A thistle grows in the rubble

Back in the 1960s when I was a wean, if you were bright enough you could go to uni for free, there was an NHS that was safe and secure, there were nationalised blue trains that were the height of modernity, and when you left school you could get a job for life. My parents enjoyed opportunities that had been denied to their parents.

It wasn’t a paradise. It was very far from that. There were evil Tories aplenty, and they enjoyed a significant support in Scotland from the big drum banging brigade. Sectarianism and racism were rampant and socially acceptable, the dread question what school did you go to was asked at job interviews. Homophobia wasn’t just commonplace, it was obligatory. But there was a Labour party to act a bulwark, a defence against the worst excesses of the establishment and the bosses. We felt that Labour stood on our side, that we had a powerful ally that could look the establishment in the eye and say No. We felt safe.

People looked down on furren lands with their generals and their coups and their coalition governments that crashed as frequently as a Fiat with no brakes. Scandals and corruption were things that happened in far away places, and we could watch from afar and feel smugly superior. For all its faults, Britain was the gold standard of democracy. Or so we thought.

We were naive, childlike in our trust. We knew nothing of the sex abuse, the cover ups, the corruption and the sleaze. These were things that happened elsewhere, in those foreign lands we were taught to look down on. Not here. We were better than that. We had the British state to save us. We had the safety blanket of social security, and for all the many faults of Britain for the most part we felt safe.

And then came Thatcher, and the British state ate itself. It consumed Scotland and the North to build glittering towers where bankers could worship money. The rich got rich and the poor got kicked in guts that they have nothing to fill. In the towns and cities that formed the powerhouse that drove the Industrial Revolution there were once factories but now there are only food banks. The safety net is a tattered tissue of begrudgement called welfare on which no one fares well, given only to those deemed deserving by the arbitrary tick of a box on a form. We’ve got a state that offers nothing, but demands ever more, becomes ever more intrusive. It snoops and it pries and demands that we hide nothing from it. But it hides away its own secrets. If you’ve got nothing to hide you’ve got nothing to fear, say the powerful people who keep their sins secret with a Jimmy Savile smile.

Britain protects the rich and powerful. It covers up their vile crimes against children. In Britain, protecting the reputations of members of the establishment is more important than the life of your child. Britain robs from the poor to enrich the wealthy. It exists in a network of connection and nods and handshakes and mutual backslapping that exclude the majority. They have power but no accountability. The higher your paygrade, the less likely you are to carry the can. Only the little people have to resign for their failures. This is Britain.

Britain bombs and blasts the fabric of other countries, and calls in the army when the shattered citizens of states Britain has made fail come seeking refuge. Demonising and dehumanising, human suffering becomes a swarm. Compassion is a weakness. Care is privatised. Charity only for a hand picked few. The only jobs for life are the jobs the rich and powerful give to themselves and their children, while the rest of us scramble for coins in the dust they throw up in their haste to avoid paying tax. We now live in the furren land we once looked down on. This state is alien to the likes of you and me.

And the Tories are still Tories but now Labour has joined them. Evil twin dark stars orbiting around the black hole that swallows all hope, devours all that is good, reduces and shackles all that is progress.

Tony Blair promised to reform the House of Lords, a chamber composed of hereditary peers who had the right to affect our laws because of who their dad was. It was an insult to democracy and had no place in a modern society. True to his word, Tony reformed the Lords. He replaced it with the only thing worse. Tony replaced the lottery of genes and birth order with political patronage, appointees who get their privilege as a reward for services rendered.

Now we have a Labour party whose leading lights struggle with the very concept of democracy. John McTernan, the former spin doctor to Tony Blair, thinks that ordinary party members should do as they’re told. They should vote for the candidate that their betters tell them to vote for, and if they don’t then the person the little people elect should be summarily evicted from office.

There are those who cling on to past glories and old stories like dried up chewing gum on a broken pavement. What they love is the image of a Britain that never really existed, the surface gloss not the rot underneath. But the truth is that you can’t really love something that is kept hidden from you. If you don’t know the truth, you live and love in a lie.

And I think of all those who cling on to the comfort blanket of myths and still believe that Scotland shouldn’t stand on its own feet. I feel sorry for them, living in the cotton wool of lies. Blind to reality, deaf to truth, living on hopes of change that will never be delivered. The only hope is in our own hands, in the changes we make ourselves. We can be agents of that change. It only takes faith in yourself. Trust yourself, or trust the McTernans of this world. That’s the only choice remaining.

Look on the wreckage of the British state. Smell the rot. Inhale the heady gases of decay. Then look to the north and see the green shoots of a thistle, growing and thriving in the rubble.

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Scottish democracy is not a serving suggestion

Davie Cameron, the balloon faced Tory who enjoys the support of a single Scottish MP, has slapped down us little Scottish people who were labouring under the misapprehension that we lived in a democracy. He’s done this in various ways. He’s done it by giving us that nonentity striving for a purpose David Mundell, who in a normal universe would be a traffic warden, as Scotland’s voice in the cabinet. He’s done it by giving us a Scottish affairs committee in which Scottish MPs are outnumbers two to one by non-Scottish MPs. He’s done it by refusing to recognise that the outcome of the General Election superseded the pathetic inadequacy of the Smith Commission and was a clear demand from Scotland for the substantial devolution that Davie and his pals promised us last year. But now he’s also done it in another way.

This week Davie told Scotland that there’s going to be no second independence referendum for 30 years. So, that’s us telt then. Any time between now and 2044, it matters not a mundell if Scotland’s voters overwhelmingly elect parties in favour of another referendum, parties who pledge in their manifestos to introduce a bill in Holyrood bringing forward a new referendum. For Davie and the Tories, Scottish democracy is merely a serving suggestion. You may select tender Scottish sovereignty in a rich creamy sauce with the roasted potatoes of representation, but what you’re going to get is whatever mouldy instant noodles that Davie can dig out of the back of the cupboard where they keep the MI5 files on paedophile MPs.

But we shouldn’t be disheartened. Westminster consented to the last referendum because they were convinced that the pro-independence cause would be lucky to get 25% of the vote, and the Union would win by such a crushing majority that the topic would be off the table for ever. As we all know, that’s not what happened. Ha ha. The Union was saved by the skin of its teeth and only by making some very vague promises of sooper dooper extra powers for Scotland fronted by Saviour of the Union Gordie Broon. But the superpowers which Westminster never had any intention of delivering were always as imaginary as Gordie’s superstatesman powers. The only people who ever believed in them were the editor of the Daily Record and BBC Scotland news.

The failure of the superpowers to arrive is stoking up increasing resentment in Scotland, only a small minority believe the oft repeated claim that the Union has delivered. But let’s the honest here, this Union couldn’t even deliver a pig in a poke. If David Cameron promised us a pig in a poke we’d end up with a packet of bacon flavour crisps that had long since gone as soggy as David Mundell. Meanwhile the saviour of the Union was so saved by his saving that he’s now buggered off to the other side of the Atlantic as there wasn’t a rock big enough in Scotland for him to hide under.

The reason that the Unionists are so keen to rule out a second referendum is because they are not at all certain that they’re going to win it.

Westminster opposition to another independence referendum is likely to increase over time. The more likely it is that Scots are disposed to vote in favour of independence, the less likely it is that Westminster will willingly consent to a referendum taking place. For every percentage point that an independence majority increases over support for the Union, Project Fear 2.0 will ratchet up even more. We went into the last referendum campaign with a clear majority in favour of saying in the Union, we’ll go into the next with a clear majority in favour of independence. Expect dirty tricks, underhand dealings, machinations and panicked bribes.

The only proper time for us to have a second referendum is when the opinion polls show that there is a large, clear and consistent majority in favour of Scotland becoming independent. That’s the best time for another vote, the only time, a time when the referendum is effectively a formality and will merely be a rubber stamping of what everyone already knows – that a large majority of the Scottish population want independence. A second referendum should be the formalisation of what will by then already be the settled will of the Scottish people for independence.

We can’t afford to lose a second independence referendum, because then it really will be off the table for thirty years to come. But the time when there’s a large and consistent majority in the polls for independence is also going to be the time when Westminster is least disposed to consent to one, because they’ll know they’re going to lose. They’ll be more embarrassed than a woman who has realised that she’s got the same taste in bras as Lord Sewel. This exactly what has been happening in Catalonia, only without the bras.

In Catalonia there’s never been much doubt about the outcome of an independence referendum. Opinion polls have consistently shown a large majority in favour of Catalan independence, and consequently the Madrid government has been vehement in its refusal to consent to a referendum.

The time is still not right for a second referendum. Before that happens we need a clear strategy for a Scottish currency, a prospectus that neutralises the economic attacks of the last referendum campaign, and a means of ensuring that the terms of the debate are not set by the London-centric media but by the people of Scotland and a Scottish media which is representative of them. But what we must do in the next Holyrood election is to vote for those parties which unambiguously and clearly spell out in their manifestos that the right to hold a second referendum is in the gift of the Scottish people, not David Cameron.

We are sovereign in this land, not Westminster. Westminster is only our parliament because we currently consent to allow it to be, and we can withdraw that consent at any time we choose. That’s the political reality, and politics trumps any legalistic machinations. David Cameron isn’t going to tell me when I can have a say on the future of my country. What Scotland’s people decide is not a serving suggestion for Cameron to ignore at his pleasure.

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On the highway to indyref 2

Alicsammin is back in the news, not that he ever really left it. You may remember him from last year, while you, oh naive Caledonian person you, thought you were voting in an independence referendum, according to the UK media Scotland was voting in an Alicsammin’s referendum. Alicsammin was, at least until the votes were counted, the only person in the entire UK who wanted independence. Or, according to the Daily Mail, to shamelessly rip the beating heart out of this great nation of ours out of hatred for all things English.

Anyway, Alicsammin has been annoying the UK media again by making the perfectly sensible and obvious point that another independence referendum is inevitable. This has led to an outbreak of oooing and tutting in certain sections of the metrocommentariat, who are playing clips on an infinite loop of Alicsammin saying that the referendum was a once in a generation opportunity. They’re doing this because they’re still labouring under the misapprehension that it was Alicsammin’s referendum.

But it wasn’t, it was your referendum, it was my referendum, it was my maw’s referendum, it was my late partner’s referendum. It was your cousin’s referendum, it was your pal’s referendum. And no one asked us whether we thought it was only going to be a once in a generation deal. I don’t recall the question on the ballot paper being – should Scotland be an independent country and should we never ever ask this question again in your lifetime?

The only question that is still open is the timing. We need another independence referendum. I want another independence referendum. And the only material change of circumstances that I’m interested in is the one that says we’re going to win. We’re not there yet, but support for independence has increased somewhat since the referendum. We need to build on that and increase it. The next time we have a referendum it needs to be a formality, the legal recognition of what will by then be the settled will of the Scottish people, the settled will to become independent.

Alicsammin said that there were already several reasons why another referendum is inevitable. There’s the infamous vow for starters. At the fag end of the referendum campaign when the Union was a doubt we got promised devo to the max. Now Westminster says devo my arse. This super dooper near federalism home rule was supposed to have been overseen and supervised by the personal guarantee of Gordie Broon, who now makes the Invisible Man seem like a bit of an exhibitionist. Rumour has it he’s pissed off to the USA. No one knows who he is over there so he can go to the shops and buy stuff without the risk of having his custom refused because no one has any change.

Despite voting for 56 SNP MPs who stood on a platform of yer Smith commish is pish, Scotland is still lumbered with the pathetically inadequate devo proposals that came out of that half hearted process. The only thing that we learned from the Smith Commission is that giving politicians the benefit of the doubt is always a mistake. It may take a few more years before that message percolates through to No voters, but slowly they’re realising that they were had. A tipping point is in the offing.

Then there’s the EU referendum, the Faragegasm of British politics. There’s going to be a lot more of David Coburn in Scottish television studios, blazing away like a self-immolating bonfire of fart gas and blaming everything on immigrants and the SNP. But he’s going to be a lonely voice as Coburn’s appeal is very restricted, restricted to his own bathroom and a pile of kleenex, and even the kleenex doesn’t want to be there. All by himself he will be enough to ensure a massive victory for staying in the EU from Scotland, no matter how intransigent Angela Merkel gets with small European countries who refuse to toe the austerity line.

However in the rest of the UK, the immigrant bashing tendency is very much in the ascendant, and it’s far from certain whether England will vote in favour to say in the EU, despite the Project Fear on Steroids which will be unleashed on the voters. We’re in a different world now, where support from the mainstream media provokes suspicion and not trust. We may very well end up with a situation where Scotland votes to remain in the EU but the rest of the UK, or at least England, votes to leave. That would turn the entire EU question on its head in the second indyref.

And finally there’s the permausterity. Scotland didn’t vote for that. We voted to grow our economy, we voted not to blame the poor and the low paid for the sins of the banks and the bosses. But we’re getting Iain Duncan Smith making Cruella de Vile look like a patron of PETA, and George Osborne being touted as the next Prime Minister. The self immolation of a Labour party that no longer has a clue what it’s there for, what it’s doing, or how it’s supposed to get out of the hole it’s dug for itself means that we’re all facing being condemned to the Conservative con for another decade and a half. You want the Thatcher era all over again, only this time with no family silver in the form of nationalised industries to flog off? Well that’s what you’re getting, No voters. But there’s still an escape route, and it’s marked Indyref2.

In its report on the story, the BBC made the non-point that getting the UK government to agree to another referendum might prove to be very difficult indeed. Like any independence supporter thinks that we require their permission. The letter of the law may very well say that, but law is trumped by politics every time and if there is a large majority in the Scottish Parliament in favour of a referendum, and it is clear that a majority of the Scottish public wants independence, then we will have a referendum and we will have independence irrespective of what Westminster wants.

You want a legal principle for this? It’s perfectly easy – it’s the principle familiar to hundreds of thousands of Scottish people when told that they can’t do something, the principle of “Aye, that will be right.” Scotland is still on the highway to independence, we’ve not reached the exit yet, but the journey is getting close to its end. We’ll know that we’re there when opinion polls show a consistent majority in favour of independence. And then we can have a party, and get down to some serious work.

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Captain Caveman and the shock of the new

Labour’s hierarchy, the careerists and the SPADs, the spin doctors and the politics grads, are in full scale panic mode this week. Headless chickens have been known to run around more calmly and with a greater sense of purpose. The cliques in charge of the Labour party these past 20 years have suddenly discovered that their corpse like grasp on the party is rotting away and the token leftie might actually win the election.

Curse this democracy and one member one vote business. Having changed the voting system to reduce the power of the unions, the Labour leadership has now made the shocking realisation that some Labour members actually believe in all that stuff about socialism and fairness and redistribution of wealth and holding the banks and the corporations to account for the financial crisis they’ve caused, instead of blaming the poor and the marginalised. The road to hell is paved with self serving intentions and right wing machinations.

According to a Yougov poll, Jeremy Corbyn is well ahead in an election he wasn’t supposed to win. He wasn’t even supposed to make any significant impression in the leadership contest. He was supposed to come in a poor fourth, trailing behind Liz Kendall and her Blairite nostrums. He was there as socialist window dressing, a red sop to the membership, a little dash of red colourant to remind Labour of its roots. Jeremy’s real role in the election contest, according to the bland plastic people who make up the rest of the field, was to say left wing things that they could reject so they could appear sensible and middle of the road. He was there so that none of them would have to look left wing. Jeremy’s job was to give Liz, Andy, and Yvette someone to point a finger at and say socialism bad, so they’d get a marginally more sympathetic write up in an unsympathetic press.

But that’s not what’s happening. For those of us in Scotland this is popcorn time, as we sit back and watch the Westminster Labour party implode under the weight of its own self-delusion just as we watched its Scottish branch office do over the course of the past year. But the real worry is that whereas Labour in Scotland collapsed under the crushing weight of the SNP and the Greens and SSP and the well articulated aspirations of a highly politicised populace who knew what they wanted and knew how to vote in order to get it, Labour in England implodes into a vacuum. There’s nothing else left in the English body politic except the heartlessness of the Tories and the vultures of UKIP.

If Labour in England collapse there’s nothing to replace them. The SNP are going to have to do the job of the opposition in England too – is that what Better Together meant by Scotland punching above its weight as a part of the UK? Probably not.

The problem for Labour is that none of the four leadership contenders is a convincing leader, and if UK wide opinion polls are anything to go by, none are heading for 10 Downing Street at the next UK General Election. Labour looks set for a period in the wilderness while it rediscovers its soul and its purpose. So the question is will it find that soul and purpose under the management of the same plastic identikit politicians who brought it to this sorry pass, or will it find it with a leader who is likely to prove as unelectable as Michael Foot, but who will actively oppose the Tories and give the shattered party a sense of purpose again.

Meanwhile in Scotland we’re faced with a different set of questions. With a Labour party that’s not going to be re-electable in 2020, we have the very real and very scary prospect of George Osborne or Boris Johnson as the next UK Prime Minister – assuming that Cameron stands down before the next election as he has previously hinted. Is that the Union that No voters want to remain a part of, a dystopian hell of privileged elites and excluded masses, stretching ahead of us like a high speed railway that we are denied a ticket on. The UK train’s destination is off a privatised cliff. We need to change track, we need to take control of our own destiny.

Meanwhile a demon from the past popped up to tell Labour where it’s all going wrong. The war mongerer responsible, the soul-eater, the spirit crusher, the man who put morality through the blender of Iraq then waltzed off in a flurry of consultancies. Tony Blair gave a speech about the future of the party, and apparently didn’t even charge for it this time. But then near bankrupt Labour doesn’t have pockets as deep as Kazakhstani dictators. Tone created a Labour party in his own image and wants it to stay that way. Because soul-less money grabbing war mongerers are so progressive.

He also had a wee dig at the only effective political opposition left in the UK, the SNP. Tone said:
“When they talk about it being new politics, it is the oldest politics in the world. It’s the politics of the first caveman council, when the caveman came out from a council where there were difficult decisions and pointed with his club across the forest and said: ‘They’re the problem, over there, that’s the problem.’ It’s blaming someone else.”

And this would be true, because the topic of the first caveman council was the fact that them over there across the forest were eating people’s brains because they were unevolved apes with a sense of entitlement the size of a mammoth. We’re still opposing the brain eaters, Tone thinks the proper path is to eat brains too. Of course it’s not “new” politics, because we saw how Tony defined new when he rebranded a social democratic party as New Labour. Then what he did was nothing new. Greed, avarice, wars and invasions are the oldest politics of all. Blair gave us the shock and horror of the new Labour. He can keep his new, we want no part of it.

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The party which ran away

Are there any principles left in the moral vacuity that has replaced the Labour party? Is there anything that can be said that will get through to the party’s bankrupt leadership? Are there any barbs sharp enough to pierce the elephant’s hide of complacency that surrounds Labour’s sense of entitlement? On the showing up the party gave itself in the House of Commons on Monday night, the answer to all three questions is clearly no. Edward VIII had more principles than Labour do, that’s how low Labour has sunk.

Just 48 Labour MPs had enough of a moral conscience remaining to vote against the Tories’ swingeing and ideologically driven cuts to the benefits system. The rest are the St Augustines of political opposition – every night they get down on their knees to worship Mammon and pray that their god grants the strength to resist the Tories – but not yet. Let’s be clear here, the it wasn’t the poor, the disabled, or carers who caused the economic crisis. It wasn’t the low paid who caused the national debt to soar. It was the fault of the banks and their unregulated casino, it was the fault of rich corporations and individuals who have systematically avoided paying their fair share. And it was the fault of the Tories and the Labour party for allowing this sorry state of affairs to come to pass. And now as the Tories seek to punish the poor for the sins of the rich, Labour washes its hands in crocodile tears and says it does nothing for our own good. Labour dishonours our grandparents who founded that once great party. It traduces the memory of our struggles. Labour has betrayed the people it once stood for.

Only 48 Labour MPs remembered that they were elected to oppose. Scotland’s sole Labour MP wasn’t one of them. Did the residents of Edinburgh South elect him to oppose the Tories by acquiescing to them? That’s what Ian seems to believe. More SNP MPs than Labour MPs voted against the Tories’ vicious vindictiveness. Her Majesty’s Opposition think their official title means that they can only oppose things that her maj and her Hitler saluting benefits claiming family of spongers would oppose.

If you’re unemployed, Labour won’t give you an income you can live on until you find work. If you’re a carer, Labour doesn’t care about you. If you’re disabled, Labour wants you to stand on your own feet and will kick away your crutches. There was a time, a long time ago in a galaxy far far away, that Labour was the party that defended those who didn’t have the resources to defend themselves. Now it’s the party of the Death Star and the benefits sanction. It’s the party of the shallow, the materialists, the selfish. Labour is only the party of No when No means telling Scotland it can’t govern itself.

Only a fifth of Labour’s MPs have a vestigial remnant of a moral purpose, have a memory of what their party once stood for. Only a tiny minority of Labour MPs could look Mary Barbour in the eye. Only a tiny minority of Labour MPs can still claim to be the heirs to the Red Clydesiders. Labour wants to be the party for people who want a second holiday to Portugal and riding lessons for the teenage daughter. Labour wants to be the Tory party. That means that the malaise that Labour suffers from is worse than penis envy, they suffer from arsehole envy.

The best you can say about the rest of the Labour party is that at least some of the party’s MPs had the decency to turn up and abstain in person and stare their non-vote in its metaphorical blind eye. There are invertebrates with more of a spine, snakes with more legs to stand on. In the modern Labour party, it’s a rebel MP who is the one to vote against Tory benefits cuts. A rebel MP, think on that. That’s what happens when you try to run a country and formulate policy based on what focus groups in Croydon tell you.

You expect this sort of thing from Tories. Tories are callous and insensitive, however well preened the hairdos of their press apologists. The Tories kill the poor while Labour looks the other way, and tries to claim that looking the other way is a principled stance. The principle being – I’m going to walk past this mugging in the street without doing anything in solidarity with people who haven’t been mugged. Someone needs to stand up for the non-mugging non-victims.

Ah but, say the Labour apologists, we’d have lost the vote anyway so it makes no difference. But that’s not true, it would have made no difference to the outcome of the vote, but it would have made a hell of a difference to the tattered reputation of a pathetic excuse for a party. People might just actually have thought that Labour had some balls, and not the Tory budgeting Ed kind. People might have realised that Labour still stood for something. But now they know that Labour stands for nothing except a hauf-airsed petty fogging power grab, and when that fails they cower under a rock like the moral cowards they are. Labour is a party that no longer sings about keeping the red flag flying, the only flag they fly is a white one. They won’t oppose anything if it risks resulting in a bad headline in the Daily Mail.

308 Tories voted in favour. 128 MPs opposed, the SNP, Plaid, the 48 Labour MPs with a conscience. 308 minus 128 is 180, and more than 180 Labour MPs abstained. Oh but because of pairing we’d still have lost, the Labour apologists bleat. Excuses about the cosy gentleman’s pairing arrangement cut no ice when you’re starving out on the streets in a bitterly cold winter. It’s not the job of Labour to enter into cosy arrangements with the Tories, it’s their job to make life difficult for them. But Labour don’t want to do that if the Daily Telegraph objects. That’s what makes Labour unfit for purpose.

Labour’s spinelessness is why we didn’t vote for them in Scotland – on this showing we’ll never vote for them again. Labour recovery? Even BBC Scotland can’t even start dreaming of that until there’s a glimmer of hope that Labour might just do its bloody job. But we don’t need Labour to oppose the Tories any more – we have the SNP and the Greens for that, and that’s why Labour is going the way of the Union. The demise of Labour is the demise of the UK.

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#60mins The hashtag that refused to trend

As someone who wants Scottish independence, by definition I am opposed to the British state. Anything which weakens the British state strengthens my cause. But not like this, I don’t want it to happen like this.

Sometimes you can take pleasure in the misfortunes of your political enemies, but sometimes you can’t because the misfortune of your enemy comes on the back of abused and broken innocence. Sometimes you find yourself hoping and praying that what is being said about your enemy isn’t true, can’t be true, because if it is true it revolts and disgusts, because it means that things are far worse than you could possibly have feared – even in the nightmares that stalk you on a cold and lonely night. Sometimes you don’t want to believe what is being said because it means that the mad fringes of conspiracy theories might be right, and that means we live on the fringes in a state of madness. But this is the state we live in. The British state is an abusers’ state, a state of abuse, a state of moral poverty and political cowardice.

This weekend my Twitter feed was filled with comments marked with the hashtag #60mins, but the hashtag didn’t trend, didn’t appear in the list of most talked about subjects as these things automatically do. And that by itself sparks suspicion.

The hashtag refers to an Australian current affairs programme, which very recently broadcast an episode investigating alleged paedophile rings in the very heart of the British establishment. It was claimed that over many years, important and powerful men at the centre of the British state sexually assaulted dozens, if not hundreds, of vulnerable children, many of whom were in care and whose well-being had been entrusted to a state which then abused them and offered them up as sacrificial lambs to the sick fantasies of evil men. Even worse, it alleged that certain very powerful individuals, some of whom remain in public life as lauded lords, killed kids for fun. According to the programme, the British state colluded in covering it all up.

The programme claimed that the British state used the agencies of public security to cover up the abuse, in order to protect the reputations of those who may have committed foul crimes against children, and by extension to protect the reputation of the British state. One of the worst abusers according to the programme was a man who was deputy head of the intelligence services. He used his influence and power to prevent investigations into the abuse that he and his powerful friends committed. Men, the programme said, like Leon Brittan and Cyril Smith.

We saw something similar with the Catholic Church. Those with the power to punish abusers, to remove them from positions of power and influence, to protect the vulnerable and the weak, did nothing. They did nothing because they believed that protecting the reputation of their institution was more important than preventing abuse. As long as the public don’t know what is going on, then the institution preserves its reputation intact. It remains an institution which commands respect and deference. But a reputation which depends upon secrecy is already a reputation which is worth nothing. We live in a state whose reputation is valueless. That’s the British state, an abusers’ state, a state of disgrace and shame.

I don’t want this to be true. I don’t want to live in a state where nothing is sacred and no-one is safe, but a part of me knows that there is an evil truth at the heart of these accusations.

My late partner Andy served in the Metropolitan police for many years. Back in the early 1990s he told me that there had been a police investigation into the Liberal MP Cyril Smith. Andy wasn’t directly involved in the investigation himself, but it was common knowledge amongst officers in his police station in the East End of London. The Met police had decided to take action about the prostitution and drug dealing which was then rampant around Kings Cross station. It wasn’t a specific investigation into high profile abusers, but Andy told me that during this investigation the Liberal MP Cyril Smith had been seen by police picking up rent boys outside the station, and taking them off in his car and engaging in sexual activity with them. Mostly they were homeless teenagers, out on the streets after years in care, left to fend for themselves as Thatcherism began to bite. Andy said that no action was ever taken against Smith because he was a high profile public figure. He added that the officers investigating the case were warned off by some very senior figures, and it was all quietly dropped.

When knowledge of Smith’s abusive activities came to public knowledge many years later, after his death, I asked Andy for more information about what he’d told me all those years before. Sadly by that time Andy’s vascular dementia was pretty far advanced, and he couldn’t remember any details or the names of any of the officers involved. He passed away a few months later.

We can press for an enquiry into the events of the past. We can demand that the police investigate unhindered by the powerful. We can demand justice for the victims and survivors of abuse. But we can have no confidence that we’ll ever get these things, and that means we can have no confidence that they won’t happen again in the future. This is a state which doesn’t do transparency, which doesn’t allow the little people to know what the big ones get up to behind the locked doors and closed curtains of the establishment. Being British means to know your place, to be subject, to be silent.

I don’t want this state to have power over me or my family. I don’t feel safe. The agencies of the state which are supposed to make us feel safe instead make us feel unsafe. The agencies of the state are – allegedly – actively covering up the worst abuse possible. When that happens we no longer live in a democracy. I don’t want to be British. And with every passing scandal, every instance of abuse that comes to light, another little bit of Britishness dies. Its passing will not be mourned.

All I can do is suggest that you watch the programme for yourself. It’s not easy or comfortable viewing.


I will leave comments open on this article, however PLEASE DO NOT ACCUSE ANY LIVING PERSON AS AN ABUSER. DO NOT NAME ANY ALLEGED ABUSERS OR WRITE ANYTHING WHICH COULD LEAD TO THEM BEING IDENTIFIED. Any comments which do so will be removed immediately. You risk prejudicing a future trial or investigation, and I do not want to get sued – and possibly lose my home because I can’t afford to pay damages. Your cooperation is appreciated.

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BBC Cringe: the Norma Desmond of broadcasters

Earlier this week, the youngest Scottish MP ever gave her maiden speech in the Chamber of the House of Commons. You’d think that a 20 year old working class Scottish woman from Paisley might be intimidated by an institution which is so far up its own arse that the crap comes out the other end, but not Mhairi Black. Since deposing one of the spoiled princes of the Labour party from the seat, Mhairi has been subjected to a barrage of insults and abuse from the UK media. She has been patronised and demeaned by middle aged middle class privileged men who are affronted that someone like Mhairi dares not just to step onto their territory, but to own it. And that’s precisely what Mhairi did in the House of Commons with her maiden speech.

The speech was perfectly judged, contained the right balance of humour and gravity, it was emotional and emotive, but at the same time logical and rational. She spoke movingly and with great passion about the evil wrought on working class communities by an ideologically driven Conservative government. She made it personal and illustrated the destructive effect that Tory benefit rules have on ordinary people. There but for the grace of god could go any one of us. She pleaded with the Labour party not to acquiesce and surrender to Tory policies but to join with the SNP in actively opposing the Government and to challenge it. And you know that Labour have fallen pretty low when it takes a 20 year old to plead with them to oppose the Tories. Some Labour MPs had the good grace to look shamed and a bit embarrassed, although Ian Murray wasn’t amongst them.

Even cynical auld gits like me were moved by Mhairi’s words. It would have been a remarkable and newsworthy speech irrespective of whose mouth it had issued from. And it issued from the mouth of a young working class Scottish woman. Mhairi did herself proud, she did her constituency proud, she did Scotland proud, she did democracy proud. Mhairi showed that Scotland’s future is safe and secure, because she’s the voice of the next generation. You couldn’t help but feel as you watched her that you were watching the president of a future Scottish republic.

So how did the Scottish state broadcaster choose to report on this marvellous affirmation of Scottish democracy, this immense credit to the youth of our country? It told us that the SNP had been slapped down by the deputy speaker for applauding Mhairi’s speech. There was a clip of the deputy speaker instructing MPs that they could show approval by harrumphing like trained seals, but there wasn’t a single line of Mhairi’s own words. This is the news we pay for. This is the news that we have to pay a tax on. And now we know the difference between a state broadcaster and a public service.

According to the nearest thing that Scotland has to a public broadcaster, the only important thing about Mhairi Black’s speech was that there was a mild breach of the antiquated and sclerotic protocol of the House of Commons as Mhairi’s SNP colleagues showed their appreciation. Another belter of a maiden speech, from the wonderful Anne McLaughlin, the Sherpa Tenzing of Glasgow North East who climbed the mountain of the largest Labour majority in the country, and got to the top in style – that went entirely unreported. The message from BBC Scotland was clear – Scotland, you’re a bit rubbish and you need to be slapped down and put in your place.

BBC Scotland’s news department apparently operates on the default assumption that nothing good can possibly come of the SNP. Let’s find someone who had to wait more than four hours in A&E and use it to attack the Scottish Government. Any mistake or oversight by an public body in Scotland becomes a generalised attack on Scottish self government.

BBC Scotland should just quit pretending that it’s a public service broadcaster, it’s an arm of the British state. It’s not BBC Scotland, it’s BBC Cringe – and don’t you Scots dare forget just how irrelevant and rubbish you are. It’s not a public service, it’s not remotely representative of the public it is supposed to service, it’s the propaganda department of the British state. It’s wall to wall crap about the Royal bloody family. I honestly don’t give a crap about Willnkate and their gilded existence. Now here’s a story about a cute kitten stuck up a tree that had to wait hours before the SNP’s national fire service could come and rescue it. And now the fitba.

This is not to criticise the ordinary staff of BBC Scotland. They have families to feed just like anyone else, and they are not responsible for the Corporation’s editorial policies which are set and controlled by London. I know for a fact that many amongst the ordinary staff of BBC Scotland support the proper devolution of BBC Scotland and yearn to make it into the proper Scottish public broadcaster that it was always supposed to be. Sadly the chances of that happening are close to zero as the Corporation battens down the hatches in the face of a concerted attack from the Tory government. Screwing the Scots is one way in which the BBC management in London can demonstrate its loyalty and avoid cuts and axes in other areas which are more important to the London based elite which determines BBC policy.

The BBC in Scotland has long since lost its reputation for impartiality, however much it clings to the memory of its former glory. By its one sided handling of the referendum campaign, its relentless focus on SNP Bad, BBC Scotland has destroyed itself as a credible news organisation. It has now got to the point where BBC Scotland could highlight a major failure of the Scottish government and thousands of perfectly reasonable people will turn a deaf ear, because BBC Scotland has cried wolf many times too often. BBC Scotland is the Norma Desmond of news, it thinks that it’s the news that’s got small.

So what to do about it? I recently paid my TV licence for the year so it would be hypocritical for me to call on other people not to pay it and to take the risk of prosecution that I’m not facing myself. Although I have to say that it’s unlikely that I’m going to renew my TV licence – I don’t see why I should pay for propaganda. If the BBC wants to punt an ideologically driven message to me, they should be paying me for the privilege, I don’t see why I should be paying them for royalist pro-union advertising.

But it’s not enough just to withhold the TV licence, we need to decide what we want in place of BBC Cringe, and we need to decide how to go about getting it. We need the devolution of broadcasting now. The 56 SNP MPs in Westminster and the Scottish Government should highlight the issue at every opportunity – Scotland is the ONLY self-governing country in the world which doesn’t have its own public service broadcaster. So much for best of both worlds.

(Am off to London tomorrow to see family. And while there will take in the Festival of Model Trams in Croydon. Back on Sunday – so the next blog post will be Monday.)

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