Wednesday 26 November 2014

Proposal for a Rural Policy meeting/workshop this winter

The Scottish Rural Parliament was an interesting event, but it - necessarily and desirably - was a meeting of people from all strands of Scottish rural life, so it wasn't an ideal situation for wild-eyed radicals to get together and plot. The Radical Independence Conference was invigorating and inspiring, but it was too big, effectively, for any real discussion of detailed policy.

We have, coming up in parliament now, three very important issues. The first is Community Empowerment, which is before parliament now and unless we get our act together quickly we'll effectively miss. The second is Land Reform, which will be before parliament soon. The third is Local Government Reorganisation, for which there are no clear proposals yet, but which everyone knows has to be addressed.

Policy making is a conversation. The law is, at best, a lagging indicator of the popular consensus of what is just, and that consensus can be moved (as we saw during the referendum campaign). If we want the law to move even a little in a radical direction, we need to have concrete proposals from a very radical position to balance the very reactionary proposals which will undoubtedly come from Scottish Land and Estates and their allies.

To make this happen, I think we need a meeting of activists to put together a set of proposals. We can't really meet regularly: Scotland is too big, we're mostly all too poor, in money, in time, and in energy. If a single one day meeting is to achieve anything, we need to do most of the work on the Internet in advance.

How are we to do that? I had originally thought of a wiki, and I've set up a little toy wiki to see if the idea works. This allows us to communally edit the same documents, and preserves all the different versions of the documents. But the alternative is for people to write individual position papers, share them either on blogs or by email, and for us to collaboratively edit them into one set of policies on the day.

There are a lot of areas we could cover, and if this works we can meet again to cover other policy areas; but for the present I think we should concentrate on those things which are coming up in parliament now, because they're most urgent.

We could meet under a Radical Independence Banner or under a Common Weal banner if people think either of those would be useful, or we could just meet as ourselves. I'd prefer we didn't associate ourselves with any particular political party, as doing so would prejudice members of other political parties against our ideas - but I'm only one voice and can be overridden on this.

As to when and where, I think it has to be January, and the weekend of 23-25th has been suggested. I thought somewhere near Perth as reasonably central, but the alternative would be to have two or three locations linked by video link (possibly safer given issues of weather, but I do think some of the potential benefit is to develop better informal social links between activists).

If you're interested in taking part, email me (simon at I'll give you a login on the wiki and also set up an email group. But for this to work it needs people to put some energy in. Not everyone has to write a policy paper. Not everyone has to read every policy paper. But you need to have read some of them, and to have a clear view on what policy will be.

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