Monday, 26 November 2012

A rebirth of Scottish Radicalism?

On the 24th November 2012 the inaugural 'Radical Independence Conference' was held in the Radisson Blu Hotel in Glasgow. It brought together various strands of radicalism from across Scotland with 800 people booking tickets for the event.

The campaign for Scottish Independence has been more or less the domain of the Scottish National Party. True the Scottish Socialist Party and the Scottish Greens have occupied that territory too along with others like independent MSP Margo MacDonald. But by and large the monopoly on the independence franchise has been held securely by the SNP.

It seems though that the Independence referendum and the broad based Yes Scotland campaign has opened the door to new interpretations of the independence sang. The Greens re-examined their support for independence at their recent conference before swinging four-square behind the Yes campaign. They rightly saw the huge opportunity for a new and radical future for Scotland that independence offers. Others have followed suit and many roads led to Glasgow and the Radical Independence Conference on Saturday.

I arrived at Edinburgh's Waverley station to travel through by train and met up with the SSP's Colin Fox and a couple of his friends. We boarded the train where we met  George Kerevan, Scotsman columnist and former International Marxist. George had written a pre-conference 'manifesto' which set out his stall with some radical suggestions for a future Scotland. It made for lively discussion on the way through on the economy, Scottish newspapers, Spanish politics and the Catalan elections. It set the scene for the day in a way. The only thing that was missing on the journey through was the youthfulness of many of the delegates that became apparent when we arrived.

Who was there? Well in some ways it was a case of who wasn't there. They ranged from veterans of the independence struggle to student campaigners through environmental campaigners, feminists, disability rights activists, housing campaigners, anti-racists, community activists, international socialists of all stripes and a cross section of the left green radical commentariat.  Also present was an impressive range of international guests from campaigns in France, Greece, Quebec, the Basque country and Palestine.

Where does it go? Links have been made, barriers broken down, alliances and coalitions have been formed. All of these people from a very wide spectrum of 'radical Scotland' came together, they discussed, they listened, they exchanged views, debated ideas and they want to continue the dialogue and match it with action. It was quite a feat to get such a wide section of the radical left together in one place and that they are rallied around the hope for radical change offered by the Independence Referendum.

It was, I believe, significant not least in having gathered together such a large attendance of people looking for change and the chance to build a new Scotland steering a course away from business as usual and towards a Scotland that is greener, fairer, more democratic and egalitarian. It is also significant that Alex Salmond sent a message of support and that former SNP MSP Jean Urquhart gently stressed that the referendum conference would not be happening at all if it were not for the success of the SNP and the First Minister in getting us this far.

There has already been much written on the event and its aftermath had you can read more via these commentators,

Pat Kane

George Kevevan

Robin McAlpine

Colin Fox

Gregor Gall

Lesley Riddoch

National Collective

Aidan Kerr

Plaid Wrecsam

James Maxwell

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