Fresh Green shoots

It’s like the first day of school. Walking through the doors of Craiglockhart Campus, Edinburgh, I’m guided by support staff. Name crossed off. Access granted. Democratic enrolment complete.

Many new faces will enter the Scottish Green Party conference this weekend. Their membership has tripled. The conference was quickly oversubscribed and the challenging responsibility of education in formal party processes will fall to its veteran members.

This burden would be welcomed by any party across the Western world. Most face a spiral of declining membership correlating to deep apathy and distrust. Scotland – especially the pro-independence fraternity – have bucked the trend. So the Green Party, which advocated a Yes vote, swept up a large section of a new generation of activists into its membership. Over 6000 members and growing.

This is the most significant development on the green-left political axis since the 2003 breakthrough when the Greens won 7 MSPs in the Scottish Parliament. Since then they been relegated to 2 members – Alison Johnstone and Partick Harvie for Edinburgh and Glasgow respectively. Will the membership increase lead to electoral success? For the Greens this will remain a challenge of relevance and resources.

Their status as outsiders and radicals gives the Greens a purpose – but also limits its appeal. As the SNP found for decades, peripheral status means you’re unlikely to be taken seriously as a potential government by many voters. Even the ‘2nd vote green strategy’ adopted in Scotland has cemented the Greens as a creative accessory for Labour or SNP supporters with a left wing tint. Constituency seats remain beyond the horizon.

However the Greens do have strengths in purpose and coherence. They have a determined agenda to combat inequality, environmental destruction, corporate inequality and centralisation. Unlike individuals in other parties, they’re not afraid to say it. Similarly they are upfront when it comes to tax and spending. For stronger public services and to reduce poverty tax and social social requires reform. In Green Party plans this will require higher taxes on big businesses and the wealthy. They don’t duck these tough choices. Unsurprisingly the Green also know what environmental side they are on. They oppose oil, coal, fracking and nuclear in favour of renewables production in tidal, wave, wind, solar, biomass and energy efficiency. In response opponents charge them with economic naivety and Utopianism.

It’s true that Scotland reaps huge benefits from fossil fuels in revenue, jobs, skills and energy (even if the fruits have been unevenly distributed). It’s also true that few countries also benefit from a vast array of renewable energy potential and the research base to develop these opportunities for sustainable jobs and cheaper energy. Of course the added necessity of saving the planet from climate change seals the deal for those who advocate a Green New Deal.

It’s this agenda which has changed government. The SNP seized on renewables expansion as an example of Scotland’s economic potential. Where does this changing climate leave the Green program before the 2015 and 2016 elections?

With fluctuating polls it if difficult to determine whether the Greens will surge or stagnate. Yet the membership boost may provide the Greens with resources and activists to launch their strongest campaign yet by May 2016. The threat of fracking contracts – imposed by Westminster – will also create a passionate environmental dividing line to grow Green support.

The potential increase in Green support may pose a challenge of future coalitions at Holyrood. Greens in Ireland found this difficult and now carry toxic baggage as a result. Greens in Germany enjoyed spells of considerable influence and recently dragged Merkel’s government to bin nuclear power.

Where will the Greens be by 2016? Those gathered in Edinburgh are hopeful that the Green surge is about to begin.

Michael Gray

@GrayInGlasgow

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What now? 10 of the best responses to Scotland’s referendum vote

kevin williamson (Bella Caledonia)

wrote a simple, sombre considered column on the emotions of the result.

jenny lindsay (poet, performer, campaigner)

urged everyone to take a deep breath and calm down. Instead of launching into a continued campaign, Jenny states that all Yes groups should go through a sensible process of re-organisation now that the referendum has taken place.

This will make the groups transparent, democratic and more effective in meeting their aims.

sarah beattie smith (Green Party, Edinburgh)

called on Yes Campaigners to join a wider coalition for change and to “build that new Scotland, not to build a bunker.”

Responding to a natural desire for the ‘45%’ to stick together, she explains that there is a need to “keep fighting for the Scotland that I believe the vast majority of people want to see – free of nuclear weapons, where poverty is a thing of the past and where we care for people and planet for now and into the future.”

zara kitson (So Say Scotland)

reflects on the result, the response and reasons to be positive.

“It was up to our generation to learn from this, not be beaten by it. If we threw in the towel now – that’s it, goodbye democracy, equality, social justice, and any other progressive change we might work for. With this in mind – I reminded people this didn’t mean it was over – perhaps even a new kind of beginning…”

lesley riddoch (broadcaster, researcher)

writes that the democratic engagement can continue and that is can change Scotland for the better.

irvine welsh (writer)

says that this “glorious failure could yet be Scotland’s finest hour” with a new generation educated and engaged in politics for the first time in decades.

Robin McAlpine (Common Weal)

decides to get stuck into the priorities for a post-No Scotland. He explains why it’s important to get over the result and focus on improving campaign organisations, developing a strategy to win and having a strong policy program.

kate higgins (blogger)

says that it’s time for a break. After a long campaign in the media, online, on street corners, it’s time for some gardening. Kate’s fed up with gender representation in the Scotland’s media, but also thinks there’s plenty of positive life left in Scottish politics and independence.

derek bateman (broadcaster)

argues that constitutional chaos is continuing. He urges the Yes Campaign to accept the result and now campaign for maximum devolution for Scotland and watch the unraveling of Westminster due to the ‘English question’.

loki (rap artist and campaigner)

draws a line under the Yes Campaign which he urges to engage in the new debate for social and democratic change. He says that campaign groups need to reform themselves to reflect the values they stand for and build bridges with people who previously rejected them.

Groups and parties

‘the 45% group’

Many Yes Campaigners sought solidarity in ‘#the45′ & ‘#the45plus’ to recognise the 1.6 million people who voted for independence. This has encouraged discussion about ‘what next?’ with most determined to continue to campaign for independence in the future. It has faced criticism for appearing exclusive.

national collective

An editorial announced that National Collective will continue as a home of culture and politics. Criticising the media coverage and political threats made during the campaign, NC states that it will continue to support change in Scotland.

women for independence

WFI wrote in the Sunday Herald that they’ll be staying actively involved in empowering women’s voices in Scottish politics. A conference has been planned for October in Perth to decide the next steps, which is already vastly oversubscribed.

radical independence

The left-wing campaign for independence has announced a 3rd conference at the Marriot in Glasgow this November. It has attracted over 6,000 attendees on facebook.

newsnet scotland

Online news source Newsnet Scotland has launched a campaign to encourage the devolution of broadcasting to Scotland. The petition has already attracted over 21,000 signatures. This follows long-running criticism of the BBC’s handling of the referendum. Many voices are calling for the TV license to be ignored in Scotland in protest.

independence supporting parties

The SNP, Greens, and the Scottish Socialist Parties have all reported dramatic surges in their membership numbers.

As of Monday night, the SNP has attracted an incredible 20,000 new members to become the UK’s 3rd largest political party with over 45,000 in total.

The Green Party in Scotland has more than doubled its membership in four days. 3000 new members have joined to push the total over 5000.

The SSP have attracted 2000 new members.

labour

The Labour party is hosting its national conference in Manchester. Having previously attacked Yes Campaigners as ‘blood and soil nationalists’, Labour leaders are now asking for cooperation with Yes Campaign groups.

Margaret Curran MP has announced a plan to visit 10 of the most Yes supporting areas in Scotland – areas in Labour constituencies in Glasgow, North Lanarkshire and West Dumbartonshire – to understand why they voted Yes.

Labour are also in face off with David Cameron, who has added ‘English Votes on English Laws’ to the program for constitutional reform. Labour are worried they will lose their Scottish MPs for Westminster votes.

David Cameron

The morning after the referendum result the UK Prime Minister said that more powers for Scotland would occur “in tandem” with reform for England. This was not mentioned before the referendum. It is required to ensure that Conservative MPs support the proposal for Scotland and it benefits the Conservatives chances of winning the next General Election.

British nationalists

British loyalists ran riot in Glasgow city centre on Friday night in response to the referendum result. Images showed members of the National Front and British National Party making nazi salutes and assaulting members of the public.

An electrical generator outside of the Yes supporting Sunday Herald newspaper was set on fire. Police Scotland have launched an enquiry into the unrest. 15 arrests have been made.

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What has the independence referendum ever done for us?

In the spirit of Monty Python, what has the independence referendum ever done for us?

Except giving more people than ever a vote on Scotland’s future. (4.3 million)

Except giving 100,000 16 and 17 year olds a vote for the first time.

Except launching a huge democratic wave of public meetings across the country.

Except bringing people together in over 200 local campaign groups across Scotland.

Except launching Women for Independence to campaign for a more equal society.

Except forcing offers of further devolution over income tax and housing support.

Except establishing National Collective as a creative movement for political change.

Except putting Scotland on the world stage like never before.

Except leading to Radical Independence as a vehicle to re-engage abandoned communities with political opportunities.

Except reinforcing Scotland’s diversity and the political rights of all communities.

Except bringing over 3,000 businesspeople from Small and Medium Sized Enterprises into Business for Scotland.

Except guaranteeing devolution to the Shetlands, Orkney and the Western Islands; and thereby revitalising discussion of local democracy.

Except launching Common Weal as a serious program to improve Scotland’s economic and social model with some of the best Scottish public policy research in decades.

Except creating a generation of media and digitally literate citizens through Bella Caledonia and Newsnet Scotland.

Except inspiring Generation Yes to give young people a voice in determining their future.

Except encouraging demands for further devolution in the North of England and the rest of the UK.

Except starting Mair Nor a Roch Wind and Labour for Independence for new independent thinking within the Scottish Labour Party.

Except committing the Scottish Government to expanding childcare, a fairer asylum system, a rising minimum wage and a written constitution.

Except prompting the Scottish Global Forum to analyse Scotland’s place, role and future in global affairs.

Except broadening the belief in political change.

Except forming N56 as a leading economic think-tank to consider Scotland’s economic challenges and opportunities.

Except making the long held ambition of nuclear disarmament a real possibility.

Except causing a revival of cultural thinking from the architectural collaborations of Lateral North; to the feature length film Scotland Yet; to the satire of Lady Alba, Greg Moodie and Dateline Scotland; to the cultural critiques of Northern Renewal; to the lyrics of Loki, Stanley Odd, Lou Hickey, Karine Polwart, Paolo Nutini, and Amy MacDonald; to the upsurge in creative design; to the photography saga of ‘Documenting Yes';to a Yestival tour of the entire country.

Except creating a new library of towards 100 books and publications – as a new world needs new books.

Except bringing all of these beautiful, diverse, empowered people together in a movement to change where we live and create a better world.

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People of Scotland: 10 gift suggestions for my 23rd birthday

It’s my 23rd birthday tomorrow, so I’ve made a list of gift suggestions. You may notice a running theme.

1) I’d like to remove nuclear weapons from the Firth of Clyde, Scotland and preferably Britain.

2) I’d like to spend the money saved on those weapons on public services.

3) I’d like Scotland to get the government the people of Scotland vote for.

4) I’d like that government to create a progressive tax system.

5) I’d like the social security system to support people who need support.

6) I’d like a living wage to support people who currently can’t afford food, rent and electricity.

7) I’d like a written constitution to reform our democracy and ensure our civil liberties.

8) I’d like asylum-seekers and refugees to have the right to work and be removed from detention and degradation.

9) I’d like to establish a national investment fund from offshore revenue to invest in renewable energy infrastructure.

10) I’d like a party on the 18th of September every year to celebrate the day Scotland voted for independence.

The Scottish & UK Governments have kindly set up polling booths across the country to help with delivery. (£0 P&P)

Thanks in advance.

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A letter to my grandparents

Dear grandparents,

Thank you for the love and care you have shown me throughout my life. I’m a much better person for it.

As you all know – from family dinners to reunions – I’ve been campaigning for an independent Scotland over the past 18 months.

For all of you that is perhaps a comparatively short time. For me it has been a substantial part of my life.

In the last 60 years you have seen this country transformed several times over. You witnessed the rubble, the shortages and the rejoicing of the end of war. You lived through the birth of the great British welfare state institutions that followed. You heard the building and then dismantling of Scotland’s old industries. You, like your children’s generation, were then powerless as politicians of all Westminster parties left the people behind.

Within that long memory the next week will be a small yet significant blip on Scotland’s story. It wasn’t the constitution that mattered when bombs forced you out of Clydebank, or when late nights created your business, or when you brought my Mother and Father to life.

The constitution has always been in the background of these Scottish stories. If I’d been born in an early time this wouldn’t matter to me in quite the same way. But just as we are gifted our families, we are also gifted our time in history. For young people in Scotland is it this decision that will shape our lives.

Despite some cynicism, Scotland today is a remarkable, beautiful, prosperous country. It has so much in its resources, its talents, its people – even though these are imperfectly shared. It has such a great share of so many precious assets – from oil to fishing to research to renewables to culture – that it seems ridiculous to ask whether we can make a success of independence. Of course we could.

But the question for generations that follow us will be whether it was right, whether we should become independent.

Opinions are always shaped by families. Our family has never based its happiness on wealth. I grew up learning from you and my parents that common humanity matters more than profit, power or privilege. And so I want a Scotland whose society at home and international influence is based on similar values – a desire to do good and provide opportunity to all.

I don’t see that at the moment.

In such a wealthy country is it right that so many families have been forced to foodbanks? Is it right that benefits sanctions mean the ill and disabled feel threatened? Should children and pensioners be hurt by fuel poverty in a country overflowing with energy wealth?

For me such deep inequality cannot be moral. The shame of this inequality is evidence that the society that your generation and your parents generation fought for has been abandoned by the political class. The parties of government that control our tax and social security system no longer look out for the majority of people.

Scotland can do better. Other European countries like Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Germany all prove that we can reduce poverty and inequality, while maintaining a strong, diverse economy. For that reason voting Yes is a moral decision.

Internationally, does the UK treat others as we would wish to be treated ourselves?

In your life time you will have witnessed many British wars. From the end of war in Europe, to the descent of the British Empire, to prolonged occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq.

While the world is still dangerous and unstable, I cannot accept that selling weapons to dictatorships who torture their people is moral. I cannot accept that bombing and occupations – which result in vast civilian casualties – make us safer. They don’t.

An independent Scotland will play a humane role in the world based less on war and empire and more on peace and diplomacy. For that reason voting Yes is a moral decision.

It will be these decisions that determine my generation’s place in history. For Scotland this is a crossroads.

George Osborne has already promised £25 billion in further cuts to public services. All major parties in London are dedicated to spending £100 billion on more nuclear missiles. The difference is clear.

Due to the Westminster voting system, however Scotland votes we will be stuck with a political culture of elitism and corruption. It’s for these reasons – a lack of trust – that for most of my life the common response to politics has been apathy. People are frustrated and feel like there is nothing they can do. This Thursday there is.

This referendum is that opportunity for my generation. Thousands of people across Scotland have joined the campaign to create a democracy that puts people first. Just as your parents generation moved from a broken world in 1945 to a better society, today Scotland can move from a broken politics to a better society.

A public opinion poll released this week found that a majority of people who are 18-25, 26-35 and 36-55 support a Yes vote for independence. Those over 55 are more likely to be against.

The vote on Thursday will determine Scotland’s future.

Ultimately the future of our generation is in your hands.

Love your grandson,

Michael

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Billy Connolly on Nelson Mandela – Glasgow 2014

0“Imagine what Nelson Mandela would think about us all here tonight. All colours, side by side. Everyone saying the same thing in so many different languages.

Equality is for all of us. Freedom is for all of us.

Here’s a song Commonwealth soldiers sung going into battle during World War I.

It was taken by one of our Scottish poets and turned into a song about the end of war and the start of freedom.

Hamish Henderson wrote these words in Scots, but the message is for everyone.

Freedom Come All Ye.”

- Billy Connolly,

Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony

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Our broadcasting corporation: it’s time to change the channel

broken_tv_backdrop_3

It’s time to change the channel – not to a new show but to a new broadcaster. Beyond the referendum, there is an opportunity to construct a new Scottish Broadcasting Corporation. Continue reading

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