The early days of a better nation

This post first appeared on Bella Caledonia.

I'm writing to say thank you to the 108,305 who voted Green last Thursday. Thank you so much for your warm welcome around the country, for your kind words throughout and after the campaign, for the political discussions you have had with friends and family. Thank you for voting with hope and ambition, for a Scotland that provides for the many not just the rich, welcomes new Scots from around the world, and stands for peace.

Thanks especially to the many volunteers who gave up their time, energy, and in some cases sleep for the campaign. Your work delivered the Greens' biggest ever share of the vote across Scotland, and (if I can be selfish for a moment) made me feel overwhelmingly supported and proud, and hopeful for the future.

By voting Green in such numbers you have shown that there is a great and rapidly growing demand for a Green future. We've proved that more and more Scots want a nation that beats back poverty and inequality, that reclaims power from big business and returns it to the people, and in which our own generation and those to come can expect happy, secure and creative lives. But more than that: despite politicians' insistence that 'there is no alternative', and the never-ending counsel of despair from the media, we've proved that we still believe that nation can be made real.

We can’t escape the grimmer news that this election returned a UKIP MEP, the first election victory in Scotland, at any level, for the far-right party. The vision of UKIP and their fellow travellers is the polar opposite of ours, a vision of fear, hatred and greed.

To drive UKIP from Scotland, we have to take them head-on. The pandering and cowardice of the big UK parties, first to the BNP and now to UKIP, is what got us in this position in the first place. We must not apologise for defending freedom of movement or the right to refuge; we will not join the reality TV assault on the casualties of inequality and poverty. We must defy, loudly and often, UKIP's attempt to blame the victims.

But there is blame to be carried. It's just in the wrong place. People are angry about the way in which our common wealth is withheld from them, and scared about a future they have been told is nothing but austerity and decline. UKIP's politics of nihilism and division is sown in that soil, and its job there is to ensure that we never point the finger at those who are really to blame: the same people who fund UKIP handsomely to do that job.

While wages have stood still and bills have risen over the past 6 years, Britain’s wealthiest 1000 people have seen their fortune rise by £100bn during 'austerity'. Cuts to the top rate of tax and to corporation tax, cut-price privatisation giveaways, and the ‘help to buy’ scheme have all added to the wealth of the already rich. We must make sure that people know this is where their money has gone. The crisis is due to the rich, the owners of of our economy; not the low paid, the unemployed, or the immigrant.

This is not a message we can just rely on the media to communicate. Almost all of the big papers are owned by the same moneyed interests who are leading the victimisation of the vulnerable. And in any case, a message of equality and democracy is ill-suited to being preached from a high media pulpit. Instead we need to build a mass movement, communicating that message one to another. In workplaces, around kitchen tables, at pubs throughout the country - that's where we'll make the case for redistribution of wealth, for a safe and healthy environment, and for the right of people to live where they wish.

I think we can see the beginnings of that movement in the Radical Independence Campaign, and we can find many of the ideas we need to respond to the immediate crisis in the Common Weal. The Greens can add a long-term vision that goes beyond what politicians from the establishment parties are comfortable with right now, pushing them forward. And Greens can provide the opportunity to support those ideas at the ballot box, form oppositions that challenge governments to meet our hopes and ambitions every day, and, where given the opportunity, put these ideas into practice directly.

To do that we need always to be unapologetic about what we stand for. Managerial politicians can slink into office without anyone really noticing, tinker with a few details while they're there, and retire into obscurity. But radical democratic change needs people who will fight for their ideals and values. We can't expect people to rally to a banner that has never been raised.

The independence referendum is our first opportunity to proclaim the Scotland we want. If we are bold in this campaign, and after the victory as negotiations begin and a constitution is drafted, we have the opportunity for a country shaped by and for the people. If we mumble, ashamed of dreams we have been told we don't deserve, it will be shaped by the officials and the lobbyists.

As well as playing an active part in Yes Scotland, Radical Independence, National Collective, Women for Independence and the other parts of the diverse Yes community, Greens will be running our own Green Yes campaign that will be a standard-bearer for that distinct, progressive vision. The SNP's timid approach of trying to sneak out of the union without alarming corporate bosses, NATO strategists or the Royal Family is not for us.

We are going to win the referendum. But even if the vote is lost, the genie of Scotland's radical ambition that the referendum has released will not be put back in its bottle. Win or lose, the referendum is just the start of the fight for the Scotland we deserve.

Again, thank you. You've done so much, but now I have to ask you to do a little more. I believe another Scotland is possible and I think you do too, so please join the Scottish Greens and help us make it a reality.

We are living in the early days of a better nation, so let's get to work.