2007 - 2021

Ten Years of the SNP, and Beyond

snp-victory-and-it-was-all-yellow_designTen Years on the SNP and Scottish nationalism require a different politics for the future: Making real a vision of self-determination, argues Gerry Hassan.

The SNP have been a breath of fresh air to Scotland. Fifty years ago this year the modern SNP emerged with the talismanic victory of Winnie Ewing at the Hamilton by-election, and Scotland was never quite the same again.

If you doubt this, think of a Scotland without the SNP. The only way Scots would be able to show their dissatisfaction with Westminster and difference from the rest of the UK would be to remain loyal to Labour. That would work (to an extent) under Tory UK Governments, but not quite when Labour was in power at Westminster.

The SNP in opposition and then in office have changed the parameters of Scottish politics. They have literally changed the name on the door to that of the Scottish Government – marking a profound shift from the dull administration of the previous titled Scottish Executive. They have altered the nature of the role of First Minister to being the national leader of the country. They have brought statecraft and competence to government. And they brought Scotland onto the international stage – first, with the release of al-Megrahi, and then more substantially, in the long campaign of the first indyref.

Ten years into office and with another indyref looking inevitable, this is an appropriate time to reflect, analyse and take stock on the record of the SNP and of wider Scottish nationalism. The former will be the focus of the forthcoming ‘A Nation Changed? The SNP and Scotland Ten Years On’, edited by myself and Simon Barrow, head of the think tank Ekklesia, which will be published in June.

The SNP’s decade long dominance of politics also comes with costs. There are obvious signs of the beginning of complacency in places, of inertia in government, and problems accumulated with a record in office to defend. Then there are the downsides that come with the lack of credible opposition, with the main parties for long periods weak, divided or both.

1. The Scottish Government is different, but not that different

The early days of SNP administration marked a sharp break with Labour. This was confident, aspirational government that didn’t exist in the shadow of Westminster. The Scottish Government, while much more important and high profile than the previous incarnation the Scottish Executive, has many continuities with it. These include that it is technocratic, administrative rather than strategic, and accrues powers to itself.

It has on the plus side not bought into aggressive neo-liberalism in the way the UK state has via privatisation and contracting out, but it is shaped by the compromises between a more passive neo-liberalism and defensive social democracy which isn’t suited to imaginative policy or the challenges of an independent Scotland.

2. The Absence of Progressive Policy Innovation

The SNP immediately made a difference upon winning office. However, beyond the big-ticket items – abolishing student tuition fees, prescription charges and road bridge tolls, introducing baby boxes and the impressive climate change targets – the SNP policy cupboard has been relatively bare considering they have been a decade in office. There have been lots of small-scale progressive announcements and good intentions in numerous areas, such as reversing Westminster’s punitive welfare cuts and beginning to mark out the outline of a different social security system, but it has always been cautious and piecemeal, rather than so far daring in an area to be transformational.

There has been over ten years a lack of legislative achievements. Indeed, several of the high profile bills of majority government turned out to be majorly problematic: the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act and the named person’s scheme in the Children and Young People Act. These have fed into a critique of the SNP as increasing state powers, being insensitive to civil liberties’ concerns, and charged of growing authoritarianism from political opponents (and many Yes supporters).

One place to start would be to consider what it takes to make a good law in Scotland. What kind of principles and practice do we need to let power go from the centre, and to set a template which gives people the power and capabilities to become self-governing? Such a debate would flesh out a vision of self-determination, which wasn’t just about powers coming from London to Edinburgh, but about dispersing them across the country and making independence something real and practical in everyday life.

SNPcounciltax3. The SNP and Social Democracy

The SNP stands as a centre-left party that proclaims its social democratic credentials. This is absolutely genuine, but it also warrants further investigation and scrutiny. What kind of social democracy is the SNP’s variant, and how has it informed their politics and policies?

In ten years of office, the SNP has assumed that social democracy is a set of ideas they can freely borrow from and reference without ever significantly adding to. There is over this period not one example of an intervention originating in the SNP which has seriously added to social democratic thinking.

This matters two-fold. First, social democracy across the West is in crisis, retreat and decline. This is true electorally, philosophically and in how such ideas relate to social constituencies and who such ideas claim to give voice to. Second, without adding to this body of work, SNP politicians are referencing a very superficial, thin idea of social democracy – not that far removed from the clichés of New Labour of ‘economic prosperity and social justice’. That wasn’t good enough then and it isn’t today.

Ben Jackson, academic and editor of ‘Political Quarterly’, puts this succinctly in his chapter in ‘A Nation Changed?’ exploring the SNP’s relationship with social democracy and the choices before the party. This concerns whether the party advances social democracy as an instrumental means of mobilising support for independence, or the pursuit of independence as the means of making a more social democratic Scotland? Jackson rightly judges that on the evidence the SNP has embraced the former, which means that the making of a social democracy in the here and now takes second place to independence. It is a profound difference and one with big consequences.

4.  The SNP, Scottish nationalism, ideas and ‘the third Scotland’

Modern Scottish nationalism has a long rich lineage and tradition of intellectual ideas. When the SNP broke through in 1970s Westminster politics there was an impressive culture of debating of ideas, concepts and the statecraft of a self-governing nation. Central to this were the writings of Tom Nairn, Neal Ascherson and Christopher Harvie – none of whom had then, or subsequently had, an easy relationship with the party (even when Harvie was briefly a SNP MSP). That’s not surprising for genuine public intellectuals should never have a smooth, harmonious relationship with party politics.

Yet, when the SNP entered the electoral doldrums in the 1980s, the wider cause of Scottish nationalism could draw upon this impressive tapestry. This gave the party and movement a sense of ballast in what were pretty grim times. And it meant that when the Scottish dimension re-emerged in the latter half of the decade, under the grotesque injustices of the poll tax and the imposition of high Thatcherism, there was a body of work and thinkers on hand to draw from.

Fast forward to contemporary Scotland. We do have a febrile culture of debate, discussion and ideas. We have some impressive public intellectuals – such as Michael Keating, James Mitchell, Neil Davidson, Lindsay Paterson and David McCrone (whose 700 page tome ‘The New Sociology of Scotland’ is published next month). There are a whole host of established and emerging historical voices and experts engaging in a comprehensive archaeological reclamation of once neglected areas of our past. Then there is a rich array of cultural figures, practitioners and intelligentsia who have played a significant part in the re-imagination of modern Scotland in recent decades, challenging age old stereotypes, and creating new stories.

Finally, there are the policy and ideas entrepreneurs who have contributed so much to shaping debates in the last few years such as Lesley Riddoch (Nordic Horizons), Robin McAlpine (Common Weal), Andy Wightman (land ownership), Katherine Trebeck (Oxfam Humankind Index) and Eleanor Yule (cultural miserablism), which has been added to by the new voices who came to the fore in the indyref. The above isn’t meant as exhaustive, but merely meant as an indicative list.

Pivotal to this kaleidoscope of ideas and debate has been the creation of an ecology of new spaces, places and platforms, such as Bella Caledonia’s role over the last decade, CommonSpace more recently and a host of blogs, podcasts and interventions. I called this ‘the third Scotland’ during the indyref: a self-organising, self-determinist cultural politics which springs from dissatisfaction with mainstream institutions, from politics and the media, to bureaucratised academia and financial and organisational constraints across the public sphere.

There are huge positives in the above – and big shifts in how authority and voice emerge – of gender, generation and geography (three G Scotland). The older Scotland of the 1970s and 1980s was one of middle class, middle aged white men – in politics, ideas and society who assumed the right to speak for everyone and exclude others.

Yet with that leap forward there is also a discernable negative now compared to the 1970s and 1980s. Despite the energies and best intentions of all of the above and many more individuals over the last few years, no thinkers and perspectives have emerged of the scale and durability of the likes of Nairn, Ascherson and Harvie and their interventions.

The likes of Nairn et al fed into the intellectual body of Scottish nationalism – in and outside the SNP. They engaged with and were engaged by the party in serious debates. Ascherson and others such as William McIlvanney gave prestigious lectures to the party in the 1980s. Nairn who has long had the most problematic relationship with the party even had a Lothian Lecture in 2008 upon the invitation of then First Minister Alex Salmond – one which seemed more a reflection on past achievements rather than present and future influence.

Today, there is an obvious gap between the ferment of ideas and the SNP and Scottish nationalism. Part of this is the perils of success. The SNP has in many ways become a conventional political party. But any party that becomes disconnected from ideas – from small policy ones to big intellectual narratives – eventually withers. The battle of ideas is always in the long run as important as the electoral battle. The former feeds into the latter.

5. Don’t Believe the Hype of the Insider Class 

Most clever people eventually believe their own myths. That they got there and have achieved what they have through their own wisdom and intelligence. This was the insight of Michael Young’s ‘The Rise of the Meritocracy’ published in 1958 and the original meaning of the word ‘meritocracy’ which he invented. The SNP leadership now believe that the winds of change are behind their sails and that the ultimate victory is tantalisingly within their grasp if they hold their nerves. There are admittedly other feelings: of anxiety and nervousness about the high stakes involved in any second indyref.

Yet, the current dominance of the SNP is a product not just of Nationalist genius, but opposition incompetence and that critical factor in all politics: luck. The SNP narrowly won in 2007 aided by the implosion of Tommy Sheridan’s SSP. They then formed a minority administration when the Lib Dems refused to enter coalition because of independence.

In the run-in to 2011 Labour under Iain Gray’s inept leadership managed to lose a 16% opinion poll lead over the SNP in a matter of a couple of months as the SNP won the election by 14% producing majority government. And in the indyref, Better Together fought a pragmatic, defensive campaign that grinded out a victory in the vote, but lost the bigger argument. Since then, Labour has blown itself up repeatedly, while the re-emergence of the Scottish Tories as the main opposition and viable force, suits SNP strategists.

There are of course bigger forces behind the rise of the SNP and the new confidence of the Scottish Tories after years as a pariah party. But party strategists always claim they know what is going on when often they don’t. Anyone thinking insiders have some divine insight into how politics operate should take note of Andrew Cooper, Tory pollster and co-founder of Populus pollsters, who called the EU referendum 55:45 for Remain on the morning of the vote (advising Cameron and Downing Street of this). He played a role in the last indyref, and is rumoured to being prepared for a big role in the next: which is good news for the independence side.

The SNP was as surprised as anyone by the scale of its victory in 2011 and the post-indyref surge to it. Likewise, the contours of a future indyref and dynamics of Scottish politics aren’t pre-ordained and completely predictable.

6. The Need for Independent Authority and Expertise

Scottish politics and governance needs new sources of authority and expertise. The SNP may have an element of self-interest in not changing this pre-indyref2. But if they don’t do anything then it is more than likely the next conflict will be like the last (or indeed at its worst, Brexit). Namely, a contest which is fact-lite and if not fact-free, contested between different interpretations of facts and figures traded past each other with no agreed common ground.

A big signal of a different politics and a campaign would be pre-indyref2 to set up the Scottish equivalent of the Office of Budget Responsibility or Institute for Fiscal Studies. This would be a powerful statement of intent, show to everyone that a future campaign would be very different, and also begin shaping the contours of an independent Scotland in the present.

7. Recognising economic realities while challenging neo-liberalism

An independent Scotland isn’t going to be a land of milk and honey, and in its early years will have difficult choices and trade-offs to make. One aspect of SNP economic thinking that needs to be faced up to is its continued embrace of conventional (and discredited) neo-liberal economics.

The SNP’s Growth Commission chaired by Andrew Wilson is, so reports suggest, going to recommend that an independent Scotland goes for growth by luring English and Welsh firms north under the climate of instability engendered by Brexit. There is a powerful logic in this: reversing as it does the dynamic of the last indyref where lots of big corporates intervened saying they would consider relocating their headquarters in the advent of an independent Scotland.

One magnet being considered is reducing business taxes in Scotland to give the economy a competitive advantage. Basically despite everything, coming up for ten years since the crash, the same economic zombie thinking has a gridlock on policy development, with an independent Scotland aspiring to be little more than a new version of ‘Celtic Tiger’ Ireland. There will be constraints in Scottish economic policy in a nation of five million people sitting next to an England of 55 million, but we have to aspire to more progressive and sustainable economics than merely undercutting rUK.

David Clark, former adviser to Robin Cook at the Foreign Office, said this week that a ‘consequence of Brexit is that it transforms the debate about Scotland’s economic future’ and that ‘Scotland can think big’ in such circumstances. Then why cling to an outdated, discredited economic model?

8. The connection between the big picture and detail

The SNP have painted a hopeful big picture of Scotland. Where they have fallen short has been in detail and policy. There is a glaring need to connect these two up: to have a big picture as ambitious and uplifting as possible, but which acknowledges priorities and hard choices, and detail, which connects to this wider canvas.

We do not need a 650-page prospectus on independence again. Next time the Scottish Government would be better served by a policy prospectus which has totemic policies and a direction of travel on wealth creation and distribution, public services, education, health, democracy, culture and internationalism. That’s a minimum seven areas – which could be fitted onto seven indicative policies on an independence pledge card.

Relevant in this is Winston Churchill’s timeless observation that what fundamentally matters in politics is ‘a lighthouse not a shop window’. That’s what independence has to be – a beacon of hope, honesty and radical intent, whose messages and rays of light shine out and inspire parts of Scotland it didn’t reach out to last time.

This means a politics that doesn’t simply repeat what worked before, but is intelligent and wise enough to know that when the stakes change you change too and up your game. Kenny Farquharson writing this week in ‘The Times’ noted that the camber and tilt of Scottish politics had moved decisively in favour of independence: ‘Those who want to save the UK are facing an adverse camber. The tilt of the campaign ahead favours the Nationalists’.

The above is true. A watershed has occurred in Scottish politics post-Brexit, following on from the previous watershed of the indyref. The case for Britain is in deep crisis, as are the politics, institutions and political classes of the UK, personified by Theresa May’s inflexible unionism.

We need to get more serious, strategic and honest. We have to call out unacceptable behaviour and diversions, and start creating the culture of an independent Scotland now. We have to stop telling ourselves comforting stories which serve no purpose other than to make us feel better. A Scotland of self-determination is about more than independence, and if that future is to mean more than statehood, that substantive shift has to begin now, not wait until Independence Day.

Scotland needs change, but it also needs an independence movement and future debate which recognises the historic decision we are about to take. We have to live up to the history we are making.

*

Gerry Hassan is author of Scotland the Bold: How Our Nation Changed and Why There is No Way Back published by Freight Books, £9.99.

*

*

Bella Caledonia needs your help!
If you want to support this site you can make a one-off or monthly donation here:

btn_donatecc_lg

Comments (28)

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Alf Baird says:

    “start creating the culture of an independent Scotland now”

    A Scots Language Act wad bi a guid stairt, given that oor langage is the necessar foond o cultur. Creating Shadow Ministries for ‘reserved powers’ might indicate intent. Craig Murray’s ‘National Assembly’ strategy ticks the box an aw. Lets up the ante.

    1. Gaga Glasgow says:

      Alf, I disagree with the importance you attach to language and culture; I actually don’t know one person who wants independence for those sorts of reasons. That could be down to the company I keep.

      But do you really think 2 million Scottish people have been lying around distraught for the last few decades, praying for the day that they get to express themselves in what is basically slang? It sounds rhetorical to ask that but I ask it in seriousness.

      As for culture, again, its way down the priority list. When I hear the word culture I always think of middle class people filling in grant application forms and fretting about the impression they’ll make if they wear a scarf and a polo neck at the same time.

      There’s no nice way to saying this, but it genuinely worries me that articles like this are allowed to clog up the pro-independence airwaves.

      We have some really massive things going on right now. The tectonic plates of politics are crashing and grinding against one another; everything is shaking and there’s talk of economic tsunamis and all sorts. I just read an 8 million word article on what? I can’t remember a single thing.

      1. Alf Baird says:

        Ye micht be richt whan aw said an duin. Then agin, ye micht be wrang. A’m shuir that Scots langage is oor cultur, an withoot thon langage, Scots wad hae nae cultur o thair ain, thay’ll juist be ‘North British’. Thon’s aw aboot daein whit oor maisters tell us (i.e. only taught to learn English, remaining ignorant of our own langage, though speaking it endures); but e’en rats is no sae bad, aince ye get tae ken thaim richt.

        1. Gaga Glasgow says:

          I’m not wrong, you are, and on a few points.

          Language is a tool, a technology, like any other. According to your logic we should switch off the electricity and sit writing with quills in the moonlight.

          The Scottishness of Scotland, our claim of nationhood and right of self determination, does not depend on us being backward; its irrefutable that we entered into a Union as a nation, under duress it seems, and we can remove ourselves from that Union just as nations can remove themselves from the EU.

          There’s nothing ignorant about using English over that variation of language you prefer. It’s a matter of convenience and utility. If it was up to me we’d teach our kids to communicate with c++ but if we did it wouldn’t have implications for our chances of winning independence.

          Scotland wasn’t annexed like Wales. We exist therefor we are. Nobody doubts that.

          1. Alf Baird says:

            James Kelman after he won the Booker Prize in 1994, said: “My culture and my language have a right to exist.” It is a national tragedy that Holyrood MSP’s and the Scottish Government have yet to see the essential relationship between the Scots language and Scottish culture. People refer to ‘the cringe’ without appreciating that ‘the cringe’ is primarily due to the inferior and discriminatory way the State, the media and other institutions continue to mis-treat and disrepect our national language, which in turn leads people like you to ignorantly proclaim that the Scots language is “basically slang”, i.e. having little ability to read or write in Scots. The Panopticon, Jenni Fagan’s 2013 novel about life in a care home, is written in Scots. Although Fagan said that she had been warned that it would harm her chances of being published, she didn’t hesitate: “I talk in Scottish every day so it’s not unusual to also write in it,” she says. “I am not sure why people writing in their own language is even an issue any more.” This language deficit means Scots are a culturally deprived, dehumanised and alienated people in their own land – much like the other indigenous peoples such as the Maori, the Australian indigenous people, Bushmen, native North Americans etc. Sir Harry Burns discussed the desperate health of men in Glasgow – with substance abuse, violence and mental health issues – explaining that the statistics are very similar to those of aborigines who have become dislocated from their culture.
            There is therefore a reason why half of Scots still vote against their own nationhood and it is to do with culture and language e.g.: “There is a unique tie between culture and language. The languages we speak provide us with the words and concepts to describe the world around us, allowing us to verbalize certain values easily. Anything we as a cultural group value will surely have a known and easily understandable term. Being a native speaker of our mother tongue brings with it more than just the ability to communicate, it brings with it the ability to understand why someone thinks and acts as they do”. (https://www.languageandculture.com/cultures-languages)
            “The Sapir–Whorf hypothesis stated that the way we think and view the world is determined by our language (Anderson & Lightfoot, 2002; Crystal, 1987; Hayes, Ornstein, & Gage, 1987).
            “Culture and language are undeniably intertwined”. (http://www.education.com/reference/article/culture-language/)
            “New cognitive research suggests that language profoundly influences the way people see the world” (http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748703467304575383131592767868)
            “Language is more than just a means of communication. It influences our culture and even our thought processes.” (http://anthro.palomar.edu/language/language_5.htm)

            Dinnae tell me that language isna important! Its the fundamental reason fowk still vote Naw.

          2. Gaga Glasgow says:

            Alf, I have no problem with people writing in Scots or whatever language they want. Nobody is persecuting people who speak or write in Scots, let’s not conjure up imaginary demons.

            My argument is about priorities. I regard stuff like culture generally as a sort of harmless if annoying pastime of middle class people. In the old days they collected dead butterflies which is a similar sort of thing.

            I guess if you are separated and far removed from the challenges most people face on a day to day basis, paying bills, eating, clothing your children, etc., you have the luxury of having time to spare for silly things like culture.

            For most people I know, culture is poverty and crap jobs to make ends meet. It’s watching people you love going to the dogs on booze and drugs. It’s a thousand things that are too depressing to mention. Are you Rangers or Celtic? The last thing I want to do is celebrate it.

            Maybe if people stopped being so distracted by culture, they would focus on things that mattered and we could fix things up.

            I don’t know anybody, as I said, who wants independence for reasons of language or culture. On doorsteps people want jobs and prospects, a future for their kids, a real economy with a government that responds to them. You know the arguments.

            It goes without saying too that emphasis on Scots language and culture is going to alienate a lot of people from different countries and cultures. You might be on to something though, to be honest I’d rather hear about Kurdish culture than Scottish culture. That’s not a cringe though, it’s just familiarity and contempt.

          3. Duncan says:

            My Spanish friend told me English was a tool for him. Implying Spanish was something more. (It was a throw away comment- said perhaps because he’s a scientist and science is now mainly done in English)

            But either way… what a weird view …’language is a tool’…it’s obviously culture as well and equally and perhaps more importantly. Only a majority language speaker whose language threatens rather than is under threat could think it’s just a tool, rather than a culture in an of itself.

            I heartily recommend ‘Spoken Here: Travels among threatened languages’ by journalist Mark Abley if you want to expand your understanding of these issues

          4. Gaga Glasgow says:

            Duncan, using the word “obviously” to support an argument isn’t very convincing. Like “obviously”, “culture” is a word used by intellectually lazy people, it means nothing when you look into it. What does it mean? Answers typically include cooking, history, tradition, and Morris dancing. It’s the most corrupt concept in the Scots language.
            I wish the whole world used one language.
            But, you know, the real test of language and culture is survival. If it takes millions of pounds ploughed into the accounts of middle class people to keep these things alive, you have to wonder what the point really is in giving these things emphasis.
            Does your Spanish friend feel his language and culture are under threat because he reverts to English in science?
            I heard the peace process in Ireland rested on a commitment to the culture and language of Ulster-Scots and involved pumping millions of money in to create universities etc.. That’s the real actual role of these things in the real actual world.
            But why do you need to nationalise things like shepherds pie? At the very same point that we acknowledge some cultural trait, it is taken under the ownership of one nationalism or another. Alarm bells which normally would and should ring loud are silenced.
            More than anything, I am sick of airy fairy intellectuals and middle class morons taking over things and trying to organise us. Please fuck off.

          5. Redgauntlet says:

            Gaga Glasgow wants us all to speak one language….because Gaga Glasgow only speaks one language.

            If Gaga Glasgow actually took the bother, as billions of people do around the world every day, of applying himself to another language until mastering it more or less, he would understand that all languages are absolutely wonderful and to be cherished, and that Scots is no different to any other in that sense…that as George Steiner said, “there are no lesser languages”….

            …and that learning another language opens up a whole new culture – history, literature, poetry, philosophy – and a whole new way of thinking, and allows us to communicate with people from an entirely different background, and that, for some of us, it is a passion and a pleasure even to dabble in a foreign language.

            But Gaga Glasgow obviously knows very little about languages, Which would be like me talking about physics. Why would you talk about something you don’t know anything about?

          6. Gaga Glasgow says:

            Redgauntlet, you fell into the usual trap of using culture as snobbery. Are you suggesting I need to learn Scots or another language in order to be taken seriously and be your equal? Seems like it.

            And that’s more or less the role of culture, lining the pockets of the nomenklatura and paying them to look down their noses at us.

            If your language and culture is of any use then people will keep it alive. Otherwise it can rest in peace along with the two pieces of wood we used to rub together to create fire.

            Don’t expect a penny from me and please don’t kill the independence campaign with this trivial crap. On paper it’s indistinguishable from the Orange Order and what they offer. And it’s boring.

  2. 3Rensho says:

    A good thoroughgoing piece from Hassan.

    Re Point 6, “the need for independent authority and expertise” there’s a bit of a glaring omission though — last time I checked, the SNP didn’t have a Science Adviser, because Muffy Calder walked off in a huff after the GMO ban. The party leadership simply can’t hold the kind of half-baked virtue signalling driven policies the SNP does on GM, nuclear energy, and with respect to a few other climate policies (eg. APD) and then look serious, numerate people with any kind of scientific training in the square in the eye.

    Public transport re-nationalization and sanity on cycling investment are the next steps for the SNP to flesh out its technocratic credentials.

  3. John B Dick says:

    “… compromises between a more passive neo-liberalism and defensive social democracy”

    Begging the question here, you don’t say what the preferred option is, or why it is better. Also assumed is that economic Left/Right divisions are the only ones that matter compared with e.g. Authoritarian/Libertarian ones, and there are others even less frequently discussed.

    Is the class war not over yet?

  4. Richard MacKinnon says:

    If we have to have another referendum can we please start to discuss what will happen if we vote No again.

    1. muttley79 says:

      Is it not obvious what will happen?

      1. Jim the Westcoaster says:

        All the more reason to open up discussion on the consequences of a No vote.
        There’s no appetite in the overwhelmingly and completely biased unionist controlled media, including the BBC for even acknowledging the many negatives of staying part of the UK. In fact, as we see on a daily basis, they will bend over backwards to avoid even the possibility of any downside to the union being allowed to enter the unrelenting stream of anti-independence, anti-SNP and often anti-Scottish propaganda typically presented as coverage of the debate.
        The only places we see any balance, or indeed objectivity, is in the new media and to a point, the National. Sites such as Bella, Commonspace, Wings, Newsnet and others create a counterpoint to dominant unionist media, but lack of resources is a real constraint.
        In many ways, the most effective way to challenge the unionist hegemony is at the personal level. Actively discussing current affairs from a Scottish perspective with others allows counter arguments and alternative perspectives to be aired in conversation. These conversations can continue through social media and potentially reach a much larger number of people. Above all, it prevents the discussion being framed solely in ways that misrepresent the reality. There is even less chance this time round of getting any kind of fairness or objectivity in the mainstream media.
        As was the case in the last campaign, talking to other people and approaches such as those of the Radical Independence Campaign, moved support from the mid twenties to just under 45%.

  5. Richard MacKinnon says:

    No Mutley79 it is not. I know what should happen but I suspect it will be more of the same as we have just now, Holyrood, trying its best to look serious whilst all it is doing is administrating austerity in Scotland for a Tory government at Westminster.
    As I have said in the past if we vote No again we should agree that that is the constitutional question decided for good. And this should be agreed before we vote so everyone knows what the stakes are. It seems only fair to me that the outcome should be balanced as in if it is Yes, Scotland will be an independent country and we run our own affairs from Holyrood and if it is No, we scrap Holyrood and we fully commit to the union.

    1. muttley79 says:

      I have read a lot of your posts on here. I cannot say I have been impressed by any of them. Your opposition to Scottish self governance is a matter for you, but to pretend that everything will be fine after another No vote sums up your contribution. You are dogmatically and viscerally opposed to independence, to the extent that you and others are going to make any debate as difficult as possible.

      Over the last ten years, from the Liberal Democrats running away from a coalition with the SNP at Holyrood, to the intransigence that the unionists meet an offer of a second question during the first referendum, to the further intransigence of the unionist parties to the Smith Commission, to the now familiar intransigence of Theresa May refusing to acknowledge Scotland and Northern Ireland’s position in regards to leaving the EU. Time after time British nationalists have treated Scotland and its aspirations with utter contempt.

      I am glad that you have confirmed that you want to see Holyrood scrapped in the event of a No vote. After nearly 300 years, Scotland got back a parliament, albeit devolved. Now that it has established itself and grown, you want to return to direct rule from Westminster, with all the privatisation of public services, the cutting away of any social security net, the continued accumulation of power and wealth for those at the top of society that that entails etc. What a wonderful, positive vision that is.

      1. Richard MacKinnon says:

        muttley79,
        You pressume too much. You are so entrenched in your convictions you dont listen to other peoples opinion. I voted Yes in 2014, and if there were to be another referendum I may well do so again.
        I am not even going to try and explain myself again. Go back and read my first comment. The second paragraph is as clear and as simple as I can make my position.

    2. Valerie says:

      And watch this country circle the drain along with the South. Accelerated poverty under the cuts to the Scottish block Grant, which are 10% now, ripping what’s left out of oil and gas, trading away fishing, food and drink, up until the country is flooded with cheap and nasty unlabelled American food.
      Everything Scotland enjoys now like prescriptions, tuition, care etc. goes first, then public services, and finally healthcare.

      Anyone with the ability to do so, will move out of the country to preserve their EU rights.

  6. Patrick says:

    Of course my friends, very good statements:
    “A Scotland of self-determination is about more than independence,
    and if that future is to mean more than statehood, that substantive shift has to begin now,
    not wait until Independence Day.”

    and for those unionists if:
    ‘Those who want to save the UK are facing an adverse camber.
    The tilt of the campaign ahead favours the Nationalists’

    The best they can do is be on the side of Scotland and its membership in the EU, then when the UK ship sink, Scottish can bring the a safe-life from our triumphant ship.

    Forward with Independence and all aboard !

  7. c rober says:

    If we are serious about a post inyref YES , then we need to do more than just internally devolve matters , we need Democracy 2.0 for Scotland 2.0 , not a Scottish version of Empire 2.0.

    For that we need to remove certain things from self serving , self seeking politicians , only keen on tokenism for re election in the early part of Yr 5 and their bank balance.

    That means a top down thing that removes those things that politicans become enablers for and in the order of highest economical effect.

    Land reform , proper taxes graded on use it or lose it.

    Trade organisations that work for all , not the larger players , as part of a Govt not just outside it.

    Housing , more than a carbon copy of the LDP , and one that listens to projected data as well as the locale.

    Farming as co ops.Forestry too.Fishing with seeding as proportion of catches , not just landings , and setting the bar for the EU to do the same.

    Getting home ownership down to 3.5 times main earner income , adding to long term gdp instead of bank profits and importantly fast out of the starting block for Scottish economy. Enabling councils as devs , lenders , builders and contractors. Major planning changes to whole roof solar for all homes , including site orientation for passive – which is still lacking.

    Propositions , like the American system , preventing the build up of things like Brexit and the animosity , real or portrayed , giving a proper gauge of public sentiment for change in key areas right down to the ward level.

    Proper people advisors to Parliament from the spheres of degree education , in health , schools , care , benefits and pensions – not just closed committees staffed by MSP that go off to hidden rooms. Our supposedly open democracy of Holyrood isnt really in that regard.

    Golden handcuffs and local bursaries , with included housing on qualifying degrees , ie doctors , nurses , teachers. This can be achieved through advanced school testing to find those that would excel locally , think of as beyond Grammar schooling – and importantly before the aged increase and health care tsunami projected meaning better wages on offer elsewhere and brain drain.

    Soverign bank , NSandI , Scottish Lottery , gaming taxes , currency pegged to the difference between our two biggest markets , RUK and EU. Nationalisation of key areas via incremental taxation , or recreating the council model of power , water , housing , rail , telco.

    Bringing in the wealthy and corporate , ethically , like the above , remove higher taxation limits by long term investment. This has a double whammy effect , instant cash flow , external investment , removing the corporate model and the subsidies that enable the wealth of a tiny number of shareholders , oligarchs and oligopolies.

    Total change in media , preventing oligarchs. Legislation to prevent the Murdochs of the world having too much power , or indeed the Bbc.

    Same as above for Telco and and energy.Including as mentioned whole solar roof , and the tarrifs seen on Scottish grid connection to export to England not seen in reverse.

    New towns , geared for long term care. Just like a giant sheltered housing scheme , before we need them and are held over the barrel by corporate model , which is already happening in England , especially with housing and the attack on the nhs gearing for privitisation. Would have a double whammy effect on houses on the market freeing up supply. Today there is over 2m pensioners in England wishing to downsize , but without appropriate housing to move to , yet we are instead gearing housing production for the wealth creators and smallest need used as bribes electorally.

    Tolled new motorways until paid for , especially from Ayr through to Gretna , enabling the creation of the above and improvement of our villages and towns along it , as well as for investors into export from one of the poorest regions in Scotland.

    Super ports , to prevent the stealth tax also seen on Eire on using the English super ports. Train freight lines between those on East and West coast.

    There is many areas that the SNP and Holyrood could do better on , the above is just a few key areas where an iScotland would benefit from at day 1…. and its not even going down the oil route , its BY having the people prosper by being stakeholders , shareholders , and empowering their pockets , thus our own GDP from the poorest up.

    Importantly as the maths from round 1 showed , and will again , if we dont bring the ethical investment model up to those that are voting on self wealth preservation , as well as the fearful pensioner , then the result will remain the same.

    Thus we need models for this , its more than beyond GERS , its booting it squarely in the baws that is required – and letting the bully of WM run off without the wealthy and fearful others of oor ain to back it up. No more bought and sold , and not even a sniff of English gold 2.0.

    One of the most important lines in the McCrone report isnt really about oil , its about the GDP per capita , in that Scotland would be , would have been , the Kuwait of Europe. Oil you see is energy 1.0 , and the new fear as seen with the removal of subs is Energy 2.0 , its the EU supergrid and eco.

    With it comes more jobs than those two tory nuclear powerstations and processing , and an industry in our own hands is what the oligopoly power companies fear. So we should be throwing the cat among the pigeons , either come with us as investors without subs and increased prices , or we will replace you with the ethical nationalised model.

    So the simple thing for iScotland is look at the personal expenditure charts of Scotland , and change it , stop funding casino banks , oligopolies of energy , housing developers and land owners.

    But where is the mandate?

    There simply isnt one , and without it then the SNP and Holyrood are complacent in the very things they are elected on a ticket to remove and reject , they are no better then than the abstainers of red tories , and the 10 percenter model of the Tories proper.

    And without a Blamehound for an iScotland , well those in the yoonsphere , the protectors of the 10 percenters , on wages from the 1 percent , will laugh all the way to WM bank , with cap in hand for Scotland , and profit even more in UK 2.0. with English gold 2.0.

  8. ian says:

    All any scottish devolved goverment can do is “fire fight”and the SNP doesit better than the rest.The block grant and barnett formula are under constant pressure from WM where the power lies .The only job they have is to keep the essential services which are devolved working as well as they can. The rest will have to wait until such times as Scotland has real independence.

    1. block grant says:

      Ian,
      “All any scottish devolved goverment can do is “fire fight””. That is one interpretation. I have another slant on it.
      It might look as if the SNP are doing their best ‘fire fighting’ but I dont see that impresion lasting. Eventually another perception is going to evolve, Holyrood is a devolved parliament as we know. It is given a

  9. Richard MacKinnon says:

    Ian, This old lap top is going to get papped out if it does that again.
    I was saying, Holyrood gets a block grant to run Scotland. Once the cake has been divided or as we say the annual budget passed then what else is there to do? The way I look upon Hoylrood is like its a local council. It looks especially arkward when the SNP are in power because they are a nationalist party who are in reality running Scotland for a Tory government at Westminster. The Tories goffers in the northern teritories.
    I cannot be alone in this. There must be others that can see this and Im sure as time goes on this will become more obvious. That is why I say, if there is to be another referendum let us agree beforehand what happens after the vote, should we vote No a second time.

  10. John Monro says:

    Two hundred years ago, there was an intellectual flowering in Scotland called the Scottish Enlightenment, that sowed the seeds of so much of what we still understand as a modern, progressive society. It set the formula for economic growth, social progress and scientific endeavour. It’s likely the whole planet would be poorer if that great intellectual revolution in Scotland hadn’t happened.

    But we are now with a world population approaching seven billion, wholesale destruction of our planetary environment both on land and in the ocean, the depletion of so many natural resources and the increasingly dire problem of global warming, and trying to deal with these issues with political ideas and systems no longer fit for purpose – the age of fake news and anti-intellectual posturing – entering a revolutionary phase of human existence on this planet that is unique; challenges each of which provide humanity with a dire problem, taken together could easily bring down our whole global society. The intellectual and philosophical tools that we will need to help us have not been developed, indeed, under our present neoliberal capitalist system, they have been ruthlessly suppressed.

    I imagine the citizens of Scotland should be the most politically aware and informed population on the planet. Years of discussion and debate about independence, taking place in the home, in the pub, in meetings, at work, peacefully and rationally for the most part, have tilled a fertile soil of social acceptance for new ideas, for new seeds to be sown to allow the Scottish people to work toward a future that actually has a future, to uproot the old ideas which have brought us to where we are and which are no longer relevant to our situation.

    Before any party does anything, before any politician makes any pronouncement, before any grand new schemes are adopted, I would call on the Scottish people to create a “New Scottish Enlightenment”, to get your philosophers, scientists, leaders, artists, poets, financiers and economists meeting again in the coffee houses, the pubs and the halls of academe to debate and prepare us for more rational response to the mountain range of revolutionary problems that we can see on the horizon, as we travel and loose our way in the increasingly thorny foothills of what we presently call progress, but which I see as a road to perdition.

  11. Alf Baird says:

    Scotlan’s “halls of academe” are sae enlightened noo thay canna e’en pit thegither a Scots Langage Degree. Ye’ll be haurd pit tae fund mony Scots academics nouadays onywey. Nurturin oor ain fowk is no whit thay elite institushins is aboot. Thay’re efter the siller o weel-aff students fi onywhaur.

  12. Henry Holland says:

    @Gerry Hassan: You conclude by stating: “We have to call out unacceptable behaviour and diversions”, a top down approach to doing politics, yet you yourself acknowledge that there is a critique of the SNP, “as increasing state powers, being insensitive to civil liberties’ concerns, and charged of growing authoritarianism from political opponents (and many Yes supporters).” Your appeal to “call out diversions” is itself authoritarian: we cannot create progressive politics by allowing a tiny number inside the political and academic elite to determine the agenda for YesScotland. There must be a good number reading your article who would like to know why you wish to obfuscate the issue on the SNP’s neo-liberalism: the brakes they have imposed on the politics of the slim and profit-seeking state — including abolishing tuition fees and reversing some welfare cuts, as you mention — are welcome, but cannot, surely, warrant them wearing the “social-democrat” badge, while they still hold tight to “pound-shop-economics”: aiming to slash company tax to motivate any companies to cross the border, with a disregard for which working conditions this will result in, and a disinterest in the non-monetary value of the services and goods these future companies may produce. Do the “diversions” that have to be “called out”, apparently in order to win, include socialist and neo-Marxist perspectives on Scottish independence? I do not ask this rhetorically, and would welcome an honest answer. Which perspectives could allow us avoiding a useless polarization of the tacit divide between those who self-identify as firmly outwith the SNP, and firmly pro-Yes, and those who self-identify as being inside the SNP? Why this mad emphasis on a tightly orchestrated, ultra box-ticking-type strategy to win indyref2 “from above”, when it is entirely possible to win indyref2, and be stuck in a post-independence country where little has changed in terms of who is able to access and utilize power? As Gerry Hassan must have read Gramsci on cultural hegemony, he’ll know fine well all about this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_hegemony

  13. Henry Holland says:

    @3Rensho: appreciated your comment and the implied concept that we should expect the SNP to be efficient technocrats, even if we can’t expect much more of them. Was rather cliquey and technocratic though – like should we all know what “APD” is and who Muffy Calder is? What about non-Scottish readers who can not spend the whole day hanging around in SNP circles, or reading the Scottish papers online?

Help keep our journalism independent

We don’t take any advertising, we don’t hide behind a pay wall and we don’t keep harassing you for crowd-funding. We’re entirely dependent on our readers to support us.

Subscribe to regular bella in your inbox

Don’t miss a single article. Enter your email address on our subscribe page by clicking the button below. It is completely free and you can easily unsubscribe at any time.