2007 - 2020

Build Yes

Maggie Chapman’s speech from the Scottish Independence Convention’s Build Yes conference.

We do, indeed, need to build for independence. Everyday, all around us, we see the consequences of the broken British state, crushing people’s spirits, destroying their lives. We see the stirring up of racism and anti-immigrant feeling by people determined to blame those not born in the UK for the failings of the NHS or the lack of jobs, when we know the real reasons are much more sinister: the British state has been captured by a neoliberal elite determined to run down public services in the interests of private profit.

And, as an immigrant myself, I’d like to thank Nicola Sturgeon for stating so clearly that I, and others from around the word who have chosen to make Scotland home, us Scots by choice, are welcome.

A couple of years before the Independence Referendum in 2014, social attitudes here in Scotland were very much like those in the rest of the UK. However, that has changed. And we changed it. We were able to use the Independence Movement to start to create the kind of Scotland we want and deserve. And we see the evidence for this shift in the rapidly diverging attitudes between us and England in our approaches to immigration, to welfare, and perhaps most clearly in the Brexit vote.

Scotland didn’t need to vote for the Leave campaign’s lies. The hope for a better country and a better politics lies in a genuine movement for change. Not in the duplicitous claims of Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage.

It is a good thing that we have secured this shift.

But it is only a start. It is only the beginning of our new future.

The Scotland we deserve has a vibrant political culture, where people feel that political decisions are made through a profoundly democratic process. It means we need not just the incredibly effective national campaigns run by Women for Independence against the proposed new women’s gaol, not just the brilliant campaigners from across Scotland who have helped to stop fracking, not just the achievements of the Living Rent campaign.

But it means giving people power to make as many decisions over their lives as they can, and to support them in doing so.

It means living in the early days of a better nation.

We have a democratically literate society, and it is our job to create the democracy that society deserves. That is why independence matters. It is about democracy. It really is about taking back control.

We need the power to make the decisions about our economy: we say no to austerity, no to passing on cuts to the most vulnerable in our society, no to an economic system that destroys our climate. We want our economy to be based on meeting human needs that harnesses technology and automation to increase human happiness. We must equip ourselves to make best use of our renewable resources, not destroy decent work, plunder our natural environment or destroy our climate. We want a social security system for all and an economy that puts people and planet first.

We need the power to make decisions over our foreign policy: we say no more illegal wars, no more nuclear weapons. Rather, we want a Scotland that leads the world on human rights. We already recognise and stand with people struggling against injustices elsewhere, but I’d like to see Scotland use its soft power to support just causes: I would love to see Scotland officially recognise the Palestinian state, and support the development of a Kurdish state.

In the same way that Oslo is the place people go to negotiate peace, Scotland could be where people come to negotiate on climate change and human rights. When the Scottish Parliament passed world-leading climate change legislation, it gave others the impetus to do something similar.

We already know some of how we can achieve these changes. Many of us have been working on these ideas and today will develop them further.

One of the most exciting developments is the work being done around the Citizen’s Income. But even with the new powers over welfare we will have, it will be difficult to deliver the full benefits of a CI because we don’t have the full powers of an independent state. We must use the powers we have to demonstrate what powers we need.

Every year, we have a fight about Government expenditure and revenues in Scotland: does the money spent in Scotland by government exceed the money received by government in Scotland? Yet this debate takes place in the context of a UK Government which facilitates avoidance of tax for people around the world. From the British Virgin Islands and Bermuda to Jersey and Guernsey, the country that leads the world in helping rich people to avoid paying tax is the country that Scotland is shackled to. In an independent Scotland, we know that we can have a tax system that helps the rich pay their fair share, and a social security system for all.

It is clear to me that, without the full powers of an independent state, we cannot achieve the kind of societal change we want. We must have that democratic power over all aspects of our lives. But more than this. We then need the courage to hand that power away: to people and communities across Scotland. It is clear to me that independence must not be about replacing the broken machinery of Westminster with similar structures in Holyrood. The Scotland I want to live in gives power to people, to communities, and supports and facilitates them to wield it effectively.

So, in our discussions today, we must remember that the policies and strategies we develop must provide the building blocks for a radically different Scotland: a Scotland where power is distributed across different levels of government, and where people always come first.

With the independence campaign in the run up to September 2014, we gave people hope that this was possible. We showed that politics could be different. Importantly, we created a movement, this movement, that was able to shift the opinions of many Scots: a movement that saw record numbers of people turning out to meetings to discuss the political issues that affected their lives. This is a strong foundation for our work today.

And it is something of which we should be proud.

When I go to England, I see people envious of this, shaken that people’s concern for the NHS and its funding crisis can be so easily subverted to deliver blow upon blow to immigrants. At a political economy workshop in Sheffield a few months ago, I was struck by the despondent and depressed mood that was being described in local communities. I think that, if we succeed in our quest for a different Scotland, we can pave the way for communities in the rest of the UK and the rest of the world to develop their own, better, radical future.

So today is really important: not just for us, but for others with whom we share these islands, and for those beyond these islands’ shores.

We have the opportunity over the next months and years to bring people back together, without our only focus being on electoral politics. We must remember this: it is politics in the everyday, not just Thursdays in May, that really matter.

We need to repeat what we did, against all the odds, 2 and a half years ago: bring discussion of political issues into our daily lives.

We need to build an understanding that a radical, popular democracy, can deliver the change that is so badly needed through staples of debate, discussion, and listening to others. This might seem somewhat old fashioned or traditional, but we must escape the empty and vacuous marketing politics that has stripped our society of its ambition and its creativity.

For too long, politics has been reduced to marketing campaigns and slogans that assumed you could not change people’s minds.

We know that our ideas, our values and our principles can change people’s minds. And we know that, in a relatively short space of time, we did change people’s minds.

We now need to do it again. With better ideas, more well-formed policies, coherent approaches, and above all an enthusiasm for and belief in a better world.

I look forward to joining you in this journey, to working hard with you today, tomorrow, and in the days, weeks, months, and years to come.

Together, we can create the Scotland that we all know is not only possible, but so desperately needed.

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Comments (14)

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  1. Alf Baird says:

    Aw guid an weel Maggie, but wid yer emerant pairty pit forrit a Scots Language (Scotland) Act? Whit aboot the human richts o Scots fowk? Or daes oor richts no maiter? Daes Scottish cultur (i.e. langage) no maiter, ataw? Mind, cultur is the wey we thocht an whit we dae. Thon Scots langage is whit differentiates Scots fi a’body, a’whair. Dae ye gie it mense, or juist sling a deifie, lyke thon SNP ‘Langage Meenister’?

  2. w.b.robertson says:

    don`t think the SNP`s priority, or that of the average non-political Scot, is a campaign to support immigration. charity begins at home.

    1. Actually the SNP govt has been campaigning for freedom of movement to remain a core principle and has argued for years for the powers of immigration to attract ‘new talent’ to Scotland. Did you miss that?

      1. Douglass MacGilvary says:

        Agreed, but it needs constant and targeted coomunication to the Scottish public we need these folks to mend our teeth, plumbing, broken legs and look after old folks, etc.

        People have long come to the wrong conclusion or made the false argument that X unemployed equals Y migrants and we should help our own folk first.

        Let’s have people arrive not under suspicion but with a warm welcome and knowledge it benefits both parties!

      2. Alf Baird says:

        There is plenty of talent in Scotland, the problem is that it is largely unused, ignored and haud doon by the unionist elites who still control Scotland and most of our institutions, not least the ‘elite’ universities whose focus is on attracting higher fee students coming from outwith Scotland. Less than half of Scots are educated to degree level, whilst 25% live in poverty. A “core principle” of any nation should be to lift up its own folk and give them all an opportunity to develop and prosper. Scotland has thus far failed miserably to do this.

        1. Camie McLean says:

          So there are indigenous Scots who want to pick berries, clean toilets or fix your leaking roof, but they are being hounded by elites not to do so and have given up?

          In parallel, there is an over abundance of Scottish doctors, nurses and dentists who are also persecuted by elites.

          Reversing 300 years of unionist control where we have been colonised and run to service an empire, wars and more recently London, will require more than 9 years of SNP rule where they have by british dictate limited powers designed to be ineffective.

          Are you a unionist Alf?

          1. c rober says:

            Camie I agree – its a UK wide problem with regard to the shit jobs , but do we have subsidized housing to create the nationals accepting the jobs they wont are cannot do? The move from council to private ownership has its consequences , ones that never get airtime.

            The Westminster answer to low waged low skilled jobs is to reduce benefits , perhaps even gear towards an old “labour market” system of work to benefits? Pre RTB the likes of industry was subsidised via housing being low cost – ie councils , evident by the likes of Shipyard or mining towns, where estates are all bulldozed yet there is a waiting list of over 250k including those in private rented.

            I dont know about the over abundance of professionals like Doctors , if there was then there would be no need for immigration to fill those posts – and we are seeing them doing a day a week in private surgeries , including both my private doc and dentist as well as one of my partners consultants.

            I would like to see in a post indy yes where the doctors surgeries we have today are semi privatized , well more like the new socialized – mostly for reducing waiting times from 2 weeks to 6. Say for a worker to be able to pay say 20 quid and get an appointment within the hour. By the time they get a docs appointment , then referral then they may be well again – so a failed appointment , sludge in the system , lost workdays and GDP.

            This paid appointment system could be used to supplement improvement rather than the Docs wages , 8-8 opening hours , even to the cost of equipment like xray machines operated at least for part of the week – reducing the numbers of GP tickets to hospital xray depts. FFS even dentists can Xray these days , so why not a specialist doctor – or travelling operator?

            Like I am always saying we need to look beyond merely taking control from WM , we need to change the very things we want control of not merely continue them.

      3. w.b.robertson says:

        sorry, despite editor`s intervention …a) I still don`t think SNP will gain votes from the “no” brigade by promising more immigrants; and b) I hold an old fashioned belief that our school system should be the conveyer belt producing new home bred talent. Then maybe I should get out more.

  3. Banned says:

    Do you think that portraying a future independent Scotland as a socialist utopia is likely to persuade many No voters from 2014 to change their minds?

    Do you understand that using intemperate language such as “the broken British state crushes people’s spirits and destroys their lives” will sound like bigotry to many?

    1. c rober says:

      Nope sounds like Trump , or pre brexit referendum about the EU.

    2. Janes Dow says:

      Perhaps only if you think you are British, a non existent homogenous people, and a political construct. Any way why would any Scot demean themselves by accepting the identity British? Especially when they have already won the worlds respect as people by simply being born Scottish.

  4. c rober says:

    Alf , theres no doubt Scotland needs immigration , for education , professional job shortages , and lastly to combat birth rate decline.

    I get the Uni thinking , but I would like to see them involved in the running of the country – at least as bean counters if not suggester s of policy , even if its just to police the politicians and civil service with the green and red pen.

    Just this week Japan released some startling stats on birth rates , and we should be listening to them , after all its protracted economy is past its second decade , austerity here nearing its first. Japan has a history of 3g living , the granny nanny an so on , Scotland not so much since the post war era for such housing – and of course the Glasgow effect.

    The birth number is 8.4 per 1000 of Japan – Germany just marginally worse with 8.2 , so perhaps the reasoning for their open door for over a million refugee immigrants. Germany also has history in the recent past doing the same with Turkey to fill job gaps – pre EU and Schengen. Scottish birth rates by comparison 10.6 per 1000.

    So its all fine and dandy bribing the UK living pensioners today , pandering their anti immigration views because their pensions will still be filled , but those of tomorrow have a different outcome…. with an increasing state claiming age – alongside bankrupt work pension schemes. But without immigration , there simply wont be anyone left to pay their children’s pensions.

    If all is to be considered that the pensioner vote during Indy 1 was a stumbling block , through PF , then its the very same pensioner we need to turn around.

    Regardless of indy or not the NHS will suffer (costs increasing and lack of professionals being trained) , local care will sufffer (already is) , pensions where the only increase is in claiming age is the offer from WM (Holyrood has no control over age) as long as they retain the power. So perhaps then Holyrood should be looking beyond the norm , rather than blaming , to offer something else?

    Care and health costs , just like our aging population are rising year on year needing larger tax incomes – or privatization , which is our medias underground attack on the UK NHS reasoning.

    Housing rethinking though would help this.

    Today our modern houses are unable to cope with expansion through dense site design/plot sizing , thus without the ability for any modifications towards 3g living. Its not like Scotland doesnt have enough land for bigger homes , and larger gardens , more so with brownfield , yet we are building into the countryside without increasing infrastructure including local jobs as commuter towns.

    This means buying another house for 3g , so creating more banking and developer profits , or possibly losing one persons working income as a carer impacting GDP and home income.

    We have to be increasing care homes/villages construction at 10x what is current just to stay ahead of the 30 year wave. This means tax increases or long term debt even if we maintain the norm…. unless we either increase birth rates or immigration.

    So perhaps rethinking housing is also part of the solution , but that means the truth getting out on the aging projections , but dont hold your breath politicians arent (re)elected on bad news?

  5. c rober says:

    Much has been offered on the need for Scotland to have currency reserves as an indy argument , and as a new nation would find itself a problem , both in short and long term funding or in creating a state bank – or it will be susceptible to private central bank control instead if the door is opened to them , which in my opinion doesn’t offer change in the kind needed or deserved.

    However the cost of state Credit has never been more affordable , that is unless your Greece , or Italy.

    Scotland would have a clean sheet and an open market to get those reserves , as debt of course , but the cheapest debt in generations. Private central banks are offering other banks sometimes negative rates on deposits = potential customers for a potential State Bank , ie those very currency reserves needed.

    Thus there is a market there for a Sovereign State Bank – as competition to private central banks. Thus in the interest of High Street banks too , and even for other nations deposits. Then of course you have the Scottish people themselves as depositors and investors through mediums like housing investment bonds , holding their mortgages , and just plain deposit and savings accounts.

    We would also have as a state bank the option for a version of the UK NSandI , with premium bonds , tax free , isas , even state lottery and so on as a method of paying down that initial credit line.

    The EU GDP to debt ratio for joining , can be negated in a heartbeat as a result.

    That is if that is the best fiscal option – which I dont think it is , the nordic model is just too similar to our own and has seemed to served them well by retaining currency controls. Eu Trade and free movement yes – euro currency no thank you , UK pound same , a new squideroonie pegged on the difference between our exports and imports now theres a thing.

    Only then would we have the RIGHT economical levers.

    We need to think beyond just getting the old controls – we need to replace them if not improve on them.

    1. Banned says:

      “The EU GDP to debt ratio for joining can be negated in a heartbeat”

      Can you explain this?

      Without a major increase in oil prices I cannot see how Scotland could reduce annual deficit from 9.5% of GDP to the 3% mandated in the EU Growth And Stability Pact without a painful combination of tax increases and public spending cuts.

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