Jenny Lindsay (Poet): I Have To Believe In A Better World

It was almost like what I imagine it would be like admitting to being an alcoholic. Most folks I knew had indulged in a little bit of it; most had experienced a dalliance at the thought of it – some had snorted up their sleeves at the lack of control such an admission conjures. It’s downright daft, if not dangerous. So, to say the words “My name is Jenny, and I believe in an independent Scotland”? Well. It was quite an admission.

Despite the swirling thoughts that are currently bogging up every mind in Scotland, it is often a hard thing to admit, especially for one brought up on a diet of internationalism, Cool Britannia and sex to sell us literally everything. There was nothing sexy about the swirly thought I was starting to have…

Scottish? Independence? (shudder…) Isn’t that all parochial, inward-looking neanderthals with a chip on their shoulder? Isn’t the whole idea predicated on an outmoded view of class and yet another chip on the shoulder? Isn’t it all about electing King Salmond and, er, I dunno, yet more chips?

Sheesh. Really? Have you not read the polls? Do you not know how damaging what you believe could be for you and others around you? Look: I know that in 2011 a lot of us indulged in a wee bit of extra-curricular indulgence, but we were only angling for a bonus round, not for a full shin-dig!”

But, I couldn’t shake it. None of the No messages were making any sense – and they make even less sense the longer the current UK government limps onwards. Everything I have ever believed in – solidarity, social democracy, consensual governance, welfare, the arts, inclusion, equality – all of these things are being roundly dismissed in the name of a failing austerity project by the current coalition. I grew up under New Labour and spent the majority of my time hating a great deal of the country they created. The current government are nastier, for certain, but my alienation started long before. However, my hope for Scottish independence is not just predicated on negatives; a rejection of the government. It is much, much more than that.

I joined National Collective because it is a space for discussion, debate and optimism: precisely what we need in the run up to this historical vote. The contributors are not mouth-pieces for any political party; and I’m of the firm belief that no artist or writer has a business in making themselves one. Given that there is but one political party in Scotland that unanimously wants independence, I think this is why many people I know struggle to come out in support of independence, lest they be thought of as supporters of a party that they must remain critical of. But it is precisely that breadth of debate and recognition of Scotland’s problems that makes National Collective the perfect forum to discuss what our country can look like post-independence. It is non-partisan, and, crucially, it is a space to discuss the social aspect of this debate – something often missing from the overly-economistic thrust of much of the coverage in the media. Of course it is important to consider the economic repercussions of independence, but a vote for independence by necessity has to be more than a ‘what’s in in it for me’. That’s what we are trying to escape from.

Scotland is not a perfect nation. Too many of us are ill, mentally and physcially. Too many of us are living in dire conditions, suffering the consequences of poverty and the consequences of those consequences. Too many of us are over-educated and under-employed; too many of us struggle to have our voices heard. As a teacher, I see many of my pupils leaving school bewilidered by the lack of opportunities, even though they have better grades than I managed. Scotland already has a unique education system that recognises these problems to an extent, but with independence we could actually put our admirable educational ideology into practice fully. As the rest of the UK goes the other way – back to teach-to-test, winner-takes-all – Scotland is going the other way.

Hannah Arendt wrote:

Education is the point at which we decide whether we love the world enough to assume responsibility for it, and by the same token save it from that ruin which except for renewal, except for the coming of the new and the young, would be inevitable.”

I think it is no coincidence that my realisation that I long for an independent Scotland conincided with my teaching teenagers. However, that does beg the question: do I not care for the impoverished, struggling, alienated youth in Bradford, Middlesborough, London –  as I do for those in Dundee, Ayrshire, Edinburgh? Does this mean that I  do not recognise the common struggle that the marginalised share across the UK?

No. It does not. It was this last argumental hurdle that I had to leap before I gained the courage of my convictions. Believing in and hoping for an independent Scotland does not mean that on the day of renewal I will suddenly ignore the problems of the marginalised in other countries. That is a false (though powerful) dichotomy that has been built, rather successfully , I must admit, by the No campaign. But, the idea that  Scottish voters will suddenly become inward, parochial, uncaring, ignorant, oblivious or downright dismissive of the plight of other nations is absurd. In an independent Scotland, I plan fully to throw myself into the renewal of this country; to tackle those problems that we face that, though not unique to Scotland, are at times woefully higher in this country. I am under no illusions that Scottish independence means a whole host of issues to work through, but I welcome that. I welcome it because our parliament is built on consensus rather than acrimony; our voting system recognises the need for consensual governance; our nation includes conservatism (oh yes, it does) as well as socialism, as well as liberalism, as well as a strong environmentalism. We are small; we are tiny. But we could be overwhelmingly powerful, and I don’t just mean economically. It is socially, poltically and morally unambitious to make this debate all about that toy-throwing-out-the-pram-failing-by-its-own-rules-capitalist-model that we have all come to feel is inevitable. It is not inevitable. To say it is means that politics loses all meaning.

I firmly believe that, given the chance, Scotland could become a different country; a more democratic, socially-minded, less-individualistic country. I have been accused of idealism. It is true. I have to believe in a better world, even if, for the moment, I have to live in this one.

(Plus, if nothing else, as Rodge Glass has said, with independence, at least those in power would be easier to throw things at…)

And thus, I became pro-independence. I’m still trying to work out the kinks, though the fundamental remains. National Collective is the perfect forum to iron out those kinks, and to contribute and be part of the most important political debate of our time.

Jenny Lindsay
National Collective 

Jenny Lindsay began her performing career as a singer-songwriter, whose lyrics were always better than her singing. After some thieves robbed her Argyle Street flat in 2001, she began reading her lyrics at the infamously boisterous Nice N Sleazy’s open mic nights in Glasgow. This led to competing in one of the first Big Word Poetry Slams in April 2002, where she was a finalist.

From here, Jenny has gone on to perform, promote and compere events all over the UK, including appearances at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Stanza, Cheltenham Literature Festival, Belfast Cathedral Quarter Arts Fest, Bristol Poetry Festival and Glastonbury. She once survived writing and performing the ‘Toast To The Lads’ at the MEPs annual burns supper in Brussels alongside Don Paterson, and also wrote the launch speech (in verse form) for the new director of the Edinburgh International Festival, Jonathan Mills (2007.) She is an experienced compere and has hosted the Stanza Slam, Canongate’s Irregular cabarets, and the launch of Alasdair Gray’s auto-pictography, A Life In Pictures at Oran Mor in Glasgow (2010.)

With Big Word (2002 – 2008) and Is This Poetry? (2010), Jenny has been described as having been instrumental in creating a thriving spoken word scene in Edinburgh and beyond. Now, as one half of Rally & Broad, Jenny continues to dedicate as much time and energy to promoting the scene as she does to her own writing and performances.

Jenny’s poetry has featured on BBC Radio Scotland, the Rob Da Bank Show (BBC Radio 1), STV’s Nightlines, Channel 4 News and the BBC World Service. She has produced commissioned work for, amongst others, the Edinburgh International Book Festival, BBC Radio Scotland, Young Scot, (g)Host City and The Scotsman. Her debut collection, The Things You Leave Behind was published by Red Squirrel Press in March 2011. Her most recent pamphlet, The Eejit Pit (2012) is published by Stewed Rhubarb Press.

In 2012, Jenny won the BBC Festival Slam in Edinburgh, where she continues to live and breathe. When she is not teaching, writing or promoting Jenny enjoys an occasional nap, frothy ales, and holding the world to rights in some Edinburgh bar-shack.


About Jenny Lindsay

Jenny is a poet and promoter based in Edinburgh. Her work has been featured on the BBC, STV, Channel 4 and the BBC World Service. She has produced commissioned work for, amongst others, the Edinburgh International Book Festival, BBC Radio Scotland, Young Scot, Host City and The Scotsman. As one half of Rally & Broad, Jenny dedicates as much time and energy to promoting the poetry scene as she does to her own writing and performances.