AN INDEPENDENT Scotland could provide a “fantastic example” of the kind of radical change needed to save the planet, according to leading environmental campaigner George Monbiot.

Speaking ahead of the ­Festival of Politics in Scotland this week, he said even though the 2014 referendum had not resulted in ­independence, one of the great achievements of the Yes campaign had been to show how to create a mass movement in the 21st century with “great panache”.

This demonstrated, he said, the effectiveness of mobilisation and now only mobilisation on a massive scale across the globe could create the political will to stop complete climate and ecological breakdown.

Monbiot told the Sunday National that the ­forthcoming COP26 global climate change ­summit in Glasgow was unlikely to produce the drastic ­economic change required to prevent catastrophe.

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“What is missing is the political will and that can only be generated through political movements,” he said.

Corporations would only change their behaviour if forced to by governments changing the environments in which they operate and that will only happen as a result of the mass mobilisation of “hundreds of ­millions of people around the world”.

While the mass youth movements that have sprung up demanding action to save the planet have given reason for hope, Monbiot said they were not yet big enough.

“They need to get massively bigger and make it ­impossible for governments to ignore them and ­impossible for governments to maintain business as usual and at the moment that is not happening.”

He said it was already clear that governments were nowhere near the level of ambition needed to prevent global systemic collapse.

“What they intend to do at COP is pathetic. They are not even committing to mandatory ­national ­targets for action, let alone the sudden drastic ­economic change required – it is as if they are ­talking about a different planet to the one we are on. ­Anyone who ­follows the science of it is absolutely shitting bricks. It just seems now that our chances of ­avoiding ­systemic collapse are very low and falling. They are not getting anywhere close to the scale of action ­required and ultimately they are not going to act unless we make it politically impossible for them to avoid it.”

The National: With civil rights champion Martin Luther King in 1967 (AP)

Monbiot said history showed the three rules for effective political action were “mobilise, mobilise, mobilise”. This can be seen in the mass movements of the 19th and 20th century such as the ­democracy campaigners, the Suffragettes, the independence movements in India and elsewhere, and the civil rights movement. “You need huge numbers of people utterly committed to change. I am not saying it is a sufficient condition but it is a necessary condition. We need mass mobilisation on a much greater scale even than what we have seen so far.”

Even though the 2014 indyref Yes campaign did not achieve independence, Monbiot said he would dispute it was a failure.

“I think it has done a huge amount. It was ­incredible to mobilise as many people as the ­independence ­movement did and get as many votes as it did, ­considering where it came from just a few years ­before. That in itself was an astonishing achievement and brought together very large numbers of people, giving them a taste of their potential ­political power.

“It made extremely good use of novel ­organising techniques and I felt it ­offered a lot of lessons to other movements around the world as to how to take an ­issue that has in the past been ­marginalised and not very popular and turn it into an issue with mass support.

“While that can always be improved and refined drawing on models ­elsewhere – the Sanders campaign in the US ­provided a really good model for organising and a lot of interesting work is being done in Spain, Brazil and many other countries – I think one of the great achievements of the independence movement was to show how to create a mass movement in the 21st century with great panache.

“To be effective we have constantly to be looking at models for change all around the world, which ones have ­really made waves and what lessons we can draw from those. And ­unquestionably one of the models of change I have ­often cited to other people has been the ­Scottish ­independence movement ­because it was quite remarkable how, in this extremely hostile environment with an almost ­universal media campaign against it and the phenomenal number of lies and scare stories, it still managed to mobilise a huge proportion of the people of Scotland and next time round it will mobilise even more.”

The National:

MONBIOT urged campaigners not to give up, saying it was clear that in another referendum Scotland would vote for ­independence.

“It is absolutely essential not to ­abandon the campaign for the many reasons so many brilliant campaigners in Scotland have mentioned but also ­because I think an independent ­Scotland could really lead the way on a lot of ­crucial issues, including climate issues,” said Monbiot, who calls on humanity to stop averting its gaze from the ­destruction of the living planet in his latest book, This Can’t Be Happening.

“We have seen the extraordinary ­extent to which Scotland is now receiving its electricity from its renewables and we have also seen a great transformation of the Scottish relationship with land and, through that, the revitalisation of ­communities, all of which are ­exemplary and provide a fantastic model which ­other countries can follow.”

Monbiot pointed out that the Land for the Many report, which he edited for the Labour Party, drew on the Scottish ­experience.

“While acknowledging it has not gone far enough, we were able to use it to press for similar and more far-reaching ­models for the rest of the UK and I think an ­independent Scotland could take these matters much further. Let’s face it, in ­political terms this country is dead from the neck down. If you look at it on the map, it is all happening in Scotland and there is not much happening in the rest of the UK at the moment.”

Monbiot cautioned that ­independence was not “a panacea” but still could ­“provide a fantastic example for the rest of the UK and the rest of Europe on how radical change can happen”.

Even without independence, Monbiot said the Scottish Government could still provide a good example.

“The Scottish Government, like all other governments, needs to go much ­further than it has so far but you can see a snowball effect potentially developing. If one or two governments begin to go all the way it will encourage others to do so.

“My hope is that because Scotland has got such powerful social movements – some of the most powerful in Europe –they could push the Scottish Government to take far more radical action than it has so far been prepared to take. ­Independence or not, that government could provide a good example for others to follow.”

BEFORE the 2014 indyref, Monbiot ­floated the possibility that Scotland could be dragged out of the EU if ­remaining tied to Westminster. At the time he thought it was unlikely and now despairs of the “catastrophic” exit from the EU.

“It benefits no one except the disaster capitalists but they are the people who drove the process and where a lot of the money came from.

“We have had five years being ­completely distracted from the ­existential crisis. Humanity faces the greatest ­catastrophe that humanity has ever faced, which is the potential collapse of our life support systems. That is what we should have been focusing on all this time but we have been completely distracted by Brexit. It has been a catastrophic period of lost opportunity.”

Monbiot added that if someone had told him 10 years ago that Boris Johnson would become Prime Minister he would have thought it was a joke but his elevation to power was symptomatic of a global phenomenon.

“We see these killer clowns going into office around the world. It is almost the global norm today. And the reason, I think, is that the nature of power has changed and there has been a shift from corporate power to oligarchic power in that period. It’s true that oligarchs draw a lot of their wealth from corporations but while corporations want stability, oligarchs want disruption. They want everything smashed up so they can move in and mop up the gains for themselves. They want what Steven Bannon called ‘the deconstruction of the administrative state’ so the people they fund and push into politics are people like Trump and Bolsonaro who are going to deliver that.”

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Monbiot said voters accepted the ­current system because they thought there was a chance they could become rich too. However, he pointed out that some people could only become extremely rich because their wealth depended on the exploitation of other people’s labour and resources.

“This dream of universal ­prosperity it is never going to happen – if it did we would cook the planet in minutes ­because the environmental impacts of the very rich are greater than those of anyone else. The universal pursuit of ­private luxury is never going to work. There is not even enough physical space for it. If everyone in Glasgow had their own swimming pool, tennis court, art collection and playground for their kids, then Glasgow would cover all of Scotland and if everyone in Scotland did it, then Scotland would cover all of Europe. You physically can’t do it and the only reason that some people can pursue it is because others can’t have it.

“The current system cannot work for the majority. It is the biggest con trick in human history.”

A workable alternative would be to ­pursue luxury in the public domain with public swimming pools, public ­tennis courts, public art collections, public transport and public health systems so the land can be used for thousands of people rather than just one family.

“My catchphrase for the world I want to see is ‘private sufficiency, public ­luxury’. We all have our own small domain, our own modest home and modest things but if we want to enjoy luxury we do so in the public domain with resources controlled publicly – not just nationally but also by communities,” said Monbiot.

In Conversation with George Monbiot can be found on