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.

There are 3 comments

  1. Andy Ellis

    I’m sure Jenny’s conversion story will strike a chord with many Scots who have converged toward the same path, even if their individual journey started from different place. The realisation that Scotland has a distinct and diverging “moral landscape” from the rest of the UK is at once exhilarating, frightening and thought provoking.

    At its most basic that realisation rests, as Jenny so rightly says, not on a desire to turn in on ourselves or to ignore the commonality of problems which we share with others both within the UK and internationally, but on a desire to find Scottish solutions for Scottish problems, striving to make the ideal of Scottish society as a progressive beacon a reality.

    The challenge for proponents of independence is to convince doubters that the moral imperative to ensure the well being of Scots individually and as a society is ultimately only likely to be achieved by voting Yes in 2014.

  2. Doug Daniel

    “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?”

    Another way of looking at this is that the poorest in the UK are still miles ahead of the poorest in the world as a whole. With independence, we can (and according to Humza Yousaf recently, the Scottish Government WOULD) give far more in international aid than we currently do as part of the UK.

    But on the whole, one need only highlight that if national borders define which peoples we care for, then the idea that we need political union with England to care about the plight of the poorest in England means we either don’t give a toss about the poorest outside the UK, or we should be creating a single world state.

    I agree with you though, it’s the one unionist argument that makes me so much as pause for thought.

  3. Patrick Holmes

    Words from big brother the USA.

    I just watched the film “Scotland
    yet”, being Scotch/ Irish and a being passionate about human rights, humanity,
    being a lyricist, poet, I have pinned some feelings about your choice. I want
    to share them with those that were in the film. Feel free to pass this on if
    you wish.


    I am scotch/Irish. May family has
    done pretty well here in the United states after coming her many years ago. To
    escape something that was not good, in the old lands. We have a good story to
    tell for the most part. Mother a doctor, sisters doing well, uncles fought for
    yours and mine’s freedom from Nazi ternary. All of them came back, one shot
    down over Belgium but came home. We have
    this common ground. We have all suffered from less understood ternary. Global
    markets tearing at good jobs. Oppressions because of need for things on credit.
    Less power to truly make a difference because we seem to not understand how to
    cast a vote that does do something to change things. What is independence, when
    we need to be dependent on things not close in, in our control. Is it more
    control we need more autonomy from those far away we say. They holding purse
    strings have control of things. We have seen the struggle of a poor economy. Is
    this struggle as deep as world war, lasting as histories long lived deeds
    suffocating most people’s aspirations until referendums came. We have come so
    far. What is lost, what is gained.
    Freedom at a price worth paying. What freedoms hang here to gazes a pone
    do we known, truly understand. Sustain
    these notions of country, loyal union, to what? To a flag, an idea of
    statehood. My neighbor knows me, my
    country miss understands me, or I miss understand the notion of country,
    patriotism. I buy what I need. Do I look at labels, see country of origin, care
    about who made my clothing. Loyalty forgotten.
    I vote with my greed for needs. I cannot comprehend outcome if I do not
    care about selections. It is people standing for a belief that the common
    people have a voice that should be herd. The élite groups need to listen, we
    demand, understand their privilege was on the backs of common folks hard work.
    They have lost ground to a new understanding that unstable, unsustainable paradigms no longer hold true to a common logic of the people. New horizons
    have come, shedding light on the need for action that brings a freedom not given in past
    relations with those that history has shown has abused the privilege of a union
    of the two. We can stand united for a common cause. As in the past, to fend off
    a common threat. But be divided for libraries provided by independence. Yes!

    Scotland can stand on its own two feet if enough Scottish people
    understand what that truly means. It’s about buying Scottish things, thinking globally,
    helping those in need. A big problem here in the USA is people not knowing the issues
    wanting change but not knowing how to get it, following slogans with no
    backbone. There in Scotland I feel there are more people that do understand but
    enough to make the changes is the question.

    Patrick Holmes a working class
    carpenter designer here in the USA.

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