We dedicate this issue of the Scottish Left Review to the idea of ‘Common Weal’. Common Weal is a phrase which was developed by the Jimmy Reid Foundation to describe a set of policy approaches to the governance of Scotland.
You can find more detail about the Common Weal Project the Foundation is running in the article by Foundation Director Robin McAlpine in this issue. And we open this issue by reprinting the Foundation discussion document that kicked the whole process off.
But at the heart of this issue we ask a number of Scotland’s leading writers and thinkers to say what a Common Weal vision would mean to them, to think about what we should include in such a vision and to think about what it might look like in practice. We think the results are inspiring and uplifting.
In some ways this is unsurprising. The poltical debate in Scotland has become more than a little dispiriting. There is too much name-calling, too much vitriol, too many accussations, far too much assertion and far too little thinking.
That it still manages to be better than the political debate at the UK level is more dispiriting still. Anyone who has seen the clip of Labour backbencher Simon Danczuk debating welafer with Owen Jones will wonder what is happening south of the border. Is that the Labour guy saying ‘we are the party of self reliance’?
So in comparison to this, anything might sound inspiring. But there is more to it than that. We have ended up in a situation where one political ideology has become so dominant that it infects and controlls almost every aspect of our lives. It has created a society of low-pay and high-profit, functionality and greed. And this society is clearly at odds with what people want for their society. Forget the American Dream of ‘anyone can become anything’, the British Dream is becoming ‘can I make it through the month?’.
So when Ruth Wishart writes about the importance of culture in society and how it can shape our politics, it feels fresh and new. When Lesley Riddoch outlines what is ‘normal’ in a Nordic nation, we gasp in surprise. When Jim Mather proposes that stone-age attitudes to business leadership get us nowhere, we nod, virtually relieved.
Still, this stuff has been written and said before. In 1997, London was full of ‘progressives’ who wanted to change the architecture of UK politics. What happened to them? They were crushed under the unrelenting power of commercial vested interests and the right-wing media.
Does the same fate await Common Weal? Pehaps. No-one should be naive enough to believe that being right or being popular is the same as being politically successful.
But now is a good time to try. If this issue of Scottish Left Review is anything, it is a call for you to get involved and see if we can’t make some real change happen. We urge you to go to www.scottishcommonweal.org and get started. We hope to see you there.