If this movement was characterised by ethnic nationalism, based on past glories and battles, or had more than a whiff of tartanry, I wouldn’t be involved. But instead this is the most dynamic, outward-looking, diverse and exciting political movement I’ve ever been involved in. It’s reversed my cynicism about the future of progressive politics. Voting in the referendum is based on residency, not ‘ethnic’ roots. If you are committed to this country, you help to shape its future. Such an open sense of belonging is reflected in Alistair McIntosh’s poem, above (implying nothing about Alistair’s constitutional preference here, by the way. Just a nice poem). An independent Scotland would have progressive citizenship and immgration policies. It would not imprison and abuse asylum seekers, for instance
One of the most exciting things about this movement, this political re-engagement in Scotland, is the shift in perceptions. You see your own country anew (whether that’s the UK or Scotland) and say, Christ, what is going on here? You no longer accept that it is inevitable, but see how this state of affairs came to be, and which interests made it so. You see how it might be possible to change it. The shift in perception can be stark – what, if for instance, Scotland is not the barren north of Britain, but the fertile south of Northern Europe?
In addition to the new ideas and hopes for progress, people are increasingly questioning the shaping and content of news media – and, better, producing their own media, their own writing. It’s this shift from passive (if disgruntled) consumer to active, determined citizen that is so interesting. There’s a sense of hope, but for once it is realistic and practical. The broad left in Scotland has grown so much in the last two years, with the referendum as a catalyst, that there is a real chance for progressive, radical change in this country, and further afield. If someone had told me that 6 or 7 years ago I would have laughed. And it’s not just ‘getting a Labour government’ instead of a Tory one (though that of course wouldn’t be much of a lefty victory any more). It’s not just the prospect of moving centralised power from one southern location to a slightly more northern one. It’s the possibilities beyond that. Power must be devolved, dispersed, to meaningful levels, where people feel they have a say in what happens in their lives and communities. Politics as usual cannot, and will not, continue.
The Common Weal is the most crucial part of the yes movement because it is the reason we are trying so hard to get a yes vote. We aren’t campaigning for some saltire-ish status quo. We aren’t campaigning because we don’t like the English. I personally don’t sign up to the ‘we’re so different up here in Scotland’; in public opinion data Scotland is not significantly to the left of England (the real divide is between the South-East and everywhere else). While I believe in self-determination for any group of people – and struggle to understand how leftists can argue against it – the real point of all this, for me and I think many others, is the chance to really improve things. Not Nu-Labour sticking-plaster ‘improvements’, but a real reconsideration and restructuring of society so that people can actually prosper and live well. A Common Weal Scotland is entirely possible, though it will take time and a huge amount of effort – but the commitment and dedication is palpable in this movement. We might just get there.