Disappointing

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Jim Sillars can say what he wants. It’s a free country, kind of. He’s earned it. He has done his bit.

Many of us don’t agree in the slightest with much that he opined in the media yesterday, I certainly don’t, and aren’t the likes of the Hootsmon having a real gala day at our expense as they portray an SNP grandee sticking a skean dhu atween the First Minister’s shooder blades? But so what, we’ll live.

He’s 80 years auld. It’s good to see that he is in good health and still as articulate as he ever was. However it is disappointing that such a figure, husband of the late great Margo MacDonald can be used, and let himself be used, in such a way to try and damage the independence movement.

Having said that, any movement for change of the magnitude we hope to achieve for Scotland requires the input and acceptance of critical friends. We don’t all think the same way, we don’t all agree on the likes of fracking or the EU, or when a second referendum should be considered.

It would have been useful though if he’d directed his ‘constructive’ criticism to those he was criticising personally other than via the unionist media. If anybody should know how comments in the media can be used as negative propaganda against the cause of Scottish independence it’s him.

I don’t know what his relationship with the current leadership of the SNP is but he walked right into the trap on the question of Nicola Sturgeon, purposely or otherwise.

Onwards and upwards. Let’s get on with growing and building the broad base for independence, step by step, Nobody will do it for us.

If we do that well eventually the propaganda machine won’t matter too much.

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The price of a good lightbulb

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A wee appeal here to you my fellow Scots for just a few minutes of your time. Reasonable, fair minded, balanced human beings. Not affected by any historic bias, not carrying baggage of a religious or cultural nature, just ordinary folk going about your lives, striving to get by, and trying to do your best for yourself and your family without doing anyone else any harm if you can help it.

I have two questions I would like to ask you. Here they are. Do you believe that the media in your country is impartial and balanced? Do you believe that the media in your country is not biased against any group whose aim it is to take the government of your country away from London control and into Scotland’s hands?

I’ll lay out my position up front. I passionately believe that Scotland has the necessary people, skills, drive, resources, potential and ability to be a successful independent country whose citizens will benefit greatly by being in charge of their own destiny. I write a regular blog supporting that viewpoint. I am biased towards that viewpoint. I do not hide that.

One of the main reasons I started writing a blog was because, during the run up to the 2014 Scottish referendum on sovereignty, I felt, in my opinion, that what I could see was a grossly unfair and unbalanced debate, where the mainstream media of both the UK and Scotland itself, apart from in the last weeks of the campaign when one Sunday newspaper came out in support of an independent Scotland, clearly were strongly in favour of Scotland remaining as part of the UK, and did their utmost to ensure that they influenced public opinion enough to support that outcome.

Again, in my opinion, that media behaviour still continues today. Apart from the launch of “ The National” newspaper and the continuing growth of online alternative media supporting self-government the mainstream media in both the UK and Scotland itself takes every opportunity, doing what it can, to discredit any notion of self-determination for Scotland, and promoting the view that Scotland must remain in a Union which sees it governed from London.

Now, you’ll have heard people like me, nasty folk that we are, described by the media as “separatists’ or ‘nationalists’ (an attempt to try to make some loose tenuous and entirely wrong connection between what we believe in, inclusion, social justice and self-government, with the negative horrible right wing, fascist elements of nationalism seen elsewhere in the world). That is a deliberate ploy, again in my opinion, by the media, to discredit and to sway, or even manipulate, your opinion. You also may have heard us described as continually having a “grievance” or that we are paranoid because we think that the UK media is anything other than fair or balanced, because after all we are British, and that’s what Britain stands for, right.

The reason I write on this day in particular is because I want to draw your attention to one example of what I consider bias, an example I would like you to consider.

Yesterday Scottish Television’s online news service tweeted a story with the heading “Minister takes four pounds sixty-eight taxi to physical activity speech.”

This was a story about Scottish Government Mental Health Minister Maureen Watt, who just happens to be 66 and asthmatic, legitimately, and all above board, using taxpayers funds whilst carrying out the duties of her government position to travel just short of a mile to carry out a speech in May this year promoting the benefits of active learning through physical activity for people with learning difficulties. The STV report, critical of Maureen Watts actions, ends with a quote from the Scottish Conservative Shadow Health Secretary saying “This is another classic example of SNP hypocrisy.”

Ladies and gentlemen the report in question is about spending tax payers money to the tune of four pounds sixty-eight pence, around about the price of a 770 gram pack of Frozen Crispy Chicken Dippers from a well-known supermarket.

Let’s look a bit closer. A couple of weeks ago the Prime Minister of the UK, embroiled in protracted negotiations with EU Commissioners over Britain’s divorce from Europe, decided to hire the use of a palatial venue and fly half of her Cabinet team plus their entourages , and her media team, to the Italian city of Florence. This was to make a pre-written announcement in front of a room full of the British media, with no representatives of the EU states whom her speech was aimed at actually in the room, or even in Florence at the time. All paid for by UK taxpayers. This speech could have been made from her office in Downing Street or her living room. Did you hear much about that? No, but you’ve heard about a Scottish politician from a party who supports self-government lawfully using tax funds equivalent to the price of a 20 pack of Gillette disposable razors from that well-known supermarket.

That same Prime Minister, who is often quoted, when asked why the NHS in England is underfunded, as saying that she doesn’t have a “magical money tree” upon finding out that the disastrous snap General Election that she had called had resulted in her electoral majority being in tatters, suddenly found, in order to form a working government, over a billion pounds of taxpayers money, a regional payment from the blue, to sweet talk the extremist DUP of Northern Ireland into providing their voting support at Westminster. Did you catch much about that? No. The Scottish/ British media would prefer to tell you about a 66 year old Scottish politician with asthma choosing to spend the monetary equivalent of a box of 22packs of Walkers Crisps (Classic variety) on a taxi rather than walk around a mile.

How about the global visits of London’s man in Scotland, the Secretary of State for Scotland ( a role which since devolution really isn’t necessary, yet more wasted tax payers money). In recent months ostensibly promoting trade, David Mundell has had tax payer funded trips to Myanmar, formerly Burma, to make a speech telling Myanmar workers that the Scottish people do not want a second referendum, and South America, to tell a bewildered and confused audience of Paraguayan locals that when he originally said that Scotland would be lavished in new powers returning from Europe, as a result of the UK leaving the EU, what he really meant was that London would look after these returned powers for us. Both of these trips were fully tax payer funded. Both of these trips resulted in the UK media reporting or writing articles promoting unionism and decrying self-government for Scotland. Did you hear much about that use of tax payers money? No, but you’ve heard about an SNP politician ,within the law, spending the equivalent of the price of a 500 ml bottle of Extra Virgin Oil in that supermarket I mentioned earlier.

Then we have the House of Lords, that fine establishment of the rich, the hereditary rich, the famous and former Labour, Tory and Liberal politicians. Currently enjoying one of its highest memberships ever, this chamber full of worthies, none of whom were democratically elected by voters/ tax payers lounge comfortably on the red benches picking up a healthy sum of three hundred pounds of tax payers money each day that they attend. Even if they just sign in, nod off for a bit and then head off for lunch at their favourite club they pocket three hundred pounds every day of your money. Do you read much about that in the Daily Mail or Express or hear much on the BBC? No, but you’ll hear about a politician who strongly believes that Scotland has the ability to govern itself spending the price of a box of Whiskas Dry Cat Food, or even an LED classic 60 watt bayonet cap lightbulb legitimately whilst carrying out her ministerial duties.

Just something for you to think about.

Many years ago I used to firmly believe that the British (and Scottish) broadcasting news and current affairs media were up there, probably as good as any in terms of fairness and impartiality. I most definitely do not think that now.

The day job

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I believe Scotland is a very lucky country. It is a lucky country to have Nicola Sturgeon.

I don’t gush or fawn over politicians. I tend to treat them all with a hint of suspicion, absorbing their every utterance with a huge spoonful of salt. I’m quick to express an opinion where I think political figures have it wrong, but sometimes, just sometimes the right people happen along at the right time for a difficult job, and Nicola Sturgeon is the right person for the job of looking after the interests of the people of Scotland.

In a period of chaos, (where the government arm of the British state is in the middle of a self-inflicted Machiavellian drama, many publicly supporting their embarrassingly incompetent lame duck leader whilst privately plotting who will replace her, a government which has by their own actions painted themselves so far into a corner with regards to their dissolving relationship with the largest single market trading bloc on the planet that their only strategy now is to feign insult and storm out of negotiations in the huff in the vain hope that the British public will support them, invoking the Dunkirk spirit, which somehow they think will result in the European Union coming begging them for a trading deal which gives the UK preferential treatment) the First Minister of Scotland stands head and shoulders above any of her peers in terms of competence, credibility and trust.

Contrast the shambles of the robotic party sound bite, and at one point Aaron Sorkin plagiarised, keynote speech of the Prime Minister of the British government at her party conference last week with yesterday’s Glasgow address to the SNP conference of the First Minister of Scotland. On one side droning mind numbing empty rhetoric apparently designed only to shore up weakness, rouse British nationalism, and counter disharmony amongst those with metaphoric long knives and constituencies in the Home Counties ( it didn’t go well). On the other, real government, announcements of real changes to policy, real initiatives to help significantly change the lives of the people of Scotland for the better.

The creation of a publicly owned energy company whose function is to harness mainly renewable energy sources to sell electricity and gas to the Scottish public at as low a price to cost price as possible, not beholden to shareholders, not obliged to make profits, there solely for the benefit of consumers, is an excellent prospect. The doubling of state early years child care provision in Scotland, saving Scottish parents of young families on average over three hundred pounds a month, another noble and practical step to improve lives. Clear signs of a government doing what their vacuous unionist opponents are always bleating on about whilst they obsess about the time that’s coming, when their sponsors grip will be prised from the throat of Scotland, the “day job.”

Yes, the day job, a commitment to delivering a much needed 50,000 affordable homes over the life of the current Parliament, in full reversal of the days where the right to buy ultimately promoted yet more concentration of wealth in the hands of the few and encouraged financial exploitation due to the scarcity of suitable accommodation, and mindful of the increasing problem of an ageing population, putting in place steps to protect vital workers resident in Scotland who are EU citizens should London decide to start inflicting charges on this group for the privilege of settled status in the UK. The day job.

All of these initiatives, and more, along with the recently rolled out new programme for government, aimed at growing the Scottish economy and supporting public services, with the significant announcement of the establishment of a Scottish National Investment Bank to support infrastructure investment, help businesses and create jobs, are evidence of a government of a country, limited in their powers as they may be, and hamstrung by the main financial levers of power being retained by men in suits in London, doing the day job, being in the driving seat, and working for the people who elected them.

Nicola Sturgeon is constantly under attack from the media, and unionist politicians, none of whom come anywhere near the mark in terms of their capabilities to do her job. Brash bullying semi-telly celebrities like Ruth Davidson, are strictly one trick ponies, as is evidenced in recent polling in Scotland. Now that the General Election is in the past, and she can’t get away with just warbling on about an independence referendum 24 hours a day, with nothing to say on policy that doesn’t make her look as bad as her governors down south, amidst regular revelations coming before the Scottish public of the unwholesome nature of some of her party’s elected representatives around the country, her party has dropped back to third in the hit parade. All of that Rule Britannia euphoric nonsense about coming for the First Minister’s job didn’t last long, did it? That is the fact of the matter, although you wouldn’t think that if you watch Andrew Marr or any mainstream UK news media, perhaps occasionally with the exception of Channel 4.

A casual visitor to our shores from abroad, subjected to a month of Scottish TV news and current affairs reporting surely would be bewildered as to why it is that the Scotland manages to survive without sinking into a mire of disaster, our devolved government being so bad.

Theresa May’s wee attack dog, the Secretary of State Against Scotland, is another one who constantly puts the boot in. Has anybody actually worked out yet what his function is, apart from being snidey about the country he was born in’s chances of being successful at anything? What’s he for?

The thing is, unionist politicians and the state sponsored media also see what we see when we observe Nicola Sturgeon going about the day job, but unlike us, advocates of an independent self-governing Scotland, they do not embrace what they see, they fear it. They know what is coming, they’ll fight it until the end, but they know they will ultimately lose.

As each month passes, as each new initiative and policy based on what a government should concentrate on, the benefit and wellbeing of its people, all of them, is put into place in Scotland, step by step incrementally diverting the future path of our country away from the basket-case of what the UK has become, and worse, what it is transforming into, a future where Scotland, with social justice at its core, will shine, eventually the differences will become so apparent, self-government will be considered so normal a proposition, that to convince our country-folk to take that final step will become less of a chore and more a confirmation.

I believe Scotland is a very lucky country. It is a lucky country to have Nicola Sturgeon.

A stiff upper lip to chaos

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I remember thinking, all those months ago, as I sat on a barstool in Bali watching the BBC World News (a service which up until the last few years was partly funded by the Foreign Office) that this could not be. How could the sleazy Farage, Gove and Johnson manage to convince a majority (slim as it was) of English voters that they were best served out-with the membership of the European Union. Surely folk could see that the side-of-the-bus snipe about NHS funding and the EU was false. Surely they could see the sinister element of the vision of Farage’s cheesy puss in front of a large photo of a straggling line of dishevelled displaced human beings from a war-torn region was hateful and bitter. Surely they could see that Gove just being Gove should have been enough to keep the weans away from the fireplace, and voters away from voting to leave the EU. The EU clearly has its faults as an organisation, but they are a damn sight more easily addressed from the inside than from the tariff paying wilderness beyond.

As the day went on I still couldn’t take my eyes off the screen, almost disbelieving what I was seeing. The BBC news presentation had moved on from the studio to a tented area at the front of the Palace of Westminster, where all of the major news teams had set up shop, interviewing each other, various stationary trees, statues of good old V for Victory Winnie, and grabbing various Westminster talking heads as they passed by to come in, have the makeup brush slapped across their fizzer and then, under the lights, give the viewing audience the low down on the monumental events of the day as they saw it, All very fluid and ladled heavily with “Breaking News”, which these longwinded live broadcasts often have, which in the end turn out to be not very “breaking’ at all.

The drink might have been starting to take its toll but there was a fleeting moment when the hair stood up on the back of my neck and a feeling of dread passed through me. Across the back-shot of the BBC live set, presumably on his way to be interviewed triumphantly by Fox News or Sky, hovered the smug faced pale skeletal figure of one John Redwood MP. I dunno about you but there is something about this guy that has given me the creeps every time he comes to the fore since the days when he ran an unsuccessful leadership campaign against John Major in the mid 90’s.

Very self-assured, measured and with the personality of a cut rattlesnake with fang-ache, he’s always there or there about in the media to ameliorate any dilution of the party right wing message, or provide a well hammered-in nail to a colleague’s career when the comedy act that is the upper echelons of the current Tory government slip on a straight banana skin, as they often do as they go about their dysfunctional incompetent business. He’s a dangerous contrast to them, and it wouldn’t surprise me if there is ambition still there in those grey steely eyes, once Europe is a thing of the past and the dust settles on the robotic sacrificial cough sweetie eater. You can be assured that any Tory government with him anywhere near the centre of it would be of the furthest right variety the current United Kingdom has ever experienced.

I noticed a clip over the last few days, I think from the Victoria Derbyshire show, where he’s imploring us all not to worry, in that calm assured way that he does. In his view we shouldn’t be at all concerned if negotiations between the London government and Brussels collapse (which I strongly suspect by their actions is the aim of his Westminster colleagues in the first place) because ‘No Deal’ is a good deal. In his view, we’re British, we’re not paying to leave, the EU need us more than we need them, so eventually they will come crawling to us, begging for a trade deal.

Are you convinced? Even if you are a Leave voter such an approach is surely courting disaster on many levels. These people are in control of Scotland’s economy and finances, and are becoming a parody of themselves.

Do you still think we couldn’t do it better ourselves?

The cringe finds a new home

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As someone, who was just breaking in to his teens at the time, being on the march with Ally’s army, and specifically turning up at Hampden with many others to cheer on the 1978 Scotland World Cup squad when there wasn’t even a game on, was as exciting a sporting moment as a young lad could get without seeing his team win in a final. We were there to see them and their curly perms off…. “Macari, Buchan… Dalglish….and Argentina here we come…” all of that. Scrap books, the diamond sleeved strip, hero worshipping Kenny Dalglish, the mass hypnosis which had us convinced that Scotland actually had a very good chance of being world champions, a fantasy which dissolved in the face of aged Peruvian ballplayers, 90 minutes of self-harm against Iran, and then a typical Scotland if-only moment when we cavalry charged over the top of one of the eventual finalists, Holland, a world top ranked squad, Archie Gemmill scoring a wonder goal which had kids running out on the street shouting ‘we’re going to do it’ only to find that having beaten a finalist we’d lose out on qualifying for the next stage on goal difference.

Having vague memorises of Germany’s World Cup in 1974, the first time I encountered TV fitbaw in glorious colour , on an uncle and auntie’s shiny new set, I recall Billy Bremner hitting the post against Brazil from three feet, David Hay smacking the then World Champions bar from long range, the match ending in a draw, and us losing out again on goal difference when Yugoslavia ran up a cricket score against Zaire. Various representations of similar hard luck near miss experiences in actual World Cup tournaments and once I think in the Euro’s, occurred right up until 1998 ( a Tommy Boyd own goal in the opening game versus Brazil,again).

Moving swiftly forward to 2017, having had many years now in the football wilderness, several changes in manager and style, formation experiments by the score ( one in particular where the manager at the time decided we shouldn’t play any forwards at all) we find ourselves yet again not qualifying for a tournament that years ago we seemed to regularly and almost routinely managed to achieve.

Yep ok I get it, football has changed ,there are many more countries involved now, and they are better organised, etc etc but it seems our auld pal, the one we see in Scottish politics and Scottish cultural life all the time, has raised its ugly head in relation to the fitbaw now,” the Cringe.”

I like Gordon Strachan, and I know he is as disappointed as all of us, maybe more so, but to suggest that Scotland’s standard of football at international level is poor because as a nation we are genetically physically too wee to compete against the likes of Slovenia is beyond parody.

It seems that we are too wee and too poor to make our own decisions, to manage our own economy, to control our own resources for our own benefit, and now, to be able to win fitbaw matches against well organised but fairly mediocre opposition on a reasonably regular basis.

Mibbees Jo-Jo Lamont was right, maybe not. Maybe more of us are becoming aware of the real potential our country has. Maybe it’s time we consigned the cringe and its negativity to history, and put it away for good.

Reverse haggis

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Get those sandbags piled high, and the hatches we’ll and truly battened down again folks, for the usual lobbers of howitzer rounds of unionist watery flatulence are letting their lower innards vibrate monotonously yet again, in a resounding cry of SNPBAD, with an added twist of SNPBROKEN.

This can only mean one thing, the SNP Conference is about to start in Glasgow.

After the astonishing disaster that was Theresa May’s stand up routine at the Tories Manchester gathering of slippery self-serving careerists, where you feel the only thing the British Prime Minister could have done to top off her speech would have been to sing a loud version of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ whilst spinning a plate on a stick in each hand and balancing a football on her forehead, the usual right wing media sycophants are falling over themselves to draw as immediate a line under Manchester’s mayhem as is humanly and humanely possible, to get on with the real job in hand, slagging off those working towards bringing about the end of their masters control of Scotland.

Andrew Marr, a London bubble establishment Scot if ever there was one, had on his Sunday show the darling of the Conservative party, the saviour from the frozen north, Colonel Bravetank herself Ruth Davidson, whom he welcomed like a long lost sister, and allowed a free hand without much interruption to wander away into the empty bombast of conservative doublespeak that passes for the political commentary that the ageing residents of the Home Counties soak up readily between afternoons at the Bridge Club and evenings poring over their investment portfolios.

It is clear that the British state media have booked in the bold Ruthie, minus her tank, for a season pass on the studio set talking heed settee to provide unionist sound bites with your mince and tawties for the next few days on anything that transpires at the SNP Conference that they can swing a boot at. Wake up bungalow owning, second hand BMW drivers, you are about to be manipulated again.

Once he’d stopped bowing at Ruthie almost schizophrenically it was time for Marr to switch to attack dog mode for the main event, an attempted verbal mauling of the First Minister of Scotland.

Accusation, further accusation, interruption, further interruption, ignoring her responses, yet further interruption. Luckily though the First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon doesn’t represent the people of Scotland for nothing, and as usual in such situations (and my God is she used to being attacked) she handled it very well and brushed Marr off like a shard of the feckless Theresa May’s cough sweetie stuck on the collar of her suit jacket.

Then there is the clear anti-self government propaganda that the likes of Messrs Daisley and Deerin write, which is so much fabricated crap that I can’t even get enthused enough to mention it further, other than to say ok Chris, you great big insider that ye are, who is the high ranking senior minister in the Holyrood Cabinet who regularly refers to Alex Salmond as ‘the fat fuck’ that you make mention of in your article in the New Statesman?

It’s definitely SNP Conference time folks, without a doubt.

Brexitman at the Tory Conference

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A recent extract from the Brexitman Papers 2017, the fictional diary of the former right honourable Harry Brexitman, of the Light Horse, late a Member of Parliament (prior to a scandal involving a bawdy house of temptation somewhere between Chancery Lane and Fleet Street) ex- junior equerry to HM the Duke of Edinburgh, and now foreign affairs consultant to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, as well as a silent director and shareholder of five separate major banking and financial institutions based in Bermuda, Jersey, and on a small fishing vessel somewhere in Scapa Flow…….

” I knew it was a mistake, I bloody well knew I shouldn’t have gone, but old Boris can be persuasive.

‘Come on Brex old chap’ he’d hollered from his office. ‘It’ll be a lark, I promise you. A decent paid for jolly is not to be sniffed at. We can enjoy a few days away from the tedium of this place. The bloody Eurocrats can wait, they know we don’t have a plan anyway so a few days break won’t matter. I’ve got to be there so you may as well join me.’

And with that the bewildering endless hours I’d spent pondering over tedious statistical reports from Foreign office boffins, some predicting massive disastrous Armageddon like falls in trade, others suggesting survival as long as we suck up to that crazy bastard across the pond, came mercifully to an end for a few days, and I was off to Manchester as part of Boris’s team for the Tory Conference.

Why they couldn’t have held it somewhere on the south coast I’ll never know. Bloody Manchester, full of oiks and unemployed DJ’s.

I’d known Boris since Eton, where I’d been on the periphery of the worryingly powerful group that he, as I’d known him as then, Pfeff, and his friend David, were part of, a small elite bunch who were slightly out there in terms of their attitude to life and their place in it, seeing others simply as only useful in service of their own needs.

I’d tried several times to break into their inner circle, most notably on one occasion via the traditional Pay homage to the Crackling ceremony but found at the last minute that my nerve had gone. Parlour-maids, nanny, air stewardesses, and once even with my father’s floozy (the governor being in a brandy fuelled coma on a sofa in his study at the time) but a pig, Sus scrofa domesticus. No, not for Harry Brexitman, I simply couldn’t do it.

‘Come and work for me’, he’d said, when I’d bumped into him one Autumn morning after the European referendum unexpectedly in Horseguards. ‘You’ve plenty of experience abroad in the army. Join us at the FO, just do what I do, lounge around a bit, look like you know what your talking about, shout at a flunkey or two now and then, and then it’s three hour lunches in the Strand and a hasty withdrawal to the club for drinks at five o clock every day, C’mon Harry, this is right up your street man.’

Now months later I was wondering when it would be, at last, that the British public would twig that we were no further forward, at all, in coming up with a plan to make any sort of a fist of the breakaway from the red tape circus at Brussels, and in fact were showing no signs of ever having a strategy other than wait and bloody see what happens at the time when they officially kick us out.

Mind you, having said that, Boris and his mates are doing a great job at slowing any sort of progress down. Last week a young bright spark, fresh intake as a civil servant, a graduate of the LSE, came up with an idea to retain access to the single market which might suit all sides. Quicker than an Amber Rudd scowl can quieten a room full of party toadies (she’s worth the watching that one) he was spotted heading out the front door carrying a cardboard box containing a photo of his cat and a large Toblerone, whilst being accompanied on his journey by a security guard.

Anyway back to the conference. With a raging hangover, after a few days boozing and a late night drinking and carousing at the bar with two party councillors from Essex, nice young fillies they were, seemed really interested in my war stories, Boris made me sit behind him, that Rudd woman and David Davis in the conference hall for the Prime Minister’s speech.

My God, that woman can drone on. I squirmed as some bloody fool delivered her her marching papers in front of the entire audience and then headed our way shouting that Boris had sent him. Giving the big shaggy chap his due he managed to ignore the idiot, who was eventually bustled away. He’d have done us a favour if he’d taken the PM with him.

Then, looking like a rabbit who has
managed to find itself on to the M1 on a bank holiday the leader of the country launched in to an interminable coughing fit. We couldn’t tell what she was saying half the time. I think I heard her mention Randall and Hopkirk, Xanadu and Asparagus at one point, but I can’t be sure.

Then to cap it off the bloody signage on the stage set behind her started to drop letters on to the floor. At this development the five rows of party faithful sitting around us couldn’t have failed to hear Boris mumble very loudly ” She just needs to fart now and we’ve had the full set.” This drew an Amber Rudd glance that would have turned steel to a molten pool.

I was beginning to lose the will to live at the point when she saved us from any further punishment by coming to an anti-climactic halt.

Head pounding, throat dry and sweating I used that moment, just as the haphazard clapping began in acknowledgement of the worst hour of a Prime Minister’s life in living memory, as a cue to make a sharp exit to the bar, hearing over my shoulder Ms Rudd snarl in Boris’s direction ‘Get up and applaud, you fat bastard. Cheer like you love her.’………..”

Apologies dear readers. At this point the diary pages immediately after this extract seem to have been immersed in liquid (possibly red wine) and are unfortunately unreadable.

(With all due respect and acknowledgment to George MacDonald Fraser and his fictional historical character Harry Flashman)

Not fit for purpose

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It’s hard to even attempt to be flippant when you have a horrible feeling at the back of your mind that something terrible is going to happen very soon in the northeast corner of Spain which will make the sickening scenes of state sponsored violence of last weekend almost pale into insignificance by comparison, and have consequences which will reverberate around Europe for years.

However lets’ consider Theresa. Oh my goodness, is there no end to the ability of the former Home Secretary, currently Prime Minister, surely in title only, to generate an atmosphere of squirming embarrassment in the general population at her every political move? Like her clearly disturbed special friend across the Atlantic who likes to say and do all the wrong things (most recently after a botched and delayed disaster relief mission to Puerto Rico turning up on the island, in between his tee off times, for a photo opportunity throwing bog rolls at a crowd of bemused displaced and traumatised islanders who had lost their homes in the hurricane) you would think just by the law of averages that she would stumble, even by accident, onto doing the right thing now and again. However there’s not much evidence of that.

Her speech to the faithful Haw Haws yesterday was just another example of the seemingly endless evidence that Theresa May simply doesn’t have the necessary skills or competence to lead the government of a small declining northern European state hung up about its identity, and the size of its Trident, in a world which really isn’t interested anymore in the fact that it used to have an empire. Frankly I wouldn’t leave her in charge of making toast.

Whether she’s running around Scottish forests with a rash obnoxious honorary Colonel of Signals who would have far preferred to be a tank driver, looking for a missing scout hut full of tory-voting pixies, or striding around the Alps whistling Rule Britannia and frightening passing mountain goats, or arranging to go all the way to Florence to make a speech about Britain’s relationship with the member states of the European Union to a room full of her own government team and the British media, with nobody from any of the European states she is talking about actually in attendance, or speaking in the main chamber of the General Assembly of the United Nations to a room full of empty seats and Boris Johnson, or even anytime she goes on TV for an interview and does that gurning thing that she does, when the bottom half of her face seems to go into some sort of contorted spasm (the cameras love it) she’s about as plausible and confidence inspiring as Jim Murphy knocking on your front door trying to flog you half a dozen Co-op eggs expensively as free range.

She just doesn’t have it. Nicola Sturgeon has as much as said that during the series of meetings herself and the leaders of the other devolved governments had at Downing Street to ostensibly discuss mutual ideas on Brexit, which really was only an exercise in PR and ticking boxes for the London government, who had no intention of considering anything that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland had to contribute, she’d have been as well sitting out in the hallway having a cuppa and a slice of shortbread with the wee guy that answers the Downing Street front door to visitors than sitting in the room listening to Mrs May read pre-prepared statements and answer questions with scripted repetitive responses.

EU Commissioners who have sat with her in high level meetings, when she doesn’t dodge them, are still scratching their heads yet trying to work out what the hell she is on about, what is the UK’s position on Brexit, what is the UK’s position on Irish borders, what is the UK’s position on compliance with current financial commitments? Time is moving swiftly on and the European Union are none the wiser about Britain’s plans than they were on the day a mob of right wing trumpets managed to convince English voters that the EU were going to sink mainland Britain under the weight of other countries ex-pats and was stealing money from the NHS.

Apparently, it has been reported, that she is keen to meet up with Nicola Sturgeon again to talk Brexit, this after the barmy right wing press leaked a government memo that said that the position of First Minister of Scotland wasn’t high enough up the chain of pomposity to merit meeting the Prime Minister therefore in future the First Minister should instead meet with the waste of an office and a good pencil case that is the current Secretary of State against Scotland David ‘Worldtraveller’ Mundell. If this latest report is true the First Minister might want to consider taking a good book or a crossword along with her to Downing Street to keep her mind from atrophying whilst listening to the formulaic drone of the no doubt black watch tartan suited gobshite.

Going back to yesterday’s performance, I always shake my head every time I hear Theresa May reference “working people” or the Tories being the “party of the working people” as well as the coughing fit, the Fawlty Towers style letters falling off the stage propaganda message and her unexpected visit from a guy trying to hand her a P45 from her Foreign Secretary, a man who makes it his business to upset everybody who is foreign, I notice Sky news pointing out that her speechwriters had nicked Aaron Sorkin’s work, a section of her speech being the same as one made by Sorkin’s fictional President Josiah Bartlett in an episode of ‘The West Wing’. They cannae even write their own speeches this lot.

We all know that Theresa May is only still where she is to keep the Tory kettle boiling and take the heat whilst the Brexit debacle unfolds. The real power holders are sitting in the background biding their time ready to step in once the blame game is over.

Just once though it would be a refreshing change to hear what Theresa May actually does think,about anything. Before she goes down in history as one of the last Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom as it currently exists.

Deserving the best

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Imagine you lived in a country, which for hundreds of years had its own government, its own language (no, it isn’t a slang version of English) its own culture, its own legal system, its own education system and its own trading partnerships, before being absorbed, under the guise of a Union, into eventually simply being considered a region of a ruling larger neighbouring country.

Imagine you had campaigned for many years to have your country’s identity recognised, supporting the people of your own country’s sovereign right to govern themselves. Imagine, after eventually acquiescing to a referendum on self–determination, a referendum littered with dishonest misinformation and negative propaganda designed to discourage voters from voting for independence, still resulting in 45% of the voters on an unusually high turnout voting for self-determination, that the ruling larger neighbouring country tells you to forget any further debate on the matter, the decision has been made, the subject is closed.

Imagine that your country-folk subsequently vote on a matter of extreme importance to your economy overwhelmingly and distinctly differently from the ruling larger neighbouring country, only to be told that their vote doesn’t matter because effectively they are a region of the ruling larger neighbouring country, and any negative economic consequences of the decision as a whole taken by the ruling larger neighbouring country must impact your country too, despite your country’s objection to the decision.

Now imagine, if you will, that the ruling larger neighbouring country continued to ignore the will of the people of your country, who in every political forum available to them, continue to vote by majority to elect representatives who support self-determination. Imagine that the people of your country decide through their elected representatives to canvass the views of their country-folk a second time on the subject of self-determination. Imagine the ruling larger neighbouring country objects and advises your country’s elected representatives that any action they take to carry out such a task is illegal.

Imagine the elected representatives of your country seek on several occasions to engage in dialogue with the government of the ruling larger neighbouring country to discuss areas of common agreement and compromise, only to be ignored, shunned and advised on every occasion that any action they may take to seek the views of their country-folk on self-determination is illegal.

Imagine, once patience has run out, that a date is set for such a referendum in your country. Imagine the government of the ruling larger neighbouring country, having made threatening statements about responding to your country’s actions for several months, commissioning large cruise ships, which they fill with members of police forces from the southern parts of their country and elements of the armed forces, equipped for riot control, like a 21st century version of those sent to put down the UK miners in the mid 1980’s, and sail them, for example if it was Scotland, into dock at Rosyth and Greenock, to remain for an indeterminate period.

Imagine on the day set for the referendum that suddenly the areas around polling stations become surrounded by face masked riot police, initially harassing and then physically assaulting men and women of all ages trying to vote. Imagine an old lady who lives in your street, who you see every day, being clubbed by a baton until her head is bleeding calling to you not to react, not to respond, not to be provoked into violence, as she is helped away into an ambulance for medical treatment. Imagine your local fire brigade standing between a crowd of voters waiting to enter the local primary school to vote, and the riot police, pleading and urging the helmeted militia to remain calm. Imagine over the course of the day across your country several hundred ordinary people, people looking to exercise their right to vote, suffer violent assault either on their way in to the polling station, or once they’ve voted, by groups of uniformed militia.

Imagine ballot boxes being unceremoniously ripped out of the hands of polling officers. Imagine local organisers of the vote coming up with plans and solutions to circumvent those who would disrupt the vote. In discussion with their local Church Minister or Priest, to hide ballot boxes in the Kirk or Chapel, officials carrying out the count in the middle of a church service to stop the authorities seizing the votes, or polling station workers secreting ballot boxes away in hiding places, turning the polling station/local community centre back into what looks like for all intents and purposes like a coffee morning and bingo session upon news that black suited militia are on their way.

Imagine, even in these extremely difficult circumstances, that those in your country who recognised the authority of the referendum, those who wanted to vote, and who did manage to vote, numbered nearly half of the electorate of your country, governments are regularly elected on less. Imagine too that 90% of those who voted did so for independence.

Imagine that in the hours and days after the election result is made public the governments of most western countries, including some whose own existence as modern democratic states began in defiant circumstances, and the leadership of large influential trading blocs, make statements in support of the ruling larger neighbouring country, citing that constitutional law must be upheld and that any dispute which has generated the vote on self-determination is an internal matter to be dealt with by the ruling country. Many of these statements include reference to the violence perpetrated on the day of the referendum to varying degrees, some condemning the actions of the authorities, others less so, some even suggesting that the voters themselves were somehow complicit, in effect isolating the country seeking self-government.

Imagine then the unelected monarch (by birth right) of both the ruling larger neighbouring country and the smaller country seeking self-determination, through their Union, making a public statement condemning the actions of the elected representatives of the smaller country, informing them that they are acting illegally, and therefore should expect that the state will take whatever actions are necessary to uphold the law. No calls for conciliation, or arbitration, just threats and consequences, and cruise ships docked in the Clyde and the Forth.

In all of these circumstances, facing grave uncertainty, but with an electoral mandate, would you declare your country an independent state? This is the monumental decision the government of Catalonia must make over the next few weeks. Good luck to them in their considerations. Their brave, some recently heroic and restrained, citizens deserve the best efforts of their political leaders in achieving a resolution.

Even the olives are bleeding

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Yesterday from a European state many of us have visited, a country we’ve spent our holiday euros in, a familiar place, I saw footage of an old couple pulled out of a crowd at a polling station by armour suited, helmeted, and face covered anonymous paramilitaries, and flung violently to the side.

I saw footage of medics trying desperately to resuscitate and save the life of a voter who had had a heart attack whilst other voters around them were being battered and then, horrifyingly, shoved over onto the desperately ill man, impeding the efforts to save him.

I saw footage of a woman dragged down a set of stairs screaming, having her fingers individually and deliberately broken, before she was tossed out of the voting area.

I saw footage of a white haired old lady in the middle of a crowd of voters resist the black suited invaders, someone who was alive during the time of the Franco regime, seeming to hold her own in the struggle for a moment before disappearing under battered bodies.

I saw footage of Catalonian firefighters, men and women whose duty is to protect life, stand between the baton wielding thugs and their people, only to be turned on and battered themselves, in the background you can hear one of the firefighters pleading with their attackers, the word ‘amigo amigo’ clearly audible.

I saw footage of a young girl at the bottom of a staircase to the side of peaceful crowd of voters being manhandled scream anxiously for an ambulance as an old lady sits beside her looking bewildered as the young girl tried desperately to stem the flow of blood from her head.

I saw footage of a group of three people, one on each side supporting an injured voter, walk through paramilitary lines for treatment at a hospital only to be attacked again with batons and kicks as they passed through the riot police.

I saw footage of a young girl protesting about her injured friend being chased by two large blacksuited thugs, them shoved and battered by both with their batons, the distraught young girl then sinking to the ground in tears.

I saw several pieces of footage of lines of uniformed thugs systematically battering their way through crowds of ordinary citizens, firing rubber bullets at them, ordinary people provoked beyond what any reasonable person would consider fair but remaining passive, not reacting, not giving the bullies a reason to escalate their violence.

Yesterday I saw footage of a Catalonian policeman crying his eyes out in anger and bitter frustration that he could not protect his people from Rajoy’s black uniformed thugs.

I saw none of this on mainstream TV news channels. I saw none of this on the BBC news, the self appointed beacon of impartiality and truth, who suggested that there had been ‘clashes’ between demonstrators and Spanish police, inferring that somehow the Catalonian people lining up to vote were somehow provoking or instigating violence, an inference which is entirely untrue.

At one stage yesterday Sky news twitter feed seemed to be actually gloating about Spain’s terrible actions, resulting in condemnation and a hasty deletion of their gloating tweet.

Today I notice, now that reporting yesterday’s terrible scenes as clashes between two sides has become completely untenable following the widespread sharing of footage of the violent assault on democracy on social media, the BBC world news are suggesting the Spanish police may have been a wee bit heavy handed. Is there anybody around who actually still believes that the news they watch is not subject to a state agenda?

Politically UK leaders spent yesterday like headless chickens. The leader of the official opposition took several hours after the violence began to make up his mind that he was indeed condemning the Spanish state, at least he did so,this after the former leader of the Scottish branch of his party, now speaking her own mind roundly condemned the actions of the Spanish government. For once Kezia Dugdale I applaud your comments.

As for the London government themselves they should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves, anxious not to offend Spain and presumably keen to not show any sign of support for the rights to self determination of the people of Catalonia, and therefore by association half the population of Scotland, their late statement washes their hands Pontus-Pilate-like of any blame or association, emphasising their strong links with Spain and suggesting that all of this is an internal matter for Madrid to handle so we should all move on. Shameful cowardice by a government of incompetent over-privileged scumbags, they really are.

It doesn’t matter whether as individuals we believe that Catalonia should be independent or not, their right to make that decision is theirs only. Dictatorship and violence against innocent human beings is entirely wrong and should be roundly condemned wherever it takes place.

Despite the efforts of Spain to stifle democracy yesterday the vote took place and 90% of those who voted voted for independence. The Catalonian leader Carles Puigdemont
this morning has said that ‘Catalonia has earned the right to be independent.’

Following on from yesterday’s terrible actions by Spain (currently the list of those injured numbers over 800 innocents) you are bloody right they’ve earned it, and those governments who refuse to condemn Spain should take a good look at themselves.