Britain, England, Independence, Northern Ireland, Politics, Scotland, Wales

To be or not to be… What about something in between?

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‘You don’t even have to be elected by an elite council? And your country is still considered a democracy?!’

Following is the text of my submission to the Smith Commission. I could have gone to great lengths studying the submissions of others and constructing something more solid, but let’s be honest – we are writing to a Lord about vague assurances made before a weak democratic decision. That’s not to say this is a futile exercise. Refusing to express your views to the Smith Commission is about as useful as refusing to vote at general elections. Yes, you can look on it as collaborating in a hopeless process, which it just might be, but right now I don’t see any better options.

So by playing along we can at least make our feelings felt, whether by reiterating to Lord Smith that we want nothing less than complete autonomy, or by voting for parties that aren’t Labour, Liberal Democrat, Conservative or UKIP at elections. Hence I urge you to submit your own demands, regardless of how you voted in the referendum. I have not met many people who are completely satisfied with their UK experience, so even if you still have faith in some form of union it seems safe to assume that you do want change. ‘Have your say’ here.

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In his announcement following the referendum result David Cameron stated that “just as Scotland will vote separately in the Scottish Parliament on their issues of tax, spending and welfare, so too England, as well as Wales and Northern Ireland”. I completely agree, which is why I voted yes to independence. The Union of 1707 served Scotland & England well in an imperial age, to the detriment of many around the globe. Yet it was never designed to serve the needs of the majority of these nations’ citizens. Nothing haphazardly developed from feudal systems can serve a democracy. After all, what sort of democracy has more unelected legislators than elected one?

With 1,617,989 people in Scotland firmly rejecting the arrangements of the United Kingdom this cannot in any way be construed as a ringing endorsement of the UK. Many only voted to remain in the UK on the condition of radical change, but the Prime Minister’s decision to make a last minute Vow to the people of Scotland without consulting his own parliament is only the latest sign that the United Kingdom has no hope of survival. What we have now is a constitutional mess that is already making politics within the UK increasingly bitter and divisive; I don’t just mean between people in Scotland.

So until the day that this anarchic political system is scrapped my demand is that the leaders of Labour, the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats do deliver on their promise, however vague. If they do not then the number of people in Scotland demanding independence can only continue to grow; and that means that any half-measure of ‘60% control of taxes’ is not enough. Neither is 100% control of tax good enough if spending decisions are so dependent on what the UK government decides, as with the NHS.

I agree with David Cameron that Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales need 100% control of all resources, taxes and revenue raised within their shores, as those boundaries now stand. They also need 100% control of spending on welfare, education, etc. with the caveat is that each must contribute some amount to maintain a reduced UK parliament primarily concerned with foreign policy and defence, concerns about which I understand were the main reasons for many people deciding to maintain the Union. This obviously creates a multitude of new complications, which is why I wanted nothing less than complete independence.

As it is a majority did decide to continue with some form of union, yet the Union as we knew it is finished. What is required now is radical change and I do not believe that the Westminster establishment can ever deliver change of that magnitude for reasons of understandable self-interest. It would simply be counter-intuitive for the Labour, Conservative or Liberal Democrat parties to concede such a reduction of their centralised power, however damaging the long-term consequences of that instinct will be.

Therefore I challenge that establishment to prove me wrong and I demand that we dissolve the Union of 1707 in favour of a federal arrangement and a new constitution for the 21st century; negotiated not between parties at Westminster, but between representatives of all four nations. I can see no other way to bring the people of Scotland together as well as everyone within the UK. Hence I also demand that England, Wales & Northern Ireland each be allowed to hold independence referendums of their own.

To do otherwise would be counter-productive and although Scotland was the first to make this democratic decision it should not be alone in choosing the fate of Great Britain & Northern Ireland. Only if all four partners agree can any form of union be justified between four nations; yet until then the people of Scotland have been promised a far higher degree of control in their affairs and that cannot be delayed.

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‘Radical change? What?’

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Britain, Independence, Politics, Scotland, Socialism

No left turn.

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So Scotland could have ended up like Spain, eh…

I was fully on board to hear some criticism of the SNP or the Yes campaign, because I like criticism – it’s healthy and often helpful. Carol Craig actually does make plenty of good observations about different aspects of the referendum in her explanation of why she intended to vote no. Yet quite quickly this other piece went all wrong – the stand out statement for me was early on: “I’ve shuddered every time I heard folk talking about how indebted the UK is”.

Is this because she recognises how unnecessary a lot of the UK’s debt is; how entrenched vested interests have skewed the political and economic priorities of our governments; how that debt is being used as an excuse to arbitrarily punish the most vulnerable? Nope! Carol shudders because to her this complaint reflects the selfish, nationalist optimism of those who pointed it out. Conveniently she ignores the constant assurance that the Scottish government would seek to take its share of the UK’s debt, whether legally required to or not!

I don’t doubt that she did find the decision agonising, and I sympathise with plenty of her concerns. Yet she doesn’t veer far at all from the “SNP dictatorship” perspective and her claim that Scotland would somehow be less safe from corporate interests out-with the UK is pretty bizarre… More perplexing still is her claim that “I’d rather be on the same side as radicals like Andy Wightman, young activists like Zara Kitson and cultural figures like Janice Galloway and David Greig whose work I admire hugely. Instead I’m on the same side as the bowling clubs, old footballers and the British Legion.” Yet Carol did indeed choose that side in the end.

What worries me is that, while lamenting the rise of nationalism in Scotland (mhm), she seems to find being on side with bowling clubs, footballers and the British Legion more troublesome than being on side with: the actual ethnic nationalists (BNP, Britain First, UKIP); the morally bankrupt establishment (Labour, Conservatives, Liberal Democrats); and, you know, everyone else who is patently anti-leftwing within the UK. I could go on, especially about the blind optimism of her hopes for a grass roots, left-wing resurgence within the UK (although she doesn’t talk about that too much). Thankfully Stephen and others who commented on her article said most of what I wanted to say.

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“I have dreaded writing this reply because as someone who has two of Carol’s books I was extremely sympathetic to her account of how our country and its people have been damaged by the forces of economics and history, and yet on this matter I believe she has not only spectacularly mis-judged the opportunity for national advancement that was on offer, but she has besmirched a movement, which had at its heart social justice, not selfishness, as she posits.

Like every independence movement that has gone before it, and there have been over 100 since 1945, the over-riding question on offer is this. Do citizens of a nation prefer to govern themselves or would they prefer to be governed by another country? Contrary to what Carol would like us to believe, independence as a route to self-enrichment, was never dangled in front of the populace as some kind of “get rich quick scheme”. Yes, of course, people wanted to know if they were likely to be better or worse off, than being ruled from Westminster, and I am sure the Czechs and Slovaks, Estonians, Lithuanians and all the rest of those middle-European nations who became independent in recent time had to inform their citizenry on the economic viability of becoming self-governing, but it wasn’t the main issue.

So when Carol says that the ” core reality of the official Yes campaign – its appeal to selfishness.” or “Essentially the official Yes campaign was not about heart, but pocket” .I just think what campaign have you just witnessed? It wasn’t the one I saw as I chapped doors. No-one was ever told by me or anyone I was out with to tell people that the good time were on their way post-referendum. Yes, I told many a person not to believe the doom and gloom from those who would wish us to believe that financial doom was awaiting us on the other side of a Yes vote, but I believe that to be the case. Sorry Carol, but if you are basing your argument for a No vote on the basis that the other side were trying to bribe the electorate with lucre then you are dreaming.

In my opinion, and this isn’t a leap of political imagination, just a recognition that Noam Chomsky and George Orwell have told us how this goes in class-riven societies, a large part of the population were cowed by the arguments that there is not alternative to the status quo of neo-liberal British mantras. Scotland will be punished by the markets, the man in the big hoose will take his favours elsewhere, your mortgage will sky-rocket, Asda will bump-up your bills for the hell of it and lets be frank, we are all not really cut-out to make a go of things. We’ll just get it wrong!

Readers of Carol’s will know that the fear of “getting it wrong, and being “found out” are huge impediments to risk-taking and self-expression that many Scots feel based on the hand that history and economic forces have dealt them. It is ironic, but more importantly, deeply saddening that she has based a lot of her justification for supporting the No campaign on the proviso that the market-makers, spivs and masters of the universe of the City are going to punish Scotland for wanting to build a nation state that espouses social justice at its core.

And on those ” 55 of the UK’s lead academic economists wrote to the Financial Times independently of the No campaign, to say that independence was ‘ a gamble with very poor odds’. Which of those geniuses predicted 2008’s cataclysm? None of them and their benevolent wishes for a nation wishing to remove itself from the City of London’s vice-like grip, are conspicuous by their absence.

I will still recommend Carol’s books for those who would like to know why many of the their Scottish grandparents, parents, friends and relatives, feel unable to express themselves as fully autonomous individuals and why society abuses or ignores them for this lack of confidence. However her denigration of the Yes campaign as one based on selfishness and bribes, suggests to me that she has given-up on any possibilities for social advancement for Scotland’s working classes that does not involve kow-towing to financial capitalism’s big sticks.”

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Britain, Politics, Scotland

A broken promise; a promising start.

Never thought an (almost) unadulterated Tory poster could be so true.

Never thought I’d so heartily agree with an (almost) unadulterated Tory poster.

If the SNP Dumfries East Branch impressed with 150 members at their meeting two weeks ago then the about-to-be inaugurated SNP Mid and Upper Nithsdale Branch amazed with 30 people at short notice. The contributions tonight from members old and new were thoughtful, compassionate and forward looking. Whether I join a political party or not, the things that I am seeing even in conservative wee Dumfriesshire are extremely encouraging.

Remember, and point this out to people you know: while Scottish Labour say “Don’t vote SNP, because it will let the Tories in” up here, English Tories are saying “Don’t vote UKIP, because it will let Labour in” down there. The fact is that both parties have been betraying their traditional supporters for many years and are paying the price. And as well as the continuing duplicity in what information is shared with Scottish and English voters, they continue to pander to UKIP’s stupid, racist agenda rather than offer intelligent, fair policies.

So voting SNP, or Green, or SSP, or for anyone else, isn’t going to automatically give the Tories the keys to the kingdom again; and the truth is that Labour are not even pretending that they won’t pursue many of the same regressive, short-term and self-serving policies that are punishing so many of our most vulnerable. It’s time that, whether you voted yes or no to independence, we all begin fighting for the real change that most of us do want – in Scotland AND in the rest of the UK.

Red and Blue Tories aren’t offering options for ordinary people any more; so unless they deliver the full federal, home rule package by March 2015, as was promised, we have to make our voices heard in May’s Westminster election.

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Even 38% of members said “Fuck this for a laugh.” Just might be a clue!

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Britain, Independence, Politics, Scotland

In it Together. Big Society. So much Better. Wow.

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Just fancy that! Hello, Private Eye…? Oh. I see.

“Scots Are *Very* Unimpressed By Irishman Geldof’s Thoughts On Indyref”

So unimpressed. It’s difficult to rub your hands with glee and shake your fists with rage at the same time, but I almost am! Another clumsy attempt by, not outsiders, but the completely ignorant to tell voters in Scotland what matters. I have no problem with people from anywhere in the world commenting on our referendum. I appreciate foreign input, even if it isn’t the usual “Go for it, Scotland!”

What I resent is people commenting who not only have little connection with or understanding of Scotland, but have little connection with or understanding of ordinary people. Geldof, Izzard and Snow are prime examples of this. Millionaires 4 Dependence, and once again the fact that Dan Snow’s father-in-law is the Duke of fucking Westminster, third richest man in Britain, is completely overlooked. ‘Worried about your lands in Scotland, my friend?’ ‘No, no! I just really love the country. Er, I visit the food banks all the time – getting to know the locals and that.’

It’s a relief to see people in Ireland and all over calling out the absolute horror that is an Irishman bearing a Knighthood of the British Empire telling another country altogether that ‘Scotland is a feeling; the United Kingdom is one of the greatest ideas ever invented for the modern age.’ Other great ideas that pre-date the Union of 1707 include democratic government; liberty and equality for all; and sovereignty lying with the people, not a monarch.

So many unanswered questions about dependence...

Two centuries later and still so many unanswered questions about dependence…

If Bob & chums had been holding rallies to secure all of that for the United Kingdom during the past, I don’t know, 30 years, then we probably wouldn’t be so desperate to dissolve the Union of 1707 and have a bash at achieving democracy and equality without them. Reclaiming sovereignty for the people of Scotland is only the first step. It certainly is ‘a question for humanity and eternity’. We want a government that has some humanity and we don’t want to spend eternity living like this.

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Britain, Independence, Politics, Scotland

UKIP England, but we’re wide awake.

‘We could build a Scotland where woman are not “worth less” and where we blame environmental destruction on those destroying the climate, not on men kissing each other.  We could speak directly to those across the whole of Britain who’re taken in by UKIP – and to those across Europe who’re battling the far-right – and stand as a beacon of what a better, fairer country actually looks like.  What Nigel and the Nos fear most isn’t Scotland failing, it’s Scotland succeeding.  That’s why they are scared.

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The indifferent faces of the United Kingdom.

It’s very simple – and scary. The simplistic scaremongering relied upon by No is the same simplistic scaremongering that allows UKIP to gain any votes at all while Labour and Conservatives pander to racism in response. The kind of articulate, intelligent and constructive debate that Yessers have fostered is the absolute antithesis of what UKIP thrives on; fear. It’s hard to be angry and afraid when you have confidence and knowledge and it’s easy to vote for UKIP when you’re angry and afraid.

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If tea and racism were mutually exclusive UKIP wouldn’t exist.

The transparency and sharing of information that Yes has flourished by also means that other UK politicians have to work a bit harder and actually talk about tackling complicated issues rather than just out-blame-others with UKIP. The reason we’re seeing such a panicked, poorly coordinated flurry from Shiter Thegether at this late stage is that for all this time they’ve taken their default lead for granted and misunderestimated not only the Scottish population’s education, but it’s access to information. Scotland may be angry, but we are not afraid. That’s why we’re voting yes for independence.

Independence and inclusion.

“It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.” Interesting that the staunchest defenders of the anti-freedom campaign are Westminster politicians…

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Britain, Independence, Politics, Scotland

Spot the Difference; Leader Beans

'The Leader only appears briefly, riding through the fields in a Rolls-Royce.' - Description from a Simpsons fan page actually fits Scotland perfectly.

‘The Leader only appears briefly, riding through the fields in a Rolls-Royce.’ – Description from a Simpsons fan page actually fits the UK perfectly.

Nothing says ‘Better Together’ like their constant conflation of Yesnp/Salmond. Their frequent preference for character assassination over debate reveals their discomfort outside of the usual party politics and betrays their lack of serious arguments against Scottish independence (scaring pensioners doesn’t count as a serious argument). Indeed it’s infuriating that so many of the public meetings/debates organised by local independence groups lack an opposing view. Our nation’s biggest decision in three centuries, which will affect centuries to come, and all they can talk about is one man who won’t be around for much longer? Get a grip. Yet there are occasions when it can be enlightening to look at our national leaders and compare how they approach the referendum…

Alex Salmond spoke in Elgin high street about the revolution of democratic participation amongst ordinary people as a result of the independence referendum (all the new voters desperate for independence, coincidentally).

David Cameron spoke to an ‘invited audience at Scottish Widows’ (you know, the insurers and investors) about ‘the UK family’ and limited top-down reform (possibly).

Meanwhile, back at Westminster, Hague says that offers of more powers for Scotland are “akin to a statement in a general election campaign” and not UK government policy. So there you have it! Even by neglecting the very serious conversation that is going on across our country and focusing on the Scottish/UK figureheads you cannot help noticing the difference between the concerns of a Scottish government and a UK government.

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Well, since you’re here, Call Me Dave, would you like to tackle any of the issues that are driving Scots towards independence? ‘Nah, I’ll just tell them how great things are and have always been again.’ Seemingly that’s all Westminster politicians have to offer us. History and family ties, but no vision for the future. As a friend of mine put it:

Saying our ties with people in the rest of the UK will change/stop post Yes doesn’t make you pro solidarity Ed, it makes you an ethnic nationalist. My family are English, and the ties and love that bind us together aren’t dependent on an out of touch institution, or the location of decision making. How stupid do they think we are?

This stupid.

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Britain, Independence, Politics, Scotland

Dr. Strangelove’s Blitz Spirit

*nuclear disarmament not included

I’m sure everyone remembers Cameron’s referendum rallying cry at the start of the year. You know, when he called on the rest of the UK to shower Scotland with resentment affection? The so called ‘love bomb’ tactic, which was probably an improvement on the self-titled ‘Project Fear’; if only we were seeing any evidence of it. If you haven’t read or heard that speech I highly recommend giving it a look or listen. It’s hard not to notice that his positive case for the union mostly rests on past ‘achievements’. Between 1707-1956 to be precise, the 250 year period during which we wrote ‘this great, world-beating story‘. Douglas Robertson summed up Cameron’s appeal to old, imperial unity thusly:

Labour and Conservatives being equally enthralled by power, share the trappings, the cloak of Britishness, as has become so evident throughout this referendum campaign. Britain as a political entity can only be brought into focus through this Nuclear Empire lens. Thus, as hard as it might have once been to envisage, there is no irony in arms dealers, city suits, dodgy oilmen and retired spooks funding the No campaign, happily leaving Labour to front it. Empires are powerful places, run by powerful people: we are powerful people, we run things, so we buy into Empire.

'Two horrible books in one' - and it's a neverending story.

Does this story ever end?

Unionists regularly broadcast their expectation that supporters of independence will hijack any and every momentous and historical event to promote their cause, be it the 700th anniversary of Bannockburn or the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. They must have felt some surprise (or disappointment) then at the fairly low key, apolitical celebration of Bannockburn and the cautious neutrality of the official Yes team and Scottish Government at the Games. Not so their own side! Hypocritically, unionist elements at the very highest echelons (the UK government and MoD) abused their powers in a concerted effort to interfere with both events. Not only was the blatant disregard for even a pretence of impartiality insulting, but the militaristic nature of the intervention on Bannockburn’s anniversary demonstrated exactly where the establishment’s priorities lie.

At least it demonstrates where they’d like us to believe their priorities lie. Years of inadequate funding, privatisation of logistics and procurement, plus thousands of redundancies reveal that Westminster (especially with millionaire Conservatives at the helm) actually regards soldiers with just as much contempt as they do us civilians. Yet memories of ‘glorious’ conquest and continuing delusions of grandeur make the UK government predisposed to showing off military might where possible. This is crystallised in the unanimous backing of Trident however expensive and useless it might be and whether or not the people of Scotland’s most populace dear green place actually want to have weapons of mass destruction beside their homes (they do not).

Ironically of course we could afford to maintain a sensible number of military personnel and properly equip them by scrapping Trident, but the ingrained desire for apocalyptic machismo at the heart of the UK government makes that as unlikely as ever actually dropping the bomb. Speaking of dropping the bomb, whatever happened to that love bomb we were promised? I’m hoping that the infamous Let’s Fail Together video and letter weren’t the sum of it. What about the ordinary people of England, weren’t they going to ‘get on the phone, get together, email, tweet, speak’ to tell Scotland how much they’d miss us, etc? Well after reading today’s Herald, Times, Telegraph or Scotsman you might lose any lingering optimism about that:

Love bombs; no one said they were less threatening than the other kind.

The message from a worrying number of the media, politicians and ordinary folk of England (as badly informed about this referendum as most of them must be) is that Scotland isn’t going to get away scot free; ‘the English want the Government to take a “hard line” with Scotland whatever the independence referendum result’. In other words, ‘vote yes and we will refuse to negotiate on a currency union; we will build a barrier between us; we will prevent you from entering NATO, the EU or the UN; we will shit all over ourselves just to teach you a lesson’. Alternatively, ‘vote no and we will abolish the Barnett formula; we will cut your funding; we will leave your parliament weaker than it already is; we will shit all over you for even daring to consider an alternative future’. What is important to note here is what is within and what is without the UK government’s power.

After an anti-independence vote it is within the UK government’s power to punish us with impunity, because by voting no we throw away the one bargaining chip we had and surrender supreme sovereignty to the English majority at Westminster; they may deal with us as they wish and the world will turn it’s back on any complaint once our moment of democracy has passed. After an independence vote it is without the UK government’s power to prevent us from using our own currency or remaining in organisations that we have been members of for decades. I’ll concede that they may create a militarised border if that is their will – the UK government has form after all – but as noted that would be a self-destructive policy. So much for Cameron’s worry that the rest of the UK might ‘just wave [us] a wistful goodbye and carry on as normal’!

Considering these points surely the choice is obvious? There’s still a month to go in which further love bombing may occur, though judging by previous efforts it’s bound to be as unpleasant as the thinly veiled (and the explicitly stated) threats. The best I can hope for is that the unionists’ incendiary rhetoric instils us with the Blitz spirit that David Cameron criticised Gordon Brown for invoking in 2008: “The PM tells us to find our Blitz spirit when he is the one dropping the bombs – the tax and debt bombshells that are taking Britain to the brink of bankruptcy.” Fancy that! Perhaps he will not object so strongly if I make a similar invocation now, because I have certainly been noticing more and more signs of Blitz-like catastrophe around my country in recent years.

Food rationing? Check.

Short life expectancy? Check.

Apparent bomb damage? Check.

All in it together? Er

I mean what’s not to love? Are we not ‘a source of hope to the world’ as Mr Cameron put it? Love bombs away!

Can you feel it yet?

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