Well it’s not boring. Nicola is First Minister with a gender balanced cabinet. Alex looks set to return to London to open up a second front and Jim will lead Scottish Labour and try to find a seat in Holyrood. Added to this all of Scotland’s civil society; the unions, the media, the parties, the churches, culture and citizens have had a democratic shake up like never before. Now we need to look to the future.
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Democratic Left Scotland (DLS) is a wee organisation with big ideas. Ideas and ambitions that we share with others but our size and our heritage also let us ask difficult questions. Questions like: Where are we trying to go and how will we get there? Born as an autonomous organisation in 1999 when the Scottish Parliament was reconvened DLS has Scotland’s future as its centre. Our organisation draws from the rich tradition of independent progressive organisations and individuals that worked for change. Importantly these women and men ‘dug where they stood’ by being part of the daily struggles of their workplaces and communities. They were also critical thinkers and internationalists. Their battles alongside those of their neighbours in England and cousins further afield were all part of changing the fortunes of people and planet for the better. Our network looks to continue this work.
Scotland’s future is intertwined with what happens across Britain, Europe and the globe: the environmental and the economic impact on relations between worker and owner, state and citizen, women and men. Today’s world creates competition between generations, localities and workforces. So called established communities need to respond to ongoing migration.
The neo-liberal response to the global economic crisis coupled with the British political class’s response to post-imperialism has meant constantly increasing pressure on the many. Cuts, the implications of war and austerity are the social policy back-drop. Monarchy, trident, the Lords, the banks, bonuses and expenses continue. Food banks (emergency food aid), flexibility (wage cuts, redundancy and stress) and welfare reform (sanctions) are imposed, as so called celebrity culture distracts people from this growing normality. Whilst daily discrimination on the basis class, race, gender, sexuality, disability, and faith continues.
In May 2015 we will get a vote (16 and 17 year olds will have to wait). Westminster, the lynch-pin of much of the above inequality is moving further in the direction of the Tory right and UKIP and the parties that pander to the assumed views of ‘middle-England’. Labour’s ability or desire to put a break on this seems questionable. Still for a few months around May of 2015 Westminster will be the focus. But there is more to democracy than voting. The self-determination that developed around the time of the referendum should be increased not dissipated (and it does not need to be unique to Scotland). It should not be limited to a cross against one of the parties although we all need to figure out which candidate in each constituency is best placed to move us beyond the broken promises of the palace of Westminster.
A just Scotland is not compatible with the (TTIP) privatisation of the NHS, with Trident renewal, the cutting of local services and the demonization of migrant workers. And if we are to build that different kind of Scotland there is enough to do now: we do not have to wait for the revolution. Working class communities found their voice in September. In alliance with others across Scotland there in a need to oppose fracking, challenge racism, cap rents, introduce a living wage and end the poor-law culture of sanctions and precarious employment. We need to learn from and support activity where it is already taking place. We need to build effective, sustainable, participative communities, local government and Scottish Democracy. Beyond this land, industry and resources need to be employed for the benefit of society if we are to find a route out of austerity.
The Unionist parties failed to address this with their promised Vow and their approach to the Smith Commission. All in Labour talk about social justice but they continually fail to understand the new democratic awakening or the developing progressive culture of Scotland. Until now, they could still have been a part of this but the election of Jim Murphy and Kezia Dugdale make it extremely increasingly unlikely. Importantly we should not disown the traditions of the Labour movement but to attempt to locate them within the context of democratic renewal.
The SNP, the Greens and the Scottish Socialist Party have all gained members. This is to be welcomed. But the lessons of September 2014 show that alone this is not enough. Discussion of an electoral agreement between these parties for Westminster was always a bit of a side-show. There is more to politics than parties. There is a need to build an even greater self-determination for a different kind of Scotland. We can’t ignore the Yes and No settlement of September 2014 but we have to move beyond it to an even bigger consensus for Yes – for a different kind of Scotland.
What kind of Scotland will that be? The STUC’s a Just Scotland, the Radical Independence Campaign’s people’s Vow, the work of; CND, the National Collective and Belle Caledonia can all help. As can, Women for Independence asserting the second part of their name ‘independence for women’. The advent of the National newspaper and the role of the Sunday Herald are pivotal as is social media and importantly real conversations with real people. Common Weal, Engender, NUS Scotland all have ideas. Even small publications like Perspectives and Scottish Left Review have a contribution to make. This is only part of a long list and importantly not all of these organisations and institutions are exclusively or in any way Indy. ‘Yes Scotland’ needs to speak to No Scotland without bitterness and those impacted by Osborne’s ongoing austerity and other forms of inequality need to be given the space to speak about their experience. The settlement vintage 2014 is not static.
Political spaces, real usable spaces in communities and the policy spaces created by the Community Empowerment Bill, the Strengthening Local Democracy commission and land reform and other legislation need to be use where possible. Tax justice needs to become a reality in Scotland if we are going to pay our bills. The arguments for economic sustainability and appropriate social security need to be nailed. We need to rethink the relationship between paid and unpaid work. The radical needs to become more common place.
The post referendum Scotland requires us to create even more energy in the run up to May and beyond. We need to start to build the Scotland we want to be. It might not be easy. It will not be boring.