By Morvern Rennie
In which I get carried away and forget I’m doing an interview.
Drawing on Alasdair’s thoughts about the road ahead, discussion regarding our structural review on greentalk and then Chris’ ‘Green Crossroads’ article I thought, Crossroads? Crossroads. CROSSROADS! This must surely be a sign that I interview a certain Scottish rapper who just so happens to be a member of SGP and have some compelling ideas about the future of the party.
MR: I was just re-reading the fall out from national collective and I find a lot of parallels with where SGP are at the moment. How do big idealistic groups strike a balance between getting shit done and keeping things accountable?
L: Good question. It may be best to actually examine what National Collective really achieved? What art do we remember? Who is still talking about it? Who did they engage beyond a narrow demographic with aspirations of entering the creative industries? There are as many people who feel bitter about NC as there are who feel proud of it. NC was largely about creating a perception as opposed to affecting any meaningful cultural change. It was about giving the Yes Movement a youthful, cultural feel. Activism is as much about the quality of the journey as it is about the outcome and both will come into conflict. When they do that’s when a framework for accountability and decision making comes in handy. If democratic processes are regarded as a laborious hindrance then we must examine our impulse for independence. Is it not about addressing a democratic deficiency? Or is democracy itself another thing that can wait till after indy?
National Collective impact is overstated.
They are an example of what not to do.
Not to take away anything from what they achieved. It could have been so much more.
MR: Aye but it’s a bit of a hard sell to a bunch of enthusiastic people wanting to go forth and do STUFF! How do we get people – especially new and different types of people – into talking about structures, organisation etc?
I find it often ends up the same types of people doing internal stuff until something bad happens and then everyone is like ‘when did that happen?’ ‘Why wasn’t I asked?’
L:Yes it is a challenge. The agreed framework prior to that conversation should already give that person their answer. ”You never came to the meeting. That’s why you don’t know.”
There are lots of different models you could use
You don’t always have to go with the ‘board’ structure
Very often that becomes a vehicle for hacks to infiltrate. Recovery Fellowships like AA are global yet have no formal structure save for a number of guiding principles that are interpreted by groups of individuals.
Vast sums of money are accounted for and the movement itself is always expanding. Yet there is no ‘founding document’.
It’s something groups should investigate more. Decisions are arrived at through a process of discussion and voting. Yes it can be slow but also very fluid. Its also based on having good faith in people as a starting point. People get more responsibilities over time when they are ready and willing.
MR: It can make reacting to big changes very slow I think and then informal power structures spring up to fill in the gaps.
Then we’re back at democratic deficit
L: It’s worth saying that good leadership will usually lead to less need to invoke the democratic procedures. Good leadership that encourages and acknowledges individuals talents and contributions, cultivating a sense of confidence and respect among the group, is ultimately the key. This was NC’s ultimate downfall.
MR: I couldn’t agree more! What do you think about the proposals to change our leadership structure? (Have 2 internal and 2 external co convenors)
Gender balanced obviously!
L: I wasn’t aware of the proposals. What is the reasoning behind it?
MR: To allow the cocos to focus on being spokespeople/public figureheads or chairing the party internally. Just now the cocos do both.
L: I see. Well that sounds practical at least. What are the cons?
MR: Public perception, being different for the sake of it, media ignoring it anyway, disconnect between figureheads and members, blurring of lines between committee, cocos, staff responsibility, remuneration. I’m for it but think it needs a lot more fleshing out.
L: I joined the Greens after the referendum. But as of yet have not felt compelled to get involved any more than that. Given the results at the election just past I’m now of the mind that there is no appetite for ‘hard-left’ politics. Greens are the best political expression of left values available.
I feel hard lefties need to go back to an RIC type model and operate in the communities where there is a low level of political consciousness. At the minute the moral case for indy is on as shaky a nail as the economic case. It’s become a nebula of rhetoric.
I was glad when the SNP had to form a minority government. I worked hard to ensure that would be the case. I’m fed up.
MR: I was listening to your podcast when you spoke about ‘cross pollination’ and I was surprised that RISE (to my mind) stood on a very similar policy platform to us but with different branding. I always thought if they agreed with so much of our policy – why not join then push for change? Is it our middle class image problem?
I think they have some fab people like Cat and Jean Urquhart and totally respect they wanted to do their own thing – didn’t mean that to be patronising
L: I agree. I don’t feel patronised. My public support for RISE was a combination of things. One, it had already been assumed by many Yessers I was in cahoots with them. And two, I’m a sucker for an underdog. Privately, however, there are a variety of areas where I feel a divergence from the hard left. The whole process of reflection after the referendum and the events since has de-radicalised me in a way.
I realise now the Yes ‘branding’ was designed to make me feel like radical change was imminent….even though it clearly wasn’t.
In some ways I am now waiting to be convinced that independence led by SNP is anything other than a cultural vanity project. I’d be open to a strong home rule argument now but nobody is fit to make one.
MR: Uh oh – I can hear the ‘soft on Indy’ klaxon! It would have to be a new kind of home rule arrangement. England is so much bigger than the other nations so would effectively dictate on reserved issues like trident & NATO
L: I’ve grown so skeptical of the SNP that I doubt whether these issues are even that important or whether they function merely as vehicles for moral posturing. I know a large section of their base believes in nuclear disarmament but a large section of their base used to believe the creation of the Scottish Parliament was a compromise too far and that NATO membership was out of the question. SNP posture on issues they are not responsible for while deflecting moral argument around they things they can actually do something about.
MR: I spoiled my FPTP ballot in the end – the Mhairi Black article was the straw that broke it for me. I just thought – this isn’t about progress at all. This is just about the SNP.
I also think their rapid expansion has diluted the quality of their candidates – I’m concerned about what’s going to happen with local government next year.
L: That’s the big irony for me. Prominent Yessers are beginning to sound like pre-referendum unionists with their ‘easy does it’ ‘don’t be divisive’ ‘look what we could achieve long term if we set grievances aside and focus on big picture’.
Black was telling us to eat our cereal.
MR: Totally! It does make me think – is this just what most people want? Are we lefties having ourselves on?
L: Exactly. That’s where I am just now. Absolutely rudderless with a bone to pick.
I’m thinking the best thing I can do is educate myself more while I try and reconstitute a belief system that corresponds with reality.
MR: Would you consider being more active within SGP? I think we could do with people who can challenge and change our narrative
L: Yes I would. The Greens need to move from Hyndland to Partick, so to speak. I’m just reflecting on what sort of ‘activity’ may be useful.
MR: Personally I think we could really use your experience in youth work to develop some sort of talent/outreach programme
Doing stuff inside the party can be great for a young person to build a CV but we need to be giving them those opportunities rather than just expecting them to do the leafleting and man street stalls
L: Yes my strengths lie in that sort of engagement. I can build a quick rapport with the kind of people activists find hard to reach.
Something like this would interest me. And I’d also hope that some on the ‘left’ would consider where their own energies may be best channelled also.
MR: Maggie made a commitment to getting a staff member to support the young greens so I think now is the time to make it so!
L: I like Maggie. She seems, in public, a little unsure of herself. But that confidence comes over time. Media is tricky terrain for genuine people.
So, here we stand at the crossroads.
I’m heading to Partick – who’s with me?
If you want to be interviewed as part of the ‘Green Chat’ series drop me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org