Amanda Burgauer – 14th April 2022
I feel like I’ve been hours and hours in the car with young children and all I can hear is voices saying, “Are we there yet?” Many of us thought we should have arrived on this journey to Independence in 2014. So, are we closer now than then? What needs to happen next?
The polling is up and down, but never definitive. We hope for a referendum but have no confidence that we would win if we held it tomorrow. Other routes to independence are being discussed, but no route set out.
And yet look south to Westminster and what do we see? A Prime Minister who lies repeatedly supported by a coterie of entitled elites and sycophants, running our country for their own purposes and gain. And the pursuit of power for gain is not just about politicians but also corporations, businesses and even some third sector organisations too.
In the decade before the pandemic, already inequality was rising across the UK. That has been amplified by Covid and we’ve all seen the effects on both mental and physical health as well as loss of income across Scotland. We’re a centralised nation where very little voice is given to local communities, even though it was local communities who created the support networks that dealt with lockdown and looked after one another.
We must remember that dominant hierarchies have a vested interest in maintaining our current systems to prevent alternative structures from emerging. Those structures have evolved from power, and power is never given back willingly. But in democratic politics, where does power ultimately lie?
Political parties create manifestos – promises of what they’ll do in government. What needs to come first is a framework of constraints that will allow good government to emerge.
I’d suggest we start by understanding the needs of the people and that the role of the modern State is founded on a responsibility to meet those needs, to create stability and allow people to prosper.
Our problem is that ‘the State’ is currently interpreted as the facilitation of capitalism, but in the 21st century capitalism no long needs the people or mass labour to create shareholder value.
The current system has ossified dominant hierarchies – hardly surprising since we never really overthrew feudalism. Having a Swiss husband makes it inevitable that I’ll compare their very bottom-up democracy with our stilted version.
If the Scottish people were truly sovereign, we wouldn’t be waiting for permission for a referendum, or watching as our energy industry was controlled by Westminster. And perhaps we would have the confidence to speak up rather than wait for permission.
So the independence movement needs to think about the things we share – and what we can agree on. Those areas of agreement should be the basis of a vision for an independent Scotland – and incidentally a way forward to get wider support for independence.
We need to reclaim the joy of the Yes movement. Back in 2013/14, people came together in a way that was both cooperative and collaborative. Those town hall meetings had an energy and inclusivity that was inspiring.
We didn’t have all the answers then – and much of the work that has been done since (including by Common Weal) has put us in a better position to answer questions and make the arguments for independence.
But it comes back to finding a position of agreement. What can we agree on and what does that look like in practice? And remembering that it’s all about prioritising the needs of people. If agreement doesn’t exist, park that topic till later. Focus on the things where agreement – even with compromise – can be found.
Talk with friends and neighbours about what future they want to see and why. Bring your community together with the goal of having a discussion, not winning a debate. If the desired outcome is a discussion that captures the views of all of us there, every event is a win – and there are no losers.
So how do we get those grassroots conversations started and what should they include? Some of the ideas that we’ve been working on at Common Weal include a restructuring of local government, a Green New Deal, a National Care Service, a Universal Basic Income, a National Energy Company, a National Housing Company – ideas and institutions that work for the people of Scotland rather than corporations or feudal overlords.
Not everyone will agree with all of our ideas, or they might like parts of them but not the entirety or think they have much better plans. That’s just fine. The important thing is that the conversations take place and that everyone feels able to share their opinions and ideas.
Only in that way will we create a vision for an independent Scotland that creates a sense of ownership among the grassroots, that will encourage others to join our movement and move independence on apace.
I believe that’s the task of the grassroots of the independence movement of which I’m proud to be a part.
This is based on the text of Amanda’s speech at Indy X on Sunday 10th April, 2022 – a cross party event that discussed Scottish Independence. If you would like to hold a similar event in your community, please do get in touch.