Eyewash and plastic spades

You’ve been promised something revolutionary and ground-breaking which is going to change the way you look at the world. This very special present has been placed in a huge box wrapped up in pretty paper specially printed by the Daily Record, and put under a Christmas tree with a devolution fairy on top, if you’re good little boys and girls Gordie Broon is going to wave his magic vowing wand for you. Finally, to a fanfare from the BBC and a chorus of MPs, you’re allowed to open the enormous container, and discover that it contains a three-way air freshener – the whiffs of Tory disdain, Lib Dem duplicity and Labour desperation – a plastic toy spade, and a small bottle of Optrex.

So that’s the Smith Commission then. Home rule it isn’t, as despite what the UK media and the Westminster parties might tell you there is no definition of ‘home rule’ which doesn’t include having control of the TV remote. You might want to watch something else, but you’ll have to sit through the Strictly Come Westminster Debate Show whether you like it or not and get to watch David Cameron and Ed Miliband’s pirouette in ever decreasing circles while Nigel Farage in an attention grabbing tutu tries to steal the show. Nicla wasn’t invited to take part, since she’s not enough of a celeb.

There was no mention of broadcasting in the Smith Commission report, Scotland’s home rule doesn’t extend as far as allowing us to decide on our own broadcasting regulation – or, heaven forfend – giving the Scottish Parliament the authority to set up a Scottish national publicly owned TV channel. There was no mention of a lot of other things either, instead we got a whole lot of waffle without any substance – tax powers which will not allow Scotland to raise any more revenue than Westminster wants us to. Scotland can raise rate of income tax on the highest earners, only to see the UK Treasury reduce the block grant correspondingly. Westminster has played this trick before, the Smith Commission is merely a repeat performance. It’s the devolution of austerity, not the devolution of substantive powers that might allow Scotland to determine a different course.

The proposals were watered down even before the final report was written. Labour insisted that control over abortion law couldn’t possibly be devolved, on the entirely spurious grounds that this would mean the end of a UK-wide abortion policy. No one has told them about Northern Ireland then. The reason for Labour’s refusal was one time SNP funder Brian Souter, who is apparently the only person in Scotland who gets to decide such matters. Like he was so influential in determining the SNP and Scottish Government policy on banning gay marriage…

The promised powers over welfare and benefits policy were also gutted like a fish even before a kipper got anywhere near them. Proposals to allow Holyrood to determine the benefits system in Scotland were removed at the insistence of Satan, otherwise known as Iain Duncan Smith, who was upset that his policy of damning benefits claimants to perdition for all eternity might be smited. In the end, Holyrood will only have control of limited powers over Housing Benefit.

The real significance of the Smith Commission isn’t what it means for devolution, it’s what it means for the future of the UK. Many years ago I remarked to a friend that Scotland would not become independent because it was the settled will of the Scottish people, but rather independence would arrive because of the short termism and political games of the Westminster parties who would be unable to find a formula to keep the UK together. With the Smith Commission, the break up of the UK took a great leap forward. For that reason, and for that reason alone, the Smith Commission is to be welcomed.

Davie Cameron has already announced that the taxation responsibilities in the report give him licence to introduce a bill for ‘English votes for English laws’. Scottish MPs are to be barred from voting on certain parts of the UK budget, in a nakedly political manoeuvre to screw over the Labour party. It’s a trap that Labour walked straight into, one from which they now have no escape. That’s what happens when Alistair Darling accepts the cheers of a Tory party conference, Labour MPs accept Tory donations, and Labour MSPs stand grinning outside supermarkets after a Tory MP has phoned the managing director to get him to issue a press release warning of price rises after independence. Labour is now reaping what it sowed, and even if it does manage to cling onto a significant number of Scottish seats after the May 2015 General Election, their MPs will be castrated. Not that any of them have ever had much in the way of balls to begin with. It couldn’t happen to a more deserving bunch of hypocritical pharisees.

Alistair Koalamichael was reduced to pleading that “this is the Prime Minister’s view, not government policy”, conveniently forgetting that under the system of elective dictatorship which passes for democracy in the UK, the prime minister’s view is government policy. Poor wee Alistair doesn’t even understand the system of government he’s pledged himself to defend. So we can add that to the very long list of things that Alistair doesn’t understand, like irony, impending oblivion, and keeping manifesto promises.

But despite the hype, despite the screaming headlines, the Smith Commission report is just that, a report from a commission. There is no guarantee that the recommendations in the report will survive the labyrinths of the Palace of Westminster, inhabited by ancient monsters which devour devolution maidens. Scotland must now rely upon the parties which have spent the past two years arguing that there is no need for extra tax powers for Holyrood to implement these extra tax powers – or rather tax responsibilities. We saw the same with the Calman Commission, which recommended the devolution of airport duty only for the proposal to land nowhere near its advertised destination. The Smith Commission is a dodgy budget airline all over again, complete with hidden costs.

Want to get to Devo Max? You’ll get dumped miles away. You should have got on the independence bus. But don’t worry if you missed the bus, there will be another along very soon.

 

 

Back from London

So I go away for a few days, and have a great time apart from a rampant allergy to my daughters’ cats, and all sorts of things happen in my absence. Gordon Brown announces that he’s standing down at the next election, Ukip kicks both the Tories and Labour up the backside in a by-election in Rochester, Niclasturjun replaces Alicsammin as the synonym for Scottish independence in the British media and holds a rally attended by thoosands, the Radical Independence Campaign hold a conference just over the road also attended by thoosands, many of whom are the same thoosands as those who went to see Nicla, a new pro-independence newspaper gets launched without a regular column by a small reddish canine who’s really quite affordable (cough cough), and Jim Murphy had a damascene conversion and discovered some real political principles. OK, so that last bit is a lie.

Let’s start with Gordie, whose departure from politics was announced to the general surprise of everyone who thought he’d already departed. But Gordie’s toddling off into a sunset of devoting himself to extremely well remunerated soporific after dinner speeches does raise an interesting question, one which is unlikely to be answered by Gordon Brown. Nor indeed asked by an extremely well remunerated BBC politics correspondent who didn’t get the job because they’re related to John Smith.

Mind you, Gordon doesn’t answer questions, and certainly not questions posed by anyone who hasn’t been vetted beforehand. But for what it’s worth the question in question is: Was it not Gordon who swore blind that he personally would ensure that the Vow with the Capital Letters would be implemented by the Westminster Parliament after the May 2015 election? This was when he was still pretending he was the current as opposed to the former Prime Minister, and the current as opposed to the soon to be former Prime Minister was quite happy for him to do so.

The answer would appear to be that Gordie can just as easily ensure the passage of the Vow by not attending Parliament as a former MP as he can by not attending Parliament as the MP for Kirkcaldy. So that’s sorted then, and the Scottish electorate must be terribly reassured. Or, which is more likely, past the point of caring about anything Gordie says or does.

Dahn sarf, Ukip won the by-election in Rochester in the latest episode in the English electorate’s miserabilist challenge to the entrenched Westminster parties. Funny isn’t it, it’s supposed to be Scots who are dour and miserable, yet our challenge to Westminster’s business as usual is relentlessly cheerful, upbeat, and outward looking. Meanwhile in England many people complain that they have no one to vote for since the only realistic challengers to the existing system are a bunch of neo-Thatcherites who want to retreat into some imagined golden age of the 1950s which never existed. So if you live in England and hate Westminster, you can vote for Ukip a party which promises to increase the powers of Westminster. That’s a deeply unattractive proposition even before you look at the grinning self-satisfied mug of Nigel Bawbag Farage.

But the truth – a truth which the UK media is unlikely to dwell on – is that after the next Westminster elections Ukip are unlikely to gain more than a handful of seats. The first past the post system of voting, which Ukip favour, pretty much guarantees the continuation of the existing duopoly unless a party can establish itself as the largest single force in a constituency. Then the first past the post system works in that party’s favour. And this is why Nicla is so buoyant, because the SNP looks like it’s made that breakthrough in Scotland. She’s also ensured gender equality in the Scottish cabinet, making Scotland one of the best performing countries in the world in terms of women’s representation in politics – although there’s certainly still a long way to go. Westminster, in case you were wondering, is way down the rankings, bobbing along somewhere in the 1950s where women made the tea for Nigel Farage. Westminster only talks about increasing female representation in politics, Scotland does something about it. Mind you, only just over a quarter of SNP MSPs are women, so Nicla’s still got her work cut out for her.

A series of opinion polls have shown that the SNP is well in the lead in Westminster voting intention, and may very well reduce Labour to a small rump despite the best efforts of the BBC to marginalise distinctively Scottish voices. The SNP continue to pile on new members, while Labour’s membership figures in Scotland remain a closely guarded secret. While the SNP is on course to have 100,000 members by the time of the Westminster General Election, Labour in all probability has fewer than a tenth of that number. These are the folk who’ll be chapping on doors, delivering leaflets and getting the vote out, and in Labour’s supposedly safe seats in the Yes voting areas of the Central Belt, they’re outnumbered over 10 to one by the SNP. And that’s before you start counting the Greens, SSP, and unaffiliated Radical Independence supporters, who have likewise piled on new members – all of whom will be just as eager to ensure that Labour gets a kicking for wrapping itself in the Union flag and standing shoulder to shoulder with the Tories.

Aware that his party is more screwed than a lightbulb in a joke factory, Jim Murphy has announced that he may, or may not, be in favour of devolving control of all income tax to Holyrood after all. This is a considered policy decision which is the exact opposite of his considered policy decision last week when devolving income tax would be the worst thing to happen to Scotland since the bubonic plague. But enough about Ian Davidson. Of course the real reason for the announcement is to get Jim in the papers, and to try to rescue Labour from being the party offering the weakest devolution proposals – weaker even than the Tories. It also, handily, gives Jim a stick with which to beat the SNP, as he can promise to increase taxes on the richest. Jim claims this will raise £250 million a year in entirely made up statistics. The real figure is a tiny fraction of that, but what’s accuracy when you’re a Labour politician? It’s only SNP politicians that the BBC holds to account, so that’s OK then.

Jim can make these announcements and get them plastered all over the telly and the papers because the telly and the papers have decided that he’s already the branch manager of the Labour party’s unstocked supermarket in Scotland. Jim’s in charge of the checkouts, and he and his party will be checking out very soon. The other contenders for branch manager have been relegated to the stock cupboard, where they’re currently fully occupied with counting the number of members the party has lost over the past few years.

It’s pretty obvious to one and all that the Labour leadership – the only Labour leadership which counts, the one in London – has already decided that Whispering Jim Smugurphy will get the gig as branch manager. It suits Ed Miliband to get rid of a troublesome Blairite, Ed would rather Jim was fully occupied in Scotland than engaging in briefing campaigns against his shoogly peg of a leadership. Jim is quite happy to take over in Scotland, because he sees it as the last chance he’s got of rescuing his ailing career, and we all know by now, Jim Murphy’s career progression constitutes the nearest thing to a set of principles that Jim Murphy has got.

And finally – apropos of nothing in particular. That’s over a month now without a ciggy, and I think I can finally call myself an ex-smoker.

 

 

The Scots tung

The Scots tung: how to support it without tying up the Yes movement. A guest post by a Clear Contrair Spirit

One of the insinuations heard (admittedly, mostly from English-based media) during the referendum campaign was that the SNP was all about compulsory Gaelic. As any Scot knows, Gaelic is marginal to the Scottish independence movement, and this is probably a good thing. In Wales, the nationalist movement has been largely tied up with the Welsh language movement. On the one hand, this has given them a cause to rally round, but on the other, it has limited the appeal of Welsh nationalism in a country where only around a fifth of the population speaks it.

That’s actually less than the proportion of Scots claiming to speak Scots according to the 2011 census, some 30% of Scots indicated some level of competency in the language, rising to 49% in Shetland and Aberdeenshire. Unlike Gaelic, Scots is spoken the length and breadth of the country, and it is impossible to live here for any length of time without acquiring at least a passive understanding. This being so, independentista types need to ask the question, where do we stand on the Scots language?

Before we get started on that, we need to ask what the Scots language actually is. Most people in Scotland, whenever they open their mouths, place themselves somewhere along a linguistic continuum. At one end, we have what is known as Scots Standard English. This uses British spelling conventions and more or less the same grammatical rules as standard English but the same phonology as Scots and a large amount of Scotland-specific vocabulary (perhaps the best known examples are the use of a trilled /r/ pronounced regardless of its position in the word, and the use of ‘outwith’ instead of ‘outside’). At the other extreme, we have the Scots language proper, based on the Old Northumbrian dialect of Anglo-saxon, with a large admixture of Norman French and Latinate vocabulary, just like English. A sample sentence (taken from William Lorimer’s translation of the New Testament): Gin I speak wi the tungs o men an angels, but hae nae luve I my hairt, I am no nane better nor dunnerin bress or a ringing cymbal (English translation, from the KJV: Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angel, but have not love, I am become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal). Most Scots, myself included, mash these up these two languages, using vocabulary, grammatical forms, and vocabulary from both, sometimes even in the same sentence. Sample: There’s a fell load o snow oan this platform, a pure Scots sentence would use sna instead. When it comes to writing however, almost all of us resort to English, because this is what we’re taught at school is the correct way to write and that’s what we feel comfortable with.

The position of Scots reflects a sort of national schizophrenia (whether this is a cause or a symptom of the famous Scottish split personality or antisyzygy if you’re looking to win at Scrabble is a question for another day). On Burns Night say, Scots is set up as an object of pride, but it’s an ossified object, presented as of no practical use or contemporary relevance, and its use in polite society is frowned upon outwith certain staged contexts. For many older Scots, the refrain rings true that ‘For one day a year, we were given a prize for being able to read and recite ‘guid Scots’ and on the other 364 days we were belted for using the same words.’ But to write in Scots is not just difficult, but often discouraged as incorrect. There’s often also a sneaking suspicion that to write in Scots, on a form or an official letter say, would be undignified; it would mark one down as uncouth and ill-educated, even though the chances are almost everybody who read it would be able to understand the meaning.

This brings us to one reason why the independence-minded should be willing to support Scots. I’ll get the atavistic nationalist thing, red in tooth and claw out the way now – Scots is ours, and if we don’t cherish it and look after it, nobody else is going to. It’s part of what makes us who we are. But, blood and soil nationalist hat off, one thing we often heard during the referendum debate from the Yes camp was ‘I want to live in a normal country.’ Implicit in that statement is the recognition that Scotland is not a normal nation, that we suffer from some kind of psychological wound due to our lack of independence. Heal and whole come from the same (Germanic) root and the way to heal this wound is to integrate (Latin root, to make whole) the national psyche. One very practical way to do that is to integrate Scots mentally so we don’t see it as a second-class form of speech or mere identity marker, the sort of thing you learn by heart at school then promptly forget, but rather as a part of us that we feel entirely at home with, without embarrassment or reservation. Some might think this is impossible, but there is ample historical precedent. In South Africa, Afrikaans used to be derided as ‘Cape Dutch’ or ‘Kombuistaal’ (‘kitchen language’), the uncouth speech of the unlearned. In the wake of the Boer War, Afrikaner nationalism began to cherish the language, and to insist on its development and public use. In order to develop, Scots needs greater standardisation of the spelling conventions, more use in schools and the media, and recognition of the right to use it in communication with public bodies. In Finland, Swedish is a secondary official language, but Swedish-speaking Finns have the right to interact with officialdom in their own language, in recognition of their status as full citizens. Ultimately, we should be looking for Scots to be accorded the same status.

But ca’ canny. Many people already do interact with the government in Scots, but only in oral form, and might not see why they would want to use anything other than English for written communications. Perhaps more importantly, Scots has survived because people feel comfortable using it. There is a danger that were we to impose too artificial a standard, people would become alienated. Obtaining formal language rights is simply a means to an end, and that has to be about normalising the use of Scots, and raising its prestige. Achieve that, and people will come to use it naturally in more contexts, including writing.

Before we go any further, we should say that this isn’t about abolishing the use of English. English connects us to the wider world, and we need both languages to achieve the psychological integration mentioned above. English is part of us too. Rather than teaching Scots as a separate subject, it might be simpler and more effective to teach Scots spelling and grammatical forms alongside each other, in the same way schoolchildren are exposed to Scots literature in what we call their English lessons. A good metaphor for the relationship between Scots and English might be the Horcrux. Except in this case, the two can exist in symbiosis.

A further question is, how do you promote Scots without being labelled as obsessive hobbyists or narrow nationalists? One answer is that the Yes movement is precisely that, a movement. Scots language organisations can take a neutral position regarding politics, but still work for the language, but there is a need to set up a group that supports both the Scots language, and the independence movement, and can co-operate to linguistic and political ends on an ad hoc basis. Another answer lies in questions of social justice. Social justice? That’s practical stuff: foodbanks, bailouts, benefit cuts – nothing to do with language, surely? Wrong. Scots is the language of the people, in that it is the language of the lower classes, urban and rural. In the contemporary Scottish media, it’s exceedingly rare to see or hear Scots used except in a context where the use is there to show that the speaker is proletarian, or comic, or quite possibly both. Still Game is laced with Scots; you won’t hear it on Reporting Scotland, save the odd vox pop. Normalising the use of Scots in all contexts is a very powerful way to lessen the stigma, and therefore the social exclusion, that goes with using the language. If, as George Bernard Shaw said, it is impossible for one Englishman to open his mouth without another despising him, it remains true, almost a century later, that a huge proportion of Scots cannot open their mouth without their fellow Scots mentally writing them off, because of the language it comes naturally to them to express themselves in. In a nutshell, if you remove the negative stereotypes associated with contemporary Scots, you remove a huge impediment to social mobility and social justice.

So, want to know the old Scots word for independence? Unthirldom!

Read more from A Clear Contrair Spirit here https://aclearcontrairspirit.wordpress.com/

 

Portillo moments on steroids

So that’s it then, the end of an era. Alicsammin has bowed out as leader of the SNP. But it’s not the last we’ll be seeing of him, he’s going to be a thorn in the flesh of the Westminster parties for quite some time to come. Alicsammin is the marmite of Scottish politics, loved and loathed in equal measure, but no one can deny that he’s changed Scotland forever. This is not the same country that it was back in 2007 when the SNP narrowly pipped Labour at the post and became the minority government, putting an end to what was supposed to be the permanent Labour-Lib Dem duopoly set up in a back room meeting between Donald Dewer and Ming Campbell.

Back then Labour thought it was just a wee blip and normal service would be resumed just as soon as the rest of Scotland realised what a terrible mistake they’d made by rejecting the self-described peepil’s party. All Labour had to do was sit back, sling mud, and the voters would return to their ‘natural home’. The mud was duly slung, and has been slung repeatedly and regularly ever since. Mud slinging has been Labour’s substitute for politics. Labour didn’t think it needed to change, after all it was the voters who’d made the mistake. They’re the people’s party, and they decide what’s right for the people, never that the people decide and a real people’s party follows. It was the arrogance of those who accuse others of arrogance, and it bit them in the bum. However such is the size of Labour’s complacent lardarse that seven years later the lesson is still chewing its way through. It still hasn’t reached the Anas.

And Alicsammin laughed and ran rings around them as Labour squirmed and couldn’t understand why there was an uncomfortable itch that anusol couldn’t relieve. Even though the battle of the referendum was lost, the wider campaign for independence is buoyant. Alicsammin’s greatest achievement wasn’t to bring about the referendum. His greatest achievement has been to normalise the idea of independence. That’s the truly historic change that has taken place in Scotland under the government led by Alex Salmond – he’s shown us that Scotland can be a normal country, all we have to do is to believe in ourselves. And many of us already do.

Now a few short months after the referendum was won by the forces of Nawness, we are in a landscape that is alien and frightening to the Westminster hegemonists. Labour is still squirming and still can’t understand what’s gone wrong. They cry for reviews, they promise commissions, they suggest they want debates. But really all they want is for everything to go back to the way it was before that nasty Alicsammin changed everything. The electorate has left them behind and Labour is left clutching an empty bottle of Buckie at a party no one wants to attend.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. No won the referendum, Yes supporters were supposed to crawl away and hide under a rock in the vain hope that they might avoid Ian Davidson’s bayonet. But instead it’s Ian Davidson and his pals who are wounded and looking at the sharp end of a bayonet. They’re bleeding bad – in both senses of the phrase.

So Alicsammin hasn’t sailed off into the sunset, under a cloud, doomed to an ignominious retirement overshadowed by his great failure. Instead he’s off to open a new front and twist that bayonet some more. He’s after a seat in Westminster where he can be a permanent bayonet in Ian Davidson’s quivering flesh – assuming that Ian Davidson is one of those Labour MPs who survive the culling that will befall them in May 2015. The prospects for most of them don’t look good at all. Yet another poll has shown Labour’s chances of avoiding an electoral armageddon are vanishing more quickly than Ed Miliband’s fond regards for Johann Lamont.

A new Survation poll for the Record puts Labour on a derisory 23.9%, with the SNP on 45.8%. The new poll is in line with previous recent polls, and the SNP is now gaining the level of support which will make the first past the post system work in its favour. There are no safe Labour seats in Scotland any more. Glasgow East is certainly not safe for Magrit Curran – it’s where I live and I’ll be doing my utmost to ensure that Magrit gets her jotters. All across Scotland other angry Yes voters will be working equally hard to rewrite the Proclaimers song lyrics. When ye go, will ye send back a cheque for your expenses. Magrit no more, Tom Harris no more, Dougie no more, Smugurphy no more … There will be Portillo moments on steroids.

There is a distinct possibility that pro-Scotland MPs may be the third largest force in the Westminster parliament after May 2015. There’s an equally distinct possibility that the Lib Dems in Scotland may be reduced to just Alistair Carmichael all on his tod. Commentators in England view this possibility with horror – not the possibility that the Lib Dems might get wiped out, everyone with a sense of justice who can remember their solemn vow on student fees relishes that prospect – the prospect that a bloc of MPs who put Scotland’s interests first might hold the balance of power is what they view with horror. And there was us thinking that Scotland had voted No so we were all a part of this happy family of nations. But apparently it’s only a happy family when Scotland does as Scotland is told.

There are those south of the border who fear that the dominance of the SNP and other pro-Scotland parties north of the border means that pro-Scotland MPs could hold the balance of power at Westminster after May 2015. Some have expressed alarm that this could mean that England might get screwed over by Scotland. They needn’t worry. England will get screwed over by England, like it has always been. These pro-Scotland MPs, who would be largely SNP MPs, might prop up a Labour government even if Labour gained fewer Westminster seats in England than the Tories do. The notion that England might not get the government it votes for is terrifying – there’s only one response anyone from north of the border can make to that: welcome to Scotland’s world.

I need help from readers this week.  I’m off to visit my daughters in London and will be away for a few days.  And there’s another reason too – readers, I’ve met a man.  I wasn’t expecting it, but it’s happened, and he makes me very happy.  So for the sake of my family life and my love life, I’d like some guest posts! 

Four weeks without a fag now.  I’m not complacent, but I think I might have cracked it. 

 

Still a reluctant anorak

A guest post by Samuel Miller (Macart)

Well we’re eight weeks on from the vote and the world hasn’t come to a crashing halt. The sky isn’t raining blood. Sulphrous pits haven’t opened under our homes (though fracking will be coming to a locale near you, sooner than you’d like), and near as I can tell, the big red lad with cloven hooves isn’t wandering up and down Sauchiehall Street condemning innocent souls to hell for siding with the YES campaign. He’ll be voted in as Labour’s north British branch manager sometime soon though I imagine.  Mind you as the political post voted most likely to have the same social impact as a fart in a lift by pundits throughout the meeja world, is north British branch manager a post anyone truly wants?

Granted, on the morning of the 19th September it did feel as though someone had cut out my heart, threw it on the ground at my feet and stomped it into the dirt in front of my eyes. I was devastated, bereft and frankly found it hard to work up the will to speak to anyone for several days. My wife and I stared at the television screen in disbelief and tears were running down both our faces. We couldn’t believe that people would have so little faith in themselves that they would throw away their right to complete self governance. To hand a patently and demonstrably broken system permission to keep robbing you blind of everything right down to your own identity.

This is what our unionist politicians wanted to hear from us y’know. This is the despair, the pain, the humiliation, the result they intended and I hold my hands up, I felt all of those emotions…

…and thankfully a few more besides.

They intended that we would be so demoralised and crushed as a movement, that they could simply shit on us from a great height, and that we’d be too grief stricken and beaten down to do anything about whatever agenda they set. They kinda hoped that those rowdy northern types would get their bolshie, democratic asses back in their box with the lid firmly welded shut for the next hundred years, if not permanently. Let’s face it, they’ve wasted absolutely no time in getting their stalled agendas up and running have they?

Lessee now: *Intent to slash Scotland’s block grant. Issue of both fracking and north sea licences for those volatile and rapidly diminishing resources that no one in their right mind would want. Oh and did you hear the one about the proposed sovereign wealth fund for the north of England (profits from fracking). Laugh? I nearly had to replace my lungs, I laughed sooooo hard. Pension reform, MOD surface fleet sourcing stooshie (nowhere to hide on that for either Labour or HMG). The ongoing fracturing of the UKs standing with the EU and looming in/out referendum. Then of course the biggie from a Scottish perspective, Scotland’s further devolution settlement via the Smith commission.

Timetable apparently already under threat, proposals from the various parties somewhat at odds with expectations created by the media and certain weel kent individuals (yeah, we’re lookin’ at you Messrs Broon and Darling). Not to mention the small matter of something like 14k(?) submissions to wade through discuss and deliberate upon in less than thirty days. We’re to take this process seriously? As for what our parliamentarians consider maximum devolution or what constitutes significant powers? Just see here for your handy dandy guide to who’s selling you what? http://wingsoverscotland.com/the-party-of-devolution/

That’s just a handful of examples which have hit the whole Scottish electorate right where it hurts in the past few weeks. There’s a lot that’s not been listed above, but we all know where to look to keep abreast of the latest stitch ups by this point. You’ll find the links at the side of this page.

Bottom line? The fix was in from the start. Our referendum was hijacked by big government, big business and big media. Them’s the ugly triplets who took our people’s referendum, our democratic process and turned it into a party political circus. We know what they did, how they did it and why they did it. This goes a long way to explaining what happened next in Scottish politics after September 19th and it also goes some way to explaining those other emotions I felt – frustration, indignant rage, disgust, contempt for them and what they’d done, but mainly a cold, cold anger.

Here’s something I said in a previous post.

“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 still choose to care. I still choose to believe we can do better and be better. I still choose to be an anorak.

Firstly, the defeat they intended wasn’t as massive or crushing as they’d have liked for all the power they brought to bear. This was followed by an enormous surge in memberships for pro indy parties. The continuance of sites like this and the plans afoot to create a new media presence in Scotland. The meetings of continuing YES groups at local level. The moves toward a YES alliance and the noise we continue to make on a daily basis on forums across the net and social media. The arguments we still have at work, in the pub, across a dinner table – HOPE – a new emotion to add to the list.

We didn’t get back in our box. We aren’t just lying down or giving up. We’re taking the situation we find ourselves in, making the best of it and moving forward. There’s not a politician in Scotland now who can or should take a motivated and politically aware Scottish electorate for granted for the foreseeable future. There are no safe seats for those who feel they are ‘entitled’ to our vote ‘just because’.  There are no safe seats for those who set about demeaning, intimidating and misleading for personal or party political gain. The referendum process has opened our eyes, educated us, made us media savvy and with a GE round the corner we remember who said what and when.

Its time our friends in all three Westminster oriented parties were reminded that they serve us, we don’t serve them. We are not electoral currency, we are people and people who have been served and let down badly by our system of government and especially by our representation to that institution.

GE 2015 – Let’s send down a contingent to Westminster that represents and will fight for the Scottish electorate’s interests in this partnership for as long as it lasts. The current team’s performance and record has proven… unsatisfactory.

* http://wingsoverscotland.com/we-told-you-so-2/
* http://www.oilandgaspeople.com/news/1076/uk-government-over-rule-scottish-fracking-concerns/
* http://news.stv.tv/north/298838-first-oil-and-gas-licenses-issued-west-of-outer-hebrides-for-omv/
* http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-business-29739085
* http://www.theguardian.com/money/2014/oct/28/one-in-eight-people-cash-in-pension-pot-george-osborne-reform
* http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/nov/10/uk-proposes-shale-gas-sovereign-wealth-fund
* http://www.defensenews.com/article/20141109/DEFREG01/311090024/Britain-Struggles-Costs-New-Frigates
* http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/nov/03/angela-merkel-david-cameron-eu
* http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-29857267

The oncoming train

According to the Herald, Jim Murphy has promised that if he wins the election for manager of Labour’s Scottish dead meat counter he’s going to wrest power back from the London office. What he really means of course is that he’ll take what powers he can for himself, because this is Jim Murphy we’re talking about here. Whispering Jim’s ego is inversely proportional to the loudness of his voice. Jim Murphy has a vision for Scotland’s future, it’s a picture of him towering about his tiny little minions – the murphoids. Murphoids are small and narrow minded things that cling to Labour like haemorrhoids, only bloodless and drained of anything red. He fancies himself as a supervillain, but he’s sadly bereft of any superpowers, except the powers to schmooze with interviewers on the BBC, and the power to turn socialist policies into Tory ones.

Demoted from his defence brief in the shadow cabinet after the Brownite faction won the succession struggle and Jim had hitched his horse whispering to Tony Blair’s pony, the Smugurphy’s London career has gone the way of Ed Miliband’s re-election prospects, sidelined and forgotten like mention of the deficit in Ed’s keynote conference speech. The answer to what Jim sees as the greatest political crisis so far this century – the crisis of his own career vanishing more quickly than Magrit Curran being faced with an irate East End voter – is to build himself a new power base in Scotland. He’s done this because he still suffers from the delusion that the Labour party has a power base left in Scotland.

However Jim’s move does raise some interesting questions which he has shown no sign of answering and Andrew whitsisface with the prematurely white hair on the BBC’s excuse for a Scottish politics and news show showed no sign of asking. But that’s what happens when you have to work for Ken McQuarrie – you age unnaturally quickly. People born in the 1970s end up looking like they’re channelling the 1950s, which is where the BBC’s concept of news and current affairs in Scotland has remained stuck like a knob on a black and white telly. Or just a knob.

Anyway, there was a review of Labour policy and procedure carried out after the last time the Scottish electorate kicked the empty suits of Labour in the balls, or rather, kicked them where their balls would be if they possessed any balls in the first place. This was a review carried out by Jim Murphy and Sarah Boyack, both of who are now standing for election as branch office manager. The review set up the office of Leader of Scottish Labour (sic – and sick was rarely more appropriate), and gave us the delights of the lovely Johann Lamont and her radiant smile. We were told at the time that the new leader would have all those powers that Jim Murphy now tells us he’s going to wrest from Labour’s London office.

So how come Jim Murphy is the guy to sort the problems in the Labour party in Scotland, when it was the failure of Jim Murphy’s own review that led to the problems that Labour is currently experiencing? Was this review of Jim’s not implemented then? If not, why not, and who is responsible for not implementing it? No one is asking Jim. Probably because Jim is one of those responsible for not implementing it. Jim never had any intention of allowing a Scottish branch of Labour to have any control at all. He’s only interested in the control he wields himself, and that’s why he’s spent the past six months briefing furiously against Johann and then sanctimoniously saying that the party must stop damaging itself. He’s one of the dinosaurs that Johann complained about in her bitter resignation letter. Getting the Smugurph in to sort the party out is like suffering a brain haemorrhage and deciding to treat it by slashing your wrists and leaping in front of an oncoming train.

The train is coming – there’s no light at the end of Labour’s tunnel, it’s the train. The Caledonian Express is going to plaster the Labour party’s electoral hopes in Scotland all over the tracks like the jam they always promised but never delivered. The train is powered by lies and deceit. It’s driven by the engine of deception, the promises that the Clyde yards would only be safe if Scotland voted No, promises delivered amidst po-faced assertions that the Royal Navy would never commission ships from a foreign land. And now the post-referendum reality where the MoD has admitted that it is considering pulling the Clyde contracts and buying French ships instead. The head of angry steam is building. It’s going to explode in a shower of votes in May next year.

A new UK wide poll from IPSOS Mori has shown that the SNP is on 8% – that’s 8% across the entire UK – just 1% behind the UK polling figure for the Lib Dems. There’s some serious rounding issues going on there, because the SNP only stand in Scotland and Scotland makes up just 8.5% of the UK electorate. A more detailed breakdown of the figures shows that in Scotland, the SNP has the support of 59% of voters against – wait for it – just 14% who back the murphoids. That would annihilate Labour in Scotland, and not even the blindly loyal Labour voters of Coatbridge would be left to them. If this latest poll is accurate – and it’s not wildly out of line with recent Scotland only polls – the SNP could easily become the third largest party in the next Westminster Parliament. Now that would be a laff. The SNP could hold the balance of power in the next Westminster Parliament. We might just get that devo max after all.

But what the polls do show is that without any doubt or quibbles about rounding, or the small sizes of Scottish subsample, or any of the other get-out clauses usually trotted out at these times – Labour in Scotland is gubbed. More gubbed than a gobstopper that’s evaded the Heimlich manoeuvre. Now you know why the party appears Tory blue in the face. Choke on that one Jim. Your career is about to hit the buffers. The party leader with no party to lead.

 

 

I want my devo max

So where’s my devo max then? Like most people in Scotland who have been following political developments over the past few years – which is most people in Scotland – I fancy I have quite a good idea of what the phrase “devo max” means. It means that the Scottish Parliament raises all its own revenue including oil revenues, and exercises all powers except those to do with foreign affairs and defence – which would be retained by the UK Parliament. Seems straightforward enough doesn’t it. There would be no arguments about supposed “subsidies” from England, no disagreements over Scottish MPs voting on English only matters. What’s not to like? And as the icing on the devo cake, this is the settlement which, according to opinion polls, is consistently favoured by a large majority of the Scottish population, and had it been on offer prior to the independence referendum campaign, there wouldn’t have been an independence referendum campaign.

I seem to recall that during a certain referendum campaign a certain ex-prime minister promised us the most maxiest devo you could ever find this side of a federal state. In fact, we were promised the most federalest devo maxiest in the history of this most perfect union of nations ever seen in the history of the multiverse. It was all over the BBC, which as we all know is famous for its realistic depiction of all things Scottish – just watch Waterloo Road for its realistic depiction of a school that follows the English curriculum even though it’s in Greenock. Point proven.

Onieweys, this promise – or dare I say vow – came when yer actual prime minister and the heads of the other Unionist parties were all quite happy for the ex-prime minister to act like he was still prime minister, although to be fair Gordie Broon’s relationship with his employment status has always erred on the side of fictional. This is after all the man who described himself as an ex-politician while he’s still the MP for Kirkcaldy and who can rarely be arsed to turn up to represent them in the House of Commons.

What we were promised by Gordie and his tangential relationship to reality was for Holyrood and the other devolved administrations in the UK to have “the same status” as the Westminster Parliament. The new sort of federal government, according to the ex-politician ex-prime minister, would retain powers over defence and foreign affairs – everything else would be left to the control of the national parliaments. Gordie’s promise was going to save the UK, and that’s what Gordie’s promise did. Only Gordie’s promise was never going to be realised and it has now gone much the same way as the Labour party’s prospects of re-election in Scotland. There’s more chance of reviving a velociraptor for Jurassic park than there is of resuscitating devo max – or the Labour party.

Just a few days before the vote, Gordie vowed:

“The status quo is no longer an option. The choice is now between irreversible separation, or voting for a stronger Scottish parliament. We are talking about a big change in the constitution. It’s like home rule in the UK. We would be moving quite close to something near to federalism in a country where 85 per cent of the population is from one nation. Change is in the air and change is coming.”

Two months after the event and it doesn’t look like the Unionist parties are going to deliver anything close to that. Gordie himself stood up in Westminster and laid into the Tories because they wanted to devolve more taxes than he did. That’s the Tories, offering more devo than Labour – the self-described “party of devolution”. And then Labour wonders why its polling ratings have plunged further than a jobby that’s been flushed from a tenth floor toilet.

Still, Unionist politicians don’t have to keep their words, because Unionist politicians’ words mean whatever the Unionist politician wants them to mean at any given moment. Gordie might be an ex-politician, but he’s not an ex-fantasist. The devo max Gordie promised bears a similar relationship to reality as his promise to end boom and bust. That’s devo max bust then. As are the Unionist parties.

Devo max is not on offer after all, not even close. The Unionist parties are proposing minor tinkering with the existing settlement, arguing about what percentage of income tax revenues can dance on the head of a Holyrood pin. It’s devo-get-what-you’re-given, devo-dae-as-yer-telt. It’s the devolution that suits the political requirements of the Labour, Tory and Lib Dem front benches.

Devo max will never be offered by the Unionist parties for one very simple reason – it stands the relationship between Holyrood and Westminster on its head. Under the current devolution settlement, powers devolved are powers retained – and the ultimate power rests very firmly with Westminster. It means that they can preserve the fiction that only the Westminster Parliament is sovereign – and not the Scottish people. So Westminster collects all the taxes, and decides how much Holyrood is going to get. In the process it is conveniently able to obscure just how much of a contribution Scotland and Scottish resources make towards the extremely expensive upkeep of the United Kingdom and its addiction to nuclear missiles, foreign wars, and transport infrastructure in the South East of England. Then when Scotland gets uppity they can threaten us with warnings of financial meltdown without the kindness of Davie Cameron and Ed Miliband to look out for us.

With proper devo max, that couldn’t happen. Proper devo max means that Westminster’s fiction of the sovereignty of parliament is rendered meaningless and toothless. Holyrood would be responsible for raising all Scottish revenues, so Westminster would no longer be able to cook the books and tell us we were dependent upon them. And Holyrood would no longer be dependent upon a block grant from Westminster, it would be the other way around – Westminster would receive a grant from Holyrood to pay for those services which remained under centralised UK control – defence and foreign affairs. In effect this gives Holyrood a veto over Westminster’s foreign adventures – should there be another Iraq, then the Scottish Parliament might just refuse to pay its annual subvention to Westminster to pay for Scotland’s share of the costs of an illegal war. That’s why the Westminster parties won’t allow devo max, no matter how popular it is with the Scottish electorate, and no matter how often or loudly we demand it of them.

So if you want something that is yours by right, but the other party is not disposed to give it, then all that is left is to take it. We can do that by ensuring that at the next Westminster General Election and the next Scottish elections we return a majority of pro-Scotland MPs who can block any attempts by Westminster to impose a devolution settlement which falls short of the devo max they promised. It’s up to us to ensure they keep their promises, and to punish them if they try – as they most assuredly will – to weasel out of it.

This blog post has also been published on Scot2.scot  Scot2.Scot is a communications portal consisting of a website, two facebook central groups (one for news and media), a twitter account and a youtube channel all under the scot2.scot banner. It has been established to help provide broad support to the campaigns of the various pro-Scotland parties in the 2015 UK General Election.

Still off the ciggies by the way – that’s coming up for three weeks now – and I am no longer counting the days since the last fag.  I’m told that’s progress.