Labour rips up the Claim of Right

It is being reported today, Sunday, that following Jeremy Corbyn’s suggestion that he might be prepared to ‘allow’ Scotland to hold a future independence referendum should he become Prime Minister, that the Scottish Branch Office is to press for the inclusion of a clause in the Labour manifesto explicitly opposing another independence referendum. The Branch Office is thought to believe that this would mean that a future Labour government would have a mandate to forbid any future independence referendum and to refuse to give the Scottish Government a Section 30 order, irrespective of any mandate that the Scottish Government has been given by the people of Scotland in a Scottish election and irrespective of the vote share received by independence parties or the number of MPs they achieve. According to Nick Eardley of the BBC, an announcement to this effect will be made at the Labour party conference in Liverpool.

So there you go. Labour in Scotland has now told the people of Scotland that the fate of Scotland will not be decided by the people of Scotland. The Claim of Right which Labour MPs, including Gordon Brown, signed up to in 1989 has been ripped up and is as valueless as the Vow. That Claim of Right asserted the sovereignty of Scotland within the UK. It stated that the signatories acknowledge the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of Government best suited to their needs, and do hereby declare and pledge that in all our actions and deliberations their interests shall be paramount. The Claim of Right was signed by every Labour and Lib Dem MP who was currently serving, with the exception of the arch British supremacist, the late Tam Dalyell.

If Labour goes ahead with this announcement at its party conference in Liverpool, it will signify Labour’s rejection of the Claim of Right. The official position of the Labour party in Scotland now is that the decision on whether Scotland can or cannot hold a future independence referendum will be decided by the electorate of the rest of the UK. The Labour Party in Scotland can no longer legitimately claim that it represents the interests and political will of the people of Scotland. It is a party of British supremacism. For the Labour party in Scotland, Scotland’s vote, Scotland’s voice, is subordinate to the electoral will of the rest of the UK.

If this measure is adopted, it means that the official position of the Labour party is that it doesn’t matter what Scotland votes for. It doesn’t matter if Scotland returns a huge majority for a party that seeks a referendum on independence whether in a Westminster General Election or a Holyrood election. It doesn’t matter if a party achieves a mandate within Scotland to seek self-determination. That mandate will be overturned by whatever it is that the 91.7% of voters in the UK outwith Scotland have voted for.

Labour’s position is now that the future of Scotland is not for the people of Scotland to decide.  It’s for the rest of the UK.  Labour no longer acknowledges the sovereign right of the people of Scotland to decide the form of government best suited to their needs. It’s for the rest of the UK.  Labour no longer recognises that the interests of the people of Scotland shall be paramount. Scotland, Labour tells us, will get what the rest of the UK votes for, and that will include deciding the form of government best suited to Scotland’s needs. It will do so, even though the interests and concerns of Scotland scarcely register amongst the electorate outwith Scotland, and voters in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland will not be making their voting decisions based upon support or rejection of whatever it is that Scotland wants. The message from Labour is, “Scotland, get back in your shortbread tin. You’re just not that important.”

Labour can no longer argue that it supports the sovereign right of the people of Scotland to decide the form of government best suited to their needs. You cannot place limits on that sovereignty in order to suit your party interests. There is a fundamental contradiction between the Claim of Right and an assertion from the Labour party that it can use a mandate derived from voters outwith Scotland to reject a second independence referendum, even if there is a majority for that referendum in the Scottish Parliament, and even if a majority of Scottish MPs were elected with an explicit mandate to bring one about. Labour has shredded the Claim of Right and replaced it with an assertion of Westminster supremacism. Tam Dalyell would approve.  But Tam Dalyell is long gone, and so is the claim of Labour in Scotland to be a Scottish party.

It is not coincidental that this anti-democratic move from Labour’s Scottish Branch Office comes as support for independence has never been higher. It is not coincidental that this move happens as the UK destroys itself over Brexit. The reality is that if Labour and the other British nationalist parties sincerely believed that there was no credible and realistic prospect of Scotland voting yes in a future referendum, they would be those crying most loudly for a second independence vote to settle the issue for good. The reason they’re doing their utmost to prevent a vote coming about is because they’re terrified. It’s because they know that they have no positive arguments to make. It’s because they know that after the betrayal of the Vow they have no carrot to offer, only the stick of threats and intimidation. They’re trying to prevent a referendum because they’re going to lose it.

A couple of days ago in this blog, I argued that the biggest lie of British nationalism in Scotland is that Scotland is a part of a Union. The reality is that there is no Union and there never was. Scotland is a subordinate part of a unitary state.  I never expected that the Branch Office would confirm that so quickly and so blatantly. I never expected that so quickly and so obviously Labour would confirm that it is a British nationalist party, an upholder of the supreme right of Westminster, and would rip up the Claim of Right and explicitly deny that the people of Scotland have a sovereign right to determine their own future.

But here’s the thing. Scotland doesn’t need the permission of the Labour party to hold a referendum. Scotland doesn’t need the permission of Westminster to hold a consultative referendum. Any election held in this country can be transformed into a plebiscite election on independence, because this is not Spain. Whatever cant the Labour party comes out with, Westminster will consent to a Scottish independence referendum because a vote will be held with or without their permission.

What would really destroy any last hopes that the British nationalists might have of clinging on to Scotland would be if they have to fight a campaign on independence when they have refused to allow the people of Scotland to have a say. That’s not a good look for their so-called Union. It destroys any pretence that Scotland is in a Union and exposes the big lie of a Union that is no union at all. All Labour has done now is to rip up the Claim of Right and to prove to the voters of this country that the party doesn’t care what Scotland votes for.  This only makes independence more likely.


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The gravity of theory

On Friday, Theresa May gave her considered response to the entirely predictable rejection of her Chequers Plan by the EU. The rejection should not have come as a surprise to anyone who was paying attention. The EU has been signalling ever since the Chequers Plan was cobbled together that it wasn’t going to be acceptable. For the past two years it has been patiently and consistently explaining that the four freedoms are indivisible, and the British Government can’t pick and choose those parts of them that happen to suit the interests of maintaining some sort of semblance of unity within the British Conservative party.

It’s just unfortunate that the British Government counts amongst those who weren’t paying attention, and so it reacted to the EU’s refusal in much the same way that a toddler reacts when it goes in a huff and knocks its sippy cup off of the high chair and then discovers that there’s such a thing as gravity. Only with somewhat less maturity and more of a sense of entitlement.

There are a number of ways to react when you discover the existence of gravity. You could do what Isaac Newton did. Newton was a busy man, in between taking the credit for the work of Astronomer Royal John Flamsteed, nursing a pathological hatred for Robert Hooke and Gottfried Leibniz and trashing their reputations at every opportunity, and ensuring that part time dildo manufacturer William Chaloner was hanged and publicly disembowelled for the crime of counterfeiting a few coins, he sat down and worked out a detailed and rigorous exposition of the nature of gravity which underpinned all scientific understanding on the phenomenon for hundreds of years after his death. Think of Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory, only with the power to have people tortured to death, and you’ve got a rough idea. And you’d think that, being a nasty and petty minded vindictive git who allowed his grudges to become all-consuming, Newton would have been an ideal role model for the Conservative party.

Or you could do what the baby in the high chair did, which was to throw its dummy after the sippy cup and have a hissy fit while screaming that it wasn’t fair and threatening that if it didn’t get its own way, it was going to soil its nappy. The British Government went for option B. That’s where we currently are with Brexit. The British Government is threatening the EU that it had better come up with a compromise plan that the UK can agree to, or the UK is going to pee in its pants. And then the EU will be sorry. Over two years after the Brexit vote, with just six months to go until Brexit day, with just four weeks to go until time runs out for reaching agreement, this is what passes for a plan. Not only do our Westminster rulers have no concept of the theory of gravity, they have no concept of the gravity of theory.

The Brexists are full of the I-told-you-so’s, but none of them have the foggiest idea what to do either, other than wish the Irish border out of existence and tell themselves that everything will work out just fine because they’re British and being British means being better and having Union flegs plastered on everything in Tesco. Brexit might cause a few problems for people who don’t manage hedge funds, but hey, blue passports. And anyway, it’s all the fault of the EU for refusing Britain’s perfectly reasonable demands for unicorns, cherry bedecked cake, and a Schrodinger’s Irish border that simultaneously exists and doesn’t exist at the same time. We won the war you know.

The blame for this mess lies entirely with the British political establishment. Largely it lies with the Conservatives, who have selfishly put party interest before all other considerations and who have failed miserably to engage with the realities of Brexit. But a portion of blame also lies with the Labour party, which has equally spent the past two years consuming itself in internal battles and refusing to confront the realities of Brexit or to challenge the Conservatives’ lack of planning in any meaningful way. It was telling that today, when the British Brexit befuddlement finally crashed into reality, the Labour party couldn’t find anyone to go on Channel 4 news and speak about it.

It has always been obvious that the EU was never going to agree to a division of the four freedoms. It was always obvious that the EU was never going to agree to any border on the island of Ireland, a position which the UK agreed to last year when it consented to the so-called backstop. However instead of engaging with these realities and preparing the country to accept a concession, the Prime Minister and the British political establishment have wasted the last nine months in posturing and party in-fighting. And now that the EU is taking the initiative and laying down to the UK precisely what the UK had agreed to, Theresa May is acting all surprised.

Now Theresa May is telling us all that no UK Prime Minister would ever consent to a customs border down the Irish Sea, because that would be tantamount to the partition of the UK. Her concern about retaining Northern Ireland as an integral part of the UK is not unrelated to her dependence on the DUP’s votes in the House of Commons. Just today, a reader of this blog (thank you Michael Bruce) pointed out to me that Winston Churchill, that PM so beloved of the Tories, offered to give up Northern Ireland to Eamon De Valera in 1940 when he was courting the support of the Irish State in exchange for Irish support in the war against Germany. The episode is detailed in the book Operation Sealion by Leo McKinstry.

Northern Ireland, just like Scotland, is and always has been disposable if it’s in the interests of the British state. That’s why it’s Scotland which hosts Westminster’s nuclear viagra, because if there happens to be a serious accident at Faslane, it won’t affect anywhere that the Tories really care much about. Theresa May’s concern for the integrity of the UK is so much cant.

That’s the biggest single argument in favour of independence. We are governed by people for whom our interests and concerns are at the very best minor considerations, and which all too often don’t even figure in their calculations at all. The Brexit process exposes that. Brexit has been carried out entirely in the interests of sections of the Conservative party. This is a process which has no positive outcome, and you can be certain that the people who are going to suffer the negative consequences will not be those people in the Conservative party who argued most strongly for it. That’s why Scotland needs a government which is answerable to the people of Scotland, and which the people of this country can remove from office when they do not respond to our concerns. We need to teach the Tories the gravity of the theory of political accountability, and we can only do that in an independent Scotland.


 

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When they try to silence us it means we’re winning

The National is reporting today that a number of newsagents have cancelled their orders for the Sunday National, despite selling out the copies that they previously received. The news has been received with the usual contempt and dismissal by opponents of independence, some of whom have openly accused the newspaper’s staff of consciously and deliberately inventing an outright lie in order to mislead and deceive – you know, as if it were a right wing tabloid which specialises in stories about Diana’s ghost telling a medium that she supports Brexit.

It’s a sad reflection of some people Scotland that they are so terrified of independence that they will attempt to prevent other people from talking about it and reading about it. It’s a perfectly legitimate point of view to oppose Scottish independence. It’s not a view I share. It’s a view that I believe is wrong on multiple levels. But I wouldn’t ban an anti-independence newspaper from a shop or hide it so that people couldn’t find it. Although to be fair, if you tried to hide all the anti-independence newspapers there wouldn’t be many newspapers left.

There are some 38 daily and Sunday newspapers in Scotland, and only one which supports independence despite the fact that independence is the constitutional option favoured by half the population. However British nationalists are so threatened by the existence of a single newspaper with a pro-independence editorial line that they will hide it, censor it, and try to prevent people reading it. They loudly take to social media to decry it as McPravda, as though the Scotsman or the Mail were beacons of balance.

For decades opponents of independence had the entire Scottish media on their side, independence was a marginal idea, consigned to the far edges of the frayed tartan blanket of Scottish newspapers. It wasn’t taken seriously. It is now, but the media in Scotland still hasn’t adapted to that new reality, and neither have many opponents of independence. Their problem is that they still hanker for the days when independence wasn’t taken seriously. Their entire strategy is based upon the mistaken idea that they can put us back in the box. That’s why there’s the barrage of SNPbad stories. It’s not going to work.

When Callum Baird, the editor of The National, stated in public that one of the difficulties The National experiences in distribution is that there are individuals who hide copies of the paper, he was called out as a conspiracy theorist and mocked by anti-independence journalists. Callum didn’t just invent the allegation that individuals opposed to independence were hiding copies of The National so that they couldn’t be seen on newspaper displays, he said so because people attending National Roadshow events had told him that they’d caught them in the act of it.

Someone who reads this blog wrote in to tell me that they are an employee of a large supermarket chain, and they had caught a person taking copies of The National off the newspaper display and hiding them. The person was banned from the store as a result. I have also had people attending a talk or event I’ve been at telling me that they have caught opponents of independence hiding copies of The National.

The allegation that opponents of independence are hiding copies of The National in order to prevent them being seen and purchased is credible and well sourced, not a wild eyed invention. The wild eyed invention is refusing to believe, a priori, that the allegation cannot possibly be true because it’s only independence supporters who are nutjobs. Honey, your bias is showing. The truth is that the actual fascists, sectarian bigots, racists and anti-democratic right wing extremists are largely to be found on the anti-independence side of this debate.

It’s not a conspiracy theory to point out that the press in Scotland is overwhelmingly opposed to independence. It’s a simple fact. When the Sunday National was launched, it was announced on social media and on the BBC’s Reporting Scotland that the Herald, and the new Sunday edition of the daily Herald, would continue to be “neutral” on the topic of independence. It’s not often that I laugh out loud during a broadcast of Reporting Scotland, but I did that day. The Herald is neutral on the topic of Scottish independence in the same way that the Kardashians are neutral on whether they want to avoid publicity.

The fact that a newspaper occasionally carries opinion columns from people who support independence doesn’t make that paper balanced or neutral on the subject of independence. It’s the newspaper’s editorial stance that counts, and it’s the choice, selection, and presentation of their news stories. What we see in Scotland is a rush to publish anything that paints independence in a negative light, and a corresponding reluctance to publish anything that is positive for independence.

There remains amongst the deeply conservative (with both a small and a large C) Scottish press the notion that opposition to independence is the neutral and apolitical stance, the status quo, whereas support for independence is political in a way that opposing it is not. That might have been true a couple of decades ago, but it’s most certainly not true now as the UK lurches toward a chaotic Brexit that Scotland has consistently opposed. There is no status quo any more. There is only Brexit, or independence. There is only change. There is only change imposed upon Scotland, or change which Scotland has a voice and a say in. That’s it. Those are the only options.

The ostriches of British nationalism want to pretend that change is not happening. The ubiquitous anti-independence media is pushing a nulliquitous reality, a reality that is the opposite of ubiquitous, it doesn’t exist anywhere. But it means that independence supporters can take heart. The fact that our opponents feel the need to hide from us, to censor us, to silence us, can only mean that they have no confidence in their own arguments. It means that those of us who support independence must redouble our efforts to support the pro-independence media that we do have. It means that we are making compelling arguments. The attempts of some newsagents to prevent the message getting to their customers means that we are getting through. They’re only doing it because they are afraid.

The panic in the British state was clear in Theresa May’s Brexit speech this afternoon. The UK is threatening to commit economic suicide if the EU doesn’t meet it halfway. But the EU is under no obligation to meet the UK halfway when it’s the UK which has moved off into a fantasy world. It’s not independence which is based in romantic notions of an idealised past that never really existed. That would be the UK. Theresa said today that she will not overturn the result of the EU referendum, and she will not “break up her country”. She doesn’t need to worry, Brexit has broken it up for her. Theresa May had her bluff called in Salzburg, but she’s still trying the same bluff with the same cards. This has been going on for two years. Her bluff will be called again tomorrow and she’ll still have nothing. Rinse and repeat, until the UK crashes out of the EU.

People all over Scotland are waking up to the truth that there is no security and stability in the UK any more. And that means we’re winning.


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You can’t have a Union Day if there is no Union

Yesterday, 18 September, was the anniversary of Scotland’s first independence referendum. Only the anniversary of the first one, mind. There will be another. However since the first one produced the result that opponents of independence craved, they are determined that Scottish democracy should be preserved in aspic, forever stuck in the hours after the 18th of September 2014 like some Groundhog Day without any laughs or star quality. But it’s worse than that, Bill Murray was at least an agent of his own destiny, trapped as he was in the same day repeating itself for ever.

The British nationalist ideal for Scotland is to be stuck passively watching a David Starkey documentary about the Great British monarchy on a loop for all eternity, while our eyelids are held open, our mouths are gagged, and the Tories and Labour scream “You’re happy! This is what you voted for! Smile or I’ll put on the Neil Oliver programme!” in our ears. All the while your kneecaps are being struck by hammers to make sure that you’ll never move under your own accord again. Punching above our weight by being punched below the belt.

Ross Thomson, the Birdie Song of the Scottish Conservatives, graced our lives yesterday with a wee video on social media when he popped up against a backdrop of flegs to say how happy he was it was “Union Day”, and then for good measure he munched on a Tunnocks Teacake. Being lectured by Ross is like being threatened by a rabid hamster.

The reason that so many of us in Scotland are demanding a second referendum is very like the reason that so many in the rest of the UK are demanding a second referendum on the EU. It’s because we were lied to and deceived. The UK is being taken out of the EU by people who lied and deceived in order to win their victory. Scotland was kept in the UK by people who lied and deceived in order to win their victory. There were many lies in both campaigns, but Scotland was kept in the UK by the biggest lie of all, the lie that we’re a part of a union. The UK is no union, and it never has been. The UK is now and always was a unitary state in which Scotland was absorbed into a Greater England. The so-called Union was only ever a comforting lie told to Scotland as a sop.

If you are a part of a union, a real union, you retain agency. A marriage is a union, but the smaller spouse does not surrender all control over their entire life to their larger partner. The larger partner doesn’t get to call all the shots and make all the decisions, telling their smaller partner – but this is what you voted for when I put that ring on your finger. There’s a difference between a ring on your finger and a ring through your nose. In the tired old metaphor of the UK as a marriage, Scotland has a ring through its nose, not on its finger, and we are led where the larger partner takes us, without a say, without consent. The UK allows Scotland no agency.

If you are a part of a union, a real union, you have a voice, you have a say, you have representation in the body which leads and governs that union. Within the UK, Scotland has a right to send MPs to a parliament in which they are a small and marginalised minority where they can always be outvoted and their concerns dismissed. The UK is in effect an elective dictatorship, in which the party with the largest number of seats in that parliament takes all the power, and all that power rests with that party’s leader and the cabinet which he or she hand picks. The only formal representation that Scotland has in the UK cabinet is David Mundell, a man who has made it very clear that his job is not to speak up for Scotland within the British Government, but to speak up for the British Government within Scotland.  The UK allows Scotland no voice.

From the very beginnings of the UK, the Union was always the big lie. Scotland was bribed, coerced, and threatened into it by an England which sought to secure its northern border, and once caught became subsumed into Greater England, subjugated by military force for decades after 1707. In the eyes of the British establishment, it was Scotland which became extinguished by the Treaty of 1707, not England. The role of Scotland was to act as a tartan fig leaf, a disguise for English exceptionalism, allowing the proponents of Britishness to pretend to themselves that their nationalism was better than that of lesser breeds by virtue of not being nationalist at all. And all these years later, that lie still allows people to claim that they don’t want Scottish independence, because they say they don’t like nationalism. It blinds them to the British nationalism, the English nationalism, that is all around them, like fish who are unaware of the water they swim in.

The concept of the Union served to act as a comfort blanket to North Britons. It allowed Scots to pretend to themselves that we were not like those nations conquered by the British Empire. It meant that they could tell themselves that Scotland was a partner in a family of nations, a free agent freely associating itself, free to make its own decisions – just as long as those decisions were the same as those that England’s establishment made. And for much of the 20th century, Scotland voted much the same way that England did, and we could all keep pretending that the lie of the Union was no lie.

Brexit exposes the lie of the Union. There is no Union and there never was, and those who affect the conceit of Unionism are deluding themselves. You can’t be a Unionist if there is no Union. You’re just an apologist for British nationalism, for English nationalism in tartan drag. There is no Union Day if there is no Union.

So I have resolved to purge the words Unionist and Unionism from my political vocabulary. Those who seek to keep Scotland a part of this unitary state can call themselves what they please, but I’m not going to be a party to their self-delusion. I’m not going to allow them to keep pretending that the Scottish constitutional debate is a debate between nationalism and non-nationalism. They are British nationalists. Let’s call them that.  There can never be a Union Day because there is no Union.


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GINGER2croppedGaelic maps of Scotland are available for £15 each, plus £7 P&P within the UK for up to three maps. T-shirts are £12 each, and are available in small, medium, large, XL and XXL sizes. P&P is £5 for up to three t-shirts. My books, the Collected Yaps Vols 1 to 4 are available for £11 each. P&P is £4 for up to two books. Payment can be made via Paypal.

Stranger things

This beautiful poem by John McIntosh was sent to me after John met the dug, and me too, at James Dornan’s fundraising event in Cathcart Bowling Club earlier this month. As today is the anniversary of the first independence referendum, and as we anticipate another, I thought it was the perfect occasion to share it with you.

STRANGER THINGS
Airson Pòl agus an cù
by John McIntosh
gingersitting

‘There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.’

Even while I waited by
the side of that canal in Elx,
the night heat a weight,
me turning circles in the grass,
I knew he would come.
I just had that feeling, y’know?
Like I was destined to be someone.
Someone’s.

Imagine. A chucked-oot mutt like me,
Daring a dream like that.
Kidding yersel’ on, they say here.

Mind you, what’s fur ye ‘ll no go by you.
That’s another thing they say.

Alone there in those nights I saw it all:
the silver star-bridge arching overhead;
the moon’s lamp swung between horizons;
sparks glowing in the eyes of swimming rats.
Autopista headlight flashes, growling cars.

I waited there for weeks.
People threw me scraps.
Someone took a picture.
I was patience, and waited.

Till suddenly at last it changed, when Andy
saw me in a dream, told Paul about me.
My picture flashed up on his screen –
he knew me right away. How could he not?
Phones rang.
And for the first time I was taken home.

And then I went home for a second time,
To this grey north, where gingers just like me
parade around as if they own the place.

And here I am, two thousand miles later,
lying at his feet in Cathcart Bowling Club,
while he describes that other dream he has:
how independence
starts in the mind;
how what we see
in Shettleston is not normal;
how a new Scotland is waiting.

Waiting.

Aye well, I wouldn’t know anything about that.
I’m just a ginger dug who likes being taken in the car
And being fed sandwiches by smiling strangers.
I’m not that into politics you see.
And English is my third language after all.
(Well actually my fourth, if you count Dug,
which I’m sure you do).

But three things I do know:
where and what I was; where and what I am;
and the fact you never know.

If Andy could dream me alive,
if I can be dreamed alive, wake up one day
wide–eyed in some new world, then maybe
you can too.

Stranger things have happened.
Another thing they say.

It’s getting late. He’s signing things.
My eyelids droop. Been a long night.
If I start to twitch and whimper,
know that in my dreams I’m back there
lying next to that canal, swivelling
ears towards the distant growling cars.

And me (and you, and all of us) still waiting.

Waiting

Turning circles.

Seeing stars.

SIC launches a new cross-movement campaign

The cross-movement campaign to win a future independence referendum has been announced today by the Scottish Independence Convention (SIC).

The SIC has revealed its plans to provide staff and resources for the movement as part of a package that will act as a national campaign organisation.

The as-yet-unnamed campaign body will provide the strategic capacity, resources, messaging, media support and liaison to grassroots Yes campaigns across the country to increase support for independence beyond 50%. It is understood a crowd-funder to support the work will be announced in the near future.

The Scottish Independence Convention has already been undertaking research on public opinion in order to meet the challenges and big questions of Scottish independence head on.

Convenor of the SIC Elaine C Smith said: “This is it. We don’t know when the next referendum will be but we know we need to start campaigning now. We know we need to be getting on the front foot with the media. We know we need to be harnessing the power of our grassroots organisations. We know we need to be preparing to take the argument to the doorstep and the keyboard.

“For years after the last independence referendum there is still so much energy in the Yes movement but we need to harness it if we are going to successfully listen to and persuade our fellow Scots that the only safe way forward is to be in charge of our own destiny.

“The movement has successfully crowd-funded many initiatives since 2014. But this is the chance to take it to the next level. If we are serious about winning independence then we need to start campaigning on it now. And that means backing this fundraiser when it comes.

“Make no mistake, we are faced with a stark choice. We can either be responsible for our own future or we can rely on the increasingly shaky and erratic Westminster set up to take us on a rollercoaster ride of chaos and disaster. Brexit – something the majority of Scots did not vote for – is just months away and yet Westminster is obsessed with infighting rather than the best interest of our country. It is clear now that Scotland going its own way is the only safe and sensible option.”

Supporting the move Paul Kavanagh, also known as Wee Ginger Dug said: “I’m proud to be a part of this campaign.  It’s time. Time to work. Time to build. Time to make our better Scotland real. We can only do it by pulling together, by collaboration and cooperation, because the way we campaign for our better Scotland will define that Scotland once we win it. This is our Scotland, and it contains multitudes.”

Woman for Independence (WFI), an SIC member organisation said: “Since 2014, WFI have relentlessly continued to campaign for an independent Scotland and to further the cause of issues particularly relevant to women. We are delighted to see the grassroots groups and the wider YES movement coming together within the Scottish Independence Convention to collaborate on research, projects and campaigns in order to steer more people across to YES.

There’s no time like the present to make our case to the people of Scotland and to women in particular, that we can create a better future in an independent Scotland.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Independence Convention said: “Having a movement-run independence campaign is immensely important as it will show voters in any future referendum that independence is about more than just party politics.

It will be about the politics they see every day in their communities, delivered by people they know and see day to day and this will give us the edge. It’s the people of Scotland who will deliver independence for our country and this campaign organisation will offer every support possible to show our friends and neighbours that no matter how they voted before, an independent Scotland can be theirs as well.”

 

Depression is not just a personal struggle

I’m not going to criticise Ruth Davidson for speaking publicly about her struggles with mental health issues when she was younger. There was, and is, a veritable epidemic of mental health problems, of depression, of low self-esteem, of self-harm, of self-medication on drugs and alcohol, and of suicidal thoughts, especially amongst young people, and especially young LGBT people. It’s not new. It’s been an issue for a very long time. All that has changed is the willingness of people to speak about their experiences in public.

I too experienced something similar when I was younger. Realising that you were gay in the 1970s when you are from a Catholic family in a working class community in the East End of Glasgow and going to school at a comprehensive in Coatbridge was no bundle of laughs. I used to cry myself to sleep at night, terrified that anyone would discover my awful secret. That I was one of “them”. I would wish fervently that it would all go away. I thought about suicide, about running away and disappearing. I knew that I’d get no support from the people that you’re told to take your problems to as a young person, my parents or my teachers.  Or, laughably, the priest.  They were the last people I wanted to tell.

Round about the time I realised I was gay, a couple of older boys in my school were caught kissing under the stairs in a quiet corner of the school. They were disappeared, whisked off somewhere to be “looked after”, and we were forbidden to mention them. I lived with the terror that someone would find out that I was just the same as those boys, and I too would be disappeared. All around me society told me that I was a sick individual, a pervert, doomed to lonely and unfulfilled life, while I swam in a soup of insults and slurs and verbal abuse directed against a community that none of those uttering those words knew I was a part of. So you lied about yourself in order to survive, and then by lying you came to doubt everything about yourself, because no one who knew you knew the real you, they only knew the lie. Eventually I coped, or rather didn’t cope, with my problems by self-medicating on drugs.

It took a long time to climb out of that pit of despair, but I still struggle with feelings of low self-esteem and self-doubt. I still feel the tide of depression lapping against the far shores of my consciousness and have to work consciously to keep it at bay. I still struggle to see any value or worth in what I do. The struggle against depression is a personal battle that people must fight every single day, and even though I have not suffered from depression for many years, that sharp edge is still there, that little voice of self-doubt is never entirely still.

So I get Ruth Davidson, in that respect at least.  When you suffer from these feelings, being a public figure is terrifying.  You can’t hide. I imagine that she suffered from similar experiences, that she still has that wee voice in her head. So I empathise with Ruth’s experience, and I am glad that she spoke about it in public, because by doing so she has made it a little bit easier for others who are experiencing similar issues to speak out and reach for help.

The lesson I learned from that painful early experience wasn’t a lesson just about me and about my need to change my own life, to empower myself. It was also a lesson in empathy. It taught me that there is something below the surface with any individual, that they may have struggles and difficulties that they strive to hide. It taught me that you should always empathise with those who are struggling because it could so easily have been you. It taught me that you must refrain from rushing to judgement when you see a person making what on the surface may seem to be poor life choices, because you don’t know what is driving them to it.

But my experience taught me something else. It taught me that depression and mental health issues are often the product of external events, and that’s where I take issue with Ruth. She has a pull yourself up by your own bootstraps approach to depression. It might have worked for her, but she can’t assume that it’s going to work for everyone, and she can’t overlook the role that wider society has to play in the creation of individual issues of mental health.

Just as you can’t overlook how societal expectations about – say – women’s bodies or the social role of men drive many young people into the depths of despair, Ruth can’t overlook how the actions of her own government have driven so many hundreds of thousands of people to depression and desperation, and beyond. To me at least, she appears to suffer from a stark lack of empathy for the victims of Conservative policies, for the women victimised by the rape clause, for the disabled people whose mobility and life chances are severely curtailed by UK government cuts, for the hundreds of thousands of students starting adult life saddled by debt, the families living in poverty for whom getting food on the table is an everyday triumph, for all those who struggle in low paid work who will never be able to enjoy a secure home of their own, for the elderly woman left standing in the rain at the bus stop because public transport is deprived of investment.

The real lesson that my experience of depression taught me wasn’t just that I had to make changes within myself in order to recover, it’s that we also need to make changes to society. No one exists as an island. It’s not enough just to change yourself, you have to change the world too. I am an agent in making myself better, but I have to be an agent in making society better as well.

It’s all very well for a politician to speak in a soft soap interview about their early struggles with mental health issues, but when that same politician represents a party which is taking an axe to mental health services in England, there are serious questions to ask which were not asked. When that party is squeezing the Scottish budget and threatening service provision in Scotland, there are serious questions to ask which were not asked.

It’s all very well for a politician to speak in public about personal issues, but there are serious questions to ask of a media which colludes in avoiding asking that same politician about some other important issues surrounding her party, issues about Dark Money, issues about homophobia, sectarianism, racism or misogyny amongst politicians who are theoretically answerable to her. Politicians who by espousing these attitudes are creating depression and low self esteem in others.

That’s what upsets people about Ruth Davidson. She is the politician as a personality, and not the politician as a proponent of policy or principle. What upsets people is when she appears on what is supposed to be an incisive political programme, and Andrew Marr acts like Dr Phil. If we want to tackle issues of mental health, we need to change society. A media which allows politicians to act like media personalities from a baking show and shields them from hard questions only makes that harder to achieve.


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