Creating a Common Space
10. 10. 14
BY LIAM O'HARE and MICHAEL GRAY
In recent times the political and civic landscape of Scotland has undergone a seismic transformation. Talk of political apathy was shattered as we witnessed an unparalleled level of engagement in the independence referendum. Voter registration has sprung up to 97%. Turnout was nearly 85%.
But the numbers alone do not tell half the story.
Thousands of people in Scotland became activists. New networks of communication were created as isolation was replaced with participation. Suddenly, people started to scheme and plan with each other again.
How can we maintain this democratic wave following the referendum to create a better society?
This is a really important question as people remain committed to engaging in politics.
The enthusiasm for Common Weal since the referendum has been inspiring. Over a thousand people volunteered over just 10 days to support Common Weal projects locally and nationally.
This mirrors the new energy across many other organisations. The Scottish Green Party conference this weekend is oversubscribed, with the party membership tripling in size to over 6,000. Other parties and campaign groups have enjoyed a flood of similar responses. The SNP would fill Murrayfield stadium. Women for Independence brought 1,000 supporters to Perth, whilst the Radical Independence Conference has been moved to the Clyde Auditorium. A multitude of different media projects have emerged, as well as new campaigns for 50/50 gender representation in Parliament.
All of these exciting, diverse organisations bring their own strengths and ideas to democracy in Scotland, and many receive the support from individuals who are independent and decide to support individual campaigns or events.
These groups worked together for a common purpose and now they will reform for challenges in the future – local projects, the general election and the 2016 election to Holyrood.
Whilst exactly what will emerge remains uncertain, post-referendum Scotland poses many questions. Foremost amongst them are;
1) How can we have a media in Scotland that creates accountability and engages with important issues?
2) How do we build a sustainable network for the vast numbers of people who want to support political change in Scotland?
Common Weal will be setting up the CommonSpace online platform to help answer these questions.
CommonSpace will have two main elements. The first will create a hub for news and ideas. Common Space will be careful not to replicate any of the excellent content and comment that already takes place online. Instead it will focus on sharing Common Weal's strengths in creating new policy reports and bringing people together to organise. We've already held discussions to make sure this happens.
The second element is to provide an open platform for connecting, organising and sharing for those interested in the full range of progressive politics in Scotland. This will be a space for people to get together, have debates, and join or even start campaigns around various issues.
We are already working with the design agency Tangent, Scottish digital group Kiltr and a programmer to set up the platform by early December. This is one of several Common Weal projects that is developing at an impressive rate.