Strategies for Independence

This Saturday a significant event is taking place in Glasgow. It’s the first coming together of a new coalition after the implosion of the last major configuration of the left, and it’s already feeling very focused and packed full of new energy and ideas.What does it look like?

It’s telling – and this is new – that ideas about ecology are at the heart of this new movement. A key test for the movement will be can we confront identify and overcome the toxic legacy of the British State, whether that’s at Dalgety Bay, Dundrennan, Cape Wrath, Beaufort’s Dyke or in contaminated land across urban wasteland? This is about more than creating clean green alternatives but about facing up to the power relations of the past that led us to climate crisis and a despoiled and depleted nature.

For me the other key areas that are essential for the day and for the coming challenge are the discussions of the role of art and culture in changing society, given the crisis of Creative Scotland and theradical intellect: the right to education and the future of work’. Exploitation, stress, overwork and under-work are key elements to the alienation that many of us feel. The role of art in giving voice beyond the commodified media realm and the questions about work, work ethic and its relation to anomie are vital as we think beyond our current economics.

What do we mean by this?

Alienation is the precise and correctly applied word for describing the major social problem in Britain today. People feel alienated by society. In some intellectual circles it is treated almost as a new phenomenon. It has, however, been with us for years. What I believe is true is that today it is more widespread, more pervasive than ever before. Let me right at the outset define what I mean by alienation. It is the cry of men who feel themselves the victims of blind economic forces beyond their control. It’s the frustration of ordinary people excluded from the processes of decision-making. The feeling of despair and hopelessness that pervades people who feel with justification that they have no real say in shaping or determining their own destinies.[James Reid, Alienation (Glasgow: University of Glasgow Publications, 1972), 5]

Railing against alienation – or even holding a workshop about it – may seem like a theatre of the absurd, comical. But actually to ignore the psychological as we try and operate from within and move beyond the Anglosphere and throw off decades of inferiorism, this is absolutely essential. It’s very difficult in a world in which the surround-sound is one of deference and base assumptions about ourselves to stand up and be heard. This is not just what we must do but what we must encourage millions of others to do.

These are key questions as we envisage a new Scotland, one that is transformed not merely re-jigged. One that goes way beyond party politics or social policy to imagining a sustainable, viable Scotland. None of this can be separated from the systems of hierarchy and domination that blight our society from disfigured gender relations to institutionalized racism to the economic inequalities on which this society is derived.

But we need to stop ourselves from repeating deeply shared beliefs as mantra. We need honest open self-appraisal of what has worked and what hasn’t worked for our movement of movements.

We need to think about how we’re going to achieve these goals and we need to focus on sovereignty. That’s why you’re invited to join us for a workshop on ‘strategies for independence’. We’re going to focus on what our goal is and how we are going to achieve it. We are going to be determinedly open to new ideas.

Endless political and business tracts have been churned out on what is meant by strategy but here’s one thought: “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do, and not doing it.”

Some of what we’ll be covering is top secret (you’ll need to come along to find out) but here’s a handy list of what we will not be including:

  • we’re not going to be focusing on crowd-pleasers and avoiding frightening the horses
  • we’re not going to be immersed in only-online activity
  • we’re not going to be enforcing a  false consensus
  • we’re not going to be focusing on the central belt to the exclusion of rural Scotland
  • we’re not going to be stuck in the mindset of the current political paradigm (enshrined militarism, blind neoliberalism, assumed consumerism/productivism or other trompe-l’œi)
  • we’re not going to be constrained by false divisions between culture, art and politics
  • we’re not going to be excluding young people
  • we’re not going to treat things separately …

We will be assuming that our culture has validity in it’s own right, that we exist as a country and that everyone has a right to be heard. We will be assuming that there’s a need for genuine reflection and that the best strategies come from a place of honesty and authenticity. That’s all we need to create a platform to explore the specifics of how we create a living viral campaign that can help transform Yes and bring passion and energy and radicalism to our movement for self-determination. As Jimmy Reid said forty years ago: ‘shaping or determining our own destinies’ is the goal …

Come join us!


Making it happen: strategies for independence (3.15 – Workshop 2)

Shona McAlpine
Shona Manages the Scottish Independence Convention website, and is a well known figure on the Scottish political scene.

Pete Ramand
Pete is the Black Minority Ethnic Convenor for Edinburgh University Students Association. He was a founding member of the Coalition of Resistance (Scotland) and is currently writing a book on independence, the crisis and the left.

Gail Lythgoe is an organiser for Yes Scotland.

Mike Small
Mike is a co-editor of Bella Caledonia. He was a founder of Product magazine (first launched as Red Herring in 1998) and helped found Indymedia Scotland. He writes for Scottish Left Review, Variant, Red Pepper, New Statesman, Guardian, and Open Democracy.

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  1. Thomas Coles says:

    Great article, and the right approach.

  2. Davy Marzella says:

    Good post Mike – hope conference goes well today. Article here from Gregor Bingham , originally from Cumbernauld now in Toronto. Beams & Struts site is based on “Integral Theory” ( initially developed by – but not restricted to – Ken Wilber ) which perceives life through a prism of four quadrants – ie. internal & external individual , internal & external collective.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Thanks – this is all coming together for me and many others I think…

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