The East Kilbride stooshie, a wee comment

I’m due to go on holiday, off to America to spend some time with my partner. We only manage to get together for a few precious weeks each year and during that time I need a break from the pressures of the independence movement. A few days ago there was an instance of just that kind of pressure and I want to make a wee statement about it before I leave. It’s only to be expected when you have a degree of prominence in the indy movement that you are going to be attacked by British nationalists and apologists for the British state, but this latest attack came from fellow independence supporters. It was hurtful. It was hurtful because it was unfair and many of the criticisms were unnecessarily personal.

The issue which sparked so much ire was the event put on by Yes East Kilbride last Thursday. There were no women on the panel. This is of course very regrettable, however the object of anger from those who were upset about it was the organisers and those of us who participated on the panel. It is important that people organising events should be aware of the need to ensure diversity and that women are represented. And that’s exactly what the organisers of the event in East Kilbride were and exactly what they had tried to do. I was only invited onto the panel a few days before the event because the organisers had repeatedly tried, and failed, to find any pro-indy women involved in the media who were willing to participate and who were available on the date. By the time they invited me they were desperate to get enough numbers on the panel to make the event worthwhile.

This was an event about the media. Everyone on the panel was a pro-independence voice with some connection with the new media and or the traditional media. If the organisers of the event had made absolutely no efforts whatsoever to find women panellists from the Scottish pro-indy media, if they had shown not the slightest degree of awareness of the need to find women panellists, then those criticising them for the lack of gender balance on the panel would have had an important point and would have been making a valid criticism.

But that’s not what happened. There is a serious issue here about the lack of women in prominent positions in the Scottish media, in the digital media, and in the indy movement as a whole, but that’s a much wider and more important issue which isn’t going to be solved by making unpleasant and personal attacks on the people who organised the East Kilbride event or on those of us who participated. The target of the ire was entirely misplaced.  And although it shouldn’t need to be pointed out – but sadly it is – it’s equally bad to make personal attacks on the people who raised the issue of gender imbalance in the first place.  None of this helps.

This is precisely the kind of crap which made me give up on Twitter, and it has only reinforced my decision to refrain from using it. Twitter is toxic, it’s nasty, and it’s full of people looking for something to be outraged about. They’re far more interested in their own self-righteous anger than they are in ensuring that they are targetting their ire accurately or in highlighting the real issues.  This recent spat has done nothing to help us all tackle those real underlying issues. All the Twitter outragederatti have done is to cause upset, anger, and to give our Unionist opponents something else to gloat about.

A final point. Those of us who did participate did so for free. Unlike a panel of commentators on a TV show no one was paid. We neither asked for, nor received, travel expenses for the evening. A panel of people who had given up their time for free in order to help a Yes group re-establish itself were attacked and belittled by a bunch of self-righteous Twitter warriors for no other reason than the fact that they had penises. Well thanks a bunch. Way to go to discourage people from volunteering to participate in indy events in the future. I hope you’re very proud of yourselves.

Who knew?

A guest post by Samuel Miller

A recurring theme running through the press these days is that the EU just keep coming up with unreasonable demands.  Indeed the narrative from certain quarters of government and the meeja paints a picture of beleaguered UK diplomats and ministers bravely fighting off unfair demands and tactics from dastardly furren agencies intent on punishing the UK because… reasons. So, not the more logical explanation of panic stricken politicians, hopelessly out of their depth, in a catastrophic situation of their own making and looking for a scapegoat at all then?

Y’know, it’s even been recently touted that Brexiteering high heid yins in cabinet are set to go off in a major stroomph because these unreasonable furriners don’t understand how this whole Brexit business should work (mainly in their favour dammit). Seems they don’t like the idea of having to put any possible new rules in place whilst they’re seeking to ditch the existing ones and that’s just not cricket. As I recall and so far as I know, whilst you’re still a memberor aspiring to trade with the EU, then you still have to adhere to their rules, but without voting rights or input to relevant bodies. 

So, yes. Yes it is a pain and I can even understand the frustration of having to administer any new legislation during this negotiation period, but there is a more important question here. Given that the Lisbon Treaty A50 is pretty clear on an exiting member’s voting rights and participation on voting bodies, why weren’t the government prepared or apparently aware of this possible eventuality? Did they actually think the EU would just stop legislating for its members because of Brexit?

As has been highlighted in a previous post: From the EU’s perspective, they aren’t going anywhere. They didn’t force anyone to do anything and didn’t kick anyone out, but they do have rules (as does any club). So far as they are concerned, those rules help ensure and facilitate peace, trade, access and rights between all of its member states. The remaining twenty seven nations agree to live by those rules and enshrined at the core are the four freedoms

Is it just me, or is there apparently a breathtaking lack of self awareness by UK government and sections of the media over Brexit? It’s either that or, and this may come as a shock to some readers, it appears some are being more than a little disingenuous on actual facts surrounding the nature of Brexit, its possible repercussions and the processes involved (cough).

Surely then, it is entirely reasonable for the continuing body to expect that you adhere to their rules whilst you are still a member, seek access to trade agreements, transitioning to exit, or are still locked in a negotiating process? Does it not also seem reasonable that the continuing body expects the rights of its member citizens, currently in your care, receive due consideration? Isn’t it reasonable that all the leaving member’s financial commitments are settled appropriately, to each party’s satisfaction and that a pressing issue which may have dire repercussions for current and former members achieve a desirable resolution?

On that note…

Just when your expectations of the Conservative government’s handling of Brexit negotiation outcomes couldn’t be any lower, they always seem to find new and interesting ways of limbo dancing under a tick’s bum with inches to spare. It’s a talent few would aspire to, but an absolutely essential trait when you’re a minister responsible for… something or other. Right down there with the empathy bypass, telling you the order of … things and backstabbing for the career minded. (There’s probably more you can add to that list, but for the sake of brevity and all that.)

So naturally, not to be outdone on the art of stroomphing and in an astonishing (sark) ‘hold my beer’ moment, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox has said that basically the Irish border issue should not be settled until after there has been a trade agreement with the EU. This, of course, flies in the face of the three issues which the EU have contended needed immediate attention from pretty much day one. Those being: Settlement of outstanding financial commitments, the rights of EU citizens and naturally the border issue between Eire and Northern Ireland.

I mean, what’s the worst that could happen when you use people who have home grown political and economic issues as bargaining chips in a trade negotiation? In fact, what’s the worst that can happen when you ignore agreements, assurances and guarantees given to members of your own political union?  Personally I’d say that the situation both for Northern Ireland and Scotland should never have arisen, but then I would. Bearing in mind the UK was the member who initiated the entire process, not the EU, you’d have thought UK gov would have prepared contingencies for Northern Ireland and Scotland. You’d have thought their electorates and their standing constitutional settlements and agreements might have merited some consideration before the whole thing kicked off, but apparently not.

All together now… WHO KNEW?

Seriously though, I believe the government and elements of media need to perhaps take another look at the combative/competitive tone they currently are intent on selling the public. The whole ‘them against us’ language doing the rounds may just have a down side is all ah’m sayin’. Certainly some of your actual diplomacy may not go wrong at this point. Seein’ as how, Brexit or not, the neighbours are still the neighbours and you may, at the very least, want to be on friendly chatting terms with them. It may also be helpful if the political class in general would, (just for once), come clean with the true state of affairs regarding Brexit. Not saying those impact reports (minus the redaction), wouldn’t come in handy for the public about now or anything, but y’know…

At this juncture, many would argue the damage has already been done. The UK’s economy, equally arguably and to put it mildly, is somewhat challenged over ongoing austerity and looming Brexit measures back to back. The government’s reputation on the international stage is not in its best shape ever and the practice of politics in the UK has seemingly descended into jingoistic, soundbite and media-driven, farce. In as little as three years since Scotland’s indyref, the nature of party politics as it is practised have brought the peoples of these islands to the brink.

Might be worth the movers and shakers asking themselves, do they really want to pursue a politically combative and societally polarizing strategy? Do we really need to make a potentially volatile situation any worse than it already is?

Their choice of course, but on track record to date? I’m guessing another ‘who knew?’ moment will be along in the very near future.

Kill me, just kill me now

It’s here. The British government have finally come up with a solution to all the many problems facing this country. After much work, complex and taxing negotiations, and intensive effort, they have the answer to all the technical and political issues that bedevil Brexit. They have come up with the resolution to the poverty and growing chasm between the rich getting ever richer and the rest of us. They know how to deal with social injustice and inequality. They’re having another royal wedding.

Oh God. Kill me. Kill me now. I don’t know if I can cope with another six months of royal wedding preparations and Nicolas Witchellgasms on what passes for the news. It was bad enough with Willnkate. Now Meghanarry has already started, and it’s going to go on, and on, and interminably on for the next twelve months. North Korean state news is more critical about Kim Jong-un than the coverage given to royalty in the British media. It’s what Kay Burley was born for. I’m sure it’s part of a cunning plan on the part of the British establishment to stop us all from turning the news on for the next six months.

They’re going to wring every second of sycophancy out of this for as long as they possibly can, which is going to be a very long time indeed. And however long it really is it’s going to feel at least one hundred and twenty times longer due to one of the lesser remarked upon effects of Einstein’s theory of relativity, which holds that time passes more slowly for the observer the closer to the speed of light that something approaches, or the closer that the BBC, Sky News and the Daily Mail get to a royal wedding. In six months time you’ll be desperate to poke your eyes out with a Meghanarry themed place setting.

Some commentators, well I say commentators, I really mean cringe making sycophants, are talking about how much of a rebel Harry is because he’s marrying a mixed-race American divorcee. It must be admitted however that it is deeply satisfying to watch the Daily Mail have to pretend that it’s thrilled that an unemployed black immigrant is going to be the newest member of the royal family. Howver if Harry were a real rebel he’d insist that there be no media circus surrounding his nuptials and the entire squillion quid that the shindig is going to cost the taxpayer be spent on alleviating child poverty and homelessness instead. As it is it’s all a convenient distraction from the 120,000 people who’ve died because of austerity, the looming car crash that is Brexit, the impossibility of getting a secure home of your own if you’re a young person, or the fact that wages are stagnant and people in employment are forced to resort to foodbanks. Today all that Sky News wanted to talk about was getting a look at the ring and whether Harry and Meghan would kiss. There’s no real need, Sky and the BBC have spent the entire day kissing the royal ring. Just not the one on Meghan’s finger.

It’s not just those of us who are cynical independentistas who are unhappy with today’s non-news masquerading as news. Some die hard supporters of the British state aren’t best pleased either. Richard Leonard is gutted. There he was, it was his big day. He’s being inaugurated as the leader of the Labour party branch office in Scotland and being annointed by the massed ranks of the Scottish Unionist press as the next First Minister. Just like Kezia before him, and Jim Murphy before her, and Johann Lamont before him, and Iain Gray before her. And now naebody is going to notice or care. Although to be fair, naebody was going to notice or care anyway. Richard becoming leader of what’s left of the internecine warfare that is known as the Labour party in Scotland is proof positive that there is actually news which is more trivial and irrelevant than a royal engagement.

The royalweddingaggedon has only just started. All of Harry’s close family are naturally very happy. James Hewitt is thrilled. For us lesser mortals there is all sorts of sookery to look forward to. There’s going to be earnest reports from the people making the sandwiches for the wedding rehearsal, teary eyed about how a chicken and avocado bap made by their own lowly working class hands might very soon become a part of history and transit through a royal alimentary canal. Or if not a royal one, then at least one belonging to someone who once appeared in a supporting role in an American telly show about lawyers, which is now officially the next best thing. There will be endless speculation about The Dress, which will receive capital letters in an entirely unironic way. There are going to be vox-pops with those members of the public who can work up the mandatory degree of enthusiasm, even if it’s only to say that they’ve never heard of Meghan Markle and don’t know who she is but they’re sure that she’s going to be a wonderful asset to the royal family. You know, like Diana. Then there will be all those people bedecked from head to toe in union fleg suits because they’re not nationalists at all, many of whom are Conservative MSPs.

It’s a fairy tale in the making, gushes the reporter on the TV news. Who needs reality when we have the British media? There will be entire TV specials devoted to the insights about the royal wedding that can be brought to us by someone who once served the Queen oatcakes biscuits with a selection of cheeses when they were working as a waiter at a state banquet. Oh shit. I spoke too soon. Sky News is interviewing someone right now who did exactly that. He’s telling us how lucky he was to be a part of history. Kill me, just kill me now.

I’m off on holiday for the next week. Will be back on Thursday 7 December. Macart will be looking after you until then.


weegingerdug.scot

The Wee Ginger Dug has got a new domain name, thanks to Indy Poster Boy, Colin Dunn @Zarkwan. http://www.indyposterboy.scot/ You can now access this blog simply by typing www.weegingerdug.scot into the address bar of your browser, the old address continues to function, the new one redirects to the blog. The advantage of the new address is that it’s a lot easier to remember if you want to include a link to the blog in leaflets, posters, or simply to tell a friend about it. Many thanks to Colin.


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To IndyApp and Beyond

Guest post by William Duguid of Yes Perth City and Common Weal Perth & Kinross, and blogger at the wonderful To September and Beyond

IndyApp Crowdfund Link https://chuffed.org/project/nyr-indyapp

It was a bright July evening when the National Yes Registry Roadshow, in the person of the indefatigable Jason Baird, rolled into Perth to demonstrate IndyApp. For the small band of Common Weal Perth & Kinross and Yes Perth City supporters who were present, the abiding memory of the evening was Jason’s energy and enthusiasm, lifting the discussion beyond dry tech-speak into something that outlined real campaigning possibilities. It was a bright spot in what was, let’s face it, a fairly flat summer.
So what’s IndyApp all about? Well, it’s a free-of-charge networking tool that you can download from nationalyesregistry.scot to run on any Android or iOS device. As the name suggests, it’s been designed specifically with the Yes movement in mind, after consultation with a pilot group of pro-indy organisations from all over Scotland. Its aim is to help to bring together all the campaigning experience, creativity and organisational talent that’s been out there since 2014, and make it easy for new supporters to become involved.

The app’s been up and running since September 2016, and is growing steadily. At the last count, 131 Indy groups across Scotland had set up their ‘Front Door’ on it, containing all the information needed for individuals to contact them, discover what they’re up to and get involved. No need to search through social media, seek out a street stall or send off an e-mail to what you hope is the right address; the gang’s all here.

What if you’re a technophobe, fazed by new-fangled stuff on your phone? Nae bother; IndyApp’s a stress-free experience. Once you’ve installed it, to find a local Yes group all you need to do is type in the first half of your postcode and hit ‘Go’. The app will display the groups geographically closest to you, and a click on any of them will take you to its Front Door. There you’ll find a group profile page, venue with google map, meeting times, an opportunity to donate (if you wish) and details of any coming events or campaigns.

Most importantly, you’ll see a Contact/Join button, enabling you to become a member of the local group. Once you’ve joined you’ll be able to send direct messages to your fellow group members – individually, as a selection or all at once. Once again, there’s no need to keep up with e-mail addresses.

That’s individuals within local groups in touch with one another. What about the groups themselves? They’re connected via designated Editors in each group, who can also exchange messages with each other. It’s Group Editors who also ensure their group’s information is kept up to date, so it’s wise for each group to appoint two or, ideally, three editors and share the role.

Those IndyApp connections, on their own, represent a pretty significant grass-root communications breakthrough compared to 2014. But they’re just the beginning. The next round of development, already planned and currently being crowd-funded, is where the real fireworks will come.

On the agenda for IndyApp 2.0 are Local and National Forums. In a group’s Local Forum members will be able to post and comment on campaigning ideas and whatever else is going on, keeping everyone in the group informed and thinking about its next move, even between meetings and events. The National Forum, visible to everyone but with designated members of each group posting on its behalf, will do the same on a grander scale, helping to spark national campaigns from successful local initiatives or popular ideas.

Also planned are Resource Buttons, allowing each group to list its local resources: membership skill sets, equipment, suppliers, venues, media contacts and the like. For its local membership, this will encourage and simplify self-starting campaign ideas. Nationally, each group will be able, if it wishes, to share local resources, either as an alternative source of supply for other groups or to be available for national campaigns.

Taking these two ideas a step further, there’ll be national Committee Rooms, where representatives of each group will be able to get together to develop ideas proposed in the forums or elsewhere. They’ll have several other practical applications, too: perhaps organising mass orders of merchandise, so as to achieve economies of scale; or distributing the future equivalent of Wings Over Scotland’s ‘Wee Blue Book’; or setting up national tours for speakers, musicians or film screenings. Endless possibilities!

These features, and a few others that remain under wraps for now, give IndyApp the potential to be a real game-changer in Indyref2. At its heart is local autonomy, with each local group free to select and adapt whichever ideas or strategies it feels are best suited to it, with little or no dependence on a centralised ‘Yes HQ’ that might turn out to be another pinch point as the heat of the campaign builds up again.

Of course, as with any tool, it’ll be only as effective as we make it. To realise its potential we need to ensure that as many Yes supporters as possible sign up for it, start to engage with it and fully understand what it can do. Jason Baird is still touring round, putting in appearances at The National Roadshow in Perth, the Build2 SIC Conference at the Usher Hall and various local venues. But it’s not a job solely for him; we all need to spread the word and get people excited about what IndyApp can do.

And, most importantly of all, we need to ensure the project is funded.

Building in the features planned for IndyApp 2.0 will cost a total of £24,000. Half of this sum has already been privately pledged by pro-indy business people as “match funding”, which means that, in order to release it, the rest of us need to raise £12,000. If we can achieve that, the new features will be in place within four months – in good time for a September 2018 referendum, if that’s when it happens.

To raise the £12,000, Jason and his National Yes Registry colleagues have started a crowd-funding page at https://chuffed.org/project/nyr-indyapp. But time is short: the window closes on 6 December, and there’s still some way to go.

I’m sure that, whenever the referendum’s called, we all want to give ourselves the best possible chance of winning it. Used effectively, with all its planned features in place, IndyApp will take us a long way towards that goal.

Please do take a look at the IndyApp crowd-funding page, and donate whatever you can.

Small minded and far away

The problem with Brexit and the Irish border is that the British government is unclear on the distinction between the post-Brexit Irish border and one of those new smart phones with an infinity display. Brexiteers are trying to convince themselves that one of those things can be made borderless with technology, then the other jolly well can too. Brexiteers are counting on a high tech solution which will allow them to have their dream of a virtual no border which is really a hard border. It will be a sort of quantum Schrodinger’s border which manages to be simultaneously a border without being a border at all.

Unfortunately for the swivel eyed members of the Conservative cabinet who’ve apparently been bitten by a Ukip vampire, it’s only the technology for the smart phone which currently exists in our universe. You can buy one of those in any mobile phone or computer retailer near you. The borderless hard border that’s no border on the other hand, isn’t yet on special offer for Black Friday in your local branch of Curry’s. There are two terms for hoping that technology which hasn’t been invented yet is going to solve all your problems. The polite term is science fiction. The more realistic term is bat-shit crazy delusional.

The Irish government isn’t prepared to wait until the UK government can buy a solution to the border question from Shift-Shaft, the mobile network run by people on glue, and is growing increasingly frustrated by the British attitude. So frustrated that someone in the Irish foreign office leaked an internal report from Irish diplomats which essentially boiled down to the following:

“Those Brits? Jeeeeeeezus, Mary, and Joseph. They’re feckin mental eejits who make Dougal from Father Ted seem clued in so they are. See David Davis? See Dougal? Dougal’s the one with his finger on the pulse. Small or far away? Small or far away? David Davis’s understanding of the Brexit process is both small and far away at the same time. And don’t start us on that English upper class stereotype that is Boris feckin Johnson. He gives balloons a bad name, at least the gas that fills a balloon serves a useful purpose. The only surprising thing about that refugee from an Edwardian melodrama is that he doesn’t have a moustache to twiddle. He’s so thick he doesn’t even realise that in this scenario, the UK’s the one that’s been tied to the railway track. They are so screwed. And we won’t even be mentioning Michael Gove on account of the nausea. There are wee worms living around hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the Pacific who’ve got a firmer grasp on the realities of the negotiations than any of that lot. There’s more of a chance that Mother Brown’s Boys will come up with some innovative comedy than there is of any those clowns coming up with a solution to the border issue. For feck’s sake.”

And that’s the diplomatic version.

The anger and frustration from Dublin is perfectly understandable. So far Britain’s approach to the question of the Irish border has been that of someone who throws their dinner on the floor, smashes all the crockery, and then demands that Ireland and the EU clean up the mess, make a new dinner, and take pottery lessons so they can replace the broken plates and mugs. Ireland, not surprisingly, is of the view that it was the UK which caused this problem and it’s incumbent upon the UK to sort it out. Sadly however the British nationalists who animate the Brexit project have as much interest in what’s good for Northern Ireland as they do in what’s good for Scotland. Bugger all, in other words. Little England is going to get what Little England wants, and everyone else needs to fix any resultant problems because they’re not Little Englanders and so don’t need to be considered.

With the question of the Irish border post-Brexit, the issue of British exceptionalism comes crashing into cold hard reality. British nationalists have been so used to getting their own way in these islands for so long that they’re constitutionally incapable of conceptualising a situation in which they don’t have the upper hand. However that’s exactly where we are with the Brexit negotiations and the Irish border. This time it’s not the UK dealing with a country with less than a tenth of the population and a fraction of the GDP, this time it’s the UK dealing with the Republic of Ireland and 26 other members of the EU. Britain has promised that there will be no perceptible change on the Irish border, no border installations, no barriers to freedom of movement. It’s up to Britain to deliver.

Back in the real world, rather than the one inhabited by this Conservative bunch of no-marks, there’s only one realistic solution to the question of the Irish border. The Northern Irish DUP whose votes Theresa May depends on will never consent to a situation in which Northern Ireland remains in the customs union and the single market but the rest of the UK leaves. That would require customs checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. But if there is going to be special treatment for Northern Ireland, why not special treatment for Scotland, which voted to remain by an even larger margin than Northern Ireland did. Is it because of fear of violence? That’s hardly a resounding demonstration of having faith in democracy is it.

When the UK voted by the slimmest of majorites to leave the EU, people were not voting for hardest possible Brexit, the Brexit which the Tories have chosen to interpret in their own interests and not in the interests of the country. So there’s only one solution that actually works, and that’s for the whole of the UK to remain a part of the single market and the customs union. The Tories won’t agree to that, and Labour lacks the courage to stand up to the Brexiteers.

That means that all that is left is for Ireland to veto any deal. Ireland will receive assistance from the rest of the EU to make up for the damage to its economy. Britain will be on its own and the resultant mess is likely to lead to both the reunification of Ireland and to Scottish independence. The British state might aquiesce with Brexit being turned into a coup d’etat by right wing market extremists, but that doesn’t mean that Ireland, or Scotland, are going to suffer the consequences. One day soon, for both Scotland and Ireland, the self-inflicted arsewipery of the British state will be the problems of a small minded state that’s far away from our reality.


weegingerdug.scot

The Wee Ginger Dug has got a new domain name, thanks to Indy Poster Boy, Colin Dunn @Zarkwan. http://www.indyposterboy.scot/ You can now access this blog simply by typing www.weegingerdug.scot into the address bar of your browser, the old address continues to function, the new one redirects to the blog. The advantage of the new address is that it’s a lot easier to remember if you want to include a link to the blog in leaflets, posters, or simply to tell a friend about it. Many thanks to Colin.


gingercartoonWee Ginger Donations & Speaking engagements

You can help to support this blog with a Paypal donation. Just click the donate button.
Donate Button

Or you can donate by making a payment directly into a special bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com and I will send the necessary information. Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.

Many thanks

Happy 3rd Birthday to The National

It’s the third birthday of Scotland’s only pro-independence national daily newspaper.  The National is three today, despite the doomsayers who said when it was launched back at the end of November in 2014 that it would close down by that Christmas.  The paper gives a platform for a range of pro-independence voices, some you may agree with (me, naturally), and some you may not – but the existence of the paper gives the independence movement a platform in the traditional media that would otherwise be denied to us.  That helps us reach an audience we might not otherwise reach.

The National helps the movement in other ways too.  By providing a regular income to pro-independence writers and bloggers it helps us to do other work to assist the movement.  So give The National a birthday present.  Give it your subscription and give it your support.  To celebrate the paper’s third birthday, I’m pleased to publish this guest piece from Callum Baird, the editor of the newspaper.

The National – Frequently Asked Questions

a guest post by Callum Baird, editor of The National

THE National is three years old today. Most of the pundits in Scotland’s Unionist media said we wouldn’t last till Christmas. We’ve proven them wrong – so far. But how long that lasts is now up to you.

Over the past 12 months, we’ve been doing our National Roadshow, bringing the newspaper and our team to towns and villages across Scotland, hosting events and meeting Yes groups. We’ve spoken to thousands of our readers. And we’ve realised that many people in the independence movement share the same concerns about The National and how it’s run. So we thought we would try to address the most common questions here.

You are published by Newsquest … why should we give them our money?

The truth is that it would be incredibly difficult to launch a successful daily independent newspaper today without the backing of a large publisher.
The fact that we are part of a big media company allows us to benefit from shared resources, like a printing plant, photographers, a circulation department, an advertising sales team – all of which an independent newspaper would have to pay a premium to use.

The truth is that Newsquest doesn’t have a political view. It doesn’t back independence, or the Union. Otherwise, they would never have allowed the Sunday Herald to come out for Yes, or decided to launch The National. Not once, in three years of the paper, has anybody ever told us what we can and cannot publish in The National. The owners of certain other newspaper companies in the UK are not quite so hands off.

But they could pull the plug at any minute?

Well, yes. But they won’t, as long as it’s financially viable. The only time Newsquest will ever get involved in The National is if enough people aren’t supporting the paper. So long as our readers keep buying us every morning, we’ll be there. More on that later.

Aren’t you part of the same company as The Herald?

Yes, we are – along with 20-odd local newspapers and several magazines like the Scottish Farmer. In reality, we run a completely separate operation. We have access to the same photographers, and we use the same sports writers. The other papers have no influence over us, and we’ve got no influence over them.

But is our money going towards The Herald?

No, we’re in a completely separate financial line. Decisions are made for each title based on the performance of each newspaper, and The Herald will sink or swim based on its own performance. As will the Greenock Telegraph, the Evening Times, the East Lothian Courier, or any of the other Scottish newspapers in our company.

I can’t get hold of a copy. What’s wrong with your distribution?

We know we have a major problem here, and there are several factors which contribute to it.

First, The National – unlike most other papers – is a pan-Scottish title that doesn’t have a natural geographic base (for example, like The Herald has in Glasgow or the Scotsman in Edinburgh). We’ve got to be in all 4500-odd shops, which means we need to spread ourselves thin to make sure there are enough copies in every outlet.

Second, the newspaper is often either hidden or tucked away. That’s partly because we’re the new kid on the block and therefore we get shunted behind or on the bottom shelf away from the more established papers.

Third, there is no doubt – this is the single biggest complaint we hear – that we are also being deliberately hidden behind the Unionist papers. It might be members of the public who come in and stick them under the Daily Mails or the Express. Unfortunately, without us checking every shop every day, there’s not a lot we can do about it. (And thanks to all of you out there who I know fight back to make sure we get a decent selling spot). Quite why Unionists are threatened by ONE daily newspaper when they’ve got all the rest of them, we don’t know.

How does the distribution system work?

If a shop sells out one day, it is then allocated extra copies on that day the following week. If there are a large number of copies left unsold, the shop’s allocation is cut. It is an automated system (it would be impossible to manually control the number of copies going into to 4500 shops on a daily basis).

One major problem is that the number of copies we sell is very volatile. For example, in one shop on any given week we might sell:
Monday 6 copies
Tuesday 3 copies
Wednesday 13 copies
Thursday 1 copy
Friday 8 copies

In order to make sure we definitely have enough copies available, we’d need to have at least 14 (the maximum we’re likely to sell plus one) in there each day. Over the course of those five days, we’ll have given the shop 70 copies, sold 34 and wasted 39. That doesn’t make economic sense, so we need to make tough decisions based on average sales, rather than the absolute maximum. This can lead to the newspaper occasionally being unavailable.

How are sales anyway?

We had a brilliant first six months to the year – our circulation was up on the previous 12 months, which is pretty much unheard of in newspapers. But since the General Election result – and the perception, at least, of it being a setback for independence – our sales have taken a huge hit.

The brutal truth is that we have lost close to a fifth of our print readers since a high point in June. We have a good solid number of digital subscriptions which is increasing (nearly 5000), but our readers need to be clear that the printed newspaper will ONLY exist as long as people keep buying us, and buying us regularly. There have been occasions this summer when we’ve lost an average of 300 readers from one week to the next.

So what can we do about it?

The best thing you can do is put in an order with your newsagents and make sure you get a copy of the paper EVERY day. We’re hoping to introduce a subscription soon for the printed edition, but until then we need our readership to make sure they pick up a National as a matter of routine. And make sure that other people in their local Yes groups and party branches, who might not be regular readers, know how important it is to keep The National going.

But isn’t The National just preaching to the converted?

It’s true that our readership is probably mostly made up of Yes voters. But a newspaper can reach people in other ways – for example, when our stories are followed up by other news outlets. Half a million people visit our website every month. Our front pages are seen by hundreds of thousands of people online and in shops, and articles from The National appear in the timelines of around a million people on Facebook every week.
We also support a community of pro-independence writers and columnists by paying them to contribute for us. Paul Kavanagh (aka Wee Ginger Dug) says that it’s his income from writing his columns in The National that allows him to be able to blog full-time and tour Scotland visiting Yes groups.

Why isn’t there more advertising?

This is another major problem for us. Businesses say they are spooked by the independence thing, because they think The National is too political to be associated with. It’s fine, of course, to advertise in the Unionist newspapers. Funny that. Yet we have a readership that you can’t reach in any other newspaper. We need pro-independence businesses to help us buck the trend. Get in touch!

You don’t call out the media/BBC enough!

Of course, we will hold them to account when we need to. And there are plenty people in the independence movement doing that already – The National is an alternative to the Unionist media, not a watchdog.

I really don’t like those front pages you do.

The front page gets us noticed and gets people talking about us. Those that are a bit more ‘out there’ and are more strident are inevitably shared more online and then sell more copies. Of course, we’ve made a few mistakes over the past 900-ish editions – you can’t get it right all of the time. But we’re learning.

I bought The National when it started but stopped.

Try it again. We’ve changed a lot since the launch. Don’t forget that there were only four weeks between the idea first being pitched and the newspaper arriving in shops!

I don’t like that Cat Boyd/Michael Fry/whoever writes for you.

We’ve got around 22 regular columnists and two cartoonists. You’re not going to like all of them. In fact, if you did like all of them, we wouldn’t be doing our job properly. And besides, it’s healthy to disagree with writers. Some of the newspaper columns I enjoy reading the most are the ones which make me really angry at whatever they’re saying.

I still don’t like you …

Then we’re probably never going to win you over. But wouldn’t you agree that it’s better to have at least one pro-independence newspaper than none at all? If the Yes movement doesn’t get behind us, then we’re right back where we started – with ALL of Scotland’s mainstream media against us.

The National is put together by a small team of around 10 to 12 people every day. We all believe passionately in independence for Scotland, and although another referendum isn’t going to happen in the next few month, it is coming soon. We need you to make sure we’re around to report on the campaign. And to be in the newsstands on the day Scotland votes for independence.

Callum Baird, editor of The National

Marketing a lie

It’s a quiet news day. No other former Labour leaders have announced their decision to eat kangaroo testicles on national TV, and no more former SNP leaders have announced their decision to set up a broadcasting studio in Vladimir Putin’s front room where they’re going to read out the Kremlin’s little list of things that Russia would like to see happen in Scotland, followed by a translation of And Quiet Flows the Don into Doric. (At least according to the Scottish Unionist media’s depiction of events.) Even all the Putinbots have been reduced to tweeting random lines from Scot Squad.

Back in the real world it’s looking increasingly likely that the UK’s talks with the EU could end in disaster. Ireland is deeply unhappy that the work that the UK has put into ensuring there is no hard border between the Republic and the North after Brexit amounts to Brexiteers stamping their ruby red slippers and wishing on a star. A hard border is a logical consequence of the UK leaving the customs union and the single market, and it can’t be wished away. Ireland has already hinted that it’s going to wield its veto and block any talks on a post-Brexit trade deal until this issue is dealt with to Ireland’s satisfaction. The days that the UK could bully the Irish Republic are gone. But that’s not really news, because it’s not about how Scottish independence supporters are all agents of the Kremlin.

While we’re on the topic of the single market, there’s something that annoys me. It annoys me that apologists for the British state go on about Russian inspired misinformation when they’re perfectly happy to peddle misinformation of their own. It would be lovely if British nationalists and their hangers on would stop with the guff about a “UK single market”. Not that it’s going to happen mind you. SNP MSP Joan McAlpine got dog’s abuse in the British nationalist press for stating the obvious, but she was correct. There is no such thing as a UK single market. “The UK Single Market” is a political and propaganda term invented by supporters of the British state who seek to prevent Scottish independence by drawing a false equivalence between the union that is the collection of sovereign states which comprise the EU and the supposed union that is the incorporating unitary state of the UK.

A single market is a precisely defined term, and it refers to what you get when several distinct and discrete national markets come together into a mutually agreed and negotiated regulatory framework. That’s decidedly not what we’ve got in the UK. What the UK has is the market of a unitary state, that is not a single market in anything like the same sense that the EU has a single market. One market is not the same as a single market.

This might seem like a nit-picking distinction, but it’s important. Crucially, whereas national markets within a real single market retain their own regulatory, taxation, and financial bodies to which fees and taxes must be paid or reported, the regulatory, tax, and financial framework under which the Scottish economy operates is almost in its entirety handled by the central government in Westminster.  And this will be even more the case after Brexit when competencies currently held by Brussels will be held by Westminster.

What this boils down to is that when, say, Belgium reports that it exports X amount to the rest of the EU that there are Belgian tax authorities and economic bodies which are able to collate figures for the Belgian market with a considerable degree of accuracy. The Belgian government and the Belgian press can then discuss Belgium’s tax revenues and its exports to the rest of the EU and be fairly confident that the data they’re using is accurate and meaningful.

There are no comparable statistics for Scottish tax revenues, the figures which do exist are based on estimates because Scotland doesn’t have its own authorities to which such figures must be reported. The great majority of taxes in the UK are determined by the UK government and collected by UK agencies on a UK wide basis. There is absolutely no requirement for a company which operates across the entire UK to separate out its income and expenditure in Scotland when it comes to paying its taxes. Equally figures for Scotland’s exports to the rest of the UK are based on rough estimates derived from voluntary surveys. In fact it’s really only accurate to speak of the UK economy in Scotland and not of “the Scottish economy”.

So it’s misleading to confidently assert that “Scotland exports four times as much to the rest of the UK as it does to the EU” as some apologists for British nationalism do, because Scotland is not a country of origin in terms of the reporting of taxes and fees in the sense required of a member of a single market. The truth is we don’t really know with anything like the precision that the Belgian authorities know about their exports to other EU states. It’s like trying to compare the results of a straw poll taken from amongst your mates in the pub with the outcome of an actual election. You might come up with the correct result, but there is a huge margin of error and there’s no guarantee that your sample is representative. But really it’s nonsensical to speak about exports from one part of a unitary state to another part of the same unitary state. You’d be as well talking about what Glasgow exports to Paisley

Another crucial distinction is that the EU states decide collectively what the regulations governing the EU single market are going to be. In some aspects of the negotiations member states have a veto.  No single EU state can impose its will unilaterally on the others.  It is however nonsensical to assert that Scotland has a separate and meaningful input into decisions such as setting the rate of VAT throughout the UK, or the rate of corporation tax. These are decided by the UK central government. One nation in the UK can and does unilaterally impose its will on the other nations.  That’s why Scotland is getting Brexit.  Within the UK, we all get what England votes for.

The entire taxation system is in the control of the UK government, except for those aspects which Westminster has allowed to be devolved. Naturally the only tax powers which Westminster has allowed to be devolved to Holyrood are those which have the biggest direct impact on the income of ordinary working people. There’s no economic reason for that, only political reasons. After Brexit the UK government has made it very clear that decisions on regulations such as agricultural standards which are currently determined by EU regulations as part of the EU single market will be determined solely by the UK government.

The point here is that the different members of a single market each have input into how that single market is run and regulated, and although some of the countries which comprise the EU have much larger economies than others, in theory each country comprising the single market has an equal say in how it’s run. That ensures that no one country which is part of the single market can use the single market to benefit itself at the expense of other countries in the single market. That is at least the theory, although it doesn’t always work perfectly in practice. However it’s a very different philosophical underpinning to what happens in the UK’s unitary state market, where the entire economy is apparently run in the interests of the south east of England and London sucks up capital, labour and receives the lion’s share of investment.

If those who oppose Scottish independence want to oppose it on the grounds that taking Scotland out of the UK’s unitary market is a bad thing, they could make a reasonable argument for that which would at least be coherent and morally defensible. It is after all indisputable that Scotland has extremely strong economic links to the rest of the UK. However there is no moral defence for trying to pretend that there’s an exact equivalence between the real single market of the EU and the market of the unitary state of the UK. That’s just misinformation, pure and simple. And that’s exactly the kind of thing that they’re accusing Russia of.

So gonnae no dae that. Gonnae. Jist gonnae no.


weegingerdug.scot

The Wee Ginger Dug has got a new domain name, thanks to Indy Poster Boy, Colin Dunn @Zarkwan. http://www.indyposterboy.scot/ You can now access this blog simply by typing www.weegingerdug.scot into the address bar of your browser, the old address continues to function, the new one redirects to the blog. The advantage of the new address is that it’s a lot easier to remember if you want to include a link to the blog in leaflets, posters, or simply to tell a friend about it. Many thanks to Colin.


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