Robin McAlpine, Reid Foundation Director, explains the purpose of the Common Weal Launch Party this Sunday. The event is free but spaces are limited, click here to register.
We are often very suspicious of popular politics. Evidence of this is our conversion of the word populism from its original meaning. Populism is derived from the word populous and literally means dividing a bigger section of the population against a smaller section. But we use it as an insult of any political policy that has widespread appeal. So we’ve heard in Scotland that universal public services and free education and medicine are ‘populist’. Nope, they’re popular – not the the same thing at all.
You’d almost think the British political establishment wants us to believe that only things that they care about (trade deals, spying, weapons manufacture, protecting financial services) are ‘proper’ and ‘important’ politics. You might get the impression that things that citizens care about (affordable housing, decent pensions, decent jobs, reasonable electricity bills) are self-indulgent whimsy, far removed from the appropriate concerns of a ‘proper’ system of national management.
You might even conclude that the self-important pompousness of Britain’s professional political class is designed to turn off and turn away ‘outsiders’. And by ‘outsider’ I mean ‘citizen’. Yes, how comfortable a position to be in a room with all the power but to have pushed the people you’re supposed to serve out into the corridor.
So is there a place for popular politics, a politics which an average person can have a considered view about? Hell, a politics about which an ordinary person might even get enthusiastic or excited? Well, if there isn’t this isn’t a democracy of citizens. A politics that includes those governed is neither a luxury or a fantasy.
But is it possible? Well, I can certainly give a perspective now that I might not have been able to a year ago. I am probably talking in three or four meetings a week, some academic, some high-level policy but mostly it’s been town halls (hi Kirkaldy, hi, Cumnock, hi West Calder, see you next week Blantyre…). I’ve been talking about how an industrial policy, better use of shared natural resources and a strong welfare state can deliver social and economic outcomes like better jobs, higher pay and better public services. I explain how it is affordable, how it delivers virtuous social and economic outcomes and how we can build a strong national consensus around a different type of politics.
One of the most common reactions I get afterwards is ‘nobody talks to us about this stuff’. Another is ‘I actually understood that’. Good. Economics and indeed social policy is often presented in deliberately obtuse terms, the better to confuse the punters and keep them in the corridor. Well, I’m with Einstein – if you can’t explain it to a seven-year-old you probably haven’t understood it yourself. It is certainly possible to talk to an audience of citizens about economics and it is certainly possible to get them excited about it. It is definitely possible to get them to support a better model for our economy and from what I’ve seen so far you can get them to do more than sit back and endorse it. I’ve had so many people saying ‘I never thought I’d ask a question about economics at a public meeting but could we…’ And honestly, many of the ‘could we’ ideas I’ve heard beat the hell out of anything I can find about Scotland’s economic potential in an IFS report.
So is this just another utopian hope that will come to nothing? Well, not without at least a decent shot at it. On Sunday afternoon in the Arches in Glasgow we are launching a new ‘visual ID” (sorry, I just can’t find a better term). Yes, it’s a logo. But it definitely aims to be more than that. It is an image that represents a hope for a better society (it is an image to represent balance) and it is designed to be able to live outside the realms of professional politics (if you wanted and if you weren’t breaking the law, you could spray it on a wall in under 15 seconds). It is designed to work as a way of creating excitement – it is designed to work with words and images that can inspire. So to kick off we’ve got t-shirts with inspiring slogans written for us by Alan Bisset, Liz Lochhead, Louise Welsh and James Robertson. We’re launching a film that explains how politics can give people hope again.
And we’re launching a new website for Common Weal. We’ve tried to find a way to say ‘not neoliberal, social democracy’ or ‘not free market capitalism, Nordic welfare economics’ because too few people understand these terms. So we are using ‘not me first, all of us first’. And that is set to become our message: Common Weal: all of us first. Handily, no-one seems to have wanted those domain names so on Sunday morning (hopefully, if we all don’t sleep…) you can see what a popular politics might look like on www.allofusfirst.com.
We’re all very excited about this. The people at Tangent design agency (who have done everything for this for nothing) have created something that I think really can live beyond and outside the politics pages of the Herald or the Scotsman. Bluntly, the media establishment have barely noticed what is really happening out in Scottish politics just now anyway. If we can build a movement that speaks to ordinary people and which ordinary people want to speak about, we can all – between us – take control of the political agenda in Scotland.
We’re nearly full – more than 600 of our 750 places are already booked. If you want to come click here to register (it’s free). Bruce Morton is doing some jokes, Karine Polwart is singing a couple of songs, Stuart Braithwaite of Mogwai is DJing and there will be more. Plus you can get a drink and buy a t-shirt.
Personally, I’m tired of pleading with the mainstream to allow a debate about politics which is not wholly-owned and managed by them. If we can reach people who want change but are sick of politics-as-usual, if we can get them talking, we may no longer have to plead.
Imagine that. A nation run by its citizens. It could catch on.
STUC St Andrew’s Day
Anti Racism March and Rally
Saturday 30 November 2013
Scotland Against Racism
March Assembles 10.30 am
March off 11.00 am
Rally 12 noon
Glasgow Film Theatre,
Musician and anti-racism campaigner
Hope not Hate
United Glasgow Football Club
Show Racism the Red Card
The second Radical Independence Conference will take place on November 23rd in the Marriot Hotel, Glasgow. This year’s conference is going to outline a blueprint for what a radical transformation of Scotland after independence would look like and how to achieve it. There will be workshops on ‘The New Economy’ and ‘The New Democracy’.
Robin McAlpine, Reid Foundation Director, will be speaking at the event on ‘transformation’. Christina McKelvie, SNP MSP will be making the case for the Common Weal vision for a better Scotland.
For a full-line up of speakers click here.
To book your ticket for the conference click here.
Luath Press and the Institute of Governance
are pleased to invite you to the launch of
by Stephen Maxwell
edited by Jamie Maxwell, with a foreword by Tom Nairn
@ New College (enter through main entrance on Mound Place and proceed to doorway on right hand side courtyard opposite John Knox statue).
at 5:45pm for 6pm, followed by a reception at 7pm.
Wine and light refreshments will be served.
The event will be chaired by David McCrone and introduced by Jamie Maxwell.
Speakers will include Owen Dudley Edwards, Margo MacDonald,
Robin McAlpine, Joyce McMillan and Andy Wightman, followed by
time for Q&A, comments and discussion.
All welcome. Entry is free. Places may be reserved via Eventbrite or firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 0131 225 4326
WHOSE NATION? WHAT KIND OF SCOTLAND?
The Case for Left Wing Nationalism considers the class dynamics of the constitutional debate, deconstructs the myths that underpin Scottish political culture and exposes the role Scottish institutions have played and continue to play in restricting Scotland’s progress. In this wide-ranging analysis, Maxwell draws on a wealth of cultural, economic and historical sources. From debating the very nature of nationalism itself, to tackling the immediate social issues that Scotland faces, Maxwell establishes a very real picture of contemporary Scotland and its future.
For Maxwell, independence is about more than building on the country’s rich radical traditions ─ it’s about overturning established orthodoxies. He presents an unblinkered picture of contemporary Scotland.
His son and editor here, Jamie Maxwell, describes these essays as a ‘wide-ranging, nuanced analysis of contemporary Scottish history and culture’. These essays are a provocative and utterly original contribution to the independence debate, and essential reading as the referendum draws near.
For more information about the book, see http://www.luath.co.uk/books/all-books/case-for-left-wing-nationalism.html
In today’s economic climate, many involved in economics – from business, academia and communities – are interested in testing and questioning alternative approaches to the economy. The interest lies in finding those approaches that are more socially responsible and work better for society as a whole than is currently the case.
As part of this work, some of us have come together to hold an open event for all who are interested in how society could create an alternative economy. The Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations, and Heriot Watt University – with support from the Economic and Social Research Council – have pulled together a team of thinkers and practitioners from across the UK to discuss how we could create an economy that has positive outcomes for all.
Academic Ailsa Mackay, who believes in the idea of a citizen’s basic income, will chair the opening debate. Jane Franklin from the UK think-tank nef will speak about her latest work on a shorter working week, and Robin McAlpine will discuss his Common Weal project. We will also have Mike Keating from the ESRC’s Futures programme, who will give an academic perspective on the debates about rethinking our economy.
Next, audience members can take part in informal discussions with those who have experience of making alternative economic approaches work, including Martin Rhodes from the Fair Trade Forum, Ian Marr for YMCA Scotland (who recently had success with a new way of raising finance locally), and Jim Lee from the Co-operative movement. Audience members will be able to move from one topic to another at their own pace, learning and asking questions as they go.
Finally, we will hear about the latest work of Judith Robertson (Oxfam Scotland), Stephen Boyle (RBS), Lorraine McMillan (East Renfrewshire Council), Stephen Boyd (STUC), and Mike Danson (Heriot Watt University) in a session chaired by SCVO’s Ruchir Shah.
This event promises to be thought-provoking and instructive, and will provide a great opportunity to hear from a wide range of thinkers and practitioners form across the UK. We do hope you can join us.
“Blossom is an account of Scotland at the grassroots through the stories of people I’ve had the good fortune to know – the most stubborn, talented and resilient people on the planet. They’ve had to be. Some have transformed their parts of Scotland. Some have tried and failed. But all have something in common – they know what it takes for Scotland to blossom. We should know too. So this book poses a question as important as the one Scots must answer on 18 September 2014. Why is Scotland still the most unequal society and sickest man (and woman) of Europe despite an abundance of natural resources and a long history of human capacity? Facts and figures are a vital part of any story. But they don’t bring Scotland’s dilemma alive. They don’t explain why people with choices act as if they had none. They don’t explain why Scots over the centuries have put on weight, not democratic muscle. They don’t explain why cash and socialist tradition have failed to shift poverty. They don’t explain why some Scots trash Scotland while others tiptoe round the place like it’s only rented for the weekend. Why don’t ordinary Scots behave like the permanent, responsible owners of this beautiful country? Is it because we are not the owners – and never have been?
“Imagine Scottish culture as a beautifully-knitted, warmth-providing, well-constructed and substantial jumper snagged on a bit of barbed wire. Its wearer tries to move forward – but cannot. A pause is needed to lift the garment clear. Scotland is thus snagged. And no amount of pulling away at the problem will get us off this stubborn, progress-inhibiting hook.
Devolved or independent, Scotland must belong to its people – to have, hold, inhabit, farm, walk, plant, hunt, develop, mine, explore and even accidentally damage – not to small, self-selecting social groups. The bad news is that such change runs counter to some inherited outlooks. The good news is that it can be done.”
Blossom describes the pioneering community buyout on Eigg; the brave decision by West Whitlawburn tenants to take over their crumbling hi-rise estate; the 20 year project by Perthshire ecologists to prove arid, sporting estates can become verdant woodland, the unconventional methods used by obstetrician Mary Hepburn to reach Scotland’s sickest, drug-using mothers, the story behind the Scotswoman & Harpies and Quines and much more. Weaving in comparisons with the Nordic nations, I’m trying to show that ordinary Scots have demonstrated their capacity to run their own lives time after time – yet Scotland remains a remarkably elitist, top-down, centralised, “stand there till we fix you” sort of society.
The book’s official launch is Sept 4th, Jam House, Queen St, Edinburgh – tickets are free via http://riddochblossom.eventbrite.co.uk/ and there is a bar and (modest) swally.
Do come along if you can and let others know.
Blossom is £11.99 & can be bought in bookshops, online at www.luath.co.uk/blossom.html, or Amazon or send a cheque for £11.99 to Lesley Riddoch at address below for a signed copy (post and packing free & include the words you’d like written, Pls allow 10 days for delivery) or on kindle http://t.co/0A0J52IP1R
An Oxfam report called Our Economy will be debated at the Scottish Parliament in a week or so. The report sets out what an economy that serves the people better and protects our planet looks like.
Oxfam are trying to get MSP’s to participate on the day of the debate.
You can help them do this by having a read of their blog, watching the short film, and clicking the link to send a message to your MSPs so they support the vision of a new prosperity for Scotland.
The politics of Europe are caught between anger and resignation.
But in Scotland a movement is emerging which offers not only a vision for the nation’s future but a message of hope for others.
Come to hear some of the key figures who are developing the philosophy for Common Weal at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Wednesday August 21st 12.30pm, in the Spiegel Tent, George Street.
Our speakers are:
- Robin McAlpine, the Jimmy Reid Foundation Director, will introduce the Common Weal Project.
- Lesley Riddoch, writer and Nordic Horizons co-ordinator, will speak about what the Common Weal project has learnt from our Nordic neighbours
- James Meadway, senior economist at the New Economics Foundation in London, will look at Common Weal from an English perspective, and suggest how it can be a beacon to challenge economic dogma across the whole of the UK.
There will be plenty of time for Q & A afterwords.
The Scottish Independence Convention are hosting a benefit event:
As Scotland faces a historic decision about it’s future next year with the independence referendum 5 artists come together to share their vision of the country’s political and cultural future. How have the arts shaped and reflected the debate? What does independence mean to them? What effect will a Yes or a No vote have on the arts?
With David Greig (playwright and theatre director), Jim Sutherland (composer – La Banda Europa), Dave Hook (musician – Solareye from Stanley Odd), Jenny Lindsay (winner 2012 Edinburgh Festival Slam), Cora Bissett (actor/singer – Roadkill/Glasgow Girls).
Chaired by comedian Elaine C Smith.’
The event will take place at the Assembly Rooms, 12th of August, 2.30pm, Edinburgh.
To book tickets for the event go to the AR Fringe website.