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Politics

A Day of Radical New Ideas for Scotland

I have a confession to make. Until recently, I had found myself in conflict regarding my feelings on the prospect of an independent Scotland.

On the one hand, I strongly believe in the power of the individual to make decisions about their own lives with a socially democratic government there to lend support in times of need – which was the original intention of the Beveridge reforms of the 1940s.

However, despite this strong sense of individualism running through me, I always had this nagging instinct that it would be easier for us not to take this enormous leap into the uncertain future of independence, but instead we should seek safety in the bosom of the United Kingdom.

So, if you had asked me a few months ago, how I was planning to vote in the referendum, I probably would have said that I would vote for Scotland to remain as part of the United Kingdom. Though, recently something has happened and my opinion has begun to radically shift.

To be honest, there has not been one thing that I could put my finger on as being the primary catalyst for shifting my opinion.

It is certainly the case that I have been extremely unimpressed by the negativity of the ‘Better Together’ campaign and their lack of clarity in setting out what new powers Scotland could achieve as part of the United Kingdom.

Though, perhaps my shift has more to do with the fact that I have really begun to consider whether Scotland is the best that it can be as part of the UK or can we dare to achieve more.

Having read extensively on the experiences of our neighbouring Scandanavian countries, I began to think – why can’t we live in a country with a system like that? A country with excellent public services, a fairer society and more power devolved to local communities.

It was this desire for a new vision for Scotland that led me to purchase a ticket for the Radical Independence Conference held in Glasgow last weekend.

Now in its second year, the Radical Independence Conference brings people from across the political spectrum together to discuss creating a fairer and more equal society through an independent Scotland.

As someone who has both worked in politics and been a member of a political party, the thing that immediately struck me on entering the conference venue at the Marriott Hotel in Glasgow was the energy in the room and the wide range of people attending.

For example, on the day itself I spoke to a man who confessed almost with a touch of guilt in his voice that he has been a card carrying member of the Labour Party for 23 years, and had even stood for election. However, he now believes that Scotland will be unable to reach its full potential as part of the union.

This opinion was shared by a young mother who admitted that she had previously had very little interest in politics, but was engaged by the independence debate and wanted a better future for her three year old daughter.

The day itself was split into three sections of speeches with workshops in between. It would be fair to say that some of the oratory was truly inspirational. There was an excellent mix of speakers which included politicians like Patrick Harvey, economists like Ailsa McKay, campaigners like Cat Boyd and even award winning Scottish actor David Hayman.

Amongst this plethora of speakers, a special mention must go to 16 year old Saffron Dickson who in her speech outlined better than any politician could why Scotland has the ability to do so much better on its own.

Though, my highlight of the day was the two workshops that fell on either side of lunchtime. As someone who is passionate about how to engage more people in the political process, the session from Jean Urquhart MSP, Zara Kitson, Ross Greer and Liam McLaughlin on how to engage working class voters was incredibly thought-provoking.  

Having listened to Zara Kitson on many occasions through her work with So Say Scotland, her passion and enthusiasm is infectious. This passion was matched by Liam McLaughlin, a young activist from Easthouses who challenged Ian Duncan Smith to return to the town and explain how his welfare reforms were really supposed to be helping people.

What made the conference so enjoyable was its freshness. While it was clear that there were differing opinions from the attendees on what an independent Scotland should look like, this didn’t matter.  What everyone did have in common was the belief that the only way that Scotland can become a fairer and more equal society is if we become an independent country.

There were some incredibly radical and high level ideas being thrown around with a real sense that no idea or suggestion should be of the table, and that was incredibly exciting. 

With over 1000 people attending on the day, I really hope that between now and the referendum, the Radical Independence movement are given a forum in the media to express their opinion on the future of Scotland.

For more information about the Radical Independence Movement, you can check out their website www.radicalindependence.org.

Follow me on twitter : @paulrenwick3

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