Glasgow University rector gives his support for Radical Independence

Credit: Aamer Anwar on Twitter

Joanne Krus
Deputy News Editor

Aamer Anwar and others spoke at Radical Independence Campaign in Glasgow to condemn the UK government and make their case of a radical Scottish independence.

The Radical Independence Campaign held a conference in Glasgow on 26 October to discuss their alternative vision for an independent Scotland to the SNP’s vision.

RIC is a left-wing political campaign set up in 2012, with a mission to create an equal, democratic, anti-war, and environmentally sustainable Scotland.

Over 500 people attended the conference titled “A Failed State In A Failed System: Time For Radical Independence”. The event included over 34 notable speakers ranging from politicians such as Chris Stephens, trade union activists like Sarah Collins, and University rector and human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar.

The opening panel discussion was to make the case for why Scotland needs to break away from the UK government, with speakers criticising the Conservative Party’s immigration policies, the climate crisis and economic and social inequality.

Anwar condemned the UK government for police violence, their role in the arms trade and damage to the environment.

He also went after the Home Office’s “hostile environment” immigration policies, citing Sajid Javid and Priti Patel’s speeches in support of ending free movement. He said that he had found these speeches insulting and said that Boris Johnson’s cabinet has “made history for being the most ethnically diverse in its bigotry.”

Anwar said that an independent Scotland has to address inequality in order to be meaningful: “Independence will mean nothing at all if we as a society do not respond to the plight of the political prisoners, the hungry children, the homeless refugees.”

Clara Ponsati also spoke at the event. A Catalan economist and the former Head of the School of Economics and Finance at the University of St Andrews, she currently lives in Scotland because she has been exiled from Spain. This was her first public speech since the recent imprisonment of seven of her former colleagues which lead to mass protests in Catalonia.

She said that the Catalan independence movement is back and stronger than it was in late 2017, when the Catalan government held their independence referendum. She said that young people’s participation in the protests has made her more optimistic, though she knows that it will not be an easy fight.

She also voiced her outrage at the Spanish police for the “arbitrary arrests” of protestors, saying that it has been “the most vicious attack on people who are just expressing their democratic will.”

After her speech, the attendees were asked to be part of a group photo holding up posters which said: “Protect political prisoners – Help Catalonia, Save Europe” which had been placed on everybody’s seats. Speakers also called for solidarity with other movements happening abroad such as Chile, Brazil, and France.

Several local politicians added their view on how independence could lead to a better society. Chris Stephens, SNP MP for Glasgow South West, said that in order for this campaign to be successful, it needs to show the electorate that independence would not lead to more austerity and improve worker’s rights.

He added that he believed the social security system and immigration system were “broken”. He called for an end to zero-hour contracts and argued that vulnerable people should not have to wait five weeks “to get what they are owed by the state,” referring to the new and controversial benefits system, Universal Credit.

Mr Stephens said that he will continue to fight for independence: “I’ll continue to be proud to work with [RIC] so that we can win independence and build a better society for all”

Ross Greer, Green MSP for West of Scotland, who previously worked for Yes Scotland during the 2014 referendum campaign, called for a more positive and inclusive campaign. He called out the Yes campaign for becoming “misaligned” and having too many negative messages about Scottish Labour voters, around a third of whom support independence.

He also said that the movement needs to be effective in getting groups who support independence involved in the campaigning, especially young people, who he believes to be extremely under-represented in the campaign when considering that around three quarters of young people support independence.

The RIC co-founder, trade union activist and author of Scottish Independence: A Feminist Response, Cat Boyd, also shared her ideas for the movement. She said that a lot of the ideas discussed at the event were seen as “taboo” back in 2014, such as a Green New Deal for Scotland and the dangers of racist British nationalism, have now become more accepted in the mainstream.

She added that though these ideas are becoming more accepted, politicians “seemed frozen”. She said: “We need radicals to make sure that Scottish political rhetoric becomes Scottish political reality.

“The truth at the heart of the matter is that we know that politicians will always postpone hard choices and real changes until a mass movement of people, until the popular will, offers no alternative.”