Statement: How We Won And How We Will Win

We know that you are completely exhausted and utterly heartbroken. We are too. On face value we lost, but there is more to the result than meets the eye and this was anything but a fair fight. Two years ago, we started off with Yes on a poll of 25% and yet we ended up with 45%. The sheer resilience of the Yes movement in the face of the full might of the British state, corporate and media power, that was designed to demonise, smear and alienate anyone who chose to side with it will not die down. We’ve been looking straight into the eyes of the British establishment, and we don’t think much of what we see sneering back at us.

From the very beginning, the then ‘Better Together’ turned ‘UKOK’ turned ‘No Thanks’ campaign threw every toy out of the basket, played every dirty trick in the book, and ran a campaign based on negativity and scaring the population into thinking that we were not actually capable of running our own affairs. What we were faced with was a campaign based on stifling engagement, dumbing down politics and deadening thought whilst portraying a No vote as the rational, educated and realistic option.

One of the most heartbreaking moments in the campaign will be a familiar one for many. Knocking on doors and being confronted with an elderly person who had postal-voted No because they were told that they would lose their pension. The No campaign had shamelessly managed to convince people that, in the 14th richest country in the world, we could not afford pensions. The fear tactics employed were sickening. They threw everything under the sun at us, but not once did it dampen our spirits. We canvassed, we danced, we wrote, we sang, we campaigned. And we will continue to do so.

Aside from the fear tactics, this was a campaign aspiring to deaden thought, simplify politics and close minds. #PatronsingBTLady proved an excellent illustration of such, as was the ‘I love my family, I’m saying No Thanks’ billboards, and let’s not forget the ‘independence stresses me out’ stress balls handed out at freshers fayres. This is how they see us. They think we are passive, disinterested, selfish and stupid. In contrast, National Collective toured the country on Yestival, Radical Independence knocked on tens of thousands of doors in a day on their Mass Canvasses, tens of thousands of activists reached out to apathetic communities through local groups, Generation Yes ran open platforms on social media where young people could ask us anything – the entire Yes movement was about encouraging people to think and imagine.

Despite the ‘Better Together’ campaign being what is unquestionably one of the most incompetent political campaigns in the history of British politics, what hindered the steady surge to Yes was a largely compliant mainstream media. For example, a Guardian journalist sent us sarcastic e-mails refusing to publish details of a list of 1,300 prominent artists and creatives who had signed a letter backing a Yes vote, Dr John Robertson’s academic work proved the evident systematic bias of the BBC, and we were constantly demonized as anti-English separatist nationalists and, at times, ‘fascists’ despite many of us being English, and some of us knowing the journalists personally. If they cannot win through an honest factual campaign, what does this say about their case?

Aside from the blatant smearing of anything Yes, the press did something significantly more sinister. They controlled the dissemination of information, closed the space for Yes voices to be heard, and thus facilitated and legitimised the scaremongering onslaught from the No campaign. How many times did you hear that ‘there are just too many unanswered questions’, despite the questions being answered? How many times did you hear that people were voting No because they didn’t like nationalism, despite us not being nationalists? To suggest that British identity is in no way nationalistic derives from a neo imperialist mindset. How many times did you see Alistair Darling and Alex Salmond compared to Dennis Canavan? How many people do you honestly think were aware that Salmond wasn’t the leader of Yes? This was most evident during the last week of the campaign, when we saw the Telegraph stating that voting Yes was an insult to dead soldiers and their families. The establishment’s compliant media was the cherry on top of the cake; a systematic abuse of power.

Did we let this deliberate misrepresentation and demonisation take us down? No. We became the media. Stephen Paton released his #IndyRef weekly reviews, websites like National Collective and Bella Caledonia became a space for underrepresented Yes voices to be heard, and we took to social media to overcome the smear and spread our progressive visions. We should point out here that the Sunday Herald, in supporting Yes, demonstrated courage throughout this movement. It’s not easy to go against the tide of mainstream media opinions and portrayals. The Yes movement should be incredibly proud of our ingenuity and tireless determination and we mustn’t let it dwindle.

Within the political landscape of the No campaign, Scottish Labour provided the front whilst the Tories pulled the strings and supplied the funds. If they were honest democrats, Scottish Labour should have held an election within their party regarding which stance to take on the referendum. The Scottish Green Party for example voted on it, and maintained that members who supported No could speak freely on the matter. This was the first indication that Scottish Labour were about to ostracise those demonstrating autonomy in their party. And boy did that happen. They were openly seen and heard mocking Yes supporting Labour members at their party conference.

Despite Scottish Labour supporting a No vote, around 38% of their voters supported Yes. The Scottish Labour Party ignored their own supporters, and instead blindly persued an agenda that panders to the Labour Party in Westminster, a party that is out of touch with the people of Scotland and one that they have overwhelmingly rejected. One of the results of this is that we are now witnessing memberships of the SNP, the Scottish Green Party and the Scottish Socialist Party skyrocket overnight. Scottish Labour have risked alienating 38% of their own vote in Scotland to preserve a failing Westminster elite. This highlights how little regard they have for the Scottish political landscape. True power, they believe, lies at Westminster.

Taking all of this into consideration, and acknowledging that we were challenging the full force of the British establishment, their corporate might and their compliant media, we did bloody well. If we were at the forefront of a campaign with that level of influence, power and money, we would see a 55% as an international embarrassment.

Part of the reason that we saw the groundswell of grassroots activism that we did is because there was a deadline, a common shared goal for September 18th 2014. Although the deadline has been removed, we still have that shared aspiration. The question now is how to we encapsulate and maintain the momentum of this progressive, diverse, grassroots movement?

The first means of achieving this is clear. The vast majority of the mainstream media have demonstrated their complete lack of autonomy and level of compliance to the British establishment and the corporate elite. We need to create and preserve alternative media channels. But there is little point in creating them as a protest to the mainstream media. These alternative channels must become the mainstream. To do so requires working together. There are some utterly brilliant and resourceful people in this movement. It’s time to unite.

Secondly, we need to organise ourselves with the common aim of holding Westminster accountable to the promises that they made to us. This starts with their pledges for further devolution. We expect that this won’t happen. 1 in every 4 No voters casted their vote under the promise of further devolution. If these promises fail to transpire, we will seek to secure a date for the next referendum on Scottish independence. We have various options as to how we can help make this happen, and we will update you on this later should it be required.

Thirdly, as stated above, the Yes movement seeks to make people think. It is our duty to continue to create a politically engaged, educated electorate. What Westminster want is a Yes movement that is so utterly deflated that it regresses into the shadows, it stops dreaming, it stops imagining that another Scotland is truly possible. There is a reason why the likes of Rupert Murdoch expressed concern at the influence of progressive Yes groups in Scotland.

We simply cannot afford to let our beautiful movement regress. 1.6 million of us stood up and dared to dream. We lost by the equivalent of the population of a small city. We can win this, we must win this, we will win this. When you get a popular revolution driven by hope and optimism like this, that energy will not dissolve into nothing. It can only grow. In the aftermath of a normal election, the losing party is disheartened and their supporters deflated. The difference here is that the whilst the official No campaign has finished and will no doubt try to delete all evidence of it ever existing, people still make the Yes movement and we will continue to campaign and dream. We will always put hope over fear.

National Collective had made plans to continue the Yes movements legacy of a politically engaged and educated electorate, regardless of the result. We will be announcing details of this shortly.

Keep imagining a better Scotland.

Written on behalf of National Collective by Miriam Brett (@miriambrett) and Ross Colquhoun (@rosscolquhoun)

Photo: John Duncan / Documenting Yes

A Choice Between Two Futures

Today, Scotland will decide between two futures.

In one, we will take control.
We will take responsibility for the risks;
We will bear the brunt of our own decisions and we will reap the rewards of our own success.

In the other, the status quo will remain unchallenged.
The needs of the few over the needs of the many.
Real change will remain elusive, Our parliament hamstrung by choices elsewhere,.
We will stand at the margins of progress.

In one, we will enter the world as an independent country.
We will join the community of nations as equals.
The story we share will be decided by the people who live here.
Scotland’s voice will be heard.

In the other, our voice will stay unheard.
We will hand back the power to decide Scotland’s future to Westminster.
We will legitimise their choices.
And they will carry on with glee.

One will be a country ignited by hope;
The hope that, by coming together, we can build a better world.

An other will bring a constant wondering of what could have been.
Our chance to try for something new gone.

Today we rewrite the foundations of our future.
Today, we imagine a better Scotland.
Vote Yes.

National Collective

Gerry Hassan: A Hopeful Guide To Scotland

This week, depending on the building US-UK government clamour for more military action in Iraq, Scotland will be the biggest story on the planet. News crews and journalists from all over the world are covering this. Glasgow and Edinburgh hotels are enjoying an unexpected bonanza with high occupancy rates. For at least one week, James Robertson’s famous dictum about ‘The News Where You Are’ will be met by the shock that for a short while, ‘The News Where We Are’ will be the same!

It has, of course, been to some discomforting and there have been some problematic things said and done. To groups such as CBI Scotland and other parts of corporate clubland, all of this has been at best a distraction, and at worst, a threat to the cosy back channels and insider deals of closed Scotland which have for so long defined how things were done.

For many others, it has been uplifting and life-enhancing. Scotland will never be the same again. Nor will Britain. But there is a need in such heady times for calmness and reflection, and understanding the scale and kind of change – noting what has been radically altered and what hasn’t – and the power and resilience of establishment Scotland. In this eve of poll essay, I will do this by addressing five M’s – movements, momentum, miserablism, magic and maturity.


Scotland’s traditional ways of doing politics is in crisis. The combined total of all political parties is approximately 50,000 people – one percent of the population, with the SNP having over half that number in their membership.

The referendum has shown a different way of doing politics. It has raised Scottish variants of questions people confront all over the world. What do we do about an increasingly out of touch political class? How do we move past the hollowed out social democracy which has proven such an inadequate defence of the markers of a decent society? And what would a different kind of politics for the 21st century actually involve and look like?

This touches on the crisis of representative democracy and the desire in places for deeper, direct democracy. That’s not to say there is an appetite for sitting in drafty town halls endlessly discussing composite resolutions. That has been a mistake of left-wingers throughout the ages.

Traditionally, politicians made up an intermediate class, in Zygmunt Bauman’s words, of ‘legislators and interpreters’, which no longer works for the vast majority of people. Instead, it has become a self-perpetuating system for a narrow spectrum of society defending the worldview of power, privilege and wealth. Scotland isn’t immune to all this too: last week Labour MPs fell over themselves to invoke the threats of corporate behemoths, Standard Life, RBS, Lloyds and others, to show the cost of independence. So much for the worker’s party! But then the SNP have run Labour close on who can hug Rupert Murdoch closest.

Even Danny Finkelstein in the ‘Times’ has noted that the beginning of the end of the politician may be upon us, throwing up all sorts of challenges about the failings of representative democracy, and how direct participatory democracy could work. This has been one of the backdrops to the referendum, but it still leaves the thorny issue of what to do with the political parties who claim monopoly power of representation? They have, in effect, become closed shops of how political power is used. And the issue of the SNP is salient in this, for irrespective of Yes or No, they will have a large role in the future government and direction of Scotland.


The last three years have shifted the art of what is seen as possible in Scotland. For all our good conceit of ourselves as egalitarian, radical and democratic, public life has been remarkably short of grass roots movements and protests.

Indeed, the exceptions of the post-war era prove this rule: the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders (UCS) sit-in of 1971-72, and the anti-poll tax movement of 1988-90. Until now all the pro-devolution and home rule campaigns have been small scale – of the selectorate and ‘civic Scotland’ and not the masses – from the home rule Covenant of 1949-50 (which was signed by up to two million people, but never staged huge protests), to the campaign for a Scottish Parliament of the late 1980s and 1990s.

This has dramatically changed with what is the biggest grass roots movement in the history of modern Scotland. It is a movement. It has momentum. And it is going to remain a force for the foreseeable future. In short, after 80 years of the SNP existing, Scotland finally has a genuine movement for self-government and independence.

This momentum raises big issues about the relationship between these new voices and more conventional SNP. How can these disparate groupings not just come on to the stage, but shift the parameters of political life? How do they avoid being incorporated into ‘Team Scotland’ in a way which diminishes and saps their vitality? And how can they sustain a form of politics post-vote when so much of the explosion of energy was focused on the singular aim of winning the referendum?

There is also the tricky area of what unites the diverse coalition of new voices beyond winning the vote, and in some cases, the question of what do such groups actually stand for in policy and ideas? A salutary point in all of this is that as Scotland has been embarking on this joyous experiment in democracy, something else has been going on. The many discussions on the abstract Scotland of the future and the nation of imagination, have been undertaken while at the same time, the Scottish Government have been engaged in decisions about the actual nation, centralising, standardising, and putting public services into a one size fits all consultancy logic.

It is all fine and well invoking a thousand flowers blooming, and the possibility of over 500 Scottish councils, but the direction of travel of government is in exactly the opposite direction. For example, the arrival of Police Scotland has resulted in armed police walking the streets of our nation, including small Highland towns. No parliamentary debate or vote took place on this. The above has to give a little forewarning, that for all the excitement and energy, part of politics is just continuing ‘business as usual’ as we speak, and that the difficult art of trade-offs and choices will continue, independent or not.


The third ‘M’ is less of a positive than the other two: the Scottish propensity of miserablism. The cultural manifestation of this has been ably critiqued in Eleanor Yule and David Manderson’s ‘The Glass Half Full’ which mapped the emergence and rise of cultural miserablism as a genre, it becoming an ‘official story’, and the uses it has been put to by cultural commissioners and gatekeepers.

Yule and Manderson’s thesis is a direct rejoiner to the voices of miserablism and pessimism who believe that collective political change is not possible in Scotland, and that post-September 18th, after this ‘diversion’ is got past, we can return to the natural order of things: such as ‘proper’ politics and leaving social change to benign elites.

This does seem the underlying message of Better Together. It is one which has embraced constitutional change, so that the debate has become about what is the best method of such change. Yet, at the same time, Better Together have become trapped as a defender of the economic and social status quo, which doesn’t address that the UK is broken for millions of people.

Carol Craig’s ‘The Scots’ Crisis of Confidence’ thesis (a book close to my heart as I originally published it) has at times fallen into this. The original prospectus argued that our debate had to not just focus on structural issues such as the relationship with England, and poverty and inequality, and address cultural and psychological dimensions. However, as its arguments morphed, it became an orthodoxy of only talking about the latter, to the exclusion of structural issues.

In this, there is a profound pessimism and intellectual miserablism, which conveys the spirit and mood of a large part of what was the new left post-1968. The world had not turned out to be the bright plaything of enlightenment and emancipation they thought it would be. As a result there has been a retreat into a politics of the personal, ignoring the collective, and feeling disappointment, and even in places, sense of fatalism about the world.

Such a bittersweet sensibility is the over-arching tone of many of the prominent voices of Better Together. It is particularly true of those who have come from the left or radical currents. There is condescension towards the upsurge in activism and idealism, which often comes from people who were once themselves filled with such qualities in the 1960s and 1970s – George Robertson and Brian Wilson being two examples; Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling two more.

Another miserablist strand – whether in film, literature or intellectual variant – is caricaturing West of Scotland culture and men in particular. This entails invoking male drinking culture, violence, anger, suppressed emotions, and dysfunctional relationships, in a sort of Rab C. Nesbittisation for the chattering classes.

Too much idealism can have problems, but the politics and cultures of miserablism have little to nothing to offer. It has become in film and literature an ‘official story’, a way of reinforcing caricatures and aiding inferiorisation. The same is true in the political arena, and while some of these voices are filled more with concern, than malice, the hurt and bitterness they carry has to be recognised, and the self-interest of some in wanting to minimise political change.

The Limits of Optimism and the Power of Hope

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, writing about Barbara Ehrenreich’s book on the problems of positive thinking, said, ‘Optimism is a passive virtue, hope an active one. It needs no courage, only a certain naiveté, to be an optimist. It needs a great deal of courage to have hope’.

The limits of optimism can be seen in the collective conformity which has elevated it to an ideology and unofficial religion in the USA. This reflects the self-proclaimed optimism of capitalism, and particularly ‘the American dream’. There has been in recent years an increasingly problematic linear optimism of the West which went into hyperdrive pre-crash, and was entrenched in the City of London, stock markets and finance capital, and which believed that the future was one of endless incremental growth and greater prosperity; this allowed more and more risk to be taken because the future was guaranteed as bigger, better and wealthier.

The problem with optimism as ideology and received wisdom can be seen in Yes Scotland’s strategy over the last two years. It came to belief the mantra that optimism the world over beat the politics of fear in election contests. Trouble is this just isn’t true as any cursory analysis of UK and US politics show: the Tories won in 1992 invoking fear of Labour, while George Bush Snr. beat Michael Dukakis in the US 1988 Presidential elections with a negative, personalised campaign.

It is telling that in the last month of the referendum, the SNP and Yes Scotland core set of messages has abandoned this approach and adopted a populist edge, emphasising the NHS, Westminster and Tories. This is a politics with a significant negative dimension, and it has cut through and achieved traction, particularly winning over women and Labour voters.

Magic and Maturity

In a recent elegiac piece Hugo Rifkind in the ‘Times’ observed that there was no magic about the story of Britain, and that ‘all the magic has been surrendered, and so feebly, to the other side’. This is astute, yet there is also a danger in the allure of magic, for it is intoxicating, exhausting and ultimately burns out. More important and telling than the power of magic is the need for maturity, and recognising the need for growth, evolution and reflection in any serious culture of self-determination.

Crucial questions in this include organisational cultures and leadership. Laura Eaton Lewis in a rich, nuanced piece at ‘Bella Caledonia’ noted that a campaign is not a democracy. The time-honoured forms of dis-organisation and problematic leadership are still prevalent on the left and pro-independence opinion. Power is manifest in a host of ways which have to be understood: the loudest, most dogmatic voices dominating, and certain kinds of men accruing status and influence. Scotland’s radical traditions don’t have a good record on this.

Language is important too, from words and tone to the ability to listen and not just pigeonholing people with different opinions. Some hectoring voices like to beat the tribal drums playing to the most partisan part of their constituency. Thus, Jim Sillars talk of a ‘day of reckoning’ in response to the pronouncements and threats of corporate giants, only assisted pro-union opinion, did not play with swing voters, and understandably infuriated the SNP leadership.

Listening and not framing what people say according to your own prejudices does help. A good example was provided in the recent Imagination: Scotland’s Festival of Ideas which I organised with Roanne Dods. The weekend brought together over one thousand people, and showed the best of Scotland: energising, hopeful, curious and generous.

In a discussion entitled ‘Breaking up is hard to do’, the ‘Guardian’s’ Madeleine Bunting spoke movingly of ‘the loss’ and ‘sadness’ she felt about the prospect of independence, remembering family and childhood memories of Scotland. This was interpreted by one member of the audience as a ‘colonial statement of possession’ which was thus dubious, offensive and counter-revolutionary, and anything else you care to throw at it.

This is selective listening and interpretation. Talking of personal ‘loss’ is not the same as the ‘who lost Scotland?’ narrative of some. A politics which allows for emotional reflection, sharing and lived experience has to be a good thing. And a politics which denies that or tries to close it down isn’t a very healthy or human experience, and is going to alienate lots of people.

Beyond Yes and No

Taking these five M’s together, the terrain of optimism and hope, and the issues of leadership and listening, the difference between Yes and No is small on the constitutional question. There are in effect two versions of home rule contesting this debate, one of which is called ‘independence’, but which wishes to retain the oversight of significant agencies of the British state.

The main differences between the two offers appear to be aspiration and ambition. Yet, underneath this appearance, there is the prospect of bigger change, for the Better Together argument has got trapped defending the existing state of Britain. At its most outlandish, this has former Blairite adviser John McTernan proclaiming that the UK is ‘social democratic’, which is to put it mildly an over-statement; similarly the threat to pensions from independence willfully ignores that the UK has the second lowest state pensions in the OECD, with only Mexico lower.

More fundamentally, the Better Together vision doesn’t engage with what the UK has become. It takes no cognisance of the inequality, insecurity and divisions in the union, the stalled social mobility, and the handing over of large parts of public services to corporate crony capitalism. Where is the Britain of social justice, redistribution and partnership going to come from? It isn’t going to emerge from Ed Miliband’s Labour Party which at best will win 34-35% of the vote in the 2015 UK election.

This gives a significant opening to the pro-independence forces, but no real radical argument on economics, social policy or the state has come from the SNP or Yes Scotland. Their prospectus is for a modernised version of the corporate state which characterised Scotland pre-1979; that after all is the politics on offer in the ‘Scotland’s Future’ White Paper.

A Yes vote is a vote for change and dynamism, and allows the limitations and contradictions of the SNP’s ‘Big Tent’ to become more obvious. It is just more possible that post-independence, serious and mature discussions can take place about the nature of government, state, economic and social policy, and ideas of political change, and these might have the chance of coming about. There will be new political forces post-independence, new actors and agencies, and an awareness in these circles of the problems of the SNP as the new establishment.

Fintan O’Toole at Imagination: Scotland’s Festival of Ideas noted the seismic change underway commenting, ‘Ask an important question and people will respond with dignity and recognise they have power’. Billy Bragg, comparing Scotland and England said, ‘You have agency. We don’t. Don’t let us down’.

All across Scotland in the last week and a half, people have been pinching themselves, unable to believe that the scale of possible change is happening in the country. When the first poll put Yes narrowly ahead, and the British establishment wobbled and panicked, people got enjoyment out of recognising, maybe for the first time in a long while, that they had a collective power and that it could induce fear in the political and business elites.

There are no easy choices in this debate. There are no wrong answers. If we as a nation and people want to embrace change we have to believe in one another and give our fellow citizens the chance. That means having the confidence in the words of O’Toole, for ‘citizens [to] look each other in the eye and know they are equal’.

One Scottish road offers a better prospect of an opening, hope, and the prospect of a more decent, fairer Scotland. That is the option of Yes. It would be wonderful to wake up in the morning of September 19th and realise we as a people and society had taken those first tentative steps into creating our own future, and having faith and trust in our own capacities.

That different Scotland could be the start of a process of changing for the better, society, politics and public values across these isles, challenging the narrow bandwidth and dogma which has so dominated the British public realm for decades, and liberating all of us in our thinking and actions. It is time for in a very cautious, considered and Scottish way to be bold and daring.

Gerry Hassan
National Collective

Photo: Peter McNally / Documenting Yes

Brian Baglow: I Won’t Try To Tell You How Much Opportunity We Have, You Know This Already

I’ve worked in the video games sector for the last 20 years. I’m sure you’re fascinated. However there is a point here. You see, at the risk of sounding like Late Call, working in video games has been a lot like being in favour of Scottish independence over the last two decades. Yes, we were invited to parties. But we were the slightly awkward guests, standing in the corner, looking at the LPs and pretending we were just really into music, man.

Outside the actual games industry, there was a perception that it was all somehow a little… dubious. It was no job for a proper, sober, responsible and mature grown-up for God’s sake. That’s what financial services were for. And the output! Good God above, it was for kids. Or was destroying kids. Or was just bloody irresponsible. I have it on good authority that video games cause violent behaviour, childhood obesity, attention deficit disorder, car theft, murder, epilepsy and an over abundance of rescued princesses.

I have, dear reader, stood in groups of very angry people, in parties, meetings, gatherings, networking drinks, conferences and the like, watching as tiny flecks of spittle fly into my free cheap red wine, as many and numerous people have told me that I’m wasting my life, video games are morally bankrupt and that they’re not – and never can be – art.

I have in short, put up with so much vacuous, ill-informed, belligerent pish in my time, that I’ve considered giving it all up and going to work in a shoe shop.

(You see where this awkward, overly extended metaphor is going, right?)

Yet I’m still here. Still doing video games. At age 44. My parents are finally – more or less – convinced it’s a proper job. While the rest of the world have started to waken up to the idea that video games are not the revolting, unacceptable waste of bloody time, but may in fact have something to offer.

Could it be that the time has come where video games (and independence) must be taken seriously?

The world’s press reacted with shock when the awful, evil (Scottish) Grand Theft Auto V game was released in September last year, making $1Bn in the first three days – and more money in its first month than the entire global music industry. The reaction was a combination of bafflement and outrage. How dare this medium, which we don’t understand, suddenly be so popular and influential. Didn’t people listen when we said it was bad for them? Caused cancer? Armed robberies?

Only yesterday it was announced that Minecraft, one of the most unexpectedly popular games of the last decade, was acquired by Microsoft for a trifling $2Bn (the console versions are made in Scotland you know).

All of a sudden, the rest of the world is interested in games. Not just the rest of the creative industries, but the world at large. The opportunities they present for learning and education, health care, fitness, entertainment and even political engagement are now being recognised as something that we should probably know more about and understand better.

All of a sudden people want to engage and find out more about this weird and formerly shameful preoccupation.

So what the hell does any of this have to do with independence?

Lots. For a start it means I get invited to more glamorous parties. And people don’t avoid me quite as much as they did. Their eyes darting off to one side to find someone important.

The practical upshot of this is that over the last couple of years I’ve been to a huge range of events with The Scottish Government, parliament, public sector, creative industries and beyond. I’ve been lucky enough to meet a good couple of dozen members of the Scottish parliament, from all parties and affiliations. From cabinet secretaries to plain vanilla MSPs. You know what – they’ve been awesome. They’ve been happy to engage, direct and interested in what people have to say. At no point did anyone shout, throw things, sneer at a transparently stupid question or have me forcibly ejected.

I’ve also been to Westminster. It was jolly impressive. The statue of Oliver Cromwell. The huge echoing halls and chambers. The sense of history. Seriously. You should go. Don’t throw things. We’re above that… You’ll also get lifted.

Westminster does, you may or may not be surprised to hear, do a very acceptable Merlot. And lots of it. At Holyrood if they can’t get a participant to sponsor a meeting, there’s no wine. There’s not even a cup of coffee, let alone biscuits. They are, a lovely Holyrood person assured me, trying to keep things simple and transparent.

Clearly this is not an issue on which to decide the future of a country. But… it’s indicative.

If I, some bloke who started a games network, can meet and talk to and engage with the people actually running the country, then I feel, that there’s a more direct and accountable government, right there.

If someone from that government calls me and asks questions about what’s actually happening within the industry I work in, then I feel that’s a more responsive and participative government too.

I know, I know. None of this. NONE of this is in any way objective or of real value when it comes to suitability to run a country.

But these little things matter. I’m some guy who used to make video games. And I can meet ministers and MSPs? I feel that’s a good thing. I can ask questions? And get actual sensible answers? That’s pretty damn good too.

Over the last several months through National Collective you’ve heard from people far more visionary than me, I’ve read articles which have inspired, informed, educated and upon occasions, infuriated me. You’ve heard from people who have addressed the huge issues. Scotland’s role in the global community. The visions for the future. Our potential. The fact that we can do better. Do more. Be more.

You know this. You’re clever people. The fact you’re reading National Collective means that you have checked the claims, read the articles, examined the evidence and questioned the arguments.

You’ve joined in the celebrations, you’ve gone to the gigs, you’ve joined the crowds. You’ve seen just how much Scotland has to offer the world – creatively, economically, socially and politically.

I’m not even going to begin trying to encapsulate just how much hope, how much opportunity we have. You know this.

We can make Scotland better. We can make our culture, our creativity, our passion, our education, our resources, the foundation of a future which exceeds anything we can achieve with the infrastructure and constraints of the UK.

It’ll be our responsibility too. It’ll be like being a big grown-up country. I for one am looking forward to it.


Brian Baglow
National Collective

Photo: Ewan McIntosh

9 Reasons Why Independence Will Benefit Literature And Publishing

1. The Great VAT Debate

Mark Buckland, Director at Cargo Publishing: Publishing Scotland have cautioned that if Scotland were independent, the EU would demand that Scotland adds VAT to its printed goods – books and newspapers would rise accordingly and Scotland’s publishing industry would suffer with higher prices than those south of the border.

A bit of perspective on these very clairvoyant scare stories – stuffed with ifs, maybes and buts. The EU is not due to rule on this issue until 2020; so even if we’re in the UK then, it could still be brought in. Alternatively, if Scotland has its own representation at the EU top tables and the number of MEPs it should have for its size (see Finland, Malta et al for how we’re massively underrepresented), we can resist it or at least have a voice in tempering it. Another timeline to this scare story is that we stay in the UK and exit the EU in David Cameron’s referendum – where would that leave all this business? Disappointing to see a trade body arguing on a issue that might come up in six years, when there are much more pressing issues facing Scottish publishing in the union.

2. The Market Isn’t Going Down; But Our Tax Might Be

MB: If you believe Better Together, Scottish authors will not see their books in the rUK ever again. Because border control and a complete shut down of Scottish trade to the UK will have put paid to that.

Look, the UK market is not going to vanish for Scotland. Even better, if, as the White Paper outlines, a 3% drop in corporation tax would give Scottish publishers a huge advantage to press into the UK and world markets, as they’ll have better margins than their UK counterparts.


Karyn Dougan, Journalist: Our arts are determined by a London-centric market, our best-sellers replicated throughout every story in the UK. Scottish identity is swallowed into a London-centric market and under the collective term of “British”. We need to stop living in the shadow that London casts over us. An independent Scotland gives us a new platform, one we don’t have to shuffle over and make room for anyone. We will have a refreshed identity, and the opportunity to showcase our culture with all the world watching.

4. Looking Outward – As Others See Us

MB: Independence might encourage Scottish authors and publishers to try beyond these shores. Currently, very few publishers venture out into the wider world, preferring to focus on the English speaking market within our borders. Why not focus on the USA? Or Canada? Or any of the other umpteen English speaking markets. Currently, there exists little provisions to do so. The British Council, as you would judge by its name, is spread between many artists in the four corners of the UK; a Scottish Council or equivalent gives us a chance to showcase our work alone, as an individual cultural entity.

5. Selling Books

MB: Currently, the Scottish market is dominated by three major players: WH Smith, Amazon and Waterstones. To begin, couldn’t independent booksellers enjoy the benefits of a corporation tax cut? I personally don’t agree with the Scottish Government giving Amazon money to come here; it creates local jobs but at the expense of how many in the creative industries? At least in an independent Scotland, I would be closer to my parliament, to my representatives to raise this specific issue. Compare that with a dismal meeting with my MP many years ago, to discuss the question of ebook pricing and a National Book Agreement. A Yes vote would almost certainly galvanise retailers into treating Scotland as a nation, rather than an afterthought in central buying. Who knows, it might even open a market to allow new, independent retailers to emerge.

6. Scottish Talent Stays In Scotland

KD: I’ve been involved in EVERY part of the book industry: publishing, editing, PR, proofreading, reviewing, bookselling, writing, the works. I have been lucky that I’ve managed to keep the creation of books as the centre of my life – something I’ve always wanted since I read my first book. I got my BA Hons in English Studies (with a damn good grade) and yet, for all my education, experience and talent, most of this I’ve had to do freelance. Every time I’ve looked for an editing assistant job or something along these lines, any opportunity for full-time work has been in London. In an independent Scotland with full power over finances and budgets, we will have money to invest and to experiment. Scotland’s biggest resource is its people, which we are losing due to lack of opportunities – something that an independent Scotland would not be short of.

7. Literature as The Heart of Life

MB: How much Scottish literature did you read in school? How much Scottish history did you study? For me, the answer to both is zero. Twelve years of state education and not one lesson on the Scottish Enlightenment? I do believe in a well-rounded, outward looking education, but to know nothing of the joy of your own country’s history and writing is a sin. We’re famously a highly literate nation, statistically we read more than nearly every nation in Europe. Why not bring our words and ideas back to the heart of Scottish cultural life?

KD: Despite being a huge reader, I was ignorant of my own culture until a specific Scottish Literature module at university, where I was introduced to Banks, Welsh, Galloway, Kelman, Spark and Gray. My eyes were opened up to a world I never knew existed – Scottish culture. I devoured as much as I could, exhilarated by the thought that men and women from my own country had written amazing pieces of literature. Why weren’t these voices a part of my education growing up? In an independent Scotland, I hope there would be a new focus on our country and the literature it produces, to inspire future writers and show them that the world DOES want to read what the Scots have to write.

8. Ditch The Kitsch

KD: Working in a Scottish bookshop, it’s very easy to spot Scottish books. It’s the ones draped in tartan or plastered with the saltire. Can be great for the tourists, but does nothing for the locals. Independence gives us the chance to show the world we’re not all tartan, whisky and bagpipes.

MB: If we are forever viewing ourselves as a nation that can only produce these types of books, then why are we surprised that few seem to know our literature or if they do, don’t take it seriously? Let’s shake off the cringe. Let’s assert ourselves in the world as a confident nation of multiple opinions, voices and stories. Let’s take them the visions of Alasdair Gray, the wit of Liz Lochhead, the verbosity of Jim Kelman, the inquisitions of Ewan Morrison, the gravitas of Janice Galloway, the passion of James Robertson, the pure gallus glory of Chris Brookmyre. Ditch the kitsch; it’s time to reshape the world’s vision of us.

9. It’s Not Really About Books

MB: A book to me represents an idea – an idea that can be passed from person to person. I’m voting Yes because I want to see a country take shape, to see ideas, concepts, creative visions passed from person to person. I want to see debate unfold, I want to see us take control of our own destiny. I’m voting Yes, not for myself, but for my children and their children. I’m voting Yes because I believe in the power of ideas and the greatest idea of all is to control your own fate.

KD: I was a No voter, but through reading, I realized that Yes was the only way forward for my country. No more feeling too wee, too poor, too stupid – we will stand up and be able to shake hands with our English brothers and sisters. We want independence so we can grow, be counted for and be equal. I want free education and healthcare for my children. I want my culture to thrive and grow. There’s a new Scotland on the horizon. Don’t be afraid of what awaits us on the 19th, whichever way it goes.

Karyn Dougan, Mark Buckland
@missnovocaine, @cargopublishing
National Collective

Photo: Fergus Ray Murray

David Aitchison: Vote Yes Tomorrow, And Let’s Set About Doing Things Differently.

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Having spent the last year or so editing and publishing other people’s incredible articles on National Collective’s website, I thought it might be a good idea to actually write something of my own. The work involved in that last year has given me inspiration for this.

On Thursday, Scotland faces the biggest decision in its history. I’m not going to write a ‘journey to Yes’ because, quite simply, it’s always been apparent to me that it is only sensible and logical to have a more localised Government. I’ve grown up under a devolved Scotland and have always felt that the Government in Holyrood is more easily held to account than that at Westminster (this was probably cemented by seeing millions of people marching on the streets of the UK to oppose the Iraq war at an impressionable age of 10, yet seeing the skies of Baghdad light up on the BBC News despite the clear will of the people).

Rather, I’ll offer you an idea of how being part of this campaign has influenced my vision of the world and how a future Scotland can look, because independence now, for me, goes so far beyond the reasons that I supported independence in previous years (not that opposing WMD’s being based a half hours’ drive from our largest cities, and a child poverty rate of 1 in 5 don’t matter – they still represent the fundamental principles of why I am voting Yes, and how I got to the position I am at now).

I’ve been involved in this extraordinary campaign through various different outlets, most significantly National Collective. What this has shown me, both as a member and via observing the general pattern of political life in Scotland through my admittedly inexperienced eyes, is that independence isn’t just a chance to bring power closer to the people, a localisation of democracy, it is a chance to create a completely new kind of nation state.

For me debates over economic issues of the ‘£500/year better off’ type fundamentally miss the point of the potential that independence offers Scotland. We are an incredibly wealthy nation as we all know, and are now at the point where tackling inequality has to be the main aim of any government we elect, and if you take one look at the Westminster parties you will know that it is not on the top of their agenda (more information on this can be found in the video link at the foot of this article). Taking steps to make greater equality happen will not happen within the Westminster system, and the huge changes that localisation of power can bring will allow a government that is more accountable, and thus more responsive to the needs of its people. We will have a greater chance to reduce inequality as a consequence.

However important this point is, it doesn’t express the excitement that I have for the chance to be involved in creating this new kind of country that I alluded to earlier. What this country can be will be entirely up to us – never before in history has a new state emerged under such favourable conditions – with such wealth, in economic, intellectual and human terms. This is why debates over whether Scotland could be successful are so misplaced, and have utterly missed the point of what this debate is about. Of course Scotland will be a wealthy and successful independent country, it is incredible to believe otherwise. What this debate is about is what kind of country we want to see Scotland become after independence – and we have infinite possibilities for where we want to take this small corner of the planet. There are 5.3 million ideas for creating a new Scotland, something that gives me the utmost belief that the independent Scotland that we build will be the most exciting thing to be part of.

What do I want from that possible country? What ideas will I contribute as one of the 5.3 million voices arguing for better? I want a country that stands up for what is right in the world, and doesn’t take actions based on ideas of prestige and power. I want a country that makes its voice heard in a positive manner, and seeks to improve the world through peaceable means, not through use of force. The country that I seek is one where the population is engaged in the political process – much in the way that this campaign has managed to make politics normal. It’s time to move away from the Blairite era of Tucker-esque spin, and build something new so that the people that have been entrenched by an apathy brought on by a disconnect between them and power don’t return to this disengagement again. I want a country whose built environment is designed on the long-term health and well-being of its people, not the short-term profits of business.

But most of all, I want a country that enshrines the equal rights of all who live here in a written constitution, to protect the vulnerable and marginalised groups, from women to immigrants, to the impoverished and disabled; because nothing, absolutely nothing, is as important as creating an equal society. We will never have the power or influence to do this in the Westminster system. It’s time to dismantle it and build something new, that serves not only us, but the people of the rest of the UK who can better tackle a significantly weakened Westminster establishment.

This campaign has shown me what is possible. The people I have met from all walks of life and all corners of the planet, who see this as an opportunity to build something better, is nothing short of inspirational. As people, equals, there is nothing that any of us cannot do in order to create better, not just in Scotland but across the world. Now is the time to set about doing just that.

Vote Yes tomorrow, and let’s set about doing things differently.

David Aitchison
National Collective

Vonny Moyes: A Letter To The Babies

Hey babies,

There may seem little point in writing a letter to you tiny humans so new and barely cognisant. I get it – you’re closer to being a bunch of unorganised cells than you are to making political history. Right now, the major concerns are stamp collecting – getting every little badge of humanhood that turns you into a real person; teeth, inches, words, hopes, ideas, attitudes, morals and eventually love, death, and taxes. You’ve no idea what balance is, or how difficult it is to find, let alone mastered it enough to have taken the first ungraceful steps on your life path. And while you may look perfectly harmless there, disguised in that little cotton romper, smelling of puffed powder and warm milk, but let me tell you – I have you sussed. You are the scariest thing in the world. You are a visual reminder of my life’s chronology. Of all the things I haven’t done. You, oh tiny sleepy thing, are potential in a people suit. One brush of that dandelion clock hair, and I stare at the future – a lifetime of potential, choices, mistakes and opportunity. So as someone only qualified by having spent almost three decades on this godforsaken green blob, though who still has enough mileage to give a damn, I want to talk to you about the future.

See, we’ve been doing some thinking around here. Thinking about the sort of place we want you to know. The truth is, little ones, the world isn’t always nice. For reasons that I can’t easily explain, once you pop out that womb, things are complicated out here. Life is pretty simple when you’re twenty inches long, but as we grow we sometimes lose sight of how to care for one another. If there’s one thing I’ve managed to grasp in my time here so far, it’s that you have to remember what it feels like to give for another person. Everyone is equal, and everyone deserves your love. You won’t know what that really means until you’re the recipient of one of life’s extraordinary kindnesses. And you will be.

Babies, I’m writing you this letter the day before Scotland’s biggest decision. For the past two years the people of this awkward little country, pegged onto another, have been thinking about you. We’ve been thinking about razing it to the ground, but we’ve also been dreaming of rebuilding.

There are ugly things in the world that I don’t want to fleck your consciousness with – I know all too well that in time you will understand what war is and what poverty is. I know you’ll see waste and injustice. You’ll ache as resources are squandered and hope is diminished. But I hope that this place – the land of your birth – will be a place that doesn’t force these things on you, through circumstance or structure. That you will be leaders armed with patience, understanding and charity.

I hope you live in a country that doesn’t house weapons of mass destruction in its back garden. One that refuses to use dangerous military posturing as a deterrent that could devastate the planet for everyone. I hope you’re thriving in a progressive nation that has boldly embraced nuclear disarmament. One that proudly believes a commitment to mass murder is morally bankrupt and that budgets should be spent on preserving life, rather than destroying it.

I want your Scotland to be one that doesn’t send its people, its resources or its wealth into illegal wars at extraordinary human cost. In your Scotland, I hope no one dies for someone else’s political agenda. I hope you can protect yourselves humanely, understanding that the real threats to society are issues of land, food, water, energy, climate and global injustice – not defence of borders.

I want you to go places, and have every opportunity to blossom. I want you to know that a young person from Maryhill has the same right to education as one from Morningside, and the same help to get there. You don’t know what they are yet, but you’ve been born into a country with more top universities per head than any other, so your education is one that will give you the best tools for the future, whatever you want to be. If that’s the path you choose.

I want you to know compassion – for your health to be a priority that doesn’t depend on wealth. Healthcare will continue to be a right for everyone – a state provision that puts human life before income and affordability.
I want you to grow up knowing that Scotland has and will only have the government it chooses. That your voice and your needs will be democratically heard by the people who can make a difference. That your Scotland nurtures a cohesive society with a social conscience – where solidarity, provision and opportunity are normal and expected. Everyone should be able to reach their full potential, and contribute to society meaningfully. Women will not have a fiscal expiration date, be shackled by stereotype and expectation, or be forced to choose between a career and a family.

I hope your Scotland is small, democratic and economically thriving, growing from the resources and the ingenuity of its land and its people. Its skills are bountiful and diverse – I hope you know it and make the most of it. I hope your country has the dignity to face when they get it wrong, but also the power to changes things as it evolves.

Babies, I hope there is soul. I hope you live in a country with equality for a heart. Where your civil rights are eked out, inked out and carried at the heart of every decision made for you. You’ll live in a place of safety that doesn’t triage need by social hierarchy. A place that always has your back, no matter how bad it gets.

I know that’s a lot to digest when you can’t speak – but I hope that one day, you’ll read this and know how much we care about you. And not just you – all of you yet to make an appearance. By the time this reaches you, whatever happens tomorrow, I hope you know that we tried, and we did everything we could to make this country beautiful. And this, our promise to you babies, is that no matter which way the sun sets on the 19th, we will never give up on you or these dreams. And neither should you.

Vonny Moyes
National Collective

Ross Aitchison: Forward Is The Only Way


One of the single most rewarding parts of being a participant in Scotland’s journey these last few years is the opportunities afforded to just listen and look. Not to the noise of the political elites, or the official campaigns, but to the people around me. They have swayed, swithered and asked questions; they have imparted wisdom and ideas; they have argued, challenged and laughed and joked. But alongside all of these things many have shared their very unique and personal Journey’s to Yes this September.

I have often found myself reluctant to do the same. The idea of writing a ‘Journey to Yes’ is difficult. As an architect, writing on concepts and ideas comes much more naturally, sitting at a safe distance from personal stories. To write a ‘Journey to Yes’ opens you up, forces reflection and raises questions only I can answer. Yet, I kept promising myself the words would come, they would have to be put down before the moment had expired and the regret of not doing so fell upon me. To miss the one opportunity of recording what ideas I was considering at this moment wrestled in my mind. To record nothing as we made our choice felt would allow me to rewrite the story later was something I don’t wish to do.

But despite it all the idea of a ‘Journey to Yes’ still seemed challenging – not least because I haven’t had a eureka moment nor the slow transition from No to Yes. I know and have read and listened to many who have made such a move in the last few years but for me, the choice was never in any sense of doubt. I have always been a ‘Yes’. My story is more a personal narrative to now, this moment and time, as I fast approach my twenty-fifth birthday and this decision which will shape much of my next twenty-five years and many beyond.

I am a nostalgic and at times a rather sentimental person. I’m intrigued by old stories, black and white photographs, the traces of family history and paths chosen. Our personal experiences are often our (best) guides in the making of decisions, they inform our hopes and fears and set the backdrop for each which comes next. We continually meet forks in the road, and with each choice we are defined and changed. This is less a ‘Journey to Yes’ and more a series of choices made which have brought me to this moment and place.

When faced with their first fork in the road together, my parents chose to go to Nottingham. By my Dad choosing to retrain as a Chartered Surveyor they had left Edinburgh to start a new life. A year later in 1989 I would join them, born within the homeland of Robin Hood in the District of Sherwood.

They had met in the late days of the 80s – against the backdrop of Thatcherism – whilst working together in the Benefits Office on The Shore in Leith. The stories of these days, of their carrying out work brought on by the policies of a government neither had voted for, would form an early narrative in my understanding of politics on our isles. My Mum would be returning south of the Border having grown up in the Garrison town of Catterick in Yorkshire, my granddad serving in the British Army in Cyprus, Germany, Northern Ireland. They would reminisce fondly of their time in Nottingham but less so of the backdrop of the worst excesses of that Tory Government, the miner’s strikes and the collapse of industry across Britain. Later childhood holidays would be spent there, visiting the the Robin Hood Museum and hearing stories of Brian Clough and his great teams of players assembled from across these isles.

As a family we would return to Scotland, firstly to Edinburgh and then in 1996 to Aberdeenshire. It was common place over our nightly dinners as a family to discuss the politics of this seemingly far away decade which my life briefly touched. My parents would remind myself and my brothers of the dark days of having to work in the Benefits Office and their experience as a new young couple “down south”. We would talk about the devastation Thatchers policies brought to Scotland and the questionable mandate they had to deliver such extraordinary social and economic change. Discussion would focus on democracy and the deficit we in Scotland faced.

We would hear stories of 1990 when the Poll Tax protests reached London and the amazement of many of their peers in England that it had already been ‘tested’ on an unwelcoming Scots populous for a year. They would discuss openly, like many of their age, that steady and all too familiar disillusionment with a Labour Party which had already by 1990 abandoned them, my Dad choosing to vote for the short lived Social Democrats through much of the 1980s. That’s not to say my experience and upbringing was shaped by a tribal distancing from the Labour Party. There was always warmness, enthusiasm, respect and sadness at the loss of giants like Smith and Dewar and Mackintosh (a visitor to my grandparents house during the 1970s).

Throughout my childhood there would be further tales shared by my Gran and my Dad of my Papa’s stories; about a boy from Harthill who would welcome a number of the political leaders of the day to their house in Eyemouth. Each would illicit questions of curiosity and answers in equal measure. I would, as I grew up, begin to feel parallels and imagine conversations we would have about Scotland, his life and our future. Again all these stories and conversations would be defined by experience and choice. Sadly, as many others will miss out, as the day approaches we won’t have the opportunity to do so.

Those choices he made would come to set some of the backdrop for many of mine. They would shape my thinking and influence my sense of who I am and can be. Born in the 1920s my Papa, from a family from Foula off the hostile west Atlantic coast of Shetland, would be brought up in the industrial heartland of central Scotland.

Opportunity would arise through education – as for many Scots – and Glasgow University would present the chance of a degree in Classics. It would be broken up as war would break out and he too would serve in the British Army. For him it would be in the heat of battle in forests and plains of the Netherlands. Newspaper clippings proudly kept tell of this young man, younger than I am now, capturing a German unit and conducting their surrender in the mutual language of latin. A moment of understanding and respect against the heat and horrors of war.

His return would bring his falling in love with my Gran who would go onto to share his life for over 50 years. Her spirit, inquisitiveness, thoughtfulness and energy into her 90s is an inspirational and wonderful influence on me. The particular story of her and her sister dancing with Sir Harry Lauder around Scotland has been told and retold hundreds of times with joy and amazement.

The two of them would go on to settle in Eyemouth, on the Berwickshire coast, my Papa becoming a teacher of Latin and latterly Navigation – a critical qualification in this once thriving and significant fishing town. This would open doors and present new opportunities to the point where in the 1970s he became the first Chief Executive of the Scottish Fisherman’s Federation. His selflessness and want for a better Scotland for all (although I could never say he would support independence today) is a constant inspiration and owes much to the hard work He believed in the power of education, which remains utterly central to improving our collective lot. Latterly his commitment to civic society would find its outlet in local government with his becoming a Liberal Democrat Councillor in Scottish Borders Counicl. My Dad often tells of a story in which he questioned why my Papa fought for EU funding to expand the harbour at Eyemouth at a time of decline in the fishing industry. His succinct reply, “If we don’t do it someone else will”. I’ve always like that.

At times I wonder if there are parallels – of the power of hard work, the opportunities afforded by free higher education, an ambition for better and a belief that engagement in society good improve much of that which surrounds us.

These parallels for me were in many ways aided by my parents choice to move to a new environment. In 1996 we would go north – to Aberdeenshire – where the lives of myself and my brothers would be staggeringly reshaped. We would grow up in a place away from the harshness of the city, in a house with a garden and streets we could play in until late into the night. It was safe and rife with opportunity. We would go to a state school permanently ranked as one of the best in Scotland and with an extensive support network. Anything was possible here in a way when I visited friends and family elsewhere in Scotland it just wasn’t.

The decline in Eyemouth was harsh, the failures of government in supporting fisheries slowly strangling the prosperity of the town. Edinburgh would provoke stark contrast and provide a glimpse of the inner city life I could have had. It was unfair to my developing political mind that by quirk of chance I would have opportunities a number of my primary school peers in Edinburgh could only dream of. These thoughts, guilts even, would be the spark for political discussion around the dining table.

Around our table we would, as a family, reflect on the birth of Holyrood and its changes to how we saw ourselves and the progress made by administrations led by both Labour and the SNP. The smoking ban, progress on equality rights, protection of free education and the abolition of prescription charges to name a few. Within our house, politics was never defined by parties but by openness to ideas that could make things better.

For me a fork in the road would arrive in 2012. Having become politically engaged by our family reflections and discussions I would join the SNP in 2010 with the belief that by being part of the discussion there was an opportunity to change Scotland for the better. I wouldn’t find myself in agreement with everything they stood for, nor would I now, but they offered the closest to what I believed was best for Scotland. Joining allowed me to explore the notion that politics was something not to be done to us – as my parents had experienced – but to be participated in and shaped to reflect the country I wanted to see.

It was through this engagement that my Dad, for a number of years disillusioned by party politics following the heart wrenching disappointment of New Labour, would be persuaded to stand as an Aberdeenshire Council candidate. I was asked to be his election agent. To campaign for your Dad is strange – and stepping into a ballot box to place an ‘X’ alongside his name even more so. But to stand next to him as we were told he had been elected was one of the proudest moments of my life. Those conversations that encouraged the idea that politics was something for open discourse and questioning – not something to be ignored – became manifest. As an elected member of our community his tireless work in building a better place amazes me each day. He provokes cynicism and optimism in me in equal measure and for that I am incredibly grateful.

The home would continue to be fertile ground for agreement and disagreement and the challenging of ideas and opinions. My Mum would encourage tirelessly that we should speak up for what we believed in, stand our ground and above all else express our independence. She would teach us the value of art in our life and provides a constant sounding board for ideas and decisions. She would make sure I knew that my opinion was always valued and its expression encouraged. She constantly keeps me grounded and reminds me that our family have had to work for where we are and the opportunities we have had. As a family we would visit galleries and museums to expand our experience of the world around us. We would always talk about politics against the backdrop of art and culture and experience.

I would often wonder if this were a normal state for families across the land or whether it was just us.

This campaign has taught me, wholeheartedly it wasn’t just us. It was never just us.

People from across Scotland have been having the same conversations. We just haven’t heard them loudly enough before. That’s all changed and we can’t let it reverse. People are becoming engaged again. Like for my Dad the disillusion is being washed away by a new tide. We are a political people and we want something better and this experience has shifted us onto new ground. We’ve reflected on little stories and big political choices gone before. I’ve grown more sentimental and nostalgic whilst more than ever being excited of the possibility of the future.

My stories, their forks in the road and choices, are just one of many across this country. It is no more or less valid than any other, it is merely a series of choices and experiences which have brought me to this place. They’ve all made me an independent person seeking an independent future.

My own experience with National Collective and the broader Yes movement has inspired and amazed me. When faced with my own fork in the road two and a half years ago to join a group of five or six others in a small pub in Edinburgh to talk about independence, I said Yes. That group was National Collective. Look at it now.

That we are here sharing this moment is a testament to the work of so many incredible people doing their little bit. Each and every one of these achievements shouldn’t be underestimated.

When Scotland decides on Thursday, we face a choice of two futures which will define the direction we go in next. Although sentimental and nostalgic, forward is the only way.

Ross Aitchison
National Collective

Image from Simon Baker

Finlay Thewlis: Scotland, Can You Switch On The Power Button?


Don’t forget what this referendum is about – the opportunity for change and not just the chance of change, but change defined by the people of Scotland.

  • We need a yes vote to decide how we handle the creative sector in scotland
  • We need a yes vote for the cultural gain within these new industries and once again make an artistic contribution to the world in ways we’ve done in the past by supporting new IPs.
  • We need a yes vote so we can fulfill our potential

For many growing up in my generation, computer games played an amazing role in our cultural development and how we opened up to the creations of the fast-growing gaming space.
We played in all sort of worlds, with all sorts of drastically different characters, in varying functional ways. Such is the nature of games, their platforms, their visual style and the stories they tell, their variation in presentation and function still provides surprises to many peers in this industry that I work in. Artistic and financial gaming successes can come from absolutely anywhere.

The new Intellectual Properties (IPs) that can define a generation can come from any place, from any development team, at any time. The opportunity to create something stunning comes from a talented and skilled team, working well together, with the right investment and creative conditions they should be able to pull off their initial vision that they set out to create. Of course, this is not a cast-iron guarantee, many studios fail, many projects remain unfinished and many prototyped IPs never see the light of day.

So, in Scotland how can we carve out our place in this exciting industry, not just to create games that are financial successes, that create jobs but also to create striking artistic titles that go beyond just a game and become that ‘must experience journey’ to further the cultural impact of games to people across the world.

So how does this all matter in the context of Scotland’s independence referendum?

I’d open by saying, conditions matter – especially in games. What sets games development apart from many other forms of development, it has an inherent cross-discipline nature that’s handling defines it’s success or failure. By harnessing the right conditions for our creative industries, be they games, film, TV or anything else – we can contribute amazing things to the creative world.

Really, do we need independence to achieve these conditions? I’m going to be honest – No. We don’t need independence to create great games, however really the point is – we aren’t doing nearly as well as we could be.

The UK economy right now is tailored to suit the banking sector, big finance and large multinationals and game developers based in Scotland after a Yes vote could stand to gain a great deal, not only by having a government ready to listen to it’s businesses (keeping in mind over 98% of Scotland consists of SME’s). This exact act allows everyone across Scottish society to engage in a conversation about how can we make Scotland better, and how Scotland can build an economy that will ready this small part of the world for the future. That huge majority of SMEs will all be looking to ensure Scotland’s new constitution doesn’t just cater for them but is focussed and built around them. The games industry, if open and vocal about its concerns and opportunities can forge a great part of this new Scotland-focussed economy.

In addition to this, can you imagine being part of the generation that built a new version of Scotland, the one that kicks the cringe and forms a modern, international and forward-thinking cultural fabric. We’re at a cultural, and to a degree, an economic crossroads, do we carry on with the kilt-wearing, shortbread version of scotland or the game-developing, app-creating one with our distinct ‘made in scotland’ stamp on it?

Discussing with games industry colleagues over the last few years about how independence may impact on going forward. Chats varying from CEO-level to Producers to Designers to Programmers and more. Rockstar North is the often cited developer of ‘instant recognition’ due to the incredible success of Grand Theft Auto 5. Some close friends of mine cited an issue of attracting staff against the pull of London and the South-East. It’s clear a Yes vote can help customize the economy to suit the businesses here and make savings on UK defence spending on Trident.

Let no-one be under any false sense of the games industry just being a sort of, outlying, way to generate wealth it’s expected to be worth northwards of $100bn by 2017.

Developers fall and rise too frequently and we could definitely do with a healthier access to finance to build up teams and develop staff’s skills to improve, specialize and ultimately have a chance to be more stable.

Indeed it’s not just the raw economic flexibility that matters to developers, a genuine, more frequent and reflective government on the realities of what a modern industry like the gaming sector is. This means that given a more frequent and detailed dialogue we can avoid future embarrassment like this.

One of the amazing things about games is that just like other art forms be it a painting, a song, a poem etc they cross language barriers, and different cultures and allows people to from opposite ends of the world to delight in their shared experiences. Something seen turn from raw playable joy to raw hard cash in the Microsoft purchase of Minecraft for an eye-watering £1.5bn. Made in a nation of a population similar to Scotland’s – Sweden, and alongside Finland, and Denmark we can see proof that small socially democratic european nations can succeed in the gaming sphere. So with independence can we invest in a way that suits our economy and society and with so much anxiety going around in the media these days let’s talk about the benefits and the future.

So if you’re an undecided voter – I’d ask you to think ‘Why shouldn’t we take responsibility for our future when the facts tell you we’d have every chance of making a success of it?’.
I’ll be voting Yes tomorrow because I’m ready to help forge a new path in this world for my generation and generations to come. Take the chance of a lifetime and turn the power button on Scotland.

Finlay Thewlis
National Collective

6 Reasons Why Independence Will Benefit The Green Movement

1. Democracy for the people

Greens believe in radical democracy – in bringing power as close to people as possible. Right now we have 9% of the MPs in Westminster and therefore 9% of the influence. That means that when we differ from the other 91%, we can always be outvoted. That lack of influence means that people in Scotland have less of a reason to engage in politics and less incentive to have faith in democracy. That must change.

When people’s votes and voices actually count for something and result in meaningful change, they’re more likely to get involved in shaping their own lives and playing a part in their community. Similarly, when given the chance to get involved in participatory democracy, people tend to make pretty good choices.

Greens want to see a democracy where all our voices can be heard. That can start with a Yes vote.

2. Decentralisation of power

At the moment, power in Britain is hugely concentrated in London, so it’s no wonder that 9 of the 10 poorest regions in Northern Europe are in the UK and it’s no wonder people are alienated by politics. A yes vote will bring power closer to people but power must not just stop at Holyrood. Instead, power should continue to be devolved out to local communities.

3. Social security that’s worthy of the name

Greens believe in universalism and social justice. We abhor the rhetoric of strivers and skivers that comes from the three main parties at Westminster and seek a social security system that’s worthy of the name. A citizens income – a universal payment to every child, adult and pensioner – would provide a real safety net for everyone. It would allow more flexible working, get rid of the stigma of means tested benefits and value care work that is so often invisible. This idea is gaining traction in Scotland but we don’t have the power to enact it. A Yes vote could change that and give the citizens of Scotland the dignity they deserve.

4. Energy for the future

Like many people, we don’t want to see a new Scotland reliant on oil, just as we want to see the UK move away from climate changing fossil fuels. We have three times more renewable energy potential in Scotland than we can even use. Let’s capture that, use what we need and export the rest to the rest of the UK and to Europe and break the stranglehold of the multinational oil and gas companies. With a renewed focus on renewable energy, we would also have the chance to stop fracking in its tracks and reverse the decision of the UK Government to cut tax breaks for renewables, only to introduce them for fracking. Scotland is just as rich as the rest of the UK without oil so we know we can afford to leave it in the ground. Only with a Yes vote can we take that kind of decision for Scotland.

5. Internationalism not nationalism

Greens want to see an independent Scotland play its part on the world stage, welcomed into the family of nations as a cooperative, peaceful nation. We’d focus on cooperation not competition and on peace, not war. Westminster lives in the long shadow of the British empire – so much so, that it largely seems to be in the dark about its brutal past. But the result is a system which encourages the kind of politician who thinks we have more business in Baghdad than Brussels. The referendum is an opportunity to transform an anachronistic 19th century state into a collection of modern, outward looking countries.

6. No more nukes

Independence is our best shot at nuclear disarmament for the UK as well as for Scotland. We don’t want to just shift Trident down the road, we want it gone. A Yes vote means people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland would have to debate the merits and morals of nuclear weapons and we trust that our comrades across these isles will agree that weapons of mass destruction are utterly immoral.

Sarah Beattie-Smith
National Collective

Photo: Southside Images