Read this for an introduction and overview to the newsletter
Independence captured is a weekly newsletter analysing Scottish independence. It will come out every Wednesday evening - alongside special updates where required.
The premise is a simple one: independence has been captured.
But first, let me say that I am a strong supporter of Scottish independence. Indeed, I dedicated a great deal of time along with thousands of others in campaigning for a Yes vote between 2012 and 2014. During that time I was a central organiser of the three major conferences of the Radical Independence Campaign (which I helped co-found) in 2012, 2013 and 2014 to demand, among other things, “a break with neoliberalism.” A demand that stands in stark contrast to the approach of the SNP - now more so than ever.
These involved thousands of people. And we didn’t just talk. We mobilised on the ground too, helping to cement the idea that working-class Scotland was voting Yes and abandoning the Labour Party on the national question. Like most who carried out this work - we were not paid. On the contrary, many thousands of people gave money towards the cause. We received no big financial backing. Everything was achieved with a shoe-string budget - because we believed in the potential of independence.
And that campaign was just a small part of a far bigger movement. Catalysed by anger about austerity, a Tory government Scotland didn't vote for (again) and by the failures of New Labour - a mass movement confronted the might of the British State.
In this vein, I wrote in The Scotsman as part of a series of essays which covered the broad spectrum of the national debate, that class was at the heart of the referendum and the rising support for independence. The independence movement in mass form was a modern development - enthused not by the dry constitutional arguments, but by the possibility of real change.
Part of the work of the Yes movement was to engage with hundreds of thousands of Scots who either don’t vote regularly in elections, or who were not on the electoral roll at all. In this sense it really was an inspiring democratic exercise. Stalls were inundated. Just for once, the idea that votes could change something fundamental about society, gripped the imaginations of so many of those who had been systematically alienated from the political process.
Without doubt, in those last weeks where “Project Fear” ramped up to 5th gear, the British establishment looked on with a deep anxiety - and not a little amazement.
That movement didn’t win the referendum. But it did propel the SNP to a position of near absolute political hegemony.
What happened next?
The question then comes: what has been achieved with that dominance, and in whose interests? There’s a lot to go through here that will be the subject of future newsletters. But I hope this introduction will give some idea of the kinds of issues that will be analysed:
The prospectus for independence has been captured by corporate interests. I have written extensively about this in the Scottish press, and in particular about the Growth Commission. In addition, I have argued that Scotland requires full economic control, and not the disaster of Sterlingisation. This will be explored in more detail in the weeks and months ahead.
The political process to achieve Scottish independence has been captured. The SNP prefer to keep the national question on the boil, but not for it to overflow. For a broad overview on the reasons for this see previous writing here and here. We will take a detailed look at this and the unlikelihood of a referendum in 2023. We will assess the strategic problems this raises for the Scottish left. We will also delve into the complexities around EU membership and - importantly - the need for that to be subject to the democratic will of the Scottish people.
The domestic policy agenda has been captured. The paralysis that has gripped Scottish politics has had a direct impact on policy making. Even when SNP members vote for initiatives, they are rarely seen through if they amount to real reform. In other cases, their concerns are ignored. Recent examples include the Scottish National Energy Company and "Green Ports.” But there is a wider picture developing which shows the Scottish Government are at the behest of foreign capital and the corporate lobby, and not the democratic impulse that ran through the independence movement of 2014.
The foreign policy agenda has been captured. Many of us campaigned against the SNP changing its long-held position on NATO in 2012. But the consequences of this change have not been critically analysed in enough detail. It augers badly for those who want to see Trident removed through independence. The newsletter will look at this and SNP defence policy more generally.
There will be no re-run of 2014
Alongside the above themes the newsletter will outline why 2014 will never be repeated. The political circumstances have changed too drastically. Different interventions will be required to drive politics to the left and to re-animate democratic life in Scotland.
Ruthless honesty is going to be needed in examining the reality of independence today. And relying on past legacies and cherished memories will not be enough.
I hope you will sign-up and engage with the analysis that will be presented here. Comments - including those in vociferous disagreement and from all sides of the debate on independence - will be welcome.