Sorry, not sorry

respect
The Conservative former MEP Struan Stevenson has penned an article for the Herald today in which he urges a “Canada style” solution to the independence debate. Canada style solutions are very much in vogue amongst Tories these days, possibly because they allow them to indulge in their obsession with all things North American while disguising their party’s essential trumpiness. But then what do you really expect from the British Conservatives, which isn’t so much a political party as it is an injury in search of a brain.

What Struan really means by a Canadian style solution to the independence debate is for the people of Scotland to stop voting SNP and for all this horrid Scottish nationalism to go away. The pro-sovereignty Parti québécois formed a majority government in Quebec between 1976 and 1985, and again between 1995 and 2003. Following the Quebec generation election of 2018 the party’s share of seats in the Quebec legislature collapsed to just 10 out of the total of 125.

However the Quebec legislature is still overwhelmingly dominated by parties which define themselves as nationalist or sovereigntist – which is the term generally used in Canadian politics to describe those who support independence for Quebec. By far the largest party in the Quebec parliament is now the Coalition Avenir Québec, a right wing populist party which defines itself as Quebec nationalist, but which is not in favour of a third referendum on independence. The goal of the CAQ is to strengthen the rights and powers of Quebec within Canada. CAQ has 79 of the seats in the Quebec parliament. The CAQ has been very successful in appealing to the conservative element within Quebec society, while campaigning strongly to defend the French language, the distinct francophone culture of Quebec, and for greater powers for Quebec within Canada.

Another pro-independence party, the social democratic Québec solidaire, also has 10 seats in the Quebec parliament. The party was set up to unify the various strands of enivornmentalist, left wing and social democratic support for an independent Quebec.

In total 99 of the 125 seats in the Quebec parliament are held by parties which either support independence, or which regard themselves as Quebec nationalist parties operating within a Canadian framework. The question of Quebec nationalism hasn’t gone away, despite Struan Stevenson’s fond wish for a Canada style solution to the Scottish debate.

There are certainly lessons for the SNP to learn from the experience of the Parti québécois. The real reason that the party suffered such a loss in its representation was because it shifted to the right during the early years of this century, leading to a split within the party as its left wing could no longer support it, leaving in order to found Québec solidaire. This led to the Parti québécois being squeezed between the left wing sovereigntist movement and the right wing Action démocratique du Québec – one of the precursors to Coalition Avenir Québec – which campaigned for greater autonomy for Quebec within Canada and which successfully pitched for soft sovereigntists and right wing voters. The lesson for the SNP is not to take its base for granted and to ensure that it continues to provide a political home for all strands of Scottish pro-independence thought.

A key difference between the Quebec political scene and the Scottish one is that the parties which successfully squeezed the Parti québécois were all parties founded, led, and controlled within Quebec, not branches of Canadian wide parties. A Scottish Conservative branch office of the English Nationalist Brexit Party has no chance at all of repeating the same trick. Sorry, not sorry, to quote Adam Tomkins.

There are some other very significant differences between the situation in Quebec and Canada compared to that of Scotland and the UK which mean that Struan’s “Canada style” solution is not going to happen in Scotland. And the reason for that rests very squarely with Struan’s party and with the other anti-independence parties in Scotland and their bosses in Westminster. If Struan really wants to see the SNP disappear as a party of government as the Parti québécois has declined in Quebec, then perhaps he ought to take a long hard look at the differences between the way that the Canadian Federal Government handled Quebec’s aspirations to independence and the way in which the UK government has treated Scotland.

Following the Quebec independence referendum of 1982, the Canadian government introduced substantial changes to the Canadian constitution in an attempt to meet the concerns of the Quebecois. The status and rights of French speakers were protected, and the rights of provincial governments were strengthened. Quebec was giving significant new powers, including powers over immigration – Tories take note. Following the second independence referendum in 1995, Quebec was recognised as a distinct society within Canada. Provincial rights were further strengthened, giving Quebec a de facto veto over future constitutional changes.

Compare and contrast with how the Conservative party in the UK has treated Scotland. Following the referendum of 2014, the promises made to Scotland by the British parties were not kept. Scotland was promised that within three years we’d be living in a country which enjoyed the nearest thing possible to federalism in a state where one constituent nation made up 85% of the population. We were promised that the powers of the Scottish Parliament would be enshrined in law and would be placed beyond the ability of any Westminster government to alter them without the express consent of Holyrood. We were told that the only way in which Scotland could remain a member of the EU was by voting against independence. So how did all that work out then?

The immediate response of the British Government following the referendum was for David Cameron to stand on the steps of Downing Street and announce it had really been about England all along. Instead of federalism we got powers over roadsigns and some limited tax powers which David Mundell openly boasted were a trap for the SNP. We got English Votes for English Laws and the reduction of the powers of Scottish MPs within Westminster. Instead of the powers of Holyrood being enshrined in law we got a British government which secured a supreme court ruling that it could unilaterally alter the devolution settlement as it saw fit, and which has used Brexit as an excuse to claw powers back from Holyrood. Instead of remaining a part of the EU Scotland has been ripped out, and has been given zero input or influence into the form that Brexit takes.

Struan Stevenson’s argument falls apart because his own party has failed dismally to even pretend to meet Scotland half way. Where Canada made attempts to reassure the soft-sovereigntists and to meet at least some of the demands of those seeking greater power for Quebec, the British state has treated Scotland with contempt, as a rebellious province which has been politically defeated and whose concerns can be ignored.

If Struan Stevenson wants a Canada style solution to the Scottish independence debate, then perhaps he ought to focus less on the SNP and start with the shortcomings of his own party. But then that would mean treating Scotland with respect, giving Scotland powers over immigration, and giving Scotland a de facto veto on constitutional changes in the UK. That’s never going to happen. Since the UK is unwilling and unable to accommodate Scotland, the demand for independence is not going to go away. Sorry, not sorry, Struan.


You can help to support this blog with a Paypal donation. Please log into Paypal.com and send a payment to the email address weegingerbook@yahoo.com. Or alternatively click the donate button. If you don’t have a Paypal account, just select “donate with card” after clicking the button.
Donate Button

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.


newbook My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.

You can order the book directly from the publisher. Ordering directly means that postage is free. You can order here –
https://www.vagabondvoices.co.uk/rants/barking-up-the-right-tree-2019

You can also order a book directly from me. The book costs £11.95 and P&P is an additional £3.50, making a total of £15.45. To order just make a Paypal payment to weegingerbook@yahoo.com, or alternatively use the DONATE button below. Please make sure to give me your postal address when ordering. Orders to be sent outwith the UK will incur extra postage costs, please email me for details. If you can’t use Paypal, or prefer an alternative payment method, please email weegingerbook@yahoo.com


Dugcast – 28 February 2020

In this week’s edition of the dugcast, The National’s Stewart Ward and I discuss what the SNP’s team in Westminster can do to make life less comfortable for the Tories, the welcome news last week that the Scottish Parliament has extended the franchise to everyone legally resident in Scotland, this week’s drug conference in Glasgow and the obstinate refusal of the UK govt to liberalise drug policy, and we also talk about how the Scottish Parliament may be accountable to the people of Scotland but it has to operate within parameters and budgetary constraints set by a Westminster government which isn’t accountable to the people of Scotland. And we also talk about the dug’s wee dental operation this week, and how he’s a very healthy boy for his 13 years.


You can help to support this blog with a Paypal donation. Please log into Paypal.com and send a payment to the email address weegingerbook@yahoo.com. Or alternatively click the donate button. If you don’t have a Paypal account, just select “donate with card” after clicking the button.
Donate Button

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.


newbook My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.

You can order the book directly from the publisher. Ordering directly means that postage is free. You can order here –
https://www.vagabondvoices.co.uk/rants/barking-up-the-right-tree-2019

You can also order a book directly from me. The book costs £11.95 and P&P is an additional £3.50, making a total of £15.45. To order just make a Paypal payment to weegingerbook@yahoo.com, or alternatively use the DONATE button below. Please make sure to give me your postal address when ordering. Orders to be sent outwith the UK will incur extra postage costs, please email me for details. If you can’t use Paypal, or prefer an alternative payment method, please email weegingerbook@yahoo.com


The democratic deficit

democraticdeficit
There’s a looming freight train coming down the tracks. But don’t worry. It won’t hit us because it will end up stalled in customs for days. That’s essentially the pitch that the Conservatives are making to the UK about the trading future between Brexit Britain and the EU, and all this is going to be negotiated on our behalf by a part time prime minister. In the meantime we also have coronavirus, flooding, snow, xenophobia, Trident renewal, the MoD dumping radioactive waste in the Clyde, and soaring homelessness. We have a governing Tory party which raked in over £37 million in donations over the general election period and which still refuses to publish the report into Russian interference and meddling in UK politics. Здесь нечего видеть. That’s Russian for there’s nothing to see here.

Meanwhile the guy in charge of dealing with the UK’s response to a pandemic is Matt Hanson, a man who has principles for every occasion – which would be spine-chilling if Matt actually had a backbone. Michael Gove oozes his way through TV interviews refusing to acknowledge that the UK is staring no-deal in the face because no deal is really an Australian style deal and threatening to walk away from the negotiations in June, and in the process producing more slime than ten times his weight in garden slugs. Priti Patel spends her time in her office smirking as she pulls the wings off flies and gloats about her purposely cruel immigration system. Dominic Cummings thinks that the more racist you are the more you’re qualified to be a government advisor. And Boris Johnson alternates between hiding in a fridge and fnaugh fnaughing.

So yeah, we’re doing just great. Living the dream. Sunlit uplands. Jam exports. Union jacks on driving licences. Blue passports. The Brexiters have got their country back, innit. What a shame it’s so shit. It’s like the Tellitubbies but with no TV reception and Lala being deported for being an illegal immigrant who can’t speak English. If the UK was a school it would be in special measures. If it was a hospital in Scotland its crappiness would be the only thing that Reporting Scotland ever talked about. If it was a Eurovision Song Contest entrant it would get nul points. If it was an episode of Star Trek Spock would have broken down in hysterical tears. It’s life Jim, but not as we know it.

The sole consolation is that at least the UK will soon be over. It’s just frustrating that it has to descend into such appalling crapulosity in order to make a majority of people in Scotland realise that we could make a far better fist of things in an independent country. It would be difficult to do worse, and even if in the unlikely event that our political classes were even worse in an independent Scotland, we could always vote them out. We’re stuck with the Tories despite the fact that Scotland hasn’t given the Conservatives a majority of Scottish seats during the lifetime of anyone under pensionable age. Or at least what used to be pensionable age before the Tories raised it. You had to be 21 to vote in 1955, when the Tories last won a majority in Scotland. That means that the only people alive today who were of voting age the last time that the Conservatives won an election in Scotland are now over 86 years old.

There’s a lot of talk, especially in the media, about the economics of independence. However the real reason for wanting independence is to do with arguments about basic democracy. It’s important we don’t lose sight of that. It suits opponents of independence to focus on other issues because they have no answers to the question of the Scottish democratic deficit.

Scotland’s democratic deficit is about more than the fact that this country rarely gets the UK government that it votes for, and only does so when England votes the same way. It’s also about how the institutions of the British state cannot and will not accommodate Scotland as a distinct nation within the UK. This goes back to the very foundation of the UK, the institutions of the UK understand Scotland’s political authority to have been extinguished by the Treaty of Union of 1707, but England’s was expanded. We see it in the way in which Brexit was sold to the UK population as the restoration of British parliamentary sovereignty, and was immediately followed by Conservative executives which used it as an excuse to arrogate yet more power to themselves at the expense of Parliament, which reached its pinnacle in Boris Johnson’s suspension of Parliamentary democracy in order to deprive Parliament of time to fillet his Brexit plans. And he’s not finished yet, the Conservative manifesto included the promise that the UK government will restrict the powers of the courts to hold it in check. That’s a deeply alarming development in a state which lacks a written constitution and which already invests the Prime Minister with the powers of a dictator.

We see the democratic deficit in the way in which the British Government reacted to Scotland’s vote in the EU referendum. The way Scotland voted was seen as an irrelevance. Scotland was given no input into the shape that Brexit would take. Scotland’s concerns were not taken into account. Worse still, the British Government announced that Brexit represented a substantive change in circumstances enough to justify it making unilateral changes to the devolution settlement – to Scotland’s detriment – while denying that Brexit represented a substantive enough change to justify another independence referendum. This despite the fact that a key promise of the Better Together campaign in 2014 was that only a vote against independence could secure Scotland’s place within the EU.

The UK is in a mess, a mess which is only going to get worse, and yet within the framework of the British state the people of Scotland have no remedy. That’s the core reason why independence is a necessity. The Scottish media bangs on relentlessly about Scottish education, about the state of our hospitals, while never examining the constraints placed upon Scotland and our public services by the British state. The key point however is that while the electorate in Scotland have the ability to vote out a Scottish Government, it is powerless to do anything about the British Government which writes the rules that the Scottish Government must operate within. That’s why we need independence. Not merely to escape the vile policies of vile Conservatives, but to have the power to set the parameters within which the Scottish Government operates, to have the power to reject that government at the polls, and to change the parameters if they no longer suit us. Independence means the freedom to choose, the freedom to adapt to changing circumstances. The UK means being subject to the priorities of a political class for whom Scotland’s people are at best an inconvenience.


You can help to support this blog with a Paypal donation. Please log into Paypal.com and send a payment to the email address weegingerbook@yahoo.com. Or alternatively click the donate button. If you don’t have a Paypal account, just select “donate with card” after clicking the button.
Donate Button

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.


newbook My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.

You can order the book directly from the publisher. Ordering directly means that postage is free. You can order here –
https://www.vagabondvoices.co.uk/rants/barking-up-the-right-tree-2019

You can also order a book directly from me. The book costs £11.95 and P&P is an additional £3.50, making a total of £15.45. To order just make a Paypal payment to weegingerbook@yahoo.com, or alternatively use the DONATE button below. Please make sure to give me your postal address when ordering. Orders to be sent outwith the UK will incur extra postage costs, please email me for details. If you can’t use Paypal, or prefer an alternative payment method, please email weegingerbook@yahoo.com


Taking Johnson’s bullheadedness by the horns

bullheaded
It’s being reported in The National today that the SNP councillor Christopher McEleny, leader of the SNP group on Inverclyde Council, has called on the Scottish Government to give the British Government a deadline for another independence referendum. He has suggested that Boris Johnson should be given until Easter to accept demands for a Section 30 order, and that if he refuses after the deadline then alternative steps should be taken.

He’s right, perhaps not on the details of the timing, but certainly on the general principle. Boris Johnson is not going to accept demands for another independence referendum unless it is made clear to him that the political cost of refusing is greater than the political cost of agreement. Johnson is most certainly not going to accept calls for another independence referendum when support for independence is at 50% or over in the polls. The more that support for independence grows in the opinion polls, the greater the incentive Johnson will have to refuse agreement for another referendum – all the more so if he believes that he can continue to refuse and see the Scottish Government do nothing in response. He will have nothing to lose by refusing and everything to lose by agreeing. We’ll just see the same arrogant fnaugh-fnaughing from him from now until Jacob Rees Mogg develops a taste for hip hop. Actually sorry, that’s unfair on Jacob. We now know that Jacob is an ordinary person just like everyone else, because he tweeted a photo of himself in his office eating crisps. Although the photo also apparently shows that he shares his office with Death.

Anyway, it’s simple logic. The only way to make sure that Johnson agrees to cooperate is by giving him a reason to. That means giving him something to lose, which can be achieved by ensuring that he sees there is a political cost to refusal. Eventually the Scottish Government has to make sure that Boris Johnson understands that the only hope in hell he’s got of resisting Scottish independence is to win another independence referendum. Yes, of course we need to continue to make the case for independence. Yes, of course we need to keep building public support for independence. And yes, of course the more that we successfully do these things the more likely it is that there will be majority support in Scotland for alternative strategies. But we are still left with the core issue – at some point, Johnson’s refusal to agree to another referendum must be tackled head on.

The good news is that according to the much misrepresented opinion poll which was published this week, it appears that there is already a solid majority of support within Scotland for another indepedence referendum within the next few years. There is already a clear majority of support for the view that a decision about holding another referendum should be for the people of Scotland, not the British Prime Minister.

There are a number of ways to force Johnson’s hand, all of which are perfectly legal and constitutional despite the media’s favoured framing of “illegal” or “wildcat” referendums. Naturally the anti-independence media is very concerned to create a widespread public opinion that the only legal route to independence runs through Boris Johnson’s agreeing to a Section 30 order. But that’s not true, and the Scottish Government must first and foremost ensure that the Scottish public understands that it’s not true, that Scotland is not and will not consent to be a passive victim of Boris Johnson’s political convenience.

One of Chris McEleny’s suggestions is for the SNP manifesto for the Holyrood elections to contain a clear commitment to hold a consultative referendum even in the face of a refusal from Johnson. A yes result in that ballot would then give the Scottish Government a mandate to start independence negotiations with Westminster.

Critics of this position have argued that a consultative referendum without a Section 30 order risks putting the independence movement back. They say that it would be boycotted by the anti-independence parties, and could be ruled illegal by the courts. It is highly likely that one of the anti-independence parties in Scotland would indeed take legal action against the Scottish Government if a consultative referendum was to be announced, but that legal action wouldn’t represent a reverse for the independence movement at all. If the consultative referendum was ruled legal, then the anti-independence parties would have no grounds for a boycott. That would be a clear win for the independence movement.

However it would also be a win for the independence movement if a consultative referendum was ruled illegal. In that case it would prove that the oft-stated claim that Scotland is a free partner in a voluntary union was a lie – and that in turn would simply provide a cast-iron justification for a plebiscite election instead. Those whose position was fundamentally undermined by a ruling that a consultative referendum was illegal would be those who claim to be unionists. They’d then be forced to justify how they can continue to claim that Scotland is a voluntary member of a union when Scotland is not allowed to decide for itself to continue in that union, after the people of Scotland had expressly voted for a Scottish Government with a policy of holding a consultative referendum. And crucially, they couldn’t use legal means to block a plebiscite election.

The point that needs to be made is that the key to independence unlocks a door in Holyrood, not Number 10. All routes lead to a vote on Scottish independence, and the more that Boris Johnson and his enablers in Scotland continue to block or forestall that vote, the more difficult it’s going to be for them to make a case for the UK when the vote finally – and inevitably – happens. So it’s a good idea to give the British Government and its little helpers in Holyrood a deadline. At some point, Boris Johnson’s bullheadedness must be taken by the horns.

The British nationalists and their enablers must be forced to acknowledge that their continued block on the democratic will of the people of Scotland comes with grave consequences for their own parties and their own position. The longer that they continue to act as a fatberg in the pipe, the more the pressure will rise and the more likely it becomes that they’re going to be swept away down the drain of history. They need to understand that the deadlines that they’re given are deadlines for their own efforts to prevent independence, and it’s their own intransigence which will be their undoing. The clock is ticking on the British nationalists’ attempts to prevent independence.


The dug had to go to the vet yesterday to have a tooth taken out – a procedure which requires a general anaesthetic in dogs. It went fine and he’s home now and fully recovered, although he spent most of yesterday evening being especially grumpy and unsteady on his feet.

His only issue is mild arthritis.  He’s started on an anti-inflammatory to help with the joint pain, and I have also started giving him a daily supplement which is supposed to help joint function.

The good news is that the vet did a blood test and was very pleasantly surprised to discover absolutely nothing of any note. She remarked that this is extremely unusual in a dog of Ginger’s age.  He is an exceptionally healthy dog for his 13 years and apart from his mild arthritis he has the constitution of a much younger dog.  So we can expect that he’s going to be around for a good few years to come.


You can help to support this blog with a Paypal donation. Please log into Paypal.com and send a payment to the email address weegingerbook@yahoo.com. Or alternatively click the donate button. If you don’t have a Paypal account, just select “donate with card” after clicking the button.
Donate Button

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.


newbook My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.

You can order the book directly from the publisher. Ordering directly means that postage is free. You can order here –
https://www.vagabondvoices.co.uk/rants/barking-up-the-right-tree-2019

You can also order a book directly from me. The book costs £11.95 and P&P is an additional £3.50, making a total of £15.45. To order just make a Paypal payment to weegingerbook@yahoo.com, or alternatively use the DONATE button below. Please make sure to give me your postal address when ordering. Orders to be sent outwith the UK will incur extra postage costs, please email me for details. If you can’t use Paypal, or prefer an alternative payment method, please email weegingerbook@yahoo.com


The failing campaign for a failing state

failure
Last night STV’s flagship politics show Scotland Tonight had a special feature on the This Islands conferencette in Newcastle. The programme was blurbed, “With rising opinion poll support for Scottish independence, how should those who want to preserve the UK respond?” There was no equivalent report on how those who want independence should respond. I was shocked, shocked I tell you. Never saw that coming. Nope. In the end the programme didn’t really tell us anything new, but then neither did the This Islands conference, so that was fair enough. It came from a strange parallel universe, where the Labour party in Scotland hadn’t been destroyed by going into alliance with the Tories in Better Together. It would appear that This Islands’ big idea to save the UK is to call Better Together by a different name in the hope that no one will notice.

Apparently 300 people attended the event. 60 of those there were speakers, there was an unknown number of journalists, which presumably left around 200 or so actual attendees in the half empty hall, some of whom would struggle to locate Scotland on a map. So it was very nice of STV to give this marginal organisation so much publicity. It would have been nicer still if STV had devoted similar time and resources to the Build conferences organised by the Scottish Independence Convention. Those conferences were actually held in Scotland, and attracted many more punters than This Islands could manage. However for some bizarre reason that no one can comprehend – no I can’t think of what it could be either – it’s thought that the Scottish public will be far more interested in attempts to resist independence than in attempts to achieve it.

For This Islands, division is something caused by other people. It’s blind to the English nationalist elephant in the room, because to admit to its existence would destroy the very myth that the organisation is founded upon, that rebranding English nationalism as Britishness somehow magically insulates the UK from English nationalism and it’s only the nationalisms of others which is problematic. Gordie Broon’s keynote speech entirely failed to mention the possibility that English nationalism or British nationalism could even exist. Instead he railed against something called Brexit nationalism. He even refused to acknowledge that British nationalists in Northern Ireland had anything to do with British nationalism, calling them “Ulster nationalists” in a pathetic attempt to absolve the British state from any responsibility.

The key to successful politics is to engage with society as it actually exists, not as you’d like it to be. On that criterion, These Islands has failed even before it’s started. The essential failure of opponents of Scottish independence is to give a credible answer to the question of what structures within the British state can protect Scotland from the malign effects of English nationalism. There are none, and for any to exist they must first attain majority support within an England which is already politically defined by the right wing Conservative resentment that gave us Brexit. The fundamental stumbling block for Scottish “Unionists” is that the greatest threat to unionism is England. England’s exceptionalism has no place for Scottish political distinctiveness.

Scotland, we were told, is one of the most divided countries in Europe. Cue hang wringing and condemnation of those vile nats who were to blamed for dividing Scotland by offering the prospect of a Scotland that’s confident, secure within itself, and where political choices are made by governments directly accountable to the people of Scotland. The solution to this division is not to have a political resolution through a referendum, the solution to these divisions is for those who see a different future for Scotland from the miserabilist vision on offer in These Islands to shut up and go away. That will solve it.

Instead we got Wullie Rennie telling the delegates that Scotland already has quite enough powers. There’s no need for a Scottish immigration policy, or Scottish powers over social security. Devolution has gone as far as it’s going to go. In doing so Wullie destroyed the tattered remnants of another of Better Together’s arguments from the last time round, the carrot in the form of a promise of a stronger Scottish Parliament. Not that anyone is going to believe another Vow.

We got speakers lining up to present graphs showing us how poor Scotland is, how hopeless, how inadequate. In the absence of a positive case for a Scotland remaining a part of Brexit Britain, we got a diet of fear and scaremongering. Tonight These Islands is gonna party like it’s 2014. Nowhere was there any recognition that a so-called union that can only be maintained by telling one of its constituent parts that it’s an economic basket case is a union that has failed on its own terms. A union that has reduced Scotland to poverty is a union that isn’t fit for purpose.

What the conference did display, albeit unwittingly, was the palpable and overwhelming fear amongst those attending of the possiblity of another Scottish independence referendum. Like many organisations which oppose independence, there was considerable focus on the past, on the supposed glories of shared history. The real reason that there’s so much focus on the past amongst supporters of the British state is because a British future has nothing to offer Scotland. Another referendum is a terrifying prospect for them, because they know that it’s supporters of the UK who have themselves destroyed the arguments deployed against Scottish independence the last time. They know that they have nothing to say, nothing new, nothing to offer. And it terrifies them.

A Brexit Britain can’t lecture supporters of Scottish independence about parochialism and nationalism. A Brexit Britain led by the populist Johnson with his extreme right wing Spads can’t lecture Scotland on the dangers of political extremism. A Brexit Britain that seeks a glorious isolation insulated by the delusion of English exceptionalism can’t lecture a European leaning Scotland on the need for unions with other nations. These Islands are a failing organisation trying desperately to prop up a failing state.


You can help to support this blog with a Paypal donation. Please log into Paypal.com and send a payment to the email address weegingerbook@yahoo.com. Or alternatively click the donate button. If you don’t have a Paypal account, just select “donate with card” after clicking the button.
Donate Button

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.


newbook My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.

You can order the book directly from the publisher. Ordering directly means that postage is free. You can order here –
https://www.vagabondvoices.co.uk/rants/barking-up-the-right-tree-2019

You can also order a book directly from me. The book costs £11.95 and P&P is an additional £3.50, making a total of £15.45. To order just make a Paypal payment to weegingerbook@yahoo.com, or alternatively use the DONATE button below. Please make sure to give me your postal address when ordering. Orders to be sent outwith the UK will incur extra postage costs, please email me for details. If you can’t use Paypal, or prefer an alternative payment method, please email weegingerbook@yahoo.com


Constructive obstruction

constructiveobstruction
Edinburgh MP Joanna Cherry has said that SNP MPs are routinely ignored in Westminster, and are impotent to do anything substantial to defend Scotland in the face of a Conservative government with an eighty seat majority. She cites this as one of the reasons why she’s throwing her hat into the ring as a potential SNP candidate for the Holyrood seat of Edinburgh Central which will be vacated by Ruth Davidson next year. Ruth is leaving politics to spend more time with her ego and her bank balance.

Other senior SNP figures such as Angus Robertson have also said that they’d like to be the SNP candidate for the seat. I’m not going to get into whether Joanna or Angus would be the better candidate for the SNP, I’m not a party member. However both of them are huge assets to the cause of independence, and both of them would be a huge asset in Holyrood. In an ideal world there would be some means found of ensuring that both of them could have seats in the Scottish Parliament. After all, there will be other MSPs who will most likely be standing down at the next Holyrood elections.

However it’s worth pointing out that when two heavyweight SNP politicians and their supporters start to brief against one another on social media, the only winner is British nationalism and its pals in a Scottish media which is always itching to highlight divisions within the SNP. So gaunnie no dae that. Jist gaunnie no. You’re not helping. Especially not at a time when others are doing their utmost to stir up divisions within the yes movement because their own personal agendas are more important than independence, and just before we’re about to weather a media shitstorm in the shape of an upcoming trial.

The role of SNP MPs at Westminster is a far more interesting question. Just what can a pro-independence MP achieve in a Parliament where Scottish representatives are heavily outnumbered, and where representatives of the Conservative majority routinely walk out of the chamber or heckly and barrack loudly whenever an SNP MP gets onto her or his feet. It’s not merely that the Conservatives have no interest in listening to the opinions of the vast majority of Scottish MPs, they want to ensure that we know that they are not interested in listening to them. In their overweening arrogance they don’t even bother with the pretence that the UK is a union of nations. If Scotland’s elected representatives are not supine and submissive, then they are to be treated with contempt in a very public manner.

Arguably, the SNP contingent was more powerful in the previous Westminster Parliament, despite the fact that it was smaller in numbers. In a hung parliament with a minority government, a determined bloc of 35 MPs could make a difference. It’s harder to make the case that a determined bloc of 48 independence supporting MPs – the 47 SNP MPs plus the independent Neil Hanvey – can make a difference when they’re up against a Conservative government with an overall majority of 80. The Tories know that too, and buoyed up by their landslide in England they’re in no mood to make any concessions to uppity Scots. They don’t need to care that in Scotland they stood on a platform of opposing another indyref and then lost over half their Scottish seats to the party demanding another referendum, and they don’t care. Scotland is merely an irritating noise in the House of Commons Chamber, a noise that can be drowned out with insults, or ignored with walk outs.

There are those who say that the SNP should boycott Westminster entirely. They point to the SNP walkout in June 2018 when the entire SNP contingent walked out of the Chamber in protest as Ian Blackford was ejected for refusing to sit down as he complained about the lack of time given to debate how Brexit would affect the devolution settlement. The walkout garnered huge publicity and a massive boost in the numbers of people signing up to join the SNP. It was seen at the time as a sign that the SNP was going to play hardball, and would make life difficult for the Conservative government. However that walkout proved to be a one off event, much to the disappointment of many within the independence movement.

SNP MPs could point out in response to calls to boycott Westminster that they were elected by their constituents to represent them in the House of Commons, and they’d be letting their constituencies down if they boycotted Westminster or persistently walked out. It’s a reasonable point. A lot of the work of the Commons goes on without the glare of publicity shone upon the main Chamber. There’s committee work, there’s constituency surgeries and interventions on behalf of constituents. It’s important that this important work where a difference can be made should not be thrown out with the dirty bathwater of the childish public schoolboyery that goes on in the Chamber.

However there are ways in which this important work which does have a positive impact can be protected and defended, while at the same time making a public statement that Scotland’s elected representives, and by extension the people who voted for them, will not tolerate the contempt with which they are treated by the Conservatives in the Commons. The Scottish national inferiority complex is a real thing, this nation has had long and deep discussions about the Cringe and its effect upon the psyches of countless people in Scotland. Witnessing our elected representatives being repeatedly mocked and insulted in the supreme seat of power in the UK only contributes to that psychological damage. If we seek to heal as a nation, if we seek to undo the damage done to us by hundreds of years of being culturally dominated and politically marginalised, one way to start is by adopting a policy of zero tolerance for those who refuse to show Scotland the respect that Scotland is due.

The arcane rules of the Commons allow Tory MPs to barrack and insult Scotland’s representatives. It seems logical that if the rules are stacked in your opponents’ favour, you should play by different rules. The rules of the Commons prohibit members from calling another member a liar, even when Boris Johnson blatantly lies. SNP MPs shouldn’t hesitate to call the lying liar a liar, and if that gets them removed from the Chamber it will merely publicise the fact that Boris Johnson is allowed to lie. There’s something seriously wrong with a rule book which thinks that calling someone a liar is a more serious offence than actually lying in the first place.

SNP MPs can show their disdain in many ways. It only takes a bit of imagination, and a willingness not to be bound by a rule book which sets up Scotland’s representatives for failure. They could stand and turn their backs on Johnson when he pontificates in the House. They could walk out at strategic moments. They can refuse to adhere to ridiculous rules such are not referring to other MPs by their names but instead as the “honourable member for Toryshire”. They could just call them by their surnames. They could refuse to refer to members of the Lords by the titles they insist upon. None of these things will change anything by themselves, but they send a signal that the SNP is not prepared to abide by the cosy regulations that sustain the British establishment. The key would be to find any means possible of being a nuisance, of showing that Scotland’s representatives are not prepared to play nicely with bullies. Adopt a policy of zero tolerance in Westminster, a policy of constructive obstruction.

SNP MPs could trawl that rule book for any obscure procedural device which could be used to embarrass or frustrate the Conservatives. They could seek out laws and regulations enabling legal action against the Tories. Even if a case is going to fail, the mere fact of starting it generates publicity and headlines. They could spend less time in the Chamber, and more time in Scotland, speaking about and publicising the ways in which Westminster is unfit for Scotland’s purpose. Above all, they can demonstrate that they have no intention of getting comfortable in Westminster.

Update 10pm: Just to add that Joanna Cherry has been in touch to point out that at no point has she briefed against Angus Robertson nor encouraged her followers to do so.  Am happy to clarify that point.


You can help to support this blog with a Paypal donation. Please log into Paypal.com and send a payment to the email address weegingerbook@yahoo.com. Or alternatively click the donate button. If you don’t have a Paypal account, just select “donate with card” after clicking the button.
Donate Button

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.


newbook My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.

You can order the book directly from the publisher. Ordering directly means that postage is free. You can order here –
https://www.vagabondvoices.co.uk/rants/barking-up-the-right-tree-2019

You can also order a book directly from me. The book costs £11.95 and P&P is an additional £3.50, making a total of £15.45. To order just make a Paypal payment to weegingerbook@yahoo.com, or alternatively use the DONATE button below. Please make sure to give me your postal address when ordering. Orders to be sent outwith the UK will incur extra postage costs, please email me for details. If you can’t use Paypal, or prefer an alternative payment method, please email weegingerbook@yahoo.com


Questions for Question Time

BBCQT
On Friday, the Conservative commentator Toby Young became the latest Brexit supporting Tory to express the wish that Ireland would leave the EU and “rejoin” the UK. Toby Young was roundly mocked on social media for his suggestion. However to be fair, Ireland leaving the EU and becoming a part of the UK again is not an entirely unpopular idea. It is a fact that there are millions of people who yearn for Ireland to leave the EU and become a part of the UK once more. It’s just that they’re all British nationalist Brexiteers living in England. In Ireland itself, the notion is about as popular as a massive plook on a prom night. Besides, Irish people will not unreasonably point out that it’s not really a question of Ireland rejoining the UK because Ireland never exactly joined the UK in the first place, more that it was despoiled, colonised, depopulated, and oppressed.

Toby Young proved that it is entirely possible for someone to know even less about the politics of Ireland than Darren Grimes. The ardent Brexiteer Darren went on the BBC’s Politics Live show last week to discuss the results of the Irish election, despite having extensively tweeting during the preceding week that he found it all terribly confusing and didn’t really understand what was going on. Although this is precisely the kind of expertise that both the BBC and Sky News prefer when it comes to discussions of Scottish politics.

I look forward to my own invitation onto BBC news to discuss the intricacies of electoral politics in Mongolia. Although I probably wouldn’t qualify since I can actually locate Ulan Bator on a map. Actually, I don’t qualify because I’m an independence supporter who doesn’t do British nationalists’ job for them by constantly attacking other independence supporters. That seems to be the main criterion for getting on the telly if you’re an independence supporting commentator in Scotland.

Meanwhile the BBC’s descent into face-palmery continues. We’ve all heard of Orange Jaiket Man and his claims that he received regular invites to the BBC Question Time audience. Some of you may also have heard of Alison Fuller-Pedley, the Question Time staffer who is apparently responsible for the audience selection. Back in 2016 Ms Fuller-Pedley was the object of some controversy when claims were made that she’d been sharing social media posts from the far-right group Britain First, had tweeted support of Vote Leave and had joined facebook group the “British Patriot Front”. The BBC claimed that she had shared these posts “unwittingly”. However here’s the rub, you cannot have a job doing political background checks on potential members of the audience in one of the BBC’s most important political programmes while claiming to be unaware of the context of social media posts by Britain First.

The Scottish editions of the programme regularly feature Conservative and other politicians in the audience whose political affiliations are not made clear to the viewers. The episode of the programme last year from Moray featured audience members who were former Conservative MSPs, and current members of the local Conservative party. One of them was recently forced to resign from the party after tweeting abuse about Nicola Sturgeon. If you wondered why when BBCQT went to the markedly left of centre and independence supporting city of Dundee the audience was full of posh Tories who supported Brexit, it seems that your suspicions were not unfounded. BBC QT audiences seem to be disproportionately full of Brexit supporters and opponents of independence. It’s not unreasonable to wonder if there’s a connection.

It is now being alleged that the woman whose racist rant from the QT audience last week was publicised by the BBC was in fact a known supporter of Stephen Laxley-Lennon, Britain First, and was once a National Front candidate. It’s further being alleged that the woman was invited onto the show by Alison Fuller-Pedley. If true, this destroys what little remains of the credibility of the programme, and a BBC which continues to support it.

BBC Question Time is presented to us as a serious political discussion programme, one of the few which features direct engagement with – supposedly – ordinary members of the public. However the programme’s production team are presenting it as a serious political discussion while at the same time structuring it as a click baiting entertainment show in which audience members with extreme views are deliberately sought out and featured. It’s a programme which no longer seeks to enlighten and inform, but to entertain and enrage. In doing so the producers are doing a great disservice to the viewers. The programme should be dumped from the schedules immediately. There is now a widespread perception that it has become a forum for the promotion of right wing British nationalist views, a toxic boil on the already disfigured face of British politics.

If the audience in a programme which travels to different towns and cities throughout the UK doesn’t accurately represent the views of those different towns and cities but rather the preferences and predelictions of its producers, then what’s the point of it? If a producer is skewing audience selection for the purposes of entertainment, we need to know because then we can adjust our expectations accordingly. If a producer is skewing audience selection for the purposes of promoting their own personal political agenda, that’s a bona fide scandal.

But it’s not just BBC Question Time which has questions to answer. Today on the Andrew Marr Show, the flagship political programme on BBC 1, one of the guests on the newspaper review was the Daily Mail journalist Sarah Vine. Now of course people should not be defined by who it is that they happen to be partnered to, but it’s a disservice to the viewers that it wasn’t pointed out that Ms Vine is the wife of Michael Gove. She used her appearance on Andrew Marr to lay into all and any criticism of her husband’s government. When she insisted that she didn’t believe allegations that some civil servants are being bullied by some government ministers, and told us what the relationship between ministers and civil servants was “really like”, she was leveraging her personal connection to a UK government minister. Her marriage then became germane and relevant to the discussion. Yet she was presented to us as an objective and disinterested observer.

Media companies with contracts with the BBC should not get to decide in secret who is allowed to speak on the only programme on the BBC which allows the public a mass political platform. If the BBC is serious about restoring trust, then transparency is a vital first step. If it is indeed true that the producers of Question Time deliberately sought out and publicised the views of a member of a far right extremist racist organisation, then this is not a BBC that anyone of a liberal, socialist, or social democratic persuasion could defend. It is an organisation which is unfit for purpose, and which is contributing to the descent of the British body politic into a cancerous malignity.


You can help to support this blog with a Paypal donation. Please log into Paypal.com and send a payment to the email address weegingerbook@yahoo.com. Or alternatively click the donate button. If you don’t have a Paypal account, just select “donate with card” after clicking the button.
Donate Button

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.


newbook My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.

You can order the book directly from the publisher. Ordering directly means that postage is free. You can order here –
https://www.vagabondvoices.co.uk/rants/barking-up-the-right-tree-2019

You can also order a book directly from me. The book costs £11.95 and P&P is an additional £3.50, making a total of £15.45. To order just make a Paypal payment to weegingerbook@yahoo.com, or alternatively use the DONATE button below. Please make sure to give me your postal address when ordering. Orders to be sent outwith the UK will incur extra postage costs, please email me for details. If you can’t use Paypal, or prefer an alternative payment method, please email weegingerbook@yahoo.com