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Clutching at Straws

The system does not work. Radical change is needed and it is not coming from the major parties. 

Friday, November 17, 2023
4 mins

Clutching at Straws?

Questions are being raised about apparent discontent inside the Alba party: a ‘dodgy’ dossier appearing at conference, acknowledged but kept sealed; rumours of personality clashes, cliques; innuendo, character assassination, whispering campaigns, angry outbursts via social media…

It’s all horribly familiar. Wasn’t Alba supposed to be different?

We won’t explore too deeply, partly because whatever sources we have are themselves in the dark, but mostly because it is too disheartening.  All will be revealed ‘in due course’ but we’ve heard that before too - Operation Branchform seems to have put down roots and may have entered hibernation having shed nothing. 

If received wisdom is that we just have to make the best of the system we have i.e. ‘representative democracy’ then it may be time to explore the possibility of adopting another altogether. 

Growing interest in Scotland’s pre-1707 constitutional status and heritage forces basic re-examination of our governance. The embarrassingly low turnout in the recent Rutherglen & Hamilton West by-election may, of course, be at least partly ascribed to the fact that both ‘Scottish’ Labour and the SNP fielded candidates who, let’s say, ‘failed to inspire’. But it may also be attributed to the electorate’s disgust and resignation. Last night’s Commons votes on the Gaza/West Bank situation were never going to bring the carnage to an end but the messaging would’ve been powerful and appreciated by many UK voters who have watched, aghast, as the ‘country’ pledges unwavering support for Israel’s actions. But we are where we are - the people of Rutherglen & Hamilton West are now represented in the UK parliament by a man who declined to vote for a ceasefire. And he’ll be there for years. Right now he is providing company for lonely Ian Murray, but if current polls are even remotely accurate then they can expect to be joined by many more comrades next year. SNP incumbents are already sniffing around for other jobs that may allow them to continue living in the style to which they have become accustomed. They will be replaced (mostly) by Scottish Labour characters cast from the same mould as Michael Shanks.

What kind of choice does that leave voters in Scotland? 

The usual parade of red/blue/yellow/green drones making promises we all know they can't keep.

'Get it sortit!'

Back to Alba…

If Al Harron’s recent crie de coeur, as republished here  Off-Topic Scotland | The River of Time (offtopicscotland.com)  is reflective of grassroots sentiment within Alba ranks (and we have seen no reasonable evidence to the contrary) then there is at least a possibility that Alba will not be standing candidates in the next UK general election. And even if it does, it won’t win any seats. That’s why the current disquiet is so enraging for many Alba members and supporters who left the SNP. The idea that ‘the only vehicle to independence’ may be replaced by a much smaller version of the same thing is not acceptable to many. A gravy-train coming off the rails in slow-motion, pursued by careerists scrabbling over one another to salvage whatever they can for the construction of another? No thanks.

The system does not work. Radical change is needed and it is not coming from the major parties. 

So we call for that debate to begin in earnest. To that end, we present a short video explaining ‘sortition’. Call it ‘picking straws’ for want of a better expression. To many it appears absurd - draw lots to see who gets to represent us in parliament?

Why not? 

There is a huge amount of information about sortition available. Some is impressively academic:

Courant Dimitri, Thinking Sortition, version PSA, 11 A5, 2017.03_0.pdf

But for our purposes, lighter, more accessible explanations are available:

(7) Stephen Fry on Citizens' Assemblies, Democracy and Sortition - YouTube

Given that Edinburgh was once referred to as ‘The Athens of the North’, it would be satisfying to see a real, transformative, possibly revolutionary movement emerging from Scotland once again. 

We will present more on this topic, hopefully from Scots who know a lot more about it than we do. But in the meantime, we invite feedback and commentary on how such a system might look and function in an independent Scotland.

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