It’s Edinburgh. It is now August. That means Festival time.


I’ve always taken the view that profound political change is fundamentally a cultural phenomenon and that culture is often best placed to capture and indeed to drive political change. That’s because it gets (literally) to the heart of people. So I did expect to see some shows that addressed the big issues of our times such as climate change, the financial crisis and the debate over the future of Scotland as a nation. Maybe there is something out there but I’ve yet to spot it.


As the debate builds toward the independence referendum in 2014, tough questions need to be asked about what kind of Scotland we would like to live in. How best can we tackle the levels of poverty, exclusion and inequality that continue to challenge the myth of an egalitarian and progressive society? How should we respond to the financial crisis? What lessons and ideas can we legitimately learn from other European countries?


A couple of months ago, Lesley Riddoch and I spent a day wandering around Skye pondering such matters and decided that we would put on a show at the Festival to explore some of these ideas in front of a live audience. Over the course of two weeks we will be setting out thoughts on core issues of finance, money, democracy, governance and land together with other daily themes ranging from early-years education and renewable energy to Nordic comparisons and macho culture in Scotland.


We believe passionately that many of the solutions to some deep-seated problems lie in the shared minds of the citizen and that if folk had far greater political power, they could begin to resolve many of these issues – not all of them by any means and not completely of course. Falling memberships of political parties and trades unions pose further challenges to engagement in the political process.


Big changes will take political muscle but the nature of the power relations embedded in finance, democratic institutions and property mean that too much power has been ceded to institutions that respond more to their own interests than the collective interests of the people.


The current financial crisis, for example, is a symptom of the freedom bestowed upon a feral elite who have wrecked havoc on our economy for their own personal aggrandisement. Instead of an economy designed to deliver prosperity, opportunity and equality, we have one built on the privatisation of the financial system, the corruption of our democratic institutions and an expansion of private debt and consumption. The result is a level of inequality in society last witnessed in 1854 when Charles Dickens was writing Hard Times.


We have a Chancellor of the Exchequer who, in 2006 travelled to Dublin and claimed that “Ireland stands as a shining example of the art of the possible in long-term economic policy making, and that is why I am in Dublin: to listen and to learn.” Two years later the Irish economy collapsed under the weight of a property bubble recently described by the Financial Times as “a sort of Northern Rock on steroids.”


Scotland has the opportunity if it so chooses to chart a different course from the neo-liberal consensus but there are few signs from the main political parties of any alternative route to greater prosperity and equality.


Amidst all the confusion, however, some lessons can be learned from other European countries – from the German Volksbanken and Sparkasse to the huge Scandinavian forestry co-operatives, Basque Mondragon Corporation and localised kommunes and municipalities of Denmark, Sweden and France. A prosperous, sustainable and equitable Scotland is possible and can be delivered by (among other things) expanding local democracy, democratising finance and monetary supply, and returning the land to the people.


Let’s talk about it and if such matters float your boat, or you’d just like to come for the banter, come along to the Scottish Six.

Dates 14 -17 & 20 – 24 August 2012, Time 6 – 7pm, Venue 127 St John’s, Princes Street
Tickets are £6 to cover venue costs.  And check out our website

Comments (4)

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  1. George Gunn says:

    Dear Andy
    the best of luck with your gig in Edinburgh. I’ll drop along if I can. The reason you won’t find many or any productions at the Edinburgh Festival about the financial meltdown, climate change or the feral elite who are robbing us blind is because 99% of the performers at the Festivl are part of the same dialectic, or anti-dialectic, of “me me me” which is the credo of Thatcher’s childrens children. There is no sense of cultural or artistic solidarity with each other or the society from which they come – because they do not recognise “society” as a word let alone related to consciousness – and as a result their art is flat, a medium for their ambition only and that ambition is to succeed. The management of the arts reflects this. What ever you say, say nothing. In Scotland we need a subjective revolution in our artistic expression and an objective revolution to clear away all the deadwood of cultural “management” which is control, which is censorship. The Festival is a symptom of the machine that eats itself. As far as Edinburgh and Scotland is concerned the Festival could hppen on a moon of Saturn

    In solidarity,all the best. GG

  2. Albalha says:

    Certinly sounds like a good idea and I’m sure it will be attended, I’ll be unable to make it along but I’m assuming Lesley will post it on her blog? Maybe you can consider taking it on the road, there are of course core issues to tackle, but each part of Scotland has its own unique problems as well.
    On another point I joined the SIC and have heard nothing, how active is it?
    Alison Balharry

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      You will hear soon, I promise. Gearing up for autumn / winter events.

  3. biowrite says:

    Great article, with which I agree! However, I think you mean to write “wreaked havoc”, not “wrecked havoc”.

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