Tomorrow, Tuesday 26th sees the publication of the Scottish government’s long awaited white paper on Scottish Independence. It will outline in some detail the process of becoming independent and the SNP’s vision for an independent Scotland. However, the SNP is not the only party or group campaigning for independence. It was thus appropriate that last Saturday alternatives visions for an independent Scotland were articulated at the Radical Independence Conference, which was held in Glasgow. Over 1000 people from all over Scotland braved the cold and for many, the early start to participate in this gathering. I was one of them, and I can state that it was an enjoyable and inspiring day, all of it conducted in an atmosphere of comradeship and good humour.
Despite this being by far the largest conference to be held in Scotland, it was pretty much ignored by our mainstream media. If not ignored, it was denigrated with poor reporting filled with half truths. Nevertheless the messages from the conference will get out. I mention messages in the plural deliberately. For this was not a tame single party get together. Radical Independence brings together people from different parties and those, like me, from none. We were not there to agree an election manifesto, but to listen to and contribute to different visions of how Scotland can become a better nation.
If there was one key message from the conference it would be that Scotland will become the kind of country that we, the people who live in Scotland, want it to be. That is the whole point of Independence – the future of our country will be best served by the people who live here. We need independence because the British state is a lost cause. Mired in imperialist delusions, dominated financially and economically by the City of London, dominated politically by an elite nearly all from a wealthy and narrow privately educated background in which the three main political parties are more or less indistinguishable. The UK will not and cannot help in making Scotland a better nation. Only a clean break through independence offers us a route forward.
Commentators who accuse the conference of lacking specifics are missing the point. The conference did though begin to outline some of the key issues that we will need to address and turn into policies in the years ahead. These included, a green new deal; eliminating poverty; alternatives to the arms industry; industrial democracy and alternatives to never ending austerity. This is just the beginning. As Robin McAlpine from the Jimmy Reid Foundation put it in his speech, this year we are activists and next year, after a Yes vote, we need to become the architects of a new Scotland. First we need to motivate and mobilise a Yes vote.
During the conference, actor David Hayman read out a Declaration of Radical Independence which included the following lines:
We know a better economy is possible because we have seen it in other nations. We know greater equality among citizens is possible because we have seen that in other nations. We know that ending poverty, reviving democracy and respecting our environment are possible because we have seen these things too.
And we know how to bring these things to Scotland. We must abandon 30 years of the politics of exploitation, the damning, corrosive exploitation that makes a few rich from what the many lose. We must replace it with the politics of sharing, where we all gain from the riches of our land and the fruits of our labour.
It is a fine Scottish tradition; to find what works, to find out how it works and to make it work better. For centuries Scotland’s ingenuity has been a gift to the world. Now let it be a gift also to ourselves.
This is a fine summary of what Radical Independence is about. We know Scotland can become a better place for all who choose to live here. We have a thirst to meet and learn from others and then to work out our own ways forward – what will work for us. Another Scotland is possible! You can read the whole declaration here.