Why Bigger isn’t Always Better

Okay, so you don’t trust or like the SNP. That’s your prerogative, and I’m not going to try tell you that you must.

I am going to ask you something though: do you trust the Tories? Or the Lib Dem’s? How about Labour?

A lot of people in Scotland, and indeed the rest of the UK, simply don’t trust politicians. There are many and varied reasons for us to doubt their honesty and integrity. Why should we have faith in MPs who abused the expenses system for their own personal gain, for example? What words CAN we trust when we are lied to about such major issues as our country being taken into war, as happened in Iraq?

This isn’t about which party to go with in an election though – I’m not a member of any political party myself, and I’m not going to do that job for them.

What it is about is who you trust in the independence referendum.

So, let’s just say that you don’t trust any of the main parties, be that the Tories, Lib Dem’s, Labour or the SNP. Where do you turn to get some advice that you can have some belief in?

What we could do with in this situation is small parties. Parties that have no ambitions of great power or forming the next government. After all, what do they gain if they’re found to be lying? Even fewer votes?

In a Scottish context, this means either the Greens, the SSP (Scottish Socialist Party) or individual Independent MSPs. The Greens currently have two MSPs in Holyrood: Patrick Harvie and Alison Johnstone. The SSP did have four MSPs from 2003 – 2007, hence their inclusion here. Margo MacDonald was the only Independent MSP elected in 2011, although there are now four in total.

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Alison Johnstone MSP & Patrick Harvie MSP, Scottish Green Party

None of these parties or individuals have any hope of attaining any meaningful power within the Scottish Parliament. They are there purely to represent their causes and constituents. For example, I dare say you could ask any MSP, from any of the major parties, what they thought of the policies and integrity of the two Green MSPs and get similar responses every time. Something along the lines of ‘I don’t agree with a lot of their policies, but they’re certainly honest’. I’d wager you’d get that response every single time.

And there’s one thing that unites these smaller parties and Independents: they ALL support independence, and are actively involved in the Yes Scotland campaign.

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Margo MacDonald MSP, Independent

The parties opposed to independence – Labour, Tories and Lib Dem’s – all have vested interests in maintaining the union for their own, or their own party’s, interests.

Having said that, although these three parties are officially determined to maintain the union at all costs, their party members aren’t quite so clear-cut on the issue. An Ipsos/Mori poll conducted in February found that 15% of Labour voters said they supported independence (that’s one in under seven). With Lib Dem’s, that figure rose to 19% (one in five). Even Tories aren’t completely united against independence, with 5% of them stating that they support it (one in twenty).

There’s even a growing Labour for Independence group, campaigning for independence and a chance to reset the Scottish Labour Party back to it’s old ideals and principles.

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Colin Fox, SSP

So you don’t have to trust or even like the SNP to support independence. Apart from anything, there will be another Holyrood election before independence anyway, so you can vote for whoever you want as the first proper Scottish Government.

Trust the small guys who have nothing to personally gain – or at least give it a go. What have you got to lose by listening to them, asking them questions and giving them a chance to tell you their reasons for supporting independence?

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From Poisonous Little Acorns…

It’s been a few months now since Johann Lamont, Labour’s leader in the Scottish Parliament, raised eyebrows with a speech in the chamber in which she outlined her ‘fear’ of Scotland voting for independence and the inevitable side-effect of the ‘foreignisation’ of her friends and relatives in rUK.

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Many of us ridiculed her comments at the time, pointing out that the idea of someone being foreign presented us with no problem whatsoever. At the ‘United with Labour’ launch recently, she revisited this when she said “In simple terms, why make Alex Ferguson a foreigner?”. She evidently didn’t get the memo.

Then today on BBC Radio Scotland’s ‘Good Morning Scotland’ show, Margaret Curran MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, made similar remarks. After talking briefly about the number of Scots living elsewhere in the UK, the interviewer asked Curran how a vote for independence would affect relationships across the borders:

Curran: “Well, I think people do actually feel that that would break up the family, and I think that’s why it affects it…”

Interviewer: “…if Scotland became a separate, independent state, what difference would that make to those relationships”

Curran: “Because I people… I think people do feel that the big thing would be… my son, for example who went to university in England – i think I’d be uncomfortable with the thought that he’s now a foreigner. Y’know, he lives in a different country. Y’know I do think he’s living in Eng… Scotland and England are certainly different nations, but I think we’re still… we still have that partnership, and I think it speaks to that, but I think…”

Interviewer: “But are you honestly saying your son would become a foreigner to you?”

Curran: “Well, they live in a foreign country, and I don’t think that…”

Interviewer: “Well(!)… but does that… the point is so what if they live in a foreign country!”””

The interview is available on YouTube (http://tinyurl.com/nqp95bt) or the whole show can be listened to on BBC iPlayer (http://tinyurl.com/o24jb8s) – starts about 14 minutes in.
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The question is, why would the thought of her son being a foreigner be a problem to her? Or, as I suspect, why is she pretending that it would be?

If we take Curran at her word, are we to conclude that she has some sort of issue with foreigners? If she was telling the truth, that is the logical conclusion.

And with Lamont revealing the same emotions earlier, should we conclude that Scottish Labour – those defenders of equality, solidarity and ‘one nation’ society – have a deep-seated issue with xenophobia?

It would be cynical to believe that, and no matter what I think of Lamont and Curran, I don’t believe that they are xenophobes.

But if we discount that reason, that leaves one other option: they’re lying. And what a lie it is.

If they’re not revealing their own small-mindedness on the issue of foreigners, what are they doing? They’re attempting to plant the seeds of it, or grow it on, in others. They are CREATING a new, artificial xenophobia, with quite deliberate, calculated intent – to nurture fear of independence through fear of ‘foreignisation’.

Frankly, I believe this outranks any of the other ‘better together’ tactics in terms of ‘how low can they go?’.

To ACTIVELY SEEK to drum up fear of the idea and word ‘foreigner’ is, in the short-term, pathetic and callous. In the long-term, it’s nothing short of despicable and outright dangerous.

What happens with the people they fool into thinking of foreigners as somehow lesser? Let’s not beat about the bush, that is what they are doing. Have the Labour Party considered that? Or are they so short-sighted and wounded that they simply don’t care about the potential ramifications?

What we are increasingly seeing, in England particularly, is the rise of right-wing extremist groups. Call them the EDL, the BNP, UKIP, whatever – they’re all sides of the same vile racist, xenophobic hate-plated coin. THAT is what Labour are contributing to with this line – not directly today, but in the years to come when these seeds have grown and warped those that swallowed them.

This has to stop, and it has to stop now. How dare Labour attempt this kind of politicking  – anywhere, not just in Scotland.

Make it so…

I have a confession to make: I’m a bit of a fan of ‘Star Trek’. In my defence, I only like ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ and ‘Star Trek: Voyager’ though, so I think I narrowly miss being called a ‘Trekkie’. I hope…

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Anyway, as other fans of the show will know, ‘Star Trek’ is set in a future in which Earth, having gone through millennia of conflicts, both local and worldwide, has come together in one unified voice and discarded the failed experiments of ‘countries’, capitalism and religion (that was Roddenberry’s wish at least. The studio did away with atheism against his specific instruction, creating spiritual and religion-based stories in the later series). What a lovely vision of the future he had – once we get past WW3 anyway!

But why is any of this relevant to the independence debate? Let me elucidate…

I’ve noticed several anti-independence/pro-union commentators stating that their main reason for opposing Scotland’s independence is that they want to see fewer borders and artificial divides between the peoples of the world – a very noble and worthy ideal to have, in my opinion. In fact, I too would like to see that, and not just because I want a ‘tricorder’!

There’s just one teeny tiny problem with such a grandiose, benevolent vision though. It is simply NOT GOING TO HAPPEN! Not within any of our lifetimes anyway. We still can’t even get the Israelis to talk to the Palestinians as human beings, and this is AFTER the Jewish people of Europe were subjected to the holocaust.

Of course, I’m not saying that we should pack up and leave things the way they are. Disagreements around the world require speedy but sustainable solutions, and I’m not claiming to know how to achieve that.

Scotland’s place within the union cannot be compared to the Israel/Palestine conflict of course, and I wouldn’t for a second dare to insult anyone’s intelligence by suggesting otherwise. I could just as easily have used any number of international ‘disagreements’ – Syria, North/South Korea, Somalia, Sudan/South Sudan, Chechnya, etc, etc. Compared to the vast majority of world citizens, we have a freedom that others can only dream of, and the ‘luxury’ of being able to live our lives without fear of a missile coming through our window. For that, I will always consider myself exceptionally lucky.

So why on Earth do I want to put up this seemingly unnecessary, artificial barrier between the people of Scotland and those in the rest of the UK? I don’t hate the English, Welsh or Northern Irish. I don’t have some overwhelming primitive urge to live with those who superficially resemble my appearance. So what is it?

It comes down one thing: democracy.

The ‘Star Trek’ Utopia doesn’t account for democracy. More importantly, it doesn’t account for differences, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, between different locales. A rule covering water conservation in the Atacama Desert makes no sense at all in Drumnadrochit, (aka ‘Damn-near-drookit’). Different areas/land-masses/countries NEED different governments – it’s a fact of life.

If we had one all-encompassing world government now, my voice, and yours, would be 1-in-7billion, give or take. As it is, in the UK my voice is 1-in-63million. An independent Scotland will see that cut to 1-in-5million. I’m somewhat of a lefty-anarchist at heart, and I see this as a natural branch of that – the greater my proportion of the representation on offer, the better.

So, we can watch ‘Star Trek’ (or not – I’m not forcing you!) and ooh and ah at the possibility of a perfect, Utopian future all we want, but it’s an unrealistic and, frankly, faulty system. In terms of world peace and the global removal of materialism, it’s a worthy goal, which will hopefully be achieved… one day. But in terms of real-life democracy in the here and now, it’s nothing more than naive fantasy.

Re-visiting WW2 for a moment – something unionists seem to think is strictly their territory, for some bizarre reason – we’re reminded why it was that the Allied forces fought the Nazi’s: to protect our freedoms and democracy (as well as free the countries and peoples persecuted – just a wee thing that’s often omitted!).

But what good is that democracy if people aren’t even willing to fight to improve it when given the chance? We are LOSING democracy in the UK at the moment: there are more peers in the House of Lords now than at any time in our past! UK politicians occasionally pledge to reform this antiquated system, yet when it comes down to it, they do nothing. Anyway, that’s a whole different topic in itself.

I want to feel like I have more of a say in what goes on, and voting Yes next September is the first step in doing that. I urge you to do the same. Take this opportunity to have more of a say in how things are done. Don’t just sit on the sidelines moaning about the UK Government making the poor poorer and the rich richer. Refuse to believe that poverty is just an unfortunate side effect of the modern world, or evidence of a ‘something for nothing’ society. Don’t accept that we have to have the world’s fifth-largest nuclear weapons arsenal sitting just outside Glasgow – who does that actually defend us from anyway??? Realise that we can live, work and play in a nation that is powered by clean, renewable sources, without relying on coal, gas or nuclear power. And learn that the people of Scotland – your neighbours, family, friends and YOU – are every bit as capable as anyone else in the world to make these decisions. We’re one of the richest countries on the planet – richer even than the mighty UK. That’s an independently verifiable fact, not Yes Scotland spin. There’s no need for poverty here, except to keep Labour politicians in votes.

Do it. Make it so.

BT Online Tutorial: Exploiting the Fears of the Masses

We live in a society which is unfortunately driven by media headlines. In particular, what we refer to as the tabloid or gutter press. It’s populist, it’s knee-jerk and it’s a sad demonstration of where we are in 2013.

“PAEDO!!”
“RAPIST!!”
“RACIST!!”
…all words thrown about with the venom of witch hunts. Words banded about often without a court verdict to back them up. As we know, innocent until proven guilty is supposedly the way the law works in this country, but the people want blood, and they want it now!

We also know that mud sticks, and Better Together campaigners have been demonstrating, with increasing regularity and lack of guilt, that they see this as a perfectly acceptable tool to thwart the ‘evil nats’.

I’m not going to name names in this entry, as to do so would only stroke the egos of those involved and give them the attention they so obviously crave. Given the online events of the past couple of days, I’m sure most of you will be able to deduce who it is I’m talking about.

It all started mid-conversation on Twitter. From nowhere, the subject of racism reared it’s ugly head. It was an opportunistic attempt to somehow connect the independence debate, and more directly the ‘evil cybernats’, with racism and xenophobia:

(in answer to “How does this play for indyref? Can you urge others to vote No knowing likelihood is Tory decade?”)

“Better 100 years of Tories than the turn on the Poles and Pakis that would follow independence failing to deliver”

Such is my utter hatred of racism and bigotry of any sort that I feel wrong even just quoting that. It’s not a word I have ever uttered or written down in my life. But aside from personal disgust at his use of the ‘P’ word – something I’m confident that the vast majority of us share – there are two other points to pick this self-described ‘Labour hack’ up on.

The first is his suggestion that he’d rather have “…100 years of Tories…” than live in an independent, and apparently racism-blighted, Scotland. He, as a Labour blogger and supporter, would forfeit any opportunity for the party he promotes and dedicates so much time to – and the policies that he is so (allegedly) passionate about being implemented – to govern again? I know Labour are right into their abstaining recently (“Why vote? We can’t change anything” – one prominent Labour activist actually said that to me recently) , but this surely takes it to a whole new level!

The second and most important part is his assertion that not only will independence ‘fail’ (which isn’t important – it’s just a phrase from the ‘Better Together’ manual) but that that failure will inevitably lead to a vast increase in racist/xenophobic scapegoating. He doesn’t even offer it as a possibility – it’s certain; fate; 100% fact.

Now this has been debated back and forth over Twitter and social media sites ever since, of course. He sees the whole thing as one big joke – ‘winding up the cybernats’. He appears to think that this is some sort of worthwhile activity. He doesn’t debate the actual pros and cons of independence – he just opens his mouth and excretes.

Later in the ‘debate’ (he didn’t debate, he merely offended and continued to crave attention), he tweeted something equally ludicrous and offensive:

“Lots of WE ARE NOT RACISTS tweets from the cybernats. Also lots of WE ARE NOT RACISTS tweets from the KKK in Alabama. LoL.”

Defaming a person by name is illegal. Defaming a group, without naming names, is not. As a lawyer (yes, this bile comes from a lawyer!) he knows this full well, and uses this to his advantage. His implication that ‘cybernats’ are racist is offensive in the extreme, and is a cynical tactic not worthy of any debate, let alone the massively important independence one.

Complaints have been made to both Police Scotland and the Law Society of Scotland regarding this behaviour. Time will tell if they have the powers and/or gumption to do anything about him.

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On the wider topic of the independence debate at large, it is this constant delivering of half-truths, white lies and unverifiable ‘facts’ to their followers that ‘Better Together’ rely on. This isn’t the ‘open and honest’ sharing of facts that they continually claim to be interested in – these are blatant attempts to vilify independence supporters in the eyes of the undecided, and worst-case scenario soothsaying with the sole intention of nurturing doubt in the voters’ minds. And it demonstrably works… on some. It is their equivalent of pointing at someone and shouting “PAEDO!”, and the people that fall for it demonstrate nothing but their own naivety – they are made fools of by the very people they support.

It’s disgusting and it has to stop. Now.