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What is a generation?

The first Scottish Independence referendum was in 2014.

As part of the campaign it was suggested the vote was ‘once in a generation’.

This sometimes gets brought up as some sort of solid argument against the need for a second referendum.

Firstly, it is therefore important we have a look at what has actually been agreed.

The Smith Commission that followed the first referendum ending, contained this nugget.

”It is agreed that nothing in this report prevents Scotland becoming an independent country in the future should the people of Scotland so choose.”

Full Smith Commission linked here, because for some reason it is VERY hard to get ahold of. However it establishes the referendum was not an ’only once, ever’ event.

Secondly we then need to consider ”what is a political generation?”

It would be incredibly useful if we had some sort of example, of a region/country of the UK that could occasionally call upon a referendum to determine its future constitutional status.

Amusingly the Irish have provided for exactly that.

The minimum referendum rerun duration provided for Northern Ireland leaving the United Kingdom and becoming its own country (in this case with the Republic of Ireland) is 7 years. Even better, the precedent of this ‘political generation’ is codified in law.

Northern Irish precedent matters to us, because we are of course as we are often reminded in ”a union of equals – a United Kingdom – ergo what’s competent for NI, is surely the same for Scotland.

Enter the Northern Ireland Act 1998

Some quick math tells us that we are eight years on from the first Scottish referendum.

Using the UK governments own schedule in the Act of Parliament as our precedent, which was established under the widely defended and praised Good Friday Agreement – specifically codified in relation to parts of the UK exiting – we can only conclude the following from following UK government provided information:

A political generation has now advanced, and it is acceptable for another referendum.

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Change is happening

Allison Graham at Bannockburn – June 2022 (Footage from IndependenceLive)

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Your Move London♟

This week the First Minister of Scotland announced to the Scottish Parliament that Scotland would have an advisory referendum on independence on October 19th 2023. There would be a few routes that this could take, let’s use letters to label then.

A  S30 from UK Gov to mirror precedence of 2014 Indy Ref with the Edinburgh Agreement 2012
B  Referendum Bill from Scottish Parliament
C  Plebiscite Westminster election at   next General Election

The details in the announcement were, I’d assume, deliberately vague and most certainly caught the opposition parties and media unprepared.

Pronouncements on Plan B were made mainly on the sequence of events with Lord Advocate proactively seeking a ruling from UK Supreme Court on the competency of Scottish Parliament to legislate, being widely reported as a ’curve ball’. This led naturally to our engaged independence movement’s questions and scrutiny. We can speculate as to the pros and cons and rationale, given our experience of following Martin Keatings, Forward As One, Peoples Section 30 case decision and we absolutely should. Details on Plan C even seemed to create confusion between FM and DFM!

However, regardless of where we sit on the cynicism scale with the, now tiny,  inner circle of SNP, you have to recognise Tuesday’s announcement as a catalyst for renewed action and enthusiasm in an otherwise stagnant political movement for real change. Progress has been glacial from a political body distracted by policy that seems determined to divide, not coalesce Scotland as required on a plan for safe change to the betterment for all. The people have stayed committed to independence as the key to real change so we need those we elect to deliver to keep us ‘in the loop’ on progress.

If the bold announcement of a longed for date does nothing else, it puts Scottish independence back on the news cycle and that’s the national conversation we need. In no small part thanks to our unionist politicians and UK MSM who are shrieking from the rooftops that,

“Scotland can’t!”

”Scottish Parliament have no powers to!”

”How dare the Scottish Government speak for the people of Scotland!”

There’s a veritable choice for Scottish Independence Campaigner of the month, and none of them actually want independence!

Those of us who have more than a cursory interest in Scotland’s constitutional future are enjoying the political popcorn created by unionists this week while we scrutinise the actual announcement from the FM.

Now it may be the Greens influence rubbing off but there does seem to be more than a little, ’reuse, recycle ♻️ ’ going on as many of us have seen all these ideas before, just not from the FM but that’s for another blog!

So, what do we know for sure and where are the gaps?

Well we know fundamentally that Scotland having an independence referendum agreed by U.K. government is legally and constitutionally possible as we’ve done it before in 2014.

We also know that an agreement signed by both governments to facilitate the smooth running of this democratic process is possible as we have the Edinburgh Agreement 2012 as proof and precedent.

We also know that 8 years have almost passed since Scotland’s people were asked on 18th September 2014, “Should Scotland be an independent country?”

We know that much has changed in this timeframe, much of it material change, even to the constitutional position of the UK that Scotland chose as status quo option in 2014. This illusionary ’status quo’ of Westminster along with our devolution settlement has failed to protect Scotland from Brexit, hostile immigration policy, brutal Tory austerity that Scotland has never voted for is failing yet again, with abundant renewable energy, to utilise our precious natural resources for the common weal of our people.

We know that without any other written definition in UK or Scots Law, that a political generation is defined in Good Friday Agreement 1998 as 7 years, co-signed by UK, Ireland and USA. If UK is a union of equals, why would Scotland not have the same time definition as NI to determine our constitutional future?

In reinforcement, we know that the post Indy Ref, Smith Commission, Nov 2014, in paragraph 18, leaves subsequent democratic decisions on Scotland’s constitutional future, to the people.

Para.18 “It is agreed that nothing in this report prevents Scotland becoming an independent country in the future if the people of Scotland so choose.”

The most recent jigsaw 🧩 piece is the democratic mandate given by the people of Scotland when they elected an independence majority into Scottish Government in May 2021. The SNP were elected by majority of 62/73 in the constituency vote and combined with 2 list seats and greens 8 list seats, formed an independence majority of 72/129. The list votes were just over 50% to pro independence parties.

Given all the unquestionable positions on the board, what moves can UK Government make to beat this democratic checkmate while under international scrutiny? As UK feel their way to find their place in their post Brexit world, with only bravado and trading on historic reputations for ‘Mother of Parliaments’ can the UK really afford to have their undemocracy for Scotland questioned? How will that play with potential trade partners, even those without a large Scottish Diaspora? 

With all the media and political commentary on the feasible the Scottish Government’s plans B & C, have we missed the importance of plan A as UK’s Achille’s heel?

Robin McAlpine spoke at IndyX Fife on the necessity to have plan A, B, C etc., as part of an overall strategy as we’ve no time to go back to start point if a ‘component part’ fails, we must be flexible, proactive and ready to segway if and when the game changes. That’s strategy folks!

Those of us who play chess♟may be at an advantage to see any strategy at all in seemingly contrary actions. It may not even be deliberate by the SNP leadership but that matters not, once the energy from our movement takes hold and runs with it.

The key point is the march back down the hill just can’t be allowed to happen this time. We must ensure we overtop the hill we’ve climbed so many times in 8 years and this time ensure that our collective momentum sustains and builds to make independence inevitable.

To do this we must capture the peoples’ imagination, enthusiasm and breathe life into a vision for a new Scotland, for the betterment of all of us.

To create a peoples’ force for change we must have a singular commitment to our common goal: to deliver independence. To do this we must remember what created our 2013/24 grassroots movement and put any political party hats down to focus on our goal. If we’re to create an unstoppable peoples’ force, we must not allow the drag of day to day government to distract and derail progress. We must decouple indy movement from political parties and at the same time, all our politicians must step up now to raise the bar in personal, party and policy standards. This is a critical role they must play to demonstrate capability and build trust. The wise politicians will get on board or risk getting left behind.

Joanna Cherry QC MP is very well placed to demonstrate both legal and political credibility and show safe hands for Scotland in a UK Parliament where she is respected. Now as Acting Chair of the esteemed and critically important Joint Committee on Human Rights, she must surely play a pivotal role? Her recent call for an independence alliance will be heard well beyond Scotland to further normalise the reality that independence is a question for all the people of Scotland and not restricted to SNP party policy.

Point to note, for our politicians, is that our Celtic cousins on the island of Ireland give no deference and spend exactly zero time discussing mechanism of persuasion of the British to their position. ALL focus is on their own people and convincing them that they goal of united Ireland should happen (most importantly at this stage) WILL happen. This is what leads to international recognition that they are following the will of the people.

They are normalising change, which in itself changes mindsets from fear to opportunity: we must do the same in Scotland. Wales are breathing fresh energy into their constitutional conversation with new voices being raised. Many in England are also questioning their place in a post Brexit world with Mick Lynch throwing a bucket of cold water over UK media and politicians with his fearless, consistent messaging on workers rights, seemingly forgotten by the Labour Party that was founded on this principle!

The normalisation of change should be the key focus to build the necessary pressure that Robin McAlpine spoke about at IndyX Fife, to put UK into a position that it’s easier to have another Edinburgh Agreement than not to.

Egos MUST be put away now as this opportunity is too important to squander by navel gazing and ‘one up man-ship’. You don’t have to believe in someone to take an opportunity they’ve created (deliberately or otherwise) and run with it. What someone does to us isn’t in our control but how we react to it absolutely is! 

To optimise any force it’s imperative we keep our component parts tightly together or energy is lost through the gaps. This applies equally in a political movement as it does in physics. How we square that with facilitating different ideas and embracing other views is something that needs serious attention now.

The ONLY way is to connect on common purpose: Scottish independence and allow autonomy on all else.

What is independence for if not empowerment of democratic self determination for our people on all decisions affecting them? Focus on where we agree and build our campaign as a rich, diverse, organic movement of ideas and a passion to make a better Scotland democratically and respectfully of all views.

We must all set an example to those that will try to make this a single party initiative. It’s not and can’t be if we are to have certainly of a result. We need to start as we mean to go on with a Scotland for everyone if we’re to build trust in our independent future, even amongst those who won’t vote for it.

There is lots to do in the weeks and months ahead but some key things are:

  • Focus on where we agree: Scottish independence 
  • Change IS happening across these islands in Scotland, Wales and the island of Ireland, England must also have a conversation on its post Brexit future 
  • Focus on Scotland’s democratic right to choose
  • Call out UK law breaking domestically & internationally 
  • Precedent of Edinburgh Agreement 
  • Importance of Nation Conversation 
  • Need for Constitutional Convention 
  • Need for Citizen’s assembly 
  • Need for a Nation Building Conversion to capture the nation’s pulse & ambition for what happens in Scotland, in transition to independence and 5 years, 10 years, 20 years on from Independence Day

These are the tools to make independence normal, democratic and inevitable. 

Now is not the time to burn down political houses but to shape consensus on potential with ambitious vision and future the necessary establish democratic checkpoints to build a new nation based on trust that the people can and will decide. 

A new political environment will emerge organically, just as Indy grassroots did in 2013/14 and this should be embraced, not feared by our body politic in Scotland. 

Politicians who have continually asked the people of Scotland to trust them to deliver an independent Scotland must now trust the people to be core to shaping their future. As our people who make their lives here, will make our Independent Scotland a place that’s worth all efforts to achieve it!

So how will a UK Government, chastised by ECHR on illegal immigration deportation policy and embattled with EU over breaking international law over NI Protocol, respond to the democratic challenge laid down by Scottish Government? 

We must, while focusing on Scotland, be alive to the external influencing factors on UK’s position, of power dynamics in Ireland, an increasingly vocal Wales, RMT agitation for workers rights across UK, being a third country to EU, ECHR scrutiny, UN observation on Rights of The Child, all culminating in what must seem to UK Government a democratic pincer movement!

Scotland and our democratically elected Scottish Government must hold our collective nerve and keep laser focussed if we are to look UK Government in the eye as equal partners as we announce “checkmate” ♟

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What society needs from Politicians

If we want our society to succeed, for all of us, we need politicians to succeed in delivering for us. This cannot be measured on career longevity or party standing but on real achievements for country and constituents.

We need to encourage more political minds of a calibre that can critically analyse information, really listen to understand problems and assess potential outcomes  before making decisions. Being a ‘team player’ seems laudable on the surface but not at the detriment of individual thinking. This is particularly important if the end goal is an independent Scotland and all the creativity and problem solving it will take to ensure a country that can thrive for all! 

Without fearless politicians, speaking up against populist tides through the generations how would fundamental societal progress have been achieved, such as the abolition of slavery?

This time of crisis for so many, is not the time for us to prioritise ‘a career in politics’ of compliant ‘team players’, this is the time to seek out and support the brave politicians of principle who will ask the difficult but necessary questions!

If we are to build consensus to achieve the safest, most robust solutions for inclusive, stable, peaceful transition to an independent nation we must ensure the freedom for our elected representatives to question on our behalf, even their own party direction, without sanction.

Gatekeepers of Quality 

Political parties are the gatekeepers to vet candidates to ensure they provide us with a choice of high calibre individuals to vote to represent us. They must take seriously the responsibility for the output their internal  process produces.

We, as the electorate can measure political parties on whether they will deliver on their manifestos and promises at the next election, but this is broad brush as much depends on the alternatives.

Least worst is no longer good enough, if it ever were. Success at elections depends both on your performance (or promises) and that of your opposition. It’s time we had a finer lens to measure and scrutinise, at least annually, how our elected representatives are performing for us.

Removing Barriers to Representative Politics 

It might even make winners less daunted at what they need to do to succeed and help losers know better what voters expectations are for next time. We must put focus on encouraging people from across society to come forward as potential candidates and break through the politico bubble that’s is currently a barrier to those ‘not in the know’.

Surely we can all agree that if we aspire to truly representative government at all levels, then removing such barriers to entry creates ideal conditions. In a Scotland seeking to demonstrate that our desire for independence is on the grounds of civic betterment for us all, this is critical.

If those in power push back and question why must they be transparent and accountable: the electorate should really be asking them “why?”

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Perception in politics can make or break you

Winning is hard, as politicians have a spotlight on them which presents some very real perception problems to navigate. Once a perception is set, it can be hard to change so transparency and accessible accountability provide a sound evidence base to counter unjustified negative perceptions and critically, for the electorate, leaves nowhere to hide for justified ones!

What do politicians do when problems arise and what should they do? 

Option 1:

  • cover the problems and claim “all is well” even when evidence mounts to the contrary

Option 2:

  • throw up hands saying “sorry, we WILL endeavour to do better, we will learn and we will prove to you we are worthy of your vote”

Option 3: 

  • nothing, ignore it

I’ll leave it up to readers to decide what politicians should do and what they think they do do 😉

How to help winners succeed!

How you win is a key focus of political parties. The familiarity of the party machine at election time is what gets HQ juices flowing but where is the energy invested in USING the power from a win, beyond re-election, to deliver. That is what’s actually important to constituents after all! 

Some of our newly elected Scottish councillors will have never done this job before so how are they (or any other newly elected representative) set up to succeed?

Most parties have an assumption that mentoring by an ‘old hand’ is the key yet isn’t that a bit like being taught to drive by your Dad? 

Clash of wills between ‘master and apprentice’ may swiftly derail progress, in addition to the risk of picking up ‘bad habits’ from a ‘master’ with years of driving from an outdated hIghway code from when they ‘passed’. 

The process stuff should be fairly simple to go through at an induction, but beyond administrative learning, how do our new councillors learn to really succeed for their constituents? Simplest way is to observe who gets things done and where their priorities lie. 

When One Master becomes Two 

The key thing that changes from trying to get elected to being elected (unless independent) is a politician’s reporting line suddenly expands beyond their party.

To get elected candidates are part of a team, largely reliant on party brand and voter management strategy to be successful. Once elected, politicians now have two masters: party and constituents and their needs and wants don’t always align. 

Who the primary master is for a politician is fundamental in driving outcomes for; politician, party and constituents. Whether you’re a fan of Churchill or not, or agree or disagree about duties of parliamentarians to be ‘country first, then constituents’ I think few voters would disagree that his stated third duty, to political party should always ranks after both.

Yet as we see in all areas of government, the whip system is often deployed to protect a party position, at times to the detriment of some representative’s own constituents or even arguably the country. I’ve even heard from some candidates that party loyalty is tested at vetting, to assess how much of a ‘team player’ candidates are, using examples setting constituents interest against party! 

I find this very concerning but it reinforces why I could never be a politician in such a party system. I’d likely lose the whip before lunchtime on my first day, assuming I passed vetting!  Most folk who I believe would make excellent political representatives are of the same independent mindset. Some already elected have been punished for not being ‘team players’ either at vetting, selection or even through demotion! 

What do you do when interests clash – Local Hero or Party Nero? 

If politicians ignore constituents issues in favour of party line, they run the risk of; 

  • bad press,
  • heated surgeries
  • red hot constituency inbox
  • reputational damage as ‘Party Nero’, cloth eared to constituents when party interests and personal career interest are assumed to trump constituents interests
  • risk to re-election, if they’ve the stomach to continue in politics.

If the politician aligns with constituents interests, as their primary master, they can become the ‘local hero’ but this is too often at a personal cost within their party.

There’s an abundance of examples at all levels of government of politicians ‘rebelling’ to take positions against their own party’s line and even losing the whip because of it. There are many reasons for this for example:

  • Labour Foreign Secretary Robin Cook’s March 2003 eloquent resignation speech in protest against the invasion of Iraq
  • Andy Wightman’s resignation from Scottish Greens following an uncomfortable whipped adherence to party line on the Lamont ‘6 words’ amendment to The Forensic Medical Services (Victims of Sexual Offences) (Scotland) Bill
  • Elected councillors resigning party whip to stand as independents for their constituents on points of local interest or issues within their party

So what have we learned about the problems (and indeed benefits) of winning? 

Winning presents politicians with the real opportunity to make a positive (or negative) impact on their constituents lives and on society’s direction. The last few years have brought home that many decision made by politicians can be literally be life or death ones. 

Politicians are human beings and will make mistakes as we all do but it’s how they deal with their successes, failures and insecurities that have a wider impact on us all. 

Final part: What does society needs from politicians?

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How do voters know what’s true?

Well, we don’t have much to go on as voters when it comes to ‘actuals’ on a politician’s promises or indeed record in office. It’s true that politics geeks do like a good trawl of a voting record but how many folk have the time, knowledge of process or even interest to do that? Media have a role of course but the front page story above shows, it’s a pretty pointless exercise after votes have been cast! 

What could we do to help voters?

First principles, make it easy for voters. If politicians truly want an empowered electorate we must help them to make robust democratic choices, to support them or their party, by convincing them instead of ‘fooling them long enough’ with flashy soundbites and personality politics, to cast their vote.

To do this, effort must be expended to allow voters to base our decisions on evidence rather than just promises we can’t easily track the delivery of.

How do we know how politicians are actually doing? 

Most people don’t but we could change that, starting with transparency. Look at how other ‘industries’ manage to track employee delivery.

Most employees have some sort of appraisal at annual review to see who is:

  • ‘on track’
  • overachieving and candidate for promotion
  • Underachieving and in need of training etc.
  • failing for other reasons

So why don’t we do this for politicians? Their decisions impact our society so surely their tracking is critical to us all? 

Why don’t our politicians have to provide a ‘report card’ when elected, to measure progress against their stated objectives and election promises?

At every new election a CV should be provided of a politician’s background, experience and views on / voting intentions on key issues! Parties must have this information for their internal vetting so why is it not available to politicians prospective employers: the electorate?

Is it just because no one has asked them to before? Good politicians who deliver have a lot to gain from such accessible transparency after all. 

Next part: Perception in politics can make or break you

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All hail the winners but then…

‘SNP held Glasgow’ was trumpeted after the local council count by a Scottish media with very little to work with from a pretty non eventful election.

The ‘hold’ was true but the ‘grip’ is fragile. The previous shockwave win of SNP from the long incumbent Labour stronghold in 2017 was seen by many as a seismic democratic change for Scotland’s largest city. The reality though from pals from my home City and visits to friends and family is that not much changed and many of the changes are not largely positive.

This is disappointing as Scotland’s ‘Dear Green Place’ has so much going for it in both its architecture, green spaces, vibrant culture and of course it’s indomitable people.

The fragility of last week’s results is that a slim majority leaves open the very real possibility of losing control from by-elections, where those is power tend to be at a disadvantage when constituents are angry. The machinations of forming administrations is not always straightforward but it can be telling as to who is willing to work with who and why!

A fragile majority on any administration puts pressure on those who were elected to demonstrably deliver! Given the need for serious work from our local authorities at anytime never mind a cost of living crisis, stability and focus is key.

The last Glasgow SNP administration was beset with early bad press from the Lady Provosts’s spending, leading to her stepping down from role, to a series of resignations from SNP councillors, claiming issues with group leader and overall discipline within the group.

One week on from the election we saw front page of Glasgow Evening times with a splash story on a recently re-elected SNP councillor who they have now ‘fact checked’ statements he made at recent election hustings as evidently ‘untrue’. This relates to excuses he made when attempting to explain his 84th of 85 position on council meeting attendance – not ideal when seeking re-election. He was re-elected, so, where does that leave his voters? 

It’s interesting this story broke a week after his constituents cast their votes so it’s a moot point as to whether it would have made any impact if voters had been made aware before the vote but it does raise a wider, serious issue. 

How do voters know what’s true? I’ll explore this in next part of this blog:  How do voters know what’s true?

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In defence of democracy

Let us begin by looking at the what the election for local government was, how the results stacked up, and how some people have chosen to respond – and ultimately why our defence of democracy is needed.

To quote the Electoral Reform Society

“STV (single transferable vote) is a preferential voting system which produces results that are approximately proportional to votes cast.”

https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/latest-news-and-research/publications/the-power-of-preferences-stv-in-scottish-local-elections/#sub-section-3

Wikipedia offers this as an explainer, this is what will show if you search what is an STV election is.

Single transferable vote (STV) is a multi-winner ranked-choice voting method, an electoral system in which voters rank candidates according to their preferences, with their single vote transferred to other candidates based on these rankings if their preferred candidate is eliminated, so that their vote still counts.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single_transferable_vote

What we establish here – is that coming ‘first’ or being ‘largest party’ isn’t the aim of the system.

The aim is to get any many people elected that share the views of the electorate.

The STV voting system is the preferred voting system of the party of government in Scotland, which at this time is the SNP.

So it surprised us today to see a Scottish Government minister say ‘a sad day for democracy’, following a council administration forming.

https://twitter.com/MairiMcAllan/status/1526875308586041344

Let’s take a look at how the result stacked up, thanks to the incredible work of BallotBox Scotland and its license we can bring you this visual

https://ballotbox.scot/le22/south-lanarkshire

The ‘issue’ seems to be the pro-Indy councillors seemed to get 28 councillors, the pro-Union councillors got 34 – and subsequently have chosen to form an administration.

This is exactly what STV is designed to do. Force people to seek coalition and understanding from likeminded others.

The SNP even decided to put forward itself for administration in minority.

67% of the vote, the majority, went to non SNP councillors, and thus democracy in action – the elected representatives rejected the SNP minority, favouring a broader represented coalition.

Much hysteria follows by politically engaged people, who know and understand voting systems and result sets compounded by the realities of coalitions. Which makes it all the more ridiculous.

This is incredible. One government minister called it a ‘sad day for democracy’. Another government minister decries the result as a ‘disgrace’.

While its always a bit horrible to see your political opponents form administration and work together against you. It is neither disgraceful or sad for democracy. This is what is supposed to happen.

Stories like this are occurring all over Scotland as administrations form and individual supporters or activists may be angry and vent.

However government ministers must hold themselves to a higher standard. We have a proportional representation system in Scotland and it has delivered its verdict. To suggest otherwise in an attempt to discredit the democratic system we sit on is callous, naive and dangerous.

We must have respect for our political opponents and the mandate they carry from their electorate. We must defend the democratic systems and institutions we are fortunate to have. You cannot rail against Scotland having governments in Westminster it did not elect if you utterly disrespect the result of the democratic elections held under proportional systems in our own councils.

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ALBA must become a pressure group if it is to thrive

I planned on writing this months ago but it was rightly pointed out to me that it would not have been helpful to the ALBA party during the council election campaign.

Though I wish I had spoken up sooner given the predicted disastrous results ALBA saw came to pass.

My point, months ago and still applies more so now, is if ALBA  wants to be relevant and influential then it has to ditch being a political party and become a media and pressure group instead.  

Given ALBA is doubling down on fighting the next General Election, I ask the leadership in good faith to reconsider. Due to being new, unknown to the majority of the population and having  limited (but hostile) media exposure, the perception ALBA does get is hostility or irrelevance.  

For sure ALBA again could spend its resources fighting that perception as a political party and fight the next general election.

But why?

Why waste more energy fighting in elections that we will not win?

Why fight futile battles against external forces we cannot control?

Being a political party would be fine if we had time to grow and already lived in an independent country but we don’t. ALBA instead needs to become a pressure group with one aim, getting Scottish independence.

Now that there will not be another election until 2024 (though I won’t hold my breath) and a supposed indyref in 2023, ALBA’s job should be holding The SNP’s feet to the fire and exposing the inevitable b.s excuses they will use, as we get closer to 2023.

ALBA’s main remit as a pressure group should be research, media, and campaigning with other indy groups. The first has already been done with Robin McAlpine and Stuart Campbell with the wee ALBA book, so instead of wasting money on candidates and campaigns in future elections, use more of that cash for collaborations and public engagement.

It will be collaborations with other indy organisations,  communicating the wee ALBA book message to larger audiences that will influence more of the public than just working and talking to ourselves as an irrelevant party.

Let’s ask ourselves why would a normal member of the public go to an event hosted by an (unknown) political party that they are not a member of? Collaboration and ceasing being a party are therefore essential to ALBAs survival.

The second remit is Media.

We all know we have a dire media in Scotland, not only overtly biased in terms of the union but now happy to prop up a risk-averse (when it comes to indy) Scottish government which shoots itself in the foot with ludicrous policies, policy failures and virtue signalling while pushing independence further and further down the track.

Though we cannot control the media we can become the media. With Salmond no longer doing his RT show perhaps it is a chance to continue his show on a new platform.  

In addition, there could be other podcasts on this new platform where leading people in Scotlands businesses, trade unions, health, mental health etc., are interviewed about the industry they represent, their challenges and what Scotland can do to improve them. It could become a platform similar to Spiked online. This media platform would be open and invite people who are pro, against and indifferent to independence so we are not just talking to ourselves. It would be a platform for debate and discussion.

In addition to podcasts, ALBA should have a daily blog or news site with daily pieces highlighting, the pace (if any) towards independence by the Scottish Government, it could be called “Indy watch”. It would be this site/blog that would hold the Scottish government’s feet to the fire about independence. If the one man Wings Over Scotland managed to be influential – think what ALBA could achieve with its much larger resources.

Younger audiences must be engaged too. ALBA ceasing being a party would achieve that aim better. Currently, the official ALBA Instagram is lying dormant and instead of filling it with posts about “why you should vote for this candidate?”

Why not use Instagram as a medium to engage audiences about why Scotland should be independent? Engaging memes, links to podcasts, video content etc. There are two advantages to this, first, it will be far more effective in engaging younger audiences and getting them on board, second by not using the platform as a political party, you are not as constrained by what you can say and do, and thus can be more creative.

If stale and safe worked, then Rogan would not be the number 1 podcaster, blogs more respected by millions than the legacy news media.

We don’t have time, with a UK Government hostile towards Scotland and planning on extracting more of our resources and with a self-harming chocolate fireguard of a Scottish government as “protection,” we need to decide the future direction of ALBA now.
Do we continue to fight elections and be constrained by the bureaucracy of being a party fighting many battles (many not of our choosing) and not being very influential and effective in the medium term?

Or do we become an unconstrained fighting machine as a pressure group focusing on one battle and one battle only: independence?

If ALBA continues with the former I am out, if instead, it chooses the latter, then I am in.

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A wild Thistle appears

In an increasingly digital world, where are the affordable tools to help build strong political parties? If democracy depends on choice and representation – why are there almost no tools on the shelf to help establish parties?

Each party requires a plethora of tools to try and build its campaign engine – many cost eye watering amounts individually but are required to build party machines that win.

If you’re a new party – there genuinely isn’t much available. If you have low income or subscription value – there potentially is nothing.

ViveEcosse is about trying to kick forward progress in Scottish Politics. We’ve already created the open-source-esque Indy X, and we’re supporting many other groups bring their own events to life.

Our second project? Owing to the technical backgrounds of two ViveEcosse founders, is to create Thistle.

Thistle is a Scottish Political Party management and campaign engine.

The Vive Ecosse Team is developing Thistle due to the lack of serious alternatives able to fit the requirement of a modern Scottish Political Party. 

That all sounds kind of technical, so here’s a brief idea of what it does.

  • Party Management: Membership (multiple levels), Supporters (multiple levels), Gamification, Email, Support Desk
  • Party Policy: Policy submission, Policy curation, Policy development , Policy Index
  • Party Discipline: Reporting, Cautions, Warnings, Suspension, Exclusion, Expulsion, Appeals, Member handbook
  • Party Internal Elections: Term Management, Candidate biography, Vote Capture, Results & Reporting
  • VoterID: Support + Opposition Tracking, Questions, Canvassing, Data Capture, Data reporting, Self Identification, Targeting
  • Get Out The Vote: Reporting, Feedback 
  • Electoral Tracking: Poll Tracking, Party Candidate Tracking, Opposition Candidate Tracking 
  • Campaign Team Management: Todo lists, Contact lists, Chat, Notes, HQ Updates, Teams
  • Press Release Management: PR drafting / proofing, PR Tracking, PR crisis management, Document repository
  • Fundraising: Crowdfunding, Donations, Funding drives, Ticketed events, Lottery, 50:50 clubs

We previously built the Party Policy and Campaign Team Management modules for another purpose, but due to never being used, we have them ready to go for our initial release.

Next week we hope to bring the development roadmap out and have some stuff to showcase. Thistle has its own page. If you’re interested in following along into the details.

If you have any ideas that aren’t mentioned above – that you think ought to be in the system – pop them in the comments and lets see what we can make among ourselves.