The BBC’s Game of Thrawn

gameofthrawn
The first set of viewing figures for the new BBC Scotland channel have been released, and as expected they’re pretty dire. The highest that the new channel has achieved is 36,000 viewers on April 4, plunging to under 9,000 on April 8. The new channel’s quiz show Wonderball has at times achieved an audience of just 2760. Even in a media environment where television viewership is fractured amongst dozens of channels, digital platforms, and downloading, that’s not great. The new channel also faced the additional problem that just under half the population of Scotland has a deep distrust of the BBC and has zero faith in BBC management’s commitment to quality Scottish broadcasting. For a large number of people in Scotland, BBC impartiality is the best joke on the BBC. On the other side of the debate, some 25% of people in Scotland are dyed in the wool British nationalists who don’t want anything Scottish to pollute their red white and blue eyeballs.

However it’s not all bad. The new channel’s flagship news programme has its faults, but it’s trying to get away from the fitba, murrdurrs and wee cute kittens formula which characterises Reporting Scotlandshire on BBC1, while the new debate show is attempting to do something different from the right wing slagfest that Question Time has become. However a news programme being broadcast at 9pm on a minor channel is up against prime time drama on the other channels. It was always going to struggle to attract an audience. Those of us of a more cynical turn of mind might suspect that that was always the plan.

Despite the very obvious financial constraints on the channel which clearly restrict the types of programme it broadcasts, there are a few decent programmes on the channel, programmes which would otherwise never see the light of day. I’ve enjoyed the recent documentary about Glasgow drag queens, and the series going behind the scenes at Glasgow Central train station. I also enjoyed Nae Pasaran, the documentary about Scottish factory workers’ refusal to service the Chilean dictator Pinochet’s aircraft which were being used against the people, and documentary about the gale that devastated Glasgow in 1968. But what all these programmes have in common is that they are relatively inexpensive to produce.

However given the budgetary constraints, we’re not going to see an expensively produced costume drama, or a multi-camera series filmed in an exotic location featuring big name stars. Those are the kinds of shows which are going to remain the preserve of BBC1. The BBC’s metropolitan bosses are quite stubborn in their insistence that they’ll remain in charge and Scotland can be fobbed off with a few crumbs. You can forget about a Scottish Game of Thrones when BBC management is only interested in their Game of Thrawn.

Those of us within the independence movement who were critical of the new channel were critical not because we oppose more Scottish produced television, our argument has always been that Scotland is woefully under-represented in television, and more Scottish produced television is always going to be a good thing. We were, and are, critical because we feared that the new channel was being set up as an underfunded and under-resourced McGhetto channel, and as such it was being set up to fail. Then BBC management and opponents of the devolution of broadcasting would be able to turn around and say that there is no demand for Scottish produced television, and British nationalists in Scotland would say that if Scotland can’t even support its own TV channel, then it certainly isn’t going to support an independent state.

The argument for Scottish produced broadcasting, and for the devolution of broadcasting, was always that Scotland needs its own window on the world. A nation which is self-governing, even within the restrictions imposed upon it by Westminster’s half-hearted devolution, needs a platform which allows it to discuss those issues which are important, and needs a window upon the wider world. What we’ve been given with this new BBC Scotland channel is a rickety ladder offering a view out of the back of the building onto a rubbish strewn alleyway. It’s hardly surprising that viewing figures have not been that great.

Now in a classic example of a self-fulfilling prophecy, former BBC producer and editor Tim Luckhurst has just gone and said that there’s no demand for a Scottish television channel. In an interview with that great bastion and supporter of all things Scottish, the Daily Mail, Tim said that setting up the new channel was a “grave injustice to licence fee payers” and said that it meant that scarce resources were being thrown into a bottomless pit.

What the Daily Mail didn’t tell you was that Tim used to be an editor of The Scotsman, and was formerly a Westminster press officer for the Labour party’s contingent of Scottish MPs. He was himself a Labour party candidate in the 1987 general election. So perhaps his remarks about the new channel can be filed under, “Well, he would say that wouldn’t he.” Those of us with long memories have not forgotten that broadcasting was originally included amongst the set of powers which were proposed to be devolved to the new Scottish parliament when devolution was being discussed in the 1990s, but that it was removed and transferred to the list of powers to be reserved to Westminster at the behest of Labour MPs from Scotland.

Even with the new channel, Scotland still receives a lower proportion of the licence fee back than do Wales or Northern Ireland. BBC management in London is still treating Scotland as a cash cow. Even worse, the BBC still sees its role as being a self-consciously British institution which means that the corporation is constitutionally incapable of reporting fairly on a Scottish politics which is defined by the question of whether Scotland wants to be a part of the British state. It’s hardly surprising that so many people in Scotland are simply giving up on paying the licence fee. Scotland has the largest proportion of non-payers of the licence fee of any part of the UK after Northern Ireland, and the number continues to grow. The new BBC Scotland channel isn’t going to prevent the haemorrhage.

The new channel was set up in order to provide a distraction from the long standing demand for an hour long Scottish news programme at 6 o’clock on BBC1. It hasn’t succeeded. The case for an hour long Scottish news progamme at six on BBC1 remains as strong as ever, and has only been reinforced by the low viewing figures for the new channel. It’s only when it’s on the main channel that people are actually going to watch it, and that’s precisely why BBC management don’t want it to happen.

The case for Scottish devolution of broadcasting has also been reinforced by the low viewing figures for the new channel. It might be called BBC Scotland, but its budget and funding are determined by BBC management in London, and it’s ultimately answerable to BBC management in London. Only Scottish control of broadcasting will allow Scottish television to flourish. Only then can Scotland have control over television budgets and programming priorities. It’s only then that Scotland can have its window on the world that offers a grandstand view, instead of the tartan frosted window that the BBC is fobbing us off with.


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Wee Ginger “Duckcast” – 19 April 2019

This week in the Wee Ginger “Duckcast” Callum and I discuss the Kezia Dugdale vs Stu Campbell defamation case, and how this blog is now apparently legally the Wee Ginger Duck. We also talk about annoying the SiU trolls who infest the comments section of The National, and trail a wee teaser for some interesting developments in the coming week.


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Writing our own future

writethefuture
The big scientific news this week is that researchers in the USA have succeeded in restoring some brain function to the brains of decapitated pigs which have been dead for several hours. This is the best news that the British government has had for quite some time, as it means that Theresa May will now be able to find some Conservative candidates for the slaughter that her party is going to face in the forthcoming European elections.

It’s looking extremely likely that the UK is going to have European elections on May 23. Theresa May still thinks that it’s possible for some version of her deal to pass through the Commons before May 22 and to avoid the poll, but then it’s also possible that she might make a public statement that this entire Brexit mess is entirely her own fault. However possible is not the same as probable. It is possible that the Scotland Secretary David Mundell is more effective as a spokesman for Scotland in the Conservative cabinet than a stuffed teddy bear wearing a tartan bow tie, but it’s not probable. It is possible that Ruth Davidson is a substantial and serious politician with well thought out policies which defend Scotland within the UK and is not just a one trick we-don’t-want-another-indyref pony in search of a photo opportunity, but it’s not probable.

Denial of the probable is this British government’s stock in trade. It’s the closest thing that they have to a strategy. We’ve now reached the point where British policy towards the EU consists of foot stamping and temper tantrums and the insistence that up is down, black is white, and David Mundell serves a useful purpose.

The Conservatives are handicapped in launching a campaign for the elections because of their insistence that the vote might not take place, that if it does then we’ll be leaving the EU within a couple of weeks anyway, and their utter inability to come up with some coherent policy that everyone in the party can agree with. Meanwhile Labour is keeping its head down and hoping that no one will notice that it’s trying to make out that a second referendum is an option while at the same time trying to prevent one from coming about.

The other parties have the advantage of a coherent message. It’s a pretty tragic state of affairs for mainstream British politics when David Coburn is more coherent than they are. David has resigned from Ukip and is now a supporter of Nigel Farage’s Nigel Farage Vote Nigel Farage As Seen on the BBC Party. Nigel has clearly been taking some lessons from Ruth Davidson. Nigel’s new Brexit party is doing unfortunately well in the polls, having eclipsed a Ukip which has now tacked very firmly to the far right. The two swivel eyed Brexit parties are now spending much of their energy slagging one another off, putting to very good use the reservoirs of hatred that they’ve built up over the years.

Effectively these EU elections are going to be seen as a dry run for a referendum. It will be a choice between parties which want the people to have a say, parties which want the most extreme Brexit possible, or a Labour party which doesn’t really know what it stands for and which is hoping that its confusion will be mistaken for moderation.

In Scotland, the choice is simple. You can either vote for parties which want Scotland to have a say on Brexit and on the future of Scotland, or you can vote for parties which are hell bent on making sure that Scotland remains as marginalised and sidelined as it has been during this entire sorry Brexit process. The Labour party in Scotland is led by a man who wants Brexit to happen, who doesn’t want Scotland to have a say, and who deludes himself that there’s such a thing as a good Brexit. The Tories only have one policy in Scotland, which essentially boils down to “Shut up and do what you’re told.” The Lib Dems want a second referendum because we were lied to in the first about what we’d get, but not a second Scottish referendum because the Lib Dems were amongst those doing the lying that time.

Even if you want Scotland out of the EU, you need to vote for the SNP or the Greens. Those are the only parties which promise the people of Scotland a choice and a say on their own futures, on the future of Scotland. Wanting Scotland out of the EU is a perfectly respectable position, however if Scotland is to leave the EU then that needs to be negotiated by a government which is answerable to the people of Scotland, which respects and listens to Scotland’s needs and concerns, and which above all has a mandate from the people of Scotland. Brexit was sold to us as being about sovereignty. From a Scottish perspective the overriding priority is first to establish the sovereignty of the people of Scotland, and not to surrender Scotland’s future to parties which don’t recognise it and who treat Scotland as a region, not a nation, not a country.

The deadline for registering to vote is 7 May. EU citizens can vote in these elections (although 16 and 17 year olds cannot). A recent study from the electoral commission found that as many as one third of 18 to 34 year olds are not registered to vote. This is the age group which is most likely to support remaining in the EU, and in Scotland the age group which is most likely to support independence. Speak to the 18 to 34 year olds amongst your friends and family, and encourage them to register to vote if they haven’t done so already. We need younger people to vote, otherwise older generations will write the future.

If you have moved house, or have changed your name, you need to register to vote again. If you are a UK citizen living in the UK, you can register to vote online. The link is here https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote In order to register you will need your National Insurance number. If you don’t know it, it will be on a payslip, a letter from the benefits agency, or a tax return.

You can also use this online service to register to vote if you are a UK citizen living abroad. If you are a UK citizen who lives in an EU state, you can choose to vote in the UK or in your country of residence. If you live in any other country, you can vote in the UK. If you live abroad and wish to vote in the UK’s European elections, you must have lived abroad for less than 15 years. You will also need your passport details to input into the site.

It is hugely important to ensure that you are registered to vote. Only two things are going to matter when the results are totted up – the number of people in the UK who voted for pro-EU parties over pro-Brexit parties, and the number of people in Scotland who voted for pro-indy parties over British parties. The first will give us an indication of the strength of feeling in the UK as a whole for a second vote on remaining in the EU, the second will give us an indication of the strength of feeling in Scotland for a second indyref. Scotland has the right to write its own future. It’s up to us to let our political masters know.


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Wee Ginger Duck

The judge has now made a ruling in Stu Campbell’s court case against Kezia Dugdale. I was a witness in the case on behalf of Stu, so it wasn’t possible for me to speak about it before the judge had come to a conclusion. Essentially the key finding is that the judge has ruled that Stu Campbell is not a homophobe, but that Stu was unable to establish that he’d suffered any damage or loss as a result of Kezia’s remark about him, and that what she said was fair comment. It’s a peculiar ruling, in that the judge appears to have stated that it was defamatory to call Stu a homophobe, but not defamatory enough to be defamation.

In my own evidence, I was concerned to establish that homophobia is not a matter of opinion. I’m not sure how clearly I managed to articulate that. Kezia’s lawyer kept putting to me that assorted other people regarded Stu’s comment as homophobic, and therefore it was fine to say it was homophobic. I must confess there were points when I got quite irked with him. If it is the case that homophobia is a matter of opinion then everything is homophobic and nothing is homophobic.

Homophobia is not a matter of opinion, it is an objective reality faced by lesbians and gay men. If there is no objective standard for determining homophobia, then the word has no meaning at all. It is only by calling out homophobia that lesbian and gay people are able to challenge it and to change it. It’s vital that we are able to do so. However if homophobia is reduced to a matter of opinion, then it destroys the most important weapon in our armoury.

If homophobia is a matter of opinion, then any bigot can claim that their bigotry against lesbian and gay people is not homophobic because in their sincere opinion it’s not homophobia.  They just need to claim that God told them so, and we’ve seen where that leads.  Alternatively someone could say to me, “That’s a horrible pair of shoes you’re wearing,” and I could accuse them of homophobia because they were pandering to the stereotype that all gay men have to be very well dressed. Clearly, it’s nonsensical to claim that particular remark is homophobic, but if Kezia’s lawyer is to be believed, then it would be, because I would only have to assert that as a gay man it’s my genuine belief that it was homophobic and I was terribly offended by it. That’s essentially what Kezia’s argument was. It’s a dangerous argument to make as it devalues the meaning of homophobia and the effectiveness of accusations of homophobia as a campaigning tool for lesbian and gay people.

In my evidence I said that the definition of homophobia is not “I’m gay and I’m offended.” Homophobia is defined by the belief that homosexual people are less deserving of equality, by hatred of gay people. The judge agreed with that. He ruled that Stu’s tweet “was not motivated by fear, hatred or dislike of homosexuals.” He ruled that Stu Campbell is not a homophobe. I already knew that. Stu is rude, he’s offensive, he’s abrasive – all qualities which make him highly effective at what he does – but he’s not a homophobe. I am delighted that the judge agreed.

For my own part I pointed out that what Stu had said could not have been interpreted as homophobic if I had said it. I discovered – much to my shock – that I am the same age as David Mundell. David Mundell remained in the closet, married a woman and started a family with her, and then continued to benefit from heterosexual privilege until the sacrifices and efforts of other lesbian and gay people had made it safe for him to come out as gay without any loss of his professional or social standing. I don’t judge him for making the choice that he did. I know how horrribly homophobic Scotland was when both David Mundell and I realised our sexual orientation.

However I came out as gay during the height of the AIDS crisis and dealt with the consequences. I got gay bashed twice, I was unwelcome in my family home for many years, I was called more homophobic names and insults than I can possibly remember. Unlike David Mundell, I had a family because I entered into a private arrangement with a lesbian couple – we did that in the 1990s – and have two daughters as a result. (Stu Campbell knows that, by the way. So he certainly didn’t think that his comment about Oliver Mundell implied that gay people can’t have kids. Unfortunately I didn’t make that particular point in my evidence.)

So if it had been me who had made the comment about Oliver Mundell – “Oliver Mundell is the sort of public speaker that makes you wish his dad had embraced his homosexuality sooner.” It could not possibly have been interpreted as homophobic. It could only be interpreted as “Why didn’t your dad do what I had done?” With the implication that if he had then Oliver Mundell would have been the product of a private arrangement between a lesbian couple and an openly gay man, being brought up in full awareness of the intensely homophobic policies of the Conservatives of the day.

If it’s not homophobic for me to say it, it doesn’t magically become homophobic because Stu Campbell said it. The tweet is not hate speech, in the sense that it contains derogatory views about gay people, or terms of abuse for gay people. The only difference between me saying it and Stu Campbell saying it is that I’m gay and he’s straight. I got gay bashed, I suffered restrictions in the kinds of jobs that would accept me as an openly gay man all those decades ago, because I was fighting for the principle of equality. But if I’m allowed to say things which straight people aren’t, things which are not in themselves reflective of negative views about gay people, then that’s not equality.

The worst that you can say is that by making the comment, Stu was claiming heterosexual privilege. Which ironically is exactly what David Mundell was doing all those years he remained in the closet. However all heterosexual people have heterosexual privilege by virtue of being heterosexual, it doesn’t make them homophobes. In any case, calling out a straight person for heterosexual privilege doesn’t have the same potential to devastate their reputation as calling them a homophobe. (Heterosexual privilege is, basically, the ability to go through your life without having to worry about homophobia.)

The distinction between homophobia, heterosexism (the view that heterosexuality is the norm and everyone is straight unless you know otherwise), and heterosexual privilege is a nuance that I don’t expect most straight people to grasp. However Kezia is a lesbian, she should understand the difference. Instead she leapt for the strongest word possible in an attempt to neutralise a political opponent. That was wrong of her. She should have known better.

Many people have sought to conflate Stu Campbell’s views on the transgender debate with homophobia. You can’t do that. The two are not related. Many of the people who are most opposed to Self Identification (the view that a trans person merely needs to declare their gender to be accepted as member of that gender) are lesbians who have been active in the campaign against homophobia for decades. It is nonsensical to claim that because they do not accept Self Identification that they are homophobic. You might argue that they are transphobic, but that’s a different issue.

On the other side of the coin, the policies of the Iranian government are intensely homophobic. Gay men face the death penalty in Iran. However transgender procedures are available as part of the Iranian health system and transgender people can get their identity documents changed to reflect their new gender status. Iranian policy is appallingly homophobic, but an argument could be made that it’s not transphobic in the same way that it is homophobic, although it shouldn’t need to be stated that Iran is no bastion of human rights of any sort and this is not an argument I would agree with.

The point here is that you cannot use a person’s views on trans issues as a proxy for their views on homosexuality.  The judge agreed with that too.

However the most important part of the judge’s ruling was the discovery that he wrote that Paul Kavanagh is the author of a blog called Wee Ginger Duck. Clearly that sets a legal precedent. I’ll keep on quacking.


 

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The Corporal Joneses of British nationalism

sectarianidentity
In the immortal words of Corporal Jones from Dad’s Army, they don’t like it up them. On Tuesday The National published my usual weekly article, one which had been inspired by the recent piece in The Scotsman listing ten things for Scotland to be ashamed by. Although it would be more accurate to say that I wrote it in reaction to The Scotsman piece rather than taking inspiration from it. The National piece has provoked a furious, indeed enraged, response from the SiU trolls who infest the comments section of that newspaper. And I must confess that provoking them was one of the main reasons for writing the piece in the first place.

However there was also a more serious purpose. As Scottish people we are used to opponents of independence claiming that as a nation we do not face up to the negative aspects of our history, culture, and society. Yes, of course we need to be truthful about the darker aspects of Scotland’s past. There is no shortage of them. Scotland’s working, middle and upper classes were enthusiastic supporters of Empire. They directly benefited from its sins and crimes – some classes far more than others. Scots were slavers. Scots were colonialists. Scots were exploiters and despoilers. All this is true.

However what is invariably missing from these Scotland the Bad narratives is any recognition that Scotland is not a nation which is entirely in control of the path it takes. Our path has been dictated by the British state. That lack of recognition in turn flows into a denial that Britishness, instead of Scottishness, could the root cause of some of Scotland’s ills. For British nationalism, all of Scotland’s ills are the product of Scottishness, and constitute proof that we must continue to rely upon the tender mercies of Westminster to save us from ourselves.

When we discuss Scotland’s role in the Empire, there is never any acknowledgement that the Empire was not an exercise in the aggrandisement of Scottishness. The British Empire was an enterpise which imposed Britishness upon a large part of the globe, and for much of the rest of the globe that Britishness was indistinguishable from Englishness. I’ve just finished reading a history of Latin America, written by an American scholar. He writes frequently about “England’s” role in the exploitation of Latin America. Scotland’s brief Darien adventure doesn’t rate a mention. Scots could and did participate in the Empire, but they did so only by denying or minimising their Scottishness, or by expressing it in “safe” ways as a spot of tartanry to give the British a bit of colourful pageantry. Scots could and did participate in colonialism, but they didn’t do so in order to spread a Scottish culture, identity, or values.

These Scotland the Bad stories expect us to own our sins, but they deny us ownership of our virtues and strengths. All that is good about Scotland is seen as a product of British rule. Our achievements are to be interpreted as proof that British rule gave us stability. Our inventiveness is to be seen as evidence of the bounty of Britishness. Our democratic values are to be regarded as a lesson that Britain has taught us.

This is part of the Cringe, a psychological cross to bear which is visited upon us by Britishness and is the product of an attempt to reconcile a Scottish identity which we are taught is subordinate and inferior with a British one which we are taught is superior. Our virtues belong to Britain, our sins are ours alone. More than that however, we are expected to take ownership of sins which were visited upon us by virtue of Scotland’s place as a subordinate part of the UK. The British state and Scotland’s place within it act to deform Scottish culture and identity, and then supporters of Britishness blame Scotland for it.

So for example it ought to be impossible to have any meaningful discussion about sectarianism in Scotland without mentioning its parasitic relationship with a British identity. Yet that is precisely what we are called upon to do by opponents of independence, time after time. Typically they react with fury to any suggestion that the phenomenon of sectarianism in Scotland might have any sort of connection to Britishness and the manner in which a British identity was internalised in Scotland, even as our streets are blocked by sectarian hate parades full of marchers waving British flags, singing about the Queen, celebrating the British army and its wars against those who rebelled against the British crown, and wearing that quintessential sartorial symbol of Britishness, the bowler hat.

This is because the hypocrites of the British nationalist establishment in Scotland like to pose as neutral arbiters, keeping apart the two warring Caledonian tribes, smug in their sense of superiority that sectarianism is yet more proof that Scotland requires the civilising mission of the British state. When you point out the intimate connection between sectarianism and a British identity in Scotland, you not only threaten this cosy assumption, you strike at the very heart of the British establishment in Scotland. No wonder that British nationalists respond to any such suggestion with anger and rage.

It is important that Scotland as a nation faces up to its past, that it learns from it so that we can go into the future informed and self-aware. That means facing up to and coming to terms with the role that Scottish people have played in the slave trade, in the exploitation and despoilation of Africa and India, of the genocide of native peoples, of the exploitation of working class people within Scotland and the dispossession of the rural peasantry. But it also means facing up to the truth that Scotland was not an entirely free actor, and our unique role as external coloniser and internal colonised. So if we want to be really honest with ourselves about our past, and about our futures, that also means the recognition that not all of Scotland’s ills are products of Scottish culture, a goodly proportion of them are creations of Britishness.

For those of us who support independence, we need to recognise that it’s not our job to collude in British delusions. For far too long, Britishness in Scotland has taken credit for all the good, and denied responsibility for the ills. Those British nationalists whose abiding myth is that they are not nationalist at all hide behind the facade of a fake and mythical unionism and tell themselves that pretending that this is a union gives them a free pass.

Honesty means that those in Scotland who espouse a British identity must confront and face up to the negative effects upon Scotland of British nationalism. But when you try and point those out to them, they react with fury, anger, and outrage. Apparently it’s only supporters of independence who have to confront difficult and painful truths. British nationalists in Scotland really don’t like a spot of their own medicine. It makes them panic just like Corporal Jones. Funny that.


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I want independence because …

blossom

There’s a new initiative called A Million Reasons for Yes. All you need to do to participate is to write down your reason for wanting independence, and to take a photograph of it, then upload it to amillionreasons.scot or Instagram Direct: amillionreasonsforsi; Facebook: A Million Reasons for Scottish Independence; email reasons to: reasons@amillionreasons.scot. Follow on Twitter @millionscottish.

It’s a great idea, and so here are just a few of my own reasons for yes.

I want Scottish independence … because it’s the only way to rid ourselves of the obscenity of weapons of mass destruction on the Clyde. We’ve marched. We’ve protested. We’ve established peace camps. Those of us who are old and long in the tooth were protesting against Trident when we were young, and now we see young kids embarking on the same journey of protest, a journey with no end, a journey that goes nowhere as long as we are subject to Westminster rule and a British state which fetishes nuclear weapons as the viagra of an impotent ex-empire. The only way to rid ourselves of Trident is with independence.

I want Scottish independence … because I grew up thinking that the poverty and deprivation, the inequality and lack of opportunity, which I witnessed in the East End of Glasgow in the 60s and 70s was normal. And now a new generation of East End weans is growing up thinking that foodbanks are normal. Well it’s not bloody normal. It’s an outrage in one of the richest nations on the face of this Earth. It’s an affront to human dignity that the British state prioritises tax cuts for the wealthy and turning the UK into a tax haven for drug lords and oligarchs over the provision of decent public services. It’s indecent that the poor are forced to pay for the crimes of the rich, but that’s the British way. I want Scottish independence so that we can start to tackle the inequalities and injustices which blight this country.

I want Scottish independence … because so many of us are fatalistic and resigned to our powerlessness that we self medicate on alcohol and drugs. We’ve learned that hope is something for other people, that it doesn’t matter what we say because no one is listening anyway. We’ve learned that the only way to live without hope is to anaesthatise ourselves into oblivion, a brief respite from the pain of the everyday. It’s no way to live. No way to die. We need to know that the bright light is the light of hope and a better future, not a paramedic shining a torch in our eye in order to check for a sign of life. During the independence referendum of 2014, for the first time in my life I saw ordinary working class people discovering that hope was something for them too, that they too could dream, that they too had a voice, and that voice was important and it counted for something. Independence gives us hope.

I want Scottish independence … because we’ve bred generations of Scottish people who have learned that it doesn’t matter how we vote. It doesn’t matter what Scotland’s people say that they want through the ballot box. We get what England votes for, our votes can only make a difference when opinion in England is narrowly divided. It’s only with independence that Scotland can get governments that it votes for, governments which are answerable to the people of Scotland and which work in their interests. It’s only with independence that Scotland can see the true strengths of democracy.

I want Scottish independence … because politicians need to be held to account. The British system rewards political failure. We kicked out Michael Forsyth yet there he still is, all these years later, in the House of Lords influencing our laws and deciding our futures. British governments don’t need to pay any heed to Scotland, so they make decisions without considering us, and we have no remedy against them. I want Scottish independence because politicians cannot be trusted, and we need to keep them close to us so that their arses are within kicking distance of our feet.

I want Scottish independence … because this should be a land that is welcoming. Scotland was always a shelter for people from all over the world, because for centuries it was literally the end of the Earth. Once you got to Scotland, there was nowhere else to go. This is a land of migrants, and we should honour those who do us the honour of choosing to throw their lot in with the rest of us and becoming a part of the story of Scotland. Brexit Britain is closed in, inward looking, intolerant, xenophobic. I want a kinder, gentler, more welcoming country.

I want Scottish independence … because we need to do something about land ownership. Vast tracts of our country are owned by faceless multimillionaires hiding behind shell companies. They’ve turned Scotland into a desert designed as the playground for the wealthy. The Highlands are so beautiful and empty because its people were turfed out into the slums of the Lowland cities to produce the wealth that allowed the rich to buy up the land. Meanwhile rural communities die and decline.

I want Scottish independence … because we need a written constitution that spells out the proper division of powers between the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary. Within the UK we have an unwritten constitution which permits the powerful to make things up to suit themselves as they go along. That has to stop. But above all, we need a written constitution in order to establish once and for all that the only sovereign body in Scotland is the totality of the people of Scotland. This is our land, independence allows us to own it as citizens, instead of being subjects within it.

I want Scottish independence … because there is so much that is wrong with Scotland, and we need to fix it. We have waited patiently for generations for the Westminster system to fix Scotland for us, only to slowly come to the realisation that it has a vested interest in keeping Scotland weak, dependent, powerless, and marginalised. We kept the faith all through the bitter years of Thatcher, only to discover that the British Parliamentary road to socialism ended in bombs on the road to Baghdad. Westminster doesn’t want to solve Scotland’s problems, because it’s only by keeping Scotland impoverished and feeble that it can tell us that we need them, that we’re too small and weak to stand on our own two feet. The truth is that the only people who can fix Scotland’s problems are the people of Scotland themselves, and we need the powers of independence in order to do so. I want Scottish independence because generations of wise Scottish women have always told us, if you want something done, ye need tae dae it yersel.

I want independence … because Scotland is a land that is so rich in resources, possesses such an abundance of talent, is pregnant with so many possibilities. They need to be put to the service of the people of Scotland, and not leeched away to enrich the City of London. It’s only with independence that Scotland can blossom.

I don’t want Scottish independence because I hate anyone. I don’t want Scottish independence because I believe Scotland to be better than anywhere else. I don’t want Scottish independence because I hark back to a rosy vision of a mythical Scotland that has never existed. I recognise the issues Scotland faces. I see the problems of this country with a clear eye. I want to fix them. I want Scottish independence … because I want Scotland to be a normal country.


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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 real question for Scotland in Brexit Britain

countryorprovince
Nigel Farage has come out of retirement. This comes as news to those of us, approximately 60 million people, who never realised he’d gone away in the first place. Certainly the BBC never got over its love affair with him, and on Friday with his launch of his new Brexit party, the Corporation’s requited love got even more mushy. The BBC must be thrilled that now they have an excuse to have him on the telly more frequently than the SNP. Not that they ever needed an excuse before.

Unfortunately, or perhaps more accurately entirely predictably, the founding of a party whose core message is making life uncomfortable for migrants was mired in the racism which Nige claimed was becoming the hallmark of Ukip. The new party’s interim leader Catherine Blaiklock had to resign after making islamophobic comments and for approvingly retweeting a nazi. Not to be outdone, the treasurer, Michael McGough, had to resign after it was discovered that he had made antisemitic, homophobic, and racist posts on Facebook. Nigel brushed this off as the inevitable teething problems of an infant organisation. Parents all over the land nodded in sympathy. They are familiar with that stage in the developmental process when their toddlers take to spouting lines from Mein Kampf, but thankfully this can be solved with some bonjella and a spoonful of calpol. There is, unfortunately, no apparent cure for Nigel Farage.

However it is noticeable that, just as the Conservatives have a serious issue with Islamophobia and Labour are being accused of having a systematic problem with an anti-semitism, Nigel’s new party went one better and established that it was a home for both anti-semites and islamophobes simultaneously. In doing so the Brexit party has ensured that it has established its intolerance credentials long before bothering itself with trivialities like policies other than “We hate the EU and want to leave without a deal.”

In the imaginations of those who support Nigel’s vanity project, the UK outside the EU is destined to regain the majesty of a lost past. It will once again become a superpower which will bestride the globe like a colossus, making trade deals to the UK’s advantage, all because deep down, they are convinced that not only does the rest of the world owe Britain a favour, but the rest of the world knows that it owes Britain a favour.

Brexit is founded in a deep rooted belief in British exceptionalism. That belief was on full and ugly display at the launch of Nigel Farage’s new party. But really the most exceptional thing about British nationalism is that its core myth is that it is superior to other nationalisms by virtue of not being nationalist at all. That’s because Britishness is a belief in a mythical precious union, one which Brexit has exposed is really England writ large. The union in name serves to provide a figleaf of non-nationalism to cover up England’s unshakeable belief that it is a specially blessed land which has unfailingly been a source of goodness and a guiding light throughout the world. Brexit has foundered on the disconnect between that self-belief and reality, and so has the UK itself.

Today is the anniversary of the Amritsar Massacre. It’s one of the more shameful episodes in the shameful history of the not-so-glorious British Empire which Brexiters seek to rebuild in a modern form. Everyone in India knows about it, about how British troops fired into a peaceful crowd in the Indian city of Amritsar and murdered hundreds, possibly thousands, of unarmed civilians who were peacefully protesting British rule. It’s just one in the long and shameful line of British atrocities committed in the name of Empire. The genocide of the Tasmanians, the dispossession of the Kikukyu, the Bengal famine, the partitions of India and Ireland, the Native Land Act in South Africa which was the forerunner of apartheid, the Irish famine, the Highland Clearances, the Atlantic slave trade, the Opium Wars in China, the carve up of Africa. The list goes on and on.

When the British first established a foothold in India, India was the second largest economy in the world. Its growth rate became zero under British rule as the British imposed a deliberate policy of withholding industrialisation and prioritising the exploitation of Indian resources for the benefit of Britain. When Britain finally left India, it did so leaving millions dead and a divided subcontinent whose economy was underdeveloped and backward.

All this misery inflicted by Britain on the rest of the world had as its goal the enrichment of the British ruling class. That ruling class was quite happy to coopt the ruling classes of other countries into its organised crime syndicate, the Scottish aristocracy were enthusiastic converts to the cause of Britishness.

Despite the long list of crimes committed in the name of Britannia, a Yougov poll in 2016 found that 43% of people in the UK thought that the British Empire was a good thing. Another 25% thought it was both good and bad. Astoundingly, 44% were proud of Britain’s history of colonialism. Almost half the people in the UK believe that stealing other countries, robbing them of their resources, imposing racist hierarchies upon them and making their inhabitant second class non-citizens, was a good thing.

If a country cannot confront its past, it makes itself unfit for the future. The UK cannot be honest about its past. It cannot be honest about its present. It certainly cannot be honest about its future.

The UK denies that its past is one of exploitation, of dispossession, of theft, of slavery, of genocide. Instead it prefers to look back to a glorious empire and to tell itself comforting tales about how an enterprise whose aim was to exploit the wealth, resources, and humanity of millions of people was really an exercise in the spread of civilisation.

The UK is dishonest about it present, about the kind of state it really is. It claims to be a union, yet it acts like a unitary state. It comforts itself with tall tales of how its kept down and oppressed by Brussels, because the British crime syndicate mind set cannot conceive of collaboration and cooperation, only winners who exploit losers.

This is not a state which is capable of being honest about its future. All it has to offer is the fantasies of a red faced Nigel Farage and a Conservative party which apes him. It’s a party which is in denial about Britain’s past, which lies about Britain’s present, and which is deluded about Britain’s future. The future for a Scotland which remains a part of this dysfunctional and dishonest British enterprise is as a subordinate province, exploited and belittled, marginalised and ignored. We can be a normal country, or we can be a tartan bow to tie up a lie, a kilted figleaf to hide the shameful truth about British nationalism. There is no union, and there never was.

Brexit teaches Scotland an important lesson. The question facing Scotland in the independence referendum to come is no longer merely “Should Scotland become an independent country?”, the real question is whether Scotland wants to be a country at all.


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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.

Wee Ginger Dugcast – 11 April 2019

The dugcast is a day early this week, because Callum is off for a long weekend in Bruges. It’s alright for some eh. This week we discuss the postponement of Brexit, the need for some progress on holding an indyref, and how we’re all sick to the back teeth of British politics and would love to be discussing something other than bloody Brexit.


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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.

A candle in the darkness

candleinthedarkness
It’s at times like this that I wish I still did drugs. Brexit has turned into a cross between the Neverending Story and the Walking Dead, only with gammons instead of dragons, and precious little magic. In recognition of the fact that Theresa May is an undead political leader, the EU have given her until Halloween to sort out Brexit. Then when she comes back begging for another extension because she’s done bugger all at least she won’t have to dress up. She can just come as herself, that’s plenty scary enough for anyone. The rest of the UK can dress up as a cliff edge.

Just three weeks ago, Theresa May stood before the House of Commons and announced that she could not, as Prime Minister, delay the UK’s exit from the EU beyond 30 June. Well now she’s done exactly that. Will she resign? Will she buggery. She’s lied about everything else. She’s lied so often and so frequently that she’s now lost all concept of what truth might be. She lied about not having a snap general election. She lied about reaching out to the other parties in order to find some consensus. She lied about no deal being better than a bad deal. She lied about not pulling her deal in Parliament the first time it was due to be put to a vote. Theresa May infamously doesn’t answer questions, she’s notably only for her abilities to evade, dissemble, and deflect, but you can be pretty certain that on those rare occasions that she does make a statement that appears to contain some solidity to it, that it’s going to be a lie.

We’re not going to crash out of the EU on Friday. Despite the on-going permachaos of the British body politic, this is a good thing. The EU leaders have decided to give the UK until 31 October to come up with something, anything, that might put a stop to this endless faffery. It gives Jeremy Corbyn six more months in which to keep avoiding coming to any decisions. It gives the Commons six more months to fail to agree on anything. Nothing has changed. Nothing has changed. But most importantly of all, for Theresa May it gives her another opportunity to fail to resign as the rest of her cabinet openly vie to succeed her. Then we can look forward to a new Tory leader who is even more obdurate than Theresa is, and who will do his or her damnedest to trash anything that passes for a deal, and embark upon a new round of hostilities with the EU. Those drugs are looking pretty attractive right now.

It’s at times like this that you wonder if half the British political establishment is on drugs. That’s the only possible explanation for the hagiography in the Telegraph asking why we don’t have more MPs like Mark Francois and touting him as a potential leader of the Conservative party. And there was you thinking that we’d already reached the summit of Mount Ludicrous. Oh no. There’s the vast angry splutteration of Mark, bobbing above your head like an irate balloon animal. Mark is the bastard offspring of Middle England and Middle Earth. He’s what you’d get if an Orc served in the TA for a couple of years and took to wearing a blazer. Those scientists who took the photie of the black hole 54 million light years away needed to use a virtual telescope the size of the entire Earth in order to do so, but even they couldn’t locate Mark’s intellect.

There’s no obvious way out of this mess. The Conservatives don’t want a general election. The reason they’ve been trying to avoid having to hold the European elections is because they’ll get thrashed by the voters. Labour, even given the total chaos and dysfunction of the worst Conservative government in living memory, still can’t achieve a meaningful lead over them in the polls. They’re none too keen on a general election either, despite the ritual claims that they want one. Jeremy Corbyn wants Brexit to happen as much as Mark Francois does. He just doesn’t want to take the blame for it, then he can still pose as the saviour of his largely remain supporting party. Neither Corbyn nor May wants another referendum. This crisis is largely a crisis of political leadership. At a time when the UK needs leadership which can reach out, build consensus, make compromises, heal wounds, we get the two most tribal idiots in British political history, products of a broken system which regards tribal idiocy as a strength.

Until now the strategy of the SNP has been to wait for some clarity on Brexit before moving ahead with a Scottish independence referendum. That was a sensible strategy when there was still some modicum of possibility that there were sensible people in charge in British politics. It’s clear now that all that the British political system has to offer is unending chaos, permanent dysfunction, and everlasting confusion. If you’re waiting for clarity on Brexit, you’re going to be waiting forever. The Brexit issue will continue to dominate British politics for the foreseeable future, even if some deal is reached, even if the UK does crash out with no deal at all. Arguments about the UK’s relationship with Europe are still going to dominate British politics. If we do leave, under whatever circumstances, there will be plenty of people offering the possibility of a return to the EU. The arguments are only going to go on.

All we know for sure is that there will be no certainty about anything for at least another six months. We can be certain that Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn will squander the time they’ve been granted and will use it to continue their dance of pointlessness. But we can also be pretty sure that there will be no political stability in the UK for decades to come.

Confusion and political chaos is the new normal for the UK. That’s the reality for the SNP. Waiting for clarity implies that there is some clarity to be found, that a deeply dysfunctional and broken British political system is capable of producing it. It clearly isn’t. That can only mean that it’s up to the Scottish Government to create some clarity of its own instead of waiting passively as a victim of events. We have a window of opportunity, a chance, to achieve Scottish independence before leaving the EU. We must not squander this opportunity by waiting for the clueless to find a clue.

The Scottish Government needs to state now that it wants a Scottish referendum, on Scottish terms, and at a timetable that suits Scotland. It must renew its call for a Section 30 order, while simultaneously testing the legal waters for a referendum without such an order. It must also make sure that the British government understands that a refusal to cooperate with a referendum will mean that the next set of elections in Scotland, whether that’s a UK General Election or the next Scottish Parliament elections, will become an effective referendum on independence. That will be an election fought against the backdrop of a dysfunctional UK which refuses to allow Scotland to ask itself about its own future. That’s going to make it impossible for opponents of independence to pretend that Scotland really is a partner in a union. The British Government must be made to understand that one way or another, Scotland will have a legal vote on its own future – and that the permission of the British Government is not required.

It’s time to stop waiting, and start doing. Clarity only comes to those who light their own candle in the darkness.


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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 black hole of Brexit Britain

blackhole
There’s nothing to do but wait while our fates are decided by the leaders of the small European countries that British nationalists in Scotland always scoffed at and told us that Scotland would become. Whether the UK can have an extension to Article 50 in order to avoid a chaotic and damaging Brexit will be decided by the 27 members of the EU who haven’t shot themselves in the foot and tied themselves to a lump of concrete before leaping into the sea while shouting that Britannia rules the waves. Latvia and Estonia, the former British ruled Cyprus, Malta, and Ireland, all of them have an equal say along with Germany, Spain, France, and Italy. Countries far smaller than Scotland, with a mere fraction of Scotland’s resources and economic potential, they all have far more power than Theresa May, never mind Scotland. The UK itself has no say. This is what taking back control has turned into. This is the strength and stability of the UK that Scotland was told it couldn’t survive without.

Those countries small and large hold our futures in their hands, the future of the entire UK. If Scotland had chosen independence in 2014, Nicola Sturgeon would be one of those to whom Theresa May would be begging as a supplicant. Instead she’s waiting, powerless and voiceless like the rest of Scotland. No one in the British government is interested in Scotland’s opinion. So we wait. Silenced and impotent. Hushed up and hobbled. That’s the British way.

The British way was on full display during Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons. Jeremy Corbyn ignored the Brexit elephant in the room. He didn’t think to ask the Prime Minister why it is that she’s now pleading with the EU for things that she insisted just a few short weeks ago were utterly unacceptable. But Jeremy doesn’t want to engage with Brexit, because then it might mean he’d have to get off that fence whose posts are so firmly rammed up his backside. So instead he asked some questions about subjects that Theresa May had no intention of answering. It was an exercise in futility while the UK sank below the waves of the Brexit storm.

When the SNP’s Ian Blackford asked her a question about the Brexit elephant, Theresa May harrumphed that Scottish independence means taking Scotland out of the EU. She’s trapped in a 2014 timewarp. Scotland is already being taken out of the EU, by Theresa May. If ever you wanted to see shamelessness in action, you only have to watch Theresa May during PMQs. The only question about PMQs is has Theresa ever answered a question.

Today is the day that scientists announced the first ever photograph of a black hole. Strictly speaking it’s not a photograph of the black hole itself, as no light escapes from a black hole’s immense gravitational pull, so there’s nothing to take a photograph of. It’s a photo of the black hole’s accretion disk, the matter and energy swirling around the galactic plughole. The photo itself is a picture of the crown of light which was able to escape being crushed into nothingness instead of being swallowed up, crushed, and deprived of its individuality, and which made its own path out into the universe. Now there’s a metaphor for an independent Scotland for you.

It’s a remarkable achievement, taking a photograph of an object in the Messier 87 galaxy which is 54 million light years away. Light and electromagnetic waves take 54 million years to travel between the Messier 87 galaxy and Earth, so a television signal setting out from Earth today will be swallowed up by that black hole 54 million years in our future, at which time the UK will still be arguing about Brexit, consumed by a Conservative black hole of its own. As energy and matter crosses the event horizon of a black hole, it is crushed into nothingness as time dilates making a second seem like an eternity. We’ve all learned what that feels like.

54 light years works out at 324 trillion miles, which coincidentally is also the distance between Theresa May and a grasp of reality. She’s gone back to Brussels to ask them to give her an extension until the end of June, so that her party can avoid getting slaughtered in the European elections. This is exactly the same as what she asked them for the last time, but she was refused. She doesn’t have anything new to tell them this time. She has no different offer to make. She has no plan, no route map. She’s relying on her charm and charisma to persuade EU leaders to give her what she wants. That’s how screwed we all are.

Many people across the UK feel humiliated, belittled, embarrassed, and infantilised as the UK is forced to beg the EU for more time, and the British government is utterly powerless to influence the course of events. They realise that they have no choice, they have no latitude of movement, they are at the mercy of others, the victims of events and not the agents of change. Now they know what it feels like to be Scottish. The way that the UK is powerless today in Brussels is exactly how Scotland is treated all the time by Westminster. The difference is that the EU leaders in Brussels are actually listening and possess a modicum of care about the fate of the UK.

Many people voted for Brexit because they were motivated by the fear that Brussels might treat the UK the way that Westminster treats Scotland. That’s the British model for dealing with constituent nations. It bullies, it threatens, it scaremongers, it commands. The British political system cannot comprehend any other way of doing politics. Westminster is like a small toddler which hasn’t learned the concept of sharing. The difference is that the toddler will eventually grow up, Westminster keeps sliding ever further into senescence and the nostalgic dwam of a lost empire. Now all of the UK knows what it feels like to be Scottish. It doesn’t feel good does it, being treated like a child.

So we wait. Powerless. Apprehensive. The clock ticks as our fate is being decided behind a closed door and we’re not invited into the adults’ conversation. That’s today. That’s every day. Scottish independence is the desire for Scotland to grow up. We have a voice. We have things to say. But within the UK every day is sitting outside the conference room for Scotland.


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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.