2007 - 2021


image1Ahead of the RISE conference, Jonathon Shafi welcomes the prospect of ‘a parliament shaped by the voices of the independence movement at its best’. The upcoming Holyrood election will be strikingly different from others before it. Why? Because it comes just twenty months after the biggest mass movement in Scottish history, the Yes campaign, and it provides that movement with a major test. Has grassroots energy shaken the greyness from Scottish politics forever? Or are we retreating into SNP vs Labour tribalism?

The General Election was an early sign that things really had shifted: the SNP demolished Labour and left the Better Together parties with just one MP each. And recent polls for 2016 confirmed again that a new order is crystallising: there will be another SNP majority, with a feeble Labour opposition, flanked by the Tories and a handful of Greens.

Of course superficially, that’s simply a repeat of the result last time in 2011. But there is one major difference. The SNP’s electoral supremacy is so complete that all recent polls show a consistent pattern: the party can almost certainly win the Scottish election on the constituency seats alone.

Once we embrace this fact, the Scottish elections could suddenly become very interesting. For independence supporters, voting SNP twice becomes counter-productive to maximising independence MSPs. If this realisation dawns quickly enough, it opens real space for challengers from beyond the traditional SNP v Labour divide. A pluralistic Yes parliament becomes a genuine possibility: a Yes parliament that truly reflects the movement of movements in 2014. Such diversity would liven up Scottish politics in general, and bolster the movement for independence in particular.

It could mean a parliament shaped by the voices of the independence movement at its best. It would have MSPs rooted in the social movements, on a workers’ wage, promoting credible socialist policies that could be implemented right now. Those MSPs would link Holyrood with the international anti-austerity and anti-war movement and generate a new approach to politics that connects elected representatives with extra parliamentary popular movements.

That’s the appeal that RISE: Scotland’s Left Alliance will be making. RISE has brought together socialists, anti-poverty campaigners, trade unionists, environmentalists, academics and cultural figures to stand for Holyrood on the second vote.

People often complain that the radicalism of the independence movement isn’t reflected in a grey-suited, complacent parliament. If that’s your view, 2016 is your opportunity. RISE is making a concrete offer: redistribution of wealth from rich to poor, democratic public ownership, putting communities and workplaces in charge of their lives through participatory democracy, 100 percent opposition to war and for an independent Scottish republic.

But it’s more than this. RISE also offers a new approach to policy-making, rooted in grassroots community engagement. We’ve learned important lessons from the referendum’s DIY spirit, and from leftist parties abroad. Now we’re putting it into practice.

The alternative to The pro-independence left would be a disproportionate Scottish Labour success on the regional lists. 50 percent of voters plan to use their second vote for SNP; as things stand, that will yield 6 MSPs. Labour, as things stand, will take 33 MSPs from 25 percent of the vote.

Wise voters will consider that statistic carefully. If the only party holding SNP to account is Labour, the policy and intellectual debate in Scottish politics will stagnate. We need a broader parliament, with fresh ideas about how Scotland can meet the challenges of the twenty-first century.

RISE exists to provide a countervailing pressure. We back the SNP’s goal of independence: indeed, we’re for a fuller independence than they’re willing to contemplate. But a strong RISE will also give the SNP’s new radicals the energy and the ideas they need to ensure their party stands up to frackers, landlords, NATO and so on.

Indeed as fracking and land reform prove, the SNP is still attempting to skirt the divide between protest and power. Some within the leadership prefer a decades-long, glacial-paced movement to independence, where the party stays permanently in power by blaming everything on Tory Westminster. And if the main opposition is Labour, the temptation to sit permanently in government and to form a new micro-establishment could become irresistible.

That’s why a second vote for RISE is a vote for heart and for head. It’s a vote for pluralism and it’s a vote for a new consensus where radicalism sets the agenda. We want to show that Scotland’s public opinion has matured, and that tribalism has given way to serious critique. As Scotland misses climate change targets, the global situation deteriorates and as the rich get richer, radical politics is sensible politics. Investment over waste, sharing over greed, the needs of the poor over the needs of big business; these are the values of 21st Century socialism under which we’ll stand in 2016.

This Saturday will see the first ever democratic conference (previewed here) where RISE will formally debate and pass policy, agree structures. Since the launch on August 29th this year the focus has been on developing infrastructure, a solid activist base and a coalition of supporters. Soon the candidates and the policies will be in place. Local Circles across the country are ready to go – and we will be utilising technology to maximise organisational capacities to deliver daily activism. As soon as 2016 hits all energies will be on campaigning – in communities, workplaces and campuses – as the gears shift to what will be an intensive and exciting election campaign.


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  1. Jim Bennett says:

    “redistribution of wealth from rich to poor, democratic public ownership, putting communities and workplaces in charge of their lives through participatory democracy, 100 percent opposition to war and for an independent Scottish republic.”

    Brilliant stuff but two points:

    – how does his differ from the Greens, TUSC or Solidarity?
    – concentrate on policy and ditch the call for tactical voting.

  2. Illy says:

    “The SNP’s electoral supremacy is so complete that all recent polls show a consistent pattern: the party can almost certainly win the Scottish election on the constituency seats alone.”

    Stopped reading here.

    Proven lie.

  3. Buck Tarbrush says:

    There is no chance of a RISE MSP in 2016, where does all this confidence come from ? Do RISE even register on the polls ? It seems to me that anyone who had a prominent role to play in the referendum debate thinks that the reason for the strong Yes vote is because many voters believe in everything they believe in. It was a simple yes or no, that doesn’t equate to people endorsing all your other beliefs. If you looked at reasons for the yes vote, how high up the list would a radical socialist government be on yes voters reasoning ?
    The SSP is unelectable, so I can see the appeal to them for a new ‘party’ but it will be interesting to see the fallout once names are in the hat for nominations and the new members propose policies that aren’t entirely to their liking. The alternative to the mainstream political environment is already established and growing in the greens; this belief that you can just simply rename, re-brand and scoop up yes voters by the thousand is somewhat deluded.

    1. Illy says:

      Especially since No mention of Solidarity? You know, the other half of the SSP split?

    2. David says:

      What are you on about? The socialist left have stood in every election since the Scottish parliament opened. They don’t need your approval to stand. A lot of the people in our movement need to remind themselves of some very basic democratic principles.

  4. Simon says:

    “[T]hese are the values of 21st Century socialism under which we’ll stand in 2016.”

    Some policy would be nice.

    Some idea of who we’d be voting for would be nice.

    All we’ve heard from R.I.S.E so far is slogans, empty empty slogans and some sleekit electioneering.

    If you want to shape Scottish Politics prior to Independence join the SNP, have your say.

    Speak to and with the people who are actually in a position to make a difference, they can be persuaded to look at things differently and have been known to change their minds.

    “We want to show that Scotland’s public opinion has matured, and that tribalism has given way to serious critique”. No, all you are doing is trying to re-ignite the tribalism.

    We have in the SNP a party that is in the difficult position that it doesn’t have “core-voters” it has voters of all different persuasions.

    Trying to get a decent balance and keep everyone in Scotland happy rather than the traditional “Eat the Rich” v. “Put the Poor in the Workhouse” politics we have had up to now is where, I hope, most of us in Scotland want our Independent Nation to start from.

    So it’s going to be SNP/SNP for me for the foreseeable future.

    And if it ever changes it would be Solidarity as a second vote.

    1. Ryan says:

      “Keep everyone happy” is what the SNP are doing wrong. If that is a strategy that works, why didn’t it deliver a Yes vote? SNP/SNP will deliver 6 list SNP MSP’s and more than 15 for the 3 unionist parties.

      1. Illy says:

        Please, please, *please* stop trying to con people into trying to game the list vote.

        It’s been shown time and again that it doesn’t work, because of error margins, and it just makes you look like either an idiot or an arsehole.

  5. Frank says:

    Genuine question. Does Rise have a leader or a convenor? (my other question is why do you call your meetings Circles?)

    One thing I will say about Rise is that they are very good at hype. Yet, scratch beneath the surface and what you will find is an organisational alliance between the discredited SSP and former members of the very very discredited SWP. They consistently fail to acknowledge (it’s an unofficial policy of Rise never to mention Tommy Sheridan in public), the two white elephants sitting in the socialist room, namely the fact that two other socialist groupings – the very discredited Solidarity Party and the very very discredited TUSC group are also standing on an identical platform. This ought to ensure that the radical left vote is split three ways.

    For people like me, who genuinely believe in some of the policies, the situation is tragic.

    Workers of the world……

    1. Illy says:

      “The only people we hate more than the Romans […] *Splitters!*”

  6. Alf Baird says:

    Thanks Jonathan, your article is an accurate statement of the reality of the list vote next May.

    I believe that any RISE list candidate would be preferable to most Yes voters rather than allowing Kez, Ruth, Willie and their 40-odd unionist chums to slide back in.

    1. Illy says:

      This has been analysed over and over, way back when the Greens were trying it.

      Best-case outcome is that Solidarity would get a one-to-one trade from the SNP.

      Any other result than that is either worse (SNP losing seats to the Red/Blue Tories) or has such tight error margins there’s no believable chance of it happening.

  7. Leonard says:

    I would like to go to one of the circles meetings things, but I’m not sure if you have to be a certain age.

    Does anyone know if there is a youth platform or are platforms not allowed?

    I think that circles is a very good idea and I’ve dided my own research.


  8. nodrog says:

    If there truly was a political party that fully represented the whole umbrella of the YES Campaign Organisation (minus the SNP as they stand on their own) they would get my list vote. Unfortunately RISE does not cut the mustard unless they expand and pull in all the other parts of the Yes Campaign. Now that would have a big chance of success and may even pull votes from the SNP as well as the unionist parties. Wishful thinking no doubt but that is what Scotland needs now – a YES Campaign.

  9. Steve says:

    Sorry but the claim that SNP will get a majority without relying on the list vote is simply untrue. Constituency votes on their own are no guarantee that SNP will have a working majority. I am not willing to take that chance. And the factions within rise are notorious for infighting and factionalism, not to mention lacking in concrete policies. So SNP/SNP for me.

  10. Dan Huil says:

    I’ll be voting SNP/SNP.

  11. James Barr Gardner says:

    I’ll be voting SNP x 2 in May 2016 and SNP in 2017. If you want to win Independence it’s the only way to throw off the tories whither it be blue or red. Independent parties will naturally increase and grow in the years after independence. Remember divide and conquer are one of the many wastemonster tricks do not be fooled.

  12. Clootie says:

    I wish idiots would stop pushing this myth to swing votes to rise, greens etc.

    We need Independence FIRST. The only certain path is to align behind one United front. This happens to be the SNP who have the longest history and the best machine to achieve that goal.

    I hope we have a wide range of parties at Holyrood in an independent Scotland. Until then vote SNP twice and don’t do the unionist work for them.

    We have one primary goal – a free nation.
    When that is achieved WE can decide on the parties which best reflect our personal views.

    Pushing this arguement now only delays our progress.

    I wish we had a YES label to unite under but we don’t so I’ll stick with the team who have been fighting for my nation for many decades.

    1. Ryan says:

      The SNP need support from other parties/movements to achieve independence though – the SNP will not achieve the independence goal alone.

      1. Illy says:

        The support they need is for the other independence supporting groups to fold into the SNP as a temporary measure until independence is either achieved or abandoned.

        After independence the SNP can then fracture into it’s constituent parts again, when the parts will actually have a chance at changing something.

  13. Ryan says:

    Maybe Jonathan Shafi can answer my question? In the Sunday Herald article, it says that RISE want to see an end to public schools – is this a typing error? Shouldn’t it be private schools that RISE want to see an end to? Thank you.

    1. Illy says:

      Eton is a “public school”.

      Weird part of the language, a “public school” is an expensive private school.

      No clue how that happened. Maybe it’s something like how Obama got a Nobel peace prize?

      1. Ryan says:

        Thanks Illy, I forgot about that. I forgot that a “public school” is another name for an expensive private school. I did not think of that when I asked the question.

  14. Black Rab says:

    I’m agreeing with the general consensus on here that SNP/SNP is the best way to go. RISE doesn’t have any more to offer than The Greens other than a sexy name and logo. The time for the left to get it’s game together is after independence, that’s when the real work has to be done to avoid the possibility of a capitalist SNP.

  15. Interpolar says:

    What do we need RISE for if we already have the Greens? The strategy makes sense, but the Greens are the best hope for a new opposition in Scottish politics, not RISE.

  16. Alastair says:

    I went to one of the regional meetings (before the RISE launch), which had a laughably short and badly informed discussion over a number of predetermined and wooly ‘policy’ areas. As this article shows, the whole RISE thing is simply an attempt to further the careers of a couple of people (if they’re lucky) by trying to get them into the Scottish Parliament.

    While I admire the SNP’s achievements, we have some way to go towards a radical tranformation of society. And whatever the question is, RISE isn’t the answer…

  17. Craig says:

    SNP / Greens for me. Would like to see 8-10 Green MSP’s elected along with an SNP majority.

    1. Illy says:

      Voting SNP/Green is voting for an SNP/Green coalition, not an SNP majority.

      Check the maths.

      1. Craig says:

        I would gladly live with an SNP / Greens coalition if thats what transpires.

        1. Illy says:

          Just pointing out that voting SNP/Green isn’t voting for an SNP majority, which is one of the things you said you wanted.

          If you place more importance on maximising the Green vote, and are voting tactically in the constituency for the SNP, then I have no problem with you.

          I just want you to be aware what you’re voting for.

  18. 1314 says:

    ‘ Soon the candidates and the policies will be in place.’

    We could have been spared this and several previous articles with this one sentence.

    Once you have candidates and policies and candidates in place let us know and we can think about whether we want to vote for you or not.

    Vote for us because a second vote for the SNP is wasted is not a reason to vote for RISE or anybody else.

    1. 1314 says:

      Perhaps more important. Apparently Councillor Russel Robertson (East Centre,Glasgow) has announced his support for independence and may have approached the SNP.

      Surely we need to encourage members of the Labour Party who support independence to remain in the Labour Party where they will have much more influence in terms of the independence debate by broadening support as suggested in the article – and among already elected representatives, no need to wait for the next vote.

      The idea that you cannot be a member of Labour and support independence has always been a nonsense – and it would appear that their present leader in the Scottish parliament agrees.

      Maybe, for a change, we could have an article along the above lines in BELLA.

  19. Ryan says:

    Is the minimum and maximum wage about closing the gap between rich and poor?

  20. Mike says:

    The best thing RISE can do for Scotland is to wait until we are Independent before they start any campaign for power. All they can achieve is a split in the ranks which benefits nobody but the pro union cabal.

  21. DB1 says:

    Voting SNP twice worked last time. Anything else is a gamble.

    The only way to have a chance to gain SNP second votes is an official YES or independence party that everyone can unite behind.. assuming the SNP remains over 50% in the constituency vote.

    A broad based party without any other agendas.
    Looking at the policies, there is little difference between RISE and the Greens.
    That’s the vote split in half right away, before excluding those of a more ‘middle of the road’/centrist political viewpoint.

    Surely, gaining independence is the priority that must come first, before we split into left/right differences. Everyone can agree on the simple principle of self-determination.

    Also.. what happens if the SNP slips down to 45% in the polls ?
    There is a good chance the SNP will need regional list seats to get a majority.
    As things stand, splitting the vote between Greens/RISE/Solidarity could be a disaster if we end up a few seats short.

    No majority – no second referendum.

    1. Illy says:

      “Looking at the policies, there is little difference between Solidarity, RISE and the Greens.
      That’s the vote split in three right away, before excluding those of a more ‘middle of the road’/centrist political viewpoint.”


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