The last 12 months has seen a rise in the populist right in Scotland, in the United Kingdom, and across the World. This rise of populism and the polarisation of the arguments in Scotland to basically Yes v No, SNP v Conservative and Yoonionist Party, has resulted in myself becoming increasingly frustrated with the slow creep towards independence although I do understand the approach that many in the YES movement have.
However, a friend pointed out today that he has detected a shifting in my politics recently and the more I think about it the more I think he is correct. My journey began at around 16 years old when I attended one Scottish Socialist Workers Party meeting at the Central Library in Dundee. This then got me interested, and growing up in what was Thatcher’s Britain, I started to become more and more concerned with equality, fairness, protecting the most vulnerable and providing a help up to the people who needed it most. This eventually led to me becoming a Community Educator after serving my time as a Gardener/Greenkeeper, but my loathing of injustice just grew and grew.
Around 2013 I joined the SNP as I wanted to express my support for independence and my rejection of Westminster, which I had been rejecting my whole adult life. I never became active in the SNP, I never actually attended even one meeting and decided to end my membership when the party brought in all women short lists and consolidated candidate selection at the National Executive level, one consolidated power and the other discriminated on the flawed argument of gender equality, my 6 months as a member came to an end, didn’t really bother me and I wouldn’t imagine the SNP noticed all that much.
During this time my views and beliefs were developing and I was gaining a better understanding of where I stood, I believe in individual freedoms, I believe in the re-distribution of wealth and I believe that the state has a role to improve people’s lives and protect the dignity and well-being of those less fortunate be it through circumstances or age. I believe that decision making should be taken at the lowest point where appropriate and I believe in proportional representation. Not really radical, many people share these same beliefs all over the world. This led me to join the Liberal Democrats in June 2015 believing that my liberal beliefs should find a home within the party, what I found was a party with some fantastic people in the main but a political leadership that were very far from liberal in most respects and that membership lasted two months.
In the last 20 months we have seen the slow re-emerging of the Tories in Scotland, supported by the mainstream media and the defection of many Labour voters to the Tories. This rise and the risk of a Conservative Government with an untouchable majority at Westminster in June will see the UK slip further and further to the right. It is becoming increasingly clear that we might become a tax haven for the wealthy, a greater rise in corporate power, the continued erosion of social security for the most vulnerable and poorest people in our communities. We may lose our rights, the NHS in England is creeping towards privatisation which will have a huge impact on the budget of the Scottish Government, everything many people feared is sadly coming to pass.
So this leads me to where am I now, well my beliefs are still the same but I am leaning more towards a more left of centre, some might think, view of policies and ideas I support. I looked at all the manifestos for the council elections and found that I agreed with some of the SNP one but found that I was finding more common ground in the ideas of participatory budget setting for local councils, more affordable local transport, cheaper rents, protecting green spaces, protecting services etc. The surprise for me was that these ideas weren’t coming from the SNP or the Scottish Labour Party but they were coming from the Scottish Green Party. I have always given the Greens my list vote for Holyrood in all the Scottish Parliament elections I have voted in but had never really looked at them in any great detail. I have also broadly supported environmental issues, regeneration and greater devolution at the local level but was very surprised to find the common ground we shared.
I remain a committed YES voter and that is the main issue for myself and it always will be but I don’t think we can continue with the slow creep as we are overtaken by populism and the right, the SNP have won the council elections today and I am glad of that but it will be portrayed as a defeat by the yoon media and the message will be attacked from all sides so now is not the time to take baby steps, it’s time to think in different ways, not to sit in the centre hoping for a breakthrough as the right continue to build momentum through their lies and deceit to the electorate. It;s bad enough we get too poor, too wee and too stupid at every turn but when that message starts to gain traction we need to seriously consider going for it and making it very clear what we stand for, surprisingly for me that has led me to the manifesto of the Scottish Greens. For some this might be a lost cause but they might just be the party of the left, the real social liberals in Scotland.
I’m changing, I’m becoming more impatient and getting older. My world view is changing as I am assaulted by the right wing messages we all face on a daily basis, I am rejecting the middle and moving back to the left of my youth. I now see that we are in the fight of our lives and we really need to stand up. It might be time for people to consider a more left agenda, for the members of the SNP to move the party further from the centre and more to the left, for every one of us to consider what we want in our country and surely that has to be more than hoping for things to change by themselves, they won’t, they will get worse as the Tories and their far right take away more of our rights and consolidate their power.
I’m changing, my views are adapting, my understanding growing. But my patience is running out so maybe, just maybe, we all need to consider a more radical approach.