BY THE SANE COLLECTIVE
The SANE Collective (Solidarity Against Neoliberal Extremism) is a radical nonprofit organisation of activists working to critique and transform the neoliberal direction of thinking and policy that is blighting our city, Glasgow. Understanding the reality of policy making in Glasgow is key to an effective struggle towards our vision. Undeniably Glasgow has insufficient resources to enhance the public good, but even within these limitations, why and how public money is spent should be open to more democratic accountability than is currently the case.
The pandemic made it even more abundantly clear that we live in a world of haves and have-nots, in which the numbers of the have-nots are growing daily. During lockdown, the SANE Collective and Enough Scotland joined together with individuals, groups and organisations in a series of Conversations for Change about the state of Glasgow and what the alternatives might be. This was based on a belief that the potential for cities to realise social justice is largely untapped. Connections were made between those who were working with children in poverty, refugees and asylum seekers, women fleeing violence, young people who are facing unemployment and the way that many city policies and strategies are standing in the way of resolving the problems that people face.
The idea for a ‘humanifesto’ emerged which rejected the market based, corporate perspective that had failed to offer many citizens wellbeing in any form and which has patently contributed to the way the Covid crisis has been handled. It was a collective attempt to offer hope during dark times by building on the way we turned to, and supported each other, in our communities, when major parts of the state were failing us during the pandemic. Out of this, we began the journey towards A People’s Plan for Glasgow.
Peoples Plan week was launched in February 2021 and involved 15 different free public sessions covering issues such as fair planning, children’s play, community growing, the struggle for an effective public transport system, fair trade and cooperatives, tackling violence against women and developing a fair and just local economy. At the same time, the need to describe the ‘Landscape of Resistance’ emerged as a vital piece of the People’s Plan jigsaw. This both overlapped with the themes above and focused more on the types of activity that exist in Glasgow. The principles that emerged were:
- Refusing the limits imposed by austerity
- Refusing to accept that we don’t matter by showing solidarity with each other
- sharing, food, nurture, care
- supporting creativity
- sharing what we know – learning from each other
- Rejecting cuts, austerity, more privatisation, council debt
- Making demands
- for housing
- for transport
- for action to protect the climate
- for rights to decide what happens in the City and how money is spent
- Educating ourselves and each other – supporting critical thinking
- Becoming a movement for democratic change – in many different ways
All of these ideas are now taking shape and are represented throughout this website.
Since the inception of the People’s Plan process, the SANE Collective has commissioned four reports critiquing the state of Glasgow City Council’s current strategies for private and public investment, venue closures, and tackling the climate crisis. These works, which contain in places quite startling revelations about the inadequacy and inefficiency of our current direction of policy, help to paint the picture of the need for a People’s Plan.
Glasgow’s Money explains how, and why, there are too few financial resources available for adequate services, and examines the Council’s spending priorities during the period of austerity. Importantly, this report provides a critical assessment of the Council’s neoliberal strategy for managing its assets and investing in new infrastructure. Glasgow Strife does a deep dive into what was really happening with venue closures in Glasgow, the decisions made by Glasgow Life, and how the pandemic became an opportunity to set in motion policy decisions that, in reality, had been made long before. Glasgow’s Alchemy examines a way of thinking that prizes the role of the private sector in what appear to be public assets, and the degree to which public funding is used to fatten private profits. Glasgow’s Greenwash examines the contradictions and inadequacies of the Council’s climate emergency implementation plan and questions the commitment of the Council to its own recommendations.
Through developing this work we were able to forge vital connections on behalf of the People’s Plan. Glasgow Strife led us to working closely with the Glasgow Against Closures campaign, who since early 2021 have been a solid example of the kind of work we want to see under a People’s Plan – drawing attention to the importance of localised community facilities, connecting residents with their local campaigns, engaged with trade unions, reinvigorated community councils across the city, and harnessed the power of the people to save individual venues while challenging the policies and lack of democratic accountability over the decisions making that have caused, and continue to cause damage.
Our discoveries in Glasgow’s Alchemy and Glasgow’s Money hammered home the need for a radical upheaval of the city’s financial strategies. In early discussions surrounding scope for a People’s Plan People’s Assembly process, we were further concerned by the ‘business as usual’ rhetoric that came from 2021’s ‘State of the Economy’ conference just months before the 2021 COP26 Climate Summit, and in our desire to host an alternative event in which to present a more honest and proactive picture to the people of Glasgow, the ‘Reclaiming Our Economy People’s Assembly’ began to take form. These reports also formed the basis of our contributions to a panel on ‘Future Cities’ held as part of the COP26 People’s Summit in November 2021.
Glasgow’s Greenwash was sent to key councillors and MSPs in Glasgow on the 100th morning since the end of the COP26 conference, along with a request to acknowledge and act to repair the dire situation facing the city. The report should be seen as a call to action to anyone in an incoming or future position of power in the city, as its implications have far reaching consequences far greater than our own lives. In March 2022 we hosted an event bringing together organisations referenced in the report with climate activists to discuss their concerns for the city, and scope for alternative processes and practises to remedy them.
If the People’s Plan seeks to explore how another Glasgow is possible, then the SANE Collective has surely served to show why another Glasgow is necessary, and why an anti-neoliberal critique must be a key part of any new plan being devised for the city. Understanding the logics, effects and developments of extractive and oppressive systems is key to ensuring we don’t consciously or unconsciously reproduce them in our ideologies or structures as we work toward radical transformation. The ‘People’ that make Glasgow have already had their name co-opted for profit by one institution who doesn’t look after them – they don’t need another one!