Parliament, or dealing with the English question by bringing in ‘English votes for English laws’. It is about more than constitutional reform and change; it is about breaking free of what is now widely seen as the ‘failed state’ of Westminster.</p> <p>It is going to be touch and go whether the British political class has the intelligence and insight to realise the scale of the crisis it faces. If it does not the movement for democratisation and social change which has offered so much vibrancy and hope north of the border will be back more mature, astute and knowing how to build even better, more sustainable alliances and networks. The British state has bought itself some precious time. If it does not use it wisely, this debate will be back in a decade and Scotland will produce a second referendum rather different from the first. </p> <p>Britain is on borrowed time. Scotland’s moment has begun. </p> uk uk Scotland's future Gerry Hassan Sat, 20 Sep 2014 08:19:59 +0000 Gerry Hassan 86150 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Letter from Glasgow https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/maxim-edwards/letter-from-glasgow <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Scotland has the chance to make history, and a nation.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/IMG_8583.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/IMG_8583.JPG" alt="" title="" width="400" height="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>Something special is happening in Scotland. How heartening that to say so is already considered a cliché. With 97% of eligible voters in the referendum registered, the atmosphere on Scotland’s streets is a welcome break from an overall trend of decreasing political participation among Britain’s young people. Are we disaffected or disenfranchised? This new enthusiasm could be the start of something new, or a pleasant anomaly for future political historians – in the short term, either suits me. For progressive English friends for whom Scottish independence still catches in the throat, the Scottish left are naïve, deluded. I point out that many Scots are voting Yes in hope, rather than in belief, of lasting political change. Walking home through Glasgow’s West End last night, I noticed flyers bearing one of the more common slogans of the Yes campaign – Hope, not Fear. As the gap narrows and the day nears, somebody has defaced them to read ‘Hope, not common sense’. A plea of the desperate. Glasgow writer Alasdair Gray once wrote that we should ‘work as though we live in the early days of a better nation’. If this better Scotland comes into being, this new energy will be sorely needed. </p> <p>A formative political event for me was the NUS march in – or on – London on 10 November 2010. A small group vandalised, entered, and ultimately occupied Millbank Tower on the north bank of the Thames, home to Tory command headquarters. My strongest memory is from a motorway service station somewhere on the M4 in the small hours of the morning, drinking bad coffee and watching the news coverage. Boris Johnson bumbled his way around a straight answer when asked about his views on fee rises to higher education, the neoliberal assault on academia, on student and staff outrage. It was wonderful that they had the right to air their grievances in a democratic fashion, he added, several times. It was appalling that some resorted to violence and wanton destruction, he stressed, several more. It was white noise, and the reception was pretty good. I never really participated in another protest again. A few years later, I left the Labour party after the party’s abstention (though not without 44 of its MPs acting on their consciences) on Workfare. Perhaps you could say I chose ‘common sense,’ with all its ambiguity, over hope.</p><p><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/IMG_8810.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/IMG_8810.JPG" alt="" title="" width="400" height="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span> <br /> The sense of engagement was something I had missed, and I had to come to a sea of saltires to find it. I’m not a natural protester – I’m too busy taking photographs, too shy to let whatever banner I’m holding open a conversation. Approaching a No stall with a Yes badge on Sauciehall Street, a woman accused me of wishing to destroy Scottish lives – well, one, anyway. I could share a laugh about Farage’s absence on Buchanan Street one afternoon – Nigel (we’re not really on first name terms) never showed up. There’s a small blackboard in the Pot Still, a pub on Hope Street, I noticed over a pint – ‘Nae indy debates at the bar,’ it reads. Anywhere else, said the landlord, was fine – indy debates are long, the debaters linger, and the bar is soon blocked. Tommy Sheridan, famous or in–, was late to his speech on George Square due to another blockage – a traffic jam outside Glasgow, ‘caused by millionaires leaving Scotland, and English brothers and sisters arriving to support us’. This was a battle, he continued, between the social media and the corporate media. And the former had won. Accordingly, all the memes from this campaign were present on George Square. Darth Vader and Princess Leia stood in protest; the Empire was in peril. The pipers were there too – some played <em>Highland Cathedral</em>, one the appropriate soundtrack as the Empire strikes back. Benny Wenda of West Papua gave a speech, and the Basques, Catalans and Palestinians stood there, on George Square. The Quebecois never arrived.</p><p> A Scotland for the millions, not the millionaires. Britain is for the rich, Scotland can be ours. I can forgive the hyperbole at a time like this – it’s what you expect. We’ve all plenty of copies of the <em>Wee Blue Book</em>, but in the storm of these final few hours, this is a conflict of rhetoric, not a political debate. Inspiration is the new persuasion – though concerning questions of national identity and emotional attachment, perhaps the former always took precedence. Accusations of ‘small minded nationalism’ are a case in point – to point out the inherent nationalism of British Unionism will not simply dismiss a powerful rhetorical tactic. I have read that Better Together cares for the teacher in Edinburgh or nurse in Manchester just as for the dock worker in Gdansk. In the latter case, it seems, international borders do not obstruct their lauded sense of solidarity. <br /> <br /> In a debate on Sunday at the Glasgow University Union, Sheridan described the events in Scotland as a "second peasants’ revolution", a repeat of Wat Tyler’s uprising of 1381. Among the University buildings are a couple of stickers from the Socialist Party of Great Britain, which read ‘Neither Yes nor No, but World Socialism’ (until that day comes, other socialists add, vote yes). Though many leftist activists who have spoken in Glasgow—Tariq Ali, Cat Boyd, Aamer Anwar—can temper their illusions, there is much to fear for a repeat of the ‘Civic Scotland’ myth, as Gerry Hassan described and dissected it in his new book Caledonian Dreaming. The idea of an inherent Scottish sense of social justice, rooted in a mass rejection of Thatcherism, a Red Clydeside and a spirit of ’45 raises concerns of a ‘dream projection,’ where myths become wish-fulfilment and ultimately received wisdom. ‘Scotland should be inherently nothing’ noted one thoughtful campaigner that day on George Square. The argument which most resonates is that independence is a rare opportunity to open space for structural change – ‘a space which has to be cleared first’.</p><p><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/IMG_8761.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/IMG_8761.JPG" alt="" title="" width="400" height="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span> <br /> I never knew Glasgow before I came here to study. Many south of the border still thrive on absurd, outdated stereotypes – Glaswegians, dismissed as hard boiled and deep fried. Ivor Cutler was my first introduction; followed by Alasdair Gray and Jimmy Reid among others. I was always told in exploring a new city to look up at the rooftops – and in Glasgow, met a unicorn, traffic-coned Wellington outside the Museum of Modern Art. That day on George Square, I tried again and noticed a few lonely souls in the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, capturing us on their iPhones. <br /> <br /> Looking around these streets, one of the most remarkable features of this campaign has been the creative use of public space for political expression. Much ink and still more glue has been spilt in bringing debate to the streets. Outside a handful of established ‘alternative’ areas of the capital, it is a medium of expression less and less familiar to Londoners as the privatisation of public spaces and restraining of dissent continues. Glasgow is dirty with leaflets and stickers, and after the insanity of sanitised central London, I welcome it. <br /> <br /> ‘Work as though we live in the early days of a better nation,’ with all the uncertainty that brings. Our society is one of the most unequal in the developed world, and that gap is widening. In the <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y1V_jCbTq-c">closing speech</a> of David Hayman’s recent play, <em>The Pitiless Storm</em>, a retiring trade unionist shares his doubts as the referendum approaches. It is a reflection (not an illusion) on hope. <br /> <br /> This morning I received a text message from a friend which read simply, ‘fuck it – it’s yes’. He continued, ‘When I think of Britain now, it seems that the land of Attlee, Wilson, Orwell, Pankhurst, Castle, and Woolf lies broken and intellectually bereft at the hands of Thatcher, Blair, Hayek, the City and neoliberalism. If Scotland going can intellectually renew the politics of the United Kingdom (well, what's left of it) and bring back a country worth living in that values humanity and creativity rather than just the markets, then I'm all for it.’<br /> <br /> Try something new, Scotland, with all the uncertainty and questions that means, and inspire the rest of us on these islands to follow your lead. A yes vote can make no concrete guarantees for the fairer society we need, but it’s a chance – and what a chance. But it can make another guarantee for those sick of referendums – vote yes, and you’ll never have to hear or read of one again.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Images: Maxim Edwards</em></p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Creative Commons </div> </div> </div> uk uk Scotland's future Maxim Edwards Thu, 18 Sep 2014 13:33:44 +0000 Maxim Edwards 86092 at https://www.opendemocracy.net OurKingdom's coverage of the #indyref - biased? https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/oliver-huitson-adam-ramsay/ourkingdom%27s-coverage-of-indyref-biased <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Were we biased? #Yes, here's why.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The openDemocracy front page today has a huge Yes poster and we have published considerably more material for Yes than for No. Understandably this has caused some concern and irritation for some of our readers so we just wanted to reiterate our position. Here's Adam, firstly, a few days ago on his rolling blog:</p> <blockquote><p>"It was almost exactly a year ago now that I started co-editing OurKingdom. Almost as soon as I did, I had a meeting with Olly Huitson, my co-editor, in which he suggested that we break with our usual refusal to take a line on any issue, and support a yes vote in the Scottish referendum. As he put it to me "we're a site that's about democracy. A yes vote is obviously more democratic. I don't see how we can not support it." </p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Olly has never lived in Scotland, and at the time I was impressed at his instinctive understanding of the debate. I've come to get used to it. We discussed the idea further, and concluded that, on an issue on which almost all of the local, Scottish and UK press is aligned on one side, the way in which to provide balance is not to sit on the fence, but to go to the other end of the see-saw from them. The fact that, a few days before the referendum, the only London based publication other than us to back a Yes vote that I know of is Red Pepper magazine, whilst many of the biggest papers have backed a no, vindicates that choice, we feel.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>We've had a few comments from loyal readers understandably questioning why what we publish leans so much in one direction. Our conclusion in that meeting is the answer. We will be running a couple of pieces from those hoping for a no vote in the coming days, and if you want to read more, then you'll find acres of column space making that case taken up by many of the most brilliant minds of the London media. Many of their arguments are good and should be taken seriously. But we will continue to be unashamed in leaning heavily in our publishing towards yes supporting articles, because that is the more democratic option, and that is the best way to provide balance in our otherwise wonky world."</p></blockquote> <p>I haven't much more to add than Adam. There are plenty of good reasons to vote No, but even the most die hard No voter would struggle to make the case that No is the democratic option; the No case is more an issue of economics, history, and social closeness and solidarity. If we try and support any line at openDemocracy, which has numerous sections and editors, the line is democracy. That's the first justification for our coverage. </p> <p>The second is balance. Not internal balance at oD, but balance in the sense of trying to give people a balanced view in the context of a British media who have overwhelmingly supported the No camp. As James Marriot <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/james-marriot/what-is-to-be-learnt-from-extraordinary-momentum-towards-scottish-independe">wrote</a>: </p> <blockquote><p>"Arrayed against the Yes campaign has been the US Administration, the European Commission, the Pope, all three of the main UK political parties, the UK government, the Mayor of London, the British civil service, all the UK media except the Sunday Herald, the Bank of England, some of the UK’s largest financial institutions (RBS, Lloyds TSB, Tesco Bank, Clydesdale Bank, Standard Life), several of the UK’s corporations and major companies (Shell, BP, Kingfisher, Marks &amp; Spencer, John Lewis Group, Asda, Timson, Next, The Weir Group), the collective opinion of the UK oil industry, the BBC (over the license fees)… And there’s doubtless pressure coming from behind the scenes in the form of the British Secret Intelligence Services, the Queen and Royal Household, and the British Armed Forces."</p></blockquote> <p>Offsetting the biases and failures of the dominant media is surely one of the things people like about independent sites like oD. We have still published some brilliant essays for No, the likes of Greg Philo and Jeremy Fox have made that case superbly on these pages. </p> <p>I think our coverage of the debate, led by Adam and his epic <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/adam-ramsay/ebook-42-reasons-to-support-scottish-independence">42 reasons</a>, has been superb and I'm proud we backed Yes to the hilt. I hope our readers understand why we did it, even if they're in the No camp.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> uk uk Scotland's future Adam Ramsay Oliver Huitson Thu, 18 Sep 2014 13:15:44 +0000 Oliver Huitson and Adam Ramsay 86091 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What is to be learnt from the extraordinary momentum towards Scottish Independence? And what happens next? https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/james-marriot/what-is-to-be-learnt-from-extraordinary-momentum-towards-scottish-independe <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>On Scotland, Britain, power and fossil fuels.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p lang="en-US">The scale of the ambition of the Independence movement is wonderful. The ambition is not just to draw more governmental rights to Holyrood but to assert the idea of independent nationhood, in opposition to the wishes of one the world’s most powerful states, and in contradiction to the assumed ‘inevitable direction of travel’ in the late 20th Century and early 21st Century, towards greater integration and a merging of state functions. This ambition is remarkable. </p> <p lang="en-US">To assert this in the face of a powerful array of active public opposition is amazingly courageous. Arrayed against the Yes campaign has been the US Administration, the European Commission, the Pope, all three of the main UK political parties, the UK government, the Mayor of London, the British civil service, all the UK media except the Sunday Herald, the Bank of England, some of the UK’s largest financial institutions (RBS, Lloyds TSB, Tesco Bank, Clydesdale Bank, Standard Life), several of the UK’s corporations and major companies (Shell, BP, Kingfisher, Marks &amp; Spencer, John Lewis Group, Asda, Timson, Next, The Weir Group), the collective opinion of the UK oil industry, the BBC (over the license fees)… And there’s doubtless pressure coming from behind the scenes in the form of the British Secret Intelligence Services, the Queen and Royal Household, and the British Armed Forces. The Yes Campaign must surely have expected this to happen, must have foreseen the scale of the opposition if they got close to winning. But to have the confidence to pursue this goal despite the likely opposition is inspiring.</p> <p lang="en-US">‘<em>If Scotland becomes independent it will be despite the efforts of almost the entire UK establishment. It will be because social media has defeated the corporate media. It will be a victory for citizens over the Westminster machine, for shoes over helicopters. That hope, marginalised at first, can spread across the nation, defying all attempts to suppress it. That you can be hated by the Daily Mail and still have a chance of winning’</em></p> <p lang="en-US">George Monbiot 10.9.14 - The Guardian - ‘A Yes vote would unleash the most potent force of all’</p> <p lang="en-US">The scale of ambition and the confidence is remarkable. For a social movement not to be frightened of that scale is inspirational.</p> <p lang="en-US">The scale of the political involvement has been equally remarkable. There’s confident talk of an 80% turn- out in the poll, compared to 60% in recent general elections in Scotland; there have been queues at the registration offices; and active debate in pubs and on the streets, in the schools and in the old people’s home. This stands in opposition to the commonplace notion that ‘people are no-longer interested in politics’, that ‘politics has become reduced to voting-in whichever group of politicians can best manage the economy’ or ‘the most reliable pair of hands to steer the ship of Market Consensus, the neoliberal consensus through the stormy waters of the world’.</p> <p lang="en-US">The No Campaign seems to have built it’s strategy on frightening voters with the idea that that Consensus, that Market, will be badly disrupted: that house prices will collapse, that the costs of loans and mortgages will rise, that companies and capital will flee the country and employment will nose dive, that prices will rise in the shops and supermarkets, that the value of pensions and savings will plummet. (The same dire threats were issued during the Devolution Referendum in 1979). But a substantial percentage of the population, perhaps as much as 50% of those over the age of 16, seem to be saying they don’t care or they are prepared to take the risk, and crucially, they care about something else even more than economic ‘stability’ or ‘prosperity’ - and that thing is Independence, or Self-Determination, or greater Democratic accountability, or ‘Not to be ruled over by those people who don’t understand or represent me’.</p> <p lang="en-US">It feels like the return of politics … the return of a real debate after nearly three decades of ‘efficient management of the economy’ … something else is important.</p> <p>It’s intriguing that in the debate over Independence, much of reasoned argument against it is the threat of the Market destroyed. This is in contrast to other times: in the 18th Century the voices against the Jacobites declared that they we’re ‘barbaric’, and would pull Scotland and England backwards away from the Enlightenment. Perhaps part of the panic and pain recently witnessed in the Westminster class and the UK Media is the recognition that 50% of the population of this part of the country put something else above ‘Managing the Market’, and the smooth running of the neoliberal Consensus?</p> <p lang="en-US">‘<em>Seldom can a single opinion poll have reverberated through the ranks of the elite as last Sunday’s news that the Yes campaign … had edged ahead. The poll prompted David Cameron to issue a call to action to UK business chiefs at a reception at Downing Street on Monday night, as well as the sudden journey north by the leaders of all the three main parties on Wednesday’ </em> </p> <p lang="en-US">Sarah Neville &amp; Clive Cookson - The Financial Times - ‘Ruling elite aghast as union wobbles’</p> <p lang="en-US">There has been a remarkable display of loss of confidence by the British ruling elite in the past week. A shift from one social Settlement to another invariably involves the loss of confidence among the governing classes of the existing order with a rise in confidence among those who propose the new order. This shift can be seen in the late 1940’s and the late 1970’s and perhaps we are seeing it again now? Perhaps this is part of an unravelling. Part of the birth of something new. The birth of a new Settlement.</p> <p lang="en-US">In September 2008 the Collapse of Lehman Brothers seemed to signal that the momentum of Financialised Capitalism had run into the buffers. The state had to bail out the private banks. The Eurozone Crisis raged across the continent. There was a sudden frenzy of opposition, expressed from Occupy New York and the Idignados, to the flurry of books that proclaimed the death of an era of Capitalism. However the Right used the political moment of uncertainty to drive forward an Austerity agenda, thereby ensuring that the poor carried the burden of change and the rich retained their position unscathed. Indeed the division, the inequality, between rich and poor only got deeper. Many said that by 2013 the system had righted itself, that growth in the US and UK was beginning to return, that the Eurozone was stabilizing, that things were getting back to ‘normal’. </p><p lang="en-US">But just as the Neo-Liberal economy seems to be righting itself, the Neo-Liberal polity is going through wild convulsions. The growing opposition to the European Project of the EU… and now the upswelling of support for Independence in Scotland. The potential demise of the UK, the end of the ‘status-quo’, is as much a part of this unravelling as the collapse of Lehman Brothers. We might not have expected the ‘Death of Neoliberalism’ to have been manifest in the ‘Break up of the Union’ - but perhaps here it is, the two forces intertwined. </p><p lang="en-US">Settlements are not only temporarily specific but also spatially specific. Furthermore they define space - the geography of the Inter-War Settlement (1920-1950) was the final phase of the British Imperial geography (witness the ‘space’ of the <em>Boys Own </em>books published in the 1930’s). The geography of the Social-Democratic Settlement (1950-1980) was that of the declining Empire (symbolised by the surrender of colonies and dominions). The Neo-Liberal Settlement (1980-2010) was about the struggle to assert a Neo-Imperial geography (from wars in the Falklands 1982 to Iraq 2003). What is the geography of the emerging Settlement? </p> <p lang="en-US">The break up of the UK, a process that seems inexorable, has been underway, often hidden, for several decades, and the events of the current period are merely the emergence of these undercurrents into the light of political day. There has been pressure for independence in Scotland for over a century, but even in the 1960’s the Conservative &amp; Unionist Party was still getting the support of over 40% of the electorate. However the Neoliberal Settlement catalysed the rapid erosion of the bonds of the UK: the rise of Scots anger at Westminster especially over the Poll Tax; the destruction of ‘national industries’ such as mining, shipbuilding, telecoms, and water; the concentration of wealth, power and population into London &amp; South East. As many have said, that through this accumulation of wealth London and the South East have effectively been separating from the rest of the UK since the early 1980’s.</p> <p><strong>What next? </strong><em><strong>‘Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation’</strong></em><em><strong><a class="sdfootnoteanc" href="#sdfootnote1sym">1</a></strong></em></p> <p>‘<em>Many people are quite clear, they are voting yes because they want a new form of politics, better democracy and social justice. It’s a massive protest vote against the status quo.</em><em>’ … ‘</em><em>Benedict Anderson famously said nations are “imagined communities”. Scotland is busily imagining itself; England is slowly stirring to the same task, and with plentiful resources of radicalism and diversity from which to draw.</em></p> <p lang="en-US">Madeleine Bunting 10.9.14 - The Guardian Comment - Scotland’s referendum is Britain’s reinvention </p> <p lang="en-US">Whatever our views on the Referendum the challenge posed by the Yes campaign is that elsewhere in the UK we should match the scale of ambition and confidence. If the citizens of Scotland want ‘a new form of politics, better democracy and social justice’ then those of us living in London and the South East, for example, need equally to demand, and create such things. We need to imagine such things, ‘imagine ourselves’.</p> <p lang="en-US">A new Settlement in the place that Platform is based and works will require change in a plethora of fields, and one of these is energy. There’s been constant debate as to how oil will or won’t play a role in the fortunes of an Independent Scotland. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/mika-miniopaluello/what&#039;s-missing-from-oil-debate-around-scotland&#039;s-referendum">As Mika Minio explains</a> Scotland can use the moment of independence to break from nearly 50 years of oil &amp; gas playing a dominant role in the country’s politics and economy, and that independence does not mean that Scotland will inevitably become more dependent on the North Sea and the oil corporations. The country can (and will if desired enough) shift to having an energy system based on renewables. Not only will a shift in this direction require a new type of politics, but a new energy system will itself help determine a new form of politics.</p> <p>The same understanding can be applied to London and the South East. Unlike so many parts of the British Isles, this region currently has virtually no indigenous fossil fuels production. The pits of the Kent Coalfield, at Tilmanstone, Betteshanger and Snowden, all closed by 1989. The oil &amp; gas corporations have been trying hard to frack for gas in West Sussex, but have met stiff resistance at Balcombe, Wisborough Green and Fernhurst. However the region is a vital node in the global oil &amp; gas business: London is the financial headquaters of two of the largest private oil corporations (BP and Shell), approximately 30% of the capital on the London Stock Exchange is invested in fossil fuels, the departments of the British government based in Westminster (DECC, BIS, FCO &amp; MOD) provide essential assistance to the operations of private oil companies around the world. Furthermore many of the individuals who play key roles in these institutions live either in London or the surrounding Home Counties of the South East. </p> <p lang="en-US">This region plays a vital role in global oil &amp; gas, and conversely such is the economic and political weight of that global industry that it plays a vital role in determining the shape of the society and economy of London and the South East. If we are to create ‘a new form of politics, better democracy and social justice’ here, then part of that will be the application of such things to this extremely powerful industry that resides here. How do we go about imagining such things, go about imagining ourselves?</p> <p>London’s role in the extraction of fossil fuels stretches back to the mid-16th century, at least to 1578 when Thomas Sutton acquired the lease of the manors of Whickham and Gateshead near Newcastle and began shipping coal from shallow mines down the North Sea and up the Thames. Sutton died in 1611 at the Tan House in Hommerton (adjacent to Sutton House) one of the richest men in the recently created realm of ‘The Union of the Crowns’ between England and Scotland. </p> <p lang="en-US">The struggle to address the social and ecological impacts of fossil fuels has been taking place for at least as long. A large part of these struggles have been undertaken by those working within the industry - most obviously by those in the trades unions, such as the National Union of Mineworkers - and those indigenous and ‘front line’ communities most impacted by the industry. However in the 1960s resistance to the industry began to gain strength in civil society and environmental non-governmental organisations emerged. Social Movements and these NGOs have played a vital role in fighting specific battles against the coal and oil industries - preventing the dumping of offshore rigs, stopping the building of new coal fired power stations, challenging the construction of pipelines, slowing investment in offshore drilling programmes, demanding that polluted land is remediated, and trying to defenfing civil society activists imprisoned for taking a stand. </p> <p lang="en-US">The events in Scotland and elsewhere suggest that a new Settlement is being born and that this will require new ways of acting. In this new context, this new ‘imagining’ the opposition to the fossil fuel industry needs to place such acts of resistance within a broader scheme, a clearly articulated broader programme to alter the structure of the entire carbon-based economy and to have the courage and confidence to do so.</p> <p lang="en-US"> ‘<em>Across the UK something much deeper and wider (is happening): what is happening north of the border is the most spectacular manifestation of a phenomenon taking root all over - indeed, if the splintering of politics and the rise of new forces on both the left and right across Europe are anything to go by, a set of developments not defined by specific national circumstances, but profound social and economic ruptures’ </em> </p> <p lang="en-US">John Harris 12.9.14 - The Guardian - ‘It’s not just Scotland where politics as usual is finished’</p> <p class="sdfootnote"><a class="sdfootnotesym" href="#sdfootnote1anc">1</a> http://www.heraldscotland.com/work-as-if-you-live-in-the-early-days-of-a-better-nation-1.827519</p> uk uk Scotland's future James Marriot Thu, 18 Sep 2014 08:05:00 +0000 James Marriot 86065 at https://www.opendemocracy.net This is getting silly https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourbeeb/brian-winston/this-is-getting-silly <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The English elite’s scare tactics in the run-up to the Scottish referendum involved promising to stop the game by taking away their balls – the pound, the pensions, Queen Elizabeth (1st of Scotland, notwithstanding) and, of course, the BBC. Some threats clearly addressed real matters of difficulty but, says Brian Winston, the removal of the BBC was merely silly.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>‘Are you a “yes” man or a “no” man’, asked the Glasgow taxi driver even before I had settled in my seat. Of course, living in 5th borough the of the Danelaw (my part is now known as Lincoln), I had no vote in the referendum on Scottish independence and it would be hubristic to add to the cacophony of voices one way or another.</p> <p>However, Claire Enders in <em>Guardian</em> on Monday last clearly felt no such inhibitions. Post independence, she assured us, that the ‘SNP will embark on a process of “nation building” which they will see as justifying the fostering of nationalist sentiment wherever possible, and certainly in the media’. One can only assume – apparently with her—that the “Scots” (well, the scare quotes go with the “nation” a few of them want to build, surely) will be unprepared for this. Never having experienced, say, the last night of the Proms etc etc, they will be ripe for the seductions of the SNP whose Ministry of Propaganda and Public Enlightenment is no doubt even now being planned in a cellar of the Palace of Hollyroodhouse.</p> <p>The SNP’s proposed Scottish Broadcasting system ‘by definition’, she writes, ‘cannot have the traditions of impartiality and independence of the BBC and of other public service broadcasters’. ‘By definition’? Why ever not? Even Sky News behaves (as she might see it) itself. Was STV a bastion of pusillanimity in the old ITV system? Was Grampian an unthinking source polluting the purity of commercial television with official propaganda? Was there an MI5 man in the basement of the old BBC studios in Queen Margaret Drive, Glasgow (or was one only to be found the bowels of Broadcasting House in London?)</p> <p>And, conversely, I just wonder what galaxy houses this paragon of broadcasting impartiality and independence because it surely isn’t the one which is home to our over regulated broadcast media system. And, anyway, she cant possible have in mind our Beeb with its reliance on the goodwill of the political class and its persistent history (in so far as we are allowed to know it) of – more or less – perfidy (more or less) always whenever the occasion demands. </p> <p>It’s ‘fantasy’ says Ms Enders that there will be no additional costs to the Scots -- as if they wouldn’t begin by saving the license fee; as if broadcast signals were respecters of borders; as if there was no i-Player. And, above all, as if the BBC were not in the business of selling programmes to all comers. </p> <p>The point here, as was clear when Salmond’s White Paper was first published, is that independent Scotland could not live with the BBC. As presently constituted, it is a crucial instrument of the state Ian Nairn once christened ‘UKania’ – and whose birthyear, 1927, it shares. Ms Enders makes the ideological nationalistic function of the British (as artificial a “nation” as any) Broadcasting Corporation nakedly clear. For the which, much thanks.</p> <p>However, when I put her views to my taxi driver in Glasgow he merely passed me a ‘Yes’ button.</p> OurBeeb OurBeeb uk Scotland's future Brian Winston Thu, 18 Sep 2014 07:57:25 +0000 Brian Winston 86088 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Here's a taste of rewards for No - mass fracking https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/mel-kelly/here%27s-taste-of-rewards-for-no-mass-fracking <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Fellow Scots should be aware that even now Westminster is auctioning off licenses to frack across the Central Belt of Scotland. If you don't think that's any cause for concern, read this.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>While Better Together ask Scotland not to break the UK apart most people in Scotland are totally unaware that the Westminster government plans to break Scotland apart as they are currently inviting shale oil and gas companies to frack the Central Belt of Scotland.</p> <p>According to the <a href="http://www.energyglobal.com/news/exploration/articles/Scotland-onshore-exploration-expected-to-boom-1435.aspx#.VBgGAPldVTe">Energy Global website</a>, last week, “Scotland is on the verge of an onshore oil and gas exploration boom” as Cuadrilla, Halliburton and three other large companies battle it out to get their hands on DECC exploration licenses in Scotland.&nbsp; </p> <p>A quick look on the <a href="https://www.gov.uk/oil-and-gas-licensing-rounds">the Department Of Energy &amp; Climate Change website confirmed</a> “On the 28th July 2014, the Energy Minister, Matthew Hancock, invited applications for Licences in the 14th Landward Licensing Round. Applications for Licences will be accepted up to 2.00pm on the 28th October 2014."&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>A link to a map confirms licenses on offer cover the entire central belt of Scotland.&nbsp; Despite the fact that it is the most densely populated part of Scotland, with <a href="http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2010/05/25142835/15">80% of the population</a>, the DECC website reveals not only is the government offering licenses for <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/map-of-onshore-licences-sea-areas-and-prospective-areas">shale gas and oil exploration</a> but also <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/322266/14R_Coal_Authority_Licences.pdf">Coal Bed Methane Exploration</a>, which was subject to <a href="http://frack-off.org.uk/dart-face-90000-scottish-residents-at-public-inquiry/">a public inquiry in Scotland</a> earlier this year as it is every bit as controversial as fracking.</p><p> The <a href="http://www.carbonbrief.org/media/308818/screen-shot-2014-06-30-at-141953.png">licensing areas</a> include Scotland’s capital city Edinburgh as well as the edge of North Berwick, Tranent,&nbsp; Dalkeith, Penicuik, around Edinburgh Airport, Rosyth, Bathgate, Falkirk, Airdrie, Motherwell, Glasgow, Denny Alloa, Dunfermline, Kirkcaldy Glenrothes and Leven.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/frack.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/frack.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="298" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span> Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 </p><p> </p><p class="MsoNormal">Last month <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/aug/10/fracking-censored-house-price-report">the Guardian reported</a> that “The government has been criticised for censoring a report into the impact of shale <a title="More from the Guardian on Gas" href="http://www.theguardian.com/environment/gas">gas</a> drilling on house prices” but the report did reveal house prices in parts of America fell up to 14% due to nearby drilling operations.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">But the reality of the impact on house prices in England is already far worse, with the <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2733336/Fracking-threat-wiped-535-000-home-s-value-Five-bedroom-home-valued-190-000-drilling-site-proposed-nearby.html">Daily Mail also reporting last month</a> that in Lancashire one owner’s house value plummeted over 70%, from £750,000 to £190,000, after Cuadrilla proposed a drilling site just 300 yards from her home while “<span>‘Two other estate agents said they would rather not even comment, because the possibility of fracking meant they couldn’t actually say if it was worth anything at all.”</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Across England similar stories are being heard with </span><a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2733336/Fracking-threat-wiped-535-000-home-s-value-Five-bedroom-home-valued-190-000-drilling-site-proposed-nearby.html">the Daily Mail report</a><span> explaining a house sale fell through in Blackpool after the prospective buyer discovered fracking plans for the area while DECC<span>&nbsp; </span>and the government’s Valuation Office Agency both continue to try to claim there is no evidence to link fracking with falling house prices.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>As well as up to 80% of Scotland having to worry about house prices plummeting when fracking licenses are issued by Westminster another major threat is the real risk of earthquakes as the central belt of Scotland's licensing area is bounded by two fault lines.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal">Billy Caldwell, a geologist in America, with 50 years experience inspecting oil and gas wells, is <a href="http://rt.com/usa/azle-texas-austin-fracking-979/">reported to have told America’s WFFA News</a><span> </span><span>that </span>his research indicates that when the contaminated waste water from the fracking process is re-injected into the disposal wells it may be leaking, lubricating nearby fault lines, causing slippage and earthquakes. His comments were in relation to reports that one <span>town </span>in rural Texas experienced over <a href="http://www.dallasnews.com/business/energy/20140121-railroad-commission-reports-injection-well-near-azle-shut-down.ece">thirty earthquakes between November 2013 and January 2014</a> seemingly due to fracking taking place in the area.</p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Westminster</span><span> proposes Scotland should be fracked between two known fault lines, despite reports from all over America suggesting </span><a href="http://www.nbcnews.com/science/science-news/confirmed-fracking-practices-blame-ohio-earthquakes-f8C11073601">fracking processes do cause earthquakes</a><span>, even in areas that have no record of any earthquakes before.<span>&nbsp; </span></span></p> <p class="MsoNormal">Worse still, fracking is also suspected of causing major health problems, with the Parr family in America <a href="http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-fracking-lawsuit-20140424-story.html">awarded $3million in damages</a> after they started experiencing health issues after fracking operations started less than 2 miles from their farm.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">The Parr family and neighbours nearby started experiencing mystery ailments including severe headaches, sickness, rashes and open sores that would not heal, with Mrs Parr experiencing trouble standing and becoming disoriented and Mr Parr developing memory problems, and their daughter waking in the night covered in blood from the severe nosebleeds.<span>&nbsp; </span></p> <p class="MsoNormal">Blood tests revealed Mrs Parr had 20 toxic chemicals in her blood and she quoted one of her doctor’s telling her “move out immediately or I would spend more time and money on hospitalisation, chemotherapy and a mortician”. </p> <p class="MsoNormal">And it was not just the people in the area suffering as calves were born deformed and livestock and pets started dying on the family’s farm because of the toxicity of the air, due to the fracking processes nearby.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">Local people arranged for the air to be tested, revealing “BTEX -<span>&nbsp; </span>benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene<span>&nbsp; </span>- all colourless but toxic chemicals typically found in petroleum products.”</p> <p class="MsoNormal">While the harm in this case was judged to be from toxins in the air caused by fracking operations another major concern is that fracking operations also contaminates our drinking water.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">Despite claims today in the Daily Mail that fracking does not contaminate water – it is leaking wells, basing this on a recent report from America, USA Today reported in January this year “<a href="http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2014/01/05/some-states-confirm-water-pollution-from-drilling/4328859/">4 states confirm water pollution from drilling</a>” so regardless of whether it is the fracking operation or leaking wells it is conclusive groundwater we drink is being contaminated when fracking comes to town.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">Does the Westminster government have the right to even contemplate issuing fracking exploration licenses for the most densely populated area of Scotland, when it could result in plummeting house prices due to fracking's suspected links to earthquakes, poisonous air and contaminated drinking water?<span>&nbsp; </span></p> <p class="MsoNormal">Scotland will decide.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> uk uk Scotland's future Mel Kelly Wed, 17 Sep 2014 14:21:02 +0000 Mel Kelly 86067 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Fear not, England https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/anthony-barnett/fear-not-england <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>English supporters of a No vote often cling to Britishness as a remedy for England's alleged ills: intolerance, ethnic nationalism, and so on. Yet we lose none of our tolerance in a Yes vote. We are the same England, and we should embrace this opportunity for constitutional renewal.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Body1">As an Englishman who would like to see a Scottish Yes vote and who believes that we English will also be losers should Scotland bend in subordination to the British political class, I want to write about the emotional impact on my fellow countrymen: the bafflement, pain, grief even, and mourning for a lost love, felt by many faced with the prospect of the Scots choosing to leave the UK. </p> <p class="Body1">In these last days of the referendum campaign there is a realisation that something profound has happened, whatever the result. Perhaps the most important sentence that I have read up here in Scotland is this from the Edinburgh Evening News. In a full page editorial it set out its position for its readers. Beating Rupert Murdoch’s <em>Sun</em> by a day, it decided that it readers knew best how to vote on Thursday and could trust their own judgement. It said this, caps included: “The majority of us clearly WANT to be independent. But are we prepared to gamble? For it is a gamble.”</p> <p class="Body1">The emotional tie of union has been severed. A historic, moral victory has already been won by the Yes campaign, whatever the actual outcome. We English now have to make an internal reckoning as to why.</p> <p class="Body1">Perhaps the best place to start is with the potential, although apparently unlikely, independence of Scotland. This will mean above all a new relationship with England. After independence, should this happen, we will still be joined at the hip. Were a majority of Scots to vote Yes on Thursday, moves would immediately be set afoot to create on-going arrangements to resolve common matters. There would be an impulse to punish the Scots for their unruly behaviour and ingratitude, but there is business to be done. The UK’s fundamentals are weak and need to be secured. Business wants certainty. England will be humiliated enough without wanting to appear before the world as a cry-baby. Scotland will want reconciliation and cooperation. London will get on with it as that is what London does. Independence for Scotland means <em>renewing</em> its relationship with England.</p> <p class="Body1">A ‘yes’ vote that asserts formal sovereignty, therefore, will mean not severance but a form of partition that will rapidly become a new way of sharing. Scotland will take responsibility for governing itself internally (in accordance, of course, with the international agreements that it is bound by) while acting in its own interests in so far as it is able within the external fields of international affairs and the global market place. But at the same time both its internal affairs and its external interests will be shaped above all by the immense pull of relationships with its historic and geographic neighbour, enjoying ten times its economic weight and with whom it has shared sovereignty in a unique bi-national arrangement for over 300 years: England.</p> <p class="Body1">Critics of the ‘Yes’ campaign may say that this means sharing sovereignty isn’t independence at all, but this is because they have had their brains addled by the notion of ‘absolute sovereignty’ that bedevils what passes as constitutional thinking in the UK (absolute power being an imperial experience that is thankfully not appropriate either for our time or for our continent). It’s a positive thing that what England thinks and does will have a considerable impact on the prospects of Scottish independence. Yes voters, indeed all Scottish voters, understand this. This is not a screaming ‘nationalist’ campaign of enmity.</p> <p class="Body1">But England is not thinking like this. Instead a great cry of pain arises from the Brits, including from the hearts and souls of many of my friends and compatriots south of the border. For them, the idea of Scotland ‘leaving’, never before taken seriously, is enraging. The mere thought of it—let alone the thought of becoming English—fills them not with the thrill of self-determination but with despair.</p> <p class="Body1">Why is this? What is going on? I’m not referring to the orchestrated proclamations of banks and retailers acting on the government’s say so. (As Simon Johnson, the <em>Telegraph’</em>s Scottish Business Editor, reports, Sir Ian Cheshire of the Kingfisher Group admitted that “it is ‘well known’ that the Prime Minister had asked businesses to speak out”. Denying it is a “conspiracy”, Sir Ian explained, “It’s not a Number 10 drafting exercise. We all felt this was the chance to say something”; a useful distinction.) The British state prefers its subjects to be grateful for its protection. But if the Scots show themselves to be ungrateful then they must be press-ganged into staying on board the Union, for their own good of course. Amusingly, in the midst of pages and double-pages of his media groups’ virulent bluster, it was wonderful to see Peter Hitchens in the <a href="http://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/2014/09/what-do-we-threaten-the-scots-with-next-exploding-haggises.html">Mail of Sunday</a> writing:</p> <blockquote><p><em>The poor Scots are threatened with currency collapse, bankruptcy, irrelevance and isolation. There’ll even be a frontier, doubtless with barking dogs, searchlights and minefields planted with exploding haggises.</em></p><p><em><br /></em></p><p><em>Actually if I were Scottish, I would be voting ‘Yes’ just to spite all the people who are trying to frighten and browbeat me into voting ‘No’. Anyone with any spirit must surely feel this way.</em></p></blockquote> <p class="Body1">There is, however, another much more important and human sound quite different from the bullying and browbeating: a genuine expression of hurt, disbelief and disorientation. What is striking about this is that it does not seek to communicate with or to the Scots. Rather it addresses itself. Tom Holland, a popular historian of the ancient world, expressed the sentiment in a frank and moving way on <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0baTtomaIRQ">Scottish Newsnight in April 2014</a>,</p> <blockquote><p class="Body1"><em>I have to say that I am surprised at myself at how passionately I have come to feel about this issue. I would go so far as to say that I have never been as upset about anything as the prospect of Scotland leaving… it goes back to something visceral and fundamental... &nbsp;A feeling [that Scotland] is both alien and it is a part of me… </em></p></blockquote> <p class="Body1">Martin Wolf shared a similar experience. Writing in May in the <a href="http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/fcfdf73a-e5ad-11e3-aeef-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3DL2Gy8v9">Financial Times</a>, </p> <blockquote><p class="Body1"><em>the Scottish referendum will decide whether the country in which I was born will continue to exist. I will have no vote. But this does not mean it does not matter to me. On the contrary, it matters a great deal. My parents came as refugees to Britain. When they took citizenship, they were proud to think of themselves as British. To me, “English” is an ethnic identity and “British” a civic one. I am a citizen of the world’s most successful multinational state. If Scotland were to depart, I would lose an important part of myself.</em></p></blockquote> <p class="Body1">There is no doubting the sincerity of this lucidly expressed feeling. But it is very strange. Why would Wolf lose part of himself? Why should he and Tom Holland and many, many others in England suffer such a dramatic amputation, all the more painful for being internal, as a consequence of less than ten per cent of the UK peacefully choosing to govern themselves in so far as they can? They would not feel the same way if Northern Ireland voted to leave, as the Good Friday Agreement explicitly permits. So it is not about part of the UK deciding its own fate. </p> <p class="Body1">A clue shouts out from Wolf’s description of Englishness as “ethnic” (meaning a racial identity that excludes him) whilst contemporary Britishness is “civic”. For him and many others to become English is experienced as a threat, even though it is their actual nationality, for Britishness is multi-national and you cannot be ‘just’ British. The strain in Wolf’s observation can be seen more clearly if you start from the fact that Scottishness is civic: the Scottish parliament represents a multi-faith, multi-ethnic, open society, whether the vote is Yes or No. The Yes campaign invites everyone to join it. If the Scottishness is civic and also part of being British how come &nbsp;Englishness is ethnic? Why is it racial &nbsp;while Scottishness and Welshness are not? </p> <p class="Body1">I am British and have embraced the fact of my Englishness, and found that England too is a civic, tolerant, anti-fascist country that I am proud to call my own. I came to this realisation thanks to the Scottish experience, which I have been following closely over two decades. For me it is an emancipation: not a loss but a gain. However, there is no doubting that Holland and Wolf express the majority experience. It is not just an opinion or even a profound sentimental attachment to Britishness that they fear to lose, it is an internal part of themselves that feels threatened. </p> <p class="Body1">The pain of this is not going to be healed by a ‘No’ vote, however relieved they may be. They can see perfectly well that Scotland would vote ‘Yes’ if the English offered to help diminish the risks, not threaten to increase them. This week’s pre-referendum editorial in the <em>Economist </em>bewailing the prospect of a Yes vote included this extraordinary sentence: <em>“The rump of Britain would be diminished in every international forum: why should anyone heed a country whose own people shun it?”</em></p> <p class="Body1"><em>Rump? </em>&nbsp;Is this how to describe nearly ninety percent of the population and an exceptionally green and pleasant land, including one of the greatest cities in the world whose megalopolis of 21 million is the only rival to New York. We are no mere off-cut of Scotland! In this ridiculous description one can feel the unbalanced self-loathing that follows rejection by a loved-one. Much more important, we already know that morally its own people <em>have</em> shunned Great Britain. They may be brought back into line at the prospect of the costs, given how London has threatened them. But in spirit, which is the all-important thing when it comes to the energy of identity, a majority have told the pollsters they would like to vote ‘Yes’. Nor is this a whipped up, contrived, media view, for the instruments that forge opinion are all against it. </p> <p class="Body1">Whatever the vote, we English-British must now come to a reckoning with ourselves. What kind of people would in effect offer independence in bad faith to a sister nation, on the assumption that this is bound to be refused, and then react with such hurt at the discovery that it is wanted? How have we come to be like this, to be so fundamentally indifferent to the difference between us and then so upset and not at all indifferent to discover it exists? </p> <p class="Body1">Here, I would like to propose a part of the answer. I want to try and explain the particular nature and allure of English-British nationalism, which is an authentic passion not an ‘irrationality’ to be patronised or scorned. In another article I hope to report on the poisonous legacy of New Labour’s constitutional changes (in which I played a minor role) and their failure to seize the opportunity they created for a new settlement, which then started the UK on this, perhaps final, round of its journey. </p> <p class="Body1"><strong>A singular form of nationalism</strong></p> <p class="Body1">While in Scotland a Yes vote means creating a new relationship with England, in England the independence of Scotland does not in the first place mean a new relationship with Scotland, about which most English think and care little. A Scottish ‘Yes’ vote for independence is going to be a challenge alright, but of a different kind: odd as it may seem, it will force the English to work through a new relationship <em>with Britain</em> with which we identify internally. </p> <p class="Body1">Back in 1982 I wrote an instant book on why Parliament went to war over the Falklands, <em><a href="http://www.faber.co.uk/catalog/iron-britannia/9780571290666">Iron Britannia</a>,</em> now recently re-issued<em>. </em>Although Welsh and Scottish regiments were deployed it struck me as an English adventure. Material on nationhood within Britain was limited at the time and for my chapter on ‘Falklands Pastoralism’ I questioned people about how they rank their national identities. Those who were Scottish or Welsh had no problem with this, saying if they felt Welsh first and British second, or Scottish second and British first. They experienced two distinct over-lapping allegiances and were able to compare and contrast their relative importance for them personally with ease. “I have always been British first and foremost but Welsh as well”, “I think of myself as a Scot who is also British, but it comes second”. Such answers came without any strain. Just now, for example, in an article for the <em><a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/scottish-independence/11097153/Alastair-Campbell-Scots-should-say-No-with-their-heads-and-hearts.html">Telegraph</a> </em>calling for a No vote, Tony Blair’s one-time press officer, Alistair Campbell, whose parents were Scottish, writes, “I feel British first, Scottish second, Yorkshire—where I was born—third and English a long way behind”. He adds, “I cannot imagine feeling British if Britain does not include Scotland”, to which one can ask ‘Why not, Norwegians can feel European without being part of the EU?’ But my point is that his ranking of identities is clearly unproblematic for him as an exercise.</p> <p class="Body1">But when I ask English people the same question—‘Which comes first for you, being English or being British?’—many simply <em>cannot understand</em> the question. They feel equally they are both, at one and the same time, in a way that is inseparable. To ask them to rank their allegiance to Englishness and Britain as if these are distinct identities that overlap does not make sense to them. As awareness of Englishness has grown this phenomenon has diminished. But this must not lead us to deny the authenticity of the experience, the fusion of Britishness and English into a particular nationalism of its own. </p> <p class="Body1">It goes back to May 1940. Britain entered the Second World War as an empire but emerged as a <em>country</em>. It was a keystone in a victorious alliance with the USA and the USSR. While they, arguably, became new types of empire in the process, the United Kingdom found itself stripped of its world primacy while retaining the institutions and loyalties that had created and led the globe’s largest imperium. A singular form of nationalism resulted.</p> <p class="Body1">In 1982 I reached for a simple metaphor to communicate the reality of this experience. Britishness is a projection of Englishness to the world while Englishness is the more personal, inner capability. It was the British Empire but an English sense of humour. It is the British, never the English, navy but it is the English, and never the British, countryside. A recent exhibition at Tate Britain of British Folk Art confirmed this. A country’s folk are the internal, common people of a land or place. And there is no such thing as ‘British Folk’. There isn’t a British peasantry, or British primitivism. There is folk dancing in Britain but not ‘British folk dancing’. The nearest the exhibition came to a genuinely British folk tradition was, significantly, the carving of figureheads on ships.</p> <p class="Body1">To explain this more graphically I imagined a coin. The head, or obverse, is British, the tails or reverse is English. So when I asked my fellow countrymen to rank their Britishness as against their Englishness, it was like asking a currency, were it to be conscious, to separate its two sides and give them an order of priority. Such a request is senseless: there have to be <em>two sides</em> to what is <em>one</em> coin. Its oneness, its solidity, its existence even, depends on its having two faces. </p> <p class="Body1">The currency of English-Britishness was similarly two-faced but singular, and well-forged. Britishness is not for many, especially well-educated English, a separate, additional identity, whether secondary or primary, as it is for those who live in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is integral to their sense of being English and also the way they deny being ‘just’ English. </p> <p class="Body1">For the Scots and Welsh this means that the English can be infuriatingly oblivious of the domineering consequence of their presumption that they ‘speak for Britain’. The fused nature of <em>English</em> nationalism with <em>British</em> identity elides Englishness and Britishness. This then appears to be a claim over Scotland and Wales. Thoughtlessness, however, means overlooking something you know but have mislaid or forgotten. Instead, for the English being British is an authentic description of <em>themselves</em> in the wider world that has nothing to do with the Scots and the Welsh (until we are reminded of them).</p> <p class="Body1">I state this at some length because viewed from Scotland such indifference appears to be an arrogant, misconceived and unsustainable assumption of mastery. It is therefore often mistaken as a perfidious claim to rule, as if the object of English desire was to lord it over Scotland and Wales. Instead, it really is, I’m afraid, profound indifference. There is an attachment to the special beauty of the Scottish landscape for many, yet this if anything confirms a philistine disinterest in Scottish society. The vibe of California is far more important to the average English person; San Francisco and Los Angeles a far more vital part of their concerns, than those of Edinburgh and Glasgow. </p> <p class="Body1">To many proud, civic and intelligent Scots this means that the English have a mixed up, regressive, irrational nationalism. Such disparagement fails to understand its strengths. Yes, there are traces of attachment to Empire (especially in the political class) and other anachronisms and an unresolved nostalgia haunts the political class. Yes, it is not a logical nationalism for it cloaks itself in a multi-national identity. But, what if this illogical and obtuse irrationality works? Many ideologies and religions are deeply flawed, to put it mildly. But the unlikelihood of their claim can drive them to fervour; Christianity hardly grinds to a halt when presented with the incoherence of the Trinity. The question that matters about national as much as religious ideologies is whether—and how—they draw on the energy to renew themselves. Like grit in an oyster, a flaw can become a source of transformation and growth. The archaic ‘irrationality’ of an Englishness that pretends also to be British may be functional, opening up avenues of renewal, as, indeed, we witnessed in the Olympic opening ceremony.</p> <p class="Body1">When it comes to England and its Anglo-British nationalism there is a deep vein of energy and confidence for it to draw upon. As Liah Greenfeld has shown in an analysis Tom Nairn has developed, English presumption is rooted in its being the ‘first born’ nation in the sixteenth century and then the pioneer of the industrial revolution. England did not need to react to others to initiate its own nationalistic modernisation: others had to respond to it, most notably across the Atlantic. The result is a nationalism that does not ‘need’ to be defiantly self-conscious and therefore can ‘get away’ with shape-shifting far more than most. </p> <p class="Body1">Moreover, the state that oversaw the country that enjoyed pole position was created in 1688 not as a restoration, as Burkean mythology pretends, but rather, as Steve Pincus demonstrates, after the ‘first modern revolution’. This was the outcome of a conflict between two alternative modernising projects, that of absolutism and commercialism, with the second becoming ascendant. </p> <p class="Body1">So that from its beginning, the constitutional or state culture that emerged in England has been a modernising one, seeking to preserve its first-born presumption with its open, commercial cult of flexibility. What has now become a crippling strategic weakness for the British state, an uncodified entity struggling to retain legitimacy in the much larger, codifying multinational entity of the the European Union, was once an immense strength for its ruling Establishment, permitting the generation of a unique imperial ethos that at the same time permitted electoral democracy for the lower chamber of its parliament.</p> <p class="Body1">This system was tested to breaking point by the Second World War and it survived. The resulting national ethos can be described as Churchillism, fusing Tory, Liberal and Labour traditions, business and unions, media and military, into a cross-class welfare patriotism quite distinct from the values of the great man himself, as Britain ceased to be an empire and became a united kingdom. This then became the nationalism of the post-war English. </p> <p class="Body1">As a nationalism it is more than capable of working through its imperial legacy for it is intrinsically anti-fascist and consciously fair-minded. Indeed it turned its imperial roots into a commitment to global consciousness and an ease with the larger world that draws on the inheritance of being ‘first born’. This internationalism is symbolised by ‘Britishness’, the world-facing aspect of being English. </p> <p class="Body1">It is fear of losing this exceptionally generous and tolerant legacy that induces intense anxiety about a Scottish Yes. In the interview I quoted from at the start, Tom Holland added that “I am not convinced that the UK is a failure: we have a stable, broadly tolerant, broadly peaceable society which is a great success”. &nbsp;Jason Cowley, the Editor of the <em>New Statesman</em>, has expressed this well and consistently. Alone of the official British media, he has taken the Scottish process seriously seeing that it has huge implications for what it means for the whole of the UK, and has engaged with it with energy and flair (declaration of interest, he published an essay of mine, <a href="http://www.newstatesman.com/2013/09/can-miliband-speak-england">Can Miliband speak for England</a>.) In this week’s issues (not yet online) Cowley writes:</p> <blockquote><p>"What attracts me about Britishness is its very plurality and ambiguity; it’s an inclusive, civic, non-racial identity as welcoming now (though it once wasn’t so) to a black Londoner as it is to a Glaswegian Muslim Asian. Indeed, part of what it is to be modern and British is to have and be relaxed about compound identities, to share sovereignties in supranational institutions (the UK, the EU) and to pool resources… Scotland has experienced nothing comparable to the levels of immigration of England—one sees few black or mixed-race faces there, though you hear many eastern European accents—and so many Scots do not quite understand why Britishness means so much to so many people from minority backgrounds and why they fear it being ripped away from them. Britishness is a wide umbrella under which so many of us can shelter happily in spite of our differences. We would be bereft without it, drenched in uncertainty and confusion."</p></blockquote> <p class="Body1">But why will it be without our tolerance if ten-per cent of the population want to be self-governing? Why can’t the same relaxed spirit extend to wishing them good luck? Why, if suddenly we are left to ourselves, will we cease to be what we are? In a <em>Newsnight</em> defence of staying British, Ekow Eshun made the same case: nations can reinvent themselves, he rightly pointed out. Britishness <em>was</em> about empire but is no more, and need not be so - the same applies to Englishness.</p> <p class="Body1">The true danger here is not a loss of a wider British political culture that Includes many Irish voices and which will remain on Friday should there be a ‘Yes’ vote. The danger is the refusal of Englishness implicit in the desire to create a pure, progressive British identity, drawing on a London cosmopolitanism and untouched by the suburbs and soil of England. But it is in this soil that the tolerance and inventiveness of this, my country, is rooted, just as much as in the media industries of the global city. A refusal of England bodes ill and will help lace it with intolerance. </p> <p class="Body1">It is a civic Scotland that is on the move, a national politics rather than a nationalism, as Tom Nairn put it, a democratic refusal of the dark tunes of nationalist exceptionalism, as <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/16/scottish-nationalism-british-westminster-class">Billy Bragg observes</a> in an outstanding, sober argument with the English left. The promise of Scotland is not descent into intolerance and atavism but the birth of democratic constitutionalism across the British Isles, that can inspire us here in England to protect the qualities that Cowley, Holland and Eshun rightly praise.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p class="Body1">In his widely read <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/adam-ramsay/scotland-isnt-different-its-britain-thats-bizarre">article in openDemocracy</a>, Adam Ramsay argues, </p> <blockquote><p class="Body1"><em>In order to be a significantly nicer place to live, all that Scotland needs is to be normal. Compared to being in broken Britain, living in a bog-standard, average Western country may seem like an impossible, utopian fairy-land, to which only naïve children conned by lying politicians would aspire. But for most of the Western world, the sort of Scotland that the SNP talk about, that most yes campaigners say we can expect, isn't <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/scotland/10384254/Salmond-needs-more-than-applause-from-party-faithful.html">exceptional</a>, it's not even better than average.</em></p></blockquote> <p class="Body1">The movement taking place in Scotland is not one of destruction and exclusion, it is part of what I call the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/anthony-barnett/our-normal-revolutions-1989-and-change-in-our-time">revolution of the normal</a>. This is the opportunity it offers England. It is not a prospect we should fear. </p><p class="Body1"><em>PS on the day Scotland votes: </em><a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/scottish-independence/11102135/Scottish-independence-sorry-Grandfather-but-you-were-wrong-about-leaving-the-Union.html">Over in the Telegraph </a>Peter Oborne has written a column addressed to his Grandfather, a pioneering Scottish nationalist, appealing to him to change his mind from the grave. His argument exactly reflects the peculiar syndrome I am trying to address. He denounces the slanted media coverage and salutes the energy of the Yes campaign and concludes,</p><blockquote><p>Ultimately, though, the case for independence is democratic, not economic. Here is a paradox: Scotland’s magnificent history and profound sense of identity made my grandfather and many of his fellow Scots nationalists. Exactly the same things make me a unionist. Some people have said that losing Scotland would be like losing a limb. It would be worse than that. If Great Britain loses Scotland, we lose our heart.</p></blockquote><p>But what kind of heartless body keeps its ticker in place by distortion and intimidation? Clearly, Scotland would not lose <em>it's </em>heart. The extreme and dramatic claim is not rooted in the case set out, unusually for a brilliant columnist. Oborne continues,</p><blockquote><p>If Alan Brown [his granddad] were alive today, I would&nbsp;<span>try to change his mind. I would remind him that his military family served for centuries in British imperial armies....&nbsp;</span><span>I would challenge my grandfather to explain how England could have stood alone against Hitler in the Second World War without the Scots. I would highlight the economic problems but I would also make the selfish case that, without Scotland, England risks falling prey to a mutant nationalism of its own.</span></p></blockquote><p><span>This exactly expresses the heedless fear. Don't leave us to be ourselves! What if we turn out to be monstors without a heart prey to the cunning manipulation of broadcasters. So I say, "Don't you see, Peter, it is thanks especially to the myths of Britishness and the apparatus of the British state that the political class weilds its anti-democratic influence. They want us to go on fighting the Second World War, but while we do so we are lost, trapped in the past from which most Scots rightly wish to be released however they may vote today.&nbsp;</span></p><p class="Body1"><strong><em><span>OurKingdom doesn’t have a billionaire proprietor telling us what to write - we rely on donations from readers like you. </span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/donate"><span>Please support us</span></a><span> if you can.</span></em></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/adam-ramsay/scotland-isnt-different-its-britain-thats-bizarre">Scotland isn&#039;t different, it&#039;s Britain that&#039;s bizarre</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/oliver-huitson/i-hope-scotland-leaves-and-i-hope-england-follows-them">I hope Scotland leaves, and I hope England follows them</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/anthony-barnett/thank-you-scotland-and-hold-your-nerve">Thank you Scotland - and, hold your nerve</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Creative Commons </div> </div> </div> uk openSecurity uk Scotland's future Anthony Barnett Wed, 17 Sep 2014 11:47:29 +0000 Anthony Barnett 86064 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What's missing from the oil debate around Scotland's referendum? https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/mika-miniopaluello/what%27s-missing-from-oil-debate-around-scotland%27s-referendum <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The UK collects less tax revenue from its oil than almost any other country on earth. Scotland could do much better.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Oil has been central to the arguments about Scottish independence. The SNP tell us there are decades of crude left in the North Sea, and that there should be an oil fund. Westminster politicians say there's not much oil left. </p><p>But none of the large parties want to talk about the detail of the UK's North Sea tax regime. This is because it's the second-worst in the world - for the state. Only Ireland gets a worse deal. The British system functions as a form of corporate welfare.</p> <p>Platform <span><a href="http://platformlondon.org/scotland/">released an infographic</a></span> summarising the hidden data behind North Sea oil. It shows that&nbsp;Britain missed out on £10 billion in oil revenues every year.&nbsp;I've analysed oil contracts in Congo, Uganda and Egypt, and all of these did better out of their oil.&nbsp;UK energy policy&nbsp;has been subjugated to corporate profit for thirty years.&nbsp;Lobbyists and corporate executives in London have captured decision-making, and use&nbsp;the cash-flow from the North Sea to subsidise drilling elsewhere in the world.</p> <p>If Scotland gains full control over its energy policy, it could change the fiscal regime. It could ask in whose interest&nbsp;oil should be governed, and whether the priority should be to maximise extraction, or to maximise revenues. Despite the media barrage claiming that Scotland is doomed, a future Scottish government could access&nbsp;enormous additional public resources.</p> <p>Platform's research shows that</p> <ul><li><p>Britain only receives a fraction of the oil revenues that Norway receives. In 2010, the state revenue per barrel in Norway was $48.50; in Britain it was only $21.50 - less than half.</p> </li><li><p>The value of Scotland's proven reserves per UK resident under the current fiscal regime is $1,020. If an independent Scotland mirrored Norway's tax &amp; ownership structure over oil, the value would be $27,479 per Scottish resident.</p> </li><li><p>The lax tax regime allows corporations to make enormous profits, at the expense of the public purse. Profitability for UK Continental Shelf companies is generally at least three times that of non-UKCS companies. In 2008 Q2, the net rate of return for North Sea oil companies reached 62.6%, while non-oil companies were at 12.2%.</p> </li><li><p>In the six years from 2002 until 2008, Britain missed out on £74 billion in oil revenues, compared to if it had applied the Norwegian model. This could have covered five years of cuts to legal aid, the NHS, pension credit, child benefit, the arts, sports and public transport. Alternatively, £74 billion spent in Scotland could have&nbsp;provide Scotland with 10 new mega-hospitals like the South Glasgow Hospital and 1,000 new GP clinics, with 10,000 new doctors and 20,000 new nurses to staff them. As well as a renewable energy project in every community, a community centre in every village and a solar panel on every home, to enable a decentralised and democratically-owned energy system. And a high-speed rail between Edinburgh and Glasgow, 10 new railway lines in Scotland and free local bus services. And free state childcare for pre-schoolers, a return to grants for higher education students and a citizen's income for all Scottish residents of £5,200 per year.</p> </li></ul> <p>London will fight tooth and nail to hang onto power over North Sea oil. But if Scotland can gain control - either through independence this week or some future 'devolution-super-max' (that isn't on the table), then it could take a lead from Norway.</p> <ul><li><p>Norway is a comparable oil province to the UK Continental Shelf.&nbsp;</p> </li><li><p>The UK does not have higher costs; investment in Norwegian offshore drilling has been consistently higher than in the UK.</p> </li><li><p>Norway's fiscal regime isn't even a deterrent to investment. According to the Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum, it is "designed to be neutral, so that an investment project that is profitable before tax will also be profitable after tax."</p> </li></ul> <p>London has singularly failed to harness public resources for public benefit. Of course, there's also the question of whether we should be burning all the crude anyhow. A <span><a href="http://www.scottishgreens.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2014/09/Energy-independence-Green-Yes-briefing.pdf">paper published by the Scottish Greens this weekend</a></span> examines what proportion of North Sea oil is actually "burnable", if we're to have any chance of keeping the planet below a 2 C temperature increase. There's really not much, if any, leeway. But until we stop extracting the oil, at least tax it properly.</p> <p>The time has come for energy democracy. Our energy resources - which belong to the ultimately belong to the people - need to be accountable to us. London's politics is thoroughly captured by oil interests. It's hard to see that changing until Parliament Square looks like Tahrir did in 2011.</p> <p>If Scotland goes independent, everything will be up for grabs. Scotland is energy-rich. The oil corporations will rush in and try to colonise power. It's up to democratic forces to mobilise to stop them, and ensure that energy serves both economy and climate justice.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> uk uk Scotland's future Mika Minio-Paluello Wed, 17 Sep 2014 11:24:55 +0000 Mika Minio-Paluello 86062 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Hammering the final nail in the coffin of UK party-based “democracy” https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/cat-tully/hammering-final-nail-in-coffin-of-uk-partybased-%E2%80%9Cdemocracy%E2%80%9D <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Originally undecided, I now think it would be in the democratic interests not just of Scotland's citizens but of all UK citizens for Scotland to vote Yes. The No campaign does not deserve to win. It has shown how inadequate British politics has become.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>I am pretty sad to miss the Thursday 18 Sept 2014 referendum on Scottish independence– regardless of the result, it is going to be a momentous event.&nbsp;If only to see how Whitehall and the UK political system has managed to turn a silk purse into a sow’s ear.*</p> <p>I was pretty agnostic about Scottish independence a year and a half ago, when <a href="http://fromoverhere.net/?s=The+Foreign+Affairs+Select+Committee+Report+on+Scottish+Independence&amp;submit=Search" target="_blank">asked to give evidence</a> to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee inquiry on the implications of Scottish independence. The trade-off, of gaining self-determination versus losing collective collaboration and scale in response to globalisation, can only be calculated by Scottish citizens alone.&nbsp;But it did kind of feel that disaggregating power into smaller, formal political nation-state units was going against the thrust of being able to fluidly respond to ever-bigger 21st century challenges. But the subsequent 18 or so months has somewhat changed my view. A few observations:</p> <p>- Pro-independence support is facing some pretty tough headwinds.&nbsp; You couldn’t really make the external conditions for the referendum much worse than they are: European-wide dismal economic performance, dropping again recently, especially in the face of strong UK economic data; poorly performing EU former “tigers”; belligerent Russia in Ukraine; declining North Sea potential; etc.</p> <p>- The ability of Whitehall to ignore—and fail to mobilise to respond to—an existential future threat that was both within the term of the incumbent government <em>and</em> easily understood was a real wake-up call for me. It shocked me in underlining just how strong the status-quo bias and inertia are in the Whitehall system that means it is unable to prepare for any but the internally-projected, desired results.&nbsp;It created the stand-off in the first place through limiting the referendum to an in-or-out question (ie my way or the high way). Given it created a much lower probability but much higher impact scenario of full independence by taking devo-max off the table as a third option, the refusal to actually seriously explore the “out” possibility is pretty shocking.&nbsp;The past 18 month have seen a very predictable scenario develop (you can argue about the probabilities… but given they were non-negligible, preparations ought to have been made…)&nbsp;A good example of this toxic combination of risk aversion/status quo bias/groupthink/incrementalism is the failure to mobilise senior political leaders earlier (Cameron, Osborne, Milliband) in order to flush out the inevitable (particularly anti-Tory) backlash early on and get to the political discussion.&nbsp;Instead they were activated at exactly the precise point where the credibility of any last-minute “let’s stay together” messages are drowned out by the look of slow-dawning self-interested panic&nbsp;on the faces of political leaders who see themselves as forever being written in UK history as the political equivalent of the captain of the Titanic.</p> <p>- It was a deliberate choice by this government to turn what could have been a world-leading debate about the meaning and value of sovereignty in a complex 21st century world into a zero-sum, willy-waving game of brinkmanship where it feared being seen as a “loser” and then used self-defeating, bully-boy tactics to protect its position.&nbsp; (A small aside, see my <a href="http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmselect/cmfaff/643/643we20.htm" target="_blank">written evidence</a> and <a href="http://fromoverhere.net/2013/05/rapping-about-scottish-independence/" target="_blank">subsequent post</a>&nbsp;on this particular point – one which makes me most depressed.)&nbsp; This could have been a rich and valuable debate about how citizens under current democratic systems can best pool their sovereignty into collective groups that listen and respond to their concerns.&nbsp;It could have enriched both UK citizens north and south of Hadrian’s wall as well as conversations going on elsewhere.&nbsp;Instead, the UK loses soft power regardless of the outcome of this election.</p> <p>- In doing so, the current London-based political class has shown a fundamental lack of regard to the interests, values and rationality of the UK citizen (Scottish and otherwise). Not unassociated, incidentally, with the growing success of UKIP south of the border as a counter-part rejection of political status quo. The entire “No” campaign has been built on a paternalistic combination of coercion and historical romanticism, not on reality, rationality or respect.&nbsp;I find it interesting that many pro-unionists claim Scottish nationalism to be based on emotional drivers of identity and gut-feeling.&nbsp;This may be the case… but there is a very rational and logical basis for deciding to vote for Scottish Independence, given the behaviour of Westminster-based politicians for the past 18 months in failing to engage, failing to communicate, and failing to show how they <em>can</em> take legitimate Scottish specific interests into account despite the strong incentive to do so.&nbsp;Scotland (like other parts of the UK) has some fundamental different drivers, interests and conditions to the English South East.&nbsp; Whether economic factors (like fisheries and energy, carbon and renewable), attitudes (like to the EU), demography (declining numbers and a low workforce results in a need to import labour and keep attracting its young people, as well as addressing differences in life expectancy), public service needs – these need different policies to confront these realities.&nbsp;Whitehall had the opportunity to show it was prepared to take these into account when developing policies nationally and when going into bat in Brussels.&nbsp;And failed. It is therefore an entirely rational calculation to vote instead for an alternative political system that has shown itself able to listen and engage with citizens, take community concerns seriously, and signal its democratic, procedural credentials to citizens.</p> <p>The No campaign does not deserve to win. And current Whitehall political leaders have shown they cannot be relied on to make decisions in the interests of Scottish citizens. They have failed to create a positive narrative about the benefits of the Union or explain why Scottish citizens should continue to pool their sovereignty into the UK pot.&nbsp;If Scottish voters do decide to remain within the Union, it will be despite rather than because of any indication from Whitehall that it is fit for the purpose of governing the Scottish people. Unfortunately, it is equally unfit for purpose for governing the rest of the UK. My strong sense is that our current model of political party democracy is now so demonstrably and irrevocably broken in linking citizen to national political decisions, that I cannot help thinking it would be in Scottish citizens’ interest to be independent – and perhaps in non-Scottish UK citizens’ interest as well if we are forced into deep political debate and reform as a result.</p> <p>* I am using “Whitehall” to describe the UK political executive, legislative and bureaucracy, but really the failures in this particular case are really fundamentally down to the leadership of the political parties whether in or out of the coalition.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong><em>Crossposted with thanks to <a href="http://fromoverhere.net/2014/09/hammering-the-final-nail-in-the-coffin-of-uk-party-based-democracy/#sthash.TpTlQK53.dpuf">FROMOVERHERE</a></em></strong></p> uk uk Scotland's future Cat Tully Wed, 17 Sep 2014 11:00:47 +0000 Cat Tully 86061 at https://www.opendemocracy.net In the face of global power we really are stronger together https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/jeremy-fox/in-face-of-global-power-we-really-are-stronger-together <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The forces that really hold back the people of Britain expand far beyond national boundaries. Our only hope of defeating them and achieving real democracy is to work with other nations - let's focus on our similarities, not differences.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Two recent, entirely dissimilar events caused me to reflect in a different way on the Scottish movement for independence from the UK:&nbsp; the Last Night of the Proms, and the <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/david-haines-beheading-was-a-news-blackout-on-isis-hostages-the-right-option-9732334.html">murder by IS</a>&nbsp; of David Haines.</p> <p>The first of these celebrates the finale of a great annual festival of “classical” music. Though headquartered at London’s Albert Hall, the Last Night now includes all four nations of the British Isles, with performances in Glasgow, Belfast and Swansea rotating on screen with London so that for a brief period all parts of the UK clasp hands in a moving cultural embrace. Nothing like this implicit act of solidarity exists anywhere else on the planet. Symbolically the occasion moves far beyond music to a sense of what we, the peoples who live on these small offshore islands, have in common: an innate tolerance, a shared history both of conflict and cooperation, a delight in what each nation brings to the party. And what modernity has brought in the form of communications technology is the ability to demonstrate these values instantaneously, to join us together culturally as we are joined geographically.</p> <p>News of David Haines appalling death coinciding with the Proms celebrations came as a reminder that events of deeper significance than Scottish “Independence” are taking place, and that to live in such a peaceful and, by international standards, still prosperous state is a privilege that most of the world’s people have no prospect of enjoying. </p> <p>One of the most disappointing elements of the separatist debate is the narrow range of thinking on both sides (Adam Ramsay’s collection of essays a notable exception). The economic arguments are mostly couched in terms that seem to have emerged unaltered from Milton Friedman’s class notes at the Chicago school of neoliberalism. They are about natural resource exploitation, market value and capital movements; about living standards posited on the extraction of carbon pollutants from beneath the sea, and on the activities of purveyors of financial services. Given the proliferation of promises about the idyllic existence that awaits inhabitants of Scotland after the referendum regardless of who wins, the only Friedman note to have been mislaid seems to be the one about the elusiveness of free lunches</p> <p>Claims made by some supporters of independence that they never get the UK governments for which they voted founder on the hard reality that Scotland voted for 13 years of Labour under Blair and Brown - ironically both of them Scots. Few if any of those (including myself) who voted Labour expected to get a bellicose right-wing government in disguise and to that extent we were all betrayed, a fact conveniently overlooked by <em>both</em> sides.</p> <p>But these too are relatively trivial issues over which it is all too easy to enter into a dispute and depressingly difficult to engage in thoughtful dialogue.</p> <p>More important by far is how to contextualize nationalist sentiment—on display here in various guises—in a world where the forces that affect the way we live are fundamentally multinational. A large proportion of the world economy is controlled by a <a href="http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21228354.500-revealed--the-capitalist-network-that-runs-the-world.html#.VBW48Of0DFc">very small proportion</a> of the world’s companies. Militarily our fate rests in even fewer hands: the US, China, Russia with several smaller fellow-travellers as backup to provide an appearance of international cooperation when a great player feels a need to justify an action of choice. Finance capital and military capability are the twin arbiters of political power. It has probably ever been thus.</p> <p>Many have argued, not least in the pages of openDemocracy, that the old left ideal that posited an alliance of the working classes across national boundaries is finished; and that the new left is nationalist, and&nbsp; founded on the kind of gradualism and localized advances that Marx and, indeed, traditional socialism, rejected as illusory and self-defeating. Mainstream Marxism has nevertheless generally lent its support to national liberation movements, but always with the idea that the ultimate aim—if nations are not to fall into the clutches of international capitalists—should be international socialism. Lenin spelled out the process:</p> <p><em>“…as mankind can arrive at the abolition of classes only through a transition period of the dictatorship of the oppressed classes, it can arrive at the inevitable integration of nations only through a transition period of the complete emancipation of all oppressed nations, i.e. their freedom to secede.”</em></p> <p>Though he added:</p> <p><em>“The closer a democratic state system is to complete freedom to secede, the less ardent will be the desire for separation in practice, because big states offer indisputable advantages, both from the standpoint of economic progress and from that of the interests of the masses…”</em> (Lenin: the Socialist Revolution and the Right of Nations to Self determination)</p> <p>It is idle to pretend that the forces of neoliberal capitalism can be overturned by individual countries acting alone. To that I would add that schismatic forces of the kind represented by the Scottish independence movement run the risk of having the opposite effect. Their success could well ensure that the system cannot be challenged. An independent Scotland will be a Scotland heavily dependent, so we are told, on two of the most damaging activities in modern economic life, both of them bulwarks of the neoliberal universe in which we live: oil and finance - contaminators respectively of the environment and the socio-economic fabric. An “independent” Scotland could end up doing the bidding not of rUK nor of Europe, but of bankers and oilmen.</p> <p>To a very large degree that is also the dilemma facing the people of these islands as a whole, as well as Greeks, Spaniards and Italians among others, who, despite being members of the EU and the Euro, have been left to handle their own current problems of impoverishment and unemployment. Europe’s failure is not the currency, still less immigration—twin bugbears of UKIP and the Front National—but the absence of solidarity and coordinated activism among that vast majority of EU citizens who are not members of the capitalist elite.</p> <p>To imagine that the famous mantra of the Communist Manifesto—Workers of the World Unite—can be revitalized and given new meaning in the 21st century may seem delusional. Certainly the word “workers” in this context has an old-fashioned ring and the phrase itself is easily dismissed as a symbol of political failure, manifest notably in the demise of the Soviet Union and the withering of communist experiments elsewhere. But what if we tinker with the words a little, substituting “workers” for “Peoples” or&nbsp; “Public” for example. Objectors might argue that words such as these by definition encompass everyone; but I believe they would quickly come to be understood as meaning the “non-elite” or what has become known in the media as “ordinary people”. More important, why after the wave of public protests against market fundamentalism in Wall Street, in the City of London, in Madrid, Athens, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires and elsewhere can we not think of a coordinated ‘peoples’ challenge to the neoliberal status quo? Should we not be joining hands in the first place with the citizens of other EU states instead of being hidebound by national boundaries? In the UK would it not be preferable to work together rather than emphasizing our differences and arguing about whether and how we should divorce? Is this not, in fact, the only way in which market fundamentalism can be put back in its box and social democracy revived not as an inward-looking national project doomed to struggle in a globalized world, but as what Tony Judt would have called a universalist response to the domination of international capital over the lives of all our citizens. A utopian dream? Probably.</p> <p>In “civilization and its Discontents,” Freud wrote that “<em>It is precisely communities with adjoining territories, and related to each other in other ways as well, who are engaged in constant feuds and in ridiculing each other, like...The English and the Scots...I call this phenomenon ‘the narcissism of minor differences…”</em></p> <p>The Last Night of the Proms reminded me of just how small those differences are, and how much joy and solidarity we can find in them and in each other if we will. On the other hand, if narcissism prevails, then arguably so will unfettered capitalism and the poverty, inequality, insecurity and environmental degradation that it fosters.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong><em><span>Liked this piece? Please donate to OurKingdom </span><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/donate"><span>here </span></a><span>to help keep us producing independent journalism. Thank you.</span></em></strong></p> uk uk Scotland's future Jeremy Fox Wed, 17 Sep 2014 10:40:15 +0000 Jeremy Fox 86059 at https://www.opendemocracy.net I hope Scotland leaves, and I hope England follows them https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/oliver-huitson/i-hope-scotland-leaves-and-i-hope-england-follows-them <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Britain is a dying project. A Yes would not only be good for Scotland but good for England; a major blow for popular sovereignty against unresponsive, undemocratic and incompetent rule.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/indy2.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/indy2.JPG" alt="" title="" width="400" height="410" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Flcikr/cx1uk. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>I would personally prefer a federal Britain and I would certainly be sad to see the Scots leave. But I really hope they do. Britain is a dying imperial project, steeped in hundreds of years of anti-democratic expertise; it is not quite impervious to change but whatever changes are forced upon it from below it somehow manages to refind its shape, its control - if it is one part bulldog it is nine parts snake, unseen and untouchable. Its governing institutions are instinctively hostile to democracy and transparency. I hope it's a Yes because I would like Scotland to be free not of the English or Welsh, but of Westminster and its unelected policy board: the City and multinational business. I would like England to be free of them too. </p> <p>The risks are for Scots to weigh but they are certainly there: you can offset risk with a currency union but its deleterious to the notion of Scotland as an independent state - if its currency remains controlled by the Bank of England its agency is diminished and, with an eye on oil, Scotland's economic shape for at least the short term could be significantly different to England's. Depending on viewpoint and levels of optimism an independent Scotland could either see mass capital flight or become another victim of Dutch disease. If the plan, and it's a sound one, is to invest Scots oil revenues in a sovereign wealth fund to hold down the currency and provide long term income then this must be recognised as a drag on its short term prosperity and fiscal position - Scotland cannot both spend the revenues that make it "one of the richest countries in the world" and invest them simultaneously. SNP plans for slashing corporation tax have both an unhelpful similarity to the Irish misadventure—during its boom years I was harangued by an Irish student who insisted it was "one of the biggest economies in the world"—and also highlight what could be the first signs of a negative drift in UK economic relations, a beggar-thy-neighbour world of tax competition that benefits nobody but large corporations and will decimate our tax bases. That the SNP even suggests such a move is a sign of lack of confidence, a lack of vision for how New Scotland will pay its way in the world besides oil and tax giveaways to multinationals.</p> <p>There is an added risk: political and economic interference. In the event of a Yes vote the duly maligned British Establishment will want to play a major role in shaping Scotland through whatever means it can - political, social, economic. Its central task will be to make Scotland a 'bad example': strike out on your own, leave the protection of your British overseers and you face ruin - governance is not for the little people. It will have many allies, for the Scots vote is not simply a vote about the British state it is a vote for popular sovereignty everywhere, whatever the outcome. Britain abhors popular sovereignty - as do, with only a little scratching, plenty of the English left lining up behind a No vote. Britain holds plenty of cards, including the Bank of England. It will use them. If anyone doubts how the British state would react to an independent Scotland they need only consider the shameful and grubby tactics of its No campaign, eagerly broadcast by the London media. The transnational elite coalition for No, what Anthony Painter calls "<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/anthony-painter/to-scotland-vote-with-open-heart-and-clear-head">the forces of hell</a>", includes such bastions of democratic radicalism as Westminster's three main parties, the London media, the IMF, the US government and Deutsche bank. </p> <p>There are plenty of serious, substantial risks for the Scots. Indeed, the No campaign has consisted of little else than articulating (and manufacturing) them. Why should they possibly vote Yes? </p> <p>Let's take the economics first. Britain is a basket case. To compare it to pre-crash Ireland is probably just as insulting to the Irish as it is to Britain; they are both fantasy economies, yet when the rubble cleared it was evident that those at the top had made their gains very real. Britain is a low wage, low skill, low productivity economy with a poor education system, it is heavily indebted, it is a state which focuses on short term profit over long term productivity and its economic model is essentially internal asset stripping. Like unemployment, low wages in Britain are not an accident, they are a foundational policy choice of an economic model designed for the few at the explicit cost of the many. Writing on Thatcher I mentioned the fact that <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/oliver-huitson/thatcher-black-gold-or-red-bricks">equity withdrawals were larger than total economic growth</a> under both Blair and Thatcher; i.e. fantasy growth based on loose credit and asset bubbles. In what other country could two people with such a dismal economic record be considered success stories, people to name bank holidays after? The bank holiday suggestion was so absurd and crass I presumed it was a joke - sadly this isn't an uncommon phenomenon in modern Britain; it is a living, breathing satire. With Osborne's Help to Buy and the housing boom it helped create, it will be interesting to see the final figures for the Coalition on growth versus mortgage equity.</p> <p>Britain's net investment in its economy is <em>zero</em> - <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-mills/uk-isnt-investing-anything-in-its-future">it ranks alongside El Salvador</a> for investment, at number 142 in the rankings. Its inability to compete in world markets has had to be offset by selling off British assets on an enormous scale—houses, utilities, companies, core public services—while keeping the pound high to satisfy the City and political egos. The result for working people, for industry, has been appalling. Britain thinks nothing of selling off its four century old postal service bearing the Queens head - as the Tory minister described it, a "<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/public-leaders-network/2013/oct/02/privatisation-threat-royal-mail-six-days">great brand</a>". The resulting sale was <a href="http://www.tobyperkins.org.uk/2013/12/selling-off-the-queens-head/">wildly undervalued</a>, as <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/joe-guinan-thomas-m-hanna/privatisation-very-british-disease">most British privatisations are</a>, benefitting chiefly the City firms who were "priority investors"... and the <a href="http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/2014/04/29/unmasked-the-city-institutions-given-privileged-status-in-the-controversial-royal-mail-flotation/">Chancellor's best man</a>. The British were robbed of up to £6 billion. Look at the East Coast Mainline, the public operator wiped the floor with its privatised competitors, it delivered <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/aug/04/east-coast-mainline-fury-reprivatisation-plan">a billion pounds back to the Treasury</a> and yet what was Britain's response? To re-privatise it. Why? To "rekindle the spirit" of competition - <em>by eliminating the best performing competitor</em>. Sadly it was the wrong sort of competitor - no one was making a profit from it, except the British people. Britain has very little interest in Britons; its main concern is finding new areas of life in which tolls, monopoly taxes and fines can be imposed.</p> <p>Take the NHS (and read Caroline Molloy's <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/caroline-molloy/vote-yes-for-nhs-independence-is-best-chance-to-protect-scotland%27s-nhs">superb piece</a> on why to vote Yes for the NHS). Britain thinks nothing of telling the most bare-faced, unscrupulous lies to the public on the most serious of issues: "no top down reorganisations" became the reorganisation "visible from space". Reorganisation is a kind word, the reality is mass privatisation with a very clear path to US-style insurance based healthcare. Well, it's "privatisation" according to the World Health Organisation, but what do they know. Cameron, Lansley, Clegg, and the whole of the British media knew better - this wasn't privatisation, keep calm, nothing to see here, we're just empowering your family doctor a bit. That the media could be so servile may have been a surprise in 2010; it certainly isn't anymore. There was the small and unfortunate incident of the hacking scandal, in which the extraordinary intimacy of the London political class with the London media class was laid bare - indeed, it made clear there is no such distinction. Poacher and game-keeper regularly take "country supper" together at their idyllic retreats while sending each other soppy and disturbing text messages: "<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/jun/14/rebekah-brooks-david-cameron-text-decoded">we're definitely in this together!</a>"</p> <p>Westminster is now little more than a byword for corruption, malice and incompetence: we now face a UN investigation over <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/stuart-weir/britain-faces-un-investigation-over-systemic-violations-of-disability-rights">systemic violations of disability rights</a>. Having been caught spending taxpayers money on cleaning their tennis courts and moats in the 2009 scandal, they have already reached the point where they are <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/sep/12/mps-expenses-under-fire">claiming more in expenses today</a> than they were in 2009. As Scots will recall, MPs were using taxpayers cash to "flip" their houses and pocket hundreds of thousands of pounds in profits. Westminster is one of the few institutions in the country where the news of a paedophile ring operating within its midst doesn't really manage to shock people. Britain's electoral system is one of the least democratic imaginable. Despite campaigning on the Proportional Representation pledge, Clegg and the Lib Dems agreed with Cameron that instead of asking the British people, like New Zealand did, whether we want to change our electoral system, <em>and if so, to what</em>, they would instead choose a system for us. Their only offer, AV, is another majoritarian system that is nearly as bad as first past the post; that was the only crumb put on the table for the British people. The idea of allowing the people to choose their own electoral system is unthinkable in Britain. Cameron's contempt for democracy was again evident when he ruled out the option of devo-max in the Scots referendum. He chooses the options, you don't. You are not a citizen, sovereignty does not rest with the people it rests with the Crown-in-Parliament. </p> <p>At least we're still a bastion of due process, liberty, free speech and justice, I suppose. That is, if we ignore the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/jo-shaw/secret-courts-8-nightmare-scenarios-now-possible-in-britain-0">emergence of secret courts</a> where the accused cannot even see the evidence used to convict him, if we ignore the astonishing <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/media/2014/sep/15/human-rights-snoop-on-journalists-gchq-echr">surveillance</a> under which every subject has their personal data harvested and the <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/media/2013/dec/03/keith-vaz-alan-rusbridger-love-country-nsa">editor of a major newspaper is questioned</a> over his "love of country" for breaking the story, if we ignore the <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/6998774.stm">quashing of a multi-billion pound fraud investigation</a> for reasons of national (commercial) interest, if we ignore the numerous convictions and incarcerations of people for what are, however unpleasant and moronic, merely words, and if we ignore the fact that the police have effectively now criminalised public protest - go along and you'll face being kettled for up to eight hours and you may face cavalry and truncheon charges, and there's a good chance your photo and/or personal details will be recorded by police, who even went so far as to openly <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/8201906/Police-may-ban-future-marches-to-prevent-disorder.html">warn people not to attend a protest</a>. On the international stage we must surely be considered vigilantes, the pitiful but spiteful sidekick of a rogue US. The Iraq war, as a Dutch panel found, had "<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/jan/12/iraq-war-illegal-dutch-tribunal">no basis in international law</a>".</p> <p>Here's a sad fact. The best read piece in openDemocracy's history, by a long way, is Adam Ramsay's <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/adam-ramsay/scotland-isnt-different-its-britain-thats-bizarre">excoriating article</a> which ultimately just sets out what a dismal shithole Britain is. This struck more of a chord with people than any of the other 20,000 essays we have ever published. When Adam writes on Scotland he writes with hope, with optimism, with the belief in a better Scotland. I'd like to think one day I could write similarly about England, and that's partly why I support a Yes vote. The case against independence for the English left consists of three words: endless Tory rule. The figures simply do not support this argument, even under our current, skewed electoral arrangements. There is another section of the English left which supports a Yes for Scotland because it would hurt the Tories short term and it would "shake up" the immovable British state, that miraculous, tawdry stasis machine. I agree, it would, but rather than settle for "regional" devolution in England, as many of them <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/rebecca-johnson-rupert-read/after-scotland-decides-build-citizencentred-democracy-through">propose</a>, we should be insisting on an English parliament elected under PR, with a written constitution, and an elected upper house. The preference for regional devolution in England as opposed to an English parliament rests on the same argument: endless Tory rule. It is not a principled stance to argue for national parliaments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland but not England. </p> <p>On the subject of an elected upper house, how long have we waited for that Lords reform? 103 years and counting. I hope Scots will remember that when they read of the latest ridiculous "<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/sep/16/cameron-miliband-clegg-pledge-daily-record">vows</a>" made by Westminster on the new yet undefined powers they allege they will give to Scotland; Cameron and Clegg's integrity has been shown conclusively to be non-existent. For the English left on the No side, the majority, I can only think my own cynicism is to blame for not joining them: I have no idea what possible hope they cling to for how Britain will be reformed. Labour? Lib Dems? The Greens with a solitary MP?</p> <p>Getting real change in Britain is like trying to break into Fort Knox: you have to take those exceptionally rare chances when they occur. There is already talk of an English or UK-wide constitutional convention, people sense change is possible. It is argued that even if Scots vote No the whole issue has been thrown open, momentum is there, change will come. I hope so. But we should not underestimate how skilfully the British elite can put issues to bed, with waves of triumphant 'closures', half measures, reports, committees, enquiries and fudges. This is a state that didn't even hold a public inquiry after the greatest transfer of taxpayer money in history - the banking collapse and bailout. How often does that issue come up today for London's political class? It's business as usual now.</p> <p>Could Scotland make it alone? Of course. It is larger than many independent nations, it has a rich history and culture, a strong education system and a load of oil. To listen to the scare-mongering you'd think they were being asked to vote on relocating Scotland to the moon, as oppose to the reality which is restoring Scotland to its previous sovereignty - the default position for the majority of the world's nations. It would be a return to normality, not a journey into the unknown. As Ramsay's article set out, it is Britain that is bizarre, like some strange temporal empire in which we are ruled by a people geographically indistinct but who actually exist in some 19th century time warp: Bullingdon boys running London and Britain and announcing 'permanent austerity' wearing white tie and tails, <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/13/david-cameron-austerity-public-sector-cuts">surrounded by gold leaf and sitting in a gold chair</a>. But really it's a question of democracy and self-government: Scotland is now ruled by a government it did not support, that sits in another nation's capital. </p> <p>An independent Scotland faces <em>potential</em> problems. Britain faces <em>certain</em> problems; the British state <em>is</em> the problem. Yes, Scots, you will run into difficult waters, but when you look back to the great ship Britannia you will see its vast wooden bulk continuing to slide beneath the waves - it is holed below the water line, a feudal oddity that stuttered into the 21st century by dint only of the genius and charm of its officers. Britain is a deeply anti-democratic state. Its institutions have been revealed as dysfunctional at best, and institutionally corrupt at worst. Economically it is in terminal decline, it has no future. It no longer has any moral purpose, no idea of what it should be doing; it has lost all sense of what a good society looks like. Scots can remain subjects of a declining imperial state or they can make the choice to become citizens - they'll make mistakes but they'll be Scotland's mistakes, not London's, and their triumphs will be theirs alone. Ultimately, they'll govern their own country, a Scotland for, by and of the Scots. I hope Scotland says No to London and says Yes to building a new, democratic nation. One day, I'd like to think they will be writing articles urging a Yes vote in England.</p> uk uk Scotland's future Oliver Huitson Wed, 17 Sep 2014 09:02:50 +0000 Oliver Huitson 86052 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Yes campaign is a campaign for Scottish nationalism https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/james-mcash/yes-campaign-is-campaign-for-scottish-nationalism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Many Yes campaigners may not be motivated by nationalism, but it's important to understand.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>You would be forgiven for considering this obvious, but it is in fact deeply controversial. For many of its supporters a Yes vote bears no relation to nationalism; it is a vote for democracy, fairness, and progress. This is not deceit either. They are not trying to sell nationalism falsely. They believe that their progressive ideals can be best realised through Independence. They are socialists, progressives and radicals, not nationalists. Nonetheless, they have joined a nationalist campaign, justified primarily by implicitly nationalist arguments </p> <p>The Yes campaign is the largest nationalist mobilisation in modern Scottish history and it is bolstered by every Yes supporter. The inability to recognise this prevents the progressive Yeses from seeing the danger ahead.</p> <p><strong>What is nationalism?</strong></p> <p>I should first be clear about what I mean by nationalism or, more importantly, what I do not mean. I do not believe that Yes voters are racist or that they are obsessed with flags or other national imagery, and I do not believe that they hate the English. Some in the Yes camp conform to these crude caricatures but they are a minority. A similarly ugly minority exists for the No campaign. </p> <p>By ‘Scottish nationalism’ I mean the identification with Scotland as a nation and the belief that nationality – only one of the many ways in which human society can be divided and categorised – is the significant one for politics. (I should also state that for many Yes campaigners this conception of the nation is relatively inclusive: many are in favour of immigration and of immigrant rights.)</p> <p>Nationalism makes a lot of sense, and is even progressive, when the nation in question suffers under colonialism or another form of national oppression. For nations where this is not the case nationalism serves to divide working people from their foreign counterparts, with whom their interests are aligned, and unite them with their own exploiters at home – the local rich. </p> <p>Scotland is clearly not oppressed as a nation so Scottish nationalism must be understood as a negative force in society. It emphasises differences between Scots and the rest of the UK and masks the conflicts within Scotland. Sadly, the Yes campaign is a campaign for Scottish nationalism.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Nationalism in the Yes camp</strong></p> <p>The Yes campaign, including YesScotland and its various minor partners, is dominated by overt and implicit nationalism. Overt nationalism, the less common of the two, explicitly references Scotland’s destiny as a nation. One example is the claim that Scotland is oppressed by the United Kingdom and that independence is a form of national liberation. Another is that unionists, by denying Scotland its manifest destiny, are ‘traitors’. This form of nationalism is more common on the fringes of the Yes campaign but it does creep into the mainstream. Last Wednesday <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/sep/10/salmond-scottish-independence-fight-team-scotland-westminster">Salmond declared the referendum a fight between Team Scotland and Team Westminster</a> in a rhetorical flourish that denied the national identity of over two million Scots.</p> <p>Overt nationalism is ugly but not dominant. Implicit nationalism, by contrast, is the guiding force of the overwhelming majority of pro-Independence arguments. This makes it much more pernicious. Implicit nationalism is the idea that Scotland’s problems come from outside Scotland; that Scotland wants to be better and fairer but that it is held back by forces beyond its borders.</p> <p>This is the thrust of the Yes campaign. It is recognisable in almost everything said by Yes supporters. Whether the goal is to defend the NHS or to create a more equal society, the union is always a key, or often the sole, barrier. </p> <p>The inherent nationalism is clear when you remove the nation from the scenario. There are plenty of people across the UK fighting to defend the NHS. Scottish independence represents a scenario in which the Scottish establishment promises to defend the NHS for a minority of people in return for that minority breaking away from the rest. In a labour dispute this would be called ‘scabbing’. And as in a labour dispute the strategy is ultimately futile. Not only is the majority ‘sold out’ (the rest of the UK is then in a weaker position to defend the NHS) but the minority is ultimately weakened by the breaking of these bonds. In the long term, when the NHS is next under threat, the minority section may be unable to defend it alone.</p> <p>By breaking ranks with the rest of the UK’s labour movement and uniting with the Scottish rich, the radical Yes campaigners sell out their comrades and their futures. Taking promises from the Scottish establishment at face value, they accept these concessions to the detriment of their unity and their strength. </p> <p>This is implicit in even the most progressive Yes voters. The Radical Independence Campaign employs the slogan ‘Britain is for the rich, Scotland can be ours’. Even if we take this blind hope in the future of Scotland at face value it still leaves the English, Welsh and Northern Irish working class behind.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>The referendum is not a choice between Scottish and British nationalism</strong></p> <p>The most common rebuttal to this accusation is that the referendum is a competition between British and Scottish nationalism. <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/sep/12/scottish-referendum-too-close-to-call-says-icm-poll">Recent polling</a> showed that 53% of No voters put ‘Feelings about the UK’ as one of their top three motivations, with 41% of Yes voters including ‘Feelings about Scotland’ in theirs. It is certainly true that there are nationalists in the No campaign, and the official Better Together campaign does draw on nationalist imagery, but ultimately a No vote is a vote against a Scottish state, not a vote for Britain. </p> <p>As an analogy, imagine that you had the peculiar belief that the UK and France should merge to create a British-French state. In no sense are you a British nationalist – your life goal is to dissolve the British state into the French. However you are certainly not a Scottish nationalist either. You want Scotland to join the rest of the UK in the French state and see Scottish independence as a huge step backwards for this. Consequently you will vote No. You refuse to support the creation of a Scottish state and do not see a No vote as protecting the British state. You vote No and continue your mission of French-British nationalism. </p> <p>This example is clearly ridiculous. But you can replace French-British nationalism with any other cause that is neither pro-Scottish or pro-British and the result is the same. There certainly are British nationalists in the No camp but overall a No vote is not pro-nationalist. The same cannot be said for the other side, which unambiguously advocates the creation of a Scottish state. In other words, the Yes campaign is inherently nationalistic, the No campaign is ambiguous. </p> <p>Even an argument which on its own terms is fairly internationalist becomes functionally pro-nationalist. For instance the International Socialist Group argues that independence would somehow signify an end to British imperialism, thus making the world a better place for people of oppressed nations everywhere. I have no faith in this argument but it is fair to say that it is not based on nationalism. Nonetheless, the function of the argument is still to push forward the creation of a new state based entirely on national borders. Consequently it contributes to nationalism.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Does it even matter? What’s in a name?</strong></p> <p>The purpose to identifying the nationalism inherent to the Yes campaign is not to throw slurs at its supporters. The majority of Yes campaigners have the noble goal of creating a fairer, more equal society. The great tragedy is that they now see nationalism as the best way to achieve it – although few would put it in those terms. </p> <p>But recognising it as nationalism is crucial for understanding the risks ahead of us. If the referendum returns a Yes vote the fraught negotiations between Westminster and Holyrood will inevitably create further division between Scotland and the rest of the UK. Politicians on each side of the border will have every incentive to get the best possible deal for their constituents, at the expense of their now foreign neighbours. </p> <p>Scotland will continue to face the perils of international capital and its problems will not disappear. But when the left fights for concessions from the Scottish establishment it will start from a weaker place. It will have lost large chunks of support from the rest of the UK’s labour movement – not due to animosity or hatred but because their priorities are no longer aligned. Moreover, it will be all too easy for the Scottish political elite to blame Westminster bullying during the negotiation period and after. This will continue to obscure the conflicts at home, inherent in all capitalist societies. </p> <p>Ultimately nationalism always appears with promises of a better future. But history has repeatedly taught us that it is class unity that creates a fairer world. </p> uk uk Scotland's future James McAsh Wed, 17 Sep 2014 07:31:07 +0000 James McAsh 86050 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Vote Yes for the NHS - independence is the best chance to protect Scotland's NHS https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/caroline-molloy/vote-yes-for-nhs-independence-is-best-chance-to-protect-scotland%27s-nhs <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The NHS has become the burning issue of the Scottish Independence Referendum. OurNHS takes a close look, and finds in favour of the Yes campaign.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="MsoNormal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/Scottish-flag_2109121b.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/Scottish-flag_2109121b.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="288" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>The Tories tell us the NHS is safe in their hands. Labour tells us the NHS - north and south of the border - will be safe in their hands if we re-elect them in 2015. As Scotland considers whether to vote for independence this Thursday, can either be believed?</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Sadly, there are NHS villains in both ranks.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span><strong>NHS villain &nbsp;#1 - Ed Balls</strong></span></p><p class="MsoNormal">We all know that Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls is desperate to avoid talk of a ‘tax bombshell’, so much that he won't promise anything on NHS funding.</p><p class="MsoNormal"> But now we are told Labour Leader Ed Miliband is <em>considering </em><em>standing up to Balls and</em><em> <em>might </em>call </em><em>for</em><em>&nbsp;</em><a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/sep/13/labour-urges-ed-miliband-nhs-health-tax-2015-manifesto">an ‘NHS tax’</a>. </p><p class="MsoNormal">Funnily enough, <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/aug/30/ed-miliband-labour-put-nhs-centre-general-election-campaign">Miliband let this be known</a> just after NHS concerns exploded in the Scottish Referendum debate. Scots were worried that funding cuts in England would affect NHS funding in Scotland, through the ‘Barnett formula’. Health policy is a devolved matter - but health <em>finances</em> are dependent on Westminster decisions.</p><p class="MsoNormal">The <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/sep/15/scottish-nhs-independence-doctors-warn">NHS concerns shoved the ‘Yes’ vote up 8 points</a> practically overnight. </p><p class="MsoNormal">Labour <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/scottish-independence-blog/2014/aug/19/scottish-independence-referendum-campaign-alastair-darling-accused-of-defending-nhs-cuts">tied itself in a pickle</a> for a while. “No” campaign leader Alistair Darling suggested that no-one - <a href="https://twitter.com/BizforScotland/status/502217346199846913/photo/1">not even David Cameron - would dare</a> to damage the English NHS so badly that it would affect Scotland too. Meanwhile <a href="http://www.yesscotland.net/news/why-are-no-campaign-saying-different-things-north-and-south-border">his English colleagues</a> (<a href="http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/home-news/nhs-expert-only-a-yes-will-save-the-health-service-in-scotland-from-westminster-cuts.25192360">and NHS experts</a>) were saying that the Tories were basically dismantling the whole thing. </p><p class="MsoNormal">So what of Labour’s new 'NHS tax' idea? Should that reassure Scots concerned about NHS funding?</p><p class="MsoNormal">Probably not. </p><p class="MsoNormal">So far, Labour has promised us exactly nothing on NHS funding.</p><p class="MsoNormal">A specific NHS-tax is a <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/richard-murphy/%27nhs-tax%27-is-not-answer">silly, regressive, market-centric idea anyway</a>, according to the leading progressive tax expert. A simple income tax rise would make more sense, if necessary. </p><p class="MsoNormal">Scrapping the expensive market that <a href="https://fullfact.org/health/market_national_health_service_costs_commissioning-30961">drains money from the NHS</a> would make even more sense. </p><p class="MsoNormal">(Scotland shows just how much sense. It was revealed last week that hospital administration costs alone are <a href="http://www.commonwealthfund.org/~/media/files/publications/in-the-literature/2014/sep/1773_himmelstein_comparison_hosp_admin_costs_ha_09_2014_itl.pdf">25% less in Scotland</a>, than in England’s marketised tangle of Trusts and private providers, <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/sep/15/nhs-financial-crisis-deficit-1bn-hospitals">most of whom are now in the red</a>.)</p><p class="MsoNormal">The ‘No’ campaign has fought back, desperate to neutralise the NHS issue. </p><p class="MsoNormal">Scotland’s NHS is broke, and independence will just make it broker, they shout, pointing to a planning meeting which mentioned a <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/scottish-independence/scottish-nhs-would-face-450m-black-hole-under-independence-9735541.html">possible </a>£450million funding gap. They conveniently overlook that NHS England has admitted it is heading towards a funding gap <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-23258962">of £30 <em>billion</em></a>, and <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/jul/05/nhs-face-funding-gap-2020">discussing raising charges as a result.</a></p><p class="MsoNormal">The SNP has held down NHS funding rises more than in England, we are told. Yes - because Scotland has stopped wasting bucketloads on market costs (estimated to add £10billion or <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/charles-west/liberal-democrats-health-policy-who-is-rebel-0">maybe considerably more</a> to the cost of the English NHS) and has supported social care far better. And as a result, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/dave-watson/scots-nhs-satisfaction-soars-as-englands-falls">Scottish NHS satisfaction has soared, as England’s has crashed</a>. Aren’t these things we should praise the Scots for? </p><p class="MsoNormal">If all else fails, Scotland can raise its own extra tax for the NHS through the new ‘devo-Max’ offer from Gordon Brown, we are promised. Many doubt if such last-minute promises are to be believed, or if they are likely to be blocked by <a href="http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/a13450f2-3837-11e4-9fc2-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3DTX2KpHV">Tory</a> and <a href="http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/danhodges/100286169/ed-miliband-and-gordon-brown-havent-saved-the-union-but-they-may-have-killed-the-labour-party/">Labour</a> backbenchers. But even if it were true - why should the thrifty Scots have to raise extra taxes, to subsidise the English NHS’s profligate waste of money on turning the NHS into a 'market' for the benefit only <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/andrew-robertson/will-private-interests-of-peers-swell-vote-for-englands-health-bill">of their rich friends</a>?</p><p class="MsoNormal">So ditching the English NHS 'market', and only <em>then</em> raising income tax if necessary, is the answer, for both England and Scotland’s sake.</p><p class="MsoNormal">But who will call for that?</p><p class="MsoNormal">Certainly not Ed Balls, <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/9121141/Labour-team-offered-free-advice-from-top-accountants.html">advised by PWC</a>, the largest health privatisation company on the planet (who have former health secretary and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/caroline-molloy/milburn-nhs-and-britains-revolving-door">New Labour privatisation architect Alan Milburn</a>&nbsp;helping them).</p><p class="MsoNormal">Instead Ed Balls is planning a <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2012/sep/27/labour-public-spending-ed-balls">‘Zero-Based Budget’</a> - meaning basically that no area of public service can be seen as guaranteed after 2015. </p><p class="MsoNormal">When will Balls put his foot down against the ‘NHS tax’ idea? Let’s see…Friday?</p><p class="MsoNormal"><strong>NHS Villain #2 - Sir John Oldham</strong></p><p class="MsoNormal">It’s not just Balls playing the 2015 - Year Zero game which threatens NHS funding both north and south of the border, though.</p><p class="MsoNormal">If you want to know what Labour will do if elected in post 2015, you won’t find much detail in its public pronouncements. </p><p class="MsoNormal">For now, there’s probably nowhere better to look than the <a href="http://www.yourbritain.org.uk/uploads/editor/files/One_Person_One_Team_One_System.pdf">report</a> it commissioned from Sir John Oldham, which it published (<a href="http://press.labour.org.uk/post/78489251971/ed-miliband-article-ahead-of-publication-of-sir-john">with Ed Miliband’s endorsement</a>) a few months back. </p><p class="MsoNormal">Oldham said nothing about restoring the minister’s duty to secure <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/ournhs/brand-new-nhs-reinstatement-bill-from-allyson-pollock-gives-hope-to-campaigners">a fully ‘comprehensive’ health service</a> - a key demand of leading NHS campaigners like Lord Owen and Professor Allyson Pollock. Instead, he recommended more ‘care at home’ and ‘self-care’ (that’s NHS-DIY to you and I). Nor did he say anything much about public provision versus 'markets'. In fact he endorsed, <a href="http://www.sochealth.co.uk/2013/02/24/can-we-learn-something-from-america/">as have others in Labour</a>, the privatised Spanish model, where health &amp; social care provision - and finances - are ‘integrated’ under private management. </p><p class="MsoNormal">And - crucially - Oldham recommended that post-2015, the Labour party take a year zero approach and work with Tories and Lib Dems to comprehensively review ‘the scope of the services provided by, and the future funding of, health and social care’. Music to Ed Balls ears, no doubt.</p><p class="MsoNormal">In other words, nothing about the English NHS is guaranteed. Politicians of all the main parties may promise they’ll NEVER start charging for the NHS - but will they simply redefine the 'scope' of what the NHS actually covers, and start charging for the rest? </p><p class="MsoNormal">Cameron’s chief health advisor comes from Reform, and that’s <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/caroline-molloy/nhs-charges-zombie-policies-walking-into-downing-street">exactly what they suggest</a>.</p><p class="MsoNormal">But Oldham’s report is just one of a number of worrying signs that’s also what Labour might do, too. </p><p class="MsoNormal">For example this month the Kings Fund suggested splitting off some ‘NHS beds’ from ‘NHS care’ and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/caroline-molloy/charge-seriously-ill-patients-for-nhs-beds-proposes-commission">charging for the beds</a>. Andy Burnham said Labour ‘welcomed’ the report. </p><p class="MsoNormal">Burnham often talks a good talk on the NHS. But his big solution always comes back to ‘integrating health and social care budgets’. Common sense perhaps. But the sticking point is that nowadays in England, social care is not universal and free, but hugely <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/marianna-fotaki/who-cares-market-forces-social-care-and-nhs">underfunded, privately paid-for, and privately delivered</a>.</p><p class="MsoNormal">Does Burnham have NHS-saving answers to this sticking point? Or will NHS principles of free, tax-funded, publicly provided, comprehensive care, be sacrificed to a cut-price vision of ‘integration with social care’ that private companies like <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/society/2006/jun/30/health.politics">Kaiser Permanente</a> and Care UK are waiting in the wings to offer?</p><p class="MsoNormal">Burnham has been being asked these questions for a while, and answers aren’t yet forthcoming. </p><p class="MsoNormal">Perhaps he’ll come up with answers at Labour Party Conference - after the Referendum vote. Or perhaps not…</p><p class="MsoNormal"><strong>NHS Villain #3 - Simon Stevens</strong></p><p class="MsoNormal">The new Chief Executive of the English NHS, Simon Stevens, isn’t a great defender of a comprehensive, fully tax-funded, public NHS either. He wrote <a href="http://www.redpepper.org.uk/simon-stevens-undertaker-for-the-nhs/">Blair’s 2000 NHS Plan</a> that first opened up chunks of clinical services to private companies. He then spent a few years as a senior executive at US health conglomerate United Health. </p><p class="MsoNormal">Stevens said shortly before taking over at its helm, that <a href="http://www.reform.co.uk/content/31399/research/health/the_cost_of_our_health_the_role_of_charging_in_healthcare">the tax-funded model of the English NHS was a problem</a>. Now he’s busy coming up with all sorts of wheezes to reduce reliance on central government funding for healthcare, too. His first big policy announcement was to roll out personal budgets across the English NHS. That’s <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/john-lister/time-to-get-even-with-stevens">Thatcherite vouchers</a>, to those with long memories. Stevens’ plan has few real safeguards to prevent cuts and top-up payments from our own pockets, following soon behind.</p><p class="MsoNormal">Again, Labour is all too quiet on Steven’s plans for personal budgets. Ambitious Junior Health Minister Liz Kendall (formerly special advisor to New Labour Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt) <a href="https://twitter.com/leicesterliz/status/461140868267667457">defends</a> them staunchly even in the face of evidence they are <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/peter-beresford/social-care-from-personal-budgets-to-person-centred-policy-and-practice">costly</a> and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/richard-blogger/personal-health-budgets-lead-to-individualism-and-isolation">damaging</a>, and Ed <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/john-lister/ed-miliband-nhs-and-lurch-back-towards-blairism">Miliband</a> seems to be a fan too.</p><p class="MsoNormal">On appointment on 1st April, Stevens gave himself 180 days to consider what radical changes the NHS needed to make. </p><p class="MsoNormal">Will Stevens now echo NHS England’s Chair, Malcolm Grant, who has already suggested that the English NHS is such a mess that post-2015, governments <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/9996541/NHS-chief-says-patients-face-more-charges.html">will have to consider introducing charging</a>, to supplant central NHS funding? Perhaps <a href="http://blogs.bmj.com/bmj/2014/09/12/richard-smith-simon-stevens-chief-executive-of-nhs-england-live/">starting</a> with a few tentative personal budget top ups, employer ‘support’, or separating off luxuries like face to face appointments and hospital beds?</p><p class="MsoNormal">Stevens will share his thoughts with us on 1st October - a couple of weeks after the referendum.</p><p class="MsoNormal"><strong>NHS Villain #4 - John Healey MP</strong></p><p class="MsoNormal">Yes campaigners have suggested that the level and pace of NHS privatisation in England would embroil a non-independent Scotland in an ever-more grasping international health market. They argue that if Scotland was an independent member state, it could exempt itself from existing and forthcoming international trade and competition laws. </p><p class="MsoNormal">Many of the concerns have focused on the <a href="http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(14)61408-2/fulltext?rss=yes">forthcoming EU/US Trade Treaty</a>. Certainly few would have any faith in Cameron’s team to protect our health system from this corporate bonanza. Cameron has refused to ask - as a sovereign state leader could do - for health to be exempted. Lord Livingston told us last week that they <a href="http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/ttip-government-will-not-exclude-nhs-free-trade-agreement-1463454">don’t need to exempt the NHS</a> because it won’t be affected. But Lord Howe gave the game away over the weekend, saying they <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-29181332"><em>have </em>to include health in the dea</a>l, for the sake of Big Pharma.</p><p class="MsoNormal">As for Labour, Burnham has - again - <a href="http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2014/02/andy-burnham-nhs-must-be-exempted-eu-us-free-trade-agreement">talked tough</a>. But <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/linda-kaucher/will-labour-defend-nhs-from-euus-trade-deal">Labour’s response to TTIP</a> is being led not by Burnham but by figures like former shadow health secretary John Healey, who chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group and has led a reassuring charm offensive to campaigners and unions. &nbsp;It’s all great, he reassures us, though experienced trade campaigners see this as ‘<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ournhs/john-hilary/on-ttip-and-nhs-they-are-trying-to-bamboozle-us">bamboozling’</a>. Interestingly, Dennis Skinner’s eviction from Labour’s ruling NEC, which prompted an outcry from traditional Labour supporters, wasn’t anything to do with Skinner himself - they just <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/jul/02/dennis-skinner-labour-national-executive">wanted to make sure Healey was on the NEC</a>. </p><p class="MsoNormal">And it was Labour who negotiated and enacted EU law that begins to wrap our markets up in competition law, as soon as we let private providers in just a little bit. In fact John Healey himself, at the Treasury at the time, helped steer the key 2006 Regulations through. None of this automatically forced the NHS open to competition on either side of the border. But privatisation of the English NHS accelerates towards the tipping point where it will be judged to be a fully-fledged market, no longer allowed to exclude the private sector even if it wanted to. Will it drag a non-independent Scotland with it, with or without the TTIP Trade Treaty? We won’t know until a court challenge comes along - and by then it could be too late.</p><p class="MsoNormal"><strong>NHS Villain #5 - Frances Maude MP</strong></p><p class="MsoNormal">Frances Maude has been quiet since the petrol can debacle. But he’s described as Cameron’s ‘ideological commissar’ for good reason. His Cabinet Office portfolio gives him free range across all public services. He’s essentially Cameron’s closest policy aide. </p><p class="MsoNormal">And he has a plan for the NHS. </p><p class="MsoNormal">Maude wants the NHS - in fact, <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/jul/29/nhs-hospitals-hand-over-mutuals-francis-maude">all public services except the military and police</a> - to <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/caroline-molloy/we-all-already-own-nhs-latest-mutual-spin-is-about-taking-it-out-of-our-hands">leave the tax-funded public sector, and become ‘enterprises’</a>, reliant on raising money as businesses do - from private finance.</p><p class="MsoNormal">The plan is ‘<a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/francis-maude-oakeshott-memorial-lecture-2014">a drug, addictive’</a> to him, he’s said. In August he <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/mutuals-in-health-pathfinder-programme">invited every acute NHS hospital in England</a> to start the process of leaving the tax-funded NHS to become so-called ‘mutuals’, potentially in a ‘joint venture’ with private companies. </p><p class="MsoNormal">New Lanark Mill, this ain’t. Staff support and public consultation are entirely optional. And a City of London-led coalition <a href="http://www.civilsociety.co.uk/finance/news/content/18147/social_impact_bond_fund_attracts_bank_and_pension_funds_as_part_of_25m_investment">including Deutsche Bank</a> has just launched the first ‘social impact bond’, designed to be the funding behind just these sort of plans.</p><p class="MsoNormal">It’s like PFI for public services not just buildings - buy now, pay (over the odds) later.</p><p class="MsoNormal">What does this mean for Scotland? Mortgaging ourselves to the bankers - again - would enable the English government to cut central government expenditure on public services - for a while. Without independence, Scotland’s funding would be cut through the Barnett formula as a result.</p><p class="MsoNormal">Maude has ‘missionary zeal’ for the plan. </p><p class="MsoNormal">He has Cameron’s ear.</p><p class="MsoNormal">And - so far - he has little in the way of opposition from Labour. New Labour stalwart Hazel Blears helped launch the plan. The right-wingers who’ve hijacked the Co-op Party love it. Key Labour leadership figures like Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna and NHS Villain #4 John Healey tell us that our financiers are chastened post-2008. “Good capitalism” through Deutsche Bank style bonds is our best hope for “social investment” now. We can’t seriously expect bankers to pay much tax, but they will <em>loan</em> us the money for public services - if the return is good enough, and their public image is rehabilitated into the bargain.</p><p class="MsoNormal">And this, we are told, is “<a href="http://www.socialenterprise.org.uk/news/political-face-swapa-campaign-confound-politicians-their-return-westminster">Beyond Left or Right</a>”. Westminster was a-chuckle last week to images merging Che Guevara with Margaret Thatcher, Karl Marx with Boris Johnson. It’s all about getting the market and big finance to meet social needs, said the report it advertised. Supposedly left-wing journalists like Zoe Williams popped up to advocate this 'social enterprise' approach as the progressive way forward - labelling those who’d defend genuine public ownership as ‘<a href="https://twitter.com/zoesqwilliams/status/508966514288914437">orthodox’</a> and ‘<a href="https://twitter.com/zoesqwilliams/status/508965185751498753">myopic’</a>, even as privatisations failures become increasingly apparent. Actual public ownership is just so last century, we are told.</p><p class="MsoNormal">Will there be a reaction against such piffle at the Labour Party Conference following the referendum? A resurgence of proper Clydeside-style socialism? It seems unlikely. The Labour Conference programme is littered with fringes extolling just this sort of third way, so-called ‘good capitalism’ model for public services. </p><p class="MsoNormal">This spin surfaced not long after the 2008 crash. Though its spinners obviously forgot to brief the City bankers (from Deutsche Bank, funnily enough) who <a href="https://twitter.com/chunkymark/status/511153534130466816/photo/1">waved banknotes to taunt nurses and doctors</a> marching against Cameron’s NHS Act a couple of years back. </p><p class="MsoNormal">It’s a spin entirely alien to most Scots, who mostly rejected Thatcherite ideology and held fast to the principles of social solidarity and sensible collectivism.</p><p class="MsoNormal">Actually it’s a spin pretty alien to most English people too - 4 out of 5 of whom want the NHS, the railways, the power companies and the water board, properly renationalised, not this faintly pink response. </p><p class="MsoNormal">But - unlike the Scots - we don’t have a chance to escape Westminster’s City-dominated rule on Thursday.</p><p class="MsoNormal">Labour loyalists cite <a href="http://cliveefford.org.uk/2014/07/07/clive-presents-bill-to-save-nhs/">Clive Efford MP’s private members bill</a> as addressing some of the NHS concerns - but there is no detail on that bill, even if it had much chance of becoming law. Will it do enough to stave off the fragmentation - much of it introduced by Labour - that increasingly exposes the English NHS to the quagmire of competition law and threatens to do the same to Scotland? Will it do enough to stop the NHS being saddled with market costs so expensive that the English NHS is increasingly talking about introducing charging, running a railroad through the Barnett formula funding? </p><p class="MsoNormal">Efford hasn’t shared his work on his bill with NHS campaigners, we won’t know until after the referendum. </p><p class="MsoNormal">If I lived in Scotland, I wouldn’t take the gamble.</p><p><span>I’d vote yes on Thursday to protect the Scottish NHS.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><em><strong><span>Like this piece? Please donate to OurNHS&nbsp;</span></strong></em><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/donate" target="_blank"><strong><span>here&nbsp;</span></strong></a><em><strong><span>to help keep us producing the NHS stories that matter.&nbsp;Thank you.</span></strong></em><strong><em><span></span></em></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/linda-kaucher/will-labour-defend-nhs-from-euus-trade-deal">Will Labour defend the NHS from the EU/US trade deal?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ournhs/caroline-molloy/nhs-charges-zombie-policies-walking-into-downing-street">NHS charges - the Zombie policies walking into Downing Street?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> ourNHS uk ourNHS EU/US Free Trade Charging and insurance Privatisation Scotland Scotland's future Caroline Molloy Tue, 16 Sep 2014 11:39:26 +0000 Caroline Molloy 86022 at https://www.opendemocracy.net To Scotland, vote with an open heart and a clear head https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/anthony-painter/to-scotland-vote-with-open-heart-and-clear-head <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Good luck on Thursday Scotland. Vote with an open heart and a clear head. Dismiss exaggerated risks and understand the real ones, and we'll see you as you emerge from the polling booth.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Scotland has been deluged with instructions about what to vote in the last week. With one or two peculiar exceptions, the promises of Pyongyang being particularly of note, these interventions have been more tinged by self than Scottish interests. My interests are obvious. The short-term economic risk and diminished global stature of the UK are clearly not in my interests as an Englishman in London. Of course I'd prefer a no vote on that basis. </p><p>However, this referendum is not mine, it is Scotland's. And that is precisely as it should be. It is for people to decide their own destiny. It's not as if my voice doesn't count. In fact, there has been a thoroughly brutal and orchestrated articulation of my voice - let's call them 'the forces of hell'. The notion that my interests have not been articulated is absurd. The entire British state has been articulating them. So you don't need to hear yet another projection of what are actually my interests being dressed up as if that were synonymous with Scotland's interests. Instead, I'm going to do something rather different. I'm not going to tell you, as has usually been the case, in a patronising fashion, what to vote. Instead, I'm going to humbly suggest how you might go about voting: the considerations you might make as you head to vote on Thursday.<br /><br />If you feel firmly British and value the British state then you know how you are going to vote. Conversely, if you feel that Scotland should have an independent voice that will emerge from a new set of Scottish institutions then your choice is equally obvious. However, many will be voting out of an uncertain sense of genuine desire to make the best choice for their country and their family's well-being. The answer here is not so clear.<br /><br />Let's just get something out of the way at the beginning. Both campaigns have been incredibly dishonest at times. It is important to recognise that. The Yes campaign has wished away real economic and fiscal risks and has tried to scare you about the future of the NHS on a very thin basis indeed. If you stay in the union, the NHS will not be privatised unless you wish it to be. If you leave, the establishment of a new set of economic institutions will be tested in global markets. There is likely to be some turbulence. And yes, there will be austerity and, in the short term, it is likely to be more severe than if you remain in the UK. You will be able to tax in a different way however which may limit the impact on public spending in a way that the current UK government refuses to do. These will be your choices - albeit very constrained - and they will be tough ones.<br /><br />So not all the warnings of the 'No' campaign should be written off just because of the manner in which they have been stated. For all its distortions and occasional ugliness, the Yes campaign emerges from this referendum with much more credit. It has the feel of a truly democratic and pluralistic movement. In itself it constitutes a democratic awakening. Like any pluralistic movement, it has its lunatic fringe. But in essence, it is an expression of a people of rich cultural diversity and has had the ability to inspire and engage. It is the type of democratic movement that has not been seen in the UK for generations. Westminster democracy does not inspire such hope and self-expression. That is one reason why we should all hope that the current model of Westminster democracy and the political factions who occupy it have had their day.<br /><br />It is really difficult to know where to begin with the 'No' campaign. By this, I don't mean those who are doing their best on a day to day basis to give voice to an important and legitimate pro-union voice- they deserve enormous credit. I mean the wider nexus of the politically powerful, the UK media, and big business that has come together to defend the union. Let's call it what it is: British nationalism. If you think the only nationalists in this debate are on the 'Yes' side then look again. British nationalism has a long history and it is willing to use the full array of non-violent state means to protect itself. That is exactly what we have seen.<br /><br />This has meant that a currency union that has a better than 50 per cent chance of being formed has been rejected as impossible. The Governor of the Bank of England has made a series of nuanced and carefully crafted public statements that he has allowed to be presented as insurmountable obstacles to union (when he clearly states that it is a political decision). A union will need a fiscal pact and common banking rules. But the same retail companies who were in No.10 Downing Street to coordinate their attack on independence the other day would be in there soon after arguing in favour of currency union. Without a rapid agreement, market volatility will soon force the hand of the UK Government to agree a currency arrangement with Scotland pretty rapidly.<br /><br />Questioning of the British state has been devilishly reinterpreted as anti-English ethnic nationalism. Alex Salmond and Nigel Farage have been presented as two of a kind despite the fact that one is a bona fide separatist with a xenophobic outlook and the other wishes to join a transnational currency union, the EU, increase immigration and enter into a series of international arrangements. The British media has been hopelessly skewed and largely hysterical. Big business has gone into No.10 to effectively engage in collusion and price-fixing and the competition authorities have simply turned a blind eye. Maybe they don't take the threats seriously. On reflection, they are probably right not to.<br /><br />The tragic element of 'project fear' has been the engagement of the Labour Party in a style of campaigning that has now legitimised precisely the type of attack it fears will aimed at Ed Miliband next May. Labour will have no political or moral defence when the same forces are aimed straight at it in the General Election. <br /><br />Labour will pay an enormous price for this campaign: win or lose. If it's a no, then moves towards greater devolution in Scotland will have gathered such force. However, unlike in 1997, these demands will not be seen in isolation. This time, the Tories will extract a price. The number of Scottish MPs will be reduced and there will be new English parliamentary arrangements. Both are likely to be to Labour's disadvantage. Moreover, a good chunk of the 40 per cent or so of 2010 Labour voters that ICM has found to be backing 'yes' are likely to remain with the SNP. Labour's defeat in Holyrood could well spread to Westminster. The SNP will argue that only their voice can be trusted to keep further devolution on the agenda. So Labour's slow decline in Scotland is now likely to gather pace. Victory is costly.<br /><br />None of this can hide the fact that the 'no' campaign does have some absolutely legitimate points about risk and uncertainty. You should not pay too much attention to forecasts of what may happen in 2025 or 2050. The point about independence is that it will set Scotland on a very different (and post-oil) trajectory. There are no forecasts that can take account of these policy and institutional changes so anything beyond the five year timeframe should be pretty much ignored. The short-term risks are very real. You won't be precipitating a depression by voting Yes but there will be tough decisions and volatility post-2016.<br /><br />Can Scotland make a go of it? Sure, but it won't be easy. The case of Slovakia might be instructive post-independence. They found the going tough early on but then made a lot of the right choices and came to prosper more than its Czech neighbour. If Scotland made the right choices (though very different choices to the post-Communist Slovakia) after independence then it might go that way. <br /><br />Absolutely nothing is certain either way. It all comes down to a simple test: can you vote in a way that your heart and a clear head are aligned? If so, that is the right choice whether that is yes or no.<br /><br />All I will say is this, if you vote yes I will argue passionately that the UK should be generous to Scotland on its independence journey. So much of what we have built together is remarkable. We owe you. That will always be there. I've grown to love Scotland over the last few years. You have contributed so much and you continue to be an inspiration. Our separation must be an amicable one; an example to the world. And if you stay, I will argue equally passionately that more power should be yours. Good luck on Thursday. We'll be waiting for you on the other side. Keep your head clear and your heart in tow.</p> uk uk Scotland's future Anthony Painter Tue, 16 Sep 2014 08:44:22 +0000 Anthony Painter 86011 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Broadcasting and the referendum https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourbeeb/david-elstein/broadcasting-and-referendum <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm;">Claire Enders, the redoubtable media analyst, has taken a pasting today from over one hundred Guardian readers angered by her pessimistic <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/media/media-blog/2014/sep/14/scottish-independence-broadcasting-impartiality">prognosis for Scottish media</a>, should “yes” prevail on Thursday.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>In The Guardian today, Claire Enders (a welcome regular at openDemocracy broadcasting discussions) is scathing about the SNP, and about the Scottish Government’s White Paper proposals for re-shaping broadcasting after September 18th (the plans are “fantasy” she says), should independence be supported in the referendum. She forecasts harm to the BBC and Channel 4, the creation of a Scottish Broadcasting Service that lacks UK public broadcasting traditions of impartiality and independence, difficulty of access to existing BBC services for Scottish viewers and listeners, being cut off from the BBC i-Player, higher mobile and fixed-line telephony costs, and damage to the quality of life, the economy and democracy in Scotland.</p> <p>Quite why Scotland’s size should prevent the emergence of a strong independent media sector, when that does not apply to, say, Eire, is not immediately evident: especially in the context of Claire’s regular calls for wholesale reform of regulation of UK media (calls that presume their strength and independence are in question). On newspapers, The Guardian published in parallel to Claire a mildly optimistic scenario, <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/media/media-blog/2014/sep/14/scottish-independence-boost-declining-press-newspapers">from Iain Macwhirter</a>. On broadcasting, I am confident Claire is wrong.</p> <p>As I have previously shown (“<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/david-elstein/broadcasting-for-scotland">Broadcasting for Scotland</a>”, September 18th 2013 and “<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourbeeb/david-elstein/bbc-and-scottish-referendum">The BBC and the Scottish Referendum</a>”, August 22nd 2014), Scotland is currently poorly served in return for its £320 million annual contribution to the BBC, 93% of whose output is produced in England. Claire mocks the notion of a “joint venture” between the BBC and the planned Scottish Broadcasting Service (“what could a nation of five million produce?”), but I think she misunderstands the concept.</p> <p>The SBS would take over what BBC Scotland currently provides (at a cost less than a tenth of the Scottish provision of licence fees), trebling the amount spent, and broadening the range of content generated so as to fill dedicated TV and radio channels. This is substantially what the bi-partisan Scottish Broadcasting Commission recommended five years ago (in other words, this is not some kind of SNP broadcasting system). </p> <p>In return for taking over the bulk of the BBC’s physical and personnel assets in Scotland after independence (which would otherwise remain as a substantial cost to the BBC with no realistic benefit), plus modestly increased levels of programme commissioning from Scotland and an annual payment of perhaps £50-70 million (much more than, say, Eire pays for BBC content), Scotland would make it worthwhile for the BBC to continue to provide its own network channels (TV and radio) in Scotland. This would save the BBC wasting £30-40 million a year on a terrestrial transmission system to which it is contractually committed for many years.</p> <p>Given that there is no benefit to Scotland from the BBC’s decision four years ago to accept the obligation to fund S4C, BBC World Service, BBC Monitoring, local TV stations that are nearly all in England and broadband roll-out that primarily serves England, this would not be a bad outcome for the BBC, with a net cost trivial in the context of its £5 billion annual income. As for Channel 4, far from it withering away in Scotland, the likelihood is that ownership of it would be shared between the two states (the rest of the UK and Scotland), leading to a significant – but proportionate – increase in the amount of content commissioned from Scotland. </p> <p>Claire’s worries about the ability of an SBS “to match the traditions of impartiality and independence of the BBC” triggered a deluge of abuse in the comments posted on her article, not least because many “yes” supporters have a distinctly jaundiced view of BBC Scotland’s output, and were demonstrating outside the BBC’s offices only today in protest at alleged bias in BBC network coverage of the referendum campaign. What had particularly annoyed them was political editor Nick Robinson’s report last week – given great prominence on national news bulletins – that the Royal Bank of Scotland would move its headquarters to England in the event of a “yes” vote. </p> <p>Even 12 hours after the bank’s chief executive had explained that such a technical move would have minimal impact on operations and jobs, the “story” still led BBC One’s News at Ten. Remarkably, the BBC’s economics editor, Robert Peston, seemed to share Alex Salmond’s suspicion that Robinson had been suckered by a Treasury press release, which led him to report a decision by RBS well before the bank’s board had finished its meeting to discuss the matter, and to pre-empt, whilst the markets were still closed, the bank’s own announcement of what was potentially a market-sensitive matter.</p> <p>Claire seems to believe that, after independence, Scottish politics will still be dominated by a party advocating independence, which will in turn try to control the media. I suspect that post-independence issues will steadily return to centre stage, with traditional political divisions re-asserting themselves. But let us also remember that it took the BBC decades to wean itself from taking a lead from the powers that be: Churchill was kept off the air in the 1930s because the Conservative leadership so insisted; likewise, Enoch Powell for much of the 1960s and 1970s. It is hard to understand why the BBC has resolutely refused to engage in advance with the Scottish government on post-referendum arrangements, other than at the behest of Westminster: a “yes” vote will leave it heavily exposed, running financial risks which might yet force it to seek post-referendum emergency funding to plug the holes in its service budgets and its pension fund.</p> <p>Even a “no” vote – if it genuinely leads to Gordon Brown’s promised home rule – will surely force a revision of the broadcasting arrangements for Scotland, with an outcome not dissimilar from the one that a “yes” vote would bring about. Coverage of Scottish news would be entirely devolved to Scottish hands, with the main news bulletins constructed locally, whilst still retaining access to the BBC’s output. For those Scots long bewildered by the BBC banging on about issues in education, health or the legal system that are irrelevant to Scotland, this would be a blessed relief. Dedicated Scottish channels would be financed. Of course, the SBS would go through the inevitable teething problems, and might have to fight to assert its editorial independence from Holyrood: but that it would represent a considerable advance on the position of BBC Scotland (controlled, like all other BBC outposts, from London) cannot be doubted.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourbeeb/david-elstein/bbc-and-scottish-referendum">The BBC and the Scottish referendum</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/david-elstein/broadcasting-for-scotland">Broadcasting for Scotland</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/blog/ourkingdom-theme/tom-griffin/2008/06/19/broadcasting-britishness">Broadcasting Britishness</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> OurBeeb OurBeeb uk Scotland's future David Elstein Tue, 16 Sep 2014 08:27:10 +0000 David Elstein 86010 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Scotland's future in Europe: taming the paper tiger https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/alyn-smith/scotland%27s-future-in-europe-taming-paper-tiger <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The real risk to Scotland's place in the EU comes from Westminster, UKIP and the Tories. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Flag-Pins-Scotland-European-Union.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Flag-Pins-Scotland-European-Union.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="400" height="320" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>Scotland stands on the brink of a big decision. On the 18th of September, we face a straightforward choice. Do we want to govern our own affairs, to take our own choices and pursue our own political course, or should we leave power in Westminster’s hands? Across this country, from Assynt to Roxburgh, Oban to Peterhead, folk are asking basic questions about the kind of nation Scotland should be, debating passionately about the values which should undergird it. That’s an electrifying conversation, but I’ve been increasingly struck by two stories which have been largely missing from it, with one thing in common: Europe. </p><p>As the referendum comes to its final week, voters in Scotland should spare a moment to think about the two European futures offered by a Yes or a No vote, and the risks and opportunities on both sides. Scotland seeks to remain a constructive, realistic and cooperative EU state. Cameron’s hopelessly muddled and misconceived UK “renegotiation” seeks to trade away fundamental principles of the common market. If that is the price of Britain’s continuing membership of the EU, it is an unrealistic one. As members of David Cameron’s own party are increasingly recognising, EU renegotiation is a slogan not a policy. Press any member of the UK government on the reforms they want implemented and the powers that they want to repatriate: only hot air, vague ideas and big feelings. </p><p>The UK Government’s extensive balance of competencies review, analysing the United Kingdom’s relationship with Europe across the portfolios and department of government, is a mapping exercise, not a meaningful roadmap for reform. Cameron’s real audience isn’t the powerbrokers in Brussels, but his own increasingly restless tribe of backbenchers. The European Union is not perfect. I have, throughout my two terms as MEP, pushed relentlessly for reform to cut out wasteful spending, and to bring the European institutions closer to the people whom they represent. We can do better. </p><p>But EU renegotiation is a defensive holding position, deferring the day when Cameron meets his Waterloo, not on the fields of Belgium, but against his parliamentary colleagues in London. And they sense what I sense: Cameron’s commitment to reform isn’t serious, isn’t detailed, isn’t reasoned. It’s a shadow-puppet play of feelings and baseless suspicions. Even the dogs in the street know that these “better off out” </p><p>berserkers won’t be allayed by tinkering, won’t be coaxed into peace by paper promises and vague commitments. David Cameron isn’t Harold Wilson, and his colleagues won’t wear Wilsonian tricks. They want fundamental principles of European Union law varied and abrogated. </p><p>Free movement of persons has been at the heart of the Union and Community since its inception. On the current evidence, Cameron’s backbenchers won’t rest unless it has been gutted, pulling the Union inside out, dumping one of the Union’s historic gains. This isn’t going to happen – not by 2017, not any time soon – and it is time to stop giving Cameron the free pass which the paper tiger of “EU renegotiation” is designed to achieve. Scots can’t wait till 2017. They’re making up their minds now. The solitary check on Britain crashing out of the EU is David Cameron’s promised, unrealistic renegotiation. Can Scotland take that risk? Can we leave these matters to the balance of UK public opinion, harried relentlessly, as it will be, by the misinformation of the Eurosceptic media, and under fire from senior members of the UK government? </p><p>The unreality of these renegotiation proposals makes Brexit odds on, and that is a risk Scots voting next Thursday cannot afford to ignore. If Scots vote No, I stand ready, with every argument, to make the positive case for our membership of the EU, but I am not optimistic. It is becoming increasingly clear that the biggest risk to Scotland’s EU membership is not independence, but continuing Union. If Scotland votes in favour of independence, a radically different future opens up, on a new and better trajectory. </p><p>With my colleagues, I’ll be fighting with every fibre to get the best deal for Scotland. Unlike David Cameron, however, our demands are reasonable and realistic. Like Ireland, we will seek an opt-out from Schengen to retain the common travel area with the United Kingdom, to ensure folk are able to move and work freely in these islands, reflecting out shared social union. Like Denmark, we will seek to retain our own currency – the pound, either through a formal opt-out or, like Sweden, de facto. Nobody can force Scotland to use the euro. Again, this is not an exorbitant demand, but a common-sense position reflecting our history and our shared economic ties with our southern partners. It underlines the fact that independence is not about separation, but about finding new ways to work together. </p><p>The small print of Scotland’s EU membership is important. But all that small print is ash if we’re dragged out of Europe, altogether, in 2017. That isn’t a remote risk, but a foreseeable one, and it can’t be firewalled from the independence campaign. Friends of Europe in Scotland must get real. People cannot ignore the threat which this UK government represents to the stability and security of the lives of our European neighbours and friends who call this country home. </p><p>Our critics sometimes imply that only Scottish interests are engaged in our continuing EU membership, and we can’t rely on any of our European neighbours to look sympathetically on our case. But look again. As part of the United Kingdom, Scotland has been involved in this Union since the 1970s. With the Maastricht Treaty’s new emphasis on the rights of European citizens, Scots have enthusiastically exercised their the rights to move freely to criss-cross this continent, living, working, loving, setting up businesses, raising industries and families. Europe has repaid the compliment, and today, some 160,000 EU nationals call Scotland home. Quite rightly, all of them have the opportunity to cast their ballots on Scotland’s future. Your identity is a matter for you. I say, and we say, that the people who live and work here are part of us, and part of our future. </p><p>We can’t take the risk of leaving our European affairs in Westminster’s hands. It breaks my heart, on the doorstep, to meet families from Poland, Spain and Germany, worried about their future, worried that they will be required to leave the Scottish communities they know and love. With independence, I could reassure them, tell them with confidence that their place as part of this nation is secure, that they are a valued, welcome part of our lives. And from the No campaign? Only the lie that they will have to pack up their families and head home, in the utterly unrealistic scenario that we are frozen out of the European Union with independence. As a campaigning strategy, this is beyond contempt. As a statement of law and policy, it is illiterate. </p><p>Another overlooked story in this campaign is the future of human rights in this country. With independence, we have the opportunity draft out own constitution, and to protect fundamental rights and civil liberties from government power. As the Scottish Government have rightly recognised, this is a task not for politicians, but for the people. It is a task well within the awakened powers of the great generation of stimulated, </p><p>energetic citizens which the referendum has produced. If the referendum represents a chance to choose what kind of future we want, then the constitution represents a chance to set down that vision permanently in ink. I wish it was otherwise, but a No vote, by contrast, suggests a much gloomier future for human rights in these islands. </p><p>With undimming enthusiasm, and without embarrassment, the inner circle of Cameron’s cabinet are ratcheting up their baseless attacks on the European Convention and Court of Human Rights. Britain loses a tiny proportion of our cases, much lower than the Council of Europe average, but less than a handful of losses a year is presented by Chris Grayling, Theresa May – and even former Labour Lord Chancellor, Jack Straw – as arrogant interference with our internal affairs. Cameron’s senior colleagues are denouncing the Convention on the basis of a fairy-tale, and they don’t even have the good grace to blush about it. </p><p>The Convention has been good for Scotland, good for Britain, and good for Europe. In the 1970s, Jeff Dudgeon was arrested in Belfast, his house and life pulled apart by the police, on suspicion of what was then called “homosexual offences”, in the language of the law of the day. Scotland had repealed these unjust, discriminatory laws just a year before. Now, across Europe, they are prohibited. In 2001, the European Court finally forced the UK government to recognise the dignity and humanity of our transgender citizens, requiring that their official documents reflect their lived identities, ending the decades long injustice and humiliation. </p><p>The European Court called the shameful behaviour meted out to suspects by the British security forces in Northern Ireland what it was: inhuman and degrading treatment and a scandal in a country, committed to justice and the rule of law. More recently, its judges have put a cap on when and for how long the state can keep your DNA, limiting the power of government to interfere disproportionately in our private lives and our bodily integrity. The Court also stands against the deportation of anybody to countries where they are likely to be subject to torture, mistreatment, and the flagrant denial of injustice. This has been denounced by senior members of Cameron’s team and an increasingly bold Eurosceptic media as an arrogant and unwelcome interference in our internal affairs. But what serious-minded, ethical person could seriously endorse the idea, and </p><p>turn a blind eye to such wrongs? David Cameron told us, taking office, that he would adopt a moral foreign policy. What sort of morality is this? </p><p>Theresa May has her frivolous cheerleaders in the media, but from a perspective of ordinary humanity, this is a disgusting, irresponsible statement of policy, and it pains me to see that it is well on its way to becoming the UK government’s official line. Are the lessons of the illiberalism and the inhumanity of the Second World War so easily forgotten? In Westminster, in the grip of this fever, it seems sadly so. The lesson for Scots is simple: your human rights are no longer safe in Westminster’s hands. On the European Convention, there is no serious talk of renegotiation from the Tories for a very simple reason: there are no sweetheart deals to be struck on the repudiation of fundamental principles of justice and the rule of law. Nor should there be. </p><p>Scotland stands ready to be a constructive participant in the European Union, taking its place in the family of nations, working for shared security and prosperity, nimbly pursuing its interests through a respectful and realistic dialogue. We say to the EU citizens who have made Scotland their home, you are welcome here, not the suspect and resented class Westminster too often takes you for. Scotland has the opportunity to uphold human rights rather than misrepresenting, denigrating and undermining them. The United Kingdom, by contrast, is increasingly dancing to unreasoning, unrealistic UKIP tune, failing to promote our interests, inching ever closer to the exit door, shamefully slandering modest attempts to extend the rights and protections of vulnerable people across this great continent. Those are our two futures in Europe. I know which one I’ll be voting for on September the 18th. </p> uk uk Scotland's future Alyn Smith Mon, 15 Sep 2014 09:36:00 +0000 Alyn Smith 85977 at https://www.opendemocracy.net After Scotland decides: build citizen-centred democracy throughout Britain https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/rebecca-johnson-rupert-read/after-scotland-decides-build-citizencentred-democracy-through <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Regardless of the outcome of the Scots vote, we must seize this chance to reimagine the constitutional order of these isles.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>On Thursday, Scotland will vote. Suddenly Nigel Farage is all over the news saying the English are getting a raw deal and should get a <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/sep/12/nigel-farage-ukip-english-ignored-scottish-referendum">‘constitutional settlement of their own’</a>. &nbsp;As former and current Co-Convenors of Compass Greens, it’s unsurprising that we’ve been discussing and circulating ideas for a new social and constitutional compact. Unlike the UKIP demand for a federal UK based on Little England as a fortress outside the European Union, Greens and progressives should seize this historic moment to argue for a new constitutional and democratic compact, with electoral reform, including proportional representation for both houses of parliament, greater participatory democracy in the regions, and a written constitution with a citizens bill of rights.&nbsp; </p> <p>If Scotland votes yes, they will go ahead and forge a new constitution, with all that that implies. The rest of the UK ‘rUK’ should seize that opportunity to initiate a People’s Constitutional Convention and work out the solutions we need south of the border, preferably in parallel and constructive cooperation as Scotland&nbsp; develops a new constitution by March 2016, and in accordance with the Edinburgh Agreement. If it’s a No vote, the momentum must not be lost for all UK citizens to promote a new social and democratic compact through a genuinely participatory People’s Constitutional Convention.</p> <p>The independence debate in Scotland has served to expose the much deeper crisis of democracy in the UK as a whole. We can no longer turn a blind eye to the declining levels of voter-turnout, and the mass of people that agreed with <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-24648651">Russell Brand</a> when he told Newsnight last October that he hadn’t ever voted because “the UK's political system has created a ‘disenfranchised, disillusioned underclass’ that it fails to serve’. When 22 percent of people in Hackney vote Green, as happened in the May elections for the council, without getting a single Party councillor, you have to admit this is a major democratic deficit.&nbsp; </p> <p>Many people, not only in Scotland but in significant parts of the rest of the UK, have been left feeling unrepresented, neglected and alienated by Westminster politicies and politics. As well as Scotland, all of us in the UK need to rethink our democracy, institutions and role in the world. Whatever happens in Scotland, it must now be clear that it is impossible and unacceptable for the dominant political parties to carry on business as usual with a Westminster parliament elected by ‘first past the post’.</p> <p>People throughout the British Isles need to be empowered further, in a way that has not happened, perhaps because we are supposed to be ‘subjects’ rather than citizens. Many of the issues raised in the Scottish independence debate mirror the deep and growing concerns felt in Wales, Northern Ireland and many English regions about rising inequality, rural and city-centre impoverishment, inadequate representation by London, and other serious democratic deficits. We also need to address how young people are especially alienated from political processes and do not feel that democratic rights and responsibilities belong to them. In taking up the challenges of democratic reform and a new social compact with a written constitution, our aim – unlike that of UKIP – is to bring British political institutions and democracy into the 21st century so that we can all become more engaged and responsible in tackling the serious social, economic and environmental challenges we face.</p> <p>The basic elements that would need to be negotiated include (but not limited to): </p> <p>- Electoral reform - including proportional representation for Westminster parliamentary seats, and a reformed Second Chamber to replace the anomalous House of Lords.&nbsp; Electoral reform must include the right of constituents to hold MPs accountable and recall them if necessary. Party and election funding need to be reformed, to regulate and fairly apportion expenditure by candidates in local, national, regional and European Union (EU) elections, including advertising and paid media. More broadly, democratic reform should include mechanisms to increase participation and representation of under-represented genders and communities. </p> <p>- Systems of patronage and influence-peddling must be eliminated, so that political parties and candidates are clearly independent of financial pressure from special interests, especially international business.&nbsp; </p> <p>- Local government elections should be in accordance with proportional representation. Local governments should have enhanced powers to rein in harmful business activity affecting local resources, environment, housing and amenities, protect local areas, interests and services, and tackle corruption. These powers need to be established legally and protected from corporate and other forms of financial or political bullying including bribery and the abuse of legal and court processes to suppress information or silence debate, protest and local representatives. In this regard, though we continue to support Britain’s membership of the European Union, we must challenge and oppose EU initiatives that are against the needs of European citizens, such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), between the EU and US, which would – if agreed by the EU – hand enormous legal and political power to US and multinational corporations to ride roughshod over our public services, environment, local business interests, and local democratic decision-making and agencies working to protect public health, agriculture and food standards.</p> <p>- Democracy needs to be enhanced locally and regionally as well as in Westminster. Citizens need to be involved in new deliberative, participatory and decision-making democratic processes and fora.&nbsp; </p> <p>- Regional representation and autonomy should be increased, for example through directly-elected regional assemblies. While the details would be worked out through consultations and negotiations, regional assemblies could perhaps be based on the constituencies used for European Parliament elections. It will be up to people living in Wales to decide if they wish to turn the Welsh Assembly into a parliament at this stage or continue with the current structure.</p> <p>- In considering how best to reform the Second Chamber and make it more democratic and representative, options for consideration should include direct elections or some form of ‘Senate of the Regions’. Direct elections would make sense on a regional basis, ensuring a relationship of accountability and representation with the relevant regional assemblies. &nbsp;</p> <p>These are initial ideas for discussion and consideration. Any viable option that enhances legislative effectiveness, accountability and participatory democracy across Britain should be considered.</p> <p>Irrespective of where you stand on the question of Scottish independence, it has been inspiring to see how the referendum has engaged and energised people from all walks of life in considering – and in many cases arguing for – the kind of country they want. From the newly enfranchised 16 year olds (and their younger sisters and brothers) to ninety-year old pensioners in corner shops, pubs and care homes, people in Scotland are passionately discussing the pros and cons of the momentous choice they face. Their debates are what democracy should be about. The Yes advocates have not just been talking about ‘independence’, but about what they would do differently if Scotland becomes independent – like prioritising social needs, strengthening NHS provision, affordable education and housing, and abolishing nuclear weapons, first from their territory and then joining with other governments to ban and eliminate them worldwide, and much, much more. And the No side has belatedly realised that they can’t win on fear-mongering but need also to argue for the kind of changes Scotland needs… hence the late offers from Gordon Brown and others of ‘Devo-Max’. If that shifts the outcome to No, then what is needed has to be more than a federal UK, such as UKIP proposes, or more devolution, as the Lib Dems advocate.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>After 18 September, whatever the outcome, the UK (or rUK) needs to initiate a process for a a People’s Constitutional Convention to take up the challenges that can no longer be swept under a UK carpet. If the Scottish people’s inclusive passionate debates about their future have shown “how politics can be done when a proper invitation and opening is made”, <a href="http://www.compassonline.org.uk/scotland-a-light-that-will-never-go-out/">as noted</a> by Compass Chair Neal Lawson, then a People’s Constitutional Convention must not only make “demands the political class can ignore” – it has to “build a movement to deliver on them”. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Thank you Scotland for opening up the space and creating this long overdue opportunity to reinvigorate democracy in the British Isles!</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong><em><span>OurKingdom doesn’t have a billionaire proprietor telling us what to write - we rely on donations from readers like you. </span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/donate"><span>Please support us</span></a><span> if you can.</span></em></strong></p> uk uk Scotland's future Rupert Read Rebecca Johnson Mon, 15 Sep 2014 08:03:24 +0000 Rebecca Johnson and Rupert Read 85915 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Wales side-lined by Scottish referendum debate https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-osmond/wales-sidelined-by-scottish-referendum-debate <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Welsh are feeling adrift and driven by currents flowing from north of the border</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/senedd.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/senedd.jpg" alt="" title="" width="272" height="185" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>the Welsh Assembly building - wikimedia</span></span></span></p><p>Conflicted views in Wales about the Scottish referendum were perfectly encapsulated by First Minister Carwyn Jones’ response to George Osborne’s belated promise of Devo Max if there is a No vote next Thursday. "Whatever further devolution is offered to Scotland must also be offered to Wales and Northern Ireland," he announced on twitter.</p> <p lang="en-US">However, he immediately followed that up with the qualification that full control of income tax – something the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats want to give the Scottish Parliament if there is a No vote - would definitely not be in Wales' interests. </p> <p>George Osborne’s intervention was, of course, in response to the first poll of the campaign suggesting a narrow lead for the Yes camp, something which would be Labour’s worst nightmare, particularly in Wales.</p> <p>For the brutal fact confronting all Welsh politicians, of whatever colour, is that under current funding arrangements Wales, unlike Scotland, is heavily subsidised by England. In broad terms total public expenditure in Wales, whether by Whitehall or the Welsh Government in Cardiff Bay, is of the order of £30 billion, of which only about £18 billion is raised within Wales. The balance, around £12 billion, comes in a subsidy – what the economists deftly call a fiscal transfer – from the rest of the UK (mainly England) to Wales.</p> <p>This is why independence is not on the Welsh agenda in remotely the same way as it is in Scotland. It is also why Carwyn Jones felt obliged to provide the following nuanced qualification to his initially bold stance in demanding for Wales whatever was being offered to No voting Scots:</p> <p lang="en-US"> "We must be wary of taking new powers that carry a significant cost without a transfer of resources. The method and structure of devolution should be the same across the UK, even if the devolved powers may be different. We need to assess carefully what is in Wales' best interest. Devolution of welfare and full income tax devolution would not be."</p> <p>But for Wales, just as for England and Northern Ireland, the even remote possibility that Scotland might vote Yes has changed the political dynamic. For the moment at least constitutional change is on the agenda in a way it hasn't been since the referendum that established the National Assembly seventeen years ago, in September 1997. Wall to wall coverage in the press and on television has forced it on a reluctant Welsh consciousness.</p> <p>Playing catch up the Welsh population, who normally pay little if any attention to politics in Cardiff Bay, are scratching their heads and wondering, often out loud around the dinner table, what all this might mean for us. </p> <p>The main conclusion of a seminar held on the topic by the Institute of Welsh Affairs in Cardiff Bay last Thursday was that the leadership in the National Assembly has failed to articulate a strong enough view of what it wants from the next stage of devolution. Certainly it is failing to utter loud enough to be heard in the present debate, let alone to be taken seriously.</p> <p>One of the problems was that, given the lack of coherence amongst the Conservative, Plaid Cymru and Liberal Democrat opposition parties, the minority Welsh Labour Government was not being held to account. Professor Laura McAllister, of Liverpool University, said, “We need a more mature political scene. In Scotland the SNP reinvented itself to become a realistic party of government. In Wales we don’t have serious competition. Our politics are infantile.”</p> <p>Gerry Holtham, until recently an economics adviser to the Welsh Government and formerly chair of the acclaimed Commission on Funding and Finance Commission for Wales which pointed out the extent to which Whitehall treats Wales unfairly compared with Scotland, concurred. “We’re a non story,” he said. “We’ve nothing interesting to say. All we have to say is ‘Give us more money’. My advice is tend the garden. Improve policy outcomes with the instruments we’ve got. Then we would be more persuasive. We have to raise our game.”</p> <p lang="en-US"> There was a general assumption that despite the apparent movement towards the Yes campaign in Scotland there would still be a narrow No vote. This was accompanied by a view that this would be followed by a minority Labour or Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition at Westminster at the general election next May. </p><p lang="en-US"> In these circumstances the extent to which any Devo Max proposals were kept on the agenda would depend on the SNPs success at the 2015 Westminster election and even more at the Holyrood election in 2016. If an SNP government were returned in 2016, as was thought likely, this would be seen as a mandate for a re-run of an independence referendum before 2020. </p><p lang="en-US"> The main challenge for Wales would be ensuring that Welsh interests were included and embraced in whatever changes were made to the devolution settlement in Scotland in the meantime. There was much discussion, for example, of how Wales might take advantage of any Constitutional Convention that might emerge following a No vote. What pressure could be brought to ensure that this applied to the whole of the UK and not just Scotland? </p><p lang="en-US"> All this was the comfort zone preoccupations of what has become known as the Cardiff Bay bubble. Little attention was given to the consequences for Wales of a Yes vote next week. If this happens real thinking will begin the morning after. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/adam-ramsay-leanne-wood/interview-leanne-wood-wales-and-spreading-of-scottish-rebellion">Interview: Leanne Wood - Wales and the spreading of the Scottish rebellion</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Creative Commons </div> </div> </div> uk uk Scotland's future John Osmond Mon, 15 Sep 2014 08:01:58 +0000 John Osmond 85939 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Butterfly rebellion https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/robin-mcalpine/butterfly-rebellion <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The British state has sent its big guns to Scotland, and found them overwhelmed by a movement of a thousand butterflies.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/xjPDVe2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/xjPDVe2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="240" height="339" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image - Andrew Mac</span></span></span></p><p>The lairds came to warn us villagers to do as we were told. Then the lords came to warn us villagers to do as we were told. But we were in the fields building a rebellion. </p><p>We have now seen, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/09/11/scottish-independence-darth-vader-music_n_5804224.html">on shaky mobile phone footage</a>, the moment the British Empire finally ended. It ended with two guys on a rickshaw chasing 100 Labour MPs up Buchannan Street playing the Imperial March from Star Wars and informing bemused shoppers that their Imperial Masters Had Arrived. These imperial ‘masters’ have no guns. They rule through deference. Without it they look exactly like what they are; overpaid middle management on a team building away day. (“OK, to get the day started, an icebreaker. Let’s all try and walk up a normal street like we are normal people. No team, not like that. Like NORMAL people.”)</p> <p>The Daily Record looks on, its panties wet with excitement. “It’s Gordon! It’s Ed! It’s John! It’s Harriet!’. Never in the field of all human endeavour has the Daily Record seen such wonder - a hundred Labour MPs here! How they must love us! How bright must be a future illuminated by their radiating glory! Don’t think, Scotland; gawp.</p> <p>Down the street a little, a young woman and her pal see Ed, Douglas and Johann radiating away. Spontaneously, armed with a mobile phone an a pram they <a href="https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10203804896060728&amp;set=vb.1169360722&amp;type=2&amp;theater">go for an interview.</a> Douglas and Johann spout soundbites unrelated to the questions asked. Ed looks on blankly. Oh Britannia, once you conquered continents with your might. Now a lassie with a phone has you on the run. </p><p>The inky wing of the British Empire does not know what to do. Historians will psychoanalyse the columns of <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/alancochrane/">Alan Cochrane in the Telegraph</a>, monitoring their descent from pompous, self-certain swagger to incoherent, panicked meltdown. The Times, the Scotsman, the Mail, the Express, all peer out at Scotland from behind their barbed wire. “We’ve threatened the price of beans, we’ve threatened the cost of mortgages, we’ve told them they won’t have Strictly, we’ve told them they can’t have an NHS. That’s the sum total of their dreams and aspirations. So why won’t these fucking Scots STAY DOWN?” </p> <p>In a room behind a locked door, behind a policeman, behind a gate, behind another policeman, a group of millionaires get together. One, an old Etonian, nominally runs the country. The others, the CEOs of big corporations, actually run the country. They decide on a strategy: terror. We. Will. Take. Your. THINGS. From. You. It’s a fair trade, of sorts - give up your chance of self-determination and in return we will give you the cheap things that you love. This is Britain.</p> <p>In other news, if you look closely, Scotland has just seen the highest proportion of its population in its history registered to vote. Ninety-seven per cent. No-one ‘gave’ them that vote. The people new to the electoral register had to put themselves there. With the most almighty help from the Radical Independence Campaign and many more. A 72 year old man who has never voted before. A woman who ran out of her house in her pyjamas when she was told she wasn’t too late. Streets of working class people being told by Yes activists on the final day of registration that it was their last chance, them phoning their friends, going round to their neighbours doors to get them out too. Long queues outside the registration office. All barely reported. In fact, the arch-unionist political editor of the Herald managed to run a front-page story claiming none of this happened. When his story turned out to be the hopes of a British nationalist and not an accurate reflection of Scotland in 2014, the real story - highest number of people registered to vote in Scotland’s history - did not manage to make it onto the front page.</p> <p>(The No campaign didn’t have a voter registration campaign.)</p> <p>But at least your celebrities love us, though with a provincial love which requires no more than two brief paragraphs to explain. It is a love they express without feeling which they believe we should receive with gratitude. Every newspaper in Scotland told us how sincere David Cameron was when he spoke of his love of the Scottish people. In a speech given to a selected group of senior figures from the financial services sector. </p><p>And beneath all this, its cause - an official No campaign so incompetent at every level, so hopelessly out of touch with its nation that it brags about the size of its phone banks. Fifty thousand Scots a week on the streets knocking doors and handing out leaflets for Yes and they’ve got phone banks. What is this - 1997? What else have they got? Pagers? Spice Girls albums? It is not that these people are stupid. It is that they really, really believed we were. A Better Together ‘I’m voting No because…’ film is never more than 40 seconds long. They all consist of platitudes. Better together. Best of both worlds. Risk and volatility. </p><p>In their world it makes perfect sense to produce a short film targeting women which is predicated on a middle-class mother who is so disinterested in politics that she can’t even recall the name of the <a href="http://www.buzzfeed.com/jimwaterson/patronising-bt-woman#3cd4g55">First Minister of Scotland</a>. It explains the lobotomised Orwellian nature of a billboard campaign that says “I love my children so I’m voting NO”. Everything they touch falls apart. And then there is a desperate rescue attempt of some sort or another. </p> <p>Send up Ed.</p> <p>Get David to emote. </p><p>Ask the supermarkets to issue threats. </p><p>Beg the banks to relocate. </p><p>Just hope the Scots really are as stupid as we think. Because if they see through this shit they’ll realise we’re finished. </p> <p>The scope and scale of the collapse of the No campaign is obscured only by the refusal of the print media wing of their campaign to report it.</p> <p>BBC political editor Nick Robinson, a good establishment boy, had his chance to humiliate Salmond in front of the world’s media when he got to ask a pompous question about corporation tax. Unfortunately, he had completely misunderstood how corporation tax works. Salmond gave him a seven minute lesson which left him humiliated in front of the world’s media. In an undignified turn he starts heckling Salmond. At night in his news report he shows only his question (he’d clearly taken some time to prepare that humiliating blow…) and editorialises that Salmond refused to answer. Does he think we didn’t see? <a href="http://wingsoverscotland.com/out-in-the-open/">Is he unaware</a> that social media exists? </p><p>This campaign has tested the British establishment. The more it loses this campaign, the greater the test. I am truly amazed at how weak it has been, how pathetic its response. Caught somewhere between mad hyperbole about independence being a bigger threat to the world than the Great Depression and the pointless mundanity of ‘your shopping bill may go up by literally pennies’, is this seriously all its got? </p><p>The BBC, the banks, the newspapers, the supermarkets, the Labour Party, the Tories, the generals, the civil servants. Between them they can’t muster up either a persuasive case for the union or a believable threat. </p><p>Us? We’re over 350 totally independent campaigns, each set up by activists, each self-funded, none centrally controlled. We don’t pay too much attention to the media but learn and research from the internet. We hold meetings (I’ve spoken at coming on for 250 public meetings in the last two years). We are the most informed citizens in the world right now. I left a meeting in Hamilton Miners’ Welfare and a retired labourer caught me on the stairs and quizzed me about what I thought the position would be with ten year bond yields in an independent Scotland. Kids can talk you through the details of the Shengen arrangement. Most of us can run you through the constitutional position of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Unit. </p><p>I love my family so I’m voting No? Fuck off. Fuck right off. </p> <p>For those of you who aren’t in Scotland you may not be aware that almost the whole British establishment is now placing its hopes on Gordon Brown.<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/sep/12/scottish-independence-referendum-gordon-brown-moment-destiny"> ‘He gets them’ (they think). ‘They like him’ (they think).</a> His tendency to believe that Scotland is just nascent Nazi Germany doesn’t phase them. It’s like the moment when the Labour Party thought that the most compelling person they had to buy a sausage roll from Greggs was Ed Balls. Which was only true because Ed Milliband was behind him in the queue.</p> <p>And that has become what this campaign really is - Gordon Brown swinging his big, clunking fist at a thousand butterflies. All grunt, no connection.</p> <p>Because that’s what we are - a thousand butterflies. None of us is strong. The guy with the mobile phone and an MP3 player terrorising the Parliamentary Labour Party with a Darth Vader gag. The young mother making the Labour leadership look like they can’t talk to real people. A hundred <a href="http://www.heraldscotland.com/arts-ents/stage/rebel-rebels-how-bowies-message-inspired-fun-show.24924684">brilliant jokes about David Bowie</a>. Wish trees. Hand-made posters. The RIC leaflets we paid for by a load of £5 contributions which much of working class Scotland has had through their letterbox telling them what they know already - Britain is for the rich, Scotland can be ours. </p><p>We are a campaign held together with sticky tape and goodwill. We’re all broke (we give all our money away). We’re all exhausted (we’ve haven’t rested in two years). None of us is scared. None of us needs anyone’s permission. And we never underestimate the people of Scotland. </p><p>This is like nothing I’ve ever seen. We have barely a single institution on our side, barely a newspaper, and damn few millionaires. And they are truly petrified of us. </p><p>A butterfly rebellion is coming close to winning Scotland away from the forces of the British state. I think we’ll do it, but either way, they can’t beat us. We are already half of Scotland and we keep growing. They are weak and we are strong. When the people of Britain see their titans defeated by a rebel army who used infographics and humour, what is there to stop them following? England needs its butterfly rebellion as well. </p><p>The lairds came to tell us what was good for us. The lords came to tell us what was good for us. In the fields, we already knew what was good for us. Not this. Not Britain. Our rebels grabbed whatever they had and did whatever they could. </p><p>You can’t beat a thousand butterflies with a gun. But you can beat a gun with a thousand butterflies. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/adam-ramsay/independence-referendum-rolling-blog">Independence referendum: rolling blog</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> uk uk Scotland's future Robin McAlpine Sun, 14 Sep 2014 09:20:12 +0000 Robin McAlpine 85935 at https://www.opendemocracy.net #indyref rolling blog, Monday 8th Sept https://www.opendemocracy.net/adam-ramsay/indyref-rolling-blog-monday-8th-sept <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>This is the OurKingdom <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/adam-ramsay/independence-referendum-rolling-blog">#indyref rolling blog</a> from Monday the 8th of September</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong>Mon 8th Sept: leading economists produce factfile on how the UK benefits system is failing Scotland</strong></p><p>Jim Cuthbert is an economist and statistician who was formerly Scottish Office Chief Statistician. Margaret Cuthbert is also an economist and statistician who among other things lectured in econometrics at Glasgow University. They have <a href="http://www.cuthbert1.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/new_page_12.htm">just sent over a fact file</a> on the labour market and social security in Scotland which, they say, shows how the UK benefits system has been failing Scotland for a long time. Do check it out, if you're interested.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>8th Sept, 11:00am On Devo Max</strong></p><p>As the British State has gone into meltdown, it's started begging the Scots to vote no with promises of some kind of devo max.</p><p>I wrote in my recent series/<a href="http://commonwealth-publishing.com/?p=255">e-book on reasons to support Scottish independence</a> about why devo-max isn't what it's cracked up to be. But here's a few things:</p><p>&nbsp;</p><ol><li><p>these are promises made by desperate people in the last days of a campaign. If it's a no vote, they won't be desperate, and it won't be the last days of the campaign.</p></li><li><p>Even if the current leaders are honest, can you really be sure that they will have their jobs in a years time? And will their successors stick to their word? Certainly, Boris has made it clear he wouldn't, and lots in the Labour party won't be at all keen on the idea.</p></li><li><p>There are likely to be some serious down sides to devo-max. It creates a group of MPs voting on policies even fewer of which impact on their constituents. You can be sure that some English MPs, from all sides of the house, will start complaining about this, and Scotland will be expected to give something up – maybe fewer MPs? Who knows. </p></li><li><p>There's an important point Peter McColl makes: there is a world of difference between more power and more powers. Holyrood was set up by the Labour party at Westminster in the assumption that Scottish Labour would run it, so it was set up to succeed. It's entirely possible to give more powers, but in a sort of messy kind of a way which makes it very hard to exercise them effectively – to set Holyrood up to fail. </p> <p>For example, if you devolve income tax and so exclude that portion of spending from the Barnett formula, but you don't devolve borrowing powers, then it becomes very hard to cope with a recession. Westminster would borrow to replace the income tax loss, but Holyrood wouldn't be able to, and wouldn't get that portion of income, as it has been excluded. <br />Of course, it's possible to design a Parliament with more powers within the UK that would work. But the question is, do we trust Westminster to do that? Or is there a risk they'd rather see it struggle, to pour water on the case for a yes vote? Ultimately, it's up to them.</p> </li><li><p>The SNP proposed having a second option on the ballot. Cameron refused him. If we had had it there, with a definition of what it meant, then it might just have been something good. As it is, I'm not at all sure it is.</p> </li><li><p>The logical conclusion of devo-max would be Scotland deciding everything for itself but foreign policy and border controls – whether or not to send our troops into imperialist adventures, whether or not to get rid of trident, whether to end Westminster's brutal migration policies which are undermining Scotland's economy. I don't see why we'd go for that.</p></li><li><p>This is all clearly in breach of purdah rules, which ban governments from making announcements in the run up to an election (and this referendum). They had agreed in the Edinburgh agreement not to do this. But hey, they British State never plays by the rules. Or sticks to its agreements. Wait, what was that I was saying about whether we could trust them to stick to their word or not?</p></li></ol><p>&nbsp;</p><p>The basic point, I suppose, is that an actual federal Britain would be one thing, but an a-symmetric devo-max in one part of a UK otherwise largely run from Westminster is messy as hell. It would need a lot of thinking through if you wanted to make it work, and I'm not at all convinced that you could, or that the current government would even want to allow it to succeed. </p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>8th Sept, 8:00am: some background</strong></p> <p>Natalie Bennett, the leader of the Green Party of England and Wales came to Scotland last week. Walking round Edinburgh, she said, you could tell that something very special was happening – something she had only experienced once before: the feeling that she had sensed when visiting Prague, quarter of a century ago, right after the fall of the Berlin wall.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>She's right. It's not at all clear that Scotland will vote yes in the referendum this month – though the polls have swung significantly in that direction. What is clear is that something utterly extraordinary is taking place.</p> <p>You could hear it in the excitement of the Edinburgh cabbie “I'd never been to a political meeting before. I've been to three recently. I loved all of them”. Before I get out, he turns to me and says, with a hint of thrill in his voice: “We're being invited to run our own country... it's very exciting.”</p> <p>Sat in an Edinburgh cafe, every conversation around me was about the independence referendum. The waiter was worried about the implications for EU membership. The woman he was serving explained that she was voting yes because Westminster is making the poverty of the children she works with worse. Another woman chimed in that she was voting yes because she's fed up with Westminster's wars - “I think we could have stopped Holyrood from taking us into Iraq”.</p><p>This is remarkable not because it's abnormal, but because it's ubiquitous. In the pub the night before, the conversations on every table were about the referendum – how an independent country might manage its foreign policy, what it would mean for jobs, what it would mean for housing. Walk down the street outside, and you are rarely out of sight of a “yes” poster in the window of a tenement flat: more people might vote no, but few will do it with little enthusiasm, and you rarely see their signs.</p> <p>At the bus stop up the road from the cafe, though, I did see an elderly woman with a “no” badge on. This is no coincidence. The latest polls confirm a trend which has been clear for a while: the majority of under 60s now support Scottish independence. If it's a no, it will be the pensioners who have swung it, putting the UK on life support rather than saving it. </p> <p>It's not clear what the result of the referendum will be. What is clear is that, over the last two years, in the course of the most informed and intense political conversation in a country anyone I know has come across since the wall fell, a huge number of people have been convinced to vote yes. These people are not the nationalists. Polls at the start of the campaign were clear. There were around 20% on either side who would vote either way come what may. 20% of the country are clear Scottish nationalists, 20% are British nationalists. Each identifies with one or the other as their sole nation and believes that it should be their state too, irrespective of anything else.</p> <p>Of course, that doesn't mean that they are chauvinistic nationalists. The best way to understand this is to realise that the SNP is probably the most popular party among the Scots-Asian community and it was they who provided Holyrood with its first non-white MSP and minister. </p> <p>But these genuine Scottish nationalists were never enough to swing the vote for yes any more than the genuine British nationalists were enough to guarantee a no. Everyone else was persuadable. And, at the outset, a significant majority just assumed they'd vote for the status quo, with the yes vote starting out with perhaps 35%. Over the course of the debate, though, four separate things have happened, and it's important to understand each of these in order to properly understand what's going on on Scotland.</p> <p>First, the radicals backed the yes campaign. Greens, the various socialist parties, the vast majority of the artistic community and most the staff of the various campaigning NGOs (though the organisations they work for have usually maintained a cautious neutrality) have all swung behind yes. The latter isn't surprising. People who work every day with both the Scottish Parliament and the Westminster Parliament see that whilst the former is no more perfect than an average Northern European legislature, the latter has one of the least democratic set-ups of any Western state, and as a result has been more captured by global corporate power, turning Britain into the most unequal country in Europe. </p> <p>Whilst the Scottish Green Party and most of Scotland's socialist parties have long backed independence, their voters didn't always concur. Now, it seems, that both in their own right and through the Radical Independence Campaign (the biggest alignment of the Scottish left in my lifetime), the Common Weal project, National Collective (artists for independence), CND (who are handing out 'how to disarm a nuclear bomb' manuals: 'tools: one pencil'), they have largely enthused their own supporters of the case for independence not as an end in itself, but as a path away from the prison of Westminster politics and towards possible better futures.</p> <p>There is perhaps 15% of the population in Scotland who lean towards these sorts of radical politics, and whose votes have swung between Greens, the Scottish Socialists, Labour and the SNP over the years, depending on the election. These people coming on board didn't just boost the yes vote. It also brought an army of activists, adding a new flavour to the campaign – it forced the SNP to tack to the left, and it meant the footsoldiers were now not just those who made dead-end “Scotland's a nation, nations should be independent” arguments, but those who had made up their mind because of broader concerns for justice, who see independence as the opportunity of a lifetime to build the kind of country that the post-imperial British State, which has delivered the most unequal country in Europe, will never permit. And footsoldiers is the wrong metaphor. Because these people set up the own organisations, designed their own messaging, and changed the campaign absolutely.</p> <p>These two groups are the coalition which has, largely, made up the yes campaign for two years, though the simplification excludes a huge number of other stories which run in parallel. This coalition of voters isn't, though, quite sufficient to deliver victory. And so the result this month will rest on another two groups. The first is Labour voters. </p> <p>There are significant swaths of the Scottish electorate who will always back the Labour party, and the vast majority of them have told pollsters for years that, like their party, they are against independence. In the last few weeks, it is this demographic which has started to shift – started to swing towards voting yes. The portion now seems to be as much as 1/3 of this group of previously loyal unionist voters. If that figure holds, and I expect it will, it will take the yes campaign very close to their winning margin.</p> <p>But it is the fourth group whose actions will decide the day. This is the demographic dubbed by Gerry Hassan as the “missing million” - the excluded working class who have been so alienated by politics that they haven't voted in years, people on housing schemes where political parties stopped knocking on the doors years ago, young people who have never been registered to vote, never mind turning up on the day. In a country of 5 million, the fact that this group is perhaps a fifth of the population tells you all you need to know about the shocking inequality in one of the richest nations on earth.</p> <p>Opinion polls are absolutely clear that the less you have invested in the system, the more likely you are to support it. In other words, that if the missing million show up, then it will not be the voters for any one party who decide Scotland's fate. It will be those who haven't voted for any party for years.</p> <p>All across the country, activists, particularly from the Radical Independence Campaign have been standing outside job centres and touring the colleges in deprived areas and have registered thousands upon thousands of people, many of whom will never have seen a ballot box in their life. I bumped into a friend who had under his arm a pile of 101 forms that Radical Independence activists had just got filled out by 16 and 17 year olds at a local college in a less well-off area of Edinburgh. He said “they just assumed we were yes campaigners – of course they were voting yes”. The night before the deadline for registering to vote City council offices across the country stayed open till midnight to allow queues of people to line up and fill out the forms so that their voices could be heard. </p> <p>The reaction from the no campaign to this mass political engagement is dismissive “people with mattresses in their garden do not win elections”, one Better Together adviser <a href="https://archive.today/uYNFB">said to the Daily Telegraph</a> a few days ago. Apart from being an offensive stereotype of working class people, it demonstrated a fundamental misunderstanding. This isn't an election. It is a referendum on an existential issue. People who have for too long been alienated by politics may well not bother to show up to chose which neoliberal party attacks them next. That doesn't mean that they won't vote on the 18th of September. And if the missing million does show up, then it'll be game over for the UK. </p> <p>It's ten days to the referendum. I'll be running a rolling blog here, where I'll try to capture something of the feeling, and any quick thoughts on what's going on from me and anyone else. I hope you enjoy it.</p> Scotland's future Adam Ramsay Sat, 13 Sep 2014 10:01:19 +0000 Adam Ramsay 85928 at https://www.opendemocracy.net