The referendum on Scottish independence was the catalyst for a tidal wave of enlightenment that transformed the country's political climate; suddenly, those who once found political arguments dull and difficult to comprehend were debating with their peers, sticking posters on their windows and rallying against the broken neoliberal agenda that continues to underpin and steer the Tory driven British establishment. Everyday people found themselves highlighting the damage that austerity measures and destructive capitalist policies have had on communities across the nation. For me, the most electrifying spell of the referendum campaign was in its final months: for that period, it seemed like everyone was an activist. You could literally feel the enthusiasm in the air - progressives from all backgrounds were bursting with excitement at the prospect of a social revolution by ballot box.
In the end, 55% of the electorate may have voted to remain in the union - but the vibe and growing culture of social participatory politics that the referendum created is here to stay: and that is why I am confident that a radical upheaval and transformation of our current political climate and its regurgitation of policies bred by inequality is inevitable. The cultural landscape in Scotland is shifting further to the left - quickened by each report of Westminster corruption, expenses irregularities or downright elitist preference from a swarm of champagne guzzling, out of touch toffs. The party of government, the Scottish National Party (SNP), are speaking leftist rhetoric; having carefully reconstructed their image as a single issue party to one that now claims to be the populist voice of the increasing anti-austerity feeling in Scotland. Whilst their track record does not match their new image: any party taking steps towards implementing more socially just policy should be encouraged - but, in the end, those of the socialist left should be mindful that they are a capitalist party, with a number of concerning links to big business. Try lobbying for public transport reforms when renowned homophobe and Stagecoach chairman Brian Souter has been (generously) financially supporting the party. That's not to slate the SNP: its simply being realistic, and if more of us could engage with that thought process then we'd have a much healthier political climate.
It's important, then, that there be a genuine left movement that can cohabit with the dominant parties and take seats in Holyrood. Despite the desperate appeals claiming otherwise from some red rose activists - that isn't the Scottish Labour Party. They may jump on the coattails of Corbynmania and ride it out, but do not be mistaken in believing that just because a left revival is brewing for UK Labour (with all of the internal battles and problems intact, that is), that its Scottish counterpart will follow suit.
So where do we stand? Where can those socialist voices disillusioned by the SNP and finished with Labour call home? Thankfully, activists and campaigners from across the Scottish left just drafted a fresh chapter in the history books. A new electoral alliance, RISE, was launched this past weekend. Consisting primarily of the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) and the Scottish Left Project (SLP), RISE is a collective that is pieced together by a host of campaigns, activists and voices of the radical left.
Following the Podemos model, RISE is set firmly on a path of introducing a new style of politics into Scotland - underpinned by democracy and a movement that represents the millions, as opposed to the millionaires. Positions already sound promising: elected representatives will take the average workers' wage, there is talk of term limits to avoid careerism, and - when it comes to funding - there will be no corporate backing, thus no ulterior string pulling. Democratic RISE meetings that have been held across Scotland over the last few months have raised some real interesting ideas: public ownership, democracy in action, strengthening the emphasis on equality movements.
The name itself - with all of its connotations of resistance and collective strength - is an acronym, which highlights the four pillars that will act as the movement's focus points: Respect, Independence, Socialism and Environmentalism. Personally, I'm excited. This alliance could not have come at a better time. Obviously, there have been accusations that it will unnecessarily split the independence vote - but this simply emphasises the singular narrative that many in Scotland have found themselves entrenched in: independence first and foremost, everything else comes second. Not only is this naive, it's dangerous. Scotland may not receive its independence for another ten or twenty years: in the meantime, there's an awful lot that has to be done - and are we going to give an incredible amount of power and trust to a single party for that duration? I'd hope that we are sharper than that.
My position is this: we have to build the left now - not after independence. Its vitally important that we do; thereafter, an independent Scotland with an already strong, organised and electorally represented left fringe will be in much better stead. With regards to 2016, we should be hoping for a rainbow parliament - albeit with a plural majority of seated MSPs committed to achieving independence - as that's how Holyrood works best; if we continue to allow for single party domination time and time again, then we run a real risk of ending up ruled by just another comfortable political elite with no opposition or parliamentary accountability - only in Edinburgh this time.
Let RISE fill that void, and give it a chance. Don't wipe them out just yet - wait, follow their campaign trail and you'll see that they're a very much needed breath of fresh air. And, when it comes to your second ballot in May - RISE with us for a better Scotland.