Message to the Messengers Part Two: Where next after the indy referendum?
Scottish Left Project, December 12th 2014
The winds of change are without doubt blowing through Scotland.
There is the decline of traditional power and institutions, the hollowing out and, in places, implosion of some of the key anchor points of public life and a fundamental shift in authority in many areas.
This is Scotland’s ‘long revolution’ – which the indyref was a product of and which then was a catalyst of further change. It is partly understandable that in the immediate aftermath of the referendum, expectations have risen, people have thought fundamental change could happen in the period immediately following the vote, and timescales once thought long have been dramatically shortened by some on the independence side.
Popular expectations, pressure and demand for change are a positive, not a negative. Yet, there is the potential pitfall of playing into a left-nat instant gratification culture which poses that all that is needed for change is wish fulfillment, collective will and correct leadership, and hey presto Scotland will be free! This is a dangerous cocktail because when change doesn’t happen quickly, many of Scotland’s newly politicised activists may turn away in disappointment.
The times they are a-changing, but they are still messy, complicated and full of contradictions. For a start, the power of establishment Scotland is still, for all its uncomfortableness and nervous disposition in the indyref, well-entrenched and deeply dug in across society. If brought under scrutiny and challenge, from land reform to a genuine politics of redistribution, they will fight bitterly and with powerful resources for their narrow vested interests. Read the rest of this entry »
Message to the Messengers: What do we do after Yes?
Scottish Left Project, December 5th 2014
It is a frenetic, dynamic time to be living in Scotland – politically, culturally and in many other aspects of public life.
Nearly three months since the momentous indyref Scotland is still gripped by a sense of movement, possibilities and new openings – up to and beyond the 2015 and 2016 elections.
Yet at the same time in parts of the independence movement there are unrealistic expectations of political change, of belief that the union is finished, and that Scotland can embark on its destiny in the next couple of years.
Any radical politics has to have a sense of what is possible, to push it as far as it can, to understand timescales and how these dovetail with strategy. And critically it has to understand the political culture beyond its own boundaries – in the Scotland which voted No.
The independence referendum was a historic moment, an epic time in Scotland’s political evolution, and an awakening of the democratic impulse. Yet, it produced a comfortable victory for No and a defeat for Yes. For all the commentary that Yes won the campaign and that the idea of independence has been normalised, defeat has an upside: an opportunity and release which shouldn’t just be squandered. Read the rest of this entry »
Reflections on Turning Fifty in the Scotland of 2014
Scottish Review, November 26th 2014
I knew from an early age I would turn 50 in 2014.
It was simple maths. At age eight, reading the ‘Tell Me Why’ encyclopedias of facts and figures, I became aware of a sense of time. Apparently the sun would explode in around five billion years wiping out all life on planet earth and any chance I had of immortality. And at around the same time, confronted with this reality, I worked out that I would be 36 in 2000, 50 in 2014 and 86 in 2050. Plenty time I thought for lots of plans and dreams.
Often the concerns of an over-bright boy or girl confronted with the mysteries of life and universe, are about trying to place yourself and idea of self in it. Whereas, in actual fact, these are deep, timeless and philosophical questions which have taken up the time and efforts of some of our greatest thinkers.
I grew up as an only child with a palpable self-consciousness, large amounts of time and space for reflection, and a constant curiosity and hunger to find out more about the world. It was, as a young boy a big positive, not to have siblings. I had no one I had to share a bedroom with, or be bullied by, or look out for and protect from bullying at school or in our neighbourhood. And I had both quiet and room for contemplation and my own private world when I wanted to retreat to it. Read the rest of this entry »
The Power of the Small: A Journey into a Hidden Scotland
Scottish Review, November 19th 2014
Football is everywhere in modern life and no more so than in Scotland.
It is a partial story, concentrating on the theatre, drama and tropes of a very select few: the changing fortunes of Celtic and Rangers, the predictability of the Premiership, and an over-focus on a few clubs in the Central Belt (along with Aberdeen and the two Dundee clubs).
A whole array of football is missing from these accounts: the Scotland of the non-league game represents what is in effect a hidden Scotland. The biggest and most impressive part of this is junior football which covers 164 clubs in the country, and is nearly entirely absent from our media and public conversation, from the vast coverage of the game on TV, radio and papers, and which seems even beyond the reach and interest of Stuart Cosgrove and Tam Cowan’s ‘Off the Ball’, along with most football reporters.
At the start of January 2012 myself and my friend Eddie completed our tour of Scotland’s 42 senior football grounds and teams. We had deliberately undertaken the journey in a rambling, off the cuff way: to consciously not make it into a project or extension of work, and to do it with affection and love. It was also not just about football, but going to parts of our country with curiosity, as well as spending time travelling and blethering as friends. That experience concluded as I wrote about in ‘Scottish Review’ at the time, at a Peterhead v. Celtic cup game, and Berwick Rangers v. Stranraer. Read the rest of this entry »
What kind of Scotland does Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP want?
Scottish Review, November 12th 2014
Scotland and Scottish politics are in unchartered waters. The post-indyref has shaken and rearranged the normal reference points: SNP membership has gone through the roof, while the Labour ‘winners’ have laid claim to putting on a paltry 1,000 members.
Amid all the noise and debate, there is in the confusion, an eerie lack of substantive discussion, as people try to find their way. In the Labour Party a clutch of left-wingers believe that their core problem is the party’s embrace north of the border of ‘Blairism’; in the SNP, Jim Sillars and Gordon Wilson have been making predictable sounds calling for a more defiant, traditionalist nationalist approach, mistakeningly believing this will somehow win more widespread support than that achieved by Alex Salmond.
In both Labour and SNP contests there has been a surprising lack of debate. The Labour contest at least has another month to run, and the possibility that a choice between Jim Murphy, Neil Findlay and Sarah Boyack, will bring out some of the huge questions the party has to face if it is to turn its fortunes around. Read the rest of this entry »