Monthly Archives: September 2014

Where next?

A Burdz Eye View

So we are back to doing what we did remarkably well during the #indyref campaign – Yes folk sitting in meetings with other Yes folk agreeing with each other.

But this round of meetings is necessary. There are lots of enthusiastic newbies – folk who just a few short months ago, wouldn’t have dreamed of sitting in a draughty hall talking politics.  Now they are queuing to get in:  all are most welcome. As are those who’ve been involved before – for decades, years or just days.

We need to vent a little behind closed doors – it can’t all be positive and onwards and upwards, without first letting off a little steam.  People are masking a lot of pain and there needs to be a collective howling at the moon.

As long as it lasts for five minutes only.  And most definitely isn’t played out on social media or…

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New Politics, New Media

holy1It was once famously stated that Devolution would kill nationalism in Scotland. That was in 1995 before the establishment of a Scottish Parliament in 1997. Since then the Scottish National Party has become the party of Government in Scotland as their rivals in the Labour Party struggle to come to terms with the ever changing political landscape. Yes, there are undoubtedly those who vote SNP yet wouldn’t describe themselves as ‘Scottish Nationalists’, but simply prefer the SNP’s brand of left-of-centre politics to the increasingly centralist, Westminster driven agenda offered by Labour. However, there is equally no doubt that many who support, and continue to move towards the SNP, are indeed doing so from a platform of civic nationalism.

Why am I telling you this?

Well, after Lord Geordie Robertson’s quote from 1995 it was likely once more decreed that a defeat for ‘YES’ in the referendum of September the 18th would quell the cry of independence for a generation or more. One startling statistic says that is not going to be the case:

  • SNP Members on September 18th, 2014 – 25,642
  • SNP Members at 7pm on September 27th, 2014 – 68,231

joinsnpIn the space of barely over a week membership of the seemingly ‘defeated’ SNP has increased by nearly 43,000. They are now the third biggest party, by membership, in the United Kingdom. Some will say this is simply a reaction, an admittedly huge reaction, to the defeat i.e. join the party which drove the fight for independence to show solidarity. However, for so many to pay to join a political party needs to be taken seriously, no matter your allegiances. How many of these will remain members beyond a year, who knows. However, it shows the political lion has well and truly woken in Scotland and isn’t going to doze off again any time soon.

One last thing. Several commentators tell us that these on-going YES gatherings, rallies, people joining the SNP etc is a continuing denial of the result on 18/09. I couldn’t disagree more. What they show is that people want change. Let’s not forget, not only did the 45% who voted ‘YES’ want change, but so did a sizeable percentage of those who voted ‘NO’ – just that they wanted it within the UK framework. To this end the SNP and FM elect, Nicola Sturgeon, has made it clear the priority, for what was the YES movement, is to focus on the powers promised by the Unionist parties during the final weeks. They must be held accountable for these promises; they must deliver these promises. If not 1.6 million voters and rising will be demanding to know the reasons why.

n.b. It would be remiss of me to point out that the Scottish Greens have also seen a surge in membership. As the only other mainstream party to back the YES campaign they too seem to be receiving a commendable show of support from the voters of Scotland.

***

As well as entering a new chapter in Scottish politics, the eyes and ears through which many of us view the political arena, the Scottish Media, is also set to undergo a revolution. Is revolution too dramatic a description? Probably. However, as this new media is initially likely to be aimed at a target audience of 1.6 million (YES voters) there is every chance it has the potential to become something the mainstream channels will need to keep an eye on.

So why do we need this new media and who is it?

SundayHeraldYesWhy? Well, most of us in the YES camp would say there was a nigh-on systematic failure of the media in Scotland over the last two years. The newspapers, in the main controlled outwith our borders, were almost without exception in favour of the Union – two of them The Sun and Daily Record played the pro-Union fiddle all campaign only to back nobody in their final editions. This to me is having their cake and eating it i.e. back one side all the way only to claim some form of unearned impartiality at the death. Nope, their positions were clear and along with every other daily newspaper in Scotland they were hostile to independence. The only printed offering which openly campaigned for a YES was the Sunday Herald.

The other part of the media is of course the spoken variety: TV and Radio. Here we come up against the controversial, thorny subject of the BBC. Were they truly biased or simply incompetent? For my part I think they set out to play the role of a ‘concerned undecided’ voter i.e. someone who was looking for answers before making an important decision. As YES was campaigning for a change then this was I suppose fair enough. However, on too many occasions I felt this role morphed from ‘concerned undecided’ to ‘frantic, terrified’ NO. This led to some openly hostile and downright disrespectful interviews with the First Minister and others. Despite having questions of their own to answer (clarification of more powers, their own preferred options on currency etc) the NO interviewees rarely appeared to meet the same hostility.

Another example of the state broadcaster’s questionable role broke last week. Post-referendum the BBC published a story about new technology which would allow more oil than previously anticipated to be extracted from the North Sea. Pre-referendum the BBC and NO made continual play on ludicrous scares that oil was in fact running out. Now here is the kicker. The story the BBC eventually published post-referendum regarding new oil extraction technology was in fact not new – it had been widely available to anyone (and tweeted endlessly) since early August. So why was a story likely to favour YES not reported until after the vote? I will leave you to draw your own conclusions.

Now onto the what: what is this new media. Well, you won’t be surprised to hear it is web based. In the main it’s a stream of existing www outlets who have decided to up their game, increase their output and offer genuine independent alternatives to the likes of the BBC and the establishment mediums. To name check a few:

Bella Caledonia

Newsnet

Derek Bateman

Yes, these are all essentially pro-Independence channels. Yet, as support for some form of change in this country is now undeniable, these outlets will surely campaign to ensure change, even if it’s not independence for now, comes to our country. If for no other reason than balance it is vital such places exist. I hope you will find time to check them out.

Thanks for reading.

Friday Fictioneers – All Greek To Me

ff240914Straight from the sea to your plate,’ the flaking, lop-sided sign boasted with pride.

As you passed by, the sizzle and smell of grilling squid lured you in. Behind the clam-shell decorated bar, multi-coloured bottles played tricks with the light. The warming fragrance of Mediterranean figs and olives filled the air. There was never any music – the lilting call of distant gulls and gentle rolls of the deep blue Aegean, the only background his loyal guests ever wanted.

To some it may have been a grimy corner of midtown Detroit, but to Old Mr Papadopoulos it was his little piece of home.

friday-fictioneers

These words form my entry into this week’s Friday Fictioneers photo prompt challenge.

Referendum Aftermath

Andy-Murray_2341157bOn the morning of the Scottish Independence referendum, Scotland’s own 2 x Grand Slam winner Andy Murray tweeted his support for independence. Have to admit I was surprised as he is usually fairly guarded on such matters. However, over the previous few days his older brother, Jamie, had made it clear he was in favour. Therefore it was perhaps no real shock that Andy thought the same. Like many he had become utterly despondent at the negative campaigning of the NO team and had therefore given his backing to YES.

So a fiery, passionate Scotsman having an opinion on the future of his own country? All good you would think. Well not so according to many in the southern based media. Seems ok for the likes of David Beckham, The Queen, The Pope, Barack Obama and Cliff Richard to come out for NO, but hell mend a famous Scotsman coming out for YES. Twitter and newspaper comment sections have been swamped with highly abusive sentiments towards Andy. Some of those who had previously waved their flags and celebrated when he won Wimbledon were now torn. How could they possibly support this turncoat who had advocated the breaking up of their glorious Union? In truth I think those in the south are taking it as some form of rejection of England, and as such why should England now support this uppity Scot?

Bottom line is Andy Murray gave an opinion. Last time I checked this was a democracy and considering the magnitude of the moment I’d expect every Scot to have had an opinion. If it truly does impact on his popularity in England then it will be a sad day for sport and the UK. People need to accept others think differently from them. We Scots do get passionate about our country. It’s not about hating on others, it’s about wanting the best for ours. I really hope the UK tennis crowds don’t get on his back. The bloke has given his all for tennis on these islands and doesn’t deserve to be shunned for the heinous crime of airing an opinion.

***

butterflyThroughout the referendum campaign the world ‘nationalism’ was thrown around as if one stepped removed from ‘Nazi’. Well, as referendum watchers will know there was indeed more than one occasion upon which supporters of independence were referred to as ‘Nazis’. Why someone who supports self-determination for their country would be compared to a regime responsible for two world wars and the deaths of millions is something lost on me. It’s actually a gross insult to those who died in the wars and camps that a free democratic process could in any way be compared to the actions of the Third Reich and the National Socialists.

So what is nationalism?

Well for me, it’s not about ethnicity. It’s about the people of a country wanting the best for that country i.e. civic nationalism. That is to say the voters of Scotland, those who live here, having their voice heard to the max. Whether you are 20 generation Scots or a migrant from any part of the globe, it makes no difference. If you live in Scotland, you are capable of being a Scottish Nationalist.

The problem the media has is that the word nationalism is often linked to ‘British Nationalists’. Now, a British Nationalist is in general perceived as an anti-immigration, anti-European…in short a racist. Think National Front, think BNP and that is what I would see as a British Nationalist. This form of nationalism is deeply ethnic, not civic. The difference between this and what he have in Scotland couldn’t be more marked. Scottish Nationalism is inclusive, pro-immigration, pro-Europe. People just need to take a moment to understand similar sounding words can mean utterly different things.

***

SNP_LOGOmed_copySo What now? As I type membership of the party which gave us the chance to vote on independence, The Scottish National Party (SNP), has increased it’s membership by nearly 100% since Friday. From 25,000 it now has around 50,000 members. I was a member many years ago and may well join again. However, more important than that is the mood. From the despair of early Friday morning an air of optimism has slowly but surely emerged. Part of this is a show of support for the organisation which gave us the chance to say YES.

Let me firstly say one thing. YES lost the referendum. No matter how you spin the voting patterns, campaign tactics etc the bottom line is NO won, and YES lost. I accept that without debate. However, does that mean I should stop wanting independence? Does that mean the 1.6 million who voted YES should just give up the hope of something new, something better for Scotland? Of course not! There is now talk of new movements, new alliances as old friendships are strengthened and new ones formed. The dream for constitutional change in Scotland will never die. It may just take a different path for now.

My own view is we need to press the Unionist parties as hard as possible on their pledge of new powers for Scotland. By accident or design the term ‘Devo Max’ has become associated with what the NO campaign promised in the final days. Devo Max is in essence just about as much devolution you can have without being independent. Everything apart from Defence and Foreign Affairs is devolved. Securing this should be the goal of the new YES alliances which form. If Scotland proves itself capable of the additional responsibilities offered by Devo Max then perhaps in time the people of our country will truly believe we can stand alone. However, if they remain happy with a much stronger Parliament in Edinburgh, but still in the UK then that’s fine too.

However, as a true Scottish Nationalist I hope one day independence will be achieved. But for now let’s take smaller steps, as that is what the country seemed to say last Thursday i.e. not a NO to independence, but a NOT YET.

Thanks for reading.

An open letter to Magrit Curran

Wee Ginger Dug

I wasn’t going to blog anything today, but I read in the Scotsman that Magrit Curran is to head a British Labour party commission which plans to visit the 10 areas of former British Labour support which returned a high Yes vote in order to discover why we turned our backs on Magrit’s beloved career ladder. British Labour is asking us to put our trust in them once again. They have no shame, they have learned nothing, and now they look to us for answers to a problem of their own making and expect us to solve it for them so they can get back to business as usual, so they can pretend that nothing has happened.

No doubt the commission will operate as British Labour always operates, behind closed doors and talking to no-one except those who have been pre-approved. It is a window dressing exercise, a sham with…

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Rising From the Ashes of Despair

45Ok, perhaps despair is overdoing it, but I must admit to being somewhat crushed after my lifelong (adult life!) desire for Scottish independence came up short. However, from those smouldering ashes now comes a renewed energy and passion for blogging. I started this site a couple of years ago with all sorts of plans for regular articles on all sorts of subjects. Rather quickly this descended into a steady, if sometimes intermittent, stream of creative fiction – that will not stop;however, it’s time to get back  to you reading and me writing about the other stuff* in my head.

*’Stuff‘ gets stuck in my brain, I talk to myself a lot and I’ve decided one solution to heal this endless internal waffle is to write it down. Hopefully you’ll find enough of it interesting to hang around.

Why 45? Well, 45% is what the ‘YES’ vote garnered in Thursday’s referendum. Rather than sit around moping (which we did for a few hours) those who backed independence have declared their intention to keep campaigning for greater Scottish democracy. If you’re not one of the 45%, don’t worry – moving forward what you did in the past is irrelevant – this is now about the future. The support for an independent Scotland rose from 25% to 45% in the last two years. Think about that for a moment. Then factor in a changing demographic, more undoubted disappointment and betrayal from Westminster parties, and a growing self belief and positive vision for our country will only see that support base rise. In my view, when the day comes independence needs to be ushered in on a tidal wave of support i.e. we need a large majority in favour. That way it will feel like it’s been won, rather than earned by default. We can do that, and I believe we will – but be patient!

Talking of betrayal from Westminster parties, I present the following official campaign poster produced by the ‘NO’ group:

vow2

During the last week of the campaign the ‘NO’ team produced the above. Step one was as outlined i.e. publish a motion for further powers before the UK parliament on 19/09. Well, today is now 20/09 and it still hasn’t happened. Furthermore there is no imminent sign of it happening as the Westminster parties can, surprise, surprise, not agree on a way forward. In other words the Scottish electorate (YES and NO) have been sold a pup. The Westminster parties had no intention of ushering in a raft of new powers for Scotland. It was a desperate ruse to secure votes. It won, we lost, they lied. The Scottish electorate are already waking up to this deceit and Scottish Labour, in particular, are likely to hemorrhage support in the coming days, weeks and months. Yet, I don’t think they truly care. They sold their souls to save the Union and knew there would be a price to pay. I’m sure their expectation will be met.

Ah well, that’s all for now. I promise not to make all my non-creative fiction blogs political. It’s just that after such a long time living within the referendum bubble it will take a few days of talking, writing and thinking about it before I can truly move on. Please bear with me.

Thanks for reading.

Scotland Has Spoken

bbcsref…and it has said ‘No‘ to the offer of independence. In the end it wasn’t that close; well, closer than most would have predicted a month ago, but in the last three weeks there seemed to be a genuine chance of a ‘Yes’ vote. However, as the results were checked and counted an apparent late swing back to ‘No’ left the final outcome as a bit of a letdown. 

First things first – congratulations to the ‘No’ campaign on their victory. While I didn’t enjoy the oppressively negative style of their pitch, that was the choice they felt they needed to make. In fairness selling a negative such as ‘No’ can’t have been easy. Far more fun to promote ‘Yes’ with all the inherent hopes, dreams and aspirations. Yet, the negative outdid the positive on September 18th as perhaps many decided it a leap too far, from the devolved parliament we have at the moment to full blown independence. Interestingly data published in the last few hours shows that the demographic which won it for ‘No’ was the 55+ group, where over 70% backed the Union. With a more even split of this age-range a ‘Yes’ win would in all likelihood have ensued. However, such is democracy and I don’t deny the older generations their right to vote in whichever way they felt best – nobody should.

Scottish-referendumI suppose it’s now time for a confession of a sort. In truth I worried from the start of this process whether independence would be too big a step for many. Perhaps a halfway house like ‘Devo-Max‘ would have been a better road to go down i.e. get people used to more powers before offering them the lot. However, the UK Govt declined the chance to put Devo-Max on the ballot paper. The thinking presumably was that David Cameron wanted a straight Yes/No, with his bets firmly hedged for a convincing ‘No’. This would have meant no concessions and no new powers – just the status quo. That though all changed when it became clear the status quo wasn’t acceptable to many natural ‘No’ voters. So the Better Together campaign came up with ‘More Powers GUARANTEED’. This was underpinned by a joint pledge in the final days promising to honour this guarantee.

So where does it leave us? Well, the Union remains in tact, but in my view seriously wounded. Overall it feels like nobody actually won. The Independence movement didn’t get what they wanted, but they will get more powers in time. The Unionists got what they wanted, but only by compromising on giving more powers to Scotland. The upshot would appear to be a more general review of democracy in the UK is required. More powers for Scotland will undoubtedly raise objections from regions of England, and perhaps rightly so. However, as with us Scots the English regions need to put forward their case as we have done for over a century.

sref2Ah well, after three years the one, and perhaps only referendum on Scottish Independence in my lifetime is over. Disappointed, yes, but not downhearted. A process has now begun which will surely see things improve for both Scots and the UK as a whole in the years to come. In time I believe people will look back on last night not as an end but merely as a beginning.

Thanks for reading.

Friday Fictioneers – The Games People Play

ff170914The acrid smell of freshly spilt blood laced the fine, evening mists which swirled across the field of battle. From the hillside the Royal Prince and his brother watched on, the first-born planning his next move.

NxB4,’ came the order.

I was the only black horseman left – they had to mean me. The Board-master pointed his golden staff towards B4; I geed up my sweating mount and trotted slowly forwards. On the edge of the square a pathetic, shivering old man knelt in prayer – he knew the game and had accepted his fate.

‘Forgive me,’ I whispered, as I drew my sword.

friday-fictioneers

These words form my entry into this week’s Friday Fictioneers photo prompt challenge.

Why I’m Voting YES

Referendum-calendar_tcm4-814401On Thursday the 18th of September, 2014 the voters of Scotland will be going to the polls. It won’t be to help elect a UK Government, it won’t be to elect a Scottish Government – it will be to decide whether Scotland remains part of the United Kingdom.

Now, I’ve no real feel for where the readers of my blog come from. I appreciate most are probably following because of my formative attempts at creative fiction. Where you are all from is a mystery. However, whether you are from Scotland, other parts of the UK or beyond the shores of the island of Great Britain it doesn’t really matter. However, whoever is out there it’s probably best to start with some facts.

In 1603 Scotland and England shared a monarch (James VI of Scotland, James I of England). At that point we were still two separate countries who simply had the same royal family.

In 1707 Scotland and England (and Wales) signed up to the Treaty of the Union. From this point our parliamentary systems were joined, as what we effectively know as the UK was formed.

The referendum the Scottish electorate – the people of Scotland, irrespective of ethnic background – are about to vote on is in relation to the second point of history i.e. we are looking to remove Scotland from the United Kingdom and let it wholly govern itself once more as an Independent sovereign state. We will therefore still have the same monarchy as the rest of the United Kingdom (rUK) and will remain part of the commonwealth.

Ylogo

As the title of this blog suggest I shall be voting YES to Scottish Independence. There are a few reasons, but it boils down to this:

  • Cards on the table – I have always favoured independence for Scotland i.e. I am not, and never was, undecided on this issue.
  • We are fundamentally different to the rest of the United Kingdom. As an example, the UK currently has a coalition government, mainly made up of Conservatives. At the 2010 General Election the Conservatives won 307 seats, one of which is in Scotland. This means Scotland is governed by a party who has one, solitary MP within Scotland. For me this undemocratic in that Scotland as a country has its government decided outwith our borders.
  • I want the people who run Scotland to be in Scotland. I want them close by so they can be fully accountable to the Scottish electorate
  • I think our country has untapped potential. For that to be realised it needs to run to its own agenda, not a sub-agenda of the UK.
  • Scotland was an independent country before, we should be again.

scottish-independnece

Look, I’m not political expert. Some of you reading this post may think I’m letting my heart get in the way of my head. Facts are being overridden by a naive vision of an independent Scottish utopia. Fine, if that’s the way you read me then that is of course your right to do so. However, at moments like this, defining moments in our countries history, there comes a time when heart needs to have as much say as heads. Yes, there will be uncertainties. Yes, there will be times of introspection. Yes, there will be ups and downs in all aspects of our society. Yet, isn’t that the case in every country in the world?

It’s time for Scotland to stand on its own two feet. It’s my firm belief, and that of well over one million Scottish voters that not only should we, but we can do so successfully. We will remain firm friends and business partners with the UK we leave behind. Perhaps in time they too will look at a need for change, such as regional assemblies around England. That though is a decision for them. It’s something they would need to campaign for, just as we have long campaigned for Scottish Independence.

Sadly, the Scottish main stream media has solidly backed the pro-Union stance, despite large numbers of their readership not doing so. It has led to an undeniable imbalance in the reporting of facts and figures. If you are taking part in the vote and are still ‘undecided’ then please read the following website which represents a small step in redressing the balance:

http://theweebluebook.com/index.php

Thanks for reading, and whatever way you vote, do it for the right reasons. Don’t do it for yourself – do it for future generations; do it because it’s best for Scotland.

yearofyes

Friday Fictioneers – Passing of Time

ffThe dark shadows under my eyes tell their story. The uncombed, thinning strands of hair and week-long stubble matches my grey mood.

The reflection wasn’t always this way.

I force a smile as I remember the once handsome young man struggling with an unruly bow-tie as the Prom limo pulled up with Becky inside; fight back tears as I briefly see the proud father with a sleeping infant in his arms.

Out in the hallway hushed voices are gathering. Becky gently pushes open the bathroom door and takes my hand.

‘Come on honey, they’re about to start reading her will.’

friday-fictioneers

These words form my entry into this week’s Friday Fictioneers photo prompt challenge.

Friday Fictioneers – The Firewalker

ff030914I’d never seen a real Maharajah before, but he looked about right: the orange turban, straggly beard of grey and white – the small, mysterious scar underneath his left eye. The audience at the county fair held it’s breath as the stranger from another world walked slowly up and down the white-hot coals.

It was a week later that the men came to fix the shingle on our barn. Through the fly-screen I watched as their boss chatted to my father. His straggly beard and scar looked familiar. The rusty van parked out front said ‘Patel’s Roof Repairs’, but heck, he sure was a spit of the Miraculous Maharajah of Murkajee.
friday-fictioneers

These words form my entry into this week’s Friday Fictioneers photo prompt challenge.