A guest post today from about the principle of democracy from Duncan Thorp, who has previously blogged for us about social enterprise. Thanks Duncan!
It’s kind of reassuring that regardless of the referendum outcome, a debate has opened up about the kind of Scotland we want. While visions differ greatly, it’s good that we’re moving slightly beyond just two stark and opposing factions, something I believe most people want to happen.
Though this “new Scotland” thinking is generally by pro-independence campaigners, there’s still a bit of debate on the pro-union side too. Common Weal, the various political parties, Radical Independence Campaign, commentators like Henry McLeish, Better Together, Nordic Horizons, think tanks like Reform Scotland – all are talking about the kind of Scotland we want. How much of this influences people and is talked about in homes, pubs and workplaces is of course another question.
But in terms of the progressive side, how much of this thinking is new or original? How much still relies on the old debates of public vs private, state spending vs the market, workers vs owners etc? Though the old ideologies have clearly failed, the “smash the state” mentality as a solution perhaps still dominates.
But it shouldn’t be about who controls or does things with the state – it’s about who makes all of the decisions everywhere. We certainly need community and we definitely need society – but these are not synonymous with the state. Statism doesn’t work. Using the state so it’s in the “correct” hands is the actual problem, in fact it often results in human tragedies.
But if not the old ideologies, what exactly is the so-called big idea? The big idea is democracy. Practical examples include empowerment through the local community ownership of land, buildings and other assets, community and social enterprise and the practise of authentic localism and autonomy.
This is about street-level democracy, neighbourhood welfare and a welfare society, human rights for all, comprehensive ethical choices by consumers, employee-owned businesses as standard, community-owned renewable energy and local food independence. Doing things for ourselves. All this can be driven forward by equal access for all to advanced, eco-aware technologies. A constant, systematic spreading of this democracy can replace narrow nationalism and other false identity politics on all sides.
But who will lead and implement this democracy in the real world and how? A political leader? A campaign group? An agency? A special vanguard? A government? None of the above. There’s no mythical Revolution Day or future salvation, it’s much more subtle and current than that. It’s simply the role of everyone, acting right here and now as individuals, in our daily lives and together as people.
In effect “the big idea” must be to change who actually decides on all the big ideas. Scottish independence is hardly radical, perhaps it’s just a logical democratic step. But perhaps there are other paths too, like radical autonomy for Fife, Glasgow or Orkney. Extending democracy should be the measure for every policy decision.
In any case, leaving it up to so-called decision-makers and policy-makers is a dead end, it’s the responsibility of all of us. It’s not complicated or some unrelenting battle against the state: the big idea is simply the building of freedom and democracy in every area of life.