Everyone loves a good old fashioned Twitter war, especially when the odds are stacked against an individual getting in the face of a well-liked, far-reaching, pro-independence movement. National Collective still exists in some form, but they were far more notable in the run up to the independence referendum, hosting a summer Yestival that toured Scotland, encouraging every type of artist to engage with the national debate that was happening at the time.
The key to their success, largely, was that they weren’t affiliated with any political party. Lots of people who ended up voting yes didn’t belong to any party in particular and were drawn to the independence ideology, so movements like National Collective and the Radical Independence Campaign gave people somewhere to turn when pro-independence parties didn’t fit the bill.
Loki is a Scottish rapper who deals with issues head on. His 2014 album Government Issue Music Protest inspired reviews peppered with words like “gritty” and “raw” and “aggressive”, which it is, but “engaging” and “confrontational” would be more accurate. He just wants people to care, and he’s happy to be the first one to get in the face of the person doing the pushing around, whether that’s through a fierce rap album or a shaky Youtube video.
His issue with National Collective comes from its non-party affiliated position (mostly – there are issues of class too). Ross Colquhoun, co-founder of NC, now works for the SNP. Since September 19th, Loki has had conversations with Colquhoun under the impression that he remained unaffiliated with a party, which isn’t the case, and wants to know when Colquhoun took up the position and if it was during a time he was still at NC.
Clarity and direction for NC in 2015 isn’t unreasonable to call for. Loki is an artist and ought to be involved as much as anyone else. He labels them “twee, ceilidh type political art” which he isn’t into.
What began as an artist looking for clarity has somehow turned into a Twitter war between those affiliated with NC, Loki himself, and Iain Macwhirter playing the part of Statler and Waldorf from The Muppets.
I was happy to say nothing and giggle as it all unfolded. A part of me knows that through Loki’s frustration he too is finding the whole thing ridiculous. But then, his latest video at the time of writing is in reply to a tweet he read saying that he needed help, calling into question his mental state.
This is where things get messy. The whole Colquhoun thing was one issue, but now there is a seeming dismissal and class divide in response to what Loki is saying. He has always questioned how welcoming NC is to those outside of the middle class, and indeed one person tweeted today saying it seems like Loki doesn’t want the middle class to have art. It’s fitting then that his latest video dealt with privilege – I’m sure in many ways he’s fine with the middle classes having art, but it’s the complete absence of discussion or even acknowledgement of art from lower working classes that is his issue.
The indyref sure as hell energised the whole country. We forget that before September 18th voter turnout was uninspiring. In a lot of ways, political chats were always geared towards the middle classes who felt that whoever was in government actually had an impact on them. For people like Loki (and, for purposes of intention, myself), over the last couple of decades it has been negligible who sits in number 10 because the poor get fucked anyway.
I, on the other hand, fully support National Collective – I’m partial to some tweeness and a good ceilidh. I think The Cheviot, The Stag and The Black Black Oil is incredible. I enjoyed Alan Bissett’s Vote Britain.
But I enjoyed Loki’s Government Issue Music Protest too. It inspired me to use my own voice because it was the first time I heard someone making art who sounded like me outside of a diss you’d hear up the back of the bus going through a council scheme in Irvine. It didn’t have to do the Gay Gordons up towards the establishment in a delicate way; it looked them in the eyes and said “fuck you.”
Both of these methods are fine. Working in conjunction they actually present a united front. Loki supports the idea of an artistic collective because as a whole it brings us together to support free speech for all. But when working class art is being left out, free speech benefits those with the loudest voices, and in society generally, the loudest voices sound quite proper, well-funded, and inoffensive.
This ties in with questioning Loki’s mental state. Rather than engage with someone who doesn’t sound like he’s from Newton Mearns, it’s easy to dismiss him as someone who’s just a bit mental. Maybe he is, but since everyone involved in this claims to be an artist, we all should know to show, don’t tell, and right now Loki is proving the point that working class artistic voices are neglected.
Depressingly, Loki highlights that we’re in a post-referendum world and the privileges are coming out. Prior to September, regardless of whether you were SNP, or Green, or SSP, or unaffiliated, you were voting yes, and that was enough. That was true across genders, classes, races, sexualities – people worked together for a yes vote, and responded harshly to internal criticism of the “yes movement.” Now that there is not currently any independence vote to fight for, that which brought voters together has loosened.
A general election approaches and voter turnout in Scotland will be down, but by how much? If turnout is lower due to working class disengagement, then everything Loki has been saying is proven right. While NC receive support on social media against his videos, all the while presenting a family friendly appearance, Loki is just trying to get into the conversation. Can I join too?
[Scott Wilson – @HeartofFire]