A bridge too far? Are Unionists right … or wrong?

Hip, hip, hooray, the day arrived when the Queensferry Crossing was officially opened and in a few days time traffic will be streaming across this fantastic new connection between the Lothians and Fife, allowing any required remedial work to be done on the current Forth Road Bridge with no inconvenience to the many thousands who travel regularly over the bridge at the moment.  Eventually, the Queensferry Crossing will be designated a motorway and traffic will be able to cross at motorway speeds, with public transport and non-motorway traffic being returned to the Forth Road Bridge.  The last couple of days have seen thousands walking over the bridge, taking the one chance before it’s closed to pedestrians for ever.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t one of the thousands as, in common with most raffles I get a ticket for, my name didn’t come up.

The new bridge and, more particularly, the funding for it have been the subject of considerable controversy.  Originally suggested by the Tories in the late 1990s, the project was cancelled by Labour just as soon as they could, when they and the Lib Dems took office in Holyrood in 1999.

There the situation stood until 2007.  Despite warnings by FETA (not the big cheese, but the Forth Estuary Transport Authority) that the Forth Road Bridge was not designed for the volume of traffic using it and various well documented maintenance issues like corrosion of the cables, Labour refused to authorise spending the money on a new bridge, despite having the cash available.  In fact, during their period in office, Labour actually returned money to Westminster because they couldn’t think of anything to spend it on.  I, and lots of others, I’m sure, could have helped them out with ideas.  Still, it wasn’t altogether a bad thing as it did mean that Jack McConnell got a peerage for services to Westminster.

In 2007, everything changed.  When the SNP took control of the Scottish Government, they almost immediately conducted a review of the case for a new bridge and, by the end of the year, announced that they were going to give the go-ahead for the construction of the bridge.

Cue an outpouring of “support” from the Unionist parties.  Danny Alexander (remember him?) accused the Scottish Government of using taxpayers’ money to fund an SNP vanity project.  MSP James Kelly, at the time Scottish Labour’s insightful (or do I mean incompetent) infrastructure spokesman (OK, I am joking … about insightful) also called it an SNP vanity project, as did Patrick Harvie of the Scottish Greens, while MPs at the time, Alistair Darling (Lab), Malcolm Forsyth (Con) and Ming Campbell (LD) all described the bridge as a waste of money.  I won’t repeat what George Foulkes said about it, but I don’t suppose he remembers anyway.

BBC were quite happy to repeat that it was an “SNP vanity project”.  They alternated between this and “cut price bridge” because the SNP Government seemed to think they could deliver the bridge for less than half the £4Bn that Labour had claimed it would cost.  And to make matters worse (for the Unionists), it turns out they were right.

Vanity projects were in.  Practically everything the Scottish Government proposed was described as an SNP vanity project by one or other of the Unionist parties, Gaelic road signs, scrapping university tuition fees, Borders railway, even the Edinburgh trams, a project which was actually run by the (Labour controlled) Edinburgh Council.

Of course, insults were not the only problem faced by the Scottish Government.  The decision had been taken to use public funding, but there seemed no end to the effort made by Westminster to raise problems.  Gordon Brown, a “proud Scot but”, was the man in charge of the money at Westminster and he was determined to do everything possible to prevent a Scottish Government run by the evil SNP from claiming credit for such a major piece of infrastructure.  Various attempts to get Westminster funding were thrown out.  Borrowing powers were rejected and even a request to bring forward Scotland’s capital grant was knocked back by Brown, who instead suggested that the Scottish Government could cut back on services to allow them to save up to be able to afford it.  A typical Unionist plan.

Despite Westminster’s best efforts and without even a penny contribution from them, building work began in 2011, with a contractual completion date of June, 2017, though, unfortunately, Transport Scotland told everyone the bridge would be complete by December, 2016, providing the opportunity for all the Unionist media to be able to claim repeatedly that it was “months late”.  The media were less keen to say that construction was £250 million under budget.  To put that in context, I have compiled a full list of Westminster funded projects completed under budget in the last 10 years.

                                ?

Don’t you think that’s an impressive list?

Now the bridge is complete, there’s a concerted effort by the Unionist media to try to write the SNP Government out of the history of the bridge.  We find it described as a “triumph of British engineering” by both the BBC and Sky (is that a step up from SNP vanity project or a step down?), with no mention of the Scottish Government’s role, built using public funds with no mention of where the funds came from, and worst of all, a BBC commissioned radio programme charting the history of the Forth bridges, starring BBC’s favourite politician (now Ruth has gone into hiding), the great growling beast that is (you’ve guessed it) Gordon Brown.

It’s hard to imagine the BBC could have delivered a bigger insult to those involved in building the bridge than using the man who did more than anyone to try to prevent it being built.  I suppose it won’t be long before we see Monica Lennon describing, in breathless terms, the challenges she overcame in pushing the SNP into funding this wonderful new, Labour inspired construction.

Following on from the British triumph, we’ve had a procession of proud Scots but rubbishing the idea that there’s anything for Scots to be proud of.  They’ve pointed out the use of materials sourced from elsewhere  (how can you think it’s Scottish when the steel came from China) and the involvement of “furriners” in the design and construction (how can you think it’s Scottish as the design involved Danes).  It’s only a bridge, they said.  You can’t be proud of anything Scottish, they said.  It’s too wee, there were queues when it opened, they said.  It should have been a tunnel, they said.  It’s not as long as that one in Hong Kong, they said.  But what they really said was: “We think it rubbish because it’s Scottish and because it was built by an SNP government” and “Scotland are too wee, too poor and too stupid to ever complete a project like this on their own”.

OK.  So we all know that it’s not sensible to have an overwhelming belief that nothing your country does can ever be wrong.  But is that really worse than an overwhelming belief that nothing your country does can ever be right?  And do those who hold to the latter belief still consider themselves Scottish, or are they just Britnats who haven’t yet outed themselves.

Finally, in answer to the opening question, “A bridge too far … are the Unionists right or wrong?”, the answer is undoubtedly wrong.  The Queensferry Crossing is an impressive Scottish bridge, conceived in Scotland and brought into existence with the help of friends and partners from other countries.  Praise for the bridge has come in from all over the world, but only in Scotland are there people so determined to denigrate everything that happens in their country that they are lining up to tell everyone how useless it is.

Sad, sad people.

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How not to win a referendum

In autumn last year, I posted a blog entitled “How to win a referendum?”, where I expressed doubts about the then frequent comments, critical of parts of the Yes movement, coming, not from unionist supporters, but from other independence supporters.  At the time, I thought that unionists could come up with enough SNP-bad comments without any help from our side.  Unfortunately, the practice seems to have been resurrected, though this time the targets are independence supporting media, such as National, iScot and Wings, and prominent indy supporters.

From my point of view, the last straw was the trolling of Mhairi Black by Caitlin Logan, new columnist on Common Space, to “prove” that Mhairi was supporting homophobes.  Caitlin Logan was apparently encouraged by Angela Haggerty, the editor.  I would have expected something like this from an idiot unionist, but from someone representing a supposed independence supporting platform, I was surprised and disappointed, to say the least.

The bad news is that the blog from last year is as relevant today as it was then.  It seems there are still those out there who believe that the best way to get independence is to point out that everyone who disagrees with them is wrong and it’s even better if you can attach a label like homophobe to them.  Just to prove that it’s true, here’s last year’s.  What do you think?

Sadly, since Indyref1, there has been a significant upturn in negative comments by some Indy supporting groups about others.

It may have originally been prompted by feelings of disappointment at the result, looking for someone to blame, but it certainly increased in the run up to the Scottish election, when, of course, supporters of the various parties were trying to distance themselves from the rest to gather electoral support.  Unfortunately, several groups chose to highlight differences by pointing out the perceived weaknesses in their opponents position rather than the benefits of their own.

Unfortunately, much of the bitterness generated over that period seems not to have gone away. Several indy supporting sites seem happy to publish articles which show other parts of the indy movement in a poor light, with the SNP being a common target, though by no means the only one.  The recent attacks on the indy group who had crowdfunded a plan to put up billboards highlighting BBC bias being a recent example, not involving the SNP, which generated a significant amount of negative comment.

What is to be gained from such attacks by one Indy group on another?  Obviously, the author will feel better for getting “something off his chest”, but will the Indy movement itself gain anything?

Negative comments are often picked up by the unionist supporting media and then relayed to their viewers and readers as yet more Indy-bad propaganda, often with an even more negative spin.  What does the indy movement gain from this?   Even worse, the comments are sometimes rehashed Indy-bad articles which have already appeared in the unionist media.   What does the indy movement gain from this?  Would it not be the case that negative comments that appear in both unionist supporting and indy supporting media are more likely to be accepted as true by ordinary punters?  What does the indy movement gain from this?

Attacks on the Scottish Government are often justified as holding the Government to account.  Laudable though the aim might be, when the vast bulk of the media are constantly on the lookout for any chance to rubbish the Scottish Government, the SNP and, by implication, the whole Indy movement, are we just giving our opponents a bunch of open goals?  Do we really think it benefits the Indy movement to join with the unionist parties in asking the Scottish Government to do everything we want with its extremely limited powers and its ever decreasing pocket money budget.

At this time, with Indyref2 on the horizon, we have to decide what is really important to us.  Do we want to continue to fight with each other over the minor changes we can hope to get from the application of the few powers we have now, or do we want to set aside our differences for now in search of the one big goal of independence.  Yes, it means handing the Scottish Government a get out of jail free card, valid until independence is gained, but is that too much to ask for, given the importance of what we want to achieve?

Only with independence can we make our own decisions for ourselves.  Only with independence can we argue for our government to spend money based on Scottish priorities, knowing that winning the argument in our parliament will mean it will happen.  Only with independence can we stop the obscenity of half of Scotland’s budget being spent to benefit the citizens of another country.  Only with independence can we restore Scotland’s rightful place among the nations of the world.

Can we do everything we can do to make it happen?  What do you think?

When will they ever learn?

I am getting a bit worried about where the Indy campaign is going.  Perhaps it’s just post-holiday blues.  I know I should be grateful for getting away at all, but it’s been no fun coming back to the election aftermath, to Brexit and, worst of all, to Grenfell, possibly the worst man-made land disaster in the UK in my lifetime since Aberfan.

As the Grenfell death toll rises inexorably towards 100 and likely beyond, the truth surrounding the decisions taken by governments, both local and national, which led to a minor fire being transformed into a major catastrophe, are gradually filtering out.

Cheap cladding was specified, not because it would improve the lives of those living there, but because it would make Grenfell Tower look more attractive to the residents in the more expensive parts of the Royal Borough, the people who really counted to the local authority.  Indeed, many of the spending (or saving) decisions taken by Kensington and Chelsea council seemed more concerned with reducing the opportunity for the richer residents of the borough to come in contact with the poorer ones.

The so-called internal “improvements” in Grenfell were carried out with little regard to the structural integrity of the building and there’s significant evidence emerging that the “improvements” were at least partly responsible for the seriousness of the outcome.

However, Grenfell is not the reason I started writing this blog.  As I said above, it’s just one of the reasons why I’m perhaps feeling a bit depressed and this depression might be the root cause of what I’m going to say.

It has become generally accepted by all sides that a second Scottish independence referendum can only take place at the end of the Brexit process.  Sure there are differences between the parties as to what constitutes the end of the process.  Is it after agreement has been reached (or not reached) between the UK Government and the EU, likely in the latter half of next year?  Is it when the UK formally leaves the EU, at the end of March, 2019, unless a new date is agreed in discussions?  Or is it only once the full impact of leaving the EU becomes known, likely to be at least a decade after leaving?

However, all sides agree that, whenever the time comes, the Scottish people will be able to make an informed decision, based on the then known facts of the implications of staying as a part of the UK versus becoming an independent country.  Unionists probably hope that a longer delay will give the UK Government time to pull off a miracle and make Brexit look like the greatest thing since sliced bread, or perhaps they just think that kicking it into the long grass will give everyone the chance to forget all about this IndyRef2 malarkey.  But even independence supporters seem happy to go along with the idea, thinking that, when the terms and implications of leaving the EU become clear, many more Scots will realise what a bad deal we will get by staying as part of the UK and this will make them more likely to vote for independence.

Let’s look at this second belief in more detail.  The union has been in existence for more than 300 years.  The bulk of the Scottish people weren’t very keen on the idea, but it was pushed through by the politicians and the elites, the very ones who had most to gain from the arrangement, so, in the end, the street marches and protests were of no avail: the union went ahead as planned.

Wind forward to today.  The bulk of the Scottish people don’t favour the union, but its continued existence is being maintained by the politicians and elites who have most to gain from the current arrangement.  By the way, don’t confuse the statement above with the proportion of people who might vote to leave the UK.  Many people who voted no in the independence referendum did so out of fear for the future, not out of love for the present.

So if so many people don’t think the United Kingdom is good for Scotland, why did so many vote to stay in it in 2014 and why do opinion polls consistently show less than 50% in favour of independence?  The short answer, or answers as there are two, is/are fear and lies.

Let’s look at the lies.  You can’t survive on your own without handouts from England.  You won’t get your pension.  You’ll have to use the Euro.  You won’t get into the EU.  You won’t get into the UN.  You won’t be able to trade with any other country.  You won’t be able to afford an army or navy.  You’ll be responsible for the breakdown of world order.  You’ll be invaded by the Russians.  You’ll be invaded by aliens.  All of these and more were used by the opponents of Scottish independence.  All have been thoroughly debunked, but all had an effect on the outcome.

But why would such, in most cases, obvious nonsense make people change their minds?  The simple answer is repetition.  With a virtual monopoly of both broadcast and print media, union supporters were able to get a lie repeated time and time again, with virtually no chance that the same media would broadcast or print an opposing point of view.  Often it appeared that the media were working with each other, with a story appearing on the radio on Wednesday, being brought up in Parliament on Thursday, then repeated in the press on Friday and, to (almost) quote Mark Twain, a lie can be halfway round the world before truth has got its boots on.

For years, Scots have been told they are second class.  For years, they’ve been told they survive on handouts from England.  For years, they’ve been told they are subsidy junkies.  For years, they’ve been told they couldn’t run their own country, that they aren’t equipped to make political decisions.  Ruth Davidson, the leader of the so-called Scottish Conservatives, went even further to tell Scots that 90% of their countrymen and women are a burden on the state and that Scots are not normally put somewhere if there’s something they can steal.  This from a person who tells us she’s a “proud Scot”.  Proud to be one of a bunch of thieving, no-good layabouts?

The continued drip, drip of negativity (or at some times more like flood, flood) is what produces the fear.  Having been told so often, and by so many people, that Scots are generally useless, people fear that any change can only be change for the worse.  And when this gets repeated regularly practically all through your lifetime, is it any surprise that, deep down, you become a little afraid to make the leap into the unknown, to independence.  You might not really believe any individual story, but there’s no smoke without fire, so they say.

So unionists have been telling us lies for years and years, probably for 300 years, since the formation of the United Kingdom, though I can’t vouch for that personally, and enough Scots have been sufficiently swayed by the lies to fear change, change that they have been told can only make things worse.

So my question is: does anyone think that this will be different at the end of the Brexit process, whenever that is?  Will the media tell us how bad things might become for the UK after a Brexit on terms much worse than we have now, or will they tell us that this is just the first step to a brighter future?  Will they tell us that every good outcome from the talks shows the brilliance of UK negotiating, or will they say it’s just a practical necessity?  Will they place the blame for any poor outcome on the UK government or will they blame Johnny Foreigner?  Do we really think the media will not be supportive of whatever is the outcome of the negotiations?

If nothing changes in the media, if the media continue to praise the UK position and continue to tell us only what the politicians and elites want us to hear about the Brexit negotiations, why would we think that the Scots taken in by the lies and the spin in 2014, those who feared change in the last referendum, are going to react differently this time and be able to see clearly that staying a part of post-Brexit UK is not in their best interests.

Unfortunately, as things are going, I can’t see a post-Brexit independence referendum producing a better result.  As I said at the start, perhaps it’s just post-holiday blues, but I fear that, no matter how bad the outcome of the Brexit negotiations, the MSM will make sure the Scots who didn’t see it last time won’t see it this time either.  So those of us who want independence need to think of a more radical approach than the current let’s wait and see how Brexit turns out.

Trumpety, Trump

Was it only 11 days (as I write this) since Donald Trump was sworn in as President of the United States.  Somehow, it seems like much, much longer.  Since the inauguration, he’s been more sworn at than sworn in.  More column inches (or should I say centimetres as a good European, before it becomes a Brexit offence), have been written about him, in both print an electronic media, than any other president in history, most of it unfriendly and some of it downright abusive.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t think much of him myself.  He doesn’t seem like the sort of guy normal folk could be friendly with.  Not the sort you’d meet in the pub for an after work drink.  Not the sort you’d invite to your Hogmanay party, unless, of course, you were Theresa May, who was desperate to invite him to a party she was throwing at Buck House, just as soon as she persuades Queenie to do as she’s told and open the door.

No, what concerns me is why Trump’s getting so much attention in the media.  You’d almost think the MSM had something to gain from it.

But wait.  In the last two weeks, how many stories have you seen about foodbanks, how many about cuts to someone’s Social Security benefits or sanctions imposed by DWP on some jobseeker who was a minute late for an appointment.  How much publicity has there been about the plan to close 24 Jobcentres in Scotland, 8 of them in Glasgow, and others all over the UK, leaving great chunks of the country with perhaps only one Jobcentre and thereby forcing claimants to travel many miles to appointments, increasing the cost and time taken for the claimant, not to mention the chances of being delayed and then sanctioned by a Jobcentre rep with a target to meet.  Even Brexit is not getting the treatment it was getting before the great Trump storm hit the headlines.

What we have seen is a shedload of anti-Trump rallies being held all over the UK, many with large numbers attending.  What demonstrations have we had about foodbanks, benefit cuts or sanctions during this time.  What demonstrations we had before Trump hit the headlines, have had much less publicity and, perhaps as a result, have been smaller.  It’s a pity that folks seem to have more interest in demonstrating against a situation in another country, which they can’t really change, and less in demonstrating against situations in their own country which they have at least some chance of affecting.

We all know that Trump’s election influence what happens in the UK, particularly as Theresa May appears to be happy to offer everything and sign up to any deal Trump suggests in her panic to get something to show that Brexit is not going to be the disaster many have suggested.

So, all those involved in writing, talking or demonstrating against Trump might like to wonder whether they’re being encouraged by the MSM to forget about domestic issues that are a bit of an embarrassment for the UK Government and spend all their collective energy in other ways to let the government off the hook.

Think on it.

Getting out of hand, Brexit style

It was David Cameron’s idea.  I suppose a lot of the Tories’ really bad ideas can be traced to Davie.

“I know how we can get rid of those nasty UKipper Little Englanders for good.  They are dead against the EU, but we can adopt their policies and their language and replace them with good solid Tory Little Englanders who will also be dead against the EU, but, at least, they’ll be our Little Englanders and, if push comes to shove, they’ll vote for us.  We’ll have a referendum on staying in the EU and, when we win, that’ll put UKIP’s gas at a peep and get rid of them as a threat for a generation”

You would have thought he could have learned a lesson from Scottish devolution.  Remember when George Robertson (now Lord Georgie Porgie Pudding and Pie) told us that devolution would kill nationalism stone dead.  I wonder how that worked out, George.

Unfortunately for Davie, he had reckoned without a number of factors.

Firstly, he forgot the mainly right-wing media’s history of rubbishing the EU at every turn, pandering to a Little Englander agenda, spinning every EU decision in as bad a light as possible and making up stories if they couldn’t get a real one.  Straight bananas anyone?  Were the media likely to support remaining in the EU?  No chance, and that’s how it turned out.

Secondly, he forgot the years of effort our right-wing media have put into telling us that all foreigners are awful.  Foreigners who might make decisions that we Brits would have to pay attention to are awful, but foreigners who want to come to the UK because we have bombed their countries back into the Stone Age are even worse, much, much worse.  The media tells us the immigrants (they’re not refugees, of course) are only coming over here  to steal our jobs, occupy our houses, use up our NHS resources and take advantage of our benefit system.  All just because we and our American pals have bombed their house, killed their neighbours and generally destroyed the area they used to call home.  What sort of reason is that to want you and your family to move somewhere safe and liveable.

Thirdly, he forgot that the Brexiteers could invent largely illusory benefits to be gained by leaving the EU and, with the help of the media, these “benefits” would be the ones that would stick in voters’ minds.  I’m sure everyone remembers the £350M/week to be spent on the NHS.  Unfortunately, putting it on a bus turned out to be much easier than putting it on the NHS.

Fourthly, he forgot to have a list of benefits for staying in the EU.  Always going to be a hard sell because of the first factor, it was made much worse by the Remain crew virtually completely confining their arguments to trying to rubbish the Brexiteers’ claims.

And lastly, he forgot the attraction to many of returning control and decision-making to the UK Parliament and the UK courts.  With years of rubbishing the EU behind them, people have been conditioned to believe that the EU isn’t democratic because we don’t always get our own way, that we pay a fortune into the EU and get almost nothing back and that every EU decision is stupid and anti-British.  Mind you, this makes what happened shortly after the referendum even less understandable.  But more of that later.

So, much to everyone’s surprise, the outcome was a win for Brexit, something no one in Government wanted, not even the Brexiteers, who, it turned out, were only trying to engineer a sufficiently close result to give the UK a bit more leverage in subsequent negotiations with the EU.  To complicate matters further, of the four countries in the UK, only two, England and Wales voted to leave, while the other two, Scotland and Northern Ireland, voted to stay, as did Gibraltar.  The differing and often conflicting expectations of each country are creating real problems for Theresa May, who replaced Davie as PM after he decided there were better (and more lucrative) things he could do now that the referendum wasn’t going to plan.

What wasn’t planned (I don’t think) was that the language used by the Brexiteers, anti-EU, anti-immigrant, anti-refugee would effectively give permission for the public to speak, and sometimes act, in the same way.  The weeks after the referendum saw a substantial increase in hate crimes, mainly in England it appears, with foreign UK residents and even visitors being harassed, abused and even physically attacked.

So where are we now?  Brexit means Brexit; a phrase that’s been on almost everyone’s lips over the last few months.  So said Theresa May when asked for a full explanation of the UK Government’s strategy for negotiation with the EU.  The Government refused to tell anyone what their negotiation strategy would be on the basis that they wouldn’t reveal their hand in advance of the negotiations themselves.  However, many unkind people suggested it more likely that they were keeping it a secret because to reveal their strategy would have shown that Brexit means Brexit was all of it.  For a government of a party that prides itself in its organisation, it is almost unbelievable that they could have been so complacent, so sure of victory, that they didn’t even bother to think what they would do if the vote went against them.

Not only did the UK Government refuse to tell the public what their strategy was, but they initially refused to allow Parliament to debate the terms.  It was their intention to use the Royal Prerogative decide on the timing and strategy, without involving parliament until after the decision had been taken.  Many were unhappy about this and, as a result, a small group decided to go to court to force the Government to seek parliamentary approval for both timing and strategy before triggering article 50.

When the court’s decision came down, that approval of parliament is a requirement, there was an astonishing outpouring of bile from politicians, the public, and, in particular, from the media, especially the right wing press.  They had insisted during the EU referendum campaign that they wanted to bring decision-making back to the UK to prevent the nasty foreigners in the EU Parliament and the European Court making decisions for us.  Now we had an example of English judges in an English court applying English law and deciding that the UK parliament (you could even say the English parliament) should have the final decision on the Brexit terms.  Wasn’t that what the referendum was all about?  Wasn’t that what 17m people voted for?  But no, many were distinctly unhappy, even incandescent with rage.  How dare these unelected judges try to overturn the will of the people they said, apparently unaware (or not caring) that the judges had only decided that Article 50 couldn’t be triggered without a vote in Parliament.

But their disagreement with the verdict was not the most worrying aspect of the coverage.  What was most worrying was not he fact that the media were annoyed, but it was the tone of the way they covered the verdict.

d-mail-judges      First we had the Daily Mail printing photographs of the judges and calling them “Enemies of the People”, describing one as a Europhile (how awful), one as someone who has made a lot of money through an association with Tony Blair (now that is awful) and a third as an openly gay ex-fencer (what can be said about such a comment in 2016). The Daily Mail weren’t the only ones to print photographs of the judges as the Telegraph did as well (a so called quality paper).  Short of printing the judges’ home addresses and explicitly calling for members of the public to sort them out, what more could they have done to stir up trouble.

sun-judges        Well, what they could have done what the Sun did, describe the group of people who took the action as rich foreigners (a bit ironic when printed alongside a photo of a woman married into one of the richest families  in the UK, or is it only British women that are allowed to be rolling in the stuff) and printed a photograph of one of the group specially darkened down to make her look really, really foreign.

two-faces  Compare the photo from the Sun on the left with the (nearly) identical one in the Times on the right.  I suppose it’s not really surprising for the Sun to do this as another article in the paper described how the proportion of white people living in some English towns has allegedly reduced over the last 20 or so years.  When did the Sun become the house magazine for the Ku Klux Klan?

Cheered on by politicians and the media lying about the court case, pretending that the intention was to overturn the result of the referendum, the situation got really out of hand.  Death threats and other abusive remarks were scattered around like confetti, aimed at anyone perceived to be on the “other side”, because anyone on the “other side” was an “enemy of the people”. ( It must be true, I read it in the Daily Mail).  People were said to be in hiding for fear of attack.  Politicians (mainly UKippers to be honest) called for the judges to be sacked for applying the law and for judges in future to be chosen by the government.  Bang goes the impartial judiciary then.  Who needs it?  It was perhaps indicative of the way things are going that the Lord Chancellor, Liz Truss, when finally forced to make a statement, refused to condemn the attacks on the judges.  I thought that the Lord Chancellor was supposed to be on the side of the judges, not the lunatic fringe of the press.  Perhaps she’s on the side of the judges in the same way Fluffy Mundell is on Scotland’s side.

What confuses me is the real objective of the media.  It certainly appears that they are trying to stir up trouble, even encourage violence, but to what end?  What would they hope to gain from such a situation?  Should there be violence, would they sell more copies, or is there some other advantage?  Or is this nothing to do with the media, but more to do with the owners of the media.  Do the mega-rich types who own most of the media in this country have a plan to turn the situation to their advantage?  Will civil unrest allow them to make changes which will benefit them and, by implication, disadvantage the rest of us.

It’s difficult to see how this will all turn out, but it’s hard to imagine that Brexit is going to benefit the UK economy, the relationships with our neighbours or the UK culture.  If only someone could think of some way that we in Scotland could avoid all the problems the UK will be facing over the coming years.  Any ideas?

How to win a referendum?

Sadly, since Indyref1, there has been a significant upturn in negative comments by some Indy supporting groups about others.

It may have originally been prompted by feelings of disappointment at the result, looking for someone to blame, but it certainly increased in the run up to the Scottish election, when, of course, supporters of the various parties were trying to distance themselves from the rest to gather electoral support.  Unfortunately, several groups chose to highlight differences by pointing out the perceived weaknesses in their opponents position rather than the benefits of their own.

Unfortunately, much of the bitterness generated over that period seems not to have gone away. Several indy supporting sites seem happy to publish articles which show other parts of the indy movement in a poor light, with the SNP being a common target, though by no means the only one.  The recent attacks on the indy group who had crowdfunded a plan to put up billboards highlighting BBC bias being a recent example, not involving the SNP, which generated a significant amount of negative comment.

What is to be gained from such attacks by one Indy group on another?  Obviously, the author will feel better for getting “something off his chest”, but will the Indy movement itself gain anything?

Negative comments are often picked up by the unionist supporting media and then relayed to their viewers and readers as yet more Indy-bad propaganda, often with an even more negative spin.  What does the indy movement gain from this?   Even worse, the comments are sometimes rehashed Indy-bad articles which have already appeared in the unionist media.   What does the indy movement gain from this?  Would it not be the case that negative comments that appear in both unionist supporting and indy supporting media are more likely to be accepted as true by ordinary punters?  What does the indy movement gain from this?

Attacks on the Scottish Government are often justified as holding the Government to account.  Laudable though the aim might be, when the vast bulk of the media are constantly on the lookout for any chance to rubbish the Scottish Government, the SNP and, by implication, the whole Indy movement, are we just giving our opponents a bunch of open goals?  Do we really think it benefits the Indy movement to join with the unionist parties in asking the Scottish Government to do everything we want with its extremely limited powers and its ever decreasing pocket money budget.

At this time, with Indyref2 on the horizon, we have to decide what is really important to us.  Do we want to continue to fight with each other over the minor changes we can hope to get from the application of the few powers we have now, or do we want to set aside our differences for now in search of the one big goal of independence.  Yes, it means handing the Scottish Government a get out of jail free card, valid until independence is gained, but is that too much to ask for, given the importance of what we want to achieve?

Only with independence can we make our own decisions for ourselves.  Only with independence can we argue for our government to spend money based on Scottish priorities, knowing that winning the argument in our parliament will mean it will happen.  Only with independence can we stop the obscenity of half of Scotland’s budget being spent to benefit the citizens of another country.  Only with independence can we restore Scotland’s rightful place among the nations of the world.

Can we do everything we can do to make it happen?  What do you think?

 

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  (https://wordpress.com/post/angryweegie.wordpress.com/221).  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.

Oh what a lovely war

Here we go, here we go, here we go
Here we go, here we go, here we go-o

But perhaps the chanting was all that was missing from the ‘debate’ at Westminster last Wednesday. We had the ohs and ahs from the terraces (or the benches) when someone, most often someone from the home team, executed a clever (verbal) manoeuvre; there was the usual barracking of players on the away team by the more numerous home support, the away team captain Jezza being especially singled out for treatment; and the crowd responded to near misses at either end with huge roars of appreciation.

Not unexpectedly, the balance of play favoured the home team.  They had more of the ball and their play showed a greater degree of organisation.  By contrast, the away team were so disorganised that sometimes you would almost have got the impression that some of the players were kicking in the wrong direction.  Indeed, Benn, one of the away forwards, was applauded by the home support for one particularly impressive intervention, which only served to put the away team on the back foot, much to the dismay of Jezza, the captain.

At this point, I ought to say that the group of Scottish players on the left wing of the away team certainly demonstrated much more skill and cohesion than the rest of the team, but unfortunately, despite it looking as if they could cause the home team some problems, their contribution was limited as they saw so little of the ball during the game.

All in all, it was no surprise when the home team eventually triumphed, though the 66 penalty misses by the away team contributed to the scoreline having a much more one-sided appearance than seemed likely at the start of the game. The home crowd certainly appreciated the victory, celebrating it with cheers and applause, though, thankfully, no foot stamping, as recent comments seem to suggest the main stand at the Westminster arena may be in need of some very expensive restoration.

To get back to the real world, we had a debate about whether Britain should join in the assault on Syria, where nobody listened to anything anyone else had to say, where everyone had made up their mind in advance, and where the result, that we had decided to join the game of seeing how many people we could blow up, some of whom (hopefully) being terrorists, was a foregone conclusion, especially after Corbyn allowed a free vote and it became obvious that a significant number of Labour MPs would vote with their Tory bedfellows.  The excitement that greeted the result seemed at odds with the seriousness of the action that the result permitted, but the Tories particularly obviously felt that they had saved their leader from going down in history as a Tory leader who had failed to start a war, or at least join in someone else’s.

So now we can expect the media to be full of reports of the successes of our ‘brave lads’, no doubt with a count of numbers of terrorists killed, though whether the count will be detailed enough to identify those terrorists who were under 5 years old can only be, at the moment, the subject of speculation.

Still, Cameron will be pleased.  He’s got his diversion from problems at home and he no doubt expects that no one will notice the continued, or even increased (war has to be paid for, you know), austerity and even if they do, they’ll think it a price worth paying to ‘keep us safe’ and to increase the sales, and profits, of the arms manufacturers, not to mention reminding everyone that Britain is still a world power who can murder Jonny Foreigners with the best of them.