The Myth of ‘Divided Scotland’
Scottish Review, July 16th 2014
One of the most oft-repeated descriptions of Scotland at the moment in the heat of the independence referendum is the problem of ‘divided Scotland’.
A Yes victory will leave a ‘deeply divided Scotland’ claimed Better Together chief Blair McDougall (Better Together, June 8th 2014), while a pro-independence website declared in response, ‘A deeply divided Scotland will be the result of a No vote’ (Arc of Prosperity, June 9th 2014).
Much cited recent polling shows that 38% of Scots believe divisions will remain whatever the referendum outcome, while 36% disagreed. In the same poll, 21% of people have had a row with family or friends about the vote. This latter finding led ‘The Independent’ to declare, ‘The Scottish independence debate has become venomous and fraught … pulling some families apart’ (June 15th 2014). Read the rest of this entry »
A Letter to Scotland’s New Radicals
Scottish Review, July 9th 2014
Radical Scotland’s re-emergence and re-invigoration around the independence referendum has been one of the most welcome and positive occurrences for many years in Scottish politics.
This is a real challenge and change from the predictable stale menu which has been passed off as our political debate and choices for decades. This is even more true of what has presented itself as radical and left politics.
An array of groups, networks and initiatives of which the most prominent are National Collective, the Radical Independence Campaign and Jimmy Reid Foundation, have brought new ideas and energy, fresh ways of doing things and a sense of generational change.
It has been a pleasure to witness the birth of this self-organising culture of self-determination and pro-independence opinion. Yet, with success comes the need for an element of self-reflection and self-criticism, and an awareness of the dangers and limits inherent in any radical politics. Read the rest of this entry »
What do we do we do about the United Kingdom? And Why Federalism isn’t the Answer
Open Democracy, July 4th 2014
In the last few weeks political debate has become filled with talk of the possibility of a federal United Kingdom.
This has come not surprisingly exclusively from pro-union voices. There was Tory MSP Murdo Fraser’s recent thoughtful speech, David Torrance’s short book on British wide federalism, and even former Prime Minister Gordon Brown mulling over the subject.
Murdo Fraser in his Reform Scotland talk said that ‘federalism within the UK, if it were workable and could be achieved, is a solution which could unite both unionists and nationalists, and provide a secure framework for the future’. David Torrance in a ‘Herald’ piece after Fraser’s intervention, cited former Labour MP and academic David Marquand commenting, ‘Does the UK become a federal state, or does it break up?’. Even Gordon Brown has refound his sense of radical constitutionalism, contemplating a written constitution and federalism in all but name.
These developments should be applauded and welcomed as they are trying to deal with some of the challenges of the modern world and the UK, and show a degree of open-mindedness and people being prepared to reconsider previous positions. They should be taken seriously and examined, asking what issues and concerns are they addressing, what are they not addressing, and what are their over-riding motivations? Read the rest of this entry »
A Scotland Beyond Yes and No: My Journey to Yes
National Collective, June 26th 2014
I want to live in a Scotland which is not defined by Yes and No – a world of ‘us’ and ‘them’ – of politics, families and friendships reduced to the emotions of football supporters and tribalism. I want to live in a world of one Scotland and many, multiple, diverse Scotlands.
This is a time of many different debates in our nation; about the nature of our constitutional status and the meaning of independence, about who has power and authority in an age of constant change, the meaning and challenges of globalisation and interdependence, and the concentrations of wealth and status in the new global rich.
For some this current debate is very narrow: centred on competing claims of nationalism (Scottish and British), but for many others, it is about what kind of Scotland and society we want to live in and the discussion over what is the best route to get there. In this, the independence debate is an opening to a wider, generous and outward looking set of possibilities. Read the rest of this entry »
How to Make a New Scottish Democracy
The Herald, June 18th 2014
The contemporary Scottish independence debate is about many things and influences: the aspiration of some to make a new Scottish state, or to remain in the shared sovereignties of the UK. But another crucial influence is the state of the UK: its economic and social inequities and concentrations of power and wealth, and the failure of the progressive dream at a British level despite thirty years of Labour Governments in office over the post-war era.
Underpinning all of the above concerns is the fact that the UK is not and never has been a fully-fledged political democracy. This is recognised when the UK is described accurately as a constitutional monarchy or as a parliamentary democracy. Such constitutional figures as far apart as Enoch Powell on the right and Tony Benn on the left understood this. So too do parts of Britain’s political elite, but they shy away from conceding this or talking about it in public.
The reality is that the UK is increasingly influenced by the repackaging and representing of its past by its elites, and the appropriation of the voices of past generations like some once splendid country house fallen on hard times and telling tales of yesteryear. Read the rest of this entry »