Back to the future with Marty Kettle

The Guardian’s Martin Kettle has been making use of his steam powered time machine Delorean to voyage into the future and look back at the independence referendum from the vantage point of 2024, using a route planner that Nick Clegg sketched on the back of a Lib Dem election pledge. Marty was hoping that this would help him find the plot that he lost when the referendum was announced, as previous attempts to locate it had depended on using the same dowsing rod that Iain Gray had employed when he was searching for a Labour majority in the 2011 Scottish elections.

Marty’s time machine tells him that the independence referendum is all a dreadful waste of time, and for some inexplicable reason that Scottish independence is going to spark off a civil war in Ireland – possibly because Gerry Adams will be outraged that he can no longer watch River City on the BBC.

The article was allegedly intended as a light hearted humorous look at a subject which Marty finds both deeply unfunny and intensely perplexing. These articles exist solely in order to give Unionists the opportunity to tsk that independence supporters have no sense of humour, because making jokes about bomb blasts in Belfast is just a bit of fun when Westminster supporters do it. If a Yes supporter was to do the same, it would be evidence of the atavistic nationalism that Marty only espouses when it’s called British. Because then it doesn’t count as nationalism.

Like most UK media commentators whose umbilical cords are firmly attached to the belly of the Westminster beast, Marty can’t conceptualise political debates which take place in areas where Jim Murphy’s bus tour can’t reach. So instead he prefers to blame it on atavistic English hating nationalism, a concept which he can get his head around better than the shocking truth that as far as Scotland is concerned Marty and his opinions are about as informed and informative as a Glesca bus timetable during the Commonwealth Games. That’s his real difficulty – he’s faced with a political discourse in which he is irrelevant, so at least you’d think he’d now appreciate what Scotland has experienced in UK politics for the past 40 years. Sadly not.

Marty’s a fully paid up member of George Robertson’s Cataclysm Club, and his wee prediction checked all the Unionist dire consequence tick boxes with the exception of the plagues of frogs and locusts, and the invasion of lizard aliens from outer space. Which is a bummer because I was quite looking forward to the lizard aliens, they’re far more fashionable than the genocidal robots from the Andromeda Galaxy who’re set to take over an independent Catalonia.

According to Marty, 2014 is the “last golden summer of the UK”. So enjoy those ATOS disability interviews and Danny Alexander admitting he was wrong about the Bedroom Tax while it all lasts then. But the only gold in the UK these days is creamed off by bankers in bonuses, the rest of us are left with the radioactive heavy metals that are the decay products of a Trident warhead and a media without a clue.

About the only thing Marty wrote that wasn’t utterly risible was his premise that Yes will win in September. We’ve come a long way from 2011, when the Unionist parties were claiming that an 80% majority was in the bag and Scottish nationalism would be killed stone dead – again. However at last the penny is beginning to drop that Scotland can no longer be taken for granted. We’re being noticed and told we’re loved by people who never noticed us before. They’re still praying for a No vote so they can get back to ignoring us. Little people aren’t qualified to decide what’s best for themselves. Only people who ignore little people can do that.

Marty and the rest of the UK media are never going to understand the independence debate, because understanding it would mean grasping a true appreciation of the bankruptcy of the political system that they have hitched themselves to. And they have no idea how it should be fixed. They don’t want to fix it. It already works just fine – at least for the only people who count. That would be those who are in it, and people like Marty whose careers depend on reporting them and presenting their views to the rest of us.

Scottish independence is about recognising that the Westminster system of politics is irretrievably knackered. It is not capable of reforming itself. No further evidence is needed than the continuing existence of an unelected second chamber. When it was enjoying its record breaking three consecutive majority governments, Labour abolished the right of heriditary peers – or at least most of them – to sit in the Lords and influence our legislation, but they replaced it with the only system that could be worse. Instead of the lottery of aristrocratic birth, peers are now entirely appointed by politicians who increased the power of their own patronage.

The result is that UK politicians are the least accountable in any democracy. To cite my favourite example of odiousness, during the 1997 General Election Michael Forsyth led the Tory party in Scotland to a wipeout at the polls. Politicians like to tell us that they must listen to the message sent to them by the voters, and in 1997 Scotland sent Michael Forsyth a message. We told him that we didn’t want him, we didn’t want his policies, and we didn’t want his party. Every single Scottish Conservative MP lost their seat, and the party has apparently abandoned any hope of ever recovering. Short of sending him to the bottom of a coalmine in Sverdlovsk, this is the strongest message an electorate can send to a politician in a democratic system. And the message was “Away you tae fuck.” But what happened? Mikey got a seat in the Lords and he’s still casting his baleful influence over our legislation and our lives.

But lack of accountability also means that political manifestos have become even less fact based than the proverbial Glesca bus timetable during the Commonwealth Games. They mean little or nothing. So we get a series of political parties making promises they have little intention of keeping, and there’s nothing we can do about it. Vote one lot out and the next lot will take over and do exactly the same. The only difference is the PR. The Magic Roundabout of Westminster, it’s the only ride in the Magic Kingdom amusement park where the little people aren’t admitted. We press our noses against the fence while Marty drops nuggets of wisdom for us to digest gracefully.

The independence debate has upturned the old certainties. Now it’s Marty who’s pressing his nose against the fence, complaining that a debate is taking place that he’s not a part of. The single biggest prize we can achieve with independence is a written constitution that spells out the checks and balances required to keep our politicians accountable, and which will put a spanner in the works of the Magic Roundabout.

And then perhaps we might even achieve a media which understands the country it’s reporting on. But it won’t be one involving Marty.



Unchaining the heart

There’s a common Unionist argument, most often espoused by those who fondly believe they’re supporting a progressive politics, that Scotland is not any more left wing than the rest of the UK. We’ve even got our very own Jibberjabber the Hutt, UKIP MEP for not doing anything at all except mouthing off, so we are clearly borderline fascists. It is peculiar that these self-described progressives appear to take a certain pride in the fact that Scotland has an elected UKIP politician, but that’s really a matter for those progressives and their therapist.

Even with independence, we are told, Scotland will still be run for the benefit of the rich and the well-connected. “They” will still be in charge. It will be every bit as shite living in a country run for the benefit of the bosses in the financial sector in Edinburgh as in a country run for the benefit of the bosses in the financial sector in London.

So vote No, and let’s just sit here in the shite and not bother trying to get out of it. It’s Great British Shite that you can rely on, it’s certain shite, not like the hypothetical shite of the nationalists. And at least we will have working class people in Liverpool and Newcastle as company in our misery, and then we can all have a jolly working class time of it being salt of the British earth types even though there’s a terrible smell. There may be some rocks we can all go and crawl under, but be quick, they’ll be privatised soon. There is no alternative, there is no escape. It’s solidarity as a suicide pact.

At its core, this argument wants us to believe that there is a better chance of a UK government espousing and implementing a set of progressive political policies than there is of a Scottish government doing so. And by progressive I mean genuinely left wing as opposed to the Labour leadership’s definition of “progressive”. Labour’s definition of progressive is “whatever happens to be Labour policy this week and assists in the progress of a Labour MP’s career”. Or in the case of Johann Lamont, “wanting to have a debate about whatever policy Labour would perhaps like to introduce at some point in the future after a newly appointed commission has reported back, if that’s alright with Eds Miliband and Balls”.

So we are invited to reject an independent Scotland because it might possibly be shite in order to remain with the certainty of UK shite. It’s not exactly the strongest argument in the No Thanks Little Red White and Blue Book of reasons not to be cheerful. The fact it’s trotted out at all, and with mind numbing regularity in the comments section of the more, ahem, liberal periodicals, is because the rest of their arguments are pretty crappy too.

And that’s the big flaw in this Unionist argument. What happens in an independent Scotland is as yet hypothetical, but we can actually see how the UK parties act.

Over large swathes of Scotland, the Conservatives effectively ceased to exist in the 1980s and 90s. Labour was the Westminster party supposedly capable of mobilising the populace to campaign for the Union. The referendum campaign has left Labour exposed and naked, its progressive union jack knickers have snapped their elastic and flap around their ankles.

The British Labour party began life as the political organisation of a grassroots labour and trades union movement, it was the Parliamentary manifestation of hopes and dreams of a better life. It was the head of a socialist heart. That’s why Labour still proudly claims to be the People’s Party. But over the years the Parliamentary party took over the movement, and the head began to direct the heart. Now British Labour has become the Party of Managing the People’s Expectations. It’s an instrument of rule, and no longer a grassroots movement. It’s a party which is prepared to accept unemployment and benefits cuts in order to brown nose the financial sector of the City of London. The certainty of shite, that’s the UK’s political and economic system – jobbieness and joblessness.

Labour is no longer the People’s Party, it no longer expresses the heart. Labour sold its soul and disconnected itself from the beating heart of hope. 18 years of Tory rule was followed by 13 years of Labour majorities, and nothing much changed as Tony Blair smiled his dead eyed smile. The heart was sold off in privatisations, blown apart in illegal wars, bled dry by troughers and politicians whose main concern is securing themselves a profitable portfolio of directorships and a made up pretendy title in the Lords.

For years the heart was quiet and muffled, pulsing slowly despite the weight of cynicism and alienation that threatened to crush all life and hope. The heart was imprisoned in PFI contracts, tied up in an ATOS interview. The heart was a small voice lost beneath the bluster of the politicians justifying war in Iraq. The heart marched in protests that went ignored. The heart was a flash of sunlight glimpsed beyond the grey clouds of crushed expectations. But the heart still beat, in late night conversations, in plans put on hold, in dreams unrealised.

But then the referendum happened, and the heart discovered a connection to a new artery of aspiration. Cautiously, tentatively, the blood vessels flush out the old cynicism, they clear the fatty blockages of careerists and miserabilists. There is no guarantee of success, there is no cast iron certainty – but hope is in movement again. There is a place to go, and it’s a space we can make for ourselves. Hope is alive again.

The heart beat is getting louder, it grows stronger every day. You hear it in the conversation between two women on the bus who wonder whether independence means their grandchildren can stay in Scotland. You feel it in the hope that fills the air of the public meeting. You see it in the Yes signs that sprout on windows like bluebells after the long cold winter. Hope will triumph over cynicism. The multicoloured diversity of yes will defeat the bleak grey monochrome of miserabilism.

Can you feel the heartbeat, can you feel the hope? The heart is pulsing to the beat of a different drum, a Scottish bodhran beating a new tune. There is another way, it sings. It’s the song that choruses a tune of accountability, of keeping politicians close by so their arses are within reach of our feet. It’s a reel that tells of a written constitution that spells out the rules for one and all and reels in those who seek only their own profit. It’s the Scottish air that sets the air free.  No one knows how the song ends – but it’s a song we write for ourselves.  And we will write our own destiny.

Scotland’s heart is unchained. It can’t be chained again.


The crumbling wall

Many years ago when I was a student, I taught English in Finland for the summer. I travelled there by train via the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and Sweden, taking advantage of the student Eurorail ticket. Backpackertastic. For about £100 you had the freedom of European trains for the whole summer, or at least you had the freedom of the western European rail network – most of Eastern Europe was still cut off behind the Iron Curtain and travelling there required visas in advance.

On the way home from Finland I had the opportunity to travel to Berlin, but didn’t go. Instead, being 18 and daft and hormonal, I went to Amsterdam for men and drugs. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a whale of a time. I must have done, because memories of that trip are hazy and patchy. But I never made it to Berlin to see the Berlin Wall and to witness a city divided in two by opposing ideologies. It will still be there next year, I told myself. Berlin had been divided all my life. Geopolitics could wait. There was debauchery to be had.

Back in the 1980s Europe was divided into two. The Berlin Wall with its concrete barrier, the 100 metre wide death strip, the barbed wire and the few heavily controlled checkpoints was a symbol of that division. It was going to be there forever. But in the space of a few short years at the end of the 80s, the Communist bloc of Eastern Europe collapsed, the Wall came down, and the Soviet Union dissolved into its constituent republics. The Wall is gone, and its passing is not mourned. But back in 1981 no one expected that the Wall would be consigned to history before the end of the decade and that Europe would change irrevocably.

Another Berlin Wall came down in the 1990s. Social attitudes towards gay people underwent a rapid shift. The barriers of homophobia collapsed. Homosexuality was illegal in Scotland until 1981 – although there was an unwritten rule that no prosecutions would be brought in Scotland for acts which were legal in England and Wales where homosexuality had been decriminalised in 1967. But by the 1990s public opinion had undergone a sea change. Today, although homophobia lingers, it no longer has the backing of law or widespread social support. Public attitudes have changed irrevocably. Back in 1981 I never thought that would ever happen.

Westminster is not the Warsaw Pact, it is not institutionalised homophobia, but like both it was until recently seen as a permanent fixture. Unchanging, unaltered, it ruled our lives from birth, it determined the choices that we could make, and would continue to do so long after each of us have gone the way of the Wall. At least, so we thought, before the referendum campaign. Irrespective of how the vote goes in September, Westminster rule is no longer seen as unchanging and unchangeable. The old certainties are dead and will not be mourned. Scotland has changed irrevocably.

While on my European train trips all those years ago, I was reading a book called The Shape of Futures Past by Chris Morgan. The book looked at past predictions of the future, and compared them with the reality of the 1980s. It was an examination of literary and scientific futures – the future as depicted in fiction, or the predictions of think tanks and scientific organisations, not the futures predicted by fortune tellers or Tarot card readers.

The most striking thing about these predictions was not how amusingly inaccurate they were – illustrated with quaint drawings of traffic jams of biplanes in the skies above London – it was what they got wrong. None of them predicted the rapid social changes in attitude and outlook that would occur during the 20th century. The city gent stuck in his private biplane was on his way home to a little woman making his dinner in a kitchen filled with gadgetry. Everyone was white and middle class, the men wore suits and the women frocks. No one predicted the rise of feminism, the success of anti-racism, or the annihilation of homophobia as a “respectable prejudice”. And doubtless none of them would have predicted that Scotland would regain her confidence and would chap on the door of independence.

Alistair Carmichael didn’t see it coming. He is currently stuck in a biplane in a Westminster traffic jam, trapped in a past future that will not come to pass, as the realisation dawns on him that the little Scottish wummin might not be at home to make his tea. She’s out campaigning for independence. Alistair thinks that the reason so many in Scotland support a vote for Yes is because Westminster has been hollowed out in Scotland by “nationalists”. But Alistair is living in a fantasy as unrealistic as the steam powered spaceships of Victorian science fiction authors.

Alistair got part of his diagnosis correct. Westminster rule has indeed been hollowed out in Scotland, but it hasn’t been hollowed out by the “nationalists”. Westminster did it to itself when it embarked on the privatisation of the nationalised companies and institutions that maintained a sense of Britishness. British Coal, British Rail, British Steel and the rest – they’ve all gone the way of the Berlin Wall. The safety net of the Welfare State now has more holes than net. The proud boast of the British state that it provided care for citizens from the cradle to the grave has become a bitter pill on the half-empty shelves of a foodbank.

Westminster has a plan for the future that’s already out of date. Their solution is to tweak devolution, to make more of a show of British presence in its northern province. More bunting and parades, more benefits cuts for the poor and tax breaks for the rich. And there will be attempts to ensure that Scotland can never again scare the bejeezus out of Westminster like we’re scaring them right now. Nick Clegg is calling for the UK government’s role to be “enhanced” in Scotland – forgetting that it was an unchecked UK government that Scotland didn’t vote for which produced the demand for devolution in the first place, and which is fuelling the independence debate now.

No one can predict the future accurately. So it becomes a question of faith and of trust. Do you trust Alistair and his pals to represent your best interests? Do you have faith that Alistair and his pals know what your best interests are? Look at the hollowed out rule of Westminster, and you’ll know what the answer is.

Another brick crumbles and the Westminster Wall weakens a little more.  It will fall by September.


No bad

Despite claims from the Naw camp that it’s in the bag for the Union, I’m not thinking about what I’ll do with myself if there’s a No vote. In no small part because it’s not in the bag for the Union at all – for reasons which were explained in yesterday’s blog post.

I don’t believe it’s in the bag for Yes either, which is not a bad thing – the worst thing any campaigner can do just now is to take a result for granted. But the Yes campaign is only just getting into gear. We haven’t really started yet. It’s all going to come down to the final straight, and that’s where Yes has the people on the ground.

The more senior members of the No campaign don’t believe they can take a No for granted either – they just want the rest of us to think that. It’s a tactic aimed at preventing a late surge for Yes like the late surge in support for the SNP which swept them to an absolute majority in the Scottish elections of 2011. By shouting from the rooftops of Pacific Quay that the Yes campaign has already lost, they seek to deter undecideds and weak No’s from moving over to a Yes vote and to pre-empt the Yes campaign’s grassroots strength.

From its launch the No campaign was founded in projection. One of the key components of negative campaigning is to accuse your opponents of your own sins. The instances of that from the No campaign are too numerous to detail. Their claim that the vote is already in the bag is another example. It’s an expression of their fear that Yes has already won. Because even though not a single vote has yet been cast, the No campaign has already lost in just about every other respect. They’ve lost any residual respect that Scotland had for Westminster. They’ve lost the power to mobilise – that must be a bitter pill for Labour, the self-described people’s party, to swallow. Labour called a campaign and the people didn’t come. Just look at the disparity between the enormous grassroots movement of the Yes campaign, an organic sprouting of enthusiasm, of positivity, of hope, and the studio and newspaper column campaign of No. Increasingly the No campaign is only talking to itself about a Scotland that no longer exists or never existed. The audience isn’t listening, they’re either cynical and disengaged, or engaging with the ideas of Yes.

Irrespective of how the vote in September goes, the Union is already dead. The independence campaign has forced Westminster to reveal just how they really view Scotland, the UK’s recalcitrant northern province. We’re a land which they don’t want to become foreign, but with every statement they make they reveal that Scotland is already foreign to them and always has been. The Scottish view of the Union – an equal partnership of kingdoms – is not Westminster’s view. Scotland compares itself with Denmark or Finland, other small northern European countries. Westminster compares Scotland with Yorkshire. Scotland’s view is a foreign view, one to be slapped down, patronised and dismissed.

Scotland has watched and learned. What we’ve learned will not be unlearned.

We’re told to be proud that a Parliament has the almighty arrogance to abrogate to itself the right to determine our personal identities. We’ve learned we should be proud that one of the world’s richest countries cannot ensure its citizens have the means to feed themselves, to heat their homes, or to work for a dignified wage. We are asked to be proud of foodbanks defended by nuclear missiles. We have the best zero hours contracts and should take pride in benefits sanctions which punch above their weight. We’re asked to be proud of a country with structural inequalities, a widening chasm between the rich and poor, and to be proud of the fact we have no means to remedy the situation but to throw ourselves upon the mercy of the farsighted political masters who have brought this sorry state about.

We’ve learned that the Unionist ProudScots™ are proud of a regional identity. For them Scottishness can only flourish when it is subordinate to a British identity. So they keep making a point of telling us how proud and patriotic they are. They’re proud of a shrivelled Scottish fruit on a sickly British tree, the ethnic kail in a Great British vegetable patch overrun by slugs. Proud Scots suffer the pride of over-compensation, the pride of the emotionally insecure. But when you’re secure in your identity you don’t need to tell people how proud you are of it. You just live it instead. When you act on your identity, there is no need to proclaim it because it’s self-evident.

Affirmations of identity are the obituary notices of the living, they’re monuments to an identity that is not lived except in the imagination. Rory the Tory (who’s Scottish you know) is building a big chambered cairn on the border as an affirmation of Scottishness as Britishness. A chambered cairn is a Neolithic grave, so he’s building a tomb as a monument to ProudScot identity in the Union. It’s more appropriate than Rory ever realised.

I’m not proud to be Scottish any more than I am proud to be left handed, or proud to be gay, or proud to be Glaswegian. I just am all those things and I act accordingly. The Proud Scots TM of the No campaign miss the identity point. When you are secure and confident in your identity your identity does not define you – you define your identity. And you define it by your deeds and your choices and how you live your life. Scottishness is what we make it, not what we are told it has to be. Identity is a living thing, not a faded photo of an ancestor in tartan. So let’s live Scottishness, not commemorate or celebrate it in a stone age grave.

I want to live Scottishness by helping to build a country which is inclusive and diverse, where politicians are held to account under a written constitution. I want to live Scottishness by having the choice to vote for a Scottish Labour party that is actually a Scottish Labour party. I want to live Scottishness by helping to build a country which can provide a dignified life for all its citizens.  I want to live Scottishness with a political system that takes equality, justice and fairness as its starting point.  I want to live Scottishness by getting rid of the obscenity of nuclear weapons of mass destruction. I want to live Scottishness with a media which truly reflects the diversity of opinions and views and experiences in this country. I want to live a Scottishness that does no harm.

I don’t want to be a Proud Scot, I want to live in a land where I can say “Scotland? It’s no bad.”



Windae polls and weegie-weighting

It’s been a hectic day. The other half is still in hospital. Today the nurse on the rehab ward phoned to say his health has taken a bit of a turn for the worse, and he’s been moved back to the acute ward in the Royal. We’re still waiting for the test results, hopefully it’s just a wee infection and isn’t too serious, but it’s put back the likely date that he’ll be back home. Which is a bummer. But after visiting him I felt a bit better. He’s comfortable, and resting.

My parents decided to take advantage of the sunny weather to have a family barbecue. So naturally it rained. They say you can choose your friends, but not your family. Which is only partially true. You can choose not to talk to certain family members, which is how me and my gran quite successfully arranged things until she popped her clogs a few years ago. We cordially loathed one another. Guess who I got the bitch gene from eh? However these days we are all, more or less, on speaking terms with one another, so a sizeable chunk of my extended family got together for burnt sausages and half cooked chicken in the rain.

The dug and me were only there a wee while before I left to visit the hospital, but it was enough time to speak with my maw and collate a wee poll of family referendum voting intentions. It’s not like it’s a representative sample or anything, but it was interesting to work out how many of us are likely to vote Yes. Few of us are SNP supporters, we’re overwhelmingly Labour voters, although we also tend to despair of the current incarnation of Labour. In terms of occupation and income we have a wide spread, and in terms of religion we split like most Glasgow families these days – a minority which is Catholic, a minority which is Protestant, and a majority which couldn’t care less. We even cross the great team divide, and include both Celtic and Rangers fans amongst our number. And a Clyde fan, but he keeps quiet about that.

Like a lot of Yes voters, I worry that I live in a wee bubble of Yesness, so the fact that a large majority of my friends are Yes supporters I tend to put down to a form of confirmation bias – you tend make friends with people who you agree with – you can’t say the same with family. I’m only counting friends I made outwith the Yes campaign for the purposes of gauging my friends’ responses to the independence campaign. I’ve made a lot of new friends as a result of this campaign, but of course they’re Yes voters already. But even so, you still ask yourself whether the fact you seem to have so many Yes supporting friends is a sort of self-selecting thing.

I did a wee poll of my other half’s care assistants. Not yer actual poll, but they’re all very friendly and chatty women, and of course the referendum comes up in conversation. It’s not like I’ve been pumping them for information or anything. They’re all working class, and hard working, women from the East End of Glasgow – and out of his regular care assistants, only one was a No (she’s on a different shift now, so we don’t see her). All the rest, the six whose intentions I know, are strongly Yes. So much for women being reluctant Yes voters. But then you wonder if perhaps it’s maybe a demographic thing, or maybe you’ve just by chance got the six Yes supporting care workers.

It’s interesting that it’s Yes supporters who seem most prone to confirmation bias, or being accused of confirmation bias. You’d think it ought to be the other way about. It should be No supporters. They’re the ones who have the media backing, which makes them think there’s a whole lot more Nawness going on than there really is. But it’s the fact that the media is almost uniformly opposed to independence that makes Yes supporters doubt the evidence of their own eyes and ears.

So back to the great family referendum vote. Not counting the weans who are too young to vote, the results from my extended family who were present today are: 7 definitely or probably No; 4 won’t say or don’t know; and … drumroll … 18 Yes or leaning strongly to Yes. Which gives 62.0% Yes, 24.1% No, don’t know or won’t say 13.8%.

Because this is my family and I know them better than YouGov, we can apply our own Weegieweighting to the don’t knows and won’t says. One of them is almost certain to vote Yes – according to my maw – but he’s not talking to me about it because we always fall out about politics. Another won’t say is probably going to vote No but doesn’t want to discuss it because she knows that she’ll be out-argued. The aunt with Alzheimers will most likely forget to vote, and my Yes voting uncle said if he thinks she’s going to vote No he won’t remind her. We have no idea about the final niece because she wasn’t there today and neither my maw or me have seen her for a few months. That gives us 19 Yes and 8 No and we’ll ignore the other two. So that’s 70.4% Yes, 29.6% No. Everyone plans to vote, except the aunt with Alzheimers who keeps having to be reminded that there’s going to be a vote.

All the relatives in England are in favour of Yes. They’ve not been included in the figures because they don’t get a vote. And so are all the actual English people my family members have married and the English kids we’ve produced. Our English relatives don’t seem to notice much in the way of anti-English racism. Not even the really posh one who teaches in a posh private school.

Have you been noticing more Yes signs in windows and on cars recently? Or is it just me? I walk the dug to the hospital where the other half is, or was until today. Over the past week I’ve noticed a new Yes poster just about every day. On the way home on the bus from the Royal Infirmary this evening, I spotted 6 houses along Alexandra Parade and the beginning of Cumbernauld Road with Yes signs in their windows – and I was only looking out one side of the bus. I’ve added my windows to the total. There are already a couple of others in local streets. I’m also seeing more and more cars with Yes stickers.

There’s not a single No sign anywhere, despite the fact that the Labour party recently dropped off a pile of Labour’s own No Thanks papers which had a cut out No Thanks on the back cover with an invititation to stick it in your window. Not a single person has taken up the offer. The only No posters I’ve seen – apart from the commercial advertising – are the wee Naw stickers that appeared on all the lampposts along Alexandra Parade after the Orange Walk.

So screw the opinion polls. Weegie polling tells me there’s going to be a Yes.



A dia da Patria – Galiza says YES to Scotland


Gathering in central Santiago de Compostela to celebrate O Dia Da Patria (the Galician national day), many Galicians wanted to express their support for a Yes vote in September and an independent Scotland. Solidarity with Scotland had a big presence at the celebrations, the Scottish representation was organised by Pilar Fernandez and her Scots husband Douglas. There was a visit from the SNP’s Tasmina Ahmed Sheikh, pictured on the right in the above photo.  And here is a gaiteiro, a Galician bagpiper, playing Scotland the Brave on the Galician gaitas.

Here is a selection of other photos from today’s events – more will appear shortly on the website of Solidarity with Scotland.  (Click on the photos to see the full sized image.)


Smoke and mirrors

Scottish colours are political, British colours in the exact same context are not political, it’s official – or more accurately, officious. The private company organising the opening ceremony had planned that when the Red Arrows did their flyover, they should trail blue and white smoke – the colours of the Scottish saltire – seeing as how the Commonwealth Games are being held in Scotland. Despite the best efforts of a very shouty Gordon Matheson to assert otherwise, Glasgow is most definitely a Scottish city. I’m sure I’d have noticed if it wasn’t, and my geography is pretty good – I can get zero points on Pointless geography questions even when the answer isn’t Central African Republic.

Anyway, the request for Caledonian contrails went to the MoD, and got a Naw from the Tory Defence secretary Michael Fallon. Mikey was rehearsing for all the Naws Scotland is going to get from Westminster if we’re daft enough to vote Naw in September. Mikey is now being bigged up by the Daily Mail as the man who faced down the evil Alicsammin and his dastardly political plot to get the Red Arrows to display the colours of the Scottish flag.

As Wings Over Scotland points out today, the RAF has previously blown smoke in shades other than red white and blue. The Red Arrows did a red and white display for the Maltese, and even made a lovely St George’s Cross for the English fitba team – and in 1999 they trailed blue and white smoke over Edinburgh to celebrate the opening of the Scottish Parliament.

But Michael insisted that Saltire smoke wasn’t going to happen, and demanded that the smoke trails were red white and blue. So we got the RAF flying over Celtic Park trailing red white and blue smoke while someone in the stadium sang God Save the Queen and that isn’t remotely political at all, and isn’t going to piss off any Celtic fans who’re still uncertain how they’re going to vote. Aye, that Celtic Park. This may or may not be connected to the fact that Michael Fallon is himself a ProudScot™, born in Perth in 1952 into an upper middle class family of Tory voters. Like many ProudScots™ of that ilk he went south in order to get a political career because no one in the land of his birth wants to vote for him.

So instead of a streitched oot Saltire, we got long lines of red white and blue in the sky instead, which by a pleasing coincidence recreated the design of the Luxembourg flag. This was Westminster’s way of trying to sook up to Jean Claude Juncker the EC Prez after Cameron pissed him off by trying to block his election. Because the Luxembourg flag consists of horizontal stripes in red white and blue. Knowing that is the kind of thing you get zero points in Pointless for, as is knowing that Luxembourgy things are actually called Luxembourgeois. Michael Fallon is pretty pointless too, and receives zero votes in Scotland, and he was probably hoping we’d think the RAF fly past was Lothianbourgeois.

The Red Arrows could in theory create a Union flag, but only at the risk of multiple mid-air collisions and this is generally held not to be such a good idea. They just do a red white and blue tricolour, so not the Irish one then, and everyone pretends not to notice it looks more like the French flag than the British one. Vive la Auld Alliance. Mind you, the smoke trails looked purple from my windae, and gradually merged into a charming shade of lavender, so maybe they were celebrating Gay Pride a week late.

Despite the fact that the Scottish Government’s presence in the affair was about the same as the Tory party’s presence in the East End of Glasgow, this hasn’t stopped the UK media presenting this non-issue as a major blow for Alicsammin. They needed something to beat the independence campaign over the head with, since the crowd at Celtic Park had greeted the English team with cheers, thus failing to demonstrate the anti-English hatred which is supposedly consuming Scotland just now. So in the absence of anything as substantial as a tweet slagging off JK Rowling sent from a non-Scottish nutcase in Blackpool to use as a demonstration of Scottish unreasonableness, we get this non-story instead.

The No campaign is up to its usual tricks again – blaming its opponents for its own crimes. Just as the constant barrage of condescension, insults, abuse, and patronising dismissal directed at Scotland in the UK media isn’t remotely anti-Scottish racism at all, but Tweets from random nutjobs are evidence of systemic anti-English hatred. Likewise the Yes campaign isn’t supposed to politicise the Commonwealth Games, but Britishness is not political, so we can be deluged with Unionist symbols and that’s got nothing to do with the referendum campaign. The people handing out flags with Union flags on one side and Saltires on the other outside the venue weren’t making a political point at all, even if those flags have only previously been seen at Unionfests. Apparently the flags are being handed out by the Help for Heroes charity, although since they’re being handed out for free it’s not a fund raising campaign – which would be understandable. Instead this is costing the charity money, and it’s highly debatable just how exactly handing out Union Saltires to crowds at the Commonwealth Games does in fact benefit ex-servicepeople. I do not know for certain whether it was Help for Heroes, but as a former worker in the voluntary sector this activity seems to me to cross the legal line preventing charitable groups from participating in political activities. Oh but I forgot, promoting Britishness during the Scottish referendum campaign isn’t political at all. It’s only promoting Scottishness in Scotland that’s political.

But all of this misses the real point. The real point is that a major Scottish event which shows the city of Glasgow and the country of Scotland off to the world can be hijacked by a Tory in London that no one here has ever heard of – except for his maw and da – who wants to use it to make a political point in order to tell us that his politics aren’t political at all. And Unionist politicisation gets transformed into an attack on Alicsammin who is accused of politicising the event. That’s Unionist smoke and mirrors and Scotland is put back into its wee red white and blue box.

We’ll still get grandstanding patronising politicians in an independent Scotland. We’ll still witness political hypocrisy and crass stupidity. The difference will be that they’ll be politicians that Scotland has elected, and politicians that we can then remove from office – and unlike Michael Fallon’s other Scots Tory pals like Michael Forsyth, they won’t have a House of Lords to be bumped up to. Until then, we’ll continue to be treated like surly teenagers by a Westminster Parliament and and UK media, and not allowed even to decide on the entertainment for our own party. This must be more of that Home Rule that we’re promised, the kind that doesn’t allow us to home rule our own TV viewing.

Vote Yes, so Scotland can be a grown up country.



The reluctant anorak

A guest post by Samuel Miller (Macart)

I don’t really do politics.  I don’t particularly trust politicians either and I don’t consider politics a game to be played like some or a career path to a life of ease like others. So why, oh why am I here now explaining just why I’ve become so passionately engaged in this debate?

Why do I care about the outcome? Just what motivates a long time diehard cynic like me to become a political anorak in his middle, though ruggedly well preserved (cough), years to drop the habits of a lifetime and argue a case for independence? You know the drill of mithering family, friends, workmates, strangers in the street and making a nuisance of himself? Or drinking in what others say and write, passing on fliers, cards, news and information?

These are questions I’ve asked myself plenty of times over the past three years and I came to a shocking conclusion, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

I mean my youth wasn’t particularly political I’ll grant you, though as a boy I remember my dad, an old card carrying shop steward, cheering on Jimmy Reid and the Clydeside work in. A couple of years later even my maw, (the least politically inclined of us all), prophesying; “See thon bonnie Margo lassie? I think she’ll stick up for people she will. She’s a good speaker,” but that was the just about the range we got to. It wasn’t that we were anti politics, its just that it was something considered to be between yourself and a polling booth. Those two examples though did kind of set the tone in the household for what was considered good people to look out for.

I remember the very day I received my first life lesson on politics back in 1979. Anyone old enough knows what’s coming next. It was exciting stuff back then, this concept of a Scottish assembly, the powers it might have and the directions it could take. Yet, as a young and then pretty idealistic fella in his teens I watched as a nation was lied to and cheated of its right to self governance.

The result as we’re all now aware was a sham. From the appalling arguments, which to this day are still used by those opposed to any form of Scottish self governance, to lies and outright vote rigging sanctioned from the highest levels of government. Yet still for all that and on a slim margin, a Yes vote won the day only to be denied the prize. That was perhaps the most visciously cruel of all possible results. You would have required a chainsaw to cut the atmosphere of gloom in our house for days afterwards. That result left a mark and a lesson I never forgot.

The next thirty odd years seemed to confirm everything I thought about the establishment and the political class in particular. Mismanaged industrial decline and mass unemployment followed by a new ‘economic model’. Working class communities becoming long term benefit reliant communities and rife with poverty. A steady flow of parliamentary scandals turning what was an already tarnished Westminster reputation into a publicly exposed sewer of corruption, patronage and party political warfare. Service to the people, if it had ever been part of the job description, had apparently long since been abandoned in favour of power politics and election winning machines. The rich/poor divide became a chasm over this period and strangely nobody in power seemed interested in claiming responsibility.  I had left the thought of political engagement behind and got on with life. My long time mantra is much used even today by almost anyone you care to talk to on the subject of politics: “Doesn’t matter who you vote for, or how you vote, nothing ever changes.”

Even when the second bite at the cherry came along back in 97, although I voted double Yes, I held out little hope that much would change I simply saw the piss poor devolution package as another means of keeping the natives quiet. There was no fresh thinking, revolutionary policies or powers for people to get excited about. No belief on the part of government that the people could be trusted with making their own decisions. The one and only time I ever agreed with he who must not be named – “Powers that are constitutionally there can be used but the Scottish Labour Party is not planning to raise income tax and once the power is given it is like any parish council: it’s got the right to exercise it.” Tony Blair. A ‘parish council’ and at the time, that summed it all up for me, but I was so wrong and wrong in the biggest way.

It started with another famous quotation on the opening day and first session of the Scottish Parliament.

*”The Scottish Parliament, adjourned on the 25th day of March in the year 1707, is hereby reconvened.” Winnie Ewing

I can’t tell you what it was, but I felt an expectancy I thought long dead on hearing those words. Just a flicker of interest really at first, but I thought, let’s see what happens next. As it turns out the next fourteen years haven’t been such a disappointment. After a stuttering start and a few glaring howlers, our parliament has grown in public stature and confidence. There is ample *evidence that the Scottish electorate have grown to trust their parliament and place it far ahead in preference to Westminster government. Good grief, it wasn’t long before a party of independence gained at first a minority support for governance, swiftly followed by a clear majority second term. There was a reason for that. A parliament and government whose focus was on social justice and public care as opposed to geo politics and home baked self serving greed and patronage. This was done with one metaphorical hand tied behind its back. Who knew such a thing was possible?

At last, there was another viable option on ballot papers for people to consider, which would return a party capable of governance and best of all whether you agreed with their individual policies or not you knew they only had one focus, that the welfare and wishes of the Scottish electorate came first. Words and phrases unused for many years and a few new ones, became commonplace in our daily news and amazingly people began to have conversations about politics again, REAL conversations as opposed to the usual two word summations. Words and phrases like referendum, constitution, common weal, civic engagement and social wage became part of those everyday conversations. We were actually watching our politics transform before our very eyes – or should that be revive before our very eyes?

That shocking conclusion I was talking about earlier had already occurred by this point. My disenchantment with politics, my anger and frustration at the system, the politicians, the effect it was having on people’s lives. Well much to my surprise, I had discovered my practised cynicism and indifference over the years was as much a sham as that result in 1979.

I had, over the short lifetime of our new parliament, discovered that I cared. I cared about how people engaged with their governance. It mattered how the government (of any stripe) cared for their electorate and how they served and answered to those they represent. It also mattered how people in the communities cared for each other and all it took to seal the deal for me was for one particular administration to care just what the people thought about their system of government. That this administration should have faith and trust enough in their electorate to ask the question.

Should Scotland be an independent country?

That took courage for any party of government. They put the power to change an entire political system, the course of a country’s future in the hands of the electorate and declared a people’s referendum. And make no mistake, that’s exactly what the current Scottish government have done. They have given the people of Scotland the power to choose their own system of government. Not same chair, different hats, but different chair, wardrobe, room, house and street. Think about that for a minute. That is the opportunity that has been handed to the Scottish electorate. All those times you’ve wished you had the power to clean house and set things straight? Well now you’ve got it in the palm of your hand.

Faith and trust, two very important words and I’d forgotten all about them and their meaning for such a long time. They rely on reciprocity, an exchange, a two way street. I believe that the Scottish Government and the YES campaign aren’t just asking us to have faith or trust in them though, but also in ourselves. They are asking that we put our cynicism to one side and have faith in a possible future and each other, in our families and communities to make that possible future a reality.

I now choose to put cynicism to one side. I choose to care and I choose to believe we can do better, both for ourselves and more importantly each other. I believe we can undo what decades of self interest and mismanagement have done. I believe we can, as a popular sovereignty, with an accountable system of governance and a written constitution enshrining our rights and responsibilities, make an independent Scotland a better place.

That, I suppose, is why a cynic on the wrong side of fifty has become a political anorak after several decades of just being angry and sarcastic.