Remembering Mandela: Edinburgh Council meeting today

Today, the City of Edinburgh Council remembered Nelson Mandela. In addition to a motion seeking an appropriate memorial to Mandela in the city, after a moment’s silence, each political group was invited to contribute some thoughts. Here is what I said.

So much has been said about Mandela in the last seven days, but I would like to say a few words here today as a fellow South African.

Mandela was truly a remarkable man. We have heard much about his grace, magnetism, personal sacrifice. He has become the personification of the anti-apartheid struggle.

Had it not been for him, it is possible that the transition to majority rule in South Africa would have been very, very bloody. Had it not been for him, it is possible that the role of reconciliation in South Africa’s politics, and indeed global politics, would have been much diminished.

And, in many, much smaller ways, his political actions highlighted a deep commitment to justice and fairness. His first proper job was as a nightwatchman at a mine but he was fired when they discovered he’d runaway from home to escape an arranged marriage. He was branded the Black Pimpernel by the South African media when he defied orders not to travel around the country of his birth, doing so disguised as a chauffeur.

In prison he was elected to a four man “High Organ” which must have had some influence as they were able to get the Commander of Robbin Island reassigned for overuse of violence against the prisoners.

A few years prior to his release Mandela had rejected an offer of release as it came with the condition that he have a “cooling off period” outside the country; he was not prepared to leave his country. And he was the last recipient of the Soviet Union’s Lenin Peace Prize and the first recipient of the Al-Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights.

All of these show personal strength in the face of adversity, a commitment to his people, his country, and his beliefs, and I think a devious cheekiness which certainly served him well in his role as a global statesman.

So, a great man, certainly.

However, he himself rejected the deification of him, as a person, as the single figure responsible for the development of the new South Africa. He understood that the narrative of the great statesman depoliticised the struggle to which he devoted so much of his life. It is much easier to focus on the great personal characteristics of one man than it is to stare inequality and injustice in the face.

It also undermines the work of millions of others, across the world, who stood with him, fought with him, against oppression and for liberation. It is incredible to me that the rest of the anti-apartheid movement has been so utterly forgotten – when Denis Goldberg spoke at the Edinburgh World Justice Festival earlier this year, he did so to an audience of less than one hundred people.

So, let us remember a more complete legacy of Mandela, his human fallibility, his role as a soldier, his role as a radical.

Let us remember, too, that, during his time in government he did not fulfil all of the revolutionary promises to his people, and to hold him as infallible would be an insult to one of the principles he fought so hard for, that of human equality. It is clear that there is still so much to be done in that beautiful country.

His message, that we collectively have the power to make change in our society, should be what we take from his life. That real democracy and real equality are the bedrock of a truly fair society. That injustice of all kinds, whether based in racism, poverty or any form of oppression is something that we cannot tolerate and must oppose.

I want to end with a quote, not from Mandela, but from his great friend and fellow activist, Chris Hani, who, when asked whether or not he was looking forward to being in the new government in the new South Africa (which he never saw, being assassinated in 1993), replied:

“The perks of a new government are not really appealing to me. Everybody, of course, would like to have a good job, a good salary, and that sort of thing. But for me, that is not the be-all of a struggle. What is important is the continuation of the struggle – and we must accept that the struggle is always continuing – under different conditions, whether within parliament or outside parliament, we shall begin to tackle the real problems of the country. And the real problems of the country are not whether one is in cabinet, or a key minister, but what we do for social upliftment of the working masses of our people.”

Colleagues, we still have much to do. Our struggle certainly continues.

But for now, hamba kahle Madiba. Amandlha!

Nelson Mandela: freedom fighter, peace activist, trouble maker, icon

Yesterday, we received the news that Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela died peacefully in his sleep. Much has and will be written about the impact this man has had on South Africa, the continent of Africa, and the rest of the world. I will never be as eloquent as others, and so I won’t try to be. What I do hope is that the city I now choose to call home will have the courage to do something it should have done decades ago, and give this great man a fitting tribute. I have circulated the following to all the party groups on the Council, as an emergency motion for next week’s full council meeting. As a South African citizen, I hope Scotland’s capital will honour Mandela, his life, work and memory.

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EMERGENCY MOTION – NELSON MANDELA

Council

Notes the death, last week, of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, freedom fighter and first president of post-apartheid South Africa;

Reaffirms the respect and high esteem the City has for him and his dedication to peace and reconciliation, declared 16 years ago when he was granted the Freedom of the City;

Agrees to commemorate the life of this remarkable man by renaming Festival Square “Nelson Mandela Square”, a fitting tribute being the site of the African Woman and Child statue, a symbol of support for the anti-apartheid struggle, and the site of many anti-apartheid protests in the past.

woman&child

Radical Independence Conference 2013 Speech

It was a great privilege to be the opening speaker at this year’s Radical Independence Conference.  This is my speech:

“Welcome to the real face of the Radical Independence Conference. It’s a great honour to be able to speak here, and to be able to open this conference. And a huge thank you to Johnny Shafi and all those who have made today happen.

This is the conference of a revolutionary movement.  A movement that can transform Scotland. We can create a Scotland that is more just, that is fairer and that creates a new economy and a new society.

We all know the failings of the British state:

  • A crippling devotion to corporate power;
  • An unbending commitment to an economic model that collapsed, not for the first time, in 2008;
  • A ceaseless drive to blame foreigners, the poor and the vulnerable for problems created by the rich.

We can do so much better. So very much better.

This moment in Scotland’s story is vital. We have the opportunity to reverse the corporate capture of our state and the intrusion of the market into every aspect of our lives.

Over the last year we have driven the debate to the side of humanity. Rather than trumpeting lower corporation tax as a central reason for independence, the debate has shifted to universal childcare.

Instead of arguing for a deregulated neo-liberal state, the Yes campaign is opposing the bedroom tax.

We have put the issue of a Scottish currency on the table and I am convinced this is an argument we can, and must, win.

And, importantly, we, as RIC, have shown that there are people beyond the SNP who want independence. Greens, socialists, non-party members – we must all contribute to developing this radical vision for independence.

We must keep this progress up.

We must campaign not just to defend the social security system we all value so much. We must fight for social security that does not divide people. We must have a system that provides for all. When Nicola Sturgeon calls for an end to the attack on social security, she is right. But an independent Scotland must go further. We should value every citizen and ensure a citizen’s income, a basic income for all.

We must, and do, think radically about the way we organise, and the way society operates. For too long global corporations have profiteered through the flogging off of our public services. We must rebuild faith in public and community ownership of our services.

We should all be proud of the fact that Holyrood defended our NHS from Westminster privatisation. We should be delighted that the SNP have promised to renationalise the Royal Mail. But an independent Scotland must go further. For our country will only be run by the people, for the people, if the major economic decisions are made by the people, for the people. So, we need worker control, community ownership, participatory budgeting, and a new commitment to local democracy.

We need to allow workers to buy their workplaces. A government investment fund to support buy outs would have transformed the Grangemouth dispute. With the right to purchase the business and the funds to back that we could have had a very different outcome.

Last year Cat Boyd said we need a Scotland for the millions, not the millionaires. We’ve seen to our great cost what a Scotland for the billionaires looks like.

We must ensure that our public utilities are governed democratically. This will not only end the greed culture that has impoverished so many. It will make further sell-offs impossible.

We can create an economy that destroys the notion that there is ‘no alternative’ to privatisation, deregulation and tax cuts. We can create an economy which shows the way out of the neo-liberal nightmare that Westminster is determined to lengthen.

So what is to be done?

The Radical Independence movement is a great start. We’ve already shaped the debate. But we need to make an even bigger difference over the next year. And referendum day cannot be where we stop.

We need a movement on the streets. We need a movement in parliament.  We need a movement that operates in our communities. We have to go beyond the referendum to create the economy we want and we need.

We showed the world that Scotland rejects UKIP’s racism and bigotry. I salute those who drove Nigel Farage out of Edinburgh. We must continue to fight fascism wherever we find it.

The lessons of Scandinavia have been well aired. But we must learn the lessons of Latin America where practical action has rolled back neo-liberalism and elite rule. We need to take control of our assets. Of renewable energy; of our currency; of our communities. And we need to run those assets in a democratic way.

Today will explore many of the ways we can do this. I’m excited by the potential for the Radical Independence campaign over these coming years. And I’m excited about creating a radical Scotland.”

Gender inequality in University Governance

I am fortunate enough to be the Educational Institute of Scotland’s University Lecturers’ Association (EIS-ULA) delegate to the STUC Women’s Conference happening in Dundee this week. One of the (30 or so) motions up for discussion was on gender inequality in higher education governance (full details of motions here). The motion was proposed by Angi Lamb, from the University and Colleges Union, UCU, and I seconded it on behalf of the EIS. Below is my speech.

The story of Scottish higher education is overwhelmingly a good one. Scotland should be proud, rightly proud, of its Higher Education system. The intellectual engagement that happens in our universities rivals, indeed many would say exceeds, that of our southerly neighbour. And this intellectual tradition has, I believe, a crucial role to play in Scottish society, culture and economy. How this system is governed, therefore, must be of concern to us all.

University courts are the governing bodies of all Scottish Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), and membership of these bodies is comprised of a mixture of internal university people: academics, university administrators, sometimes students; and external lay people: those whose skills and expertise complement those of the internal members, and serve to challenge institutional parochialism and provide a broader context for governance, of business, international or other important concerns.

These courts have overall responsibility for the mission and strategic vision for universities, oversight of systems and processes, including employment practices, finance, welfare of students and staff. They also, incidentally, have responsibility for the setting of principals’ salaries, which as we heard earlier, have risen to an average of £242,000 whilst academic and support staff have seen their salaries cut by 13% in real terms in the last 5 years.

The last time there as any kind of reassessment of University governance was in the 60s, when the Robbins report sought to democratise institutions, without really changing very much. So, a couple of years ago, the Scottish Government commissioned a review of the governance arrangements in HE. Professor Ferdinand von Prondzynski, the principal of RGU was appointed the chair of the review panel, and he, along with 4 other white men, undertook a review of the governance arrangements in HE. They spoke to people from each university, academics, administrators, students, and they published their report last year. This review contained many recommendations, which both UCU and EIS broadly welcomed – we would have gone further, but the recommendations themselves would be a fantastic start to improve HE in Scotland.

One of these recommendations was:
“Governing bodies also need to observe the principles of gender balance and of diversity. The panel therefore recommends that each governing body should be required to ensure (over a specified transition period) that at least 40 per cent of the membership is female. Each governing body should also ensure that the membership reflects the principles of equality and diversity more generally, reflecting the diversity of the wider society.”

Another recommendation was:
“All governing bodies should also have effective representation of internal stakeholders. The panel recommends that there should be a minimum of two students on the governing body, nominated by the students’ association/union, one of whom should be the President of the Students’ Association and at least one of whom should be a woman. There should be at least two directly elected staff members. In addition, there should be one member nominated by academic and related unions and one by administrative, technical or support staff unions.”

So, gender equality was very clearly positioned as a crucial aspect of open, transparent governance.

In response to these and other recommendations, university chancellors, principals and senior administrators had several fits, and decided to draw up their own Code of Governance, which largely ignored everything the ‘von Prond’ review said, but was agreed by all Universities, and imposed earlier this year. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Code says nothing about gender balance in university governing bodies, nor the active inclusion of women in the key functioning of universities.

At a time of change and uncertainty, when, like with so many other areas of life, HE faces funding pressures, the prospect of tuition fees, restriction in the ability of people to access HE, ever-increasing student debt, and so on, we need strong, effective, open governance.

We want HE to be a significant contributor to what drives Scotland’s future, playing its role as effectively as possible, with the widest consent and support possible. We want our young adults and lifelong learners to be able to fulfil their potential to the greatest extent possible, and with the greatest possible amount of public satisfaction, enthusiasm and support, so that Scotland can be recognised as a place of critical intellectual curiosity, and scientific and cultural innovation.

And so we must have effective and fair governance system. We need to pressure the Scottish Govt to make good its promises it implement the recommendations of von Prond, and implement it in full, including the recognition of the importance of gender balanced governing bodies.

Thank you

Closing Address to Scottish Green Party Conference 2013

I had the honour of giving the closing address at the Scottish Green Party Conference in Inverness which finished this afternoon. This is a slightly edited version of my speech.

Thank you conference.

Well, what a weekend this has been! We have had a great time here in Inverness – sunshine and warm weather (in Inverness, in October!), ceilidhs, curries, constitutional motions, policy debates, discussion, meeting up with old friends, making new friends, party buses; what more could one want? And all of this has happened because of huge effort – please let us thank Highland branch, Myra, Eleanor, Fabio, and all the others who have worked very hard to make this a successful event.

And thank you all for coming. And for staying to what is nearly the bitter the end!

This is an important conference that has, I hope, recharged you and given you enthusiasm for the year ahead. In a year’s time we will meet in Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital city; the first conference after the referendum, and we will then know what kind of future we have to work with.

So, the coming 12 months are important: it is a year that includes two vital events for us, for our Party and for the place we call home.

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In May next year we will win our first Member of the European Parliament. We will do that on the back of newly reinvigorated local branches around Scotland, through generating enthusiasm for our already popular policy positions, by widening our appeal to and reach into communities where we know we can really make a difference to people’s day to day lives, and by recruiting new members, supporters and activists. And all of these people, all of you, as individuals and local branches will ensure that the Party is then ready for the other challenges to come – the small issue of the independence referendum and the Holyrood election in 2016, where we have the ambitious target of electing 8 MSPs.

But, I stand here with the huge honour of being your lead European candidate, facing election in 228 days (not that I’m counting …). And that is really exciting, for me, for the party, and for the possibilities that the campaign gives us.

The European campaign offers us the chance to show that we really are on people’s side. It offers us the chance to make the argument for a reformed, democratised European Union. And I thank conference for supporting the suite of motions on Europe yesterday; those decisions mean that we have a very strong platform on which to campaign.

We need a European Union that is for people and for planet, not for bureaucrats and bankers. We must fight for a democratic EU.

But perhaps even more important, we must fight for a fair and just European Union. We reject utterly the cynical austerity politics that has reduced the people of Greece to a state of grim impoverishment and promises to do the same to the people of Ireland and Portugal. This does nothing to improve people’s lives. It does nothing to improve Europe. All it achieves is the further enrichment of the already wealthy. And we now have a very clear position on this: we will NOT participate in austerity, and we will do whatever we can to oppose austerity at every opportunity – that is quite a challenge for us as a party, and as individuals, one that all of us, but particularly, perhaps, the 16 elected politicians, need to work at.

So we want a new Europe. A Europe with compassion at its heart. A Europe that refuses to cave in to the free market orthodoxy and institutions that exist to make the rich richer. A Europe that shares its considerable wealth and prosperity and helps to build a new world.

As an MEP I will work to end European directives that encourage privatisation. I will ensure we develop mechanisms that enable our local producers to meet local needs. I will make it easier for the people of Scotland, for us, to own our own infrastructure. Our public transport, our utilities and our land.

As one of Edinburgh’s Green councillors I’ve been part of an incredible team which has opposed privatisation of services. We have stood shoulder to shoulder with blacklisted Trade Unionists and we’ve fought for stable, secure jobs, not zero hours contracts.

As your MEP I will work with Greens and others across the continent who share our beliefs and principles to achieve a better Europe. Not a bosses Europe, but a people’s Europe.

I will oppose the militarisation of Scotland, the proliferation of nuclear weapons, the development of weapons that kill (mainly innocent civilians) and our involvement in overseas wars. I want no part of nuclear alliances like NATO and will make sure that Scots who agree have their voice heard in Europe and across the world. And we are in a very good position on this – we alone as candidates from the only party stand for peace – something with which many Scots identify.

And this ties in very nicely with the need for us to communicate our vision for Scotland over the coming year. We have a better opportunity than ever before, with the independence referendum, to make the case for a Scotland that serves its people, not corporate interests.

We heard earlier from Mike Danson that the UK has some of the worst inequality statistics in Europe; we should be utterly ashamed that we treat our sick and disabled people worse than any other EU state; it is a disgrace that our investment in defence far outstrips investment in our communities.

During the referendum debate, and through the process of independence, we have the chance to claim back our economy. We must take our economy back from big business and the vested interests who put their own self-aggrandisement ahead of people and planet.

We have the chance to create a welcoming home for immigrants. We can be rightly proud of our open borders policy; not only because it rejects racist and paternalist identifications of other people. It values all peoples equally, and as an immigrant myself, I know how important this is. And also, it offers us the means of securing skills, knowledge and creativity that will make our communities stronger, happier and more sustainable.

It is an opportunity to create a Scotland that leads the world in peacebuilding, not warmaking.

Yes we want an independent Scotland. But more important than independence is the Scotland that we will create through the movement we help to build.

The European election and the referendum campaign are crucial in the process of creating the Scotland we want. We need full powers over our economy. We need our own currency. We must have a democratically elected head of state. We must not replace London rule with Edinburgh rule. We must give power back to people across Scotland. We offer these people a fresh Green voice who speaks up for decent jobs and a decent living for all. And who speaks for our collective desire for a better world.

The European election and the Referendum are different. But they carry the same importance. They are about what kind of future we want. We want a future that is compassionate, that protects people and planet, that rejects austerity and the dominance of the market. We can have that future, and we will have that future. But only if we work hard to get our message across to the Scottish people on the doorstep in the media and in our daily lives.

I’ve already said that we need to reach more people than ever before. As a Party, we already punch well above our weight, and that is thanks to the hard work and good effort by everyone in this room. But to secure our success, we need proper investment: we now must engage the Scottish people in a way that surpasses anything we have done before. We can’t reach all of them, or even most of them, face to face. So we need to use other approaches: communicating in a whole number of ways, through literature, media, social media.

And all of you have a very important role to play in that. But for now, thank you all for coming to conference. Thank you for all the work I know you’re going to do – I will see you on the campaign trail.

And next year we will meet in a new country, with a new MEP and a new place in the world.

Thank you, and good bye.

A response to the Westgate attack

A good friend of mine, who lives in Edinburgh and does community research in Cameroon, wrote this in response to the attack on Nairobi’s Westgate shopping centre. It pretty much sums up the utter despair I feel about so much in the world, yet paradoxically, also captures perfectly the (almost) perpetual hope of a better world that motivates me every day. Thank you, Justin, for your eloquence. And for all those many, many lives touched by this tragedy, I hope that your grief and anger will, in time, give way to peace.

There was an attack at Westgate, a shopping centre in Nairobi, at the weekend, and many people were killed including Kofi Awoonor, the Ghanaian poet.

The attack was part of the war of terror that kills so many extraordinary ordinary people, and bolsters the power of those ‘on both sides’ who want to wield power over the rest of us.

How can we feel what is happening without becoming caught in their game of blame and revenge?

How can we feel the pain and anger and allow that to become a searing love that cuts through the lies and denies them their game?

Because there are so much more serious games – like the laughter of children and elders’ twinkling eyes, and burning hope and honesty and the foolishness of the wise who know they have no answers but hold the questions so close to the earth that it suddenly unexpectedly blossoms into poetry, plans and action – defiant true love.

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How to take the world seriously, with a pinch of hope.

There is enough pain anyway in just the normal course of living and dying, without these people causing more pain to try and hide from their own.

How can we take the causes and consequences of their actions seriously without allowing them to make us take sides and so make us part of their game of impotence, rage and the silencing of others – whether by drone or suicide attack?

Beneath it all there is a different war, a war against the warring being wrought on people and planet. It is easy to miss, but it is there in every everyday act of kindness, and it cannot be defeated because in the end there is only death and life and the mystery that breathes them through our being.

ACROSS A NEW DAWN by Kofi Awoonor

Sometimes, we read the
lines in the green leaf
run our fingers over the
smooth of the precious wood
from our ancient trees;

Sometimes, even the sunset
puzzles, as we look
for the lines that propel the clouds,
the colour scheme
with the multiple designs
that the first artist put together

There is dancing in the streets again
the laughter of children rings
through the house
On the seaside, the ruins recent
from the latest storms
remind of ancestral wealth
pillaged purloined pawned
by an unthinking grandfather
who lived the life of a lord
and drove coming generations to
despair and ruin

*

But who says our time is up
that the box maker and the digger
are in conference
or that the preachers have aired their robes
and the choir and the drummers
are in rehearsal?

No; where the worm eats
a grain grows.
the consultant deities
have measured the time
with long winded
arguments of eternity

And death, when he comes
to the door with his own
inimitable calling card
shall find a homestead
resurrected with laughter and dance
and the festival of the meat
of the young lamb and the red porridge
of the new corn

*

We are the celebrants
whose fields were
overrun by rogues
and other bad men who
interrupted our dance
with obscene songs and bad gestures

Someone said an ailing fish
swam up our lagoon
seeking a place to lay its load
in consonance with the Original Plan

Master, if you can be the oarsman
for our boat
please do it, do it.
I asked you before
once upon a shore
at home, where the
seafront has narrowed
to the brief space of childhood

We welcome the travelers
come home on the new boat
fresh from the upright tree

http://m.us.wsj.com/articles/BL-SEB-77177
From “Promises of Hope: New and Selected Poems,” selected by Kofi Anyidoho, University of Nebraska Press and the African Poetry Book Fund, 2014

Scottish Independence: a radical opportunity

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to speak at the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC) Scotland‘s Conference on why I support Scottish Independence.  As well as being a good opportunity to visit Aberdeen, I was delighted to participate in the political debate about Scotland’s constitutional future, as I think it poses some very exciting opportunities for the radical left, and for Scotland as a whole.  This is the gist of what I said.

NCAFC membership mc

There are a lot of good reasons for Scotland to become independent, but for me, nationalism is not one of them (I hope to explain in a later post what national identity means to me).  What matters to me are political structures that engage people, that enable the participation of the citizens that they claim to serve; economic principles that are not stacked against the majority; and community organising that has a voice that is heard.

The British state is broken.

It has been totally captured by corporate and imperial interests.  The last decent (and I say decent, not good) British government left office more that forty years ago.  I refer, of course, to the first Wilson government; it invested in British technology, pursued full employment, abolished the death penalty, legalised abortion and homosexuality, and so on.  That is, it was economically competent and socially progressive.

Since then, we’ve had a combination of aggressive right wing governments under Thatcher and Cameron, and largely ineffective Labour governments under Callaghan, Blair and Brown.  There has been the odd ray of sunshine (the minimum wage, for example), but these have not been backed up with systematic reform required to actually change things for better for the majority for the long term.

Over the last few decades, both Labour and the Conservatives have had the same prescription for the future of Britain: more privatisation, more benefit cuts, more wealth to the wealthy.  There is ample evidence and analysis elsewhere on why successive governments have gone down these dead-ends, so I won’t go into that here.  But I think it is generally agreed that it is impossible to see any other political party winning a UK election, or at least having a major share of a coalition.

Whilst it is possible to imagine a situation where extra parliamentary movements make gains, or even overthrow the state, this both seems unlikely, and supersedes any debate over Scottish independence.

What is clear is that the Scottish working classes have rejected the Unionist Parties, with a majority voting SNP in 2011 (60% of trade unionists voted SNP).  The SNP have clearly articulated a political vision much closer to that of the Scottish people, particularly the working class, than Labour’s cuts and knife crime agenda.  Indeed, Johann Lamont’s attack on universal benefits make it clear that Labour has moved further away from this vision.

But this is not just about electoral politics.  We are here, in Aberdeen, as NCAFC Scotland activists, because we believe in profound social change. Profound social change comes from social movements, and one of the social movements of our time will be that for Scotland to maintain a more egalitarian political settlement through independence.

As students, social justice advocates, equalities campaigners, we have to be a part of that. The Radical Independence Conference last autumn, and the huge attendance at the launch of Yes Glasgow, show that there is excitement and enthusiasm about this political project. We need to ensure that our ideas for radical workers in the parliament, free education, and a more participatory political system are at the heart of this.

We could stand apart from this collective movement and make rarefied arguments based on a notion of the industrial working class that has not existed since the 1960s/70s.  However, this does not benefit Scottish people. (Indeed, I am utterly unconvinced by people’s claims of “borders divide workers” trumping “improving social/environmental/economic justice for all”.)  Scotland is clearly more progressive than England; repeated Holyrood elections tell us this: when there is no chance of the Conservatives winning, Scotland votes left.

And, to me, the argument that economy is ‘British’ is not only a red herring, but indicates a tragic lack of awareness of how the economy actually functions.  The economy is not British, it is global.  Rather than having a British government that we know will be in the pockets of corporate interests, we should use independence to create the political momentum for a government that will stand up for us, ordinary, everyday people.  We need to control the economy on a global scale, and the UK government is making absolutely no effort to do this; in fact, it is actively ensuring that corporations control the economy, and encouraging them to do so.

So, the independence debate gives us a real opportunity to engage in and help direct the debate about Scotland’s future: to build a progressive Scotland, and I believe that supporting independence is the means that can deliver the Scotland in which I hope to live.