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We’re From Two Very Different Cities – With Very Different Yes Strategies

Siobhan Tolland from the Dundee & Angus independence group and Alan Petrie from the Aberdeen Independence Movement write a joint article about the differences in the make-up of their two respective cities, and why they are pursuing different local strategies to win support for independence as a consequence

AS THE independence movement begins to gather pace, discussion about strategy and political direction is growing, in light of the strengths and weaknesses of the last campaign.

As activists within the Aberdeen Independence Movement (AIM) and the Dundee & Angus Independence group, we recognise that these two vastly different cities require very different strategies and politics. Understanding those differences offers the movement a clear working example of the need for a diverse, multiple and localised strategy that engages with the vastly differing needs of our communities.

As independence groups, Dundee and Aberdeen have a very different form and function. Dundee is a loose relaxed structure of individuals, adopting a social politics that attempts to break from the old political structure. Dundee also have a loose structure of different YES groups working alongside each other. The aim of most of these groups is to work within the poorest communities and to remind them that independence can offer a new politics with a genuine positive change.

AIM is a formal structured organisation that incorporates all political parties and none in an attempt to work with clear political messages across the city. It works through a strong committee-based political structure and would see itself as adopting a business model that offers, in opposition to Dundee, a sense of continuity rather than change.

The nature of these organisations reflect the very different history and political demographics of the cities. Dundee, whilst recently winning the reputation of the cool city, has a history steeped in poverty and deprivation that still lasts to this day. Dundee has 28 per cent child poverty and large swathes of some of the highest deprivation statistics across Scotland. Offering realistic hope and strategies against such poverty is essential for the Independence discourse in Dundee.

Aberdeen is really quite different. Whilst oil will play less of a role for Scotland in the next referendum, it will still figure hugely on Aberdeen’s economic landscape. For Aberdeen is very much dependent on oil, bringing, as it does, huge wealth for those connected to the industry. It also brings considerable inequality as the high wage economy sits against the lower pay and high living costs of those outside of the oil bubble.

Most of the working population in Aberdeen are connected to the oil industry, and it offers little economic or employment diversity within the city. A priority for AIM, then, is to ensure the many dependent on oil that the industry will be safer and more stable with independence, as well as offer opportunities to diversify the economy outside oil.

As a result of these differences, the two cities show very different political make-up. Dundee’s political history is often marked by a radical and labour tradition and politically it has been very much a labour stronghold with SNP strength. Until 2015, that is, when SNP took both Westminster constituencies.

Aberdeen’s politics is considerably more complex showing a stronger conservative pull within the area. Labour has been relatively strong in Aberdeen but this is mixed with a strong conservative and liberal support. Aberdeen South, especially, shows a strong conservative tradition and their recent political history showed a move to SNP and then back to Conservative in 2017.

In terms of the politics of independence Dundee was YES city, voting 57 per cent in favour of independence. Aberdeen, on the other hand voted No with 58.6 per cent of the vote. On the independence issue, then, Dundee and Aberdeen sit almost as polar opposites. Interestingly, both voted similarly on the EU referendum.

Because of this, the structure and discourse of an independence campaign has to be vastly different. Working with very different political demographics, the priority of the Aberdeen Independence Movement is to convert the soft No’s as the main political strategy to ensure a victory. Dundee’s priority is to get the previous Yes voters out and voting yes again.

Importantly, also, the type of nationalism is somewhat different in each city. Like Glasgow, Dundee sits with a collapsed labour tradition that has moved and defined the politics of independence within the city. It still also contains a significant enough Unionist Labour tradition, albeit now small. Dundee’s independence movement sits within that long radical political history.

Aberdeen, again, is very different, sitting as it does, with a sense of nationalism that is conservative in nature and hasn’t been hugely impacted by the post-industrial labour politics of Dundee. Aberdeen’s nationalism is born from a mixture of Labour, conservative and liberal democrat traditional support. SNP’s victory in 2015 Aberdeen general election, for instance, came from a collapse of the Liberal Democrats, rather than Labour, as happened in Dundee.

With that, then, the two independence groups require different political philosophies. This is summed up in the Radical Independence Movement’s relationship to both cities in the last referendum. Despite RIC’s good work in the deprived areas of Aberdeen, it is a concern that, city-wide it may have lost more votes than it gained. In Dundee, marked as it is with so much poverty, their presence was pivotal in galvanising the marginalised and helping the city vote YES.

And so whilst Dundee will inevitably foster a left wing vision of independence, Aberdeen takes a generally more cautious independence discourse. Dundee articulates its nationalism through a class-based political ideology. Aberdeen articulates itself through a more traditional pre-labour movement & identity-based nationalism, and work on a politically pragmatic approach.

The conservativism of Aberdeen, then, sits against the radicalism of Dundee. Indeed, even within the cities a singular approach is recognised as somewhat inadequate. AIM’s business model approach is unlikely to persuade voters in the hugely deprived areas of Aberdeen like Torry. Additionally, the new politics position is unlikely to hold sway in the prosperous areas of Dundee, like Broughty Ferry.

It is difficult to imagine how a one-size-fits-all campaign can span both these cities’ needs in the next campaign. This is similar for regions and areas across Scotland. Comparing Dumfries with Glasgow, for instance, would throw up vastly different cultures and, thus, understandings of independence. Within the broad vision of independence, there are many visions of independence.

We will only win independence if the campaign reflects the broad political spectrum that Scotland is, allowing people to find a space for themselves within the new independent Scotland. Recognising these crucial regional and local differences is one of the most important things we can do. And the importance of building local autonomous independence organisations with intimate understanding of our communities has never been clearer.

By Siobhan Tolland & Alan Petrie

Picture courtesy of Byronv2

Article from: CommonSpace

The Chaos in the Commons Shows Scotland will Never be Equal in the UK

It has been a chaotic few days in Westminster, and it might be hard to follow what’s happened. We’re going to try to explain how we got to the point where the SNP MPs have walked out of the House of Commons.

Many of you will know that the Brexit Bill has precipitated a constitutional crisis, but may not know why. 

Under the devolution settlement, any power not explicitly reserved to Westminster automatically belongs to Holyrood. During the Brexit campaign, this was used in the Leave statements in Scotland because the powers which were reserved to the EU would automatically return to Holyrood, as they are not explicitly reserved to Westminster. This particularly meant fishing and agricultural policies, among many others. Scotland was told by the Scottish Secretary, David Mundell, that Brexit would be a ‘powers bonanza’ for Holyrood as all those powers returned to our control.However, the Brexit Bill as proposed by Westminster instead draws all those powers to Westminster, with the possibility that sometime in the future we might be allowed to have some of them devolved back to Holyrood. As this was both clearly not what was voted on by the people in Scotland and Scotland rejected Brexit anyway, Holyrood held a vote on this. 

Why was Holyrood able to hold a vote? Under the Sewel convention, the Scottish Parliament has to give its consent to any Bills which affect the devolution settlement. Westminster had offered a Continuity Bill which involved the EU powers being withheld to Westminster for seven years before being devolved. In those seven years, Westminster would have total control over the deals made regarding fishing, agriculture, etc. When we finally got control over them, those deals would have already had major consequences for Scotland. 

When Holyrood voted on the Continuity Bill, Labour, the Lib Dems, the SNP and the Greens voted together to withhold consent because this deal was unacceptable to Holyrood. Only the Conservatives voted in favour of it, despite it meaning that their own jobs would be undermined. 

However, despite all this, Westminster has decided that the Scottish Parliament’s consent is irrelevant, and is pushing ahead with the Brexit Bill as it stands. This undermines the entire devolution settlement. Tuesday saw the first round of voting, only 19 minutes was allocated to discuss this constitutional crisis. When it came to it, Tory Minister David Lidington filibustered the debate, so in those 19 minutes not a single Scottish MP, SNP or otherwise, was allowed to talk. It timed out without discussion of the most crucial aspects of this crisis.

On Wednesday, during PMQs, Ian Blackford (the SNP’s Westminster group leader) asked for this to be addressed, and refused to sit down as he raised multiple points of order, asking for a private sitting where the House of Commons could have a proper discussion about this. Speaker John Bercow eventually had him ejected from the chamber, and all the SNP MPs followed. 

It is possible, of course, that there would have been a private sitting had Blackford capitulated, but to the SNP, the crucial issue is that the vast majority of people in Scotland don’t know any of what we’ve talked about in this post. Most people don’t know there’s a constitutional crisis, that the devolution settlement is being undermined or that our fishing and agriculture is going to be at the mercy of a small group of Tories for seven years. In order to get this talked about, they had to make a massive show, to raise awareness so that they could get the Scottish people the information they need.Whether or not you believe in independence, whether or not you like the SNP, this is a crisis which threatens the entire Scottish Parliament’s legitimacy. Labour, whose work brought the Scottish Parliament back to Scotland, should be at least as outraged as anyone on the side of the SNP or the Greens. 

When Scotland voted in 2014, it was on the basis of a series of promises about a ‘union of equals’, ‘lead, don’t leave’, the promise of strengthening devolution and powers for Holyrood. Instead, Scotland has been treated with unconscionable scorn and mockery, and any time Scottish MPs try to raise the fact that what we voted on has been betrayed, they are accused of ‘grievance politics’. 

It is not grievance to demand the rights that our Parliament is entitled to. It is not grievance to tell people how the promises made were betrayed. Scotland deserves better than this, and it is clear from last night’s vote, as only one single Labour MP (Dennis Skinner) voted with the SNP against the devolution aspect of the bill while every other Labour MP abstained or voted for it, that there is no foreseeable future in which Scotland is allowed to be equal within the UK. 

We can choose a different path. What we voted on in 2014 no longer exists, and there is no status quo anymore. You have a choice of two different types of change – one where Scotland is in control of its own country and one where we are ignored, mocked and disrespected at every opportunity. 

Scotland deserves better.

By Siobhan Tolland & Alan Petrie

Article from: CommonSpace