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Scottish Independence Debate / ‘If people want a better future they need to shape it’

Writer and film maker Christopher Silver.

A DOCUMENTARY on the question of Scottish independence produced by Christopher Silver, who grew up in Aith, is to be screened at Shetland Museum on Tuesday night.

‘Scotland Yet: A Film about Independence’, made and released ahead of the 18 September referendum, is a 90-minute documentary promising to be “blissfully free of sound bites, politicians and statistics”.

It was directed by filmmaker Jack Foster and produced by Edinburgh-based Silver, who writes commentary on Scottish politics and culture for websites including Bella Caledonia and National Collective, a grouping of artists and writers who support independence.

While mainstream coverage of the Yes campaign has been largely dominated by First Minister Alex Salmond and other key SNP figures, the film proclaims to focus on “the real referendum debate, the one taking place in the streets, homes and communities across Scotland”.

‘Scotland Yet’ is said to be “filled with remarkable characters and sparkling with collective imagination, vision and humour”, telling ‘the story of a society that’s beginning to see itself in a whole new light”.

Silver said the film was “not about providing answers to the many, unknowable, questions about Scotland’s future, that can only be resolved through negotiation”.

“The thirst for information and hard facts is something of an anomaly. It’s perfectly understandable to want these answers, but hard facts about the future, whether at a local, national or global level, are very hard to come by in the twenty first century.“We want to use this film to shift the focus away from the technocratic questions, to look at many different visions people have for independence,” he explained.

“If there is an underlying message in the film it’s that if people want a better future they need to shape it. The phrase that’s been constantly in my head since the film was released is one that became well known during the Solidarity movement in Poland: ‘our only guarantee is ourselves’.”

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Silver, who has previously written on these pages about the appeal of a Nordic vision for Scotland, told Shetland News he felt Scotland’s national media had largely “failed to pick up on several of the most interesting things that have happened to the country during this campaign”.

“That’s not to say they’re biased or have some kind of interest in preserving the status quo,” Silver said, “they’re just not equipped to cope with big stories outside of their narrow, some might say provincial, remit.

“So the point of the film is to disregard the political parties, who usually get a fair shout, and give that on-screen space to activists, commentators and artists instead.”

He said that because the “official” Yes and No campaigns were closely linked to the SNP and Labour respectively, it makes it “all too easy to slip into the kind of mud slinging and tribalism that has dominated many a general election”.

“Of course, this isn’t a general election, it’s far more significant than that,” Silver continued. “On the Yes side there has been a massive desire to move beyond it, to form new groups, to talk about new ideas and to make this a campaign defined, financed and run through online networks and in communities.

“This hasn’t happened with the No campaign, which I think is a loss for both sides: they seem to believe they can win this with their standard party machines.”

What does he make of the widespread perception that Shetlanders will vote No by a greater margin than the rest of the country?

“That’s an interesting question for me because I’ve come to realise that my support for independence rests in no small part on the fact that I’ve lived in several different parts of the country.

“People’s Scottishness is not a singular thing. When William McIlvanney made his landmark speech about a ‘mongrel nation’ he wasn’t just talking about new Scots or communities now considered a key part of our society: he was talking, I think, about the nature of Scotland itself.

“For a small country there is a remarkable amount of variety here. So however Shetland votes I hope that it’s for positive reasons. For me it’s very important to say that this vote has nothing to do with Scottishness or national identity, it’s about how you want to be governed.”

 

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