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Wings Over Scotland

A picture of a future Scotland?

Posted on November 14, 2012 by

As attentive readers will know, I currently live in the leafy Georgian city of Bath. Just a few miles down the road is a small town called Frome, where interesting things have been happening over the last 18 months or so. Today’s edition of the Independent has a pretty decent one-stop guide to them, which is well worth a read in full.

By way of a trailer, though, we’ll pick out a few soundbite snippets for you.

“united in being fed up with their town council’s institutional wrangling and party-political self-interest”

“set about making their town a better place to live”

“it’s the people who live in Frome that know what’s best for the area”

“hostility, stonewalling and outright non-cooperation from the established parties”

“an incredible 75% increase in voter turnout”

“In Westminster… elected officials toe their party line and avoid contentious issues; maintaining the status quo to the detriment of progressive debate… always eager to discredit their opponents, but much more reticent when it comes to their own ideas… the sole aim of the main political parties is not public service, but to get power, and once they have it to cling on at all costs

“In contrast to this partisan deadlock, the [Frome] councilors are proud to point out that… they have not yet once failed to reach a democratic consensus on any issue.”

Running your own affairs sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

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    15 to “A picture of a future Scotland?”

    1. EmbraBoffin says:

      Great article, thanks for posting it.

      This really chimes with some thoughts i had and have read about local democracy in the modern era. I think the rise of improved communications with the Internet and lack of real societal threats such as wars with your neighbours means the top-down, institutional democracy really isnt up for the job.

      You need large institutions to marshall and control resources and people and that was important in the past if you needed to fight external battles and quash internal dissent, its much less important now in the global village where national borders and more porous and less important and where people are less fearful of the ‘other’.

      Now people find it easier to get their news from alternative sources, organise themselves without using party, religious or other entrenched institutions and get things done. This empowerment helped the Arab spring and I think and hope it should have a positive effect elsewhere.

      As we see all the time now (BBC, police, westminster, etc) institutions are shown to be run by entirely fallible people who frequently make decisions that are poor or dishonest. Protecting the institution becomes their goal not servicing the people that it was originally put in place to work for.  

      I hope to see this come to pass an independent Scotland, I’m tempted to start an Independents for Leith!  

    2. dadsarmy says:

      I like the idea of Independents, yes. Perhaps the total number of list votes for Independent candidates all over Scotland in the next Holyrood election should be added up, and a corresponding number of candidates taken from the list; either by ballot, number of votes or percentages. As well as the FPTP candidates of course.

      I don’t like any political party, it seems to be pick the one that you dislike the least.

    3. Morag says:

      The trouble is, even when elected officials are elected as independents, they start banding together in electoral pacts that become parties, and before you know where you are the pigs are wearing top hats again.

    4. AndrewFraeGovan says:

      An independent’s manifesto: vote for me, I’m wonderful.

    5. RandomScot says:

      As opposed to AndrewfraeGovan’s manifesto “vote for me,you’re all shite”?

    6. Morag says:

      I remember the day at school when I figured out why parties exist.  Before that, I’d always claimed that candidates should all be independent, and voted for as individuals, by individuals.  (I was about 12, by the way.)

      We had an election for class leader, or some fairly nominal post.  There was no suggestion that candidates be put forward, or put themselves forward; each girl was simply invited to vote for whichever of her classmates she supported for the position.  There were two main cliques in the class, and I was in one of them.  I was fairly vocal in pushing the “individualist” agenda, that we should each vote for whoever we personally believed would be the best for the post, without collusion.

      Across the room, the other clique was getting organised.  They were deciding which of their number was going to be their candidate, and then all committing their votes to that person.  I could see what was happening, and was vocal in my cries of “not fair”.

      You can guess the rest.  The votes of our clique were fatally spread around various members of the group, and the candidate from the other clique won at a canter.  It was a life lesson I’ve never forgotten.

      Now I agree that’s simplistic.  However, that’s how people will behave.  It’s rational.  And at least when parties are organised openly we can see what’s going on, as opposed to private deals behind closed doors.

    7. velofello says:

      How many times have you heard people express the wish for a strong leader, a strong government. Why Westminster’s first past the post election system has been praised as it provides strong government!And a strong government “enables decisions to be made”. like the Iraq war?
      Why is this? Are people too mentally idle to think for  themselves? Are most content to be told what to do? Or is the democratic structure of the UK unfailingly procedurally tilted against the wishes of the general public being heeded?

      Even in these austere times the strong leaders feel able/are able: 
      to gift Endwhistle twice his settlement entitlement following his resignation.
      Commit £350 million to Trident development.Does the public support this decision?
      Pay lip service to energy costs. Do they really “honestly” believe that price fixing isn’t likely in their beloved market for energy? 

      Richard Branson,loath him or love him, wasn’t having it,challenged the strong leaders over the Glasgow/London rail franchise, and had the means and the will to take the issue to court and, “Oops we made an honest arithmetical mistake. Mr Branson, do you think you could continue to run the service whilst we work up a creditable story for the public”.  


    8. John Lyons says:

      Morag, that’s a great story, thanks for sharing. It demonstrates precisely why Political parties exist and also that some twelve year olds can see right through the average politician.

      I was fairly miffed in the recent local elections when only one of two SNP candidates was elected. The one who didn’t was called Bob Wynd and since candidates were listed Alphabetically by surname he was somewhere near the bottom of a very long list! I’m sure I saw a blog on the BBC about how to become a councillor and one piece of advise ws change your name!

      Velofelo, PR is not the answer as more and more of our politicians are less accountable. I abhor list seats. These are the mechanics of the party machine that allows people like Willie Rennie and Ruth Davidson to be in our parliament without ever having had a single vote next to thier name. (Just like John Finnie and Jean Urquhart who won all of those votes for the SNP and have now turned thier back on the party and in so doing defy the people who voted SNP in thier region)

      If we accept Party politics (because as in Morags story, if you don’t you lose!) then the answer is making Politicians more accountable. You know this, as your story about Branson shows he made them come to account, but more people need to do this. Perhaps the Committee of 100 can kick start an accountability movement by holding Labour councillors to account over broken promises.

    9. velofello says:

      Well here is an idea for discussion:
      How about each Council being monitored by a Citizens’ Committee? If you prefer a CSA –  citizens service authority.(Like the FSA but not asleep on the job).
      Members selected randomly from the electoral role. Obligation to attend committee meetings by statute with a minimum percent attendance figure? Expenses only, no attendance fee. One year service period.
      I know I know. How do you ensure a balanced committee politically? What authority if any for the committee? But the vision of enhanced political and financial power, on the European model promoted by some  here, being handed to Glasgow City Council without constraints put in place! Or Edinburgh? Think trams.

      Instance the Aberdeen City gardens project. A referendum was held, and the public voted  to proceed with the project. Labour get into power and decide not to proceed with the project.Is this acceptable? I don’t live in or near Aberdeen, i don’t know where these gardens are, and so I do not have an opinion on the merits of the agreed plan, but what is the view of the public in Aberdeen over Labour’s decision? A Citizens’ committee could arguably convey the public’s view on decision to to the Council. 

    10. pictishbeastie says:

      I’m just curious as to how many of the good people of Frome are aggrieved at us chippy Jocks having the audacity to want to run our own country?

    11. orkers says:


      In Orkney our Independents are mostly Tories in disguise who concentrate on business and farming and forget the ordinary folk. At least when prospective candidates fight an election under a label we have an idea where they’re coming from.

      So no thank you. 

    12. Franklin says:

      It’s a natural state of affairs – to want your own voice and run your own life.

    13. Laura says:

      O/T Since the US elections some 20 states are petitioning the White House wanting to withdraw from the Union as they are fed up with failed governments etc.

    14. Dodgardiner says:

      The US will be interesting as in the oil industry it’s mostly southerers I work with and I’ve had a some interesting conversations with the more politically aware ones and a former manager who was a Son of the Confederacy (another of us nasty separists).
      He cited numerous examples of US historical revisionism to keep the Southerers portrayed as hicks who just want slaves and the right to shoot anything that moves (although to be fair I work with a couple of them as well).
      Interesting times ahead.
      I’m not much of a poster but daily reader here/ NNS/ Peter Bell/ BBC Scotlandshire and proud non-licence fee payer to the state broadcaster.

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