The Local Is National

You can cite mitigating circumstances, the relentless leeching of a parasitical UK Government, problems outwith the Scottish Government’s control (which has been the case since 1707), the changing shape of the world, international considerations – but the end result is the same. Vital promises made were not kept; good ideas coming from a good place were scuppered by inadequacy on a fundamental level and an infuriating refusal to engage or compromise; terrible decisions on a truly staggering level become uncomfortably more common than flukes.

Were they still better than the UK Government, Opposition, and Coalition Parties? Yes – but “better than the others” is just not good enough. Not when we’ve seen what the SNP are clearly capable of – when many of those who were in government, ministers even, are in government and ministers right now. Not when we can compare and contrast and find that the ball is far out of the government’s field of view. And not when we’re practically within touching distance of achieving our 300-year-old dream, and reawakening the soul of a thousand-year nation, only to find the hands in which we’ve placed our future have been vigorously lubricated.

We need to call it like it is. The world is practically begging for Scotland to rejoin the family of nations as an independent equal, not chained to the side of their neighbour like so many foolishly voted to keep locked. We are in this sorry situation because so many suffer from the delusion that choosing for your nation not to be free, sovereign, and responsible is somehow just as noble and respectable a choice as doing the same thing almost every other nation does every day of its existence. And not doing every damn thing in your power to rectify that catastrophic decision in 2014 is a dereliction of duty in any government that says it supports independence.

Independence “fundamentalists” (as if there could be any other kind) tried putting the issue to the front within the SNP – it didn’t work. Then we waited to see what The Plan was, only to find that years have passed with no change and no update – indeed, some plans went backwards. Then we decided to form another party to complement the SNP, to shift the Independence Window from “at some point when circumstances are most favourable lest we lose again and this time it’ll be forever” to “independence is vital and necessary for the immediate present and must be put at the forefront of all things.” Is this such a bad thing? After all, the anti-independence alliance runs from the hyperbolic empty promises of “Super Duper Mega Federal Devo Max Plus Ultra Home Rule” to the barely-concealed threats of abolishing the Scottish Parliament entirely.

There is an election later this week, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that such profound national decisions are not on the ballot paper. Certainly plenty of SNP elected members are quick to say so. But how can that be? Independence is an existential question. It is more than policy over what to do with the powers we have – it’s about who should have that power in the first place. And every single level of government, all the way to Local Government, is profoundly affected by this great question.

Local Government is absolutely essential when it comes to independence. In the event we have another Referendum on Scottish Independence, it will be up to the Local Government to run and facilitate that vote, just as they do for other elections. Last time, we had the tremendous good luck of having the Edinburgh Agreement, so there was no question of cooperation from all levels. But what if we don’t have another Edinburgh Agreement? What if the UK Government, whose utter contempt for democracy and the rule of law has been in bold relief over the past few years, decides to just not go for it? It’s a dark day indeed when the Scottish Independence Movement must rely on the good graces of the monstrous horror to just let us escape from its slavering maw. So we must rely upon every level of the Scottish Political landscape – from Westminster to Holyrood to every town council in the land – to be stacked with elected representatives to offset that profound inequality.

Some might say “but the SNP don’t believe in independence any more, they’re just there for the gravy train, like the Other Party before them – why, then, should we trust them to deliver on independence?” Well, the best way to see whether that accusation is true or not is to force it. We lost a tremendous opportunity last year to see even one pro-independence MSP who was not a member of either the Government’s party or their coalition partners’. While there’s always the remotest of remote possibilities someone else in the SNP will follow in Neale Hanvey & Kenny McAskill’s brave footsteps, for the moment, it does mean that the SNP & Greens are the only parliamentarians who believe that the parliament they sit in should be Scotland’s ultimate expression of its sovereignty. Therefore, the SNP and Greens have the conn and set the course.

The Council Elections offer a chance to gain some ground for the cause. The more representatives we have who would be willing to stand up for their constituents against the arrogance & domineering of the UK Government, the more likely we can build popular support for the independence we most desperately need.

Take my ward, for example: Inverclyde West, more commonly known as Gourock, the wee toun aff tae wan side. Gourock’s politics are distinct from the rest of Inverclyde (we were our own wee authority not too long ago, before the UK Government decided to abolish Scotland’s century-old counties & burghs system, itself a further anglicisation of the previous system), and this is reflected in the councillors we elect. In 2017, we had 2 openly pro-independence councillors in then-SNP’s Chris McEleny & independent Lynne Quinn, and 1 who was determinedly agnostic on the whole thing in the independent Ronnie Ahlfeld. With Councillor Ahlfeld deciding not to seek re-election, the future of Gourock is likely to be rather interesting.

We’re lucky to have a surplus of pro-independence (or at least agnostic) candidates this year. Obviously the incumbent Chris McEleny (now standing for Alba) & Lynne Quinn are seeking re-election, but there is also SNP candidate Sandra Reynolds and independent campaigner William Wilson. As such, hardline independence supporters in Inverclyde West like me have no less than four candidates to arrange in whatever order one wishes to choose, before you get to the anti-independence parties. On the other hand, there are only three candidates from them – and while this means no surplus, it also means concentration of tactical votes may mean the pro-independence majority of 2017 could be inverted. As ever for STF elections, vote for every candidate with your least favoured at the end is the way to go.

And to me, this is what it boils down to – independence is the consideration that trumps everything because I believe that to be the case in actuality. How can we expect to fix potholes, keep community centres open, alleviate poverty, feed weans, comfort pensioners, and encourage the local economy when our own nation has its hands tied behind its back? And how can we expect the institutions we expect to take the reins from an increasingly manic UK Government to take over without the support of local government? When Scotland becomes independent, all of Scotland’s institutions must be taken over the line – and that requires ensuring that the majority of Scotland’s institutions have enough independence support to take the leap with us.

I described the 2017 General Election as a national emergency. From now on, I’m treating every single election in Scotland, for as long as it’s part of the UK, as such. And that means independence is the overriding concern for every single vote or political decision I make. As Alba, out of all the pro-independence parties, is the party which places independence above all else, it is the party I will support.

Like it or not, the SNP are in charge on a political level, with the Greens attached at the hip. But even if certain elements of the SNP can’t stand Alba’s very existence, we’re still going to share the cause that’s stated in our constitutions. And until that cause is won, I’m afraid you’re stuck with us. Let’s hope Alba doesn’t have to exist for much longer – because that means we’ll have won what we fought for together. Even if we’ve gone our separate ways, & it feels like we’re worlds apart, we’re on the same journey.

Troubled times
Caught between confusion and pain, pain, pain
Distant eyes
Promises we made were in vain, in vain, in vain

If you must go, I wish you love
You’ll never walk alone
Take care my love
Miss you love

Someday, love will find you
Break those chains that bind you
One night will remind you
How we touched and went our separate ways

If he ever hurts you
True love won’t desert you
You know I still love you
Though we touched and went our separate ways

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