I’ve written before that Scotland needs a majority SNP government, preferably with a large contingent of Greens, after the Holyrood elections in order to ensure that we maintain the pressure for a second independence referendum. We also need the SNP to maintain its majority in government in order to ensure that the Unionist media doesn’t have the opportunity to crow that the wheels have come off the independence bandwagon. Make no mistake, that’s precisely what they will do if the SNP return fewer MSPs this time than they did in 2011. The only story in the Unionist press will be that the election was a defeat for Scottish nationalism, not the SNP, but for the cause of independence. They’ll do that even if there’s a large contingent of Greens and RISE or Solidarity manage to achieve some successes.
But while this election may be a Scottish national election, it’s also a series of local votes for individuals. Some of those individuals are more deserving of a vote than others. It goes without saying that as a supporter of Scottish independence I’m going to vote for a representative who will campaign for that goal. But not all independence supporting politicians share the same vision of an independent Scotland as I do, and faced with a choice between two candidates both of whom support independence, I’m going to vote for the good guy.
As a rule, I try to keep my distance from politicians. I reserve the right to say rude things about any of them, and while I have a self-imposed ban on criticising any independence supporting party, that’s going to change come the glorious day that Scotland rejoins the international community of nations. So I don’t attend Holyrood, I don’t cultivate friendships with politicians, and have no intention or desire to join any political party. But there is one politician that I do know very well, and if I lived in the region where he is standing as a list MSP for the Greens, I’d vote for him, because he isn’t just one of the good guys, he’s one of the very best.
I’ve known John Wilson for a long time, and I should point out right here and now that he doesn’t know I’ve written this blog post about him, and he certainly didn’t ask me to write it. However if there’s one single politician I’d like to see returned to the Scottish parliament, to provide a strong and powerful voice for Central Scotland and north Lanarkshire in particular, it’s John. If Scotland had a parliament full of men and women like John, we’d be independent already.
Our friendship is not based in politics, I’ve been a friend of John’s wife Frances since we were both kids at school together. Frances was, and still is, like a sister to me, and during the long and painful months when my late partner Andy was dying from vascular dementia, Frances and John both went out of their way to give me the support and love that I needed to keep going. At that time John was an SNP list MSP for Central Scotland. Despite the fact he had his hands full with the referendum campaign and with party and parliamentary duties, he and Frances still made time to support me, and this was long before I started blogging. So no one can say that he was cultivating a politically useful contact. John doesn’t work like that anyway. If it wasn’t for John and Frances I’d have run into a brick wall long before Andy finally passed away, and would not have been able to fulfil the promise I made to Andy a long time ago that I’d look after him and would make sure that he didn’t have to go into a care home, a prospect that terrified him. It was thanks to Frances and John that I kept my promise to Andy, and thanks to them that I’ve been able to start the process of building a new life for myself now that he’s gone. So I owe both of them an enormous debt.
John’s commitment to a left wing, independent, socially just and peaceful Scotland is unwavering and single minded. He left the SNP after the referendum over the issue of NATO membership. He’d made the decision several months before, but chose not to speak in public as he didn’t want to damage the party or the independence campaign. He’s since joined the Greens and is now standing as a Green candidate on their Central Scotland list. Some people have said that they are unsure about the commitment of the Greens to independence, but John’s commitment to independence cannot be doubted. It’s his top political priority. John wants an independent, neutral Scotland, which disavows nuclear weapons, embraces land reform, seeks to protect the environment and which embarks upon sustainable development and reindustrialisation.
With John you get a politician whose commitment to ridding Scotland of nuclear weapons is absolute. He’s not going to equivocate. That’s why he left the SNP over the issue of NATO. Even though we’d get rid of nukes that were based on our territory with independence, as a member of NATO we’d still have to allow other NATO countries with nuclear weapons to make use of our facilities. We’d not be nuke-free, just nuke-light. I want no nukes in Scotland.
John is utterly opposed to fracking. He doesn’t want a moritorium, he doesn’t want a halt to fracking if there are substantial concerns about it. He wants it banned. Scotland doesn’t need fracking. This is a big issue in Central Scotland. Basically, regions which were former coal producers are geologically the same areas which are targetted by fracking companies as the oil and gas they seek typically lies underneath the old coal beds. But in Central Scotland this means fracking in the very same areas where the bulk of population lives. This isn’t the case in the USA or Canada where there have been serious concerns about pollution. In Scotland, fracking will risk causing severe pollution in the heart of our most densely populated regions. It’s not a risk that an energy rich country like Scotland needs to take. We need to develop our renewable energies. Scotland could lead the world in this field, but only if we have the full powers in order to do so.
I could go on, about John’s work with the low pay unit, his work developing credit unions to assist people on low incomes, his passion for improved public transport, how his expenses claims were amongst the lowest of any MSP. It’s enough to repeat what I said near the start of this blog post, John Wilson isn’t just one of the good guys, he’s one of the best. I know that having him on my side has helped me enormously, and if you are lucky enough to live in Central Scotland and you return him as an MSP on Thursday, you can have him on your side too.
BARKING UP THE RIGHT TREE Barking Up the Right Tree has now been published and is an anthology of my articles for The National newspaper. You can submit an advance order for the book on the Vagabond Voices website at http://vagabondvoices.co.uk/?page_id=1993
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