Scotland voted No. Ah well, that’s it all over then! Like petulant children we’ve had our tantrum and now we’d better knuckle down and do as we’re told ‘cos the grown ups know best! Westminster and the City can heave a sign of relief and get on with Business as usual safe in the knowledge that we’ll go quietly back to our deep fried mars bars, our alcohol addiction, our substance abuse and the occasional foray into tartan trews and a Highland Schottische!
It’s been great knowing you all! As one Tory councillor said at the count this grass roots movement is just a flash in the pan! Sorry I was cheeky! I’m off to eat my muesli and clean behind the fridge!
Am I fuck! And nor are millions of other Scots! Through Indy Ref hundreds of thousands of people have realised that there are major problems with the democratic and economic systems in the UK. We have tried to address them through Independence because Scotland is uniquely well placed within the UK to be able to lead on this: we have huge natural resources to support our relatively small population; we have an electoral system in our Parliament which is more representative than First Past the Post; we are less in hock to the City of London; our smaller population makes it easier for people to connect and in the SNP we have a centre left (although far from radical) party which enjoys broad popular support while the Scottish Greens and the SSP offer more radical alternatives.
We tried, we really tried, to get change through Independence and while we did not win, we have made progress. We have built a huge grass roots movement for democracy, which I am confident is strong enough to keep going. Through it people have developed networks of contacts and learnt to organise. We have got a better understanding of establishment tactics.
We know what needs to change: the UK electoral system; centralisation where ever; power structures outwith democratic control, (House of Lords, the money markets, inherited wealth); austerity hitting those who can’t cope as it is and there are some big issues to deal with: Trident, the still-uncontrolled banking sector, inequality both financial and of opportunity, TTIP, climate change, how to implement prosperity without trashing the planet.
Scotland has lost an opportunity to lead on this, but when 45% of its population has shown that it does not support the institutional structure which the country is in there is a serious issue to address. We can continue work for change within Scotland alone, or we can spread the “virus” of community activism and the Spirit of the 45 across the UK and try for change across the piece. If the UK establishment thought that a No vote would end the contagion of grass roots engagement it could be the biggest mistake it’s ever made!
Many No voters and people in rUK can see the need to for action on these. We may feel that No voters have let Scotland down. That’s understandable. Some undoubtedly voted No to protect their own interests because they are doing very nicely thank you from current arrangements, and didn’t care about anyone else. But some did vote No because they wanted to address the issues across this UK. Not all English voters are UKIPers although a worrying number can find no other outlet for their frustration. Instead of demonising the alienated working class of SE England we need to show them that there is an alternative.
This will be difficult because of the weak UK democracy, but over the last few months there has been growing interest in rUK to alternatives to the mainstream which are not UKIP. There is a growing push for a federal UK from the grass roots in England (perhaps rather late in the day, but better late than never).
Today we need to mourn the lost opportunity, but tomorrow we need to get back up again and fight on. We need to grow links with those in Scotland and in rUK who seek to change the system across the whole UK as well as keeping up the pressure for change within and lead by Scotland. We need to consider the role of the various bits of the grass roots campaign moving forward. Should it all be left to political parties, or is there a role for organisations such as the Common Weal and RIC in bringing together seekers after similar truths? Some would like RIC and/or Common Weal to become parties, while others see the need to continue the powerful cross party and none inclusivity of the last two years. We need to have that debate and then move forward. We have worked together for two years. We must not allow ourselves to split into factions. Our unity is our strength, and we need to widen our membership to include fellow travellers who voted No and people from rUK.
While we have lost a battle, but we have won some historic victories within that defeat: breaking the grip for mainstream UK Labour on Glasgow, North Lanarkshire and West Dumbartonshire, and we have defeated our own fear. We have lost the battle but it is only part of a much bigger war in which we can use our experience and build up alliances to take on the British establishment itself rather than opting out of it. Whatever does not kill you makes you stronger! Scotland is far from dead yet!