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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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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Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.

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.

Brexit Day blues

There’s a belief amongst sections of the independence movement that after Brexit happens Scotland will lose its ability to hold an independence referendum and so we need to hold an independence referendum before March 2019, otherwise we’ll never be able to hold one at all. In a similar vein there are those who assert that after Brexit, the UK would never recognise the outcome of an indy vote, and so we need to have one before 29 March 2019 otherwise Westminster would keep Scotland a part of the UK even if a majority of the Scottish electorate has voted for independence.

I’m not sure where these ideas of Brexit Day blues for independence come from, but the good news is that they are not true. Categorically. Definitely. Absolutely. Not true. Brexit destroys many things, but it doesn’t destroy Scotland’s hopes of independence.

The EU was not and never was a guarantor of a Scottish independence referendum, and the UK’s membership of the EU has no bearing on Scotland’s ability to hold one. Scotland will no more or less be able to hold an independence referendum after March 2019 than it is able to hold one before that date. Formally leaving the EU makes no difference in that respect. Our ability to have a vote on the future of Scotland as a country is not conditional on the EU membership of the UK.

Just ask the Catalans. The EU (in)famously does not get involved in the internal constitutional politics of member states. Catalonia is unable to hold an independence referendum that is recognised by Spain or by the rest of the EU because the Spanish constitution prohibits it. The EU does not get involved and does not insist to Spain that it must permit a Catalan referendum. As far as the EU is concerned, the workings of the Spanish constitution are a matter for Spain.

Equally, as far as the EU is concerned, the internal constitutional arrangements of the UK are a matter for the UK. That is true both before and after Brexit Day. There is no constitutional bar on Scotland holding an independence referendum, and that fact remains true after Brexit Day just like it’s true at the moment. The EU can neither take legal steps against the UK to ensure that a referendum is held, nor take legal steps to prevent one. That will still be the case after Brexit Day. The ability to hold a referendum in Scotland rests upon the internal constitutional set up of the UK, and that does not change once the UK has left the EU. The truth is that the UK Government has as much of a legal and political ability to resist a vote on independence right now as it does after 29 March 2019.

Part of the confusion comes from the Westminster power grab. The Westminster parliament is using Brexit as an excuse to strip Holyrood of powers, and there is a natural fear amongst many that this power grab will extend to stripping Holyrood of the right to hold a vote on Scotland’s future. However the power grab is happening because of the nature of devolution, leaving the EU merely provides the Conservatives with a convenient excuse. The legal right for Westminster to do so was always there, the Conservatives are simply availing themselves of the political opportunity.

It’s called “devolution” because Westminster always intended and believed that any powers exercised by Holyrood remained powers possessed by Westminster. “A power devolved is a power retained”, in formula of the 1990s when devolution was being planned by the then Labour government. Right now, as a part of the EU, the British Government has an absolute legal right to abolish Holyrood, to strip it of any power it wants, and if it did so the EU would not get involved.

Whatever happens with Brexit, Scotland will always be able to hold a vote on its future. The Scottish Parliament can hold a consultative referendum without Westminster’s permission. That won’t change after Brexit. Pro-independence parties in Scotland will always be able to turn any future Scottish elections into a plebiscite election on independence, without Westminster’s permission. That won’t change after Brexit either. In fact, even if the British Government abolished Holyrood entirely, Scotland’s pro indy parties would still be able to convert a Westminster General Election in Scotland into a plebiscite election. All this means that before or after Brexit the Scottish Government will still be able to exert the same pressure on the British Government and to make the same arguments to press it into granting a Section 30 order, by threatening it with either a consultative referendum or a plebiscite election.

The big difference is that the political landscape will have changed after Brexit. Then the SNP and the Greens will be able to say clearly and without any contradiction that Scotland has been taken out of the EU against its will, and so the condition in the SNP mandate of 2016 has been fulfilled. Brexit strengthens the political argument for a referendum in Scotland, it doesn’t weaken or destroy it. It doesn’t strengthen the hand of Theresa May.

Here’s the thing – if the legal window for holding a referendum closed definitively on Brexit Day in March 2019, there is no way that the Scottish Government would contemplate allowing that date to pass without holding a referendum. However it seems more likely than not that the Scottish Government is going to do precisely that, and that Scotland won’t be having a referendum or a vote until sometime in summer or autumn next year at the earliest, after Brexit Day in other words.

If the lawyers and legal advisors of the Scottish Government had informed the Scottish Government that there was going to be no legal way to have a vote after Brexit day, you can be certain that Nicola Sturgeon would already have informed everyone about a date for a vote. She hasn’t, and the mood music is definitely playing a song of delay. That can only mean that there is no such legal advice, and there is no legal prohibition on a referendum after Brexit Day. The fact that Nicola Sturgeon is clearly contemplating holding a vote after 29 March 2019 means that she doesn’t believe that the political window for holding a referendum closes on Brexit Day either.

Then there are those who say that even if there was a vote after Brexit Day, the British Government wouldn’t recognise a Yes vote when it happened. Now, I bow to no-one in my low opinion of British Governments. They don’t call it Perfidious Albion for nothing. However when there is a Yes vote for independence, especially a vote which the anti-independence parties have participated in, the political realities will mean that the British Government of the day will have no option but to recognise it.

Following a Yes vote, the British Government will be under political pressure from a Scottish Government which has just won a democratic mandate for independence. It will be under political pressure from the powerful English nationalist faction of the Conservative party which will fancy its chances of increasing its power and influence in a UK without Scotland. It will be under political pressure to recognise the democratic legitimacy of a vote which the anti-independence parties will have participated in. And most importantly of all it will under political pressure from the international community. The EU will not interfere before there’s a Yes vote, but once there is, and especially given the context of a Scottish independence vote held against the background of a UK which has just left the EU, a Scotland which is markedly more pro-European in its attitudes and outlook, the EU will then speak up far more vigorously on Scotland’s behalf.

Personally, I would like an early referendum. I want to have a vote as soon as possible. I want Scotland to be independent sooner rather than later. However I understand the reasons for delaying until after March 2019, and am not scared of them. You shouldn’t be either. We have only one bullet, and we need to make it count. The closer that we get to firing that starting pistol, the harder it becomes not to lose our nerve. Brexit doesn’t spell the end of hopes for Scottish independence, it spells the end for hopes of the UK preventing it. Brexit doesn’t mean the destruction of Scotland’s path to independence. It means the UK will have destroyed itself. The real Brexit Day blues are for those who oppose Scottish independence.


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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.

Help Edinburgh Yes Hub

Edinburgh Yes Hub is a community Hub in the spirit of the Yes movement started during the Scottish referendum of 2014. It is non-partisan group of volunteers who seek real progressive politics through dialogue shaped by political and social awareness. The Hub is an incredible resource for the independence movement in Edinburgh and the Lothians. In the three years that the Hub has been open it has hosted 109 speakers, 8 book launches, been used for campaigning by two political parties which support independence, been a venue for a host of events during three Edinburgh festivals, collected for local foodbanks, organised buses to rallies, held three rallies of its own, organised 87 discussion sessions, amongst many other activities.

Unfortunately, the future of the Hub is now threatened. It faces closure unless it can find £1300 to pay its power bill with Scottish Power. The Hub is currently without its power supply, and cannot get power restored until the bill is paid. Please help ensure that this amazing resource and its dedicated team of volunteers can continue to operate.

Donate to Edinburgh Yes Hub by making a payment directly into their bank account. Their bank details for this fundraiser are as follows:

Account name Edinburgh Yes Hub
Account Number 12004161
Sort Code 80 46 35

Alternatively, you can donate via the Hub’s donation page to their general funds, including via Paypal. Please click here

https://www.edinburghyeshub.info/donations

The confirmatory referendum

Sometimes you can’t help but feel sorry for the Lib Dems. There they are, devoting themselves to a career in politics only to discover that they are less relevant than Sydney Devine in a Lady Gaga soundalike contest. And then a Lib Dem goes and opens their mendacious gob, and immediately any residue of sympathy that you had for them goes the same way as the party’s reputation for telling the truth, flushed down the pan, never to return.

Wullie Rennie, the only Rennie on the planet who actually causes acid reflux, got the dung ball rolling a few days ago when he announced that the Lib Dems would vote down the next Scottish budget, even if they happen to agree with it. Lib Dem support for any future Scottish budget will be conditional on Nicola Sturgeon ruling out any prospect of another independence referendum forever. That’s a bit like another party announcing that they will vote down a Lib Dem budget unless the Lib Dems forget about the one policy that most defines them, seeking proportional representation for elections to the House of Commons. Because, entirely coincidentally and not in any sense a self-serving way, that will result in more Lib Dem MPs. A Lib Dem said so, and you can always rely on a Lib Dem to tell the truth. Especially when they make a solemn pledge on student tuition fees.

Well, OK, it’s not really like that at all, since Lib Dems don’t get to be in power anywhere, and when they do they’re happy to sell whatever principles they might have had for a couple of ministerial motors. But still, you can always imagine it. The power of the imagination is a mighty thing, more powerful than the Lib Dems’ electoral strength, more powerful than the truth that will set you free. Which is why the Lib Dems are prisoners of their past.

Anyway, never one to indulge himself in one load of acid burn sanctimonious claptrap when he could get two in for the price of one, Wullie at the same time demanded that the SNP get behind the Lib Dems’ call for another referendum on the EU. Because that’s totally different and not hypocritical at all. It’s only referendum results which the Lib Dems were on the losing side of that ought to be revisited. Everyone knows that. Or at least everyone that Wullie allows on his number 17 bus. It’s a condition of him selling you a ticket as your travel from Kelty to Cowdenbeath, you won’t be allowed on the bus unless you agree not use your trip to Cowdenbeath for promoting Scottish independence.

Not to be outdone, party leader Vince Cable announced today that if there’s to be a second Scottish independence referendum, which he’s opposed to, then that needs to be followed up with a third Scottish independence referendum if Yes wins because really what we’re playing here is best of three. After all, it would only be fair. No won once, yes will have won once, so there needs to be a third referendum as a decider. Insisting on a third referendum is in no way a contradiction to his impaccable opposition to having a second referendum. He can swallow that pile of guff, because he’s been overdosing on the Rennies.

What Vince is claiming is that if there’s a yes vote in a future independence referendum, then there needs to be a third vote on the outcome of any deal between Scotland and the rest of the UK. This in no way will act as an incentive for the British Government to approach independence negotiations in a vindictive, lying, and underhand manner. Oh no. Not at all. The fact that insisting on best of three gives the British Government a very strong incentive to play dirty and dishonestly during independence negotiations is entirely coincidental, as coincidental as proportional representation leading to a bigger number of Lib Dem MPs.

Let’s be honest here, Vince is not making this proposal out of a deep concern for democracy, he’s doing it in order to make Scottish independence more difficult to attain. But even on Vince’s own terms there is a big flaw in his plan. What Vince is overlooking here in his typically self-serving Lib Dem way is that the second Scottish independence referendum will already be a vote on the outcome of the deal that was delivered.

The next Scottish independence will be a referendum on the outcome of the deal that was promised to Scotland by the anti-independence parties on condition of a No vote in 2014. If Westminster had been honest, upfront, and sincere in the promises that it made to Scotland in 2014, and moreover had actually delivered on them after securing that No vote in 2014, then Scotland would not currently be discussing the prospect of another vote on the independence issue. So this second independence vote is already that referendum on the deal that Vince was proposing in his oh-so-clever-clever way as a wizzard wheeze to keep Scotland within the UK.

Vince doesn’t get a get out of jail free card on the lies, the deceit, and the outright contempt with which the Westminster parties treated Scotland in the aftermath of the September 2014 vote. He doesn’t get to pretend that it’s only the independence campaign and parties which have to be held to account on any deal that they can deliver, but the anti-independence parties get a free pass on theirs.

The Lib Dem leader asserts that the people need to have a confirmatory vote on the outcome of a referendum. Fine. That’s exactly what this second referendum is going to be. That’s precisely what independence supporters are asking for. This coming referendum on independence is a confirmatory vote on whether Scotland is going to accept what Westminster, what the Conservatives, what Labour, and what the Lib Dems, have delivered compared to what they promised us in 2014. Are we going to confirm or reject what Westminster has given, as opposed to what they told us they’d do.

This second Scottish independence referendum will take place precisely because Westminster has lied to us.  If every promise had been kept, if every commitment had been delivered, there would be no pressure for another vote.  This coming independence referendum is the confirmatory referendum on the deal that was delivered. Scotland is not going to give the Westminster establishment a third opportunity to lie to us again.


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What’s really important

Never mind a screening of Braveheart, which in the cosmic scheme of things is as important as the crumb content of David Mundell’s beard, there’s stuff happening which really matters. Now, unless you’ve been hiding in a cave for the past two years, you may have noticed that the UK is just weeks away from needing to have a deal on leaving the EU that is acceptable to the EU, only with the two main UK parties having spent most of the past two years proving themselves incapable of reaching a deal with other parts of their own party, it’s still far from certain whether an EU deal can be reached.

Today, The President of the EU Commission Jean Claude Juncker made it clear that the EU cannot accept the British government’s Brexit proposals as they stand. He said that the Chequers proposals could be a starting point for a future relationship between the EU and the UK, but reminded the British government that it cannot pick and choose which parts of the single market it wishes to be a part of. He reiterated that the EU fully supports Ireland in its attempts to secure an invisible border and will not let it down.

Time is running out, so you’d think that if you were a grown up British politician who really did prioritise that national interest that you keep banging on about, that this would be the time to concentrate your efforts and energies on pulling your head out of whatever orifice it’s been stuck in since June 2016. Sadly, this is British politics we’re talking about here, so if you’re a member of the Conservatives’ European Research Group, the most important and crucial thing that the UK really needs right now is another Conservative leadership contest. Because there’s nothing more important than the internal politics of the Conservative party. Last night the ERG met to research the one thing it spends even more time researching than Brexit, which is researching how to get rid of Theresa May.

According to some reports, the ERG is planning to try and unseat May following the party conference next month. The meeting last night was described as febrile, with the sole topic of discussion how to best bring about a leadership election. It’s just a pity that they haven’t devoted a tenth of the time and energy that they have plotting against other Conservatives to actually coming up with a credible Brexit plan of their own. Their proposals for Brexit essentially boil down to the assertion that the EU needs the UK more than the UK needs the EU. But then we’re talking here about people who think that Boris Johnson would make a great Prime Minster.

The ERG’s proposals for the Irish border are equally fantastical, and largely consist of foot stomping that a minor little province and the concerns of the natives are being allowed to get in the way of Great British daydreaming. The ERG believes that the border issue can be solved with clever technological woo. They have no answer to the question of just how these technical solutions are going to be invented, built, and implemented in the few short months remaining between now and Brexit, when the British government has done precisely bugger all in the way of preparations so far.

Over the past few days, a particular Scottish Tory MP has been popping up on our TV screens in order to enthuse about his support for the ERG like one of thae wee nodding dugs in the rear window of a car. Yes, people of Aberdeen South, it’s your very own Ross Thomson, doing his bit for Britain by getting stuck into the mess that his Brexit obsessed party has made and making it even worse. Thanks Ross! In a time of national crisis we can always rely on you to pop up like a happy little puppy who only wants to show its owner how proud it is of the pee stain it’s left on the new rug.

The list of MPs who attended the ERG meeting last night hasn’t been made public, but at least four Scottish Conservatives are known to be supporters of the group. As well as Ross, there’s Alister Jack of Dumfries and Galloway, Stephen Kerr of Stirling, and Colin Clark of Gordon. All of them signed a letter from the ERG in February, calling on Theresa May make a “clean break” from the EU. A clean break is Tory party code for ripping up all the civil and employment rights the EU guarantees, and leaving the customs union, the single market, and reality so we can all go and live in a fantasy universe where the UK still has an empire and where people don’t think that Jacob Rees Mogg is a cross between a funeral director and the evil landlord baddie from a Regency costume drama. Ross Thomson didn’t sign the letter, but later released a statement saying that he had planned to, only he’d chewed up his crayon.

When the cohort of Scottish Conservative MPs were elected in the 2017 General Election, we were personally assured by Ruth Davidson that they were being elected as representatives of Ruth Davidson’s Scottish Conservatives™ and that they were going to vote in a bloc to defend Scotland’s interests within Theresa May’s precious Union. We were told that the Scottish Conservative MPs were going to be answerable to Ruth. And hasn’t that worked out well. We were treated to the sight of wee Ross on Channel 4 news this week cheerfully claiming that he was fully supporting both his leaders by plotting to undermine them.

Naturally the Scottish media is all over Ruth Davidson and her stand in Jackson Carlaw to explain why it is that Scottish Conservative MPs whom we were assured were going to stand up for Scotland within the Union and do their Remainer boss’s bidding are now enthusiastically attempting to bring about a Conservative leadership election and paralyse the party of government at the precise time that it needs to get its act together in negotiations with the EU in order to avoid a cliff edge Brexit. Oh no, wait. There’s an SNP bad story instead.

We’re being let down by the British political establishment. We’re being let down by the British media. The British state is a state of dysfunction in a state of denial. This is happening because we have a political class which can’t be properly held to account. That is the biggest argument for Scottish independence. In an independent Scotland with a written constitution, our politicians will be constrained in what they can do, and will be answerable to us, that’s what is really important.

Hope Over Fear Rally – I won’t be speaking at the rally on Saturday. There was an innocent mix up with emails which I was happy to clarify last night, but unfortunately it had slipped my mind that I have a family commitment on Saturday and so after all I can’t make it to the rally.


 

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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.

The battle of Braveheart

I try very hard to keep out of disputes between independence supporters. They’re unproductive, all too often puerile, and only serve to benefit opponents of independence. But sometimes you just want to scream at people. There is a strain of puritan middle class self-righteousness within certain sections of the Scottish independence movement which would make John Knox seem like a louche libertine. They say that they want independence in order to improve the lives of working class people in Scotland, but they are sneery and dismissive of any manifestations of anything that working class people actually enjoy.

The latest wee stushie has been provoked by the decision of the organisers of the Hope Over Fear Rally in George Square on Saturday to show the movie Braveheart on a big screen as the rally begins. I have no time for the movie Braveheart, even less do I have time for it on a big screen in George Square where you won’t be able to hear any of the dialogue and will have to stand in what may very well be the cold and the wet in order to catch a glimpse of it over the massive saltire that the guy standing in front of you is carrying.

Braveheart is a Holywood romp with a Holywood romp’s understanding of history. As a symbol for the Scottish independence movement it is deeply anachronistic, harking back to those days in mid 20th century when Scottish independence was characterised by big hairy men who put on plaids at weekends and ran about the hillsides pretending to be Pictish warriors. We have moved on. We have moved on in no small measure because a violent movie starring a right wing American with a history of antisemitism, religious fundamentalism, and who has been subject to several allegations of violence against his partner, and of making racist and homophobic remarks, isn’t really such a great advert for the kind of independent Scotland we seek to build.  Braveheart might be a good epic movie if you’re into that sort of thing, as a manifesto for an independent Scotland it epically sucks.

There are lots of other Scottish movies that I’d have far preferred to have seen, movies made in Scotland by Scottish directors which reflect a Scottish and not a Holywood sensibility – movies like Local Hero, or Gregory’s Girl, or That Sinking Feeling, or The Angel’s Share. But I’m not going to deny that many people do enjoy Braveheart, and I am not so snobbish that I can’t recognise that working class people in Scotland are just as capable as middle class socialists of enjoying things ironically and knowingly.

Many working class independence supporters enjoy Braveheart precisely because they know that it is cheesy. They enjoy it because they know that it annoys opponents of independence and middle class hang wringers. They’re enjoying it precisely and consciously because it annoys those people. They enjoy it for the precise same reason that certain middle class left wing supporters of independence loathe it.  They enjoy it because they know that it gets up people’s noses. They enjoy it because they know that opponents of independence stereotype independence supporters as Bravehearts. They’re taking the stereotypes thrown at us by opponents of independence and they are revelling in them, and by doing so they are destroying those stereotypes of their power. It’s not just middle class university goers who are able to contextualise and deconstruct popular culture you know, working class people can do it too. The difference is that when working class people do it those middle class people accuse them of literalism. The middle class hand wringers are reinforcing the strength and power of those stereotypes, the working class people in the independence movement are saying, “We don’t give a toss.”  And they’ll look back at you with their blue painted face and say – “Your point is, caller?”

Is anyone going to be converted to the cause of independence because they’re showing Braveheart on a big screen in George Square on Saturday? No. Absolutely not. But equally if someone is claiming that they have been put off voting for independence because Braveheart is being shown on a big screen in George Square on Saturday, then the chances are that that individual was never going to vote for independence in the first place, certainly not if they’re put off by something so trivial. Getting upset because the organisers of a pro-independence event are showing the movie Braveheart is a bit like getting upset about Brexit because Boris Johnson doesn’t comb his hair properly. There are far more important things in the world you could be bumping your gums about. Grow up.

Apparently it’s all over social media that I am due to speak at the rally on Saturday. Which is nice, only no one organising the event has told me about it. None of the organisers of the rally has been in touch with me about speaking at the rally in George Square on Saturday. I only found out that I was supposed to be speaking at it when someone asked me about an advert for the rally they’d seen on Twitter which has my name and face plastered all over it.

Maybe there would be a smidgeon less controversy on social media if the organisers had thought to spend a wee bit more time organising the list of speakers they claim will be there – and you know, actually doing us the courtesy of contacting us to ensure that we’re going to be available before sticking our names and faces on an advert and putting it all over Twitter and Facebook – and spent a wee bit less time on organising the showing of a movie that celebrates Scottish male machismo. Just sayin’.

Update 11.35pm:  Seems there was an issue with an email going astray.  I will be speaking at the rally in Glasgow on Saturday.  But won’t be getting there until well after that movie has finished.


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If you have trouble using the button, or you prefer not to use Paypal, you can donate or purchase a t-shirt or map by making a payment directly into my bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com and I will send the necessary information.

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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.

11 September, La Diada, Catalonia’s national day

It’s a quiet day in Scottish politics, but a very big one in Catalonia. It’s La Diada today, the Catalan national day. Over half a million people, and possibly as many as one million, are expected to take to the streets of Barcelona in order to celebrate the national holiday and to show their support for Catalan independence. It is one of the biggest pro-independence demonstrations in any European country.

In Scotland the independence movement looks enviously at the number of people that the Catalan movement is able to mobilise in the streets, but in sunny Catalonia there is a culture of outdoor events which wet and windy Scotland lacks. La Diada is an annual event with a long history, there is nothing comparable in Scotland. However one of the biggest differences is that in Catalonia the media is more representative of public opinion than its Scottish equivalent, and actually informs the public about such events before they take place. That means that people can make their own minds up about whether to attend. In Scotland we have bad weather, and with the honourable exception of The National we are only able to advertise independence events on social media.

La Diada commemorates the loss of Catalan self-government with the fall of Barcelona in 1714 to the Bourbon forces during the Spanish War of Succession. Catalonia had been a part of the Kingdom of Spain since the union of Castile and Aragon in 1469, but as one of the constituent parts of the old Kingdom of Aragon even as part of Spain it had continued to enjoy considerable autonomy and self-government. Catalonia retained its own parliament, the Generalitat, which had considerable powers within Catalonia. The central government in Madrid was responsible only for foreign affairs. The mediaeval Generalitat had a unique system of choosing deputies, who names were selected at random from a hat.

Following the fall of Barcelona, the Spanish language became the only official language and the Catalan language was prohibited in official use. Catalan fell into a century and a half long period of decay. Catalan institutions were banned, the Catalan parliament was abolished as were the body of Catalan laws know as Les Constitucions Catalanes. For the first time in its history Catalonia came under the direct rule of Madrid.

La Diada began to be celebrated during the Catalan national renaissance in the second half of the 19th century. This period also saw the re-establishment of a written standard for the Catalan language and a rebirth in national sentiment in Catalonia as the Spanish state fell into decay and poverty following the loss of its American colonies.

In 1888 Catalan nationalists erected a statue to commemorate Rafael Casanova i Comes, the Catalan lawyer who was mayor of Barcelona and commander in chief of the Catalan forces during the Spanish War of Succession. He was wounded in combat on 11 September 1714 as the Bourbon forces attacked the city. His property was confiscated by the victorious Bourbons, and he was stripped of his civil rights. He is regarded as one of the great national heroes of Catalonia. The statue is the centre of the official la Diada celebrations, when it is covered with offerings of flowers and bouquets.

La Diada has always been a celebration of Catalan as a nation, and has always been linked to demands for greater self-government or independence for Catalonia. On 11 September 1923 a mass demonstration centred on the statue of Rafael Casanova called for the restoration of Catalan self-government. Violence broke out between the crowd and the police, loyal to the right wing dictatorship of Primo de Rivera. 17 people, including 12 demonstrators and 5 policemen, were seriously wounded. The government in Madrid reacted by banning the celebration. During the Spanish Republic, and the ensuing Spanish Civil War, La Diada became the most important public holiday in Catalonia, explicitly linked to the celebration of Catalan nationhood and its right to self-determination. With the victory of Francisco Franco in the Civil War, La Diada was banned, along with public use of the Catalan language and all Catalan national institutions.

During the repression of the Francoist dictatorship, celebration of La Diada was relegated to private homes. The statue of Rafael Casanova was removed from public view.  A few brave souls clandestinely hanged Senyeres (Catalan national flags) in public places, an act which would result in imprisonment and torture if they were caught. It was only after Franco’s death that Catalans were once again able to publicly celebrate their national day. On 11 September 1976 it was celebrated once again. The statue of Rafael Casanova was returned to its rightful place. The following year there was a massive celebration of La Diada in Barcelona, attended by representatives from all over Catalonia, to demand the restoration of Catalan self-government, and for the establishment of the Catalan language as the official language of Catalonia.

Ever since, La Diada has been the largest and most important day in the calendar for those who support Catalan self-determination. With the rise in support for Catalan independence, the event has become even more political. While pro-autonomy parties participated in previous La Diada events, the celebrations have become more explicitly linked to calls for independence and the Catalan parties opposing independence no longer participate.

This year, those attending are demanding the right to a referendum, the right of Catalonia to self-determination, and for the release of political prisoners held by the Spanish state. It is estimated that attendance will be well over 500,000, and possibly as many as 1 million. Amongst the crowds waving La Estelada, the flag of the Catalan Republic, a fair sprinkling of Saltires will also be seen. Catalans are aware of the support that their independence movement has received from Scotland.

The anti-independence party Ciutatans has regularly complained that the annual La Diada celebrations have turned into a “sectarian” call for independence, and so this year it organised a Diada event of its own in La Plaça del Rei in Barcelona. According to a report in the Catalan media this afternoon, 60 members of the party’s representatives were present, along with a bank of press cameras. Just 15 members of the public turned up, outnumbered by the journalists.  A celebration of Catalonia’s national day by people who deny Catalan nationhood is a contradiction in terms.

In Scotland we don’t really go in for large public outdoor events, but the lack of them in Scotland doesn’t mean that our independence movement is less powerful or less influential than Catalonia’s. We are different countries, with different histories, facing different challenges. Each of us will achieve independence in our own way.


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If you have trouble using the button, or you prefer not to use Paypal, you can donate or purchase a t-shirt or map by making a payment directly into my bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com and I will send the necessary information.

Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.

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.