The Return of the Slave Trade

Now the election’s over, we can get back to business as usual on social media, with most postings slagging off the Tories for the latest round of austerity cuts (or proposed cuts), cutting the incomes of the poor and disadvantaged, while, at the same time, boosting the incomes of the deserving plutocrats.

But how can they do that?  How can they sleep at night?  Have they no conscience?  These and other similar questions are often asked, but what surprises me is that the obvious answer to all of these questions is being ignored.

But first, a history lesson.  Let’s go back a few hundred years to a time when the European nobles got a bit fed up fighting amongst themselves.  Problem was, wars too often resulted in an effective score draw and many of the peasants who formed the bulk of the armies got killed.  This meant that there weren’t enough left to tend the animals and grow the crops used to feed the plutocrats of the day.  Jolly inconvenient, eh, what!  To solve the problem, they started looking  further afield for people to fight and that’s when they discovered Africa.

In Africa, they found a land populated by strange animals you didn’t see in Europe, lions, tigers, elephants, giraffes and many more.  But best of all was an animal that looked almost like a human.  It stood on two legs, just like a human.  It had opposable thumbs, just like a human.  It could use simple tools, just like a human.  But best of all, they discovered it was able to look after crops and animals and could be used to replace the peasants with no need to pay them beyond a few drinks of water and the odd bowl of gruel.  But they weren’t really human.  I mean, they didn’t wear proper clothes and they couldn’t speak even one European language.

That was the viewpoint of the early European invaders.  The slave trade developed partly because they thought they were dealing with some sort of sub-human species, so treating them like animals was quite acceptable, because they were animals.  Europeans considered Africans were put on the world to provide a means of generating money and food for real (i.e. rich) people.  This was an attitude that persisted right up to the middle of the last century and, in some places, still exists today.  Even many of those who campaigned to end the slave trade did so on the same basis as we would today campaign to improve the conditions of pigs or chickens.

Now, of course, in most developed countries, people views have changed and such thinking is not considered appropriate.  People are no longer identified by their race or colour.  But it is in human nature to seek to differentiate.  There has to be an us and a them.  So how are people differentiated today?  The answer is, of course, money.  There are those who have lots and those who don’t.

So what’s this got to do with the slave trade, I hear you say.  Well, while 15th century Europeans thought Africans were inferior because of their colour, 21st century rich toffs think poor people are inferior because of their poverty.  They believe superior people will find a way to become rich and only inferior people will remain poor because they’ve not got the capability to become rich.

Do rich people think poor people are some sort of sub-human species?  A step up from cattle, pigs and sheep, perhaps, but still only fit for tending crops and looking after animals (or whatever the 21st century equivalents are).  Might that explain why Tories don’t seem to be overly concerned about the impact of the cuts on poor people?  After all, if you decided to (e.g.) reduce the amount of grazing your cattle have, you might be worried if it impacted the profit to be made, but you wouldn’t be overly worried about the impact on the cattle’s quality of life.

There are still a few quite significant differences between poor people and animals.  Two of the more significant are poor people can vote, animals can’t and poor people have human rights, animals don’t.  Until this changes, there is always the danger that some poor people might get really annoyed about something and prevent the plans of rich people going ahead.  However, alive to the danger, we’ve seen the Tory government take the first steps to resolve these two problems by firstly changing the voter registration system, resulting in large numbers of poor people losing the right to vote; and secondly, proposing to replace European Human Rights with a British version, which will undoubtedly provide fewer rights than the European one.  And who will bet against this being only the start of a significant program to remove even more rights from poor people.

But surely that can’t be right, I hear you say.  Surely our government doesn’t really think of the bulk of the population as some lower form of being.  Well, just think of what has happened since the Tories (effectively) took power in 2010.   Their rhetoric has been to demonise the unemployed (shirkers don’t contribute to the wealth of rich people) and to describe the disabled as a drain on society (many of them don’t contribute to the wealth of rich people).  Their actions have added to the misery of the poor and disabled by cutting ESA, introducing the bedroom tax (though the fact that this was first introduced by Labour is a timely reminder that not all rich people are in the Tory party) and Work Capability Assessments, and freezing other benefits or making them much more difficult to claim.  All actions which further disadvantage the already disadvantaged.  Would normal human beings do that to fellow humans; to people they considered as their equals?  I think not.

All the actions of the government point to the inescapable conclusion that rich people (remember the government are nearly all rich people) consider themselves a higher class of being and, by inference, consider the poor as a lower class who don’t deserve the same level of consideration.  Who then can argue that poor people are not the slaves of the 21st century?

Respect, the Referendum, and the Union

Ever since the result of the independence referendum was known, the unionist mantra has been to demand that Yes voters, particularly the nasty SNP types, should respect the result.

“The Scottish people have spoken”, they say, “so you must respect the will of the Scottish people “.

However, it soon became clear that the Unionist argument would have been more accurately expressed as “you respect the result of the referendum because somebody should”.  Because ever since the result was known, the Tory government and the unionist media have shown clearly that they have absolutely no intention of respecting the result, a result obtained by Scots making a judgement between two offers, one for independence and one for remaining in the Union.   Unfortunately (for us), the Union offer turned out to be smoke and mirrors. In fact, it was so smoky and mirrored that it gave smoke and mirrors a bad name.

Only hours had passed when David Cameron, a signatory of the now world-famous Vow, had announced his intention to introduce EVEL, the well-named scheme to deprive Scots MPs of the opportunity to vote on bills which supposedly only apply to England, but, as it turns out, also includes bills with a knock-on effect on the Scottish block grant.  This was followed by the infamous Smith Commission, which reduced the concept of “Home Rule” to the ability to design street signs and little else.  Scottish Labour, presumably on the instructions of their bosses in London, were particularly keen on making sure the Scots got nothing.

Worse was to follow when the Scotland Bill, (very) loosely based on the outcome of Smith, came before Westminster.  Tories, and often Labour too, few of whom could be bothered to attend the debates, would turn up at each division to vote against any sensible increase in the powers being offered to the Scottish Government.

In the meantime, in May 2015, we had an election to the UK parliament.  Respect the result of the referendum, the Unionists said.  It’s time to move on, they said.  Scots voters, obviously so impressed by the concept of “respecting the referendum result”, turned out in numbers and elected 56 SNP MPs out of 59, leaving the Unionist parties, Labour, Tories and LibDems with a rump of 1 MP each.  Funnily enough, no one in any unionist party suggested that we should respect the result of the General Election.  The SNP haven’t got a mandate, they bleated, because they got less than 50% of the vote (true, it was a mere 49.97%).  The fact that the Tories got elected in Westminster with only 37% of the vote seemed to have escaped their memory.  For Unionists, the will of the Scottish people should only be respected when they get the right answer.  Otherwise, they should be ignored … because they’re just … WRONG … obviously.

Now, to bring us right up to date, we had the Scottish Parliament elections just a few days ago.  Respect the result of the referendum, the Unionists said.  It’s time to move on, they said.  However, once again, Scots voters chose to ignore the siren calls of the Unionists and voted for a third term for the SNP with an increased number of constituency votes and an increased  share of the votes.  For a variety of reasons, including the so-called tactical voting effect and the virtual collapse of the Labour vote, on this occasion the SNP did not get a majority in Parliament, despite their increased vote share.  The collapse of the Labour vote allowed the Tories to overtake them for second place and the kudos of being the official opposition.  This allowed the Tory media, including the BBC, to claim the election as a triumph for the Tories and a disaster for the SNP and allowed an overexcited Ruth Davidson to claim that she had a mandate to say no to a second referendum, despite the huge difference in the number of MSPs and share of the vote..  In all the excitement, many people didn’t even notice that the Tories had  a lower vote share than Labour, 22% to Labour’s 22.6%.

Breaking news.  The appointment of Ken Macintosh as Presiding Officer slightly reduces the gap between the SNP and the rest, but makes no material difference to the current parliamentary challenge for the SNP.

Breaking news 2.  Very impressed by my (new) local MSP, Clare Haughey, who took the oath today with calmness and aplomb.  A great start.  She’ll do Rutherglen, and the Scottish Parliament, proud. Gon yersel, Clare.

So what have we learned about the attitude of the Unionist parties post referendum.  We know now that the Unionist desire for all of us to “respect the will of the Scottish people” and move on only applies when the Scottish people give the right answer and, in any case, only applies to the Scottish people.  So, it applies for the referendum result, but doesn’t apply when the Scottish people deliver an overwhelming mandate to the SNP, such as in the 2015 and 2016 elections. It only applies to Scots   It doesn’t apply to anybody else.  So when Unionists totally ignore the promises made about what would be delivered following a No vote, this is not disrespecting the will of the Scottish people, this is just … politics?  Others might describe it more like taking the piss, but I wouldn’t use such phrases myself.

Do we think they’ll change?  Does anyone think they’ll change?  Of course they won’t.  Only independence can take us away from the malign influence of the Westminster Tories, and it can’t come soon enough.


When the tactical gamble fails

We’ve seen a lot of talk on social media about regional list voting for the Holyrood election.  See also here  (  All the smaller parties of the left say they support independence and the main argument being addressed to SNP supporters by  all of them is that a vote for them will be more likely to secure additional pro-indy MSPs than a vote for the SNP because of the operation of the D’Hondt system of voting used for Holyrood elections.

Of the minor parties, only the Greens are likely to figure in the new parliament in any significant numbers, as RISE and Solidarity are barely showing in the polls and are unlikely to pick up many, or even any, seats.

However, I have a number of issues with these tactical voting suggestions.

To become the official party of opposition, as has been suggested as a possibility by several Green supporters, the Greens would have to increase the number of regional votes by more than 400,000 from the 87,000 they gained in 2011, an almost impossible task.  The possibility of increased turnout compared to 2011 would only increase that figure.  More realistically, they may gain a few more votes and a few more seats, a larger number of additional seats if more voters are persuaded to switch to the Greens on the list, but a smaller number otherwise.  Given that their campaign strategy has almost entirely targeted the SNP, it is very likely that any increased Green vote would be balanced by a corresponding reduction in the SNP vote, so it’s much more likely that any additional seats won by the Greens would be at the expense of the SNP, so no pro-independence gain there.  Worse that that, a significant reduction in the SNP vote is more likely to allow the bigger parties, Labour and Tories, to gain extra seats, based on the much larger number of votes they will attract, compared to the Greens.

We’ve heard at some length what the upside of tactical voting is, but what’s the downside.  Two possible outcomes could be either an SNP minority government, like 2007, or, if the numbers allowed, the unionist parties could form a coalition to outvote the SNP, even with the support of the smaller parties, allowing a unionist majority, with Ruth Davidson or Kezia Dugdale as First Minister.

An SNP minority government, depending on the Greens (or any other party) to pass legislation is obviously weaker as the other party’s priorities would have to be taken into account. No matter what you say, there are many issues where the Greens (and the other minor parties) disagree with the SNP and that would leave the SG open to “blackmail” to get its legislation passed.

A unionist coalition government, controlled from London, would be a disaster for Scotland and would set back the possibility of another referendum for years, perhaps even for decades.  It’s too horrible to contemplate, so I won’t.

The negative reaction in the media if the SNP failed to get a majority would far outweigh any positives to be gained from having a (slightly) larger number of pro-independence MSPs, even assuming that the Greens and the other minor parties can truly be described as such.  The largely unionist press would have a field day (or is that a field five years), giving them the opportunity for even more “SNP-bad” articles, leaving the SNP government largely on the defensive and making it very difficult to work to achieve the increase in the proportion of YES voters needed to secure a YES result in a second referendum.

The SNP is the only party I trust to stand up for Scotland, above all other issues. The Greens campaigned for YES in the referendum, but is it their highest priority?  Or, even worse, was it simply a tactic to increase their profile. In either case, my personal view is that they would sacrifice independence for issues closer to their heart, so I don’t see them as SNP lite.

Independence is my priority , but I just don’t see the tiny advantage in having a few  additional pro-independence MSPs having any real effect. The media will still run with a largely pro-union message, and would do so no matter how many unionist MSPs there were. So how would the independence message get more air/print time?  And considering the possible downsides, who amongst you would want to take the risk.

Both votes SNP.  SNP 1+2.  You know it makes sense.