The cost of the Union

Wheesht noo. Stop criticising the Scottish media. It’s not helpful. It’s not entirely clear who it’s not helpful to, but stop it anyway. Just because. It’s bad for democracy when people criticise the media, but it’s not as bad as it is when that media is totally unrepresentative of the country it purports to report on. Democracy is seriously threatened when a country lacks a media that gives all its views and voices a fair hearing, when it’s predominantly owned by interests outwith that country, and when it’s skewed in a particular direction and in favour of a particular constitutional option. It’s even worse when that country, alone amongst the self-governing nations, territories and regions of Europe, lacks a public service broadcaster to call its own. How can a country have a conversation with itself when half of its voices are silenced and when there’s no public service broadcaster to offer a platform?

But we’re not supposed to ask these questions. It means we’re conspiracy theorists even though it’s not a theory that Scotland’s media is overwhelmingly opposed to independence, it’s a fact. It’s not paranoia. They really are out to get us. We’re not supposed to ask these questions, and we’re not supposed to build alternatives. Put up, shut up, remain forever a part of this dysfunctional union-that’s-not-a-union where the powerless and the voiceless are decried as bullies.

The dysfunction was on full display on Monday when the Scottish government published its Brexit impact studies. The Scottish government decided to commission studies into the effects of three different Brexit scenarios on Scotland after it became clear that the British government’s interest in telling the public about the consequences of Brexit were limited to blue passports and whatever lies they could fit on the side of a bus.

Despite numerous promises from Brexit Secretary David Davis that detailed and comprehensive impact studies had been carried out, what was finally revealed to MPs was as illuminating as a torch with a 15W bulb and a flat battery in a black hole. The information contained within the top secret documents which could be so devastating to the UK’s negotiating position with the EU turned out, according to those opposition MPs who had seen them, to contain the sort of information that you could find after typing “How screwed is the UK after Brexit” into Google. So why the secrecy? If UK civil servants can use Google, the chances are that the EU’s civil servants can use it too. Then, for good measure, Davie denied that he’d ever said that there were going to be impact analyses. That’s those analyses which he’d promised would go into excrutiating detail. But it turned out that the only excrutiating thing was Davie’s attempt to pretend he’d never promised anything of the sort.

The real reason why the British government hasn’t carried out detailed assessments of the economic effects of Brexit, or why they haven’t published them if they have, became clear on Monday when the Scottish government published its own studies on the effects on the impact of Brexit on the Scottish economy. It’s because the studies show that there’s no such thing as the good Brexit, the Brexit that works for Britain, that the Tories keep promising us. Every possible configuration of Brexit is a bad Brexit. Well colour us surprised. There is no good Brexit, only a Brexit scenario which is somewhat less catastrophic than the others. A hard Brexit would cost the Scottish economy £12.7 billion a year. No wonder the Tories don’t want to publish any information.

The least disastrous Brexit is for the UK to remain a part of the customs union and the EU single market after Brexit. This is the Brexit that both the Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn have refused to consider. Even this Brexit will damage the Scottish economy to the tune of £688 each year for every man, woman, and child in the country. The Brexit with the sooper-dooper special bespoke deal that Theresa wants will end up costing the Scottish economy the equivalent of £1610 annually for every person in the country. This seems to be Jezza’s preferred option too. The worst option is a no deal Brexit, which is likely to cost the Scottish economy the equivalent of £2300 a year per person.

Both a no deal Brexit and the kind of Brexit that the Tories are pressing for will end up costing us considerably more than what the British Treasury was telling us in 2014 that independence was going to cost us. In 2014 the Treasury claimed that independence would cost each person in Scotland £1400 a year. If we’d voted for independence in 2014 and even if the absolute worst case scenarios of the British establishment had come true, we’d still be better off than we will be once Brexit bites.

Naturally the Tories were not impressed by the Scottish government figures, even though they refuse to come out with any figures of their own which might contradict them. “Anyone can come out with end of the world scare stories,” said huffy Fluffy Mundell in a quote which countless independence supporters have filed away for future use in memes during the next independence campaign when the British government comes out with a scare story. Tory MSP Adam Tomkins sniffed that no one can trust financial information published by the Scottish government, except of course the GERS figures, cos they show Scotland is rubbish and are like, totes accurate. So let’s compare the Scottish government’s impact studies with those published by your Tory UK government Adam, and we can see how they stand up. Oh yeah. Right-oh. The Scottish government has published papers dealing with the economic impact of Brexit. The London mayor has published papers dealing with the economic impact of Brexit. The only people who haven’t published papers dealing with the economic impact of Brexit are in the Tory cabinet.

The Scottish media struggled to find a way to report the news that could result in the SNP being blamed for something. Well I say struggled. They don’t struggle that much really. If they can’t blame the SNP for whatever the topic de jour is, they just change the subject. So there was Nicola Sturgeon presenting the impact study papers to the press, study papers which show that there are no Brexit benefits for Scotland and that all the Tory waffle about getting a good deal is just a damage limitation exercise, and instead the press decide that the real story is that Nicola Sturgeon doesn’t want to use the occasion to give them a date for another referendum. [Rolls eyes.]

Don’t wheesht. Don’t be quiet. Don’t get mad. Get the message out there. Get campaigning. Get a yes vote.


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The Wee Ginger Dug has got a new domain name, thanks to Indy Poster Boy, Colin Dunn @Zarkwan. http://www.indyposterboy.scot/ You can now access this blog simply by typing www.weegingerdug.scot into the address bar of your browser, the old address continues to function, the new one redirects to the blog. The advantage of the new address is that it’s a lot easier to remember if you want to include a link to the blog in leaflets, posters, or simply to tell a friend about it. Many thanks to Colin.


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When you rewrite the past, you’re scared of the future

Well I don’t know about you, but I’m devastated, devastated I tell you, that Donald Trump isn’t coming to the UK to open the new American embassy after all. He’s cancelled his trip to London because the authorities can’t guarantee that he won’t be met with hostile demonstrations. Though the word “hostile” is probably superfluous there. If Trump won’t visit any country unless the authorities can guarantee he won’t be confronted with hostile demonstrations, that pretty much just leaves Russia.

The cancelled visit is a separate visit from the state visit with the royal coaches and the flummery that Theresa May had offered him during her hand-holding session. There’s no date set for the supposed state visit, because the Speaker of the House of Commons has made it clear that there’s as much chance of him welcoming Trump to the British Parliament as there is of the Turkish Prime Minister welcoming Boris Johnson to recite that, ahem, witty little poem about the Turkish Prime Minister that he wrote for the Spectator. It’s one thing when the hostile demonstrations are organised by Antifa protesters, it’s quite another when they’re organised by the Speaker of the House of Commons and men in tights.

So a lower key visit was proposed instead, a so-called working visit, which meant that there would be slightly less time available for golf courses and what would possibly be the first time in recorded history that an embarrassment with men in tights wasn’t because there were men in tights. But according to Trump, it’s really all Obama’s fault that this visit has been cancelled. He’s not going to London because Obama got a really bad deal on the new embassy and sold the old building for “peanuts”. This was quite an achievement for Obama, because it was under George W Bush that a deal was struck to sell off the old embassy, but then in Trump world Obama is responsible for absolutely everything that Trump doesn’t like, except for the stuff that Hillary Clinton is responsible for. Personally I’ve cancelled my own proposed visit to London too. I’ve just discovered that not everyone who works on Virgin trains is in fact a virgin.

Now Trump is embroiled in yet another row about racism. During a meeting with US politicians to discuss immigration, he reportedly said with reference to migration from Haiti, and certain Latin American and African countries – “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” He then went on to wonder why the US doesn’t concentrate instead on attracting immigration from countries like Norway. Possibly that’s because Norwegians don’t fancy giving up their well paid jobs and their well funded public services to go and pick fruit in California on the minimum wage without healthcare. Just a wee guess there.

Probably our friends the apologists for British nationalism in Scotland would characterise an independent Scotland as one of the shithole countries despised by Trump. They certainly seem to have a very low opinion of Scotland and its potential. They may not be racists like Trump, but what they do have in common with him is a propensity for rewriting history to suit themselves. The latest is an attempt to rewrite the Treaty of Union as though it was the same in intent and purpose as the EU accession process and to claim that the whole point of the Union was so that Scotland could enjoy the benefits of a customs union and single market.

The negotiations between Scotland and England were characterised, as is well known, by bribery. Offering to put pots of gold into the personal bank accounts of those negotiating their country’s membership of the EU isn’t a part of the usual application process. Or perhaps our British nationalist friends know differently. It’s worth pointing out the obvious here. The bribery was entirely one way. It was an English government bribing Scottish (ig)nobles. If the entire purpose of the Union was economic, so that Scotland could become far more prosperous as a result, surely the bribery would have been the other way about. Just a thought.

The Union of 1707 wasn’t about the economy. It was about the strategic and political interests of the English state. England was embroiled in one of its regular wars with France, and wanted to secure its northern frontier. In particular the English establishment wanted to ensure that the Catholic Jacobites wouldn’t get a foothold in Scotland, which could have happened if the Scottish Parliament decided that the Elector of Hanover wasn’t its preferred heir to Queen Anne. Scotland was an independent state, one whose monarch happened also to be the monarch of England, but the English Parliament was acting as though Scotland was a possession of the English crown. It had chosen to offer the crown to the Elector of Hanover, who was a descendant of a daughter of James VI, and Scotland was to be made to agree.

Scotland wasn’t keen on the English choice of monarch and was deeply unhappy that the English Parliament had made a unilateral decision on the choice of the joint monarch. In 1704 the Scottish Parliament passed the Act of Security, which stated that should Queen Anne die without an heir, Scotland would not agree to England’s choice of monarch unless certain conditions were met. The Act asserted Scotland’s right to decide its own monarch and was a statement that Scotland would not accept one unilaterally imposed on it by England.

In retaliation, and in order to force Scotland into compliance, the English Parliament passed the Alien Act in 1705. This Act meant that Scots were to be treated as aliens in England, and this in turn meant that property owned by Scots in England was at risk of confiscation when the property owner died. In addition, the Act placed an embargo on the import of certain Scottish products into England, such as the important trades in cattle, coal, and linen. This affected almost half of Scotland’s trade. This wasn’t England bullying Scotland of course, because it’s anti-English racism to say things like that. The Alien Act was just friendly banter.

The choice facing Scotland was an incorporating union with England, or an economic blockade and the threat of invasion and war. Writing in the book A Union for Empire, Political Thought and the British Union of 1707, the historian Professor John Robertson of Cambridge University writes that during the negotiations the threat of invasion was “drawn to the Scots’ attention at strategic moments by English ministers”. (page 34) This was not an agreement entered into freely by two equal parties for their mutual economic benefit. No country has joined the EU because the EU was threatening to invade and conquer it.

The Alien Act and the threat of invasion were the stick, the carrot was the offer of free trade for Scotland with England’s empire. But that was an offer made on England’s political terms and in England’s economic interests. The price to be paid was the abolition of Scotland’s Parliament and Scotland’s adhesion to an incorporating union in which it would have no veto powers and where its representatives would be a permanent minority. Scotland would have no formal representation within the new state as Scotland, only through its individual MPs. It meant Scotland was now a part of a unitary market over which it effectively had no control. Crucially it meant that Scotland would now lack any formal mechanisms for developing or protecting its own economy.

This is nothing at all like being a member state of the EU. Member states of the EU have representation on EU bodies as nation states, they have veto powers. Some EU states have economies which are considerably larger than others, but no single EU state can dominate the EU single market in the way that the interests of London dominate the UK economy. Each EU state has a voice in the EU single market which is supposed to ensure that no one country in that single market can use the market to enrich itself at the expense of other countries in the single market. Scotland can do nothing to prevent the UK unitary market being used as a tool to ensure that wealth, capital, and skilled labour are sucked into the maws of the south east of England.

It’s hugely ironic that it’s now British nationalists who are having recourse to a romanticised version of ancient history in order to justify their present day constitutional preferences. Isn’t it only independence supporters who are supposed to do that sort of thing? Just like Trump, British nationalists rewrite the past because they’re scared of the future.


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The Wee Ginger Dug has got a new domain name, thanks to Indy Poster Boy, Colin Dunn @Zarkwan. http://www.indyposterboy.scot/ You can now access this blog simply by typing www.weegingerdug.scot into the address bar of your browser, the old address continues to function, the new one redirects to the blog. The advantage of the new address is that it’s a lot easier to remember if you want to include a link to the blog in leaflets, posters, or simply to tell a friend about it. Many thanks to Colin.


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You can help to support this blog with a Paypal donation. Just click the donate button.
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Or you can donate by making a payment directly into a special bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com and I will send the necessary information. Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.

Many thanks.

A question of trust

The hapless contingent of Scottish Tory MPs aren’t happy. Partly they’re not happy because by definition being a Tory in Scotland means that you’re a miserable bastert who thinks that everything in Scotland is a bit crappy, but mainly they’re not happy because of all the delays to changes to the EU Withdrawal Bill. Amendments to clause 11 of the bill are necessary because, essentially, the Tory government is saying that Holyrood needs to trust it to deliver all the extra powers that will flow from Brexit, but Holyrood trusts the Westminster Tories like you can trust a naked man who offers you a shirt. It’s not like Scotland has trust issues with the Conservatives, it’s just that we know better.

Now the deadline has passed without any of the issues which prevent the Scottish and Welsh parliaments from giving their approval to the EU exit being addressed, and none of the amendments which could ensure approval from Edinburgh or Cardiff have been introduced into the bill. This is despite repeated assurances from Theresa May that her government would introduce the necessary amendments. She hasn’t done it, so you can see why this lack of trust thing is a bit of a sticking point. No one is especially surprised that the Tories have gone back on their word to Scotland. It’s not like this sort of thing has never happened before. They say that trust is like a rubber, it gets smaller after every promise gets rubbed out. Westminster’s rubber got very tiny a very long time ago. There are subatomic particles which are larger.

We’re now in negative trust territory, the default assumption is that Westminster Tories are lying. If you want people to trust you, it helps to be honest and open, and that’s something that Theresa May is constitutionally incapable of. When Theresa May starts a statement with “I’m perfectly clear” everyone knows that what is about to follow is less clear than a cryptic crossword clue written in Hungarian with every second letter missing. Although to be fair the Hungarian cryptic crossword clue is at least is a problem which has an answer. Theresa May has no answers for anything.

The government claims that there are some perfectly understandable reasons for the amendments not being brought forward, the dog ate its homework, there was an earthquake, the previous minister responsible was far too occupied watching porn on his computer, they were too busy with an entirely pointless reshuffle after the minister for watching porn had to resign, the last minute realisation that Christmas was at the end of December threw all their plans into disarray, and anyway it’s only Scotland so who gives a toss really.  Besides, it’s hardly their fault that David Mundell is useless and has less authority in cabinet than the potted plant that sits in front of Theresa May so she doesn’t have to look at Michael Gove across the table. Of course it’s their fault, but there’s bugger all that Scotland can do about it so it’s not like they can be bothered to care.

Even Tories are upset now.  Scottish Tory MP Paul Masterton complained in the House of Commons that he’d been given assurances from the government that the amendments would be brought forward to the bill, but the government had failed to do so. A constitutional crisis is looming, and even Adam Tomkins, the Tory MSP for saying IT’S THE LAW! admits that it’s the fault of the Conservative government.  Earlier this week the Holyrood constitution committee, which includes Tory MSPs, agreed that the bill as it currently stands is incompatible with the devolution settlement. Boiled down to basics, it turns devolution on its head. The underlying principle of the devolution settlement is that all powers which are not explicitly reserved to Westminster are devolved to Holyrood. The effect of the EU bill gives all the powers currently exercised by the EU to Westminster even though they are not reserved powers. Then Westminster will decide all by itself which, if any, it will allow to be devolved.

After the deadline for amendments passed, Scottish Tory MPs had a meeting which lasted for two hours, an hour and three quarters of which were spent trying to see if any of them had a spine before it was decided that they didn’t and the last quarter hour asking each other if any of them had any football fixtures coming up. Now they’re saying that they’re frustrated and angry, and are demanding a meeting with the party whips. It’s not clear what they think that a meeting with the whips is going to achieve, other than giving them something to tell the press. It’s not like the whips are able to bring the bill back to give the MPs another shot at it. The MPs aren’t frustrated and angry because their government has betrayed a promise, they’re frustrated and angry because now everyone who hadn’t already realised it can see how useless they are.

Funnily enough the MPs weren’t too frustrated and angry before the deadline when they could actually have done something about the situation, which does tend to imply that their frustrations are nothing more than gesture politics and a desperate attempt to look like they’re not the useless wastes of space. So that’s Scotland’s cohort of Conservative MPs working for Scotland within the Union there. They voted for earlier stages of the bill because they thought that their government would implement the necessary amendments, but they also thought that if you planted a feather that it would grow a chicken. You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time unless they’re Scottish Conservative MPs.

The Fluffy One, Scotland’s very own stuffed toy masquerading as a Scotland Secretary, has said that it’s “regrettable” that the amendments couldn’t be tabled in time for the Report Stage of the Bill due next week, but insisted that the changes could be made in the House of Lords as though that somehow meant that there’s nothing to worry about. Kicking the issue up to the Lords means that Michele Mone has more of an influence over the fate of Scotland than any of Scotland’s MPs do. So that’s reassuring. Scotland’s elected representatives won’t get to scrutinise the amendments, but an unelected chamber where there is zero SNP representation will. How’s that valued and much loved equal partner in a family of nations working out then?

Scotland’s getting screwed over yet again, this time because a Tory minister resigned in order to spend more time with his computer. Even porn gets a higher priority from Westminster than Scotland does. It’s the closest Scotland is going to get to a stiff resolve from this government. But not to worry, the Tories have pinky promised that they’ll absolutely, definitely, positively, without a shadow of a doubt, get all this dealt with in the Lords. The new Minister for the Cabinet Office, David Lidington, swears blind that the government is committed to working with the devolved administrations to find a solution that is agreeable to all. And it’s not like there’s any reason not to trust them is there? Scotland can place absolute trust in the Conservative government, we can trust that they’ll lie to us and screw us over.


weegingerdug.scot

The Wee Ginger Dug has got a new domain name, thanks to Indy Poster Boy, Colin Dunn @Zarkwan. http://www.indyposterboy.scot/ You can now access this blog simply by typing www.weegingerdug.scot into the address bar of your browser, the old address continues to function, the new one redirects to the blog. The advantage of the new address is that it’s a lot easier to remember if you want to include a link to the blog in leaflets, posters, or simply to tell a friend about it. Many thanks to Colin.


gingercartoonWee Ginger Donations & Speaking engagements

You can help to support this blog with a Paypal donation. Just click the donate button.
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Or you can donate by making a payment directly into a special bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com and I will send the necessary information. Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.

Many thanks.

The job that Tories are good at

You’ll have had your reshuffle. It was supposed to be Theresa May putting her stamp of authority on her rebellious party, but instead her rebellious party stamped on her. You might have thought that Jeremy Hunt, who is in charge of the flatlining NHS in England where the only machine that goes beep is the one in his head, would be a prime candidate for a demotion, or at least a sideways shuffle – which would be considerably more movement than the patients waiting in English A&E departments. However Jeremy refused to budge, and Theresa is so politically weak that she couldn’t force him. Instead she expanded his authority. Boris Johnson, who makes bumbling incompetents seem like Japanese railway schedulers, retains his full capacity to embarrass the UK on the world stage. Theresa wouldn’t dare demote him.

Justine Greening decided she’d rather waltz off to the back benches rather than be moved from education to the DWP. Now she’ll join the ranks of those plotting Theresa’s downfall. It tells us all we need to know about Conservative priorities that Theresa May wants to remove the comprehensive supporting and free school sceptic Justine Greening from education, but she was still backing the appointment of Toby Young to the new university watchdog. That’s the Toby who is in favour of eugenics and selective breeding for higher IQs, who doesn’t like accessibility ramps for disabled kids, and who has serially tweeted about the size of women’s breasts. Personally I might be in favour of eugenics if it were possible to selectively breed out dickheads like Toby. Unfortunately the Conservatives seem to possess an unlimited supply of them.

Thankfully, Toby Young has now announced his resignation. We can now look forward to a parade of British nationalist journalists publishing columns telling us how terrible it is that Toby is being silenced for his youthful indiscretions even though he made most of them when he was already a supposedly responsible adult. It’s a dreadful digital inquisition, otherwise known as people accurately quoting his own words back at him. This is the man who wrote a scathing review of the movie I Daniel Blake claiming that it didn’t ring true because the main character wasn’t like any of the people in Channel 5’s poverty porn programmes. Daily Mail journalists were tweeting that “political correctness” was sapping public life of talented people. Which would be true, but only if the talent you had in mind was a talent for being offensive and a bit of an arsepiece. What’s really sapping public life of talented people is the nepotism and cronyism of this government. Toby Young is best pals with Boris Johnson and the foreign secretary’s brother, the newly appointed transport minister Jo Johnson.

It’s a sign of the utter moral bankruptcy of the Conservative party that Toby Young jumped instead of being pushed. His resignation comes after over 200,000 people signed a petition demanding that he be removed from office. Almost 340,000 have signed a petition demanding that Jeremy Hunt be removed from office, but he got a promotion instead. Toby Young has performed one valuable public service though. Just when you thought that Theresa May couldn’t look any weaker or less principled, there comes Toby to prove you wrong. When Toby Young displays a better grasp of ethics than the Conservative party, you know you’ve got a problem.

Incidentally, one of the targets of Toby’s sexist tweets was former Airdrie MP, the Labour party’s Pamela Nash. Pamela is now head of controversial Scotland in Union, an organisation mired in controversy but whose name most of the Scottish papers strangely fail to prefix with “controversial”. It’s only independence supporting bloggers who merit that title. Controversial indy bloggers get sidelined by the media, controversial Conservative journalists get offered lucrative jobs by the government. Compare and contrast.

The new appointments signalled a shift to the right in a party which has already surrendered what passes for its soul to the right. After Justine Greening refused the gig, Esther McVey was appointed as head of the Department of Work and Pensions instead, which is like putting the Child Snatcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in charge of children’s services. A couple of years ago, Esther justified the proliferation of foodbanks in the UK. She thinks it’s only what you should expect. Eh yeah Esther, it’s only what you should expect when the DWP is leaving people without any means of feeding themselves. It’s only what you should expect when, like Esther, you have consistently voted to reduce benefits and to make life even more difficult for people who are already struggling. She has always voted against raising income tax on people who are paid more than £150,000 though, because it’s only poor people who should shoulder the burden of paying for the bankers’ mistakes. The last time Esther was in charge of the DWP people voted her out of office. We can but hope.

Despite the election of a fitba team’s worth of Tory MPs from Scotland, David Mundell is still the only one of them deemed competent enough to have an official position in the Scotland Office. There are broken shopping trolleys in Morrisons which have a better sense of direction and more autonomy of movement than a Scottish Tory MP. But then a broken shopping trolley in Morrisons also has a better grasp of what’s devolved and what’s reserved to Westminster than your average Scottish Conservative MP. Plus you can put things in a broken shopping trolley and they’ll stay there. Tory MP Ross Thomson has a famously open mind, but that’s only because ideas fall out of his left ear as soon as another one enters his right. If ever another Forth crossing is needed, we can save a fortune on digging a tunnel by simply installing the space between Ross’s ears.

There’s still no agreement with the Scottish government on the Brexit Bill. It’s so bad that even three Conservative MPs have recommended that the Scottish Government rejects the bill in its current form. A constitutional crisis is looming, but all we get from Scottish Tory MPs are complaints that the Scottish government ought to be doing things in areas where the powers are reserved to Westminster.

In a sign of trouble ahead, there are reports that Theresa May is also to appoint a minister for no-deal Brexit. The truth is there’s no need for the Prime Minister to appoint a minister for failure because all her cabinet are already doing that job. It’s the only one that they’re any good at.


weegingerdug.scot

The Wee Ginger Dug has got a new domain name, thanks to Indy Poster Boy, Colin Dunn @Zarkwan. http://www.indyposterboy.scot/ You can now access this blog simply by typing www.weegingerdug.scot into the address bar of your browser, the old address continues to function, the new one redirects to the blog. The advantage of the new address is that it’s a lot easier to remember if you want to include a link to the blog in leaflets, posters, or simply to tell a friend about it. Many thanks to Colin.


gingercartoonWee Ginger Donations & Speaking engagements

You can help to support this blog with a Paypal donation. Just click the donate button.
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Or you can donate by making a payment directly into a special bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com and I will send the necessary information. Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.

Many thanks.

What is clear

The infighting in the White House is extremely amusing. Petulantly tweeting that you’re a “very stable genius” is a pretty good indicator that you’re no such thing. And then when you tweet “my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart”, you’re coming across as a teenage Valley Girl upset because her parents have taken away her mobile phone. This is after all the man who’s response to Kim Jong-un’s nuclear threats was to tweet that his nuclear button was bigger than Kim’s nuclear button. Although the truth is that his button isn’t any bigger, it’s just that his hands are really tiny.

Most of the planet is hugely entertained by the huge falling out between Trump and Steve Bannon. It’s like Alien Vs Predator only without the social graces and the pleasant personalities. Meanwhile here in Scotland we have the spectacle of the meltdown of our very own rich and spoiled Valley Girls masquerading as the grassroots, the continuing saga of Scotland in Union being funded by the rich and the titled. There is only one grassroots movement in Scotland opposed to Scottish independence, and that’s the one that marches to the tune of songs about the blood of Catholics. No wonder then that the British state is desperate to pretend that there’s another more respectable one. But we know the truth now, and once uncorked it won’t go back into those expensive bottles of whisky auctioned off at Scotland in Union dinner in a posh London club.

The Scottish media has taken a battering too. A couple of days ago Derek Bateman revealed on his blog the entire “media grid” for the Christmas and New Year holiday period given by the Labour party in Scotland to its pals in the media. Days and days of SNPBad stories all planned in advance to be regurgitated as news. The Scottish media was stripped of its pretence and shown as a willing and uncritical front for Labour party press releases. It showed us the reality, that the news in Scotland isn’t driven by a public service agenda, it’s not driven by an agenda of investigating the power structures of Scotland. It’s driven by the party political agendas of parties which support the British state. It’s not that it’s fake news, but it’s a fake that it’s news.

During the first independence referendum, the Better Together campaign focussed almost exclusively on the economy. That tactic allowed them to present one scare story after another from supposedly independent think tanks with close links to big business, Conservative donors, and the British nationalist parties. It’s very easy to confuse people with a barrage of economic statistics, carefully selected in order to present Scotland as a basketcase. All the while they’re aided by the media in carefully avoiding the question that if Scotland is indeed an economic basketcase then surely that must be the responsibilty of the economic and financial policies of a Westminster parliament which jealously reserves all the relevant powers to itself.

Supporters of the British state are clearly laying the ground to fight the second independence referendum with similar tactics. Let’s face it it’s all they’ve got. If there really was a compelling positive case for the Union we’d have heard it by now. Essentially the case for the Union boils down to the people who have impoverished Scotland and treatedd it as a reservoir of resources, capital, and labour to be sucked dry for the benefit of London and the South East screaming at us that we’d be nothing without them. However they chose the economy as their battleground for a reason, because they could create a barrage of smoke and mirrors to disguise Scotland’s true economic potential. Even more importantly they chose the economic battleground because it was a convenient distraction from the other arguments for independence where the British state has no answers and nothing to say.

The revelations about Scotland in Union’s secret funding from the rich and the titled, and Derek Bateman’s disclosure of the Labour party’s attempts to manipulate the news agenda, with the complicity of the British nationalist press, give us an opportunity to refocus on those other arguments for independence, on what independence is really all about. It’s about equality of opportunity. It’s about democracy. It’s about accountability. It’s about honesty in public life. It’s about living in a country which is run for the benefit of all its citizens, and not just for a few very wealthy people who can afford to throw a few grand in secret at the political causes which benefit them.

If it wasn’t clear before it is now as obvious as Donald Trump’s combover, the cause of defending the rule of the British state in Scotland has nothing to do with what is good for the people of Scotland and everything to do with bolstering the power and privilege of the few who already have it all. It’s equally clear that opposing Scottish independence and defending the British state isn’t about being opposed to nationalism, because there is no more nationalist project in Europe than Britain’s Brexit. Those who claim to oppose independence because they say they hate nationalism might be able to delude themselves, but they’re not deluding the rest of us. It’s clear that only independence offers a Scotland that belongs to all of its people. The British state offers us a Scotland that belongs to a handful of the extremely wealthy who own holiday properties in the Highlands that are larger than West Lothian.

All these things are clear, but clearest of all, shining like the beacon of truth that will illuminate that path towards Scottish self-determination is the truth that our campaign is the moral one. We are the ones who walk in the open. We are the ones who walk in honesty. We are the ones who walk in the grass. We don’t hide. We don’t dissemble. We don’t pretend to be something that we are not. The campaign to keep Scotland under the thumb of Westminster does all these things. The question that will be put to the people of Scotland in the coming independence referendum is how can you put trust in people who don’t trust you enough to tell you the truth about themselves? A vote for independence is a vote for self-respect, a vote for accountability, a vote for equality. A vote for independence is a vote to ensure that the path that Scotland walks will be a path that’s chosen by the people of Scotland, a path that leads to equality of opportunity, to fairness, and to a better country for all of us.


weegingerdug.scot

The Wee Ginger Dug has got a new domain name, thanks to Indy Poster Boy, Colin Dunn @Zarkwan. http://www.indyposterboy.scot/ You can now access this blog simply by typing www.weegingerdug.scot into the address bar of your browser, the old address continues to function, the new one redirects to the blog. The advantage of the new address is that it’s a lot easier to remember if you want to include a link to the blog in leaflets, posters, or simply to tell a friend about it. Many thanks to Colin.


gingercartoonWee Ginger Donations & Speaking engagements

You can help to support this blog with a Paypal donation. Just click the donate button.
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Or you can donate by making a payment directly into a special bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com and I will send the necessary information. Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.

Many thanks.

The British tax on love

I’m glad to see that the SNP is highlighting an issue which is personally close to me, the UK’s restrictive and harsh immigration rules for spouses and family members. The SNP’s immigration spokesperson Stuart McDonald MP has released a statement criticising the UK’s policy for leaving many families in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK facing a bleak 2018. And after Brexit it’s only likely to get worse.

As regular readers of this blog may know, I’m planning to get married to my American partner and we would like to live our lives together as a couple here in Scotland. Because he just loves rain. Actually this weekend it’s forecast to be -20C in Connecticut, and Glasgow is positivle balmy and tropical in comparison. But him moving here is not going to be easy, thanks to Theresa May when she was Home Secretary, prioritising her political need to sook up to the Daily Mail and score brownie points with the Katie Hopkins of this world over the need of thousands of British citizens, their partners, and their children to live together as families.

Most countries demand that when one of their citizens marries a foreigner who doesn’t have the right of residence that the couple bears the financial responsibility for supporting their new spouse. That’s perfectly reasonable and is designed to prevent people entering the country and immediately becoming a burden on the state. That’s how immigration rules work in the USA or in Spain, to pick two random examples. What they don’t do however, is to set a financial threshold on how much the citizen needs to be earning before they qualify for the “privilege” of living together with their spouse in the citizens’ own country. Only the UK does that, and the threshold is a high one. If you want to marry a foreigner in the UK, first make sure that you are financially one of the better off.

The UK is the only developed nation to put a price on love. If you are a British citizen who wishes to wed someone who doesn’t have the right of residence in the UK, you need to prove to the Home Office that you earn over £18,600 a year before your spouse can apply for leave to remain in the UK. 41% of working people in Scotland don’t earn that much, and so will never qualify. If the couple have a child, that figure rises to £22,400, and the amount goes up by £2,400 a year for each additional child. Effectively, it’s a tax on love.

What the UK doesn’t do, but which both Spain and the USA do, is to take into account the potential earnings of the non-citizen spouse. Spain and the USA both expect people coming into the country not to become a burden on the state, but they acknowledge that people of working age have the potential to earn a wage of their own to contribute to the household income. Only the UK insists that it’s entirely up to the citizen to provide financially for their spouse.

In our case, my partner works in IT and has transferrable skills. One of the main reasons for us choosing for him to live here is precisely because he has a much better chance of finding equivalent employment in Scotland than I do of finding equivalent employment in the USA. Let’s face it, there is a limited demand for ranting about Scottish politics in America. However the Home Office will not consider his earning potential, only mine, despite the fact that he has the prospect of earning considerably more than I can.

The “preventing benefits tourism” excuse given by the Home Office and the right wing British press is a red herring. For starters no one in their right mind seeks to bring a spouse into the UK so that they can trot off to the job centre and be humiliated for £70 a week. The fact is that if you’re in any sort of paid employment for more than 24 hours a week your spouse isn’t going to be eligible for jobseeker’s allowance anyway. Benefits tourism is not prevented by not taking into account the earning potential of a foreign spouse or partner, and in any event it can be prevented by not making them eligible for social security support until after they’ve been in employment for a given period of time. The rule about not taking into account the earning potential of the non-British spouse exists purely in order to placate the editorial writers of the Daily Mail and the Express. It serves no useful purpose in the real world.

My partner and I at least have options, but a large proportion of working people in this country will never earn enough to satisfy Home Office requirements. People who are employed, who are productive, who are making a positive contribution to society and the economy, but the British state denies them the basic human right of living with their loved ones. According to the Children’s Commissioner for England, around 15,000 children in the UK are separated from one of their parents because of the UK’s immigration rules. It’s a national disgrace.

Scotland needs economically productive migrants. Scotland has an ageing population and the country needs people of working age like my partner Peter who have valuable skills which would benefit the Scottish economy. However Scottish immigration policy is determined by a Conservative government in Westminster which isn’t especially interested in Scotland’s demographic needs, or in any of Scotland’s other needs for that matter. It’s only interested in placating the gutter right wing press with its xenophobic headlines.

If you’re rich, if you’re marrying into the Royal family, none of this is a problem. Meghan Markle has no trouble coming to the UK and staying here indefinitely despite the fact that she’s marrying into a family of benefits scroungers. As we saw from the funding strategies of Scotland in Union, the UK works for the benefit of the rich, the powerful, and the well-connected. And after Brexit it’s only going to get worse, because the current inflexible and inhumane rules which apply to non-EU citizens who marry British citizens are likely to apply to EU citizens as well.

It’s another reason for independence. It’s only with independence that Scotland can have an immigration policy that suits Scotland’s needs. We can have a country which works for everyone and not just the rich. Perhaps even more importantly, Scotland can develop an immigration policy that doesn’t cruelly separate families and loved ones, and that doesn’t put a tax on love.


weegingerdug.scot

The Wee Ginger Dug has got a new domain name, thanks to Indy Poster Boy, Colin Dunn @Zarkwan. http://www.indyposterboy.scot/ You can now access this blog simply by typing www.weegingerdug.scot into the address bar of your browser, the old address continues to function, the new one redirects to the blog. The advantage of the new address is that it’s a lot easier to remember if you want to include a link to the blog in leaflets, posters, or simply to tell a friend about it. Many thanks to Colin.


gingercartoonWee Ginger Donations & Speaking engagements

You can help to support this blog with a Paypal donation. Just click the donate button.
Donate Button

Or you can donate by making a payment directly into a special bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com and I will send the necessary information. Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.

Many thanks.

Telling them why

There was an interesting Twitter exchange the other day which in a single word illustrated all that is wrong with the Scottish media. The estimable Lesley Riddoch tweeted a link to her latest article in the Scotsman, a plea to the Scottish media that when they engage in their regular bouts of slagging off NHS Scotland, they should compare the performance of Scotland’s health service with the health services in the rest of the UK before rushing to condemn. The article pointed out quite reasonably that Scotland’s NHS performs significantly better than the Conservative run NHS in England.

Lesley tweeted: “New Year’s resolution for Scottish press. Next winter when opposition politicians are outraged about the state of the Scottish NHS, why not compare conditions with the privatised, collapsing health service in England before passing judgement?”

Scotsman columnist Euan McColm replied to her with a single word tweet: “Why?”

And there you have it. A journalist who writes for one of Scotland’s leading newspapers affects not to know why there should be any need to compare the performance of NHS Scotland with the NHS in other parts of the UK. That’s it right there. Everything that’s wrong with the Scottish media in a single word tweet.

I’m no scientist, and clearly neither are most journalists in the Scottish media. The closest that many representatives of the British apologia press in Scotland get to science is Doctor Who. And they think that’s a documentary. Even though Doctor Who is capable of transversing the barriers of time and space and can travel anywhere and anywhen throughout the vastness of the universe, in 2014 that same British nationalist media was very keen on insisting to us that Doctor Who wouldn’t be able to cross the border into an independent Scotland due to an invisible force field of Unionist lying mince stretching from Gretna to Berwick. But then it’s probably unreasonable of us to expect a media that can’t distinguish fact from Unionist fiction to appreciate the difference between science fiction and fact.

Nevertheless, science operates by making systematic comparisons. I might not be a scientist, but even I know that if you seek to make a reasonable criticism of something or if you wish to understand how relatively well or badly something is performing, then you need to have a standard of comparison. You can say “the Scotsman is rubbish”, but if you’re not comparing it with anything then that statement is pretty meaningless. However if you were to say “The Scotsman’s website makes a potato print collage produced by a five year old look systematic and organised”, then you’ve got a baseline of comparison.

It’s a fundamental rule in science that you compare like with like, so the Scotsman newspaper with the print products of a five year old for example. As far as NHS Scotland is concerned, we have no less than three remarkably similar systems with which it can be reasonably compared, and those are the NHS’s of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The NHS is each of the countries of the UK is administered independently, but each performs the same tasks, and each was set up in the same way. Differences in performance between then are for the most part due to differences in policy and funding decided by the administrations in charge of the respective health services.

Most often when NHS Scotland comes under attack, those doing the attacking are representatives of the Conservative or Labour parties. That’s why it’s even more relevant and valid to compare the performance of NHS Scotland with the performance of NHS England and NHS Wales, because the NHS in England is controlled by a Conservative administration, and the NHS in Wales is controlled by a Labour administration. Scottish Tory attacks on the performance of NHS Scotland might have a tad more validity and heft if NHS England was itself in the best of health. Instead, as the health of health services go, it’s like a 40 a day overweight smoker with diabetes and a raging alcohol problem. So very much like your stereotypical newspaper journalist then.

On Wednesday, BBC Scotland reported that Scottish A&E departments failed to meet the target of 95% of patients being seen within 4 hours.  The figures for the week ending 24 December were 83.3%. However over the same period, attendance in A&E departments was up 20% compared to the previous year, so really what was happening was that staff in Scottish A&E departments were dealing with a much heavier workload, but without standards slipping by the same amount that the workload increased. The rise in attendance was believed to be due to an increase in the number of patients with flu and respiratory conditions combined with dreadful weather. The headline A&Es fail to meet waiting time target for December gave no indication that A&E departments were coping with considerably more patients, because you know, SNPBad. Neither did the article point out the shocking state of Tory run A&E services in England.

The NHS in England is failing and is in a serious crisis. On the day that Lesley published her article, a rare beacon of light and common sense in the Scotsman, a consultant in emergency medicine tweeted that patients attending A&E departments in the English city of Stoke were facing “third world conditions”. According to the Guardian, in some English hospitals, some patients are having to wait as long as 12 hours in A&E. Outpatient appointments are being cancelled, and non-urgent surgery has been cancelled until the end of the month. On Wednesday, the Conservative Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who has the final responsibility for the running of the NHS in England, was forced to apologise for cancelled operations and lengthy waiting times. Scotland’s NHS may have its issues, but it’s nothing like as bad as the mess that the Tories have made of running the NHS in England with their ideologically driven attempts to “marketise” health provison.

Meanwhile the Labour run NHS in Wales consistently performs the poorest in the UK on several metrics. Labour has no leg to stand on either, not least because you’ll be waiting much longer for a knee replacement in Wales than you would in Scotland.

The news agenda in Scotland is generally driven by the news agenda in England where the “national” press is based. When the NHS in England is under the media spotlight, the Scottish media doesn’t want to be left out. On the one hand they want their news agenda to be driven by events in England, but on the other they don’t want to make comparisons with England when Scotland comes out more favourably. The Conservatives and Labour in Scotland continue to criticise NHS Scotland and their criticisms occupy pages in the British nationalist media in Scotland without them ever being called to account for the lamentable way the Conservatives and Labour run an NHS service when they are the ones with the power. The British nationalist media publishes their attacks uncritically, without ever examining how those making the criticisms actually perform themselves where their own parties are the ones who have power and authority in delivering health services. It’s like giving Harold Shipman free rein to complain about how unethical the assisted suicide services of Dignitas really are, without pointing out his own ethical shortcomings.

That’s why.

Update 6.20 pm

I’m just off the phone to my mother. She injured her thumb the other day and it’s been bothering her, so today she took herself off to the Minor Injuries Unit at Stobhill Hospital in Glasgow dreading the lengthy wait and chaos that the newspapers had warned her she was in for. She arrived at 11.05 am, was seen and attended to within 10 minutes by some very friendly, helpful, and professional staff, and was back home again by 12.20, well in time for lunch.  Elderly woman goes to hospital and gets treated within 10 minutes doesn’t fit the narrative. The great majority of times that NHS Scotland performs well never gets reported.  At least this time there’s the chance to point out that it’s not all bad.


weegingerdug.scot

The Wee Ginger Dug has got a new domain name, thanks to Indy Poster Boy, Colin Dunn @Zarkwan. http://www.indyposterboy.scot/ You can now access this blog simply by typing www.weegingerdug.scot into the address bar of your browser, the old address continues to function, the new one redirects to the blog. The advantage of the new address is that it’s a lot easier to remember if you want to include a link to the blog in leaflets, posters, or simply to tell a friend about it. Many thanks to Colin.


gingercartoonWee Ginger Donations & Speaking engagements

You can help to support this blog with a Paypal donation. Just click the donate button.
Donate Button

Or you can donate by making a payment directly into a special bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com and I will send the necessary information. Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.

Many thanks.