The Truth Will Out

If nothing else substantial happens in 2017 in Scotland in the cause of independence one thing surely must, the Yes Campaign must get itself structured and organised. January sees a conference coming up of the Scottish Independence Convention geared at taking the temperature of various key stakeholders and looking at strategies to go forward. It has been said by many, we don’t need there to be a referendum date set, or a No campaign in existence (although the fly gits are quietly gearing up funding in preparation) for a Yes Campaign to operate, and promote the benefits of self-government. Indeed, if we are to continue to bed in the idea amongst our fellow Scots that self–determination for nation states is actually the norm ( like the rest of the world) it is important that it does exist, and that it is high profile.

Here’s a couple of suggestions for how a future Yes Campaign might want to operate differently to the version 1 variety of 2014, now that we’ve all learned a wee bit about how these things work.

Don’t do the passive positive thing this time. We’ve all heard the strategies around about negative and positive campaigns, and how that’s all panned out in the past. Forget all that. This time dump it. In 2013 and 2014 the people of Scotland were subjected to the biggest load of falsified shite that was ever created in an unrelenting onslaught of lies, half-truths, spun nonsense, threats, false promises, attempts to humiliate and single out, and community bribery, in fact the British state employed any scam they could think of to ensure that Scotland did not become an independent state.

This time the Yes Campaign needs to set up a room somewhere staffed with good people, people with a similar type of inquisitive and enquiring mind as the likes of Stuart Campbell, a team whose job will be to dissect every farcical spun unionist scare story that comes out of the British states’ trusty broadcasting and written media about Scotland and rebut, preferably the same day, and with extreme prejudice. To guarantee that this is effective funding will need to be found to ensure that the message actually gets out as widely as possible, whether that be through supporting and enhancing the National or online. The Scottish public won’t be long picking up the scent of who’s making mischief, and who isn’t. After all you only have to look at the fact that the SNP are still in government, and hold almost every Scottish constituency seat at Westminster, despite daily attempts by the media to undermine anything they do, to see that many Scots are already aware that they are treated like mushrooms by the UK establishment.

The sooner this type of responsive campaign starts the better, and definitely doesn’t need a referendum on the go to implement. All it needs is funding, and if a Yes Board get themselves organised and make a proposal I’m absolutely certain the grassroots movement will put their hands in their pockets to fund it.

Also this time please don’t go with the passive “the UK’s okay but independence is better” theme. Scrap that. We love oor grannies in Newcastle and aunties and uncles in London, we always will, but we want to leave the United Kingdom. We want to leap off the broad shoulders, never to return. We need to tell our peers why we want to leave, and what is wrong with the UK. The opposition daily try to tell us that we would be a third world country without them, that if we stayed in the EU without them they’d take their ball back and not let us trade with them, that we are of no consequence because they managed to con a majority into voting no the last time. They have no conscience, they have no scruples, therefore pay them no respect, get intae them, but in a smart way. Maintain dignity and balance. Be informative. The truth will out. We’ll win that way.

Oh, and for the Scottish Government, get the currency thing sorted, whether it comes from the Growth Commission or the Common Weal, or otherwise. Take a decision, make a proposal, and stand by it. We’ll back you. But make sure that proposal does not involve us having to rely on the goodwill of London, because we’re not going to get that.

The Early Days…..

The turkey has been eaten, the Brussels sprouts are well and truly digested, transformed, and dissipated into the atmosphere. The current almost daily celebrity death toll continues to rise as 2016 bows out. Who will it be tomorrow, a legendary sporting hero, a film star great, another music god or goddess, a world leader perhaps? There’s a horrible eerie feeling that 2017 is looming, with all of the hatred, division, anger and injustice that potentially will come with it. A sense of foreboding abounds.

For Scotland, somewhat hidden in amongst all of the background noise, a little light flickers, and grows. A small symbol of hope that perhaps things are going to change for the better. That no matter what unionist propaganda the media flings at us incessantly, the momentum is in fact still in the direction of self-government and “ living in the early days of a better nation.”

As we all know, as a result of the farcical watered-down Smith Commission, the diluted to the point of tasteless Scotland Act, and Westminster trying to justify the repetitive worn out ‘Scotland is now the most powerful devolved parliament in the known universe’ (which surely only the most naive or staunch unionists actually believe, and that’s only because they want to) a handful of powers are being scooped out of the Westminster sack here and there and chucked lazily across the road at Scotland. The senior partner in this great union of ours, which has never actually been a union, acting liking a drunk father of the bride at a wedding scramble.

Scotland is gaining control of, and some powers to vary, eleven separate welfare benefits. Benefits which affect 1 in 4 Scot, including Carers Allowance, Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payments.

Kind of like asking Andy Murray to play tennis with a racquet which doesn’t have any strings this move does not represent a comprehensive transfer of control of benefits (Scotland will only have control of 15% of social security spent in Scotland once the transfer is complete),along similar lines to the recent limited transfer of tax powers without the levers of financial control, leaving not a lot of room to manoeuvre, and the feeling of one hand being tied behind the Scottish government’s back whilst hopping on the spot. A challenge to administer, but significantly, an opportunity to prepare the groundwork for the future, and an independent Scotland.

The indomitable Jeane Freeman, notable wiper of the floor with media establishment bully Andrew Neil’s big shiny forehead, is on the case, working tirelessly towards the creation of one of the foundation blocks of a modern mature nation state with social justice at its centre, a social security system for Scotland.

Confirmed socialist and plain speaker, a player in the Yes Scotland campaign, and one of the founding members for Women For Independence, the Minister for Social Security, who has been in post for seven months following May’s election success, has a huge challenge ahead, but undoubtedly has the capabilities, drive, and the commitment to get things done.

Reading an article in Holyrood Magazine about the progress of Ms Freeman’s task it is refreshing to note the basic values which underpin the work that is going on. Harking back to progressive post-war times, when enlightened visionaries created a noble welfare state that subsequent UK governments over the last forty odd years have worked hard to subvert, Scotland’s new social security agency will first and foremost exemplify the principles of “dignity, fairness and respect’ in everything it does.

Embarking on a journey towards the creation of a social security system which will work for Scotland’s people Jeane Freeman has wisely focused in on priorities quickly by doing one simple thing, asking those who use the UK’s benefit’s system what currently works for them, and what doesn’t, through a comprehensive consultation which has generated over 500 submissions, the majority of which are from individual recipients of benefits. This has brought forth many suggestions for improvement.

Ms Freeman says, of her discussions with Scots who have first-hand experience of the benefit system, that “what has been made clear is our firm belief that social security is an investment we collectively make in ourselves and each other.” We all know that politicians spout this type of rhetoric all the time but Jeane Freeman is not your average career politician. She is the real deal, a pragmatist and a driving force.

In a world where many of us are only two rent or mortgage payments away from potential disaster, where the media tells you that anyone claiming benefits is a lazy good-for-nothing, a drain on society, and the most vulnerable in our communities, those with disabilities, along with their carers, don’t ever receive anywhere near enough support, it is good to see that there is a strong commitment at Holyrood to buck the trend and firmly swim against the tide of right-wing self-obsessed greed, to build a social security system which is caring and responsive to the needs of the community, for Scots who require to use it. That is the Scotland many want to see. if anyone can ensure that this is done well, and done right, it is Jeane Freeman.

Maybe sometime soon Andrew Neil could ring her up and ask her to come on his show to give an update on progress. That would be interesting.

You Reap What You Sow

Well there you have it. It appears that it hasn’t taken long for us to find out the answer to the question about whether the UK is a partnership of equals.

Anxious to be seen to be quicker off the mark at rubbishing Scotland than any previous modern day UK Prime Minister (it’s important to her at the moment to look as if she is in control), and impressively beating David Cameron’s September 19 2014 EVEL speech, on the morning he and George Osborne danced the macarena back over the threshold in to 10 Downing Street shouting “ Mug punters” to anyone who would listen, Theresa May gave Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon a good three hour start before completely disregarding publicly the proposals the Scottish government has submitted for the UK government’s consideration to protect Scotland’s interests in Europe, and in doing so, again entirely disrespected the democratic will of the people of Scotland.

Rumours are also unconfirmed that the 100 hard copies of the 50 odd page document “ Scotland’s place in Europe” which were delivered in London, just as First Minister Sturgeon rose to make her speech to the assembled press pack at Bute House in Edinburgh, have been recycled by a scissor wielding junior flunky in David Davis’s team, who has stoutly ensured that the various water closets within the bounds of Downing Street will be well stocked with paper this festive season (glossy paper for glossy bums). Apparently it was a pleasant distraction for the poor chap. As a member of the dynamic UK government Brexit planning team he and his colleagues, with nothing else to do, have been colouring in black and white posters of Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, the Duke of Wellington, and other such notable symbols of their glorious world, with red, white and blue pencils, and running competitions to see who can make a paper Spitfire which flies the furthest, for some months now.

We can conclude from the two-fingered salute pointed north from London over the last forty-eight hours that Brexit still means Brexit, It’s still a red, white and blue Brexit, It’s still all about an all over broad-shouldered team UK Brexit, and that any comments made by the Prime Minister of the UK, or members of her government, or representatives of her political party in Scotland, about listening and taking into consideration any proposals or views of “partner’ devolved parliaments, are entirely disingenuous, and simply uttered to suggest a spirit of partnership which does not in fact exist.

In addition, unsurprisingly, we can also conclude that the UK government are playing to their long-established form, deploying a ‘diplomatic’ tool they have utilised to their advantage (and sometimes not) for many years, and in many countries, the threat. Theresa May said yesterday, during a meeting of the Commons Liaison Committee, that an independent Scotland would be outside, banished from the single market of the UK, which she suggested is worth four times as much to Scotland as the single market of the European Union.

What absolute guff, pure Project Fearty stuff. The complexity involved in disentangling current long-established trading partnerships within the UK built up over generations and realigning companies who have branches all over the UK, if this was ever remotely to be considered, in comparison would make the current Brexit negotiations seem as simple as organising a children’s picnic, to absolutely no one’s advantage, likely causing a recession on a withering scale. Aye right Prime Minister, pull the other one.

Ms May also said yesterday, after dismissing the Scottish government proposals, that “ If the SNP succeeded (in gaining independence)it would leave Scotland isolated, outside the EU, and outside the European single market” which is simply spiteful arrogant nonsense, with no basis in fact. Her country won’t even be a member of the EU trading bloc by then. She has no mandate to speak for them. The way the Prime Minister of the UK is currently going about her business she is going to find out in the not too distant future that you reap what you sow.

It is coming.

The ‘Partnership Of Equals’

The assembled media pack waited with baited breath, even Brian Taylor. Questions at the ready. The First Minister of Scotland stood before them, and in her usual poised and articulate manner laid out the clear case for respecting the democratic will of the majority of voters in Scotland, and the options available to protect their rights as European citizens. She’s good. She’s damn good.

She didn’t try to hide it, she didn’t try to fudge the issue. No surprise to anyone. She, her government, the vast majority of the people who voted for her government, and many others in a wider movement, believe that the best way for Scotland to protect its place in Europe is as an independent member state. That is a given.

However the proposed scenarios presented as a result of some hard work in the background over the last six months are transparent, and unambiguous. As a compromise to what they consider as the best way forward the Scottish government have explored avenues to protect Scotland’s interests in Europe, and remain as a member of the United Kingdom. If that isn’t clear the first time round I’ll repeat it again. The Scottish government have explored avenues to protect Scotland’s interests in Europe, and remain as a member of the United Kingdom.

In doing so they are offering the UK government an opening. A premise, a launch-pad for the whole of the UK to push forward negotiations with the twenty seven remaining EU member states to continue to seek access to the single market, within the European Economic Area, and remaining part of the EU Customs Union, should Westminster choose to explore that option.

Alternatively, should the inclination of Theresa May and her cronies be not to explore the possibilities of a suck it up, sorry Mr & Mrs J Foreigner, but we’ve partially changed our mind option, or if they perhaps feel that the ability to spin that one well enough to satisfy those who voted to “take back control” without Theresa going the way of David Cameron, out to rich pasture, is limited, there is a second option on offer, to support Scotland (again whilst Scotland remains a member of the United Kingdom) in a bid to continue as a member of the single market.

Neither of these options are easy to achieve, nothing about Brexit is, but they are not impossible. The second option is not without precedent. There are many existing complex and mixed trading arrangements between EU countries and non-EU countries, none of which seem to cause too much problems, or the requirement for a “hard border” between neighbouring nation states.

It is clear that whatever Westminster decides, once they stop sitting in their dark corner rocking back and forward muttering “What are we going to do? What are we going to do?” over and over again, that there are major changes ahead in the way that citizens of non-UK countries are treated during any time they spend in the UK (In the southern part of it at least).

Over the next few years there are set to be reams of new rules, regulations, policies and legislation on ID cards, visas and border controls, to back up the hard-line stance of 21st century right-wing Daily Express and Mail Britain. The current Prime Minister has already got ‘form’ for introducing and supporting this sort of stuff in her previous role as Home Secretary. Therefore the idea that England and Wales couldn’t control the flow of immigrants in to their countries if Scotland was still a member of the EU free movement zone is farcical. In a couple of years time you won’t be able to get a house, a job, medical treatment, benefits, or a roll of Andrex between Cornwall and Carlisle without a scanner confirming that you are bona fide, and have the proper entitlements.

Equally any suggestion that the above is a reason for a hard border between the EU single market zone and England, on the Scottish border, is easily dismissed by simply referring to the island of Ireland, where the UK would not possibly consider readopting stringent border controls, a move which would prove disastrous. It would therefore make no logical sense to treat Scotland any differently to Ireland.

It’s interesting, if predictable, and still disappointing, to see the responses from Westminster’s unionist Scottish branch marionettes. As usual the cry is’ It’s all just an SNP plot to push their independence agenda’. Ruth Davidson’s lack of credibility but abundance of brass neck defies belief. Prior to June’s Brexit vote she was as European as Hercules Poirot’s moustache. She thought it would be a disaster to leave the European Union. Now? She’s an advocate of Brexit who thinks 62% of the voters of the country in whose parliament she serves don’t deserve respect and consideration. They should just shut up and do what London tells them.

Trendy, word on the street, hip-chick Kez’s media brief, in her usual crystal clear style, couldn’t find much to say about the 60 odd page document other than call for Nicola Sturgeon to “rule out a second referendum’.

Wee Wullie Rennie reckons the report is “an expensive exercise in Christmas window dressing as (yes, you’ve guessed it) the only option the first minister really wants to succeed is Scottish independence.” Well done Wullie. Very insightful stuff.

There is nothing more stirring and encouraging than seeing politicians showing a bit of backbone, thinking for themselves, making their own minds up about important issues which impact their constituents, and the people of their country, taking a stand against the tide when it comes to the crunch, doing what is right rather than what is easy, jeopardizing their career progress even if the situation merits it…….…… and their reactions were none of that.

Why would you vote for any of these people? Scotland could do so much better.

Meanwhile the organ-grinder has some choices to consider. In the words of Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon……

“To the Prime Minister I say this – your response to these proposals will tell us much about whether the UK is, in reality, the partnership of equals you claim it to be.”

Did I mention she was good? She’s damn good.

Wind & Pish

Apparently the phone cable for the David Davis (Do you have Brexit worries? Call me anytime) bat-phone, which usually lies, still wrapped in its original cellophane, in a box in a dusty cupboard, was plugged in at Downing Street for the first time for a few minutes yesterday, so that the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom could give the First Minister of Scotland a call to discuss current mutual matters of interest.

Our source at Downing Street, who happened to be serving tea and empire biscuits at the time, was in the room, and heard the full conversation on speakerphone. The following is her recollection of that conversation…….

Theresa May: “Hello is that you Nicola?”

Nicola Sturgeon: “ Hi, yes. Good morning Prime Minister. How are you? “

Theresa May: “ I’m fine and dandy, dear girl. I was a bit down last week. Everywhere I went everybody seemed to be turning their backs on me for some reason, but I’m fine now. I’ve bounced back. Listen, I just thought I’d catch up with you on one or two things. As you know, we are moving ahead with our UK Brexit planning.”

Nicola Sturgeon: “Oh, are you? That’s interesting. What are the plans?

Theresa May: “ Cough, splutter. Ah now. That would be telling. We need to play our cards close to our chest to make sure we get the best possible outcome for the UK as a whole you know.”

Nicola Sturgeon: “ Yes, but Scotland is part of the UK, so would it not be a good idea to let us in on the plans?”

Theresa May: “ Well. erm, all you need to know right now Nicola is that we have everything in hand. Nothing for you to worry about.”

Nicola Sturgeon: “ I’m not totally convinced Prime Minister. It’s lucky then that we are working on our own proposals for protecting Scotland’s access to the European single market and skilled workers from the European union.”

Theresa May: Yes, I heard about that. I’ve promised the press that I’ll have a glance at whatever you propose, but you do realise that we can’t have regions of the country going off willy-nilly to Brussels for a separate deal, and queering the pitch for our UK Brexit Plan.”

Nicola Sturgeon: “ I presume you mean that London won’t be looking for special status for its financial institutions then?”

Theresa May : “Ah now, that’s a slightly different situation. All of this is covered in our UK Brexit Plan.”

Nicola Sturgeon: “ Ok. Would you mind sending me a copy of the UK Brexit Plan then, so that we can see what implications it has for Scotland?” After all you do recall that 62% of voters in Scotland voted to remain in the EU, don’t you?”

Theresa May: “ Sorry sweetie. We’re having problems with our mail couriers, computers and fax machines, so that might be a bit difficult. Industrial action you see. No one to carry out the maintenance. Frightfully inconvenient. As I said dear heart, don’t worry, We’ve taken account of the concerns of all of our devolved regions. Your views were at the front of our minds when we prepared the first draft of the UK Brexit Plan. Remember though that the UK as a whole voted by a massive and convincing 4% majority to leave.”

Nicola Sturgeon: ‘”That’s strange, because  I don’t remember you asking me specifically for my views. Ok. That being the case can you perhaps then read to me, over the phone, an extract from the UK Brexit Plan, maybe from a section that refers to how future trading agreements for Scotland will work?’

Theresa May: (Clearing throat) “ That I can do. Brexit means Brexit, and will be big, and shiny, and red, white and blue.”

Nicola Sturgeon: “ You don’t have a plan, do you?”

Theresa May: “ Sorry Nicola, I must dash. The police have arrived to remove the French Ambassador, who’s been sitting outside in the carpark, deliberately ignoring me for a month now. Lovely to speak to you. Remember, we’re all in this together. V for victory. England expects. Tally Ho.”……..(the phone line goes dead).

Nicola Sturgeon : (Shakes head, pauses, shakes head again, puts down the phone, and returns to polishing the final draft of her speech outlining the Scottish government’s proposals to remain a member of the EU single market and seek additional devolved powers from Westminster).

Planning To Succeed

Tick tick tick…… Tomorrow’s publication of the Scottish government paper “Scotland’s place in Europe” will surely set the cat amongst the pigeons as the full might of the combined forces of the Westminster elite, Unionist MSPs at Holyrood, Gordy Broon and Lord Darling of wherever the feck (a double act right up there with Cannon & Ball, but funny) the written and online Unionist press, and their broadcasting arm, the North Britain branch of the British Broadcasting Corporation, rise out of their pre-Christmas slumber to switch to all out anti-Scotland-remaining-in-the-EU without Big Brother propaganda mode.

They’ll have to be a bit cute though about how they do it because condemning proposals for Scotland to protect its place in Europe outright will result in only one outcome. If they are not careful, having left the Scottish government with no other alternative, a dismissal of Scotland’s proposals will ensure that there will be more than one future major event with great significance for the United Kingdom triggered by the end of March next year.

That being the case we’ll hear all sorts of double-speak, to play for time, and frighten the natives, from London politicians saying that they are willing to look into the proposals and give them due consideration one minute, and dropping in Project Fearty playbook standard phrases the next. Look out for Hard Borders featuring front and centre. We’ll hear all about fences, illegal immigrants, border crossings, granny no’ being able to pop up from Whitley Bay to see the grandweans without an Alsatian nosing though her handbag at Gretna, don’t endanger our family of nations, thumbs up for Team UK, all of that nonsense. They’ll have to blush a bit though if someone mentions how they intend to handle a border on the island of Ireland.

When the paper is published tomorrow Scotland, significantly, and transparently, will be the only part of the UK which will have actually produced some sort of plan about how it intends to handle Brexit, Westminster being so coy about the whole thing that the only major strategies they’ve adopted so far are “let’s pick out some new curtains for the Royal Yacht”, “ Brexit means Brexit” and “ It’s going to be a red, white and blue Brexit”, insightful stuff indeed.

We’re going to also hear, loudly and repetitively, how Scotland exploring options to protect itself is seriously undermining the UK’s double secret nudge nudge, wink wink, Brexit plan ( a plan which they don’t have). There will be hints that this fictitious beneficial new trading deal with former EU partners that they are trying to fool the UK general public with to stop them from cottoning on that their government haven’t a clue how it’s all going to end up ( if they want to know what will happen when they leave the EU they should ask the 27 other members, they’ve made their views pretty clear) is in serious danger of being compromised because of Scotland’s attitude.

As is their way when backed into a corner, we’ve seen it many times over the years in their relationship with Scotland, and with a range of countries who have struggled, but ultimately succeeded, in breaking out of their loving embrace, there will be threats. These will be along the lines of soor-faced TV news presenters reporting “neutral’ expert predictions of impending financial disaster should Scotland not take advantage of the UK’s broad shouldered Brexit plans. How will we survive? We’ll be a third world country! Sound familiar?

To back this up they’ll trot out a pet EU representative or two to tut-tut the whole idea of Scotland having separate access to the single market, which will result in the Scottish government rolling out another set of EU representatives that will say the exact opposite to the UK government’s lot.

Nicola Sturgeon herself is just about to experience a new level of the Alex Salmond treatment. The Depress, and it’s like, are very fond of emotive headlines with the words “ Sturgeon” and “fury” in the same sentence as it is, but as we get closer to the crunch time (either allow a separate Brexit process for Scotland or the canvassing shoes and banners are coming out of the cupboards please Mrs leather troosers) she’ll be demonised. It’ll be all about her, her plan, her comments, and not about the 62% of voters in Scotland who voted to remain in the EU, and protecting their democratic decision.

There is only going to be one conclusion to this, sooner or later. Where did we put those comfy canvassing shoes?

Scoring Points From Misery

The Daily Depress up to its usual tricks again, with sensational headlines reporting that the Scottish government’s care of cancer patients is an “utter disgrace” after quarterly target figures for treatment deadlines were not met. The target being that 95% of patients urgently referred when doctors suspect the disease should wait no more than 62 days from referral to their first treatment. A challenging target.

Official government figures show that ‘just’ 87.1% were seen on time in the last quarter, down from 89.8% in the previous quarter.

The Depress also highlighted that a separate government target for 95% of all patients to receive their first cancer treatment within 31 days of a decision that they needed medical help was also missed, with only 94.3% starting treatment within that period. Yes, you read that right, that is 0.7% short of the mark.

A cursory bit of research into the performance on the same sets of targets in the year prior to the current Scottish Government taking office reveals that for the quarter Jan-March 2006 74% of cancer patients were seen within the 62 day period, down from 75% in the previous quarter, for some cancers the figure was as low as 70%.

Now, in the first instance the use of cancer patients as a political tool leaves a lot to be desired. In fact it’s disgraceful. Secondly do the people that write this stuff not think that members of the Scottish Government are human beings with families and friends, all of whom are vulnerable to this horrible disease that impacts so many? Do they actually think Nicola Sturgeon sits up there in Edinburgh drinking tea, wondering what slush fund she’s going to divert funding into that really she should be putting into cancer care?

This sort of stuff, using the most vulnerable in society as pawns, is up there with Gordon Broon’s Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital Scottish children fright night stuff. Contemptible. The phrase used in the piece “The SNP performance on cancer is nothing short of an utter disgrace” is apparently attributed to a ‘furious’ Anas Sarwar (The Tories et al jumped in with the snideys as well). Looking at 2006’s figures I would remind Anas Sarwar that those in glass houses shouldnae really throw stones.

By the way, two health boards, NHS Borders and NHS Lanarkshire, actually met the 62 day target.

Maybe once Scotland is an independent country the parliamentarians of Holyrood, instead of trying to score points off each other, and in instances like this, delivering blows lower than a snail’s baws, will develop a governing chamber for grown-ups. In a time when there is an unprecedented demand for cancer services across Scotland they might look at the real issues surrounding what is a serious blight for all of us, and come together, taking the view that one party may be in government, yes, but the impact of the challenge they are dealing with on the community is so large that we shouldn’t blast them for not meeting targets, but instead should stand up and say what is it we can do to help you?

We live in hope.