There’s a case to be made for the Union, based on a history of joint commercial endeavour and the shared fight for social justice. But it’s been hard for the British Establishment to make as both have been traduced by its shared, neoliberal ideology.
So the Establishment’s business leaders and politicians – those who have unpicked civil society, supplanted our manufacturing base with financial services and crashed our economy (and I should note the role the London Labour Scots have played in this) – and the media who serve them unleashed, instead, Project Fear, a sewer of fear-mongering and intimidation: see, for instance, the over 65s shamefully convinced they would lose their pensions (and whose vote then swung it – those under 65 voted Yes), the fantastical nonsense from architect Richard Murphy about “economic limbo” and the Establishment’s certainty that we would wither, rot and crumble without their patronage.
And when that didn’t work well enough – when support for Yes doubled during the campaign, from a starting 25% to 50% – out came Devo Panic, a Brown fag-packet that will give Scotland the power to raise taxes to pay for fighting poverty but not reduce them by opting out of Trident and illegal warmongering, nor use our oil wealth to tackle them or reduce the deficit, maintaining its flow South, to bail-out the Banks’ incompetence, dodgy-ness and criminality and maintain their benefit-scrounging bonuses.
But we’re calm. None of this changes the fact that we have a wealthy, diversified economy, based on old and new energy, food and drink and tourism and culture. (London, with its terrifying obsession with financial services that can relocate tomorrow or implode when the next bubble bursts, needs us; while we would be safer apart.) And that it is the settled will of the nation to reduce the disgraceful levels of poverty and inequality in our corner of British society.
And none of this changes the fact that small, developed nations, with the benefit of simply-defined boundaries (no bureaucratic devo-muddle and Houses of Lords and Commons), that they then, in this inter-dependent world, connect across, tend to be both wealthier and better able to fight inequality. And that while the Union has been good for all of us it has ceased to be so, maybe forty years ago, and history will see the Referendum of 2014 as part of the final unravelling of Empire.
Our “Architects for Yes” group agreed on all this, and started a conversation about how a new Scotland with full powers could re-energise its built environment, putting a socially-responsible architecture at its heart. Like all the myriad, beautiful “Youth, Women, Scots-Asian, Scots-English etc etc etc for Yes” group, that have lit-up this movement for change, we were no SNP supplicants. The SNP has not been immune to the British neoliberal project and their built environment policies are often particularly bad, with public projects under the “Hub” system hived-off to massive construction conglomerates given 20 year monopolies, and procurement a special brand of hell.
So it’s been sweet and healing to have been approached, post-Referendum, by architects who voted No – for the noble reasons in my opening sentence – but who now, at this fertile moment, want to join with us to press for the sort of future we have outlined, that the RIAS and RIBA, as professional bodies, are not always able to.
We’re going to launch a follow-up, as soon as we can, with a brief, concise manifesto (name as yet unclear – seems “Architects for Change” is bagged). We hope that Yes and No will join us in Scotland; but we recognise that as powers and policies remain in Westminster, so we will welcome engagement with, and membership from, our brothers and sisters in the rest of Britain. All of us first.