A journey through “Yr Hen Ogledd”, old loyalties and new horizons

A guest post by Aled Gwyn Jôb

In just under a month’s time, thousands of Welsh rugby fans will be making the journey up north to Edinburgh to follow the national team.

The “Scottish Trip” has always been THE rugby trip for Welsh fans based on the great rapport and kinship that exists between them and their Scottish hosts.

“Yr Hen Ogledd” part of the appeal of the journey

Scotland also has a very warm place in Welsh hearts because of “Yr Hen Ogledd”- that part of southern Scotland which once featured 7 Bryttonic Kingdoms, whose inhabitants all spoke an early form of modern Welsh- Rheged, Elmet, Galwyddel, Aeron, Bryneich, Gododdin and Ystrad Clyd. Indeed two of the earliest Welsh poets, who produced some of the most dramatic poetry in the nation’s long history, Aneurin and Taliesin, were both based in Yr Hen Ogledd.

On their way up to Caeredin (Edinburgh) in March, Welsh fans will be passing through two of the most extensive of these old kingdoms, Rheged and Ystrad Clyd (modern day Strathclyde)- the last of the seven to fall in the late 11th century, with these areas equating to modern day Lanarkshire, Stirlingshire, Ayrshire, Argyll and Dumfries and Galloway as well as Cumbria and the Western Pennines in England.

The journey is always a vivid reminder of the reach that Welsh once had on these islands, the longevity and durability of the language and the cultural heritage that we share with a large part of modern Scotland.

A new story to share on this year’s road trip

But, on this year’s road trip, we’ve also got a new story to share with our Scottish friends. A story about how Scotland’s drive for independence has inspired our own national ambitions here in Cymru. The resounding success of YES Scotland presenting the case for independence on  grass-roots level over the past few years has now been emulated here in in Wales with over 50 YES Cymru groups in existence throughout the nation, with the vast majority of these based on a community level, thus tapping in to the identification with the local which is still such a feature of Welsh life today.

We’ve also got a brand new pro-independence party to talk about in the form of Ein GWLAD (our nation). This party is the first ever syncretic/hybrid party to be set up in Wales or the rest of these isles for that matter.

Pragmatism and practical policies in place of ideology

In making the case that ideology, either on the left or the right can often be a hindrance as far as pragmatic and common sense policies are concerned, the party is willing to consider ideas from across the political spectrum as long as those ideas will benefit Cymru and her people.

Ein GWLAD are also breaking new ground with their own dedicated News Portal, which produces news stories and opinion pieces about Wales and Welsh political life on a daily basis: http://www.eingwlad.wales/NewsPortal. This is the first news portal of its type ever to be produced by a political party on these isles, and it is already garnering a significant amount of traffic and interest in the party’s message.

Manifesto drawn up after consultation with members and supporters

The scale of Ein GWLAD’s ambitions can be seen in the fact that the party is launching its manifesto for the 2021 Welsh Election a few days before the Scottish trip, two years before the actual election- a manifesto which has been drawn up on-line following consultations with party members and supporters.

And that’s not the end of it either as far as new political developments in Wales are concerned. Last week, a new socialist grouping calling for Independence for Wales was formed here. UNDOD (Unity) hope to put the case that any future independence for Wales needs to be predicated on socialist answers to the nation’s deep and longstanding social and economic problems.

This grouping will also no doubt come up with some interesting and innovative suggestions to develop Wales for the future, and add to the fast growing and flowering of democratic debate that we are at last starting to see here.

New entities show the genuine need for change

The emergence of UNDOD also puts paid to the suspicion aired in some quarters that the formation of Ein GWLAD was just a case of unthinking frustration amongst some disgruntled Plaid supporters, destined to go nowhere. Rather, it shows that there is a genuine call for change in Wales from all directions – beyond what the establishment parties in Cardiff Bay can deliver. YES Cymru, Ein GWLAD and UNDOD  can all play their part in delivering this change.

Scotland- you are not on your own any more in your bid for independence!

A book outlining the process of forming Ein GWLAD, over a year between the autumn of 2017 and late summer 2018 has just been published. “Gwlad!, Gwlad? – An Invitation To A Party” by Aled Gwyn Job is published by i2i Publications for £9.99 and is available in book shops and on-line

The alarm clock is ringing

alarmclock

The weekend was marked by the idiocies of Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary who decided to commission a ferry service from a company which had less experience in ferries than a pizza delivery guy who occasionally goes to Rothesay on holiday. You might think that this represented peak stupid from the Tories, and that’s a hard thing to achieve considering the competition.

We have Chris, and we have Andrea Leadsom, whose sole contribution to politics has been to allow us all to ponder the philosophical question of whether it’s sexist to point out that a deeply stupid woman is in fact stupid. We have the Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley who didn’t realise that sectarianism is a thing in Northern Ireland. We have Dominic Raab and his belated realisation that Britain is an island. And then along comes Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson saying haud ma coat. That slapping sound you hear is millions of faces palming.

Gavin, who always wanted to be Defence Secretary because when he was a boy he demonstrated his military prowess by pulling the wings off flies for fun, has announced that all is well in Brexitland. Leaving the EU, he affirmed, will “enhance the UK’s lethality”. And this is true. After Brexit the UK will be a lot more lethal if you’re dependent on benefits, you’re disabled, or you have a chronic health condition. Conservatives have always been considerably more successful at killing off British citizens than they have been at terminating terrorists. Although if you’re a Tory then you do consider poor people to be enemies of the state, so by that token they’re a huge success.

Gavin’s macho pose would be somewhat more convincing if he didn’t bear a startling resemblance to Frank Spencer of the 1970s sitcom Some Mother Do ‘Ave ‘Em. Like Frank, Gavin is best known for his hapless incompetence, his self belief, and his high pitched squeaky voice. All we need is for the Defence Secretary to turn up for his next big announcement about how Great Britain, and by extension Gavin, is on roller skates and being towed by a Routemaster bus. And there’s a reference that millenials won’t get. The roller skating behind a bus would at least have the merit of being worth watching, which is a quality that Gavin has always sadly lacked.

His pose would be more convincing still if the Conservatives hadn’t run down the armed services in the same way that they’ve run down all other public services and the defence budget wasn’t £7 billion short of where it needs to be in order to fulfil the Ministry of Defence’s 10 year equipment plan. Although perhaps when Gavin spoke about unleashing swarms of drones he was referring to Conservative MPs. They are also, on all the available evidence, unthinking and robotic. There’s certainly little evidence of joined up thinking from Ruth Davidson’s Scottish Conservatives™, unless you count confusing men’s groins with items of furniture. Allegedly.

“We should be the nation that people turn to when the world needs leadership,” said Gavin. With a straight face. This UK. The one that’s currently shooting itself in the foot and the face and is the laughing stock of Europe – and the only reason it’s not the laughing stock of the entire world is because of Donald Trump. Sure, people around the globe will look to the UK for leadership when they want to know how to turn a successful democracy into a low rent tax haven with bad weather and food. They’ll look to the UK for lessons in maintaining the veneer of democracy while stripping it of meaningful content. But most of all, they’ll look to the UK when they want to understand how it is that people of the calibre of Gavin can get to the highest levels of government. If nothing else, he’s an inspirational role model for delusional idiots.

This is, let us not forget, the Defence Secretary whose strategy for dealing with Russia consisted of telling Putin to go away. Whenever I look at Gavin I can’t help but think of the nasty wee placeholder who gets killed off first in a low rent thriller movie.

Now he wants to send an aircraft carrier that won’t be operational for another two years and which doesn’t have any planes off to the South China Sea where it has no business being, so it can be a sitting target for the Chinese. And this at a time when it’s vital for the UK to make trade deals so that it retains some semblance of a functioning economy after Brexit. The only positive thing that you can say about Gavin’s leadership of the Ministry of Defence is that the man is a weapon.

Gavin’s embarrassing jingoistic willy waving muppetry is however, precisely what Brexit is all about. It’s harking back to the days when Britannia ruled the waves and could waive the rules with impugnity. It’s the fantasy of little boys who lost themselves in Commando comics and dreamt about getting one over the Bosch. We have a Defence Secretary who has wet dreams about gunboat diplomacy. We have a Trade Secretary who said he’d bestride the world making favourable trade deals, but who’s only ever managed to trade on his favours in the Conservative party. We have a Prime Minister who says she’s listening but who only ever listens to herself.

Brexit was always an exercise in fantasy and wishful thinking. It’s a dream of a Britain that never was, refracted through the misty eyed myth making of years of fetishising WW2. In 2014 supporters of Scottish independence were accused by British nationalists of basing their politics in romance and daydreams, of seeking a country that never was. But now we see that it’s Scottish independence which is based in a hard nosed reality, while British nationalism loses itself in the dreamscape of Brexit. Their dreams are dangerous. They’re going to sleepwalk us off a cliff and into a nightmare where the British state will prove its lethality by depriving the poor, the weak, the disabled, and the marginalised of the means of a dignified living. It will prove its lethality by stripping the NHS to the bones and privatising what’s left. It will prove its lethality by getting rid of employment rights and consumer protections.

It might be too late for Britain to wake up from its Brexit nightmare. It’s not too late for Scotland. The independence campaign is the alarm clock ringing to wake Scotland up to reality.


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BBC Question Time’s definition of balance

questiontimeI wasn’t planning to write a blog piece today, because Friday is the day that the Dugcast is released, but the farce that is BBC Question Time cannot pass unremarked. The programme is, frankly, a disgrace. BBC management were aware that the programme was tired and past its glory days, and so we got a shiny new presenter in the shape of Fiona Bruce. However that’s like replacing your curtains and touching up some paintwork when your house is structurally unsound, its roof is half off, its walls are falling down, and it’s built on top of a mineshaft that’s collapsing. Question Time is past saving, and Thursday’s atrocity of an episode from Motherwell proved it.

You would never know from watching BBC Question Time that this is a country where the SNP has more MSPs and MPs than Labour and the Conservatives combined. You’d never know that opinion polls in Scotland strongly suggest that in the event of a snap General Election the SNP would gain seats. And you’d certainly never know that half the population of Scotland supports independence and 59% of the people of Scotland think independence would be better than a no-deal Brexit. I was brought up in North Lanarkshire. But thanks to BBC Question Time I now know that the area is a hotbed of support for the Conservatives and Brexit.

There is absolutely no point in taking a debate programme to different towns and cities across the UK if the audience is not representative of the local population. It becomes nothing more than lip service paid by the metrocentric BBC to regional and national diversity within this so-called union. If the audience were truly representative of the population of the area from which the show is broadcast then you would expect strongly Tory audiences in the leafy English shires. You’d expect a Labour leaning audience in the towns of northern England or South Wales or the inner cities. And you’d expect that in Scotland around half the audience would support independence. In fact you’d expect a majority to support independence in places like Dundee or Motherwell which returned Yes majorities in the referendum of 2014.

But that’s never what happens. The audience is selected according to arcane BBC views on what constitutes balance. That’s a balance which seems to skew heavily towards support for Brexit, opposition to immigration, and a nasty rightwing intolerance which views compassion as a weakness and cruelty as a virtue. It’s a balance which invariably detests the very notion of Scottish independence. It’s a balance that gives us an abundance of plummy accented Tories in the working class Yes voting city of Dundee. It’s a balance which gave us a Motherwell, a town in North Lanarkshire with a Yes majority, a town with an SNP MP and constituency MSP, which appeared to be predominantly inhabited by right wing leaning British nationalists.

There was naturally a starring role for BBC Question Time’s very own Scottish Nigel Farage. Billy Mitchell is a man who is a failed UK council candidate, a founder member of an Orange flute band, and a fan of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. He is even less representative of Scottish public opinion than David Coburn, or indeed of Michael Forsyth who for some reason graced the panel. Yet Billy crops up more often on BBC QT in Scotland than a herpes sore at a clap clinic. He’s a bawhair away from getting mentioned in the programme credits.

It’s not easy to get on BBC Question Time. It’s even less easy to get picked to ask a question. It’s less easy still to have that question tweeted by the production staff. But Billy keeps on doing it. We can rule out him being the luckiest man in Scotland. So as an explanation that only leaves a breathtaking incompetence on the part of Question Time production staff, an incompetence which oddly only ever seems to favour right wing Ukip types, or there is systematic bias on the part of the programme. Neither of those is a good explanation for a BBC which insists on the right to raid our bank balances.

There’s the strange case of Billy Mitchell, but there’s the even stranger case of the framing of questions about independence. Questions about Scottish independence ought to come from Scottish audiences which are evenly balanced on the subject. You’d think that ought to mean that questions directly about independence ought to be evenly balanced on whether the questioner is positive or negative towards independence. David Dimbleby infamously refused to allow the topic of independence to be addressed, however when a question about independence is asked, the framing of the question is invariably negative – as The National has pointed out.
https://www.thenational.scot/news/17420082.question-times-independence-questions-reveal-a-sinister-pattern/

Clearly, what we are dealing with here is not an isolated instance that has rubbed independence supporters up the wrong way. What we are dealing with here is a consistent and persistent pattern of anti-independence framing and bias from BBC Question Time. Only some questions are fit to be asked. Those would be Great British Questions suitable to our Great British Broadcaster.

This is a serious issue. Scotland, as we all know, is denied the right to a national public broadcaster of its own. All we have is the BBC, a BBC which anyone who owns a TV set is legally obliged to pay for. Yet that BBC consistently refuses, or is incapable of, depicting the Scotland that actually exists. Instead we get a Scotland refracted through a British nationalist lens held up from London. We get a British nationalism which is regarded as the norm against which all other political views must be compared, and usually compared unfavourably.

The BBC’s charter, as decided by the British government, obliges the Corporation to “promote cohesion” between the nations of the UK. As one of the last remaining British institutions, the BBC is institutionally incapable of reporting fairly and in an unbiased manner on an independence movement within one of those nations of the UK. BBC Question Time demonstrates that failure on our TV screens every Thursday evening. It doesn’t reflect the Scotland that exists, it reflects the Scotland that British nationalism wants to see. That’s BBC Question Time’s definition of balance. It’s failing us all. It’s failing itself. It has become an unfunny joke.

BBC Question Time has some very serious questions to answer. It’s a safe bet that they won’t. Scotland doesn’t need the biased propaganda of BBC Question Time. It’s time the BBC was questioned.


 

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Wee Ginger Dugcast with Anne McLaughlin

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In this edition of the Dugcast, Callum Baird, the Dug, and I are joined by Anne McLaughlin, the former MP for Glasgow North East.

This week we chat about Brexit, Angus Robertson’s new initiative Progress Scotland, and of course that episode of BBC Question Time. Or as it’s called hereabouts, BBC Where Did You Find All Those Tories in Motherwell Time featuring Ukippyranty McUkippyrantface.


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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.

Mistaking incompetence for sincerity

quentincrisp

Well if you were counting on the Labour party to save us all from a Tory Brexit, think again. Jeremy Corbyn has written to Theresa May to lay out his terms for supporting her deal. It’s clear that a second referendum on EU membership is the last thing that he wants. He has as much interest in representing the views of those parts of the UK which voted to remain as he does of appearing on Strictly. Although even the most flat flooted two left feet minor celeb on Strictly possesses considerably more grace than Jezza seems capable of when dealing with remainers.

It’s not just Scotland that Jeremy isn’t representing, it’s also most Labour party members and voters. Opinion polls show that by a large majority, Labour voters believe that May’s deal is bad for the economy. The latest poll makes it clear that if Labour is seen to enable Brexit, voters will punish it at the next election.

Jeremy Corbyn might think that his letter is really a clever ruse, making an offer to Theresa May that she cannot accept. The Prime Minister is never going to sign up to the customs union or agree to remain closely aligned in perpetuity to the single market. But what Jeremy has done is to give her leverage with Labour MPs in leave voting seats. She can sweeten them with bribes in the form of promises of investment in their constituencies. She can offer to respect the rights given to workers by EU law, a meaningless promise that the next Tory leader will quickly trash. And she can do all that telling them that their leader isn’t against her deal, he’s just quibbling with some of its details.

Since the Labour leader only takes action against those of his MPs who adopt pro-Remain positions, and has done absolutely nothing to discipline those Labour MPs who enabled the Conservatives last week, Theresa May knows she’s pushing at an open door. She can pick off Labour MPs safe in the knowledge that they’ve got nothing to fear from their own party leader.

Just today, Jeremy slapped down his MPs who said that Theresa May must accept Labour’s offer in full, or they’d press for another referendum. Labour is complicit in Brexit. It is the enabler and deliverer of a hard Conservative Brexit. Vote Labour, vote for a Tory Brexit. The Labour leadership has signed Labour up to the xenophobic and nativist tendencies of the worst of British nationalism. It’s signed Labour up to the ending of freedom of movement. That’s yer internationalism. That’s a gross betrayal of Scotland, and a gross betrayal of the majority of Labour members. Jeremy never promised to listen to Scotland, but he did promise to listen to his party’s membership. Now it transpires that he’s only going to listen to them when they agree with him.

Meanwhile, the Labour leader has also announced that the last Scottish independence referendum was a “once in a lifetime” event. He’s literally telling Scotland that we can only have another independence vote over his dead body. For a supposed internationalist, he’s doing a damn good impression of being every bit as much a narrow British nationalist as the Conservatives he effects to despise.

Labour’s remainers are deeply unhappy with their leader’s position. Chuka Umunna tweeted that what Corbyn was offering was the opposite of opposition. It was facilitating a Tory deal which would make the UK poorer. He said that it was a joke to suggest that a Prime Minister who had sponsored employment tribunal fees, supported weakening unfair dismissal protection would ensure “dynamic alignment on rights and protections”. In an article for The Independent he angrily castigated the Labour leader for betraying the spirit of Labour’s conference policy, which said that if the party couldn’t get an early election it should back another EU referendum. Meanwhile Owen Smith hinted that he was considering leaving Labour to start a new pro-European party. Thousand of ordinary Labour members are voting with their feet and their membership fees and drifting away.

Labour politicians know better than anyone else that it was the split in the party during the 1980s when the so-called Gang of Four left and founded the SDP which was responsible more than any other single factor for the almost two decades of Tory rule which followed. The fact that they are now willing to consider another split speaks volumes about their desperation and despair with the current party leadership.

And all this, let us not forget, when the official opposition is facing the weakest, most divided, and least capable governments in living memory. A half way competent Labour leader would have his or her party soaring ahead in the polls at this point. Yet the chances are that Labour is going to split, that the leadership will enable a Tory Brexit, and we’ll all be left powerless and helpless in the face of a Brexit driven permausterity.

We’ve known for years that Labour won’t stand up for Scotland. The only point to the Labour party in Scotland, the only justification for its existence, was its claim that it alone can prevent a Conservative government and protect Scotland from the Tories. It’s abundantly clear now that it can’t do even that. Its incompetence, division, and ineptitude means that it enables Tory policies instead. Labour’s inadequacies mean we could be staring at another decade of Conservative rule. The gods alone know what damage the Tories could wreak in that time.

The Tories have acheived gobsmacking incompetence in the two short years that Theresa May has been in power. Labour has been working hard at it for years. The problem with the UK is, in the words of the late great Quentin Crisp, “The English think incompetence is the same thing as sincerity.” Labour is doing nothing and still making a mess of it, and his supporters are still praising Jeremy’s sincerity.

There’s only one way out of this Brexmess, Scotland. We need a vote of our own, and we need to take charge of our own destiny. It’s time to break the chains.


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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.

Brexit: Plan, Eh?

planeh
The Prime Minister is like one of those antibiotic resistant bacteria. The closest thing that she has to a political principle is MSRA. It doesn’t matter what countermeasures you throw at it, it’s still there, giving you stomach cramps and nausea.

On Tuesday, Theresa May went to Northern Ireland to tell Irish people all about Ireland. Ireland is a big island, she told them. It’s got water around it. Blue water, the same colour as the Conservative party, which means that she really cares about it. Ireland has fields. It has roads and houses. It has hedges and trees. No one cares more about Northern Ireland than she does, which is why she’s only speaking to the DUP and no one else.

She told the audience of increasingly bewildered Irish people, because she was being very clear, that she will do whatever it takes to keep the border open apart from keeping the UK in a customs union, keeping Northern Ireland a customs union, or signing up to the backstop. Theresa is committed to doing whatever it takes to keep the border open just as long as it’s not one of those things that can keep the border open. This is because the union is precious, so very precious, as it delivers her the DUP votes that she needs to keep her show on the road. And Ireland has roads too, so they have so much in common.

Seemingly unaware that she was speaking to an audience which had largely voted to remain, Theresa pressed on. Mostly by repeating herself and saying nothing that made any sense. The single political talent that Theresa May possesses is the ability to utter words that have a semblance of meaning, but as soon as they collide together in a sentence all sense vanishes. Her political speeches are to meaning as a cloud is to a hard surface. It looks solid from a distance, but if you try to stand on it you’re doomed.

Faced with people who were obviously not impressed by Theresa’s nebulosity and were demanding some firm and concrete answers to the question of the Irish border, a question which was directly affecting their lives, livelihoods, and businesses, Theresa backtracked on what she’d been saying last week, which itself was backtracking on what she’d been saying the week before. This is a Prime Minister who changes direction more frequently than a Mighty Mouse roller coaster in a 1970s fairground, all the while insisting that she’s going in a straight line and isn’t stuck on an eternal loop to nowhere.

Yesterday Theresa was insisting that there was still going to be a backstop, it’s just that some changes were required to it. That’s the same backstop that she’d told Arlene Foster and the DUP just the previous week that was absolutely, positively, definitely out of the question. The DUP have been very upset by the EU’s refusal to renegotiate the backstop. Arlene Foster called the EU intransigent, which is a bit like a zombie slating you for having too much meat in your diet.

The EU has repeated that the Irish backstop is not up for renegotiation. It only exists in the first place because of the red lines of Theresa May. It is only necessary because the UK has proven that it cannot be trusted. This is a British government which with its exceptionalism and its constant demands to have all its cake after eating it has trashed whatever residual goodwill it once had in Europe. Every change in course from Theresa May, every reversal of a previously held position, and the trust and confidence that the EU has that it’s dealing with a serious negotiating partner vanishes. There’s now no trust left in Britain. Negotiating with the UK is like negotiating with a blancmange. Although even a blancmange is able to hold its shape for longer than ten minutes.

Faced with a UK government which has no clue, no plan, and is plainly just making things up as it goes along and whose political aims consist of getting the Prime Minister through the next ten minutes, Donald Tusk now speaks like a man who has no tosses left to give. He wondered what the special place in hell looked like for those who backed Brexit without so much as the sketch of a plan, he told a press conference on Wednesday.

The Brexists were outraged, which to be fair is their baseline state. What an insult to the British people, they harrumphed. Although here we are over two years after the EU referendum, with less than two months to go until the British government’s own chosen date for Brexit, and they still haven’t come up with a plan. The nearest that they have is unspecified “alternative arrangements” for the Irish border. That’s not a plan, as it encompasses everything from the invention of teleportation to the insistence that goods can be transported across the border on the backs on unicorns, but manages to rule out anything that counts as realistic.

Back in 2014, the constant refrain from supporters of the British state hurled at independence supporters was “Where’s your plan B?”. There was a plan A. It was detailed and comprehensive. You might not have agreed with all its details but it most certainly existed. So British nationalists demanded a plan B instead. And if there was a plan B, they’d have worked their way down through the alphabet.

Even Baldrick’s plans were more cunning. Brexit is almost upon us and the goons of gammonry still don’t have a plan A, because they’re political illiterates. Before you can write a plan you need to know the alphabet. This bunch of clowns would struggle with a unicorn colouring in book and a crayon. It’s not so much a plan A as – plan, Eh?

How’s that safety, security, and stability of the British state working out?

From a Scottish perspective, that special place in hell looks like a Scotland which is silenced and sidelined within a British state which pays not the slightest heed to Scotland’s concerns or needs. A special place in hell is a Scotland that is held hostage to English nationalism wrapped up in a Union fleg. A special place in hell is being told that we are valued partners in a family of nations by a Prime Minister we didn’t vote for who treats us with contempt and who insists that she has a veto over our future. A special place in hell is the loss of our employment and civil rights that awaits us under Tories whose hands are no longer tied by Europe.

A special place in hell is Brexit Britain.


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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 crazy you get when opinion becomes fact

opinionfactBrexit has been pretty much defined by batshit insanity, but this week has seen a development that is way out there in the far reaches of gibberage even by the standards of a campaign which hails Jacob Rees Mogg and Boris Johnson as heroes. Someone whose grasp on reality is even more tenuous than a Daily Mail leader writer has started a petition to the Westminster parliament, calling on the Republic of Ireland to solve all the problems of the backstop by returning to British rule. Yeah. You read that right. This is a real thing. At the time of writing the petition had attracted over 2500 signatures of presumably grown up people who have at least as much wherewithall as it takes to use a keyboard.

The petition calls on Westminster to offer “full UK membership so they can rejoin the Union”. In other words, he thinks that the British government should ask the Irish if they want to be represented in the British cabinet by a Tory mouthpiece who isn’t representative of Irish opinion and who won’t resign even though he or she signally fails to stand up for Irish interests. We know that because it’s what Scotland has got. This is what “full membership of the UK” entails. It entails being sidelined, marginalised, and ignored. It means being sacrificed on the altar of British nationalist exceptionalism.

But hey, who needs an independent government able to make it own alliances and agreements with other countries in order to protect its interests when you can have David Mundell who hasn’t resigned yet. It’s a remarkable propostion, but what is most remarkable of all is that the originator of this petition thinks that the Irish might say, “OK, we’ll go for that.”

The assumptions underlying the thought processes of the person who began this petition, a certain Scott Packer, deserve to be examined more closely. If only so that we can point and laugh at them, assuming that is that Scott is genuine and not some genius of political surrealism. Mind you, it’s hard to tell the difference these days, since the entire Brexit process is so unmoored from reality that it counts as an exercise in Dadaist performance art all by itself.

The most obvious is why is he petitioning Westminster at all? It’s not up to them whether or not Ireland becomes a part of the UK. That would be up to the Irish. Surely he should be petitioning the Dáil. Scott seems to suffer from the delusion that the only thing that prevents the Republic of Ireland from coming back under Westminster rule is the forgetfulness of a Westminster which hasn’t thought to ask it to come back. But in the world of the Brexist the only parliament which matters is the Westminster one, at least when it’s not trying to put obstacles in the way of the great Brexit unicorn chase that is.

If Ireland was a member of the British family it was a beaten and abused one. The Plantations, the Famine, the forced emigrations and dispossession, the lesser legal status of the native Irish, the partition, the wars, the institutionalised sectarianism of the Northern Irish statelet, none of that matters. Ireland’s true place is to make sure that the English nationalists who drive Brexit get what they want.

All of this would just be the online silliness of some random punter if it were not for the fact that the sentiments the petition expresses appear to be shared quite widely amongst the unicorn herders of Brexit. Just a few days ago, the veteran BBC presenter John Humphries asked the Irish Europe Minister Helen McEntee why Ireland didn’t throw in its lot “with this country”. He was apparently serious.

Last May, there was an article in the supposedly serious right wing digital magazine ThinkScotland, which is edited by Scotsman contributor and former Conservative MSP Brian Monteith. Entitled Is it not time for Ireland to come home? This article, quite incredibly, managed to blame Sinn Fein for the Partition.

The piece articulated the same sentiment as Scott’s petition and mused upon how great it would be for Britain and Brexit if Ireland stopped staying out late with the Germans, the French, and the Italians and “came home” to Westminster, where it could enjoy being told what to do and having no control over its money. Although if it was a very good and well behaved island, Westminster might give it some pocket money.

Well I say the article articulated the same sentiment as the petition, it was more like being hugged by an abusive drunk in a bar who kept saying, “I really lovesh you. Honesht,” even though it wasn’t that long ago that he had beaten you up, stolen your rent money, and thrown up all over your good shoes, and then he had blamed you for it. So not so much ThinkScotland as InsanelyDeludingYourselfScotland.

http://www.thinkscotland.org/thinkpolitics/articles.html?read_full=13538&article=www.thinkscotland.org

But all of this crazy is very much in line with how the Brexit process has developed. Brexit is a process of delusion, a species of self-deception. It’s founded upon the principle that the UK is special and uniquely kind and generous and that one of the most rapacious empires the planet has ever seen was motivated purely by altruism.

All these delusions are fed by the British press. It’s a media which doesn’t present news, but rather views, and it’s a media which is controlled by a small cabal of right wing multimillionaires. It’s a media which propounds false views, like the established truth of austerity, or that there is a trade deal bonanza to be had once the UK leaves the EU.

When confronted by one person insisting that it’s raining outside and another who claims that it’s dry and sunny, the British media insists that balance means presenting both claims equally. It doesn’t believe in giving the truth and explaining the facts. It doesn’t believe in looking out of the window. So Brexit is mired in claim and counter claim, in fictions which are given as much credence as fact.

The presentation of opinion as fact by the British media means that people end up believing that any sort of counterfactual nonsense is a serious and credible possibility. So they believe that Ireland deciding to submit itself once more to the Westminster Parliament is a realistic prospect. They believe that the UK is oppressed by Brussels. They believe that there is such a thing as a good Brexit. Or they believe that Scotland with its embarrassment of resources, its highly educated populace, and its diverse and strong economy is too poor to be a successful and prosperous independent nation. That’s the crazy that you get when opinion is presented as fact.

You’ve probably noticed that I’ve started to commence every new post with a brand new and custom designed meme. It’s a lot more work as I design and create them myself, but I’m told that it helps to spread the blog on social media. Young people today, etc etc. I am trying to diversify the blog’s content, so as well as the usual writing, you get the weekly podcast and now graphics as well. Feel free to download and distribute the memes in Facebook, Twitter, or wherever. Just right click, and select “save image as”.


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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.

The two pronged approach

subordinateandsilencedOver the weekend the SNP’s former Westminster leader Angus Robertson announced the launch of a new think tank, Progress Scotland, which aims to build the case for independence by examining the arguments most persuasive to those who previously voted No. The initiative was backed by Murray Foote, the former editor of the Record responsible for the infamous Vow, and Sir David Edward, the former UK judge on the European Court of Justice, who says he is now leaning toward the idea of independence although he confesses to some fears and reservations.

Naturally the usual suspects were not pleased. The SiU’s green ink brigade were out in force and infesting the comments section of online editions with their usual nastiness, deflection, whataboutery, and general biliousness. They are a perfect summation of the character of the British state they effect to defend, nasty, nit-picking, jealous, and totally bereft of anything positive. How dare a pro-independence initiative crowd fund eh? Why, they should just do what pro-UK organisations do, and secretly suck at the teat of the very rich and well connected, because that’s so much more morally superior.

But not all the critics were supporters of the British state. There’s been a bit of harrumphage and sniffy disdain in certain quarters of the more self-righteous wing of the Scottish independence movement about some newcomers to the cause who spoke up in support of Progress Scotland. Some were suspicious of the motives of those who are fresh to the cause. Others can’t get over the hurt that they felt because of the actions of prominent supporters of the No campaign in 2014 who are now supporting Yes. Yet others simply don’t believe that the change of heart and mind is genuine.

However the reality is that unless we persuade soft Noes to come over to Yes, we’re not going to win independence. That means that in order to build a majority, we need to attract the support of people who supported the No cause in 2014. The more prominent that person was in their support for No in 2014, the greater the influence that they are able to have on other soft Noes who are now wavering in their support for the British state because of the mess of Brexit. If you are a committed supporter of independence and have been for years, that’s great, but you’re not the target audience here.

When you read the reasons that these prominent No voters give for coming over to the cause of independence, it is striking that they don’t talk so much about the positive reasons for independence, but rather more about their disenchantment and loss of faith in the institutions of the British state and the ability of the UK to represent Scotland and defend Scottish interests.

So for example David Edwards speaks about the choice he now feels he is confronted with between the “undoubted uncertainties of independence and on the other exit from the EU, and being ruled by people in London who don’t understand or believe in the constitutional implications of the devolution settlement.”

Murray Foote writes, “With mounting anger I’ve watched the Westminster Government choose to inflict vindictive policies across Britain. And, despite overwhelming evidence, they continue to deny the damage their policies cause.
Now we teeter on the brink of Brexit, an act of self-harm for which future generations will pay a heavy price. Again, Brexit is a choice. But it’s not Scotland’s choice. Throughout this unfolding calamity, the Westminster Government has treated Scotland’s democratic preferences with shameful contempt.”

What is striking is that for both men, their movement towards Yes does not seem to have been driven primarily by a positive belief in the advantages of independence, but rather more because of a loss of faith and disenchantment with the British state. Other prominent No supporters who have come over to Yes and who write about their change of heart on the Progress Scotland page likewise talk mainly about their loss of trust and belief in the institutions of the British state more than they talk about their positive belief in the opportunities of an independent Scotland.

So clearly we need a two pronged approach in order to ensure that we convert as many wavering No voters as possible. That’s the best way to skewer the arguments of opponents of independence. A two pronged attack is twice as effective. A battery zaps because it has both a positive and a negative pole. We need to reassure them about the advantages of independence, and also reinforce their concerns about the failures of the UK.

Yes, it is vitally important that we continue to talk up the positives of independence. The moral and democratic arguments for independence are unassailable and hugely important. We have a convincing economic case too, albeit one that struggles to get through the fog of distraction blown out by the Scottish media. It remains extremely important that we have the answers to questions about independence that wavering voters are likely to demand of us.

But what an examination of the words of those who have come over to Yes teaches us is that it is also important that we talk more about the negatives, disadvantages, and damage created for Scotland by the British state. That was something that we didn’t do much in 2014, concerned as we were to present a positive and happy clappy case for independence. We conceded the negative arguments entirely to our opponents. The next time we must not make the same mistake. We must be loud and vocal about the downsides and disadvantages to Scotland if it remains a subordinate and sidelined part of the British state.

Brexit makes that task so much easier, as it has destroyed many of the perceived advantages of the UK. The contempt with which Scotland has been treated by Westminster since 2014 makes that task easier still, as we can now contrast the promises made by the Westminster establishment in 2014 with what has actually transpired, and in every case they come up wanting. The Brexit process has taught us that there is a country in the British Isles which is a valued and equal partner in a family of nations. That country is Ireland within the EU. Ireland had partners which respect it and who listen to its concerns. Scotland within the UK is subordinate and silenced.

However what remains most important of all if we are to win is that when previous opponents do come over to our side, we must welcome them with open arms and warm hearts, no matter what damage they did to the independence movement in 2014. There is a simple equation, the more damage that they did to Scottish nationalism in 2014, the more damage they are able to do to British nationalism now, and that’s why the SiU online trolls have been out in force. We’ve got them rattled.

 


 

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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.

Three good reasons

So we know now that the Queen is going to be safe after Brexit. Isn’t that nice. It’s just a shame that the rest of us are going to be royally screwed. Contingency plans are in place to evacuate the Royals in the event of civil unrest after Brexit. I thought she already spent most of her time in Norfolk, which let’s face it is about as far from civilisation as it’s possible to get. Anyway, the biggest threat to her safety is the refusal of her family to wear seatbelts or be bound by the Highway Code.

There are also plans in place to cope with shortages of food and medicine and the government is readying the army to go onto the streets to keep the populace in place. It’s all a very far cry from the sunlit uplands and Brexit representing great and exciting new opportunities. When they told us that Brexit was going to open up a whole new exciting vista of opportunities we didn’t think that they meant opportunities for looting and rioting.

This is the quality of intellect that is possessed by the British establishment. “We are worried that there may be civil unrest because of Brexit. We need to make plans to evacuate the queen so she isnt attacked.” “Think we should reconsider?” “No, Brexit is the will of the people.”

This is the magnitude of the crisis that the British state has got itself into, yet still we have obstensibly serious commentators insisting that it’s a “fact” that there can be no independence referendum until after the charges against Alex Salmond have been resolved. We are told that we must wait, silently and obediently, until the legal case has been settled one way or the other.

Actually, it’s not a fact at all. For three very good reasons.

Firstly there is the reason that the crisis of Brexit is so huge that it is a moral and political imperative that the people of Scotland are able to express their views on it. What British nationalists are arguing is that the people of Scotland cannot have their say on the most important political crisis to afflict the British state since WW2, because of some unrelated legal questions affecting a prominent individual. That is clearly a nonsense.

People in Scotland know that their jobs, their futures, their opportunities, and their livelihoods are not at risk because of any allegations of sexual impropriety made against a former First Minister. Their futures and livelihoods are at risk because of Brexit and the failures of the British state. Brexit is a massive and all-consuming crisis. It is an existential crisis of the British state and the British political establishment. The response to it cannot and must not be determined by the short term difficulties of what is essentially a personal matter. That would be a betrayal of democracy and the prioritising of the needs of an individual or a political party above the needs of the country. That’s the kind of mindset which led to the mess of Brexit in the first place.

Secondly there is the reason that the question of independence is far bigger than the personal legal issues faced by any one individual, legal issues which have nothing to do with the question of independence. The independence vote in 2014 was not “Alex Salmond’s referendum”, despite the best, and repeated, efforts of the British media to insist that it was. Independence is about the future of Scotland, not about the future of one man. No one denies that Alex Salmond was, and is, a hugely important and influential person in the independence movement, but this movement is not his creature. To delay a future independence vote because of the current legal issues being faced by Alex is to concede that that independence vote is after all “Alex Salmond’s referendum”. That personalises the case for independence. It makes it about one man, when it is really about over 5 million of us.

And thirdly there’s the reason that the wheels of justice turn very slowly. I have no idea what might happen with Alex Salmond’s legal case. It may be months before the Procurator Fiscal’s office decides that the case should be heard, if indeed that is what the Procurator Fiscal decides. It may be months after that before a date is set for the court case. And if there is a court hearing that hearing could potentially take many weeks, if not months or years. We do not suspend democracy because of criminal allegations made against an individual, allegations which, let us not forget, are not of a political nature. We are being told that democracy in Scotland must be suspended for an indeterminate period, so that legal matters which have no impact upon the lives of the overwhelming majority of people in Scotland can be decided.

There’s another, related, argument which the time it takes for legal matters to be settled throws up against the lazy assumption that no revisiting of the independence vote is possible for now. Complex criminal court cases are often delayed or postponed. However until the matter is resolved, the case remains subjudice. This means that there is in fact a political argument for pressing ahead with a vote on independence before any possible trial takes place, because as long as the matter is subjudice the British nationalist parties will not be legally permitted to reference it in their campaign. They cannot bring the subject up, and no one can speak about the issues it raises.

If the court case against Alex Salmond creates a political reason for influencing the timing of a referendum on independence, it doesn’t create a reason for delaying. It does the opposite.  It creates a reason for pressing ahead with an early referendum.

Whatever happens with Alex Salmond’s legal difficulties, the arguments for independence remain unchanged. The truth is that the very same people who are now saying it’s a “fact” that there can be no referendum until this legal issue is settled are the very same people who don’t want an independence vote to be held at all. After this legal matter is concluded the opponents of independence will just find some other spurious reason why Scotland can’t possibly be permitted to have its say on Brexit and the place and role of Scotland within the UK. We must not listen to them.


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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 Wee Ginger Dugcast : with James Dornan

jamesdornananddug
This week’s special guest on the dugcast is Glasgow MSP James Dornan. We chat about Brexit, the week in Holyrood and the Scottish budget, and of course the broken union and a future indy ref.

 


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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.