Team Scotland

scotlandBy Robin McAlpine

I walked from a community centre in south Edinburgh talking to a grandmother who’d just been at a public meeting I was talking at. She told me she’d never been involved in politics but that she’d been out putting leaflets through doors (the older generation always tell me its for their grandkids but I suspect they’ve been itching to do something subversive for ages…) “And I’ll tell you what” she told me conspiratorially “I’m not going back to my sofa when this is all over”.

She’s Team Scotland.

A man in his early 30s emailed me to say he’d been reading Common Weal stuff and articles on Bella and National Collective and he wrote (in his words) “I can’t remember being interested in politics like this, I’ve not been this excited since I was a teenager”.

He’s Team Scotland.

I spoke in Lasswade last week and on the panel with me was Jill Murphy of Business for Scotland. She admitted nervously to me before the meeting that this was only the second time in her life she’d spoken in public (the first time being the previous evening when she’d been heckled by Better Together activists). She started by telling the audience that she was nervous and hadn’t really done this before but that she thought it was too important so she had to get over her nerves and speak. She was great.

She’s Team Scotland.

I did a debate in Broughton High School. Afterwards one of the sixth year pupils had to walk me back to get my jacket. She told me on the way that she had thought it was all too complicated and scary to make a decision on independence (I wonder who set up an organisation to encourage that reaction in citizens…). But she said she decided that she better get over it, get on the internet and read for herself. She’s not scared any more.

She’s Team Scotland.

And I’ve got a pal locally I met in the street. He’s English, ex-army, doesn’t believe that wind turbines really work and believes that Scottish independence would be a complete disaster.

But he’s Team Scotland too.

The SNP has promised that the terms of Scotland’s independence will be negotiated by ‘Team Scotland’, an inclusive group not just made up of SNP politicians. Three cheers to that. But in my opinion the future of the SNP and the future of Scottish politics (in the event of a Yes vote) will be defined by how the SNP goes about creating a Team Scotland.

The Yes campaign has been carried by neither back-room strategists at Holyrood nor paid politicians. It has been carried by a mass of citizens who have set up local and national groups and worked incredibly hard (almost all unpaid). Politicians are keen on saying ‘it was the humble party worker who won it…’ – but they add an unspoken coda of “…by delivering our incredibly clever leaflets while we won the campaign in the TV studios’. Not this time. Citizens are out there delivering their own leaflets and devising and running their own local campaigns. The TV studios are, like the weather, a subject only mentioned when we fancy a moan about something predictably grim.

The UK chattering classes have been wondering what a real, mass grass-roots campaign might look like in modern, professionalised politics. Impotent is their usual conclusion. Well come on up and we’ll show you. The old feudal dance where councilor doths cap to MP, MP to Minister, Minister to Prime Minister and Prime Minister to corporate CEO may well continue apace even here in Scotland. But it’s not winning Scotland.

The cleverer of Scotland’s commentators and journalists have picked this up. They’re not yet sure how to respond (if news is being made in town halls, how do you report it?), but they’re starting to get it. The Marie Antoinette Media is meanwhile clueless, has no idea what is going on outside the window. “Let them eat this shit” they say while covering their front pages with mad lords and well-trained think tanks spewing out apocalypses no-one believes.

“Why. Isn’t. It. WORKING!” they fume, Alan Cochrane and David Torrance becoming more spiteful and less coherent with each word they write.

“Why. Won’t. These. Fucking. Scots. STAY DOWN!” bleat exasperated Westminster types who fully expect to watch citizens kneel by their fields in deference when the Ministerial limo approaches.

I have been all over the place talking in town halls. At each I’ll often catch up on the gossip from other speakers who’ve done other meetings. The number of people I’ve met here or anywhere else who want Scottish independence so we can quickly replicate Westminster’s system of feudal deference can be counted on the fingers of no hands. If there is anyone among the leadership of any political party in Scotland who thinks that we’re all just ‘useful idiots’ removing one political elite just so we can replace it with another, I suspect 2015 and 2016 are going to be a shock.

If the SNP thinks it might be ‘helpful’ to sort-of just write the first draft of a constitution they’ve promised the people can write themselves; if they think it might be safer just to leave it to professionals like themselves, very serious trouble lies ahead. People you might not expect and whom the SNP does not want as an enemy have already talked about rebellion.

There are lots of rumours about which of their opponents the SNP leadership is planning to invite to join its negotiating team – Danny Alexander, Jim Murphy, Gordon Brown, Alastair Darling. Someone even told me straight-faced that Lord George Robertson was going to get the call (though that was before his meltdown in New York). It is assumed that to the ‘cream’ of Scotland’s political class will be added a trade union baron, the CBI chief, a charity boss and church minister. The press release will call that Scotland.

Now I’m a big believer in the merits of learning your trade. I would have Scotland’s negotiations led by the best negotiators we can find. Some will be in political parties but many will be in trade unions, the business sector and the legal community. But – and this is a big but – while they may be the best team to negotiate, they are not Scotland. What they negotiate – not how but what – must reflect Scotland and not only its elite if we are to truly escape the politics of ‘Great’ Britain.

I’m going to ask some of our experts on participatory democracy if they will write something for us on how to construct a participative negotiating process. I think there should be some kind of ‘national council’ of people created in some way that reflects real Scotland, that this council should call on all ideas for how to create a new Scotland, it’s constitution, the fabric of its democracy. That it should produce proposals for negotiating positions – and that it is these proposals that form the basis of what our negotiating team negotiates.

As people start to see the hope of a Yes victory, there is much talk about post-Yes politics. There are three rough camps. One hopes to change the SNP into a radical reforming party. One hopes Labour will rediscover itself. And one hopes that a new political party will rise from the ashes of the debate. If the SNP cannot shake its centralising, top-down tendencies, if it begins the new Scotland as “welcome to the new boss, same as the old boss” then I predict an immediate flow of people towards the second two options. It is a flow that could quickly become a flood.

Demobbing an army and telling it: ‘thanks for your sacrifice, we’ve got it from here’ is a notoriously good way to get your head chopped off. If they hand the design of my country over to a ‘Team Scotland’ every member of which comes from the top five per cent of society, if it proceeds on the basis of ‘what would a corporate CEO do?’, if it seeks to stuff the military’s mouth with gold, if it chooses a currency union the terms of which suit only RBS, if it does SSE’s bidding and traps us in the UK’s dire energy market without discussion or debate, if it behaves like power always behaves, I’ll be reaching for my axe.

Oh citizens, it doesn’t have to be like this anymore. You are Team Scotland. Don’t wait. Pick up the ball and start running.



Categories: Commentary

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40 replies

  1. Robin,

    The more you speak, the more sense you make son. And another thing, that idea you had about Scotland deciding where and to who in England they pay their share of the debt was just brilliant. I don’t see you on twitter. I wish you did find time to sow these seeds of thought to as many people as possible by occasionally dropping some of ‘thought bombs’ on there.

    Keep up the sterling work. It is so inspiring to see your compassion married to common sense produce such egalitarian rhetoric.

  2. I find myself in agreement with everything said here!
    A useful way of proceeding could be to look to the Iceland model for crowd-writing a constitution (whilst learning from them about how to avoid the old elites usurping the end of the process).

  3. Well said Robin!

  4. Reblogged this on Of Men and Markets and commented:
    Robin McAlpine, laying out a new future with the sovereignty of the people at its heart.

  5. Negotiations with the UK Government, post-independence will (mostly) be conducted by civil servants. Who are a rather more diverse and freethinking bunch than they’re usually given credit for being, if that helps.

  6. I want Robin McAlpine on the negotiating team!!!

  7. Interesting enough but I don’t recognise the SNP you seek to describe. But then again those who climb onto a team when it is beginning to win very often are not fully appreciative of the decades of effort and discipline by thousands of dedicated and unpaid enthusiasts that got it to this place. – and who have welcomed with very open arms everybody who has come to join the cause. It hasn’t always been right and it hasn’t always been clever but it has been dogged,determined and unbreakable in the face of massive opposition and I don’t enjoy being insulted by someone I thought was on the same side as I am. The elected government of an independent Scotland will determine how its constitution is written. It will seek wide opinion and wide agreement over a wide range of people

    • I agree with you Will! I must say that we don’t want the talk of in fighting before we even get Independence! Please give the SNP respect . We would not be in this position if it wasn’t for the SNP! Knowing the party I’m sure they will be inclusive after the referendum . They have said that.

    • “those who climb onto a team when it is beginning to win”

      I hardly think that’s a fair description of Robin. Robin’s work with the Reid Foundation and the Common Weal has been pretty instrumental in getting people who weren’t already on board to back a Yes vote.

    • Just a thought… Why does the ” elected government of an independent Scotland” or indeed anywhere have to be elected from the usual self selected elite? Can anyone give me one good reason why representatives should not be chosen by lot and thus be truly representative of age, class, education, race, disability etc?

  8. Team Scotland is already in place with all the Yes groups throughout the country. Colin Fox made similar points at the Yes Benarty meeting on 14 March 2014. The video is available on http://www.yesbenarty.org on the events page (The bottom video as he talks about it during the question and answer session late on in the video – from about 1 hour 30 minutes onwards.) Colin says “on the 20th September there’s going to be a convention organised in Edinburgh … Saturday morning get yourselves to Edinburgh, because we’re not going to be demobilised, they’re not going to go to London and negotiate behind our backs … and that convention will make sure that the people of Scotland elect nominees to the negotiating team.”

  9. Little bit hard on the SNP there. We are where we are because of their leadership and strategy. The party is up against the entire media, the British establishment, raw corporate power and a collection of mandarins, chancers and an assortment of people in the know and on the make, who will do and say almost anything to maintain the status quo. It has to be from the top down until after the referendum. Any disagreement, discourse or people being off message will be portrayed as disarray.
    After the referendum that is a different matter. I would prefer the implementation of a standard off the shelf constitution, valid for a period of say 5 years, whilst civic Scotland outlines and agrees the proposals for a purely Scottish constitution. This would in the interim period give fast guidelines as to how the country will be governed and give citizens rights to challenge abuses.
    Concerning the negotiations. There will have to be political representation of some sort. It must and can only be representatives of Scottish parties who are given a place at the negotiating table. This means no Labour, con or Lib Dem representatives’ as they are Westminster parties and will continue to be so until at least 2016. As for trade unionists they are no better (in my view) than the politicians and most are subservient to the UK organization. I have faith in the SNP leadership as I do beleive that they genuinley have the interests of Scotland at heart.

  10. We can start simple negotiations now by putting ideas up for question. To begin with I can not see all the negotiations being completely sorted out for at least ten years at least until the decommissioning of trident is worked out. But that is not as important as laying down a basic principle that neither Scotland nor the Remainder of the U K gain at the expense of the other. Once we accept this principle a lot more can be suggested and discussed.

  11. While we certainly need to make sure people on the “losing side” (is there such a thing with a Yes vote? Well, those with vested interests, I suppose…) are involved in creating the new constitution, there are certain people that I would not welcome in a Team Scotland. Those who have been most prominent in the attempts to deceive the people of Scotland are not, in my opinion, the kind of people I trust to make the best case for Scotland. That includes people like Alistair Carmichael, Danny Alexander, and that Anas Sarwar.

  12. This is exactly what I’m hoping for too.

    It fits with ideas of making local government more local and having proper devolution of power from parliament to local authorities and to communities.

    For me the biggest danger in achieving independence is that we have the same old ‘bosses’ and ‘elites’ take control, so it is very encouraging to hear all these reports of people becoming active.

  13. Yep, that’s why at the start of the year, for the first time in my life, I got up off my backside and joined my local Yes group. Great bunch of people from nearly all political persusions made me feel very wecome, despite me being a rank amateur at this business. So far so good, with most people I meet being positive, and hopefully going to vote Yes. And aye, I’m doing it for my great-grandchildren, but also for myself, as at least I will be able to say, that although a very small cog in a very large peoples movement, I did my bit, to make our country, Scotland, a better place to live, for all of us.

  14. Robin agree with so much here ,and also disagree with lots of it as well.
    I have heard you speak many times in this Campaign and recently had the pleasure of a discussion in Johnstone.
    I am of the left and proudly so ,however one of the recurring mistakes by the Left is the great ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
    In recent times the Left made inroads into Holyrood then along comes the entire Tommy factor and the left splits into SSP and Solidarity and Scargill makes an appearance then Galloway pretending to be of the left.
    It usually starts with some trivial point of order and before you know it all out war has been declared ripping up the movement and setting the Left back for ages.
    There are some realities and the biggest one is this ,it has been the SNP virtually on its own that has taken us to here and now.
    Yes many that before were not politicised or aware have now become active ,not because of Common Weal or, Solidarity ,or SSP or ,any other leftist group.
    RIC would not have come into being without the heavy lifting of the SNP who for years carried the torch.
    They remain in power and in a majority that was never meant to happen because all along the way they have kept their word to the Scottish people.
    One of their setbacks along the way was the 79 group ,that set back the SNP for years that is reality and no colourful rewriting of history can change that fact.
    So when the SNP say it will be inclusive and all sections of Scottish society will be included i trust them.
    This close to the chance of Independence is not a time for our so called intellectual left to be creating any divisions where no strife exists.
    Let us all keep our eye on the main prize otherwise the Unionists and their attack dogs in the MSM will absolutely and thoroughly dived and defeat us.
    Remember who the enemy is ,it is not the SNP it is the ruling British establishmemnt and their corrupt vile curs in the finance sector and the MSM

    • Very well said.

      The SNP ain’t broke, so let’s not fix it. ( in fact it’s working very well indeed.)

      Until the SNP is broke, the Left should just keep quiet and put their shoulder back to the wheel.

      Let’s get through the green light first.

      Then we can decide either to go straight on or turn left or right.

      But now is NOT the time to be even thinking about it.

      So, Left, please take note.

      There, that’s my tuppence worth.

      • I agree ! We haven’t even got Independence yet and some folk are creating dissent ! It’s been a long slow slog for the SNP , let’s at least give them time to enact their plans . They are the only ones for 80 years, who have had Scotland’s best at heart. When I joined nearly 40 years ago I knew there were different political views within the SNP but the goal was left of centre and Independence ! They are more left of centre now than Labour ! Let’s caw canny , support each other and vote YES !

    • Robin,

      I was trying to articulate how I felt about the ideas you expressed but Rod does it beautifully so I will add my voice to his asking for caution and for us not to set the post-independence cart before the independence-horse actually makes it to the finishing line in one piece.

  15. If the SNP thinks it might be ‘helpful’ to sort-of just write the first draft of a constitution they’ve promised the people can write themselves; if they think it might be safer just to leave it to professionals like themselves, very serious trouble lies ahead. ”

    There are very good reasons why a short-term constitution needs be in place as soon as possible after a Yes vote. Lallans Peat Worrier puts it best, I think . .

    http://lallandspeatworrier.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/articles-of-disunion.html

  16. I have enjoyed Robin McAlpine’s contributions, but not this one, at a critical stage in the campaign when we need strong leadership – something we are privileged to have in the SNP – and a disciplined political party, sadly not something very visible in Labour.

    Personally I will wait for a cock – up before sniping since so far we’ve been well served. Labour wants to decentralise power from Holyrood in the event of a NO which in effect will emasculate our Parliament and protect Westminster. Only after a YES should we seriously begin to work out a Scandic model or such like.

  17. I think as part of applauding Team Scotland, we shouldn’t be afraid of also applauding Orkney Shetland and the Western Isles in getting more devolution within Scotland. I think it’s a mistake to see their efforts to get more powers as a threat. Of course, it is being used by others to try to bolster BT, but the principle of a modern Scotland that is proudly decentralised can only be good in reassuring everyone in Scotland that they have nothing to fear from independence. And not just the Isles, I think greater local control should be the principle we apply across the board. The charge that people are only swopping control from London for control from Edinburgh will be used by BT more and more between now and September and it is important that we don’t allow ourselves to be characterised in this way by BT.

    • I think if you lived in the some of the isles and were subject to their serial incompetence you would take a much more jaundiced approach to their empowerment.

  18. From its first minority government to the current one with an overall majority, the SNP have run the country on a shoestring, paring away and reducing waste. Don’t let’s return to the Westminster model of profligacy, PPI, PPP and uncosted policy. The team we have now are professional, well qualified and dedicated. They may split to other parties of their choosing after independence, but I hope the electorate will see their qualities and re-elect them. We need a well-run democracy without the garden wall gossip, intrigue and sleaze that seems to pervade Westminster.

  19. Fantastic stuff from Robin, now we need ideas on how to enable all citizens of Scotland to be part of Team Scotland.

  20. A fine article. For those suggesting this is too hard on the SNP, I beg to differ. The SNP cannot and will not be able to provide enough votes to deliver independence. They’ve been decent in government (although in my opinion some pretty major mistakes have been made) and the comparison with the last Labour / Lib Dem government in Holyrood is stark. But they aren’t getting a majority of votes in a high turnout election. The team negotiating the terms of our independence cannot be a handpicked SNP team, it must represent all of Scotland.

    To win the vote the SNP have to be de-emphasised. They’re important but they’re not all the campaign. The reason why Better Together keep trying to say that this is just purely an SNP obsession isn’t because they’re stupid (although they are) it’s because identifying independence as a purely party matter stops those who have some sympathy for the idea of independence but a dislike of the SNP switching their vote. Strategically the SNP part in the Yes campaign has to be downplayed.

    So the first part is winning the referendum. Everything is secondary to that at the moment.

    But following a Yes vote an inclusive drafting of the constitution, and an inclusive negotiating team is not anti-SNP. It’s about building the nation. That has to start in the correct manner. And I hate to say it, but it must include some from Labour who have been the shrillest voices against, and it must include representation from the businesses who are fighting tooth and nail against independence. But it also must be subject to the scrutiny of the people and their participation too. We can’t have the basis of our independence built on vested interests looking out for their piece of the pie.

    Post-yes is going to be fraught and it has to be about building consensus unless we think those who’ve lost will just disappear. That isn’t going to happen, and I (and I assume pretty much everyone else) don’t want it to happen. The new Scotland has to be for them as much as those who have voted Yes. The way to do that is by listening to them, including them in the process, and respecting them. The way to sow some deep-rooted division in our new nation is to ignore them.

    • I absolutely concur with this.

    • I agree completely that many more parties (not just political) than the SNP have to represented in a post-yes negotiation but why should that include people and organisations who have vehement in their opposition to the idea and, some would say, to the Scottish people on the whole during this campaign? The political parties of Scotland – Labour, LibDem, Green, Conservative, Socialist and SNP – need to be represented in the short term but we don’t need the likes of the Alexanders, Robertsons, Lamonts, Darlings & Browns getting their toe in when there are perfectly able members of those same parties who have not been so anti-Scotland in recent months. Likewise business needs a voice but why should that be the CBI which clearly does not speak for all businesses in Scotland.

      But let’s win the referendum first,eh?

  21. The SNP have done a brilliant job, holding fast and making the referendum a reality. I don’t think any of us will ever forget that. However the Yes vote is going to be delivered by an unprecedented team of people across Scotland, from all walks of life and background. A great deal of this mass movement is made up of those of us who had lost all faith in the political establishment. At last, we are realising the power we did not know we had. To become the inclusive society we are working towards, means finding a new way to create a consensus that does not simply require the electorate to switch off after victory.

    I have read of corporate structures across Europe, that include members of the workforce on the board of directors. If the grassroots Yes movement can be seen as the workforce of independence, then it is right and proper that it has fair, non-partisan, representation post-Sept 19th.

  22. Interesting as always. I’m a lead Yes volunteer (as designated) and have sent over 1000 emails and have received over 1500, have housed over 100,000 leaflets/newspapers and other campaign materials before our teams have spread them over the area, been out working almost every Saturday morning for the last 18 months with many many brilliant, interesting, eclectic committed first time political volunteers. The above only represents a fraction of the work that has gone in to our local campaign.

    I have also received less than 10 email from either MSP’s or MP’s. None of these was them starting a conversation, all were in response to us providing them advice. This is our campaign and we are winning it.

  23. Love this piece, although I think all 3 options re political parties look good and are not mutually exclusive. Negotiating team for Scotland MUST be 50% women.

  24. My team Scotland well,me of course and you and your neighbours,my neighbours,I should say we will all be team Scotland.Good thought creating article.I always send it to Facebook,Twitter,Google,Linklin and a few other places,helps stimulate conversations.

  25. I am thinking that the general election in 2015 the Yes vote winners will need to have 59 candidates who are wanting the best deal for Scotland. Since it is for our childrens future should we not have at least 30 women and representation from throughout our country. It would not be silly or divisive if we consider who we would want or should this be need now.

  26. For the first time in more years than I care to remember I feel positive about politics. I no longer want to talk party politics. People politics is how the Yes will win. And the urge is there. We know what is right and good. We all do. It is instilled in us. We have to let that be our guiding force. Unity not division.

    Governments around the globe have disenfranchised their citizens by being answerable to banks and corporations, by pitting themselves against each other and dissolving the will and hope of their nations. They have lost any sight of what democracy should be. Westminster is just one of those.

    We must not become another that blows the chance of real change through the potential for a new evolved democracy. Truly from the people. It is the people who are sick and tired and disgusted with the way politicians have conducted themselves in governments going back generations now, regardless of who was in/behind the seats of power.
    Citizens the world over are looking for change. For a new type of government, where a new dialectic may begin.

    If we become caught up in petty squabbles over existing party politics we lose sight of what this is about and what could be created here. Scotland’s citizens are the change. It is from the roots the rest will grow.

    My heart goes out to the communities in the other parts of the UK who do not have this chance. Whose lives are also being torn in two by greed and the power of lobby. And not just the UK.

    If we do this properly others may look to see that if Scotland can manage its own affairs in the face of all negativity and in a way that reflects the essence of democracy with representation across the board, then others may believe that they too can see change. And feel hope again in their lives. They may look to us as an example of what is possible with the will and the integrity to be better than what has been.

    I hope for a brave new Scotland and for this opportunity to be part of creating a better world for all of us. For the here and now. And for our children and grandchildren. Without party politics and elitism becoming the norm. Please don’t let us blow this by becoming what we abhor.

  27. Of course it won’t be possible to tell all the folk who have been mobilised by this campaign “Thanks, you can go back to sleep now” on the 19th of September. Certainly so far as the Radical Independence Campaign is concerned, the very name says we want a radical kind of independence. Whoever is selected for the team to negotiate with Westminster, we should all be watching them like hawks. They will be answerable to both the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish people. One thing of particular concern to me is Trident. Other things may be negotiable, the removal of Trident isn’t.
    .
    It is well established that most folk in Scotland oppose Trident. The YES vote in September will serve Trident’s eviction notice. Obviously we would much prefer that the next voyage the Trident submarines make is to a breakers’ yard. But we have no control over what the Westminster government decides.

    So, they have a year and a half, from September 2014 to March 2016, in which to make other arrangements.

    If the nukes are still in Scotland on March 23rd 2016, then TURN THEM OFF.

    We know this can be done, and we know there are people with the expertise to do it.

    Shifting an enormous naval vessel, a so-called “sub”marine, of a type that can get stuck on sandbanks unless it is in the very deepest of water at high tide, may take time; even shifting the missiles may take time; but it stands to reason that turning the warheads off is something that can be done within a matter of days.

    It is something which is done on a regular basis anyway, as part of normal, regular servicing. The only difference is, they wouldn’t be getting turned back on again.

    Not while they remain in Scotland, anyway.

    An independent Scotland can comply with non-proliferation requirements, and demonstrate its intention of being a good global citizen, by ensuring that there are no functioning nuclear weapons in Scotland, as of day one of independence, and that there will never again be any functioning nuclear weapons based in Scotland.

    This is a perfectly reasonable position and one which can win widespread support.Including,from people in the rest of the UK as well as from all peace campaigners internationally.

    If, in the negotiations after the YES vote in September, anybody on the Scottish side in those negotiations should show the slightest sign of agreeing to some sort of fudge over Trident, then we should be be ready to to publicly demonstrate immediate rejection of that.

    • Insistence on the removal of Trident and the whole submarine-based nuclear outfit will be its death knell. They would not be able to afford it without Scottish oil revenues and there would be a NIMBY reaction to its placement in any English region. We in Scotland never had the opportunity of NIMBY. They called that democracy. The PR system of voting for the Holyrood parliament will ensure that a good mix of the YES parties will be represented there. I hope that no one party will break up the general consensus that Scotland needs to progress amongst the nations of the world.

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