WHAT does it take to build a transformative independence movement? On Saturday 800 people from across Scotland will gather in Glasgow with a common purpose – beginning the new year with energy and imagination, strategic focus and determination to address that question.
These qualities will be required in abundance for the challenges which lie ahead, if we are to design Scotland as a radically different place of dwelling for all who live here – and crucially, if we are going to encourage a majority of the nation’s inhabitants to believe that this is an adventure worth risking.
That task is the cornerstone of the Scottish Independence Convention conference: Build: Policy, Strategy, Movement. “Build” is a good word to characterise the task: its root meaning refers to dwelling and place of abode. The SIC event is about assembling and creating; about carefully constructing plans for an independent Scotland as a shared and hospitable place of dwelling: our home. And it’s about mobilising an inclusive community with the capacity to sustain this project until the day we take full possession of our abode.
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Meeting great challenges requires sustained co-operative effort, and there is no question that building an effective alliance to galvanise the next phase in our campaign will be a demanding task. But what better time to restore flagging spirits with the opportunity to affirm that transformative change is possible when diverse people are aligned in common purpose?
As a member of Women for Independence, I bear witness to reviving powers of collective effervescence: it sparkles whenever this grassroots non-party movement gathers in council – so much more refreshing than the orange fizzy stuff that masquerades as Scotland’s national drink. At the recent WFI AGM, the theme was “Inspiring Women!” It was a powerful and uplifting day of listening, conversation, prioritising our agenda for action and planning our strategy.
Clear thinking and passionate women from every corner of Scotland demonstrated their capacity for resourceful and effective political engagement. There were lively debates and many perspectives shared in a safe and encouraging space. Women for Independence is also Independence for Women, and this feminist movement has opened up spaces of possibility to get out from under the dead weight of tired old politics as usual, and imagine alternative futures for our nation, our communities, our families and ourselves. WFI has developed a proactive approach for this phase of the independence campaign, putting women’s practical wisdom, depth of experience, and the big issues that matter most – food, economics, rights, wellbeing – at the centre; challenging the vicious politics of austerity which have exacerbated the feminisation of poverty and injustice. We’ll bring heart, mind and soul to the campaign, grounded in local communities, respectful conversation, evidence and reasoned argument. The independence movement needs inspiring women on the building team, and there are surely lessons to be learned from a truly ground-breaking Scottish feminist movement for social change which is currently marking its 40th anniversary by Speaking Out: Recalling Women’s Aid in Scotland*.
Women’s Aid broke the silence on domestic abuse, rocked the status quo with a radical alternative vision of autonomy, liberation and justice for women, and has been at the forefront of legal and policy innovations which have reshaped attitudes and transformed lives. Women are effective change-makers.
The dominant myths of Scotland’s past are narratives of a man-made nation, but for the sake of everyone, regardless of gender, the old macho stories need to be given a decent burial in the graveyard of dead metaphors. The building of a better Scotland needs passionate explorers and big thinkers, shaping different paradigms of human flourishing – and the policies to make those possible. In order to hear new stories from different vantage points told in surprising voices, we need to be attentive listeners, within and beyond the independence movement. Let’s not slip into old habits and patterns.
Unless there’s space at the table, invitation to the conversation, care for one another and a welcome in the house, this movement can’t be the change it wants to see. We stand on the shoulders of bold, determined women who believed the way things are is not the way they have to be. Let’s do our politics as if people mattered.
Speaking Out: Recalling Women’s Aid in Scotland is the 40th anniversary project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. More information at womenslibrary.org.uk/discover-our-projects/speaking-out/