Brexit Campaigns Climate & Environment Equality & Inclusion Holyrood Election 2021 Left Politics LGBTQIAP+ Media Poverty Racism Scotland Scottish Greens Scottish Independence Tory Party Trans Rights Val Waldron

What and who will take us over the line?

We need kindness and compassion. Policies and manifestos are important, but we must use our devolved powers, and our courage to reflect our deeper values. We need a written constitution to underwrite them as a new nation when the time comes.

An emboldened UK creeps up behind us as polls settle to pre-pandemic levels. A screen has been drawn aside showing the true Union Jack splattered, royal tainted, Gordon brown infected slug trail of British Nationalism as it threatens to cover us in red, white and blue slime. We are engulfed in social conservatism, yesterday’s men, populism, sleaze, patriotic tedium and frog-boiling Brexit disaster.

What will it take to awaken the interest of undecided voters beyond borders and currency? Will it be supermarket shelves devoid of 40 types of pasta sauce? Maybe, but for some, only for as long as it takes them to get home from the shops with something else. We need commitment and staying power to ensure a Yes win before voting even takes place.

Yesterday’s dream was about taking 70 -80% of the population with us, maybe triggered at last by an issue or an event that suddenly raised enough eyebrows, if not blood pressure to invoke an ‘enough is enough’ reaction. Sadly, neither Johnson’s prorogation nor the Internal Market Act did it, nor the ‘piles of bodies’ comment. Hell, nor even the actual multiple deaths arising from a criminally neglectful Covid response. Even the betrayal of the Good Friday Agreement (breach of international law) appears to have left Johnson unscathed. The Hancock affair is just more Tory sleaze. What is wrong with folk? Or where does the responsibility actually lie?

Calling Labour voters: You didn’t want a left- winger, you’re not responding to a right-winger (mind you who can blame you when it comes to Sir Keir). Lots of you still hanker for Federalism even though there has been no attempt to sell it in England. Plenty of you hate the Tories with a vengeance and you were Remainers, but held your nose and voted for them to keep the SNP out. What do you need?

Fisherfolks? What about you? You were royally stuffed by Brexit. Hotel owners, fruit farmers? What about you? As the Brexit nightmare unfolds, much of it hidden in the folds of Covid reporting; we are told that our EU citizens have chosen to go home due to the pandemic. This *was* their home till they were othered out of the country. What on this earth do you all need to convince you that we are better off independent?

Alastair Stewart recently wrote an article for The Scotsman about Irredentism. No, I hadn’t either. He describes it as  …”any movement intended to reclaim and reoccupy territory considered lost.. the guiding article of faith behind Brexit. That argument wasn’t about bombastic British pride. The Leave strategy stirred up rage that sovereignty, money, immigration control and even British culture had been stripped away. And that’s why it won.”

Ok, unless there’s a reason for leaving the UK, another upheaval is going to create doubt and an element of panic, and it’s important to keep track of every dishonest act of sleaze, treachery and inequality as it occurs. However, bear in mind that many see this approach as grievance and will strive to point out that we’re all in this together. Some will say that there is no difference between the working class of the North of England and the working class of Scotland or Aberdeen. Except that far too many of the former are voting Tory these days.

Nevertheless, we should look towards those who are not immersed in self-interest, and who have an internationalist outlook to get us over the line. Socialists, essentially. Typically they may be inclined to dismiss Nationalism in any form, but must somehow be allowed to discover that, once independent, you’re not a Nationalist any more (masses of us don’t accept the label in the first place), but just a citizen.

So what do they need? They already know that the UK is not fit for purpose, and they sure as hell don’t need Alba and associates increasingly tearing up the notion of inclusive civic Nationalism. Alba seem to exist within a bubble intent on destroying the SNP. It’s personal with them, and it’s alien to those looking in on the movement with an open mind. Even the most fervent unionist knows we didn’t vote for an immediate referendum date.

We are exhausted, chewed up and spat out by the amorality of our arch unionist media and opposition, as they relentlessly amplify the demands of the business community, while ramming home the dangers of Covid mismanagement, as cases rise in an endless cycle of opening up and locking down.

We need kindness and compassion. Policies and manifestos are important, but we must use our devolved powers, and our courage to reflect our deeper values, and we need a written constitution to underwrite them as a new nation when the time comes. Scotland is not broken, forget Neil Oliver and all of those who hate this country. As ever, the voices of doubt and self-loathing Scots Unionists are louder and more pervasive than those who work away quietly and relentlessly to make Scotland a place where so many of us still love or would desire to live. But there is much to fix and improve upon.

Inclusiveness and Equality

We owe it to ourselves to be visible and lead from the bottom up, as we did on Kenmiur St. Not by  flag waving or marching. Lots of us have lost our appetite for the AOUB version of visibility. But by calling out and acting firmly and decisively against injustice and for the values that are essential for a fair, inclusive future. Good role models for a normal, progressive independent country.

We need to own, address and use every power necessary to stamp out bigotry in all of its grotesque forms, whether racism, religious based hatred, transphobia or a rising tide of regressive homophobia. We can scan further afield to see the sources and history of these atrocities, whether it’s the US Christian far-right or Brexit. The Orange Order and the far-right mobs are Britnat shame, often referred to as Scotland’s shame. But nevertheless they’re ours to fix.

Pressure groups, think tanks, peaceful direct action and protests are important, but political parties must listen and act. The Scottish Government must now act on Gender Reform legislation if we are to stem the flow of Transphobia. There should be little hesitation in using the Hate Crime Act where necessary, if that’s what it takes.

Institutional racism and discrimination lurks beneath the surface of polite society. It must be recognised and rooted out of our systems at every level. With progress, comes the inevitable backlash. We have to resist. Wear the intended insult of ‘Woke’ with pride and relief. The alternative is unthinkable.

The SNP’s Social Justice and Fairness Commission illustrated the improvements that full powers of independence could bring. I’m quite happy to hear the FM “bang on” about that if it keeps the discussion live and focused on why we need independence. However, along with wider, broader aims such as the eradication of poverty, it proposes the scrapping of council tax. This is one much underestimated measure that could make a dynamic difference to inequality in Scotland. The Greens have been talking about Land Value Tax for some time now as a possible alternative, and the Greens and the SNP are talking to each other!

There is a sense of urgency within our rural communities. There can be no equality of opportunity without the affordable housing and public services required to attract/hang onto those who wish to live and work there. The pandemic has highlighted the conflicting demands for ‘staycations’ and suitable holiday accommodation at the expense of the communities. Camper vans and motor homes seem to outnumber fishing boats on harbours, and they add little to the economy of the community. But most of us (me included) want to get away, and Scotland has always had, and must continue to have  a thriving tourist industry without becoming a theme park for visitors. A dilemma indeed.

MSP Mairi Gougeon is Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands after a promotion from the junior ministerial benches. Her new role includes responsibility for agriculture, food and drink policy, fisheries and aquaculture as well as cross-government coordination of policies for island communities. Let’s hope that new SG cabinet positions, along with the possibility of a closer working relationship with the Greens will see a more dynamic and fresher approach to land reform. It is much needed in both rural and urban communities.

I have to agree with the Alba contingency that there is an urgency to get away from the sinking, stinking Brexit rotting ship that characterises the UK government approach, but that desperation won’t materialise into a Yes majority. We have to win over those soft Yes/No folk, those who truly want to help create a better place to live, and changes arising from the powers and the grass roots that exist are a great place to start.

It’s too early to say that everything is in place for fulfilling the pledges made towards gaining our independence within the term of Government, that most of us voted for in May. It’s still only (just) June as I write, and the jury is still out. We have a lot to be getting on with for now as individuals or groups, and can start by asking our stubbornly undecided friends, family and neighbours what they need.

Val Waldron






















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