Things seemed so much more certain during the referendum. We were campaigning for a Yes vote as a basic mark of democracy and to chart a more socially-just future for our country. The forces of Unionism were there to frustrate this on behalf of the ruling elite and politicians with a vested interest in their parliamentary perks. Now – on the back of the nightmare No vote/Tory majority double-whammy – the course ahead feels trickier, less certain, and I find myself trapped between varying strategies, like a character in one of those Choose Your Own Adventure books, but without the option of going back to the previous page if you end up killed by the scaly dragon.
Should I be campaigning without haste for another referendum, or focus on working with activist groups across the UK to resist Tory domination? Should I recognise the advantages of a strong SNP, as a bulwark against Unionism, or hold them to account along with the rest of the pro-Yes left? Should I be reaching out to No voters and attempting to empathise, or pointing towards David Cameron, shaking them by the lapels and roaring, ‘WE FUCKING TOLD YOU THIS WAS GOING TO HAPPEN!’ Should I be standing rock-solid beside my allies, in the face of a domineering enemy, or challenging them so as to guard against complacency and groupthink? Should artists make Scotland the defining issue of their work until the job is done, or shut the hell up about Scotland and start writing about other subjects again, any other subjects – just please, no more about Scotland…
There are no clear answers to any of those questions, which is partly exciting and partly terrifying. We’re all in uncharted territory. This is why a strong alternative media is important, as a spirit guide. Like everyone else in the Yes movement, I’ve lost faith in the press and broadcasters to tell Scotland’s story with the right degree of fairness or balance. I don’t think it’s all a write-off – there’s still some, though not much, intelligent, perceptive and reasonable coverage of Scotland – but what I do need is a counter-balance to it, which comes from the plethora of pro-Yes sites whose insights help me chart a course through this difficult terrain. My morning routine now starts by flicking through The National and excellent blogs such as Derek Bateman, Scot Goes Pop and A Thousand Flowers, before alighting at Bella Caledonia, whose quality and breadth is unmatched elsewhere.
More often than not, I find myself strongly agreeing with their editorial line – Mike Small’s opinions are probably closest to my own on any given subject (except Rangers), and Peter Arnott’s a rambunctious voice too – but the diversity of the contributors prevents my thoughts from solidifying for too long. Obviously independence-related issues are the site’s great strength, but during my many hours browsing Bella I’ve learned about land reform, surveillance, global activism, linguisitcs, environmentalism, poetry and evolutionary theory. There is no subject it is afraid to touch. I admire the single-minded focus of other pro-indy blogs – it’s why I visit them – but none can match Bella’s sheer, rangy, restless curiosity.
Bella recognises that Scottish independence is a very important issue, but not the only issue, perhaps not even the defining one. It isn’t afraid to speak uncomfortable truths to the Yes movement, which is what gives it credibility within the Yes movement, but it recognises where the real threat is: corporate power and its stooges within the British (and sometimes Scottish) parliamentary system.
And, yes, I love the new design.
I know there are a plethora of whip-rounds, and it seems that indy-supporters are always asked to put their hands in their pockets for something, but there’s just no other way to fund the questing, citizen journalism that our movement needs to challenge the mainstream media’s spin and bias. We are extremely fortunate to have Bella Caledonia, and we’d notice its loss immediately. I may be riven with uncertainty about various issues now, but that’s definitely not one of them.