Relaunching Skotia: Breaking with Consensus

As Skotia relaunches, Coll McCail lays out the case for better media.

Four months after the Scottish Parliament opened in 1999, Jimmy Reid wrote a column entitled “We don’t want a gravy train for the well-connected few.” His piece was a warning. The interests of the powerful and wealthy could reduce the ‘promise of devolution’ to ashes if left unchecked. He offered advice for the press too. “The task of the media in a democracy is not to ease the path of those who govern,” wrote Reid. “But to make life difficult for them by constant vigilance as to how they exercise the power they only hold in trust from the people.”

Nearly 25 years later, Scotland’s political consensus thrives on apathy. Conflict-averse, managerial politics dominates. The interests of the people of Scotland are subordinated to the maintenance of a political framework that locks out transformational politics. Complicit in this sterile antithesis are the people and institutions that once pledged change, but now make nice with those they promised to usurp. The operation of government and the choices of decision-makers are obscured by a constitutional polarisation that suits all stripes of Scotland’s political class. Our media prefer to dabble in stories of hyper-personalisation than ignite a public debate fit for our age of crisis.

Meanwhile, the British state issues attack after attack on those who dare to demand better. A new anti-strike law for the nurses who ask to be fed on more than applause. Anti-protest legislation to punish young people fighting for the planet. Flights to Rwanda for those fleeing the consequences of foreign intervention.

As I write, swathes of Scotland are burning. Wildfires have engulfed the North East and Highlands after Scotland recorded its hottest day earlier this week. This evening, torrential rainfall has turned cars on Glasgow’s roads into rafts. When contrasted with the obvious inadequacy of our preparation for the climate crisis, one may expect this news to serve as a call to action. Column inches and air time have instead focused on more important matters, like the Scottish Cabinet’s decision to send Nicola Sturgeon flowers following her arrest. The obsessive hysteria of Scotland’s political class not only obscures the deepening climate crisis but also an honest analysis of the impact of Sturgeon’s arrest. Few instances better convey the need for better media.

Today we’re relaunching Skotia. Our aim is “to make life difficult” for the architects of Scotland’s political consensus, to maintain a “constant vigilance” on those who sow hate and inhumanity.

Our task is change in the interests of the millions, not the millionaires. It is to pose an alternative rooted in the struggle of people and movements across Scotland. To build a Scotland that embraces democratic demands for change, equality, and justice, we must elevate our public debate. Politicians across these islands favour a return to what they call ‘kind and honest politics.’ What is required, however, is a political culture that inspires confrontation on the issues that will define the decades to come. A permanent balancing act between business, civil society, and the people of Scotland is no longer good enough. This consensus is unfit to deal with the crises we face. It needs to be broken. Our hope is that Skotia will be one of many interventions to this effect.

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We’re a small team of volunteers at Skotia. We’ve been fortunate to get help from a range of people giving us advice and support.

We looking into growing our media output, online set-up, finance, design, and events – if you want to get involved get in touch!

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Skotia at COP26