Literary Events In July

July is here and we’re turning up the heat (well, if it’s anything like June we might literally have to turn the heating back on).

It’s a month to go until that pilgrimage that is the Edinburgh International Book Festival. So to get you in the mood before then, here’s our literary event picks of the month to whet your appetite.

Festival of the Common Weal

Sunday 6 July, 12pm-6pm, Arches

The Arches are opening its doors and rooms for the Festival of the Common Weal. A day-long celebration bringing together a diverse group of organisations, the event is meant to bring people together to “unite the energy of those who demand a progressive future for Scotland”.

Alongside spoken word from Jenny Lindsay and Sam Small and discussions led by Gerry Hassan and Richard Walker, The Arches will be jam-packed with music, art, children’s activities and comedy. A positive way of joining in with other people to think about and discuss the future that lies before our country – a great way to spend the afternoon.

Auld Enemies 9th-17th

Friday 11 July, 7pm, Summerhall, Free

Auld Enemies is touring Scotland! 6 towns, over 40 poets and a feast of new collaborations that you CANNOT miss.

Auld Enemies goes to Dundee, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Lerwick and Kirkwall. Although each of the events look cracking, I’m sticking my neck out to recommend the Edinburgh night on the 11th in particular, if only because two of my favourite poets have teamed up.

Billy Letford and Ryan Van Winkle are (for me) the highlights of the Edinburgh evening. Alongside them are the fireworks that are SJ Fowler, Colin Herd, Elspeth Murray, Luke Allan and Rachel McCrum to name but a very short few.

On the Margins – Nina de la Mer & Liam Murray Bell

Wednesday 9 July, 6pm, Waterstones Sauchiehall, Free

A gem of an event that looks at two brilliant novelists whose characters are ‘on the margins’ of society in their books. Writers Liam Murray Bell and Nina de la Mer discuss their new novels with Claire Squires, looking at the importance of creating characters in contemporary fiction who face tough life choices, and dissecting the process of creating unique, edgy voices in their work.

Liam Murray Bell’s new novel, The Busker, tells the story of young musician Rab Dillon, who is offered a chance to make it big as a folk singer but quickly loses everything and ends up facing a life on the streets.

Nina de la Mer’s second novel, Layla is a bold and unflinching story following a week in the life of a young, reluctant lap dancer who dreams of a quieter life with her baby son.

Neu! Reekie! – The Summer Sizzler

Saturday 19 July, 7pm, Platform Glasgow,  £12.50

The East End Social has a belter of a line-up and thankfully it hasn’t neglected a bit of spoken word banter. Step in Neu!Reekie! who are having a Glasgow-only event this month – The Summer Sizzler!

Full to the brim with SAY Award nominees (The Pastels), folk-rock legends (Broken Records) “poet and tragedian[s]” (Jock Scot), visual artists (Rachel Maclean) and extraordinary novelists (Jackie Kay), those Reekie! lads Williamson and Pedersen have certainly turned up the heat!

(What was that? A spot of free whisky you say?)

Parley For Power

Wednesday 23 July, 8pm, Scottish Storytelling Centre – Netherbow Theatre,  £8

The double sell-out play written by author Alan Bissett and poet Michael Pedersen will be coming to the Scottish Storytelling Centre for an evening of laughs, philosophy and a bit of puppetry.

Joining Bissett and Pederson are TeenCanteen lead singer Carla Easton and singer-songwriter Eugene Kelly from The Vaselines to give a quirky and unforgettable performance.

There will also be mini individual performances from all four, giving a real eclectic flavour of acting, voices and shenanigans. Plus, puppets! (Did I already mention that?)

For Falkirk’s Sake

Wednesday 30 July, 7pm, Behind the Wall, £7

It’s great to suddenly see Falkirk as a new place for up-and-coming talent. New publication [Untitles] is doing great work in encouraging local writers and poets to get their stuff out there.

As part of the For Falkirk’s Sake Festival, [Untitled] are hosting an evening of spoken word from the best writers to come out of the fair town. Performers to include Alan Bissett, Janet Paisley, Dickson Telfer, Samuel Best, Bethany Ruth Anderson, Paul Cowan and Gordon Legge (yes, THE Gordon Legge).

Oh, and I’ll also be performing, though I don’t count myself as part of the “best writers” bit…

Karyn Dougan
National Collective

Gerry Campbell: I Heart England

gerry campbell

Madness first sparked my love of England, and of London in particular. And I fell hard: One Step Beyond, Baggy Trousers, and Night Boat To Cairo were the soundtrack to my late primary-school years, the bounciest moments at the school disco. Their 1980 album Absolutely had a picture of the Nutty Boys outside Chalk Farm tube station on the cover. I had a longing to visit this exotic place and find out where this nutty, anarchic music came from, a longing almost as strong as my desire to get a crew cut and a Crombie (neither of which I was allowed).

Madness seemed like a logical extension of Grange Hill, which I loved. Everyone in my class could do a passable “Pack it in, Tucka!” We were adept mimics, and our favourite English accents poured out of the telly every day after school like visiting cousins, aunts and uncles. I knew that the stuff that happened on the telly was happening somewhere else, and that the day-to-day life I lived bore little resemblance to that. At playtime, we imagined our way into the worlds we knew from the telly.

I was 18 before I saw London in the flesh. My then girlfriend was at dance school there, and she took me to Camden, to Shepherd’s Bush, to theatres and to parties in impossible-seeming houses. The enormous abundance of things to do and see, of people, was overwhelming and compelling; I felt like I’d arrived in the world from the telly.

A thing that’s always struck me about London is that you mostly can’t see out of it when you’re in it – everywhere you look is London. I always have a thought at some point during visits there that home feels very far away, not just geographically, but mentally. The concerns of life at home seem to shrink somewhat as you get swept up in the relative scale and pace of it. And the majority of Londoners that I meet know relatively little about where I’m from, while I know and love their town pretty well.

I’ve been there a few times for work, but more often to play with my old band. Putney, Shoreditch, Kentish Town, Clerkenwell, Islington – we won them over (mostly) and made firm friends along the way. There are musicians of my generation who are making music there today with an attitude that I recognise from the London bands I loved as I was growing up, and that’s great to be around.

Music’s an excellent route into life, and it’s enabled me to travel around some of the country. I came to know Newcastle, Leeds, Harrogate, Manchester, Sheffield, Oxford, and (weirdly) Glossop a little bit through playing gigs there. Glossop was glorious, by the way. That part of the Peak District just rolls and dips beautifully. I hiked up Kinder Low End for a look while I was there: stunning.

Oxford left me somewhat torn, I have to say. It’s so pleasant to be there, but every once in a while I’d catch myself and think “Why aren’t other places like this, this agreeable?” I took a lot of pictures, mostly of college buttresses through railings while thinking how it’s nice that they let some folk from my background in, these days.

I was having a swift one in a pub before a show there when I heard three middle-aged men in tweed (I could hear the tweed) chatting as they took seats at a table behind me. Their conversation went something like this:
Tweed #1: …bloody Gordon Brown, bloody jock, ruining the bloody country.
Tweed #2: Well, when have the bloody jocks not been ruining the bloody country?!
Tweed #3: I suppose we ought to be a bit grateful for the whisky revenue, all the same.
Tweeds 1-3: Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!
General clinking of whisky glasses.

“Whisky revenue? That’s the bloody least of it,” I thought. I weighed up a righteous, Caledonian-accented intervention but decided to let it lie. I’ve been there before; it’s just sport to those guys.

Now, deflated as I was to hear a shit prime minister being decried for being a jock rather than for being shit, I don’t mean to paint that kind of latent racism as an English-only phenomenon; living in the West of Scotland has taught me otherwise. I met some nasty French football fascists in Britanny one time – bigotry’s international. I’ve even met un-ironically xenophobic Greeks. No, what Tweedgate did was to remind me that I was not ‘one of us’ in this place; I was ‘other’. I was in another country, not at home (where at least we knew that if Alex Salmond and Henry McLeish were shit first ministers, it was because they were shit, not because they were “bloody jocks”).

But that little incident is funny in retrospect. It doesn’t dampen my love of England a bit, and why should it? God, I’ve been just as ashamed and more at conversations I’ve overheard in Glasgow.

England’s a wonderful country. And it’s another country, distinct from Scotland.

My England-dwelling friends often bring up the independence referendum – usually tentatively, to their credit – and with the ones who aren’t pro-independence, it always feels a bit like you’re breaking up a relationship: What did I do? Don’t you love us anymore? So this is for them, a love letter dedicated to everything we cherish and share, and a reassurance that our connections are much stronger than mere politics. Politics is important, but let’s keep things in perspective.

The relocation of decision-making to Scotland is merely political and doesn’t end our relationships or stop us enjoying being in each other’s neighbourhoods. But that relocation is necessary in order for Scotland to give full expression to its distinctive outlook. And that can’t be allowed to shrink away to almost nothing amid the skewed order of business at Westminster. The concerns of Scotland must seem at least as distant to the Westminster government as Scotland does to me when I visit London. It’s “up there somewhere”. That can’t happen in a fully independent Scottish parliament.

Westminster… HP sauce bottles – another imagined place, mythical as Grange Hill and Chalk Farm.

I do have similarly warm feelings about other places – Paris, Nantes, Barcelona, Galway – but it would seem ridiculous to have a government in one of those places making decisions for Scotland, utterly incongruous. And yet they’re no more foreign to me than London is. They’re places where I’ve made strong links with people, where I’ve had brilliant experiences, and I hope to continue that.

My idea of independence is not ‘anti’ anything; it’s not any kind of ‘-ism’. I see September’s referendum as an opportunity to put us in tune with the rest of the world and have Scotland making its own decisions, as most countries do.

And when it happens, a beneficial side-effect for our dear ones in the remaining UK countries will be the inevitable debate and re-evaluation of the whole Westminster system of government, a debate that seems unlikely to be taken seriously if Scotland were to plump for the status quo. And what a gift to our neighbours that debate would be. I’d be glued to the telly.

Gerry Campbell
National Collective

Sarah Beattie-Smith: On Remaking Or Starting Anew

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Over the last few days I’ve been undecided. Luckily not about how I’ll cast my vote in September, but rather, undecided about whether independence is about starting over, remaking Scotland out of the crumbled walls of the union we’d break by leaving it. Or about a blank canvas, a fresh start, full of potential.

The somewhat messy conclusion that I’ve come to is that it’s a bit of both, and that both metaphors need work.

I’d been operating on the basis that independence – a yes vote in September – is our chance to remake Scotland. To rebuild. To reshape. But none of those words quite worked for me. They didn’t feel powerful enough or inspiring enough. They didn’t personify the change that I and so many others desperately want to see. So I turned to a book full of words, my mum’s old thesaurus and looked for alternatives and inspiration there. What I found couldn’t have been further from inspirational.

Under the entry for “remake”, I found “repetition” and “reproduce”. Hmm, no thanks. Puzzlingly I also found “film” – and realised of course that remake is also remake – it’s that dodgy modern version of a classic, lacklustre and fake.

So I thought, ah, what about “recreate”? We’ll be starting over, creating anew. But no. For recreate, read rectify, and for rectify read modify.

It doesn’t really do it for me. No, for me independence is about the chance to do things radically differently from how they’ve aye been. It’s about a new culture of confidence and caring, a common weal society based on solidarity not selfishness and a democracy that lives up to its name and gives power to the people, away from queens and crowns.

That’s not a reproduction or a recreation. That’s a new nation with it’s feet firmly planted in the past, yet facing the future, fearlessly.

I believe an independent Scotland could be a pioneer, an inventor and experimenter, as we have been so often in the past. The Scottish Green Party, Common Weal, National Collective and Radical Independence all have a raft of ideas ready and waiting to float and set sail. Ideas on reforming democracy to bring power out of not just Westminster but also Holyrood, into communities, industries and institutions. Ideas on free childcare, free education and the freedom to pursue what matters most to you.

We could establish a citizens income – a basic income for all, covering the essential costs of living, available to every man and woman in the country. It’s affordable, even now, and could be the bedrock of an independent Scotland. A symbol of a nation of people who protect each other through genuine social security and a nation that looks beyond financial wealth to social and cultural wealth.

Imagine the possibilities for individuals, for artists, if you could afford to simply make and create without battling with the job centre, the taxman or the council in order to eat. Imagine the possibilities for our communities if we recognised the social and cultural worth of creative endeavour instead of constantly trying to put a price on it.

These things are possible with an independent Scotland where we’re not constrained by the oft repeated narrative of the UK; that we’re better together in a world where we’re intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich in the hope that wealth will trickle down. Stuck in a context where that story is retold so many times that it becomes the irrefutable truth, we are bound to simply modify and rectify, to reproduce and repeat.

What independence offers is a blank canvas. A terrifying, oppressive blank canvas filled with possibility and responsibility in equal measure. The possibility to make marks but the responsibility for them to be the right marks. I have, like many creative types, mixed feelings about a blank canvas or a blank page. Fear and trepidation mixed with excitement and wonder at the possibilities. Of course there’s no guarantee that what we write or paint or draw or build will be a phenomenal work of art. We have to bring all our knowledge, experience, ideas and creativity to the fore and use the resources at our fingertips to create it. But I truly believe we have the talent, the passion and the means to do just that. And that’s why I’ll be voting yes.

Sarah Beattie-Smith
National Collective

Uncovering Scotland’s Film Festivals

As the 2014 Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF) nears its end, now’s a good time to take a look at the rest of the country’s eclectic film festival scene, which is so vast and varied that even the most ardent of cinephiles could not be left wanting for more.

EIFF is known to have had a couple of down years of late, but this is excusable when you consider that it is the longest continually running film festival in the world; and all signs are pointing towards it being more than back on track.

It is also unique in the nation’s film festival circuit, as it is not solely audience driven, but plays a crucial role in the UK and international film industry, attracting global film distributors looking to discover new talent.

This differs from the Glasgow Film Festival (GFF), which, as Scotland’s biggest festival (in terms of admissions), purely aims to entertain audiences and attract more visitors to the city. They serve different purposes and like the cities they exist within, they complement one another perfectly.

Chances are you’ve been to either EIFF or GFF, but did you know that Scotland is home to over 30 film festivals? And more are popping up each year, with two new additions in 2014 alone – Art Screen, Glasgow, dedicated to arts documentaries, which had its inaugural outing in April, and Aberdeen Film Festival, which opens for the first time this October.

As a film lover, I can’t imagine a more enjoyable way to explore Scotland, than heading off on a road trip to take in all (okay, some) of the country’s film festivals. Why not challenge yourself to pick a film festival that you didn’t know existed or one that takes place somewhere you’ve never been before and give it a go?

Here’s an outline of film festivals that take place in Scotland (sorry if I’ve missed any, feel free to add any omissions in the comments). Broadly speaking and for the purposes of easy reading, the festivals are divided into two categories – location-defined and theme-defined.


EIFF and GFF may be the best known film festivals on the country’s cultural calendar, but, surprisingly, there are only two others based in cities or large towns – Inverness Film Festival, which will have its 12th outing this year and new kid on the block, Aberdeen Film Festival. Meanwhile, film festivals are thriving in smaller towns, rural areas and the islands.

Scotland’s most northerly festival, Screenplay (August/September) takes place in Lerwick, Shetland. Curated by pre-eminent film critic Mark Kermode and his film professor wife, Linda, it draws quite the line-up of special guests, with Jason Issacs and Bill Forsyth recent attendees. Taking place at the same time of year, but at the opposite end of the country is Berwick Film Festival (September). The 2014 festival will address the theme Border Crossing, exploring border identities all over the world. What a perfectly chosen theme, considering Berwick-upon-Tweed’s history as a ‘debatable territory’ and the fact that this year’s event will take place during the week of the Referendum.

Two rurally located and unique festivals worth highlighting are Cromarty Film Festival (December) and TT16mm Film Festival in Tarbert (August). Cromarty in the Highlands, which has a population of less than 1000, holds screenings in an array of charming venues from breweries to sheds to stables. Last year’s opening event projected a film onto the side of a Lighthouse, with mulled wine and whisky available to keep attendees cosy. Whilst Tarbert, which has a population of just over 1000, hosts an annual festival of 16mm prints of classic films projected in the salon of a 1920s Dutch barge.

Other location based film festivals include:

Southside Film Festival, Glasgow (May) – Super local festival that supports local filmmakers.
Dunoon Film Festival (June) – Celebrating the best of Scottish filmmaking past and present.
Loch Ness Film Festival (July) – Diverse programming from across the globe.
Deep Fried Festival, Lanarkshire (August – September) – Independent film focus.

Theme-defined festivals

There are a plethora of film festivals in Scotland, which wholly dedicate their programme to a niche subject or genre of filmmaking. Two notable festivals, which are on the opposite ends of the genre spectrum from one another, are the Hippodrome Festival of Silent Cinema, Bo’Ness (March) and the Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival, Hawick (April).

Scotland’s oldest purpose-built cinema, The Hippodrome provides the perfect venue for the country’s only silent film festival. Paying tribute to the era in which the Hippodrome was born, the festival screens silent movies with live musical accompaniment. Meanwhile, Hawick’s international festival of experimental film and moving image choose the theme of ‘Dreamland’ for their 2014 outing. Films that explored the natural world as a place of dreams were screened, with such explorations then discussed in relation to the dreams of a Scottish homeland to coincide with the year of the referendum.

There are a few themes that are so popular that multiple festivals have sprung up dedicated to covering such topics – horror, outdoors and making a difference.

There are five festivals which use film to address social issues and inspire change for common good. The Reel Festivals in Edinburgh (May) collaborate with artists working in areas in conflict to help create dialogue. Beyond Borders, Edinburgh (August), aims to facilitate wider international cultural exchange. Document, Glasgow (October), champions international human rights documentaries. The Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival, various locations (October), challenges preconceived ideas about mental health. And Take One Action, various locations (November), empowers communities to engage with issues of global concern.

Horror fans are well catered for with Frightfest, Glasgow (February), Dead by Dawn, Edinburgh (April) and Dundead Horror Film Festival, Dundee (May). As a horror enthusiast myself, I can attest that fans of the genre can be obsessive in nature. Recognising this, each of the festivals operate passes to allow people to see as much gore, thrills and chills as possible, and host all-night screenings showing 3, 4 or 5 films back-to-back.

Potentially playing to a very different crowd (or maybe not!) are the outdoors-y film festivals, which promote adventure sports to outdoor devotees – Edinburgh Mountain Film Festival (February), Fort William Mountain Festival (February) and Dundee Mountain Film Festival (November).

Other theme based film festivals, some of which return to the same locations each year and some of which take in multiple locations or tour the country, include:

Manipulate, Aberdeen and Edinburgh (February)– Innovative visual theatre and film from Puppet Animation Scotland.
Kinguisse Food on Film Festival (February) – The screening of exclusively food related films, alongside cooking demonstrations.
Italian Film Festival, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Dundee and Kirkcaldy (March) – Screening the greatest Italian films of the year, as well as timeless classics.
Middle Eastern Film Festival, Edinburgh (May) – Promoting Middle Eastern cinema with a focus on a different country each year.
Africa in Motion Film Festival, 10 locations across Scotland, from the Isle of Skye to Dumfries (June/July) – Showcasing the brilliance of African film.
Scotland Loves Anime, Glasgow and Edinburgh (October) – A celebration of Japanese animation, with an emphasis on supporting local young animators.
Play Poland, Edinburgh and Glasgow (October) – Increasing awareness of Polish cinema and creating opportunities for Poles abroad to keep their national culture alive.
Luminate Festival, various locations (October) – A full programme of culture, including film, aimed at aging audiences.
Discovery Film Festival, Dundee and touring (October/November) – Aimed at children and teens.
DANCE: FILM, Edinburgh (November) – Showcasing the synergy between the moving image and the moving body, with complementary dance workshops.
French Film Festival, UK-wide taking in Glasgow and Edinburgh (November) – For Francophile cinephiles.
48 Hour Film Project, 120 cities worldwide, including Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen (various dates) – Teams are assigned a line of dialogue and a genre and then given 48 hours to create a film, which will be shown in a local cinema.

So, it’s pretty safe to say, that no matter where you live in Scotland and whatever your taste in films, there is a film festival out there for you.

Tricia Crosbie
National Collective

Image by Angus McDiarmid

Peter Curran: I Want A Just And Equitable Society


I’ll be voting for an independent Scotland in 2014 because, from 1997 onwards, four watershed events led to a shift in my political perspective and loyalties and inexorably to the conclusion that only full independence would meet my criteria for a just and equitable Scottish society.

They were the election of the Blair/Brown Labour Government in 1997, 9/11 in 2001, Afghanistan, and the Iraq invasion in 2003.

These four events crystallised doubts that had existed since the mid-1960s (with older roots) on nuclear disarmament, the real nature of the Union and Scotland’s place in it, of Britishness, the Labour Party’s core beliefs in multi-lateral disarmament, membership of the UK in a context of internationalism and the Westminster system, and Scottish Labour’s belief that they could influence Westminster as representatives of Scottish voters while sustaining an internationalist perspective and values.

My perspective of British and UK industry and commerce, the financial/banking sector and the military/industrial complex and its influence on democratic governments widened dramatically after establishing my own consulting and training business in 1988, after many decades in industrial management. These fears also crystallised from 1997 onwards, and the likelihood of a financial crash was evident to me from the millennium year 2000.

I had never entertained romantic ideas about Scotland, and I was – and still am – the antithesis of a blood-and soil-nationalist.

But I do believe the ancient nation of Scotland has, in its history, culture, scientific and intellectual achievements and political and social values, created a 21st century social entity comprised of Scots old and new, from a widely diverse range of backgrounds and ethnic origins, that exhibits values and beliefs about politics, the rule of law, the role of representative government in a democracy, the role of a nation state in the interdependent global community and the rights and obligations of its people that, in their totality, can only be satisfied in a sovereign, independent state.

As someone committed to live and work in Scotland, I want a just and equitable Scottish society, not just for myself but for all those similarly committed to the geographical entity called Scotland. I also want a just and equitable society, not just for myself and those who are part of Scottish society, but for all peoples across the globe – but I now believe that any influence, however small, that I and other residents of Scotland can have on that wider global objective can only come from within a nation state. I believe that true internationalism begins with, and must be rooted in nationalism in the autonomous nation state.

I believe the nation state that can deliver the closest match to my political and social values is Scotland, and that the state of which I have been a member all of my life, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, is a manifestly failing and dysfunctional conglomerate – the rump of a vanished empire – that cannot deliver those political and social values to any of its component nations.

What do I want from my nation state?

I want it to abandon, totally and unequivocally, the irrational obscenity of nuclear weapons, for which no intellectual or moral case exists or can exist in my view. Given that premise, the strategic case is irrelevant to me, but I believe it is totally untenable even if the moral conditions are ignored or denied.

I want it to be close to a truly representative democracy, close to the people, with a national constitution that protects their fundamental and sovereign rights. The UK in my view is demonstrably not such a democracy, given the unelected House of Lords, the current role of the monarch and the web of inherited and awarded undemocratic privileges that flow from such a monarchy.

I want a close but flexible association politically and for mutual defence with my European, Scandinavian and Nordic neighbours, but one that leaves the final sovereign decisions with my nation on armed intervention in the affairs of other nations outside of any such alliances.
I want an economically successful nation where the rewards of success are equitably distributed, and the price of economic success is not at the expenses of the people’s quality of life and the natural environment. I believe that the UK fails these criteria, has always failed them and will never match them, and that the Scottish unionist parties are impotent in Westminster to change that.

I will not regurgitate all the complex arguments and rebuttals that makes me believe Scotland has the people, the values, the will, the capacity and the resources to be the nation I want it to be. I’ve listened, evaluated and made my decision, as other Scots, old and new, must and will finally on September 18th 2014.

Peter Curran
National Collective

Gerry Hassan: A Scotland Beyond Yes And No – My Journey to Yes


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: centered 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.

Generational Stories of Scotland

There are many different stories in our current Scottish discussion and one of the most illuminating is recognising the potency and vibrancy of inter-generational accounts. There is the Scotland and Britain of the immediate post-war years filled with hope and security; the political anger and opposition felt by first the Thatcher generation and then the Blair era; and now the emergence of a whole new generation of radical voices. All of these have validity and should be heard and respected.

My journey in this referendum has been one which started from the hopes and vision of Labour Scotland. My parents, Jean and Eddie from Dundee, were representative of the working class generation who in the 1950s and 1960s had secure employment, rising living standards and a better quality of life.

My parents believed that society was getting fairer, that the future would be better and all of this was synonymous with the idea of Britain. They were of the generation who believed in Britain and saw it as being intrinsically about the future, progressive change and feeling optimistic about their lives.

Such was the strength of my parents abiding faith in Britain as the means of bringing about social change that they voted against the then European Economic Community (EEC) in the 1975 referendum, judging it ‘a capitalist club’ and that the best means of advancing socialism was at the level of the British state. That wasn’t an uncommon viewpoint then.

Then in the first Scottish devolution referendum of 1979 my parents both voted ‘no’, again because of their belief in the idea that Britain was the best means to advance social change. They even felt that any move towards Scottish devolution was a regressive move, associating the idea of Scotland with reactionary opinion and outdated ideas. Britain was the future, whereas the very notion of Scotland was linked to the past. It was, of course, unwittingly, a very Scottish view of feeling uncomfortable about large parts of your own history and culture.

Let’s Talk about Britain

Look at the state of Britain today and it is far from the hopes and dreams of that generation. It is one of the most unequal countries in the developed world. It is also one of the most indebted countries – when state, corporate and individual debt is added together, amounting according to the respected Institute of Fiscal Studies to 470% of GDP – the second highest of all the leading economies after Japan.

Then there is the increasingly imbalanced and unsustainable regional inequities of the economy and society. London, which is 12% of the UK’s population, produces over 22% of GDP, is ‘crowding out’ the rest of the UK, and has got its sights on expanding further. Behind those figures there is a deepening dislocation between London and the rest of the UK, and within London, between the new rich, super-wealthy and their hangers-on and apologists, and the vast majority of the population.

This state of affairs is not the product of the Cameron Government, or what thirty years of post-war Labour Governments have and have not done (including many things lots of us can still be proud of). Instead it is about much deeper, longer-term factors: the power of elites in Britain, the nature of the City and how it emerged from Empire, the legacy of its anti-industrial ethos (because ‘gentlemen’ didn’t do dirty work like make things) and the tax havens around the globe which are a part of ‘the global kingdom’ which are linked to, but outside the UK. All of this is entrenched by the limited nature of what passes for political democracy.

This is all far removed from the vision of Labour Britain which inspired my parents and many of their generation, yet this political settlement was built upon the above, and proved to be an uneasy and eventually unworkable compromise with the institutions, power and privilege of ‘the conservative nation’. Labour sought to build its post-war ‘new social order’ on the castles of undemocracy, the British state and centralisation, rather than take head on such reactionary values and bodies; this proved illusive in building a coalition for progressive ideals, and disastrously gave the right the terrain of ‘freedom’ and anti-statism.

Many of us who have become increasingly critical of the state of Britain and the minimal potential for radical, progressive change, do so with some element of sadness and reflection. We have not come to this judgement lightly or based on short-term factors.

Change is What This is About: What, Why, How

Given the above it should not be surprising that the case for change has become increasingly self-evident at a Scottish and UK level; yet it is increasingly blocked at UK level.

In Scotland the means for achieving change and securing it have not yet been agreed. The what and the why are increasingly credible. The issue is more and more now about the how: the scale and extent of Scottish self-government.

Now to non-nationalists this question needs to be posed openly. Federalism across the UK might seem attractive, but the only problem is that this does not look achievable in the foreseeable future. England does not show any desire to have a Parliament. While English regions have shown little interest in devolution.

This debate cannot be and must not be narrowed down to such one-dimensional caricatures as Scotland not voting Tory, resisting Thatcher, and what we thought of Blair. The Scotland of 2014 cannot be about what we now think Thatcher did in the 1980s, or Blair and New Labour post-1997.

It is about democracy. One that is much wider and deeper than who we vote or don’t vote for. But is about how we hold authority to account. And slowly Scottish society is becoming one more democratic and pluralist.

This touches on the pivotal question of responsibility – both individual and collective. And how we mature, grow up and stop blaming others, and take a good, long look at ourselves.

It is really not about the past. Or being defined by the past although clearly the role and power of collective memories, stories and folklore matter. The place that seems trapped in a version of the past – and an imagined, recreated version of the past is the UK. Instead, this debate has really awakened people to look at how we see ourselves and how we feel we can shape the future.

The Importance of Growing Up and the Power of Values

The Irish writer Fintan O’Toole wrote a foreword to my book ‘Caledonian Dreaming’ which he looked at Ireland and Scotland. In a piece he previously wrote on Scottish independence he stated:

“The options are not economic misery under the union or permanent boom-times under independence. They lie more in the realm of collective psychology. Do you want to have the safety net of an auld enemy to rage at when policies don’t work and the world turns mean? Or do you prefer to look at yourself in the mirror, in all your glories and stupidities?” (The Times, June 5th 2012)

This seems one of the central dimensions of the debate. Are we brave and strong enough to take charge of our own fate? To look at ourselves and our decisions and reflect that many of the things wrong have been as a result of our actions and that of our elites. To say that our shaming health inequalities or educational gap are not the fault of the union, but of complex factors our elites have had control over.

Power has been shifting across the United Kingdom and within Scotland. It has been shifting from London to Edinburgh. For some this is enough – whether it is the various definitions of devolution or some versions of independence – and in particular ‘the full powers of the Parliament’ approach of the latter.

Change is already coming to Scotland. A politics which has to address ‘the missing Scotland’. A society where the old elites have weakened and hollowed out. Where many once powerful institutions and public bodies have less power.

Large sections of professional and middle class Scotland find all of this and the current debate a little uncomfortable. This isn’t surprising, and they should be gently asked what are the public values that they embody in their institutional and professional settings, in what way these are progressive, and critically, the link or not between action and deeds.

Part of Scotland has for too long had a guid conceit about itself – once that its paternalism was enlightened and far-reaching, then with the advent of Thatcherism, that these same values and personnel were suddenly social democratic and an expression of ‘civic Scotland’. It has never been good enough, and an element of this debate has to get into the territory of values, the disconnect between how we often portray ourselves and the reality which disfigures much of Scotland, and the systematic way elites never want to talk about the power they have.

The Danny Dorling Question: Do We Trust Each Other?

Two weeks ago in Edinburgh, the UK’s foremost expert on inequality, Prof. Danny Dorling of Oxford University concluded his Wreford Watson lecture at Edinburgh University by asking of us in this debate:

How much do we believe we trust each other?

It is a simple and powerful question.

About us – all of us, not Yes or No, not ‘us’ and ‘them’. All of us – as a society, community and people. About how we relate to each other, build, nurture and cherish relationships, and have an emotional and social intelligence which informs us both in private and public.

Living in a culture where we don’t belong to closed tribes and fixed mindsets. Where men don’t grow up thinking it is appropriate to be ‘warriors’, and we don’t see people we disagree with as ‘our enemy’. Sadly, this still seems to be beyond some.

It is about the prospect and capacity for change, knowing the status quo is not only not good enough, but fails large parts of our society and our citizens, and believing and knowing we can do better.

It is for all of these reasons – the multiple, historic and deep-seated crises of Britain, the prospect of Scottish opinion mobilising for a very different kind of politics, the linking of the constitutional question into the wider economic and social and exploring the what kind of society do we want to live in, and to make a better democracy, society and culture, that I will vote Yes.

Scotland can be a modern, progressive, European nation – characteristics increasingly foresworn by the direction and intention of British politics.

Scotland is setting out on an exciting direction, where not all the detail is clear or yet in place, but our intention is unambiguous: of forging greater self-government with a mission and purpose for economic and social justice. To quote the words of Winston Churchill, what is required from our politics is ‘a lighthouse, not a shop window’.

  • Yes to opening, not closing the debate;
  • Yes to one Scotland and to many multiple Scotlands;
  • Yes to hearing the yes in No and the no in Yes;
  • Yes to listening to and hearing doubt, ambiguity and uncertainty and respecting it;
  • Yes to standing up to challenging our complacent stories and elites, and ‘the hard wee men’ who think they have the right to tell us all off;
  • Yes to admitting mistakes, learning and facing up to our individual and collective shortcomings, and acknowledging ‘our glories and stupidities’;
  • Yes to the emergence of new voices and ideas coming centre-stage and ‘the missing Scotland’ who have been excluded for most of the last generation;
  • Yes to a future shaped by the people of this nation: a culture of self-government, self-determination and inter-independence

Gerry Hassan
National Collective

David Morgan: The Question

National Collective Headshot

This is the story of my journey to Yes. I hope that it’ll reach a wide audience and if, by the end of it, you feel that it’s spoken to you then I’d encourage you to share it as widely as possible – not just online, but offline as well with your own families and friends, colleagues and neighbours.

My story starts with a confession – with something that I’ve never told anyone before. To be honest it’s a bit embarrassing, but given the importance of this September’s vote I think it’s important to put it out there, so here goes.

In 1997 I voted ‘No’ to devolution and to the creation of a Scottish Parliament.

Isn’t that funny? Looking back now it seems almost impossible to believe that anyone could possibly have opposed the creation of something that has made such a difference to Scotland, and that has helped improve the lives of so many Scots.

And yet the truth is that I wasn’t alone in voting ‘No’ in 1997. I was joined by fully one-third of Scottish voters who, for whatever reasons, voted against Devolution. It would be interesting to know how many of them, like me, look back and regret that decision. I imagine that plenty of them must do since, in the whole of the last 17 years, I’ve never met or heard a single other member of the public who has been willing to admit that they voted ‘No’.

The reason why I’m writing this piece is because a few months ago I tried casting my mind back to 1997 to try and recall why it was that I’d cast that vote. I was 21 at the time, well read, opinionated, pretty engaged in politics. There is no way that I would have made that decision without having a bunch of arguments prepared and rehearsed in order to back up and justify my stance. But when I came to look back over the course of 17 years I realised that I couldn’t for the life of me remember what a single one of those arguments might possibly have been.

Instead the only recollection that I was able to summon up was not an argument, or a thought, or a belief, but a feeling. A feeling that I can recollect every bit as vividly as if I was back there stood in that voting booth in 1997. That feeling was fear.

Fear of change. Fear of the unknown. Perhaps fear of failure.

So what can I put that down to? When I look back to my teenage years I guess that one of the main feelings that comes flooding back to me is an overwhelming feeling of uncertainty. From an early age lots of us are brought up to believe that those few years are likely to determine the whole course of our lives. There is an enormous amount of pressure on young people to make the ‘right’ choices. We’re told that making the ‘wrong’ decisions will most likely ruin the whole of our lives, forever. That we will never live down those decisions. That they can never be reversed.

Personally I was tremendously hung up on such choices. For years I desperately tried to cling on to anything in my life that felt comfortable, familiar and secure. And if that sounds weak-willed or pathetic then you should probably know that I consider myself pretty lucky. There are a whole bunch of guys that I grew up with who never managed to get past that phase of their lives. Who wound up stuck in a rut with no idea of where their lives were supposed to be heading. Guys who wound up dead by the age of 25 having pushed things too far on a weekend of partying, or who wound up dead by the age of 30 after their decade-long heroin habit finally took its toll.

Fortunately at some point in my early 20s I came to realise that that isn’t how life works. There are always new possibilities and new opportunities around every corner. And it doesn’t matter how hard you attempt to cling to what you currently have – the world will continue to change around you whether you like it or not. The moment that I came to accept that I was able to start letting go and before I knew it a whole new world of possibilities started opening up to me.

While I was casting my mind back to 1997, attempting to come up with an explanation of why I had made the choices that I did back then, I was struck by a sudden realisation. I realised that no matter when Scotland regains its independence there is an experience that all of the people who lived through that time will encounter sooner or later.

It’ll happen sometime between 15 and 30 years after independence has been achieved. We’ll be sitting with our kids or grandkids, or with any of the people who make up that first generation that were born in the years immediately following independence. They’ll be asking us about what it was like to have lived through that moment, and at some point in those conversations we will be asked a question. It might be worded a bit differently from conversation to conversation, but it’s a question that we will all be asked. And that question will be:

“But why did you need to have a debate about that? In fact – why did you even have to bother having a vote to decide it? Wasn’t it just obvious?”

Now for some of us it may seem like an obvious decision. However there are still many people out there for whom independence is still far from an obvious choice. They have plenty of questions right here and now. Those people that I’ve spoken to who have yet to make their final decision usually tell me that they’d like to vote Yes, but that they’re just not sure. One thing that I keep hearing time and again is that people don’t feel that they’re getting ‘the facts’.

What that really means is that people don’t feel as if they have access to information that they can trust. When both sides of the debate have a vested interest in tearing down each other’s claims then it’s unlikely that anyone will ever get the answers that they’re looking for from that direction.

There’s also a deeper and more uncomfortable truth that we need to face here though. When it comes to the future there quite simply are no ‘facts’. I can tell you for a fact that Tony Blair was elected as Prime Minister on the 2nd of May 1997, because that event took place in the past. But no-one can tell you who is going to be elected as Prime Minister on the 7th of May 2015.
History only goes in one direction and that is forwards.

Very often these ‘factual’ questions revolve around the economy, usually expressed by asking whether or not people will be individually better off financially. When it comes to considering the economic question I always find myself asking ‘at what point is history over? When will we be able to sit down and tally up all of the figures so that we can pass a final judgement on whether or not Scotland was financially better off by being independent? Does that happen one year after independence, or five years, or ten? How about a hundred years? Or five hundred?’

Having thought about it I can only come up with one truly honest answer to that question. And that is: ‘it’ll vary. At some points of our future history we’ll be better off independent and at other points there’ll be times where we might have been better off staying in the union.’ Having studied all of the arguments I personally believe that, on balance, an independent Scotland will spend a great deal more of its future being financially better off than it is just now.

Why should you trust me? You shouldn’t. I don’t have a crystal ball, but then nor do Alistair Darling, Alex Salmond or anyone else that you might care to mention. All I have to go on is my own past experience of fearing the worst and being proven quite categorically wrong.

What’s the right answer? There is no right answer. There is only what we choose to do. If things start going wrong then we’ll do whatever it takes to fix them – and that’s true no matter what choice we make on the 18th of September.

If you wake up on that morning and you still haven’t made a final decision then don’t worry about it – simply go in there and do what your heart is telling you to do. Because if you do anything else you’ll only spend the rest of your life regretting it. And one day someone will ask you that question and you’re going to have to try and answer it.

David Morgan
National Collective

Rachel McCrum: Sometimes Things Look Different From The Inside


This is a transcript of the speech Rachel gave at the National Collective Edinburgh Session, Circus Café, on Weds 18 June

My parents live beside a body of water in County Down, Northern Ireland. It’s one of the largest tidal loughs in what is currently known as the British Isles, and it is beautiful. From the beach near their cottage, you can see where the water meets the Irish Sea.

The lough has two names. It is more commonly known as Strangford Lough, from the Old Norse strang-fjoror, or ‘strong sea inlet’ – describing the strong and often violent waters found at the Narrows at the mouth of the Lough. Viking raids were a constant presence during the Middle Ages. Any boats coming in from outside must have knowledge of the strong tidal streams to gain access to the inner waters, or face a vicious battle against the currents.

Once inside, the water flattens out, serene and sheltered. The landscape is rounded and fertile, with distinctive eggshaped hills called drumlins . There are monastery sites dating to the 5th Century, and it’s at the Slaney River that St Patrick is said to have landed.

The Irish name for the water is ‘Loch Cuan’ or ‘Loch of the Bays, or Havens’.

Sometimes things look different from the inside.


So from that story, and from my accent, you will understand that I am not Scottish. I have lived in Edinburgh since January 2010, before that three years in Manchester, before that a year back in Edinburgh, before that nine months in Belfast, before that a year in New Zealand and before that, three years in the South of England. But if you ask me where I’m from – if you ask me what I am – I will usually reply ‘Northern Irish’.

Northern Ireland, of course, has its own problems in the area of self determination. When the talk started to fly of ideas of Scottish Independence, when an actual referendum date was set when this question would be voted on in a properly legal political type way, when people started actually talking about ideas of self determination and independence in newspapers and online and in cafes and bars and in the pub, and putting their own names beside their own opinions – publicly! – I was incredibly shy of it.

I felt that I had no right to contribute to this debate – that I was not Scottish – that if I had the right to contribute to this debate anywhere, never mind hold power to make a decision on it, then it would be Northern Ireland.

But I don’t live in Northern Ireland anymore. Although I still call it ‘home’, I have not lived there for nearly 14 years. I do not contribute to the Northern Irish economy, I do not contribute to culture or society or community in Northern Ireland. I have not exercised my right to vote in Northern Ireland, and I am pretty damn uninformed of exactly what’s happening in Northern Irish politics right now.

But the majority of my family is still there, and there some things I do know about current Northern Irish politics. That although the violence has mostly abated, there is still fear. That debates among citizens on politics, on issues of self determination, on nationalism or unionism, republicanism or loyalism, are not held in public. That there is still a choking bitterness (amongst the older generation, including that of my parents) or an eye rolling apathy (amongst the younger generation, including my brother).

That standing up, in a bar, to declare my political intentions is not something that I would ever do at home. And also that, if I am honest with myself, I don’t really understand how the political system in Northern Ireland works. I don’t really understand what power is held by Stormont, and what power is held by Westminister. I don’t understand how ‘my’ country works.

What I know about the independence debate is that Scotland is debating the question of how a country works, and I feel that it is doing this without fear. And that is wonderful.

And because these questions are being discussed without fear, I have found myself, slowly (pretty damn slowly) bracing myself to understand them more. To understand what goes into running a country, and whether or not that is something that should be done from a centralised remote parliament somewhere else, or whether or not Scotland, with its NHS and its education system, and its economy and resources, and its history and its culture and its politics and its ethics, and all the things that make up a country should be given to the people who live there, who really, actually do live there.

And I believe that they should, and I understand, or am on my way to understanding, that now. And being on my way to understanding those very basic questions, I am excited about being part of a movement that could shape the answers to them in the future.

For me, the incredible thing about this referendum is that the questions being asked, for the most part, are not those of ethnicity or nationality. I have now spent over four years living in Scotland, and I have contributed in more ways to the economy, society, culture and community here than I have ever contributed those of any country in my adult life before.

I understand that I would like to stay here, and that while I will never be Scottish (in my own eyes as much as anyone else’s) that I am equipped to be a Scottish citizen, and that I will be welcome.

I understand that the openness of this debate – even with the uncertainties, the mudslinging, the lack of concrete political promises, all the unknowns – has taught me more about being a citizen of a country than ever before.

I understand that Westminster politics is corrupt and increasingly alien to anything that I consider important in how a country functions, and that there is a chance for a real, positive change to move away from that. And that I would like to be a part of that change.

That’s why I am voting ‘Yes’.

Rachel McCrum
National Collective

Rachel McCrum is a poet and performer who lives and works in Edinburgh. She is the ‘Broad’ half of literary duo ‘Rally & Broad‘ and was the 2013 winner of the Callum MacDonald award for her debut pamphlet, ‘The Glassblower Dances.’

Len Northfield: Voting Yes Is An Open Armed Embrace Of The World

“Do I contradict myself? 
Very well then I contradict myself, 
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)”
Walt Whitman – Song of Myself v51
I am a little strange, it must be said. I carry a copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass around with me wherever I go. It’s a crotchety book, the meaning not always clear, but what is always utterly, beautifully, crystally clear, is the simple, soaring humanity in Whitman’s breast. He speaks to every one of us, and every one of us can recognise ourselves in his words. So I carry him about with me, raggedy and beat up, and he inspires me. From across the years and across the ocean, and I recognise who I am in what he says.

Who am I? I am half English (with a bit of French) and half Scots. My father’s family are from Cambridge, via the East End of London (proper Cockney), and my mother’s family are old Lanarkshire stock. I am fiercely proud of my British heritage, as much of my English part as of my Scots, and both parts are hugely important to me. My children are half American and they are just as proud of their own mongrel ancestry… but we’re Scots, and we all live here in Scotland.

The independence debate is about many things, but it’s decidedly not about ethnicity. It is about all of us as individuals and as a collective unit, Scottish or British or both. It is about political leanings. left, right or centre. It’s about who we are in the world, the plucky Scots engineer standing just behind the brave Captain as he makes bold and heroic decisions to save the galaxy… or the captain of our own destiny, David Livingstone exploring and bringing peace to our own heart of darkness. Ultimately the debate is about power and our relationship with it.

On the 18th of September this year, between the hours of 07:00 and 22:00, we will, as Jim Sillars has eloquently said, for the first time in over 300 years have total sovereignty in our own nation. Do we, the people of Scotland, have the confidence to retain that power, to hold it and wield it ourselves, and to sink or swim on our own choices? Or are we too timid to keep the tiller and so pass it back to safer, surer, stronger hands? How small would we have to be inside, to choose to give our sovereignty away again? How tiny and timid and, lacking in belief and faith?

Of course, I know this is only my view of the moment, and I know that many others have very different perspectives of what the 18th of September means to us all, but for me it comes down to just this: there is not one reason I can think of to remain governed by Westminster that isn’t counterbalanced by at least one reason to govern ourselves.

Making the decision to bring our nation’s political power back into the hands of those who live and work here does not deny, diminish or denigrate any part of my patchwork ancestry or my history. It does not insult or malign any of my family or friends in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, France, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Jordan, Oman, Tanzania, India, Singapore, China, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the USA, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Sweden, Denmark, Latvia, Ireland, or Germany. It does not in any way slight a single one of them, because they are always my friends and family, regardless of their residence and irrespective of their nationality.

Voting Yes in September is not a narrow, insular, isolationist choice. It does not mean turning our backs on the rest of the world. It is a great, broad, open-armed embrace of the fullness of participation in everything the world has to offer us, without being filtered through an unnecessary layer of democratic deficit. Voting Yes says “I believe the country I call home is the equal of any other nation on this planet, and I believe it’s time we joined the game on our own terms.

And those of you from Scotland but  living outside her borders and unable to vote in this referendum, you do have a say, so make your voice heard.

Try to imagine coming home to a new nation? One with its own voice in the world, listened to by some, ignored by others, but unmistakably, uniquely ours. Our voice being heard on its own merits and for its own views, undiluted by the democratic distortion of being the (very) junior partner in an historically successful, but now outdated, alliance.

I recently watched a video of Jim Carrey giving the commencement address to the Maharishi University of Management graduating class of 2014. If you get a chance to watch it, you should. It was, as you’d expect, very funny and, as you’d expect, a little wacky but, I have to confess, I was a little taken aback by the depth of wisdom in the speech. I mean, Maharishi University… Jim Carrey… Transcendental Meditation…

There were some fantastic pieces of advice, regardless of whether you’re a believer in the spiritual system Carrey and this university follow. I think my favourite was a story about how his Dad could’ve been a successful comedian but, in order to give the family a level of security, he became an accountant. He was then laid off when Jim was 12, and the family had to do whatever they could to survive. Jim said:

So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality. I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which was, that you can fail at what you don’t want… so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.
I had never really thought of things in this way; we do constantly limit ourselves through fear, aversion to risk, lack of self belief, any number of things, but we still fail… so why not give all you’ve got to something you feel passionately about?

Fear is at the heart of the independence debate, and the Better Together campaign is playing on that very heavily… it’s too big a risk to go it alone, there’s no guarantee we can afford it, we will be exposing ourselves to dangers from all around, we are much safer under the protection of our bigger neighbour. Maybe that’s all true… but what if it’s not? What if we say No and we STILL fail? How are we going to feel then?

We can’t escape fear, it’s all around us, but we get to decide how we are affected by it. Given all the risks, given all the uncertainties, given that no one can accurately predict the future, why don’t we aim at the bolder vision? We can choose a path out of fear disguised as practicality because what we really want seems impossibly out of reach and ridiculous to expect, or we can choose to dream big and reach for the seemingly impossible. Then, if we fail, at least we failed doing something great and noble and aspirational and farsighted.

But we won’t fail. Oh, sure, we’ll get stuff wrong and there will be difficult decisions to be made, a price to pay for pushing ourselves. There will be years when we are under performing rUK, and years when we are outperforming them, but is that really going to be the measure of our success as a nation? That we are doing better or worse than rUK? I hope not. The measure of our success should be how we perform against our hopes and dreams and vision. The measure of our success should be our confidence as a nation and the growth in our ambition for ourselves.

This year, on the 18th of September, we can open the door onto a new world, a new universe of hope and promise and aspiration, a future in which any difficulties and hardships we experience along the way can be counteracted with the belief we can have in our new nation. Easy? Naw. Exciting? Oh aye.

Len Northfield

National Collective
Image by nonu

Julia Taudevin: My Yes

Julia Taudevin

This is a transcript of the speech Julia gave at the national Collective Edinburgh Session, Circus Café, on Weds 18 June

My vote on September the 18th this year, as with every decision in anyone’s life, is connected to all previous decisions, experiences, events and relationships that have come before. And so, what follows is a personal history of sorts.

Let’s begin on this day in 1979 when I was born to a woman, who had left the Isle of Lewis in 1963 at the age of 17 to begin her life’s work as a teacher journeying from Glasgow to Zambia and beyond. She gave birth to me thirty five years ago today in Adelaide, Australia, where her sister was raising her own family, and two weeks later, my mother flew me and my older brother to Papua New Guinea to join my father, an Australian of French and English ancestry.

Four years later, my father’s work moved us to Jakarta, Indonesia, which would be my main home for the next fourteen years. Jakarta, Indonesia, where our family, as most expatriate families do, employed a pembantu. A helper. An additional member of the family. A member of staff. A servant. A man called Tarsid. A man with a family of 12 living eleven or so hours away by train. A man who was available to feed me and care for me seven days a week, 24 hours a day. A man whose surname I never knew.

Most summers my mum would take my brother and me to the Isle of Lewis to stay with her parents. We would trample across the Barbhas moor, climb over the Callanais stones, and the Carloway broch, race over the Bhaltos dunes, convinced that Viking Ships would land any minute to take me captive, and at night we would drive home to Stornoway where the swings were chained on Sundays, and I would wake up at 4am missing the sound of the Mosque call to prayer.

As a child, my nightly routine often involved a makeshift Hindu Shrine, praying to God and to Allah, crossing myself multiple times, chanting Om and blowing kisses to the air above and around me just in case.

In 1988 my mother, brother and I spent a year in rural Queensland where us kids lined up outside school every morning to sing
“Australian’s all let us rejoice for we are young and free…”

followed promptly by

“God save our gracious…”

A few years later, back at the British International school in Jakarta, I remember a classroom teacher holding a mock election.

“Which colour do you like? Blue, Red or Yellow?”

“Why can’t I choose Green?”

“Green isn’t an option.”

“But Indonesians can choose green.”

“That is an Islamic party. We’re British, we don’t have parties like that, we have blue, red or yellow. Which colour do you like?”

“I like the colour Green.”

In 1996 my dad took an aid job in East Timor, still then a part of Indonesia, but with an active separatist guerrilla movement. My brother and I visited him there, driving through its napalmed landscape:

“But why did they bomb them?”

“Because they wanted to be independent.”

“So why do they want to be independent again?”

“Well, some people have never not wanted to be independent, and so I suppose this time they’re hoping it will be different.”

“But why?”

“Because Indonesia is diverse, it holds many different peoples with many different languages, beliefs, religions and cultures. Because one single government located in the most populous area cannot make decisions in the best interests of everyone in such a diverse nation. And because the government is corrupt, nepotistic and elitist.”

“So is that why they bomb them?”

“I suppose so.”

“Do they hate them?”

“No, I think they think they love them.”

“They’ve got a funny way of showing it.”

And in 1997, at almost 18, I left home in Indonesia and moved out on my own to London and, in 2001, I campaigned and marched against an illegal war for oil under the guise of weapons of mass destruction.

A year later in 2002, East Timor voted for independence from Indonesia and my brother went on first of many UN missions there aiding their long journey to becoming a sustainable new nation.

“Why does it take so long? When are you going to come back to visit?”

“Independence isn’t just something that happens over night, it’s a long and complicated process.”

“Is that normal?”

“Yes. It’s completely normal. Chill the fuck out.”

And in 2006 I began my continuing relationship with an ever changing community of people living in Glasgow under the asylum system. People who became some of my dearest friends, people who have been detained, dawn raided, evicted and made homeless, people who have been deported, who have jumped from windows to avoid deportation, people who have made their homes here, who have fallen in love here, who have had children here, who have been welcomed by their surrounding communities, people who have welcomed me into their homes and their hearts.

And in 2007 I moved to Scotland, which is now my home, and which now, in 2014, has the opportunity to vote for independence.

And, yes, I consider myself a Scottish person voting in this referendum. But I also consider myself Australian. And French. And English. I am a child of the British Empire, formed and moulded by the cultures, religions and languages of Indonesia, East Timor, Papua New Guinea and many other places and cultures besides. And I am voting yes. And that yes is not informed by an idea of patriotism to the nation of Scotland, it is informed instead by every single moment, experience, event and relationship that has come before.

So I am saying yes. Yes for my mother.

Yes for my mother, who, as a little Laodhasach, along with her sister and friends, arrived at school one term to discover that Gaelic was no longer the language of the classroom and they would have to catch up fast. Because an independent Scotland could be a step towards greater cultural confidence for all our minority cultures.

I am saying yes for Tarsid, my pembantu, my helper, my servant, who I love and miss, who I wish I could tell that I feel deeply ashamed of the inequality in our relationship. And Scotland has its own colonial shame to come to terms with and the clearest way we can begin that is by dismantling the institution of Empire.

I am saying yes for the land I played on during my summer holidays in Lewis where the wind whipped my hair and the sea lashed the coast because in an independent Scotland we have more of a chance of seeing Green and climate aware policies at the heart of government than we do with the current set up.

Yes for the wee girl praying to everyone, to whom the idea of multiple cultures living together seemed entirely normal because an independent Scotland could be internationalist, outward looking, multicultural, diverse and welcoming of difference.

Yes for the little kids wondering why they had to sing God Save The Queen.

Yes because there are other options than Blue, Red or Yellow.

Yes for the young activist who marched with millions shouting “not in my name”. Yes for the millions of Iraqis, Afghanis, Iranians, the list goes on, who have been killed in my name. Yes to a more peaceable foreign policy. And yes, yes to an end to Trident.

Yes for East Timor. Yes for every other country that has never been as fortunate as Scotland is to have the opportunity to gain independence by peaceful means.

Yes for my brothers and sisters who have been deported. Who thought they were coming to a land where human rights were revered, where refuge would be offered and humanity respected. Because as much as I might wish it were not so, we live in a world of borders and few new border control systems could be more brutal and inhumane than the current system enforced by the United Kingdom Border Agency and so my yes is for more open borders and yes to close Dungavel.

Yes for the person that I will grow to be who still has hope for a better, more equal, more humane and more sustainable Scotland and world.

Yes for the children I will hopefully have one day soon, who, the democracy of an independent Scotland could guarantee continued access to free education and healthcare.

And yes, yes, I know that my yes will not by itself revert the climate crisis, it will not rescue us from capitalism, it will not rid Scotland of racism and bigotry, but it might, it just might be one step in a long and complicated journey towards a Scotland with an internationalist outlook, somewhere welcoming of multiculturalism and diversity, somewhere at peace, somewhere defined by hope, somewhere where my children can continue to build a fairer, more equal and sustainable world for their children.

And their children.

And their children.

And their children.

And theirs.

And theirs.

And theirs.

And theirs.

Julia Taudevin
National Collective

Julia Taudevin is a performer, playwright and theatre maker living in Glasgow. As an actor she has worked for companies such as the National Theatre of Scotland, The National Theatre in London, The Traverse Theatre, The Tron, Catherine Wheels, Magnetic North and the Oran Mor’s A Play, A Pie and a Pint and her screen credits include Sunshine on Leith and The Glasgow Girls. As writer AJ Taudevin, her plays include Some Other Mother, which is nominated for the James Tait Black Award, Chalk Farm which has recently finished an international tour and The 12:57 for Theatre Uncut. She was artist in residence at the Tron Theatre in 2013, one of the Traverse Fifty writers on attachment and won the Playwrights Studio New Playwrights Award in 2010.