The ‘Two Minute Manifesto’ caravan came to a halt at the Traverse on the day of the Scottish Parliament elections. Driven in part by playwright David Greig and Green Party candidate Sarah Beattie-Smith, it was the former who hosted this event in the Traverse One space, owing to the latter’s attendance being required elsewhere.
Alexander Reid, who in his well-known play ‘The Warld’s Wonder’ urged that we ‘teach the bairns to dream’, might well have endorsed this attempt to engage the electorate in a purposeful politics that requires our participation and welcomes our contributions.
Stretched out on the cosy furniture that forms part of the set of the Traverse’s current offering ‘Right Now’, Greig was joined by playwright Peter Arnott, political commentator Scott Hames, Naomi McAuliffe of Amnesty International, along with poet Rachel Amey in the comfy seating, with musical commentary from the sidelines provided by singer-songwriter Plywood.
In preliminary discussion centring on the post-Referendum state of Scottish politics, Hames suggested that there had been a loss of momentum since the Referendum, along with a lack of coherent dissent from what appeared to be fast becoming a new status quo.
Arnott suggested that a form of symbiosis had arisen, in which after the independence movement had captured the SNP, only to be in turn captured by the SNP. This had produced a ‘business as usual’ model and mindset amongst SNP politicians and their staffs, resulting in the injunction to vote ‘SNP 1 and 2’, a strategy largely intended to damage the Green Party vote.
Hames pointed out that the groundwork for the large pro-independence vote lay in the cultural efflorescence experienced in post World War Two Scotland, but having achieved serious recognition, the SNP no longer needed the arts to promote its vision.
Arnott argued that the replacement of the Labour Party in Scotland has not yet happened, but Hames pointed out the real affection many feel for Nicola Sturgeon, rapidly becoming a Merkel-like figure for many.
Attention then turned to the Two Minute Manifestos themselves, or more particularly one of the two that had made it to the final selection, the ‘winner’ to be presented, in carved wood form, to the First Minister. The session seen focused on gender equality, the call for a bill in part countered by a proposal that the numbers of girls cycling to school be taken as a measure of national wellbeing. Not as daft as it might seem, since female education, safety and mobility can all be taken as indicators of quality of life.
The former proposal carried by a small majority, itself an indicator of the thoughtful and genuinely purposeful proposals people should expect of legislators seeking to develop a different way of doing things.