The first Radical Independence Conference was held almost a year ago, and since then an active campaign organisation has developed with branches across the country. Although the current campaign is a new development, it builds on an historic tradition of radicalism linked to demands for independence that can be traced back to the time of the French revolution.
Ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity transformed the basis of philosophy, politics, economics, music and poetry, inspired all sorts of people from Beethoven and Burns to Telford and Priestly, but most of all it pervaded the consciousness of ordinary people all across Europe.
In Scotland the influence was felt in the 1820 Radical Rising as Weavers marched, probably with a penny edition of Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man in their pockets, under the banner ‘Scotland Free or a Desert’ only to be cut down by Dragoons near Bonnymuir. Their slogan has resonated across two hundred years, and it certainly did with me as, during the 1980’s, Thatcher created an industrial desert across Scotland with all the resultant social problems we are still wrestling with today.
This radical independence tradition reasserted itself in the 1920’s as John MacLean proclaimed the Scottish Workers Republic. So the idea of linking the demand for independence with radical social and economic change is not new, but today it is an idea whose time has come.
The thirty plus years of the neo-liberal agenda has made mass unemployment the norm for Scotland and for much of the rest of the world, with most new jobs low-paid and insecure. Globalisation has vastly increased inequality, destroyed vibrant local economies by opening them up to unrestricted competition from low wage, no tax paying multinational corporations, and has transferred public assets into private hands with over $30 trillion sitting in tax havens globally as ordinary people face perpetual austerity.
As the world faces converging economic and ecological crises we need to be part of the solution NOT part of the problem. An independent Scotland must be part of a global challenge to the neo-liberal new world order by promoting radical socio-economic alternatives, new forms of participatory democracy, seeking equality not just in the present but, through concepts of inter-generational equity, in the future as well.
A new narrative of hope is required to engage the 99% in a belief that liberty, equlity and fraternity is still a possibility and that our collective actions can make another world possible. This referendum campaign offers us the opportunity to open a fundamental discussion about the type of society we want to live in – a discussion that is not even possible within the confines of a British state wedded to hierarchical power structures, wealth inequality and class privilege.
The entrenched intransigence of the Westminster establishment has made change almost impossible to imagine, but here in Scotland we now have an opportunity to break free, to develop new ideas and become the people we always wanted to be.
It’s an opportunity we may not have again, and one we simply can’t afford to waste.