This is a companion piece to the ‘Provocation For Radical Campaigning Now‘ I gave at the Class Matters panel at Yestival Edinburgh. In it, I argued that if folk truly believe in radical independence, then they need to be campaigning not just for a yes vote but also in solidarity with Scotland’s radical campaigns – that we need to struggle with campaigns for workers, disabled people, women, migrants, the land, and every other marginalised group, and that we can’t afford to wait until after September 18th to begin.
It comes from a place of excitement about the independence campaign, a sense that it has helped build momentum and demands for meaningful radical change in Scotland. But it also comes from a place of fear – fear that a No vote might leave us wounded, exhausted and vulnerable; fear that a Yes vote might leave us complacent and not ready to continue the struggle for a radical Scotland. We need to build the networks that will make that Scotland now.
This piece was written by speaking to folk in campaigns I’ve been involved with and supported over the past few years. It draws on issues and causes I particularly care about, and different writers would pick five different campaigns. There’s a lot of work to do. In writing this, I’ve tried to prioritise the voices of people involved in and directly affected by radical campaigns. I’ve been helped in this by speaking with Jon Black, @pastachips, @pennysuperdog, @splatpest, wee beth, and many others – but any mistakes are purely mine.
Scotland’s grassroots organisations for working class people have become much weaker over the past century – largely because of systematic attacks from UK national governments on the working class. Systems like “Right to Buy” have created divisions in communities, removed crucial resources like social housing, and made communities dependent on buy-to-let landlords. When people have fewer resources and more wedges pushed between them, it’s harder for them to get organised. From the diminishing welfare state to benefit sanctions, from tenancy insecurity to rising tax bills and falling wages, to just getting the Council to do decent rubbish collections in working class areas, the issues facing the working class in Scotland are pressing – and will stay so even in an independent Scotland. We need to be building power for working class people to raise living standards, demand their rights and make the change they want to see happen in their society.
ACORN Edinburgh is a city-wide membership organisation that aims to further the interests of low and middle income residents. ACORN aims not to campaign or advocate on behalf of its members, but rather to organise them to campaign and advocate for themselves. ACORN wants to build a powerful, democratic, member-run organisation that can allow us to assert our interests and give us a say in the running of our communities.
Disabled people are facing some of the very worst violence under current UK austerity measures. From benefit cuts and unfair sanctions to the threatened closure of the Independent Living Fund, from daily abuse and discrimination in the press to being declared Fit to Work by
unaccountable outsourced service companies, there is a literal war against disabled people taking place in the UK. In Scotland, many disabled people see an independent Scotland as a means to avoid the worst of austerity, but threats to services and resources will continue in an austerity-obsessed Europe.
Black Triangle – which officially supports the Yes campaign – galvanises opposition to attacks on disabled people’s human rights. Through blogging and social media, supporting anti-defamation and self-defence campaigns, and organising disabled presence and voices at protests, Black Triangle – along with national organisations like Disabled People Against Cuts – is supporting disabled people in organising resistance.
You can support Black Triangle through donations and their online store, but also by lending your voice in support to theirs – online and offline, in media campaigns and at protests. For more, see http://blacktrianglecampaign.org
“Reclaim the Fields is a constellation of people and collective projects willing to go back to the land and re-assume control over food production. We are determined to create alternatives to capitalism through cooperative, collective, autonomous, real needs orientated small scale production and initiatives, putting theory into practice and linking local practical action with global political struggles. RtF Scotland is an emerging group as part of this network.
“We think that radical change is urgently needed in Scotland where land ownership is so concentrated, with roughly half of Scotland’s private land owned by less than 500 people. This long term problem of land ownership is connected with many other issues including food and health, poverty and class divides, democracy, empowerment, community and our culture.
“We take inspiration from Scotland’s radical history of struggles for land, from the Vatersay Raiders reclaiming land for their lives to those who refused to bow to landlords and withheld their rents as communities were cleared from the land to make way for sheep. Although Scottish independence will certainly be a move in the right direction for land reform in Scotland we believe that we need to take passionate action and not wait for changes that will come too slowly and will no doubt pander to the interests of big business and economic growth.
“This year the Reclaim the Fields UK gathering is in Scotland. It will happen at Monimail, near Cupar in Fife, 22nd-24th August 2014. The gathering will be a chance to meet, share skills, ideas and strategies for growing gardens and communities and transforming our crooked system.”
– wee beth, Rtf Scotland
SCOT-PEP is a registered charity dedicated to the promotion of sex workers’ rights, health and dignity. Arguing that sex work is work, and that deserves the same protections as other work sector, it campaigns and lobbies against legislation – including criminlisation legislation – which harms sex workers. Affirming the right of sex workers to self determination, to organise, unionise, speak out and be heard, it plans and supports events with and for sex workers in Scotland, provides a platform for sex worker voices, and maintains extensive resources for sex workers to access. SCOT-PEP’s website has this to say on sex workers’ rights in Scotland:
“Sex workers have always struggled to be heard, to be accepted and to be listened to with respect. In the current political climate in Scotland, the purchase of sex is defined as violence against women and the Scottish Government have sanctioned the view that sex workers’ dissenting voices do not have the right to be heard. We do not accept this view.”
SCOT-PEP is a registered charity, but has no regular funding. It is urgently asking for your financial support at http://www.scot-pep.org.uk/support-us – as always, small contributions are very significant. You can also support their work just by learning from the organisation’s vast library of resources and materials, and pledging to listen to and amplify sex workers’ voices – extraordinarily, often those most marginalised in campaigns about sex workers’ rights.
Scotland – the greater Glasgow area in particular – houses a large population of asylum seekers. An independent Scotland will have its own immigration policy, and the White Paper has pledged to close detention centres, allow asylum seekers the right to work, and operate more welcoming immigration policies than under the UK. However, Scotland’s borders will still be policed, and many of the issues facing asylum seekers – including insecure housing, social marginalisation, poverty and the terrifying ever-present threat of deporation – will remain.
Since March 2006, the Unity Centre has grown to play an important and perhaps unique role providing support for asylum seekers in Glasgow. Run completely by a collective of volunteers and funded entirely by donations from our supporters the Centre provides practical solidarity and support for asylum seekers especially when they face being locked up in detention centres or being forcibly removed.
The centre is open five days a week from 10am to 6pm, also operating a 24 hour emergency phone line. Located less than 100 metres from the main entrance of the Home Office’s reporting centre in Glasgow, asylum seekers sign in at the Unity Centre before they report and then call back into the Centre when they have finished reporting and are safe. Since it has opened over 2800 families have registered with the Unity Centre and its campaigns have helped over one hundred families return to safety in Glasgow after they have been detained by the Home Office.
Unity is entirely run by volunteers, and is always seeking new folk to help out. Independent of state funding, it also relies on your financial support – and support from its charity shops, which welcome your material donations. Unity regularly puts out calls for letter-writing and phone-call campaigns as well, so you can actively participate in preventing deportations.
Look After Yourselves, And Each Other
Campaigning can be wonderfully empowering, but also exhausting! There’s a lot of work to be done, and lots of violence to fight against, but we all have capacities and limits. The best thing you can do for any movement – all of these campaigns, and the movement for an independent Scotland – is to look after yourself first, to look after all your friends and comrades second, and only then to start campaigning. That way, you’re less likely to burn out, less likely to make demands on people’s time and energy that they just can’t meet, or more likely to find these extraordinary struggles something that makes your life richer.
Photo: Ross Colquhoun