Hopes for the future: Looking ahead to 2021

As a year that none of us will forget approaches its end, we asked a variety of figures from around Scotland what their hopes were for 2021.

AS a year that none of us will forget approaches its end, we asked a variety of figures from around Scotland what their hopes were for 2021.

Adam Ramsay: “To save the world, perhaps we need to see it more fully”

Over three centuries, Scotland’s Highlands, Islands and southern uplands have become increasingly barren, cleared of people, trees, wildlife and life.

I hope 2021 is the year we change that.

1/5 of Scotland is dying grouse moor. I hope this will be the year that we ban heather burning and driven shooting and allow our uplands and highlands to reforest and rewild.

70 per cent of Scotland’s rural land is controlled by just 1,125 owners. I hope that we begin to take serious action on this bizarre inequality.

Scotland is one of the most nature depleted countries on earth. I hope we can bring ourselves to reintroduce and re-commit to protecting species which have every right to be here, species normal in our European neighbours, wolves, lynx, beavers and boar, storks and cranes, pelicans and sturgeon, moose and bison.

More than 80 per cent of people in Scotland live in urban areas, severed of their connection to wilderness. I hope we can rebuild rural communities, with a new generation of beautiful, zero carbon council housing, reconnected with 5G roll out and super-fast broadband.

And I hope we reinvest in our distinct languages and cultures, supporting Gaelic, Scots and our unique Traveller cants, because every language brings with it a unique way to see the world. And to save the world, perhaps we need to see it more fully.

Adam Ramsay is a journalist and editor at openDemocracy.

Emily Robinson: “We have it in our power to begin the world over again”

We’re entering into a new year with a stark light shining on the ways in which women — particularly working-class women — bear the brunt of capitalism’s burdens. My hope is that the new year sees the reinvigoration of a working-class women’s movement, one that is trans-inclusive, anti-racist, internationalist, and anti-capitalist. I hope that we start to cast the foundations of a movement built on the principles of solidarity that stands in opposition to far right influences.

My hope is that our movement can move past our consistently defensive position to an offensive one: beginning to organise and agitate for a world after capitalism and patriarchy. I believe that now, more than ever, we have it in our power to begin the world over again.

Emily Robinson is secretary of the Radical Independence Campaign’s Republican Socialist Platform, and is currently engaged in research on Scottish socialist feminists of the 1980s.

Christopher Silver: “We need to name the disease for what it is, then mobilise”

In 2020, 80,000 people signed up to the Scotland Cares campaign: offering up their time, and potentially putting their own health at risk, in order to combat an imminent existential threat to the NHS. Proportionally, the Scotland Cares recruitment drive achieved a significantly larger scale than FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933, which went on to plant 3 billion trees in every corner of America.

2020 will be remembered as the year that flipped the dominant logic of post-2008 capitalist realism. At last, history demanded a demonstration of the enormous fiscal power that the modern state can mobilise in the service of life.

In 2021 I hope to see the establishment of a Scottish Civilian Conservation Corps to tackle post-pandemic unemployment, restore peatlands, re-wild our cities and glens, assist with building localised heat and power networks, and to reclaim the commons at all levels.

Covid was merely a symptom of the far greater sickness of our times – capitalist omnicide. First, we need to name the disease for what it is, then mobilise – not just to save lives, but to protect the possibility of life itself. 

Christopher Silver is a Scottish journalist.

Emma Ritch: “Women’s equality must be at the heart of the coming year”

My hope is for a year in which we leave the grip of the pandemic, but hold on to the feeling of solidarity, the valuing of care work, and the commitment to wellbeing that has characterised 2021 for so many.

While we are all looking forward to seeing the end of 2020, we have a whole host of new challenges – and opportunities – facing us in 2021. As Brexit and post-pandemic austerity begin to bite, the May elections offer us a chance to talk about a social and economic recovery that works for women. Next year will see some key issues in Holyrood – the incorporation of the UN Bill of rights for women, the prioritising of women’s health, work to tackle misogyny, and a review of the Public Sector Equality Duty among them. For all these issues and more, women’s equality must be at the heart of the coming year.

Emma Ritch is the executive director of the Scottish feminist policy and advocacy organisation Engender.

Maria Torres-Quevedo: “We want to stand in solidarity with our neighbours to build a society that provides safety and dignity for all”

Living Rent has almost tripled in size in 2020, and our plans for 2021 are even more ambitious. We want to see tenants come together across the country to exercise the power they have to demand decent and affordable housing for all.

Specifically, we want our Tenants’ Manifesto adopted and put into action; this means rent controls, restorative justice for vacant land, fighting buy-to-let landlordism, and giving tenants increased control over the conditions of their tenancies.

Fundamentally, these concrete goals are part of a broader desire to see people across Scotland reverse the concentration of money and power in the hands of a few. We want to see tenants get involved in the political process that begins in their homes and on their streets. We want to stand in solidarity with our neighbours to build a society that provides safety and dignity for all, and, based on the incredible work tenants have done this year already, we know this is possible.

Maria Torres-Quevedo is a spokesperson for Living Rent, Scotland’s tenants’ union.

Ellen Höfer: “We can bring about a second Scottish Enlightenment”

2021 will bring an unprecedented range of grave and non-circumventable challenges for Scotland. My hope is that the inevitable nature of the issues we will face can force all of us to confront the issues intellectually and constructively rather than allowing our emotional responses to answer. What will be required is initiative, collaboration, the amplification of each others’ voices and ideas, mutual solidarity and support and above all else integrity in the face of adversity.

Together we can bring about a second Scottish Enlightenment through independent thought and action – and in case you’re wondering what that may look like: The only kind worth our time at this point in history will be very bright and very green.

Ellen Höfer is the creative director of EU Citizens For An Independent Scotland.

Craig Dalzell: “Teaching each other as we all build our own version of the Green New Deal”

More than most years, any attempt to try to predict 2021 risks being an act of hubris at best, but there is hope there to make the coming year one worth working for.

As we spend much of the year vaccinating our entire country’s population, and as every other country does the same for theirs, we shall see what can be achieved when each of those nations works together but distinctly and in their own way towards a common goal and on a common timeline for the good of all.

In this year we must also start to take the preventative measures we need to take ahead of the next crisis – the climate emergency. The shape of that pre-emptive response shall be the same. Each country working in their own way, but with common goals and to a common timeline, learning from each other and teaching each other as we all build our own version of the Green New Deal. We’ve shown that we can do it for Covid so there is no excuse holding us back from doing it again for the climate emergency.

A common problem and a common goal demands not necessarily a common solution, but every solution working towards the common weal.

Dr Craig Dalzell is the head of policy and research at the Common Weal think tank.

Laurie Macfarlane: “2021 could be one of the most decisive years in living memory”

If the stakes in 2020 were high, then in 2021 they are even higher. Why? Because it’s the year when we will find out if humanity has a chance of averting environmental catastrophe or not.

In the world’s largest economy, incoming President Joe Biden has set out a surprisingly bold climate plan – although major questions remain over whether he can deliver. In the world’s second largest economy, and largest carbon emitter, the Communist Party’s 14th five-year plan, spanning 2021-2025, could well be the most consequential policy package in human history. Around the world we will see whether promises to ‘build back better’ from Covid-19 prove to be empty rhetoric or a much-needed reality.

Closer to home, 2021 also looks set to be a pivotal year in Scotland. The Holyrood elections in May will determine the scale of Scotland’s own climate ambition – as well as its constitutional future. In November, COP26 in Glasgow in November will be an opportunity for Scotland to show climate leadership on the global stage.

So buckle up and get ready – 2021 could be one of the most decisive years in living memory. 

Laurie Macfarlane is the economics editor of openDemocracy.

Isobel Lindsay: “We need the right policies and we need the time to promote them”

22 January will see a significant development internationally which has special significance for Scotland. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons will come into force on that date as a United Nations treaty and becomes part of international law. For an independent Scotland this now offers a clear route for the removal of nuclear weapons with UN support. The SNP, the Greens and some in Labour all favour the ratification of the TPNW so this is important for us.

For independence, we can only hope that there will be serious and substantial effort put into planning the transition and the structures we need for a successful new state. There is an opportunity for the SNP’s new Policy Convener and NEC to take this forward.  The corpse of the Growth Commission needs final disposal. We need the right policies and we need the time to promote them in order to build confidence and enthusiasm among voters.

Isobel Lindsay is vice-chair of Scottish CND and a board member of Common Weal.

Graham Campbell: “Make an independent Scotland a truly anti-racist and internationalist Scotland”  

I would want to see a formal local and national set of structures for the independence movement launched in 2021 – but crucially one with politically agreed codes of conduct and behaviour both in person and online which prohibit racist, discriminatory language and abuse of other members of the movements.

I would like to see pro-indy parties and groups agree that no racists, Islamophobes, homophobes or transphobes should be permitted entry into our independence space. We can build a solid independence majority without the need for reactionary forces to be included. Taking no action on this is not an option – otherwise we lose support in those sections of the population for whom equalities are central – the youth, LGBTQIA, disabled people, BAME communities and women who between them these make up the majority of Scotland’s people. We also need to make sure that the independence parliament elected in May 2021 truly reflects Scotland’s diversity.

I see the COP26 Coalition and preparations for counter summits as crucial for framing the context of independence and shaping the indy movement in local communities responding to the climate emergency.  It will also shape the economic parameters of debate in which we set ourselves the goal of a more equitable society as the main reason why we want indy.

2021 will see a continuation of efforts in the Black Scottish and African communities to reorganise our anti-racist movement led by and inspired by Black Lives Matter Scotland. Africans for an Independent Scotland (AFIS) will also play a much more prominent role during the Holyrood elections and in the early referendum campaign. Together we will develop a Black Manifesto of demands we make of all the political parties to see if they truly share our goal to make an independent Scotland a truly anti-racist and internationalist Scotland.  

Cllr Graham Campbell is the national campaigns organiser for the SNP Socialists.