Speaking recently about the ‘Covid crisis’ with Alastair Campbell – Nicola Sturgeon said: “I have a strong sense inside me that I am not going to come out of this the same person that went into it.” She said it was shifting her perspective on things. “It is the constant presence of death and sorrow that has made this so much more intense than anything I have dealt with before.” While Sturgeon’s role is ‘particular’ – lockdown could be changing us all more than we realise.
As soon as we were allowed to drive more than five miles – I took off, up the M9 to the hills, with a cheese sandwich. Last week, to my delight, one of my favourite eateries was doing carry-out fish and chips and it was great to chat to the old gang. The team are concerned about their jobs – the owners about the survival of the enterprise; will customers return in time to save this valued restaurant. Probably more than most people, I equate bustling restaurants with society getting back to normal; eating together carries a deep symbolism.
With regard to Sturgeon’s ‘shifts in perspective,’ I detect a general softening in my own outlook – from resolution – to reconciliation. Thomas Hardy wrote: “All things merge into one another – good into evil, generosity into justice, religion into politics…” I like to imagine that the sharing of ‘Covid anxiety’ is ‘merging’ some of the differences between people – that this will bring a new concern to organise society more co-operatively.
In stark political terms, I understand the difference between Scotland and England as the contrast between social democratic and neoliberal values; we Scots have not voted for the policies being imposed upon us; I’m with those who see no alternative but to seek independence. Brexit and Covid are powerful distractions and I was grateful for the clarity of this article in Prospect Mag by Ben Jackson, author of ‘The Case for Scottish Independence’. Jackson says that the British right cannot answer the case for independence because they don’t understand it. It seems we are about to see a ‘more muscular’ British state – deliver British-badged infrastructure projects in Scotland – for which we are to be grateful. That’s their understanding of their Scottish ‘colony’.
FT columnist Gillian Tett lives in New York, where face masks are an ‘embedded, embodied, part of life’; she recounts her surprise on a recent visit to London where most people were in public without one. Last week, masks were rare in my supermarket; this week blanket compliance – including me.
I assume the future ‘wellbeing economy’ will still be profit-led – but enterprises for social purpose will be commonplace – like community-owned pubs. Good article in the Conversation by Glasgow academic, Michele Bianchi, who anticipates that Covid will further undermine the viability of ‘locals’ (free advice for Community Shares Scotland).
Sixty four assorted Scottish activists have sent an open letter to the First Minister – without hesitation I agreed to sign it. Our short letter expresses concern that Scottish Govt’s proposed economic recovery plans make not one mention of the social enterprise sector or its influence over the evolving values of our future economy.
Ed Mayo (CEO of Pilotlight) wouldn’t pretend familiarity with out Scottish scene – but his call for more collaboration among third sector infrastructure organisations is just as relevant up here. The pandemic has shown that there is no lack of community action – but is Scotland’s co-ordinating infrastructure fit for purpose?
Letter in Times from Raj Menon, Bramhope, W. Yorks.
“Sir, Richard Luce has a rose-tinted and grandiose view of colonialists. He has the audacity to mention India and the alleged benefits that it brought to India. He has obviously forgotten the unnecessary and reckless partition of India for British political expediency.
He needs to remember that in 1600 when the East India Company was formed Britain was generating 1.8 per cent of the world’s GDP and India 22.5 per cent. When British rule ended, India was reduced to a nation of abject poverty. Colonialists did not come to serve. The British Empire and its representatives looted, humiliated, exploited and divided us, not only in India but also almost everywhere where the Union Jack was made to fly.