In these short days and cold dark nights, it’s time for reflection.
The busy frenetic pace of contemporary life, with its whirring 24 hour news cycle and seemingly chaotic often absurdist politics, means that it’s important to stand back and step off the daily grind.
Is this really happening we might ask in incredulity?
In our Resolutions series we asked people from a wide variety of backgrounds and worldviews to give us their reflections on the way forward and the challenges ahead.
What are we doing? Where are we going and how are we getting there?
Responses focus on Scottish issues and wider issues affecting the whole of humanity.
The ideas are hopefully beautifully diverse and disconnected to any single frame of ideological vision. The contributors range from the young and old, the hopeful and the borderline despondent, but all have one thing in common. All suggest that whatever we do we need to find some common bonds, some sense of collective action in order to be effective.
There is also a sense of brokeness. Current responses are failing, they’re not good enough. It’s not just that elite rule has failed, its our response to that failure is also inadequate.
As one suggests:‘Be a realist: demand the impossible.’
Alan Bissett (writer, playwright):
Something I’d like to see happen with reasonable swiftness is a date being set for Indyref2. It feels like the whole Yes movement is on standby, and with support for independence at 49% in a recent poll, the Brexit shambles unfolding before us, and the case for the UK in absolute tatters, we’re all raring to go. A successful Yes vote is our only hope of bringing any kind of control or optimism back into the lives of Scottish people. Without it, we Scots will become further beset by centrifugal economic and political forces which we cannot even begin to influence.
This is because the Scottish independence movement is a local response to an increasingly unstable world. 2017 renewed the threat of nuclear war, and tensions between the USA and North Korea have not gone away. Between this and the looming hazard of climate change, the plastic pollution of our oceans, the rise of fascist parties across the West and an ever-widening class inequality, the future feels truly bleak. What’s more, the global economy is so vast, complex, unpredictable and amoral – and the speed of technological change so profound – that even political authorities have been reduced to staring open-mouthed in awe and confusion. We have been swallowed by our own systems, and have to strengthen local networks ties, bringing compassion back into our communities, to safeguard against indifferent political elites for whom we are either profit or we are nothing.
Now is the time to touch hands with our neighbours and remind ourselves of our common humanity, before humanity itself becomes obselete.
Meaghan Delahunt (writer):
I have a newspaper clipping on the fridge which shows a small woman in a bright red dress standing at the top of a staircase. Below her, climbing the stairs, is the large stooped figure of a man, seen from the back, in shadow. The woman extends her hand in welcome. This photograph always makes me smile. It shows Nicola Sturgeon with David Cameron at Bute House, a couple of years back. But it is more than that. It makes me laugh out loud to think of how prescient the photo seems, on so many levels. It is now history. It speaks of change. David Cameron is no longer UK Prime Minister. His arrogance and complacency – his version of ‘toxic masculinity’ – put paid to that. There is something in this old photograph I’ve kept which seems emblematic of 2017 and which embodies my hopes for both Scotland, the world and women in particular for the coming year.
What I really hope for in this post-Weinstein world is a re-evaluation of power and what ‘powerful’ actually means. I hope that in politics, workplaces and homes across the country that the narcissistic bully boy will finally be held to account. And that this job won’t always be seen as women’s work. That men will step forward too. Above all, I hope that the small, the bright and the female will perservere and stand as a beacon, a talisman almost, against the large dark shadows ranged against us.
Brian Quail (peace activist):
Next year will be an awful milestone in my life. I will be 80, well beyond my biblically allotted three score and ten, so I’m getting pretty desperate. After the disaster of the 2014 referendum, at first I tried the philosophical approach. You know the sort of thing – “I may not live to see it, but my children surely will”. Then I thought; “Sod it. I want it now.” This attitude has hardened.
I want Scottish law and the government to affirm the illegality of Trident. And I want – desperately – to see a declaration of independence, and the adoption of a written constitution banning all nuclear weapons from Scottish land and waters. And I want to raise a glass – or six – of the amber fluid as the last Vanguard submarine sails away to the breakers yard.
All the other boring stuff – finance, economic plans, prosperity, educational improvements, etc. I am happy to leave to the experience and wisdom of my fellow Scots. I have confidence in them. They will undoubtedly exhibit at least as much competence as they do now, under the constraints of London rule.
I also want an end to the lunacy of Brexit and the whole pantomime of Unionjackery that goes with it – the vile xenophobia and blatant racism that characterises British nationalism.
I want to see reforms of the EU. It must abandon the pursuit of neo-liberal economics and return to the vision of a social Europe that inspired its founders.
Dougie Strang (writer):
I went for a long walk in October, west and north from Strathspey to Sutherland. I was surprised, along the way, by the extent of young, native woodland in some of the glens and straths.
After centuries of deforestation, Scotland’s tree cover is increasing. The Scottish Government’s Climate Change Bill supports that increase, with the aim that woodland will constitute 25% of land use by 2050. Much of it will be commercial forestry, but a significant portion will be native, broadleaf species.
Not everyone approves. Last year, Mountaineering Scotland teamed up with the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (yeah, really) to voice their concern that such a plan threatens our “dramatic open views and vistas.” They needn’t worry, denuded moorland will still predominate in the Highlands, and a massive over-population of deer will ensure a lack of any natural regeneration. But for those who are interested in the land as more than just an arena for sport, the increase in tree cover is a positive step towards a healthier, more diverse ecology.
I walked through plenty of glens with eroded braes, scant grass, silent lochs, and isolated houses. In the glens that held mixed woodland and pasture, the houses were more sheltered, the lochs echoed birdsong and reflected the autumn colours of the trees. The difference was profound.
I’m not naïve: I know the paradigm we’re gripped in is splintering, and the future is unimaginable. All the more reason, then, to plant more trees in 2018 – that we might begin to see the wood for them; that the habitats they create might become homes for returning birds, and all of us other creatures.
Naomi O’Leary (journalist):
I hope that 2018 will be the year the tide turns on the use of disposable plastic.
It is possible, because the global waste system is about to be thrown into upheaval.
China is the world’s dominant recycler of plastic. Much of the plastic waste produced by the EU and US has been shipped there, until now. But this year, China is abruptly closing its ports to the trade, in a crackdown on “foreign garbage” aimed to improve its pollution problems.
It is unclear where the plastic waste that once went to China will now go. It could be incinerated, dumped in landfill, or go to unscrupulous processors.
But my hope is that as the plastic piles up, it will force us to realise that it shouldn’t be created in the first place.
Plastic may appear cheap and convenient, but this is a deception. Its true burden and costs are merely shifted to the future. In medicine, one-use plastic gloves have a very good justification. But disposable forks, packaging, and bottles, that might be used for just a few minutes before being thrown away, cannot be justified given the environmental damage they do, and the hundreds of years they can take to decompose.
Small policy changes can be transformative. Just a 5 pence charge was enough to make shoppers think twice, and is estimated to have reduced the number of plastic bags used each year in Scotland by 650 million.
May 2018 bring something more ambitious.
Vonny Leclerc (writer):
2017 started with possession and ended with an exorcism. The election of America’s Predator-in-Chief was answered swiftly with a 6 million uprising, with people of all backgrounds standing together in defiance, refusing to capitulate to the horror of what a Trump presidency represents for marginalised people. It was the opening salvo of a year where women far beyond America’s borders unequivocally said ‘ENOUGH’. Enough of powerful, predatory men acting with impunity. Enough of everyone else suffering their solipsism.
We started 2017 with our banners and our feet. With our children in prams, on our shoulders, unsure of what lay ahead but determined not to be dragged backwards by the destructive forces asserting themselves in society, greenlighted by those in the highest office. As women, we marched for more than ourselves. We marched for our human rights, for civil rights, for gay rights, for immigrants rights, for environmental, economic and social justice. We marched for all those rejected, ignored and forgotten.
Our collective dismay became anger, and that anger became resistance. Resistance that by year-end had reached across continents, and back through time, as women once more came together in their masses. This time to bare their secrets, their most private of pains, to illustrate the scale of sexual harassment and violence through #METOO. This grassroots movement demanded that we do better by women and girls, and has affected a paradigmatic shift in how we talk about sexual violence. A fitting response to the election of the pussy-grabber, and a lesson in what happens when we believe in the power of our voices and our collective power.
It’s this belief in women, in our individual strengths, our ability to resist and collective capabilities that I want to see carried forward through 2018 and beyond. We’ve seen that in a short space of time women have the power to radically reface society for the better – and we’ve only just begun.
Alastair McIntosh (writer/author/activist):
Forty years ago the Six Nations Council of the Iroquois Confederacy published an address to the Western world. Named A Basic Call to Consciousness, it had been presented the previous autumn to a summit in Geneva of NGOs of the United Nations.
It said: “The act of taking without asking” – the act of colonising entire peoples, and exploiting the Earth – “is attributable to both children and immature cultures alike…. For centuries we have known that each individual’s action creates conditions and situations that affect the world.
The document holds that “spiritual consciousness is the highest form of politics.” If I might riff on that, without the I am of consciousness, there can be no we are. Without an inner psychological life, there can be no outer political life. At least, not one that humanises.
The psyche can be both of individuals, and collectively, like of nations as communities writ large. That, and not just land, must be decolonised. As the Iroquois said: “What is needed is the liberation of all the things that support Life.”
In Greek mythology, Psykhe was the goddess of the soul, the very seat of consciousness. Her consort, Eros, was the god of love.
Our basic call to consciousness in 2018 must be to bravely face the shadows in the psyche of our own and other nations.
To do what we have to do, but keep an open and a truthful heart. To not back others into fighting corners. To cultivate a politics where “Blessed are the merciful….”
Chloé Farand (journalist):
The start of the new year is an opportunity for optimistic speculation. But when it comes to climate change, speculation is just not good enough. We have to want radical change.
We need to be ready to change how we consume, including the way we travel, eat and use energy. The next step for reducing emissions in the atmosphere is a difficult and unpopular one because it will affect the way we live.
But big change does not have to be chaotic and utterly disruptive. In Scotland, a great source of employment still depends on the oil and gas industry and only with careful planning can we achieve the transition to a low carbon economy without abandoning entire communities.
Now someone has to take the lead. Since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015, climate change has become a geo-political tool to prop up leaders on the world stage. But as countries multiply announcements, 2018 has to be the year the world quickly turns words into ambitious actions. We have sat for too long watching the clock ticking. Now time has run out.
Donald Trump’s self-imposed isolation has created a climate leadership vacuum many say China is getting ready to fill. Meanwhile the EU, haunted by old nationalist ghosts, suffers from inertia while the UK is too busy diverting resources into Brexit. And yet, communities around the country and the world are providing silver-lining by believing a green society is possible. This year we need to prove we can achieve it.
Sarah Glynn (Organiser with the Scottish Unemployed Workers’ Network):
For a welfare campaigner, 2018 would seem to provide few grounds for optimism. The Tories’ narrowed majority has only given added urgency to their determination to transform the welfare state from a system of social security to a mechanism for social control. But defence of the poorest and most vulnerable, and of the very notion of social security, can act as a rallying cry for building a progressive force.
Support for foodbanks and charities demonstrates that people care. A plethora of articles and blogs demonstrate that the government has failed in its attempt to stigmatise people on benefits. Austerity is increasingly being acknowledged as a political choice rather than a necessity. And interest in Universal Basic Income trials shows people are prepared to look forward to an alternative where we are no longer defined by our paid labour. Put all these things together, and we have the potential for a mass movement that combines practical action with political awareness and demands for radical change – and that addresses problems well beyond welfare.
For this to become a hope, and not just a dream, requires a conscious and constant building of connections; connections between practical actions and theoretical politics, and also connections between all the different campaigns – on issues ranging from equal rights to climate change – that ultimately demand the reversal of neoliberal capitalism. Before neoliberalism became accepted as the natural order of things it was regarded as a marginal idea – proving that understandings can change and raising hopes that neoliberalism itself can be sent back to the margins.
Jamie Maxwell (journalist):
In 2017 I learned that hope is overrated and probably futile, that power is never truly accountable, and that the people you admire politically will all ultimately disappoint you. So this year, rather than expecting things to get better, I am braced for them to get worse. Faced with the responsibilities of an office he doesn’t want and barely understands, Trump is going to become more volatile and aggressive, until eventually every major American city is in flames.
Meanwhile, Theresa May will go on haemorrhaging authority to the Brexit nationalists on the hard right of her party but avoid, for as long as she conceivably can, being forced to call another election. In Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon will have to decide how to respond to the challenge posed by an unexpectedly revived leftwing Labour party. She can either a) stick to her current trajectory, and manage the slow decline of the SNP as an electoral force in the hope of securing a few more (largely aimless) years in power or b) rediscover her initial insurgent social democratic identity, and use it to develop a vision of independence that is unapologetically bold and polarising. We’ll get a clearer sense of her thinking when Andrew Wilson’s Growth Commission reports back in the coming weeks.
Given Wilson’s day job – which is, quite literally, to lobby the Scottish Government on behalf of various private sector interests – I am not, as you might have guessed, massively optimistic.
Kirsty Strickland (columnist):
The most important lesson of 2017 was that it is unwise to make predictions. However, one thing we can forecast with confidence is that things are not going to calm down. This is our new normal.
In the year ahead I’d like to see senior politicians conduct themselves in a way which is befitting of their office. When they make a mistake, there should be an acknowledgement of what they’ve done, as well as an apology. This is a minimum standard that we too often saw ignored in 2017, as a consequence of the instability of our political climate.
If a minister misleads parliament, or if their ineptitude endangers a British citizen imprisoned abroad: they should be held accountable.
In 2018, there should be fewer free passes. It’s not good enough to permit previously sack-able behaviour simply because sticking to the usual standards means that May’s government might implode.
We’ve come to associate the Conservatives with their reckless tendency to put party before country. The year ahead will undoubtedly present challenges in that vein. Theresa May can’t afford any more high profile resignations or cabinet sackings. She’s in the unenviable position of having to keep the boat stable even when Boris Johnson is drilling holes in it and David Davis has thrown away the oars.
Without lowering standards or turning a blind eye to misbehaving ministers, it is difficult to see how Theresa May will get through this year with her cabinet intact.
With Brexit set to dominate another political year, the only thing we can be absolutely certain of is that everything remains uncertain.
Mhairi Douglas (activist):
2018 needs to be the year we step out of the shadows and out of the silos. Feminists, socialists, republicans, environmentalists, peace campaigners, democrats: we all need to stand together and act with a collective urgency. Yes we need to fight for Scottish independence – and to do this we need to be able to take on the British State. But to do this we need to act with maximum solidarity.
This means broadening our horizons, being open to new ideas and ways of working and avoiding repeating the same ways of organising, the same ways of talking, the same ways of protesting, because these ways have failed us.
Our Resolution must be a shared one, a collective one, to be open to new ways and determined to show love and solidarity and respect in our common struggle against the forces that are destroying us and our world. There is inspiration all around us.
‘Oh dear me, the warld’s ill-divided,
Them that work the hardest are the least provided’
Mary Brooksbank’ moving wee song of the mill girls is a Ne’er Day favourite — one that arouses mixed emotions. Fond memories of my Dundee jute mill ‘halfie’ gt-granny and an anger that for so many the struggle to survive and bring up a bairn in poverty is still with us in Scotland today.
Fifty years ago, in May ’68, across Scotland, Europe and the world there was a youthful optimism that it didn’t have to be this way. A better world was possible, a humane and human alternative to global capitalism. It was a spring of ideas, aspiration and vision. There was an exhilarating sense of it in Scotland 2014 in the lead up to IndyRef1. It is a mood of optimism we need to recapture again.
2018 also marks the 150th anniversary of the birth in Edinburgh of James Connolly, the Irish revolutionary increasingly recognised as one of the most perceptive and innovative thinkers on the common cause of nation and class. As his earliest writings in Edinburgh illustrate, along with his later work in Ireland, Connolly had an intuitive awareness of the need for a national liberation movement to be rooted in subaltern history and grounded in national culture.
As the time for IndyRef2 approaches it would be no bad thing if the significance of these commemorative moments were drawn on to galvanise the pro-independence movement across a united front and in a common cause. To evoke the spirit of ’68 and the boldness of Connolly: ‘Be a realist: demand the impossible.’
Two images from 2017 inform my hopes for 2018, which are for the pushback against Brexit and the momentum behind #MeToo to effect real world change. The first was the image of mostly young men chanting “blood and soil” as part of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia – an event which cost three people their lives. The second was an election poster for the Eurospectic, populist Alternative For Germany, now the third largest party in the Bundestag. “Burkas? We prefer bikinis” read the slogan pasted over the behinds of two barely-clad young women. By weaving Islamaphobia and sexism, AfG doubled down on both – and made them sexy too.
Supremacist ideas have long brewed on the parts of the internet known as the manosphere, a place relationships with women are reduced to conquest strategies and politics to reaction. It’s all been there for years, gaining recruits from insecure young men. Look at the Men Going Their Own Way threads and subReddits if you doubt the huge swell of resentment to #MeToo. And to last year’s Ghostbusters film. And to the next Doctor being a woman.
Last year The Daily Beast uncovered former US Rep. Robert Fisher as the creator of The Red Pill, a subReddit where chat about females as having “sub-par intelligence” is par for the course. Alt-right poster boy Milo Yiannopoulos was a regular contributor.
The Red Pill describes itself as existing “in a culture increasingly lacking a positive identity for men.” But what positive identity? That must come from those thoughtful and humble enough to see the weight of responsibility in that question.
David Whyte (writer):
Anyone looking for an anniversary to mark this year should ignore the traditional jingoism that will surely accompany the centenary of the 1918 armistice and instead read John Maclean’s Speech From the Dock. Accused of sedition for his anti-war agitation, Maclean stood in the Edinburgh High Court Dock in May 1918 “as the accuser of capitalism dripping with blood from head to foot”. Reading it today, speech reminds us how little we have progressed and of how we still need to strive “for the benefit of society, not for any individual human being.”
My hopes for 2018 are in the spirit of MacLean’s speech, but most probably would have been regarded as modest on the day he stood in court.
• A Europe that does not jail democratic political opponents for sedition.
• A Britain that does not starve or freeze people to death in the name of austerity.
• A Scotland that does not allow people in the East End of Glasgow to die 10 years earlier than people in the West End of Glasgow.
We are living through a period of dramatic political change that is once again generating a growing divide between the rich and poor at a pace perhaps not seen since Maclean’s time. But it is in the same conditions of social and political upheaval that we also find hope for more human aspirations. As Maclean argued in that speech, the most basic lesson of history is that “society moves forward as a consequence of an under-class overcoming the resistance of a class on top of them.” Weakening the bloated and bankrupt elite that controls our economic and political system remains our best hope for 2018.
With the distressing range of international issues which face the world in 2018, is our focus on independence too self-centred? No: independence is our direct route to the rest of the world and also wherever we are on the planet, we all have some obligation to improve our patch. Internationally what an independent Scotland can contribute for good may be modest but certainly not insignificant. It is right that independence should be our focus. While 2018 is not the year for a referendum, 2019/20 is. The indy movement should set their sites on this time-scale. This needs to be the year of preparation and inspiration.
A few months into 2018 we need to have a detailed transition to independence plan, we need local and national campaign structures in place and the research to inform our strategy. These are substantial tasks but they will be rewarding if they give us a clear set of objectives. But there also needs to be plenty of space in the year for the creative and inspirational ideas for independence. In international affairs the new UN Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons has opened up an important potential role for Scotland. The EU situation deserves a serious debate about the European structures we would like to see Scotland promote rather than the deferential and uncritical approach of which we have seen too much . And let’s get a new version of National Collective/Artists for Indy up and running.