The outpouring of new thinking and energy is palpable but what about ideas and policy? Over the last year the Jimmy Reid Foundation has been creating a crowd-sourced think-tank that’s now been brought together in one book, written by Robin McAlpine. It’s a readable affordable blast of fresh air into a tired political landscape. This is an alternative manifesto for a fairer Scotland.
Scotland’s people are in a unique position – we have been invited to imagine our nation afresh. So let’s do it. Let us ask what our country would look like if we were to design it now. Twelve months ago this is what the Jimmy Reid Foundation did. It began work that became known as the ‘Common Weal project’. It started with simple aims – let’s think about what we want to achieve, let’s look around the world to see who has achieved it, let’s examine how they achieved it and let’s learn the lessons and apply them to 21st Century Scotland.
As the project got under way person after person, team after team came forward offering their expertise. In those twelve months the project snowballed. It now consists of over 50 major policy reports by scores of authors on everything from tax and banking to arts and food to industry and work to democracy and land. Together they build up a carefully-constructed, heavily-researched, well-referenced and compellingly-argued case for the transformation of Scotland. This is arguably the single biggest reimagining of a nation state in modern history.
But who can read 50 academic reports? Common Weal is about creating a politics and a society which once again puts citizens at its heart, so if it excluded them on the basis of complexity and jargon it would be hypocritical. A politics that can change Scotland can only be a politics that includes everyone.
So in these pages is an attempt to bring together the content of 50 major reports as a single programme for action. But with self-imposed rules – no jargon, no bullet-points, no footnotes, no graphs and charts, no italics, no language that could not be understood by any school-leaver. If you want these things they are in the reports; these pages are almost in an oral tradition, a story that takes us from the nation we are to the nation we can be.
Of course, in all these many pages of policy work there will be ideas and proposals that not everyone will precisely agree with and there will be other issues people feel are missing or insufficiently covered. But they do offer a consistent approach, a coherent philosophy – and a genuine path to a different future.
All of this takes place in the context of a debate about whether Scotland should become an independent country. This is not meant to be a case for or a case against independence but only a case for a better Scotland. Many of the authors involved believe that change can only come if Scotland takes the powers in its own hands – but some do not. What unites everyone who has been involved in this project is the belief that this must be an agenda for Scotland’s future no matter what the outcome of the referendum.
Scotland cannot go back to accepting the nation it is just now. Inequality, poverty, declining infrastructure, powerless communities, closed politics, profiteering, low pay, overwork, anxiety, stress and unhappiness – it is time to end the myth that we will ever defeat these problems unless we act decisively.
What’s stopping us? It’s certainly neither the desire for change nor the wealth and resources needed to make that change. Until now the biggest barrier has been confidence – we have been trained to believe that no alternative is possible, that achieving a decent society is just too damn complicated, so best not to try.
In these pages you will see that change isn’t complicated, it just requires will and hard work. The idea that in Scotland there just isn’t the savvy to drag ourselves up is nonsense. The idea that it can’t be done is disproved by all the other nations who have done it. And the clever-clever arguments that suggest there is something about Scotland that means we can’t do what they did? You can choose to believe them, but you will need to resign yourself to failure and decline.
By the time you reach the last of these pages you will know exactly how Scotland can be changed. You will have the knowledge to explain how it can be done. You will have the confidence that everything in these pages has been tried somewhere and shown to work. You will be able to explain how it can be paid for. Hopefully you will have the confidence to believe this can be our future.
What will happen next? No-one knows. But all across Scotland people are waking up. They are rubbing their eyes, remembering that this is their country and becoming angry at what it has become. If they too can have the knowledge of how we can change and the confidence that we can do it, for how much longer can the elite run our lives without our consent? The elite may spend their wealth persuading us that this is as good as it gets. Thankfully, democracy is more powerful again than they are.
We – the people of Scotland – have the power to build a Common Weal Scotland. First, let’s look at how we can do it.