If A Spaceman Came Travelling to Scotland ….
September 8th 2010
I went to an enterprising and illuminating event run by the Scottish Parliament Futures Forum, the Royal Society of the Arts and Barnardos Scotland called ‘Open Thinking’.
Here are the opening thoughts I explored ….
Imagine for a second – that a Martian landed here today amongst us. How would they understand the Scotland and the world they find:
A footballing mad nation – not very good at football – which doesn’t really take it all very seriously – and isn’t very interested at changing things;
A centre-left nation – or a nation that imagines it is a centre-left nation – and yet is scared by poverty and disadvantage – and seems to be happy to put up with a large number of its population – permanently excluded. What kind of centre-left nation is this?
A world where 65 million French people – who our mainstream media – constantly talk of leading ‘an unsustainable social model’ – produce approximately the same amount of wealth as 1.5 billion Chinese people. Why then do we not talk about ‘the French economic miracle’ as much as the Chinese juggernaut?
And where despite 30 years of promoting a certain kind of economic model – economic growth across the developed world of the OECD – has actually slowed down compared to the previous 30 years. This despite all the talk of economic growth, entreprenuership and globalisation.
We face a crisis in Scotland, the UK and globally – which is:
A crisis of our politics;
A crisis of democracy;
A crisis of society;
A crisis of how we do policy and ideas.
Where does Scotland sit in all of this? A society and nation which I have enormous optimism and hope for.
One could summarise some of the characteristics of public life as:
a) It is still shaped across large aspects of society by institutional gatekeepers and vested interests;
b) The same groups and personnel who knew how to work the networks of influence and access pre-devolution – are the same groups who know how to work the same networks – post-devolution;
c) There is the erosion of our wider public sphere and public goods – through marketisation, privatisation, outsourcing and in the media – hollowing out;
d) We have a middle class centre-left politics – which works for the professional interest groups – and yet a forgotten Scotland we choose to ignore and forget about – of up to one-third of our society;
e) And we have a political culture – which just seems to be sitting waiting for the cuts to happen; being passive, rather than active agents.
And this from our concluding group discussion … Or what I take from it:
What we do about this situation in Scotland is stop giving politicians, institutions and vested interests permission to be the gatekeepers. One could call it – the Scots self-preservation society – cue Michael Caine song in the film ‘The Italian Job’!
And what we the people/peoples of Scotland need to do is create the vessels, spaces and bodies – which we own, have faith and trust in, and which are ‘ours’ rather than that of the system.
This would be a long journey – but beginning by acknowledging this would be a start – and the need for supportive networks, aiding innovators, and embracing and nourishing social and political entrepreneurs. And all of this points to – ultimately – a different idea of social and political change.
Well done to the Barnardos, the Futures Forum and the RSA for hosting this event. Another beginning and opening ….