Anoraks are people too

Political anorak pride!

In a contribution to the admirable, if somewhat constipated, Newsnet Scotland, journalist, commentator and broadcaster Lesley Riddoch sets out, not so much to contribute to the debate about Scotland’s constitutional future, as to serve as midwife to that debate. (Will there be a genuine public debate about Scottish independence?)

I don’t doubt Lesley Riddoch’s good intentions. But I am ever wary of those who seek to define and constrain the space in which a debate proceeds. And even more suspicious of those who want to stipulate qualifications for participation.

Ms Riddoch seems to have a bit of a thing about “anoraks” and, while not explicitly implying that they should be excluded from the debate about Scotland’s constitutional future, she appears to prefer that their role should be limited and to believe that they are certainly not the ones to be leading the debate.

But who are these “anoraks”? Is this not merely an unthinkingly derogatory term for those individuals who have the knowledge, interest and commitment to promote debate? Is it that the discussion is “anorak-heavy”? Or is it that anyone who seeks to lead debate is dismissively labelled as an anorak?

I am passionately in favour of participative democracy. But I am also realistic enough, and experienced enough, to know that participation is not something which just happens. It has to be facilitated. It has to be actively encouraged. And when it happens it has to be managed in a structured way or it simply degenerates into the very kind of disputatious dead-end that puts so many people off participation.

Do not despise the “anoraks”! Who but they will be the facilitators?

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