15th March 2014: a chat about #indyref

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Tea and Cake // a chat about #indyref

15th March 2014

A chat about #indyref was the first of a discussion series delivered by Shift called Tea and Cake. This first session was set up to bring people together from different sides of the Scottish Independence Referendum planned for 18th September 2014. The aim was to air some of the issues and understand our individual and collective responsibility around this important political event.

Number of people: 8

Current position: From fence sitters to Yes, with many starting as No when the referendum was announced

Age group: 20 – 35

Perspectives: Small business, support organisations, students, education sector, cultural/arts sector, entrepreneurs, start ups, creative industries, mental health, science, architecture, native Scottish, European, Asian, Scottish history.

I have left these notes relatively unedited because I want to reflect the conversation and opinions held by the people in attendance but if anything doesn’t make sense or needs expansion/deconstruction, get in touch on iwantto@makeshifthappen.info

GENERAL • Recognition that all stats can be manipulated – where is the clean/good quality data? • There appears to be a culture of opinion by headline – an attention grabbing headline followed by a debunking of aforementioned sensationalist headline in the body of the article • When the Union happened in 1700’s there was no concept of democracy so to talk about this being done in current terms is inappropriate (in relation to the discussions of Scotland not voting for a union at that time) • An opinion: Make big decisions with your gut and small decisions with your head • Time scale for full positive effects of post independence – up to 40 years • There’s a fear (from the politicians) about being up-front and honest about the reality of Scottish independence: it will be hard • The political game is to paint an overly rosy picture; we recognize that there are many things that need to be discussed and aren’t being aired at all (by the leaders of the campaign)

IDENTITY • We are thinking about what it is to be British • 300 years of shared history is too important to ditch • Examples of successful smaller countries shared (Norway, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Panama) • Shouldn’t be framing it as an escape but an assertive and proactive choice towards something better and to our own autonomy • Tories are chasing UKIP and UKIP are against home rule so we are at risk of losing even our devo status? • Dismissiveness from England and own cultivation of our cultural cringe

ECONOMY AND SOCIETY • If large companies leave Scotland because of independence, this creates space for local organisations to grow into • International trade needs better scrutiny; tax, employment law and banking are going to be big factors post independence • The business view is largely pro union; fear of change when businesses are functioning in current situation • Micro enterprises and SME’s may not be affected too much • List of countries with currency union • List of countries that have used own currency? • Costs of setting up a new state • Time and cost involved in setting up ministries (but do we need ministries?) • Concerns about whether we really are in a good position • Currency is and should be a concern – UK has been petty – its not wise to expect they’ll be any different in the future • Is there a plan B regarding currency? • Security – better the devil you know • Are we at risk of losing our budgets in the event of a NO vote? • Small businesses are leaning to NO – are they and can they influence their staff? • The pay gap is widening – 70% of people earn less in total than the richest 30% combined – Average income is £25k per year • Our growth is stinted and we do not/have not accessed our own resources • Hidden Money! • Higher tax rates = better support; France and Belgium touted as examples of places, Scandinavian countries, with better transport, grants for artists, for education, national citizens income etc. • Higher tax and more socialized society potentially leads to greater regulation, not attractive for many business owner – a conservative govt is generally good for individual businesses • This is a very single minded view based on old-school economics, failing to take into consideration how a non-monetary based economy functions best • Society we seek would be more well-rounded and fairer • Looking at long term solutions to our society’s problems • Fear of the unknown • What are our short term solutions (for the interim period before all our amazing plans come into effect?) – fuel poverty traps, low income families – things could get worse for these people first • 0 – 3 year-old kids are the most influenced – how do we create a society that can support an intelligent and empowered population – starting with this age group? • Time to raise income and level of tax • 20% of children in Scotland living in poverty • NO feels like a steady course to the bottom

INTERNATIONALISM/EU • Border control – talked of EU and Schengen countries • Democratic card UK government can use • 30% of the EU fishing waters are in Scotland – as reason for EU keeping us in • This is a new precedent for EU – there is no reason for a negative outcome • EU: will we remain (difficult to kick us out) • This is given as fear-based reason to stay part of the EU…

POLITICS • Our constitution is unwritten and as such can be changed (a la Tony Blair retaining his position when his bill was thrown out), our first job will be to create a written constitution and this is an exciting opportunity • An opportunity for a written constitution for Scotland (but what is the process?) • One of only 3 countries in the world with no written constitution (New Zealand and Israel being the other two) • It could be a highly sophisticated constitution drawing inspiration from other successful models • Portugal’s constitution protected them from harsh austerity measures • Lack of constitutional literacy/knowledge – no experts in constitution here • Self-determination and responsibility for our own future successes and failures! • Our state would not materialize quickly, it’s a long term vote • Not enough discussion about the PROCESS of building a new state – not about information, recognition that actual information/predictions of what will happen can only ever be speculation • How will people be enabled to engage in the process? • Yes seen as an opportunity to reframe both politics and economics • Oh! To have a government I voted for! • NO is a scary prospect, will we be punished? Financially? Given the pettiness from Westminster so far? • When can we have a do-over? SNP will be unlikely to have this level of power again and therefore it could be along time before we are offered a referendum

MILITARY
• Countries with little to no military, examples

ENVIRONMENT • More investment in renewables, Scotland is on track for 100% renewable energy promise • Nuclear energy – this was also seen as a positive

EDUCATION • Possibilities for increase in investment in education (Swiss example – 2nd and 3rd generations benefitting in educational spending) • Small business is the new face of the economy; educational spending will equip young people for C21 markets • Free education for international students (Norway?) should be part of the plan, bringing in international interest, expertise and retaining Scotland’s international profile

RESOURCES

• 5 million questions

• The common weal 

• Countries gaining independence and countries with no military

• Wings over Scotland

• Constitution commission

• Alan Bisset

• Radical independence movement

• Scotland’s prospect

• Patrick Harvie

• National Collective

• Documenting Yes

• Bella Caledonia

WHAT NOW?
We’d like to host a follow up discussion looking more specifically at how to prepare for a NO vote and a YES vote. {Follow up held 28th September 2014}

IF YES
• We need to know how we will be involved in writing a constitution and we need to take individual responsibility for doing that
• A better society costs money so where will it come from?
• How can we change the attitudes of the people around us to ensure that a high tax nation is seen as a VERY GOOD THING…for EVERYONE
• Lets not get too hippy about it… diversity means considering the best of conservative views as well…

IF NO
• How can we continue to protect Scottish people from the increasingly closed minded, discriminatory, populist, neoliberal drift that is happening in the UK if we DON’T get independence?
• How do we prepare for potential fall out/punishment (e.g. massive budget cuts that have been threatened)
• How do we protect our Devo status in the event of UKIP
• How do we keep people engaged in politics as they have been throughout this campaign…?

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