Tag Archives: Politics

Power At Any Cost

Last night the UK fell victim to its third terrorist attack in as many months, the second in two weeks. Not surprisingly this drew a strong response from the United Kingdom Government. As expected a speech was given by the Prime Minister, Theresa May, outside No. 10 Downing Street. All well and good you may think. So what is my issue you might be asking?

Well, my problem is that her speech included the announcement that all national campaigning would be suspended for the day. Now, you can argue long and weary whether the democratic process should ever be put on hold, but that’s for another day. The Prime Minister then proceeded to read a speech which was as overtly political as you could possibly imagine.

To clarify. The current Government is only the Government until Wednesday. On Thursday the country goes to the polls to elect a new Government. Therefore any response to recent tragic events will lie with whoever wins Thursday’s election. In all likelihood that will be Tories. However, nothing is set in stone. Yet, this morning the PM read out a list of actions which would be taken (need to be taken) to escalate the war against terror. These were in effect policy commitments on behalf of the current Conservative Government i.e. it was blatant politicking. Maybe I’m being naive, but I would have expected a strong, heartfelt, respectful and unified message – perhaps even reference the other party leaders. Instead we got electoral commitments. To stand there and say national campaigning was suspended and then launch into national campaigning was frankly staggering.

Look, I’ll not hide my views. I don’t like the Conservative party, for a whole host of moral, ethical and political reasons. However, to see them take such brazen advantage of a tragedy is sickening. More over it’s utterly hypocritical. I’ve always thought it, but today proved it. The Tories would do anything to hang onto power.

Thanks for reading.

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General Election Countdown – Vote SNP, Vote Mairi

On Thursday the 8th of June the United Kingdom will once again open up its polling stations. It may have been only two weeks since the local council elections, and two years since the last General Election, but in those two years something fairly significant happened. It was called the EU Referendum and the result was a Tory contrived disaster which led these Islands out of the European Union. Having made this mess the typically opportunist Conservatives are now looking to get a moral and practical mandate to clean up an unholy mess they themselves created. To that end a snap election was called. The Tories clearly hope to seize on apparent Labour weakness to build a bigger majority.

However, I’m not going to get into too much, if any, detail today. All I wanted to do was kick off my General Election pieces with an introduction to the candidate I will be voting for, Mairi McAllan. At the moment I live in a constituency which has the only Conservative MP in Scotland. His name is David Mundell, and not surprisingly being the only representative of the UK Govt in Scotland he is our Secretary of State. His majority is only a few hundred but you can expect a heavily funded Tory effort to keep him in his seat.

Now, as much as at any other time in recent history, there needs to be tough, unflinching opposition to the Tories. That is something only the SNP seem capable of doing. If elected I’m sure Mairi will carry that fight as much as anyone else on the opposition benches.

Thanks for reading.

Adieu Europe

diceGot to be honest and say I wasn’t really watching the EU Referendum hustings that closely. Why? Well, two main reasons. Firstly I didn’t appreciate there was a serious chance we would actually vote to leave. Naive perhaps, but for me Europe has simply never been an issue. Secondly, it all felt like an internal Tory squabble (most UKIP are ex-Tories) – a squabble that has been brewing for years and needed to finally vent steam. Well, vent steam it did, and driven by the racial intolerance currently rife in our politics, the voters of the UK took the frankly mind-numbing decision to cut themselves adrift from our European neighbours.

What now? Well, that’s a good question. However, I wouldn’t waste time asking the ‘Leave’ campaign as none of them seem to know. Unlike the Scottish Independence Referendum in 2014, where there was a 670 page white paper outlining the transition, in this referendum there has been nothing but soundbites and rhetoric. On the news of a Leave vote the UK markets crashed to the point where we dropped from the 5th to the 6th biggest global economy. Hot on the heels of share values being decimated the first lie of the Leave campaign was then exposed. Leaving the EU would apparently allow an extra £350m to be spent on the NHS, each week. As it turns out that was, err, “a mistake” according to UKIP leader, Nigel Farage. Conveniently it was a mistake plastered all over battle buses, hoardings, flyers and television interviews. As I type I’ve just read that Cornwall residents (who voted 57/43 to leave) want their current EU subsidies to be matched by the UK Govt. I wish them well with that request. There will be a long queue of people wanting their lost EU income protected.

Of course, I’m Scottish and a passionate supporter of my country and it’s right to become an independent nation once again. Many people will now be asking where this result leaves that dream. The answer is probably best summed up by this post-EU Ref map.

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The yellow bits voted to remain; the blue bits voted to leave. As you can see there is a rather large, unspoiled, yellow bit north of the Scotland/England border. In more detail, there are 32 council areas in Scotland. Of those 32, erm, 32 voted to ‘Remain’. Sad fact is if everyone who voted in Scotland had voted to ‘Remain’ it would have made absolutely no difference i.e. we were, as we always are, outnumbered by our fellow islanders in England and Wales. The net result is that despite an overwhelming desire to remain in the EU, Scotland is on the way out. With it will be an end to the EU funding so vital to many Scottish organisations. However, I’m sure we can expect the UK Govt to cover the shortfall, or more likely not.

Unsurprisingly this outcome has triggered talk of a second Scottish Independence referendum. First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, made it clear during the recent Holyrood elections that only a “significant and material change” would bring “indyref2” onto the table. There can’t be much argument that being dragged out the the EU against our will more than qualifies. It looks like being an interesting year or two ahead on the UK political scene.

Thanks for reading.

Election Aftermath 2016

SNP_LOGOmed_copyYesterday the Scottish electorate went to the polls to cast their votes in the 2016 Holyrood elections. In 2011, Alex Salmond led the SNP to a historic, and apparently, all but theoretically impossible majority considering the constraints of the De Hondt voting system. Last night, the SNP, under the inspirational leadership of Nicola Sturgeon, came within 2 seats of breaking the De Hondt system for a second time. However, the overall result was never really in doubt. The SNP are re-elected as Scotland’s party of Government for the 3rd term in a row.

FM Nicola Sturgeon

A quick look at the numbers shows the SNP winning 59 of the 73 “first past the post” constituency seats with over a million votes – a record, and more than Labour and Conservative combined. However, despite over 950,000 votes on the Regional Lists, this only garnered the SNP an additional four seats. That’s the De Hondt system for you – it sometimes fights back and actually stops the thing it was designed to prevent i.e. a majority. In some respects this election was all about who would come second. Much to the on-going disappointment of Labour in Scotland, it was the Scottish Tories who now form the second largest grouping with 31 seats. This includes a constituency seat for the abrasive but undoubtedly media friendly figure of Ruth Davidson. Labour leader, Kezia Dugdale failed to win her seat and instead was once again elected via the top up list votes. Elsewhere LibDem leader Willie Rennie won his seat in Fife and the Greens did well on the list to move ahead of Willie’s party in number of seats.

Moving forward, despite no SNP majority, there is a natural pro-independence majority with the SNP and Greens having 69 seats between them. I can’t begin to speculate what horse-trading may go on over the next few years, but the SNP have governed before in a minority scenario (with many fewer seats) and I’m sure they can do so effectively again. Just as interesting as how the SNP perform is what will become of Labour in Scotland. It should now be clear to even the most blinkered Labour supporter that their party was well and truly used and abused by the Tories to save the union. The price they paid for that toxic marriage has been reflected at the last two national elections. Labour in Scotland need to move ground, reinvent, put distance between themselves and the Tories. Until they do I can’t see any way back. Until then the Tories will revel in Labour misfortunes – misfortunes of their own making.

Thanks for reading.

General Election Footnotes

New Political Map of Scotland

With the votes counted, the ballot boxes packed away and the tears of both winners and losers all but dried it’s time to put a wrap on the General Election of 2015.  A campaign which for so long seemed to be leading towards a hung parliament, and ensuing minority government, instead ended in a clear cut victory for the incumbent Conservatives. The Exit polls which beamed out of our televisions at 10:00pm on Thursday were initially met with scoffs and collective shaking of heads from most politicians. Sadly for them, and happily for the Exit pollsters, and David Cameron, the figures were all but bang on.

In my own constituency of Falkirk I spent several afternoons and evenings leafleting for the SNP candidate, John McNally. As it turned out I could probably have saved on shoe leather as he romped home with an incredible majority of nearly 20,000. However, I wanted to be part of the process, and even if just one person was persuaded to vote SNP because of a leaflet I delivered then I’m more than happy. In Scotland as a whole the SNP captured 56 out of the 59 seats. In years to come the names of Emma Harper, Neil Hay and Danus Skene will probably be an answer in pub quizzes. The question of course being which three SNP candidates failed to get elected at GE2015! However, let’s not dwell on negatives. Prior to the election, the SNP had six MPs; their record was 11. These unprecedented numbers make it clear what a momentous result this was for the inspirational Nicola Sturgeon and her party.

However, the net result of it all is that David Cameron and the Tories are back for another five years. Some had hoped that the SNP might align with UK Labour to prop up a minority government with Ed Miliband as PM. For that to happen Labour had to make ground in England. Having failed to do that the results in Scotland meant nothing to the overall picture. Even if they had won all 59 seats in Scotland, David Cameron would still have been back inside No 10. Downing Street. The reality is of course that Labour could never actually win all the seats in Scotland. Unlike the SNP they aren’t able to take on LibDem and Tory candidates in rural areas.

So what now?

For the 56 SNP MPs there is the task of standing up to a Tory Government undoubtedly cock-a-hoop at getting re-elected. However, the scale of the SNP vote surely makes it implausible, if not impossible, that David Cameron won’t realise that the Scottish people have spoken for change. We therefore wait to see what emerges over the next few days, weeks and months. Let’s not also forget that as the 3rd largest party the SNP will now get unprecedented access to the mythical “corridors of power” i.e. on more committees, even chairing committees, plus two questions at PMQs etc. It’s up to the SNP to make best use of this advantage. Under Nicola’s stewardship I’m sure they will

As for Scottish Labour, well,  it’s a case of asking where it all went wrong – a process which might take a lot of soul searching and uncomfortable truths. Bottom line is their capitulation on election night has been a long time in the making. They have been out of government in Scotland since 2007 and their alliance with the Tories as part of Better Together sealed their fate. The hapless LibDems were also all but wiped out in both Scotland and the UK. For Nick Clegg it was a clear thanks, but no thanks from the voters for their decision to go into coalition with the Tories.  As for the Tories themselves, they’ll keep on doing what they’ve always done. Govern for their own self interest and interests of those who back them. Some things just never change.

Thanks for reading.

Scotland Takes Centre Stage

Today saw the launch of the Scottish National Party’s manifesto for the 2015 General Election. Now, as best I can remember this sort of event normally takes place in front of the media pack and that’s about it. The politicians sit at the top table, show their slides, sip water and get their spin across. A few questions follow and then it’s off to the pub. Let’s remember the SNP only stand in the 59 Scottish seats, can’t win a UK Election and at best aspire to have some influence in a hung parliament. In the past this would have seen their manifesto launches restricted to the hardened hacks of the Scottish press corp. Those days are clearly over. For now, at least, the whole of the UK has their eyes on Scotland.

The video below contains all 62 minutes of today’s event. This is made up of roughly 20 minutes of presentation, followed by a 40 minutes Q and A with the assembled press.

I don’t deny I regard Nicola Sturgeon as the UK’s best politician, by a distance. However, as I’ve said before, no matter your allegiances it’s hard to not give at least grudging respect for the way she handles this sort of occasion.Not once was she remotely flustered. Her demeanor remained positive and only rarely did she show any signs of understandable irritation.

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The questions asked covered all the expected areas i.e. another independence referendum, Full Fiscal Responsibility, Ed Miliband and of course the big one, “Why is England scared of you?”. In truth the last type of question is a gift as it gives her the chance to reassure voters in rUK that there is nothing to be scared of, unless progressive democracy and Scotland having a voice frightens you.

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I was feeling really buoyed having watched today’s event. However, my mood has darkened somewhat since. The expected trail of xenophobic and misogynistic bile flowing up from Westminster and Fleet St has actually surpassed my worst fears. Some of it is truly shocking. I won’t repeat any of it on this blog. The part which my poor brain is struggling to cope with is this: the UK pleaded for us to stay, we stayed and now they complain when we take part in the very system they wanted us to remain part of. The reality is the UK establishment has misjudged the mood for change in Scotland. Their current approach is to insult us rather than to work with us. Any short term gain will surely be more than matched by a continuing decline in Scottish respect for a system creaking at the seams with corruption and self-interest.

Thanks for reading.

Translating A Soundbite

They’ve said it so often I’m sure some of them actually believe it. However, most, I presume, know it to be intentionally misleading. What I’m talking about is this:

voteconfusion2

Now, as far as I am concerned what Labour want us to read into this soundbite is:

‘Vote SNP and there will be less Labour MPs, therefore more chance of a Tory government, as Labour are the only party who can stop them!’

However, the idea what voting SNP will improve the Tories chances of getting back into Government is patently false, as not a single SNP MP would support such a scenario. By returning an SNP MP you will simply get an anti-Tory MP who isn’t Labour. Hence why they don’t want you to do it.

Let’s face facts. If polling is to be believed, the only way SNP beating Labour to seats in Scotland will keep David Cameron in No. 10 is if UK Labour leaves him there. Surely even Labour aren’t daft enough to do that.

Thanks for reading.

Divide And Conquer

Had something on my mind and I was struggling to get it over in a tweet. So a small blog entry is needed to give myself more room – but not too much more i.e. I’ll be brief.

Ok, my feeling is growing that the ‘Establishment‘, and by that I mean:

  • Conservatives
  • Labour
  • Lib-Dems
  • UK Government Civil Service
  • Almost all newspapers
  • BBC

Are hell bent on trying to turn every election into a re-run of September 2014. Debate after debate, headline after headline, interview after interview plays the Scottish National Party against the rest. Everything gets spun around YES/NO. I could understand that if we were in the run up to a Holyrood election, or another Independence Referendum – but we’re not. The only possible reason for this is to maximise support against the one party, the SNP.

ns2Let’s cut to the chase. Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP could win all 59 seats in Scotland, and still be frozen out of Government decisions. This election will send either David Cameron or Ed Miliband to 10 Downing Street – not Alex Salmond or Stewart Hosie. The only people who can, and will likely continue, to create “black holes” in the UK economy post 7th May are the same people who have done it all their days i.e. Tories or Labour. The role of a large contingent of SNP MPs is to make Government accountable to the people of Scotland: to give us a voice, and to put an end to the Labour/Tory closed shop (with occasional meddling from the Lib Dems).

The latest Labour campaign tactic of showing weakness in Full Fiscal Autonomy for Scotland is a clear attempt to tell people we don’t really want “Devo Max“. We’re too wee, too stupid. Classic “Eat your cereal” claptrap. In short, no reason to vote SNP as there are no more powers to give. Bizarrely Labour have made it known they actually want to attract YES voters. Their way of doing this is to rule out another IndyRef as well as reneging on “The Vow” of real powers for Scotland in the Union i.e. Devo Max. This is of course being lapped up and echoed around Scotland by their Establishment colleagues.

In truth I’m uncomfortable with the wedge that the UK is trying to drive between Scots for their own narrow aims. They need to stop it, and furthermore stop denying what’s staring them in the face. The old days and old ways are over. Attempts to alienate, ridicule and demonise half of the Scottish Electorate (and growing) is not only insulting, but it’s plainly not working.

Thanks for reading.

Leader’s Debates – A Scottish Double Header

ge15As the credits rolled on BBC Scotland’s Leader’s Debate it’s probably fair to say that those of us who watched all three recent debates are in need of a timeout. Five hours of televised political jousting over just a few days has certainly left me drained. That’s not to say I’m not up for some more, but let’s have a wee break to recharge the batteries. In the meantime here are my thoughts on the two debates held in Scotland.

Rather than look at each of the debates separately, I’m instead going to give my views on the contributions of the candidates involved. I’ll start with the two party representatives who only featured on the Aberdeen panel:

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Aberdeen Debate Line Up: Top Row (L-R) Patrick Harvie, Ruth Davidson, Jim Murphy; Bottom Row (L-R) Nicola Sturgeon, Willie Rennie. David Coburn

Patrick Harvie (Scottish Greens)

Despite colleague Natalie Bennett being part of the UK wide Leader’s Debate, Patrick Harvie, was omitted from the first Scottish debate held in Edinburgh on Tuesday. Have to be honest and confess I haven’t heard Patrick speak as often as some of the others gathered in Aberdeen. His contributions were passionate but perhaps a bit rough and ready. In an understandable eagerness to make his voice heard some of his comments felt a bit rushed, even slightly flustered. That said he’s clearly a politician of substance, whether you agree with his policies or not.

A solid contribution, but not one that would have blown anyone away.

David Coburn (UKIP)

Lived down to expectations. Had nothing to say aside from the usual UKIP rhetoric. Thankfully he was by and large sidelined during the hour long debate. I have no problem with UKIP being on election panels; however, they would have been better served with a Scottish representative more in control of their subject matter, and perhaps less excitable, than David Coburn. Does such a person exist? I doubt it, as most people now see UKIP for what they are – an extension of Nigel Farage’s ego. He likely despairs of his followers as much as the rest of us do.

…and now onto the four representatives who appeared on both nights

Scottish Party Leaders Participate In A Live STV Debate

Edinburgh Debate Line-Up: (L-R) Willie Rennie, Nicola Sturgeon, Ruth Davidson, Jim Murphy

Willie Rennie (Lib Dems)

Softly spoken lad. Seemed nice enough, if a bit lightweight. Unfortunately on both nights he became extremely repetitive and predictable. His stock response contained a reference to the referendum as well as lauding the economic revival his party, in cahoots with the Tories, had begun. In fact he rarely answered a question without reminding us that Scotland voted NO in the referendum – he does seem particularly proud of that. To listen to him speak you’d think the result was 99/1 and not 55/45, with a vote today likely to achieve a different outcome. Scotland is moving on while Willie and the Unionists want us to remain forever locked into 2014. Not sure that’s a winning philosophy.

Like most LibDem’s he seeks credit for their part in the Coalition, while at the same time attacking their Coalition partners. That said ‘attacking’ is probably over playing it as there was very little antagonism between Ruth Davidson and Willie on either night. If anything, Willie gave the impression he’d happily have another five years in Government with the Tories. His main target on both nights was not surprisingly Nicola Sturgeon. He wasn’t alone in that strategy. In summary he was competent enough, but largely irrelevant to the main debate.

Ruth Davidson (Conservatives)

Every time I see Ruth I can’t help but picture a young Tory student speaking at a party conference. It’s not that she’s particularly young, she just has that wide-eyed, innocent, and ready to convert the world to Conservatism look, whether it wants it or not. Thatcher is nothing to do with her, as she reminds us. Ruth can’t be held accountable for that. Handy. Like her partner in the Coalition she obsesses on the Referendum. The Union is her ‘red-line’ coalition issue, despite the fact that her only likely partners in Govt (Lib Dem and UKIP) agree with her on that subject. If at any point she started to struggle, a quick return to the referendum guaranteed a burst of applause from the loud-clapping Unionists in both venues. Policy wise I thought she struggled. Yet nonsense like bringing back prescription charges, even though it would cost as much to administer as it would bring in, went largely unchallenged.

In fairness I think Ruth has the potential to be a decent politician – she is a fairly skilled debater. Just don’t think she will ever do much in Scotland where a career as an also-ran List MSP in perpetual opposition awaits. I think she should head South and aim for an English Tory seat at Westminster. She needs to know what it’s like to have constituents i.e. be a real MP. Until then I’ll always view her as a rather empty shell who only represents herself and a Tory party almost extinct in Scotland.

Jim Murphy (Labour)

Jim started on Tuesday with a tale about a woman who couldn’t afford any shoes. He ended with some strange waffle about mental health being about broken spirits. In between we had football puns, Messi, horse-racing and an impression of Kenny Dalglish. This was all delivered in a calm, relatively composed, almost hypnotic manner. He sounded extremely rehearsed – as you would expect. Throughout it all though it didn’t feel natural or comfortable to me. He didn’t look at home on this sort of stage. His habit of shouting over the top of people suggested someone used to having his own way. As with Davidson and Rennie his ire was reserved almost exclusively for Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP. Considering Labour are battling Conservatives for 10 Downing Street, he spent very little time grilling Ruth Davidson. In some ways not surprising as the main challenge for Jim in Scotland is the SNP, not Tories.

The ‘Largest Party forms the Government’/’Vote SNP Get Tory’ mantras featured heavily, as expected. However, Jim point blank refused to answer the question which is rapidly turning into Labour’s very own “Plan B” debacle i.e. what happens if Ed Miliband has less MPs than the Tories, but Lab and SNP combined can lock the Tories out? He insists Labour are aiming to win, just as Alex was planning on a Currency Union. What happens if Labour don’t win remains foggy in the extreme. Of course the likelihood is some of deal with the SNP, but as this would play into Tory hands he can’t admit it. In summary, Jim was Jim. I for one remain unconvinced that Jim being Jim is where Labour needs to be in Scotland at this time.

Nicola Sturgeon (SNP)

In the UK wide Leader’s debate last week Nicola was largely able to smack down the opposition with barely a glove being landed on her own chin. This was undoubtedly because her fellow debaters knew decidedly less about Scotland than she did of the UK. Wasn’t quite a freebie, but it was an excellent chance to impress, and she didn’t disappoint. The two debates in Scotland were totally different. Firstly it very quickly became a three-on-one rerun of the BetterTogether campaign. Nicola was the target for Tory, Labour and Lib-Dem froth alike. Secondly in Scotland, SNP are the party of power, so she has a record which can rightly be challenged. When you factor in that both nights became bogged down in Holyrood politics and the referendum, instead of focusing on Westminster, it became an even tougher ride. However, she was up for the fight and more than held her ground.

At times it felt to me that because YES/SNP had lost the referendum, Nicola wasn’t allowed to have opinions any more. Are Lab/Con/Lib expecting the SNP to drop their founding principles and simply become a left of centre party who exist only in Scotland? It feels that way. The reality is though very clear. This election is about getting the maximum powers from the Smith Commission/Vow/Vow Plus etc. The majority of Scots want more powers. Whether they want full independence is something we’ll find out, if and when, the Scottish electorate have the appetite for another referendum i.e. vote for a party who will offer one. As the FM said, people will decide Scotland’s future, not politicians.

Overall the First Minister more than held her own, despite the unionist bullying on display from her opponents. The problem the other leaders have is that Nicola Sturgeon is better at her job than them. While the rest rabble on incessantly about Westminster, the Union etc, she sticks to her guns on Scotland, and Scottish issues and concerns i.e. Trident. Whether you agree with her or not you can’t help but admire her for that.

As for Jim, he had two chances to make a dent in the SNP lead. At best he treaded water, at worst people who didn’t really know him will have been turned off. In my view there isn’t going to be much change in the polls between now and May 7th, and the debates so far haven’t altered my view on that.

Couple of last points. Have to be honest and say I enjoyed the UK Leader’s Debate more than the Scottish two. Manchester was more controlled, less ranting over other speakers, more polished. The crowds in Scotland were more involved but at times to my ears didn’t really represent what the polls tell is the mood of the country. Also feel audiences are duped too easily by untruths, but this isn’t a problem exclusive to a Scottish crowd!

Thanks for reading.

Leader’s Debate – A Review

MAIN-Election-2015Anyone with even the remotest interest in UK politics was likely tuned it. That said, viewing figures of barely over 7 million perhaps points towards a disenfranchisement of people from politics, and politicians. In days of yore a program like this would have easily pulled in twice that audience. However, I freely admit that I sat glued to it for the entire two hours, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The lack of audience reaction jarred slightly, against the lively action on the debate floor, but it would seem that was intentional to avoid a sense of bias in favour of one candidate or another. Just the one heckler, shame, but in these santised times, perhaps not surprising. Like a lot of other people, I want to see Ed Miliband and David Cameron in a real ‘head to head’, alas it would appear that particular delight has been denied us by Cameron’s refusal to take part. Pity.

Like others who watched, I had my favourites before it started. I don’t pretend that I’m not a Scottish Nationalist, but I was willing to give everyone a chance. Here therefore is my placings for each of the debaters. Before I start I would add that none of the candidates ‘bombed’. Each was probably happy that they connected with those they felt the need to connect to. Saying that, some did better than others.

7th. Nigel Farage (UKIP)

Don’t like the man or his politics. UKIP in Scotland barely register in opinion polls. Yes, we unfortunately have one UKIP MEP, but we all have our crosses to bear. Nigel did what he does i.e. pretends to be different, blames everything on immigration, acts as the people’s voice. He is of course no such thing. His nose is as deep in the trough as any of the Euro politicians he continually ridicules. His ‘jack the lad’/’Arthur Daly’ wide-boy impression has never worked on me. However, it seemingly does work on a certain strand of English/Welsh opinion. His supporters will be pleased with his showing. The rest of us cringed, and at times just got plain angry at the things he said. Nope, not for me I’m afraid.

6th. Nick Clegg (LibDem)

His job on the night appeared to be to put clear blue water between himself and his coalition partners, the Conservatives. Fairly obvious strategy, and to an extent it was successful. Problem for Nick and the Lib Dem’s is that the electorate won’t forget his party’s role in the last five years as easily as they would like. That said, Nick himself does seem happy with what his party has achieved. Must admit to being confused by his ‘let us finish the job we’ve started‘ mantra. Is he suggesting the ConDem coalition get another five years? Is he suggesting we vote Tory? Surely he can’t be seriously suggesting a Lib Dem majority. In fairness there was the odd spark of the old Nick Clegg in there which flashed at what might have been. For me though his ship has sailed. He had made his bed and needs to lie in it. His thoughts should quickly turn to somehow saving his own seat, and with it his career.

5th. David Cameron (Con)

Dave clearly doesn’t like this sort of platform. He looked the most uncomfortable of the seven. A sweaty top lip in the opening statements suggested he was feeling the heat, in more ways than one. His plan was, unsurprisingly, to attempt to engage directly with Ed Miliband as much as possible. Seems he’s ok tackling Ed if there are other’s around – Head to Head he’s not so keen. I’ve always viewed Cameron as a poor man’s Tony Blair i.e. style and soundbytes over substance. Tends to prattle on about the past, his children and make vague future pledges which mean almost nothing. He is the classic empty suit of a politician. On the night he held his own, although he clearly dodged any questions with tough answers. In his defence it was a bit of ‘six on one’, but as PM that’s the way it should be, so he can’t really complain. Didn’t do terribly, didn’t to overly well. Treaded water but that’s what he does.

4th. Natalie Bennett (Green)

Have to be honest and say I had no idea who she was until very recently. She looked the most nervous at the start and was the only one who appeared to have to read her opening remarks from her notes – everyone else looked straight out, presumably at an autocue. After her nervy start she warmed into it. Her Australian accent took me unawares, but it gave a slightly different tone to what she had to say. In my view her performance wilted a bit through the two hours. Towards the end she became too stuck on big green issues. Nothing wrong it that per se, but the point of this debate was to appeal to the voters on a wide range of issues – especially as another coalition could be on the cards. By the end she had reverted to a cliche of what you might think a Green candidate would be. Bit of shame, but this must have been a tough assignment for her. Overall she did fine but could have done better, and may well do with more experience of the big stage.

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…and now onto the top 3!

3rd. Leanne Wood (Plaid Cymru)

Along with Natalie Bennett, I thought Leanne was the most nervous, perhaps even more so at times. The Welsh Nationalists aren’t anywhere like on the same scale as their cousins up here in Scotland. As such Leanne simply won’t have had exposure like this before. However, for taking on Farage when the Tories, Labour and Lib Dem’s seemed afraid to, earned her kudos in my book. She should have addressed more UK issues, and where her party could fit in with them. Yes, she is the leader of PC and Welsh politics is her area; however, as I’ve mentioned before a hung parliament is in the offing and as such all parties need to think outwith the box, and their comfort zone. She didn’t stumble or get figures wrong at any point. It was a competent performance, even if I think she could have pushed herself more onto the UK agenda.

2nd. Ed Miliband (Lab)

Ok. Tory press say he did badly; Labour press say he did well. I’m not a Labour or Ed fan, but I thought he did well. There appears to be low expectations of Ed Miliband in debate, and at times it was a bit forced/fake i.e. appeals directly into the camera, cow eyes etc. For all that I thought he showed a good grasp of his subject and was able to score some direct hits on Cameron and Farage. Main negative for me was that he almost ignored the three women. His focus was on the camera and Cameron. I’d say he ‘appears’ much more genuine than David Cameron. He admits mistakes, too many in truth, but that makes him feel more human. Less soundbytes too which is a bonus. He didn’t win the election with this performance, but I seriously doubt he lost ground either. In truth I was surprised at how well he did.

ns21st. Nicola Sturgeon (SNP)

Ho hum. I’m an SNP member so I would say that. Fine, I don’t deny it. However, the fact that the YouGov poll of over 1,000 viewers gave her the win, as did most of the serious political pundits, I think I am justified in my selection. It would seem watching viewers in Scotland were particularly impressed as nearly 2,000 of them joined the SNP during, and after the debate. Nicola’s task was two fold. Firstly to appeal to Scottish voters ahead of the vote on May 7th. Secondly she had to appease voters elsewhere in the UK that she was not the tartan devil the mainstream media painted her to be. Instead she made it clear that the SNP, if elected in good numbers, would be good for other parts of the UK too i.e. seeking to protect the NHS from privatisation in England, Wales and NI.

Nicola is just an outstanding politician, and no matter the colour of your rosette it’s hard to deny her qualities. Oh, and one last thing she nailed was that she, Nicola Sturgeon, and not Alex Salmond is the leader of the SNP.

Thanks for reading.

Fear of Democracy

fearLately I’ve been limiting my thoughts on the General Election to a maximum of 140 characters. However, there are moments when the confines of a Tweet simply won’t do. Now, is one such moment.

For the last few weeks Electioneering, on both sides of the border (by Labour and Tory), has focused on the Scottish National Party. The line in Scotland from Labour is that if you vote SNP you’ll get a Tory government, which is a myth so easily debunked I’ll leave it to Google. Down south the Tories are saying Vote Labour and you’ll get the SNP in a coalition (formal or informal, vote by vote…whatever) enabling “the separatists” to influence UK wide decisions – a UK they would like to “break up”.

Fine. I get it. Political parties need to do what they have to do.

In Scotland Labour are in danger of a wipe-out at the hands of the SNP, so they attack them, paint a supposed nightmare scenario of another Tory government. Thing is to most Scots the difference between Red or Blue Tories in power is neither here nor there. What matters to Scots is to have MPs down on the green benches who will truly hold the government to account, irrespective of its colour. As we saw in the referendum, when push comes to shove Labour and Tory watch each other’s backs. The Scottish electorate is cannier than many perceive and they know the game now. They won’t be fooled again.

In England to play the SNP card, to raise the spectre of the Alex Salmond (even though he’s not even the leader) marching into Westminster, to casually wander into racist/xenophobic waters is the chosen Tory party, and supporting press route. We’ve had Alan Massie and his River Thames foaming red hysteria as well as Bruce Anderson suggesting parts of Scotland effectively being partitioned off if they vote NO in any future referendum. This morning we even had the unedifying sight of a Tory MP Anna Soubry admitting to being quite literally “terrified” at the prospect of the SNP having any influence at Westminster.

stay

Thing is, the UK begged Scotland to stay. “Don’t Go” they pleaded. “We love you” they cried. “Play your part in a United Kingdom” they said. “We’re Better Together” they repeated ad nauseum. Ok. So we stayed and as such we’re going to play a full part in the democratic process. If Scotland can be ruled by a Tory government with one single MP, the United Kingdom can surely have no complaints if 40-50 democratically elected SNP members have their say on UK matters now and again.

Let’s be clear, Unionist parties want Scotland, they’re just not to keen on the people in it. We can come to Westminster if we play the game according to their rules. Well, we Scots are bored of the old game, so we’re starting a new one. You want us, you’ve got us – warts and all. If you don’t like it then you know what to do i.e. let us go and get on with running our own country, and you yours.

Thanks for reading.

The Passing of Time Changes Nothing

hviii1A couple of nights ago I read a passage within the pages of Margaret George’s superb ‘The Autobiography of Henry VIII’ which stopped me in my tracks. Not long after the death of Catherine Howard, a conversation is taking place between an aging Henry and an ambassador sent forth from the Court of King James V of Scotland.  Within it was a brief exchange which I quote verbatim:

[Henry] ‘let us state it plain. Here is what I wish: that Scotland and England unite, preferably through marriage. That we cease these hostilities, which are nonsensical, if you consult a map; for we are one country. All else flows from that.’

[Scottish Ambassador] ‘Now you understand me,’ he said, and his voice was burred and edgy. ‘I care not what your maps say, or what your logic tells you. We Scots are a different people, entirely different from you. That you understand us not is of no concern to us. We are people of our land, and our land is as different from yours as is Spain’.

Now, I have no knowledge of whether such a conversation took place, or whether it was simply Margaret George using her artistic licence. However, if she did make it up she’s comprehensively nailed the reason why us Scots should have had no qualms or fears about voting YES in the 2014 referendum. It encapsulates entirely why those who seek to bind us are doing so despite the deep rooted cultural differences which will always exist.

You may accuse me of going all ‘Braveheart’, but I’d respectfully disagree. Scotland has been an independent country for most of it’s history. Only when a greedy few sold us out for English coin did we join with England. The above conversation, even if fabricated, is undoubtedly what was felt in Tudor times. For many nothing has changed.

As Scots we should never forget our history – it made us who we are. I remain convinced that one day we will be an independent country again. I just hope I live to see it, even if only for my final breaths.

(A more detailed review of Margaret George’s book will be posted soon – I’ve nearly finished it!)

Thanks for reading.

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.

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.

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.