Why the Labour Party is Losing Britain

Booze for the terraces, pink vehicles for the ladies, tough love for the scroungers, pride for the white vans, nurses to attend ailing Scots by the thousand. All is catered for within the sweepingly incoherent stance that the Labour Party has adopted in advance of the general election.

Marx’s famous observation, that history happens, as it were, twice (first as tragedy, then as farce) is one that the party would do well to remember. Because, if this is a re-run for Labour, the precedent suggests a longer term decline.

The last time Labour attempted to regain power from the Tories after a single term, it was led by an eccentric leftist intellectual, Michael Foot. Miliband may have the intellect and the eccentricity, but as his policy-lite posturing has demonstrated, the party remains terrified of a coherent ideological challenge to right wing Tory policy.

This re-run of tragedy for Labour will be rendered farcical by the overwhelmingly weak content of its campaign. The party’s 1983 manifesto, notoriously dubbed the ‘longest suicide note in history’, may have been an attempt by the right of the party to clear out left wing policies such as nuclear disarmament, knowing that the election would be lost anyway. It did however present Labour as a distinct ideological alternative to Thatcherism on a number of issues. In 2015, there are no radical policies in Labour’s bid for power. The acute trauma of electoral politics in the 1980s has, in large part, meant that politics in Britain has scarcely progressed since.

In response, Labour has become trapped by its attachment to a studied silence on major economic issues. Indirectly, this results in an ongoing expression of various forms of identity politics, the roots of which lie in the emergence of a new-left that came to emphasise minority rights and social-cultural emancipation. Though this turn was a welcome and radical development against the forces of conservatism a quarter of a century ago, today it has left a residual husk. A nominal ‘left’ in UK politics tacitly accepts an enormously unjust economic order and denies any legitimate expression of class as a foundation for politics.

Of course, the siloing of the social and the economic is an ultimately false division. The history of Scotland, the north of England and Wales in the past quarter century is an object lesson in this. Labour have done nothing, post-Blair, to recognise the shape of these problems in the heartlands. The drastic and necessary recalibrating of an economy (from one based on a precarious service sector and casino finance into a productive one) would take the kind of political will that the Labour Party has not displayed collectively for well over a generation.

The offer of change from all three ‘mainstream’ parties has long been skin-deep. All are entirely unprepared to acknowledge that a Britain that wants to make things cannot continue to harbour an unbridled City. Where previous governments propped up declining heavy industry the last Labour government underwrote the losses of the financial sector. A profoundly anti-social industry was saved by public money and we’ll be paying for it for a long time.

Miliband does not understand that such outcomes have turned politics upside down. Probably because no party mandarin is willing to tell him. Instead, lost in a generation of career politicians, Labour offers an incrementally less brutal regime of austerity. Many, both within and without the party look on at a nominally ‘democratic socialist’ organisation unable to reform Britain because it is too traumatised by Blair’s prolonged deracination to reform itself.

It remains, essentially, New Labour, the party that wanted people to get filthy rich, systematically used public money to underwrite the losses and low pay of private enterprise and stigmatised poverty. Its crassness in government must not be forgotten. The economic problem, at the turn of the century, was solved. Such complacency would see inequality under Labour reach new and obscene levels, a corrosive element last present in the 1920s. Foreign wars would alienate ethnic minorities far more effectively than Tory racism had ever managed.

Miliband’s leadership is the logical, farcical arrival at a destination to which Labour has long been headed. Ed’s tenure has become like a long and drawn out extension of Brown’s Gillian Duffy episode. It is puerile dispatch box sparring and a withering fear of being cast as anti-business. It’s also an obsession with politics as cosmetic gesture: a relentless effort to either patronise or cosy up to whatever group of swing voters a six figure salary strategists has selected. In the meantime Britain is being broken, not by immigrants, not by benefit cheats, but by its own parasitic elites. Almost every institution in Britain: parliament, the press, the financial sector, the monarchy, has displayed profoundly anti-social tendencies. Such behaviour within the highly centralised, moneyed, world of power and privilege is hardly surprising in itself. What is remarkable, is that no mainstream party is proposing the kind of wide ranging, systematic reform that scandal after scandal points to.

Herein lies the depths of the Labour malaise. It must be more Scottish than the SNP, more disparaging of Blair’s immigration policies than UKIP, more safe than the Lib-Dems, more radical than the Greens and more nasty than the Tories. It faces distinct threats everywhere. But nowhere is it prepared to stand and fight. The party long ago accepted that to win in Britain, it would have to do battle on terms that were destined to alienate its core voters and values. This problem is not new. Despite all that the gods gave New Labour in 1997: an unprecedented mandate, money, goodwill, activists and youth, it failed to play the long game that Thatcher’s party quickly grasped. The 1980s was revolutionary for Britain, a class war waged from above, if you like. The only response that can make working people central once again to British society must be, in turn, as ideological and radical in its intent as Thatcherism once was.

The actual nature of what the British left needs is a massive effort to change course. The change has to be a full-scale inversion of Thatcherism: a programme fixed on socialising profit and making the private sector stand on its own two feet. The impetus for such a change is of course the 2008 financial crash. If it was militant labour that propelled the right to victory in the final decades of the 20th century, surely, the recent actions of capital, of markets and banks, is an adequate equivalent for the left to fight back. That such changes represent far too great a leap for the dominant force on the British left, makes the prospect of progressive change increasingly elusive. Labour’s analysis of what is needed for its own victory is premised on leaving austerity unchallenged and the self-evidently insane notion that regulation of Britain’s tax haven economy is not a pressing political concern. Miliband must first go on his knees to the city if he wants to rule the UK: so rotten is the state of the nation.

Who you subsidise says a lot about who you seek to represent. No system anywhere can placate both the needs of predatory financial capital and ordinary working people. Today, Labour remains on the same side as the banks. There are many people within the Labour party who must feel sick at this reality. But they must never again think that the mere possession of power will make a better party more attainable. Indeed, the opposite has been the case. In the meantime Britain desperately needs a change of course with or without the Labour party at its helm.

Christopher Silver is currently writing a book, The Case for a Scottish Media, you can support this project here:



Identity and Post-Referendum Scotland


In a recent Contemporary Scotland class at the University of Edinburgh, our discussion centred on the theme of Scottish identity. Naturally, only some months after the independence referendum, we had a lot to say. When asked to identify symbols of Scottish identity, the only American in the room finally intervened, “Well I guess you guys have your own food, like haggis.” Presumably, the remark was to be taken humorously, but it nonetheless raised an important issue about the role of symbols within national identities.

Like it or not, our understandings of national identities frequently revolve around particular realities that come to symbolise national identities as a whole: food, clothes, flags, anthems, hair-colour, music, landscape etc. It seems improbable, but a popular image of Scotland is (for many outside the country, at least) haggis, kilts, bagpipes and Glen Coe. Of course, for those inside the country understandings are more sophisticated. Still, Scots sometimes revert to an identification with symbols when placed in contact with an ‘other.’ This not only takes place in international sporting events, but can also occur when Scots go abroad – kilts are often seen on foreign streets, or loud exclamations about Scottish drinking abilities are heard in foreign bars!

But, an attachment to symbols is problematic. Symbols generalise. They force identification down narrow lines, or exclude those who don’t fit. Stretched to oversimplification, they glaze over the subtleties of a locality’s or an individual’s relationship with them. They are subject to the traps of stereotypes.

Yet for me, the achievement of the Yes campaign (and the independence referendum more widely) has been that it has shown the complete inadequacy of symbols in an understanding of (any) national identity. Instead, the campaign has provided Scots with a collective identity-shaping experience. Political involvement, therefore, is integral to identity. Indeed, the referendum is part of a longer story that includes the 1997 devolution, which has led to a greater politicisation of the Scottish identity (especially for my generation, grown-up in a devolved Scotland). Nevertheless, identity is not purely political…

Analysing Scottish identity after the referendum can allow us to re-evaluate symbols. Food, music and landscape are still part of the Scottish identity – the independence referendum showed that. Most of us experienced or encountered features of the campaign that used music, literature, art, food or landscape to engage in the political process in distinctive ways: people interacted with the campaign on a personal level. The referendum showed that Scotland’s political identity runs in tandem with its diverse cultural and social identities; and the record involvement with the referendum revealed the unique complexities and diversities of the Scottish identity. Scotland may have voted against establishing its own country, but it did proclaim its animated and multi-faceted identity.

Robin Weaver
National Collective

Changin Scotland, 27th – 29th March, Ullapool

Changin Scotland was originally founded by Gerry Hassan and Jean Urquhart in 2002. For the past thirteen years, these 24 weekends have explored past, contemporary and future Scotlands in a national and international context.

In 2015, for the first time, Changin Scotland will be co-curated and facilitated by Mairi McFadyen & Andy Summers of National Collective in collaboration with Gerry, with help from Jock & Becky Urquhart at the Ceilidh Place. We will be celebrating our future with the launch of our new platform and future plans.

Join us in Ullapool for a weekend of fun, provocation, discussion, reflection and new perspectives on themes affecting this particular part of the planet. We have sessions on macroeconomics; Scots, UK & international politics; arts & culture at grassroots and on the world stage; workshops on what it means to be an active citizen and live music from the wonderful Karine Polwart.

We open with The Big Question: how to fix a broken economy, with global finance analyst Ann Pettifor and senior economics commentator for the Guardian Aditya Chakriborty, chaired by the BBC’s Douglas Fraser. We take a look at The State We Are In, with a reflection on Britishness and our broken politics with Scottish Greens Patrick Harvie MSP and journalist Ben Jackson, chaired by Gerry Hassan. With critic and columnist Joyce McMillan, journalist Peter Geoghegan and film director Eleanor Yule, we will challenge the orthodoxies of post-referendum Scotland and look to new and radical futures. With help from activist and writer Jemma Neville, we ask what  we might embrace, leave behind, or take forward for a better Scotland in the world.

We consider our local environments and ask, what are the realities, opportunities and limitations for young people in rural areas in Scotland? With Pàdruig Morrisonmusician, crofter and Gaelic speaker from Grimsay in North Uist and photographer Mhairi Law, whose work explores how people relate and respond to their home environments with a particular focus on rural communities, we ask, how do we sustain and regenerate our local places? Chaired by artist and arts promoter Jock Urquhart from The Ceilidh Place.

We also explore the role of arts and culture at grassroots and international levels. We’ll think about global cultural connections and the potential for Scotland’s soft power. With a focus more on the performing arts, singer/songwriter Karine Polwart joins musician, arts worker and festival director Brian O hEadhra and Joyce McMillan. We also take a look at the grassroots visual arts scene and reflect on the challenges faced by local artists and promoters. With  Peter Gillies, organiser and arts curator for Glasgow’s Southside Fringe Festival, the Tin Roof Collective in Dundee and the local Solas Arts Centre in Ullapool, we think about audience engagement in the arts and explore the creative use of new spaces.

“Packed, varied, dynamic programme – one of our best yet!” – Gerry Hassan

Mairi McFadyen & Andy Summers


Peripheral Visions

If Lord Ashcroft’s polling  is correct, Labour faces an unprecedented defeat in Scotland at May’s general election. As the party struggles to maintain its heartlands north of the border it’s high time these long neglected constituencies made their voices heard. 

The full implications of such an implosion would represent the death of Scottish Labour as we know it. Certainly, the party would have to genuinely re-invent itself. It would become impossible for potential future leaders like Kezia Dugdale to accept a role that, even in the hands of such unscrupulous opportunists as Murphy and McTernan, has become entirely compromised by the pressures of union.

But a uniform swing of 25 points across Scotland to the SNP would do something far greater. It would mean that no party would be able to lay claim to representing both Scotland and the UK. Just as with the Liberals, the Tories, so now with Labour: a party that once did exceptionally well in Scotland is facing terminal decline.

This brings with it certain problems for the future of Scottish politics: such dominance from a disciplined, broad and occasionally eccentric SNP cannot speak for so many, without the release of such pressure through independence sooner rather than later. The danger is that devolution, or even full-blooded Home Rule, simply allows another chance for a complacent social democratic party to cosy up to all sources of power in Scotland. From London an offering will become apparent: the consolation prize for not gaining independence will be full control of the Scottish establishment. Within clear economic parameters.

For an example of what such dominance can do we need only look at the early years of devolution. That period of hubris and inertia is at the root of Labour’s current crisis. The flow of prominent, credible, political figures out of Scotland stopped a generation ago. Gordon Brown, the last of this group to remain standing, is still being treated as a kind of prophetic genius, despite his own notorious failure to comprehend losing the Scottish Parliament in 2007, and his impending retirement. Faced with an insurgency at the level such polls predict, a moribund party can do little other than repeat old homilies and hope for damage limitation in the form of quiet tactical voting.

The demise of Labour in Scotland will be the end of an auld song, certainly. But this is a party that has suffocated an authentic British left for a century: its earliest success in Westminster saw it ditch Home Rule and the peripheral corners of the British Isles that were its original source. Similarly its long, complex and fraught relationship with the trade unions, its complicity in the City’s dominance of the British economy and its firm commitment to Atlanticism have finally tied the party in a knot of its own contradictions. It remains trapped and entirely unable to comprehend what has happened in a country that it once knew so well. The crowning insights of Labour’s election strategy, it would seem, are that Scots like public spending and don’t like the Tories. All that is left to complete such ingenious messaging is to drape it in the saltire.

But this is far from unique to Scotland: for a generation Labour has been a party of the ‘extreme centre’, struggling to trace its steps back from the heart of power to the far corners of these isles and its roots. The extent of its impending collapse can only be mitigated by how well it squares the circle of Westminster electoral maths. Torn between the focus groups of Kettering and unrepentant socialists on the Clyde, it may, somehow, cling on to centralised power, but that very act will only make it less able to connect with the provinces, those communities still so distant from power.

Within the union, under a Labour party that has painted itself blue and white, we are told that Scotland can become the ‘fairest nation on earth’. At the heart of that is a transparent and flawed reading of Yes rhetoric, premised on the assumption that all that the past few years have proved is that Scots are daft enough to vote for anything, if it’s vaguely nationalist and social democratic. The disdain, at a strategic level, is palpable. This distance between Labour and the people is exposed as vast. It was not the promises of politicians that defined 2014, but the thrill of collective action and a tangible, definable political goal.

The referendum did something irrevocable to Scotland that can only be embedded by continued political movement: that’s what it thrives on. It placed itself at the centre of a vast and radical political event, it came within a ten point margin of breaking apart one of the world’s largest economies and most influential states. That the referendum is now being seen in the light of numerous struggles: for autonomy, for an end to austerity: for alternatives, that are now gripping Europe, is unsurprising.

Syriza’s recent victory bears little comparison to UK politics. However the most intriguing story that lay behind that remarkable event was the drastic change in the fortunes of the New Labour-esque PASOK, that went from party of government to fringe status, with only 5 per cent of the vote. The events still unfolding in Greece are as much about the systemic failure of social democracy in Europe as they are about new left insurgency.

While on most issues the SNP remains anchored to the political centre, modulated perhaps by the egalitarian rhetoric that is a staple of Scots public life, its policies on certain issues provide the kind of leverage that have the potential to unlock the political system. Nicola Sturgeon recognises the value of appearing on the Andrew Marr show to talk about shaking up the British establishment. In the process of carrying out the referendum the party inadvertently adopted a more radical posture than it intended: something of an inevitability when the full force of the political and financial establishment of the world’s sixth largest economy is bearing down upon you.

The truth that the SNP forgets at its peril, is that such a dynamic was one that converted many Scots to the prospect of independence. It awoke something that is perhaps far deeper than party political conviction, or even national identity. It took a set of people, the Scottish working class and told them that they mattered. That their dignity was central.

Of course, unlike the strange new radicals elsewhere, the SNP is blessed on two fronts. Within its ranks it can maintain a taut discipline. Thanks to the overriding aim of independence significant ideological tensions only rarely surface for public view. Secondly, its dominance of the Scottish Parliament allows it to maintain credibility in power while avoiding playing its hand on the most definitive ideological question of all: the economy. Rather than taking a gamble on the forcing of such a hand, British politicians offered a nakedly opportunistic fudge in the form the Smith Commission, at the heart of which is a desire to force higher levels of income tax on Scotland to provide a politically acceptable line on better services to voters in rUK.

The great political challenge that Europe currently faces is relevant here. By far the most intense pain of the Eurozone crisis was felt largely on the periphery. In Ireland, in Portugal, in southern Spain and particularly in Greece. One election has inverted the dynamic: the voice of the periphery, in the form of a new and radical Greek government is loud and clear. It says to the distant, centralised authorities that dreamt up austerity, that their policy has failed. That the logic of centre-right and centre-left politics has lost legitimacy in the eyes of the people. Of course the notion of such legitimacy itself, means very little to central banks or supranational institutions, but without it the entire edifice is insecure. Cracks are appearing in both the European and the British union, because their own political and economic orthodoxy insisted that the centre must stop talking to the periphery. Today, the centre cannot hold.

The term radical, derived from the Latin radix (root) contains its own inherent logic. Change that doesn’t begin at home rarely has the ability to travel far. The minute that the SNP forgets that, its steady unravelling of the union becomes a hollow project. The most important question for the party is not in fact a constitutional one. Rather, it is this. If, as Lord Ashcroft suggests, a substantial tranche of seats in the still post-industrial heartlands of central Scotland change hands, what will be different? If, as the polls predict, Coatbridge (represented by Labour since 1935) moves to the SNP, what will the party do for the lives of its inhabitants? What might be the greater significance of ending eighty years of the same ‘x’ in the same box? Will it make their participation in politics central? Will it search for policies to change the vast swathes of central Scotland that remain trapped in a precarious, economically bleak stasis?

If the SNP fails to make the demands of these ‘peripheral’ areas of Scotland central to its political platform, its dominance of Scottish politics may yet dissipate as inevitably as Labour’s did post-devolution. Like New Labour, like PASOK, like all social democrats in Europe today, it ignores their voices at its peril.

Christopher Silver is currently working on a book, The Case for a Scottish Media, which can be pre-ordered here


North Sea Oil’s Beating Heart

The closing weeks of 2014 was an interesting time for anyone interested in energy policy, Scottish politics, or the price of the fuel they put in their car. Oil prices have plummeted due to, in the most simplified terms, an oversupplied global market that isn’t using as much oil. There has been a significant amount of media attention on the impact this will have on Scotland’s economy, much of which has been sensationalised.

The story we’ve been told is that the imminent collapse of the North Sea oil industry will soon lead to huge queues at Aberdeen job centres and that the Scottish nationalist dream, built on liquid gold, must surely now be finished.

It is true that we’ve seen a large spate of announcements from industry stating that capital expenditure, jobs and pay will be cut in response to the falling oil price. US-based ConocoPhillips, with interests in the UK, has announced a job cut of 230, out of 1,650 jobs in the UK; Schlumberger have cut back their UK based survey ship fleet, taking an $800m loss and an undisclosed number of jobs and Aberdeen based Wood Group has announced staff pay freezes and cut rates for contractors, something the unions are not happy about. One report has warned of 35,000 job losses over the next 5 years.

Is this really the end of North Sea oil, or is it simply another blip in the long history of our nation’s hydrocarbon story? The first words of caution have come from the Wood Group’s Sir Ian Wood. Although cutting costs of his own, he’s stated that the fears are “well over the top and far too dramatic”. Conceding that UK jobs will be lost, he expects job losses of up to 10%, but likely closer to 5%. It is worth noting at this point that around 375,000 people work in the oil and gas industry in the UK, with half of those in the north east of Scotland. Even the larger estimate of 35,000 jobs, although substantial, would come nowhere close to knocking out the UK and Scotland’s oil industry and expertise.

Some caution does need to be taken however in announcing the implosion or end of the North Sea oil industry. We’ve been here before. The oil price has been this low before and we still pumped oil. Costs do rise when extraction becomes more difficult, but high costs and low prices creates an environment of innovation and cost reduction rather than an end to production.

Over the last decade Scotland’s oil and gas sector has managed to diversify the industry into one that now has a global reach. North Sea oil as an asset is now being supplemented by the expertise and skill it has allowed us to develop. Total international sales from Scotland’s supply chain grew to £10 billion last year, an increase of 22% on the previous year. International activity now accounts for 50.2% of supply chain sales, in comparison to 2002 which were 31%. The price of oil in that year was just under $23 dollars. We have billions of pounds worth of sales and thousands of people employed, independently of our own hydrocarbon reserves.

The supply chain companies driving this international growth are not branches of multinationals, but started out as wee family companies found across the North East, Tayside and the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. They have become massive exporters to the global industry because they know how to deal with the difficulty and expense already seen in pumping oil from the deepwater, high temperature and high pressure reservoirs of the North Sea, and West of Shetland. Higher costs mean cost reductions need to be found and improvement to technology increases the quantities of oil that can be extracted. The UK Treasury may take a beating from tax receipts but local Scottish supply chain companies still have their export markets.

Despite the huge difficulty in predicting the future it seems likely that the drop in the value of oil is a temporary blip in a volatile commodity. Predictions by serious commentators expect that over the next 18 months prices will steadily increase. With the diversification of our own energy supply away from hydrocarbons and with our continuing transition to a low carbon society, oil and gas will become less a fossil fuel, and more a chemical feedstock, with Ineos’s plans for Grangemouth pointing to a hydrocarbon processing, rather than a hydrocarbon burning, future.

Looking beyond pay freezes and cuts to capital expenditure and talking to those within the industry we can also start to get a clearer picture of the way the industry feels, beyond the hyper speculation we’re currently seeing.

Sources close to the industry within the Inner Moray Firth tell us that the sector in the region doesn’t expect to see any let up in demand for at least 18 months. Businesses within this area offer the Scottish industry and workforce an advantage. These businesses, although large, with significant amounts of capital flowing through them, are rooted in the area. They have a local workforce, highly skilled, and management recognise that their people are their key asset, so entrench in times of concern with their core teams. Contractors, be they from Teeside, Poland or Lithunia, who travel in for large projects will suffer cuts but the Scottish workforce can weather this minor storm out easily.

So long as the price responds to the market after bottoming out, as it should, we can expect to gradually increase again over a manageable time period. As long term capital investment from oil companies is planned well into the future the volatile nature of the market can actually be smoothed out over 5 years. It’s hard to change a half decade long plan quickly in response to a price change that could last just 18 months, so it’s not done.

One of the better ways of understanding the situation is to reverse it. Imagine we were experiencing a short term hike in price and resulting boom. Would we see newspapers with headlines stating ’35,000 new jobs expected over next 5 years’? In that scenario we would expect industry to be cautious in the face of an artificial high in prices. As things stand, industry should avoid basing assumptions on an artificial low.

The North Sea Oil industry is going nowhere soon, and we certainly won’t see Scotland’s international oil sales and workforce go anywhere anytime soon. The imminent demise of the North Sea oil industry has been prophesied since the 1970’s. Such doom has been wrong in the past and, while there are genuine concerns about the impact this price drop will have on livelihoods, the doom is likely to be wrong again.

Diversification of the industry and supply chain over the past decade, cost reduction and greater extraction rates leaves the industry better served to face a price low than in the past. There is an important discussion to be had over the role hydrocarbons have to play in Scotland’s economy, but we should not lose rational thought whenever Scotland’s oil is brought into the national conversation.

Magnus Davidson researches the socio-economics of marine renewable energy with the University of Highlands and Islands; however he takes a keen interest in the oil industry having grown up in the shadow of oil rigs on the Cromarty Firth.


Photo by Joe Dunckley, used under Creative Common’s.

Renewable Energy and the Black, Black Oil

The North Sea oil industry played a central role in the debate on Scotland’s future. It is a key aspect of the Scottish economy and a source of significant income to the Treasury. The collapse in the price of oil is a significant development, and while the Scottish economy is perfectly viable and healthy without the industry (even without oil and gas the Scottish GDPPC is still 99% that of the UK’s), we should not underestimate the challenges that currently face the industry.

As the price of oil plummets, the industry is put under intense pressure as the profitability of exploration and extraction is undermined, and it is likely this pressure will eventually come to bear with job losses. Whether it is in 20, 30, or more years, Scotland has to wean itself off of North Sea Oil and prepare itself for the post fossil-fuel age. After all, the Stone Age didn’t end because we ran out of stones.

First, we need to understand that Scotland is riding the tides of international geopolitics, and that it would likely have had to face these issues whether or not we had voted Yes or No- in the last six months XCite alone has seen its share price nearly half, from 62.5p to 38p. Secondly, the same amount of oil is under the North Sea whether we voted Yes or voted No. Thirdly, the impact of the progression of technology on an industry should not be underestimated.

One example is of gargantuan seaborne gas extraction platforms such as the Prelude [1]. This is a 600,000 tonne vessel designed to operate at sea for 25 years before requiring dry-dock maintenance and designed to extract gas from “stranded” fields too awkward to harvest using traditional methods. Advances like this make harvesting smaller, more remote, fields possible where building a rig may not be viable or profitable, potentially reducing long term running and decommissioning costs and increasing the profitability of the industry. It could create hundreds of jobs in shipbuilding creating these vessels as well as all of the staff that will be needed to crew the vessels themselves.

One explanation for the the price of oil remaining low after its initial collapse is OPEC’s desperation to prevent fracking from gaining prevalence at the expense of conventional oil production. OPEC’s raison d’etre is to control oil production and thus prices and its refusal to cut production (which would increase prices and ease pressure on extraction companies by increasing the price) is entirely deliberate.

It’s also noteworthy that there is a balancing act between fuel prices, tax take, energy bills, and economic activity. Whilst the price at the pump and on the meter isn’t directly related to the wholesale value of a barrel sucked out of the ground, some downward adjustment should be expected as production costs decrease for electricity plants. This is the positive side of lower oil prices – in a time of stagnant wages and high fuel bills a drop in retail costs for fuel or household energy could alleviate a lot of pressure for struggling people. Because working class people tend to actually spend their money, any drop in household bills could help support other economic activity.

Therefore, it is a far more complicated scenario in which we find ourselves than what triumphalist No campaigners would paint it as. North Sea oil revenue, through corporation tax, is a reserved issue, so it falls to Westminster to mitigate the consequences- the “broad shoulders” and “pooling of resources” about which we heard so much. None of this, however, addresses the fundamental issue which is the long term energy and economic security of the North East. Yes, we could move towards a model which utilises mobile extraction platforms rather than rigs, but that is not sustainable in the long-term. We need Scotland to wean itself off of oil and gas altogether and progress to more sustainable alternatives. One way to do this is an oil fund, but if oil prices remain low (which is unlikely, granted, but entirely possible), then this becomes more difficult. A mammoth issue like this requires complex and ambitious solutions.

Unlike renewable resources, fossil fuels are entirely susceptible to geopolitical events. The wind can’t go on strike and force a Three Day Week, nor can a war in the Middle East hike the price of the waves. It is not impossible that a conflict could arise that causes the price of oil to rise sharply as it did at the start of the millennium. Increasing economic growth could also increase demand, and hence the value of oil as a commodity. Investors looking to make an easy profit could buy up large amounts of oil, reducing supply, and increasing its value. Then, when commodity traders begin to sell up again, this could have the opposite effect.

The reason oil projections vary so wildly is because it is so difficult to anticipate the future of such a volatile resource. That the No campaign chose the most pessimistic forecasts and they happened to turn out to be accurate is almost certainly more attributable to sheer luck than economic acumen. Plenty of other forecasters anticipated increasing prices, and they were no less unlikely. For the price of oil to remain at its current low in the medium to long-term then supply would need to stay high or demand would need to stay consistently low. Neither of these are particularly likely. If the growth in fracking output was to continue, which is far from certain, there would presumably be a point in which traditional oil producers became willing to sacrifice market share and cut production in order to push prices up. As for demand, while the economies of Europe and North America may not be imminently heading towards growth, it is hard to imagine that demand for energy and fuel in China, India, South America and Africa will not continue to increase.

The Scottish Government has recently made fairly ambitious moves in the energy field. By acquiring the assets of Pelamis, the Scottish Government has stuck a marker in the ground and made a statement of intent. This was the Government securing renewable energy technology and bringing it into public ownership – two things absolutely essential as a step towards diversifying and securing our energy supplies. Yell’s community tidal scheme, partially funded by CARES (the Scottish Government scheme to support community renewables [2]) is a benchmark worldwide for how to facilitate communities developing clean energy from which they can all benefit.

Scotland’s huge food and drink industry also makes it a potential hotbed for the development of biofuels. In Brazil, sugar cane is used in massive plants called biorefineries which power entire cities and provide a majority of their transportation fuel through ethanol fermented from sugar cane and bagasse. Transportation accounts for about a third of greenhouse emissions, so by increasing our capacity of biofuel production we not only reduce demand for oil, but we reduce waste and CO2 emissions while creating highly skilled jobs. Biofuels can be produced by re-using food waste, by-products from food production, and other non-food waste (such as sewage) and cleanly converting it to transportation fuel or methane for domestic or industrial use. The Scottish Biofuel Programme [3] from the Scottish Government is helping support this industry through grants, which in rural areas could provide a way for brewers or farmers to get additional income streams from converting their waste to fuel alcohol. As many of these processes produce by-products that can also be used as animal feed, it offers a comprehensive set of solutions to a global problem.

By shifting emphasis from refining of oil and gas to production of biofuels and engineering of renewable energy technology we can revolutionise the industry of Scotland. The skill sets and knowledge already exist, especially in the North East of Scotland. We can’t afford to sit on our hands and complain about lack of control of our destiny over oil – especially if we can start moving away from it and start growing the industries that will be their replacement for the next generation.




2014: From the Personal to the Universal


For many, 2014 will be remembered for little that is astonishing or newsworthy. Instead a year may or may not be recalled based on the standard meat of what is news for most of us. Break-ups, work, routine, choices; the everyday struggles and hopes that inevitably prove definitive over time. 

Such things are far more important for the vast majority of human beings in Scotland (and across the globe) than the compass of their constitutional status. The nature of an individual’s political community rarely registers as anything other than a muted echo. We participate fleetingly, complain often and attempt an ongoing situating of our selves into the broader scheme of things.

In truth my own, relatively politicised, life has been similar. It’s consisted more of loose engagement: views held, yes. A strong sense that power should be held as close to home as possible. A visceral identification with working class politics, certainly. If 2014 has done nothing other than take that sense of distant affinity and turn it into one of participation and action, then, for me at least, it lives up to the hype with which it was brought in. The impact of all that happened to so many over the past year is something that we can only guess at today. We can however state the following with some certainty: though this year in Scotland registered in the acutely parochial realm of the personal it also reached out to encompass matters of global significance.

We have learned, or perhaps rediscovered, our own audacity. Here I sit reviewing the year, as though I have some kind of editorial authority to do so. I do not. And nor do I receive any compensation for the act, beyond the reward of recognition, the compulsion and thrill of a wider understanding. Such freedom does, however, allow for both excess and bluntness, finding your voice can all too easily mean shouting too loudly. Hence the following, humble, thoughts.

2014 changed me. In this year like all others the perennial challenges listed above have not been absent. Yet nothing has altered me so acutely and brought out such a vast prospect for self-education and, indeed, self-realisation, as this great democratic reawakening. All of this is of course dwarfed by the inspiration that can only stem from witnessing the transformation of others. To rediscover joy at the capacity of one’s fellows is to see the intertwined nature of individual and collective freedom take form. Perhaps that is what so many of us experienced this past summer.

That there were no sunlit uplands to ascend this time is sad, no doubt. Save for this: a far greater, more damaging loss would have been the task of birthing a country with anything other than the most solid majority for independence. We know, being pragmatic, that independence was only ever one step on a long journey, it was never an end in itself. Indeed as a great English radical once said of another struggle for self-determination: what we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly. This more complex path is only a guarantee that a tangibly better Scotland must be more profound in its realisation.

A lingering dose of youthful recklessness (the age old delusion that the world in a fresh pair of hands is plastic) may well be to blame for such optimism. And yet at its best 2014 was not simply a summer of love: a framed image of utopian proportions. It was all premised on excitement at the sight of political alternatives, on what was possible. That those of all ages become filled with passions about relatively moderate reform tells a different story to that of congealed youth. Deeper roots anchored what independence might mean: old visions of a just republic, newer forms of radical freedom that embed the change they want to see in the practices of the movement itself.

For despite all those tears of outrage shed by the generations of Scots who have marched against Trident, the Poll Tax, Iraq and a slew of other less famous but equally galling injustices, something has been at work in the land. It drew on a sustained, irrevocable, sense of dissonance. Westminster was not the repressor, it simply sang a different and ever more discordant strain. It still does. This awkward chorale to two different and rarely consolidated audiences will continue for some time. Such was the decision of a majority of the people of Scotland. But few now think that music to be sacred any longer. It will change because the union has become a solely political problem. And politics is, fundamentally, about change.

Out of all this there is something that I hope has become apparent. Action, agency and a slightly illicit sense of power have become common to us on a personal and collective level. Not on some arcane theoretical canvas but here in this very real Scotland. Like many who are now alive with this very different and altered sense of political energy, I am acutely aware of the difficulties this brings, the vast scope of potential disillusionment looms like an ever present lodestone: a constant, somewhat awkward negotiation around the contours of what all this might actually mean. Here in in this country, now.

But the truth is, the movement that Scotland experienced is only particular to the nation in a rather old fashioned sense. As in the 1960s there’s a roch wind gathering force, not just in Scotland, but in the great glen of the world too.

Should Scotland be an independent country? Many, many people think that it should not. Others dissent. It has always struck me as a very short question for a country that I could spend the rest of my years exploring and still struggle to understand: slight though it’s fate and its strangest places might be in the grand scheme of a world in which it still seems unsure of itself.

In contrast, this year, some politicians tried to resuscitate a soiled notion of patriotism: of glory, honour and sacrifice and hills and glens. But if there is a new burst of love for what is here, it does not feel like patriotism, it’s more a particular form of solidarity, of place and community: ever present but seldom recognised. If 2014 witnessed a summer of love, it was far more a rekindling of an old flame than a passionate fling with a repressed identity.

Perhaps this is why throughout the referendum campaign, the sentiment Yes expressed rested somewhere between Hamish Henderson’s socialist anthem Freedom Come a Ye, and the more accessible verses of Dougie MacLean’s Caledonia. A song of radical internationalism and a song of coming home. Two sides of the same coin for a movement that drove towards the idea that we might yet be at home with freedom and our own place in the world.

In the meantime, we are all precarious in this new country, staring down from imagined heights with a kind of mad temerity that would make our ancestors blush. Although I suspect that many would enjoy a quiet chuckle at the sight of so many worthies flustered at the hurly burly of it all.

That said, we should also remember that public life in Scotland has always moved in fits and starts, lurching forward when great events, elections or referenda compel it to, before settling back down into the couthier rhythms of an awkward province. Since September this has not happened. The task for 2015 is to ensure that these past twelve months cannot be written off as an anomaly, that all the networked individuals and movements find ways of not reverting to older, more limiting patterns of thought and action. For the alternative is simply too discordant. It tells us that political difference is to be shunned and that we should come together to back a broken political system.

The creativity, the skill, the patience and openness displayed in abundance last summer has not gone away. Rather, like all surpluses, our current surfeit of political engagement is defined by the fact that we still don’t know what to do with it. The solution to how we apply it must be so much more than party political (and so much more than just a yes/no rut). It must create a new normal in which participation is not simply a management task, but at the crux of all of our, newly politicised, lives.

To inhabit a country often dismissed as parochial and marginal, as a centre of disputatious enlightened social engagement, is to embed the best of the past year and build on it. The coming years will bring massive existential challenges, in Scotland and across the world, we must meet them with the tools we have discovered, the patience, the discipline and the knowledge that our country now thrills with. When standing still is simply not an option this movement is the new reality that we must live. For to do so, even on a personal level, is an act of independence too. 

See you on the other side.


Photo: Peter McNally

Documenting Yes: Year in Review 2014

2014, or at least the 9 months from January to September, was a busy year for Yes. During these months our core team of photographers did their best to get out when they could to cover the Yes campaign happenings. We didn’t manage to cover everything we wanted to but as a group of dedicated volunteers we managed to build up a pretty impressive set of pictures. Pictures that went far and wide throughout the duration of the campaign to help show the positivity and vibrance of the Yes movement.

In this post we take a look back, through our photographers images, at the incredible amount of events that were going on throughout those 9 months. Enjoy.


January 22nd – Knitting for Independence

The women of Scotland Handknit start a creative project to knit a map of Scotland in support of Independence.

Photographer: Robb Mcrae

Full Set:


03 Knitting for Indy by Robb M 04 05


January 24th –  National Collective Aberdeen Launch

The first National Collective branch launch of they year takes place at The Tunnels in Aberdeen.

Photographer: Alex Aitchison

Full Set:


1 NC Aberdeen Launch by Alex A02

February 19th – National Collective Edinburgh Sessions #2

The second of the National Collective open sessions takes place at Circus Cafe.

Photographer: Simon Baker

Full Set:


06 SB-140219-202842_1000- NC Edinburgh Sessions 2 by Simon B 07 08


February 22nd – National Collective Stirling Launch

The National Collective Stirling Launch takes place at Mediterranea featuring music and spoken word from Zara Gladman, Frank Hewitt, Jenny Lindsay, Citizen Smart, Megan Mcavoy, Loki, Rebecca Pollock, Jason Riddell, End of Neil and Jelly Roll Soul DJ’s.

Photography: Robb Mcrae

Full Set:


10 11


February 26th – The National Collective Zine

National Collective’s first Zine is ready to send out and we were there to provide some product photographs.

Photography: Peter McNally

Full Set:


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March 1st – Yes Edinburgh Super Saturday

Yes Scotland Supporters from across Edinburgh get together for their second monthly ‘Super Saturday’ campaigning day. This month they visited Gorgie.

Photography: Robb Mcrae

Full Set:


13 Yes Ed super saturday RM140301b-1_1000 14


March 1st – National Collective Dundee Launch

The National Collective Dundee Launch take place at Buskers featuring The Strangers Almanac, Overview Effect, Sonny Carntyne, Commodore & The Feathers, Michael Yellowlees and special guests.

Photographer: Robb Mcrae

Full Set:


15 NC Dundee Launch RM140301-02 16 17 18


March 2nd – Lady Gaga Video Shoot

A look behind the scenes as filming for Zara Gladman’s Lady Alba Bad Romance video takes place at Edinburgh Castle.

Photographer: Peter McNally

Full Set:


19 Gaga for Indy by PM-140302-193627-2_1000 20 21


March 5th – Dearest Scotland Launches

Cat Cochrane and Sarah Drummond  launch their project Dearest Scotland at The Glad Cafe in Glasgow’s southside. Dearest Scotland is an apolitical campaign, focused on crowdsourcing a future vision for Scotland by the public for a common good. They invite you to write to the future of Scotland.

Photographer: Peter McNally

Ful Set:


24 Dearest Scotland Launch Glad Cafer by PM-140305-200629_1000 25 026


March 7th – Clean Slate Scotland Launches

A new project called Clean Slate Scotland is launched at the DUSA Union. Students are invited to wipe the slate clean and express what they would like to see in an Independent Scotland.

Photographer: Robyn Glendinning

Ful Set:


027 Clean-Slate-Scotland-what-do-the-students-of-Dundee-want_1000 028 029


March 8th – Hugh MacDiarmids Cottage

National Collective visited Hugh MacDiarmid’s cottage in the Borders to film a short documentary about his poetry and politics. The day included readings from Professor Alan Riach and the author James Robertson.

Photographer: Simon Baker

Full Set:


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March 16th – Yes Queen

Drag artist Nancy Clench is the Yes Queen. In her referendum themed stand-up show Nancy offers a space for no voters, yes voters and importantly undecided voters to come and reflect through laughter, questions and two-way chat on the issues at hand. Nancy, also known as Nathan, allowed Documenting Yes access to record her transformation to the Yes Queen prior to her show at Vespbar in Glasgow city centre.

Photographer: Robb Mcrae

Full Set:


032 Yes Queen RM140316-2_1000 033 034 035


March 19th – National Collective Edinburgh Sessions #3

National Collective Edinburgh hosts the third in their series of open sessions offering an evening of debate, presentations, music and spoken word. This session held at The Outhouse in Edinburgh featured amongst others a special guest appearance by playwright and theatre directorDavid Greig talking of his personal views on voting for Scottish independence and a presentation by Robb Mcrae showcasing and discussing some of his own contributions to Documenting Yes.

Photographer: Peter McNally

Full Set:


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March 23rd – The Art Cave Sign Installation

Simon Baker installs his hand made sign for National Collective at The Art Cave in Leith, Edinburgh.

Photographer: Peter McNally

Full Set:


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 April 3rd – Yes Edinburgh Public Meeting

Liz Lochhead, Marco Biagi MSP, Alison Johnstone MSP and Tommy Sheppard make the case for independence at a public Q&A in the Augustine United Church, Edinburgh. Organised by Yes Edinburgh Central.

Photographer: Robb Mcrae

Full Set:


22 Yes Ed Meeting RM140403-3_1000 23


April 5th – Yes Edinburgh Super Saturday #3

Yes Scotland Supporters from across Edinburgh get together for the monthly ‘Super Saturday’ campaigning day. This month they visited Wester Hailes.

Photographer: Simon Baker

Full Set:


042 Yes SUper Saturday 2 by SB-140405-8_1000 043


April 11th – SNP Spring Conference

Members of The SNP and international media gather in Aberdeen over two days to hear speeches from Blair Jenkins, Nicola Sturgeon & Alex Salmond, as well as touching tributes to Margo McDonald and excerpts from a new play by National Collective’s Alan Bissett.

Photographer: Alex Aitchison

Full Set:


044 SNP Spring Conference AA-140411-140400_1000 045


April 16th – National Collective Edinburgh Session #4

National Collective Edinburgh hosts the fourth in their series of open sessions offering an evening of debate, presentations, music and spoken word. This session held at The Outhouse in Edinburgh featured beatboxing by Iqbal, poetry from Max Scratchmann, presentations on potential future land use and forestry from architects Lateral North and Roland Stiven respectively, song from storyteller Marie Louise Cochrane, music from Euan Campbell, Iain MacLeod and Stuart McHardy and poet Theresa Muñoz and theatre maker Kieran Hurley shared their personal views for why they’ll be voting Yes in September 2014.

Photographer: Robb Mcrae

Full Set:


046 NC Edinburgh Sessions 4 by RM140416-14_1000 047


May 12th – National Collective Glasgow Sessions #1

National Collective host their first Glasgow Sessions at Stereo Café Bar featuring guest speakers, poetry, music, presentations and project updates.

Photographer: Alex Aitchison

Ful Set:


048 NC Galsgow sessions 1 by AA 140512-192005-Alex-Aitchison_1000 049 050


May 17th – Women for Indy Campaign Morning in Portobello

Women For Independence spend a morning campaigning on the Portobello promenade with support from the Independence Choir.

Photographer: Robb Mcrae

Full Set:


051 Women for Indy Portabello RM140517-1 052 053


May 20th – National Collective Aberdeen Session #1

The first National Collective Session in Aberdeen takes place at Cellar 35 with a host of acts, videos and discussion. A fine wee crowd of about 30-40 folk came out to see Daemons, Lizabett Russo and C S Buchan perform on a Tuesday evening and kick off what should be an exciting monthly night of informal shenanigans. Local Teacher Amy Nicholson shared her Journey to Yes and there was a video screening of Ross Aitchison and Andy Summer’s ‘Scotland Is’.

Photographer: David Officer

Full Set:


054 NC Aberdeen Sessions 1 - 2014-05-20-at-22-10-12David-Officer_1000 055


May 21st – National Collective Edinburgh Sessions #5

National Collective Edinburgh host their fifth open sessions night offering an evening of debate, presentations, music and spoken word. This session was held at Circus Cafe Bistro. Also visiting was an RTL TV crew from Germany.

Photographer: Simon Baker

Full Set:


056 NC Edinburgh Session 5 - SB-140521-21_1000 057 058 059


May 21st – Referendum Cafe Launches in Glasgow

The launch of Referendum Café takes place at Fringe HQ on Pollokshaws Road, Glasgow featuring Dearest Scotland, Scotland Loves Democracy and Lateral North. Referendum Cafe was a pop-up venue for 3 months, offering events, debate and discussion of all issues surrounding Scotland’s Referendum.

Photographer: Peter McNally

Full Set:


062 Refferendum Cafe - PM 140521-191430 063 064 065


May 25th – KILTRref #3

The third KILTR Scottish Independence Referendum debate takes place at the Centre for Contemporary Arts in Glasgow and focuses on the media and its role and involvement in the lead-up to September’s referendum. The panel included Brian Cox, John McTernan, Mark McGowan (The Artist Taxi Driver) and Susan Dalgety; chaired by Anna Burnside.

Photographer: Simon Forsythe

Full Set:


066 Kiltr Debate 140525-135502-Simon-Forsythe_1000 067 068 069


May 26th – Africans for an Independent Scotland Launches

The official launch of Africans for an Independent Scotland took place in Glasgow. Contributions were heard from Michelle Monaghan, Chimezie Umeh, Blair Jenkins and Grace Kitenge before an open discussion and Q&A with the audience.

Photographer: Robb Mcrae

Full Set:


National Collective: Africans For Scottish Independence National Collective: Africans For Scottish Independence National Collective: Africans For Scottish Independence


June 1st – Aye Talks

Celebrities, artists and political campaigners outlined their hopes for the future at AyeTalks, a special filmed event that took place at the Pearce Institute in Govan, Glasgow.

Photographer: Peter McNally

Full Set:


073 Aye Talks 140601 074 075


June 1st – National Collective Inverness Launch

Also on the 1st of June, the launch of National Collective Inverness at Bog Bain Farm saw over 200 people come along to listen to talks and music.

Photographer: Paul Campbell

Full Set:


076 NC Inverness Launch 140601-182630-Paul-Campbell_1000 077 078


June 5th – Radical Independence Public Meeting in Glasgow

Radical Independence public meeting hosted by RIC Govan takes place at Kinning Park Complex with speakers Patrick Harvie (Green MSP), Aamer Anwar (Human Rights Lawyer), Cat Boyd (Radical Independence), Suki Sangha (STUC Youth Committee -PC), Richie Venton (SSP Organiser) & Women for Independence.

Photographer: Simon Forsythe

Full Set:


079 Radical Indy Meet 140605-191814-Simon-Forsythe_1000 080 081


June 17th – National Collective Aberdeen Sessions #2

The second Aberdeen Sessions for National Collective takes place at Cellar 35 featuring music, poetry and films.

Photographer: David Officer

Full Set:


084 NC Aberdeen Sessions 2 - 2014-06-17-at-20-31-55David-Officer_1000 085


June 18th – National Collective Edinburgh Sessions #6

National Collective Edinburgh Sessions #6 take place at a packed Circus Cafe Bistro with special guests from Wales for Yes and the Campaign for Newsnight Wales. The night also featured journey’s to YES from Gerry Hassan, Julia Taudevin and Rachel McCrum, art-work and stories from Polly T, music from Craig Lithgow, song from Eileen Penman and comedy from Viv Gee.

Photographer: Mhairi Law

Full Set:


086 NC Ed Sessions 6 - 140618-203956--Mhairi-Law_1000 087 088


June 28th – Aye Inspired Premier

The Aye Inspired exhibition premiers at The Priory on Aberdeen’s Belmont Street the weekend of 28th and 29th of June before heading off on tour with National Collective’s Yestival.

Photographer: Rachael Robertson

Full Set:


089 Aye Inspired Premier 140628-104616-Rachael-Robertson_1000 090 091



And so after many months behind the scenes planning it was Yestival time. A month-long national grassroots festival that took place place across Scotland during the month of July.

Travelling across Scotland from the 30th June until the 3rd August, the Yestival tour showcased the grassroots cultural movement for Scottish Independence and included communities in the Scottish Borders, Dumfries & Galloway, central Scotland, Western Isles, the Highlands, Orkney, Shetland, the North East, Angus, Perthshire and Fife as well as all of the country’s seven cities.

The busy schedule also included a mixture of small gatherings, pop-up happenings and larger scale events together with a few surprises along the way.

Here we have gathered some images from each stop on the tour.

Yestival Photographers on Tour: Alex Aitchison, Robb Mcrae, Simon Baker, Ross Colquhoun.

Contributing Photographers at Summerhall: Peter McNally and Simon Forsythe.

See all the sets from the Yestival tour at


June 30th – Yestival Haddington

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July 1st – Yestival Melrose

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July 2nd – Yestival Sanquar

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July 3rd – Yestival Ayr

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July 5th – Yestival Glasgow

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July 6th – Yestival visits the festival of the  Common Weal at the Arches in Glasgow

105 yestival at the Common Weal 140706-124310 106 107 108 109


July 8th – Yestival Falkirk

110 yestival Falkirk 110


July 9th – Yestival takes over Summerhall in Edinburgh for 4 days.

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July 10th – Yestival at Summerhall Day 2

116 Yestival Edinburgh Day 2 AA 117 118


July 11th – Yestival at Summerhall Day 3

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July 12th – Yestival at Summerhall Day 4

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July 13th – Yestival Fort William

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July 15th – Yestival Sails to the Outer Hebrides

143 Yestival Sail to the Outer Hebrides 144 145 146


July 16th – Yestival North Uist

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July 17th – Yestival Harris

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July 19th – Yestival Ullapool

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July 20th – Yestival Inverness

161 Yestival Inverness 162 163 164 165 166 167 168 169


July 21st – Yestival Stromness

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July 22nd – Yestival Kirkwall

173 Yestival Kirkwall 174 175 176


July 23rd – Yestival Lerwick

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July 25th – Yestival Lossiemouth

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July 26th – Yestival Aberdeen

189 Yestival Aberdeen 190 191


July 28th – Yestival Montrose

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July 29th – Yestival Arbroath

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July 30th – Yestival Dundee

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July 31st – Yestival Perth

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August 1st – Yestival St Andrews

212 yestival St Andrews 213 214 215


August 2nd – Yestival Stirling

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August 5th – One Love Concert

One Love Concert celebrating Jamaican independence at Studio 24 Edinburgh.

Photographer: Simon Baker

Full Set:


219 One Love Concert Simon B 220 221


August 5th – All Back to Bowies

David Greig’s ‘All Back To Bowies’ show at the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, featuring Julia Taudevin, David Torrance, Neal Ascherson, Wounded Knee, Jim Monaghan, Peter Arnott, Andrew Tickell, Isobel Lindsay & David Greig.

Photographer: Alex Aitchison

Full Set:


222 All Back to Bowies AA 223 224


August 11th – National Collective Glasgow Sessions #4

National Collective Glasgow Session #4 and IndyRef Film evening takes place at Stereo Café Bar.

Photographer: Robb Mcrae

Full Set:


225 NC Glasgow Session 4 - 226 227 228


August 28th – David Cameron Comes to Glasgow

Protesters organised by Radical Independence gather at The Hilton, Glasgow as David Cameron visits to speak at the annual CBI dinner.

Photographer: Peter McNally

Full Set:


229 David Cameron in Glasgow 140828-183207-PM_1000 230 231 232


September 4th – Greg Moodie Versus The Union Book Launch

As part of The Auld Acquaintance exhibition, Scottish Cartoon Art Studio Co-ordinator Terry Anderson welcomes Greg Moodie, cartoonist for the National Collective website and others, to discuss his work as he launches his new book Greg Moodie Versus the Union with a special appearance by YouTube star Zara Gladman (aka Lady Alba).

Photographer: Peter McNally

Full Set:


233 Greg Moodie Book Launch PM 234 235 236 237


September 5th – Imagination Festival

Imagination, Scotland’s Festival of Ideas, was a weekend gathering of ideas, culture and politics hosted by the University of the West of Scotland and PAL Labs, programmed and produced by Gerry Hassan and Roanne Dods.

The festival was running from Friday September 5th – Sunday September 7th in the southside of Glasgow at Glad Café, Govanhill Swimming Pool, and other venues in the southside of Glasgow.

This event on the friday was hosted by Jenny Lindsay and included music from A New International, Chrissy Barnacle, Findlay Napier and featured spoken word from Leyla Jospehine.

Photographer: Peter McNally

Full Set:


238 Friday Night at Imagination festival Glad Cafe140905-213158-PM_1000 239 240 241


September 5th – KILTRref #4

Kiltr referendum debate #4 takes place at The Bridge in Easterhouse, Glasgow and focuses on the youth vote. Speakers included, Heather Whiteside of Better Together, Alan Grant of Better Together, Katie Gallogly-Swan of the Common Weal and Liam McLaughlan of Radical Independence. The panel was chaired by Holden Hunter and the event was live streamed online.

Photographer: Simon Forsythe

Full Set:


248 KiltrRef 4 - 140905-200332-Simon-Forsythe_1000 249 250


September 6th – Our Future Our Scotland Launch

Nicola Sturgeon launches Generation Yes – Our Scotland, Our Future Declaration in Glasgow. The launch featured performances by Lady Alba and Macanta.

Photographer: Peter McNally

Full Set:


242 Our Future Our Scotland Launch Buchanan Steps 140906-100253-PM-2_1000 243 244


September 6th – Yes Windaes

A look at a small selection of Yes Windaes around Glasgow’s Southside.

Photographer: Peter McNally

Full Set:


245 yes Windaes Southside -140906-124949-PM_1000 246 247


September 6th – Yes Edinburgh Super Saturday #4

Yes Edinburgh hold Super Saturday #4 as part of the Mile of Yes event which sees supporters from all parts of Yes out campaigning the whole way from Haymarket to Leith Walk.

Photographer: Simon Baker

Full Set:


255 Yes Ed Super Sat 4 - Bakers-140906-3_1000 256 257 258


September 6th – The Indy Choir

Members of the Independence Choir take to the streets in central Edinburgh to sing for a Yes vote as part of the Mile Of Yes Super Saturday.

Photographer: Robb Mcrae

Full Set:


259 INdy Choir 140906-06-42-35-Robb-Mcrae_1000 260


September 8th – Yes Live at the Alhabmra

#YesLive at the Alhambra Theatre, Dunfermline was three hours of a 12 hour live broadcast created by National Collective featuring Kieran Hurley, Ruth Mills, David Greig, Josephine Sillars, Declan Welsh and Miriam Brett. There was also a Q&A with Fiona Hyslop MSP and Alison Johnstone MSP. There was campaign films shown throughout the entire day and the entire event was streamed live.

Photographer: Simon Baker

Full Set:


251 Yes Live at Alhambra Bakers-140908-35_1000 252 253 254


September 8th – National Collective Glasgow Sessions #5 

The final National Collective Glasgow Sessions takes place at Stereo Cafe Bar. Featured on the bill was award winning author, Christopher Brookmyre, Glasgow based research & design Collective Lateral North, Shambles Miller, Poet Kathleen Jamie, Josephine Sillars, Janey Godley, Dol Eoin Mackinnon, Liz Lochhead and Lori Watson & Rule of Three.

Photographer: Clair Donachie

Full Set:


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September 10th – National Collective Edinburgh Sessions #7

The last in the series of National Collective Edinburgh Sessions takes place at the Art Cave featuring appearances from Craig Coulthard, Tom Farrington, David Greig, Knitters for YES, Jenny Lindsay, Rachel Maclean, Lake Montgomery, Whyte & MacKay and music by TradYes.

Photographer: Simon Baker

Full Set:


267 Ed Session 7 - Bakers-140910-46_1000 268 269 270



September 11th – The Final Push

National Collective Edinburgh leaflet the city’s Princes Street with a very special friend.

Photographer: Robb Mcrae

Full Set:



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September 13th – Yes Supporters Gather on Buchanan Street, Glasgow

5 days before the vote Yes supporters gather the length of Buchanan Street in Glasgow to sing and dance and campaign.

Photographer: Peter McNally

Full Set:


276 Yes Gather in Glasgow 140913-140452-PM_1000 278 279 280 281


September 14th – A Night for Scotland

The Yes campaign concert ‘A Night for Scotland’ takes place at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh featuring performances from Amy Macdonald, Franz Ferdinand, Frightened Rabbit, Mogwai, Eddi Reader, McIntosh Ross and Stanley Odd. Campaign videos were shown during the changeovers and the night was hosted by Ricky Ross and Elaine C Smith.

Photographer: Peter McNally

Full Set:


285 A night for Scotland 140914-193448-PM_1000 286 287 288 289 290 291 292 293 294 295 296


September 16th – Yes Supporters Gather in George Square, Glasgow

Another spontaneous gathering of Yes supporters takes place in Glasgow’s George Square with only 2 days until the Vote.

Photographer: Peter McNally

Full Set:


282 Yes Gathering george Sq 140916-185817-PM-3_1000 283 284


September 17th – Yes Supporters Gather in the Meadows

On the eve of polling day, yes supporters gather at The Meadows in Edinburgh.

Photographer: John Duncan

Full Set:


297 Yes Gathering Meadows 140917-1900-John-Duncan-13-of-35_1000 298 299 300


September 18th – Leithers take to the Polls

Photographer: Mhairi Law

Full Set:


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September 18th – The Polls Close

Yes supporters gather in George Square in Glasgow after the polls close to wait in anticipation for the final result.

Photographer: Peter McNally

Full Set:


304 Vote Night Glasgow PM 305 306 307 308 309 310


Thank you to all of you who have followed, supported and contributed to the Documenting Yes project. Especially our core team of photographers. See you all in 2015!

Happy New Year!



BONUS VIDEO: The end of night sing along at a Night for Scotland

We Need To Talk About Fracking


The mainstream narrative leads us to believe that unconventional gas extraction is solely an environmental debate. Like most media fuelled political narratives, this did not manifest accidentally. Framing the debate solely on the environment is a deliberate attempt to wrongly decouple our environment from our lives and communities. Consequently, the scope of opportunity to raise legitimate concerns over corporate ascendency, power relations and civic ruin is squeezed, silenced and ultimately undermined.

Austerity has been portrayed and interpreted in a similar vein. In both cases, right wing, corporate orientated agendas are pushed forward so fervently that they ensue with minimal backlash, leaving little to no scope for creative alternatives. Thus, instead of questioning the obvious failure of austerity, Westminster parties pettily deliberate over what kind of austerity we should have. In this case, instead of pondering whether or not allow fracking in our society, all of our mainstream parties have accepted it, opting instead to place minimal restrictions on how unconventional gas extraction is carried out.

The conventional wisdom is as stands; fracking provides a possibility for immediate economic growth so is ultimately perceived a worth compromising. It is my firm belief that this naïve narrative not only ignores systemic problems but also represents a growing trend of damaging short-termism politics. There may well be an instant economic benefit, but long-term implications are highly damaging.

The first main problem with unconventional gas extraction is the obvious one, environmental dilapidation. Fracking and shale gas extraction use millions of gallons of water and hundreds of toxic chemicals, huge amounts of which are left to contaminate nearby groundwater. Already, there have been over 1000 documented cases of contaminated water near areas of drilling. These toxic chemicals have been linked to sensory, respiratory and neurological harm. The environmental damage arising as a result of unconventional methods only scratches the surface of a whole host of harms.

The role of power has been almost entirely excluded from the mainstream debate. When given the green light, both people and parliament have limited control over how drilling happens. Fracking and shale gas extraction are financed, coordinated and carried out by multi national corporations. In this case, not just any multinational corporation, but Ineos. The UK government have given the contracts to the very same business that ruthlessly threatened the livelihood of men, women and families of Grangemouth without remorse unless the Scottish Government coughed up £130 million – Why Jim Ratcliff is still allowed to control jobs and local economies in Scotland, I will never understand. Multi-national corporations such as Ineos have one goal that overrides decision-making. Aside from the obvious blatant exploitation of labour, their core focus is continuous economic growth.

Would it then be too rash to presume that communities and their surrounding environments will not be considered, let alone prioritized? I would be willing to bet, although this is purely speculative, that our excessively wealthy communities will be spared from water contamination. The budding grip of untrustworthy corporate giants in our society is a sinister corrosion of democracy, and one that leaves communities powerless.

But perhaps the scariest part of this by far has been the reaction to protest from Governments, in part as a result of corporate lobbying. From North America to parts of Europe, opposition to alternative gas extraction has been regarded as a ‘national security’ concern. Scotland Yard’s National Domestic Extremism and Disorder Intelligence Unit for example commonly associate domestic extremism with single-issue protests. Ironically, initial concern over fracking has been both peaceful and notably well informed. There is a very real danger that the influence of the corporate sector and the ever-mounting demand for immediate economic growth will silence opposition.

I’m patriotic, but not in the conventional sense. I couldn’t care less about flags and I have no idea what the words to the national anthem are. I’m patriotic in my love for Scotland’s beautiful, untouched wilderness. I’m patriotic in my love for Scotland’s fierce resilience, from the poll tax to the bedroom tax. I hope we’ll look back on this occasion fondly as another time when the people of Scotland were fervent and brave; where they recognised an unjust issue and they fought for social justice.

Miriam Brett
National Collective

Photograph by Stephen Downes.

It’s Time to Question a Declining Media

4574919147_08d97cb039_oI didn’t make it through all of Thursday night’s instalment of Question Time, it seems I was not alone in this. I switched on to find talk of Nigel Farage’s plan to have ‘a grammar school in every town’. I also caught a bit of a ruckus in the audience about whether disliking immigrants was racist or not. As has been widely noted the episode played host to two very different radicals: one with big ideas and a twitter following, the other with no ideas and a well resourced political machine at his back. This was the high camp rehearsal for a tipping point in British politics: the full scale farce is destined to take place in six months time.

The programme presented an odd picture, certainly, in addition to provoking a more mundane sense of disconnect. Living in a part of the British Isles with a declining, rapidly ageing population, one of the lowest population densities in Europe and an education system entirely independent of England’s, the programme has become rapidly more foreign. And, in case any UKIP types are reading this, that’s an observation, not a value judgement.

One panelist started talking about the 1930s: not with reference to cross-party support for austerity, but rather to contrast the rhetoric of Russell Brand with the rise of facism. It seemed as if the resultant disintegration of the show’s format presaged something darker. People heckled and didn’t wait their turn. A bit like the Nazis.

That said Question Time’s increasingly grotesque quality does demonstrate a wider post-crash divide, some have termed it a “culture war” (though class is just as important). The great big question that we face in Scotland is how to link up the demand for something more than the theatrics of polarisation with the vast significance of our recent referendum experience.

A decade ago, Question Time could still seem like the fulcrum of political debate in the UK. I have friends who once referred to Thursday as ‘politics night’. Great chunks of meaty moral politics could end up strewn all over Dimbleby’s bear pit, but it still seemed to hang together. Today, even the boozy after-hours quality of This Week, couldn’t save it from being the subject of scandal. In the hungrier, more divided country the UK has become since 2003 even the televisual equivalent of a pub lock-in becomes mired in partisan controversy.

To list the things that have changed in Britain over the past decade is too vast a task to attempt here. Though it should be noted that a post-Iraq crisis within the BBC is probably central to the predicament of a media that is, like Thursday night’s Question Time, unravelling before our eyes.

However, let’s not forget how fast that erosion of status has taken place. In 2005 Tessa Jowell proclaimed ‘The BBC is as much a part of British life as the NHS’. She did so off the back of a vast public consultation about the national broadcaster. 75% of some 30,000 responses were positive, with ‘high quality news programmes’ amongst the top three factors cited. Post-Iraq, post-Saville, everything has changed. That such decline dovetails with the final extinction of social democracy in British politics, is of profound significance too.

Seeing a nation state crumble is something that is bound to be played out in conjunction with the demise of its media. In large part, as sociologist Jürgen Habermas demonstrated, it was the emergence of mass media that created the public sphere in the first place.

The rise of the newspaper and various other new media over the centuries worked in tandem with the development of the nation state. In this sense the BBC’s tortured decline is telling. Britain, it could be argued, is the BBC. In a country with limited traditions of popular sovereignty, a highly contested, perhaps non-existent national culture, institutions take on an aggrandised, almost sacred, role. They serve an awkward and very British task that encompasses everything from the mundane day to day functions of dusty bureaucracy, to acting as the sole carriers of national identity. We think of the BBC and NHS as fair and virtuous, because Britain needs them to be.

Yet these institutions, like so many others at the heart of Britain, are all reaching a tipping point. Their reserves of social and economic capital are depleted, increasingly their defence has to revert to broad abstract statements of principle. Yet without them, there is little else for the realm to fall back on.

The gamble is (and to some extent always has been) that social cohesion in Britain can be patched together out of these institutional fragments. All the while the private realm continues to be favoured in policy, while corrosive debates about ‘entitlement’ at the extreme ends of the class system dominate political rhetoric, as does fear of the other.

Such an assessment is no longer radical. Newspaper editorials from across the political spectrum are warning that Britain could soon descend into chaos. As The Independent recently remarked on the possibility of a Green-Left bloc after the next election, ‘the work of governing Britain will become near impossible’.

Rather than the unions, or the working class, the enemy within in the coming battle of Britain will be plurality itself. Establishment hysteria treats that which is normal throughout Europe: the inability of any one party to form an overall majority, as a kind of doomsday scenario. Shorn of resilience, the patchwork collection of shared institutions ‘our BBC,’ ‘our NHS’ ‘our Queen’ are all likely to find themselves tested as never before. Given that memories of the 1930s are in vogue, pundits should also reflect that the rise of facism was facilitated by establishment complicity.

Will Scotland be a thrawn, reticent, onlooker to all these confrontations? The role of the SNP in particular in the coming election will be key. Here is a party that talks social cohesion and has advocated working with the Greens and Plaid Cymru (the only other parties entering the contest to be led by women). In that sense Scotland’s interim role within the UK can be one of leadership, unlocking a hung parliament and demonstrating the need for reform. To do that, as a country, we need more than just a single party in Scotland. We need a vast, mature and plural public sphere built in the spaces opened up by the referendum campaign. Think of it as Scotland’s latest export: mass political engagement.

The referendum then, becomes a demonstrable experience not just of people power, but also of a profound desire for our media and politics to be better. Indeed, other than the ten days in September when Britain was saved, there can be no better example of Britain’s ongoing democratic crisis than the BBC’s handling of leadership debates in the coming election.

The BBC’s partisan promotion of Nigel Farage to Prime Ministerial contender has opened up a pandoras box. We are now witnessing ossified media institutions desperately trying to adapt to a our new non consensual politics and failing. Big time. The institutional response to a pressing need for plurality is to shut it out. Should we be surprised that our media instinctively sides with the establishment? Well no, because it is a cornerstone of the establishment. Anyone who has ever take part in public protest will be well aware of that. The fact that it seems all the more blatant in that role, in the age of social media, demands nothing short of transformation. If it fails to do so, it will continue to haemorrhage legitimacy, eventually becoming just one contender in the culture war itself.

Leadership debates have become a kind of election time viagra for ailing news organisations. They provide spectacle and can generate a whole heap of additional content and stories premised simply on the ‘performance’ of each contender. Who best grips the lectern, who sweats, who stutters, who blinks, who delivers key soundbites with better intonation. All factors that are infinitely easier to fixate on than a constantly shifting landscape of a politics that has escaped from the neat, easily managed domain of the two horse race.

Such gladiatorial contests, complete with ring-side pundits and bizarre gimmicks (like Scotland Tonight’s straight forwardly surreal ‘word cloud’) are a symptom of this struggle to represent the post 2008 scene. Plurality remains something that the BBC clearly struggles to grasp, perhaps because it is so overwhelmingly lacking in the British media itself. Ever more elitist, squeezed by the PR industry and reliant on pre-packaged sources or ‘churnalism’, our news media, as a sector, is painful ill-equipped to respond to the politics that we are now living. This widespread emasculation of journalism is not something public service broadcasters are protected from. Robert Peston, noted earlier this year that the BBC is ‘completely obsessed’ by editorial agendas of an overwhelmingly right-wing press.

The favouring of Farage’s party over the Greens is relatively straight forward: his politics is not a threat to the British establishment (UKIP is essentially a Thatcherite home for eurosceptic Conservatives). As in the referendum, this is the real criteria for favourable airtime. The rise of the Greens and the SNP on the other hand, is about a more complex story. To explore the breadth of politics in the UK today takes time, investigation, analysis, rigour and an editorial courage that is more and more scarce in all but the most exceptional of news rooms.

A renowned journalist from a different era, Harold Evans, neatly summed up the lofty role the fourth estate once played in public life:

Governments as well as citizens need a free and inquiring press. With a volatile, pluralistic electorate, and a complex bureaucracy, a free press provides an indispensable feedback system from governed to the governing, from consumers to producers, from the regions to the centre, and not least from one section of the bureaucracy to another.

The public sphere in Britain, of which that free and inquiring press must be a crucial part, is broken. No one with the power to do so is talking about fixing it. But the above remarks do begin to provide some sense of a way out.

Evans, speaking in 1974, could never have guessed that the ensuing decades would see every category mentioned above (and the relationships between them) irrevocably changed.

As has been brilliantly argued here, a blanket rejection of the mainstream (or worse, trying to mimic its practices to smaller audiences) offers only regression. It’s as counterproductive as suggesting that Russia Today or Press TV provide viable alternatives to the BBC, because their coverage of the independence referendum was not explicit state propaganda. That simply changing the logo (and the state agenda) is somehow a recipe for plurality. The staff at Russia’s last independent TV station, currently reduced to broadcasting from a living room, would beg to differ.

In this time of flux for both politics and the media, the challenge is slightly more complex than simply making different consumer choices, but the answer is ultimately more rewarding. Firstly, Scotland must rebuild and reimagine its own public sphere, as Gerry Hassan has argued, in order to remedy our ‘truncated democracy’. A solution will not be achieved by endlessly contrasting Westminster gruel with Holyrood honey, or bad London media with virtuous, enlightened Scottish alternatives. While green shoots like The National, Scottish Evening News and Common Space are welcome: they are not saviours. But taken together, they can begin to demonstrate what a plural media might look like. Their success does not depend on offering up different brands, or indeed platforms: rather, this will be determined by whether they manage to provide vehicles for well resourced journalism.

The injunction to be the media is a complex one. It involves some weighty thought and a search for new formats, better suited to the complexity and variety of the world we inhabit.

The second task, then, is to work out new formats better suited to a world so different to that which Evans describes. A world in which bureaucracy is replaced with multi faceted private entities, in which the ability to differentiate between centre and region is altered, in which producers are consumers and consumers producers.

Thirdly we need to stop railing against ‘the media’ in general. Instead, we need to look at the institutions that constitute it, examine their politics, their decisions and make concrete demands of how they can be better. The role of the BBC in the coming General Election must held up to more public scrutiny than ever before, again, Scotland’s referendum campaign can provide a point for us to start leading. On top of that we also need a civic campaign that demands a better public service media, a grassroots alternative to gather stream ahead of the BBC’s charter renewal in 2016.

Our media is one big tired format: A Question Time with more and more noises off presented by the same man who fronted general election coverage in the 1970s. It’s time to relentlessly question such centralised, narrow and archaic media and to start mapping out ways in which we can re-make it for the 21st century.