Bigger than fear

I’ve been at the hospital most of the day. Andy’s having another crisis. They’re getting more frequent. He seems to have stabilised somewhat, but he’s on oxygen now and his swallowing difficulties are much worse. He’s hardly eating at all. His breathing is laboured, shallow, gurgling. It’s 3.30 am and I’ve just got back home as he’s sleeping, the hospital will phone if there is any change in his condition. But we’re reaching the end of the road now.

I am afraid. Afraid that he might suffer. Afraid of my grief. Afraid of being alone. The fear nests inside in the depths of the soul, but it is mine, a part of me. I own it and acknowledge it. And when you do that you realise that you are bigger than your fear. Fear is small but the soul is infinite.

I stopped my claim for Carers Allowance yesterday. I still care but am no longer a carer. I feel like I’ve started to inch over the dark valley between our life together and life alone. The other side is in sight. Getting there is the difficult bit. The short term is painful and full of grief, but in the distance, hazy beyond a veil of tears, there are bright lights ahead that speak of a new future, a new life. There is hope despite everything. As I look down into the chasm it’s hope that keeps me afloat, hope that keeps me going. Cling onto hope, trust in your own inner strength, in your family and friends, and all will be well.

Getting home, news of a new poll brightened my mood somewhat. Comfort must be taken where you can find it, and YouGov’s latest poll is very comforting indeed. 47% Yes, 53% No – a 3% swing is all that is required to put Yes ahead. It’s within margin of error. This poll is highly significant, both for its large swing to Yes, but more importantly because YouGov has always been the polling company which returns the worst result for Yes. YouGov applies the infamous ‘Kellner correction’ which reduces the Yes result to account for the ‘shy No’ factor. We are on our way, we are inching over the chasm and the bright lights are ahead. Only this time there are no tears.

Scotland has looked into its soul and found the fear placed there by nay-sayers and doubters, by careerists and opportunists. We’ve looked at it, examined it. And we’ve come to realise our fear is as small as their horizons are limited. We are bigger than our fears, we are a people of infinite potential. And we will flourish.

 

 

A letter from Aberdeenshire

A guest post by Jim McWilliam

First of all let me set my stall out. I have been an advocate for Scottish Independence for as long as I can remember, perhaps it was because Alex Salmond was my MP when I was growing up in Banff and Buchan. He certainly had an effect, even if it was just to highlight the issue.

Having left school, and not doing particularly well at college, I joined the British Army when I was at the tender age of 18. It was the best thing I ever did. As a part of the process for becoming a member of the regular Army I had to swear allegiance to the Queen, as well as her heirs and successors. This I did, and I meant what I said when I said it. I served for 10 years and I enjoyed most of it, seeing active service in Northern Ireland and the former Yugoslavia.

While I was serving I would console myself, whilst doing some god awful and sometimes very dangerous job, that I was protecting the people of the UK and standing up for their rights. One of those rights was the right of free speech, something which was denied to me as a serving member of HM Forces. One of the other rights that I was standing up for was the right of self-determination, which is enshrined in various articles of law to which the UK has subscribed. So it was with a feeling of delight that I saw the current Scottish Government elected, with an overall majority, and with a clear mandate to ask the people of Scotland whether they wished to remain as a part of the United Kingdom or become an independent country.

They were as good as their word and they brought us the referendum, backed by the UK parliament. They also brought us the white paper, which I ordered but I have read only a wee bit. That book is a piece of history and I am going to cherish it. The Scottish government also brought us a draft constitution, a document which I place up there Declaration of Arbroath. But, being a draft document, it was always going to be subject to revision.

Part 2-2 of the draft constitution states, “In Scotland, the people are sovereign.” These are noble words indeed, but let us examine what they mean. If the people in a country are sovereign, that means that it is the people’s will which determines the direction of that country. In effect, all of the power within that country is vested in the people. The people wield that power by electing candidates to a parliament where, they hope, their elected representatives will make the changes which they said they would do as part of the election process.

This is in contrast to the current constitutional settlement which we have in the UK. We have an unelected head of state. She has the right to veto all legislation and nobody can find out how often that power is used because the monarch is not subject to any laws. In effect the Queen IS the law of the land. She is sovereign.

This arrangement leads to a system of patronage and privilege in which the rich get richer at the expense of everyone else. It leads to a governmental system in which the government of the day can stuff the unelected second chamber with rich party donors, burned out politicians and other chums. There they can rest their weary legs on red, upholstered benches and claim £300 per day expenses for the chore of doing so. They can become a minister in the government, even though they have not been elected. These people are called “lords” and they have the power to amend government legislation.

Which leads me to Part 2-7 of the draft constitution which states,”Scotland is an independent, constitutional monarchy.” What does that mean? Does it mean that we will be ceding our sovereignty to an unelected head of state that will have the power of veto over all laws and not be subject to them? Does it mean that we will recreate the system of patronage which exists around the palaces of London? I don’t have the answers to these questions but I have a question of my own; why do we need to have a monarch to which we are subject, to which we cede sovereignty?

There is a fundamental contradiction in the draft constitution, either the people are sovereign or the monarch is. It cannot be both. Why would we vote to regain our sovereignty then give it away to someone just because of who their mum and dad was? It’s just plain daft.

This is why I would like to see a Scottish Republic. A country where the people are sovereign and they exercise their power through the ballot box. A country where all people are equal and not subjects to an anachronism, a country where we don’t need kings and queens. That is the Scotland that I want to create once we have our independence. If this sounds like the Scotland that you would like to live in, the one that you will bequeath to future generations, then I would urge you to read the draft constitution and to decide for yourselves if it represents what you would want from an independent Scotland. Once you have done so then you can make representations to your elected representatives and tell them what you think.

But what of my contradiction I here you ask? Didn’t you once swear allegiance to the Queen? Yes, I did.

It is a difficult one to reconcile. The way I see it now is that the Oath of Allegiance which I swore, and I meant it at the time, was a part of the terms and conditions of employment. It was a part of the contract between me and the Crown if you like. But I am no longer employed by the Crown, so the contract is no longer valid. Now I choose to exercise my rights and no longer be subject to a royal command. Now I choose to vote Yes on 18th September, hopefully the majority of the Scottish people will do the same. That will give us the opportunity to rid ourselves of the monarchy and keep our sovereignty in our own hands. To do otherwise would be a betrayal of the future generations.

A Welshman with a vote

A guest post by William Totterdell

Dear Wee Dug, fellow ginger,

My wife regularly reads me your blog or sends me a link to some great comments. I guess I am one of the silent ones, no Facebook, blogs or tweets, rarely commenting on politics or some other subjects, I leave that to her.

I would like to share my thoughts with you.

I am a Welshman, sent to Scotland a long time ago as part of my apprenticeship to work in a shipyard, words that need to be looked up these days. I meet a girl from Clydebank and well that’s not what I wanted to share with you. This was the time of the UCS work-in, my job was safe but the guys around me were fighting against the Conservative Government who were not interesting in saving Scottish industry. Move forward a little in time and we had the Three Day Week. Again the UK Government was at odds with industry, this time the coal miners who wanted a pay rise so electricity was put on ration in an attempt to break the work to rule.

I was out of the country then but my wife remembers shops with candles on the counters to shop by, Health and Safety had not been invented them! The next few years where full of strikes and elections and job losses but we were mostly out of the country, she was in Europe studying and I was sailing the world, sometimes she was with me.

Move forward a few years settled back in Glasgow with two kids but moving again to work in Europe. Getting off the plane at Heathrow a gentleman helped us. Fortunately the kids did not recite some recent phases they had learned, ‘Money for the miners’ and ‘Mrs Thatcher, bad lady’, helpful gentleman was Ian MacGregor dealing with more miners.

Governments came and went each looking more and more like the last, thank goodness for coloured ties to give a hint. Come the 1997 referendum there was no doubt in my mind, Scotland had never had a say in London for years, most of our MPs were opposition, completely out of tune with the rest of the UK, nothing new. It is ironic that the Scottish Labour party when first formed went south with independence/home rule in mind, that changed. I said then that at least with a Scottish Parliament we could not say we didn’t vote them in. We stood on The Mound and watched it all starting back in 1999 and by and large thing have got better whilst still being treated badly from the south. Ships, coal, steel, cars and many other industries dead.

I now work in one of the few industries that is surviving and growing in Scotland and servicing the world from here with manufacturing and expertise – oil. The service from Aberdeen and the North East will long outlast me and possibly the North Sea reserves. There are many other industries that can be developed given the right support. Not sure about wind farms but we could build the towers.

Question: on the day Scotland becomes independent 59 people will sign on the dole, no longer having a job representing us. Who will run England, Wales and NI, currently difficult to tell and power could shift that day, will it be a Cameron/Farage coalition pulling them out of the EU?

In 1707, 225 men had a vote, they were nobles, gentry and burgesses, it is said titles, money and land was involved. Either way, 110 were for, 69 against and that was end of Scotland’s independence. What annoys me is the 46 who didn’t vote. If I could have a wish it would be that everyone that can vote does so this September so that we don’t have any doubts going forward.

The argument for Better Together has largely been based on the negatives, oh dear no EastEnders or Euro Lottery and late to the field, some more powers, maybe. Far too much has been about money, but I will be £104 better off a year without my weekly gamble. What I want is to live in country that can be proud of itself for everything it has done on its own, survived in the big wide world or not, part of a United Kingdom but independent, not governed by it. I hope my homeland of Wales follows and I know certain regions England would love a greater degree of autonomy.

Sadly the man I was proud of all those years ago died before my wife could interview him for a book but I would paraphrase his speech and apologise for doing so.

He said ‘Nobody and nothing will come in and nothing will go out without our permission’. I would say ‘The right to vote is with every Scottish resident so the future is with our permission’.

He also said ‘And there will be no hooliganism, there will be no vandalism, there will be no bevvying because the world is watching us, and it is our responsibility to conduct ourselves with responsibility, and with dignity, and with maturity’. I don’t think much needs to be said, we are by and large carrying out a fair fight without bloodshed which is more than most independence battles in history. Just a wee drink maybe!

The way I will vote was decided back in 1997 and has not changed.

Egg fling flan

I think I’ve finally got a handle on the No campaign. A No vote is all that stands between Scotland and a descent into grocery-based anarchy. Jim Murphy went out to give us the message, with the assistance of a loudhailer, a bus and a wee clique of party hingers on. He didn’t go to get the messages in. You’re not supposed to give the messages to Jim Murphy, and certainly not in the form of an egg on his shirt. Listen reverently and eat your cereal instead. Jim has things to shout at you through a megaphone.

I’m certainly not defending ovoid acts of terror. Eggs are evil, you could have someone’s eye out with that ballistic potential chicken. Eggs are razor sharp ophthamological instruments of intimidation. You can’t debate with an egg, although to be fair you’d probably get a more coherent argument from a broken egg than you would from a Labour politician explaining the party’s plans for more devolution.

But it’s full confession time. I’m not greatly moved by Jim’s travails with a flung fowl foetus. Readers, I too am a grocery based terrorist, although I retired a long time ago. Honest, your free range Yes eggs are safe.

Back in 1980 I threw a bag of flour at Michael Heseltine when he came to Glasgow University to make a speech and tell us how fabby Maggie and nuclear missiles were. It was not an organised terror attack. I organised it myself with some self-raising McDougal’s from my maw’s kitchen cupboard. It was disorganised and uncoordinated, a bit like my flinging skills really. He was only 15 feet away, and I missed. I throw like a wee girly. The shame of my crime against grocery-flinging haunts me to this very day. I wondered – if only I had hit Michael Hesiltine with that bag of flour perhaps he’d have had an epiphany and thought “You know, Thatcherism is really bad and I’m going to devote my life and wealth to campaigning for peace and alleviating poverty.” But then I grew up. So. Naaa. Throwing groceries at them just gives them an excuse to harrumph and attempt to claim some moral high ground.

Same goes with Jim Murphy. Standing on a soapbox didn’t work for him, so he stood on an egg instead. Flinging an egg at him is not an attempt to silence him. He’s hardly shut up about it since. It was an attempt to fling an egg at him, in the long and hoary tradition of immature people flinging foodstuffs at politicians that get on their tits, and the politicians dining out on it.

The UK media has naturally reacted with outrage to the foul heartless assault on Jim’s laundry and cooked up an egg fling flan. Yes Scotland has hatched a plot to organise a campaign of egg flinging, Alicsammin must condemn it immediately and call off the eggstremists. Did those caring sharing people in Better Together not warn us that the referendum would create discord and division – and now look what’s happened. Jim Murphy’s got to wash his shirt. Or rather, give it to Patronising BT Lady to wash it for him. Where will it all end? Will no one think of the children? Now eat your cereal. Naw, ye cannae have a fried egg. Your cybernat da took them to fling at Jim Murphy. Men eh, what are they like?

It was only a fecking egg. Grow up for God’s sake. Sometimes I find myself possessed of an irrational urge to herd Westminster politicians and their media hangers on into a room and force them to watch Humpty Dumpty cartoons until they learn to conduct themselves with more maturity than a week old chick and stop with the collective clucking like battery hens. An egg flinging is not symbolic of an intolerant oppressiveness lurking beneath the shiny happy faces of Yes supporters. It’s symbolic of an immature eejit that flung an egg and a No campaign that’s making a meal of it because their substantive arguments, such as they are, have long since been scrambled, scotched, and fried, consumed, crapped out, and flushed.

The hunt for the egg-flinger is boiling. Or rather, Yes campaigners are keen to identify the individual. Jim Murphy doesn’t appear too fussed, because an unidentified egg-flinger could be anyone at all, Alicsammin in a mask, and that means he can continue to claim there’s a coordinated plot to prevent him preaching nawness to a handful of passers-by in Fife. It’s all a big egg-based conspiracy right up until the time that it turns out that the egg-flinger was some random drunk guy who’d just been to Aldi. Patronising BT Lady had sent him out to get some cornflakes, but men eh, can’t get anything right.

Meanwhile there are those in the Yes campaign who are equally keen to prove it’s all a dastardly plot by Jim Murphy himself, mainly on the basis that three quarters of the population would probably agree to the proposition that Jim Murphy seems like the kind of person who’d break a few eggs to make a political omlette.

But the truth is it doesn’t really matter. It’s only an egg. But let us imagine that we are in some dystopian alternate universe – one that’s even more dystopian than the one we inhabit so some alcoholic refreshments may be necessary before you can liberate your imagination sufficiently. It’s a universe where Scotland is having a typical independence campaign. In typical independence campaigns there are disappearances, shootings, bombings, internment camps, civil unrest, and states of emergency. In that universe someone going to work on Jim Murphy with an egg would pass unnoticed. Jim’s wails of oppression would be laughed at, if anyone except Patroning BT Lady paid them any attention at all, and she’s only wondering what powder to use to get the stain out.

Back in the real Scotland, this one we actually live in, not the one on the news, the only reason the media is able to whip up an egging into a souffle of accusations is because Scotland’s independence campaign is peaceful, democratic, good natured, and inclusive. There has been no violence to compare, not even remotely, to the Troubles in Northern Ireland or the violence that has disfigured the Basque Country. This is Scotland, we don’t do terrorism, we don’t do civil unrest, we don’t do riots. We have the occasional nutter who flings an egg.

You only notice a plook on an otherwise unblemished face. Jim Murphy is that plook and the UK media delight in squeezing it.

Vote Yes – it’s a plook cream for Scotland.

A wee update

I spoke with Andy’s consultant today. There’s a wee bit of good news for a change. Or at least not bad news. Last weekend she wasn’t sure whether he’d survive the week, but over the course of this week he appears to have stabilised, even though at a very low level. She thinks he’s strong enough to be transferred to a supported bed in a local nursing home. It’s still a part of the NHS, and he’ll still be under the consultant’s care, but he’ll have a private room and peace and privacy.

The worrying news is that he is developing swallowing difficulties. It a common symptom in advanced vascular dementia. His speech is affected now too. He’s had severe word finding problems for a long time, but the words he could find were clearly articulated – but now they’re slurred and he’s having trouble coordinating the muscles of speech and language.

We’re waiting for a bed to become available, and all going well he’ll be transferred next week. The prognosis remains very poor. He may have a few weeks left instead of a few days. It’s little comfort to take – but I’m happy that he will survive to see the result of the referendum. I know he’d like to see that. He’s lying in his hospital bed and willing a Yes vote. He’s also still very conscious of the issues around selling our house in Spain and buying this flat, and I’m sure he’s clinging on until the sale is completed.

Meanwhile I need to get my head around thinking of life after caring. I’ll be stopping my claim for Carers Allowance, and will need to find work. I gave up work to look after Andy, and since I won’t inherit his pensions once he’s gone I’ll have no income. I need to use this time he’s given me with his last bit of strength in order to sort myself out. I haven’t even begun to think about “afterwards”, but it has to be faced up to.

Thank you so much to everyone who left words of support and love on the previous post. It’s an immense comfort and you give me such strength to go on.

No more updates today. I’ve been a bit emotionally fried the past couple of days and need a wee bit of time to relax and unwind.  I’ve got a load of sci-fi to watch. (Defiance. I love it. It’s got great female characters in it. And aliens and spaceships. What’s not to like?)

Normal No-mockery service will be resumed on Saturday.

 

In the limbo inbetween

This is one of those personal posts. Andy’s postal ballot arrived in the post on Thursday, and I took it to the hospital for him to fill in. He’s very poorly now, with constant infections. The consultant has said that they suspect he has an infected cyst in his lower abdomen. Usually they’d treat it surgically, but he’s too weak and frail. Even if he could cope with the procedure, it would only get him back to the condition he was in when he was admitted to hospital after his latest stroke, and then he’d only come down with yet another infection.

So no more poking and prodding, we need to allow him to go. He’s getting close to the end now – at the very best it’s only a couple of weeks away and perhaps not even that. And that estimate is based on nothing more than my wishful thinking. The important thing is that he’s comfortable, he’s not in pain or distress. The staff at Lightburn hospital have been fantastic with him.

It wasn’t a difficult decision to tell the consultant to stop active treatment, to put him on the do not resuscitate list and to allow him to slip away. When he had cancer some 15 years ago, we knew he was going to recover from it, but we discussed end of life care and funeral plans. He said then he wanted to be cremated, and he wanted a druid to officiate at his funeral. This was in Spain, where the funeral is usually the day after death. “How am I going to find a druid in Spain at 24 hours notice?” I asked. “In the Yellow Pages?” he replied. But he also told me that he wanted to be allowed to go in peace, without being attached to tubes and pinging machines that wouldn’t get him any better.

So it was easy now. I didn’t have to make a decision. I just had to tell the consultant when she asked me to make a decision. It helped so much that I knew what to tell her, and that I only had to relay his choice to her. And I’ve even found a druid for him.

He was determined to vote, but his grasp is weak and he struggled with the pen. It took great effort to produce an illegible scrawl that I can only hope the returning officer will accept as his signature. And then he put his X in the box marked YES, dropped the pen and lay back, exhausted with the effort.

As he signed it struck me that this is probably the last thing he’ll ever sign. The last time he’ll ever put his name to anything. Going from this world in the knowledge that his final act was to deliver an almighty kick in the nuts to the British establishment. He’ll like that. He was a proud working class London lad and socialist to his core. He put his name to a vote for an independent Scotland. It’s his legacy to me, to my family, to our friends, to all the people who showed him love and support and welcomed him into the Scotland that became his home.

I posted his vote on the way home. He’s not ever coming home, but he’s not gone. I’m in the limbo inbetween.

The message and the messenger

Scotland’s breakfast tables are still reeling from the gobsmacking arsery of Tuesday’s patronising Eat Your Cereal broadcast for Better Together and the hysterical Twitterfest of pisstakes that followed. Cornflakes are being crunched accusingly. But at least it stopped people talking about just how badly Alistair Darling bombed in Monday’s debate.

It’s already being reported that the advert was so dire that it’s convinced some No voters to vote Yes. Which is very good news, but that’s not quite how these things work. It wasn’t the advert exactly. What the advert did was to crystalise a decision that was already brewing. The crapulosity of the advert and its channelling of 1950s social attitudes becomes a symbol for the utterly dreary doom-laden backward looking negativity of the case for a No vote over the past two years. The advert is the proverbial dried grass stalk and the dromedary with the spinal injury. Watching it, a wee light comes on like those weans in the Reddybrek advert that glowed in the dark. The entire No campaign distilled into three crunchy phrases like the wee plastic toys that are a choking hazard in a cornflakes packet: Shut up. Eat your cereal. Know your place.

The wee rebellious voice within says – Mother of Parliaments? Aye right. You’re no ma maw. And another voter serves Westminster a bowl of Cheerios and decides to vote Yes.

It’s been a difficult week for heavily burdened members of the genus camelus. For some the last straw was the inability of Alistair Darling to save the union without jabbing his finger, or it’s the Patronising BT Lady and her empty cup, for others it’s the wee No thanks badge on Tory Home Secretary Theresa May’s dress as she’s interviewed about the latest failure of British institutions to protect the vulnerable and hold the powerful to account, or it’s Gordon Brown being heckled by a Labour activist as he addresses another closed meeting of supporters and friendly media.

After informing the women of Scotland that thinking is really hard, it’s Airchie Macpherson to the rescue. Because trotting out a 1970s TV sports presenter is exactly how to appeal to undecided voters who’re concerned you might be just a teeny bit out of date and out of touch. Still, BBC 1970s presenters had much more socially advanced attitudes to women than 1950s public information films.

However Airchie’s rousing defence of not wanting to become a foreigner is going to be a gamechanger and will stop the rapidly accelerating camel snapping. We’ve had a lot of gamechangers already, like every time Gordon Brown intervened in the debate for the first time. There was supposed to be another one on Wednesday, when Gordie intervened for the first time again, only this time with Alistair – having agreed temporarily to bury the hatchet after getting Wee Dougie to remove it from his sister’s back. But that one got upstaged by the heckler and Superairchie.

God I hate fitba. I blame Airchie Macpherson and the BBC. I never paid any attention to what Airchie had to say during those interminable wet Saturday afternoons in the 70s when my dad hogged the telly, and I’ll be buggered if I’m starting now. It’s thon symbol thing again. One person’s beloved former sports presenter is another person’s symbolic representation of a long gone and unlamented introspective and parochial Scotland. Airchie is fitba, the wee wummin in the kitchen making a bowl of cereal, letting those clever chaps in London deal with the difficult stuff, and sweaters for goalposts isn’t it. 

Your horizons can stretch no further than you can kick a baw. Don’t dream, don’t think, eat your cereal and go play fitba. The camels are squashed like roadkill on Airchie’s Unionist moral high road.  Follow, follow, because you can never lead yourselves.

Today the great evader comes to town, back from his holidays. The man who Airchie is really defending. Davie Cameron is speaking in Glasgow at a dinner organised by the CBI, who’re not being political at all. Davie will speak to the business people, he’ll speak to closed press conferences, he’ll only answer questions from those who’ve been approved. He won’t speak to the little people. He won’t speak to you or me, because he doesn’t speak for us.

The Guardian publishes the story of Davie telling the CBI to tell us to stay, and in patronising editorials it pushes the case for compliance and passivity. On the same page of the paper is an article called The Top of British Society is a Racket for the Privileged. Just read the fitba pages, says Airchie.

Trust Davie, says Airchie, trust Gordie and Alistair, don’t trust Scotland, don’t trust yourself. Davie, Gordie and Alistair say they’ll only trust us with answers when we’ve voted for them, only after we’ve signed the warrant to surrender our trust to them forever. The death warrant of hope. Airchie says the fitba is on.

The No campaign struggles with both its message and its messengers. The message is – you can’t, don’t dare, don’t get ideas above your station, leave it to the big boys in the grey suits. Stay where you are until you are attended to. Trust is something demanded of you, not given to you. The messengers are discredited politicians with a history of lies, vacuous celebrities without a clue, voices from a past that was brass not golden, and the squeaky clean young faces in the astroturf video. Now eat your cereal and watch the fitba.

But Yes keeps winning, Yes keeps gaining strength, because the message of Yes is its messengers. The enthusiastic volunteers, the faces with hope, the faces with smiles. They’re chapping doors, they’re campaigning, they’re changing the face of Scotland. The energy and commitment of the grassroots campaign is the message. This is Scotland in movement, a Scotland that can achieve, a Scotland that will not be daunted. The messengers of the Yes campaign are the answers to the questions. Scotland is doing it for itself. We don’t need to wait for answers from the distant men in grey suits. We eat our cereal and go to work for our own future.

The message is the medium, and the medium are the people. Yes is a force of nature like the wind on the high mountains that spins the turbines, the tidal flow in the sea lochs that power a green future. Yes does it for itself, Scotland can do it for herself.

Vote yes, trust the message that’s the messenger. You are Scotland and the message is you.