I have that this feeling that we are going through a very strange phase in relation to politics in Scotland. There is still plenty of activity going on, but it strikes me that there is as yet not a lot of substance behind all this activity. This is not a criticism, it takes time for all of us to adjust to the post referendum situation. And the unexpected paradox that it is the losing side, the pro-independence groups and political parties, that is the most energised and enthusiastic. It is great to see so many of our fellow citizens – well over a hundred thousand by now – join a political party. I am one of them, and the Scottish Greens now have one more awkward member to deal with!
It is not just the pro-indy political parties that have been re-energised by this post referendum surge. Many, possibly most, of the main pro-indy campaign groups have decided to continue their work. And they have seen an increase in members or activists. Witness the sell outs for Women for Indy and the most recent, the incredible 3,000 people who attended RIC’s latest jamboree in Glasgow. All the more remarkable in that this conference was held at the same time and almost in the same place as Nicola managed to attract 12,000 people to her final tour event!
At the local level there has been, if anything, an even greater outburst of activity. All kinds of groups, some longstanding and others relatively new, have been organising public meetings, conferences and conventions. More are already planned for next year.
Even the media it seems will not remain unscathed by this post referendum surge. The main pro-indy websites – Bella, Newsnet, National Collective, Wings etc – have all decided to not just continue, but in most cases to expand. This week we have even seen the emergence of a pro-indy newspaper – the National – albeit on a one week trial run. The times they are a changing! Or, have they already changed?
All this activity is great and most welcomed, and I am pleased to play my very small part in this movement. However activity on its own will not be enough. Sooner or later more will be needed. Before the 18th September, we could all focus on the one aim of winning a Yes vote. Details could be left a bit vague as the whole point of independence is that it will be for the people who live in Scotland to have the final democratic say on policies.
This is now no longer the case. While independence will remain the key aim for most of us, a referendum is now off the agenda, for at least a few years anyway. Policy will now be what matters. And there are plenty of issues demanding attention. Constitutional issues will still remain, as we await with baited breadth the proposals from the Smith Commission on how to strengthen the powers of the Scottish Parliament within the UK. As ever the economy will be the prime focus for most people. However this time around social justice is likely to become just as important an issue. Or perhaps the key issue will become how to manage the economy in a way that ensures social justice as an equally important outcome. There will of course be other issues that are likely to become important – fracking, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and its potentially devastating consequences for public services, such as the NHS, the EU and immigration to name but a few.
In all these cases the public will want to hear what the various parties and campaign groups have to say. In particular they will want detailed proposals which specify what action needs to be taken. Wish lists and demands are unlikely to suffice for much longer. And this is where things could become very interesting. With Nicola now formally installed as our new First Minister – congratulations and best wishes to her – and her new cabinet in office, we can expect some more details from the SNP as to what their proposals are. The Greens already have proposals in the public domain. The same should soon happen with the Labour party, once they have decided who they want as their leader and deputy. Though how much real scope for decision making they have remains unanswered.
The various campaigning groups will soon have to decide how far they want to go down the route of detailed proposals. A start was made at the RIC conference with their so called People’s Vow. Not that I am a fan of vows of any kind, at least not in current times. While the principles are admirable, the vow remains full of demands and promises to campaign, to demonstrate and to oppose this and that. The only positive item I could see was the commitment to prepare a people’s budget. It will be interesting to see who gets to write this “people’s” budget, and how far it goes beyond a list of demands.
Another Scotland is possible is the key message of RIC. This needs to go beyond a slogan and become a reality by detailing what needs to change and how these changes can be made and paid for. We need to put forward a vision of this other Scotland as a series of concrete examples of what will be different and how it can happen. And we need to take this to the people of Scotland in their communities and engage with them and convince them that this other Scotland is both worth striving for and achievable. The waiting time will soon be over.