Giving up bad habits

This article first appeared in the first edition of iScot – Scotland’s new news, politics and features magazine.  If you’ve not subscribed yet, do so now!  I’ll be writing for them regularly – because they’ve asked me to contribute regularly unlike certain national newspapers – and I have just submitted my piece for their second edition due out in January.  The magazine is online at and is published in both digital and print formats. Subscribe here – a year’s subscription is just £36.

I’ve given up smoking, it’s not always easy giving up ciggies even though you don’t get much pleasure from it. Over a month now without polluting my lungs with the evil weed, and I’ve also joined the ranks of thousands of Scots who’ve kicked the bad habit – that would be the bad habit of voting Labour. I used to vote Labour, but then I realised it causes cancer of the Scottish body politic and leads to the premature death of aspirations.

By an eerie coincidence, the percentage of Scottish voters who say they plan to vote Labour at the next election is more or less the same as the percentage of Scottish adults who still smoke. But giving up one is a whole lot easier than giving up the other. The main difference being that while former smokers still get cravings for a fag, no one in their right mind feels a desire to have a sook on Jim Murphy. Not even Anas Sarwar.

Labour’s been a bad habit in Scottish politics for far too long. We voted Labour without thinking as we wrongly believed it was the only way to keep the Tories out of office. But the truth of the matter is that the only way to keep the Tories out of office is for voters in England not to vote for them, and there’s precious little that the Scottish electorate can do to influence that. For all Labour’s calls for solidarity with folk south of the border during the referendum campaign, there’s precious little solidarity in the other direction. Voters vote according to what they consider to be in their own best interests, and if voters in England believe their interests are best served by voting Tory, no appeals to solidarity with Caledonians are going to make them do otherwise.

We voted Labour all the way through the 80s and 90s, and got Tory governments anyway. We voted Labour in 1997 and got a Labour government that had become Red Tory in order to appeal to voters in England because that was the only way it could get elected. So Scottish voters must take a leaf out of our English brothers and sisters’ book, and vote according to what is in our own best interests. Vote for parties that put Scotland first. That doesn’t mean we let the Tories in, no party which puts Scotland first is going to ally itself with David Cameron and George Osborne. But Labour will adopt Cameron and Osborne’s policies in an effort to appeal to voters in the English shires. Eds Miliband and Balls have already said they’ll implement the same austerity plan, just with a sad face and a more adenoidal commentary.

Scotland needs to break the Labour habit, and during the referendum campaign hundreds of thousands of us gave it up as we saw Labour stand shoulder to shoulder with the Tories and wrap itself in the Union flag and cheer as bosses, bankers and big business issued dire warnings and threats at the behest of Westminster. Scotland is too small to go it alone, our economy too unbalanced and weak, they told us, conveniently sidestepping the question that if what they said was true, then it made little sense to continue to vote for the pathetic parties which had brought about this lamentable state of affairs. We’ve made you rubbish, Labour cried, so vote for us. Labour is no longer the people’s party, they’re the party of managing the people’s expectations on behalf of the banks and the bosses.

Labour may once have had principles, but now the party is epitomised by the man most likely to take over as branch manager in Scotland, Jim Murphy. It’s not true to say that the Smugurphy has no guiding political principles, he does, and they are clear and consistent and can be summarised in three words – and those words are : Jim Murphy’s career.

Since the referendum, Labour’s support has gone into freefall while support for pro-Scotland parties like the SNP, the Greens and the SSP has shot upwards. Due to the distorting features of the first past the post voting system, it now looks quite possible that Labour will be reduced to a tiny rump of Scottish seats, a backside that’s been severely kicked. We need to make sure this comes to pass, if Scottish voters can ensure that the Unionist parties lack a majority of Scottish seats then we can effectively block any claim to democratic legitimacy of any attempt by Westminster to tinker with the devolution settlement. And if the SNP were the third or fourth largest party in Westminster then pro-Scotland parties could be key to the stability of a future UK government. That’s the way to extract concessions, not by voting Labour and hoping that they’ll pay us heed when they’ve never paid us any heed in the past.

Once you’ve broken a bad habit, and realised it was nothing more than a bad habit, you start to see the benefits. In the case of giving up smoking you find your lung capacity increases – which is extremely useful for screaming abuse at the telly at a greater volume whenever Magrit Curran’s mug hoves into view – and your bank balance is a whole lot healthier too. In the few short weeks since stopping smoking, I reckon I’ve saved over £300. And in the few short weeks since Scotland’s broken the Labour habit, it looks like we can save an entire country.


40 comments on “Giving up bad habits

  1. jimnarlene says:

    Good to hear you’re still off the fags. Hopefully, Scotland is off it’s Labour addiction too.

  2. bjsalba says:

    I do wonder just how many of the folks in England actually believe that the Westminster parties are are worth voting for. But what choice do they have? Look what happened when they gave the Lib-Dems a chance!

    The MSM lies to the English electorate just as much as they do to us, but in different ways. That is why you have so many believing the UKIP lies that immigrants are the problem.

    If Scotland dumps the WM parties who knows, the idea might spread!

  3. Steve Asaneilean says:

    Excellent piece Paul – and looking forward to reading it again when my print edition of iScot pops through my letter box.
    I think that the pro-indy parties need to knock the “vote Labour in Scotland to keep the Tories out of Westminster” on the head – and they need to do it now and then repeat it often and vigorously up till May.
    You hit the nail on the head – we get Tory government because of the voting habits of the 90% of UK voters who DON’T live in Scotland, not because of the 10% who do.
    Voting Labour in Scotland will only give us a Labour government in Westminster if enough of the rUK 90% vote for them too – and we will be left with a Labour WM government that first and foremost owes its allegiance to those “90% ers”.
    How would Scotland be better off under those circumstances?
    I have seen Nicola repeatedly call for consensus at FMQs and that’s grand (and be quite effective at times in painting the pro-Union parties into a corner). But I would also like to see, inside and outside the Scottish parliament, a much more robust respnse and calling out of rubbish like vote pro-indy and get a Tory government.
    I still cannot see for the life of me my Labour in Scotland were the most vocal in their opposition to “home rule”- even a blind man with cataracts and sun glasses on standing in the middle of nowhere on a moonless night can see this would be the best way to protect Scotland from Tory government at WM.

  4. Hector says:

    As an exLabour Party member (1980s) I would have thought the natural political position for a real Scottish Labour Party to adopt would have been that of DevoMax from the institution of the Scottish Parliament….and especially in light of the Independence Referendum. The fact they could’nt adopt this says everything about why they could not challenge the SNP OR the ConDems and evidences their subservient role to Westminster Labour. They are not, and never have been with Scotland…and sadly, with Murphy as Branch Manager, never will be. We need to bury them and move on!

  5. Justin Fayre says:

    Can abybody out there confirm the rumour that in the style of Cassius Clay becoming Mohammed Ali, Jim Murphy has converted to the Sioux Faith and from now on is to be known as Big Chief Jimmy Two Crates

  6. Justin Fayre says:

    Or even anybody

  7. Hortense says:

    It would look good on a t shirt and/or poster – ‘break the Labour habit.’

  8. scotsgeoff says:

    Glad you’re getting printed elsewhere too with hopefully a cash return.

    Unfortunately there will be no way I can afford to subscribe to iScot so
    I hope this blog keeps running.

    Awra best, Geoff

    • kendomacaroonbar says:

      Hello Geoff,

      You can access WGD’s articles on iScot free of charge. There is no paywall.

      We know that many people have huge demands on their limited income which doesn’t stretch to affording luxuries such as magazines, and therefore that’s the reason that the magazine is free to view online.

      The subscription model covers only the post, packing and handling within the UK and guarantees delivery of a glossy printed copy to your door.

      We are delighted and honoured that Paul has agreed to write for us on a regular basis and hope that you continue to enjoy his work as much as we do.

  9. hektorsmum says:

    Glad to hear you have not fallen off the wagon and let us hope that the majority of Scots don’t either. Hektor the Pug comes from a Kennel called PearlySouix, his Mum’s name Singing Bird, she has so many boys that all his litter were given Cowboy names, his is Butch Cassidy, well he is a wee outlaw. His only sister Annie get yer gun.

  10. Dave Hansell says:

    The reality of the Labour Party adopting tory policies, including (as the loyal opposition) a unionist position based on the indefinate maintenance of The British State, and effectively becoming what is referred to in Scotland as ‘red tories’ poses a number of problems for those seeking independence.

    Having ruled out any deal with the traditional blue tories to maintain them in power following a inconclusive result in the Westminster election next May the SNP section of the independence movement seems to have indicated a willingness to help the red tories form an administration instead.

    This makes a degree of sense from the point of view of trying to achieve independence in Scotland but raises questions as to what policies adopted by the red tories would be acceptable to two key but seperate constituencies; the SNP and it’s new membership base and the wider independence movement in Scotland,currently found in other Scottish parties such as the Greens and Socialists or Independents.

    Would it be acceptable, for example, to one or both or neither of these two constituencies to support policies such as continuation of the bedroom tax or further austerity cuts in return for progress on Scottish Independence if the red tories, as the senior party in such an arrangement, were to pursue them?

    Such examples may seem extreme. However, the bedroom tax example has already been posed by what might best be described as a section of the SNP leadership in at least one candidate selection process. The former UK diplomat Craig Murray, who was sacked by the red tories for highlighting UK complicity in torture, is currently highlighting the fact that he was asked whether he would support the bedroom tax if he were selected as a candidate in order to maintain collective responsibility and SNP party discipline. Murray, in his blog, is surmising that his negative reply may hae had some bearing on his non selection.

    Regardless of whether or not this is the case the fact that at least some sections of the SNP are officially floating these kinds of questions should be raising alarm bells in both of the above listed constituencies. How would it look in the rest of the UK, never mind Scotland, if one section of the Independence movement, the SNP, was to support tory policies to maintain the red tories at Westminster?

    The immediate aftermath of the September 2014 referendum result offered some real promise with genuine discussion of a break from the stale Westminster gang culture where different political parties and groupings within the Independence movement seemed to be working and cooperating together to break the mold, with talk of fielding and supporting the best candidate regardless of party affiliation. At this point most reasonable people would be forgiven for entertaining the thought that it has not taken long for power or the prospect of power to go to the heads of one section of the Independence movement.

    One is left with the thought as to whether or not all the new members and foot soldiers of the SNP would support this approach if they were aware of it? There is not a lot of time left for the Independence movement to get a grip of this situation and start to school the Grandees, careerists, apparatchiks and upper echelons of the SNP in the new realities. Otherwise their remains the danger of swapping the red tories for the tartan tories.

    • Steve Asaneilean says:

      Hi Dave – re Craig Murray – as I have said elsewhere, it was wrong for the selection process to hide behind some hypothetical demonstration of party loyalty rather than just being honest with Craig and telling him that they felt he was simply too much of a “loose cannon” risk.
      However, the way Craig has reacted to his non-selection kind of suggests to me that maybe the selection panel made the right call?
      Party politics is such a dirty game which is why I have never joined in. The level of egotism and self-centredness it invokes just isn’t in me.

      • diabloandco says:

        Did anyone even hint at a reason for rejecting Mr Murray?
        He has decided the reason and he has proved that he’d splatter his thoughts all over the place.
        Sure does prove that the extensive interviews for the candidate is a good and telling method.

        Tree of Liberty , you swine ! More coffee to clean up!

      • Justin Fayre says:

        Oh no. I never ever thought I’d say this but I have to disagree Steve.
        As an SNP member of long standing in the Falkirk Constituency Area, I had become used to ‘crying in the wilderness’ over lost oppprtunities but thought that after the Referendum hypocrisy would be a trait best left to the Coalition.
        Seems I was wrong.
        Time will tell if the long standing learned helplessness in the National Psyche will endure post May

  11. Natasha says:

    Yaay, Paul, so glad someone’s recognised your talents!

  12. Thanks for the heads up, I haved subscribed. Did you use e cigs to give up? I’m a smoker who would like to become an exsmoker.

    • weegingerdug says:

      I just stopped. It helped that I gave up when I moved house – because it meant my entire daily routine changed, and I had loads to do which gave me something to distract myself when the cravings were bad. Mind you, once you get through the first few days, it gets a lot easier.

    • carthannas says:

      Read Alan Carr’s ‘Easy Way to Stop Smoking’. Did it for me – and I was on 60-80 a day! I tried everything until then – patches, pastilles, hypnotherapy and acupuncture.

      The other thing is to recognise that it won’t just happen. You have to make the decision. You’ll probably feel
      really depressed at the thought before you become a non-smoker but remember this is because you’ve introduced nicotine into your daily life and you think you can’t function without it. Believe me, you can. Above all – you’re not ‘giving up’ something, you’re freeing yourself from the addiction to a noxious substance. One manufactured and promoted by some of the same big money behind the No campaign incidentally.

      Go for it!

  13. arthur thomson says:

    Thank you as always Paul. I tried to make an annual subscription to iScot some time ago but had problems. I will try again. I am interested in a comment above about Tartan Tories. I remember an uncle claiming that 30 or 40 years ago. It was SLAB crap then and it still is now. We all know who the ‘Tartan Tories’ are: they are the SLABS who joined heart and soul with their conservative ‘rivals’ in the game of keeping Scotland under the their unionist cosh. Any SNP group elected in 2015 are going to be working in a minefield. They will make the decisions they think best in Scotland’s interests. Just doing that will be a breath of air compared to the Labour Party. They will no doubt make mistakes but potentially they will put Scotland’s agenda right at the middle of UK government. What comes from that, if it can be achieved, remains to be seen.

  14. hektorsmum says:

    Just popped in Paul to wish you and Ginger a very Happy New Year and that you get the job you deserve. I hope unlike us you have unpacked the boxes, took us over a year, and are settled in the New Hoose.

  15. macart763 says:

    All the very best for 2015 Paul and thanks for all your work.


  16. Justin Fayre says:

    Oh well not long now. And no Ahm no talkin bout the Election.
    Ah haf decided to follow your example Paul and quit at midnight. Ahve got two fags close by mocking me and,sayin ‘youve got no chance sucker!!’
    Determined to prove them wrong though.
    Have a Merry New Year and keep up the good fight

  17. liz g says:

    All the best from me an ma dug tae you n your’s
    Thanks for all you did and long may you continue X

  18. All the best, Paul and Wee Ginger. from Dave and Abi!

  19. liza says:

    Happy New Year Paul and Wee Ginger Dug. I don’t know how I’d have got this far without you! Before September I couldn’t believe you were there and so sharp and funny too! So often I laughed and cried at the same time!! I have followed you and hope you will continue in our new phase in 2015! Very Best Wishes to you for the New Year! Love Anne xx

  20. Patrick Roden says:

    All the best for 2015 Paul, you have always put a smile on my face with your writing and that’s an amazing (and one of the most difficult form of writing) talent, so I am quite surprised that any publication who wishes to entertain their readers would not jump at the chance to employ you!

    Since you have put so much effort in for all of us, I will do my little part for you and send off a few emails to some media outlets and say why it would make good commercial sense for them to employ you as a writer.

    I know they are sacking people because of falling sales, but perhaps the falling sales is because the nasty bile that most of the MSM offer the public in the form of articles.

    The news is bad enough for most people, without people like Cock-Ring etal filling our senses with their pointless sneers, so perhaps some editors will see sense and employ you to bring a smile and actually leave the reader feeling better for reading their newspaper…Now wouldn’t that make commercial sense?

    keep you updated🙂 and thanks again.

  21. Michael Housman says:

    Hi Paul,
    Please check the yes Alliance FB page, a post from Dave Martin about 9 pm 2/1/15
    “From my friend Ron Shankland:
    “Hi all,
    I don’t know to put a message
    on to Facebook that will go all over . .to everyone that wants to see it. Can one of you copy this for me and do that, please??
    I live in Germany and this morning, 2nd January, 2015, I went to my village bank. The VOLKSBANK is Germany’s second largest bank. I put down 35 Scots 20-pound notes on the counter. “Can you change these into Euros please?”
    The lady looked at them and said, “Sorry, since October 1st 2014, we can only change Bank of England notes from the UK”. I got the manager to come over, asked who had written that order, and made quite a fuss, believe me. I’ve been a customer of theirs for years. The manager made a couple of calls and came back. He said, apologetically, “Apparently the British Government in London recommended that all European banks only change English notes, I’m sorry, it seems to be a political decision.” I asked him to call the Sparkasse, his competitor, and ask them. They also said, “No, no Scots notes at all. ”
    “The Bank of England doesn’t seem to think so”, he said, shrugging his shoulders apologetically. I left that bank fuming. Who the HELL do these politicians and(w) bankers in London think they are? ?? ?”

    If this is true it needs as much publicity as it can get


    • Is this for real so much for better together

    • Steve Asaneilean says:

      Mike – no banknotes have “legal tender” status in Scotland. But “legal tender” is really just a technical issue irrelevant to most day to day life. There is no obligation to accept or exchange Scottish banknotes outside Scotland. By the same token there is no obligation in Scotland to accept Bank of England notes or notes from anywhere indeed!

  22. diabloandco says:

    Michael , that is utterly shocking and should be forwarded to every newspaper and to the Scottish Government.

    Let’s see what the Investigations Editor of the Herald can do with it – perhaps it would tax him more that the gossip column in which he seems so keen indulge.

    Jeez! I really do loathe and detest the media in Scotland.

    A belated Happy 2015 to one and all and especially wee Ginger.

  23. diabloandco says:

    Strike all that – people who have clearer heads have found the assertion suspect.

    Don’t strike the bit about the MSM and Happy new Year.

  24. Philip Edson or Philip Myers-Brown depending on the day of the week. says:

    I think we should stop using the political language of the last century. It doesn´t help in the 21st century. The political parties have more or less merged into one.There are no Tories, Socialists or Liberals What are the issues of the 21st century? Climate Change, Poverty, Food and energy supply, education and heath care – one world, one people. Politicians have NOTHING to say about the 21st century. Throughout Europe politics has become moribund and has no relevance. People are in stress – some want to go back the past – remembering the good old days. The world has never been more polarised and most of this comes back to poverty. How can 85 people have more money than half of the world´s population? Worse, they want even more. I think it is time to stop looking inwards and get to theg heart of the real problem – greedcancer.

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