by Katie Gallogly-Swan
The evidence is everywhere. Scotland is brimming with political engagement, and there’s no escaping it. We’re waiting for you at the bus stops, eary-wigging into your conversations in the queue at the bar, and some of us are even knocking on your doors, messing up your tightly scheduled Sunday duvet-days with our canvassing rotas. The referendum has awoken a once sleeping population of political part-timers, and turned them into an unstoppable, national groundswell of activists, demanding that their voice be heard.
Necessarily, this sort of debate draws lines and creates divisions. And so it should: without debate and real, textured conversation about what is right for our future, we can’t start the ball rolling on affecting change at a systemic level. We need conflict and difference to reveal and develop innovative ways to tackle Scotland’s big issues – this is at the heart of a functioning democracy.
However, while this campaign is far from the nastiest Scotland has seen, the stats show clearly that there is an unfair bias in media for Better Together. Across the board, Better Together are miles ahead of Yes when it comes to the mainstream media’s support. The Yes Campaign relies heavily on online blogs and crowdfunded sources with fresh-faced journalism to keep the media debate in balance – a constant battle when you begin to enumerate the major offences against this grassroots effort, for example the Wings over Scotland Subway issue, the Vitol cease and desist letters to National Collective and co, and the distinct lack of coverage at major protests outside the BBC in Glasgow.
Unfortunately, this means that the scaremongering that Better Together tallies up – between comparing Salmond to some of the world’s worst political figures like Mugabe, Jong-il and Hitler, to George Robertson’s assertion of the impending doom for Western civilisation should Scotland vote Yes – is what permeates the mainstream debate. The possibility of a ‘positive case for the Union’ has been killed on its feet by a campaign that have taken the innocent words ‘better together’ and made them feel bitter and deceptive in your mouth, like the warm dregs of a tin of cheap lager. And for a campaign that runs with such a hopeful name, with such vital vocabulary as ‘better’ and ‘together’, and for a nation in the throes of political resurgence, it just isn’t good enough.
We, the people dedicated to a fairer future for Scotland, must reclaim the name ‘Better Together’ from the No campaign to mean something more than the extreme headlines racked up in the tabloids. Scotland can be better, and we can do it together. We should be united in our stance against a propagandist politics, and push for a progressive future, collectively.
On the 6th of July, Festival of the Common Weal will be held in The Arches in Glasgow. The Festival will be a day filled with political engagement and live entertainment, designed as a platform for everyone in Scotland who demands more from our future to engage in the policy questions, and to be united under the banner of making Scotland better. We have brought together more than 20 organisations, our own associated research teams, and some of Scotland’s budding artists and performers. We have been working tirelessly with them to develop an event that welcomes all ages and political hues, with a wide scope of causes and interests. Moving forward in Scotland, we have the opportunity to create a politics that we can trust and that we want to engage with, and this is where we can start.
The Festival is not about back-patting, or self-aggrandising, or resenting another ‘side’. It is instead about unity and engagement: a show of solidarity from the biggest movement for progressive politics in Scotland in our lifetime, and an opportunity to make real headway in defining what our change must look like. Furthermore, this event is the only occasion of this scale and kind you will get before September – it’s your chance to come together with the common purpose of demanding better.
Wherever you stand politically, join Common Weal on Sunday to celebrate a common future for Scotland. Where elsewhere we may necessarily draw ideological lines and stick to our tribe, in this we need not. We all want a better future for Scotland. Let’s get there together.
To find out more about our event and tickets, see our festival site at www.cwfest.com
For more information about Common Weal, visit www.allofusfirst.org