The shlock of naw

A few random thoughts at the start of a new week and a new life.  Queen Betty has spoken, she wants people to “think very carefully” before exercising their vote on Thursday. The No campaign has, predictably, taken this as an endorsement of their position, although thinking carefully is the exact opposite of shutting up and eating your cereal, refusing to send speakers to public debates and events, and claiming that Scotland is on hold. It’s probably a safe bet that Betty is a Unionist, this is news of the milk makes your cornflakes soggy variety. But the Nawnentities are now desperately clutching at any fresh rice crispies that are going.

There’s not much else a world power that punches above its weight can do when it’s put on the run by two guys with a rickshaw, the theme tune to the Empire Strikes Back, and a sense of humour. The British establishment is intimidated by a tune. Mighty Britannia stands before the people of Scotland intent on cowing us with shock and awe and we laugh and point out she’s got nae knickers and nae vision, only managementwankspeak, unfocussed focus groups and glaikit glares. The shlock of naw scares no-one except those who were already cowering.

So this week we’re going to bring about a new global depression if we vote Yes, as opposed to last week when a Yes vote was going to turn us into an unnoticed non-entity. There was me quite resigned to a future where where Scotland would be so insignificant that Belarus would seem like a giant striding the world stage, and now I need to get my heid around being personally responsible for a global cataclysm that will see New York bankers leaping out of windaes in Wall Street and landing on Buster Keaton. See that damp patch in an Armani suit, that’s Scotland’s fault that is.

Can these people not make up their minds? Scotland, incapable of tying its own shoelaces or wiping its own arse, but an evil genius of catastrophe creation which can paralyse the entire planet and bring about the downfall of capitalism. Ach feckit, I can live with the guilt. People already tell me I look like Lenin. I was going for a Beatles’ look and it all went tragically wrong, but I’ve learned my lesson and am now immune to the pernicious influence of style-icons. So David Beckham’s letter begging Scotland not to leave has come a bit late. It was supposed to have been published a couple of weeks ago, but it took a while to decipher the crayon.

Mind you the free thinking Viviane Westwood has said that she’s all for a Yes vote and thinks it would be “absolutely great”. Scotland could become an inspiration to the world once it’s got out of Westminster’s bondage trousers.

The No campaign’s message for this week is “we’re not panicking” and an entreaty to people who don’t know to vote no. There we go with that just don’t think thing again. Being told by John Reid not to think and to put our trust in him and his pals is precisely what got us into 13 years of Labour’s wasted opportunities and the Iraq war. You can trust John, you can trust him to push for ID cards, rendition, cosying up to defence contractors, and a Labour party made in his own image.

Meanwhile in order to prove that it really is a mass movement, no honest, the No campaign published a photie a No logo formed out of ordinary people. Or as they were described in the Irish Times Posh Edinburgh cricket types.

We’re also getting a dose of love-bombing. The No campaign is closely following the Canadian Federal Government’s Quebec referendum playbook, which likewise involved making a big deal of currency threats. But having overdone the negativity, the U-KOK campaign is struggling badly with the happy clappy cuddly stuff. The Canadian government subsidised thousands of plane, train and bus tickets so Canadians from the rest of the country could go to Quebec to say je t’aime to a Quebecois. There was a mass rally in Montreal a few days before the vote, with tens of thousands of Anglophone Canadians swearing blind that nous adorons toutes les choses francophones and had even realised that French speakers do not in fact finish every utterance with beep beep like they did on the audio in French classes at school.

However in the UK Naw version, the lovebombing rally is being held in London, which would be a bit like the Canadians holding their rally for Quebec in Vancouver or Calgary. This decision was taken in the knowledge that the only critical mass in Scotland is the mass of critics that greets every hauf-airsed intervention by a clueless celeb. However it’s also because they really love us even more than the Canadians love Quebec, as holding the event in London means it’s really REALLY important. If it wasn’t important it wouldn’t be held in London. Besides, the UK Government is both too cheap to subsidise trips to Scotland, and knows that damn few would take them up on the offer. Most people in England don’t give a toss – and this is part of the problem.

Over the next few days the combination of scare stories, threats, and patronising condensension will continue unabated. We will have no let up, no respite. We’re going to get a lot more of the same stuff that drove many undecideds to turn Yes in the first place – just today the CBI and other business people made yet another entirely predictable warning that doom and gloom can be the only outcome for an independent Scotland. They think that the system in the UK isn’t broken, but they’re amongst those broke it.

Our job is to persuade, to reassure, and to include. Time is running short now, so focus your efforts where it can make a difference. Stay calm, stay positive, stay happy. Don’t get frustrated with people who don’t seem to be receptive, move on. Not everyone is going to be convinced by you – but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be convinced, it may just require a different approach so let someone else do it.

We can do this, we are doing this. Scotland stands before the first days of a new future, or we are looking at a return to the hopelessness, powerlessness, cynicism, and apathy that disfigured this country for decades. Moving on is hard, it’s difficult, it can be frightening.  At this particular juncture in my own life I know that better than anyone.  But I will not be bowed, I will not cower, I will draw on my inner strength.  I choose hope, choose power, choose self-belief.

We stand hand in hand, we can do anything.

Click here for the audio version of this article, courtesy of One of the 99%


In memory of Andy

AndymarnAndy Kavanagh-Mosson was born in 1936 into a different world, the son of an unmarried Irish mother who fled to London to ensure that she could keep her child.  She was a strong and determined woman, whose strength and determination were inherited by her son.  In order to make a living she fostered homeless children, and was one of the few in that racist era who willingly fostered children from African or Asian backgrounds.

Andy grew up surrounded by strong women who struggled and survived in poverty, who faced up to racism and discrimination, and developed a burning sense of fairness and justice that he carried with him all his life.  It was a life that took him far.

Andy was a Royal Marine who saw active service in Suez and Cyprus.  He was a Metropolitan policeman who once arrested one of the Kray twins – for traffic offences.  He went alone to arrest one of London’s most feared gangsters, Andy was afraid of no one.   He stood up to bullies, he was unbowed by threats.  He would not be told that he couldn’t do something.  He knew the difference between right and wrong.

But Andy was not defined by the Marines or the Met.  He was a man with a rich life, with a love of nature, a deep knowledge of plants and wildlife, and a sensitive and expressive artistic ability.  He found love, and he returned love.

Andy was complete within himself, but he was no island.  Andy was connected and saw the connections that link every living being.  His greatest gift was the ability to help others see those connections too.

Andy’s great achievement was his inner calm and tranquility.  He was a man who was at peace with himself.  He had a strength deep in his soul, a strength that he shared with those he loved, a strength and determination that was his gift to those who knew him.

andy3His happiest days were spent in Spain, sitting in the warm evenings on the balcony, a glass of wine in hand, his dog Lottie by his side, watching the sun go down over the mountains to the west, a smile of contentment on his face.

But it was Scotland that became his home.  It was in Scotland and amongst Scottish people that he found his family.  His last years were spent in Scotland, where he was accepted, and valued, where he felt safe and where he knew he would be cared for and loved.  His last conscious act was to cast his postal vote in the referendum, a few days before he passed away.  He voted for a Scotland that will stand up to bullies and will be unbowed by threats, a Scotland that will not be told it can’t, a Scotland that is complete within itself and at peace with itself, that knows the difference between right and wrong, a Scotland that knows how to love and how to care.

Faced with summing up a deep and beautiful and beloved man in a few short words, I have only silence and grief.  No vision through the tears, no music amongst the sobs.  There is no justice which can be done to him in a few paragraphs, no fine words can be enough.  All there is is the aching loss, the absence of a part of myself.  But I’ve learned the lessons he taught me, I have shared in his inner strength, I have learned to be complete within myself.  These are the things that Andy gave me, and I will treasure them like I treasure the precious bundle of memories of our time together.

His body has gone, he will be missed, he will be mourned.  His smile will only be seen again in photographs, his warm embrace felt only in the privacy of the mind.  But his spirit lives amongst and within.

Andy will always be with us, in a raindrop that falls in Carntyne, in the falling of a leaf, and in the branches of the rowan tree.

Arresting Ronnie Kray

I wasn’t going to post anything today, but for the past couple of days Scotland has been subject to the most intense napalming of fear and scares since the referendum campaign began. We are warned of meltdown on the markets, a plunging pound, share prices wiped out overnight. Prices in our supermarkets will double, all businesses will leave the country, and since we won’t have any currency we won’t even be able to club together to buy a cairry oot for the party we’ll have when Michelle McMoan moves south. And all this because a country which is too poor and insignificant to notice, which has oil reserves due to run out at 10.01 pm on Thursday, and has nothing to offer except a ticket on the Megabus to London, might decide to start governing itself. Something doesn’t add up.

Let us suppose that Scotland is indeed the high risk basket case of No campaign myth and legend. This country in a geo-politically stable part of the world, with a strong democratic tradition, a country with a highly educated population and an embarrassment of resources. Taking that raw material and turning it into a poverty stricken charity case requires governmental incompetence of a quite spectacular degree. And yet our poverty and dismal future is the very reason we must continue to put our faith in the system of government which produced the poverty and failure. Something doesn’t add up.

I was trying to write a few words for Andy’s funeral service this evening, trying to reduce a beloved man’s life into a few paragraphs and failing, so I stopped for a bit and watched the news instead. It was wall to wall with unexamined threats, claims of ruination taken at face value by a BBC which has abandoned all pretence of neutrality as all hands rush to the pumps to rescue the sinking British ship of state. I remembered something Andy told me, many years ago.

In the 1960s when Andy was a police officer in the East End of London, he arrested one of the Kray twins. There was no big and thrilling police chase, it was nothing like the telly or the movies. He arrested Ronnie Kray for traffic offences. He knew exactly who it was he was going to arrest, he knew all about the Krays twins’ reputation. And Andy went by himself, into a crowded café in the East End of London, armed with nothing more than a truncheon which now lives in a drawer in the bedroom, and said “You’re nicked” to one of the city’s most intimidating gangsters. Andy was tall, and powerfully built, confident in himself and capable of a gaze that could pierce right through you. Ronnie Kray had no chance.

He huckled Ronnie Kray along the street, into the police van. On arriving at the station he dragged an unwilling and protesting Ronnie out of the van. Two nuns were passing along the street at the time. Ronnie screamed at them: “Look at my face! It’s unmarked!” He was convinced he was going to be beaten up. It was only when the prisoner was signed in that Andy noticed the smell, and discovered that Ronnie Kray had shat himself.

Ronnie Kray called his lawyer to pay the traffic fines, and was home within a few hours. Face unmarked but in desperate need of fresh underwear.

This episode didn’t make it into the movie with those guys from Spandau Ballet.

I asked Andy if he had been scared. He shook his head, and smiled. He said that Ronnie Kray was just a bully. He was very brave when he had his mates, but what really scared people was his reputation. When you looked past the reputation, all that was really there was a nasty and selfish little man who was too used to getting his own way and who crapped his trousers when someone stood up to him. Bullies, said Andy, are always afraid of people who are more confident than they are.

Westminster is too used to getting its own way, and it’s trying to frighten us with its reputation. It’s calling on everyone in the gang to help it do its dirty work, calling on those who have a vested interest in its reputation. But there is nothing behind the reputation except selfishness. They held us in contempt because we were afraid of them, and now they’re trying to scare us into allowing them to continue to hold us in contempt.

But we have confidence in ourselves. Hold a steely gaze. Pierce through the rhetoric. Do not be intimidated. We’re challenging their reputation and they’re keeching in their pants.



Fat-cats and hangdog looks

We’ve been blowed again, because of an opinion poll showing that the gap between Yes and No is within the margin of error, just like the last one that showed the gap between Yes and No was within the margin of error with Yes 1% ahead. Funny thing indypolling error, it only ever errs on the one side. That would be the side of a blow for alicsammin. Rarely have so many been so blown since a Roman emperor last held an orgy.

We got blowed again on the very day that Davie Cameron came to Scotland to do his impression of an abandoned puppy telling us that independence is for life not just for Christmas. Poor Davie with the hangdog eyes told us he was going to be heartbroken and tried to make us feel guilty. Meanwhile Boris Johnson and half the Tory back bench are standing by a canal with a sack, a stack of bricks, and looking impatient. Perhaps they could tempt him over with a bowl of cereal.

It’s not about kicking out the effin Tories, pleaded Davie desperately with a tear in his eye as he thought about his place in the history books. Oh yes it effin is Davie. As he keeps reminding us every time he gets involved, he doesn’t have a vote and so can’t get involved, and I think that means it’s us who get to tell him what this vote is about, and not him tell us. The Tories are going to eff Davie if there’s a Yes. There’s a lovely wee bonus prize.

Ed Miliband was in Glasgow, where he felt it was important that voters in the referendum understood that during WW2 his dad was stationed in Scotland for a few months. Eh, no, I’m not really sure of the relevance either. He mentioned solidarity a lot. And Keir Hardie. The Jarrow March. Fighting the Nazis. And the miners’ strike. Oh. No, not the miners’ strike. Labour opposed that … eh … NHS! Welfare state! Cuddly Toy! And solidarity, lots of that, power to the people as long as they have a politics, philosophy and economics degree from Oxford. Keep that solidarity conveyor belt moving, and try to forget that Labour is a conveyor belt for turning your aspirations into their seats in the Lords. Eat your cereal.

Ed was also keen to tell us that independence is forever. Long time that is. Foreverevereverever. That’s much longer than it will take the Sun to use up all its hydrogen and then expand in a big red firey ball and consume the Earth. It’s much longer than it will take the fabric of the universe to stretch out so far that the very bonds that hold atoms together will dissolve and the universe will die with a whimper in a thin soup of lifeless particles. Forever is even longer than it takes the Labour party to deliver on the abolition of the House of Lords, although not by much. So if you’re waiting on the arrival of a big red firey thing to burn away the disfiguring privilege and self-rewarding patronage of the Westminster system, you’d be better off with the death of the sun than the Labour party. The sun will expand and consume the Earth in about three and a half billion years and is unlikely to be deterred by a Westminster sub-committee and a series of written objections from Baron Warmonger of Safeseatshire. Labour will take some while longer, although to be fair it has already turned into a thin whimpering soup of lifeless particles. Just keep that solidarity subsidy rolling in like a blank cheque.

Nick Clegg was lost in the Borders someplace. He was probably warning that independence is forever too, but no one has listened to Nick since 2010. He’s the one hit wonder who hangs about in the hope that he’ll develop into a minor cult. He’s succeeded richly in this, if you overlook the fact that he’s out by one letter. Nick understands forever. It’s the period of time that will elapse before anyone will ever again believe a word he says.

I’m not entirely clear why the No campaign has suddenly decided to tell us that independence is forever, perhaps they’re trying to appeal to that segment of the electorate which is confused between “national sovereignty and self-determination” and a trial subscription to Woollens Monthly. That’ll be PatronisingBTLady then. Look out for October’s special edition featuring macramé mug cosies, hand knitted currency unions, a sexy tweed thong for Paul, and comfort blankets for distraught MPs.

Most Scottish people have by now grasped the concept that independence is not like a fortnight’s holiday, and for those who have already decided to vote Yes, the foreveriness part of it is one of the major attractions. No more nuclear missiles, forever. No more Etonian Tory Prime Ministers, forever. No more Scottish Labour policies being determined by the need to chase after UKIP voters in Essex, forever. No more governments we didn’t vote for, forever – or at least until the arrival of our alien lizard overlords from Alpha Centauri in the 23rd century. It is true to say that Scotland will not be as prepared for this event as the rest of the UK, which will already have had centuries practising for life under alien lizard overlords, and will scarcely notice the difference. This may be the only positive case for the Union which has any credibility left. After two years of Project Fear, the mass emoting of the Westminster leaders was more than a little creepy, like a bouquet from a stalker.

Project Fear is of course continuing unabated, only more so as Westminster politicians frantically begged for favours from future members of the Lords. There was another blow again after all the banks announced that they are going to leave if we vote Yes because Scotland is the only country on the planet that can’t have any currency at all. And they’ll take all the cash machines, and your credit card, and those wee plastic bags for loose change and all the artificial plants. No one will ever get a mortgage ever again, and you’ll have to stay with your parents and you and your significant other will have to have sex really really quietly. But the annoying recorded message phone calls that tell you you might have a claim for PPI compensation will still disturb you when you’re trying to have very very quiet sex on a Saturday morning when your dad’s a bit hung over and your maw has popped out for the messages – only they’ll call twice as often. But that will only be a problem until your parents’ phone gets cut off because they can’t pay the bill because money won’t exist. And your maw won’t get any messages because there won’t be any money. Then we’ll all starve to death. And Davie’s heart will be broken, because that’s what happens when bankers fear they might have to operate in a country where they could be regulated.

Oh, and the oil companies are all leaving too. Even that wee petrol station on the way to Oban. There’s no oil left and Oban is far too volatile, and no one will want to buy any of the Scottish oil that there isn’t any left of anyway, on account of Scotland not being allowed to have any money at all. So that’s us telt then. It’s all so uncertain and there aren’t any answers to ridiculous questions. Yes, I am so treating you like a grown up. Just eat your cereal and vote No.

The No campaign will be ratcheting up the pressure over the next week, although if the pitch of hysteria gets any higher there won’t be an unshattered windae in the country. Politicians will be calling in favours and making promises to business people and journalists as they attempt to find new ways to scare and intimidate. Don’t be scared by the scaredy fat-cats.

They hope that we’re going to bottle it, and then they can breathe a collective sigh of relief and get back to business as usual – the usual business of ignoring and sidelining us. Keep firm, keep steady, keep your eye on the prize and in a few short days we can neuter the fat-cats and put the politicians on a short leash. They’re already squealing. They’re afraid of what we might do to them. Keep your nerve and let’s keep them squealing.


I won’t be writing anything over the next few days as it’s Andy’s funeral on Saturday.  It’s going to be an emotional day.  I plan to post a wee eulogy for him on the day, but apart from that for the next few days I’ll post some guest posts.  I know Andy would want me to keep posting over the last few days of the campaign, so I will be back with you on Monday.  I’m doing this for Andy.



The breakfast revolution

It’s all got terribly exciting of late, but I’ve not really been following any of it too closely, what with organising a funeral, and when not occupied with that have been fully engaged with full-on Schadenfreude. I have to hand it to my late partner, he certainly picked a time to go which provides a vast amount of amusement at the self-inflicted discomfort of the British establishment.

And we’ve got a baby. We can’t leave Westminster because Kate’s pregnant and we’re needed to pay the child maintenance – which in this wean’s case involves a large shooting estate in the Highlands. If we vote Yes, we won’t get the BBC and won’t be able to participate in all the bunting and joyful Nicholas Witchelling. Don’t say you’ve not been warned.

Fraser Nelson was on Newsnight the other night. The actual Newsnight, not the wee pretendy one that used to get aired just after the actual Newsnight. You know that Scotland has changed forever when you find yourself getting nostalgic for Gordon Brewer. Scotland is never off the telly these days and has even pushed Willinkatebabe off the top of the news. Nicholas Witchell is receiving grief counselling.

The reason for all the attention is because of a couple of opinion polls showing Yes has closed the gap and is showing momentum have sent the Westminster establishment into a blind panic and the No campaign into a confused and contradictory meltdown – although to be fair they’ve been confused and contradictory since the start and it’s not always easy to tell the difference. Thankfully Fraser is a licenced North Briton who is able to translate the strange Caledonian ogams and portents for an audience who have only just realised that Scotland is serious about this independence lark and that it’s far more significant than the small brown blob at the top of the BBC weather map might suggest.

I’m not entirely sure what Fraser was saying as he elocuted at Emily ‘Will Scotland Stay Loyal’ Maitlis, because I can never get past that, ahem, idiosyncratic accent of his. It’s not that he’s hard to understand, it’s just I’m transfixed by his irritable vowel syndrome and miss what he’s actually saying. He speaks like a Scottish person as imagined by Inspector Clouseau. Neuou thehnks Freiyzihrh. A phonetic ballet like that only happens when you’re so far up yourself that you come out the other orifice and as a lifelong student of language it would only be rude not to sit back and appreciate the performance.

Whenever Fraser’s on the telly I keep expecting him to introduce his new range of pasta sauces, the ones with oahreganouuh and touamaahtouhs in them. He’s the Lloyd Grossman of Scottish politics, he takes us through the Westminster keyhole to discover that there’s a wee floater in the lavvy pan. That’ll be what’s left of Davie Cameron after the rest of the Tory party have flushed him.

They don’t speak like that in Paisley you know, except for a weird guy in a cowboy hat I met in a pub once – he loves line dancing and went on holiday to Miami for a fortnight in the late 80s and acquired a mid-Atlantic accent as a result of a psychotic episode on cocaine that made him realise he was the incarnation of General Custer. We discovered this week that the entire leadership of the UK political parties are also the incarnations of Custer, only they not mounting a last stand so much as a beg-a-thon in the hope of saving their careers and reputations. It has the whiff of desperation about it, in the same way that five thousand litres of raw sewage have a hint of unpleasantness.

And then we had a history bit, and Tom Devine and Niall Fergusson got stuck into one another after Niall said we’d be voting to become like Belarus only with worse weather. Drawing on his great academic stature, his deep understanding of Scottish history, his immense erudition, and an intellect which is galactic in the spacey sense and not the chocolate bar sense – Tam telt Neillie boay tae shut his geggie, stop with the pettit lip and whit would you know anyway ya wee fuckwit self-publicising apologist for colonialists, war mongerers and casino capitalists that’s only ever had the one idea in his entire life. Your cringe is showing. Now fuck off and get back to us when you want to be a grown up ya hysterical puffed up balloon. Or words to that effect. Or it might be that’s what I wanted to tell Neillie and I imagined it all.

However the main news, apart from the news that the No campaign has melted, is that the Unionist parties are making a last stand on an offer of more devolution which doesn’t smack of desperation at all, oh no. Scotland can have all sorts of extra special powers, tax powers, spending powers, and JK Rowling said that she’d had a wee word with Dumbledore and is willing to throw in the power of invisibility too. Mind you, Scotland has had that power for decades, which is how we’ve made it through the past 50 years with Westminster scarcely noticing us at all.

Well they say more devolution, but they’re not able to tell us exactly what it might consist of, except that it will be a very very special prezzie, much better than that naff sweater that your auntie knitted you for Christmas. There will be jam, there will be more jam, and chocolate, and eclairs, and cream cakes, and you can eat your cereal. The shock of Yes pulling ahead in the polls has electrified the No campaign, which explains why the Westminster parties look like they’ve been tasered.

Although they can’t tell us exactly what extra powers will be coming to Scotland, Gordon Brown insists that there’s a definite timetable for delivering the powers that we don’t know what they are. Only someone forgot to tell Ed Balls. Someone also forgot to tell Gordon that he’s not actually the prime minister any more and doesn’t have any power to do anything at all whatever promises and commitments he makes. However David Cameron is also hoping that everyone has forgotten that Gordon isn’t prime minister in case anyone asks him to speak to some Scottish people who are not in possession of press passes or Tory party membership cards. Gordie’s just a very convenient human shield. You’ve got to be pretty desperate when your shield is Gordie Broon addressing carefully selected audiences of supporters.

An attempt at love bombing ended in ignominy on Tuesday. Davie Cameron had ordered the Scottish saltire to be flown from Number 10 for the duration of the campaign. It’s the very definition of gesture politics, but in the face of a two fingered gesture from Scotland it’s pretty much all they’ve got left. But Number 10 couldn’t even manage to fly a Scottish flag. It fell off the pole as staff attempted to raise it. So it’s a Sign then, not a flag. Meanwhile a call from Ed Miliband for Labour controlled local authorities in the rest of the UK to fly the Scottish flag met with a resounding meh from the good burghers of England. The only people who care if Scotland leaves the Union are those politicians whose jobs and careers depend on us staying. That ought to tell us all we need to know.

Phase two of the love bombing starts on Wednesday. All four UK party leaders are honouring us with their presence this week, Davie, Ed, Nick and even Nige. They’re all going to promise lots of different unspecific things, which they will definitely do as soon as possible. Right away. And have some jam with your cereal. Lots of jam. We can talk about the flavour later. No uncertainty there, oh no not at all. You can trust us. We have the answer, and the answer is jam and cereal. Independence, it’s so uncertain, there’s not enough information, trust us to make the changes we think are best for you.

The best way to decide when there is not enough information is to become your own teacher. The best way to confront uncertainty is for you to be the agent of change. The best way to predict the future is to make it happen. And the only trust you need is the trust you place in yourself. Be the future. Make your own cereal, make your own jam. This is the breakfast revolution, and we’re at the beginning of a new day.