The status quo

A guest post by Christopher Carnie

To change a Government, we vote.  But how do we change how we are governed?

Between 1936 and 1939 Spain changed how it was governed using the traditional method; civil war. Three years of bloody fighting that split families and villages and resulted, in Catalonia, in 38,500 combatant deaths. Most of the combatants were young men, and the death toll represents around one in twelve of male Catalans aged 17-37. It was bloody awful, as old people in Catalonia will tell you, and it resulted in years of deprivation for the losers, the Republicans.

But most people did not fight. The Catalan population in 1936 was 2.9 million. Even with the draft, it was only ever a minority of the population who took up arms.  Most people stayed at home.

This year the Catalans and the Scots are attempting to change how they are governed and by whom, without firing a shot.

This is itself a revolution. Instead of forcing people at gunpoint to change how they are governed we are attempting to do it with words, in local meetings, debates, on the web and by phone. We are trying to talk most people into voting to change their status quo. We are not planning to Guillotine the elite nor to commit regicide as happened when the French and the English wanted to change how they were governed, in the French Revolution or the English Civil War. We are talking to people in Scotland, listening to what they want and sharing the arguments for a Yes vote.

The opinion polls say around half the population still prefer the status quo ante. We should not be surprised. It is only the few who are prepared to stick their heads out from the parapet and wave a Saltire for Scotland. Most people worry about change. A bad status quo seems, like nicotine, to be a difficult addiction to lose. We appear to be creatures of habit.

The opinion polls reflect this, creeping up and down (often, as Scot goes Pop! points out, within the polls’ own margin of error). It takes an age to persuade people that they could change the way things are.

But slowly, voter by voter, we’re helping people to discover that the status quo is not a good place to be, with its Eton-boy elite and its wealth gap and its Trident missiles and its creeping privatisation in health and education.

With a modest shift in the way we are governed (no heads will roll, except in metaphor) we can change all that without firing a shot.  A new, better status quo can be built in a new, revived Scotland.

Just by putting a cross next to ‘Yes’ on 18 September.

 

Catalonia total population 1936; 2,918,901 people of whom 1,187,780 lived in Barcelona

Source: Població de Catalunya 1936, Servei Central d’Estadistica, Generalitat de Catalunya, 1937

Total combatant deaths in the Civil War 38,500, or 1.327% of the population, or 7.95% of the male population aged 17-37

Source: La Guerra Civil a Catalunya, E Folch (ed), Edicions 62, Barcelona,  2005

The one who cannot be mentioned

The One Who Cannot Be Mentioned has mentioned the independence referendum. It’s not that I don’t want Tony Blair to come back, I do, preferably in handcuffs. But he’s come back minus the handcuffs and he’s backing a No vote, like anyone is surprised. Giving a lecture for some think tank in an expensive hotel in London, his speech expressed his fears about what his own party might do, not his fears about what the Tories might do. In Tony’s universe, you must not base your politics on how you want the world to be, Tony thinks that’s delusional. If Keir Hardie and Robert Cunningham Graham had believed that, they’d never have founded the Scottish Labour party in the first place.

For Tony politics is about managing the expectations of the voters downwards. And in this he richly succeeded, our expectations get lower and lower with every passing vote. But mainly it’s about making money and creating the conditions where a small number are able to get extremely rich. Individuals enriching themselves form Tony’s definition of ‘wealth creators’, a definition that would apply just as well to a common or garden thief. But Tony won’t be standing trial for his crimes. He’s a respected elder statesman. Respected by those who matter that is, that wouldn’t be you or me.

The man who brought us the dodgy dossier and the delusional weapons of mass destruction in Iraq is warning us against the delusion that there is any alternative to neo-conservative economics and a professionalised political class with a career plan that ends with a seat in the Lords and a clutch of directorships, stopping off for the occasional foreign war en route.

Despite the best efforts of the No campaign to pretend that Tony Blair never happened and doesn’t exist, he’s now opened his lying gob on the topic of the land of his birth. But it was only so Tony the Middle East Peace Envoy didn’t have to answer questions about why he was giving a speech for a think tank in a posh hotel in London and wasn’t in Gaza negotiating an end to rocket fire blowing up hospitals. Though the answer to that one is easy – the catering in London hotels is better. And so is Tone’s pay. Besides, Gaza may be the only place on Earth where Tony is more reviled than he is in Scotland and the rest of the UK, although not by much.

But you’ve got to hand it to the auld warmonger. He achieved something that was previously thought impossible. He broke the laws of nature as well as the laws of war. For years most of Scotland did not believe it was humanly possible to loath a politician more than we loathed Margaret Thatcher, until Tony Blair proved us wrong. So he gets kudos for that, if nothing else.

With Thatcher you got what it said on the proverbial tin, a headlong rush into the cold embrace of the worst of capitalism, an unseemly eagerness to go to war, selfish greed rebranded as a virtue, and lack of compassion as something to aspire to. Tony gave us all that too, but with added hypocrisy, and the last vestiges of hope that Labour would lead us out of the nightmare were crushed under the weight of a pile of broken bodies in Baghdad. No wonder Thatcher once described him as her greatest legacy.

Tony took our dreams and trashed them. Those carefully nurtured small flames that we’d kept alive in our souls throughout the long dark night of the Thatcher years were snuffed out. We’d kept the faith. We’d believed. We’d trusted. Things were going to get better, the day would come when Labour’s feeble fifty were feeble no more. Justice would walk the Earth again. But the light at the end of the tunnel turned out to be the last random firings of the neurones before brain death set in, the body of Labour shut down for good and began to rot from the head down. With Tony the Hope Killer, Scotland finally completed its transition into a land where cynicism was the last refuge of dignity.

Now the missiles rain down on Gaza while tanned Tony preaches before an audience of sycophants, politely applauding while he smiles with his tombstone teeth and tells them what they want to hear. The politics of privatisers and PFI contracts is the only way, Tony’s third way. ASBOs for the poor, but personal enrichment for those who’re guilty of the greatest acts of anti-social behaviour. Shatter a window and you’ll get tagged, shatter the dreams of a nation and you’ll get a seat in the Lords.

Tony shaped the Labour party we have today. Together with Gordie Broon, his partner in warcrimes, they took our hopes and aspirations and used them to power their own careers. They gave us a Labour party that has no answers, that can only offer more of the same, a slow decline into the impoverishment of the soul. Labour gave us the British Parliamentary road to socialism that started in the lofty aspirations of Hardie and Cunninghame Graham and ended with a missile on the road to Basra and the screams of an Iraqi child.

I’m tired of being cynical. I’m tired of wrapping myself in a coccoon of callouses and keeping my dreams in cold storage while money grabbing pharisees preach the inevitability of poverty for the masses. A Yes vote gives us a chance to hope again, to take back our dignity and rescue it from Tony’s lies and the Labour party he mutated into a sick version of himself. There is another way, a better way. A way that doesn’t have Tony in it. No wonder he’s opposed to it.

If Scotland becomes independent, Tony Blair will become a citizen of Scotland. He was born in Scotland, his right to a Scottish passport is absolute and he will become a Scottish citizen automatically even if he does not bother himself with applying for a Scottish passport. The Scottishness of Blair is no cause for mourning or regret, because it means that if the war-mongering bastard ever sets foot north of the Border he can be arrested and put on trial for his crimes against humanity, for taking us to war on the basis of lies – and as a Scottish citizen facing Scottish justice he won’t be able to count on the protection and assistance of the Westminster authorities or the diplomatic corps of the Foreign Office. So that’s something to hope for then.

Vote Yes and we can bring Blair to account.  That’s something worth hoping for.

 

 

 

Labour for Indy videos

Many thanks to Tim Fraser-Granados for permission to publish these videos here.  Labour for Indy supporters talk about why they want a Yes vote in September.

1. Gary Wilson, former organiser for Better Together, speaks about his reasons for backing a Yes vote

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2. Debbie Figures, organiser for the trade union Unite

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3. Pat Kelly, former STUC president

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4. Tommy Sheppard, former Deputy Secretary General of the Labour party

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5. Q&A session: Labour after a Yes vote

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6. Q&A session: The set up costs of an independent Scotland

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7. Q&A session: How to best reach Labour members and can we trust Scottish Labour   

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8. Q&A: How to persuade the undecideds, and getting to the real issues

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9. Q&A: What would independence change for women?

Oh look, there’s a unicorn

A guest post by Maggie Craig

I’ve known since the date of the referendum was announced that I’m going to vote yes. Faced with the question, “Should Scotland be an independent country?” there is no other possible answer as far as I’m concerned. The Union of 1707 was a forced marriage and while some individual Scots over the centuries since then may have benefited from it, I believe it has done huge damage to our collective self-belief and self-esteem. We’ve always been the junior partner.

One of the great joys of living in early 21st century Scotland is seeing how much that self-belief and self-esteem has and is being reclaimed. One of the great heartbreaks is seeing how many families in this much-vaunted most successful union of all time are dependent on food banks. Then there’s the wasteland or maybe the new shopping malls where our industrial base used to be. One aircraft carrier with no aeroplanes doesn’t make up for that. Not much use against suicide bombers, either.

I’m not supposed to fit the demographic of a yes voter. I’m a woman who has her bus pass. From these two pieces of information the pollsters tell me that I’m risk-averse, more cautious and more practical than, I assume, men and younger women. I take enormous exception to being pigeon-holed in this way. As Dr Johnson replied when asked who was more intelligent, man or woman: “Which man? Which woman?”

I know lots of older women who are planning on voting yes. Friends tell me they’ve never been interested in politics before but they are now. They want a better future for their children and grandchildren and they see that it’s within reach. We ladies of a certain age have been there, done that and got the t-shirt. We think about life, the universe and everything. We remember.

I grew up in Glasgow in the 1960s. A favourite treat was a sail doon the watter from Craigendoran, drinking in the fresh air and the beauty of the Firth of Clyde. And all the time we knew that what we now call WMD and then called nuclear submarines were lurking there at Faslane and the US base on the Holy Loch. That was pretty bloody risky.

We used to joke nervously about the West of Scotland going up in a wee blue light. Or maybe a mushroom cloud. At school we had the Protect and Survive talk. One of the instructions was to whitewash your windows to protect against the radiation of a nuclear blast. When I think now about the stupidity of that, it beggars belief.

Filling in a form at school which asked for our nationality, we all put Scottish. The teacher told us we had to put British because Scottish wasn’t a nationality. When we filed into the TV room to watch the launch of the QE2, we turned away in disgust when the name was revealed. Everyone knew she was the last of the great liners and we’d been hoping for Queen of Scots or Queen of the Clyde. The skills of the Clyde’s shipbuilders couldn’t even be given that recognition. Junior partners, again.

I come from a long line of women who had to be practical, make ten shillings do the work of a pound, send the weans off to school fed and clean and ready to learn. My mother helped out, as grandmas do. She also taught my son some of his earliest words: “Mrs Thatcher, bad lady.” At the same time, she and I taught my children to believe in unicorns. Unicorns matter.

The practicalities are hugely important, of course they are. I’ve read the statements, listened to the experts, found my way to the truth with the help of blogs like WGD, WoS and Bella Caledonia and I’m convinced that the economic arguments against independence Project Fear keeps throwing at us don’t stack up. Scotland can be a viable independent country, a prosperous place where the prosperity can be shared.

And it’s about so much more than money. It’s about fairness and grace and unleashing Scotland’s creative potential in all sorts of areas. That’s what Project Fear continually fails to grasp.

Of course there is some risk. Life’s a risk. None of us knows what’s going to happen tomorrow. Whether people vote yes or no, change will come. That’s the way of the world. I’d rather have change we’ve voted for than change imposed on us from a government we didn’t vote for.

Believe in unicorns. Believe in Scotland. Vote yes on 18th September.

Maggie Craig is a published author and has her own blog at http://www.maggiecraig.co.uk/

 

The purpose of the heart

We’re told the independence campaign is a battle between head and heart, at least a lot of folk in the papers and on telly seem to think so. Usually, it has to be said, it’s those of a Nawish persuasion who see themselves on a self appointed mission to blind the bravehearts with a facsimile of logic. Yes supporters counter with logic of their own, and before you know it the debate has descended into an exchange of sterile spreadsheets and legal papers rolling back and forwards in front of the glassy eyes of a population who’ve lost interest and have gone off to have a laugh at Rory the Tory’s – did you know he’s Scottish? – attempt to build a big pile of stones on the Border as a symbol of unity. Even though I’m a supporter of independence, I’d be quite happy to donate a big heavy rock to Rory’s wee project, just as soon as I get the Freepost address.

But madcap rockery schemes aside, for people who are not versed in EU law or the intricacies of currency unions, which is to say just about everyone, the usual media driven debates have as much meaning and significance as an argument over the carrying capacity of a pinhead of dancing angels. They’re not going to help you make your mind up how to vote in September. Logic is a useful tool, but unless it’s grounded in a recognisable reality and people without degrees in constitutional law or currency regulation can follow the links, the chain of logic leads straight to the door of an angel disco whose bouncers refuse you entrance.

A chain of logic is only as good as its weakest link, and the No campaign’s links rusted through long before an anti-independence argument was suspended from it like a shiny disco ball. This weekend the European Commission president Jean Claude Juncker yanked on Westminster’s eurochain and their glittery disco ball of lies came crashing down onto the angelic dancefloor. Which was a lot more entertaining than Strictly.

In case you missed it, Scots are the special ones, according to the EU. José Mourinho eat yer heart out. Speaking to the Scotland on Sunday newspaper, officials from Juncker’s office have confirmed that an independent Scotland’s application for EU membership would not be put at the bottom on the pile below Serbia, Moldova and Turkey. Juncker’s office have said that Scotland would be a “special and separate case” and would not have to go through an application process which is designed to ensure that new member states are in compliance with a raft of EU legislation and provisions which Scotland has been in full compliance with for the past 40 years. Juncker’s spokesperson went even further, adding that the EC president was “sympathetic” to Scottish membership. It’s payback time for Davie Cameron’s opposition to Juncker’s presidency.

This is what Yes supporters have been arguing for quite some time. There’s a point to an EU application process, and the point is to ensure that new member states are in compliance with the foundation treaties of the EU and conditions of membership. Scotland’s already doing all that. We are in full compliance with EU rules and have already passed our EU driving test. Scotland has been successfully motoring down the euroroutes for decades. We don’t need to sit the test again just because we’ve ditched Westminster’s gas guzzling rust bucket for a compact and more environmentally friendly model, and it ought to be fully established by now – at least to everyone outside the Unionist parties and their pals in the media – that it is against EU law to expel Scotland for having an independence vote. On the shiny disco ball in Yes Scotland’s dance, open to all, Scotland will be applying for EU membership in its own right from within the EU. The No campaign’s threats of vetos or delays are irrelevant.

The No campaign has a big problem, as there is little in the way of emotional support for the Westminster system in Scotland. Those aspects of “Britishness” which appeal to most in Scotland are cultural and personal, and include Ireland and the Irish as much as England or Wales. For Scotland, support for the Union has always been conditional, it depends upon the Union being seen to be better than the alternative. It’s difficult to make a positive case for a Union which can’t offer its citizens anything better than workfare and wonga loans, so the Unionists must base their emotional appeal upon fear. Fear can be generated by bombarding the voters with “facts” and chains of logic whose weak links are buried under a mountain of irrelevancies and appeals to authorities which on closer inspection turn out not to be so authoritative after all.

Although political campaigns claim to be based on logic and reason, humans are not logical beings and our actions are not driven by logic. We are intensely emotional beings who are capable of logic. That’s not the same as being logical. The purpose of human logic is not to determine our goals. Logic serves to determine the course, not the destination. The destination is where the heart lies. As Hugh MacDiarmid pointed out in the poem Twilight, one of the heart’s main functions is to power the brain. Do what your heart tells you, then everything else becomes a practical problem. Practical problems have practical solutions, and that’s the point where logic comes into it.

The Unionist argument has it the wrong way round, it seeks to confuse and frighten the brain into ignoring the heart. But a No vote based on fear is not a vote for the Union. It’s a vote for independence, just not yet. The Union died the day that the No campaign decided to base its strategy on scaring Scotland into submission.

The Yes campaign has it the right way round. It seeks to assuage fears by showing that there are practical solutions to the practical problems thrown up by the challenge of independence. That’s why even many No supporters acknowledge that the Yes campaign is better presented and more effective.

So listen to your heart, use all your senses. What does Scotland feel like? What is the taste of Union, is it bitter or is it sweet? Whose music is discordant, whose is melodic? Your heart isn’t wrong. Once you’ve listened to the beat of your heart, you know what your emotions tell you, then and only then can you engage your powers of logic in order to work out how to get from where we are now to where your heart tells you you want to be. Many Scots like the idea of independence, it feels right, it tastes good, it sings to them in catchy tunes, but they’re still confused and bewildered by the barrage of misinformation emanating from the No campaign and its supporters.

The key to independence lies in the heart. The logic of the brain tells us how to unlock the door and overcome the barriers. So when you engage in conversation with your undecided family and friends about the independence debate, start with the feeling, and once you’ve established the fears and uncertainties, then you bring logic into it. Logic allows you to identify practical solutions to the problems of fear and make them practically vanish.

The purpose of the heart is to power the brain.

 

 

Get canvassing!

A guest post by David Kelly

When I was wee, I remember two people who came knocking on my mum’s door to sell things. Onion Johnny – who in those innocent days probably really did come from France – sold onions from his bicycle. And the Betterware man sold brushes from an ancient suitcase that would definitely not conform to 21st century branding standards.

Mum was always very polite, and always bought onions, and I think sometimes bought a brush as well – it’s hard to be sure.  While everyone in the house ate onions, only mum used brushes. The Betterware man “had a bad war” which is why she bought things from him, and while I have some idea what that means now – I suspect only a few people of this generation truly understand.

Now it’s my turn to knock on doors a couple of times a week selling something to complete strangers.  It’s not something you can buy in the shops. Amazon can’t deliver it next day. And while Onion Johnny came every year at the same time, I remind my prospective customers that I haven’t been at their door for just over 300 years, and this could be their last chance to buy what I have in my bright blue suitcase. I’ll ring the next doorbell.

“Can I interest you, madam, in a public health service, free at the point of delivery?”  My prospect looks a little puzzled:

“Ah’ve already got one of those.”

“I think you will find madam that the guarantee on that model runs out on the 7th of May 2015.  Our model comes with a commitment from the whole Scottish nation to last forever.”

“Hmm, ah’m no sure, you’ve no got any weapons of mass destruction have you?”

“No madam, I’m afraid we are going to spend all that money on hospitals and schools and nurses and teachers.”

“It’s just that yon man wi the suit said we needed some o them to kill Rushians.  He did look a bit shifty though.”

“Perhaps free education for your grandchildren, and, dare I suggest, free personal care for the elderly?“

“That sounds good, ahm no as young as ah was.”  Tell me about it I muse to myself.  “My quine’s loons need a job right enough, have you got ony o’ them?”

“I have a full range of jobs, except we no longer stock going abroad to kill Muslims.”

“That’s good, they’re awfa nice at the wee shop.  They respect their old folk.  Ah tell yi whit – a’ll hae the lot!”

“Excellent madam, now if you just vote Yes on September the 18th, we will let you have your goods shortly afterwards.”

“How much is aw this gona to cost me?”

“Cost? Cost? – On the contrary madam – we pay you.  Let me see now, if I just add all of this up…  Yes that’s about two thousand pounds a year you will be better off.”

Another satisfied customer.  Next doorbell.

Canvassing.  You know it makes sense.  I love sitting in pubs vehemently agreeing with one another as much as anyone, but jiving with fellow travellers doesn’t add one vote to the tally.  What was it that our Margo said?  “If each of us persuades just one person to vote yes – the job is done.”

I am as new to canvassing as many of the people out there doing it.  Knocking on a stranger’s door to talk about politics is definitely not my comfort zone.  I have had one door slammed in my face in months of doing it, and other than that nothing but courtesy and sometimes very interesting conversations.  Have I persuaded “one person” yet? – I don’t know.

Can I persuade all of you reading this to come out once a week and talk to people?  They don’t bite, almost none bark, it lasts an hour or so.  Certainly with RIC you will be mentored until you’re an old hand.  The camaraderie is excellent, the sense of purpose fulfilling.  It’s the only way we will win.

This isn’t Alex Salmond versus the English, it’s the BBC and 36 of 37 “Scottish” newspapers versus self-determination for the people of Scotland.  We need all the help we can get, and that includes YOU!

Get canvassing!  You can find what Yes events are taking place in your area by clicking the following link – http://events.yesscotland.net/join_an_event

A list of Radical Independence Campaign local branches is here: http://radicalindependence.org/region/branches/

Find your local Yes Scotland group here: http://www.yesscotland.net/local-groups

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I’m off to Manchester this weekend to play with model trams, so there will be no more updates until Sunday.  If you have already posted a comment and been authorised, your comments will appear automatically – so feel free to chat amongst yourselves.  However if you haven’t posted before, or are using an ID or email address you haven’t used before to make a comment, I will not be able to authorise your comment until I get back from Manchester. 

Meanwhile the dug is off to stay with friends in Gartcosh, where he will be spoiled rotten for the weekend.  The other half is still in hospital, and has now been moved to a rehabilitation ward.  The tests done in the hospital showed that he had suffered another stroke.  We hope he will be home soon.