Lessons in Scotland for Jeremy Corbyn: We are not a region.

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Siobhan Tolland

Don’t get me wrong. I love the fact Jeremy Corbyn is mixing it up down south. He is trying to initiate progressive change, and we have to support that, especially against an attempt of the right wing (in and outside of the Labour party) to oust him. We should support any progressive against this scheming. Christ even the Unions stabbed him in the back over Trident. ‘Kill millions with weapons of mass destruction. Must save jobs, must save jobs!’ Continue reading

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Roundtable – “What did the ‪#‎indyref mean to you?”

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This week, near the anniversary of the independence referendum our contributors were asked what the indyref meant to them. As ever, we’d love to hear your reminiscence of the referendum and what it meant to you.

Louise Wilson – I’ve worried about my answer to this question for a while. The truth is the indyref doesn’t sit quite as close to my heart as many of my colleagues and friends. In the end, I voted yes. But I did so on the belief that decisions are best made at the most local level possible (with of course some national oversight to ensure there aren’t massive inequalities), and getting powers to the Scottish Parliament is part of that step.

I didn’t vote yes because I automatically felt Scotland would swing left, nor because I felt our nation would be economically better off. Of course, I hoped this might be the case in the long run – but I was well aware of the risks. So when the No vote echoed across the country on 19th September, I wasn’t totally heartbroken.

Instead, I hoped that the UK could go forward together with the progressive momentum which had been found in Scotland. Looking towards the general election results, maybe that hope was misplaced. Looking towards Labour leadership results, perhaps it wasn’t.

But mostly what I took away from the indyref was the huge levels of engagement. People young and old were taking about something that before had been considered distant, irrelevant. I overheard people on the street, on the train, in the supermarket actually talking about legislation, the constitution, and political parties. This was incredible. And even more amazing, is the effect this had on turnout in Scotland compared to rUK in May.

I hope this can continue. Even if you disagree with the government of the time, it’s important to register that. It’s important to use your voice, vote or campaign to tell those at the top what your want. The indyref wasn’t about becoming passive, letting things roll by and just keeping the status quo. The indyref was about action, fighting for what you believe (whether left, right, unionist, pro-indy or anything else). That is what the indyref meant to me.

Siobhan Tolland – This is a deceptively difficult question. If I was to answer it in one sentence though, it would be it has shifted my perception of power. To my shame I used to see the Scottish Parliament as a bit of a Disney Parliament. Interesting an all but really Westminster was the ACTUAL parliament. In a post-referendum Scotland I realise now that the basis of our power absolutely and completely has to lie in Scotland and Westminster is but a tool to achieve that.

The two great moments of the referendum for me showed me very clearly, once and for all, that Scotland’s path was inevitably set for independence no matter what. As a historian I often see moments as they fit into a long sustained period of time and consider their importance within that context.

The first moment was The Empire strikes back greeting of the labour MPs, as they trooped up from England to persuade us to vote No. Welcome our Imperial Masters! They were humiliated by a guy on a bike with a megaphone and the Star wars theme tune blasting out. It was the funniest, most brilliant and most politically potent moment of the referendum. If you haven’t seen it, you really really should:

It showed the revolution that was happening. For decades Labour was in unquestionable control. Westminster was in unquestionable control. All the debate, the discussion and arguments didn’t even touch this moment. The MPs were left looking absolutely ridiculous as any vestiges of power they had were stripped away under the booming, ‘Bow to your imperial masters’. Robin McAlpine said that this moment was the beginning of the final stages of Empire and that encapsulates it so well. When the powers at be are ridiculed so completely they have no power left.
The other moment was the weekend before the referendum. I am still sad I missed being part of this. I started getting social media reports and videos of thousands of people just gathering in the streets, singing, dancing and partying. The sense of celebration and hope swept across the country. It was happening in Perth, Dundee, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Inverness. All over, thousands just parting across the country on the eve of our most important moment in modern history. I knew there and then Independence would happen.

No to be fair, I did kinda think that might have been last September 18th. But what these moments have done for me was continue my certainty. I had assumed I would have moved into a deep dark depression post-Independence. The fate that we now have even a year on, with a government killing off our citizens without remorse and refusing assistance to vulnerable people generally shows a society more and more bereft of compassion. I find myself using ‘fascist’ more and more often whereas a year ago I would have been reluctant to use that word.

There was a lot to be depressed about. Yet, from the moment I realised we had lost, I just kept thinking and saying, it doesn’t matter. The empire is crumbling. Independence is just a matter of time. Nothing I have seen changes that for me. The massive move into the pro-Independence parties, the dessimation of Scottish Labour and the slow move of public opinion consistently towards Independence all mark the historic inevitability. I genuinely believe that.

The UK government did not win the referendum. They got a stay of execution for their Empire.

For me now, changing society has become my main stay of life. I can’t undo my political awakening and I can’t stand back and watch such ingrained cruelty of our Fascist state. Self-determination is part of this struggle now. Social justice and notions of fairness and compassion are so deeply ingrained together now. I want to help make the final crack that broke the empire.

Anna Crow – Political awakening. Education. Empowerment. Honest discussion and debate. Learning to see through the mainstream media and political spin. Arguments on Facebook. Seeing vast levels of hypocrisy and people putting their own interests before the common good. A new kind of solidarity. Badge-wearing. Green Yes.

Liam Muir – I have learned more over the course of the referendum campaign and in the year since about politics, history and global affairs than I did in all my years beforehand. Seeing the enthusiasm many in Scotland shared for the prospect of self-governance forced me to get to grips with many of the main arguments in favour of and against independence. It was this engagement that formed the foundation of the person I am today and that has given me a new found clarity.

One day when I was helping out at one of the Yes stalls in Edinburgh’s Grassmarket, I had a fascinating exchange with a flamboyant American tourist who went by the name of Marie. She walked up to our stall, camera around her neck and a bemused expression of her face, seeming genuinely perplexed at the idea Great Britain would break up.

‘What would become of the Union Jack?’ She asked.

‘After everything ya’ll been through, you wanna throw it all away? Ah don’t get it!’

To her credit, once her ambivalent attitude had been fully showcased, she did ask me why I thought Yes was the right choice.

I always feel so many emotions whenever faced with this question. I was amazed how superficial her thought process was but also excited she showed enough interest to listen to us. When asking her to contemplate the USA’s history with the British Empire and how she thought the Scottish independence movement had cause to even exist in the first place, she flipped up her Steampunk lenses and listened.

Firstly, I explained to her how strong the political argument is. Scotland’s voting influence being marginal, Westminster implementing cuts to vital services when an already alarming number of people are working to maintain their own poverty and so on.

Just as I was about to approach the taxing issue of Scotland’s financial stability, she interrupted.

‘Ya know I never thought of that! Sounds good guys, can I take a badge?’

She took two badges, one for herself and one for her husband. Now whether she had been wholeheartedly convinced that self determination was definitely the route Scotland should pursue, or was late for the Tattoo and took the badge in an attempt to create the illusion my words had resonated with her, I will never know.

This chance meeting brought me to a an understanding that no matter how important we all consider this debate to be, others give it no such credence.

When the campaign began, I distinctly remember being continually surprised at how much of an impact the pro independence movement was having on this country. For the first time in my lifetime, politics had become mainstream. The environment I was living in during the months leading up to the vote was often one I thrived in. My involvement in local activism saw me expand my knowledge and understanding of how this society functions and more importantly, how much influence our politicians actually have on our lives.

Was the referendum a failure? It really depends on who you ask. To those unwilling to give the vote a second thought, it was probably no more important than it was to Marie, wearing her Yes badge for a lark whilst playing tourist on vacation to Northern Britain. For the people that threw themselves in to the debate, viewing independence as the first step towards UK wide reform, the goal was not achieved. This does not constitute failure in my eyes.

Scotland may not have millions of people marching through the streets demanding their Government grant them their independence as we see Catalans doing in Barcelona. It may be entirely possible that far from being an inevitability, Scotland could have missed the boat and been left behind by other countries that have managed to escape British imperial rule. Whatever the polls say in the years ahead, a country politicised is a country alert and the democratic will of Scotland may never have been stronger.

Chris Napier – For me, the indyref was about a personal political awakening. I’d always been interested in politics but spent most of my 20s (I didn’t vote at all until I was 28) pretty apathetic to the process as New Labour seemed so dominant as to make the act of voting redundant. I’d always been a supporter of independence – as a teenager for wholly vacuous Braveheart reasons and later as a student I discovered the sound economic and sociological case for it.

In any case, the indyref caused me to take a look at all my preconceptions and (by that point, slightly dated) knowledge and reassess them before engaging friends, family and strangers to see what they thought – which proved to be an enlightening experience

By the time it was all over, I knew I couldn’t just sit back and allow the machines of the state to continue twisting information and stifling freedom and democracy – so I became an activist, turned my writing over to politics rather than pop culture and I am not going back in my box. After all, ‘the price of apathy to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.’

More than that – the breadth of the debate and the awakening of popular political engagement in Scotland made my own awakening more meaningful as a part of a greater paradigm shift, rather than the isolated rantings of one individual. As such, I’ve met people over the last year, through being politically active and writing about politics – who have inspired, encouraged and educated me and I’d like to think that this is a process which is ongoing across the country.

The independence referendum was cruel lesson in defeat (all to familiar to a long time follower of Scotland’s sporting endeavours) but also an invigorating and inspiring example of what can happen when people really start trying to change things, start talking and co-operating, even against impossible odds.

As such, it’s not even just about independence but about involvement, analysis and progression.   It’s a few million personal awakenings like the rolling pebbles which start a landslide… a landslide which has not been stopped and hopefully never will be.

 

One year on, still wishing for a better future for Scotland

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Anna Crow

If you could have one wish for Scotland’s future, what would it be?

To mark the first anniversary of the Scottish independence referendum, yesterday on Buchanan Street in Glasgow city centre there was a wish tree.  Passers-by of all ages, whether shoppers, those heading home from school or work, or those simply out for a walk enjoying the late afternoon sunshine were invited to write their wishes on a tag to tie onto strings connecting two trees, forming what became a multi-coloured and diverse washing line of people’s hopes and dreams, people’s desires for their own lives, those of others around them, and for our country as a whole.

There were no limitations as to what people could write.  ‘Everyone should be given a puppy!’ read one.  ‘Better weather’ was a desire expressed by several.  ‘Legalisation of cannabis’ another read, with a drawing of a marijuana leaf.  Another said ‘Happiness’, with a big smiley face.  Some were strongly worded, such as one which read ‘FUCK OFF TRIDENT!’ underlined multiple times.  Hope was expressed by one person for Scotland to become a ‘sexy socialist utopia’.  One read ‘For my ex to be lonely for a long time’.

Others included wishes for no child to be born into poverty, for more girls to get involved in science and politics, for an internationally recognised Scottish passport, for exams to be made easier, for Scotland to have an entry in the Eurovision song contest and unsurprisingly, for a second referendum.  Common themes included greater power for Scotland and independence from Westminster rule – one that I saw simply read ‘Freedom’ – and opposition to nuclear weapons in Scotland and the current austerity regime and its consequences.  Another expressed the simple desire to keep the political discussion going.

There were a diverse range of contributors, even including elected members of the UK Parliament such as Philippa Whitford, MP for Central Ayrshire.  Those involved in the event included Common Space’s Michael Gray and Stephen Paton from Left Scotland, who was filming the event.  The main organiser was Aileen McKay, a Glasgow-based activist and student who like numerous others become engaged in politics for the first time in the lead up to last year’s referendum, and whose passion for positive social change in Scotland continues to engage and inspire many.

The spirit of this event was one of openness – where all were welcome, discussion was invited but never forced, and no opinion should be censored.  One person there asked me whether it was okay to write something in Arabic on the card.  ‘Of course!’ I replied.  Others who I had conversations with included those who were visiting Glasgow as tourists, someone who still regarded Scotland as home even after living in Australia for over 40 years, someone who was passionately opposed to the EU as a whole and could see no possibility for EU reform, and an older woman who some minutes into our conversation admitted to being a Conservative party supporter.  Even in that conversation some common ground was found as we discovered we shared a mutual respect for new UK Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Events like this are a clear demonstration of the nature of our new politics in Scotland.  This politics is bold and visible, diverse and creative, even humorous upon occasion.  This politics is about genuine engagement with the people of Scotland; listening to them to speak about the things that affect them, inviting them to express their hopes and dreams, welcoming honest discussion and debate, and politics where at the very heart there is an invitation to work together where there are things we agree on, to work together build a better future for our country.

I feel privileged to count Aileen and others involved in this event as personal friends.  I myself was not engaged in campaigning on the streets or involved with the work of pro-independence groups including Yes Scotland and National Collective in the lead up to the referendum last year, as many of these friends were.  In large part, work commitments at that time limited my involvement in the Yes movement primarily to discussions with friends and family, both in person and over social media platforms such as Facebook.  But in the time since the referendum, my political engagement has increased, both through the Scottish Green Party and involvement in activism that is not specifically party-affiliated, often through people such as these who I have met in social circles in the past year – people who like myself are part of a growing and vibrant activist network in Scotland.

Politics should not be about Oxbridge educated middle-aged white men in suits looking down on the little people and enjoying the power and privilege they hold over them.  Politics should be about all people – people feeling free to ask ‘stupid questions’, to take to the streets standing up for things that matter to them, to laugh together, even to cry together.

From my own perspective, I can attest to the power of this type of politics.  Friendships form because the things we care about have drawn us together.  Friendships grow stronger because we are still fighting.  One year on from the referendum result, our movement is still growing and the political discussion is still going – long may it continue.

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One Year On

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Chris Napier

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way. . . .”

So begins A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens’ homage to duality, social justice and resurrection set against the backdrop of the French Revolution and it neatly encapsulates my memory of the period immediately around the independence referendum one year ago.

As I said to one of my best friends just before the referendum, it felt like something special, possibly the first thing to happen in our adult lifetimes that matched the significance of the Moon landings or the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Before the day of the vote itself, it was a time of incredible hope, infused with a sense that genuine progressive change was possible and fuelled by the most widespread political awakening I’ve ever experienced. I spoke about the referendum, wider politics, what it meant to be Scottish or British to strangers and almost as importantly, to friends and family who I’d never have broached such subjects with in the past.

I remember being at the Yes rally in George Square the day before the referendum and feeling that this was the most excited I’d ever been about politics and the atmosphere was how I’d imagine it would be if Scotland won the world cup (or let’s be honest, just managed to qualify for a football finals…)

Of course, it wasn’t all good. There was conflict and I got into some blazing rows with workmates and friends (I have to admit that I didn’t always cover myself in glory in some of these debates) and there was also the fear that a chance at genuine, honest discussion was being stolen by the establishment and the media.

Then the time came to vote and I will always remember walking up to the polling station with my wife and my newborn son, accompanied by my mother in law (who lives in England but wanted to be in Scotland to experience the vote) and her English husband who insisted on winding me up by accepting and wearing a ‘No Thanks’ sticker.

Then some friends and I settled in with a few beers to watch the late night results show and it quickly became apparent as the results came in for each local authority, that it wasn’t going to go our way. Nonetheless, we saw it through to the end, feebly holding on to the usual Scottish sports fan hope that ‘it’s still mathematically possible if Edinburgh goes 80-20 for Yes’ and then we shuffled off to our beds (or got the first train home) as our hangovers and heartsick disappointment got the better of us.

That said, I remain massively proud that the city of my birth (Dundee) and the city I’ve lived in since the age of 18 (Glasgow) were two of the few parts of the country to cast their vote for change.

When I surfaced in the afternoon of the 19th to see the news coverage of the smug and derisory unionist response, with the debate swiftly shifted to being about EVEL and later the awful scenes in George Square, I was more disheartened than I’ve ever been in a long career of having hopes come to naught (Scottish sports fan, remember.)

So I did something I never thought I would do. I joined a political party and got politically active. I also started writing intensively about politics, rather than just arguing with people on social media. I knew that I couldn’t just lapse into the semi-apathetic state I’d occupied before… and neither did the rest of Scotland.

Fast forward to a year later and where are we?

With a majority Conservative government in Westminster who are openly opposed to revisiting the question of Scottish independence and have no intention of granting greater devolution as seemingly promised before the referendum. Five years and more of austerity cuts and warmongering at Westminster seems certain while the mainstream media stokes up fear and prejudice against refugees and benefits claimants.

Nonetheless (or perhaps because of this), support for independence only seems to grow, to the point where the SNP went from avoiding the topic of a second referendum to setting out a potential timeframe for one.

The worrying thing there is the general lack of self-reflection as to the reasons why Yes didn’t get over the line last year. Too many are too willing to assume that a victory is certain in a second independence referendum and the tendency of more than a few to insist blind compliance with the SNP party line is the only way to manifest support for independence or progressive change is concerning.

For me, independence was never about nationalism – I was Scottish when I was born and I will always be Scottish, regardless of the stamp on my passport or which government I pay my taxes to – but rather about making my country a fairer place with a more representative and responsible government.

I don’t think that can be achieved as an effective one party state or without continual self reflection as to why Scotland should be independent and what sort of independent country we’d want to be.

As such, with a year to get over the heartache of the No vote, a year spent raising my boys (now there’s two of them) and being more politically active than ever before, I’m still Yes because the economic, social and democratic reasons have only become more stark.

Now I’m a bit more cynical and very much settling in for the long haul rather than hoping for transformative change in the short term.

This will be the only year that I’ll dwell on this date as something to remember because I don’t believe in enshrining failure, rather in learning lessons and moving on.

The beauty of the Yes campaign was it’s diversity and inclusiveness, with supporters of almost all political hues, classes and ethnicities lending their voice to Yes. For a few sunny days last year, we had a glimpse of how positive, hopeful and dynamic Scotland’s future could be and that’s the memory I want to take forward.

Another Scotland is possible and even if it is delayed, we can still make it a reality, but only if we maintain all the energy, self awareness, diversity and above all, positivity which made last summer so memorable.

Can RISE push progressive politics forward without becoming sectarian?

The Scots Perspective interviews Democratic Left Scotland Convener and Dundee Trades Council Chair, Stuart Fairweather about the role of RISE in progressive politics and the push for independence.

Stuart Yes campaign

As the RISE party launch occurs at the weekend, we speak to Stuart Fairweather, a veteran political activist, convener of the Democratic Left Scotland, chair of the Dundee Trades Council and member of the Dundee Radical Independence campaign. He was active in the Trade Unions for YES organisation and has been a politically active for over three decades.

Stuart spoke at the launch of RISE and was invited, as an observer, onto the steering committee integral in developing the RISE party. Classing himself as ‘not quite a convert’ we ask Stuart about how he views the role of RISE within Scottish politics and the nature of progressive politics generally in Scotland.
RISE is a relatively new phenomenon for Scottish Politics, explains Stuart, and it is not a political party in the traditional sense. There has been an ambivelançe to elections by the far-left in the past, he points out, but RISE comes from a different perspective. The YES campaign initiated an enthusiasm and engagement in canvassing and campaigning and RISE develops that enthusiasm and position it with a wider more pluralist anti-austerity alliance.

The Independence referendum has changed everything in Scotland. The parameters of political action and ideas has been increasingly articulated through the struggle for self-determination. The collapse of the Labour Party, the surge of the SNP, the coalition gathering around RISE, as well as the Scottish Greens’ commitment to independence means that any progressive politics is coalescing around independence. One of the four tenets of RISE’s policy is independence, showing its central position in left-wing politics.

Stuart agrees to a certain extent. What ‘independence actually means in the context of globalisation is debatable’, he suggests. But the ‘relationship between the momentum for a further referendum and anti-austerity politics provides a potential for challenging neo liberalism.’ For those reasons ‘instrumental independence is central to a progressive political struggle in Scotland.’

There is movement within England that shows a developing struggle of anti-austerity politics that is taking hold. Corbyn’s surprise popularity and his potential to transform the Labour Party into an oppositional force creates a new politics for England. Does this change the political situation in Scotland?

Stuart thinks this is unlikely. Regardless of the leadership election he is suspicious of the Labour Party’s ability to become progressive. ‘For too long Labour has been very comfortable with being her Majesty’s loyal opposition rather than being the spearhead for an alternative in parliament as well as wider society,’ he suggests.

Will a Corbyn victory revive the Labour Party in Scotland?
“Whilst there may be some positive association with any Corbyn victory, it is unlikely to be enough to seriously challenge the SNP. The Labour Party’s failure to back a Yes vote will long damage its position in Scotland. Any attempt to establish a credible argument for greater powers should be welcomed but in itself will not address the issue of trust. Labour put the British establishment before the people.”

Along with that sense of Labour party betrayal, Scotland is also now coming to terms with the decision it made. In opting to remain part of the UK, we are now subject to a government that is unprecedentedly right wing. The destruction of the welfare state, the persecution of the poor and vulnerable and the erosion of our civil liberties create a Union that is somewhat disconnected to Scottish politics. “The prospect of an independent Scotland is something entirely different from Britain’s apparent enthusiasm for austerity” and “creates an ongoing contradiction,” explains Stuart.

With these issues in mind then, what next for Scotland? Stuart explains that in the short term, the May 2016 elections are pivotal in that they will “act as a proxy for the next referendum.” There is a lot of certainty that there will be another referendum but when that will be is subject to much speculation. Stuart considers that conditions are more important than time frames. Ensuring the next referendum ‘can be convincingly won’ is key, but creating ‘conditions for that is the hard bit’.

Stuart notes that the central point is whether SNP will include a clear timetable for a second referendum in their Hollywood manifesto. Naming any date is dangerous but ‘finding a form of words that keeps the prospect alive and connected to anti-austerity politics is what is important’.

And RISE’s role in all this? RISE can play a role in developing the anti-austerity / independence agenda set out on Scotland. But only if they can ‘develop this space without being sectarian’. In Stuart’s opinion, RISE should push the SNP on austerity but not on the referendum. And Stuart will be urging them to support the Green’s Maggie Chapman in the North East as part of a broader progressive alliance.

Stuart understands the difficulties involved in RISE’s new position. It needs to be critical of the SNP and Greens without being sectarian, he says, and this might be difficult for some. Last September was fundamentally ‘a democratic uprising’ he explains, and that’s what people need to be reconnected with. Organisations need to reflect the democratic tendencies in their organisational structure as well as policies, he continues. If sectarianism increases, then it will repel people and damage the anti-austerity movement. After the conference, however, Stuart is hopeful that RISE can avoid the pitfalls and play a positive role in Scotland’s new progressive politics.

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Is tribalism a barrier to genuinely progressive politics?

Kingsley

Anna Crow

So, what team do you support?

How many of us remember those days when, particularly in Glasgow, to ask what football team someone supported might have been the most divisive question that could be asked of someone by a new acquaintance?  I must admit that when faced with this particular question, I very rarely have given whatever the asker would consider to be the right answer.  I am fairly indifferent towards football in general.  If pressed for a more specific answer I might express support for Partick Thistle, if largely because I like that they are not caught up in the sectarianism which can divide Rangers and Celtic supporters and associated groups, and I like their new mascot Kingsley, who was designed by David Shrigley, one of my favourite artists.

That answer and its basis some may find controversial enough; however any controversy which could be provoked by asking the question above so often pales starkly compared to that generated in response to the question posed to those able to vote in Scotland last year – the question of whether we should become an independent country.  I and so many others grew to feel very strongly about our personal viewpoint regarding this.  I imagine how I felt when walking past others in the street who were wearing Yes badges is similar in many ways to how avid supporters of a football team may feel when seeing others wearing the same colours, proudly displaying their affiliation.  I remember that urgent sense of wanting to find out from acquaintances both new and old their answer to that question – were they a Yes or a No?  In essence, what team did they support and why?

Nearly 1 year post-referendum, I don’t feel that precise urge so often anymore.  I certainly do not regret that Scottish independence was a large part of the draw for me and many others to engage seriously with politics, but I believe that to focus on independence as a single issue will always risk hampering a broader sense of perspective and understanding regarding politics and society in Scotland and beyond.  I still support Scottish independence but it is clearer to me than ever that this is from the viewpoint of it being a means to the kind of significant progressive change that I feel is so desperately needed, rather than from a point of view of nationalism for its own sake.

More and more I find myself questioning this instinct that drives people to think about things in terms of teams or sides and to focus so often on what divides us rather than what may unite us.  The prevalent tendency is to simplify, to present issues as a strict dichotomy when most things are much more complex.  With this can come the mentality where people assume all of those on what they perceive as the same side are friends and all on the opposing side as enemies, and even perhaps view the enemies of their enemies as friends by default.  I feel that there are many flaws in such a way of thinking.  I believe that the time has come to pose this question: is there really any place for this tribalistic mentality in progressive politics?

I do not seek to belittle the value of the way in which to align with a defined group can be a positive thing in terms of engagement with others who share the same beliefs and values to work together for the common good.  However, it is vital to remain aware that not all within groups we choose to join may share the same inherent views concerning important issues and there may even be times when we find have more in common with those some may view as being on the other side rather than those in the groups we may be affiliated with.

In terms of the Scottish independence debate there are prominent figures including elected politicians on both sides – to conform to a dichotomous way of thinking – whom I respect and admire because of the principled and progressive values shown by their words and actions.  There are also those in both groups who seem more interested in their own power gains than the common good or whose words and behaviour have displayed other attitudes which I believe to be bigoted and completely unacceptable.

Moreover, thinking more broadly about politics in Scotland and the rest of the UK, could anyone really argue that the sheer level of animosity frequently displayed between certain political parties, between Labour and the SNP for example, is a productive influence for the common good of wider society?  So often televised pre-election debates descend into shouting matches rather than any thoughtful and reasoned discussion where all are given equal time to make their case and be questioned and held to account by the general public.  What is of even more concern is that the same attitude seems so prevalent within all levels of government – the political happenings that we as the general public will not have easy access to see.

A culture where tribalism is so prominent can foster an unhealthy sense of hierarchy and lead to bullying and intimidation of individuals who may at times be unwilling to side with the dominant view in their affiliated group for good reason – how can this be representative of genuine democracy?  This mentality also creates an unnecessary barrier between different groups being able to communicate honestly and work together when possible while retaining the ability to take a stand on areas of irreconcilable disagreement.

To challenge this may not be simple or straightforward to do but I believe that is what we and our elected representatives in government must do and keep doing in order to further progressive politics.  We need politics that represents genuine democracy, a greater sense of cooperation and solidarity regarding issues we agree upon, and most importantly, politics that is centred on the common good of all in society.