LAST year brought us Trump, Brexit and a Tory Government that seemed to get stronger despite losing a referendum and their leader.
For many of us on the pro-independence left, it was a year that took the wind out of our sails and made the hazy days of the Yes movement seem like a distant dream.
In 2014, it felt like anything was possible. We really were building a better Scotland and shaping our own futures. Yet today, that same kind of energy and optimism is hard to summon.
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I’ve spoken to many pro-independence people of late who worry that focusing on a second indyref is the wrong fight.
They worry that it’s a distraction when fascism is on the rise around the world and when so many areas of domestic policy demand our attention, from local democracy to land reform and from education to climate policy.
I can sympathise with those fears, but I believe that the fight for independence doesn’t have to be at the expense of other campaigns. On the contrary, those campaigns all help to build the case for independence.
Those who choose to spend their energies fighting the far right, supporting refugees or working for fairer immigration policies are not only building a fairer country, but by facing the inevitable barrier to progress which is the Westminster Government, they also highlight some of the ways in which remaining part of the UK is holding Scotland back.
With our own immigration policies and asylum system, Scotland could be a beacon of hope in an increasingly dark world.
Similarly, those who choose to focus on devolved policy have a chance to make Scotland a fairer, more equal nation while also proving that when we have power, we use it well. For many, the SNP’s steady hand in Government between 2007 and 2014 was a key factor in shifting them from No to Yes. Imagine how many more people would move to Yes if the power we already have was used to ensure that our education system or local government got the attention they deserve.
While it might be hard to remember and rekindle the optimism of 2014, it’s worth revisiting the discussions and ideas we had back then and celebrating the work that has happened since.
The Green Yes campaign set out to strengthen the Yes movement and to show that the SNP’s vision of independence was not the only option for our nation.
Green Yes called for real local democracy, not centralisation. We believed then, as we do today, that power must pass not just from Westminster to Holyrood but onwards and outwards into our communities, trusting local people to make decisions about where they live. Since 2014, we’ve seen the Commission on Local Taxation and Cosla making many of the same arguments.
Green Yes urged us all to move away from our dependence on finite fossil fuels like oil and gas and to turn Scotland into the renewables powerhouse we know it can be.
We argued that the transition to a low carbon future was an opportunity to create thousands of new jobs and a chance for Scotland to be a world leader in the industry. Since then, we’ve surpassed our first emissions reduction target and we have a chance to build even stronger targets in the new Climate Change Plan and Bill coming out this year.
The Green Yes campaign also set out the case for an independent Scotland to use its own currency; to establish a citizens basic income and to invest in a new industrial strategy. All of these ideas have been further explored by Common Weal and others and we’re about to see trials of citizens basic income roll out across Scotland.
Green ideas have never been more necessary or more relevant.
Seeing these ideas adopted, and watching organisations like the Scottish Independence Convention lift our expectations and hopes for this country fills me with optimism. Now it’s up to each of us to aim higher and do whatever we can to build that better Scotland.
Sarah Beattie-Smith is addressing the Scottish Independence Convention Conference with Build: Policy – Strategy – Movement on Saturday in Glasgow