2007 - 2020

Sun’s Oot – Tapps Off

10649928_10152475892183300_1020457689273687539_nWhen we were picking the Scots words and phrases to be used to theme our Edinburgh Festival shows there was one phrase the team was particularly keen was included – “taps aff”. For anyone from outside Scotland reading this it just means “looks people, look – the sun has come out so don’t waste it, get your top off, run half naked through the streets and make the most of it while you can”. In our Festival shows we use it to represent the moment in the progress of the independence campaign where we all realised that this was probably the best chance we had to take a shot at producing a really exciting political discussion, that the time for demure caution was over and the time to go just a bit mad was upon us. It was the moment when the campaign that we all now celebrate was really born.

But in Scottish terms, a miracle has happened and the sun is still shining on us. The family and I are just back from our first proper holiday in five years, a week in Reykjavik. During the campaign Cristina and I (like many of you, I know) played a game of ‘if there is a No vote and Scotland turns into a desolate and demoralised hell-hole of conservatism, to where shall we emigrate?’. We decided on Iceland, what with their banker-jailing habits and the general sense of edge-of-the-world cool. And it is still an amazing place – we got into a long conversation with a cafe-owner who had been heavily involved with their social movements and it is still inspiring. But, in the conversation, something fascinating emerged – Iceland is still in a battle to forge a different politics but the chances of it happening are now quite a bit higher in Scotland.

I’m writing this in Heathrow Airport (on Saturday, when the sun was still out and the Greeks hadn’t yet voted). I’m on the way back up from a fascinating two days of round table meetings organised by the London School of Economics and Open Democracy in which activists from social movements all round the world got together to see what we can learn from each other. I was honoured to be asked to come down and talk about the Scottish situation. The people who were there represented struggles of all sorts – there were activists from Greece, Spain, Turkey, Armenia, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Hong Kong, Ukraine, Mexico and many other places. It was eye-opening. The Greeks were facing right in front of them a major showdown on the future of their country, a showdown they didn’t know whether they would win but which they felt strong just having been able to create. The Spaniards talked about the long way still to go but also about how much they have built over the last few years. The Armenians talked about the way their campaign has started to draw in and win over whole new sections of their population, and yet at the same time how narrow (for now) are the issues on which they fight.

And then a female activist from Jordan talked about how thinking about even a basic level of democracy seemed so distant for her, living as she does in a situation where she struggles even to be heard seriously in her extended family, a culture where a hierarchy of gender and age is pervasive.

In Scotland we are lucky beyond our wildest dreams. You only have to tell an activist from Tunisia or South Africa or Mexico where we are and how we got here to realise what a gift we’ve been given – no blood, no real hatred, everything still feeling like it is possible. My conclusion, shared by almost everyone I talked to, is that there is possibly nowhere in the world right now that is in a better position to do something amazing than Scotland. Certainly the English activists continue to place high hopes in us and so many people want to visit, better to understand some of the hows and whys.

And yet, as is so often the case with privilege (and we really are privileged), it is easy not to notice, to start to take it for granted, to absorb it as the new normal. For Scotland the sun really is out and shining brightly. But have we possibly started to believe that the clouds will never return?

I’ll be honest; my biggest fear is that I’m back at an event like the LSE one again in five years’ time and people start to talk to us the way other activists were talking to those from Tunisia – so much hope, what went wrong? In the excitement of what the indyref has done to Scotland, are we at risk of forgetting that getting the ball into the box is not the same thing as scoring a goal? Frankly, are we going to take this moment, this amazing moment, and blow it?

What is the root of my concern? Well, we’re now months away from the Holyrood elections. The movements we’ve built are great. The way our progressive political parties have changed and grown is great. The engagement among our population is great. The sense of hope and optimism is great. Now, what are we going to do with it? What policies can we enact in the four years between 2016 and 2020 that will transform Scotland in the way we say we want it transformed? In short, if you were to add together all the good ideas you’ve heard about what Scotland should do in the next four years, do you think it would sum up to a programme worthy of our aspirations? My worry is that I don’t think we yet have enough big ideas from which to construct a really transformational plan.

I understand the many reasons; people are exhausted from what feels like non-stop campaigning, some people are worried that trying anything ambitious might possibly go wrong and harm the longer-term case for independence, some people are focused on other equally important tasks (in communities, organising campaigns, developing skills and capacity). But we may get only one chance to make the most of this moment, of this space for real transformational policy-making. It is our collective responsibility to do everything we can to build a ‘community of ideas’, like some kind of pool of thinking and imagination from which we can encourage the political parties to fish. We didn’t leave this kind of task to ‘someone else’ during the indyref and that’s why we became so strong. I don’t believe we can just assume that ‘someone else’ is doing it right now.

Apart from putting on Butterfly Rammy, this is Common Weal’s overwhelming focus over the summer. During the referendum we produced a book which asked a simple question – what could Scotland do to change itself if it had all the powers of an independent country? Before this autumn we will publish another book asking an equally simple question – what can Scotland do between 2016 and 2020 using the powers it has to make itself a better country? We’ve been working on it quietly for quite a while, drawing on lots of expertise.

But with Common Weal being Common Weal, it’s not enough that this discussion is held only between the ‘experts’. So we’ve been developing a methodology we’re calling ‘policy labs’ to encourage people to get involved. A lab will be a variation on what many people will recognise as a ‘hack’ – not a general discussion group but a fixed period of time (usually a day) in which a mixed group of people pose themselves a specific question and, to that deadline, must produce specific proposals and ideas. An outcome-focussed event to generate innovate ideas and pragmatic plans. We’re currently sending out packs to our 60-odd local groups to help them organise their own policy labs with a form for sending back to us the proposals they produce. If we can get them by the end of August we’ll get as much as we can into the book.

So find your local group (or start one) and join the lab or organise one. Or if you want to run a lab in your own organisation, with your friends or colleagues, drop Katie an email (katie@common.scot) and she’ll send you a pack (though be a little patient—she’s still finalising the methodology and is away for a week). And watch this space for three pilot events to be run by the central Common Weal team where we will be solidifying a strategy of how to implement and integrate this method into our policy development.

On Friday, in a Skype call to one Greek participant who understandably had to cancel his trip, I shouted out a message of hope that they would win. He shouted back how much he hoped Scotland could set a precedent for others. It was a moving thought that this might even be on his mind two days before a referendum that may determine the next 30 years of his nation’s history. Many around the world are still looking to Scotland. We owe it to them to live up to the aspirations we have created.

But more to the point, we owe it to ourselves. A careful, cautious policy agenda designed not to scare anyone would not live up to the new politics we have built. A same-as-it-ever-was four years of old-politics government is exactly what our opponents are praying for, to put hopes for transformation out of our heads for good. And it would let down the many people struggling in Scotland if we think that somehow or other they’ll just need to survive through to the next independence referendum or something. We must honour the promises we made to be a nation they deserve, that we deserve, that the international community of nations deserves. I don’t even think we have the right to blow this – it is our responsibility not to. It is YOUR responsibility not to.

So Scotland, sun’s oot. Taps aff.

Comments (24)

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  1. Jack Sloan says:

    This is so full of hope. Just what I need on budget day. Thanks Robin

  2. GlaikitStirk says:

    Inspiring stuff. Thank you!

  3. Juteman says:

    I’m getting worried about Bella, and if they really want independence?
    We can do fuck all until we get independence, and articles talking about all the voting choices we have at Holyrood are bollocks.
    Unless it is a double SNP vote at Holyrood, then folk can dream all they want.

  4. Jams O'Donnell says:

    Great article. What worries me is that I don’t seem to be reading any articles about what we should do re currency if we try for independence again (as we surely must , within 5 years). We can’t just repeat the same mistakes about the £ as before. Similarly, we need to produce a watertight, properly costed and attack-proof projection about future costs and national income after independence.

    Why isn’t someone doing this? (Or have I just missed it?)

    1. Robin McAlpine says:

      Jams,

      We’ve not really announced this but the Common Weal Board has decided that the project we are pursuing straight after this one (this one being the 2016-2020 policy programme) is an audit of the proposed structures and institutions of an independent Scottish state. From about January or February we’re going to go through all the infrastructure an independent country would need to see how much (and how well) current proposals meet those needs. The aim is that by late Spring (we hope) we’ll have an outline of where we conclude more work needs to be done. At the risk of preempting the work, I would be amazed if one conclusion isn’t that there must be very serious work done on currency (other areas I expect to come up are banking, the civil service, Europe, debt allocation and probably the structures of the Scottish Parliament). The aim is that probably through the Independence Convention we could then all get together and look at the pieces of work this audit suggests need to be done and have a big conversation about how we get it done. You will probably know that I’m personally very jumpy that the time we need to make the case for independence bullet-proof next time is not insignificant and the clock is ticking.

      Robin

  5. Mike Fenwick says:

    I’ll take you at your word Robin – let’s scare someone, a whole heap of people, and let’s start with what Jams has just asked, what is it we are going to do to prepare, properly this time, to address the question of the currency to be used in an independent Scotland?

    Scary? Maybe, but let’s get really scary, let’s nationalise the ability to create money in the first place, because the last financial crash, and the one before that, and the one before that was caused because we allow banks to create money.

    I’ll repeat that … let’s nationalise the ability to create money!

    Yes, the coins and notes in our pockets and purses are under the control of the Bank of England, but those make up about 3% of the money that exists, the other 97% is the money created by Banks as they make loans.

    The link I am posting is to a group called Positive Money, and to the first of a series of videos that explain, better than I can, and in great detail, why when we consider what currency we should consider using, perhaps there is a much more fundamental question we should ask – and that is who is really in control of the money, no matter what currency is used.

    Should it be the Banks or us?

    Link here (first in the series):

    1. Jams O'Donnell says:

      Us, definitely – Bankers should be under the constant and REAL threat, under the law, of being jailed for any misconduct, just the same as the wee unemployed guy who fancies a bit of embezzlement.

      1. Darien says:

        It is not just self-regulation of banks and other financial institutions that Scotland needs to deal with. All ‘utilities’ in the UK have been permitted over the past 30+ years to self-regulate in favour of themselves and their ‘investors’ (whoever and wherever they may be). This includes energy, transport infras-ports,airports etc, the legal establishment, media, endless quangos, and even universities and private schools. Successive UK governments have promoted the interception of economic rents by each of these interest groups – which explains why the management of the latter tend to be wholly unionist oriented, and invariably offshore. The actual role of government should be to prevent such interception and to act in the public interest. I would suggest a Minister at Holyrood who should prepare the ground to deal with these multiple regulatory anomalies properly once independence is achieved as only then can this mess be properly sorted out. At the moment Holyrood is merely tweaking at the edges in key areas like land reform – or farting against thunder as ma faither wid say.

  6. Mike Fenwick says:

    @ Tams or anyone/everyone else, asking you to watch a series of videos may not appeal.

    This one is only 4 minutes, watch it please, and as you watch it … perhaps think of the Greek that Robin mentioned, or think of those in Iceland, and then connects the dots to Banks, and think of the connection.

    Think of Gideon today talking about debt, and the cuts needed to repay the debts, and then once again connect the dots, and follow them to the banks.

    Then above all … think of the Scotland you want, the type of society you want it to be, and ask whether the content of a 4 minute video offers a real alternative and whether what it suggests deserves our understanding and debate.

    Maybe, just maybe, if we are brave enough to adopt a different future, we can also show those in Greece, and Iceland, and around the world, how it can be done.

    4 minutes …

    Link:

  7. Neil Anderson says:

    Bonny Scotland, what have we come to? If you have the desire and the wherewithal to flee in a worst case scenario, then you must do as you choose. Good luck, and be happy that you have the choice. If Iceland pumps your horn, great. If it’s the good ol’ USofA, grand. Remember, when you get there, that the vast majority of your country men, women and children are unable to make that choice. They’re stuck here in Bonny Scotland because they lack the means to flee. Having said that, even if I did have the means (which I most certainly don’t), I would stay because I feel such a powerful affinity with this land and it’s people. There is no other place quite like Scotland and I love it with all my heart. I grow tired of the gnashings of middle class chagrin (yes, I am aware of the influence of the French language on our own). Scary ideas, you say? Try this one for size – and I freely admit that it is influenced by an American middle class thinker. END THE MONEY SYSTEM. NOW. Where would we be without our cash, eh? With empty pockets all round (apart from the things that we really need). END THE MONEY SYSTEM. NOW. We must look to a future society based on need. A value based society in fact. What is truly of value? If we remove all of the money from society, what are we left with? We are left with all of the people and all of the resources which exist in the world. No money. Are we to live forever based on what we want or what we need? Do we need excursions to Reykyavik? Indeed, we do! Everyone should have the opportunity to go there, not just those who can pay for it. Do you really need to go there? Only you can say. Is it of value to you? That is the real question. If I cannot play the guitar, do I need a guitar? If a properly integrated public transport system exists, do I need a car? If I am unable to use one, whatever the reason, do I need a spade? Money is the greatest divider. END THE MONEY SYSTEM. NOW. There’s a scary, radical, groundbreaking idea for you.

  8. Kenneth G Coutts says:

    Inspiring as ever Robin, Perhaps and I am hoping , there is a washing away of all unionists at Holyrood (wishful thinking) just to galvanise the minds of all the diehard unionists voters that perhaps there is another way, social democracy, something the Neoliberal corporate state is scared of and as we see unfolding via Greece.
    The EU jackals have been found out , but the truth was and is being drowned out by their MSM trumpet stenographers .
    Overcoming the MSM stenographers requires a new approach to mass alternative communication.
    Luckily this social media is on the rise.

    1. Darien says:

      “washing away of all unionists at Holyrood ”

      This would in fact be only a small part of the solution. Scotland needs to rid itself of the thousands of unionist centurions, a very large proportion of whom are not Scots, who still happily run meritocratic Scotland, which includes everything from the civil service and local government, the justiciary, the media, universities and private schools, the NHS and several hundred public quangos. Washing away unionist politicians does not do that. To change the mindset and ambition and indeed ‘national’ loyalty of the people who really run Scotland we need to look far beyond mere politicians.

    2. Supermangs says:

      Washing away all the unionists? So, like, just get rid of a democratically elected representative because they don’t agree with you? And then after that, what? Complain that the SNP MP’s in Westminster get “washed away?” Will you wash out the ink from the books you don’t agree with, like it’s some sort of acceptable alternative to burning them?

    3. Supermangs says:

      Got any other “cleansing” in mind? Someone in the street that’s not “Scottish” enough? Get rid of them too, shut them up, close down their opinion.

      1. Darien says:

        “Got any other “cleansing” in mind?”

        The (E)BBC, which should be obvious, even to you. Dissolution of BBC Scotland might be as well, as with any state vehicle designed to propagandise Britishness and oppose Scottishness within Scotland. To maintain the BBC in an independent Scotland would seem rather subversive, no?

        And in general, like any ‘normal’ society, Scots should favour policies that promote our own people to secure responsible roles within our society, instead of the prevailing approach favouring outsiders to be given many if not most of such senior roles, as has been ‘normal’ practice for generations in what passes for ‘high-level’ ‘Scots’ society, aided by virtue of the 10:1 numerical preponderance acting against us. Or do you deny that Scotland is ‘managed’ by and large by people from outside Scotland, people with a different culture and mindset – our ‘unionist centurions’ – who I would add should not be confused with the everyday average Scots person in the street of unionist leaning, as you seek to do.

  9. Strategist says:

    >>>are we at risk of forgetting that getting the ball into the box is not the same thing as scoring a goal?

    Brilliant, brilliant stuff from Robin McAlpine. Always worth reading, and reflecting upon.

  10. Walter Hamilton says:

    The way the national debt is increasing under Westminster rule, therefore Scotland’s share, the figure you come up with could be out of date before they are published.

  11. Gordon Benton says:

    Required reading. Excellent article. May I proffer a few thoughts:
    * Westminster is a confrontational form of government (one and a half swords apart, bawling at each other, and all that nonsense) and the winning Party plan really only for its 5 year term – and hang the consequences: that will be the concern of the next government. On the other hand Holyrood aims to be (is?) a consensual administration and can plan much further ahead. I do not follow your short-term strategies as being what the SNP needs to do now: we have to govern and plan long-term, and create waves when necessary.
    * instead of now just planning for the next 4/ 5 years, the SNP can with confidence, set out a series of coordinated macro-plans for the Scotland (and the North of England and N Ireland) for the next 25 and 50 years:
    – planning and funding for the infrastructure required;
    – attracting foreign and local, government and private investment, to create jobs, to pay taxes, to pay pensions;
    – sort out the Scottish Pound and the banks;
    – agree our defence needs (with NATO?) and humanitarian ambitions;
    – convincingly set out our housing and rehousing strategies;
    – the actuarial nightmare already upon us with unemployment and lack of jobs for the young on the one hand and the care for an aging, and often sick old age on the other;
    – reaching excellence in education standards, and making it available for all according to their abilities;
    – agreeing the need for a second House, Senate, and the means of election and/ or selection;
    – where are we going with our NHS? – seriously;
    – confidentially reinforcing through wide-ranging sustainability strategies for instance, its energy plan to reach a carbon-neutral stage by 2030;
    – legally establishing our sea borders;
    – taking land reform more seriously into the empty half of our country;
    – are we serious about ‘re-wilding’ our land? (or is this the elephant in the room?)
    – what further inspiration needed to bring our wide-ranging but perhaps poorly-defined arts and culture to the people, and the rest of the World?
    – establish solid links with the Scottish diaspora (as the Irish have done).
    These strategies, and others you can mention, cannot, and more importantly, will not be solved in the coming 5 years. The now politically-educated Scottish electorate, I suggest, need to see answers to these issues, and is serious in getting progress. The electorate is cynical and with short-termism, promises, and defensive, reactive government. It wants to know where our ‘Dream’ is taking us. The SNP has found itself in a unique situation to be able to open minds as to the true potential of this Nation. We need only look at the Scandinavian and Benelux countries, Singapore, New Zealand and many other similarly-populated and successful, educated, healthy countries, arguably all with far less natural resources, and believe we are nae feart, nae wee, puir and daft.
    Come on Scotland; get the big boots on, and walk the walk!

  12. Mike Fenwick says:

    From post: “Supermangs 2 hours ago

    Washing away all the unionists? So, like, just get rid of a democratically elected representative because they don’t agree with you? And then after that, what? Complain that the SNP MP’s in Westminster get “washed away?” Will you wash out the ink from the books you don’t agree with, like it’s some sort of acceptable alternative to burning them?”

    Where do we set the boundaries of what we term democracy? Do we see its end point in majority rule, with no territory of importance beyond?

    Or is democracy more complex? Yes, undoubtedly it will include voting, and accepting and having respect for the result of any election, but is that where we stop?

    Where lie the protections for individual liberty, for human rights and freedoms, the rule of law, do these lie outwith what we term democracy, some form of stand apart, within another world in another dimension?

    It is true that Hitler never won an election outright, but it was through an election that he ultimately gained power. Would that he had been washed away!

  13. Albajock says:

    ‘But, in the conversation, something fascinating emerged’

    ‘I’m on the way back up from a fascinating two days of round table meetings’

    ‘In our Festival shows we use it to represent the moment in the progress of the independence campaign where we all realised that this was probably the best chance we had to take a shot at producing a really exciting political discussion..’

    ‘ I was honoured to be asked to come down and talk about the Scottish situation.’

    ‘The Spaniards talked a lot…’

    ‘My conclusion, shared by almost everyone I talked to…’

    ‘ It is our collective responsibility to do everything we can to build a ‘community of ideas…’

    ‘I don’t believe we can just assume that ‘someone else’ is doing it right now…’

    ‘what could Scotland do to change itself if it had all the powers of an independent country? Before this autumn we will publish another book asking an equally simple question…’

    ‘But with Common Weal being Common Weal, it’s not enough that this discussion is held only between the ‘experts’…’

    ‘A lab will be a variation on what many people will recognise as a ‘hack’ – not a general discussion group but a fixed period of time (usually a day) in which a mixed group of people pose themselves a specific question and, to that deadline, must produce specific proposals and ideas…’

    ‘If we can get them by the end of August we’ll get as much as we can into the book….’

    Beyond absurd and parody. Thanks Robin, haven’t laughed so hard in a long time…could make a sit com out of the commonweal!

    Shall I start the discussion? Send out a few leaflets and form a committee to decide?

    1. Frank says:

      Priceless. My thoughts exactly!

  14. Albajock says:

    ‘Apart from putting on Butterfly Rammy, this is Common Weal’s overwhelming focus over the summer. During the referendum we produced a book which asked a simple question – what could Scotland do to change itself if it had all the powers of an independent country?’

    jeesch and there are 15 of you working in this so called ‘think and do (hahaha) tank?’

    Every man and his dog can write the problem Indy faces on the back of a fag packet. The currency!

    1)Share the pound – not up to us so pointless discussing.
    2)Own currency – reserves reserves reserves.
    3)pegging – nah.
    4) Euro- nah.

    Pick one and get on with it!

    1. Darien says:

      Thanks. An astute parody for the many hundreds of quango’s, think tanks, and university institutes who at the end of the day produce little – but each of whom like to tell us the opposite.

      Scotland’s choice is quite simple. It requires our Scots MP’s to walk out of England’s parliament. The way things are going that should occur sooner rather than later.

  15. Jock Campbell says:

    The 2016 elections are important… but not to the gaining of independence, which will be delivered regardless of SNP manifesto commitments or election results!

    The fact is, the 2016 Scottish elections will take place IN an independent Scotland, because independence will be delivered in March and followed by sovereign statehood in April. The 2016 elections will be the first sovereign state democratic elections in Scottish history.

    So while yes indeed, the 2016 elections are important (as are ANY elections), they’re not important to the deliverance of independence.

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