Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The referendum aftermath. #the45

I have not said anything since the referendum took place because I wanted to take time out to reflect on the issues. Now that things have had a few days to settle my thoughts are becoming clearer. These are the main things in my mind at the moment.

It was not a clear, once and for all, victory for the No campaign.
They may have got 55% of the votes, but the majority of working age people voted Yes. This means that the demographic will move in and in ten year's time there will be a majority for independence.

It was a dirty fight.
Leaving the issue of the behaviour of the mainstream media aside, there were three activities by the No campaign which I found reprehensible:

Changing a No vote from a vote for the status quo to a vote for devo max after the postal votes had been cast and so close to the polling date that their proposal could not be investigated or challenged.

Better Together phone canvassers from England (they could not get sufficient volunteers in Scotland) phoning Scottish pensioners and telling them that their pensions and bus passes were at risk if the vote went in favour of independence. Most of these volunteers were Labour Party members.

It was a fight for preservation of the political class
Labour Party members campaigning with Conservatives, and even the National Front (in Aberdeen). The main focus seeming to be to retain a voting block of Labour MPs from Scotland - but to what end? Simply the Westminster political elite doing a bit of job preservation.

Where do we go from here?
Six months ago I did not mind which way the referendum went, but as it came closer I realised that the future of our country and the future of my children is best served by decision making about Scotland taking place in Scotland. The question is how to achieve this. As I am writing the SNP is on track to become Britain's largest political party. Huge numbers of Yes support rs are joining and this will give the SNP the ability to run a massive campaign for the next Scottish Parliamentary election. I have an urge to get involved in active politics too, after a few years away, but I don't agree with the SNP's central emphasis on sovereignty. Moving from one group of leaders to another will make no difference.

At the moment we have a great national consciousness of politics, but we need to move from this to wresting power from the state and back into the hands of ordinary people. What we need to come out of this referendum process is a mass participatory democracy. Scottish Labour are currently promoting a scheme which claims to do this, but without any real power, because the real power comes from ownership. Yes, I know that sounds very "clause 4", but it's plainly true that real power lies with those who control the means by which money is made: banks, investment funds, oil companies and our currently centralised state (which is itself a supplier of infrastructure). Until this power is broken we will continue to have an increase in inequality between the poorest and the richest in society.

To move power to the hands of ordinary people would require more than a change of government. It would require a change in values across the whole of British and Scottish society. A move away from the extrinsic values of status and wealth to intrinsic values like community and self fulfilment (the sort of values that Are also central to Christianity). In the mean time we need to look at promoting collectivism (social enterprise, cooperative business models and other ways of working). Those of us with pension funds might be able to pressure our pension trustees to invest in businesses which promote this type of cooperation. In banking we need to look more at the mutual model. For example, the Airdrie Savings Bank is a proper bank, but run on a mutual basis.

Above all we need to challenge the power of the state to tell us what to do. We need to start holding politicians to account, and we can start by ensuring that they carry out their promise of more powers for the Scottish Parliament.

Political parties
Now, on the issue of political parties, some friends are surprised that I am not a member of the Green Party. This is with good reason. Although I care deeply about the environment, I think the pressure on the environment is the result of our economic system which needs to continue growing to pay debt interest. This is a circle that spirals on forever. We need,to break that and I know the Greens agree. Where I disagree with a lot of Green Party activists is that they appear to not have a real understanding of poverty. It might be great to eat sustainable sour dough artisan bread and locally produced organic food if you have good job and a comfortable home in Portobello, but if you live in Muirhouse this is cloud cuckoo land. The real cause of poverty is economic and fiddling at the edges will not cure this, whether that is the SNP's sovereignty or the Greens' sustainability. This is why, at the moment, I will not be joining either, but will be looking to get involved in something to advance these issues.


  1. Gordon - I can't really respond directly regarding your experience of Green Party activists. For my own part, I've met a much wider range of people who are active in the party than you seem to have done. I would however, challenge you on the point that the no-one in the Green Party has a real understanding of poverty and that the argument for sustainability would only be 'fiddling at the edges' of the problem. Many of the current policies of the Scottish Greens are proposing the very collectivist approaches that you say would put greater power into the hands of people and their communities. If you have the time and inclination (and assuming you haven't already done so) I would encourage you to have a look at the policies and briefing papers publicly available on the Scottish Green's website. Many of the ideas and principles they promote aren't much different from those held by other centre-left and left parties (excepting Labour, whose leadership and parliamentary party can no longer be viewed as being the left of anything in politics). You may still remain unconvinced, but at least your views will be based on more than a perception formed by a stereotypical image.

    P.S. I don't live in Portobello, I don't buy (overpriced) organic vegetables and I have never knowingly eaten artisanal sourdough bread. Nor would I want to. I have enjoyed reading your articles - you have written some thought-provoking stuff. I'd be interested to read more of your thoughts on what economic changes we need to make to reduce or end poverty.

  2. Thanks Martin,
    I will have a read of these documents.
    My point really is over common ownership. I realise that the Green Party are interested in collectivism via Coops and other business models, but I am unsure how they view things like fuel poverty. Much of this is caused by the profit motive of the electricity companies. While they are in private ownership all the government can do is use the blunt tool of taxation and regulation. I do think it is time to take energy companies into public ownership - as an issue of national security and to control pricing. That would be one example.