A Referendum Road Show – Outline
Scottish Community Alliance
The Scottish Community Alliance is a coalition of the major networks and intermediaries that support Scotland’s community sector (http://www.localpeopleleading.co.uk). The SCA was formed because these networks recognise they have a shared agenda around the empowerment of local communities. This paper outlines one of the projects that the Alliance’s membership has committed itself to delivering.
There is a danger that the debate around Scotland’s most contentious political and constitutional issue in living memory will be contained within the sterile environment of television studios and the parliamentary chambers of Westminster and Holyrood. In response to this legitimate concern, the establishment figures within ‘civil society’ – SCVO, various think tanks, the churches, STUC etc – have moved to extend that debate into a wider national discussion which they have called The Future of Scotland. Whether or not they are successful in stimulating that discussion within their respective memberships, we can be fairly confident that it will not extend to the average man/woman in the street. The general population will be left to make what they can of the respective arguments for and against independence (and everything in between) from whichever media outlets they care to use.
Scottish Community Alliance wishes to coordinate a national road show of ‘events’ designed to explore what all the various options on the table would actually mean for the daily lives of Scotland’s communities and whether they would lead to the realisation (or otherwise) of local plans and aspirations. It would be crucial that this initiative was not perceived in any way to be advocating any particular side of the argument – simply encouraging that debate and exploring what lies behind some of the rhetoric. The road show would operate at a variety of levels but predominantly and ideally it would take place at the most local level possible – the village hall, the miners’ welfares, the mothers and toddler groups at the local community centre. The precise format of how the events would run has still to be established but one idea is that there should be two tiers of event – one being a series of larger scale events with focus either on a particular theme (housing, health, education etc) and the other being much more local with a focus on specifically local priorities ( a community plan) so that the invited speakers are required to contextualise the arguments (as opposed to just run through the well-rehearsed and more general arguments) It will be important that the events are able to explore the real content of the changes that each option would bring. It is vital that those who vote are not just approving or disapproving a broad principle or a simple transfer of power.
Lesley Riddoch, a well known national broadcaster and political commentator, is keen to become involved and has several ideas as to how it could happen. For instance, each event could be recorded with edited extracts posted through YouTube and other social media which would over time become an evolving pictue of this national discourse. She has indicated she would aim to assemble a ‘stable’ of well-known media folk that would commit to chairing the events, thus adding further profile to the road show programme. This initiative needs to be resourced. It would require a small budget to employ a member of staff (part time) to coordinate the programme of events for the next two years plus a budget to hold the events and to publicise them.