Women for Independence national coordinator Kathleen Caskie explains the organisation’s approach to the upcoming Scottish parliamentary elections on 5 May
MY gran used to tell me I had two ears and one mouth for a reason, the implication being that I should listen for at least double the amount of time I spent talking.
In the heat of an election campaign, political parties are set to transmit, not receive, seeking to convince you why you should give them one or more votes. Hundreds of organisations in Scotland have produced their own ‘manifestos’ for the Scottish Parliament elections, lists of demands which they want the Scottish Parliament to implement or pay for.
All across Scotland voices are being raised to demand this or that action from the Scottish Parliament. And now, Women for Independence have joined the fray, by publishing our own report into what women want from the Scottish Parliament.
We held loosely structured sessions all across Scotland, called a ‘listening exercise’, because the goal was to listen, not convince.
And while we’re on transmit, too, right now, the publication of this report follows many, many months of being on receive. We held loosely structured sessions all across Scotland, called a ‘listening exercise’, because the goal was to listen, not convince.
Our report is a summary of what we heard when we listened to women, it is not really a manifesto. Of course there are some key policy areas included in our report – a call for an absolute ban on fracking, a reiteration of the demands of our JusticeWatch campaign to reduce the numbers of women in prison – but it’s also a call for a revolutionary transformation of Scotland.
No women attending any of our listening events asked for a ‘richer Scotland’. Instead, they asked for a profoundly different Scotland where the artificial distinctions between paid work, unpaid work and community volunteering were broken down.
There was little interest in discussing whether there should be a penny on or off income tax. Instead, women asked for more power for communities and a complete re-design of public services, so that they are built from the bottom up.
There was little interest in discussing whether there should be a penny on or off income tax. Instead, women asked for more power for communities and a complete re-design of public services.
While women called for radical land reform, they were less interested in who owns land and how it is taxed than they were in how it could be used in communities, and how it could connect to goals for tackling poverty and health inequalities.
This is not a manifesto for the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections. It is not a wordsmithed, policy-checked list of legislative or spending changes required. It is the start of a conversation about the kind of Scotland we want to build, a return to the kind of conversations we had during the 2014 independence referendum campaign when party differences were, more or less, set to one side and there was a sense that anything was possible.
Of course, political parties returned to business as usual after the referendum, that’s what they do. They differentiate themselves from each other to appeal for votes. The idea of some kind of ongoing, unified Yes movement as a single political platform for elections never did fly. But some of the idealism of Yes has lived on, certainly among Women for Independence.
We hope that several of our members are going to be elected as MSPs and that they will take into Holyrood the seeds of this approach to politics: a willingness to look beyond the rough-and-tumble of daily politics to a bigger vision for Scotland, one which people can unite around regardless of their party preference.
This is not a manifesto for the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections. It is the start of a conversation about the kind of Scotland we want to build, a return to the kind of conversations we had during the 2014 indyref.
Some of the changes we want to see don’t require Scottish independence, or even support for independence, just a commitment to doing things differently.
However, we will never lose sight of where we came from. Some of the changes we want will need independence, and we’ll never stop working for that. But while we’re waiting for our chance to take Trident off the Clyde and implement independent Scottish immigration and social security policies, there’s work we can be getting on with.
Have a read and see what you think. Our report can be read here on our website here.
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Picture courtesy of Women for Independence