Look at all the Yes activity happening across the country and you’ll notice that we’re not only in the midst of a Scotland’s political revolution, but also a cultural revival.
During the last few months, I’ve been door-to-door canvassing alongside many others in our local Marchmont area – an on-going mission to test the waters for support. As you can imagine, we’ve had some interesting conversations with people on their doorsteps… I have to say though – and it may come as a surprise – my favourite people to talk to have been not the ‘Yes’s, or the ‘No’s, but the ‘Don’t Know’s. I found it particularly interesting talking to those who admitted that they didn’t really know what this whole movement was about and asked to be filled in. After a wee bit more information, they have each time moved towards the Yes camp.
One particular chat that has stuck in my mind was with a bubbly young lady, originally from the South of England. While she classified herself a No, almost by default, she already agreed with many of the reasons to vote Yes – she simply hadn’t realised it.
She said that, from what she’d observed in the years she’d lived up here, the government tended to be more engaged with the public, and vice versa. Another picture she painted for me is the huge wave of apathy towards the Westminster political system felt throughout the country. The electorate, she said, simply do not know who to vote for, and being part of the Yes movement, I didn’t have to ask why.
Having opened her door as a No voter, listening to our reasons for supporting an independent government (and there are many), she ended up drifting to a Yes by the time she closed it again. As she was a creative professional, we naturally referred her to National Collective.
A Contrast to Westminster Apathy
Anyway, speaking about this apathetic electorate got me thinking. While I could relate to the feeling, I realised that I had not felt that way in a long while, nor had I heard it from others in what feels like years. Since the referendum was announced in Scotland, we’ve become far from apathetic both politically and culturally.
Thinking back to the Radical Independence Campaign’s second conference in Glasgow last November, one of my favourite speeches came from 16 year-old Saffron Dickson. She asked us when we were last inspired (if ever) by Britain. What was clear though was that the 1000+ people there were undoubtedly inspired.
Similarly, in Robin McAlpine’s speech, he highlighted that no conference of any political party could hope to fill as many seats, even during the keynote speech. “This is the new centre of gravity of politics in Scotland”, he reminded us.
I know we’re all working hard across the country to bring about a Yes vote, but don’t forget to take a few seconds to breathe and look at the landscape around you. People, from all ages and origins, from across the world and the political spectrum (as well as those who have never before been given a reason to care about politics) are working together on a daily basis, sharing visions of what kind of country they want to live in. And that’s just politically.
A Political and Cultural Awakening
Everyone in National Collective knows well that this political revolution has come hand in hand with a cultural revolution. Artists and creative-types across Scotland have also been united and inspired, doing exactly what they do best: envisioning and creating things.
With successful launch events and regular sessions that are happening in our towns and cities, displays of music, illustration, poetry, theatre and other arts have been created, organised and performed out of passion alone, demonstrating a vibrant culture that is very much alive.
From the subterranean Art Cave set-up in Leith, the intricately designed Zine, the upcoming Yestival tour in July and the ‘National Collective Presents…’ Fringe show in August. Scotland is awake, both politically and culturally.
Maintaining the Momentum
There’s one last thing though.
After a Yes vote, our real work begins: shaping our constitution, deciding the relationship between citizen and state, and going from envisioning our new country, to actually creating it. Let’s maintain this momentum of our energy and inspiration, the connections we’ve made, and the cultural unity.
Let’s try not to get too bogged down by party politics but instead remember this as the time when the politically unaffiliated, along with supporters of the SNP, Labour, Greens, Socialists, a handful of Lib Dems, and even a few Tories campaigned together for a better future.
Perhaps we’re all just people after all.
As Blair Jenkins said: “We have been building the biggest grassroots movement in Scottish history”. These have been rare and unique times, and long may they continue.
Image from Simon Forsythe