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,


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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


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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The referendum generation vs grumpy old unionism


In twenty years where will Scotland be and what will have changed the country? Many believe it depends on the referendum result. To a great extent that’s true. However, the referendum process has already unleashed a new generation who will be significant in determining Scotland’s political direction. What no one seems to have notice is how one-sided this change has been.

Some call it the ‘movement for independence’. Gerry Hassan calls it the growth of ‘Third Scotland‘ – a Do It Yourself culture of political start-ups distinct from SNP and Labour establishments. A report by Ben Wray suggests that such groups may form the foundation of a new political party. They are the people for whom the referendum discussion has been a catalyst – bringing thousands into or back into the political process.

Yet there is a longer-term significance to Scotland’s generational shift. There are hundreds of talented, creative people campaigning for independence who within a generation will hold influence within Scotland’s public life – in media, arts, politics, academia and business.

To take just 10 examples:

Katie Gallogly-Swan is an articulate organiser and writer with the Common Weal group. She also co-founded a publishing group ‘Northern Renewal’.

Chris Silver is a writer and film-maker. Alongside Jack Foster he has raised over £20,000 to create ‘Scotland Yet‘, a full length film on the referendum campaign.

Cat Boyd is a leading member of Radical Independence, and has made a mark campaigning with the PCS Union.

Amy Westwell is a writer, student and Labour Party activist from Glasgow. She has written some excellent articles on Scotland and the referendum as part of Mair nor a roch wind.

James Foley and Pete Ramand, young writers from Glasgow, published their first book this year: ‘Yes: the radical case for independence‘.

Miriam Brett is an International Relations graduate from Stirling and presented her case for independence at ‘Aye Talks’, which received an excellent reception.

Graeme Cowie is a researcher at the University of Glasgow in constitutional affairs, member of the Liberal Democrats and supporter of independence.

Mairi McFadyen works at the University of Edinburgh and as a leading member of TradYes is highly involved in the National Collective ‘Yestival’ tour.

Kezia Kinder is a student at the University of Glasgow and is a leading organiser with Women for Independence.

Graham Hogg is a recent Strathclyde University graduate in architecture and a key member of the Lateral North group, which has published an ‘Atlas of Productivity‘ on Scotland.

In just a few days I helped make a list of 100 new voices of the independence generation. If someone wished to create an Encyclopaedia of these type of people there would be 1000s of examples to document across the various projects and 30 odd campaign groups for independence.

This tidal wave would meet its match if there was an equivalent enthusiasm and diversity which supports a No vote. There isn’t.

The only young people I’ve met with any passion for the No campaign are well trained members of the Conservative and Labour parties. That’s unsurprising, yet should raise unionist concerns. The recent Conservative youth conference in Edinburgh was cancelled after only 12 people registered. Media warnings by the likes of John Major, Lord Robertson and Baroness Trumpington only highlight this divergence between Scotland’s past and Scotland’s future.

Last week ex-Labour business minister Shriti Vadera compounded these fears by stating that the No Campaign is driven by “grumpy old men”. I wouldn’t be as harsh as Baroness Vadera, but she has a point. In wider society there are hardly any young people making a case for a No vote.

The most passionate supporters of Westminster in Scotland’s media are the likes of Alan Cochrane (in his 60s), Brian Wilson (age 66), Gerald Warner (age 69), Michael Kelly (age 74) and Iain McMillan, now ex-CBI Scotland Director (age 65).

Age brings experience, but the experience of reading this old unionism has been deeply dispiriting. It’s cynicism has done the greatest damage to the union. If you sound like the past and offer no future, it’s no surprise when new generations reject you. That’s what is happening in Scotland.

The only green shoots of a new unionism come from the federalism advocated by the likes of David Torrance. Yet as a concession to greater demands for change, it only highlights a gradual progression to a fully independent Parliament.

Other than David (age 36) you’re hard pushed to find anyone under 40 writing about the future of Scotland from a Unionist perspective. The older generation of Unionist politicians refuse to recognise this sea change, never mind engage with it.

For these reasons the referendum has opened up an irreversible conflict between the aspiration of people in Scotland and the Westminster political establishment. A generation have found their voice and they won’t go away. As said of previous generation, in a debate between the future and ‘grumpy, old men’ it’s change that wins:

“Come mothers and fathers

Throughout the land

And don’t criticize

What you can’t understand

Your sons and your daughters

Are beyond your command

Your old road is

Rapidly agin’

Please get out of the new one

If you can’t lend your hand

For the times they are a-changin’.”

Michael Gray



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A map of Scotland’s democratic wave

The independence referendum has energised Scotland. There is a diverse coalition of organisations campaigning for a Yes vote with 1000s of activists across the country.

Here is a short list of Yes campaign groups as well as independent groups which have enriched the debate:

Yes Scotland


This is the main campaign body for independence supporters. It has established hundreds of Yes local groups which have organised town hall meetings and canvass sessions every week across the country.

Scottish National Party

SNP Annual Conference

The SNP are celebrating 80 years as a party in this referendum year. The SNP is Scotland’s largest political party with over 20,000 members and won a majority in the 2011 Scottish Elections.

Scottish Green Party


The Scottish Green Party is autonomous from Westminster and decided to support independence with an open vote at its 2012 conference. Co-chair Patrick Harvie MSP has played a prominent role in the Yes Campaign by highlighting the environmental, democratic and social opportunities of independence.

colin_fox-quoteScottish Socialist Party

The SSP was established in 1998 and campaigns for an independent, socialist Scottish republic. It received almost 250,000 votes in 2003 and elected 6 members of Parliament. It’s co-spokespeople Sandra Webster and Colin Fox have organised events focused in Scotland’s working class communities.





A number of high profile campaigners for independence are not part of any party or organisation. John Finnie and Jeanne Urquart are independent members of the Scottish Parliament who support independence. A number of high profile voices like Lesley Riddoch, Ian Bell and Derek Bateman all write eloquent pieces on their support.

Radical Independence David+Hayman+Radical+Independence+Conference+uhZ-R72qcP6l

Radical Independence has brought together 1000s of activists and campaigners in favour of an independent Scotland which priorities: i. the environment, ii. peace, iii. social services, iv. democracy, v. equality. Radical independence – which was launched by a savvy, young leadership in 2013 – has held major conferences, launches 21 local groups and held mass canvass sessions recording majority support for independence.

Labour for Independence


LFI was formed by Labour supporters who felt alienated from Labour’s leadership and policy position, and believe that an independent Scotland would do better for Labour’s priorities. Since its launch a range of Labour figures have declared their support for independence including Mary Lockhart, Tommy Shepard, Jeane Freeman, and Sir Charles Gray.  Polls suggest that at least 25% of Labour supporters will vote Yes for independence

Women for Independence


WFI is a campaign organisation to ensure that womens’ voices are heard in the referendum. By listening, engaging, and organising public events, WFI support discussion of issues that impact on women and seek to persuade more women to vote Yes.

National Collective


NC is the creative campaign for an independent Scotland. Its membership of over 2,500 people includes artists and creatives who believe that independence is an opportunity to change Scotland for the better. NC also has local branches in Scotland’s major cities, a successful website, and ambitious plans to tour Scotland this Summer with a ‘Yestival’.

Generation Yes

Generation Yes Campaigns For Independence

GenYes is the youth campaign for independence. All students in Scotland over 16 can vote in the referendum. GenYes is campaigning with a focus on schools and campuses – putting forward the advantages of independence for Scotland’s young people.

Business for Scotland

BfS is a pro-independence business network with over 2000 individual members. It has local groups across Scotland which put forward Scotland’s economic strengths and the opportunities that come with independence to other business people.

Academics for Yes

Pic Bill Fleming. Academics for Scotland photocall

AfY is a group of researchers, academics and lecturers who support independence. Academics for Yes state that independence will benefit the higher education sector in Scotland and provide greater opportunities for Scotland’s economy and people.

Farming for Yes


FfY has members of Scotland’s agricultural and rural sector campaigning for independence. Farming members state that Scotland has unique needs and interests in rural communities which are not catered for at a Westminster level. FfY want Scotland to have a greater voice in Europe, a stronger Common Agricultural Policy payment system and international support for exports from Scotland; and believe this will be achieved with independence.

English Scots for Yes

Independence isn’t about where you come from – it’s about our future. Hundreds of thousands of people move from England to Scotland and many understand that independence is about creating a better society and a better, equal relationship between Scotland and neighbouring nations.

Mums for change 


MfC is a group of mums who believe than an independent Scotland would create a better society. They state that an independent Scotland would expand childcare, protect education services, reinvest money from Trident nuclear weapons, and tackle child poverty.

Scots Asians for Yes


SAfY contains those who have settled in Scotland from the Asian sub-continent. Scottish Asians for Yes support independence and demonstrate how Scotland can be a successful, welcoming and multicultural society after a Yes vote.




Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender for independence ensure that the voice and rights of Scotland’s sexual minority groups are represented with the independence campaign. The group also advocates the inclusion of equality clauses in the written constitution of an independent country so that all within Scotland have equality irrespective of their sexual preference and identity.

Wealthy Nation


Conservative supporters of independence – including former Conservative Party candidates – formed Wealthy Nation to campaign for a Yes vote. Led by historian Michael Fry, Wealthy Nation say that an independent Scotland will ensure civil liberties and create a vibrant economy which will encourage personal entrepreurship.

Scottish Secular Society


The Scottish Secular Society decided to support independence after a poll found over 90% support for a Yes vote within its organisation. The Society support freedom of religion alongside the freedom of a secular state which does not privilege any single view over the other. Independence is an opportunity to create a modern constitutional arrangement for Scotland that enshrines and protects these principles for all.

Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament


The Scottish CND has campaigned for nuclear disarmament for generations. The UK’s major stock of weapons is located a Faslane and Coulport by the Firth of Clyde. The Yes Campaign is resolute in removing these weapons and investing the resource into better services for the people of Scotland. For this reason the CND support independence as a huge opportunity for a more peaceful and just world.

SHYesThe Sunday Herald newspaper

Scottish national Sunday paper declared its support for independence this month in a stirring editorial. The piece, alongside a special illustration by artist Alasdair Gray, declared: “The prize is a better country. It is as simple as that.”

Wings Over Scotland

WOS was set up by journalist Stuart Campbell in 2011 to report on the independence debate. Since then the site has expanded to become one of Scotland’s most popular politics site. Campbell raised over £100,000 from readers to fund the site and campaign in the referendum.

Bella Caledonia


Bella is an online magazine which covers issues of democracy, equality and justice. It attracts tens of thousands of readers, has showcased a range of writers from Scotland and across the world, and support Scottish independence.

Smaller groups

There are also a huge host of smaller Yes groups including:

English Scots for Yes, Wales for Yes, Irish for Yes, Africans for Yes, Polish for independence, Yes Alba, Third Sector for Yes, Lawyers for Yes, Trade Unionists for Yes, Christians for independence, NHS for Yes, Cabbies for Yes, Sport for Yes, etc.


Neutral organisations 

Common Weal

cwfest21Common Weal is a non-party campaign run by the Jimmy Reid Foundation which aims to develop a vision of economic and social progress. It aims to create a society of shared wealth. Common Weal has developed new thinking in a huge range of areas, publishing reports by top academics, writers and thinkers. It has raised the ambitions for Scotland’s future, whether that future is after a Yes or No vote.

20120430090421!Scottish_refugee_council_logoScottish Refugee Council

The SRC published a sensible report entitled ‘Improving the Lives of Refugees in Scotland after the Referendum’. It sets out the direction towards a more humane asylum system. Their AGM, in an informal vote, supported Scottish independence. The Yes Campaign position supports the end to ‘dawn raids’, closing Dungavel Detention Centre and giving asylum seekers the right to work.

Lateral North


Lateral North is a research and design collective which investigates Scotland’s new place and identity in an emerging northern region. This month Lateral North published ‘An Atlas of Productivity’ which maps out Scotland’s resources, strengths and opportunities.

Engender Scotland


Engender Scotland is a feminist organisation that campaigns for equal opportunities for women and men in life, access to resources and powers, and equality of security and freedom from harm. It publishes useful research on gender in a Scottish context.

At their independence debate support for independence rose from 65% to 79%, with only 9% remaining opposed.

So Say Scotland


So Say Scotland are a voluntery group which promotes democracy in Scotland. They held a public assembly to consider how new forms of democracy can give citizens a greater say in their community. In 2014 they launched ‘Wee Play’ so undecided voters can discuss the referendum on independence.

Scottish Global Forum


Scottish Global Forum is an independent think-tank which analyses Scotland’s place in the world. It was launched in 2013 to focus on issues of democracy, international relations, and security and defence. Since then SGF have provided commentary and speeches in national and international media on the international Scotland which is emerging through the referendum.

A National Council for Scotland


The National Council proposal states that the people of Scotland should participate in post-referendum discussions. Politicians in both London and Edinburgh will face important decisions after the vote that will define Scotland’s progress for future decades. The group proposes a ‘Citizens Assembly’ to hear the views of people in Scotland on what decisions should be made.

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