I have been observing what has happened to National Collective over the last fortnight with a strange mixture of panic and excitement. Panic because people I know and admire are being threatened by a big man with truck-loads of money, and excitement because people I know and admire did something really important that needed to happen. I read Michael’s article on the day it was published. I remember thinking at the time, ‘Jesus – why has this not been reported elsewhere?’ and, honouring the fashion of my generation, went a-googling and realised that it actually had been reported elsewhere, albeit some time ago and not in one handy catch-all article. So, thank you Michael. I am quite lazy really, and you saved me having to delve into the background of Better Together’s top donor myself. It’s important that we have fully-qualified, well-paid journalists and columnists doing what you did, given that we live in a democracy and should be fully-informed voters.
Unfortunately, on the issue of Scottish independence, we also have an exceptionally biased media, so instead of a fully-qualified, well-paid journalist or columnist reporting the story, we had an intrepid 21-year-old student. See, this is why I love National Collective. This is why I contribute whatever I can to National Collective and am thrilled to have the honour of being one of their ‘Cultural Ambassadors’ (though the title makes me cringe a little. They didn’t give me an ermine coat, after-all…) They are clever, creative, often hilarious and, in the case of Michael’s article, often raise extremely important questions.
Many agreed. I won’t bother listing all of them as I am, as aforementioned, lazy, but fellow pro-independence groups like Wings Over Scotland, The Herald, STV – all of a sudden, the article was getting quoted everywhere. Exciting! And then… the panicked ‘oh-fuck moment.’ I came in from work, all ready for my daily NC fix to discover the entire site had been replaced with a ‘Not For Publication’ notice, and, like no doubt lots of others, messaged Ross to find out what was happening. He was understandably a little busy, so I had to wait, like, twenty minutes for a reply, so I hunted around and discovered that the donations page was at least still up. And that it was about a grand higher than the last time I’d looked at it. Exciting!
I really hope I wasn’t the only person who then spent the next week periodically checking the donations page, because that makes me sound like a crazy stalker. I did though, and to be honest, NC are worth stalking. (Seriously – some of their satirical pieces have made me laugh more than is probably allowed in this age of unsmiling austerity…) I should probably mention that my thrill at seeing the donations nearly double since this happened was made all the better as I had been chatting to Ross maybe five days previously, and we’d wondered if the £18,000 target might have been too ambitious. Squeeee! Exciting!
More exciting was seeing even my staunchly unionist mates coming out in support of National Collective. One friend who I think is mostly No (I’ll get ye yet: you know who you are – just as soon as I get that ermine ambassador coat) even said that National Collective have been the only folks who have made him question his No stance, and that if they were the only voices for Scottish independence he’d probably be Yes already. Exciting!
And panic. Why? Why are the intelligent, reasoned, creative explorations of the National Collective contributors (present company excluded) not reflected in the mainstream press? Why did it take a 21 year old student to pose these questions? Why do more people not know about this? Outside of those people heavily involved in either the Yes or Better Together campaigns, how many people actually know about this? ‘This’ being the clamping down on the principles of a free press, freedom of speech and citizen journalism by Very Big Money. Let’s not beat around the bush – that’s what the last fortnight has been about. Regardless of your stance on Scottish independence, that should worry you.
This last week has also coincided, in case you missed it, with the re-painting of Thatcher as someone who baked muffins for the homeless and deserves to be commemorated by a library and museum – the irony of which shouldn’t be lost on observers of austerity UK, where Thatcher’s children are using Thatcherite ideology to shut both of these things down across the country. I’ve found myself watching the news and reading the papers this week with my fist in my mouth. Panicked. Worried. When mainstream news outlets start to produce reports that bear no resemblance to the truth, we should all be worried. When our dear leaders tell us we should venerate such a divisive figure lest we are heartless, apart from taking a great deal of chutzpah, suggests that our dear leaders are intent on using any possible opportunity to destroy every part of this island mass regardless of the consequences. This ties in with what has happened to National Collective and other pro-independence blogs (it does, it does, I promise I’ll get to the point in a wee minute.)
I came to be pro-independence and a member of National Collective, primarily due to a growing sense of unease at successive Westminster governments’ rhetoric. I didn’t come to be pro-independence because I have a deep knowledge of Scottish history, love Braveheart or think we will be better off economically. I don’t care if we are ‘better off’ (read: have more money as individuals to spend on even more shit we don’t need); not if being a wealthy country means venerating a growing divide between rich and poor and celebrating the psychotic ideology of Thatcherism. My friend Francis recently said that what people forget about ‘Ding-dong, the witch is dead!’ is that the celebration was short-lived because there was another evil witch just around the corner. Thatcherism is still alive, everywhere, and it’s getting worse. Couple that with Very Rich People threatening the wonderful, creative, free-thinking, non-partisan writers of National Collective, whose only crime was to ask questions that any sensible person would ask of a massive donation to a political campaign, and I know I’ve made the right decision to vote yes next year. I am pro-independece because I want to be part of building a better nation, where the powerful are held to account, not celebrated for their crushing power; where money is no longer allowed to silence criticism. (Ok – it was a slight tangent, but I got there eventually…)
A lot of people have responded to Taylor’s donation with a shrug and a ‘Yeah, but it’s always been that way and it always will.’ No, goddammit! It is vital that we ask these questions; and the longer these questions go unanswered, the more important it is that we ask them again. And louder.
I am thrilled that National Collective are back online; excited by what they will do next. For my part, I’ll be throwing them a party in late July* and continuing to share their brilliant content with anyone who will listen. I have a feeling there’s going to be more folk listening to them now…
*This is actually going to be a party/fundraiser event with many brilliant musicians, poets and artsy folk… Exciting! (Organisational panic!) Exciting!
Photograph by Peter Alvar