The Nation

This came up on my FB “On this day” today.
The Nation

A land of purple heather, of bothy’s and of glens,
of castles, and of monuments, of mighty snow-capped bens.
A harsh and brutal landscape the Romans could not tame,
Its beauty takes your breath away, it’s never twice the same.

Deep inside, a nation’s soul, imbedded to survive.
Scots overcome adversity, to flourish side by side.
Innovation, ingenuity, strong passions to succeed.
With a conscience for the greater good, not besmirched by greed.

You can sing old songs and ballads bloody,
Of loss and daring do.
Of freedom, and of heroes gone,
of tyranny, past and new.

But unless you rise and take that leap,
and have faith to cut the ties,
the lads of Eton and their like,
will exploit you with their lies.

A defiant anthem dearly held in its proud refrain,
In the past, days of glory, they must always remain.
But it’s time to step forward now, old unions on the wane,
and grasp self-determination, to be a Nation again.

……..Ally Farquhar (exile) 31 March 2014

On With The Show

The date when Scotland should have re-emerged from three hundred odd years of being wrapped in the loving embrace of it’s neighbour to the south to become once again a sovereign nation has passed. We move on.

We’ve watched with varying degrees of interest as another neighbour, just across the sea, commemorates a week, a hundred years ago, which helped trigger a sequence of events that set them on the road to self-government for the larger part of their landmass. A country dislodging itself from the same (if much more significant back then in terms of power) benevolent guardianship that many in Scotland seek to disencumber themselves from now.

Thankfully change in Scotland will never, in any circumstances, need to involve the use of force of arms or the spilling of blood. It wouldn’t be the Scottish way. The combination of the gradual incremental shift of political and civic tectonic plates, as the idea of self-government becoming a positive aspiration digs itself deeper into the psyche of the people and communities of Scotland, and the results of the continuing withering neo-liberal policies of incumbent Westminster governments will ensure that independence will come.

Looking in on the televised leadership debates in the lead up to May’s Scottish Government Elections (the results of which will be another significant milestone on the road to change) I cringe a wee bit at the contrived drama that unfolds. These occasions are definitely more about Hollywood than Holyrood. I’m not sure whether they serve any great purpose in informing the voters of Scotland about the issues of the day, or are they there just to offer politicians a platform to create media sound bytes?

The First Minister of Scotland, with her quick wit, intelligence and comfortable articulate style, consistently knocks the opposition over with consummate ease. She can’t be criticised for that. Kezia Dugdale as an opposition leader is embarrassing. As the old saying goes “You can only fight the opponent that is in front of you.” It’s not her fault that the lead branch representatives of the main London UK parties in Scotland are so poor (I exclude Patrick Harvie from that viewpoint as I think he and the Greens have a lot to offer a future Scotland where the mechanisms of government will surely be of a more collegiate and co-operative nature).

I can’t help thinking at the back of my mind that sometime, probably not for the next couple of years, and definitely not before May 5th, the former party of the working people of the British Isles, now the sold-out waiting for ermine cloaks brigade, are due a lightbulb moment when it comes to their policies and party structure north of the border, a moment which may involve significant changes to their party constitution.

They are currently so far off having any connection or empathy with their traditional voters in Scotland, many of whom who now feel bitterly betrayed, as well as sold out by them, that there is only one natural and logical road open to them to redeem themselves. However long it takes they will at some point reach that conclusion or become entirely irrelevant.

And when they do it will all be over bar the fireworks.

Happy Independence Day

This is the day I’d hoped to stand in Princes Street, with many thousands more, awaiting that moment, just after nightfall, when fireworks would have lit up the sky to herald in a new Scotland. Sadly it was not to be.

Today, in the spirit of defiance we could harp on about some of the landmarks on the path that are being passed as Scotland unfalteringly continues along on its inevitable journey to independence.

We could talk about the limited increase in powers that the Palace of Westminster has deemed to grant Holyrood (London still holds the major purse strings but at least the ability to vary tax is something added to Scotland’s control), or the hard-won financial settlement attached to these powers which saw Scotland’s leaders commendably wrench around 7billion pounds of future Scottish tax payer revenue, which would have ended up in the southern treasury, away from the Tory government, or even perhaps we could highlight the plan to enshrine the permanency of the Scottish Parliament into law under the Scotland Act, and the incredible scale of the magnitude of democratic success of the party of Scotland in last year’s General Election, soon to be replicated in the Scottish Parliament Elections.

We could all expound forth on all of that positive progress and more, but on this occasion I choose not to.

Instead I’d like to reflect on the reasons why I feel passionately that our country should be governed by the people who live there, the people of Scotland.

Members of the movement for change in Scotland are often accused of blind belief in independence, and seen as following our “hearts rather than our heads”. The reality is far from this image. Hoping that Scotland becomes an independent nation is not at all about flags, the hills and the glens, kilts, bagpipes and “See you Jimmy” hats, or even about movies where diminutive American Australian actors in dodgy wigs with blue painted faces get to pronounce the name of our country as “Skawlin” without the audience bursting into laughter. It’s not about disliking English people, I’ll repeat that for the hard of thinking, It’s not about disliking English people, it’s not about a suspicion of foreigners, it’s not about seeing ourselves as better than anyone else.

What it is about is the following, and to illustrate my viewpoint let me throw out a few facts to you about life in the early 21st century Scotland.

· In 2016, in one of the top 20 richest countries in the world, 1 in 5 Scots live in poverty of some kind.

· The number of Scots in severe or extreme poverty has increased over the last decade to a figure of around 710,000 after housing costs. (Severe poverty represents household incomes below 50 per cent of the UK median annual household income, extreme poverty represents household incomes below 40 per cent of the UK median annual household income).

· More than 1 in 5 (210,000) Scottish children still live in severe poverty, a figure significantly higher than most other European countries.

· 43% of people in Scotland of working age who are in severe poverty live in households where at least one person is in employment (in low pay).

· Scotland had 613 drug related deaths in 2014, higher than any other previously recorded year.

· The average life expectancy of Scots in comparison to those in the South East of England is still 3.3 years less. Drilling further into published statistics reveals that men born in Scotland’s most affluent areas can expect to live around 12.5 years longer than those in the poorest parts of Scotland.

· The number of Scots who utilised the services of food banks increased by 398% in the period 2012 to 2014. For a six month period in 2015 the Trussell Trust recorded 60,000 referrals for three day emergency supplies in Scotland.

· In 2014-15, 35,764 homeless applications were made in Scotland.

· In contrast the 4 richest families in Scotland are wealthier than the most deprived 20% of Scotland’s population put together and the 14 most affluent families are wealthier than the poorest 30% of the population. 432 families own 50% of the private land of Scotland. This is very different to most other European nations.

These statistics come directly from organisations like Child Poverty Action Group Scotland, Shelter Scotland, Oxfam and the Scottish Government’s own figures. There are many more such shocking examples of the benefits of being a very junior partner in an unhealthy Union where the senior partner treats you as a distant province to be milked at will for your resources and otherwise quietly ignores you unless he needs to sweet talk you with lies to stop you leaving.

Why not stay in the Union? Why not try and change it from within? Here’s a simple answer. The politics of the remaining United Kingdom as they stand right now, and as they will continue to be for many years to come, are not compatible with a progressive social democracy which places it’s citizens (all of them) at the centre of its policies and aims as a nation. More and more the Neo-Liberal influence of the city state of London and large multi-national corporations are pulling the UK towards the model which prevails in the United States. The rich are getting infinitely richer and the rest, well, they are there simply to be exploited and discarded.

What passes for opposition to this in the remaining UK have shifted so far to the right that they are in fact virtually no different to the Tories, and the xenophobes of UKIP. The Labour Party is a husk of long-gone memories of bold social justice initiatives and plastic professional politicians dusting down the benches of the Palace of Westminster with the arses of their trousers and skirts whilst they mark time until the ermine cloak appears. You can appoint as many real socialist leaders as you like but if the rest of your crew of careerist self-servers ignore him he’s just an empty promise, soon to be discarded.

As we’ve seen over the last number of years austerity measures as inflicted by the current Neo-Liberal cabal of the Tory government (it would have been very much the same under New Labour) are deployed as a political decision by a governing political party, not based on any real economic necessity. Contracting the British economy, shrinking the public sector, and increasingly putting services in the hands of low bid, high profit private corporations only serves to act as an effective conduit to further transfer the wealth of the many into the pockets of the few, crushing the lives of human beings in its wake. Scotland has an opportunity over the next few years to escape from this, an opportunity which cannot be missed.

This week the First Minister of Scotland announced as her first move under the new powers to vary tax rates that the top earners in Scotland would not benefit from the tax cut announced in George Osborne’ recent farcical UK budget. Opponents and media observers have since variously stated that this decision shows weakness, lacks inspiration and is not bold enough. I disagree. This decision is highly significant. It is highly significant because it now means Scotland’s tax rates are different to the rest of the UK, and will over time be clearly focused on different priorities to the UK, the beginnings of another reason to be independent.

On this day, on the day when Scotland would have been re-admitted to the family of world nations as a sovereign state, take some comfort that it is indeed coming.

A matter of percentages

We are now within a few days of what would have been a momentous occasion, the day when Scotland, having declared the right to once again become a sovereign independent country (Thursday 24 March 2016),would have formally become so, if the majority of the people of Scotland had voted Yes in September 2014.

Since 2014 we have witnessed continuing forward momentum as the idea of independent self-government beds itself deeper into the consciousness of Scots, who are becoming more comfortable and confident about the idea of a future where they see themselves managing their own affairs. This building of confidence takes time but the signs are there that the seeds are growing. Recent polling bears this out.

As members of probably the greatest movement for progressive change in Scottish modern history I’m sure some of us still have a particular family member, friend, work colleague or acquaintance who voted No in the referendum whom we figure that if we’d just had that conversation, or approached the issue in a slightly different manner, perhaps could have been persuaded to take the positive forward thinking view and vote Yes.

How about using this occasion, and the run up to the Scottish Government Elections, to begin having that discussion with them now?

As we move closer to what the First Minister of Scotland refers to as “a new initiative in the summer to build support for independence” why not engage, listen to concerns, and discuss how things have gone for Scotland since September 2014?

There is a lot to talk about, issues like the many empty or watered down promises from the government of the UK, the hard won battles around the Scotland Bill and it’s financial settlement, the challenge of the continuing negative spin (particularly as this week the mainstream Scottish media no doubt will have a field day in their role as prophets of doom and protectors of the state over the oil price slump and the unionist perceived disaster that would have been an independent Scotland ) and the impact of withering austerity measures on the lower paid, unwaged and disabled, which the Tories are squabbling amongst themselves about at the moment.

The potential for a future progressive independent Scotland to be a success story is huge.There is an abundance of reference material to refer to in support of this. It’s not all about oil.

If a positive change of opinion is achieved (of course personal details should be kept anonymous) it would be encouraging for the rest of us generally to read on social media what the issues of concern were for that person in reaching their decision in 2014, and how you addressed these successfully.

Alternatively, if you know someone who voted No,who has changed their view to a future Yes since the referendum, what was it that made them revise their opinion to be favourable towards Independence now?

Instead of us looking backwards with some sadness at what might have been on the 24th of this month it would be tremendous to demonstrate that Scots are still continuing to revise their view to a future Yes.

In the end, some day in the not too distant future, it will all boil down to a matter of percentages.

Cruel Britannia

Is it to assist the campaign for Brexit? Is it an early run at positioning himself for a shot at the job of El Supremo amongst the chaos whilst the dust clears on the brave new world of a post European referendum Britannia? Or perhaps is he looking to sit at the right hand of the Mayor of hair ruffle, the master of fake and deceptive buffoonery? Is he suddenly growing a conscience? (I would sincerely doubt that one). The furore over the resignation of the arch-Tory hit man of the lower paid, unwaged, disabled and disadvantaged, Iain Duncan Smith, and the round of claims, counter-claims, theories on his motivation and the political strategy behind his decision to resign highlight one very clear and significant point for Scotland.

The Tories have no fear of any challenge to their grand plan of creating Great Britain Plc from any political opposition in the Palace of Westminster, particularly the weaker redder version of themselves across the chamber floor. They are in government for the long haul, and are comfortable enough in their position to cope with internal fracture and discord, competing amongst themselves to see which faction can be the most hard-line right wing and get away with it with impunity. They can publicly argue with each other about what they consider “social justice” without the slightest concern, guffawing over their cigars after dinner in the club whilst contemplating which section of a society, which they consider as commodities to be exploited, or burdens, if they can’t be exploited, to shaft next. They are going nowhere soon.

However long it takes Scotland need to step away and firmly shut the door behind them.

A problem with the truth

Reading, and agreeing with, Mike Small’s piece for Bella of 14th March 2016 entitled “Willie’s Big Bold Package” I’m struck again by the level of inaccurate and pernicious commentary that is allowed to pass for journalism of a unionist political nature in Scotland.

It is beyond wearisome to continue to read on a regular basis absolute rubbish that makes suggestions that Scots in favour of independence are fascist “blood and soil” nazis. This is lazy, repetitive, entirely unfounded in reality, and shows a clear disrespect for around 50% of the people of Scotland.

Following the recent British Broadcasting Corporation’s Dundee Question Time debacle one of these regular hacks expressed his embarrassment at how he felt complainers that the episode of the show was unrepresentative of the locus had shown Scotland up and made Scots look ridiculous in front of the rest of Britain.

Then, just to gild the lily a wee bit, in his view, he thought he’d throw in the standard false dig alluding to believers in a sovereign Scotland being haters of others not of a Scottish accent, suggesting sarcastically that non-Scots accented residents of Scotland should perhaps be compelled to wear a badge to identify them, presumably akin to Jews in nazi Germany. This is outrageous language.

The thing is this geezer knows that his statement is outrageous, as do we, but other fellow Scots fall for it,and some of Scotland’s neighbours south of the border, who are already fed all sorts of propaganda by their right-wing media to protect the benevolent loving embrace of the senior controlling partner in the bad marriage which is the Union.

The issue for many with regards to the episode of Question Time under discussion was certainly nothing to do with accents, or where audience members were born, and everything to do with fair representation of a city which voted 57% in favour of independence.

For the umpteenth time since the beginning of 2014 (and if these nutters keep suggesting it we’ll keep countering it) let’s clarify the fact that supporters of an independent Scotland come in all recognisable human colours and races, all shapes, all sizes, Maryhill to Mumbai accented, gay, straight, transgender, religious, agnostic, socialist, social democratic, there is probably the odd, very odd, lapsed Tory in there too if you look very closely. There is even a guy with a rickshaw!

The important thing to note though is that nowhere present in the entire body of this diverse movement slowly pushing forwards towards an independent Scotland will you find hatred, racism, jingoism, xenophobia, militarism or any of the other unhealthy elements which appear in other areas of “British” culture. What you will find is a burning desire for social justice and fairness, and positivity about creating a better future in abundance.

For every school of opinion there are the odd fringe “characters”who should be avoided (castigating a politician and calling them names for how they look or dress rather than questioning their political views or decisions is not ok in my view) but even at that the vitriol of the pro-Union version of the bedroom keyboard wallopers, I would suggest, has taken the debate to a sinister level at times beyond any argument that could be considered reasonable.

There are very clear targets in the sights of the Indy community, these being the neo-liberal establishment of corporate Great Britain as embodied by the likes of the city state of London and its buddies in the Palace of Westminster, but certainly not the people of England, or the rest of the UK.

One of the worst elements of this campaign to mark supporters of independence as racist is that it is designed to build up mistrust and hatred amongst others, spreading division. A type of propaganda which has been used to great effect in Scotland for many years with regards to religion.

There is no getting away from the fact that Scotland has had in the past, and still does to a certain extent, in certain areas, an issue with sectarianism. Where did that arise from? It came from the same organised establishment encouraged British nationalism as we see being deployed in the independence debate. Scotland’s more populated central belt has been subject to a long-standing establishment societal project, by design and tacit approval, to control the working classes. This has been achieved by encouraging two sections of the community to consider themselves as separate entities, the other seen as a threat to a way of life, a group to be suspicious of, thus causing mutual division and resentment between common like-minded Scots, similar in all things apart from which type of primary school they attended.

The achievement of this project in the past has been to let the 1% get on with helping themselves to become even more obscenely rich, whilst the rest,the people doing the work and struggling just to survive are too busy mistrusting each other to actively organise together to radically improve their lot in life. Hopefully, as we saw some evidence of during the referendum, some of these barriers are starting to break down. In 2016 it’s time for the dinosaurs to become extinct.

As noted by Wings Over Scotland the other day it is ironic, going back to Question Time for a moment, that one of the ‘random’ Dundee audience members who was selected to ask a question turned out to be a former Labour candidate for the 2015 UK elections who had to resign after publicly comparing the children of Scottish Independence campaigners with the Hitler Youth.

If Scotland is to ultimately achieve independence we need to challenge these views vigorously and comprehensively every time they rear their ugly and hateful heads.

“And then you win.”

There were some highly significant words from the First Minister of Scotland in her address to her party conference yesterday.

“Making and winning that case is our challenge – and our opportunity. That is why I can tell you today that this summer the SNP will embark on a new initiative to build support for independence. It will not be an attempt to browbeat anyone. I know that many across Scotland support the union as strongly as we do independence – I respect that.

But I also know that many wanted to be persuaded in 2014 – but ultimately didn’t find our arguments compelling enough. So we will listen to what you have to say. We will hear your concerns and address your questions – and in the process, we will be prepared to challenge some of our own answers. And, patiently and respectfully, we will seek to convince you that independence really does offer the best future for Scotland.

A future shaped, not by perpetual Tory governments that we don’t vote for, but by our own choices and our own endeavours. That is how we will turn the 45% of September 2014 into a strong and positive majority for independence.”

A stirring moment indeed for the very many of us determined to see Scotland reach its ultimate sovereign destination and become an independent country once again, but what, in practical terms, does Nicola Sturgeon refer to when she talks about “a new initiative”?

I’m sure we’ll find out in the fullness of time once the SNP launch the programme geared at increasing support for Indy, but in the immediate aftermath of the FM’s speech there are many questions for the curious. Here’s a few.

Will plans for the key battleground issue of currency be set out? Project Fear will be a busted flush once that one’s clearly communicated to the people of Scotland, and confidence built.

By the way did you see former Governor of the Bank of England Mervyn King on Scotland Tonight the other night stating that there would have been no issue with Scotland continuing to use the pound as an independent country? Makes the blood pressure rise, doesn’t it.The currency issue needs to be fully addressed and put to bed.

Will there be Indy forums set up around the country to facilitate discussion on the issues of concern that our fellow Scots not yet at Yes have?

On that subject, if there are going to be forums how will the new initiative manage to encourage these folks out to attend such meetings, the right wing media’s fabled “silent majority”,bearing in mind that experience shows that gatherings about independence tend to result in audiences of like-minded Yes supporters, and one of the main criticisms of the last campaign was that we spent too much time talking to ourselves and not to the people who needed convinced?

Will there be a media campaign? Even better will there be a media space created specifically for the purpose of promoting Scotland and it’s culture? How will they effectively combat the unionist propaganda of fear?

Have discussions taken place already,or are they going to take place, as part of the initiative, to gather the key elements of the Yes campaign back together again once the Holyrood elections are over with? There are so many great minds and dynamic positive thinkers out there who have the skills to convince more of us to Yes.

Lastly, for now, what can we the grassroots supporters do to help? There are many of us, bursting with enthusiastic energy and passion. Use us.

The 45% will become the 60%. It is coming. As the wise man once said “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then…………you win.”