In Defence of “Advocacy for Political Independence for a Particular Country” – Essay

‘Social fields which are, in their essence, arenas for recognition of certain forms of value can become borders to be defended; representations or media of value become numinous powers in themselves; creation slips into commemoration; the ossified remains of liberatory movements can end up, under the grip of states, transformed into what we call “nationalisms” which are either mobilized to rally support for the state machinery or become the basis for new social movements opposed to them.” – David Graeber – Fragments of An Anarchist Anthropology (2004)

 

Scotland is a country. While this may seem like a tediously obvious statement, it appears to be something that is frequently lost in the minds of those who oppose the idea that Scotland should be a politically autonomous state in a fashion similar to most countries that are defined by the parameters of statehood. Nation-states compose the world as we understand it, these variant ‘social fields’ (to use Graeber’s anthropological terminology) have formed with innumerable variety of causation, some organic, internal and self-confident others messily constructed by the dominance, disintegration and imposition of foreign powers.

The ‘recognised forms of value’ that abstractly afford Scotland a perception of itself as a nation affords it an identity that differentiates it from other countries within and outwith the United Kingdom. As such, this perception of ourselves is not a vague proposition but something that is validated by an international recognition of these forms of value which enable people the world over to understand that Scotland possesses a distinct identity that forces us to name it so that we can conceptually identify and differentiate it from other countries.

The other nations that compose The United Kingdom hold perceptions of nationhood derived from ‘recognised forms of value’ that enforce the consensual perpetuity of the notion of being English or Welsh or Northern Irish, which in turn differentiates them from every other territory in the union and wider world.

David Graeber’s precise explanation of how “nationalisms” are identified in the realms of anthropological study succinctly demonstrates that the means and intent of any given nationalism is contextually nuanced, defined by the values by which it is identified by itself and others and its interaction with the external forces with home allegiance is sought. Once this is understood, the tacit autonomy that is manifest in a given cultural logic that creates the climate for a people to identify a country as theirs becomes a more complex proposition when discussed in terms of nationalism.

In the circles that I move in ‘nationalism’ is a dirty word, so much so that people who are actively nationalist fail to recognise themselves as just that. The logic this misapprehension is understandable, many groups and organisations that have identified as ‘nationalist’ in modern British history have come from the extreme right, taking inspiration and influence (at times unwittingly) from the ghosts of early twentieth-century European Fascism thus forcing many to err towards a definition as found in The Oxford English Dictionary:

 

“An extreme form of patriotism marked by a feeling of superiority over other countries”

 

The public opponents of Scottish Independence deliberately emphasised this particular definition of the word, spitting it through their teeth with venom as they patronised the people of Scotland with ‘project fear’ on televised debates, interviews, endless partisan newspaper articles and impromptu gatherings atop irn-bru crates.

This project of deliberate decontextulisation of the word ‘nationalism’ was emblematic of the approach to the whole counter argument to the idea that Scotland should be and independent country. The heat of the issue only served to emphasise the true nature of the existing culture of reductive and partisan reportage that our mainstream media functions are guilty of on a day-to-day basis. If we look at another definition of ‘nationalism’ from the same dictionary, the potential applications of the term are immediately and unambiguously expanded;

 

“Advocacy of political independence for a particular country”

 

The separation of these definitions by those who officiate the interpretation of English language is in itself explicitly demonstrative of the fact that this word in question does not possess a singular meaning. This inconvenient fact was wilfully ignored by many who did not want to have to complicate their understanding of the debate beyond its understanding that ‘nationalism is bad’.

What is often lost in the discussion of nationalism is born of a reductive logic that neglects the complexity of language, failing to understand that with any politicised terminology there is a multiplicity of meaning that a single word is used to define.

I make no apology for my nationalism, because my nationalism is not one of superiority, instead it is motivated by a modest desire and I understand very clearly how it differentiates from other nationalisms.

I don’t wave flags, I don’t sing songs, but I do understand that I am from a place, that I hope to become self-governing in an in-hostile fashion.

Nationalism can indeed be, and often is, motivated by an unwarranted, mythologised sense of superiority. However, it is also the word that describes movements for the establishment of independence and the recognition of statehood that are often the subject of celebration all around the world. Iceland’s nationalism allowed it to be free of Denmark’s rule, Norway’s nationalism allowed it to be free of Sweden’s rule, two counties whose values are highly regarded internationally and whose character as independent states is not questioned in the slightest. The struggle of the Palestinian people to be recognised as a state and to protect their land from advancing Israeli settlement is nationalism. The purpose of these comparisons is not to say that the Scottish situation is the same but is employed rather to point out that ‘nationalism’ is a multi-faceted term which only loosely describes a relationship to a place and a culture but is a phenomena that demonstrates great variance in it’s manifestation specific to the historical, political, social and cultural conditions of the region in question. It is not explicitly a term descriptive of hostility to another; it is nationalism which fuels protection against, but also instigates land wars.

Therefore the struggle between the Yes and No camps in last years referendum campaign was not the battle between the concept of ‘unity’ against ‘nationalism’, crudely portrayed by commentators from the left and the right of the British political spectrum,

Instead, what was conveniently divorced from any of the mainstream discourse regarding the matter was that this was a struggle of two opposing forms of nationalism against each other. To make such a complexity widely known would have complicated the debate in a way that would diminish the ease with which voters could be cajoled on to a ‘side’. The case against independence was a demonstration of a mobilisation ‘to rally support for the state machinery’ (Graeber) where the case for independence was a ‘basis for new social movements opposed to them’ (Graeber)

 

 

Despite the reductive bias of reporting on last year’s referendum, it was a moment of great complexity by definition. For the first time in just about any ones life who had lived in this country, a division was created where a plethora of sensibilities were subjected to an event that constituted something culturally traumatic irrespective of the side one took, precisely because the construct and context of nationality is something that defines us all.

As a result, something fundamental about how we interpreted and projected ourselves and how others read Scotland and the United Kingdom or Britain was called in to question as we were allowed to entertain a romanticism, a faith, an optimism and most importantly a political imagination like never before, one which envisaged a restructuring of the institutional structures that contribute to defining our culture.

There was an opportunity to reconstitute these mechanisms to reflect values deviant from those that currently define the establishment that governs from afar with little interest in trying to understand the place or the people whom they have a responsibility to (I would say this is as true of Wales and many parts of England as well as of Scotland). Even for those eternally committed to the idea that Scotland should regain its’ political sovereignty prior to any popular discourse being established couldn’t really believe it was actually happening.

For so long these islands have been defined by the history and traditions of The United Kingdom under the dominance of a largely English ruling-class who benefit form hereditary privilege that our sense of selves are defined by it. Even in opposition, our objections are only ever reactive to a reality that already persists. Nevertheless, the question has been enough to recalibrate our shared relationship to the ideas of value surrounding Scotland and the Union. It is now a very different place from a year or two ago.

After the two-year campaign that led to the 18th of September 2014, a palpable sense of change had accumulated as an idea gathered unprecedented momentum beyond the recognition of even the most seasoned political activists. While the YES movement was unsuccessful at this particular juncture, what was achieved was nothing short of major ground shift in British politics.

A political establishment has been overturned in the demise of the Labour Party in Scotland, and despite an unsuccessful attempt at secession from the UK, a new level of autonomy has been asserted without any significant transformation of our political institutions.

Irrespective of these shifts, the spectre of Thatcher’s old mantra, “there is no alternative” looms large both in the defeat of the independence agenda and in a general narrative of government which refuses to entertain alternatives to the systems that define their power.

With an establishment unsettled by renewal of political imagination and the rhetoric of vision outwith a mould of their making, security and stability of an existing political and more importantly economic model were the vague propositions that anyone with any sense should understand to be fragile constructions of the mind at best.

The essence of Thatcher’s mantra was crucial in establishing a ‘rhetoric of fear’ that prevented many from committing to any new possibility that independence would promote, many people struggled to entertain any notion that things could be done differently and that propositions they may not understand could potentially be better than what they know.

Such failures of comprehension are symptomatic of our stunted political discourse, where a lack of opposing philosophies from the main parties force many to believe the path that we are on is the only path possible.

The movement for Independence is not about blood and soil, it is not an experiment in building utopia, indeed we would still be living under the mercy of international neo-liberal financial structures The diversity of voices that sustained the movement during the campaign were demonstrative of this point. What was up for grabs was the means by which we could chose to navigate and hopefully challenge such institutions on terms that were defined by an uncompromised Scottish electorate.

This refusal of ideological and rhetorical diversity is used to restrict the parameters of discourse of all kinds as it actively simplifies the terms of debate. Demonstrative of this is the lack of opposition at work within the pantomime bluster of political debate within the House of Commons. It shows a lack of consciousnes on part of many of our so-called representatives.

When a population is preoccupied with the drama of political framework that deliberately distances itself by engineering disinterest, why would one expect anyone of import to question the fundamental institutional structure? Why would they entertain any will that would compromise the cosiness of such a framework?

Cynically speaking, I am not convinced that the defenders of the union actually believed in what it is supposed to represent as an idea because they are so defined by its’ custom and its’ historic privilege that they no longer understand it as an idea to be fought for. Instead they fought to preserve their perceived power. A general lack of ideas highlighted the hypocrisy that originated from the establishments’ failure to entertain a sophisticated understanding of nationalism in its’ defence of the union.

As the idea of independence gained momentum a rhetoric of ownership was deployed by unionists to scare the undecided from entering a new space, just as the unionists had completely manipulated and misunderstood the nuanced meaning of the word ‘nationalism’, they refused to interrogate their own ideas about themselves and so they could not offer anything new. They did not turn a critical or self-reflective eye on the meaning of the UK even when it was under threat of potential non-existence, in a refusal to interrogate its’ fundamental character.

Figures such as Jim Murphy, Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling among others consistently pre-faced their arguments with explicitly nationalistic statements exclaiming that they were “proud to be Scottish”, they spoke of patriotism and flags, they spoke about entitlement to the land, claiming their streets from the nationalists with unintended irony. Such traditionally, emotive, nationalist rhetoric was not espoused by the figureheads of the independence movement with the same readiness or zeal because it was not on these terms that they sought political sovereignty of a parliament that would represent the people of Scotland.

Talk of Britain’s Greatness was woven in to the attacks to soften the edges as we were reminded of everything “we’ve achieved together” in the total absence of new ideas. This exceptionalism we have supposedly “achieved together” should be an embarrassment to the contemporary Briton, but instead is perpetually fed to the public by goons like the aforementioned as a virtuous ‘shared British value’.

National defence is one example that can be seen as a cornerstone of the utmost importance in structuring this prevailing political logic focussed on greatness because Britain has no conscience, no modesty and a historically persistent sense of entitlement. Britain’s greatness is a fundamentally aggressive, expansionist project that has discarded the aspirations of political correctness and manipulated the logic of its’ language to twist the word ‘defence’ in to shorthand for ‘war’ and ‘invasion’.

Because a public that is constantly reminded of the importance of ‘tolerance’ – the virtue of a designated authority exercising patience with those who are marginalised by their difference an exclusion from privilege – wouldn’t much sympathise with the connotations implied by the true meanings behind this short hand. In all fairness, any minor collateral threat that occurs on British soil as a result of these ‘defensive’ aggressions overseas in resource rich lands, with complex histories and inferior military infrastructure is included in this modern redefinition of the word ‘defence’.

These values are the values of a nationalism that is completely different from the modesty of what Scottish nationalism hoped to achieve. It is precisely why I make no apology for my nationalism because any support of the maintenance of the union is the support of the maintenance of an essentially hostile, xenophobic institutional structure that is incapable of reform because it values it’s own obscenity so much.

For me this made Independence a moral issue, we would be small, self-organised with leaders who were not geographically and culturally removed but readily accessible to pressurise to hold accountable. There was an aspiration for social cohesion in a form that is alien to the politicians who currently run Westminster, we would not have a military effective enough to conduct projects of aggression such as we have seen in Iraq and Afghanistan in recent decades and throughout history.

These crimes against humanity are inextricable from the definitive values of Britain’s political institutions and therefore any defence of this Union, regardless of whether or not you abhor the violence of our state mechanisms is nothing more than an expression of support for those who perpetuate these values. To not reject the union as it stands is to support a very bloody nationalism whether you mean to or not. But this is precisely the kind of inconvenient, discursive complexity that was deliberately ignored in the mainstream debate that concentrated on little other than status and money. One cannot selectively extract the more likeable parts of the union and disregard other elements at their convenience to satisfy a rosy picture of co-operation between nations. You cannot separate the logic of aggressive foreign policy that has been a persistent feature of our governments for centuries but when the economic fear mongering is deployed people are swift to not concern themselves with the reality that the United Kingdom is an international aggressor and refuse that there is any moral or ethical underpinning to the question that was presented.

However, this explicitly nationalistic, essentially racist logic is viewed by many as a virtue thanks to the relentless Queen and Country spectacle and valorisation of ‘heroes’ who sacrifice their bodies and minds for masters who care little for them.

The media’s failure to condemn the activities of barbarism perpetuated in the name of the British state, breeds an ambient xenophobia permitting people who live relatively comfortable lives to indulge in casual armchair or bar room foreign policy as they navigate carefully constructed narratives constructed by the consensus of players in a microcosm of political influence whose distance from wider, more diverse culture of the constituency it claims to serve.

The mainstream left-leaning liberal press is as complicit in this operation as it’s seemingly opposed conservative rivals, the seductiveness of their weekend colour supplements supports the bourgeois blend of passivity and protectionism where superficial lifestyles are valued over any engaged interest in political discourse. Short memories are wilfully exploited to maintain a consensus where long term struggles and projects for positive societal improvement are jeopardised as people dogmatically strive to do what’s ‘good for the economy’ – a shorthand for ‘what’s good for ME, NOW’. With no knowledge or awareness of the myriad abstractions of thought which renders so-called pragmatism nonsensical as the selective sub-set of thought of the pseudo-science, heavily laden with ideological projection is deified to extend the merits of a socially Darwinist logic which worryingly defines Westminster’s political discourse, a discourse that has been protected by a fear of doing something ourselves and a fear that capitalists would no longer want the money we have.

 

 

We cannot change what has happened in the past but we can affect its interpretation. It would be impossible for Scotland to retrogress to pre-union conditions (despite the claims of some high-profile unionists) and no one wanted this.

If the country becomes independent, it will have no choice but to structure itself in a progressive fashion because the blueprint of contemporary politics in the developed world would permit the space for little else.

There would have been inevitable turmoil in transition but such occurrences are as much a feature of the ‘stability’ that was used as a stick to beat the Scottish electorate in 2014 as they are of active change. The ‘unforeseen’ financial crisis of 2008 was a symptom of stability, but again such truths inconvenience the reductive logic of brow beating.

In a culture where party leaders can hardly keep their job if they lose an election those in power who perpetuate the retrogressive social policy and neo-liberal economic dogmatism we are all suffering from across the British Isles would have lost their legitimacy, space for different ideas would open up as they had failed to keep the age-old kingdom together an opportunity would have been created for the remaining United Kingdom that had not been there had the Yes movement succeeded last year.

The United Kingdom is old, it panders to an elite with long-standing economic interests, it is an international aggressor that cannot dissolve its’ feudalistic symbology. We are granted our limited democracy by a Monarch who is the head of state and the head of the Church of England and therefore is a Christian God’s representative on earth. We have lords and judges who wear wigs, we celebrate death because her majesty’s military is so important to expressing the greatness of the ruling elite as every publicly owned civically constructive institution that was built in the short window of history where wider social responsibilities set the agenda are dismantled. This will not change on the Kingdom’s own terms.

I want no part in it. I never have.

If the Union were truly a progressive idea, power and wealth would not be so concentrated in one part of England. The information technologies and transport infrastructure we have could be used diversify our political discourse by having a mobile parliament which held sessions in a variety of locations throughout the constituent nations of the union, forcing journalists to travel and hopefully breaking the stranglehold of bourgeois metropolitan cultural authority as ignored regions were viewed once again to be of some relevance to the conversation.

But this will never happen because a fundamental lack of vision defines the powers that be and as long as the democratic deficit persists at the hands of the southern most counties on this island the electorate in Scotland will be limited in what it can do in it’s own power to assert any shared value it may have deviant from the values asserted by the current ruling class.

 

 

But what does advocacy of independence mean for artists? What has been the effect of this event, of the proliferation of this idea on the potentialities of contributing to our cultural fabric in Scotland and Britain and indeed the wider World?

As an artist the referendum has forced upon me a maturity that I feel would have taken longer to acquire had I not lived through such an event. We reflect the culture we live in one way or another, we can not extricate ourselves from it we depend on there being some commonality of language that permits a viewer the space to attempt to read work on the terms of the maker. Artists make it their business to trade in ideas, ideas that are constructed from the type of critical reflection on the world and the self that the mainstream media consensus actively prevented from entering the discursive space, especially during the Scottish Independence Referendum.

During the propaganda assault, the potency of bias in journalistic culture as a whole became more transparent. I understood more than ever that such media was only ever an instrument of someone else who had an interest to serve or to protect. While I knew this, I did not understand how hurtful it could be having never been so blatantly on the sharp end of the stick and as I continue to benefit from the innate privileges of being a educated white man in a western European country I empathise much more with those who suffer from a perpetual structural bias in culture and politics.

None of my work has been explicitly about the events leading up the referendum on September 18th 2014 but the battle of wills and cultural trauma that it invoked has profoundly changed something inside of me. I harbour resentment for public figures where my disdain has been galvanised in to hatred. This is not a hatred born of being denied something I wanted, although I would be lying if I didn’t confess to this being a contributing factor.

This is a hatred of men and women who have deliberately set out to deny me and everyone else who makes their home in Scotland an increase in the value of their political agency, who have denied us access to more accountable public representatives, who have denied us the dignity of making decisions for ourselves all to preserve their own interests, not only at the expense of the people of Scotland but the people of the British isles and in many other places around the world. And they have done this by obscuring and re-directing meaning, manipulation of narrative of truth by actively concealing the complexities of any given discussion to perpetuate their undeserved privileges. But, in turn they have affected something positive by exposing their fear mongering and half-truths in ways that had never appeared so transparent.

For sometime now we have suffered a cultural malaise to which there seems little of an answer; there is lethargy in our political and material culture we owe in part to the cynicism of our leaders, there has been a slowing of radical innovation that betrays a culture of aspiration that drove the post-war landscape prior to the onset of neo-liberal consensus. As remote as it may seem from some peoples day to day lives, political agendas have a significant impact on all of us.

The opinions and actions of our leaders send tremors rippling through our societies that manifest so differently from the words that are used to describe them to sell the idea. The discontent of those worse affected by a governments agenda will inevitably present itself to those less affected by the wretchedness and anger that is put upon the most deprived and oppressed members of our society. The seemingly mundane administrative abstractions of governmental ideology produce consequence rarely experienced by those privileged enough to affect wider socio-economic conditions but rather the more immediate neighbours of the dispossessed who are inevitably blamed as the tenuous abstractions of government distance themselves from responsibility and empathy.

The excitement, enjoyment and energy of the campaigns for and against Scottish independence were so engaging because the imposition of mainstream political consensus was broken, there was something at stake, something that seemed to count for something on the table.

This opportunity created a space for a hope that before had been an alien concept. A consequence of this hope experienced on the YES side was an unprecedented exhibition of creativity on a multitude of levels. A year on it is hard to tell what effect the Referendum and the subsequent political turmoil has had on the artistic culture of Scotland.

As an artist, I am not interested in the specificities of conversations that are the preserve of an insular art world but in viewing how such endeavours as those of an artist can engage in discussions that traverse other fields of discourse. It’s okay to be wrong at times because we should only ever be learning from our creative pursuits, but what is required to sustain such journeys fundamentally is confidence.

During the campaigning period voices were heard in ways that had not been heard before. There was an out pouring of creativity as many found the confidence to be creative, people momentarily became artists, many who hadn’t been before, the campaign provided a focus and a conviction that hadn’t existed before for so many people.

The languages of activism and protest were integrated with an artistic spirit at times that sustained evermore momentum as people actually allowed themselves to enjoy a communal experience, enjoy the hope and activity of working towards creating something new with what surrounded them (A particular favourite being the street performance of Matt Lygate welcoming Labour MP’s off the train from Glasgow’s Central Station). Despite the temporality of these events, it is not as simple as to assume that in the event of the NO vote that such spirits have been put in their box. A change in a wider cultural attitude has been affected and I have no doubt that those who had the tenacity to share their hopes on the streets feel that there efforts were a waste of time. They have entered a space of aspiration and imagination galvanised by the fury with which their opponents tried to stop them.

 

 

We are so bombarded with information, images, narratives that as individuals what one does on our own will only ever seem inconsequential to the population with which we construct our respective cultures because they are only ever an accumulative events formed by semi-conscious consensus.

To achieve anything of importance, confidence is required to demonstrate to others the value of what you think should be said through music, theatre, literature or art. Scotland is now more politicised than it has been for generations because there is an idea to gather round which was not there before.

This is an idea that some embrace and others fear, an idea that demonstrates its’ power by meaning something different to almost everyone who entertains it and implicit in the idea for those who choose to accept it as something worth striving for is an inherent confidence which emboldens us to continue to refuse the turgid and dated values our current political landscape offers with its lack of possibilities for anything new.

The malaise that the YES movement resisted gives birth to an idiocy which accepts the present consensus as a symptom of a sort of historical stasis, it compounds an end times type attitude that nothing can or should change, a nothing happens anymore position which many seek refuge in as they refuse the essentially unpredictable, chaotic nature of existence and the possibility that a life, never mind a society could be structured differently from it’s present state.

I believe that this attitude condemns Scotland to be culturally infantilised by its membership of the United Kingdom, the dominant voice does not come from the people who live here but from those who assert it from afar. What interest do I have or should I have in a London-centric media when I do not live there? What credence should I afford a cultural authority that is asserted from a metropolitan centre that fails to recognise when it is only talking to itself about itself under the misapprehension that what is being discussed holds the weight of meaning beyond the geographic or conceptual boundaries where it is established?

There is an inherent neglect for the voices that lie outwith this space demonstrated by the common designation of ‘regions’ with their assumed and enforced dependence on the authority of a metropolitan centre where demonstrations of ones own ‘regional’ identity is marked as some kind of amusing trivial statement simply because it deviates from the tone and values of the centre which fails to recognise itself as a region because of the hierarchical implications which have permeated the word.

It was this culture of insular relevance that was challenged when Independence for the people who live in Scotland was proposed. It was no surprise that so many artists, musicians, writers, designers and actors got behind this idea. They understand precarity, they understand what it means to apply ones energies to something worthwhile and unpredictable in the face of a culture that often sees little sense in the endeavour until it becomes financially rewarding.

They wilfully navigate this ambient opposition to their activities because they have the confidence to take leaps of faith that our media culture constantly dissuades us from and they are sensitive to cultural fluctuation affording them the knowledge that stasis and stability are fictions. The collective psyche was boosted, the second rate attitude that in the past seemed endemic in Scotland was kicked in to touch. People were forced to reflect on successes and strengths of the country and themselves and their communities as for the first time went in to a ballot box knowing that for the first time their intentions as voters would not be compromised by distant neighbours but that the collective decision made was one that would be reached by there immediate neighbours.

It was kicked in to touch because the choice was between a chance (not a certainty) that things could be made better and a continuation of the defeatist lethargy. In order to tear oneself from the latter position to entertain the former the confidence and ease with the unknown similar to that which artists commonly contend with had to be assumed. The sovereignty of a country I think has a significant effect on the people who live there, while we are not dependent for subsidy from the rest of the UK we have been for too long defined by the majority of English parliamentarians running our affairs.

A logic of dependency and irresponsibility and complaint is born of this relationship but when one is afforded the freedom of self-determination and deprived of the right to blame, ingenuity and confidence become the forces that we must rely on to define ourselves and the places that we live. Scotland is not short of ingenuity despite how miserable many of us may seem at times but it is the confidence to really use it for the good of the people who live here to its utmost potential eludes us.

If we had won independence last year it would have presented many challenges but without the privilege of looking to others we would have to hold ourselves to account and therefore I think we would maybe do a better job of sorting out our affairs by benefitting from a confidence in our creative potentialities, the necessity to use them but also an understanding of ourselves that could no longer be trivialised by the external voices that assert an unwarranted authority over us.

Nevertheless, in post referendum Scotland many of us still benefit from being emboldened by the events surrounding the historic vote. We understand the necessity for our creativity and criticality in a way that did not exist before. There are new visions and new directions that are to be pursued and other issues which we must apply ourselves to because the campaign for independence was not introspective. Its’ all-encompassing nature concerned domestic and foreign political decisions.

The desire to project the country differently has made many aware of issues and struggles that would have been ignored by many had we not been collectively re-politicised with those who were already engaged emboldened by the question and the argument. These are now definitive aspects of our culture, of a voice shared among many that are visible in subsequent public gatherings that have continued as a result of the referendum campaign.

This politicisation now defines a Scottish culture that artists cannot extricate themselves from. Something about the people in this place has been redefined. Minds continue too be enlivened as those who supported the idea realise they cannot trust the authoritative voices of our traditional media landscape. More people are thinking reflexively because they realise that saving the union wasn’t the only hoax the establishment tried to sell them.

Foreign news agencies, and a variety of online outlets that a contemporary, pluralistic media landscape gives us ready access to has led to the proliferation of alternative news and opinion channels in Scotland and opened the eyes of the formerly disengaged and disunited to wider struggles they can sympathise with. This is a reality that artists must, and will process in the coming years. That is not to say that a slew of work interrogating definitions of nationalism will engulf us, but that this new engagement has harnessed new, redefined relationships with the world and with ourselves in ways we may never understand.

What shape this will take is impossible to say, and one year on, I am still processing my thoughts and feelings (mostly upset) regarding this event and I am sure I am not the only one. A culture of self-education and a better understanding of political and cultural complexity is now operative in many communities, so when I say I defend nationalism, I do not defend the concept in it’s entirety but I must evaluate my relationship to the word and to the potentialities of its’ conceptual implications because while it can be a poison it can also be the opposite. I defend the interrogation and acknowledgement of plurality and criticality and the need to interrogate ideas and histories without fear of their complexities.

As I see it these are the values anyone who makes art of any kind should apply to their practice but I also see them as values that have asserted themselves in a wider consciousness as a result of the campaign for Scottish Independence.

 

(September/October 2015)