All posts by williamthomson

England will eat itself. And Scotland isn’t on the menu.

If you see Scottish independence through the double prism of English nationalism and disaster capitalism, Scottish independence seems tantalisingly close.  

The combination of English nationalism and disaster capitalism does not bode well for rUK, and no Scot should look at this sorry state and take any pleasure.

The xenophobic undercurrent of English nationalism has the potential to tear England apart, while ripping it from the international community.

The power of the disaster capitalists has the potential to damage the fabric of society even more than the right wing nature of populist Englishness.

So how can Scottish nationalists find solace in this awful situation for the rump of the UK?

English nationalism is no longer empire revivalist

The Tories would rather face Scottish independence than lose Brexit.  The poll taken in June, in reality, surprised no one (besides Ruth Davidson).

As Brexit has unfolded, it has become clear that nothing is more important than England taking its rightful international and sovereign place and acting as an independent nation.

The “unionist” part that currently sits beside the “conservative” bit, in Ruth’s party, seems to be fading as quickly as the summer.

So what led to the jettisoning of half of the Tory party moniker? Brexit.

Brexit

There were many forces behind the EU referendum result in 2016, but it seems that one of those forces, English nationalism, has come to the fore.

Brexit, for many, means a no deal, or what we were calling a “hard Brexit” only a few months ago. That deal will be hard for most, but for those disaster capitalists it will provide a feeding frenzy.

It means the UK (as it stands at the moment, led by England) acting unilaterally in many areas where once they sat with European partners.

It is England first.

And it puts the interests of Scotland and Northern Ireland in a distance last place.

So how does this impact Scottish independence?

Well, the simple fact is that if you won’t be missed, no one will bother too much about you leaving.

The idea that Westminster will close Holyrood and starve Scotland of democratic representation doesn’t fit into the narrative of English exceptionalism.

The Westminster elite know that Scottish independence is coming. They can slow it down, but they simply don’t have the power or the public support to stop it. English nationalism simply won’t allow the idea that England needs Scotland.

England clearly doesn’t need the EU and to most English nationalists, England does not need Scotland.

There is a new narrative in town: unions don’t work. They chain the beast that is England and it is better to break all unions. Bye, bye Scotland. England doesn’t need you.

This blind belief has come home to roost over the summer.

There just isn’t the political will in England for a “campaign war chest” to keep Scotland in the union. 

MORE money for the Jocks? Are you having a giraffe?

With a metropolitan narrative of Scotland as a subsidy junky (you do this by looking solely at what is spent, rather than the difference between income and expenditure) there is clearly little appetite to put more effort into a cause, that only leads to MORE money leaving England.

Despite the temptation for many Scottish nationalists to spend time correcting this subsidy junky narrative, the truth doesn’t play into our hands.

English nationalists need to know (ignorant of the facts) that England doesn’t need the other nations in the UK, and that should be just fine for us.

Scotland, the sooner rid, the better.

This belief in the unconditional power of England, is what sits behind English nationalism, and in the short term, it will see its way to lessening the fight to stop Scotland leaving the UK.

English nationalism won’t allow a space where it has to admit that England needs Scotland.

We will have to wait a couple of years for Scottish independence because the break up of the UK will be the second course for the disaster capitalists.

Westminster can only deny Scotland an exit until the disaster capitalists have fed on the carcass of the UK brought to slaughter, by the folly of Brexit.

Then and only then, will Westminster concede the inevitable.

There is no disaster, only change

According to English and British nationalists, Scotland leaving the “precious union” will not bring any financial disaster for rUK, but of course it will bring about change. It will be the disaster capitalists running the UK government who will have to react to that change.

With Scottish independence, England will have rid itself of the spongers from the North, in much the same way as England has jettisoned the EU gravy train in the east. When Northern Ireland rejoins the Republic, the spongers in the west will disappear too.

England will be ready to flourish again.

So how will it do that? Simple, give the neo-liberals a free run.

The first phase in the great UK mega sale, is Brexit. The second phase is the break up of the UK. And no UK government is going to pull that menu away from under the noses of the disaster capitalists.

Post Brexit

By 2021 the UK government led by disaster capitalists one and all (what role for arch neo-liberal Liam Fox?) will be ready to listen to Scotland’s demands, legal arguments, opinion polls, or even possibly a referendum result.

And listen they will because the prizes available after the breakup of the UK are just too large.

The chance to open up the defence industry? Too good to miss. Just imagine the bounty for private firms as they fight over the contract to move nuclear weapons, store them and build a base?

How can those disaster capitalists pass up the chance to re-evaluate the infrastructure of rUK, when its biggest neighbour becomes independent?

Imagine the size of the government fracking contracts to replace the flow of oil and gas from the north?

rUK loses a lot when Scotland leaves.

However, the break up of the UK keeps 90% of it under control of the juiced up neo-liberals. And that is more than enough to feast on.

Scottish independence is in the interests of disaster capitalists and it plays into the narrative of English nationalism.

MPs who display these two traits will be in a position of power in the coming refreshed UK government, and those Ministers will not stand in the way of Scotland’s independence.

The next few years will be tough but Scottish independence is coming, not because the UK Government doesn’t want it, but because it does.

Make a move. Take Scottish independence to London’s streets

Follow Catalonia’s lead. Take the universal, undeniable right of self determination to London’s streets.

Typically people will read this and say, “but Scotland isn’t like Catalonia, we don’t and can’t march with the numbers they can” Well, I have had enough of that, it’s not about numbers it is about desire. With a desire to make a truly global impact with our campaigning events we can make a difference.

Once again the “Catalan question” received global coverage and once again the vehicle for that explosion of coverage was a huge rally. Above is a news report from Aljazeera. Here’s the coverage on the BBC, Reuters and The Washington Post and the list of international reports is pretty much endless.

This marks an unusual spike in coverage for the Catalan right to self determination. Every 11th September the world is reminded of the call from Catalonia during the La Diada celebrations. It was’t only the date that made this rally different it was the location: not the Catalan capital but the Spanish capital.

Around 120,000 demonstrators peacefully took over the Madrid streets on a warm Saturday evening. Just normal people, plus representatives from political parties and civic organisations from all over Spain joined the rally to highlight the desire of Catalonia to be able to democratically vote for self determination.

The demonstration had extra impact this year as the twelve pro Catalan independence  leaders, currently on trial for the ridiculously archaic charges of “rebellion and sedition”, are being held only a few kilometres from the start of the rally.

Madrid proves a new canvas for the red and yellow picture

The Catalan right to self determination is not a regional issue, it is a national and an international one and taking such a huge demonstration to the Spanish capital has powered the issue further into the international and national consciousness.

Catalonia is being denied the opportunity to hold a legal referendum on its future and a similar position is likely to arise in Scotland. The Catalans are ploughing a furrow that we could easily follow. If, if, we had the desire and the leadership to do it.

I have no doubt that many civic organisations across the UK support Scottish independence, or at least the right for a sovereign parliament to call such a vote. And I believe that London holds 10,000s of people who would support Scotland’s cause. We could take London by storm. But firstly we have to work out who would rally the “we”

I’ve written about the hope that the Scottish Independence Convention can replicate the success of the Catalan National Assembly by coordinating the YES movement, but like many, I remain in serious doubt that this organisation has the capacity, the leadership or the desire to truly make any kind of impact. Their fund raiser seems to have stalled on around £100,000 and they have one post on their website THIS YEAR.

And I am still in quiet shock from reading this back in November:

“30K will get the organisation started and branded – complete with public engagement research (so we know that undecided voters will be open  to what they see when they look at our messages and branding)”

And the movement continues to have unanswered questions about this organisation.

So if that is the “who” would coordinate the movement, let’s look at the what.

George Kerevan suggested an alternative approach to having our voice heard in London, blocking the London underground. I posted yesterday what happens when organisations have the wrong person making campaigning decisions, and hopefully this idea will be stuck on a red light forever.

I would suggest a much more successful PR campaign would be to aim for a similar event to yesterday’s march in Madrid.

It really shouldn’t be beyond our movement to organise an event like this. But we just don’t seem to understand the value it can bring. Incidentally, it could be done for the cost of the SIC set up and branding.

The Catalans not only understand how to use events to supercharge their demands but they crucially have an infrastructure to support the event.

Scotland is clearly lacking the understanding and the infrastructure to organise a truly impactful event. I hope we are not also lacking the desire.

March To Leave coverage is all about Nigel Farage

If you want media coverage for your event then just  follow the March to Leave template.

It has begun the “historic journey from Sunderland to London” A sodding Saturday afternoon and an approx 15 mile march to Hartlepool would only surely pull the most ardent of leave supporters on to a march.

And it has. Perhaps a few hundred people will make the journey today. And surely less will join tomorrow. The images circulating on line look terrible.

I have no doubt that there are millions of people who want to leave in the way this campaigns promotes, basically with a no deal. But organising a march in March to demonstrate that was pointless from the outset.  Unless of course you are all but guaranteed media coverage.

Like every event it should be designed to deliver an objective.  It is clear what the objective should be: organise something that would show the great number and incredible strength of feeling towards the “current Brexit betrayal” so that the media are compelled to show it as a act of democracy.

As you can see from any of the images posted online (from both those mocking and those promoting) it is poorly attended. The objective was to show the great strength of feeling against the “Westminster elite” so with such a low turnout it should therefore lead to a black out in terms of media coverage.

Out of the couple of hundred currently on the march perhaps, at best, there are 50 core marchers. Those are the ones really pissed off at the current Brexit process.  What an absolute shambles.

Owing to the tiny turnout, the organisers are likely now to argue it is not all about numbers. However, “we want to see as many people as possible joining the core marches” says the campaign video, and this shows that the objective was to have a large turnout.

Their “epic plan” has turned out to be the exact opposite. An epic failure.

From an event organisers perspective I’ve seen all this before. No doubt someone like Nigel Farage said “let’s organise a march” and no one said, Nigel, that’s a stupid idea.

The people running this campaign will have no event experience or if they do, they don’t have the authority to say, “think of something else because this isn’t going to work” So it happened. And it will be the disaster you’d expect.

And I bet behind the scenes it’s even worse. I await the social media updates from people saying “I was promised accommodation, food and support for my £50 but received a bacon sandwich and a can of pop” Or worse.

And how about the “whole series of mini events set to be announced” that are supposed to happen as part of the march. News Flash: there won’t be any.

So you have a poor turn out at poor event with those taking part complaining about the event. In every sense it has been a total non event. Unless. Unless……….

Unless the media play by a totally different set of rules for this “celebrity” event. Here’s the Guardian giving some air to the event as it starts off.  And Sky News too.

The rule for this event? Well,  if you have someone like Nigel Farage or Boris Johnson, someone deemed “newsworthy” you will get coverage of your appalling badly planned and executed event. The rule for other events? Well, If you have 100,00s on your march, and its just ordinary people, the main stream media will give it a wide berth.

When you plan an epic event and it turns out to be an epic failure don’t fret. All you have to do it have a media darling play one small part and your event will be a success. Our main stream media will make sure of that.

All bold and italics from the official March to Leave campaign video. 

The McCrone Report another missed opportunity for the YES movement

The McCrone report has shown many things: the selfishness of the British state, the ability to hide the truth from the Scottish people and the continued potential wealth from north sea oil being the most obvious. But it has also shown the weakness of the YES movement.

The McCrone report another missed opportunity for the YES movement

I’ve tried to look at the McCrone Report as something other than a quite extraordinary example of the UK’s narrow minded and selfish approach to Scotland. But it is impossible. It is there in black and white.

The likely (not potential) revenue and benefits from North Sea oil would, had they been earned by an independent Scottish nation, have transformed the country. This is unarguably the case that you have to draw from reading the report. But I am happy to go further.

If this report had been widely publicised in the mid 1970s, it is no great stretch to say that Scotland may already be independent. It was “secret” and guarded in the Scottish Office for the most obvious of reasons: because successive unionist governments believed that it could lead to Scottish independence!

If you haven’t already taken the time to read the report you really should. I can’t think of a more concise takedown of the British State.

So if it is this powerful (and again please read it, don’t take my word for it) why will it make no more than a ripple on those soft “No” voters? Well, that’s what I wanted to consider here.

The YES movement habit of looking a gift horse in the mouth

Many in the YES movement seem to spread defeatism on their toast in the morning. Where we could see an open goal, some see the clear opportunity to punt the ball high into the stands.

One of the reasons this report won’t have any real impact is that many in the YES movement don’t see the forest for the trees. This isn’t really about oil: it is about the UK government using Scottish resources to solve UK issues. End of.

Sure there are a myriad of sub texts in this story and oil and climate breakdown are very important issues to discuss. We all have our views on those two related topics, but why on earth would you highlight those issues when you have a major, undeniable win right in front of you?

Some of the interaction on Twitter between indy minded people who actually agree with each other have to be seen to be believed.

It is almost if some see any issue as a way to bash or discredit someone or something they don’t like. This seriously weakens the ties that should be pulling us together.

No strong organisation/s to pull all those loose strings together

A massive amount of credit must go to The National for leading so strongly with the McCrone Report. However it was a massive missed opportunity that this wasn’t a coordinated campaign.

When the movement acts out of sync we have little impact. We can and do bemoan the most bizarre media structure in Scotland and with so few indy supporting media it is crucial that they try and amplify the killer messages.

It is only when we coordinate our efforts that we stand a chance of being heard outside our indy echo chamber.

So what were the alternative media doing the week of the publication? WingsOverScotland has one article (pretty much stating my main points) and in general playing the same tune as The National.

CommonSpace doesn’t have anything on the report since 2017.

Bella Caledonia mentions the report in an interesting article that includes this:

“There’s no need to repeat the epic mismanagement of this resource over time, or replay the envious glances across the North Sea to Norway and its sovereign oil fund. There’s no doubt that the lies, distortion and hypocrisy of those who simultaneously argue that oil is insignificant and then salivate at the prospects for propping up the British economy (again) are remarkable, but there are some real problems with framing the case for independence in this way.”

So that’s the top indy supporting media outlets. What about our collective yes bodies?

Well, Scottish Independence Convention continues to talk about itself and nothing much else. You won’t find the McCrone Report on their home page or Twitter feed.  There’s nothing on Business for Scotland either.  I am sure I could go on but I hope I have made my point: to highlight these important stories in isolation is to speak quietly in an empty room.  And this happens all too often.

What’s old hat for you might not be the case for many voters

What came across from many indy supporting Twitter accounts was that the McCrone Report was old news. Well, not for everyone:

A “quite remarkable” stat for sure. Just imagine the number is this had been properly amplified.

You can get a good jist of this attitude from our established commentators. Here’s a section of that Bella article again:

“There’s no need to repeat the epic mismanagement of this resource”

Well, I would argue that there absolutely is a need to repeat the epic mismanagement, as not everyone has heard it the first 50 times. It is when you see a message again and again that it starts to stick.

Repeating things is a powerful tool in a campaign. When trying to get a message across what we need to do is to REPEAT the most important points. Again and again. How the UK mismanaged this resource should be something we all repeat at every opportunity. 

There is a real danger that we speak with the same voice and to the same people, in the same way as we did in 2014. We have to move with the times and we have to be smarter and more coordinated.

An alternative coordinated approach isn’t hard to imagine

Just imagine the Editors of all of our independent supporting new media outlets got together a few months ago and decided to “make the most of the McCrone report”. So co-ordinated articles were commissioned and set to be published the same week. Interviews were arranged to add flavour and substance to the report.

A PR campaign was started with the aim of amplifying the McCrone report to the non independence supporting media highlighting the relevance today.

An outreach to Social Media activists at the same time saw @zarkwan creating several of his brilliant images to be downloaded and shared on social media, and were available to print. @phantompower14 created a one of his killer videos.

How about all of the YES groups had a McCrone week were they focussed all of their campaigning on three central issues that they picked out of the report.

Maybe an independence supporting film maker got in touch with Alan Cumming and persuaded him to don a pin stripped suit, enter a smoke filled set, take on the role of Professor Gavin McCrone, and deliver the report, in its entirety to camera.

Just imagine an actual coordinated campaign with people working together, setting aside differences and aiming for one thing: independence. Ideas like this were as powerful in 1974, the year the McCrone report was delivered, as they are today.

Scotland doesn’t have a normal media

This is  how the media works in a normal European country. But Scotland doesn’t have a normal media. 

There is a tried and tested media strategy on the European continent. A political party organises a rally. Supporters of the cause and the media turn up. The media point their cameras at the stage and then the crowd. The day’s events are then broadcast.

To make sure the true feeling of the event was captured the cameras came on to the stage.

It doesn’t really matter the size of the audience, there were only a few hundred people at this one, or the particular cause. If a party that has elected representatives organises a rally it is news worthy.

The speeches at this particular rally included attacking the Spanish state for its stance on Civil Rights, the Barcelona mayor’s “support” for UBER and the presence of Mobile World Congress in the city again this February.

Small crowd but still worthy of media coverage

You could have a debate around “newsworthiness” of these types of rallies. ButI would like to see a debate around another concept: democracy.

How else are apolitical organisations or political parties able to edge onto TV screens if they don’t run rallies and have them covered? The state is not a functioning democracy if rallies like this are not covered by the media.

What else is a broadcaster doing if not this?

It is no stretch to say that, with media a reserved matter in the UK (it is not reserved in Spain by the way), Scotland is not a true democracy. Much that is discussed is not shown on our main TV channels or in the main newspapers in Scotland. This is not normal.

The media blanking of rallies (small, medium or large) is the much bigger picture. We should be focusing the debate on what is not in the media, not what is in the media.

Camera. Almost outnumbering the speakers on the stage

Following Thursday’s latest BBCQT fiasco many of the independence minded commentators (and the various indy supporting new media channels) have been whipping up a storm about the audience. If it’s not the QT audience that gets people going, it’s the QT panel. Both are worthy of disdain and comment but I often wonder if we are falling into the classic trap set by the establishment using the main stream media? Noam Chomsky put it like this:

“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum – even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there’s free thinking going on, while all the time presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate”

I wonder is this the establishment game? Use its flagship shows to ‘noise up’ the dissenters so they don’t focus on what the media isn’t covering? Keep the area of debate around panels and audience and maybe we will lose focus on what they should be covering and crucially what others are saying. And the reason behind this?

Demos, rallies and street protests will play a major role in the independence campaign that lies ahead of us. The campaign may also involve civil disobedience. However, don’t expect it to come to a TV screen near you. You would need to live in a normal country with a normal media for that to happen.

A Scottish independence campaign that is focused on live experiences is crucial

As the new format of the Scottish Convention “This Is It” passes £100,000 in donations, I urge them, The SNP, and the Scottish Government to start to plan and consider how live experiences will shape and win the next Scottish independence campaign.

I’ve recently returned from a speaking slot at the “Oscars for the events industry” the EUBEA World Festival, which took place in small, beautiful, fiercely independent Portugal. The awards were held in the historic city, once the capital and seat of the Portuguese Royal Family: Coimbra. And I would thoroughly recommend a visit!

scottish independence events
Beautiful, truly historic Coimbra in Portugal.

There were shortlisted events from Kazakhstan, Latvia, Finland, Russia, Italy, Czech Republic, Poland, Netherlands, England, Spain, Portugal and around a dozen more countries.

There was no event from Scotland. In fact, I was the sole Scottish representative on the entire three day festival programme. 

Here’s how other countries celebrate their events

Entries are made primarily by event agencies and like most other sectors of the UK the heart of that industry is in London. So perhaps it’s no great surprise that Scottish agencies weren’t represented, however, it is surely bizarre that non one event took place in Scotland in the last 12 months that the organisers thought would merit a place on the short list?

It’s depressing seeing other countries use live experiences to launch, extend and amplify campaigns or to use them to share the awesomeness of their work or their culture.

Have a look at a few of the events that I have picked out and then think, why doesn’t Scotland do anything like this?

Great engineering works are opened with campaigns that try to activate every part of society, with the aim of raising awareness and pride in their success as the Turkmenbashi International Seaport Opening Ceremony shows.

Important cultural events are marked with extravagant celebrations, bringing a whole country together in a shared and uplifting experience as demonstrated by Scarlet Sales 50 year anniversary in Russia.

Cultural buildings have a new lease of life injected by live experiences as demonstrated by Lisbon Under The Stars.

But back to Scotland

Think of a significant event, like the opening of the Queensferry Crossing and check out OUR opening ceremony.  It’s an obsequious, pompous, 50p show. It seems to celebrate the Royal Family more than it celebrates Scotland, the red arrows even pump out Red, Blue and White smoke. 

If you spend £1.35 billon on something don’t be ashamed to properly celebrate its completion. Be proud of it. Brush off the abuse that comes from celebrating the hard work and endeavour of our Nation.

Another example to look at is the  opening of the V&A Dundee Museum of Design. The opening ceremony was “given” to the BBC. It was a broadcast with editorial decisions made, presumably in London. Is this really controlling how the world sees Scotland?

We either do it badly on the cheap or we ask the BBC to do it for us. Who is really happy with either of those options?

As you can see when the Scottish Government is in charge it lacks the chutzpah to do it properly and the BBC is clearly now a British State Broadcaster unable to properly reflect the interests of Scotland.

So what should we be doing as we lead up to a Scottish independence campaign?

Judging by the entries at the EUBEA World Festival and knowing the skills and the resources available in Scotland, we seem uniquely placed as a country, a government and a people unable to celebrate pride in our success and traditions in the full glare of the world.

So how do we currently celebrate our cultural days like St. Andrew’s day or Highland Gatherings, or the scores of cultural events that are never supported to rise about the noise of every day life? Or how do we bring to life buildings that sit empty like the Cathedrals in St. Andrews or Dunkeld (“Scotland Under The Stars” anyone?)

We don’t. Because we are not realising the true power of live experiences. 

And because of this ignorance, I fear for the next Scottish independence campaign.

We are all too aware of the bias of the media and we know that, as an independent Scotland is likely this time, that it will be much more forceful in its “better together in our precious union” So how do we counter that MSM bias?

The only real option is to develop events at every level that speak to those living in Scotland and abroad. Events that shout with a loud and determined voice: Scotland has its own voice because it is a Nation.

We all cringe at the now almost ubiquitous Scottish cringe. Some people seems totally unable to celebrate anything in Scotland! And others are simply minded to denigrate anything positive.

Asking how did we get here ? should be a question for many of the country’s sociologists, political scientists and psychologists, but they probably think that we aren’t worth studying. Cringe!

However there are many Scots, and for sure, the vast majority of Scots in the yes movement, who swell with pride and want to shout our success from the top of the highest mountains. But that voice does not travel unless it is amplified.

As the new format of the Scottish Convention “This Is It” passes £100,000 in donations I urge them to start to plan and consider how live experiences will shape and win the next campaign. The Scottish Government must discover the power of live. As ever I am willing to help.

“A tremendous milestone for the country, and testament to how events can support cultural change in a country” is how one of the entries at EUBEA World closed their pitch. Exactly. So what are we going to do about it?

High time we appraised the YES movement

How the YES movement structures the campaign for independence will be crucially important if we are to secure a victory.

It’s been another important few weeks in the soft campaign for independence. On the 6th of October more people marched for independence than had ever taken to the streets. Over 100,000 marched through Edinburgh “all under one banner”

Just over a week later a major fundraising campaign was launched with a full media blitz. A big promotional push for This Is It included articles in print (and a front page splash) and online by The National, plus supporting blog posts by well known indy campaigners, including senior SNP figures.

It would be easy to look at the YES movement and conclude that all is not just well, but positively rosy. But many in the YES movement have concerns about “our” campaigning as we head into a tumultuous year.

So in this post I want to try to look at a few things in detail.

Firstly, the current set up and approach of “the new SIC”

Secondly,  to look at our big events.

And thirdly is to look at the approach we are taking to funding our campaigns and our movement.

I won’t apologise for the length of this post as I believe these are three exceptionally important areas to cover. (I’ve added a section at the bottom of this post that lists my experience in these areas, lest you think I am spouting nonsense from nowhere)

I hope this piece opens up more conversations on our movement and gives confidence to YESSERS to question the current set up, to suggest alternatives, and to ultimately do something different.

The Scottish Independence Convention’s new fundraising appeal

I’ve been writing for a couple of years about the need for an organisation to co-ordinate the YES movement. So in this initial stance, I am in total agreement with Elaine C Smith and I do agree with her that a majority of the grass roots support the idea –

“I am always asked about a central place/facilitating organisation/resource hub that can distribute and communicate what’s going on to all the other groups……..That’s what we aim to try and provide.” Elaine C Smith.

However I have to question the current approach as outlined by This Is It.  In questioning the set up and structure of the organisation I will reference two similar successful campaigning organisations in Europe.

In the Catalan National Assembly and the Five Star Movement you can see that modern European movements have a centralised body coordinating and resourcing the movement.

However, the phoenix that will rise from the ashes of the SIC, will have several very important differences from both these movements.

The most important difference is that the new SIC, as a  centralised coordinating body, can not represent the YES movement because it is not controlled by the individuals in the movement.

The ANC can and does reflect the Catalan independence movement  because it is “entirely funded by its members: 38,000 “full time” members and over 40,000 “associate members”

So members pay and receive a voice within the organisation. This sounds like an obvious and simple structure for any representative body. Why is the new YES organisation so different?

This representative approach is how political parties, membership bodies, trade unions and trade associations are structured. But this is not how the new SIC is structured. We really have to ask why?

The new organisation will of course have members, but they will not fund the organisation, it will be funded by individuals who will not have a voice or any direct representation.

Members of the as yet untitled YES organisation

This seems a peculiar set up for an organisation and I believe we are right to question the proposed structure, even if its taken two whole years to get to this stage.

There may be a whole host of reasons behind the chosen structure, however, if I was asked to design a organisational structure that was funded but not held to account this is how I would design it. I believe the organisers behind the organisation have a lot of background information to divulge.

The second issue with regard to membership, is to ask why there are so few grass roots organisations supporting it at this stage?

The YES movement has hundreds of groups who support independence yet so few are represented. Isn’t this peculiar?

So YESSERS are asked to fund an organisation that seems to have little support from the heart and soul of the movement, the grass roots organisations.

I find this incredibly worrying. I believe we are in danger of having a (maybe even THE)  leading independence organisation that has little representation from the movement and little if any accountability.

With this structure we are setting ourselves up for all manner of smears from the Unionist media.

Structure, processes and procedures are boring for sure, but they are important. The movement has to stop and think if this is really the way we should be going.

The body that aims to represent the YES moment in various ways should be a membership body with members having control of direction, messaging and operational objectives.

Do we not have the grand designs or ambitions to set up a similar structure as the Italians?

The Five Star Movement has 135,000 members all of whom pay an annual subscription, and if is from here that the movement is funded. Interesting the Movement refused 40.000.000 euros from the state (as a political party that received 25% of the vote ) so determined was it to not be labelled an organisation that could be bought.

There is a minimum subscription and a maximum amount so that no-one can be accused of offering or accepting money in return for influence. Every member has a direct involvement in the organisation. It’s a fascinating structure.

This shows you the extent that the organisation has gone to be  accountable to the movement and to be super clean and above suspicion.

I hope that’s some interesting thoughts on the structure of the organisation and the funding, to help people analyse the new SIC in some more detail. But we have every right to  ask, why THIS structure?

So if that’s how it’s structured and funded, what will it actually do?

Well, similar to the lack of information on membership and representation we are a bit in the dark. Where there is a lack of information people will fill in the gaps.

Perhaps the new organisation will have at its core support for groups that are already doing some great stuff but nowhere is that being made clear.

The only details we have is that they seek £180,000 to fund the organisation for a year. An organisation that will carry out –

Media handling

Strategic support

Resources

Messaging

Administrative capacity

This is all very vague. It leaves open the possibility that the organisation could play drastically different roles. It’s all down to interpretation at this stage.  What does any of this mean? Some details would be very welcome.

If most YESSERS are not going to have direct representation then surely, an absolute bare minimum, should be that they know what they are funding.

In the approach taken so far I believe the organisers have paid a disservice to the 100,000s of independence supporters. There should be much more clarity about the planned role for the organisation BEFORE asking for funding.

And finally I want to look at that annual funding  figure as it hints at the structure and approach of the organisation. In a previous post I said it looked like “an analogue organisation in a digital age”, or all very 2014 as a prominent indy voice put it.

In spending this amount of donated money the organisation will use it to pay full time, permanent staff. They will have office space. They will employ the services of a major brand agency. They will be structured like a traditional campaign organisation would have been in 2014 when we lost.

Five years later the structure hasn’t evolved. They won’t, in short, be using the resources available to them as part of this massive, creative, powerful movement. To give yourself the task of winning independence and not having @zarkwan involved in helping you shape the brand and the messaging, or not having @phantompower14 involved in your digital content creation seems to be totally bizarre.

There are many hundreds, perhaps thousand who could help this organisation, if it was structured differently.

The organisation should be more flexible. It shouldn’t have large fixed costs like five full time staff and premises. It should operate more as a start up or a digital business. It should be super lean and super mean, because it is being funded by donations (more on the issues around funding your organisation by kindness later)

However, IF it was a membership body funded by subscriptions and other income it would then be wise to take on more fixed costs as it would be on a more secure footing. Under this approach £180,000 could be small change.

If one thing is for certain the next independence campaign will need a dynamic and fast footed organisation ready to respond. The set up of the new organisation does little to demonstrate that readiness. It also must have a democratic mandate and be totally transparent.

I think we can do better.

Our large events including Hoop and All Under One Banner

I’ve written in detail about how our independence events can be better. I’ve also noted how impressed I am with the dedication of the volunteers who run these big events.

I’ve been an events organiser for over twenty years and I’ve written as constructively as possible about our events. It is no mean feat to be able to bring thousands of people out on the streets.

I have however lamented that there is no professionalism and no central resource to fund and run these events. To give you some perspective, The ANC spend 300,000 Euro on PR for their large La Diada celebrations! That’s the annual one, that has 1million demonstrators.

The Five Star movement place events at the absolute core of their movement and have done from its inception in 2009.

We should be running 5 star events.

Our current approach to live engagement means we can only but dream of organising events that actually achieve any strategic goals.  If you want to read more about the how our events can be better check out most of the posts on this blog.

It is clear that how we conduct ourselves at our events will have a big impact on how the movement as a whole is regarded by those open to the possibility of voting for independence next time round.

Our events, in all shapes and forms, will have a considerable impact on our campaign and I believe they therefore deserve some more scrutiny.

Jason Micheal’s piece on AUOB shows a willingness to look at the importance of our events and I urge people to read it.

The two issues that I would like to address here are –

The events that represent the entire movement are not co-ordianted by the movement and

There is little accountability or transparency at these events.

I have to make this point clear. I am not for one second saying grass roots organisations should not organise events, exactly the opposite in fact, but I believe they should have some central resource to help them.

However I do believe that large events should be co-ordainted by a central body or a representative body, not by individuals acting for the movement. And I think I’ve been clear, I don’t think it should be structured like the new SIC seems to be.

The reasons for me are clear –

They are too big and too important to leave to volunteers.

They will never have the impact and the support if they are not supported by the whole movement.

They can never stand up to scrutiny and they lack transparency if they are not properly organised.

It is time to ask how we organise the events where we showcase our movement to see if we can do things better.

How we fund our movement or “the curse of the crowd funder”

As we approach the end of the first week of funding for This Is It the fund raiser passed its first target of £30,000 and is now sitting just over £40,000. So according to the website this is enough for –

“30K will get the organisation started and branded – complete with public engagement research (so we know that undecided voters will be open  to what they see when they look at our messages and branding)”

So it looks like its a done deal and the fundraising has done it’s job.

If you want to raise funds for something before you actually have to do much, then crowd funding is the way to go. But to fund an entire movement this way is madness.

We have to find a more secure way to fund the YES movement.

We should not be funding our entire movement on frequent acts of kindness, fundraisers and passing buckets around, well, not if we want to have a successful campaign. We will be in professional campaign mode soon and we have to be professional and that means being secure in our finances.

In Catalonia “paying for things” is part of the independence culture. You pay for membership to have a say in the direction of the movement. An event is run form the money that is raised selling the t-shirts that everyone wears. Campaigns are paid for by the merchandising that is sold.

This is a mature approach to funding a campaign. Again I question why this approach is regarded as “grass roots” in Catalonia and Italy but not in Scotland?

La diada 2018
Miniture ballot boxes are sold to pay for the defence costs of Catalan political prisoners.

If we want to move to a more secure footing for our movement we have to ask some important questions. What does it actually mean to be grass roots? Should volunteers be doing so much? Is it wrong to ask people to pay for things? Who should lead the movement? And what role should we have in the organisations that represent us?

In August I spent a few days in the south of Italy with members of the Five Star Movement. I wanted to get to the heart of the organisation and how it was structured in the hope I would see more options for what we can do in Scotland.

I talked through our peculiar Scottish issues mentioning the role of volunteers and the grass roots approach, “Grass roots are the volunteers right, they are the engine, but every movement needs dedicated professionals to run it, unless, maybe it’s not serious?” said Paolo.

I assured him he would never meet more serious and dedicated people than those in the Scottish grass roots independence movement but he couldn’t take the step to understand why we didn’t want to professionalise or to make regular financial commitments.

He was also confused when I told him that many people who led in 2014  seem poised to lead again. He told me that this would not happen in the Five Star Movement. This is because they believe that no one is irreplaceable and that people should move over after a period of time.

I nodded and said we have a lot to learn.

I hope it is not too late for the movement to look again at its structures.

I’ve been organising events for over twenty years. During that time I’ve set up several departments in large membership organisations. I wrote a book about organisational structures in not for profit organisations. I have also set up and run a couple of small commercial organisations. I currently run Gallus Events Ltd. which manages Europe’s largest blog for Personal Assistants in Europe, several events and does consultancy all over Europe. I ran my crowdfunded event in 2017. 

An alternative to the Scottish Independence Convention

I believe that the YES movement should have an alternative to the Scottish Independence Convention as the “coordinating body” for the YES movement and here’s what I propose. 

Most of the people who will read this post will have never read anything I’ve written before and will certainly never have heard of me. So the first thing to say is that this is not an opportunist post on a “hot topic” I’ve been discussing, agitating and proposing a coordinating YES body for almost two years.  Here’s  few links that cover my thoughts and feelings…..

A post from May this year asking for the movement to come up with an alternative.

How a coordinating body could improve what the grass roots does. March 2018.

How do the Catalans co-ordinate their movement? April 2017.

The second thing to say is that I am delighted that SIC has new proposals. I believe there is an absolute need for an organisation to coordinate the movement, if we have the right one we can secure independence.  But let’s do all we can to make sure it is the right one.

What is the Scottish Independence Convention

“The Scottish Independence Convention is a coalition of Scotland’s national pro-independence organisations, the pro-independence political parties and, through the membership of regional forums, of Scotland’s local grassroots pro-independence groups. It is just about to launch a fundraiser to start a national campaign organisation.”

This was taken from the open letter from SIC to the YES movement. And that movement includes me. So this is, in part, my right of reply. But I will let Mr Malky succinctly reply on my behalf.

Very 2014

Having read the letter in detail I think the SIC are about to create an analogue organisation for a digital age.

By their own admission it’s taken almost two years to come up with the new format. Successful organisations don’t work like this nowadays. And after the two years it looks very much like, well, how the SIC looked before.

I plan to write this response in two parts (the second one to follow will cover my concerns about SIC).

This first part covers the alternative suggestion I have and this is much, much more important. So please do read on.

An alternative to SIC created by the movement

It’s easy, actually all too easy with the invention of Social Media, to criticise the work of SIC to date and its proposals. However, any argument has less credibility when the people who make it have an alternative but do nothing about it.

So I want to suggest a way for “everyone” in the YES movement to get involved in creating an alternative to the SIC proposal. I want to help offer a choice for the YES movement.

I know that everyone involved in SIC wants the best possible organisation to support the movement so I know they will support this idea. I look forward to them all engaging in the spirit of doing what is best for the movement.

OK, so here it is.

I suggest a weekend long event tasked with creating an alternative to the Scottish Independence Convention. 

It would be an open event and anyone keen to support the movement would be able to attend the event. The event would take place from 5pm Friday to Sunday 5pm in a Hackathon style. It would also have online attendees.

If you haven’t attended or heard about a Hackathon you will be amazed at what can be created during this weekend format. I have little doubt that the moment could create an alternative to SIC over the weekend. So how would it work?

As an event organiser (with a considerable number of years experience) I am offering to coordinate, manage and run the IndyHACK.

It’s up to others to decide to get involved, take part and create an alternative to SIC.

To build from the bottom up the organisation that will help co-ordinate Scotland’s independence.

GET IN TOUCH – I am interested please get in touch when you have more concrete details. 

Here’s some more information

What is a Hackathon?

I would propose that we have “teams” who decide to work on the following areas (among others)

A constitution
A committee structure
A board of directors
An overall communications / membership platform
Donations policies
Membership benefits
Subscriptions process
An organisational structure
Job descriptions
A website
Social media channels
Social media guidance
Social media strategy
A logo
Brand and brand guidelines
A name
Health and safety, equal opportunity employment policies, etc.
Ensure GDPR compliance
A database
Premises
Funding and revenue strategy
Contractural arrangements with public relations etc.
Launch strategy
Live engagement strategy
Legal advice
Business set up
Tax position

Two weeks after the event the full details of the proposed organisation would be uploaded online. We would ask SIC to do the same and give as much detail as possible. The “movement” would choose the winning organisation.

Impossible? I doubt it. Able to happen before the end of the year? For sure. Is anyone interested in taking part? I have no idea. Let’s find out.

GET IN TOUCH – I want to get involved. 

La Diada 2018

As one million independence supporting Catalans took to the streets to demand independence during La Diada celebrations, the YES movement spent the day arguing about Braveheart. How can two grass roots movements be so different?

For the seventh year in a row two grass roots organisations the Assemblea Nacional Catalana and Òmnium have organised the largest one day event in Europe. La Diada celebrations took place on the 11th of September and this year attracted around one million supporters.

It was, as always, a fantastically colourful and fun day. It’s a street celebration of Catalonia with Gigantes, Castellers, and La Sardana with the Catalan independence flag La Estelada tied to every conceivable living thing or inanimate object.

La Daida 2018
The amazing Castellers.

As a Scot I have mixed feelings when I take part in this type of event. I am in absolute awe of the achievement of the organisers and the passion of the crowd. But I wish those yellow and red flags were blue and white. It would be spectacular if we could have a national day celebration like this in Scotland but, as everyone will tell you, there are just too many buts…….

La Diada 2018  The Coral Demonstration

The organisers know that they have to keep the event fresh and this year the coral colour of the official teeshirt was chosen to remind everyone of the shocking scenes which took place during the 1st October independence referendum. It was a coral coloured tie that “secured” the ballot boxes.

This year, the route packed in the demonstrators, rather than spreading them out across the city or the country. At 17.14pm a massive wave of sound travelled down the demonstration before toppling over a specially constructed symbolic wall: this movement will overcome any and all barriers.

As ever the central focus was the demand for a Catalan Republic but this year the crowd were given extra voice by the imprisonment or forced exile of the organisers of the 1st Oct referendum.

The objectives of La Diada

La Diada is used to re-energise and to motivate independence supporters in Catalonia and to internationalise the cause. In addition the call for the return of the political prisoners was the main focus for the international aspect of the demonstration in 2018.

Among the speakers three prestigious European personalities took to the stage: Aamer Anwar, the acknowledged Scottish human rights lawyer, in charge of the legal defence of Catalan ex-minister Clara Ponsatí; Thomas Schulze, the German university professor recognised for his staunch defence of the Catalan cause in Europe; and Ben Emmerson, the English international and human rights lawyer in charge of the defence before the United Nations of President Carles Puigdemont and other Catalan politicians.

In 2017 around 800,000 took part in La Diada. It would be hard to argue that an extra 200,000 independence supporters have been found since Spain’s brutal put down of the referendum last October.  The actions of the Spanish Government continue to recruit supporters to the cause of Catalan independence in much the same way as the main Westminster parties approach to Brexit is pushing more people towards support for Scottish independence.

Could Scotland hold a similar event in 2019

The independence movement in Scotland needs an event of this scale and size. In much the same way as the Catalans we have to internationalise our claim for independence.

How many people would remain ignorant of Scotland’s current position as a Nation (and not a region) as well as our vote to remain in the EU after seeing pictures of a massive colourful demonstration stretching from Edinburgh to Arbroath? Or from Edinburgh to Bannockburn?

We all know the answer. Scotland’s natural beauty and our historic landmarks provide a canvas that no main stream media in the world would ignore. Sure, we run our own independence events in Scotland, however, like a tree falling in a wood, an event only has an impact if people actually see it.

Our current demonstrations

Having a few thousand people march through Dumfries or a few thousand watch Braveheart in the centre of Glasgow just doesn’t excite anyone outside of those already committed to voting YES.

We have an exceptionally motivated and committed grass roots movement in Scotland and with a shared focus we could organise an event of this size. We could. And we should.

Scotland needs a body similar to the ANC

To organise an event of this scale we need an organisation similar to the Assemblea Nacional Catalana. We need elected representatives from the movement who appoint and direct full time staff and we need this now.

There’s rumours that the Scottish Independence Convention have announcements forthcoming, which may point towards this type of professional organisation, but I’ve been told something is “imminent” for at least nine months.

As I look over the front pages of all of the Spanish papers this morning to see this amazing stream of people who packed the streets, I am still filled with the possibility that Scotland could do this. And we should.

La Daida Grassroots events

If you are involved in a grass roots organisations, perhaps one that is currently discussing the structure of the SIC, and you don’t see the need for a body to help coordinate the movement then come and experience La Diada.

If you are one of the organisers of Hope Over Fear or All Under One Banner and you want your efforts to really, truly make a difference, then pull your resources and get behind one massive national day demonstration. There’s a million reasons to do it.

The impact of the events industry on your doorstep – Edinburgh Festival 2018

There are many different things you are taught as an event organiser, but one ever present is that “big is beautiful” There’s scarcely an events organiser who doesn’t want their small event to grow to epic proportions.

However the size of the Edinburgh International Festival and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is calling into question its actual “success”

The size of the Edinburgh Festival

Every year Edinburgh, a tiny wee city in a tiny wee country, is the destination for the “World’s largest international arts festival” This is really extraordinary and is something that should make every Scot mightily proud. It’s not just any country that can host a festival of this importance.

Scotland’s capital is only able to host an event of this size because our outstanding artists of today stand on the shoulders of giants.  Would we have Rankin, Welsh or McDermid without Burns, Scott and Spark? Would we have the right to host a cultural festival of this size without artists of this magnitude? But it’s not just our cultural heritage.

The supporting infrastructure filled with skilled and knowledgeable event professionals, audio and visual suppliers, stage set builders, etc. allow this festival to flourish. Without the events industry there is no festival. We build the stage on one of the world’s best backdrops.

A breathtakingly stunning city places Edinburgh apart from many other “wanna be” international art festivals. People visit for the events but……what a stage Edinburgh makes. However, increasingly, year on year, that stage seems to be creaking.

edinburgh international festival complaints

After over seventy years the Edinburgh Festival and the Fringe are now woven into the cultural tapestry of Scotland. Its success is our success. However, alongside the plaudits there is failure. The locals are restless.

“If these criticisms aren’t addressed they will mount and the festival will become confirmed as an event that is wholly imported and subjected on people, rather than in any sense hosted” – Mike Small Editor of Bella Caledonia.

As an event organiser who has been involved in organising large international events, I find it hard to argue against any of the 10 points in this Bella Caledonia article. It is thoughtful, deliberate and suggests discussion. It is not laced with rage, as Joyce McMillan suggested in a piece in the Scotsman.

The Perfect Stage

During the 1990s I had occasional trips to Edinburgh and I remember the Festival much like the Hogmanay festivities. They were very manageable for attendees and organisers. International visitors made up a small percentage of the crowd and it was pretty easy to experience Edinburgh, while these events were on, without crashing into either of them. How things have changed.

Both these events are huge, and both not without controversy, especially around working conditions for staff and the use or mis-use of volunteers (as a Living Wage Employer I make my view very clear here); so size brings its own complications. But still we event organisers crave growth.

The Event Organisers’ role

Like every other industry the events industry, in general, strongly believes that big is beautiful. We are a capitalist industry like every other, constantly living with the fear that we have to grow or die.

This leads to ignorance. Like most business people we aren’t trained, educated or in many cases aware that there is a negative impact from the work we do. But for event organisers it’s even more difficult than most for us not to bask in our God like status. Maybe you don’t want a big event in your backyard, but sure as anything your country and your city does!

The ever popular event industry

In many cases – and yes this is true – countries, regions and cities will pay the event organiser of a profitable show a trunk load of money to bring an event to your doorstep. Valencia submitted a bid of €170m to host the Web Summit, so it is no surprise that complaints from locals often meet with the response: “other cities would DIE to be as lucky as you”

We have people volunteering to work for us. They don’t want to be paid, they just want to be able to attend our events for free.

Even when an event makes millions of pounds profit, organisers can still get the Government to pay them to relocate their hugely profitable event.

See, everyone loves us, so should we care about a few locals?

It is with this attitude that many organisers and promoters will view the grievances of some noisy locals. And it’s not just the organisers and promoters who run events during the festival and the fringe, it is an industry wide approach. You can find the same view in any major city in the world.

In Barcelona the city struggles to cope with Europe’s largest tech event Mobile World Congress, but even the socialist mayor was keen to persuade the event to stay.

As an industry we have to first understand the negative impacts we can make and then secondly we have to act.

A call for dialogue

There are genuine concerns in Edinburgh over the size, scale and type of events that Edinburgh now holds. The event industry has to be aware of the negative impacts, and then be involved in solving the problems.

Last year within the ‘Skills needed for organising an event’ blog post on my Gallus Events website I highlighted that “more event planners should be, at least aware, of the “impact”, both positive and negative of our events” but you will struggle to see other event industry types even mention these issues. Many of the Event Associations have a habit of burying their head in the sand. 

It is here that Event Scotland, whose tagline is: Scotland The Perfect Stage, should take some credit.

As part of Visit Scotland, Event Scotland are tasked with increasing tourism to Scotland. They of course actively promote and support the large Edinburgh events but they have a regional focus, offering incentives to launch events outside of Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Scotland needs events to bolster the exceptionally important tourist industry but events have to add value to their locality.

Many event organisers carry out their work in a diligent and meaningful manner, just trying to make a living, like everyone else. I believe for most organisers the issues are around awareness and education, rather than a hell for leather, damn them all approach.

Event organisers and promoters should work with Government agencies, local authorities and local communities to ensure their events are welcome and they must place profit alongside their social and community responsibilities.

I believe the event industry is ready to talk, I just hope it is ready to listen.