Things that happen when you go to London

gingershardBack from London now, where I was doing a talk for the London branch of the SNP. The talk went really well, I met some lovely people, and Ginger – as you can see – was resolutely unimpressed by a famous London landmark. That’s a photie of the Shard, in case you were wondering. I was only away a couple of days, and it’s a holiday week, but there have still been a couple of interesting developments.

Firstly, the Unionists’ favourite provider of graphs did a radio debate with a proper economist. The one whom you cannot mention in case he appears, somewhat like Betelgeuse, appeared on BBC radio Scotland debating with Prof. Richard Murphy. The Unionists’ favourite graph drawer didn’t come across well, snidey, sneery, and arrogantly trying to patronise someone who very clearly knew a great deal more about the topic at hand than he did. Which only goes to show that graphs aren’t a good medium for radio.

If you disagree with him, you are at best a “flat earther” and an outlier. At worst he’ll take to social media and assert to his followers that you deliberately invented lies. However the crux of the argument was that he who cannot be named seemingly claimed that there’s no need for better data on economic activity and tax take in Scotland, because we’re a part of the UK and should jolly well be grateful for what we’re given. Then having denied the need for better and more rigorous data sets he criticises everyone else who has the audacity to point out the shortcomings in his Holy Book of GERS. This is what makes him and his followers GERS fundamentalists.

The GERS figures were never intended to give a picture of the finances of an independent Scotland, yet this is precisely what he and his followers have been using them for for years. You cannot use a set of statistics which have known shortcomings for a purpose for which they were never intended in the first place, while ignoring and dismissing their shortcomings and refusing to concede that the data is inadequate, and still claim that you’re following a solid scientific procedure.

While some of us on the independence side of the debate may have been incorrect in certain details, he’s wrong about the entire premise of his argument – a point he was forced to admit when he conceded that the GERS figures don’t actually tell you anything about the economy of a future independent Scotland, remarks which will most certainly return to haunt him. Because we’ll make sure that they do. And if you’ve conceded that the data set you use can’t tell you about the economy of an independent Scotland, it does beg the question of what the hell you’ve been up to for the past four years when you’ve been doing precisely that.

But he’s moving on to other things and this week it was announced that he’s involved in setting up a new Unionist think tank with TV historians Tom Holland and Dan Snow. Doubtless it will tell us why we shouldn’t vote for independence because of WW1 and the Industrial Revolution, forgetting that the main motivation for most of us in seeking independence is because we’d like to live in a country that looks to the future, and not one that obsessed about the past. Isn’t backward looking romantic nationalism what Unionists were supposed to be accusing independence supporters of?

The new think tank will probably round up a lot of TV celebrities like they did last time to put their names to a letter supporting the Union. Dan Snow is opposed to Scottish independence because his late father-in-law owned a holiday property in the Highlands that’s the size of West Lothian. Other celebs that were rounded up in support have reasons of their own. David Starkey is opposed to Scottish independence because he needs someone to feel superior to. Ben Fogle is opposed to Scottish independence because he thinks he’s a mountain in Argyll.

But it’s not just the prominent amateurs on the Unionist side who’ve been having a tough time this week, one of their most prominent professionals has been having an even worse time of it. Ruth Davidson’s carefully cultivated public persona as a cheeky and approachable compassionate conservative was stripped away to reveal the nasty and begrudging apologist for evil who was lurking underneath all along. Ruth defended the rape clause, a truly horrific provision in the new social security provisions which strips child support from third and subsequent children unless their mother can demonstrate that the child was the product of rape. It is unconscionably abhorrent to force a woman to relive a horrific and traumatic experience or be faced with the prospect of not being able to feed her children, and remember that by definition she will be a woman who is struggling to ensure that she has enough of an income to feed her family.

It’s bad enough that the mother has to go into the details of her sexual assault with an untrained and potentially unsympathetic DWP staff member, but she also has to put on official record that her child is a product of rape, meaning that at some point in the future it becomes more likely that the child will accidentally discover the truth about its origins when it gets a bit older. “Mum, why did you get child support for me even though you were only supposed to get child support for my older brother and sister?”

Ruth Davidson thinks that this is the most compassionate way of dealing with this issue. The most compassionate way would be not to put a woman through the ordeal in the first place, all for the sake of saving £13 quid a week, a sum that wouldn’t even pay for your average Tory MP’s lunch expenses. Make Google or Facebook or the oil giants or all those rich oligarchs who have investment properties in London pay some bloody taxes, then perhaps you wouldn’t have to put women through a horrendous ordeal in the first place.  That would be a whole lot more compassionate.

However the real person who should be criticised in all this, at least according to Ruth Davidson, is Nicola Sturgeon. The Scottish government could make up the difference, pouted Ruth and went on to accuse them of “gross hypocrisy”. Because when you’ve cheered on your pals for bullying and abusing vulnerable people, the real person who deserves criticism is the person who calls you out on it, because they could put a plaster on the wounds that you’ve caused. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to Ruth Davidson that the people deserving of condemnation are those who bullied in the first place. And that, pretty much, is the definition of a Tory.

Audio version of this blog post, courtesy of Sarah Mackie @lumi_1984 https://soundcloud.com/occamshaver/wee-ginger-dug-14th-april-2017

If you’d like me and the dug to come and give a talk to your local group, email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com


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frontcovervol3barkingvol2coverSigned copies of the Collected Yaps of the Wee Ginger Dug volumes 1 2 3 & 4 are available by emailing me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com. Price just £21.90 for two volumes plus P&P. Please state whether you want vols 1 & 2 or 3 & 4. You can also order signed copies of all four volumes for the special price of £40 plus £4 P&P within the UK.

Copies of Barking Up the Right Tree are available from my publisher Vagabond Voices at http://vagabondvoices.co.uk/?page_id=1993 price just £7.95 plus P&P. The E-book of Barking Up the Right Tree is available for Kindle for just £4. Click here to purchase.

Get your copy of Barking Up the Right Tree Volume 2 by placing an order on the Vagabond Voices website. Just click the following link.

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Vote until you boak

There’s a need to do a wee explanation of STV for dummies because there seems to be a lot of confusion about it. Admittedly when you look at a typical Saturday evening’s entertainment on STV and wall to wall Ant and bloody Dec, it’s pretty apparent that they’re pretty good at doing dummies all by themselves. But it’s not that sort of STV I mean. We’re talking about Single Transferable Voting, the voting system used in Scottish local elections.

One of the problems is that in Scotland we use different voting methods in different elections. In Westminster elections it’s first past the post. It’s first past the post in Holyrood constituencies, which are then topped up by the regional vote list in where the d’Hondt method is used. And in elections to the European parliament the entire vote is conducted according to the d’Hondt method. The local elections are determined by a different system of proportional representation, called Single Transferable Vote, or STV. Because different voting systems require different approaches to tactical voting, confusion easily arises.

First past the post is the oldest voting system, and the one that’s most entrenched in the minds of voters. Under first past the post you have a single vote, and you mark an X beside the name of the candidate you want to see elected. Under STV you rank candidates 1, 2, 3, etc. You need only rate those you want to vote for, you only need to put a 1 beside your favoured candidate for your ballot to be valid. Or if there are three candidates from your favoured party you can rank them 1, 2, 3, and that’s all you need to do.

However you can influence who else gets elected by ranking everyone on the ballot. Under first past the post, you cast a vote FOR a candidate, and that means many voters are reluctant to exploit their STV ballots to the full because they feel that by ranking everyone on the ballot they are voting for candidates or parties that they despise.

One of the biggest differences between FPTP and STV is that with FPTP you only vote for a single candidate. With STV you can also use your vote to vote against a candidate. Under STV, when you rate a candidate last, you’re not voting for them, you’re voting against them, you’re saying that you want everyone else to get elected before them. Don’t think of it as voting for a particular candidate, so much as rating them all from epic all the way down to wanker. Or, as they put it in Northern Ireland where they use STV for elections to Stormont, Vote Till You Boak. That’s how the nationalist parties in Northern Ireland managed to deprive the Unionists of an overall majority for the first time ever.

For me, and I suspect for most of the readers of this blog, the boak-making candidates in most local authority wards will be Tories and also, in some areas, Ukip and your actual out and out fascists. Those are the candidates I’m going to rate lowest of all, because they’re the most boak inducing. By rating everyone else on the ballot above them, I am helping to ensure that everyone else will be elected before the Tories or Ukip. Ranking them at the bottom of my list of preferences is not a vote for them, it’s a vote for anyone but them. It’s a way you can use your STV ballot in order to have the best chance of getting a council that you approve of, or at least the one that you least disapprove of.

Think of your STV ballot paper as you being a school teacher giving out grades. Give the good grades to the candidates you approve of, those nice independence supporting people who’ve done their homework and promise to bring you the apple of independence, regular rubbish collections, and better local public services. Then rate the ones who are neutral, who could try harder. And then you give the failing grades to the Tories who are basing their entire campaign on not allowing the people of Scotland to have a voice on a subject that councillors don’t get to influence anyway and saying that it’s everyone else who’s obsessed about that referendum that they talk about to the exclusion of everything else. If there are six candidates on the ballot, rating the Tory as a six is equivalent to giving them an F. It’s certainly not a vote for a Tory. It’s saying that you’d rather that everyone else on the ballot was elected before the Tory. And that’s because you’re a reasonable human being, and not an apologist for a Tory rape clause.

The Tories are advising their voters to rank the SNP last. So we need to employ the same tactic in order to minimise the Tory vote. Abstaining after you’ve ranked all the pro-indy candidates doesn’t help to minimise the Tory vote because other people are going to rate them high. If you don’t rate non-Tory candidates, you make it more likely that a Tory is going to get enough votes to get over the finish line.

Under STV, a candidate is elected once they reach the necessary quota. This quota is determined by a formula. The formula is the total number of votes cast, divided by the number of available seats in the ward plus one, then one is added to the resulting number. At which point the eyes of most normal people start to glaze over. It’s better to illustrate it with a simple example.

Imagine an election in which there are two seats to be filled in the ward and three candidates are standing: Indy Irene, Tory Tom, and Federalist Fred. There are 1500 people eligible to vote, and 1000 voters turned out to vote and cast valid votes. The formula for deciding the quota for election is 1000 divided by 2+1, plus 1.  This equals 334.333, which is rounded down to 334 because you can’t get .333 of a vote, not even if you’re one of Ruth Davidson’s burly men. 334 votes is what a candidate needs in order to get elected.

450 voters ranked Indy Irene as their number 1, 300 ranked Tory Tom as number 1, and the remaining 250 ranked Federalist Fred as number 1. These first preference votes get counted first. Indy Irene has received 450 first rankings, so she’s declared elected with 116 votes to spare over the quota of 334.

Now the second rankings get counted to decide which of the other two, Tory Tom or Federalist Fred, is going to win the second seat. In this election, Federalist Fred is the lesser of two evils, because unlike Tory Tom he doesn’t advocate selling off his grandmother to an American health corporation.  All of the people who voted for Indy Irene ranked Federalist Fred as their number 2, so her spare 116 votes go to Federalist Fred.

That means that in the second round of counting, Federalist Fred now has 366 votes (his 250 first rankings plus 116 from Indy Irene’s supporters second rankings), and this takes him over the quota of 334 and Federalist Fred is declared the winner of the second seat. Even though Tory Tom got more first preference votes than Federalist Fred, Tory Tom still loses. At which point all right thinking people go, “Ha. Ha. Loser!” and do that L thing on their foreheads.

If none of Indy Irene’s supporters ranked Federalist Fred as their number two and they all had abstained, then Tory Tom would have picked the seat up in the second round because there would have been no second preferences from Indy Irene to redistribute. Which only goes to show that if you don’t rank the lesser of two evils as your number two, then the real shit will win.

As long as you rank all the other candidates, you don’t actually need to rank Tory Tom, just ensure that he’s pushed to the bottom. But you do need to rank the other candidates to ensure the Tory is at the bottom of the pile. It’s just easier, and safer, to explain to people to list all the candidates on the ballot in order of gorgeous to god-awful. This is why you need to use your second third fourth etc preferences, and vote until you boak to keep the Tories out.

I’m off to London tomorrow to do a talk for the SNP London branch, so no blog posts until I get back. If you post a comment and it needs to be authorised, it won’t be authorised until I’m home, sorry about the delay.

Audio version of this blog post, courtesy of Sarah Mackie @lumi_1984 https://soundcloud.com/occamshaver/vote-until-you-boak-wee-ginger-dug-11th-april-2017

If you’d like me and the dug to come and give a talk to your local group, email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com


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Copies of Barking Up the Right Tree are available from my publisher Vagabond Voices at http://vagabondvoices.co.uk/?page_id=1993 price just £7.95 plus P&P. The E-book of Barking Up the Right Tree is available for Kindle for just £4. Click here to purchase.

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Sending a message

That didn’t last long did it. Just a few days ago the usual suspects were crowing that Ruthie Davidson was the most popular politician in Scotland, all on the basis of a shonky poll from SkyNews which didn’t even pretend to represent a balanced sample. But that didn’t stop them from hailing Ruth as the chief buffalo girl. And then along comes a proper opinion poll, one carried out by no less a person than the Tories’ former paymaster Michael Ashcroft, a poll which puts Ruth a long way behind Nicola Sturgeon in the popularity stakes in Scotland.  So that’s Fraser Nelson’s thesis buggered then.

Ruth’s supposed popularity was always a product of hype. If you tell people often enough that she’s the most effective and most popular politician then she’ll become so. Unfortunately that was only ever going to work if there was more to Ruth than looking good on the panel of Have I Got News For You and posing for amusing photo ops with buffaloes, fish, and other dumb creatures – like most of the Conservative MSPs. Behind the glossy image of Ruth as a new type of Tory, a modern Conservative for the 21st century, there is a policy vacuum. A vacuum in which all you can hear is a scream “no one wants another referendum”, despite abundant evidence that a great many people do.

Ruth is defined by being opposed to whatever it is that the SNP stand for, but remains silent on what she stands for herself. That’s because what she really stands for is whatever her bosses in the Conservatives at Westminster stand for, and she’ll turn 180 degrees in her views depending on the way the windbags of Westminster are blowing. Naturally her pals in the media don’t press her too closely on this uncomfortable truth. Ruth is a walking irony, a shouty politician who shouts so loudly in order to cover up the fact that she’s saying nothing at all.

The myth is that Ruth appeals to a broad spectrum of the Scottish public. She doesn’t. She appeals to Conservatives, she appeals to that minority of Scottish opinion which has an ideological and emotional commitment to the United Kingdom come what Theresa May. That’s always going to be a relatively small minority of Scottish voters. During the independence referendum of 2014 I was constantly struck by the number of people who said that they were voting No, not out of any sense of loyalty to a British state that they knew had no loyalty to them, not because they believed themselves to be British to the core of their beings, but simply because they felt that the time wasn’t right, or that the risks were too great. Ruth can’t appeal to those voters. She can only make her pitch with any success to the diehards. That’s why even though she’s being touted in the British media as the woman who will save the Union, she will ultimately fail. She’ll fail because for many many Scots her party represents everything that’s wrong with Britain.

Ruth rails against the divisions in Scotland but she has no answers to them. The Tories don’t have the slightest idea of how to heal the divisions that they claim are fracturing this country. They think that the way to deal with division is for everyone who doesn’t agree with them to shut up and to suck it up. It’s meaningless cant born of desperation, because the Tories know that they have no solutions and no ammunition for contesting another independence referendum. What are they going to say? Their strongest argument last time round was why risk independence when you can have the safety and security of the UK, and they’ve destroyed that argument all by themselves. Brexit dominates everything in UK politics now, so attempting not to talk about Brexit in the context of a second independence referendum is going to be doomed to failure.

Despite this, Ruth is described as “ecumenical” in sympathetic write ups in supposedly left of centre and liberal newspapers like the Guardian. Who knew? Well there’s me discovered a new synonym for “shouty”. And just as in the referendum of 2014, we discover that when the Guardian has a choice between defending social democratic values, or defending the British establishment, they’ll go for the British establishment every day of the week.

Now the Tories have revealed their election strategy for the local elections. It consists of avoiding talking about local issues. The Tories want you to waste your vote in the local elections. They want to turn it into a referendum on not having a referendum. Use your say in order to say that you don’t want a say. And once you’ve done that, you can elect some Tory councillors who will destroy your local public services and won’t be able to prevent a referendum being held anyway.

So in the upcoming local elections use your vote wisely. Use it to rank all the candidates who are standing in your ward, give your first preference to the pro-independence candidate of your choice, then work your way down the list, give your next preference to your next favoured pro-indy candidate, and so on until you’ve run out of pro-indy candidates.  If you are, say, an SNP supporter, don’t stop once you’ve ranked the SNP candidates.  Give your next preferences to other pro-independence candidates, Greens, Socialists, or pro-independence independents.  Equally if you’re a Green, don’t stop after you’ve given your first preferences to the Green candidates.  Rank all the pro-independence candidates.  It means that they have a better chance of getting elected ahead of any Unionists.

You can, if you want, stop there. It won’t damage the pro-independence cause any, but equally it won’t help to prevent a Tory getting elected if there are only anti-indy candidates still in the running.

So if you want to use the rest of your preferences, you can use them to minimise the chances of a Tory getting elected. Next rank those who are neutral on the issue of independence. There are some Labour candidates who are neutral on independence, there are even some who privately support it. There may be independents standing in your ward who are neutral on independence. Then rank the other Labour candidates or the Lib Dems, and then and only then rank the Tories and Ukip and your actual fascists lowest of all.

You might say “I’m never going to vote Unionist under any circumstances.” And that would be fine.  Putting a smile on Jackie Baillie’s face is distasteful, I get that.  But by the time you get to your final preferences, any chance of a pro-indy candidate getting elected will already have gone. All those pro-indy candidates who were going to get elected will already have been elected. What this is about is minimising the chances of any Tories getting elected. Any Tory who gets elected will view it as a vindication of Theresa May and her message to Scotland to get back into its shortbread tin.

You don’t have to rank all the candidates. You don’t have to rank any Unionist candidates at all, and that’s just fine. It won’t do any harm, but it won’t make it less likely that a Tory gets elected. A winning candidate still has to be voted in. You’re not going to minimise the chances of a Tory getting elected by failing to express a preference in what will by the time all other preferences have been counted have become a contest between a Tory and another candidate who isn’t pro-indy. Vote indy first, then later choose the lesser of two evils, and that means ranking someone else above a Tory. Then we can send our own message to Ruth. And that message is that Scotland does want a referendum, and it doesn’t want Tories.

If you’d like me and the dug to come and give a talk to your local group, email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com


Donate to the Dug This blog relies on your support and donations to keep going – I need to make a living, and have bills to pay. Clicking the donate button will allow you to make a payment directly to my Paypal account. You do not need a Paypal account yourself to make a donation. You can donate as little, or as much, as you want. Many thanks.

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frontcovervol3barkingvol2coverSigned copies of the Collected Yaps of the Wee Ginger Dug volumes 1 2 3 & 4 are available by emailing me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com. Price just £21.90 for two volumes plus P&P. Please state whether you want vols 1 & 2 or 3 & 4. You can also order signed copies of all four volumes for the special price of £40 plus £4 P&P within the UK.

Copies of Barking Up the Right Tree are available from my publisher Vagabond Voices at http://vagabondvoices.co.uk/?page_id=1993 price just £7.95 plus P&P. The E-book of Barking Up the Right Tree is available for Kindle for just £4. Click here to purchase.

Get your copy of Barking Up the Right Tree Volume 2 by placing an order on the Vagabond Voices website. Just click the following link.

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Being political about language

This is a quiet week for politics. So although I usually rant about Scottish politics, today I’ll rant about something else. When you rant about Scottish politics you invariably get a lot of negativity, and often outright abuse, on social media. You expect that. Politics affects people’s daily lives. It affects their employment and earnings. Politics can make a huge difference to our civil liberties and our human rights. All these things are important and fundamental, so it’s understandable that when you express a political opinion that someone objects to or disagrees with, whether their disagreement is well founded or not, you’re going to get some push-back for it.

But what’s harder to understand is the vehemence and sheer venom of the attacks that you get on social media when you dare to write about Scottish language issues. Language is a topic that for some bizarre reason seems to be immune to reason and logic. You can cite academic texts, you can quote from papers or books written by renowned experts in the field of linguistics, and you’ll still get someone whose knowledge of linguistics begins and ends with a school qualification in English popping up to tell you that you’re wrong. You’ll get people who don’t speak Scots informing you that words which appear in Scots dictionaries and have been recorded and defined by academics are not in fact proper Scots. Because if this person who doesn’t speak Scots has never heard a Scots word or pronunciation or it hasn’t impinged on the consciousness of someone who doesn’t speak Scots and who isn’t interested in Scots, then the word in question can’t possibly be Scots.

It’s not just Scots that comes in for wilful ignorance. You’ll get people who know nothing about the history of Celtic languages telling you that Gaelic was never spoken in a particular area of Scotland where Gaelic placenames lie thick on the ground. And then when you point out these placenames to the person and ask where they came from, they’ll reply with the immense confidence of someone who knows too little to realise how little they know, and tell you they come from ScotRail. And then they’ll howl in outrage at how Gaelic is being imposed on them, because it’s an offence to their eyeballs to have to see a couple of Gaelic words on a railway station sign. And then, having sought out things to feel victimised by, they accuse everyone else of grievance hunting.

Some people, and let’s be honest here they’re most commonly (although not always) Unionists, object to Scottish languages. The reasons they usually give are because it’s a dead language, in the case of Gaelic, or because it’s not a language at all, in the case of Scots. They object because admitting that Scotland has languages and a culture of its own is tantamount to admitting that the drive for Scottish independence is not motivated by hatred of the English, and that will never do.

Gaelic isn’t a dead language. It has 57,000 speakers in Scotland plus a few thousand more outside of Scotland, amongst the Scottish diaspora. That means Gaelic has more speakers than most languages in the world. Gaelic has approximately the same number of speakers as Greenlandic, the official language of Greenland, and almost as many as Faroese, the official language of the Faroe Islands. It has more speakers than the Romansh language, which is the fourth official language of Switzerland and only a few thousand less than German in Belgium, where it is the third official language. Gaelic has more speakers than the Sorbian language, which has official status in eastern Germany. Gaelic has more than ten times as many speakers as the Aranese language which is the official language of the Val d’Aran in Catalonia. It has twice as many speakers as the Ladin language which along with German is one of the official languages of South Tyrol in the far north of Italy. Gaelic has more speakers than every Native American language of the United States with the exception of Navajo. It has more speakers than there are speakers of the 300 or so native languages of Australia combined. Gaelic has more speakers than any of the official languages of the Federated States of Micronesia, and almost four times as many as Palauan, the official language of the Republic of Palau. For a supposedly dead language, Gaelic is surprisingly vital.

A language which has as many as 60,000 fluent speakers is very far from dead. According to a respected catalogue of world languages, the Ethnologue, there are approximately 7,000 living languages in the world, over half of which are spoken by fewer than 10,000 people. That places Gaelic very firmly in the upper half of the list of the world’s most spoken languages. Many of the languages with a small number of speakers are at no risk of disappearing and are spoken in “linguistic hotspots” where there is a concentration of linguistic diversity in a fairly small region, and there are large numbers of languages spoken by relatively small numbers of people. The Pacific island republic of Vanuatu has 252,000 people who speak 113 languages between them, an average of 2,000 speakers per language. The African country of Cameroon has 22.5 million people and approximately 250 languages, many of which are spoken by just a couple of thousand people.

The truth is that people who claim that Gaelic shouldn’t be taught or used or encouraged because it is a “dead” language are in fact killing it. They’re creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. When someone says, “Gaelic shouldn’t be used or taught because it’s a dead language,” they’re really saying, “I want to kill Gaelic off.” Last I looked, philistinism wasn’t a guide to government policy. At least when that government isn’t a Tory one.

Only 6% of the 7,000 languages of the world have over 1 million speakers. According to the most recent census, Scots has 1.54 million speakers in Scotland – and there is a considerably larger number who understand Scots without claiming to speak it themselves. That places Scots firmly within the category of “most spoken” languages in the world. Scots has more speakers than Maltese and about as many as Estonian, both of which are official languages of the European Union. It has as many speakers as Macedonian, the official language of the Republic of Macedonia.

However the real objections to Scots aren’t about how many speakers it has. The objections are about whether Scots is a “real” language. The people who claim Scots isn’t a real language are most often people who understand Scots, but whose use of it is typically confined to a number of Scots features in their Scottish English – a variety of English which is itself defined and characterised by massive influence from Scots. So these people are starting out from a position of considerable knowledge of Scots, but because they don’t recognise it as such and identify it as Scottish English they don’t regard themselves as having any degree of bilingualism. And if they’re not bilingual but they can understand Scots then Scots can’t be a proper language. This is a problem of their own perception, not proof that Scots isn’t “really” a language. Speakers of Scottish English typically understand Scots fairly well, but that’s because they use a variety of English which is itself strongly influenced by Scots and because they’ve had a lifetime of exposure to Scots speakers. English speakers from other countries who lack this exposure to Scots typically find it very difficult to follow.

There is in fact quite often a fairly considerable degree of mutual intelligibility between closely related languages, even without a degree of passive knowledge acquired from exposure. Spanish speakers can understand a lot of written Catalan or Portuguese, even a fair amount of written Italian. Norwegians, Swedes and Danes all understand each other’s written languages without too much difficulty, the same applies with Slovak and Czech, or Bulgarian and Macedonian. Scots and English are closely related, so there’s going to be a degree of mutual intelligibility, especially in their written forms. That doesn’t mean Scots isn’t a language.

The use of Scots as a literary standard went into decline after the Reformation when the political decision was made to make use of the English bible. The spoken language went into decline after the Treaty of Union when English became the sole de facto official language. The lack of cultivation of Scots as a written prose standard means that Scots often lacks the terminology and vocabulary typical of a modern written standard. All emerging standard languages have faced this problem, and writers tackle it by raiding older stages of the language for vocabulary, by borrowing, by loan-translations (the Scots neologism wab-steid for web-site is an example of a loan-translation) or by using existing words in new ways. Older spelling systems are systematised and regularised, and applied in a more logical and consistent manner.  This is the way any living language increases and develops its expressive capacity.

This is exactly how the written standards of all modern languages were developed. Modern written Catalan was self-consciously developed in the 19th century on the basis of the mediaeval language, and Catalan authors used exactly the processes I’ve listed here in order to establish the modern standard language. Catalan was far from alone – writers in Czech, Slovene, Norwegian, Basque, Latvian, Estonian, Lithuanian, and many other European languages, all achieved their modern literary forms in the exact same way.

Yet when modern writers do exactly the same with Scots, it’s decried as artificial. Scots is an invented and made up language, they scoff. For political motives they want Scots, uniquely, to be denied the same routes to standardisation that every other written standard language has taken, and then they claim that when Scots writers do what every other written standard has done that they’re artificially creating an invented and made up language. They claim the use of Scots as a written language is to politicise it, but what is really politicising the language is to deny it the same avenues to standardisation that every other standard written language has used.

You don’t have to speak Scots or Gaelic to be every bit as Scottish as someone who does. Scotland has always been a multilingual country, that’s what defines the linguistic history of Scotland. English speakers are every bit as Scottish as Scots speakers or Gaelic speakers – but some of them do have a fear that those who promote and foster Gaelic and Scots are somehow making a claim that English speakers are less Scottish, that they are somehow illegitimate. That’s not true. But what is true is that a Scotland which has lost Gaelic and Scots would be less Scottish than a Scotland in which the use of the languages is respected, encouraged, and fostered. No one has any interest in forcing unwilling English speakers to use Gaelic or Scots, far less insisting that they must use Gaelic or Scots in order to access public services.

More commonly the claim is made that Scots or Gaelic are being “imposed” on English speakers. That’s not true either. Seeing a Gaelic version of a place name is not “imposing” Gaelic on you. Imposing Gaelic would be insisting that you could only receive public services, that you could only interact with agencies of the state, through the medium of Gaelic. Yet that’s precisely what Gaelic and Scots deniers want to do to speakers of those languages, they want to impose English on them. When they object to the supposed imposition of Gaelic or Scots, they’re really expressing the fear that Gaelic and Scots speakers will treat them the way they want to treat Gaelic and Scots speakers.

None of what I’ve written here will make the slightest bit of difference to those who deny that Scots is a real language, or those who insist that Gaelic is being imposed upon them. What I hope it can do however is to give those of you who do value Scotland’s languages access to the truth, and to know that fact and research are on your side. The real politicisation of Scottish languages is claiming that Scots isn’t really a language and shouldn’t make use of the approaches to enrichment that other written languages use. The real politicisation of Scottish languages is claiming that Gaelic is a dead language and shouldn’t be taught. The real linguistic imposition comes from those who want English and only English to be the only publicly acknowledged and supported language in Scotland. They’re the ones who are politicising Scottish languages, not those who seek to use them as normal vibrant living tongues.

If you’d like me and the dug to come and give a talk to your local group, email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com


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frontcovervol3barkingvol2coverSigned copies of the Collected Yaps of the Wee Ginger Dug volumes 1 2 3 & 4 are available by emailing me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com. Price just £21.90 for two volumes plus P&P. Please state whether you want vols 1 & 2 or 3 & 4. You can also order signed copies of all four volumes for the special price of £40 plus £4 P&P within the UK.

Copies of Barking Up the Right Tree are available from my publisher Vagabond Voices at http://vagabondvoices.co.uk/?page_id=1993 price just £7.95 plus P&P. The E-book of Barking Up the Right Tree is available for Kindle for just £4. Click here to purchase.

Get your copy of Barking Up the Right Tree Volume 2 by placing an order on the Vagabond Voices website. Just click the following link.

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What Unionist parties do on their holidays

What did you do on your holidays? Both the Westminster and Scottish parliaments are in recess for the Easter break so it’s a slow news week. You can tell it’s a slow news week because Scottish Unionists are having to be outraged by things that are more ridiculous than the inanities that they typically get outraged by. Admittedly they’re usually to be found scraping the bottom of the outrage barrel, but this week they’ve broken through bottom of the barrel and are running along the street holding it up in order to cover their naked opportunism.

While Holyrood is shut, depriving Kezia Dugdale of her chance to stand up at FMQs and complain about the divisiveness of complaining about going to war with Spain, Nicola Sturgeon is off in the USA for Scotland Week, making friends and influencing people and letting them know that Scotland wants to join the world.

This is of course an outrage, at least if you’re a Unionist politician. Nicola shouldn’t be gallivanting around the globe, she should be at home and doing the day job. In the case of the Scottish Tories, while Holyrood is in recess the day job consists of role playing Orcs in Dungeons and Dragons, which is how they practise for the rest of the year when they’re not pulling the wings off flies and being appalled by Gaelic road signs. Whereas for Labour the day job is binge viewing the last season of The Walking Dead and looking for tips on political campaiging from zombies because the living dead are a force in movement, which is a lot more than can be said for the Labour party in Scotland. Sadly for Labour, the key tactic of zombies is to form a horde, but Labour is losing members at such a rate that it would struggle to fill a handbag. The Lib Dems do at least have a proper day job, which is driving the number 17 bus from Cowdenbeath to Kelty.

The Unionists are very clear on what Nicola Sturgeon shouldn’t be doing. She shouldn’t be representing Scotland abroad, although you might have thought that this was within the brief of a First Minister. Like when Labour First Minister Jack McConnell went off to the USA and wore a silly kilt. What they’re a whole lot less clear on is exactly what she should be doing instead of being abroad when parliament is shut. But what you can be sure of is that whatever she’d be doing instead of being abroad, the Unionists would be working themselves up into a lather about that as well. Tories and Labour like getting worked up into a lather, as it’s the closest that they get to clean politics.

The Unionists are also getting into a lather about the latest economic growth figures for Scotland, which show Scotland as lagging behind the rest of the UK. Or more exactly, lagging behind London. The Unionists compare Scotland, which doesn’t have control over all economic levers, with the UK-minus-Scotland, which does. And then they act all outraged that Scotland is found wanting. A proper comparison is to compare like with like, which means comparing Scotland with other parts of the UK and not the UK as a whole. When you do that you discover that the only parts of the UK which have economic growth are the South East of England, and then – miles ahead of the rest – London. All the other nations and regions of the UK lag far behind. It’s not Scotland where the problems with the UK lie, it’s a problem across an entire UK which concentrates economic growth in London at the expense of everyone else.

There’s that Nicola Sturgeon eh, waltzing off to furren pairts when she should be getting on with the day job and doing something about a Scottish economy where the levers of macroeconomic control remain very firmly in the hands of Westminster, because that’s exactly how the Unionist parties wanted it. They’re unable to say what exactly Nicola Sturgeon should be doing about the Scottish economy that Holyrood doesn’t have much power over, except for dropping the idea of another referendum. Not having another referendum is the only policy that Labour and the Tories have. The Lib Dems don’t want a referendum either, at least not a Scottish one. They want another referendum on the EU instead, because it’s only the result of some referendums that need to be respected.

It’s not like there’s nothing to be resisted. At least if you’re not actually a Tory. This week new benefit regulations come into effect which anti-poverty charities estimate will throw around a quarter of a million children in the UK into poverty. The benefits cap means that families will only receive social security payments for the first two children. Women who have a third child as a result of rape will now have to prove that they were raped to a DWP clerk in order to avoid losing income and identify the child who was produced as a result of rape. That’s a proper outrage. That’s how disgusting the UK has become, how far removed from any semblance of human decency. What effect would it have on a rape survivor to have to go through the details of her ordeal in order to ensure that she can feed her child? What sort of effect would it have on a child to discover that they were a product of rape? What kind of empathyless zombie drone thought this crap up in the first place? A Tory, that’s who. A selfish I’m Alright Jackass who thinks it’s acceptable to coerce a woman to disclose the details of rape and sexual assault. It’s barbaric. It’s inhumane. It’s cruel. It’s modern Britain. But the Tories are far too busy complaining about another independence referendum and getting upset about eggs that aren’t Eastery enough.

What makes it even worse is that this measure was introduced through a statutory instrument, by ministerial fiat, so it was enacted without the need for parliamentary approval. Whatever happened to that sovereignty of the British parliament that the Brexiteers were going on about?

But let’s not bother about any of that. Let’s not worry about the structural imbalances in the British economy. Let’s not worry about the cruelty and inhumanity of Tory regulations that make a noose out of the social security net. Let’s pretend that everything would be just fine if only Scotland wasn’t going to have another referendum. Let’s pretend that Scotland’s problems can be solved by surrendering to the people who cause the problems, instead of resisting them. Scottish Unionists have no answers, no ideas, and no clue, all they’ve got is their faux outrage and their desperation to stop Scotland leaving the mess that they’ve created. That’s what they do on their holidays, that’s what they do all year round.

If you’d like me and the dug to come and give a talk to your local group, email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com


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If you’d like to make a donation but don’t wish to use Paypal or have problems using the Paypal button, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com for details of alternative methods of donation.


frontcovervol3barkingvol2coverSigned copies of the Collected Yaps of the Wee Ginger Dug volumes 1 2 3 & 4 are available by emailing me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com. Price just £21.90 for two volumes plus P&P. Please state whether you want vols 1 & 2 or 3 & 4. You can also order signed copies of all four volumes for the special price of £40 plus £4 P&P within the UK.

Copies of Barking Up the Right Tree are available from my publisher Vagabond Voices at http://vagabondvoices.co.uk/?page_id=1993 price just £7.95 plus P&P. The E-book of Barking Up the Right Tree is available for Kindle for just £4. Click here to purchase.

Get your copy of Barking Up the Right Tree Volume 2 by placing an order on the Vagabond Voices website. Just click the following link.

https://www.vagabondvoices.co.uk/bookshop-rants/barking-up-the-right-tree-2016

Let’s choose to live

One of the regular huffs of those who support the Union come what may is that the movement for Scottish independence is characterised by exceptionalism, by the belief that Scotland is somehow uniquely special, that it’s better than anywhere else, and particularly that it’s better than England. Because of course it’s a treasured trope of Unionism that wanting independence is all about anti-English sentiment. It’s not really about Scotland at all.

But none of that is true. It’s not independence supporters who believe that Scotland is special. Independence is nothing more than the radical idea that Scotland can be a normal country. It’s Unionists who believe that Scotland is unique. A Unionist Scotland is uniquely incapable of having any currency at all. Despite quite literally striking oil, a Unionist Scotland is poorer than Greece and unable to manage its own economy without subsidies from a Conservative government – which uniquely throws money at Scotland out of altruism. A Unionist Scotland has no real culture, other countries have real languages, but Scotland, uniquely, has invented ones. The Unionist Scotland is a very special place indeed, a fantastical place, a place of myth and legend that exists only in the fevered imaginings of Daily Express leader writers.

The Tories rail against the division of another referendum, but it’s they who create the deepest divisions of all. They divide us into the haves and the have nots. They divide us into those who have choices and opportunities and those who have none. They tell us we want independence in order to divide, but independence is a means to healing those cutting wounds that slice through our society. We don’t want independence because we think Scotland is so great and so special, we want it because Scotland has so much wrong with it, and we need the tools to fix it. We need independence because we’ve learned that Westminster won’t fix our problems, because Westminster profits from them. We need to fix things for ourselves.

The place for Scotland in the UK is on a lower rung, a place where there is no view and no vision. It’s a place where we do what we’re told. It’s a place where Scotland is a country in name only, and scarcely even that much. Scotland in the UK is the country that can’t act like a country, the nation that can’t act like a nation. It’s a twisted and deformed place, the land that’s not a land, the country that’s not a country. It’s the country that gets compared to a county. A country whose role is to disguise English nationalism with a red white and blue veneer and to allow English nationalists to feel as if they’re not nationalists at all, a deformed land in a deformed state. Independence breaks the chains. Independence is the leap to normality.

What sort of normal country could a normal Scotland be? It could be a Scotland that offers citizenship to everyone legally resident in Scotland at the time of independence. It doesn’t matter if you’re Scottish born, rUK born, Irish born, EU born, or born anywhere else in the world. If you’ve made Scotland your home, Scotland has made its home in you. We strive for a Scotland that demonstrates that Scottishness is a state of mind, that Scottishness is a place in the heart, that Scottishness is about acceptance and tolerance. That’s a Scotland that is proving that Scottishness isn’t about the past, it’s about the future and the journey that we all take together as a society. Because being Scottish isn’t about where you come from, it’s about where we’re going.

Scotland could be a country of tolerance where there is zero tolerance for violence and abuse against women, against minorities. A country where everyone is cherished and all citizens are sovereign. We could have a constitution that states there can be no discrimination on the grounds of age, race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, language, culture, or religion or lack of religion. We could be a country that seeks to heal the divisions of sectarianism and race, that promotes and fosters diversity. We could be a country that has railway signs in Gaelic just to annoy Tom Gallagher. We could be a country with a sense of humour and sense of itself, because a country that can laugh is a country at ease.

We could be a country at peace with itself and with the world. In the more than 300 years of Union there have been a mere seven decades of peace. In the UK war is normal, and only a few days after the Brexit process has begun and the British nationalists talk of war again. War is what defines Britain. Scotland can be defined by peace. Scotland can rid itself of the obscenity of weapons of mass destruction. It can have armed forces whose role is peacekeepers, not as war makers. Scotland can be a small voice for sanity in a crazy world. We can make that choice.  We can be better.  We can be good.

Our country can be a land where the body of citizens is sovereign. Independence isn’t about whether we’re members of the EU, or whether we’re a monarchy, or whether we’re in NATO or out of it. Independence isn’t about policy, independence is about who gets to choose, and those choices are made by the people of Scotland. We could become a republic, or we could remain a monarchy, but it’s for all of us to decide. That’s what independence is all about, it’s about the power of a people to determine their own path. It’s about choosing where to go, about picking a path through the green hills and along the shores of the sealochs, a path that takes us home, the path that is home, the journey that defines us.

I used to think we should aim for immediate membership of the EU on independence, but it’s for the people to make that choice. Upon independence, let’s go for membership of EFTA and the EEA – we can join immediately upon independence, we get access to the single market and freedom of movement of people, we avoid questions of having to sign up to the Euro, we avoid the jibes of those who claim there would be a veto, and we can make a pitch to those who voted to leave the EU but who support independence. And after we’re independent, then it’s for the people of Scotland to decide whether we apply for EU membership. Because we the people are the sovereign body, not a government. That’s the great difference between an independent Scotland and the imperialism of Theresa May’s Britain.  That’s the point we seek to establish with independence, that it’s the people who choose, not the politicians.

There’s a difference between living and existing. Existing is having choices made for you. It’s having decisions imposed on you. Living is choosing for yourself. Scotland exists under the Union, it can only live with independence. Let’s choose to live.

If you’d like me and the dug to come and give a talk to your local group, email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com


Donate to the Dug This blog relies on your support and donations to keep going – I need to make a living, and have bills to pay. Clicking the donate button will allow you to make a payment directly to my Paypal account. You do not need a Paypal account yourself to make a donation. You can donate as little, or as much, as you want. Many thanks.

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If you’d like to make a donation but don’t wish to use Paypal or have problems using the Paypal button, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com for details of alternative methods of donation.


frontcovervol3barkingvol2coverSigned copies of the Collected Yaps of the Wee Ginger Dug volumes 1 2 3 & 4 are available by emailing me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com. Price just £21.90 for two volumes plus P&P. Please state whether you want vols 1 & 2 or 3 & 4. You can also order signed copies of all four volumes for the special price of £40 plus £4 P&P within the UK.

Copies of Barking Up the Right Tree are available from my publisher Vagabond Voices at http://vagabondvoices.co.uk/?page_id=1993 price just £7.95 plus P&P. The E-book of Barking Up the Right Tree is available for Kindle for just £4. Click here to purchase.

Get your copy of Barking Up the Right Tree Volume 2 by placing an order on the Vagabond Voices website. Just click the following link.

https://www.vagabondvoices.co.uk/bookshop-rants/barking-up-the-right-tree-2016

Dingo Sofa and the art of scamming

I got one of those scamming emails the other day, telling me I’d won millions in a lottery that I’d never entered and to contact someone in Burkina Faso for the details on how to collect my non-existent winnings. It was sent by someone calling himself Mr Dingo Sofa, which is the best name ever. His email address is din.sof0@gmail.com and that of his associate in scamming is fatimzangobf@gmail.com if you fancy signing them up for stuff. Like, I dunno, press releases from an Australian pet furniture company.

There’s a way you can get your own back on West African scammers, but Scotland got scammed in 2014 and we’re told there’s nothing we can do about it – at least that’s what the scammers say. Mind you, that’s what Dingo Sofa would probably say too. 2014’s scammers had far less amusing names, there’s nothing remotely amusing about Alistair Darling or Blair McDougall, at least not their names, but there’s certainly something we can do about their scamming messages telling us that we could win EU membership, job security, the stability of the pound, the permanence of the Scottish Parliament enshrined in law, and the safety of the NHS in return for a No vote. Instead we got a batshit Brexit, job losses, a pound that makes the Argentinian peso seem like a hard currency, a Sewel Convention that’s meaningless cant, and an NHS that the Tories are hell bent on privatising. Dingo Sofa is a more honest person, at least he’s only pulling the one scam and has the decency to promise untold wealth. The Better Together campaign were only promising that Scotland could have a very basic level of public services and economic security, and they couldn’t even deliver on that.

It would be bad enough if the great Better Together scam of 2014 was the only scam. The really annoying thing is that the Tories have pulled multiple scams, and they’re scamming still. There was of course the great Brexit scam, in which they gave up freedom of movement, put hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk, caused the risk of a 10% reduction in incomes by 2030, and plunged hundreds of thousand of EU citizens into insecurity. But hey. At least we’re going to get blue passports, bent bananas, and fluid ounces back, all of which will come in very handy when we go to war with Spain. The Brexiteers promised to take back control and secure the sovereignty of the British parliament, only for them to use Brexit as a Tory coup d’etat and turn it into absolute power for the Prime Minister and her cabinet appointees. Meanwhile they’ve surrendered control of the UK economy to the remaining 27 EU members, who’re now going to ensure that the UK is stripped of the jobs that depend on access to the EU’s single market. That taking back control meant that they’ve given the EU far more power over the UK than it did before.

But now we’ve taken back control, or at least Theresa May has taken back control from Parliament, she can wield that power wisely to deal with the truly important issues that face us today. Which is a bit of a worry from a person who looks like one of the characters in the Walking Dead who’s been infected with the zombie plague virus and is just waiting to bite the rest of us in the jugular as she goes on a rampage to Gibraltar. She wasn’t overly concerned by the threats of war. She’s not too bothered about denying the democratic right of the Scottish government to fulfil one of the manifesto commitments on which it was elected. She’s certainly not bothered much by the number of children that her government is throwing into poverty. She’s not bothered by the fear and insecurity she’s fostered amongst EU citizens resident in the UK and British citizens resident in other EU countries.

As an aside, can we please stop with the guff that citizens of other countries who live in the UK are migrants, but UK citizens who live in other countries are expats. There is no pissing empire any more. They’re not British expats. They’re migrants. Just because they’re about to get blue passports doesn’t stop them being immigrants in someone else’s country. And perhaps, just perhaps, if our media didn’t foster this ridiculous double standard and admit that there are large British migrant communities abroad, there might be a shade more understanding in the UK of migrant communities here, and Kurdish refugees in Croydon wouldn’t have to worry so much about getting their heads kicked in. A British citizen who lives on the Costas is every bit as much a migrant as a Kurdish asylum seeker in Croydon. Their motives for migrating might be different, but that doesn’t stop them being migrants.

But back to Theresa. Sorry, but we must. She’s not bothered by selling arms to dictators, causing wars that make people flee for their lives and become migrants. She’s not so bothered by Donald Trump that she won’t sook up to him. What she is bothered by is the National Trust supposedly dropping the word Easter from its Easter egg hunt despite the fact that EASTER is by far the largest word on the National Trust’s publicity for the event. She’s bothered by this because she’s a Christian, she says. Although she’s not enough of a Christian to care that the kids living in families on low incomes are seeing those incomes fall even more as a direct result of Theresa’s policies and they won’t be seeing any Easter eggs at all. Still, it’s nice to know that she’s got her priorities right. That’s the Christian message of Easter after all, take chocolate out of the mouths of weans and condemn their families to poverty so you can give a tax break to a millionaire.

Theresa and her egg thieves are about to discover they’re in for a shaming that even Dingo Sofa will escape. Despite the bluff, despite the claims in the friendly press, there’s really very little that she can do to block Scotland from having its say on Brexit and having its say on Theresa. She’s determined to stop us because she knows the verdict will be as harsh as her government is on the poor. But scammers always get caught out in the end, and Theresa’s Tory scammers are about to come crashing down. By the time Scotland’s had its say on the unfolding catastrophe of Brexit, Theresa will be looking to Dingo Sofa as a model of business success.

If you’d like me and the dug to come and give a talk to your local group, email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com


Donate to the Dug This blog relies on your support and donations to keep going – I need to make a living, and have bills to pay. Clicking the donate button will allow you to make a payment directly to my Paypal account. You do not need a Paypal account yourself to make a donation. You can donate as little, or as much, as you want. Many thanks.

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If you’d like to make a donation but don’t wish to use Paypal or have problems using the Paypal button, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com for details of alternative methods of donation.


frontcovervol3barkingvol2coverSigned copies of the Collected Yaps of the Wee Ginger Dug volumes 1 2 3 & 4 are available by emailing me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com. Price just £21.90 for two volumes plus P&P. Please state whether you want vols 1 & 2 or 3 & 4. You can also order signed copies of all four volumes for the special price of £40 plus £4 P&P within the UK.

Copies of Barking Up the Right Tree are available from my publisher Vagabond Voices at http://vagabondvoices.co.uk/?page_id=1993 price just £7.95 plus P&P. The E-book of Barking Up the Right Tree is available for Kindle for just £4. Click here to purchase.

Get your copy of Barking Up the Right Tree Volume 2 by placing an order on the Vagabond Voices website. Just click the following link.

https://www.vagabondvoices.co.uk/bookshop-rants/barking-up-the-right-tree-2016