I made this short statement at the end of our first Common Weal Fife meeting on the 1st December, 2015 at the St Clair Tavern after a fabulous and energetic 2 hours.
There is little doubt that 2014 has been a momentous year for us in Scotland. The fact that there are nearly 60 of us packed into this little hall on a cold Monday evening is testament to that fact. We had originally booked the Duchess for this meeting anticipating less than 20 attendees. Instead we had to book here to accommodate the demand – to accommodate the appetite that exists now to be involved and discuss politics.
We want to make sure that 2015 is equally momentous. For sure, there are some major events approaching – The General Election, the implementation (or otherwise) of the Smith report and the continuation of austerity, whatever party gets in.
This means that it is crucial that the Left agenda continues to be represented in mainstream political discourse. One of the fantastic elements of the Independence referendum was the space it allowed for left politics – something that had been missing for quite some time. We need to keep it there. Groups like the Common Weal, Radical Independence and parties such as the Socialists and the Greens ensured that a different discourse to the neo-liberal orthodoxy was heard. One of the highlights (a small one, but a highlight nonetheless) of the campaign was seeing Tommy Sheridan and Owen Jones arguing the left perspective on the referendum on the BBC. When was the last time a comparable thing occurred?
It is important that this is not allowed to dissipate. A continuing argument that came up during the Radical Independence conference was that we should put all arguments within the independence campaign on hold until independence is achieved. I was glad to see that this position was strenuously opposed. It is utterly essential that groups such as the Common Weal continue to apply pressure to the SNP. Do we think that big business will stop lobbying? Do we think that fracking companies are going to stop whispering in the ears of politicians? Do we think that right-wingers are going to stop applying pressure to veer off in certain policy directions? No, they will not. As such, it is essential that we continue to do our bit to ensure that the SNP recognises we are still here and are not going to go away with referendum defeat. And politics isn’t something that is put on hold. It is always present and is always evolving – and there is much to be done now, independence or not.
It is at this point that in the interest of full disclosure that I tell you that I am a member of the SNP. But that does not equate to me being uncritical of party policy. The recent explosion in membership and the exponential rise of the SNP in the polls should make us all pause for thought. For sure, it is excellent news in terms of the fight for independence (if you were – or are a yes voter). But equally, the power that they are (potentially) going to wield in two years’ time makes it even more necessary that our fight does not pause. There is the very real chance that the SNP will have a majority of MPs and a majority at Holyrood. They could be in a position to almost do as they please. This makes it absolutely critical that we on the left are there, that we are involved in the dialogue and that we are represented in the decisions that are made – particularly those that affect our communities.
We need to continue the work that we on the left put in during the referendum. If it proved one thing it proved that people power still exists. Big business may have the ears of the politicians but we can have the ears of the people if we stay together, if we continue to talk and if we continue to spread information and ideas. For that was the great strength of the campaign and the reason that the yes side won the campaign (if not the referendum). It was people power that took the yes vote from twenty-five to forty-five percent in the face of a massive assault from the establishment. As such, it is essential that we continue to work together next year – and the years to come. It will be difficult at times. It will take time for the Common Weal to really get started so some patience will be required. Many of us are new to this game and have been motivated by the last two years to get involved. Let’s work together to make 2015 another year to remember. And make Common Weal Fife a fixture in local politics.