There’s a new run of my debut play from 2009, The Ching Room, in Glasgow on 24-26th of February. From Theatre Revolution, starring Dickson Telfer and Karl Sabir, directed by Iain McAleese. It’s a cracker.
This is a transcript of The People’s Vow, which I wrote and delivered at the Radical Independence convention on Nov 23rd 2014 at the Clyde Auditorium, Glasgow. You can watch the speech online here.
THE PEOPLE’S VOW
On Sept 16th 2014, two days before the independence referendum, the leaders of the main London-based parties made a pledge to Scotland called ‘The Vow’, exhorting us to vote No in return for substantial new powers. History will prove this to be the gimmickry of a threatened elite. We, the Radical Independence Campaign, hereby make a Vow in reply, on behalf of the disappointed, the disaffected, the impoverished and the frightened: the People’s Vow. This Vow is eternal, and will be honoured for so long as we, and the generation which follows us, and the generations which follow them, have breath in our lungs to do so.
We know that the referendum has changed Scotland utterly. For perhaps the first time in their lives, a majority of working-class people felt empowered to take politics into their own hands, standing up to a British state which has become unaccountable and corrupt beyond repair, staring, without blinking, into the eyes of those who had shown them only contempt. The No vote was concentrated among the wealthy. This is significant.
As democrats, we recognise the result of the referendum but acknowledge the collusion from all corners of the British establishment, to deceive and intimidate the Scottish electorate into voting in a way which maintained their right to rule. It was ever thus, but not how it need remain.
Despite the immensity of this pressure from above, 45% of the people of Scotland are alive, engaged and hungry for ideas on how to transform this country. They refuse to go back to sleep. This Vow honours not only them but the growing numbers who recognise that independence from Westminster is the best way in which Scotland can protect its most vulnerable citizens, can enable working people to control their own economy, can inspire fellow workers across the British Isles, Europe and the world to take up a struggle against their own masters. The street cleaner, the nurse and the teacher are the oxygen in society’s blood-flow, from which the plutocrat draws like a syringe. We Vow to multiply the dreaming power of the ordinary Scottish citizen, and magnify their might. In that sense, we are not the 45% but the 99%.
We Vow to end the austerity which has become the creed of the London elite. To solve a crisis created by the rich, they say, the public must suffer. We reject their crusade against the poor, both its inefficiency and its immorality. They have the money, but we have the numbers.
We Vow to renationalise or retain in public hands those industries which are in the common good. Privatisation – a reduction of the necessities for human life to cold profit – is a handshake from the undead.
We Vow to establish green and sustainable energy. The planet is not the plaything of those who exist in the present. It is the host for our species, and millions of others which make life on Earth possible. We will endanger neither the health of our citizens nor the infinite beauty of the natural world. There exists a fragile ecosystem, stretching from the child whose lungs are threatened by pollution to the basking shark giving poetry to our shores.
We Vow to establish a republic. The monarchy is an affront to modern democracy, a feudal relic. How can we call ourselves free when we pay fealty to one family, a family which owns vast tracts of our land, which rubber-stamps our laws, to whom we must ask permission to form a government and whose head ‘purred’ when she discovered our freedom had been denied?
We Vow an opposition to discrimination on grounds of gender, race, disability or sexuality. We are a community of citizens, human beings and participants in our right to define ourselves, rather than be defined. We are a society proud of our multiculturalism.
Scotland is our home and we fight for the sovereignty of its people, but we Vow to be internationalist. We are opposed to war – in which common people are compelled by their rulers to kill each other – and imperialist entities like NATO. We especially condemn the all-consuming horror of the nuclear threat. We must judge a society on its compassion and solidarity, not on its power to invade or annihilate.
We are Radical Independence only because an amoral vacuum has occupied the centre ground. The forces of oppression present war-mongering and corporate theft as a law of nature. What we propose is not radicalism. It is the basic normality and decency under which any human should expect to live.
This is the People’s Vow and for this we stand. Before the referendum we said that Britain is for the rich, but that Scotland could be ours. We said that another Scotland is possible. Both are as true now as they were then. We are ready to fight for this future.
So to everyone in Scotland, and the world, beyond this room: join us, and imagine.
So this was probably the biggest year of many of our lives, but it was definitely the biggest of mine. Here’s the rundown of what has been an exhausting 2014.
FEBRUARY – I run for Rector of Glasgow University, in an election which is won by the little-known Edward Snowden. I also sell the Big Issue for a day as part of the Big Sell-Off, helping the homeless.
MARCH – I’m interviewed by Janet Street-Porter for her BBC documentary about the referendum.
APRIL – My one-man show about pornography and radical feminism, Ban This Filth!, directed by Sacha Kyle, is performed at the Arches’ Behaviour festival, Glasgow, and tours the Highlands. I also preview an extract from my forthcoming Edinburgh Fringe play, The Pure the Dead and the Brilliant, at the SNP conference in Aberdeen, which kicks off a month-long beasting from a rabidly pro-Union press, including this gem.
MAY – My new play, Jock: Scotland on Trial, about Scotland’s colonial past, debuts at Mayfesto in the Tron theatre. Directed by Cheryl Martin and starring myself and the Tron’s Andy Arnold.
JUNE – Another new play, Jacquoranda, directed by Kenny Miller, has its debut run in Perthshire. Louise McCarthy nails it – drunkenly – in the title role.
JULY – Born Under a Union Flag: Rangers, Britain and Scottish Independence, a collection of essays edited by myself and Alasdair McKillop, is published by Luath Press. I take part in National Collective’s tour of Scotland, Yestival, and have a new poem published in their Inspired by Independence anthology. Also, I tour Slovakia, Poland and the Czech Republic for the Authors’ Reading Month festival.
AUGUST – Yet another new play, about the referendum this time. The Pure, the Dead and the Brilliant stars Elaine C Smith and Paul James Corrigan, is directed by Sacha Kyle, and is entirely crowdfunded from Yes supporters. It sells out 24 days in the Assembly Rooms at the Edinburgh Fringe.
OCTOBER – I preview an extract of my work-in-progress, Souness, directed by Sacha Kyle, with myself in the title role, at the Tron theatre, Glasgow. This play will be produced in 2016, thirty years since Graeme Souness joined Rangers as player-manager.
NOVEMBER – Four of my spooky stories are broadcast on BBC Radio Scotland.
DECEMBER – And rest.
FEBRUARY – Release of my Collected Plays, published by Freight.
I’m also working on a new novel, two new plays, including Souness, and a documentary film about the referendum.
What would happen if the bogles, banshees, demons and selkies of Scots folklore were involved in the independence referendum?
The Pure, The Dead and The Brilliant was performed at the Edinburgh Fringe from July 31st to August 24th 2014 and was described as “inventive, funny, enthralling theatre” (The Big Issue), “Clever and crowd-pleasing” (Variety), and “a stunning piece of theatre” (Time Magazine). For those of you unable to get hold of a ticket, National Collective have filmed the show and you can watch it completely free below:
Hi all! Big month for me, this one. Big month for EVERYONE! I’ll be out and about on:
5th Sept (Fri) @ Holytown Community Centre. Yes Holytown (near Motherwell) Case for Yes event. I’ll be speaking alongside trade unionist and RIC founder Cat Boyd and Robin McAlpine from the Jimmy Reid Foundation and Commonweal. 7pm start.
6th Sept (Sat) @ Dunoon Book Festival. 6pm start, and tickets are just £3, available from Bookpoint and Dunoon Burgh Hall.
7th Sept (Sun) @ Hallglen Sports Centre. Yes Falkirk public meeting. I’ll be speaking alongside Elaine C Smith, Zara Kitson (Green Party) and former MSP Colin Fox. 7:30pm start, with more information available here.
10th-13th Sept @ Finborough Theatre, London. Jock: Scotland on Trial. The first ever full production of Jock and the first time it has been seen by English audiences. Running in tandem with a 20 minute extract from The Pure, The Dead, and The Brilliant. 10pm start, all tickets £10 and available here.
22nd Sept (Mon) @ Smith Museum and Art Gallerty, Stirling Fringe. Ban This Filth! last year’s Edinburgh Fringe solo show having its FINAL EVER PERFORMANCE. 7:30pm start, tickets are £7/6 and available here.
25th Sept (Thurs) @ AK Bell Library, Perth. Stand-up Literature comedy gig. 7.30pm start.
26th Sept (Fri) @ The Sunart Centre, Strontian. As part of the Three Lochs Book and Arts Festival, I’ll be introducing the Spielberg classic, Jaws, and there will be sushi and fishy snacks to enjoy. £5 on the door, 7pm opening, 8pm film start. For more info, click here.
27th Sept (Sat) @ The Sunart Centre, Strontian. I’ll be running a Writers’ Workshop which you can attend with a £10 day ticket (available from local outlets, with more info here).
From July 27th – August 2nd Falkirk is home to a new artist-run festival. For Falkirk’s Sake features films, music, plays and spoken word, and I’ll be taking part on Wednesday 30th July. I’ll be doing a compilation of my ‘best bits’ from 7:30pm at Behind The Wall (Alehouse) and afterwards there is a showcase of Falkirk talent including Gordon Legge and Janet Paisley.
Tickets are just £7 and are available at the Steeple Box Office, Falkirk High Street, or by phoning 01324 506850.
What would happen if the bogles, banshees, demons and selkies of Scots folklore were involved in the independence referendum? Elaine C Smith leads a cast of some of Scotland’s finest actors, and surprise cameos, in Alan Bissett’s sparkling satire.
The Pure, The Dead, and The Brilliant runs from July 31st to August 24th at The Ballroom, The Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh, as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Tickets are available here and you can RSVP here.