Populist politics across Europe and North America are bearing the fruits of Nigel Farage, right-wing British Conservativism, and Donald Trump. For the moment we have resisted this lurch to the right, but we have to protect what we have gained.
Democracy is flawed. Not for a second is this an argument that we should ditch democracy, it is simply pointing out that while liberal democracy is far better than most of the alternatives it comes with a deep and in-built flaw. All one needs to gain power is enough votes. This contradiction cuts right to the heart of what democracy means: Government of the people, by the people, for the people. We can agree that it is the people who should have the final say in how the nation is governed, but the modern liberal democracy makes the dangerous assumption that the majority is right; that it is informed, and knows what is best for it, the nation, and the world. This would be the definition of a mature democracy, but sadly it is a far cry from reality.
It has been the awareness of this relationship between power and information that has led to the co-option of the media by powerful political actors over the last number of decades, ensuring that the democracy is informed with the material that best serves the interests of power; therefore keeping the wrong people in government. This populist version of politics has become the norm in the United States and Europe, and has resulted in a discernible Verrechtsing (“right-turn”) whereby power has been gained democratically by politicians appealing to the lowest common denominator in every electorate – racism, xenophobia, strong man politics, and so on.
The United Kingdom has followed this trend to the right with the political élite seeking power for the sake of power itself, giving it access to the means of self-enrichment on a truly global scale. Conservatives in particular have been at the forefront of this process. Hidden behind the cloak of state power the Conservative establishment has successfully built a political-corporate marriage, enabling its architects to hoard vast sums of wealth in morally damnable off-shore accounts. Within the nation the public’s attention has been deflected by the media’s focus on largely irrelevant issues, directing anger for deepening austerity at foreigners and refugees as scapegoats.
In Scotland we have escaped this process that has resulted in a Brexit vote in England and Wales, and has seen a frightening upsurge in racially motivated violence south of the border. Our heightening demand for national independence has long made us the target of British state propaganda, and as a result we have developed a certain level of immunity to the state-media programme. This is neither an absolute nor a guarantee for the future. We have recognised in the independence movement that everyone who lives in Scotland is Scottish and is therefore an integral part of our struggle for self-determination, but British nationalism remains a considerable force in the country. Protecting what we have achieved requires that our democracy continues to mature, and this demands that we gain for Scotland a strong and truly independent media.