Beyond Broken Britain
As the last plastic tiara gets ground into the dirt and England’s gin-hangover kicks-in, it’s time to wake-up from the Princess Dream and look at the historic opportunities facing Scotland in the next week. It’s Mayday – time for renewal and fresh-thinking.
I don’t want a minority SNP government again. It’s likely to be stalled by tribal intransigence, back-biting and the worst petty parochialism that’s bound to dominate any political institution constrained by outside control. I don’t believe the ‘political mandate’ idea that a second SNP victory would let a referendum take place. Instead I suspect a desperate unionist bloc would continue to halt progressive change.
But an SNP administration in full coalition with the Scottish Green Party could allow real change to sweep across the nation. Major shifts towards a low-carbon society AND a transition away from the centralised feudal constitution of the British State ARE achievable through such an alliance. The benefits of such progress would come from the jobs boost of an economy based on the massive investment in all of the renewable technologies and properly insulating our housing stock. If we can do this, out of the miserable compromises and venalism of recent years …anything is suddenly possible. But only if Greens start to re-think ‘Transition’ as about a move away from the rapacious anti-ecological British State and Nationalists are able to think imaginatively about the benefits of a green economy in a new Scotland and ditch the ‘Celtic Tiger’ paradigm of pre-crash economics.
In short, Scotland could become a modern democracy.
Here’s Bella’s Top 10 – policy areas and ideas for an SNP/SGP Coalition:
Bridge Building & Shipbuilding – the dividing line between approving a new Forth Road Bridge and opposing it threatens to be a block to any coalition. It needn’t. Let’s reconceive the Forth Estuary as a major waterway with ferries, hover-craft and shuttle buses servicing the passage from West Fife to Kirkcaldy to the Lothian side. This could help salvage the tram service by delivering passengers to Leith and Granton and on to Edinburgh city centre.
Similarly the Clyde and Tay riverways should be rejuvenated with new shipbuilding based on a post-carbon transport culture. If shipbuilding was the epicentre of Scotland’s role industrial past, maybe it can come centre-stage in our de-industrialised future? In other words, do bridges need cars? Or, could we re-think the massive investment in the Forth crossing as an opportunity to create a low-carbon ‘bridge’ to Scotland’s capital?
The Bridge is thught of as the first obstacle to any coalition, it needn’t be.
Land Ownership and Renewable Energy – what has land ownership got to do with renewable energy? Everything. Control of the powers of the Crown Estate are essential, to develop the massive potential of tidal energy, and inland grid-connectivity which can’t be developed unless communities have access to and ownership of their land. This is a classic win-win scenario for the land ownership movement and the development of community controlled renewables, such as we’ve seen in Fintry, Eigg, Gigha and elsewhere.
Developing the urban equivalent of these rural success stories is the essential next step.
Scottish Water being developed into a publically-owned renewable energy company is a key to offshore marine energy and harnessing the power of our hydro.
Smart metering and mandatory high efficiency domestic applications can also be part of a nation-wide energy descent plan, recapturing the cultural value of ‘thrift’ and changing the energy debate from just talking in terms of changing ‘supply’ to altering the levels of ‘demand’.
Open Source Schools & The Curriculum for Excellence
Scotland was the first country since Sparta in classical Greece to implement a system of general public education. Schooling was made compulsory for the first time in Scotland with the Education Act of 1496 since it forced all nobles and freeholders to educate their eldest sons in Latin, followed by the Arts, and Scots law. Now 1 in 5 of young people leave school with literary issues.
Instead of doing deals with Microsoft, the SG should be working to create the world’s first open source schools network linking primary to secondary and connecting the meme of open source with the idea of self-determination through the applied skills of the global digital citizen.
A drive for a GM Free Scotland, a thriving local food movement, the expansion of organic food and land (started by Richard Lochhead under the Organic Futures* plan) and a start in curtailing the power of the supermarkets are all areas where the SNP and the SGP could and should work closely together on a common agenda. Smart politicians would look to common ground.
*‘Organic Futures’ is a joint Scottish Government and Scottish organic industry initiative aimed at developing organic food and drink in Scotland.
In Glasgow in 2010 the culture project NVA recreated Roel van Duyn’s White Bike Scheme. A big bold pan-Scotland initiative like this is essential to kick-start a cycling revolution as one part of a major transport shift away from car dependency.
Bikes are only ever going to be a part of wider transport policy but this sort of totemic project could register a shift in the domination of urban centres of the car.
Fuel Poverty & Housing – much of Scotland’s housing stock is very poorly insulated and these conditions (matched with rip-off Britain’s privatised utilities) means poor health and massive energy waste and emissions. This could be fixed by any thoughtful progressive coalition. This is a no-brainer. It would boost jobs, housing, health and the climate change targets.
Expanding and extending the Universal Home Insulation Scheme would be an obvious area of commonality between the two parties.
The SGP rightly observes: “Greening education is not just about the curriculum, but also about where teaching takes place and how schools function. Outdoor education develops skills and qualities such as risk assessment, working with others, self-confidence, empathy with Scotland’s countryside, co-ordination and practical skills.”
Early years education needs to be seen as the essential building blocks of a persons life and education, not just as the most convenient form of childcare.
The SNPs Early Years and Early Action Fund doesn’t go nearly far enough, nor is its funding adequate. There is probably no area of social policy so under-funded or ill-thought out as this, but the scope for progressive thinking is obvious.
Free nursery provision for all would be a golden step forward, and place-based learning where children were encouraged to take risks, not prohibited from experiencing the world would be a key aspect of this development.
Re-Kindle Scottish Literacy
A fusion that celebrates Scotland’s rich literary tradition (unarguably our strongest art form) combined with a digital literacy programme could allow participation in the debate, discussion and participation that’s key to making Scottish democracy alive. It’s the sort of area that an imaginative coalition could jump on.
Shifting some powers from London to Edinburgh through devolution was never enough. Neither is simply moving more powers to Edinburgh under independence. Independence is an opportunity to re-think how and where we make big decisions. Whilst a minority SNP government could potentialy push-through a referendum, a coalition government is more likely to build a societal shift able to carry it. The SGP could be the grist in the independence movement mill.
Nuclear Free Scotland
The common ground here is clear. It’s that the coalition could build around: a common cause around Scotland being a nuclear-free country. Post-Fukushima, and in the interests of generations to come there is no place for nuclear power in this country. A concord to legislate this, and to dismantle and decontaminate Scotland of the nuclear legacy of the British State would form the second part of this equation.
There is little to distinguish the two parties approaches on international affairs where opposition to Trident, Iraq, Afghanistan and the international arms trade could form the basis of an ethical foreign policy that London Labour could never deliver.
Angus Robertson’s pork-barrell politics defending the British Army bases would have to be dropped. It’s now 9 years since Britain invaded Afghanistan Polls show 75% of people want the troops brought back home. This again is the sort of common ground hardly discussed at all in the campaigns dominated by the failed old unionist parties.
Is this possible?
I’m sure that Nats with upper-soaraway confidence might deride such an idea.
It only work if there is give and take. As Pat Kane has written: “On the SNP side, they should realise that the mix of social justice, localism and a genuinely planetary perspective on our daily lives represented by Green politics could be one of the strong elements of an “independence movement”. We need a real push towards empowered communities – where people are supported to “co-create” their services, living conditions and energy. This autonomy will generate a natural ambition for wider social – in the Scottish context, constitutional – change.”
“But on the Green party side, I think there has to be some give-and-take too – there’s also a puzzling modesty about their support for independence – where a stronger and clearer commitment would increase their credibility on how macro-policy could serve their ideals, surely largely frustrated under a devolution settlement.”
If this election tells us anything it is that people are hungry for a positive vision. Kane’s friendly critique of the Green Party is most telling: “Strangely for such an idealistic party, there is too much fist-waving and opposition, and very little joy and aspiration – no real flavour of the different “quality of life” that a transition to an ecologically oriented society might bring (their arts, culture and sports policy, for example, is gestural at best).”
So “sell the sizzle” as cutting-edge greens tell us and let’s hear why the re-industrialised Scotland could be a place with better homes, cleaner energy and a viable future Beyond Broken Britain?