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April 18, 2012

Enough of this carping

Last weekend’s big story on the independence referendum was the spat over The Economist magazine’s front page which, depending on your stance, was either ‘patronising metropolitan clap trap’ or dismissed as some ‘chippy nationalists having a sense of humour failure’.  Is this what we can expect once the real debate gets underway – yah boo politics with no chance to explore what each of the options actually mean?  The Alliance proposes that this crucial debate is taken out into Scotland’s communities.


A Referendum Road Show – taking the arguments out onto the highways and byways of Scotland

There is a danger that the debate around Scotland’s most contentious political and constitutional issue in living memory will be contained within the sterile environment of television studios and the parliamentary chambers of Westminster and Holyrood.   In response to this legitimate concern, the establishment figures within ‘civil society’ – SCVO, various think tanks, the churches, STUC etc – are trying to extend that debate into a wider national discussion which they have called The Future of Scotland. Whether or not they are successful in stimulating that discussion within their respective memberships, we can be fairly confident that it will not extend to the average man/woman in the street. The general population will be left to make what they can of the respective arguments for and against independence (and everything in between) from whichever media outlets they care to use.

Scottish Community Alliance wishes to coordinate a national road show of ‘events’ designed to explore what all the various options on the table would actually mean for the daily lives of Scotland’s communities and whether they would lead to the realisation (or otherwise) of local plans and aspirations. It would be crucial that this initiative was not perceived in any way to be advocating any particular side of the argument – simply encouraging that debate and exploring what lies behind some of the rhetoric. The road show would operate at a variety of levels but predominantly and ideally it would take place at the most local level possible – the village hall, the miners’ welfares, the mothers and toddler groups at the local community centre. The precise format of how the events would run has still to be established but one proposal is that there should be two tiers of event – one being a series of larger scale events with a focus on a particular theme (housing, health, education etc) and the other being much more local with a focus on specifically local priorities ( a community plan)  so that the invited speakers are required to contextualise their arguments (as opposed to just running through the well-rehearsed and more general arguments)   

Lesley Riddoch, broadcaster and political commentator,  is keen to become involved and has several ideas as to how it could happen. For instance, each event could be recorded with edited extracts posted through YouTube and other social media which would over time become an evolving picture of this national discourse. She has indicated she could recruit a ‘stable’ of well-known media folk that would commit to chairing the events which would add to the profile of the road show programme.  This initiative needs to be resourced. It would require a part time member of staff to coordinate the programme of events for the next two years plus a budget to hold the events and to publicise them. A number of potential funders have been contacted although it remains to be seen whether funders are prepared to support such a venture.