Scotland the Brave

It’s a brave thing that Scotland is about to do.

Are you for or against Scottish independence? I’ve been hauding ma wheesht for a long time on the matter. Thinking it through. But with a week to go until the big decider, I wanted to take part.

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Wear it with pride @rossferg :-)

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I don’t get a vote in the #indyref because I live outside of Scotland. A fact that is very hard for a tartan-totting, loch-loving, bru-swilling born-n-bred Scotsman like me to bear. Instead I need to find other means of participation. People who know me know that I believe it’s incredibly important for citizens to engage in democratic processes like the opportunity presented to the people of Scotland on September 18th 2014.

On the night of the first televised debate I was in Scotland, back in my home town. Instead of sitting in the house glued to the Salmond and Darling Show, I was out the back of my pal’s house playing cricket. Cricket?! I never play cricket but here I am in Scotland, in the town where William Wallace killed his first Englishman, with two other fiercely-proud Scots, one of whom is a big ginger sporting a tattoo of the Lion Rampant on his leg, and we’re dabbling in a spot of leather on willow. My point being that these Scottish lads are fundamentally the same in outlook, values and spirit as my mates 500 miles to the south in Billericay.

For me, the differences aren’t so apparent between Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland as to justify a yes vote. No one is oppressing us. We are a recognised nation. People beyond our shores already recognise and love Scottish. People get that we are different to the rest of the UK nations, yet we can still have all the benefits of association when we want it. Devolution has barely gotten started. We can have the best of all worlds, why limit ourselves on the basis of a plan that amounts to little more than a longwinded party manifesto. That’s my view. I’d be a no.

Whatever the result on the 18th, the Scottish people are going to have to go bravely into the future as one. What’s clear is that we have to reconcile ourselves quickly with the result and take full advantage of this renewed focus on being a nation again, a forward-thinking nation of people who are good to one another and good with other people beyond our already well-kent border – whether we’re an independent state or not.

I’d think it was the wrong decision to go independent, but if that’s the choice I’ll get fully behind it and help to make it work. Hell, I’ve seen enough of British politics to know it needs a big constitutional change to reinvigorate it. Independence isn’t what I had in mind but I’ll run with it, if my people make it clear that they want it.

But it has to be a clear result. The worst that could happen is that the people don’t turn out. The Scots have shown ourselves not to be the hottest at voting in recent opportunities, especially Scottish parliamentary elections. When I was up the road recently too many people said they might not bother voting. As a proud and passionate Scotsman that was hard to hear and I implored them tae think again. That’s why the news today that a historic 97% of the adult population registered to vote in the referendum is so amazing.

And that’s my say. Not to push an aye or a naw. But to push for Scotland the Brave. For Scotland to turnout in droves and make themselves heard whatever the decision. The legacy of this event depends on it.

Make sure you get involved. Good luck with it all folks.

One thousand five hundred and twenty-seven miles of Christmas and New Year

'Harris on reflection' by Ross Ferguson

This Christmas and New Year my fiance, Gemma, and I travelled 1527 miles within the UK to see friends and family.

It was amazing. We had a great time and we saw some amazing sights; I thought I’d share them:

Where there’s a will…

Tonight is the Hansard Society’s eDemocracy event in the Scottish Parliament, and on Friday its the Scot Web 2 Conference at Edinburgh University.

I was looking forward to attending both, but I’m going make neither. Illness in the family.

I want to apologise to Alex Stobart in particular for dropping out because I was due to be leading one of the sessions.

At both events I wanted to make some time for discussing the issue of political will for engagement, and more specifically online engagement.

Is there the will amongst our politicians to involve the people of Scotland in the democracy of the nation, I believe there is. But it’s a will that is blocked, by what I’m not sure – it could be party politics, it could be resources, it could be a cultural thing. And if we figure out what the block is – well, what do we do about it? What is the vision of the e-enabled Scottish polity, what is the role of the elected representative and how can we as citizens, activists, practitioners and critics support them and hold them to account?

This issue is key. I’ll be interested in what the speakers and the delegates at both events have to say on the matter.

Join the Movement: Channel4’s Counter-Cultural Commissioning

The Scottish chapter of 4iP got its official launch yesterday evening in Glasgow.

Presentations were delivered by Stuart Cosgrove, Tom Loosemore and Ewan McIntosh, respectively 4’s Head of Nations and Regions, Head of 4iP and 4iP’s Digital Commissioner (Northern Ireland and Scotland).

There was nothing about the practicals of the fund that couldn’t have picked up from visiting the 4iP website, but it would have been good if you wanted to get a handle on the ‘personality’ of 4iP. And it’s this personality, this approach to conducting 4iP, that is all important.

When Tom and Ewan spoke they repeatedly returned to the idea that 4iP was about ‘stirring things up’ and ‘making trouble’. The language and the tone was counter-cultural; under their stewardship, 4iP is setting out to challenge conventional business models, form innovative partnerships and disrupt the norms of commissioning.

It won’t be easy. But I like it.
Continue reading “Join the Movement: Channel4’s Counter-Cultural Commissioning”

Democracy 2.0 – Event Presentation Slides

Last Thursday I gave a presentation on eDemocracy in Scotland for Urban Learning Space in Glasgow’s Lighthouse. This is the first opportunity that I’ve had since then to post about it – things have been pretty busy (that’ll be obvious from the irregularity of the posts on this blog).

It was first public-speaking gig since November last year. I had quite enjoyed the lay-off (for a while there it felt like I was doing one every week) but I really enjoyed getting back into it – although there was definitely a bit of rust. What felt particularly good was the chance to speak about Scotland, its experience of eDemocracy and what might happen in years to come. It’s a subject that is never far from my mind but I’ve had few opportunities to present on before this.
Continue reading “Democracy 2.0 – Event Presentation Slides”

See you there, there and there

I hooked up with Urban Learning Spaces to organise the Democracy 2.0 on Thursday 25th September in response to a lack of debate – and action – in Scotland around the contribution of digital media to democratic engagement and participation. I’m looking forward to presenting, and my co-panelists Sarah Davidson (representing the Scottish Government) and Iain Bruce (from the Sunday Herald) are key players and not to be missed.

Then Alex Stobart got the ScotWeb2 Unconference together, which will be taking place at Edinburgh University on October 31st and looks set to be a great opportunity to discuss and network with those who have designed and are managing the next generation of political sites, applications and campaigns.

And now the Hansard Society has organised a seminar on online citizen engagement in the Scottish Parliament on October 29th.

Talk about waiting on a bus and then…

Unlike the bus analogy there is every reason to welcome this clustering of events. I intend to make all three – have to make two for sure because I’m speaking at them – and I hope that anyone who is even a passing interest will be at all three.

This is a kickstart moment – it needs people with motivation, ideas and the ability to act.

Democracy 2.0: Bringing innovation and the social web to the heart of governance in Scotland

Back in February I jotted down some reflections on eDemocracy in Scotland. I’d been back for a few months and was fairly disappointed by the progress the Scottish polity had made online.

First step to putting things right is a good diagnosis, and I hope you’ll participate (whether you’re kilted or not).

On September 25th I will be opening a seminar organised by the fantastic team at Urban Learning Space in Glasgow’s Lighthouse.

Democracy 2.0 – bringing innovation and the social web to the heart of governance in Scotland‘ will be an opportunity to reflect on Scotland’s experience of eDemocracy and discuss where it goes from here. I’m really excited to be joined on the panel by Sarah Davidson, Director of Communications at the Scottish Government) and Iain Bruce (of Sunday Herald fame).

Continue reading “Democracy 2.0: Bringing innovation and the social web to the heart of governance in Scotland”

eDemocracy Scotland – Upping the Ante

Today was sizing up to be an important day. ‘eDemocracy Scotland: Creating a National Conversation?‘ was going to Scotland’s first ever eDemocracy conference and I was going to be there giving a presentation on the nation’s readiness for an e-enabled polity. But it didn’t come off – pulled due to a lack of tickets sales.

So is that the ‘national conversation’ over? Far from it! In fact, I’m going to up the ante.

Back in the day, Scottish eDemocracy was looked upon as an example of best practice by British and international peers. Now we’re lapsed – a straggler, a wee bit backward even. But the opportunity to get back to the front has not passed us by. We can be a crucible of democratic innovation again – if our Government and Parliament get their acts together.

So I am going to issue the Scottish Government and Parliament with three challenges (I’ve got more but let’s start slowly):

  1. Set up ‘Democratic Innovations’ Funds available to Scottish businesses, VCOs and universities. Set aside a small annual budget for up to 10 small-scale pilots over a period of at least 5 years. This would be managed by participation teams in both the Government and Parliament and awarded on a competitive basis in allotments of up to £15k. Evaluations should be carried out for each pilot, and made available in the public domain.
  2. Run a ‘Holyrood 360’ exercise – a pilot where the Government would set up an online community of stakeholders and/or members of the public, consult them on a particular Green Paper, then again at White Paper stage and when the Bill goes over to Parliament the community is opened up to MSPs to consult with. From there, both Government and Parliament should be able to engage with the community at various stages of the policy cycle as they, respectively, carry out their reviews and scrutiny. I wrote about this idea in more detail in the January 2008 edition of Parliamentary Affairs.
  3. Establish an annual ‘Engagement Register’ containing a set of desirable and achievable awareness and participation targets for the year ahead and the results of the previous year’s activity. The Hansard Society’s ‘Audit of Political Engagement‘ has a useful set of six indicators that could get you started. Of course, the evaluation would need to be carried out by an independent body.

By teaming up in these ways Government and Parliament can spread the burden and send out a clear message to the Scottish people about their commitment and transparency. Continue reading “eDemocracy Scotland – Upping the Ante”

eDemocracy Scotland: Creating a national conversation?

The Scottish Parliament is often lauded as being a crucible of innovation around parliamentary procedures and public engagement methods. In terms of eDemocracy, the Parliament’s ePetition’s service is by far one of the most prominent in the world. But an ePetitions service does not an eDemocracy make.

It would be fair to say that beyond Parliament’s online petitions, Scottish-based eDemocracy has been a slow-riser. But rising it is. On February 1st 2008, Holyrood Conferences is holding Scotland’s first dedicated eDemocracy conference to discuss progress to date, how Scottish eDemocracy fits into the wider polity and, of course, where to next.

I will be delivering the Conference’s presentation on the technological infrastructure underpinning Scottish eDemocracy. A refreshing change to the vision-thing presentations I am used to delivering.

As well as looking at the issues through a parliamentary lens, other sessions will look at the Scottish Government and the civil society in Scotland.

For more information, visit http://conferences.holyrood.com/content/view/253/.

Hope to see you there!