A Welshman with a vote

A guest post by William Totterdell

Dear Wee Dug, fellow ginger,

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

I would like to share my thoughts with you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Egg fling flan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A wee update

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

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

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

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

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

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

Normal No-mockery service will be resumed on Saturday.


In the limbo inbetween

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The message and the messenger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

French EFA MEPs show Solidarity with Scotland


The French members of the European Free Alliance, the political grouping to which the SNP belongs in the European Parliament, recently held a meeting in the Corsican city of Bastia where they voted to demonstrate their support for an independent Scotland and the Solidarity with Scotland campaign. The above photograph was taken in the gardens of the Mayoral palace in the city.

From left to right in the front row are Gustave Alirol, president of R&PS, Josep-Maria Terricabras MEP for ERC, François Alfonsi former MEP PNC (Corsican National Party) and now President of EFA, Mona Bras Political leader of the UDB Breton Party, behind her is Inaki Irazabalbeitia former Aralar MEP, Gilles Simeoni Mayor of Bastia (with red Yes panel), Fabiana Giovannini PNC executive, Lorena Lopez de La Calle Deputy in Basque Country, Parlament of ARABA/ Naigs le Gar Member of the Bretton Assembly UDB/ Former MEP JJ Biceps from Guadalupe and at least ten more regional members of Parliament from France, dozens of Corsican mayors, and other supporters of an independent Scotland.

Many thanks to Günther Fritz Dauwen, the director of the European Free Alliance, for organising the photograph.

Snap, crackle, pop

And lo it was prophesied. On Tuesday St Dougie the Diminutive manifested his wee Holy Wulliness in the pages of the Guardian to preach the gospel of damage limitation. We still don’t know what currency we’re going to use, he bleateth. It’s the pound Dougie son, were you not listening to your pal Alistair last night?

But the Pharisees of Labour weren’t listening either, and told St Dougie in a vision that repeating Plan B ad nauseam was the only plan they’d got. So get out there and preach to the people that absolutely anything an independent Scotland might choose will be even shitier than having Boris Johnson as Prime Minister, share the revelation just in case anyone might think differently. Those weren’t boos from the audience when Plan B was called for, oh no, they were appreciative moans of love. Up is down and black is white and the Labour red isn’t Tory blue.

The debate came as a bit of a shock to them after the last time, when even people outside Sky Press reviews said Alistair had won and Be’Yesbezub had been sent back to the dark pit of perdition, which is just outside Paisley. Depite this, Yessatan obstinately refused to be exorcised, and before you knew it people in Arbroath were chanting verses from the wee blue book of the prophet Stu and Yes Shettleston was sacrificing chickens for a barbecue. Well OK, they were frozen drumsticks from Aldi – but that’s still evil and satanic. Anyway, in a flash of miraculous inspiration, like Johann Lamont constructing a grammatical sentence, it all became clear to the Divine Dougie. Debates don’t make any difference at all. So that’s alright then.

Go unto the Guardian and preach the word, the Archangels Ed and Ed told him. It’s all based on emotion, not at all like Project Fear. Tell them that you’re pure affrontit that some people on Twitter called you a Quisling and a Judas, and how that proves the evil divisiveness of the separatists. You’re even more oleaginous than Jim Murphy, so you’re perfect for the gig. Show them that you’re really a wee creeping Jesus and spread the numbing balm of the true word of Gord like vaseline on the bleeding haemorrhoids of the Labour party. It’s the only redistribution that Labour practises, and it can be claimed on expenses.

So Dougie tells the tiny readership of the Guardian that Scotland is in need of family therapy counselling and it’s all the fault of the nasty nationalists. After a No vote he is willing to offer his services as an emollient between the tender cheeks of a well skelpt Scottish arse and the hard and shiny lavvy paper of Westminster.

The social division is so bad that the Patronising BT Lady from the advert last night is already receiving trauma counselling from people who aren’t related to former Labour Lord Provosts of Glasgow. She doesn’t do politics because she’s a girly. No voting women only think about little things in the kitchen, little things like pencils and Paul’s leadless pencil. The No campaign wants it to stay that way. Patronising BT Lady can’t stay long though, she has to touch up the lippy and get back home to make Paul’s tea. He’s just so clueless you know, men what are they like girls – before he infects the kids with the virus of nationalism and gets rice crispies caught in his beard. Explaining independence at the same time as having his breakfast – everyone knows men can’t multi-task and weans are too stupid to think for themselves. Now everyone stop thinking. Eat your cereal.

Don’t think that the Tories believe that they can teach the poor to stand on their own two feet by cutting their legs off. And don’t think that when Labour gets into power it acts exactly the same, because the only way it can get into power is by persuading Tory leaning voters to vote for it. These are your only choices, don’t think there can be others.

Don’t think that with its limited powers, the Scottish Parliament is the clinic which is left with the victims, but all they’ve got are some bandages and plasters. Dougie wants us to complain that the doctor’s still got a packet of plasters that she’s not used, and not to do anything about the bastards with the axe. Stop thinking. St Dougie and the Patronising BT Lady want us to eat our cereal.

There are other choices. We could choose cornflakes, or Weetabix. We could choose to have a Labour party that can only get elected if it attracts the votes of SNP supporters, or Socialists or Greens, or even the last Lib Dem. A different Labour party from the one that Dougie offers. One that when it promised to help create opportunities for the poor to get out of poverty actually did that when in power. Or suffer the consequences of a Scottish electorate. Snap, crackle, pop.

We can choose an end to the tribal politics that Dougie offers. Westminster rules make that gemme a bogey. We can have a new game, a more consensual game, a fairer game. Dougie doesn’t want that. He doesn’t want reconciliation, he wants obedience to the old rules that constrict our choices. Some people say they want peace when what they mean is that they want victory.

It’s crunchy. There’s fruity bits. More jam than you’ll ever get from a Labour government. Eating cereal and thinking. Thinking it’s about power. It always is. We get spoken down to and told what we can’t do because we have no power. Holyrood is the regional branch of a subcontracted Westminster sovereignty. It gets told what to do. Dougie and Patronising BT Lady think that will still be the case if Scotland votes Yes. That’s why Dougie has no vision of the future, only fear and calls for Plan B. Dougie’s Scotland is at the mercy of Westminster’s elements and always will be.

But that will change with a Yes vote. With a Yes vote there are suddenly two sovereign bodies in the UK. The Westminster Parliament and the people of Scotland. We will have taken back the power of decision making. The power of control. The power of self-determination. Westminster tells us that means we’d become foreign. Oh right – so like an equal sovereign state that Westminster has to treat with mutual respect? Now there’s a big strawberry in the muesli.

If Scotland votes Yes, the balance of power radically shifts towards the people of Scotland. There will be independence negotiations, and Westminster is woefully unprepared for them. Who’ll be patronising who then.

Patronising BT Lady nods in agreement as she makes the tea. We’re eating our cereal and thinking.

The mental chains go snap, crackle, pop.

Bloodsports for vegans

Well that was fun. Alistair Darling was reduced to a stuttering pointy fingered cabbage, jibbering on about a Plan B despite not having a Plan A of his own, nor indeed any positive vision for Scotland. But Alistair’s already decided that it doesn’t matter if there’s a Plan B, or Plans C, D through to Z and then starting on the Greek alphabet. They’re all rubbish. Scotland is the only country on the planet which is unable to implement any currency at all. Not even Yapese stone money. It would wreak havoc on the Scotland curling team.

The currency scare died on Monday night, when Alistair was forced to admit that “Of course Scotland can use the pound” – words that will haunt him until his dying day. In uttering them he spelled out the end for the carefully constructed strategy of fear and threat upon which he was pinning all his hopes, only to see his clever plan booed by an audience that wanted to talk about more important things. Of course Scotland can use the pound, and now that’s settled we can get on to discussing those more important things, like the vision for the future that Alistair’s not got.

What is it with insulting Panama? It’s the only country other than England and Ireland that Scotland has ever invaded, with that Darien business and everything, and they’ve had the immense good grace not to hold it against us. But now Alistair Darling has given us a new certainty from the No campaign by guaranting that the people of Panama will refuse him entry to their country after he spent much of the debate slagging them off. That’s him screwed his chances of a round the world cruise to escape the humiliation of a Yes vote then.

So on behalf of the people of Scotland, I’d like to say, Lo siento mucho Panamá. Discúlpanos – no somos todos gilipollas como Alistair. And we love the hats, we really do. Even if they do come from Ecuador. Games of bools just aren’t the same without them.

The debate was terribly shouty in parts. Alistair kept on asking for an answer to the question about the currency he’d already answered himself when he’d admitted Scotland would keep using the pound. Perhaps he thought that if he talked over the answer then it didn’t exist and he could pretend it hadn’t happened. Unfortunately that doesn’t work when you’ve just uttered the words yourself. It was fun to watch, a bloodsport even a vegan could enjoy. And indeed, many did.

Glenn Campbell didn’t intervene during the rammyness. His mind was was too busy wondering what he’ll do with himself after independence when he won’t be able to jet off to America to find people who are scandalised by the very idea that Scotland might get rid of nuclear missiles or release Libyans with prostate cancer from jail. Meanwhile Alistair’s finger was in overdrive, trying to ram home a message that no one’s listening to any more, dementedly pressing the PIN number on the imaginary ATM that he thought would spit out sterling debating points. But a currency, as we’ve all learned by now, only has value because people put their faith in it. Precious few of us put our faith in anything that comes out of Alistair’s gob, however much he jabs that finger.

Alistair was determined to make it all about Alicsammin, and so his jabbing finger was always hitting the wrong target. It’s about self-determination, it’s about trusting the people of Scotland. Alicsammin’s a big fat liar you say Alistair? Aye and does it not take one to know one? We’re voting yes so we can keep the lot of them on a short leash. It’s about changing our entire way of doing politics. Alicsammin gets that. Alistair doesn’t.

Alicsammin gave better than he got, and without the pointy finger for the most part. He was enjoying himself. His final words were suitably rousing and inspirational. This is our time, our moment, let’s seize it.

Darling’s last words were supposed to sum up the entire case for No. If ever there was a time to give us that long promised positive case for the Union, this was it. Instead it was about all the things we can’t have and we can’t do, all about Alicsammin and how we can’t trust him. A personal attack instead of a positive case.

Vote No for tribal politics – and for a political class that thinks we’re gullible and which atomises us into isolated fragments of fear. Vote No because there’s absolutely nothing that an independent Scotland could do better. Vote Yes for change, for accountability and collaboration. Vote Yes for Scotland to have the power to shape her own destiny. Vote Yes to build a society that’s worth living in.

But the twin highlights of the evening were provided courtesy of two women in the audience who cut through all the jargon. There was the woman who put Alistair on the spot over his backroom meetings with private health companies. Go Glesca grannie. I am now officially in love with her. Honey, I’m a gay man. But I’d turn for you. And there was the woman who summed up the entire story of this debate – the Yes campaign are fighting to save Scotland, the No campaign are fighting to save their careers.

So flush from the yessuccess, and reports that the post rammy polls were saying Yes had won by 71% to 29%, I watched the press review on Sky News for a laff. I really need to stop watching the press review on Sky News, but it’s become my favourite comedy show. Tonight’s featured two press persons, one from the Mirror and the other from the Mail, who were doing a very good impression of the cantankerous auld gits in the Muppets. They started off by declaring that the Scotsman newspaper had always been neutral in its coverage of the referendum and then wandered off deeper into the tangled jungle of the Brigadoon with Buckie that passes for commentary on Scotland on Sky News.

Mirror man and Mail man were quite sure that Alicsammin will have played very poorly with women, undecideds, Labour voters, SNP voters, the last remaining Lib Dem supporter, English people, pandas, Mirror journalists called Kevin Maguire, hamsters with tooth decay, people born on a Thursday, and combine harvester operatives. The audience was clearly biased, and a tiny number of over emotional Yes supporters were making a lot of noise which was going to put off undecided voters and make quite a few Yes voters jolly well change their minds after seeing the company they keep. And wasn’t Alicsammin terribly rude.

So it was another blow for Alicsammin then, although it was cunningly disguised as mauling for the No campaign. But they were of the view that it wouldn’t make much difference anyway, unlike the last debate which the media decided Alistair won and was of course another blow for Alicsammin and a gamechanger which meant it was all over for the Yes campaign.

The UK media will no doubt be full of damage limitation exercises today. A whole lot of words which essentially boil down to: “Our team got its arse kicked, and we didn’t like it.”

The tide is rising. The momentum is building. Yes is coming.

Getting a good feeling

I’ve been getting a good feeling of late. Admittedly there’s a muckle black cloud looming on my personal horizons, but the Yes campaign seems to be going from strength to strength – at least in my small bubble of confirmation bias. Because that’s all positive feelings about the progress of the Yes campaign can ever be, according to media commentators too numerous to mention. For much of the media the words “progress” and “Alicsammin” can only be understood in the sense of a suicide’s progress off the end of a cliff. They’re already getting themselves set up for another knockout blow for Alicsammin, and it’s going to be all over for the Yes campaign just like it was last time. And the time before that. And the time before that.

It’s all been over for the Yes campaign since before the campaign even started. But here we are. Putting posters in windaes, chapping on doors, talking to friends and neighbours – and feeling pretty damn bouncy. A face to face conversation with a friend is a bombproof shelter against the anti-independence air campaign. You trust your friends and your family more than you trust some distant person with a column in a newspaper that no one in your street reads.

And that’s where Yes is winning. A couple of stories I heard this week brought it home to me. A few wee anecdotes don’t make data, but this referendum isn’t about data. It’s about people, and people have stories. When you put all those stories together you can make Scottish history.

When the campaign started all those oh so many long months ago, my mother was the only Yes supporter in her wee group of six friends – all women in their 70s, mostly retired teachers. The others were going to vote No. A couple of them were vehemently No. They’re precisely the demographic that’s supposed to be least likely to vote Yes – older women who are retired professionals. Yet every single one of them is now going to vote Yes. It was the same story with the mother of another friend, a Labour stalwart in her 70s, she’s now a Yes voter too.

They each have their own individual paths to Yes. For one of my mother’s friends it was going on holiday to the south of England. She met a lovely older woman from Birmingham, and spent the day with her. Her new companion told her she only ever went on holiday in England, and the previous year had gone to Inverness. My mother’s friend pointed out that Inverness is not in England but in Scotland, only to be told: “Oh it’s the same thing.” It was the wee off the cuff remark that crystalised the entire debate for my mother’s friend, that brought into focus decades of Westminster neglect, of a Scotland that cannot control her own destiny. Vote No for Scotland to remain a part of England.

Meanwhile another woman who has been a friend for decades is facing some very tough decisions of her own. She was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and is facing chemotherapy and an operation. She told me that last week as we exchanged our personal woes that she was discussing the chemotherapy with the medical staff and told them that she wanted to start it the week after the referendum. She wants to go and vote Yes to give her grandweans a future. She’s not voted since the 1980s but she’s voting now. This is a different vote, a vote that is so important that she is prepared to delay her chemotherapy treatment in order to participate and make a difference. With commitment like that – how can the Yes campaign possibly lose?

But with all of them it’s not so much that they’ve been swayed by the promises of Alicsammin. It’s more that they’ve been turned off by the No campaign, and in particular the Labour party. They’ve stood shoulder to shoulder with the Tories and their wee LibDem hingers on and told us that absolutely every single option that Scotland might exercise as an independent nation is worse than the possibility of Boris Johnson becoming the UK Prime Minister and a Westminster Parliament with Nigel Farage in it. Not just worse but cataclysmically worse. Scotland has absolutely nothing going for it except the kind hearted love of the Westminster Parliament and Dan Snow. And the oil is going to run out at 4.30pm on the first Wednesday after the declaration of independence.

We’re too wee and poor for our economic collapse to have any significant impact on the rest of the UK, but we’re too big a financial risk for them to enter into a currency union with us. We can’t have a currency union because we might raise taxes differently, but if we vote No we are going to be offered all sorts of lovely new tax raising powers. We’re being asked to believe all these propositions are true. But they can’t all be true. We’re coming to realise that none are true.

The No campaign want the currency to be the only question. A matter of a practicality is to determine the principle. It’s not allowed to be about Trident, it’s not allowed to be about social justice, it’s not allowed to be about politicians being held to account, or Scotland determining her own political choices. It’s about the price of everything and the value of nothing. This is, apparently, the positive case for the Union. That and the promise that Kate might get pregnant at some point. Ooooh intshe lurvely.

Labour lines up with the LibDems, and George Galloway and Brian Wilson are the welcome guests of the Tories. The Guardian and the Daily Mail look at one another in the pages of the Mirror. The bankers and the businessmen cheer along. And they all look the same.

Faced with a barrage of claim and counter claim, of facts and figures that contradict one another, women like my mum’s friends listen to what people around them are saying. And they think for themselves. Then they realise that it’s the Yes campaign which is saying exactly what they tell their own weans and the grandweans. Think for yourself. Believe in your own talents and your own abilities. Don’t listen to those who tell you you can’t do it because you can do anything if you put your mind to it. You’ll have your family and your friends to back you up.

They’re not trusting Alicsammin. They’re trusting themselves. They’re trusting their families. They’re trusting Scotland.

Wood, oil, and spooky coincidence

A guest post by Andrew Morton

Sir Ian Wood has dramatically, if not unexpectedly, intervened on behalf of the No campaign over the question of Scottish oil reserves. He has berated Alicsammin for getting his sums wrong and relying on a figure for oil reserves given in a highly dubious report authored by, erm, Sir Ian Wood. Magnus Gardham in the Herald assures us that Sir Ian is an honourable man so clearly his motives for this action must be entirely above board.

It has been said by those on the Yes side of the argument that Sir Ian Wood is not neutral, that he is a well known supporter of the Conservative party, that he opposed the Scotland Act in 1979 and that he threatened to move his company to England if Scotland voted Yes in 1997. All of this may or may not be true, I certainly don’t know

Sir Ian has insisted that he had not been contacted by Better Together and was not taking sides in the referendum debate. This may be true although he insists he is “proud to be Scottish and proud to be British” and talks of having “the best of both worlds” adding “There won’t be any going back” all classic Better Together phrases.

So, if we assume that Sir Ian is merely giving an impartial warning to the people of Scotland and sincerely believes that the figures quoted so freely in his February 2014 report are now completely wrong (which should cast doubt on his judgement, but we’ll pass over that) and leaving aside that even his updated figure is many billions of barrels higher than the OBR estimate (which, we’re constantly assured by Better Together, is an unimpeachable source) then we should take heed.

Unless of course there might be another reason.

But what could that be?

In a report from The Herald of 12 November 2013, Mark Williamson, group Business Correspondent writes:

John Wood Group buys US shale specialist

JOHN Wood Group is set to double its bet on the US shale industry despite the controversy about fracking by acquiring a local specialist in a deal that could be worth more than $200 million (£125m)…

… The deal is the latest in a series of shale-focused acquisitions the company has made in spite of the concerns critics have expressed about techniques used to produce from such rocks.

Some claim the hydraulic fracturing process used to release tightly held oil and gas from shale, dubbed fracking, could damage the environment. However, Wood Group has said it would support companies in the UK if society decided they should be able to frack…

…The acquisition of Wyoming-based Elkhorn looks like the biggest in a series of chunky bets Wood Group has placed on the US shale market.

Fast forward to 16 August 2014 and, in the light of the announcement by Westminster that licences to frack Scotland will soon be up for grabs (licences for which the Wood Group are expected to bid), another Herald story tells us:

Scottish ministers bid to keep right to object to fracking

SCOTTISH ministers are to oppose controversial plans that would remove the right of people to object to fracking companies drilling below their homes.

The UK Department of Energy and Climate Change is consulting on proposals that would allow the industry to drill below people’s land without permission. Companies would have the right to drill to depths of 300 metres or more under private land without negotiating a right of access.

Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said decisions on the issue should be taken at Holyrood rather than Westminster, and a Yes vote for independence in September’s referendum would give Scotland the power to deal with the issue.

20 August 2014, Sir Ian Wood makes announcement attacking Scottish Government’s oil estimates and casts doubt on ability of Scotland to be independent.

Of course, all this may be pure coincidence.