Why I stepped down as Director

by | 3 Sep 2021

A brief explanation of why I changed my role at Common Weal

I do not like writing about my personal life and have a strong aversion to ‘confessional politics’ with a particular aversion to people who roll out stories of their ‘personal struggles’ when they come under pressure. So I shall keep this very brief; I just want to be clear about why I stepped down as Director of Common Weal.

To make Common Weal work on the very limited resources we had, when I set it up I hired a young team and so had to take on a number of roles myself, including finance, fundraising, administration of the Limited Company, servicing the Board, doing all of the HR and much more.

It was never meant to be permanent but, as happens, it became permanent. When combined with all the core things I do at Common Weal and also with the large volume of things I do for the independence movement (and more) outwith Common Weal it resulted in far too regular periods of exhaustion.

After six years it was getting too much. Last July I strained my voice with endless Zoom calls but just kept pushing through. By December my voice gave out – I barely spoke again until March and not at all from early January. It has taken a series of medical checks and a full course of speech therapy to get things back on track (all fine now).

So at Christmas my partner and I discussed it; something had to change. I wanted to contribute what I’m good at to Common Weal, not spend hours on the annual accounts (or whatever).

The decision was made; only the form and timing of what I was going to do was yet to be decided. When I got the usual orchestrated backlash (with added personal attack) to a column I wrote at the start of the year I made the decision. I thought about it over the weekend and informed the Board on the Monday that I wanted to modify my role.

I’m used to the smears and the misinformation – I mean, let’s face it, this is hardly unusual in today’s Scotland to anyone who speaks out and isn’t a sycophant.

But what I’m really sick of is the targetting of Common Weal which has faced wave after wave of ‘defund them’ attacks since 2014

But what I’m really sick of is the targetting of Common Weal which has faced wave after wave of ‘defund them’ attacks since 2014 because either I, the CommonSpace team or another member of staff has the temerity to ask questions of powerful people. They always come from the same sources.

I stand by the things I’ve written over the years. For example:

  • In 2015 I warned that if the indy movement didn’t keep an autonomous and plural base but was totally absorbed by the SNP then campaigning for indy would become a low priority
  • In 2016 I warned that the Brexit narrative was wrong, we weren’t going to get a rapid bump in the polls and that wishing for shortcuts was a bad idea
  • In 2017 I started warning about the sheer extent of corporate and lobbying capture of the SNP and the Scottish Government
  • In 2018 I tried to persuade people that there was no imminent indyref2 coming and that unless there was an autonomous, united pro-independence campaign we wouldn’t make progress
  • In 2019 I stepped up warnings about the poor performance of the Scottish Government and explained why the problem was going to get worse
  • In 2020 I warned as strongly as I could about the major democratic crisis inside the SNP and across Scotland as a whole
  • And of course in 2021 I gave my take on what was really going on in the Salmond affair

All of these resulted in ‘defund’ attacks; all (with the possible exception of the last) are now broadly or universally accepted to be true. I think they needed said.

I stepped down to be able to look after myself just a little bit better (a little bit – I’ve not gone soft) and to protect Common Weal but still be able to speak out.

These are my reasons – now back to work.

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