Sarah Glynn: We must put grassroots activism at the centre of the indy campaign

Sarah Glynn of the Scottish Unemployed Workers' Network says it's vital for campaigners to stay tuned in to the daily struggles of so many as the independence debate goes on
 
FOR those struggling to survive on diminishing benefits or otherwise dependent on our ravaged welfare state, independence can’t come soon enough. 

There is good reason why welfare has been a recurrent theme at indy rallies; and the Scottish Unemployed Workers’ Network will be as active in this campaign as we were in the last. 

But we can’t help being concerned – along, I suspect, with other grassroots activists – that the prospect of an escape from Tory Britain in the not too distant future will distract people from taking on the daily attacks on our welfare state that are destroying lives and families in the here and now. 

We can’t help being concerned that the prospect of an escape from Tory Britain will distract people from taking on the daily attacks on our welfare state that are destroying lives and families in the here and now.

While it might be unfair to claim that a section of Scotland is waiting for the first minister to ride in with the cavalry and drive our current problems away, the sense of urgency and need for action is certainly blunted. 

This has serious implications, both for the people feeling the full force of 'welfare reform', and for the strength and success of the independence campaign. Moreover, if we do win this referendum, the focus of our activity now will affect the direction of our newly independent nation.  
 
If we want the new Scotland to be a harbinger of social justice, then issues of social justice must be at the heart of our independence campaign; not just in our rhetoric, but in our actions, too. 

We really do need to act as though we live in the early days of a better nation in order to ensure that genuine fairness and decency become such a fundamental part of public consciousness that no future Scottish elite can cast this aside without fear of the consequences.  
 
Practical grassroots activism makes tactical sense too. Successful political movements build support by demonstrating their relevance; by showing that they care and can get things done. They get involved in the hard work of helping to unravel the problems that encumber people’s lives. 

Besides giving practical assistance, we need to publicise and protest every draconian rule that comes from Westminster and make it as hard as possible for these to be implemented.

They listen and learn and involve people, and together they develop a greater understanding of the underlying causes of the current condition, and of the political solutions that will stop the problems from happening in the first place.
 
The political manoeuvrings between Holyrood and Westminster have placed us in a kind of phoney war where many people are not ready for full-on referendum campaigning. But the need for action around welfare issues is growing ever more acute, and when this is combined with analysis, such action can provide the best argument for independence. 

Besides giving practical assistance, we need to publicise and protest every draconian rule that comes from Westminster and make it as hard as possible for these to be implemented. And we also need to keep up pressure on our own Scottish Government to make the best use of the limited powers it already has – in order to minimise suffering, to show that there can be a fairer way of doing things, and to show why we need the full powers that can only come with independence.
 
As people gear up for the independence campaign proper, many are asking what answers should we give on the doorstep. We can never know in detail how an independent Scotland will be. What we can know, and attempt to demonstrate, is what it could be. For this we can’t depend only on abstract argument. We need practical involvement to win trust and raise expectations.
 
For those of us active in resisting the attack on the unemployed and disabled, this involvement combines different forms of action. First, there is the bread and butter of practical assistance to make people aware of the rights they do still have and to ensure these are respected. 

Successful political movements build support by demonstrating their relevance; by showing that they care and can get things done. They get involved in the hard work of helping to unravel the problems that encumber people’s lives. 

We run weekly stalls outside of a jobcentre to reach people who won’t make it to office-based agencies, or are not aware that they can refuse to accept some of the treatment that is being meted out to them. 

Then we also publicise the cruelties of the increasingly punitive 'welfare' system through all forms of media and public protest, including direct action, and we engage in every opportunity to influence Scottish Government policy through consultations and letters.
 
At the same time, we need to look beyond protecting past gains from the scythe of austerity, and put forward an alternative programme based on a completely different way of doing things. Independence would leave Scotland free to replace a system that relies on means testing and the policing of people’s lives and actions, with a Universal Basic Income for everyone. 

A Basic, or Citizen’s, income would open possibilities for involvement in activities that aren’t currently rewarded financially, but are essential for a healthy society. Ideas like that need to be properly worked out and argued over. We need to invest time and thought into building a credible vision for an independent Scotland that is manifestly worth fighting for.
 
(The Scottish Unemployed Workers’ Network has published a book of its actions and ideas with Common Print.)

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Comments

MauriceBishop

Tue, 04/04/2017 - 13:28

"FOR those struggling to survive on diminishing benefits or otherwise dependent on our ravaged welfare state, independence can’t come soon enough."

According to the analysis in the draft white paper available on this very site, the cost of independence just to get through the first year will be over £5,000 per Scottish taxpayer, and Scotland will still have the highest structural deficit in the developed world. So independence will make the plight of these people worse, not better. Because there isn't going to be any money to provide government services. After independence Scotland is not going to have any choice but to raise taxes and slash spending so as to create budget surpluses. It is going to be like Greece, not like the Scandinavian welfare state you imagine.

Bill White

Tue, 04/04/2017 - 21:30

Maurice,
You say "..and Scotland will still have the highest structural deficit in the developed world."

My own take on this is that a country which has 6,000 miles of coastline, fishing, farming, nuclear energy, wind energy, tidal energy, oil & gas reserves, the 4th oldest university in the world, world class universities, world-leading technology & IT industries, whisky exports, arguably the best scenery in Europe, a healthy tourist industry, an educated population, plenty of you immigrants, thriving arts & music, etc, etc... a country of 5 million people, with all these resources, which still has a "structural deficit", is not getting a good deal from its current constitutional arrangement.

It's clearly time for a change.

If you are going to point out how badly off Scotland is just now, as part of the UK, you are making the point FOR independence, not against it.

There will no doubt be difficult times ahead if Scotland splits from the UK, but nothing worth doing is ever easy or painless. The difficulties you seem to gloat over can all be over come by an industrious, intelligent citizenry like we have here. And it might actually be a task we enjoy, as we all pull together for something meaningful.

The response to your "defecit" bogeyman is to borrow money like erm..the UK does at the moment, and all independent, free countries do when they need to invest in their infrastructure.

If we go along with more of the same Westminster rule, we will get more of the same problems.

Out of interest, what's your alternative to leaving Brexit Britain? Tell us how that will work out for Scotland's benefit please?

Peter Dow's picture

Peter Dow

Tue, 04/04/2017 - 23:17

"Sarah Glynn at the Scottish Unemployed Workers' Network Rally, Dundee, December 2014"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ksWwsL4RQs

"Sarah Glynn speaks out against the austerity cuts, welfare sanctions and the many injustices of the DWP"

SCOTTISH UNEMPLOYED WORKERS' NETWORK
https://scottishunemployedworkers.net/

MauriceBishop

Tue, 04/04/2017 - 23:21

"If you are going to point out how badly off Scotland is just now, as part of the UK"

That is the opposite of what I am doing. Obviously, the cost over £5,000 per Scottish taxpayer just to get through the first year does not happen if there is no independence.

Peter Dow's picture

Peter Dow

Wed, 04/05/2017 - 00:27

Sarah Glynn - an awesome and lovely lefty lady.

I've never had the pleasure of meeting Sarah Glynn but I did get a reply to the first email I sent her last month, which was nice, but not to the second email I sent her, which was disappointing if not unexpected.

Do you think she objected to my "Women Rule!" video?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xiW-E9KTaVw

I love women but I just can't fathom them (nor they me) to the extent required to sustain a relationship of any kind.

Nelson

Wed, 04/05/2017 - 08:40

As many welfare responsibilities fall upon Holyrood during this parliamentary term, never mind independence, why wasn't it the centerpiece of the last Holyrood election? I don't think it even featured (even on this website). We got 'no tax increases', instead. Seriously, if people are not interested in the here and now, what has independence got to do with it apart from acting as some kind of comfort-blanket for some hand-wringers?

Nelson

Wed, 04/05/2017 - 09:24

In case anyone is actually interested in anything except #yesindy2, 22 March 2017 was the first anniversary of the last time any legislation was passed in the Scottish parliament – the only exception being the governing party's budget which it is legally obliged to enact. The Scottish parliament might well qualify as the most unreported, most ignored, most inactive legislature in the western world (including the virtually invisible EU parliament).

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