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Catalans Are Ready To Vote

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It’s getting late in the day in the Catalan countryside. At the family meal in a rural house near the small farming town of Prats de Lluçanès, everyone has switched from Castilian Spanish (for the foreigner) to native Catalan. It’s the end of a long, uncertain summer and the pine forest outside smells fresh and inviting once more after the final crescendo downpour of a thunderstorm. Sleepy children are kissed goodnight, large tumblers of wine are refilled, cigarettes lit and shoes flung aside as we pad down stone steps and out into the night air under a new moon.

At first, the dance is graceful and gentle; seemingly suspended in slow motion. It looks easy until you attempt to imitate. Friends join hands and cousins are hoisted onto shoulders. Everyone is serious and full of intent. Knowing looks are exchanged between older relatives (traditional Catalan folk dances were banned by Franco in the years after the Civil War). Voices compete to find the authentic chorus of a distant but familiar tune. Someone shouts ‘Molt bé, a munt’’ and the dancers begin to rise. A young girl atop her cousin’s broad shoulders stretches her arms wide to imitate the grace and wisdom of a mountain eagle. They fly in exaggerated, circular swoops, beckoning others to do the same.

This is La Patum country – the annual festival of traditional dances where local people dress as mystical, symbolic figures. It’s a long way from the saradana performed for tourists outside Barcelona Cathedral every Sunday or the castellers (human towers) rehearsed and organised with regimented precision. This is a dance for participants, not confused by-standers. I can’t connect it to the recognisable 4/4 rhythm of a Scottish ceilidh reel. I make my apologies and step back to try and make sense of it all.

On 9 November 2014, Catalans will stage a very public demonstration of their renewed cultural pride and civic confidence when they press ahead with a non-binding independence vote and what many see as the inevitable next step on the way to realising the region’s right to self-determination.

“There is no way they can stop this,” says Bernat Garrigos, an organizer with the Catalan National Assembly (a civil society group prominent in the independence campaign), referring to the Spanish government’s opposition to a vote.

The non-binding vote this weekend follows a protracted and very confusing back and forth stand-off between the centre-right Catalan Premier, Artur Mas, his pact with more leftist Catalan politicians to hold a referendum, and the national government in Madrid. In September, at the request of the Spanish government, the Constitutional Court granted an injunction against any official referendum on 9 November.

It seems that in Catalonia, everyone expects a Spanish inquisition. Perhaps in order to save face after two years of promoting referendum day to an excited electorate, or perhaps because the injunction is the latest in a long series of avoidance tactics on the part of the Spanish government , the Catalan leadership retreated to a somewhat ambiguous- sounding ‘consulta populaire’ (public consultation) and now, just in the last few weeks, to a residual, non-binding vote. Disempowered, the Catalan people are losing patience with the continued rhetoric and political posturing, on all sides. They didn’t turn out in their millions for the V for ‘Vote’ demonstration in September 2014 or the ‘Via Catalonia’ human-chain in 2013 only to be dealt a rehearsal referendum instead of the main event.

Here in Scotland, we might be feeling the hurtful chill of a bitter post-Referendum, autumn wind but our Catalan friends look on with envy at what they perceive to have been a transparent and peaceful self-determination process negotiated between Edinburgh and London.

Many Catalans complain that Madrid drains the region of taxes to subsidise poorer parts of Spain without respecting the Catalan language or culture. In a decision described as “incendiary” in the national press, Spain’s national budget for 2015 has given Catalonia the lowest settlement for public investment in 17 years. Meanwhile, those in favour of a unified Spain insist that Catalonia already enjoys autonomy under Spain’s written constitution.

The reality is that Spain cannot afford to lose Catalonia. Not only is the region the industrial and economic powerhouse of a country still on its knees begging to Merkel following the financial crash, sanctioning the possibility of Catalan cessation would give hope to independence movements within the Basque country and Galicia. The new leftist political party in Spain , ‘Podemos’, has overtaken both the major parties in the opinion polls on an anti-austerity message.

But rather than emulate the sycophantic love-bombing of UK Westminster politicians in the panic-stricken final days of the Scottish Referendum campaign, Madrid is refusing to even turn up to the party. Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáez de Santamaría said the Catalan plans for the November 9 vote – with same-day voter registration and volunteer pollers – represents a “legal fraud” and “a perversion” of the democratic process. In response to such put-downs, the Catalan political leaders defiantly turn up the volume of their different tune and the confusing dance that began with a referendum attempt, followed by public consultation, then ‘participation process’, continues apace.

Newly democratic Spain is angst-ridden with visible growing pains. Only the young Catalans swaying to the folk tune atop their older cousins’ shoulders were born into a post-dictatorship Spain. This generation is over-educated and under-employed. Most are well-traveled and speak at least three languages – Catalan, Castillian Spanish, and usually English, French or Italian.

Catalonia has been part of Spain for over three hundred years. It is a region of 7.5 million with a distinct culture, language and diverse geography spanning the Pyrenees mountains in the north and the vineyards and olive groves of Tarragona in the south. Since the current Catalan government first committed to an Independence Referendum two years ago, many border towns such as Berga in the north of Catalonia have declared themselves to be bound only by devolved Catalan law and to refute the supremacy of Spanish laws. Perhaps it is always at the national, and personal, borders and boundaries of life– these crossroads to something different and the fault-lines of our identity– that excitement and anxiety collide.

By refusing to agree to a Catalan referendum, Spain is galvanizing the independence cause. A poll released at the end of October by the Catalan government’s Centre for Opinion Studies indicated that pro-independence sentiment remains strong in Catalonia. It showed that 49.4% of Catalans would vote “yes” to both questions on the proposed November 9 independence ballot. The two questions are: “Do you want Catalonia to become a State?” and “In case of an affirmative response, do you want this State to be independent?” The poll found that 19.7% would vote “no” to both questions, and 12.6% “yes” to the first question and “no” to the second. Even the choices in the ballot box appear confusing when contrasted to the simple Yes/ No of ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’.

When I ask Catalan friends to try to explain to me what this all means, they smile, open their hands and concede that nothing is clear and Catalans themselves are frustrated by the slow pace of participatory democracy. My friend Mariona joked, “now that Spain refuses us a referendum and the Catalan leaders won’t commit to anything more than a participation process, we might as well decide this by a WhatsApp vote” (referring to the popular smartphone texting app). With the lack of an official electorate census or the formality of a sanctioned vote, turnout for 9 November is predicted to be much lower than originally hoped for.

Each day introduces another step in the dance. Although the exercise will have no legal weight, Catalan leader Artur Mas and his supporters say it will send a powerful signal to Spain and the rest of the world that Catalans are ready to go it alone:

“We will have polling stations open, there will be ballots and ballot boxes, and everyone over the age of 16 will be allowed to vote…. This will not be the final consultation. It will be the one before last.”

In this complex land where wild eagles soar above the Pyrenees, the calls for change are getting louder amongst ordinary people fed up of remote political elites. It’s an ever-changing choreography of elaborate moves in which successive generations are caught between history and hope.

At the middle of the folk dance celebration, someone shouts “Estem preparats!” The pace quickens, the assembled circle is cheering, hands are held tighter, but no one can quite remember the next move.

Jemma Neville
@jemma_tweets
National Collective

Originally published at http://jemmajournal.com/

Image from Josep Ma. Rosell

Devolving Immigration – A Lifeline For The International Student Community

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The SNP recently announced it wants powers regarding immigration devolved to Scotland, so that they can re-introduce the post-study work visa. All around Scotland, International students (and friends of!) briefly gave this news an interested glance; the repercussions of such a plan actually taking place would be incredibly exciting. Before we look at the potential results, here is some context:

  • The Tier 1 Post-Study Work Visa (tied to the ‘Points Based Immigration System introduced in 2008) enabled International students to work in the UK upon completion of their degree for up to two years before applying for a work permit.
  • This system in itself was actually regulation by Labour rather than de-regulation – the system used previously (Highly Skilled Migrant Programme) was more flexible and welcoming, enabling students to apply for work permits under more relaxed criteria.
  • The Conservative-Liberal coalition decommissioned this visa in 2012 as a step to ‘tackle the immigration problem’. As a result, students now have a window of a few months to find a job – within a very narrow range of sectors – that has a minimum starting salary of £21,000 per annum (yes, a graduate job in the current climate of that level), with the employer then also requiring to go through an arduous process to enable them to be ‘sponsors’ for this visa.

The net result, obviously, is that International Students struggle to stay and find work. Post-degree celebrations are marred by the melancholy of leaving the place you have settled in. I lost four very good friends this summer who all tried (and failed) to find something – anything! – that would keep them working in their adopted country of residence. This is common.

So when the Independence campaign kicked off, and the ‘Yes’ camp clearly laid out their plans for returning a provision to enable International students to stay, a lot of International students got involved. One of the clearest arguments that resonated from the ‘Yes’ camp with regards to ‘differences’ was just how starkly different a new Scotland’s immigration plans were from the direction Westminster travelled in, and this was a crucial part of that. It was one of the first reasons that grabbed me, as well as several other International students – here was a Nationalist movement that wanted to help me stay in my adopted country.

The current laws are detrimental to all involved in the sector. Principals of Universities hate it as it has a clear effect in their recruitment of International students. Students and academic staff hate it for reasons detailed above already. Businesses hate it since it adds a massive layer of bureaucracy when finding and appointing workers. The laws have also had absolutely no positive impact in the jobs available to British workers – we’ve seen unemployment figures, the inequality figures, the skew towards low-paid work.

Of course, that’s before we even discuss the social impact of bringing in hundreds of thousands of International students into a country every year – bringing in millions into the economy – and then sending them the clear signal that they aren’t wanted.

We’ve seen how conversations about immigration have progressed over the past two years. This issue is completely off the table as far as the Conservatives are concerned. Labour’s current offering amounts to removing International Students from the migration figures – a move that has no tangible gains for students, rather simply a move for the government to claim “hi, well, since you don’t count now, hurrah look how much we did to cut immigration!” This is simply more fuel for them to shout about how tough they’re being on ‘them foreigners.’

Labour cannot be trusted to bring about this change in any case – remember, it was the Blair Government that brought in this visa in 2008 as a cut to migration – and Ed Miliband’s recent rhetoric around immigration is enough evidence that there is nothing progressive on this issue coming from that particular party.

A ‘No’ vote robbed that opportunity for International students to build an inclusive immigration system here in Scotland, and by and large hope was dead. I was very open about the very personal impact that vote had on me; it dictated my chances – and future international students’ chances – of calling Scotland home or not. I was devastated.

So at this point, hope’s fairly dead in terms of policies from parties down south. Then enter the devolution commission and SNP’s latest proposal, a move that’s backed by their ‘Yes’ campaign allies the Scottish Greens. Let’s briefly put in context just how many people this policy would affect – 40% (that’s upwards of 8,000 people) of our student populace in the University of Edinburgh is currently on the Tier 4 visa. Several of the Scottish Universities pride themselves on their international intake, and this is a massive lift in a hope we thought was dead.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m probably of the belief that immigration would be the last detail to be devolved by the Smith Commission. There’s enough scare-mongering flying around from the other Westminster parties to try and make devolved immigration unfeasible. But the very fact that the SNP have brought this back on the table, at a time of massive immigration scaremongering, and making a clear statement that they want the opportunity to actually make international students feel welcome here – that’s something. That’s hope.

Like I said before, 40% of our student populace is currently on that Tier 4 system that makes it nigh on impossible for them to stay in their adopted country. I can’t think of a better policy for them to get behind. There’s hope once again – perhaps fleeting – but a recognition that we haven’t been forgotten about.

Dash Sekhar
@dashmundo
National Collective

Is Devo-Max Compatible With The UK? And What Is Devo-Bare Minimum?

Many of us remain convinced that the best, and most democratic, way for Scotland to be governed is as an independent state. But constitutional options like devo max (generally understood to mean Holyrood having power over everything except defence, foreign affairs, immigration, and a few macroeconomic essentials like the currency), which were dangled in front of voters so extensively during the final weeks of the recent referendum campaign, would be a welcome advance on Scotland’s path to self-government.

Now that the referendum is over though, the mode du jour amongst the unionist commentariat and political elite has been to claim that devo max is a “complete non-starter” (Ruth Davidson MSP) and “incompatible with remaining part even of a largely federal system” (Alan Trench). But is it really true that devo max is incompatible with membership of the United Kingdom? Or is it simply a working backwards from a (legitimate, if not majority-held) view that Scotland should remain as similar to the rest of the UK as possible?

If we look to the rest of the world (something which I fear hasn’t happened nearly enough in the current debate), we find some potential answers to that question. And, while we’re at it, we observe some possible ‘design patterns’ for the constitutional arrangements of post-referendum Scotland, and the UK as a whole, in places that have been doing this stuff for decades.

On a fundamental level, the claim by some that devo max is, more or less by definition,
incompatible with being part of a larger state is patently false. Hong Kong is an integral part of the People’s Republic of China, yet has more autonomy than even devo max would provide (Hong Kong having both its own currency, and a separate immigration area from mainland China).

Hong Kong – along with Macau – is of course governed under the maxim of “one country, two systems”, and some may object to the comparison on the basis that no-one in Scotland expected a No vote in the referendum to mean the “state within a state” form of government that Hong Kong enjoys. That proposition remains to be tested – perhaps this would be a more popular option than many unionists would like to believe – but it is not necessary to pursue this particular comparison here. It serves merely to illustrate that on a technical level claims about devo max being inherently incompatible with membership of the larger state that is the United Kingdom are simply not true.

If we look then to federal (or federal-like) countries which no-one would suggest are anything other than single states, we find several where some or all of the constituent parts have significantly more control over the fundamental issues of taxation and welfare than Scotland currently does as part of the UK.

The most obvious example – and one not so far from home – is Spain, and in particular the
autonomous communities of the Basque Country and Navarra. These two autonomous communities – through their economic agreements with the Spanish central government – are responsible for setting most, and collecting virtually all, taxes in their respective territories, while remitting a certain amount of money to the Spanish state for centrally provided services such as defence, according to a bilaterally agreed formula.

Are the Basque Country and Navarra part of the Kingdom of Spain? Quite clearly they are. (Many may wish them not to be, but that is besides the point here.) These two autonomous communities have had almost exclusive competence over tax collection for more than three decades (and also previously, before the Franco era), but they remain part of Spain, and, indeed, are highly integrated in the Spanish single market.

Crossing the Atlantic to Canada, we find provinces which are responsible for a significant number of their own taxes, and virtually all of their own working-age benefits – there is no Canada-wide equivalent to Jobseekers’ Allowance or Universal Credit, for example. In the area of contributory state pensions, where there is admittedly more uniformity across most of Canada, Québec has its own separate Québec Pension Plan. Yet Québec, like the other provinces, is still an integral part of Canada, and an integrated part of the Canadian macroeconomic zone and single market.

Careful observers won’t have failed to spot my specific highlighting of the Basque Country and Québec, two of the most independently minded parts of their respective larger states – and, in fact, the most autonomous sub-state entities in the whole of the OECD. That is with good reason. Contemporary Scotland is the most independently minded and autonomy-seeking part of the United Kingdom, and so we should devise a constitutional settlement which reflects and accommodates that (even if ultimately I would prefer such a settlement to be extended to, or at least be on offer to, all four UK nations). We shouldn’t force Scotland into a UK straitjacket that doesn’t meet the aspirations of most Scots simply for the sake of some abstract notion of British unity.

Looking again at Spain and Canada, and examining the situation of even the most ‘Spanish’ of autonomous communities – Castile-La Mancha amongst others – or of an ‘ordinary’ Canadian province such as Ontario, we find aspects of the constitutional order which go significantly beyond the Scotland Act 2012 and which would be worth taking serious note of. For example:

  • Castille-La Mancha, in common with all Spanish autonomous communities, has a statute of autonomy – an entrenched written constitution subordinate only to the written constitution of Spain.
  • Ontario levies a large number of its own taxes, including beer and wine tax, corporation tax, fuel/gasoline tax and personal income tax – and, particularly relevant to the current debate in Scotland, the employer health tax, a payroll tax completely separate from income tax and unique to Ontario.

Some may posit, “Well, that is all very well and good, but our contention was never that such systems of government would not be technically possible in the United Kingdom, simply that in the specific case of the UK, the essential nature of what the UK as a country is about – as opposed to what, say, Canada and Spain are about – makes the level of autonomy that devo max would involve impossible to contemplate.”

That seems quite a contorted argument, but if it is some people’s view, let’s at least hear it – along with a decent defence of this position. What is it that makes the UK so different from Canada, Spain and elsewhere that makes significant, if not complete, autonomy for a part of the state over taxation and welfare a non-starter, uniquely, here? I’m not sure anyone has a convincing answer to that question.

That all said, let’s for a moment set aside the first choice (for now) of devo max, and focus
only on two humbler aspirations:

  1. That the Scottish parliament should be responsible for raising tax revenue to fund substantially all of its own expenditure – a basic principle of responsible and accountable government anywhere.
  2. In having responsibility for a particular tax, this responsibility should be comprehensive – ensuring that the Scottish parliament isn’t prevented from making reasonable changes to the structure of a particular tax to the extent that the usefulness of it having any control over that tax at all is severely hampered.

One benefit of devo max-like systems is their clarity, and thus their clear trace-through to the ballot box. In the Basque Country, for example, it is clear to everyone who is responsible for every last rate, band and relief of income tax – and this would also be the case in Scotland under devo max.

By contrast, in all of the unionist parties’ rather tepid proposals on income tax, numerous
important components of the income tax system would remain under the control of Westminster – including the personal allowance (which is simply a 0% band), meaning that Westminster, bizarrely, would be deciding how much of Scottish taxpayers’ earned income could be taxed, while not actually receiving any of the tax on this income itself.

At the recent UK Conservative Party conference, the UK prime minister David Cameron said:

So here’s our commitment to the British people: No income tax if you are on Minimum Wage. A 12 and a half thousand pound tax-free personal allowance for millions of hardworking people. And you only pay 40p tax when you earn £50,000.

If the Conservatives’ current plans for further Scottish devolution were put into effect, the
part of Mr Cameron’s promise relating to the 40p income tax band wouldn’t apply in Scotland, while the part relating to the proposed £12 500 personal allowance would (meaning the UK parliament would be telling the Scottish parliament at what point it can start taxing Scottish taxpayers’ earned income). I challenge anyone to convince me that this would not be an utterly confusing proposition at the ballot box in Scotland – not to mention the unfairness of English voters being able to vote for a holistic vision of the entire income tax system while Scottish voters cannot.

Returning then to where we started: Devo max is quite clearly not incompatible with Scotland’s staying in the United Kingdom and to suggest otherwise is to wrap a political preference in the guise of objective fact. Furthermore, devo max would make Scotland’s governance arrangements much simpler to understand (compared to either the status quo, or any of the other currently mooted schemes for further devolution), and it would thus provide the greatest level of political transparency and democratic accountability possible while Scotland remains in the UK.

If devo max is not deemed to be politically achievable this time around, then let’s give Scots a system of fiscal autonomy where they are able to express a holistic view at election time on at least some of the most significant taxes and welfare benefits. (And, in deciding on the extent of such a system, let’s keep in mind that many countries manage to operate, and indeed thrive, with much less fiscal uniformity than currently exists in the UK.)

While such a ‘devo max lite’ proposition would likely not satisfy the appetite for more powers of most Scots – not least of all the 45% who voted Yes on 18 September – it would be another step forward on the journey to true self-government – a journey where the direction of travel is clear and unambiguous.

The Edinburgh Agreement commits the Scottish and UK governments to work together constructively in the best interests of the people of Scotland and of the rest of the United Kingdom. It benefits neither Scotland nor rUK for a discontent Scotland to be denied the power over its own affairs which it legitimately seeks.

Let’s make a step change in the governance of Scotland and all of the United Kingdom.

Let’s get to it.

Kenneth MacArthur
@kennethmac2000
National Collective

The Future Of Scottish Broadcasting

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It’s my job to watch, read and listen to the news. First hand I see the trickle down effect of news coming in off the wires, to that particular event being covered by all major news outlets. From the guttural to the high-brow, one sets the agenda for the other and this becomes our rationalised understanding of the world, and of our own communities.

Some say the media only confirms that which we already hold a position on and some see it as wholly influential. Whatever the opinion might be on either side, the fact remains that our society allows us to have a diverse range of news and entertainment providers which are regulated through the Communications Act.

The act was implemented in 2003 and is controlled by Westminster and the UK Government, and much of the regulation is to ensure a diversity of views and focuses on the concentration of ownership. It has always been maintained that we should have a public service broadcaster, which of course we have in the BBC and we pay a license fee to sustain an ad-free service.

BBC productions in Scotland consist of token shows such as ‘Waterloo Road’, a programme with no real Scottish identity. I’m also certain that anybody who has ever tried to get into the ‘media’ in Scotland has at some point been told, ‘you know you will probably have to move to London to get anywhere’. Really, what should happen is that we have the resources to keep and draw talent here so our communities can be more educated about the things that matter to them. In doing so, people might feel more inclined to get involved in whatever way they feel they can.

It is widely recognised that the referendum motivated people on an unprecedented level through online, grass-roots campaigning from both sides. Vincent Mosco in his book ‘The Digital Sublime’ wrote, ‘all of the major social movements have developed communications strategies and policies’.

The internet and social media helped to ignite a fully formed debate which took place everywhere, from the playground to the pub. It involved the nation as a whole, and in some ways the internet filled whatever gaps there were in the mainstream media coverage of the referendum. This momentum needs to continue for democracy to thrive, and this can be achieved with a media that is representative of the variety of issues we have in Scotland.

The reason broadcasting is so important is because even in a digital world, it is our primary source of information. We can trust documentaries, current affairs programmes and 24 hour news as this is all quite familiar to us. It was even stated by Jürgen Habermas back in 1984 that when it comes to our trust in mainstream media, people can be convinced of anything, even ‘there is no such thing as true’.

As noted before, the media rationalises the world in which we live by placing certain events/issues in to the public sphere. A great example right now is the furore over immigration and asylum seekers.

Places such as Clacton have a lower than average proportion of immigrants but it is in parts of the country like this where immigration is the greatest concern. The prominence of the issue of immigration within the mainstream press and on our tellies gets us properly riled up. It is also in places like this UKIP are gaining ground.

John Kay put it nicely in his Financial Times column, he said on the matter, “citizens express dissatisfaction with the current state of modern politics by hostility to anonymous others”.

If people were more educated about the world they inhabit, they might not be so quick to make generalised assumptions based on media rhetoric. With more local and regional media, there can be a more informed public and therefore a public who are empathetic to the needs of the community around them, not a public who are suspicious of things they know nothing about.

For this to happen Scotland’s broadcasting industry needs to flourish and have greater autonomy from London. With that we can achieve better regional representation, putting us back in touch with our communities. This can only happen if we have control of our own broadcasting policy.

It was pointed out in another article on the National Collective website that in federal Germany, broadcasting is the responsibility of the states, therefore they have a total of nine public service broadcasters working alongside nationwide broadcaster ARD.

In the event of the Scottish Parliament being given primary power over broadcasting in Scotland, it would be possible to set up our own Scottish public service broadcaster while coming to an agreement with the BBC over their continued role in Scotland.

The media and online is our connection to the people in power, and this has become even more apparent over the last two years of referendum campaigning. It may be generally thought that social media, websites and blogs cancel out the need for the press or television news programmes but we need a balance. Good quality professional journalism, passionate citizen journalists and an engaged public.

Now I realise that this takes money and a public who are willing to invest in a proposed Scottish public service broadcaster, which is where it gets tricky, but we live in a democracy. Together we can debate the issue, come up with sustainable business models and education programmes which will encourage all of the above.

Let us have a voice and promote the idea of true optimism. Let our communities know what is relevant to them. Let us continue to take an interest in our own political and social affairs by having a broadcast media that actually works for Scotland.

Jenni Flett & Laura Richmond
@FlettJenni
National Collective

Illustration by Laura Richmond

6 Questions on the Yes Alliance

There’s been a lot of talk about the potential of pro-independence candidates standing on a joint ‘Yes Alliance’ platform in next May’s General Election – the idea being that the 45% who voted Yes, and in particular the Yes majority in Labour heartlands such as Glasgow, could deliver the largest possible team of pro-independence MPs.

It’s likely that, without party instruction, a great deal of independence supporters will be minded to vote tactically to ensure the best result for pro-independence candidates. And it is entirely feasible that pro-independence candidates may strategically decide not to stand against each other in certain seats. But the Yes Alliance proposal goes further – suggesting that the Yes parties should drop, or at least dilute, their individual identities to stand on a common platform.

Much of the enthusiasm for this idea seems to have developed from the experience of working across political divides during the referendum. And no wonder – the non-partisan nature of the campaign was not only highly enjoyable for activists but hugely attractive to the public. I strongly believe that many of the relationships built during the campaign will endure, and delivering first devo-max and later independence will require us to continue to work as a united movement.

But there’s a huge difference between fighting for a common cause and fighting parliamentary elections on a joint platform. Would a Yes Alliance actually work?

1. Who chooses the candidates?
The immediate issue any electoral alliance would face is choosing candidates. If we assume that the six sitting SNP MPs would stand again, then we’d have to select 53 candidates for an election happening next year.

The time frame is important here. If energies hadn’t been focused on the referendum, then we can assume that the SNP would have a full slate of candidates by now and that the ground campaign would already have begun. The earliest a Yes Alliance could presumably be agreed would be SNP Conference in mid-November. To devise and operate an entirely new process of candidate selection could take two to three months. That’s getting dangerously close to the election itself.

But even if a time-frame were to be agreed, who would actually choose the candidates? For the Yes Alliance to capture the movement it would have to extend beyond the SNP, Greens and SSP and include the other campaign groups and non-aligned Yes volunteers. But these other groups are not formal membership organisations in the way a political party is and establishing a secret ballot among a group that may be no more than an e-mail list would be extraordinarily difficult – and would still exclude the thousands of volunteers who simply turned up at stalls and canvass sessions without ever formally joining any group. And what of multiple memberships? Would someone who was a member of the Greens, RIC, National Collective and Women for Independence get 4 votes or 1? How would this be controlled?

2. Would voters just vote as they’re told?

The central assumption of the Yes Alliance proposal is that Yes voters would back a joint pro-independence platform in greater numbers than if the parties stood individually.

It’s entirely feasible that, were the pro-independence parties to stand against each other, there could be seats where their combined vote share would have been enough to push the leading party over the edge. But the Greens only stand in a minority of seats and its unlikely that the SSP, or any other pro-independence left group, will stand. Party competition isn’t a particular threat in the Westminster elections.

The electorate will often behave in strange ways. Not all Yes voters will be minded to vote for a pro-independence candidate – there will be a not insignificant number who vote Labour next year, if not in 2016, and there will even be some who go back to voting Conservative, Lib Dem, UKIP or not voting at all. Meanwhile there are significant numbers of anti-independence voters who will happily vote SNP but might baulk at the thought of voting for a Yes Alliance. I’ve written before on behaviour of Green voters, as has Jonathan Mackie, and the idea that they would universally vote for an SNP or other pro-independence candidate simply because the Greens endorsed them is unconvincing. And speaking personally, I wouldn’t vote for just any candidate simply because they supported independence if their other views were incompatible with my own principles.

3. What happens once they’re elected?

Part of the reason we can’t expect voters to put aside their own political opinions is simple – our candidates might win.

When a voter selects a candidate they do so understanding that they’ll be accountable not just to the electorate but to a party and its manifesto. The voter may not agree with every policy a party has, but they can make a judgement based on the party’s record and platform and vote accordingly.

If a Yes Alliance candidate without party allegiance was to be elected then what would they actually do in their position? Yes, we’d expect any Yes MPs to argue for the best possible devolution settlement and to articulate the argument for independence in the long-term. But the next parliament will not be defined solely by further devolution. Scottish MPs will still be required to represent their constituents interests on issues of welfare, citizenship, employment and consumer rights, defence and more.

What happens if the enthusiastic, non-aligned small business owner turns out to support welfare reform and vigorously campaigns against employment protections? What if the peace campaigner is elected only to oppose any MoD investment in Scotland? What if the hard-working activist from the local campaign turns out to be a zealous advocate of depriving criminal suspects of their civil liberties?

These things aren’t likely, but they’re not impossible. We can’t assume that everybody who supports independence has a consistent world-view. And the working-class SNP voter might choose to vote Labour rather than for a Business for Scotland candidate just as the middle-class Yes supporter might find it impossible to vote for an SSP activist.

4. Wouldn’t it destroy what made Yes work?

A conflict in our beliefs didn’t matter during the referendum because of the binary nature of the question being asked us. You either believe that Scotland should be independent or you didn’t.

As a whole the Yes movement found lots of common ground. At least on principle. We were mainly on the left, and we talked about internationalism and social justice and equality, but we did so knowing that after the vote we’d often end up on different sides of the argument again. Even if our objectives sounded similar we had different routes of getting there.

That diversity was a strength. But in a parliamentary election, it could be become a weakness.

5. Wouldn’t it entrench us in the 45?

If we want Scotland to become independent in our lifetimes then in all likelihood we will need to convince hundreds of thousands of people who voted No this time round to change their minds.

There are plenty of No voters who can be won round. There are even more who can be won round immediately to the idea that we need an extensive and radical devolution of powers. And many of them will be willing to vote for a pro-independence candidate in future elections if they feel that this will deliver them devo-max.

My biggest fear about a Yes Alliance is that these soft No voters are confronted with ‘Yes’ on their next ballot paper and vote for anybody else in frustration. We need to win these people over and to do that we have to demonstrate that we accept the referendum result and will, at least for now, strive to make devolution work. A Yes Alliance could permanently divide Scottish politics along referendum lines and entrench two camps in their beliefs. The problem for us is that we’re the smaller of those two camps.

6. Where would it actually be of benefit?

But let’s say that all of this can be overcome. Let’s say that we devise a workable way of selecting candidates, that we can put together a credible platform that makes us electable while maintaining our diversity, and that we carry Yes voters with us without permanently alienating the 55% of No voters. Where would this approach actually benefit us?

I’m an SNP activist and my political instinct is shaped by that. But the SNP are by far the largest political party of the Yes movement and, without a Yes Alliance, the only party with any credible chance of electing any MPs.

I’ve tried to think of a single parliamentary constituency where nominating a non-SNP figure would make it more likely that we win. I can’t think of one.

Dan Paris
@_danparis
http://parisdan.wordpress.com

Social Fabric: Interview with Joanna Gill

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Social Fabric is an upcoming documentary about a group of knitters from Scotland and beyond who pieced together an extraordinary map of the country in the run-up to the independence referendum. The map, co-ordinated by Aimee Chalmers, was displayed at National Collective’s Yestival exhibition in Summerhall, and has since made its way around the country.

I spoke to Joanna Gill, the documentary maker behind the new film.

What first attracted you to the knitting project?

Knitting is a huge part of Scotland’s cultural history, especially along the coast. The fact that it was going to be used as a political act as well intrigued me. It was also interesting that it was a project started by women. A Social Attitude Survey showed women were generally more sceptical about independence, but these women were willing to put all their effort into supporting the Yes campaign. I also liked hearing how the idea evolved from a knitted Alex Salmond, to a Saltire that could cover Edinburgh castle and eventually the map. I’m a cartophile myself. I have a collection of maps of Scotland dating back centuries and some old military maps I found in a junk yard. The project also made me reflect on why we love maps. For me they inspire a sense of adventure, but also a feeling of control.

Large projects like this can often be a slow and complicated process. How challenging was it to capture on film?

The most complicated issue was the timescale and geography. Women from all over Scotland were taking part. We had to make some tough decisions on how to cover it based on our means. We were sure we wanted to include Doreen Brown from Shetland. As the woman who knitted the famous Fair Isle jumpers for the Shetland ponies I knew she would be a character. I also wanted to include Shetland due to the history of knitting there, and Shetland was an interesting case politically. Generally Shetland was against independence, despite wanting more autonomy. A 12hr ferry journey in the middle of winter storms gave me my first taste of how living at 60 degrees North could shape a person. For the rest we were on the mainland, and luckily Scotland is a cinematographer’s dream. Point your camera in any direction and a stunning image appears. Occasionally convincing people to take part can be an issue, but everyone was so welcoming. I could barely fit into my jeans after the first few months of filming from the generous offers of cream cakes and dinners. We were very grateful of the support we were given by the women themselves. In the end the most challenging issue was money. All of our decisions had to be based on how can we self-finance the production? In the middle of the shoot our camera broke and our car was scrapped, meaning we were extremely limited towards the end, hence why we decided the crowdsource the film.

Was the building of a community as important as the finished work itself? Did lasting friendships develop?

In a way the sense of community was cultivated by the finished work. Some of the women did choose to knit together, we followed two of them in Glasgow. It was really interesting to see how their conversation jumped from the hot referendum issue of the day to the choice of their wool in a flash. It didn’t take long before they were sharing their life stories with each other, oblivious to the camera. Many of the women have never met each other, and yet the product of their hard work and creativity sits side-by-side on a map. That’s why this film is also important to show the women who worked together just who they were working with.

We lost the referendum but people seem to want to celebrate the movement, and are finding new ways to keep the momentum going. Is there now that added sense of purpose to the film?

Documenting part of the grassroots movement was always important no matter the result. However, seeing how the campaign has evolved I think it’s taken on a new inertia. Seeing how the media neglected to tell the story of the grassroots campaign I fear they are misunderstood by a majority of people, especially those living outside Scotland. I have heard any number of misunderstandings about the nature of Yes campaigners and I wanted to show the multiple faces of the independence movement and as well as those who respectfully declined the choice. Headline news isn’t particularly nuanced, so showing that it wasn’t just a battle of soundbites was the most important.

How did the project help to involve people who were perhaps turned off from traditional politics?

I think the project gave a sense of place and purpose to people who didn’t feel the traditional style of politics was suited to them. Confrontation and heated discussion is not everyone’s cup of tea, and what’s better is that it worked. People who were turned off by traditional politics came out and voted. I’ve only seen such high turnouts in countries where voting is compulsory.

What next for the map and its makers?

The map is currently touring Scotland – from wool shops to Yes shops with the aim of finding a permanent home in Holyrood. The women are working to get the piece accepted as one of the Parliament’s permanent collection and what better place to have a memento of the work of grassroots activists? Even though the campaign for full independence may not have gained the majority, it managed to effectively get a question on the ballot by stealth – that of devo max, and I think the grassroots activists played a significant role. I’m not sure if there are any plans to follow up with any more political knitting projects, but never say never.

Social Fabric official website
Social Fabric on Twitter
Social Fabric fundraiser

Andrew Redmond Barr
National Collective

@AndrewRBarr

Young People and Political Participation

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One of the most heartening things to come out of Scotland’s Referendum debate was the engagement and participation in the process of young people. Over the last decade (and more) the gradual shunning of conventional politics by young people had led to a belief (in some quarters) that the legitimacy of our democracy would be called into question should their disengagement continue. Since 2001 no General Election has seen more than 50% of young people turn out to vote. Young people are voting less, are less likely to register to vote and are uncommitted to political parties.

That young people were involved in this debate was a welcome step for many who have been arguing for their inclusion for many years. It has long been recognised that engaging young people in the political process during their school years holds the potential for young people to have a ‘participative footprint’ that can lead to greater involvement throughout their lives. Although schools have ran citizenship lessons, pupil councils and such like for a considerable period now these have been recognised as (in the main) tokenistic with little actual power being ceded to young people – leading them to become apathetic, and who can blame them? Citizenship lessons have tended to focus on the social responsibilities of young people rather than engaging with politics or the political process at all – a huge turn off for many youngsters.

If we want young people to truly engage in politics then we need to look beyond participatory measures for their inclusion. We need to look at the social status of young people – how they are treated by the institutions that they are asked to invest in. This requires us to look at the material circumstances young people find themselves in today. For sure, the referendum appears to have fired their interest – young people have been included in the debate, felt listened to and valued and they have responded in kind. But referendum’s don’t come round every five years (do they?!).

It is of absolute importance that we recognise one of the fundamental aspects of political participation is that people need to feel that they are involved and have a stake in their society. Exclusion from the economic sphere and the methods of production and consumption is undermining the level of commitment young people feel to participate. This has undoubtedly worsened in recent years as the withdrawal of social security and housing benefit to young people leaves the impression that they are less deserving of concern than their older contemporaries. What makes this all the worse is that it is young people who have been hardest hit by the economic turbulence of recent years with the unemployment rate for young people running at three times the rate of the rest of the populace. This is further compounded with recent studies showing that their real incomes have fallen faster in comparison to other age groups. Of course, these issues affect working-class young people more than their better off brethren but more privileged young people are also affected as they too can find steady employment increasingly difficult to obtain and their road to higher education barred by financial considerations (particularly in the rest of the UK). The fact that young people’s entitlement to social security and minimum wage is deemed less worthy than older age groups also serves to institutionalise the message that their requirements are seen as less important than ‘adults’. Academic James Côté concludes that due to these changes in their material circumstances young people now have the dubious honour of being considered a disadvantaged ‘class’ of their own due to the growing gulf in material circumstances between themselves and their older contemporaries:

As a result of several decades of this negative treatment, declining status, and targeting as legitimate targets of exploitative labour practices, the youth segment of the work force…now constitutes one of the most economically disadvantaged groups of the entire population and very few people object to this situation, seeing it as normal and justified.

Denied an adequate material standard of living and marginalised in the employment market young people will fail to find a stake in society, inhibiting their willingness to participate in the political domain. Unless this institutionalised marginalisation is addressed, I have grave doubts that young people will seek to engage in a political system which is dismissive of even their most basic needs.

This is compounded by the fact that the responsibility for young people’s disengagement from formal politics is blamed on them, rather than a system which ignores their views. Policy, media and political discourse continues to point the finger at the alleged apathy and selfishness of youth. Far from this being the case, much research has shown that young people are engaged politically. Indeed, young people are, much like the rest of the populace, utterly cynical about formal politics – disenchanted and disillusioned with the behaviour of our elected officials and turned off by a politics which absolutely does not engage with young people, their needs or their interests. And it must be borne in mind that cynicism requires a level of political engagement not required to be apathetic. As a result of all this young people are increasingly turning away from formal politics, feeling both disenfranchised and disconnected from a politics which is increasingly hostile toward them. Why bother paying attention to a world of grey men in grey suits which ignores their most basic of needs?

When young people have rallied to display their feelings on issues which they see as important, the reaction has bordered on the hysterical – witness the demonstrations against the illegal war on Iraq, the G8 and when the government trebled tuition fees down south. Media reaction framed young people as posturing, misguided and at worst, criminal. It seems that some forms of political participation are valued more than others. Allied to this the disproportionate response of the police (kettling school children!) hardly sends a message of valued political participation either, does it? What these do reveal, however, is that young people are engaging in politics, just out-with the formal sphere – their participation appears to be ‘issue-based’ reflecting a growing ‘consumerism’ with politics – dipping in and out, picking issues that are of importance to them. Much research has shown that young people are looking at issues such as militarism, Third World debt, animal rights, nuclear power, environmentalism and anti-capitalist policies amongst others – and have little confidence in their elected officials to either represent them or deal with what they see as globalised issues. Young people are engaging in new ways which the traditional formal structures are unable or unwilling to accommodate – such as petitioning, boycotts, demonstrations and online activity such as blogging and internet campaigning. Young people demand a new response and so far our old politics has not responded. Our institutions are failing to engage with the politics of youth – until they do, it will be of little surprise if young people remain outside the realm of formal politics. And if they continue to be labelled as ‘domestic extremists’ when they respond to kettling in kind, who can blame them when met with such appalling shows of state force.

Unsurprisingly, young people feel alienated and excluded from political decision-making processes, seeing politics as something that is done to them, and not with them. No doubt many people feel this way. It’s the supply-side of politics which is at fault here, not young people. As political parties become more marketised and target-driven, policy agendas are focused on where they can get the most ‘bang-for-their-buck’. And where does this lead? To the ‘grey vote’ – and young people’s agendas are seen as peripheral and of little concern. This has created a vicious circle where young people are not voting and now politicians can seemingly ignore their concerns with impunity. Whilst pensioners are courted by the political class young people lose with every passing year – their entitlement to the most basic of social security looking increasingly imperilled by the major parties at Westminster. Young people have become the victims of policy as they suffer for their ‘failure’ to participate in elections which do not speak to their lived reality. The misguided call by Russell Brand for young people to abstain from voting will not lead to change. Young people need to vote and to have their voices heard.

Given that young people have engaged in the referendum it will be of extreme interest to see if young people in Scotland do elect to participate in next year’s General Election. It’s hoped that there has been a ‘participative footprint’ from the referendum which will see a generation of politically engaged young people. If we want the following generations to become involved then it might be up to this generation to speak back to power to address the marginalisation of young people in society. And this means addressing their economic marginalisation and their political interests. This means taking a holistic view of their political exclusion, realising it goes beyond merely addressing their participative exclusion. Of course, the starting point means valuing the input of young people and asking them what they want, what would help and how we can address their exclusion. Only then will we be truly serious about addressing the political marginalisation of young people. If the situation continues as it is – and young people reject the General Election next year altogether – the continuing legitimacy of our democracy could be called into question if it is excluding such a large part of our populace. We should celebrate the fact that young people engaged in the Independence referendum, but we need to ensure that instead of this being a one-off it becomes the norm.

Alan Mackie
National Collective

Photograph by Peter McNally

Glasgow University And The Power Of Activism

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They made European history. Wednesday’s announcement that the University of Glasgow would divest from fossil fuels was a significant decision for business and organisations across the continent.

Glasgow is the first university in Europe to shun oil and coal investments. This followed a prolonged campaign involving over one thousand students who asked the University Court to move its portfolio interests from BP, Shell and Chevron towards renewables alternatives.

The university acted. Their £18 million investments in fossil fuels companies will be reallocated, with the added opportunity of reinvestment in new tidal, wave and wind projects.

Student Union President Breffni O’Connor described the decision as a “testament to the strength of effective student activism”. The campus climate action society had launched the campaign which snowballed into wider student action, led by union officials. The case to the university’s senior body was clear: there is commercial, ethical and environmental sense in placing investment strategies on a sustainable footing.

There is now mounting evidence that Scotland has hit the natural lottery twice – first through oil and gas production and now with vast renewable energy potential. As a result Scotland remains on course to produce 100% of domestic electricity from renewable sources by 2020. Cities of industrial revolution can now embrace the renewables revolution.

It’s inspiring seeing student groups – often driven by ambition and idealism – making a practical difference. From the 1967 Paris protests to the recent campaign for Scottish independence, young people are at the forefront of demanding a transformation of society. Opponents of Charles de Gaulle stated “Be realistic. Demand the impossible.” Young Scots said “Another Scotland is possible” and campaigned for social, democratic and environmental change with independence as a starting point.

Idealists are rarely successful in overhauling a failing system – be it de Gaulle or Westminster. Instead vast ambitions feed into gradual progress as demonstrated through the women’s movement, gay rights movement or civil right movement over decades. It’s often in the longer term that significant change is realised.

For instance Glasgow University was the epicentre of Scottish protest in the winter of 2010. The tripling of tuition fees was a Westminster assault upon the young and it led to the biggest march in the university’s history, as well as a long running occupation of the Hetherington Research Centre.

It remains largely undocumented how those events led to an upsurge in activism for Scottish independence, especially through the Radical Independence Campaign. While that wider Yes Campaign fell short, the change in attitudes it created has now launched a longer, gradualist campaign – the long-term consequences of which are yet to be realised.

Scotland may now be tied to a disastrous Westminster energy policy of nuclear waste and fracking, yet students were not powerless. They proved that significant local changes are both necessary and possible. There is much more that we can achieve while building towards independence. In fact these changes are vital to prove how politics can make life better and keeping hope alive.

Jimmy Reid in his rectorial address on Gilmorehill told that same student institution to “Reject the insidious pressures in society that would blunt your critical faculties to all that is happening around you, that would caution silence in the face of injustice lest you jeopardise your chances of promotion and self-advancement.”

Those are words for a post-referendum Scotland. We remain a movement for citizenship and justice – defined by a journey and not a single event.

Michael Gray
@GrayinGlasgow
National Collective

Image from Chor Ip

Event: Changin Scotland, November 28-30, The Ceilidh Place, Ullapool

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Changin Scotland
A weekend of politics, culture and ideas …. And fun!
Friday November 28th-Sunday November 30th
The Ceilidh Place, Ullapool

SCOTLAND AFTER THE REFERENDUM
THE LAST CHANGIN SCOTLAND WEEKEND

Friday November 28th
8.00-9.30pm

Welcome: Gerry Hassan and Jean Urquhart

Scotland after the Vote
Neal Ascherson, author, writer and journalist; author of ‘Stone Voices’ and ‘Games with Shadows’ in conversation with Douglas Fraser, BBC Scotland

Saturday November 29th
10.00-11.15am
The Indy Referendum in International Context

Matt Qvortrup, Senior Lecturer in Comparative Politics, Cranfield University and according to the ‘Financial Times’, ‘a world authority on referendums’

11.30-12.45pm
What Do We Do About Scotland, England and the UK?

Gerry Hassan, author, ‘Caledonian Dreaming’ and ‘Independence of the Scottish Mind’ and Adam Tomkins, Prof. of Public Law, Glasgow University

12.45-2.15pm Lunch

2.15-3.30pm
Ambiguity, Complexity and Hope

David Greig, playwright and writer and Kathy Galloway, activist and writer; currently works for Christian Aid and a member of the Iona Community

3.45-5.00pm
Gender, Power, Radicals and Leadership

Laura Eaton Lewis, activist, part of the New Leadership Assembly, Director of The Work Room, artist and writer and Kate Higgins, Women for Independence and author, ‘Generation Scot Y’

Changin Scotland Extra
5.30-6.15pm: Imagining Scotland’s Future as a Northern Nation
Lateral North’s Tom Smith presents an outline of their work on Scotland’s future in conversation with Andy Wightman, author, ‘The Poor Had No Lawyers’

8.30-10.00pm: Land, Social Change and the Highlands
Jim Hunter, writer and historian on land reform, community regeneration and the Highlands in conversation with Andy Wightman

Sunday November 30th

10.30-11.15pm: After Changin Scotland
Gerry Hassan and Jean Urquhart discuss what comes next

11.30-1.00pm: Where Now for ‘Radical Scotland’?
Cat Boyd, Radical Independence Campaign and co-author, ‘Scottish Independence: A Feminist Response’
Ross Colquhoun, National Collective
Kate Higgins, Women for Independence and author, ‘Generation Scot Y’
Miriam Brett, Common Weal
Chaired by Kathy Galloway

For Bookings, Tickets and Accommodation:
Please Phone The Ceilidh Place Reception: 01854-612103
Cite ‘Changin Scotland’
Weekend Prices: £60 for all weekend events
Accommodation Booking available from The Ceilidh Place Reception

Mari-Claire Kay: We Owe It To Our Children The Most To Keep Fighting

When I was a child, life was lived fighting imaginary villains, playing Picasso with a paint brush, turning trees into castles, sofas into dens and countryside into the land of fairies. Wonder existed in every speck of dust that glistened in the sun light as I bounced on our tatty couch making dust clouds. Nothing was worthless, everything had meaning. I was lucky.

When I was a child I was fighting real villains, such as those of hunger, trauma or neglect. Nightmares turned into realities, sofas not dens but hiding places. Fear existed in every ash cloud that raced in the sun light as another stress was taken out on another cigarette, I shrunk, watching and wishing. Everything was worthless, nothing had meaning. I wasn’t lucky.

Two worlds, the same community. When you are like me, young and training to become a teacher you get to learn that your enthusiasm and love of learning and life is not what everyone else experienced growing up. Every child has their own unique needs, passions, differences and eccentricities. The one thing they all have in common is a need to be loved and cared for.

Scotland, a country of parallels is a prime exemplar of this, where for every four children who skip happily along in awe of everything and anything, one child is left cowering in a corner of hell. The politicians patronisingly gaze down the television screen reassuring adults they have their children’s needs at heart. So that must be why it’s estimated that 100,000 more children will enter poverty by 2020 then? Children who are introduced to this world only ever knowing instability and raw emotion can tell you a whole lot more about what they need than a politician can.

During the referendum, we rallied together with gusto to discuss independence, both sides of the coin, fervently opinionated on what kind of powers and opportunities hopes and dreams Scotland should have had, but did anyone in any position of power ever stop to ask the kid in the corner what they thought? The media didn’t, the large corporations didn’t, and the politicians didn’t. The hierarchies of society speaking on behalf of people, because that’s their job… Well you know what, they suck at their job and people aren’t putting up with it any longer. The dehumanising hamster wheel we’re all turning on is about to fall from its bearings and those who can’t see it have completely missed the point of the Scottish independence referendum. It isn’t over ’til the fat lady sings… we don’t have a fat lady, but we have a kid in the corner who deserves a voice and that trumps David Cameron any time.

So let’s put it into context. Media, corporate and political bias would have lead you to believe that the Yes campaign was about enabling more economic wealth, glorifying our status in the world, becoming introspective and selfish in deciding to look after ourselves before others. To back independence was to back a nationalistic, collective ideal to rid our bonny land of ‘evil’. Yet to me and lots of Yes voters, the hunger for independence was not an egocentric, insensitive ‘grab our powers and run’ manoeuvre, it was a cry out for what truly matters in humanity.

As the politicians and their campaigns churned out their polished, charmless arguments for staying or fleeing the union, there was a cup of tea brewing. Oh no, the UK machinery actually had a heart! It had a fire that was about to get rekindled, a soul and feelings too. People actually cared about things like community and spirit and hope. And that’s the significant difference. Whilst ‘No Thanks’ epitomised the snootiness of ‘no darling, I couldn’t possibly’, ‘if you love your kids vote no’ and while ‘if you don’t know, vote no’ got people feeling as passionate as a wet sponge, the Yes voters were having a party, and children were welcome.

At present UK society is functioning as a capitalistic, dog eat dog machine, churning out whatever it needs to get ahead of other capitalistic, dog eat dog machines the world over. Big business and politicians work the ‘common yins’ into the ground so they can go home and eat their steak and peppercorn sauce at night thinking they’ve done someone some good somewhere in this lovely interconnected world. And on and on it goes, satisfy the plebs and make some dough in the process. Everyone wins, hurrah! Crap imagery I know but really, it fits the whole mess we’re in. Crucially, nowhere in this whole establishment are children represented fairly.

For example, schools force a curriculum on pupils and looked after children have to attend panels where they have to sum their situation up eloquently in front of powerful, scary adults. Streets are no longer played on and ideas, games and dreams no longer created, because big companies have hooked little minds on video games, technology and social networking. What’s more the media have reinforced the ‘dangers’ of society, to the point that the outside world is scary, unsafe and not as comfortable as a couch and a chocolate bar. Not to mention that ‘skittles’ are low in fat with no unnatural colours or flavourings.

I’m training to be a PE teacher at university, and despite my naïve youthfulness, it isn’t rocket science. The teacher at the whiteboard; rows of desks; sit in chairs; don’t talk; we’ll fill you up with knowledge so you can pass exams regardless of whether you care about pythagoras theorem or whether you realise that sprinting 100 metres is going to increase your power output. Yes it’s changing, particularly in Scotland because they seem to realise that a child is more than what is taught. If you want to teach a subject then go to university, but try telling some people that.

Yet still the educational system, the hierarchies and rigid curriculum demands up and down the UK exist as a discreet form of social control. So instead of nurturing we are almost neglecting children who really cannot relate to the subjects and services we offer in many schools. Political policy, legislation and ideals dictate our educational practices, instead of the needs and voice of the kids who experience it. Sound familiar? Schools are microcosms of society, fancy that!?

However there is hope and it lies in the fact that the Yes campaign started to put more than ‘man’ and their dominant, masculine ideals at the core of society. It started to place values, spirituality, feelings, morals, and for some even the environment at its very, very passionate and optimistic core. So where extensive corporations and politicians rely on the masses to shut up and do their job for cheap so they can make money, selling us the empty idea that having and consuming cool ‘stuff’ and working hard to succeed at all costs is right, the Yes campaign chucked these conformist ideals in the bin and sought something better.

The Yes campaign embraced community as diversity. Short, tall, young, old, poor, wealthy, Scottish, Zambian, musician, teacher, pink, yellow, dandelion, sunflower… The vision was a fairer society for ALL. It wasn’t just a community of shared passion but a community with a joyously upbeat purpose and vision. It was a campaign created and driven by the people, those who have experienced poverty, experienced discrimination, cuts in welfare, bullying, neglect, or indeed, experienced the good things Scotland has to offer. It wasn’t run for the people, on the people, to the people. It was a campaign run for and then soon after entirely with and within the people. It was always in the people. They just had to find their voice. It sought to understand what human beings actually are, spiritually and socially. Tired of the big boys and girls treating us all as passive, disengaged, ignorant plain folks, the people of the Yes movement decided they’d had enough.

And it continues. Nearly three weeks on from the referendum and there is no sign of this hope dismantling. It’s here we return to the children outlined at the beginning of this article. I have only just started my teaching career but I’ve already got to know so many hopeful, talented kids who need listened to. We are responsible for building a country that they can all flourish in. They aren’t separate from the political decisions we make no matter how alien the politicians’ gaze may seem. Do you really think our under sixteen population would like us to go to war? Would like their houses drilled under, their water contaminated with methane? Their planet destroyed? Their friends and family hurting because of Westminster cuts?

So here’s to the neverendum, the never giving up, the never settling, the never pretending that every child has access to love and care because they don’t. We might be framed as the dreamers and idealists but we are dreamers and idealists who do, we take action for the common good and if anything the referendum is only the beginning. We owe it to our children, they need us to keep fighting the most.

Mari-Claire Kay
National Collective