January 30th 2014

Title: Conversations about a New Scotland

What kind of Scotland do we aspire to be?

These conversations followed a similar format to those held on December 5, 2013, the notes for which provide context for what follows. Below are excerpts from the 30 January 2014 event, edited in order to provide coherence. 

 Conversation 1:  Process: how to have Conversations 

There were two interpretations of process at work in the groups, and some initial confusion; one kind of group focused on framing the process of the evening’s discussion, and the other focused on the process of the referendum itself. The groups were fairly evenly split in taking one or the other approach, and the following points emerged:

  • There was concern that preoccupation with process avoided the nub of issues surrounding the referendum—some wanted tophoto
  • Many found that discussing process itself encouraged confidence and honesty in the conversations that were taking place, and they noticed this difference when two groups merged. Without a consensus building discussion on process, certain people starting dominating the conversation and many others were silent as a result. This was noted as a microcosm of the debate at large.
  • Anxieties emerged on whether Scotland was prepared to discuss the tensions at play—that most people have booked their position and are unwilling to listen to different perspectives
  • There was a general fear of the unknown and boundaries—whatever the outcome, its implementation will be the challenge and people feel unprepared to address that aspect of the future
  • There are real risks involved in not taking time to listen to what problems people might have before launching into a discussion—the aggressive nature of the debate silences many who have valuable things to say
  • We need to create a space for those who are undecided or silent to speak about their concerns and have their voices heard
  • Jock’s words: this is an exercise in capacity building, and there will be people who will be encouraged with these tools to enable conversations to happen
  • Mindfulness–we need to engage rather than be caught up in  learned response

Conversation 2:  Aspirations: Ideas about the kind of Scotland we’d like to see

What kind of Scotland do we aspire to be and what are our underlying values are as a nation?  What do we mean by “shared values”? What our underlying needs, concerns, hopes, fears and dreams?

Our values as a nation:

  • Hope for a fairer society—more care for the disadvantaged
  • Diversity is a positive force at work, and Scots encourage this
  • Sense of community, pride and fairness
  • Inventiveness
  • Innovation
  • Quality of education

Questions and concerns:

  • What is a Scot and what do we mean by identity? Do we define ourselves in reaction against what is “English?” Identity is caught up in relation with other states.
  • Need to be recognized in our own right
  • Were once very international, but have now become introspective as a culture
  • Yes and no counts may have a similar vision, but different mechanism
  • Do we need to be more honest about our weaknesses?
  • Concerns: fear of the unknown, centralization, economic failure, parochialism, loss of international influence, caliber of politicians, aging population, health issues, inequality, lack of confidence, danger of believing our own mythology
  • If we vote yes, could it start to unravel (or take off?)

Conversation 3: Specifics: what are the issues of importance?

Cartoons drawn at the event to illustrate discussion
Cartoons drawn at the event to illustrate discussion
  • Would you vote for something that disadvantaged you but benefitted your fellow citizens?
  • Closer connection between those making decisions and those affected by them
  • How will this change the way we relate to the rest of the world?
  • More sustainable growth based on needs, not wants
  • The environment and the well being of the people
  • Does being smaller enable us to be more flexible with these things?
  • Concern about belonging after the referendum—either way, one group will feel disenfranchised
  • Environment, society, well-being drives prosperity
  • If we have to make choices on priorities, who makes them? Is there a different, more collegiate model?
  • Will be people who are marginalized/disenfranchised vote? How will their voices be heard on this issue?
  • Financial security, climate change, energy , economics
  • Real belief in the importance of education
  • Our values as a country
  • The things that are tangible to us in 2014—what are their long-term implications?
  • Is there a way back if we take the wrong road?

Conversation 4:  Future: ideas about next steps

  • We need to focus on uniting the country for the aftermath of the referendum
  • The more we talk, the more we see the need for opportunities like this
  • Commitment from both campaigns to jointly sign the protocol
  • Promote the protocol online, and have an ad taken out in the papers
  • Bring information to where the people are—workplace, pubs, coffee shops, etc.
  • A national covenant—school groups to be invited to write what society do you want for the future
  • Big groups in big places

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