Amanda Grimm, Edinburgh Green Party member, spent today at the Radical Independence Conference. Here’s what happened.

It’s 10:30, and I’ve just arrived in the main conference hall. The stalls are full, and there are hundreds of people up in the balcony. It’s wonderful seeing so many people here: 3,000 tickets have been sold! The movement has grown so much since the first Radical Indy Conference two years ago. It’s very fitting that the conference is once again taking place in Glasgow, which voted yes!

Opening Plenary: Another Scotland is Possible

Suki Sangha, STUC, kicks it off with some strong points:

  • We need a movement led by women.
  • We need a movement which is young and culturally diverse.
  • This movement will oppose any party which pushes austerity and punishes the most vulnerable in our society.

Patrick Harvie, Scottish Greens: It was fantastic, after the outcome was known, to see so many people refusing to feel dejected. The overwhelming reaction was “Okay, what’s next?” That’s a great testament to the spirit of the campaign. The challenge for this movement was far bigger than persuading people to vote for independence – the challenge was completely transforming our political system. This challenge remains, and that’s why this movement must as well.

Holding the Scottish government to account is going to become increasingly important, as they enter a period of single-party domination. What kind of politics do we want in Scotland? We need a Scottish government that’s willing to oppose TTIP – to prioritise people over business interests. We need a government that will oppose fracking, coal methane, or burning coal underground to extract gas. So Westminster needs to change, but so does Scotland, and that’s what this movement is for.

We don’t know what’s going to happen with greater powers for Scotland. Whatever level of power exists at the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament, it needs to match the rhetoric and values that they articulated during the campaign about a fairer, more humane, more equal Scotland.

Aamer Anwar, Human Rights Lawyer: Come next May, we’ll have an opportunity to show that power rests with people in Scotland. On Jim Murphy he said “this warmongering, lying hypocrite believes he can hypnotise and paralyse the people in Scotland to voting Labour. Never again.” We should punish Labour when it comes to the next general election. Labour lost its soul long before Johann Lamont told us about it.

100 years after the start of the First World War, our children are still being sent out to illegal wars. People are still starving on the streets, and choices are still being made to spend money on wars rather than taking care of our people here.

We cannot be complacent or rest on our laurels. The election campaign will be dominated by two themes: austerity and racism. It is essential to have a movement that says no to austerity, which blames the bankers and not the immigrants, and which puts people and planet before profit. “Next time we can turn Westminster’s nightmares into a reality and make sure that we win the war.”

Colin Fox, Scottish Socialists: Are you watching Lord Smith? You have a great deal to learn from the Radical Independence Campaign. Lord Smith chose to exclude the SSP from the Smith Commission. But what would a member of the House of Lords know about democracy?

We are a movement, not a party. We’re a movement that has a political wing, an industrial wing, a cultural wing, and all of those wings must be fully engaged if we are to secure our objective. Independence wasn’t defeated on the 18th of September: it was deferred! But we can’t win independence with the SNP alone.

Supporting Scotland’s democratic right to self-determination does not make you a nationalist – it makes you a democrat!

We want an independent Scotland without 0-hour contracts and poverty wages, without nuclear weapons in the Clyde, with elected representatives and an elected head of state. “That Scotland is coming yet, for all that.”

Saffron Dickson, Youth Campaigner: Saffron works with ‘Our Generation’, formerly known as ‘Generation Yes’. She spoke about the failure of Britain last year – but this year she’s speaking about an alternative Scotland.

Youth politics isn’t just about the young. People Saffron’s age have never not known illegal wars, poverty, recession and depression, the slaughtering of people for profit. That’s why it’s so important that everyone here, no matter what age they are, gets involved in youth politics of Scotland. Don’t be silenced – and more importantly, don’t let yourself be silenced.

We want a Scotland built on hope and equality – a Scotland where no child has to stand up and beg for you to vote for their future. Where our strongest values are compassion, fairness and love.

This completely politically engaged 17-year old says: “The fact that I can’t vote in the general election this coming May is outrageous.” It’s ridiculous how, after the SNP saying how young peoples’ vote was so important during the referendum, she won’t be able to decide Scotland’s future for the next 5 years.

“Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you can’t be a dreamer, because without political idealists, we would never have any change anywhere.”

Our public education system should be so good that there’s no need for private education. Our NHS should be so good that there’s never any threat of privatisation. The same applies to social housing. We don’t have a crisis of funds in this country, and neither do we have a crisis of hope.

Our radical ideas aren’t even that radical anymore – there are thousands of people here today.

Myshele Haywood, Radical Independence: Why is an American speaking about Scottish independence? (Why not?!) “I don’t have Scottish ancestry, but this is where I want my future to be.”

This is exactly what the referendum was about. An opportunity for the people of Scotland to think about who they are and what type of future they want. The referendum made so many people realise that they were actually political and radical. “I don’t think it’s particularly radical what we’re talking about here: Let’s not kill each other. Let’s not shove poisons into our air and water. Let’s be nice to each other.”

45% was an amazing achievement, especially in the face of the entire British establishment. Without independence, how can we work for radical social change? It’s not going to be easy.

We have to work together and not be divided by differences. We don’t have to agree on the details to stand in solidarity and fight for equality. We’re not a political party, so don’t have to toe a party line. Local groups and individuals have the autonomy and responsibility to make things happen – and that’s incredibly liberating and empowering Thatcher said there is no such thing as society. That kind of thinking is starting to break down. There is such a thing as society, and that means that society can change.

Jonathan Shafi closed the session and announced that at the end of the day we’re going to record a People’s Vow, in response to the failed politicians’ vow before the referendum.

Closing Plenary: Towards a Radical Scotland


Tariq Ali congratulates everyone on an amazing campaign! He says that this conference is going to be a pivotal event when we look back at the development of the movement.

Tariq says that the BBC can no longer be called the *British* Broadcasting Corporation. After the 2016 elections, we should set up our own television and radio stations in Scotland, to challenge the BBC.

Project Fear won once – it won’t be able to win twice.

Tariq doesn’t think that the SNP should enter into a coalition with Westminster parties, and says to the conference: “You are the ones who will fill the vacuum left by the corrupt Labour government.”

Tariq ends by saying: The most important thing, from now until the next referendum, is: Don’t lose your nerve. Carry on working together in the same positive way. Best of luck.

Alan Bissett is reading out an ‘alternative vow’ that he’s written. He addresses the conference as “Hey the Left.” His vow includes the following point: We are radical only because a vacuum has filled the mainstream. What we propose is not radical. It is what’s necessary for human beings to live in a decent society. Join us. And imagine.

Alan gets a standing ovation and resounding applause.

Cat Boyd closes the conference with a characteristically inspiring speech, and reads out the People’s Vow: setting out our values and the actions we will take to continue working towards a more peaceful, just, green and equal Scotland.

  • Bright Green will have more from RIC over the next days.  To find out more visit the Radical Independence website.