Being pecked to death by an angry chicken

Yesterday the Sunday Herald did something that no other newspaper in the UK has ever done before – it carried an article exposing the online activities of the numerous Unionist Twitter trolls. The mainstream media has until now ignored the swearing, threats and abuse originating from those who support the Union, preferring to concentrate on the portrayal of independence supporters as the agents of an evil nationalist cult, beardy blue face painted Minions in kilts but without the movie deal. While I am glad that a major publication has finally pointed out the obvious – that people are rude on the Internet – I can’t help but thinking that it’s all a bit petty.

Well I say “a bit”, which is like saying that the Labour party in Scotland and dinosaurs are a bit extinct, or that Gordon Matheson is a bit of a car park attendant. But seriously, why should anyone care what a random punter says on Twitter? Although you can understand why Blair McDougall might care, it’s not like he’s got anything else to do with his time. He was appointed as an advisor to Jim Murphy, but now his job description is “waiting for jotters”.

You could quite easily say that being a bit petty is what Twitter is all about. Twitter is the sound-bite generator of the Internet. On Twitter you get 140 characters to express yourself, so you’re not going to get subtle and nuanced, it’s not bloody Tolstoy. You get LOLZ and abbreviations. You get gross simplification and childishness. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you get funny one liners and you can guarantee there’s a lot of pictures of cute kittens. It’s a bit like Reporting Scotland without the laughs or the hotline to Labour party press releases, only you’re not charged £145 a year for the privilege and it’s easier to ignore the fitba references.

And occasionally, but thankfully rarely, you get really nasty individuals who vilify and traduce, abuse and traduce, post people’s home addresses and threaten them – usually women – with violence and rape. This sort of behaviour is of course illegal and it is a criminal offence. But what the Murphoid remnants of the Labour party have been trying to do is to conflate the robust expression of political opinion with criminal threats to hunt down a woman and rape her. They’ve been engaged in a deliberate campaign to leech on the very real abuse faced by some people on the Internet and sook oot what sympathy they can from it. And the mainstream media has been egging them on.

We are where we are because the mainstream media has made such a big play of supposed abuse by independence supporters and ignored the abuse originating from Unionists. The result is that you can read just about any report on Scotland in the majority of the UK press and it’s like being pecked to death by an irate chicken, only with a lower IQ and a greater amount of hysteria. Although on reflection that’s being unfair to chickens. Chickens don’t know how to lie. Half the time what is carried in the media about Scotland is an outright falsehood. If the lying lurid headlines splashed all over the front pages ever do get corrected, it’s in tiny print in an inside page, hiding below an article about breast enlargement.

And that’s even before you venture into the comments section, where there’s a den of spittle flecked invective and hatred which would make the average Twitter user rush to cuddle a Minion in comfort. The real issues are lost in a flurry of net curtain twitching and finger pointing. Supporters of the Union don’t even address the fundamental contradiction lurking at the very heart of their own argument, it’s never been pointed out to them by the press that feeds the flames of hatred and disdain.

Let’s accept, for the sake of argument, that Scotland is a basket case which requires the UK in order to keep it from the fate of Greece. Whose fault is that then? Sure as hell it isn’t the SNP who have had their paws on the levers of macroeconomic policy for the past century or two. But apparently we’re better off remaining under the tender administrations of the maliciously incompetent idiots who have brought about this lamentable state of affairs – reducing what could have been a prosperous northern European country with an embarrassment of natural resources to penury and dependency. That’s the core contradiction at the heart of the Unionist argument, and by ignoring it, all that is left is the childish idiocy of finger pointing on Twitter. Pooling and sharing my arse. So having infantilised and trivialised the debate, then they complain when they’re not taken seriously.

They have chosen to infantilise and trivialise the debate on Scottish independence, and by extension fostering the notion that independence is itself an infantile and trivial idea. The underlying message is that if you want Scottish independence then you’re trivial, you’re obsessed by something that is unimportant and meaningless. And this tells us what the Union thinks about Scotland. It’s Scotland that is trivial and unimportant. It’s not about self-determination. It’s not about democracy. It’s not about achieving a cohesive and fair society, redistributing wealth and land, or social justice and equality. It’s all about rude names on Twitter and the pursed lips of disapproving prudery.

I want to live in a country which is taken seriously by its politicians and opinion formers, a country which is important to those who take the decisions about its future, a country which is central to the policies of those who determine its economy. But apparently that’s too much to ask for in a Scotland which is a part of the UK.

When we get independence we can at least remedy these things. We can have politicians we can hold to account if they don’t treat us like adults. But we’re probably going to be stuck with a media which trivialises everything unless we build a new one for ourselves.

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The American tea of politics

Well that’s me home now. Big thanks to Macart and all the people who published guest posts during my absence and kept the shop open. I appreciate it immensely. I forgot my phone charger so decided just to switch it off when leaving Heathrow and spent the entire holiday incommunicado. On reflection, that was a better idea. Being disconnected from electronic devices meant I was really able to relax and forget about everything. But I’m back now, refreshed and opinionated as ever.

I had a wonderful time in Boston, doing all the usual touristy stuff. It’s an easy city to discover on foot. The food was great, I’ve now acquired a new love for Vietnamese food. I met up with an old friend and had a fantastic time with him. He’s the self-confessed world’s worst tour guide, but great company, and didn’t even complain when I insisted on dragging him to the nether end of Boston’s public transport system so I could have a ride on an old fashioned streetcar.

I also discovered the real reason why they threw all that tea into Boston harbour and sparked off the American Revolution. It wasn’t a principled stand against unfair taxation, oh no. It was really because American tea is seriously howffstrous, boakalicious, and just plain boggin. You’d think that a nation that put a man on the moon might have grasped the simple concept of putting the teabag in the cup before you add boiling water, but seemingly this is beyond the wit of a country with drive in funeral parlours. Probably saying this makes me an evil Scottish cybernat, but apparently evil Scottish cybernat racism only counts as evil Scottish cybernat racism when you tell jokes about English people while in pursuit of Scottish independence, so I reckon I am on safe ground here slagging off American tea making abilities. Although with the Daily Mail you can never be sure. Americans don’t count as foreigners to the Daily Mail, at least not the white, heterosexual, English speaking ones, even if they can’t make a decent cup of tea.

One trendy “tea bar” near Harvard Yard asked if I wanted bobo in my tea. I thought that was Michael Jackson’s pet chimpanzee, but apparently it’s some sort of tapioca. Apparently people with ironic beards like that sort of thing. Anyway, I politely declined the cuppa semolina chimp, and told the server I just wanted a common or garden cup of hot tea – because by this time I’d worked out that if you ask an American for tea you’re quite likely to get given something with ice in it. And then I got presented with a cup of tepid water to which a tea bag had been briefly introduced. To be honest, the chimpanzee would have tasted better, which is probably why Michael Jackson got him in the first place.

So there you have it. America got its separation from the UK because their tea is crap. Not any high principled stuff about taxation or democracy. Perhaps we could take a tealeaf from the Americans’ book and start a Scottish revolution by demolishing the BBC Scotland headquarters and chucking the pieces into what used to be the harbour at Pacific Quay, not because the licence fee is an unfair tax and obligatory state sponsored propaganda is profoundly undemocratic, but because River City is a bit rubbish.

So while I was away out of touch with Caledonian civilisation and being offered bowffericious tannin based beverages while learning about their relationship to revolution, Clypegate happened. The Labour party in Scotland is in a death spiral, it’s already bouncing off the treetops and about to plunge into a deep ravine and explode in a shower of spangly Blair McDougalls, so you’d imagine that any party in such a dire set of circumstances would be taking a long hard look at itself and considering fundamental changes to the way it has operated all these years. But no. Labour thinks it just needs to keep on doing the exact same thing, only more so. Because that’s really going to work for them.

Labour has stared defeat in the face, and it’s crapping itself. Having scrapped any form of socialism that the party once possessed it’s no longer a Labour movement but a bowel movement. Now it’s decided to use the Daily Mail to help it spread the keech about a bit.

Personally, as an evil cybernat, I was devastated to discover that I wasn’t named by the Daily Mail. I’d say named and shamed but I was born without the shame gene. And I’m so evil I throw jeely pieces out of windaes, and the pieces don’t have any jeely on them. That’s pure evil that is. However it’s not as pure evil as the Labour party, which is pure evil combined with pathetic and disgusting and has long since gone off the boil, a bit like American tea really. There’s a real insult there – far worse than calling them traitors, the Labour party are the American tea of politics.

I’m not taking it personally, as the real reason I’ve not been named and unshamed is because I’m not an SNP member so there’s no political mileage in it. You can’t scream SNP accused at a person who’s not answerable to the SNP.

However it’s unlikely that there’s a great deal of mileage for Labour in screaming SNP accused at people on Twitter who are SNP members. It’s not like this is a tactic that they’ve never tried before and represents a new strategy which will turn around their fortunes. Labour’s staff members and its few remaining politicians have been trolling the nation for years now and screaming SNP accused at every opportunity – aided and abetted by their friends in an increasingly discredited and discreditable media. And look where it’s got them. I thought Blair McDougall was supposed to be a master strategist? I suppose he is if you want a strategy for disappearing down the nearest stank. And to put the yellow ice on the crapcake, what Labour has done might even be illegal and a breach of the Data Protection Act. It is not illegal to call a politician a traitor. It’s a robust opinion, and robust opinions are what democracy is founded upon. The American revolutionaries understood that one, even if they didn’t know how to make a decent cuppa.

So to those souls how have been demonised by the Daily Mail for calling someone a traitor, wear it with pride. It means you’ve annoyed someone. And that’s a great start for a revolution.

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Chaplain to the Fairy Queen

Creative journalism by Elizabeth Angus

It’s a sunny spring Saturday, and I’m headed up a Fairy Hill. The way is not long, but the path in places is steep. I’m recovering from illness, and the exertion makes me light-headed.

Quick movement at my feet, half-seen. A swift flitting across the path. Probably dead leaves in the breeze. Probably my dizziness. Probably not elves, fauns or fairies.

I’m looking, rather optimistically, for the footprints of the Reverend Robert Kirk. He was the minister here in Aberfoyle, and my path to the hill has taken me past the Old Manse. Not, sadly, the same manse which Kirk lived in – it has been rebuilt since his day – but quite possibly the same manse in which Sir Walter Scott wrote The Lady of the Lake and kicked off tourism in the Trossachs.

The Reverend used to walk this path daily. Doon Hill, which is its proper name, is not far away from the old church – what could be more natural than the minister taking a gentle perambulation around his parish every evening after his dinner?

Nothing at all – except that Robert Kirk used to wander up this fairy mound in his nightgown, and lie with his ear to the ground, listening for the Little People. Sometimes he would stay for hours, until his wife came looking for him.

In 1691 Kirk wrote a manuscript essay called The Secret Commonwealth, which is still in print, and which I am clutching a copy of as I follow the worn, muddy path. This treatise was the conclusion of a lifetime’s interest in the supernatural – a matter-of-fact account of the lives of fairies, collected from parishioners who claimed to have the second sight. The Reverend seemingly saw nothing incongruous in juxtaposing a belief in a Christian God with a belief in more otherworldly creatures:

‘They are said to have aristocratical rulers and laws, but no discernible religion, love, or devotion towards God, the Blessed Maker of All.’

I ponder this apparent dichotomy as I continue my way upwards. The wooded hill is peaceful, yet vibrant with the onset of spring. There is little sound apart from birdsong and the wind in the branches. I fancy I feel a spirit of enchantment about the place. It would not take much to believe, as Robert Kirk apparently believed, that this mound is inhabited by fairies.

The wind dies for a moment; the sun is warm on my hair. Suddenly I want to lie down right here; curl up; fall asleep for centuries. I feel so tired. The skin prickles across the top of my back: I feel suddenly spooked, and I push onwards.

Abruptly I reach the summit. The path broadens into an open space under the oak trees, perhaps forty feet across. Bare forest floor beneath my feet; brown, dead leaves; pine cones.

I stare.

All around the edges of the clearing, the oak and holly trees are festooned with strips of rags and ribbons. People write their wishes on these cloths and tie them to the branches for the Little People to grant. As I look closer, I see that it’s not just rags: there are wind chimes, amulets, pieces of paper. Tibetan prayer flags, sunglasses, scarves.

The wind caresses them. Fairy tinkling.

And in the middle of this space stands the Minister’s Pine.

It’s a peculiar vision. The tree is girdled with string and ribbons. From these belts dangle an array of wishes, turning the pine into some bizarre hula dancer. I approach curiously and read some. Wishes for happiness, for long life, for an easy death for terminally-ill loved ones. Wishes for boyfriends, for money, for decent birthday presents. Some are folded for fairy eyes only. Others hang loose for the world to witness. Further offerings lie on the ground under the tree: shells, model fairies, pennies. A tiny plastic pineapple.

I sit on the feet of the pine, and lean back into the wishes. What do I expect? Some supernatural encounter with the Reverend Robert Kirk? I close my eyes.

It’s a warm evening on Wednesday the 14th of May. The year is 1692, and the Reverend Kirk is about to leave the manse for his habitual after-dinner stroll. His wife, one hand caressing her extended belly, lays her other hand gently on his arm.

‘Dinnae gang oot the nicht, Robert. Bide here wi’ me.’

‘Whit’s the matter, my dear? Are ye no’ weel?’

She looks beyond him through the open door and sees the Fairy Hill, dark in the gloaming. She shivers, though the night is mild.

‘No, Ah’m weel enough. But Ah hae this oorie feeling… bide at hame, Robert!’ 

The minister looks down into her shadowed face and frowns. He glances out of the door and frowns again.

‘Fancies and imaginings, woman! Get back tae the fireside. I’ll be back hame presently’.

He stoops his tall body to kiss her cheek, lifts his walking stick and strides out of the door in his nightgown.

And in the best story-telling tradition, he is never seen alive again. His pregnant wife, stomping up the hill to tell him to come home, discovers him lying dead beneath the tall pine. Perhaps right where I am now.

The belief soon arose that the minister’s manuscript, giving away so many of their secrets, had incurred the wrath of the fairies. In retribution they stole him away, leaving behind a stock: a piece of wood which had been glamorized to resemble his body. His grave, which lies in the old Aberfoyle kirkyard, does not hold Robert Kirk.

The big old pine tree, against which I am leaning, does. The Reverend Kirk has found eternal life, and is trapped forever within this tree – body and soul. So the rumour goes, anyway. I like this rumour, so I snuggle more comfortably against the bole and daydream a little more.

It is not long after the funeral, and one of Kirk’s relations, who is gifted with the second sight, is nodding by the fireside. Something causes him to look up, and there before him is the apparition of the Reverend Kirk.

‘Robert! It canna be – Ah wis there when we buried ye!’ 

‘It’s me, richt enough. I’m alive, but the Fairy Queen has taken me for her Chaplain. I’m her prisoner forever, unless ye help me.’

‘Whit can Ah dae?’

‘Gang to my cousin, Graham of Duchray. Tell him my son will be born soon, and I will appear at the christening. Graham maun be there. When he sees me, he maun fling an iron dirk over my head, and I will be returned to this world. Tell him!’

The christening duly takes place. A small congregation gathers in the old church within sight of Doon Hill. Graham of Duchray watches the widow Kirk, dressed in mourning, as she gently rocks her infant son. Suddenly he sees Robert Kirk, standing beside his wife, and staring straight at him. Graham cannot believe his eyes, but the man with second sight nudges him and whispers ‘There he is, man! Whaur’s yer dirk?’

Graham reaches towards his belt, then hesitates. The seer dunts him again, none too gently. ‘Whit are ye waiting for, man? Throw it!’

Graham’s face is pale. ‘I canna do it. What if it hits the widow?’

When they both look up again, the apparition has vanished. 

Graham of Duchray was too late, and the Reverend Robert Kirk is now a prisoner of the fairies for all time.

A buzzard screams, and I open my eyes. A motorbike putters past on the road below. Close, but not here, not intrusive. Part of another world, not this one. The trunk of the pine shelters me from the snell wind, the sun is warm and I’m losing track of time. I feel reluctant to move – maybe the fairies are claiming me as well. Already I’ve been here an hour. I gaze upwards into the branches of the tree, brown against the blue sky, and think about the tradition behind the wishes. Cloutie Trees, Cloutie Wells. Our ancestors used to tie rags to branches at sacred places. As the rag rotted away, so too would the affliction you were seeking help for. This pre-Christian practice has managed to survive, without much variation, into modern times, just as Robert Kirk’s fairies managed to survive alongside seventeenth-century religious beliefs.

I realise I have a strong urge to write a wish myself, but I have no pen; and besides, it’s time to go. As I leave the clearing I look back at the Minister’s Pine, and I wonder if he really is trapped inside it. Then I smile at myself for entertaining such ridiculous thoughts.

I take a different, less-used path on the way down, which snakes around to join the first. In the lee of the summit now, the sheltered air is heavy and warm. Enchanting.

Near the bottom of the hill, my way passes between two rocky conglomerate piles. Huge jumbled slabs of stone lean against each other, some split to display crystalline centres. The outcrops are crowned with deep, deep moss, starry wood anemones sparkling against the green. Slender oaks spring from the spaces between the stones.

If entrances to Fairy Hills exist, they surely look like this.


Grateful thanks to the Wee Ginger Dug for once again letting me sully his airwaves with fanciful nonsense.

If you want more ramblings, come along to and see what’s happening. The blog’s very new and I’m just finding my feet, but you’re all welcome!

A little insight into autism

A Guest post by Paul Larsen

(Written by my wife Christina)

Life with John and autism is such a roller coaster of emotions and can make you cry sad tears and happy tears almost at the same time. 

Yesterday I saw a boy who used to be in Johns nursery class, walking along wearing his greenwood academy uniform and it reminded me of all the things that John is missing out on at this stage of his life. It made me sad because I wish I could give John all the experiences in life that a 12 year old should have…. Having friends… Going to birthday parties… Fancying girls… Telling him that he has to work hard at school, so he can do well in exams, to give him the best start in life. Him not having this life makes me cry sad tears. 

Then we have a day like today, where we hear John speaking so beautifully on the radio and we celebrate the fact that he is even able to do this, as he was non-verbal  until he was about 6. I then think about him doing the solo piece at the prize giving service at his school and remember how much I was bursting with pride at watching my special boy perform in front of all those people. I think of him i-messaging me from his iPad, to tell me that he wanted Pizza Hut, instead of a McDonald’s on a Friday all these small accomplishments are massive to both John and us his family and that makes me cry happy tears .

Although I wish I could give John the life that any parent would want for their child. I am thankful and blessed that I was chosen to be Johns mum, because who knew that he is teaching me more about life than I could have ever taught him? 

I love you with every beat of my heart Son.  Mumxxx 

I hope you liked my wife’s little story about our wonderful boy, it’s just a minuscule insight into the stresses and strains of being a parent or carer of a disabled child. John has classic autism and will need 24 hour care for the rest of his life.

There are many many people with similar and more heart wrenching stories to tell in this country of ours and that’s without the added stresses of Tory austerity which seems to have brought with it a vilification and negative agenda against the disabled the poor and the sick.

Coping with disability or caring for someone with a disability brings with it many battles, some of these you win and some you lose we still need to be hopeful and try and stay positive. Nowadays that’s not so easy to do, I really can’t put into words the worry or gut wrenching fear I have for my sons future as services already under extreme pressure will have to endure further cuts.

The cuts to social services mean that care which would normally be provided might not be or it could be drastically reduced and could take years to be adequate enough for the people who need them.

We haven’t used any services up till now but will in the future as we get older and John becomes/craves more independence.

What if we aren’t there to fight my sons battles then who will? In a small way he’s lucky we still have our health and at the moment can care for his needs, organise his life or fight his corner but what about the people who don’t have what he has? What happens to them in the big wide world of Tory austerity? The answer isn’t a happy one.

Patience is a virtue (probably)

A guest post by Samuel Miller (Macart)

I’m seeing a recurring theme across the interwebby and the meeja these days and it boils down to ‘there’s only 56 of them, they can’t do anything, they don’t have any support or why aren’t they more effective?’ Torn faces left, right and centre, despair, black dugs biting bums the length and breadth of an editorial bear pit. Oh its carnage so it is, or maybe no.

Even amongst independence support and the wider Scottish electorate there’s a general theme of frustration and apprehension, and believe you me its being cultivated, encouraged even, by both media and big government. Though I’d guess in reality they have more reason to feel panicked or depressed than the Scottish electorate should. After all its them that are on final notice, not the public.

I think its time for people to step back and take a look at what’s being done, why things happen the way they do and what’s been achieved.

I’m assuming that we’re all aware the upsurge in rhetoric from oor fav meeja on the subject of those 56 MPs, yes? They’re unruly, disrespectful, noisy, argumentative and downright unkulchurred? Here’s a wee bit of perspective on the subject:—alex-salmond-gives-westminster-the-gift-of-the-gab.4432

That’s right folks, they are getting stuck right in and they’re using Westminster’s own rule book to do it too. As a block they are using the rules to make as big a noise as it is possible to make in those chambers. They are quite literally the noisy uninvited guest at table and about as popular with the establishment as a fart in a spacesuit. When you don’t have the weight to win votes you can still affect them. You can still make an impact on the committees, the legislation, the process of legislation and it appears those 56 are doing exactly that. So much so that the meeja are almost literally foaming at the mouth, no doubt whipped into a frenzy by their chums on Westminster speed dial .

No, when all is said and done, they can’t prevent much of what Cameron and Osborne are bringing to bear in terms of austerity. Our 56 MPs couldn’t prevent the enactment of austerity legislation even had Labour been in power and sadly we’re, for the moment, obliged to abide by Westminster government. Labour themselves had signed up to most of the same austerity measures and could have counted on Conservative backing in any such vote, but any delay, any change that the 56 can affect? You better believe they’re doing it even as we speak. They are doing precisely what they were voted in to do, protect Scottish interests, fight at national and constituency level and hold a government to account as best possible. Most especially they will be highlighting the clusterfudge that is the ongoing Scottish powers debate.

Remember, willing legislators are required to carry out legislation quickly and effectively from a government standpoint and I’d say the last thing those 56 are, is willing to pass on yet more suffering or hardship to an already hard pressed electorate without some form of protest or fight.

On to what’s been achieved and can be achieved, or rather, let’s talk about you.

Since 2007 you’ve begun to engage in politics again, you’ve been part of a reawakening and a sea change in Scottish politics. Your aspiration brought about a majority government in a parliamentary system which was designed never to have one. Your voices made real the claim of right (*) and Scotland’s right to independence if it so chose (and may still do). It took enormous effort on Westminster’s part simply to slow your aspirations down last September and if anything made you more determined than ever. Your continued engagement since the referendum has brought about the greatest political upset in these islands in over three hundred years and not all the power of big government, big media and big business could stop you. An on-side, or even moderately objective media would only have speeded things along to what looks now like an almost inevitable conclusion. The fact that it has been anything but,  hasn’t stopped you from pulling off an unprecedented, peaceful and democratic revolution in our politics.

YOU did all of that and you are capable of so much more. If, as seems increasingly likely, the Smith Commission’s agreement becomes a complete and undeliverable mess, you may well get the opportunity to prove that sooner than you think. A referendum vow undelivered is just what it says on the tin, its a promise made on condition, but not fulfilled. If the Scottish electorate feel that after having given the Westminster system of government the green light to continue governing, it hasn’t done so in the fashion they were led to believe, then it is fully within their rights to rectify the situation. The same can be said of the upcoming EU referendum or the possible repealing of the Human Rights act. Any outcomes which may adversely affect our laws and interests will be brought to our notice by Scotland’s MPs.

Again remember, no government, no representation can act without your say so.  When the First Minister says ‘only the will of the Scottish people decides’, its the literal truth. If the Scottish electorate so will it, they can empower their government and Westminster representatives to revisit that constitutional settlement at the very next opportunity open to them.

All you need do is give your representatives permission when they ask.

Link (*)

Send in the clowns

A guest post by Ally Farquhar

Whilst the wee dug is off being spoilt in the Lanarkshire countryside and the Wordmeister is recovering from a bout of well earned Boston Baked Beans I thought it would be opportune to discuss the continuing game of snakes and ladders that is laughingly referred to as the progress of “comprehensive new powers for Scotland.”

This last couple of week’s events down in that central hub of life-force and cradle of all human existence London, are surely set to be put to music in a travelling show akin to the Lion King on Ice, or Cabinet Minister on ice (allegedly) sometime in the mid twenty-first century.

The Bullingdon lads and their disorganised, but loyal, pals across the parliamentary floor are having a field day tying plastic mice to lengths of string, sniggering and quickly pulling them just out of the reach of fifty-six strange individuals with funny accents who have the weird and unusual habit of turning up, and staying put, in the Houses of Parliament during its hours of business. How bizarre, strange people the Scots!

These heroes of Essex have been seen sneaking up behind Chris Law, who is taller than most of them, even whilst sitting down, twanging his pony-tail and bellowing jolly whimsical comments at him through slobbery mouths like “I know you look like a Whig old boy but you must stop clapping whenever one falls asleep on ones’ bench, Huzzah Huzzah!”

The visual impact on the imagination of a smug (call me Dave) Cameron lounging on the front benches, wearing big clown’s shoes, flashing red nose and spinning lapel flower in situ, holding up a felt-tipped cardboard sign with the words DO YOU WANNA FFA JOCK? ASK ME NICELY, SAY PRETTY PLEASE does not sit well, for effectively that is exactly what the might of the majority unionists and their tame parrots are doing. They are taunting the people of Scotland with unattainable powers which they have no intention of delivering.

The infamous Vow, which mysteriously every unionist politician in the UK denies ever having anything to do with, apart from Gordy Brown, who remembers talking to somebody about it, but he can’t remember why, has been well and truly shown to be a busted flush during the debate surrounding the Scotland Bill. Did anyone with any interest in the future for Scots, on both sides of the fence, ever really think that Scotland was about to become as near a federal state is as humanly fundilly mundilly possible, with all its own sweeties and everything?

I would suggest that we, the let’s do it ourselvers, for the most part had absolutely no faith that we were ever getting anywhere with any of that hot air, our noses twitching in the air like an early Karen Dunbar comedy sketch, knowing full well that it was all smoke and mirrors at the time. Many of the let’s stay togetherites were happy just to have something to point at when feeling under pressure from us to explain why they voted no in the referendum. Oh well, ho-hum, such is life.

The jolly jape though that really sticks in the craw is the open wound that has just been exposed to the air as a result of the Westminster vote which reneges upon one of the fundamental proposals of the Smith Commission, the spirit of which was to create constitutional reassurance for Scots by enshrining a protected permanent Scottish Parliament. How is it possible that a cross party group of heavily invested stakeholders can meet, agree, and sign off the terms of such a proposal and then when it comes to the actual crunch of carrying out the parliamentary process to create the law vote on the majority side against it or abstain so that it is stymied?

Those doing so include the massed ranks of elected Scottish MPs of a non-Independence minded variety, all three of them, the Conservative High-Heid Yin, Viceroy of Scotland, Lord Nanki-Poo to be, the New Labour union flag suited nonentity type chap and yon fellow from the Lib Dems, the man with the problem with the truth, who has recently lost his fondness for coq au vin, and may not be in his job for much longer. There you have it, so much for a commitment to more powers for the people of Scotland. It doesn’t bode well for any of the rest of the proposals, weak, hand tying and cosmetic as they may be. We may be able to pick out a nice colour for road signs though.

On a cheerier note the most uplifting comment I’ve heard all week came from that vibrant breath of fresh air Mhairi Black MP, she who is continually slaughtered in the right wing press for such heinous crimes as eating chips and wee sweetie cola bottles, during her guest appearance on the State broadcaster’s radio show “Off the Ball”. When she was asked what her first impressions of the Houses of Parliament were Mhairi responded thus “It’s like a big museum, it’s a bit foosty and ye can feel the dust settling on your clothes”.

That kind of says it all really. Mon the Dug! Enjoy your break. You deserve it.

The Fingers of One Hand

A guest post by Eric Rice

Of the thirty-two Local Authorities in Scotland, there are only five remaining where the Labour Party now commands an overall majority. True, there are a number of additional Councils where Labour hold a minority rule, or share the reins of power in a two-party or multi-party coalition, but the Authorities where the party which once dominated Scottish Politics remain in charge has been whittled down to just five.

Countable, literally, on the fingers of one hand.

If the latest TNS Polling data is to be believed, with the SNP commanding 60% of the Holyrood Constituency seats in 2016, and 50% of the Regional list seats, then these five lonely outposts may well turn out to be the Last Bastions of Labour control in Scotland after the Holyrood elections.

Shoogly indeed is the peg whereupon the remaining Scottish Labour Jaikeths Hangeth…

But it gets worse. These last remaining Labour strongholds –  West Dumbartonshire, Renfrewshire, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire and Glasgow City – all fell to the SNP during #GE2015.

And with Council elections looming in 2017, Labour has further to fall, and greater humiliation to endure, if it doesn’t change its tune, and fast.

It’s gone beyond “Project Fear”, or the monotonous, predictable echo-chamber of “SNP Bad!!”. The National Labour Party, as well as the Scottish Branch, is leaderless and directionless, and although Kezia is at least trying to do a reasonable impression of a Party Leader, she does lack what one may generously refer to as “gravitas“. (Is it just me, or does she bring out in anyone else a bizarre mental tick whereby it seems everything she says is somehow preceded by the phrase “my mum telt me that…”)

But the UK Party’s knee-jerk response to the #GE2015 wipeout was to immediately tack right (or as Mandy has it, “return to the Centre”). The leadership contenders have begun making dog-whistle anti-immigration remarks in a naked attempt to win back lost UKIP votes. They’ve ruled out the idea of a truly independent (sorry, Kez – meant to say “autonomous”) Scottish Party. They want to be the party of “aspiration”, for chrissakes…

What about the Party of the Foodbank User? Of the desperate? The Sanctioned? The bedroom taxed? The hopeless, helpless and hungry??

Instead, they rail on and on and on, not just about how bad and incompetent the SNP are, but about how duped their supporters are for voting for them.

Every day, my facebook feed brings up some post or another from one or two of my stalwart Labour friends linking some vitriolic article caricaturing SNP supporters as blind, deluded, ovine, brainwashed hordes who brook no dissent, are mind-controlled by some fiendish Caledonian Thought-Police, and generally act as if we’ve been assimilated by some monolithic, McStalinist Tartan Borg.


Enough ae yer pish!

Pretty much everyone I know on the pro-indy, pro-Yes, pro-SNP side is left-leaning, progressive, politically engaged with some kind of background in activism. Most, not all. Many were local musicians who organised benefit gigs for the Miner’s Strike, went on anti-Thatcher protests and Poll-Tax rallies. Pretty much all marched or protested against Blair’s War in 2003. They wish for stability, opportunity to work, provide for their families and an end to the erosion of public services.

None trust Labour to deliver that any more.

For now, their trust is in the SNP, and the Party leaders and elected members will be held to account, because we’ve all now seen exactly what happens when you put your political trust in rosette-wearing simians of any colour…

What are you going to say and who are you going to blame and where are you going to go in 2017 if the trend continues and even those five slim outposts where you still hold sway crumble and fall?

The fingers of one hand, guys.

What will you do if even that gets Pandafied?

Sorry seems to be the hardest word

A guest post by Samuel Miller (Macart)

Yeah, so the circus that is memogate rumbles on in the form of  a possible slap on the wrist for the Telegraph.

This is expected to be delivered by the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) apparently. An article in today’s National (*) covers the ground on the whole ‘sorry’ mess far more effectively and comprehensively than needs repeated here, but that it should take such an effort to elicit any kind of apology from a member of the press says something in and of itself.

Where did it all go wrong with our fourth estate? When did they stop being our watchdogs, our guardians and start running with the foxes? Has it truly always been this way, or was there a time when they performed an essential public service? Have we simply in more recent times had the scales lifted from our eyes?

The media were meant to hold corrupt and inept politics to account. On the flip side, they were meant to bring to our notice the good as well as the bad in our governance, to provide balance. Except they don’t appear to do that, do they? Our media seems to be failing us badly just when we needed them most. Their owners and publishers allowed a heady mix of personal agendas and political affiliation to colour everything. Not unexpected you might say. Indeed there is absolutely nothing wrong in the press having their own editorial opinion/political direction. There’s no such thing as a truly objective point of view from anyone and it would surely take a will of iron to produce positive articles about people you consider to be your ideological opposition or whose policies may affect your corporate interests. But what happens when it runs out of control? What happens when caution and professionalism is thrown to the wind in favour of an editorial slant?

Isn’t an attempt to provide balance and professionalism the very thing which would give the press a moral authority? The ability to rise above personal beliefs and agendas, give credit where its due, report facts instead of unverified hearsay, empathize rather than sneer and dissect rather than smear. To put aside your personal beliefs and adhere to a professional standard. Aren’t these the very things that would give people a reason to trust and invest in their media?

We live in a sound bite age where the headline (or the bottom line) has become more important than the content and shock value more important than research and verification. This is a world where spads, politicians, self interest and personal agendas live. Its a world where public manipulation is easy, far easier than say professional, moral and ethical codes. Far easier than having those politicians produce better policy to combat their opposition or have a staff member verify a fact at source or as close to source as possible. Its a world where the powerful and influential live and a world where if you have the money and the connections, you rarely have to say sorry for the harm you may cause others.

Link (*)

What’s in a name?

A guest post by Samuel Miller (Macart)

You know that veto, that’s not a veto? It seems that Mr Mundell couldn’t even wait for the new bill, debates, amendments, ratifications and/or ink to dry before exercising it. Apparently he’s no happy that after weeks of taunting the Scottish Government and electorate over the matter of fullfiscaldevoindylitemaxautonomy, those bounders representing the bulk of the Scottish electorate went and tabled an amendment openly asking for it (black hole an’ a) (*). Worse yet, it appears their idea of fullfiscalwossiname isn’t the same as HMG’s. True blue Tory central’s idea of ‘fiscal responsibility’ is entirely different and it certainly doesn’t include a Scottish government having control of all revenue streams, taxes, welfare or natural resources. Oh hell no. So after he had munched on some hastily made toast and jam, he screwed his courage up to the sticking point and with the full weight of all the big boys behind him, Mr Mundell made some statements prior to Commons debate.

“An amendment that kills off the Barnett formula and ends the sharing of resources across the UK is about as far away from sensible as one can get. It would be a full fiscal shambles that would cost every family in Scotland around £5,000.”

 To which Stewart Hosie (SNP deputy leader) had not unsurprisingly replied “The Tories must stop playing games with Scotland, and clarify whether or not David Cameron’s assurance that further changes to the Scotland Bill will be considered still stands.”

Now maybe just me, but that statement of Mr Mundell’s sounded about as far away from considered debate and negotiation as you can get really, but there’s a pertinent point which seems to have escaped Mr Mundell and his peers and we’ll come back to that later. Needless to say, it didn’t bode well for either the debate or the vote and pretty much set the tone for what was about to occur. The reality of Monday’s debate and vote confirmed everything many of us have argued on over the past several years. Westminster indeed could not be trusted to deliver on its referendum pledges. It began with Fluffy attempting to deny that home rule had ever been offered and ended with the usual suspects voting down any amendments, including FFA, which would see Scotland make its own economic decisions… Are we surprised?

What would it have cost them to honour a few pledges in good faith? What would it have cost to honour even one, the writing into the constitution of the permanence of the Scottish parliament? It would have sent a message to Scotland’s electorate, that despite our recent rocky political history, Westminster was at least attempting to look forward, win the peace or at least earn respect. It may even have extended the political union beyond their own expectations. Who knows? But no, the Westminster establishment doesn’t suffer any perceived threat to their hegemony or sovereignty.  A gesture which would have cost them nothing, eclipsed by a vote which may now in their arrogance, ignorance, greed and near as I can tell spite, will now probably cost them everything. I’d say they’ve sent a message alright and I would hope it has been received and understood loud and clear.

So let’s cut through all the bullshit that we are being fed and get back to that pertinent point Mr Mundell has conveniently overlooked. ‘Home rule’ by any other name, the ‘federal solution’, providing Scotland with a ‘powerhouse parliament’… Sound familiar? In the weeks prior to the referendum vote, airwaves and column space were devoted to a fair old mixture of the terminology above. You couldn’t turn a page or change a channel but you’d run into a couch load of experts or politicians talking about FFA, indy lite or devo max. When Brown wasn’t terrifying pensioners he was ‘guaranteeing’ delivery of home rule, near federalism, constitutional conventions and a parliament secured permanently within the UK’s constitution. It was relentlessly and remorselessly rammed down the Scottish electorate’s throats for weeks in the run up to September 18th. None of it has come to pass and I sincerely doubt that any of it will, certainly not without a great deal of kicking and screaming on the part of the Westminster establishment. (An excellent highlighting by Wings Over Scotland, on this particular piece of duplicity, to be found in the links below *).

The Scottish electorate have been promised and denied home rule off and on for decades of course. Both parties and individuals have attempted to determine or shape what home rule means in pursuit of one agenda or another over this period of time (mainly the winning of votes) and all to no resolution. ‘The Vow’ and Brown’s ‘guarantees’ being only the most recent and frankly damning incarnation of all.

In the meantime and for the removal of all doubt, this is what constitutes the most commonly held definition of Full fiscal autonomy (FFA): – also known as devolution max, (devo-max), fiscal federalism, independence lite or independence-minus, – is a particular form of far-reaching devolution proposed for Scotland. The term has come to describe a constitutional arrangement in which instead of receiving a block grant from the UK Exchequer as at present, the Scottish Parliament would receive all taxation levied in Scotland; it would be responsible for most spending in Scotland but make payments to the UK government to cover Scotland’s share of the cost of providing certain UK-wide services, including at least defence and the conduct of foreign relations. Scottish fiscal autonomy – stopping short of full political independence – is usually promoted by advocates of a federal or confederal constitution for the United Kingdom. (Source WIKI)

Now as I said earlier, a bill of goods was sold to the Scottish electorate during the referendum. BT, Westminster’s established parties and the media played fast and loose with the terms home rule and devo max without (a.) promising a damn thing (b.) clearly defining what they considered either to be or (c.) fully explaining the processes involved which would of course have outlined the near impossibility of the pledges’ delivery in the first place. This allowed the Scottish electorate to conjure their own images of what they believed those terms to mean and led them to believe that pain free delivery was possible. It’s not and never was, as we are now seeing demonstrated in editorial after editorial and debate after debate in chambers. We are now at the place where expectation meets reality and where people will be forced to consider whether that bill of goods they were sold was worth the price they paid.

So what’s in a name?

It should have meant exactly what it says on the tin, yes? ‘HOME RULE’ or ‘DEVOLUTION TO THE MAX’, except nobody bothered to represent or define the position for the referendum process, not even the party of ‘home rule’ and federalism, the Lib thingies. As for the post referendum’s Smith Commission and its staggering ability to read through, debate and deliberate on fourteen thousand submissions in thirty days… least said the better eh? Heaven forefend it could actually have been perceived to simply be a party political jockeying process for the GE.

This should have been where the civic and political worlds met to determine the nature of a thing and, upon agreement, send our representation forward with the electorate’s proposal and unabridged, unadulterated definition. The agreed proposal to be placed before Westminster’s establishment who, as in any negotiation will also have their counter proposal/fixed position. That’s the debate/negotiation bit Mr Mundell seemed so over eager to dismiss out of hand pre the actual debate. But then home rule or devo to the max was never really on offer was it? It was always intended to be a confused and confusing mess for the public. A publicity stunt, a strategy, a blind defending an entrenched position and designed to fall apart as a process at the first hurdle, the Commons chamber, and stifle Scotland’s elected representation. The subsequent amendment attempting to rectify the Smith Commission deficiencies was effectively doomed long before it ever reached the debating chamber. In any case, if neither party can come to an agreement for the sake of carrying the whole forward, (and apparently we haven’t) then effectively the game is a bogey regardless. So, as yet, no home rule, no permanent parliament under law, no agreed progress on devolution… and we should consider the independence issue settled why?

Holyrood elections are next year and very soon our representatives will be asking us what we think should happen next in the light of the events of the past year. Plenty of time to take stock, assess, be patient and have a good think.

In the meantime, despite this week’s unfolding drama, all is not lost. I believe concessions can be won by our current representation and, in my opinion, any competence that can be used to better the lot of the people in the face of this punitive system of government is one worth pursuing. Any harmful legislation that can be fought or delayed is worth the effort and any duplicity on the part of Westminster that can be uncovered and brought to our notice a job well done and a service performed. Just to be clear though, in my opinion, I seriously doubt that gifting the Scottish parliament all powers barring foreign affairs and defence has ever been or will ever be on any parliamentary to do list, it’s simply not in the nature of the beast.

Links (*):‘home-rule’-pledge

It’s only a game

A short story, guest blog by Elizabeth Angus

So there we ur at the gemme, Denny an me, and it’s bloody great. Ma furst Old Firm game – it took me ages tae get ma maw tae let me go. But ahm no a daft wee boy, ahm nearly fourteen, an ah went tae hunners a games last season. An she likes Denny; she thinks he’s a ‘nice sensible lad’. Denny nearly pished himsel when ah telt him she said that. But ma maw’s right, Denny’ll make sure we don’t get oursels intae bother.

It’s some gemme, this. Ahm lovin it. Bobby Lennox opened the scoring fur Celtic just afore half time, and the place went bananas. There’s been loadsa action since, and we’ve been all over them. It’s only a matter of time before we score again. Denny an me ur standin in the bit of The Jungle right next tae the Rangers End. The Jungle’s whit everyone calls the North Enclosure. Ah telt ma maw it’s because the railings ur painted green, like creepers, but that’s no why at all. The singin’s mental. We’re chantin at the Rangers supporters, and they’re chantin back at us. Ah catch wan wee Hun starin at me an ah shoot him the vicky. Sometimes folk throw things. It’s all dead loud, and kinda – ah dunno – vitriolic. That’s a crackin word, that. Ah read it somewhere and had tae look it up. Wish ah hud the nerve tae use it.

Ahm still staring intae space, jus kinda thinkin about how good that vitriolic word is, and lettin it roll about on ma tongue, when ah notice the singin’s stopped. There’s just a big noise instead. Ah lean right intae Denny so’s ah kin see past the big fat guy in front of me, an the Huns have got the ba’. Tommy Burns is lyin on the deck, an The Jungle’s growling, an Derek Johnstone’s lumberin up the pitch straight at Peter Latchford. Ah canny watch, so ah stare at the plook on the back o Fat Guy’s neck, an then the Rangers End starts howlin an Denny’s clutching his heid an ah cannae believe it. The Huns have scored.

An that’s how it finishes. Wan each.

The walk up to the Gallowgate’s mental. It always is a bit, after the gemme, but this seems super-mental. It’s like the whole crowd’s walkin up the middle of the road. Most drivers don’t come near Parkheid at coming-out time, but there’s one or two stuck like wee islands in among all the people. They have to go dead slow. Some poor sod’s come down here in a John Player Special Capri. It’s a black one, gold pinstripes, really neat lookin motor. Someone bumps intae Denny as we go past, an Denny bumps intae me, an ah bump intae the Capri’s wing mirror. Aw, shite. Ah kin see the driver’s gettin aw uptight, but the crowd’s that thick he’ll no be able tae get oot his motor. He’s probably no got the bottle, anyway.

There’s a 61 bus waitin. Ah love gettin on the bus efter the gemme. There’s that many folk pilin intae it at wance that ye kin take yer feet aff the grun an jus get carried on. Ah telt ma maw, an she didny think it wis funny, jus kept goin on about how it sounded dead dangerous an she wisny sure ah wis old enough tae be goin wi just ma mates. So ah didny bother tellin her that the windaes o the bus get panned in oan a regular basis, cuz that didny seem circumspect.

By the time we get up town there’s only been wan brick heaved through a windae, and it’s providin some much-needed ventilation. There’s a bit o a rumble goin on just afore wur stoap. A crowd o Rangers fans ur gettin ladled intae some o oors. It’s lookin a bit messy an Denny sez we’d be better stayin’ oan the bus the noo. Ahm about tae protest that ah promised ma mammy ah widny be late. She keeps goin on about how ahm that young tae be oot masel. Ah need tae change buses an get hame. An then ah see the Hun gettin glessed, an ah hink Denny might huv a point. Man, that’s no pretty. Ah mean, ah know he’s a Hun but naebody deserves that. He’s aw hunched over, an there’s all blood pishin between his fingers where he’s haudin his face. His mates urny runnin away either, they’re lookin nasty an wan o them’s reachin intae his inside poaket. Ah look away before anyone catches me starin, ah don’t want tae draw attention tae masel. Ahm proper scared now, an ah just want tae be aff this bus an on mah way hame.

It’s another three stops before we get aff, an ahm no sure where we ur. Denny reckons he knows, but, so we start walking. We traipse round a corner an smack bang intae a bunch of Huns. We’re still wearing our Celtic scarves, an ah’ve got a wee wan tied roun mah wrist an aw. This display of green and white hoopery seems to inflame the Huns, who call us Fenian bastards, an we leg it.

Denny an me ur baith pretty speedy, so we outrun them nae bother, but we kinda lose our direction and end up at the Clyde. Our bus is away up at George Square. It takes forever to get there, what with lookin behind us all the time in case of trouble. And keekin round corners like thae private eyes do on the telly. Ah’ve taken aff mah scarves an stuffed them inside mah jaiket, but Denny says he’s a proper Tim an his isny coming aff his neck till he’s deid.
When the Number 2 draps us at the chippy it’s late. Man, ah mean late. Mah maw’s gonny kill me. Worse, she’s gonny no let me go tae the fitba again. Denny says ahm jus bein paranoid, and wonders if ahm comin roon tae Wee Kev’s with him – Wee Kev’s got the new AC/DC album and Denny’s goin tae tape it. Let There Be Rock. Denny’s awready heard some of it, and he swears Bon Scott’s wrote this song, ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’, about our big fat maths teacher, Roseanna McCracken.

Ah really want tae hear the song about Big McCracken, but ah tell him ah canny. Mah maw’ll be goin spare. She gets super-worried about me now there’s just the two of us. Besides, ahm supposed tae be takin a fish supper hame fur tea. So she’s gonny be worried an starvin, an that’s no a good combination.

Ah head up the road wi mah cargo. The bottom o the packet’s warm, an the newsprint’s comin aff on mah hands cos mah palms ur a bit sweaty. Probably cos ahm scared about gettin intae trouble. The chips smell magic. Ah sniff dead deep so’s the vinegar smell catches at the back of ma throat. Ah poke aboot wi the paper until ah kin ease wan o the chips out. It’s too hot and it burns mah tongue a bit, but ah don’t care. There’s no much of mah share left when ah reach the front door.

Ah go intae the hoose an say hello kinda quietly, waitin for a bollockin. Mammy, ahm hame… an ah’ve goat yer tea. Ah huv a quick check – aye, ah dae huv her tea, ah’ve no tanned it aw. There’s nae reply, but the telly’s on. Ah kin hear Nicholas Parsons on Sale of the Century so it must be efter eight o’clock. Ahm deid. Maw! A bit louder. It’s me…

The living room door’s open a wee bit. Ah go in, tryin tae look casual, feart o whit she’ll say tae me. And at furst ah hink she’s no there, ah canny see her. And then a contestant gets a question right, an ah kin see ma maw’s legs oan the flair, an the audience start clappin like mad, an ah just staun there an ah kin feel aw mah insides turn intae a big cauld lump that draps right tae the bottom o mah stomach. Ah canny move.

Maw? Mah feet step forward by themselves. Ah canny look. Maw? Aw, shite – maw! Whit the fuck dae ah dae? Her eyes ur shut, an ah canny tell if she’s breathin. Some bit o me knows to dial 999, so ah grab the receiver an then find ah huvny goat a spare haun cos ahm still huggin the fish suppers. I put the parcel down carefully oan the sideboard, an then worry that it might leave a mark. Mah fingers seem too fat tae dial the numbers, an each 9 takes a lifetime. Some wumman asks me which service ah require, an ah tell her it’s ma maw, she’s just lyin oan the flair, an she puts me through tae the ambulance gadgies. Another wumman speaks tae me, ah manage tae remember where we live an she asks me loads of questions. Ah don’t know if ahm gettin any right. Ah try tae tell her it’s mah fault fur bein late hame, an she tells me it isnae, but whit the fuck does she know?

An then the wumman says the ambulance is oan its way, an she stays oan the line, jus talkin tae me, but ahm no listening tae her. Ahm talkin tae mah mammy, an ahm promisin her that ah’ll never go tae the fitba ever again.

~ 0 ~

This wee story was first published in 2013, in Octavius magazine. It was inspired by my husband’s reminisces of going to the fitba as a kid in the 1970s. Much of the detail is true apart from the ending: I can reassure everybody that nothing like that ever happened to his mammy.

I have very recently entered World of Blog, but if you want to read any more of my scribblings please drop in and say hello: It’s an eclectic mix – something for everyone!

Much gratitude to the Wee Dug for letting me share his airspace and shamelessly plug myself…