Let’s educate Scots to campaign for change


Environmental activist and Green MSP Andy Wightman has called for a more structured approach to grassroots and community campaigning

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9th December 2016 by Susan Smith 0 Comments

A body should be created to educate Scots in creative activism, radical democracy and how to campaign alongside parliament.

This was one of the main messages delivered by Green MSP Andy Wightman at the annual Stephen Maxwell Memorial Lecture in Edinburgh on Thursday.

Wightman suggested setting up a cooperative that will employ trainers to educate communities, charities and individual people.

He wants to see the public enabled to take a more active role in political live and be less dependent on parliamentarians to create change. Wightman even suggested the public, charities and other bodies could be encouraged to create their own legislation to be delivered through the Scottish Parliament.

Wightman, who is a long-term environmental activist and now Green MSP, said: “My own political awakening took place as a student at Aberdeen University in the 1980s where I subscribed to the political magazine, Radical Scotland that provided a varied diet of left-wing politics, Scottish culture and political theory to a young and inquiring mind. That’s where I first discovered the writings of Stephen Maxwell.

“Today, there is an ongoing debate about Scotland’s constitutional future - a debate that Stephen was engaged in for most of his life. However, there must also be a richer, more nuanced and more fundamental debate about governance, local democracy, power and equality.”

Wightman also said Scotland has to deepen its economic democracy by further encouraging alternative business methods such as mutual, cooperatives and social enterprises, which he said was a “sector that has and continues to deliver remarkable results but which remains still in the shadows.”

Stephen Maxwell was a former director of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), SNP member and long-term independence campaigner. Shortly before his death in April 2012, he published Arguing for Independence, a thorough overview of the economic and democratic arguments in favour of independence.

The annual Stephen Maxwell lecture has previously been delivered by then First Minister Alex Salmond and SCVO chief executive Martin Sime.

Wightmans' speech followed the release of research from the Sheila McKechnie Foundation, the UK body that promotes local campaigning and activism, which found that charity campaigning is being affected by hostile media coverage and UK government pressure on them to be less critical..