Sad face, happy face

Do you want your state pension to be privatised?  Because that’s what may happen if Scotland stays a part of the UK.  The Guardian has reported that Iain Duncan Smith is considering privatisation of pension delivery.

Mind you, younger people will have to wait until they’re 70, although at the rate the Tories are going by the time today’s 20 somethings reach 70 the pension age will be 95 and they’ll have to pass a written test and submit to an ATOS medical before being allowed to claim it.

My granny got to an advanced age, dying just a few weeks short of her 100th birthday.  She wasn’t a cuddly granny who gave out sweeties and whose eyes lit up when she saw you – that was my other granny who sadly died young.  As the saying goes, only the good die young, and my surviving granny was the living proof.   She was a cold hard woman who had a tough life in the school of hard knocks and compensated by knocking those around her.  She had to learn to be that way in order to survive.  She never liked me much, and the feeling was mutual.

While I respect her for surviving, and for bringing up my dad, visits from my gran were episodes of bile and unpleasantness.   If Scotland remains a part of the UK there will be many more Scottish grannies and grandfathers like her, beaten and defeated, destroyed and embittered by resentment about what could have been.  What makes it even more tragic is that so many won’t even get to her advanced age.  They’ll die young from diseases of poverty, stress and self-medication on alcohol or drugs.  Old and bitter, or a young deid alkie, that’s the future in store for many of us.

No answers are given by the Westminster political classes, whether Tory or Labour.  Instead we hear threats and frights, lies and deception, all dressed up in the bunting of patriotism and appeals to tradition.  It’s the pageantry of poverty and the tradition of social exclusion, a glorious history of unemployment and cannon fodder.

Project Fear is trying to make us afraid of things that won’t happen in order to hide the scary things that are happening right now.  So we get endless waffle about the currency, scares about EU membership.  But for all the gory presentation, it’s just a mess of tripe.

I’m fed up with the currency talk.  I’m sick of EU contortions.  Scotland and the rest of the UK will agree to a currency union, the EU will admit Scotland as a full member as quickly as possible.  Those are the grown up realities.  The issues are red herrings to distract us from considering what’s really going on here and now.

September’s vote is not a vote about hypotheticals.  It’s a vote of confidence in the very real actions and deeds of the Parliament we’ve got right now – Westminster.  The question is simple – is Westminster fit for purpose?

The first time I left the UK I was 17.  I visited the Netherlands and on my first day there I spent an afternoon wandering around Rotterdam, thinking how pleasant and clean it was.  I got chatting to a guy in a park, and as he left he gave me a friendly warning “Be careful, this is a rough area.”

And that’s when it struck me, this clean and pleasant district was a “rough area”.  The grime and decay of Shettleston Road in 1980 wasn’t normal, the beaten down and defeated people like my granny who trundled along to the Co-op eking out their pennies on a pint of milk and a loaf of bread were being cheated and deceived.  That’s when I knew Scotland needed independence.

34 years later and Shettleston Road is still grimy and decaying.  The Co-op is still full of beaten down and defeated people stretching their meagre pensions on special offers on baked beans so they’ll have enough coins left over to feed the electric meter for an hour or two.  And this in a country that ought to rank amongst the richest nations in the world.

This is the reality of modern Britain.  It’s a country that’s breeding another generation of disappointed hopes and shattered dreams.  It’s the country of my grandmother.  I don’t want it to be the country of my grandchildren.  But the Tories are hell-bent on destroying the last vestiges of social protection and selling off what remains of state assets.  Labour is content to allow them to do the dirty work, but despite their hand-wringing they do nothing to rebuild Conservative destruction.  They promise the same austerity, just with a sad emoticon. 😦

That’s the only difference between the UK’s two major parties.  Labour and the Tories are the sad and happy faced mask on the outside of the UK theatre.  But apart from the smile or the grimace the faces are identical, and the play is is a tragedy.

We need a new theatre, a new play, and new players.  We need a happy ending.  We’ll only get that by voting yes.

19 comments on “Sad face, happy face

  1. But even more distressing is that a lot of those beaten down people will be voting No having been persuaded that a Yes vote is a step into the unknown whereas a No vote is a thumbs up for familiar (if uncomfortable) poverty.

    “And isn’t the Queen wonderful? She has a lot to put up with and works so hard!”

  2. In my opinion for what it is worth is that in the next term of office the government in Westminster will means test the state pension. If you have a private pension your state pension will be reduced. That is why they are encouraging everybody to take out a private pension

  3. liz says:

    I too recognise that granny as I had one.
    As Andrew Morton says however a lot of these will vote No.
    I don’t know how we change it but if a Yes is carried, there will be improvement.

    Some folk are going to be astonished when the scales fall from their eyes.

  4. JGedd says:

    I always visit your site and always agree with everything you say and the way you say it. So, i thought it was about time I told you – well done you! Just keep going.

  5. Fantastically put, Paul. My Dad died at 62, my Ma at 69, years before they should have.
    We really should be capable of better than this in Scotland.
    I hope I get back in good time to cast my vote.
    A big, fat YES is what it’s going to be.
    I had a similar experience to you in the Netherlands just eight years ago and also in Germany.
    Even in the former DDR bits I visited I never saw squalor like exists here.
    Even then I could see that what was on offer in the UK for ordinary people just wasn’t good enough. In the UK I see mediocrity all around and it seems that people here are either terminally apathetic or they are so hardened to it that they no longer notice it.
    A Yes vote will give is the tools to bring hope to people and return them a sense of civic pride too.
    Let’s end this saga of squalor, misery and hopelessness on September 18. This shame must end in 2014!

  6. colin young says:

    I check this link every day now, love it..
    I have memories of Shettleston as a child at my grans house in academy st who would have voted no if she were alive.
    I am voting yes.

  7. yerkitbreeks says:

    What thinkest thee, Weegie Dug, of the effect of the nasty flooding and other damage to parts outside the SE of England ? Methinks this may alienate otherwise timid bits of Middle England and in turn perhaps suggest to Scots they are not the only ones distanced by the “Elite” ?

    • weegingerdug says:

      I have a horrible feeling that it will only increase the vote for UKIP in the English shires in the European elections in May. That will probably motivate more Scots to vote yes in September, but I wouldn’t wish Nigel Farage on anyone.

  8. wee e says:

    Just wanted to say, I also check your site daily. I really like the way you see your (and our) personal experience intersecting with the big themes of national life. And there’s a warmth to your writing that can be rare in the current climate of debate!

  9. yerkitbreeks says:

    Agree with both your conclusions

  10. Eilean says:

    I never knew any of my grandparents. My Mum died when I was eleven and my Dad ten years later.

    I am now sixty and I know this referendum will be my last chance at a bite of the cherry. Then all I have to do is live long enough to see the benefits.

    It is probably something to do with “a good Scots Presbyterian upbringing” but I do so much want to leave the place in a better state than I found it.

    I just re-read the above. Cheerie bugger or what!🙂

    • Morag says:

      You know what? I’m 60 too, and although I’m going all out for a Yes in September, if by some malign chance we don’t make it, I’m not going into permanent hibernation muttering “it’ll never happen in my lifetime.”

  11. yerkitbreeks says:

    Eilean – but so many of us are exactly like you. Pity nobody will recognise one another when we celebrate on the 19th September !

  12. Macart says:

    “September’s vote is not a vote about hypotheticals. It’s a vote of confidence in the very real actions and deeds of the Parliament we’ve got right now – Westminster. The question is simple – is Westminster fit for purpose?”

    THIS, with nobs on.

    Who do you trust to administer governance in your best interests?

    Westminster or Holyrood?

    This really isn’t a confusing or complex decision. There is no issue about currency or the EU at present and in the future who knows, certainly not a Westminster government hell bent on chucking the EU and devaluing currency through QE.

    The question is simple and its about trust, its about hope or despair, Its about principle.

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