It’s good to talk

A guest post by Samuel Miller

When I sat down to have my final rant before our host gets back, I had this idea of highlighting and talking about of the latest dubious Labour and Conservative press releases on the Scottish budget. Y’know, the ones  where they claim that the Scottish Government has ripped £327 million away from local authorities and that a tax freeze has magically morphed into a tax hike, but I’m not going to do that. I’ll do exactly as I said I would in my last post and let the experts handle that one.

You see, when I sat down and started gathering the usual quotes and links and such, I started laughing. Couldn’t stop really. I simply marveled at the acres of hypocritical bullshittery a few simple clicks of your average pad or mouse could bring to your view. How impossible it is for the establishment parties to hide the latest policy reversal or a gaff in today’s modern communications and media environment.

The most prominent recent example of course, is the sheer acreage of column space devoted to the selling point of the ‘most powerful devolved parliament in the world’. A parly with the most sooperdooper raft of powers to fix everything from that annoying leak under your sink to the total reversal of Tory austerity policy and the economic omnishambles that is Brexitmageddon. Yet only recently we’ve been told by Labour in Scotland that what is really, really, really required is a really, real move toward a federal UK…REALLY!

We’re also well aware by this point of Mr Mundell’s often quoted sound bite on our current devolution settlement.  “As a result, the Scottish Parliament will become one of the most powerful devolved parliaments in the world.” David Mundell MP

Zattafac Mac? How does that statement measure up in practice when the constitutional and economic poop hits the fan, as it has over Brexit? Does the Scottish electorate have a powerful parly, which is regarded as an equal, valued and respected partner?

Not according to the case put forward by Lord Keen on behalf of the Westminster government in the Supreme Court just recently. He appeared quite certain of just what constitutional status and powers Scotland has within the better togetherest union in the history of unions. According to Mr Keen the Sewel convention is a mere serving suggestion and the Royal prerogative trumps any and all notion that the people of Scotland or their parly have a say in much of anything.

Or perhaps we could ask their gaffer, Prime Minister May and ask what she thinks about Scotland’s parliament, its powers, how its opinion may be regarded over important constitutional issues: “Because we voted in the referendum as one United Kingdom, we will negotiate as one United Kingdom, and we will leave the European Union as one United Kingdom.  There is no opt-out from Brexit.  And I will never allow divisive nationalists to undermine the precious Union between the four nations of our United Kingdom.” (‘divisive nationalists’ – EPIC LOL)

Maybe not, eh? Best leave it lie.

As I say, a few clicks and you are deluged by a flood of contradictory, misleading and oft times, just plain deliberately confusing bumf. So what powers do we have? Is there a line in the sand? Is the settlement THE settlement, or isn’t it? Is our parliament powerful and near autonomous in a union of equals, or powerless and requiring more powers to become more, but still not quite, equal? Not a week goes by without a U-turn (partial or full fat), a flip or a comical attempt to square a circle and shoe horn one ill-fitting narrative onto another. If you didn’t laugh at the day-to-day of ‘politics as it is practised’ you’d burst into tears of frustration.

Just to be absolutely clear though, a quick recap of the general thrust. We have the most powerful devolved parliament in the world, which is part of the oldest, most successful political union and ‘family’ of nations ever. Righto then.

It may be helpful however, if someone in heid office W1 could please explain a few things, because the mixed messages we’re getting from your branch offices and the meeja aren’t terribly clear. Ta much.

Whilst they’re at it, if we are an equal nation partner, maybe they could clear up just why a nation doesn’t get to freely set its own fiscal policy in its entirety, have its own broadcast media, choose its own foreign policy? Why can’t it freely decide which unions and treaties it prefers to keep, or how they choose to keep and honour those treaties? ‘Cause, y’know, that’s what an empowered parliament, an empowered government and an empowered people get to do. I mean we saw only recently (see under EU referendum), a parliament freely decide to hold a referendum on significant constitutional change and I don’t recall them asking the EU for special permission. Just a thought.

Common sense should at this point tell the reader exactly just how ’empowered’ Holyrood really is. In the face of the constitutional and economic challenges thrown up by the political upheavals of 2016, it appears oor parly is perhaps looking decidedly under powered and constrained at this point. The queries above are rhetorical to be fair, for the answers are out there and easily accessible to all.

That is the power of modern communication though, isn’t it?  It’s why people don’t have to simply take for granted an unquestioned narrative spoon fed to them through, let’s face it, a fairly corporately and politically invested mainstream media anymore. When a story appears, a world of knowledge is merely a click or two away. The basis for a story can be examined, along with facts, figures, context, extenuating circumstances and either confirmed or ruled out. A policy wonk’s nightmare.

There is of course another aspect of modern communication which is particularly unhelpful to those and such as those. Near instant communication between people.

In other words, you lot being chatty!

You and how you communicate with others make the real difference. Access to a library of facts and opinion coupled with an active and engaged population who can instantly disseminate what they find in equally rapid fashion. Indeed it’s not uncommon these days to find stories can literally be verified or debunked before the ink is dry on the hard copy publication. You can chat across the interwebby, social meeja, yer soopersmertphone thingies in a heartbeat. You even discovered that it was possible to come together and create a new media which reflects your opinion and gives you access to the wealth of expertise, talent and life experience of others.

Who knew that people being curious, interested and engaged could effect so much change? People willing to reach out, sharing ideas and opinion… talking.

Amazing really.

As I said above, this will be my last post before our host returns. I’d like to take the opportunity to thank readers for their visits and their kind comments. I’d also like to take the opportunity to wish everyone the very best for the festive period. A Merry Christmas and Happy New year one and all.

Another day at the office

A guest post by Samuel Miller

Look, I know some readers may want to hear some hugely technical and in-depth feedback on yesterday’s budget, but that’s not really going to happen m’kay? Seein’ as how I am to budgets, what Shrek is to ballet, I reckon its best to leave that one to the experts. However, I can sum up the proceedings in short order and NO, you don’t need a master’s degree in economics to follow what happened.

The SNP government did what they pretty much said they were going to do in their manifesto with the higher rate, which was…wait for it… nothing.

“We will not implement the tax cut proposed by the Tories through the increase in the Higher Rate threshold. Instead, we will freeze the Higher Rate threshold in real terms in 2017/18 and increase it by a maximum of inflation until 2021/22. We will set out the exact level of the Higher Rate threshold each year in the budget process.” SNP 2016 Manifesto

Freezing a tax IS NOT hiking a tax. That of course hasn’t stopped the Conservative party from trying to sell it as such, but then this is a party not terribly well-known for its honesty at best of times. Oh, and sections of oor meeja haven’t covered themselves in glory on that point either.

Ruth Davidson apparently had the mother and father of all car crash FMQs with an embarrassment factor which may have reached all the way up to toe curling (ooft!). Finally, this from Reform Scotland who put it far more succinctly and with less swerry wurds than I would:

‘BACKGROUND… on tax
The Scotland Act 2012 devolved 10p of income tax across all bands to the Scottish Parliament (the Scottish Rate of Income Tax). This comes into effect from 2016/17. The proposed Scotland Bill 2015/16 will devolve the rest of income tax to Scotland, in addition to Air Passenger Duty and Aggregates Levy (we have not included any assigned revenue from VAT as control over the tax has not been devolved).

However, despite this, the Scottish Parliament will control less than 30% of all tax income raised in Scotland.

More importantly, 71% of all tax revenue raised by the Scottish Parliament will come from a single source – Income Tax.

Reform Scotland believes that with tax income so overly reliant on a single tax, it is likely to be impossible to introduce coherent tax reform that would encourage economic growth. It is a blunt tool, and therefore further devolution is required.’

In short, why would the Scottish Government fall into the ridiculous tax bear trap laid out by a Tory government in the Scotland Bill settlement? Why would a Scottish Government pass on the effects of austerity ideology and the Brexit galactostooshie brought about by the actions of successive UK governments, unless and until it had absolutely no other options to hand? Why should the Scottish electorate constantly pay for the screw ups of central government and why oh why should the devolved government in Holyrood constantly have to mitigate and offset? Because Ruth and Kezia say so? Is that it?

So much for the current Conservative and Labour meme of ‘no more excuses’. I’d like to know what Ruth and Kezia’s excuse is for constantly demanding that their own electorate pay for their head office’s lemming like predilection for clown footed political and economic idiocy? Would make for an interesting read. ‘Most powerful devolved parliament in the world’…..(mutters)

Moving on…

It’s always what’s not reported well by the press which may have the biggest impact isn’t it? Take the other day for example. It turns out that Scotland’s former First Minister, Alicsammin (TM), had a short meeting with one Jean-Claude Junker, President of the European Commission. That would be the commission which has just been put in charge of Brexit talks I believe. This of course, was prior to a function where Mr Salmond received the inaugural Mauritis Coppieters award for services to Scotland in Europe. In fact, as far as I know, only one title saw fit to make the event front page news.

A direct quote from Mr Junker: “Scotland has earned the right to be heard and listened to”

Now bearing in mind both the EU’s stance on pre negotiation over Brexit and the UK government’s stance on Scotland, devolution, Brexit consultation and pretty much everything else? I’m sure the reader can reach their own conclusions on what that may mean. It’s also worth noting that on the world stage, words by ‘serious’ senior political figures are chosen very, very carefully indeed.

The award ceremony speech didn’t miss an’ hit the wa’ either and if the reader has a moment to spare, it’s perhaps worth listening to what Mr Salmond had to say:

HERE

Remember those heady days when some folks guffawed at the very idea of Scottish Government visitations to the various EU bodies post Brexit vote? Aye, they thought that meeting officials on varying panels and committees was quite the laugh. I mean it’s not as if they were heads of state or anything, right? In fact, remember those now far off indyref days where policy wonks and meeja metro types queued up to spin anything and everything uttered by an EU official into an indy bad article? AND NOW?

Near deafening silence.

Perhaps, just perhaps, those efforts by the current Scottish Government on our behalf weren’t wasted after all?

Hunting season

A guest post by Samuel Miller

A few questions on a disturbing phenomenon which only the reader can answer in the privacy of their own thoughts.

How has it come to this? What curse do ordinary people live under that we have to put up with the metric tonnes of what seems to be utter bullshit, fed to us by toxic politics and an ever more toxic media?

When did it become acceptable to hound and hunt people as a political strategy? To ‘claim scalps’ (is that the term?), make their lives and by extension ours, a living nightmare of sound bite statements, cherry picked factoids, half-truths, manipulation and misdirection?

When did we allow politicians and the media to talk to us in the way that they do? Is it possible we became so lazy, so apathetic, so disenfranchised that we allowed others to do our thinking for us? To make decisions for us? And when things go wrong, or even when they haven’t, to tell us who to blame?

That does make it easier though, doesn’t it? Having a finger pointed for us so that we know who to hate, or punish. Takes away that whole responsibility for individual thought thing. Worse, or perhaps better depending on your point of view, it takes away the public’s collective responsibility. Makes us feel a bit better about hating the stranger, the other tribe, the benefit scrounger, the immigrant, the furriner, the sweaty whinger in Holyrood.

I’m sure most readers of this site are only too familiar with media campaign rhetoric generated in last year’s general election. Who could forget ‘Tartan Stalinists’, ‘What a McMess’ or ‘The most dangerous woman in Britain’? Clearly we all identify with Stalinism, dangerous wummin and political carnage in Scotland (sigh). My own personal favourite and possibly the most classic/infamous example of media and political attempts to influence opinion (which happily went totally south), remains ‘Frenchgate’.

I mean, if you’re struggling for examples of the phenomenon, simply Google this: ‘Sturgeon slapped down’ (kicked, hammered, blasted works equally well), or perhaps this ‘Fury over SNP’, or simply even ‘Salmond’ (pretty much anything Salmond). If you really want to have sleepless nights, try these – Benefits Scrounger or Hard on Immigration.

As a more recent example – Scottish Transport Minister Humza Yousaf’s current political and media woes, are apparently the latest in a very long and very tiresome line of such antics. Again, a simple search for Mr Yousaf under ‘News’ (steady now), and the blaring headlines which will greet your search, will tell you all you need to know about the sheer amount of column space which can be dedicated to a subject when both political opponents and the meeja get the bit between their teeth. Fair enough as far as it goes. He is, after all, a public figure in a position of responsibility.

To be honest, I have no idea about rail services in the Uk today and its been a long time since I’ve used them t’boot. It may even be the case that some criticism is warranted (shrugs), but blanket coverage for weeks on end? Seriously? Has the entire structure of Scotland’s rail network collapsed? From the coverage given you’d think so. I can however confirm (by looking oot the windae), that no major extinction level meteors have struck Scotland in, ooooh, at least the past several months and that our transport infrastructure still appears reasonably intact.

If I were the average reader at this point, or perhaps a journalist (shudders), I’d maybe research an expert or two and ascertain their opinion. If I were interested enough that is. Also as an engaged reader, and in absence of such information, I’d maybe cast my eyes about for other stories on the subject matter to try to provide some comparison, perspective, context or balance.

For instance, I hear that rail services in England are currently having their own woes and yet I see a somewhat skewed percentage of titles being hyper critical of PM May’s Transport Minister, Chris Grayling. That’s pretty much a ‘red flag’ moment right there you’d think?

It appears however, that some in the new media arena are willing to ask the questions we should all be seeking answers to and even provide some of that sourced evidence stuff. Which seems to me, to be a fairly sensible and logical way to go about things and how perhaps this whole informing and enlightening the public should work.

Back to the general thrust of the subject in hand though. Another question or two may occur to the reader at this point. Just how many scalps have been gathered and how many careers have been made or ruined on the back of this fairly savage political and media environment over the years? How many justly and more importantly, how many needlessly? Quite scary stuff really, when you do start to think about it.

Before the finger-pointing, before the hounding, before calling for resignations, there should be the questions. There should be critical analysis and there should be a weighing of evidence gathered. It should be a lorry load of information with context and possible extenuating circumstances present and/or accounted for. It should be innocent till proven guilty. It should be,…but apparently it’s not.

If you were a bit leery of some folks motives in the meeja, and it’s a safe bet that supporters of an independent Scottish parliament have some reason to be, you could say it’s perhaps needlessly inflammatory headlines. It’s the barely and oft-times, completely unsubstantiated sound bite (see under Frenchgate). It’s politics and it’s agenda. It’s innuendo and character assassination. It’s calculation and strategy. It’s the self-interested and deliberate directing and management of public opinion. If you were leery like.

More depressingly though, it’s seems to be always hunting season. There is always some scalp that someone wants for whatever reason and whatever the cost.

A never-ending hunting season where political and vested media interest do the hunting and the public are perennially used as their hounds.

You can start having those private thoughts now.

A matter of pride

A guest post by Samuel Miller

I see both Mr Brown and Mr Darling have endorsed Kezia Dugdale’s musings on a constitutional convention and a call for movement toward some ambiguous form of federalism then. This in spite of the fact that the recent government submission in the Supreme Court kinda casts our ‘devolution journey’ and our political relationship within the union in an entirely different light. We’ve covered why we think that may have not been the best timed intervention on the subject of devolution previously, so we’ll leave that aspect where it lies shall we?

Still, some of Ms Dugdales comments did have one or two laugh/cry out loud lines worth mentioning and considering a little further.

“More than two years on, those of us who fought for the UK shouldn’t be embarrassed about winning – we should be proud.” Kezia Dugdale (Fair enough)

There were of course other classic gems by Ms Dugdale such as this beaut: “I was proud because it was a Labour argument I was making.” That would be a Labour argument enhanced by a Conservative/Libdem government, enabled by a somewhat helpful amount of Westminster machinery, promoted with only the bestest astroturf window dressing money could buy (or bus in) and megaphoned the length and breadth of the UK by an extremely helpful mainstream media. Righto then.

Or this:

The UK provides the redistribution of wealth that defines our entire Labour movement and it provides the protection  for public finance in Scotland that comes from being part of something larger.”

Redistribution of wealth ye say? Jings! And don’t get me started on ‘protection for public finance’ after the detriment/no detriment fiasco that came with the Scotland Bill settlement and several successive and catastrophic austerity driven budgets. Oh and whisper it quietly… Brexit and fiscal reset. (shudders)

“Something good. Something worth fighting for.”  (NOW THAT really is purely in the eye of the beholder at this point)

Still and all, its nice of Ms Dugdale to note that the UK togetherness she campaigned for, including the Scotland Bill settlement, which she has just generously declared proud part ownership for (she’s still proud of winning right?), isn’t apparently settled at all. Who knew?

One wee questionette. Just for the sake of clarity, are we now to believe that we don’t have the most powerful devolved parly in the world and that the ‘VOW delivered’ isn’t really fit for purpose? Surely not, I hear you say. (cough)

But that’s enough laughs for one post I think.

Firstly, let me be perfectly clear that those ordinary folks who campaigned for and those who simply voted for, a no vote in 2014 should not be ’embarrassed’ about participating in such a historic ballot. In our politics, as in anything else, we can disagree, we can argue, we can hold a massive diversity of varying viewpoints and then we can make a choice. This IS a democracy and freedom of choice is an inalienable right of our electorate. NOTHING is more precious than having and enjoying the freedom to choose. We are also however, by the same token of such rights and freedoms, free to change our minds as and when new information is made available, or events dictate or necessitate a change in our viewpoint.

Sometimes when we make the big choices we get lucky and things work out for the best. Sometimes however, that choice carries unfortunate consequences we did not foresee and/or we may come to regret. Sometimes our choices are misinformed, or coloured by poor or misleading information. Information from people or institutions we may, upon a time, have held in some regard or with a degree of trust. For those who feel the period since September 2014 hasn’t gone swimmingly, or that the promised Betterthegitherland hasn’t exactly turned out as billed? Well that would be one of those times where the aforementioned rights and freedoms come in handy. As for being embarrassed about winning? I don’t think embarrassment is exactly what some voters may be feeling about now.

2016 anyone?

Now we come to those who should be embarrassed at the nature of their ‘win’. No, scratch that. We’re going beyond embarrassed to utterly bloody ashamed of themselves. Had they any empathy or sense of conscience, they’d be walking around the centre of every city, every town, every village in Scotland wearing sack cloth and ashes begging forgiveness of ALL Scotland’s electorate.

We speak, of course, of the orchestrators of the Better Together campaign, the leaders and politicians of the affiliated political parties, their heid office counterparts in Westminster and the massed weight of the UK meeja.

The propaganda war they waged in Scotland during the independence referendum of 2014 was beyond appalling. In my view it was reckless, dangerous and shameful in the extreme. I’d say the narrative they unleashed and indeed which continues in use to this very day, didn’t just divide people politically, but appeared fully intended to divide a society/vote in any way that would protect the integrity of the system of government and party affiliations they served.

In the post indyref period, the infamous Project Fear has been well dissected, discussed, documented and now, ghoulishly, emulated  as a political strategy. Even during the referendum it came under fire as being deliberately one of the most negative, divisive and harmful campaign strategies ever conceived. So, embarrassed? I don’t think that word covers what those responsible should be feeling. The truly sad part is, they’re not. Not in the slightest. As professional sharks in suits, they probably are quite proud of what they achieved. The collateral societal damage? A mere bagatelle, I think you’ll find. After all, a win IS a win, yes?

These… individuals… (Look I’m struggling to be diplomatic, RIGHT?) took what should have been a people’s referendum and turned it into a party political beauty contest. They personalised our referendum and made the primary focus of their whole sorry strategy the demonization of the SNP government and Alex Salmond in particular. What those people went through and indeed continue to go through, at the hands of establishment parties and the media? No one should. As for tarred by association? The entire YES movement was subjected to that treatment. We were supposed to feel what? Guilt and shame for supporting the principles self-determination, independence, choice?

I don’t bloody think so! Not now and not ever!

The positivity and enthusiasm of the grassroots YES movement, then as now, is a source of pride as far as I’m concerned. The passion, the humour, the sense of inclusion and family (always looking to get bigger). It’s all still there y’know. There may be a few sad memories and some hard lessons learnt from the past two years, but still and all their continued engagement is nothing short of amazing and surely, SURELY to be applauded.

In the main, the electorate of Scotland should not be embarrassed in the slightest. No, that embarrassment, that shame lies elsewhere. In terms of participation and voter turnout, no more could be asked of the electorate. For that alone, the vast majority of voters on BOTH sides of the debate should be rightly and immensely proud.

Long may that level of engagement continue. I suspect its going to be needed.

A big boy did it… a cautionary tale.

A guest post by Samuel Miller

You’d think they’d learn by this point wouldn’t you? Politics by sound bite and policy by media forum has worked out so wonderfully well for the peoples of the UK. Manipulating and driving the opinion of the masses using dog whistle, short termist strategies and the politics of expediency. Nothing has done more to divide our society, break the chains of trust in our public institutions and send levels of societal trust in each other back to the stone age than the freakish love affair between our meeja and the political class. ‘Course its all about the ‘R’ word y’know? The word they whisper in the darkest corners of the darkest cludjies in Westminster…

…RESPONSIBILITY

When pooh hits the fan in politics, as it has big time over the ongoing galactostooshie that is Brexit, then the ‘go to strategy’ (as always), is deflection and/or projection. A casual scan of the pages of the right-wing media in particular over the course of 2016 is a depressing lesson in living colour of both. No one and I do mean NO ONE, wants to own responsibility for what is shaping up to be the worst bout of political, economic and societal self harm in the UKs recent history.

AN EXAMPLE –

It came as a surprise to me to find out over the course of the summer and autumn, that the EU will seek to punish the UK for its Brexit vote. Instant early doors response on first encountering this phenomenon was along the lines of … Whit?

(Needless to say, the list of such articles is endless, so we’re going with one link OK? Also, I don’t have enough eye bleach to hand to go wading and archiving through the likes of the usual suspects.)

Aye, it turns out (after a bit of reading) that those furren devils are going to punish the UK for opting to leave the EU by the nefarious means of not changing their own charter to suit the UKs needs. Seems they’re intent on, y’know, sticking to the club rules n’ such. Those being – You don’t enjoy membership privileges if you’re no longer a member. Oh, the infamy! Oh, the irony!

But just to recap – The Uk, without any requirement to ask the permission of Brussels by the by, decides it wants to hold a referendum to determine whether they wish to exit the EU or not. The EU basically says… Are you sure about this? The UK says… Ayup! The EU replies…Well ok then, if you’re sure.

(We’ll ignore the whole whys, wherefores and Tory power play, pissing contest kerfuffle for the sake of brevity at this point.)

There then follows one of the most dismal and shameful campaigns in UK electoral history. It was like watching two BT campaigns on steroids tear into each other and compete to see who could tell the biggest lie, terrify the most people, or get the biggest scare on the day. Safe to say that the UK’s political process did not come out of this covered in glory. TRULY  AWFUL!

Anyroads, unsurprisingly after decades of media manipulation and political deflection tactics, the almost inevitable happens and the rest is very recent history. Stunned shock engulfs a fair chunk of the political class and both the party of government and their ‘honourable’ opposition decide NOW is the time to indulge in some freeform backstabbing for a few months. The meeja commentariat meanwhile go into meltdown, the pound falls off a cliff and sections of the financial sector start wearing underpants on their heads and run around in blind panic looking for capital flight strategies. Fear, anger, uncertainty and doubt grip the public to become the order of the day and decades of negative politics and idiotic media narrative become a runaway train.

The tactics, the language used by the politicians and overly invested media, it was all too familiar to me and I’m sure to readers of this site. More to the point, the impact on the public from those tactics all too predictable. So…, cause and effect? Wrongful punishment? All depends on the bill of goods being sold and who needs their arse or collective arses hauled out of the coals really. You decide.

Brexit and Indyref1 are prime examples of what happens when politicians and the more politically compromised sections of the media deploy the well-worn tactics of manipulation followed by deflection in search of particular agenda or advantage.

When a situation is perceived to go south big time, the general theme will ALWAYS be the same in every release, and in every medium on such occasions. The volume will be turned up or down depending on the political investment of the organ of choice, but it’s always going to be the ‘go to strategy’ – In case of emergency, break glass and deflect or project. Rewrite history 101 for dummies and the cycle of abuse continues.

Politics and the media. A symbiotic relationship where each feeds off the other and the waste they produce can poison populations. Today’s UK is their creation, no doubt about it.  Sadly, the public, whether unwillingly or willingly, played their part too. They need us you see, to underwrite their actions.

It was a big boy did it and ran away.

No, it really wasn’t.

Here is a quick reminder of something I wrote a few months back:

“The written word is powerful. People can be moved to acts of great kindness and humanitarian aid, or they can be moved to acts of intolerance and great inhumanity. They can be motivated to feel true empathy, humour, regret, hope, aspiration even. Or they can be made to feel doubt, uncertainty, anger, fear and hatred. In the hands of a true wordsmith it is a tool or a weapon that can influence the emotions and opinions of individuals and populations alike for good or ill.

The medium of newsprint is a tool, as are radios, TVs, tablets, laptops etc. They lie there harmless to all until someone starts to speak to you through them. It is the intent of the user, the nature of the platform from which they speak, which determines whether they remain tools, or become weapons.

THAT is the power of the media.”

And don’t the political establishment just know it?

So why go over this well discussed history now, I hear you ask? Simply bear this all in mind as January and the Supreme Court ruling rolls into view. I suspect that what follows shortly thereafter will make 2016’s media output look like a dog and pony show as the next chapter of Brexit unfolds. Watching carefully what our politicians and the media say and HOW they say/sell it in the coming months will never be more important.

This is the week

A guest post by Samuel Miller

This is the week where Government, political class, nations and their electorates divided in a court room. This is the week where Scotland found out the true meaning of devolution, better togetherness, pooling and sharing and the nature of political union under the ‘Mother of Parliaments’.

This is the week where Gordon Brown’s carpet cruising vision was finally put to rest as it met with the reality that is the United Kingdom establishment. A quick refresher from 2014 –

“We’re going to be, within a year or two, as close to a federal state as you can be in a country where one nation is 85 per cent of the population.” (Yeah ‘country’ I know, but he said it not me, OK?)

“There is now an all party agreement that they will bring in big changes after the referendum. I believe that there is no alternative but to introduce these changes, which would be taxation powers for the parliament.” (Epic LOL!)

“It would mean that there would never be anything like a poll tax or a bedroom tax or rail privatisation imposed on Scotland against its will. There is a mood that too much power rests in London” but that this is about to change.” Gordon Brown (UH HUH!)

Spookily, HMG and Lord Keen, (HMGs chief counsel for the stomping of rowdy neighbours), disagrees with Mr Broon’s devovision and assurances. As covered by this site only yesterday, in exceptionally colourful and easily understandable detail, the government’s stance is basically that devolution means ‘dae as yer telt’. The Scotland act, the Sewel Convention, the Smith Commission, Scotland Bill debates, the most powerful devolved parliament in the world (if not the universe). ALL of that nonsensical bill of goods sold to the Scottish electorate, boils down to so much empty rhetoric and stage dressing so far as Westminster government is concerned.

To those who voted no last time out and may now be regular readers, its worth bearing in mind that however deluded the former PMs pledges and assurances were, he was a former PM. He also had the weight of the UKs media behind him to sell this bullshittery to the electorate and the tacit compliance of the then party leaders and current Prime Minister. None of whom, by the by, saw fit to correct Mr Broon or enlighten the public as he paced holes in carpets and gesticulated theatrically to terrified pensioners and rent a crowds the length and breadth of his ego. It was a hard sell on a truly massive scale. It had to be.

So in this week of ALL weeks, why oh why does Labour in Scotland’s Kezia Dugdale think its a good idea to have a ‘major’ speech on devolution and a federal solution? Clearly Ms Dugdale didn’t get the memo from HMG, or perhaps doesn’t understand the nature of devolution? Mibbies she disnae huv a telly or read the papers? In any event, an epic example of political naivety, truly bad timing and utter pointlessness.

To quote another famous Labour ‘big beast’, Jack Straw, on the matter of devolution and devolved legislation:

“English MPs control all the money which Scotland receives – is that ‘fair’? England constitutes 85% of the UK’s population and 87% of its wealth. It was English MPs who agreed to devolve some powers to Scotland in a Westminster Act of Parliament; but year by year controls over public spending levels for all of the UK continue to be exercised by Westminster. And power devolved is power retained, not ceded.

We’re all perfectly clear on the matter of devolution, power and the union at this point, yes?

So where am I going with this? Well to be blunt, people needed to hear it. They needed to hear from Westminster governments’ own lips the truth of devolution and the union. This is about understanding the nature of a thing. The why and the how of it.

Back in 2014 a good many folks in the pro independence camp argued themselves hoarse that THIS is where our devolution ‘journey’ was headed. Commentators, campaigners and supporters alike were shouted down by the mainstream media and establishment political class. They controlled the narrative and the messenger (shrugs). There wasn’t a title or broadcast channel that didn’t carry pro union commentators and pundits waxing lyrical about the idea that if Scotland voted no, devolution to the max and near if not actual federalism was where we were headed. They sold people on the concept of an offer which never was and never could be on the table. The narrative was deliberate. It was calculated. It was misleading. (and I’m being kind in that description)

Well, the reality couldn’t have been made any clearer on Tuesday by HMGs own counsel no less. Power devolved, really is power retained and not ceded. Westminster ‘ALLOWS’ the Scottish parliament to exist. Its powers now as then, are in the ‘gift’ of Westminster government and legislation. What can be gifted, can be amended or taken away on a whim. When Scottish democratic mandate or legislation doesn’t suit, as in this case? Technically they can be utterly ignored and the democratic deficit that is when the reality of UK politics is made manifestly clear.

THAT is the true cost of a NO vote from 2014. Your choices, your rights, your mandate, your voices ignored because they don’t suit the agenda of central government, or their political needs. Devolution does not work for Scotland, because it was never intended to work for Scotland. It was always intended to work for central government. (see under Jack Straw)

This is the week we found out that the truth of the union, is that there is no union. There is no partnership, equal or otherwise. There is no family of nations, not on the political level and never was, only a means of asset management and crowd control. A long chain which Westminster may have called devolution, but still a chain for all that.

Now the good news.

That chain can be yanked in two directions. In fact in the right circumstance, as two years ago, it can be broken altogether. The laws, the procedures, the legislative bodies, the national and international precedents which brought about indyref 1 are still relevant today. The UN charter still recognises a population’s right to self determination and no one, not President, Prime Minister, First Minister or meeja mogul can deny the Scottish electorate their inalienable right to choose.

If you want your vote, your mandate, your basic human rights to matter, then by now you know what to do. Should the opportunity arise and our ‘devolved’ government in Holyrood asks the question? You and only you can mandate them to become our national government. To go from being a nation in a one sided union where your vote is regarded as an irrelevance, to once again become a nation state where that vote decides the nature of your government.

This could be the week you decided to have your voice heard.

P.S. As an excellent dissection of the ‘devolution journey’, you can’t do better than this link to Wings.

It’s quiet…too quiet

A guest post by Samuel Miller

Other than the daily white noise of Essenpee badness, has anyone else noticed the lack of serious political news out there? Maybe we all got spoiled in May, June and July when daily we were bombarded with the Scottish elections, EU referendum and the Brexit result fallout. As for the effects of the latter on her majesty’s guv and their ‘honourable’ opposition? Popcorn sales shot through the roof in Scotland as the Conservative and Labour parties serialized the political equivalent of the latest summer disaster movie.

The grand Tory pissing contest of Brexitmageddon had everything a Hollywood producer could ask for as lead characters and parties were thrown into full on chaos. You didn’t dare leave your screen, even for a pee break, as resignations, back stabbings, retirements, sackings, abdications and coronations flew everywhere and seemingly all at once. And now? Now it’s so quiet out there… you could hear a fish fart.

Cue the traditional silly season of ‘news’.

Oor meeja (bless em), presenting a daily diet of stories constructed from ingredients so thin you’d struggle to come up with an appetizer, let alone a three course meal. ‘Course that doesn’t mean that nothing is happening out there, simply that it’s being carefully managed and the government press office have their cell phones on mute. As readers will recall, we’ve recently theorized why both Prime Minister Theresa May and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon need time on their side right about now. It’s a safe bet to say, that however quiet it appears to be, governments north and south of the border are more than likely a hive of activity. The clock is ticking down and between you and me I’m guessing it’s PM May who is feeling that autumn is approaching way too quickly for comfort.

We may not know when article 50 and the ongoing omnishambles that is Brexit negotiations will be enacted, but we do know that the autumn budget isn’t that far off. Philip Hammond’s ‘fiscal reset’ will be the public’s first clue as to the immediate future of the UK’s economy post referendum and for many it may well prove a cold hard shock to the system. Not so much of a shock for anyone familiar with Conservative austerity ideology or its effects to be sure, but I’m guessing that’s all about to change. For some folks out there it’s probably a good day to make sure you’re sitting comfortably with all breakable objects of any value safely out of reach.

The one bright light on the horizon for the PM is that Labour’s leadership stooshie should overlap this impending ‘bad day at work’ quite nicely. Readers are well aware by this point of the struggle between the two factions for the soul of the Labour party. Depending on how the leadership vote unfolds and concludes, there is a very real  possibility that the Labour party, as we know it, will face a darker and longer night in the wilderness than anyone could have possibly imagined. If some permanent schism does occur? I’d be stunned if titles supportive of Conservative government didn’t hit the rinse and repeat button messily and all over the place right through Mr Hammond’s autumn budget statement.

So what is the one thing common to all of the above and how is it pertinent to Scotland and the readers of this site?

That’s right! No one in Scotland, not in the street or in public service, has any say or control over party and parliamentary events that will have very real consequences for all of us. The party of government and their loyal opposition are probably in the middle of the worst legislative systemic failure in the UK’s post war political record and the Scottish electorate basically have to wait for them to get their collective shit together.

Or do we?

We know the Scottish government have been busy on the Brexit front. They have assembled their committee for assessing options. They’ve hit the road consulting with relevant bodies in Europe and they’ve set in motion preparations for an indyref bill  (just in case). First Minister Sturgeon has recently held a Q&A session with EU nationals to keep those concerned as appraised of the ongoing situation as possible and the SG have even scraped together a few quid from last year’s underspend to help out the economy. No, it’ll be nowhere near enough in the end, but if it saves just one business, one job?  They are now however, at that point where they are restricted in actions they can take as a government until Brexit is actually triggered.

What of Scotland’s electorate?

Well, those who continue to support the current political union and the Westminster system of government will have to simply sit on their hands and hope for the best. That’s pretty much all they can do.

Then there are those who support the idea that a Scottish electorate is best served by a government in Scotland.

If, as many suspect, the finding of the SG’s consultative committee is that remaining a member of both unions is at best extremely problematic and at worst a constitutional impossibility? Then its highly probable that as soon as article 50 is set in motion the Scottish government will move to pass that referendum bill through Holyrood. This will allow the Scottish electorate to resolve for themselves the current constitutional crisis and you can’t say fairer than that.

In which case, this could prove a fairly busy and productive period as pro YES groups seek to ‘put the band back together’. That’s the thing about political engagement in a popular sovereignty. There are always places to be, things to do and LOTS of people to talk to.

What do you think?

N.B. This will be my final post before the heid honcho gets back. I’d just like to thank folks for visiting the site whilst Paul’s been having a well earned break and also for the excellent contributions to the threads. Much appreciated.

Audio version of this blog article, courtesy of @lumi_1984