Spring 2024: Bella Re-Boot

It’s Spring! (well sort of) and time for a refresh of Bella and a re-focus on what we’re doing.

We are trying to change some things about the site behind the scenes (details to come) but we are looking to sharpen things up, introduce new editorial content and new contributors and generally update us to the time (s) we are in now and moving forward. We’ll be asking you the reader for some input on this coming soon but in the meantime here is an outline of content areas we will be focusing on and inviting pitches for:

  1. Independence and Self-Determination
  2. Identity, Language and Power
  3. Postcard
  4. Many Voices
  5. Unusual Suspects
  6. InterCity
  7. Protest and Resistance
  8. Books, Art, Music
  9. Highland Hard Rain
  10. Climate Breakdown 

Independence and Self-Determination
The idea of political sovereignty and the wider question of self-determination has always been, and will always be, the core of this website. In 2024 this has a different feeling than it did ten years ago but the reality remains the same: in our view, that being wedded to the British state is disastrous for the people of Scotland and creating a contemporary Scottish democracy where people get the government they elect is not a radical demand, it is a basic demand. We do not support any political party but support independence. It’s likely that the landscape of Scottish and British politics is going to change completely in the next six months and the routes to independence will have to be radically re-thought. We used to ask if there was A Parliamentary Road to Socialism – we need to ask if there’s a Parliamentary Road to Independence. We’re here for that and a major re-examination of ‘Yes’ ten years on.
Identity, Language and Power
This is where we want to explore language and dialect, code-switching and identity, class and region, gate-keeping and silencing, who get’s to speak – and who gets shut-down? This is also a space where we might just celebrate, remembering Maria Fusco’s evocation:

“I am for adjectives like beezer, dreich, quare, and nouns like clart, drouth, gleed, mizzle, oxters, scoot-hole, smoor, and verbs like boke, fissle, greet, hunker, swither, and adverbs like furnenst. I am for non-standard English language as a legitimate and enriching form of critical and creative writing which does not take modalities of criticality as given, rather it tends to, and experiments with non-division between practice and theory, criticism and creativity.”

We might want to talk in (and about) Scots and Gaelic, but also other minority languages in Scotland, and other language issues like translation. Language is power, and powerlessness. The best fightback is to use it with glee, celebrate and play with it.
An invitation for a photograph with a story. It could be from Mauripol or Mauchline, the Bronx or Banff, Uppsala or Ullapool. This is part of our international content and our commitment to more visual and audio content.
Many Voices
We continue our partnership with Pass the Mic ‘Tackling the under-representation and misrepresentation of women of colour in Scotland’s public life and media’.
Unusual Suspects
We have a commitment in the year ahead to profile unheard and new voices. We need people who’ve never written before for Bella to hear more fresh ideas and fresh thinking. We can do some mentoring on this and we will be promoting this invitation very soon.
Looking at urban issues throughout Scotland, whether it be housing, transport, the gig economy, drugs, crime, youth services, open spaces, council facilities, cuts or whatever affects you, we want to focus on city life in Scotland.
Protest and Resistance
As social breakdown accelerates and state violence increases the need to document and report active resistance and the protest movement increases. Whether it be demonstrations in defence of the natural world, against rampant capitalist exploitation, for Just Stop Oil, or against poverty and assaults on the quality of life, we will be reporting on it.
Books, Art, Music
Scotland has a flourishing publishing industry but a lacklustre review culture. We will continue to publish regular book reviews and features, arts reviews and articles, playlists and interviews.
Highland Hard Rain
We are keen to hear regular writing and reporting from the Highlands and Islands, the Gàidhealtachd, and northern Scotland. There is a need to counter the tendency towards seeing everything through a central belt lens and a need to explore the many problems facing rural Scotland.
Climate Breakdown
We intend to ‘tell the truth’ as demanded by climate activists but also go beyond this and hold a space for uncomfortable questions about ‘what happens next’ and what options there are for the climate movement about tactics, strategies and ideas beyond repeating the same ‘tried and failed’ ones. The meta crisis is now a part of our everyday existence and most media celebrate extreme weather events as great news and fail to take to account the businesses and systems responsible.

These ideas and themes do not replace other subjects we currently cover like Media, International, Film, Peace, Land, or any other, but add to our current output.

Later this week we’ll be announcing a crowd-fund to support producing this work.

Each of these themes will be fleshed out in the coming days and weeks and people invited to contribute.

The background to the changes coming on this site is the reality that only by systemic change – and mass collective action – will we begin to see anything like the transformation we need – whatever ‘issue’ we are talking about.

Please share and comment…


We are raising funds to support our ongoing work – support us HERE.

Comments (20)

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  1. Wul says:

    Good you are keeping things fresh.

    Some focus on examples of hope would be good. I.e. People/groups making a positive difference, dissenting and winning, refusing to hate, communal action. You’ve got this covered under item 7 “Protest and Resistance” so, fair play to you.

    1. Thanks Wul, good idea. In classic media theory people ‘like’ or click on bad news but there is really an opportunity for highlighting pre-figurative and alternative ideas and projects. Will do.

  2. Graeme Purves says:

    I am all for looking beyond the Central Belt, but the area of the country to the south of the Central Belt is larger than Belgium! Is there scope for seeking perspectives from the South of Scotland too?

    1. Thanks Graeme. Yes, of course, these categories aren’t exclusive to anything – nor our normal output on Opinion, analysis and our other categories.

  3. Alex McCulloch says:

    It seems to be coming to pass that all of us who believe in an even better Scotland feel the need for a step change in approach and recognise that if we continue current behaviours we will get the same results .

    No one though is addressing the elephant in the room….that is …if we want to enable the systematic change that we agree is needed for a better everyday life for the many ( the strategy) ….if we need to inspire mass collective action..then the only realistic route to that in the short term is to support, influence and re-energise the SNP. ( the tactics)

    We need everyone who thinks, wants change, has ideas, has lived experience to join and re-energise the SNP.

    With a massive membership increase, with reach to all communities across Scotland the SNP can evolve to become the NSP ( New Scotland Party)

    This can be the forum for involving and listening to our communities then responding with new ideas that resonate with the changes people want to see in their own areas.

    So take courage and align the new Bella with a bold step where all the energy can actually lead to change …the SNP will maybe spurred into action with some unexpected support!

    1. Robert Hill says:

      While I agree that the SNP is probably the most likely vehicle to get to independence, if Bella Caledonia aligns with a political party it’s likely to alienate some who are for a better Scotland but anti the SNP. For some reason I have never fathomed the SNP raises the hackles of many sensible people I know.

    2. Thanks Alex, but we remain unaligned behind any political party – I think that’s a better space to be in as a media outlet.

  4. SteveH says:

    It’s always a good idea to take stock, and to ask for new voices. But, beware the trap of mostly favouring those who share your ideas, who think or sound like you or sound like you. The danger being that you create the very thing you abhor. Take the scourge of Western democracy: DIE (EDI, DEI etc.) ‘Diversity’ mostly means diversity of identity not of thought, and so on.

    Of course, most everything is now brought down to the so-called “power dynamic”. Injustices do indeed come from the over-concentration of power. This true, whether it is the Tories in Westminster, the SNP in Holyrood, or the Commission in Brussels. It also comes from privileged groups within society. This includes the educated elites. The sad thing is they are mostly blind to their abuse of their power. Thomas Payne reminds us that the greatest tyrannies are in the name of the noblest of causes.

    Dispersion of power is therefore one the answers to our world’s ills. This is one of the only ways to avoid true inequality and to maximise opportunities for the individual and wider community. We should be looking to create aspirational communities not divided ones. We can do this by focusing on those things we share and unite us. It’s impossible for every individual and community to share all the same values and principles, but looking for and focusing on the wide range of ones we do share is a great starting point.

    How do we disperse power? For start, we need to move away from the current party system, as this leads to corruption and the focus on the needs of the party and its leadership rather than on those of the people it says it’s serve. Our constitution needs to change to restore the checks and balances that have served us week, but which have been eliminated by successive bouts if short term thinks, or dare I say it cynical grabs for power.

    We need open and honest discussions, even if it offends. We need to fiercely protect our right to say what we think. It’s a matter of record that the Chernobyl disaster came about out of fear of being punished by the powers that be, if you spoke to warn that the authorities were wrong.

    The Hate Crime legislation is not only unenforceable, it is iniquitous and the antithesis of a free society.

    True incitement to cause real harm, not the “hurty” feelings variety is still very important, but it’s also critically important to allow even unpleasant and vile thoughts to be aired. This is the only way you can bring them out into the bright light of day and not let them fester. You can debate and change hearts by listening and by critical thinking based debate.

    As someone who grew up with very poor formal schooling, it was my hiding in libraries as a small child and youth to avoid the violence and discomfort of a rough neighbourhood that I was introduced to an unlimited world of knowledge, and of different voices and language I could not possibly been exposed to in my disadvantaged environment.

    Please invite voices like mine, which I know many of you disagree with (which is OK), and dare to listen with an open mind. Try not to focus on the use of clever language to display your hard earned education, or to display your membership of a loud social-justice minded part of society.

    Look for the meaning behind sometimes clumsy language. Use some of that empathy you normally reserve for the person defined by their intersectional victimhood ranking, and give a thought for the young poor white heterosexual boy from the rough area, who will have done well to avoid an early life of violence, drugs, crime and poor educations opportunities. He too has a story; he too has a soul; he too has a life worth valuing and saving. Saving him not just on your privileged ideas, but on his and the all-inclusive aspirational community we should be striving to build.

    Good luck!

    1. SteveH says:

      My apologies for the typos in my piece. I have struggled at times when reading or writing text. It’s worse when I do so on a small device. I hope you get the gist of what I’m trying to say.

    2. SleepingDog says:

      @SteveH, talking of educated elites, I’ve been reading philosopher Susan Neiman on Learning from the Germans. One of her interviewees says that Germans today still don’t get that it was educated elites driving Nazism, with 8 out of 15 of those deciding the Final Solution at Wannsee having PhDs. She writes that professors largely adapted well to the Nazi system, and many people voted Nazi to keep their privileges. Indeed, After the failure of Nazism, these people largely kept their top jobs. Now, you’ve publicly admired the Nazis, although perhaps Wannsee was where you say they went ‘too far’. But it’s important to understand that these Nazi educated elites also were teaching anti-Enlightenment (says Neiman).

      And the European Enlightenment itself was heavily influenced by contact with other cultures at a time when Europe was socially-politically backward compared to the rest of the world, with superstition and mostly monarchies. It was mass education, increasing women’s equality and the idea communism of printed book culture that accelerated the capacity of Western nations to influence the world, for good or evil (and their empires were and are evil). Yet despite evidence of who actually funds universities (Glasgow by the arms trade, etc), you keep harping on as if (tertiary) education is just one thing, dominated by one ideology.

      All you have to do to disabuse yourself of such notions is to learn something about the very real controversies going on within academic circles. From your interests, you might start with the Cass Report. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2024/apr/14/hilary-cass-review-gender-trans-young-people-children-nhs-evidence
      Rather than exerting political power, many educated people are little more than voices of reason howling in a wilderness of wilful ignorance (climate scientists a case in point). You fail to recognise one of the most obvious vehicles of corruption: money. This is possibly because you are swallowing corporate or hereditary-privilege propaganda.

      Yes, there are many problems with and failures of academia, but the biggest dangers come from exactly that ideological groupthink you propose, an official homogenous set of values based on national myths and lies about being exceptional, which reveals that it is your feelings you care most about, your preference for the warm and fluffy over the reflective and critical. And like many rightwingers, you project your own vices and failings on your opponents.

      1. Niemand says:

        Good exchange.

        Re the Nazis, I have just finished reading Amis’s ‘Zone of Interest’ (really very good indeed) and in the appendix at the end he makes a comment about the why of Nazism (something many say is ‘impossible’ to really answer) and he says this, in summary of others who have put forward reasons for its rise:

        1) The people’s ‘despair of politics’
        2) Their eager fatalism
        3) Their wallowing in petulance and perversity
        4) Their ‘resentful dimness’
        5) Their ‘heated readiness to hate’
        6) Their refusal of moderation and, in adversity, of consolation
        7) Their ethos of zero-sum (all or nothing)
        8) Their embrace of the irrational and hysterical

        And on the other hand, their leader who indulged these tendencies on the stage of global politics (and tangentially, Hitler in fact by late-1941 knew the war was lost but carried on anyway because he saw defeat the fault not of the enemy but of the Germans themselves and stated that if a better, stronger power defeated them he would have no sympathy and the nation ‘deserved to perish’. He actually coveted defeat.).

        This is frighteningly prescient and I would ask all, no matter what of political hue, to consider these points and how we might be indulging in them and who your ‘leader’ is and their attitude to them.

        John Grierson said a long time ago that the endless chattering of the ‘cognoscenti’ that never resolved anything and for whom everything was ‘problematic’ and to be deconstructed, mainly to destroy it, leads to despair among the people and what do people in despair turn to? Nothing good and his view, the worst result being the ‘certainties’ of fascism.

          1. Niemand says:

            No, but I want to.

            You have? (actually I think you wrote about it?)

          2. Yes, its brilliant. Available n streaming services now. Highly recommend.

        1. SleepingDog says:

          @Niemand, on your last paragraph, I would make the customary philosophical distinction between scepticism (questioning) and cynicism (denial). Sometimes the answer to “what could be problematic about that?” involves empathy, which should be encouraged. Those who wish to deny objective reality when it suits, yet equally insist on untestable statements of ‘what is’ when *that* suits their interests, are charlatans, generally speaking. There are branches of philosophy which tackle such issues.

          1. Niemand says:

            Yes of course SD, agreed.

            I was watching a 1982 TV debate the other day (a very early Channel 4 late night series), unashamedly intellectual with three people and a chair – new post-structuralist thinker after Foucault etc (young chain-smoking Indian female), traditional western rationalist (Oxbridge male) and a Marxist (NYC Jew). It was great. I warmed to the post-structuralist person but her tone and thinking was so different to what it has become. Under some decent scrutiny from the others she spoke about ‘affirmative’ deconstruction that ran alongside more traditional ideas, not to deny them (that would be stupid) but to question some of their assumptions, widen their scope and who they listened to and included (i.e. not just the usual Western males put simply). She was convincing and charismatic and the others seemed more defensive (but made good points too).

            But I see very little that is affirmative about such an approach today. I work in academia and it has become a kind of end in itself, an industry that furthers careers (who / what can I slay next to get my name noticed? Best choose a sacred cow and undermine their credibility by looking at their personal life / some dodgy views, re-contextualise them somehow as a colonial oppressor, that’ll do it). This whole attitude does seep out of the academy. It has left me deeply cynical about such a form of critique as in the end I find a lot of it simply dishonest in its approach – it does not want to look at things in the round , only that which can be used to destroy it. And to what end? Nothing affirmative that is for sure.

          2. SleepingDog says:

            @Niemand, yes, well put:
            “to question some of their assumptions, widen their scope and who they listened to and included”
            sounds like an encapsulation of good practice to me, while:
            “just the usual Western males”
            was the impression that struck me in much of my studies at university, although there were some countercurrents to the more reactionary positions, and if I’d read the suggested introductory philosophy book at the time, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, I’d have discovered more.

            Certainly I encountered lecturers with open agendas (one was practically a Christian proselytiser). I doubt that the best philosophy can be done within the confines of academia; it has to escape into, or originate in, the real world. But philosophers can be trained up by academics who are more concerned with the discipline than an ideology. Logic is neutral in that respect.

  5. Hannah Graham says:

    As I’ve said online, this is refreshing and heartening! A type of thread to potentially be woven through these plans, one I’d welcome and which Bella would be in a good position to advance and spotlight, would be thinking and writing on what could make Scotland a healthy/ier democracy? It would fit as a thread across a few of those 10 content areas mentioned here, and Bella has a track record of caring about this. A healthier Scottish democracy needs to be an integral part of an independent future and the process of getting there, and it is dearly needed in the devolution arrangement and issues we’re saddled with now. It might seem like a pedantic nuance of two sides of the same thing, but seeing a spotlight on solidarities, vision and successful strategies, movements, communities mobilising collectively for good (what we’re hoping for, moving towards, defending as integral), as well as protest and resistance (what we’re seeking to avoid, calling out, dismantling, being honest in analysing what’s not healthy about where we are now in Scottish democracy). Among the various things that has meant this thematic thread is currently on my mind, *waves at recent ScotPol Twitter/X with arched eyebrow*, is seeing the ‘The Democracy Playbook’ call for pitches (see link), which is thought-provoking. Not suggesting Bella has to copy as you have your own creative vision, but giving it as a good example that’s non-specific to Scottish context and political cultures (and I’ve no affiliation or contact with Unbias the News as a group, it’s the blurb in their call for pitches which caught my eye). https://unbiasthenews.org/why-we-are-launching-the-democracy-playbook/

    1. Hi Hannah – thanks – yes looking at new (and old) forms of deliberative and direct democracy and much smaller units of decision-making is imho essential. Just replicating the British state in Scotland is, in my opinion, disastrous.

      Thanks for the feedback and link.

    2. SleepingDog says:

      @Hannah Graham, on examination, I would have some concerns about the way that Unbias the News is funded. Whereas Bella Caledonia’s position is
      “entirely dependent on our readers to support us.”
      and publishes articles explaining (in essence) why. And with trending stories of how the British government disburses/withholds funding, it probably doesn’t require much explanation.

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