Arriving at Yes: My Personal Journey

I thought I’d write a wee bit about my personal decision to join Yes Scotland’s campaign for independence. I haven’t always been pro-independence – far from it in fact.

I’m not a celebrity or well-kent activist, and the vast majority of you wouldn’t know me from Adam. But I am a citizen of Scotland and a voter, and my journey is one that many others will take before next September.

I’ve had a bit of an interest in politics and current events since my teens, although it’s fair to say that I definitely started off on the wrong foot.

Now, don’t pelt me with eggs please, but for some reason, I actually thought that John Major was a good thing! I can now put that down to being a daft teenager: I was 13, had hormones careering around my body, I was perfecting being a general pain in the arse, etc. I was by no means spoiled as a kid, but I’d had a reasonably comfortable upbringing and life hadn’t thrown up any major challenges by then. I was naive and ill-informed – two major prerequisites of Tory membership. I’m pretty ashamed of my brief flirtation with the Tories, but I got back out pretty sharpish.

By the time of Labour’s election landslide in 1997, I’d matured (a little!) and realised that politics isn’t about cutting taxes and looking after your own wallet. I was happy that Labour had ousted the Tories, and I saw a brighter future for the country under the management of  a ‘caring’ party. Things, as the song said, can only get better…

Oh, how I laugh (and cringe) about that now! Remember that naivety I mentioned earlier? It hadn’t gone anywhere.

I soon learned about ‘New’ Labour: the party of celebrity endorsement, big business and illegal war. The party that, unlike a leopard, has an uncanny and seemingly unquestioned ability to change its spots. “Follow us!” cried Blair and the Pied Piper of Mandelson, and follow they did. “Socialism? What’s that then?”.

They’re not ‘new’ anymore, allegedly. Oh no, they’re definitely socialists again, and it must me true because they said so.

Pfft!

I’m almost convinced that they actually have those memory erasing thingymabobs from the movie ‘Men in Black’.

I was left doubting everything to do with parliamentary politics for a good chunk of time, thanks to both the Tories and Labour. I had a sly glance at the Lib Dem’s, but trundling down the middle of the road will never achieve anything meaningful in my opinion, and anything to the right of that is just greed, ignorance and self-interest – at best.

I was by now disengaged and uninterested, sharing the same political mindset of vast swathes of the British public. A kind of enforced apathy. And is it any wonder:
Tories: money, self interest, money, immigration, money, Europe, don’t let them in, suffer you pathetic scroungers, money.
Labour: socialism, capitalism, socialism, universal welfare, no universal welfare jobs for the boys, capitalism, socialism, preserve Labour at all costs!
Lib Dem’s: more u-turns than a desperate cabbie.

Then the SNP won at Holyrood for a second successive term, but this time with the all important absolute majority, giving them the democratic mandate and ability to introduce a referendum bill.

I was still deeply sceptical at this point, having been subjected to decades of the mainstream media telling us how crap Scotland really was, how the wealth of London and south-eastern England keeps us afloat, how the ‘Nats’ have a whole plate of deep-fried potato chunks on their shoulders whilst wearing thistle-tinted spectacles, peering back through time to when we were ‘roamin in the gloamin’ and taking an axe to anything with an English accent.

What on earth was the point, I thought to myself. We’ll be poor, we’ll be cut off from the rest of the UK and we’ll have compulsory highland dancing and caber-tossing in our schools. No no no, that’s not what I want at all!

It was about a year and a half ago that I did something radical, something extraordinarily off-the-wall. I don’t know what prompted me to do it, but do it I did. I read some independently sourced and verifiable facts!

Now my memory is atrocious, so I can’t remember exactly what it was I read, but suffice it to say that it started me questioning my long held beliefs. Beliefs that had been drummed into me my entire life by a UK media.

I read more and more, choosing to source my information from international bodies and organisations, for fear that both the Yes and No camps would no doubt put a gloss on everything they said. I started considering the democratic advantages too of an independent Scotland: governments that the people of Scotland actually voted for; directly accountable representation in international bodies; no unelected narcoleptic ‘Lords’!

The financial figures added up too – Scotland is NOT a poor country, by any measure. We’re wealthier than the vast majority of the world’s countries – countries that would give their right arm to be in a similar position. Wealthier even, per head, than the mighty UK.

I’d educated myself, through curiosity and a dogged determination to know the facts, and I’m still learning more every single day. I’m not content with knowing what I do already – I want as much information as I can get, so that I can share that with others who haven’t even scratched at the surface. “More input!”, as the marvelous Johnny-5 said in ‘Short Circuit’.

There’s no going back to taking everything BBC News tells me as gospel – I’ve heard their ‘objective’ coverage of the topic too many times for that!

As for ‘Better Together’ and ‘United with Labour’… let’s just say I’ve encountered more honesty and respect for the electorate from… no, I don’t want to be crude!

What this referendum gives us is a unique chance: a chance to change our wee country for the better; to improve the lives of the less fortunate and need a hand, not kick them while they’re down like the UK government does; to interact with the world in the way that we want – not a bunch of Eton old boys; to look after and repair the environment us, and rid ourselves of nuclear weapons. These things and much more.

So I’m here, 100% behind Yes Scotland, and looking forward to a future that is brighter, greener and fairer, with a rejuvenated electorate and a political system of increased responsibility and an accountability to the people it represents: each and every one of us.

The Power of Invisibility

Let’s play a wee game shall we? ‘Odd One Out’, perhaps?

See if you can pick out the news story that doesn’t belong in this list:

Terrorist attack in a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya
Men are charged with pinching money from Barclays Bank
The German general election
The murder of an 18yo in Birmingham
Results for the Formula 1 Grand Prix qualifying session in Singapore
The last flight of the RAF’s last two VC10 planes
The nominations for Royal Institute of British Architects ‘Stirling Prize’
A near nuclear incident in the USA in the 1960s
Ed Miliband walked along Brighton beach in a grey jumper
The UKIP annual conference of fascist nutters
A regional vote in northern Sri Lanka
Women’s football result
Men’s football results
David Hay, the boxer, has a cut
The release of the Taliban’s highest ranking prisoner in Pakistan
A march and rally in support of Scottish independence, with 20k+ attendees
A typhoon around Taiwan and the northern Philippines
A Canadian phone manufacturer has financial woes
A plane that had to land at Stanstead, rather than Heathrow after a non-terrorism incident
A cuddly toy
A man in social services has resigned from his new job
People who had been queuing to see Wallace & Grommit statues in Bristol weren’t able to see them
The Syrian chemical weapons deadline passing
The release of the computer game ‘Grand Theft Auto V’

Ha ha, I got you with the old cuddly toy, eh! Yeah, pretty easy I guess.

But there were actually two that didn’t belong there, because this is a definitive list of what was reported on the BBC News channel this afternoon and the BBC One News at 6.30 tonight. I know, because I recorded it all, and have just finished sifting through the whole lot. Call me a cynic, but I had an inkling that it could be worth it.

The other thing that’s managed to sneak onto that list? Only the biggest mobilisation of pro-independence supporters that the country has seen, gathering for a peaceful march and rally in Edinburgh. No biggy!

There were of course several very serious and obviously newsworthy stories covered. But not even the briefest of mentions for the rally. Why bother to report that on UK-wide news when you have to squeeze in a story on Wallace and Grommit statues…

I also recorded the BBC’s Reporting Scotland.

The independence rally was at last being reported by the BBC! And it was indeed the lead story, lasting for a whopping one minute and thirty-six seconds!

Fifty-five seconds of that were talking about the rally and Yes Scotland. The piece also included thirty-three seconds devoted to ‘Better Together’ leafleting – something they no doubt do every week. As do we. The remaining time was bagpipes.

Now, I’m not saying that both sides shouldn’t get equal news coverage, of course. In fact, when ‘Better Together’ entice their devotees out en masse, rather than the usual two or three miserable looking lonely souls in cagoules, it’ll be absolutely fine to report that properly. When is that happening again…?

The police estimate of ‘more than 8000’ was the only attendance figure given, unsurprisingly. The BBC did have at least one camera crew there, so I’m sure they could’ve had their own educated   ‘guesstimate’. Even some unionist campaigners have conceded that Yes Scotland’s official estimate of 20,000+ is more accurate. Yet Auntie Beeb couldn’t possibly say…

Fifty-five seconds out of a whole afternoons news.

Interesting too to see the next story, which was about the consecration of the new Archbishop of St Andrews.

As the newsreader mentions his disgraced predecessor, the camera cuts to a close up of Alex Salmond in the audience: “…formally took over from Cardinal Keith O’Brien…” she continues. Then the camera’s back on the whole audience: “He stood down in February after admitting sexual misconduct”.

This must’ve just been a coincidence, surely? I mean, it’s not like they showed Salmond with O’Brien every time when the story was first emerging… Oh wait, yes they did!

Apparently, no other footage exists of the UK’s then most senior Roman Catholic, other than when Alex Salmond has been in shot.

Aaah, the BBC… How lucky I feel to have such an impartial and objective national broadcaster.

Meeja

I’m starting this blog entry again enraged by the sheer ignorance of the British mainstream media regarding the independence campaign.

I’d forgotten earlier that there was to be an independence discussion on tonight’s Channel 4 News, but at 7.55, I noticed someone had tweeted about it. So I turned the tellybox to Channel 4+1.

Jon Snow welcomed us as usual, providing us with the main headlines, before mentioning that it is one year and one day until the referendum, and passing over to a reporter.

Within fifteen to twenty seconds, the reporter threw away any interest I had in watching. “…and what about the Braveheart factor?” she uttered, or words to that effect.

What about the what??? I’m almost lost for words at how utterly inane and ignorant such a question is. 

Channel 4 News is by no means alone in this attempted discrediting of Yes supporters. Only yesterday, BBC Radio 5 Live’s Victoria Derbyshire hosted a referendum debate from Glasgow.

The audience were vetted by phone before the debate. It’s since been reported (http://nationalcollective.com/2013/09/16/undecided-voter-is-convinced-to-vote-yes-on-radio-5-live/) that independence supporters were asked, on a scale of 1-10, how strongly they supported independence. A follow-up question was then asked: “Was it based on Braveheart and Brigadoon?”!

And the Daily Torygraph, that champion of reason(!), published a piece purporting to be a chance for English-born independence supporters to get their message across (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/scotland/scottish-politics/10311224/The-English-plotting-Scotlands-escape.html). They actually did quote well-reasoned, logical arguments from Yes voters, I was pleasantly surprised to read.

But then… ‘Next year sees the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn…’.

And?

Perhaps we should put off the vote because it happens (yes, happens) to be in the same year as a 700 year old and totally irrelevant battle? Let’s compare diaries and see if we can find a time that has absolutely no historic anniversaries, shall we…

Were the No voters at the Radio 5 debate vetted and asked if their decision had anything to do with the crusades or Dambusters? Does Channel 4 News talk about the ‘Dad’s Army Factor’ when talking about unionists?

Read my lips, mainstream media: NOBODY – not one solitary person – is supporting independence because of Braveheart, Brigadoon, or any other shit like that! Yes, some people have taken Scotland’s history into account in forming their decision – as people do in all countries in decisions of such importance – but these constant attempts to imply that we’re all really just wanting to paint our faces and scream “FREEDOM!” is totally insulting. Do you think you can you get that through your thick wee London-centric heads yet, eh?

Perhaps if you actually bothered to research the independence campaign, rather than just churning out the same old patronising shite all the time, you’d figure that one out for yourselves.

We’re not holding our breaths.

Risk of Long Term Damage Through Prolonged Exposure

As the referendum debate has progressed, there has grown an increasing clarity as to what the tactics of ‘Better Together’ are.

Described by some of its very own members as ‘Project Fear’, the shameless assault on the trust and passive ignorance of the people of Scotland (and the rest of the UK) is astonishing.

In years to come, this onslaught of smear, misrepresentation, lies and intimidation will hopefully be consigned to the history books. But make no mistake, it is an onslaught. All you have to do is look at the Facebook pages and Twitter feeds of pro-independence campaigners to see daily evidence of these underhand tactics. They don’t even blink if they lie to the electorate. Just look at the Ashcroft polls farce of the last few days: don’t reveal the sources, lie about the figures, stick them on a poster with a photo of Salmond, get someone relatively insignificant to say “Oh that?? That was all just a daft mistake!” and hey presto! Mud sticks. Whatever it is that BT excrete seems to be at least as adhesive.

We don’t want to be talking about this sort of nonsense though, but we cannot simply let the rot get a foothold. We’d rather be talking about the improved democracy an independent Scotland can enjoy, and the ability to affect our OWN futures better, rather than hoping a bunch of unelectable Tories and ‘Lords’ occasionally agree at Westminster. I’d debate that all day long – and win!

What ‘Better Together’ are possibly not realising though is that history is no longer merely the preserve of the victors to record. Should they manage to build upon their base of petrified sheep, the facts will remain, lodged digitally in blogs, independent online news sites and on the social network pages of millions.

There are two main types of ‘Better Together’ follower: the petrified sheep and the arrogant ‘British til I die!’ lot – the latter leading the former. There may be others, but those are the two major groups.

We Scots are often described as having a chip on our shoulders – a description I would argue is false. But false or not, there is a massive, entirely tangible and justifiable one forming right now because of their actions. This is what ‘Better Together’ are inadvertently achieving: a bigger and far deeper distrust of the UK establishment than has possibly ever existed among Scottish citizens before.

If Scotland votes for independence next September, we can move on. We can forget this sorry episode, if not entirely forgive. But it won’t matter – we’ll have a new country and future to build.

If Scotland votes against taking responsibility for itself however, there will be a far greater unofficial campaign than ever before and a very large number of disaffected voters.

‘Better Together’ are making their own bed. I only hope they’re prepared to lie in it.

It’s not a question of if we win, buy when.

Sticks and stones…

No doubt many of you have by now heard of the 80 year old Yes campaigner, James McMillan, who was shoved to the ground, breaking his wrist in the process. If you haven’t, here’s the Edinburgh Evening News article on it: http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/news/scottish-independence-campaigner-80-attacked-1-3077094

I’m sorry if this entry rubs anyone up the wrong way – and I know it will some – but I feel it’s too important. I’ve hummed and hawed about writing this entry, and I’ll tell you for why.

Whilst I absolutely do not condone the actions of the woman involved in the alleged assaulting of Mr McMillan, I can see why someone might have been greatly offended by his placard. To stand with a large sign reading ‘Time to get rid of the scourge of the Normans. Sign up to the Yes side’ would anger even me, and I’m wanting the same outcome from the referendum! It didn’t warrant physical assault, but it was offensive.

I’m in this referendum battle for equality, democracy and the chance to build a new, progressive Scotland – not for historical grudges. Frankly, I personally don’t care about what happened hundreds of years ago – we live now, not back then. History is useful for learning from, not as the basis for centuries-old division. Had McMillan’s sign read ‘Time to get rid of the scourge of the English…’, would that be acceptable? Or how about ‘Time to get rid of the scourge of the Asians’? I’d certainly hope not.

We independence supporters are often accused of having a huge chip on our shoulders, and McMillan has, I’m sorry to say, done nothing but bolster that image. We’re simply not going to win if this is the level of play. Sorry of you disagree, but that’s a fact.

Let’s keep both violence AND petty nonsense out of this campaign. ‘Better Together’ and their supporters are good enough at this sort of trashy campaigning on their own. Please, let’s not join them.