Yesterday I attended and stewarded the Radical Independence Conference (RIC) in Glasgow which was a resounding success on many fronts.
RIC aimed to group the Scottish pro-independence left together to argue for a ‘Yes’ vote in 2014 with a radical vision of another Scotland which put the needs of people before profit. The conference now becomes the Radical Independence Campaign which will be at the forefront of the wider independence movement.
The conference drew delegates from the Scottish Socialist Party, International Socialist Group, Socialist Workers Party, other socialist groups, the Labour party, the Scottish Green party, non-party members and people such as myself who are members of the SNP who wish to see not just a change of flag on top of the pole after independence but a radical change to our society.
What made the conference stand out was that it was the new dawn of a new left in Scotland. The Poll Tax generation of activists who attended RIC oversaw the baton being passed to the young upstarts behind RIC. As delegates walked into the main hall they were greeted with a large screen with the events hash tag #ric2012 which was another sign of the event being part of a generation of lefties for a new Scotland. The hash tag alone was another success for the conference with it being in the top 3 Glasgow trends on Twitter giving many Twitter users who may not be active politics an avenue to learn more about what RIC is and why they should vote ‘Yes’ at the forthcoming referendum.
The conference, as you may have gathered by now, was not your usual ‘Lefty’ gathering were activists gather in a dingy back water pub and discuss Lenin into the wee hours. The event was held at the swanky Radisson Blue hotel in the centre of Glasgow. To me this was a clear sign that the Scottish Left were stepping out the ghetto of politics and into the mainstream – we were becoming relevant again.
RIC had gathered an impressive list of speakers including Dennis Canavan, Patrick Harvie MSP, Andy Wightman, Jean Urquhart MSP, Gerry Hassan and Aamer Anwar to name but a few. This had no doubt helped to attract the impressive 800+ people who attended the conference. In addition to those home grown speakers the conference heard of the international struggle for a better world from speakers from Quebec, Greece, France, Palestine and the Basque Country. The Quebecois speaker described how the 1995 referendum in his homeland failed because the yes camp stood on a ‘nothing will change’ platform. This drew obvious parallels to the current Yes Scotland campaign which needs a radical voice inside it championing an alternative Scotland.
The conference day was also broken into various workshops were a number of topics was the centre of discussion. Unfortunately due to my role as a steward I could not attend the morning workshops as I was in foyer shepherding straggling delegates to the workshop they wished to attend with my trusty conference map. In the afternoon however I was able to attend the ‘Yes-Strategies for independence’ which discussed how we were actually going to win the referendum. The main debate in the workshop by the speakers and on the floor was the role of negativity/justified criticism and how we strike the right balance with a positive campaign. I was lucky enough to be picked from the floor to speak to the 250+ workshop attendees to put across my opinion. My main point to the room was from my own experience of speaking on street stalls, in my college and within my family. I told them of my success of asking people whatever their vision of Scotland they want to achieve is it “more likely with the status quo through Westminster or through an independent Scottish Parliament”. This is a question with both positivity and justified criticism within it. In addition to this I also asked activists to reiterate the success of our Scottish Parliament with education, personal care for our elderly, prescriptions all free at the point of use. Imagine what we could do with a Scottish Parliament with all the powers. This is what RIC asked delegates to do with the campaign’s slogan being “Another Scotland is possible”. Lastly, the topic of polls was also raised previously and I put across the point that in a year of the Diamond Jubilee and a London Olympics that if support for the Union is struggling to reach 50% we should not be disheartened by them but energised to go out there and campaign!
At the workshop ex-MSP Colin Fox made a fantastic point about Yes Scotland. With thousands of people attending the inaugural meetings of their local groups this is the beginnings of a mass movement just like the Anti-Poll Tax Federation which he took part in the 1980s. He called on his fellow Radicals to get involved in Yes Scotland activities as well as RIC – they can work in tandem.
RIC was a success beyond imagination. A sleek, organised and family friendly (a free crèche provided!) event for the pro-independence and undecided Left to come together to discuss and get organised for the debate ahead. The campaign will be long and hard but the victory that we achieve will be a glorious and great one. The prize is an independent Scotland, a different Scotland, another Scotland. This is possible and it shall be achieved.
Photograph by Nathan Sparling.