Balanced Budget – who wins?

One of the constant refrains from the Westminster government is the need to balance the budget, i.e. restrict spending to the level of income. This is constantly used as the excuse to impose austerity on the general population, although, of course, austerity applies only to us plebs, not to MPs, who can vote themselves larger increases in salaries than the rest of us can ever hope to get and can claim expenses of the sort most of us can only dream of.

But that is is a mere pittance to what government friends and the top 1% make (and what MPs can make after they retire from their lifetime of serving the public – 🤣)

For example, there’s the £37bn allocated to the UK Test and Trace system. No one really seems to know how the money is being spent and, in any case, it has produced no discernible improvement in pandemic outcomes (see this from the Commons Public Accounts Committee). Most of that money seems to have gone to private companies and individuals and there’s more billions given to friends and colleagues of MPs to supply PPE, without using sensible (or even any) purchasing rules. Much of it turned out to be useless and is now costing more millions to store before costing even more millions to be destroyed (and we’re not just talking about Michelle Mone here, that’s the tip of the iceberg).

Then there’s the generally accepted statistic that billionaires worldwide (that’s people worth more than $1,000,000,000) increased their wealth by 54% (that’s more than $540,000,000) during the pandemic, sparking renewed calls for a wealth tax. See this report from CBS News. How did your finances do in the pandemic? In the UK, Westminster would only introduce a wealth tax if there were enough loopholes in it to allow all the really rich to avoid it. Their money is all hidden away in tax havens anyway.

For those of you who haven’t yet seen what $540 million looks like, it would create a column almost 37 miles high. When added to the existing billion, that would total 105 miles. Of course, that’s just the minimum entry qualification to the billionaires club. If you were Bernard Arnault, currently the world’s richest man, you would have to contend with a stack 11,130 miles high. That’s almost 25 times as high as Ben Nevis. Billionaires must be really grateful for electronic money.

Recent events are highlighting just the difference between Westminster’s treatment of their mates and the plebs. With government-created inflation running at over 10%, Westminster are refusing to even discuss sensible pay rises for workers who only a year or so ago were being applauded (some with weekly government sponsored gratitude sessions) for risking their lives keeping the country running. You would have thought the government would have been only too happy to reward these important workers with a decent pay rise. Perhaps, having given so much to all their mates, they’ve got nothing left? Aye, right!

Anyway, back to balancing the budget. I was pointed recently to a list of all the countries arranged by income (thanks Macalba). What I noticed from the list was that I had to go down to the 53rd biggest country in the world (Qatar) before I found one who had a budget surplus. (Qatar, of course, has all that oil income, no doubt making it easy to run a surplus. If only Scotland was in the same position.) That’s the 52 biggest countries in the world, all running a budget deficit (and that includes the UK). In fact, top of the list, the USA, the country our government is always seeking to emulate, had, in round figures, a deficit of $4trn on an income of $6trn. To paraphrase Mr Micawber, annual income 6trn dollars, expenditure 10trn dollars, result happiness. I think that’s roughly what he said. By the way, Scotland is not included in the list, not even as a dependent territory, though, if included, Scotland (around $75bn income) would rank above New Zealand (40th – $72bn) and very close to South Africa (39th – $76bn).

So why Westminster’s fixation on a balanced budget? We all know Westminster does nothing that doesn’t benefit Westminster, so what’s the point? Well, as I’ve said, a balanced budget is the excuse for austerity, so perhaps the question ought to be – what’s the point of austerity?

Handing out less money to the plebs must mean there’s more left for the really deserving rich. So, is this the reason? Is it just, as the Four Preps almost said in a song I liked as a teenager:

Musical Interlude

♫ Eliminate the proletariat
More money for you and me ♫

(What do you mean, you’ve never heard of the Four Preps. You obviously need educating on the finer aspects of pre-Beatles American popular music. Listen to a song from them that also references other famous groups such as the Fleetwoods, the Hollywood Argyles, the Platters, the Four Freshmen, the Kingston Trio and Dion and the Belmonts. You can listen to it here on YouTube. For best experience, imagine each group as your favourite bunch of MPs/MSPs. “Gosh, Angry, how old are you?“)

Back to the serious stuff.

Or could there be a more sinister reason? Are the Tories really intent on taking us back to the early twentieth century or even the late nineteenth when workers had no employment rights, when your job and your income were dependent on doing exactly what your boss told you and when you could be sacked on a whim if you showed the faintest sign of being a nuisance or if you wanted a living wage?

Other legislation planned by the current Tory government includes banning strikes in certain industries by imposing legal minimum service levels (how long before it becomes everybody) and removing or revising EU based benefits like holiday pay, maternity/paternity leave and maximum working hours. Another Brexit benefit?

Is the attempted imposition of below inflation wage increases, the cuts in real-terms benefit levels and the relatively relaxed approach to huge increases in energy and food prices just part of a softening-up process to make us plebs even more grateful for the pittance in wages or benefits we’re getting than we already are? Remember that the UK is already a low wage economy, with the lowest levels of benefits and pensions in Europe and many families in the UK dependent on foodbanks to survive.

Foodbanks are a fairly recent phenomenon in the UK. First opened in 2000, the numbers have grown to over 2,600. How long will it take before we’re all dependent on food banks, except, by then, they will be funded through charitable donations from the rich, because none of the rest of us will be able to afford it. Makes you think of Victorian times. I hear that Tories are even considering reintroducing workhouses. I wouldn’t put it past them.

With almost two years to go before the next election, there’s loads of time left for the Tories to do untold damage. Even if we get a Labour government at the next election, who would put money on them reversing the worst of the Tories’ excesses. After all, they’ve been promising to abolish (or reform) the House of Lords for more than a hundred years. Anybody notice a change? Oh yes, there are even more Labour peers. By the way, does everybody know that the Lords is the second biggest legislative chamber in the world, second only to Chinese National People’s Congress.

In any case, if the Tories throw a few goodies to the electorate before the election, who’s to say they won’t get back in. But, no matter who gets in, the balance in a balanced budget is always against you.

And by the way, with so much to look forward to, I hope you all have a great New Year. 😉

And if you want a song from the same era, why not try this, Tommy Steele’s Independence Movement anthem to Nicola Sturgeon.


BEAT THE CENSORS
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SALVO
The progress of Salvo has been the most encouraging development of 2022. It is doing sterling work educating Scots about the Claim of Right and spelling out what it means that the Scottish people are sovereign, not any Parliament.

LIBERATION.SCOT
Please register at Liberation.scot and join the mass membership organisation that will be the signatories to our application to the UN, debate and organise a new Scottish Constitution. The membership of Liberation is also where the first members of Scotland’s National Congress will be balloted for selection.


The Big Bang Theory

With apologies to Chuck Lorre and Warner Bros.

This started out as a suggestion that the Ukraine situation highlighted the need for Scotland to be free of the warmongering tossers in Westminster. But then we had this from the ‘supposedly’ independence supporting Ian Blackford.

Is there any event that the SNP won’t use as an excuse to delay progress towards independence?

Let’s get back to the original story.

There’s aiways lots of talk about the proximity of the UK nuclear bases to Scotland’s largest city, Glasgow, not to mention all the places in between such as Helensburgh, Dumbarton and Clydebank. Clydebank, of course, has already experienced the early 1940s equivalent of a nuclear attack with the Clydebank blitz extending over two nights in March 1941. Over 1000 bombs and over 2000 incendiaries were dropped, killing and seriously wounding over 1100 people out of a population of about 50,000 and virtually destroying the town, with only 8 of 12,000 houses remaining undamaged. 439 Luftwaffe bombers were involved in the raids.

However, with the advent of the real nuclear era in 1945, things changed. Only one US bomber was involved in the attack on Hiroshima and only one bomb was dropped. Out of a population of about 350,000, about 75,000 were killed immediately, but the effects of the radiation created by nuclear explosion meant that number doubled in the next 2-3 months and estimates over the longer term have put the number of deaths caused by the attack as high as 330,000.

Why am I telling you all this?

Firstly, to show the difference between conventional war and nuclear war. In conventional war, you could be unlucky and have a bomb drop close enough to cause considerable injury, or perhaps even death. In a nuclear war, you won’t escape. If you don’t get killed by the blast or the likely firestorm which follows, you’re likely to suffer a slower lingering death caused by exposure to the radiation.

The damage to Hiroshima was caused by a 16 kiloton (thousand tons of TNT) bomb. This is as nothing compared to the power of present-day weapons, which can range up to 50 megatons (million tons of TNT) and can have several independently targetted warheads, some as many as 10, allowing one missile to distribute destruction over an area several hundred miles across.

To put it in a Scottish context, one missile could carry warheads aimed at Faslane, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Perth, Dundee, Aberdeen and Dumfries, and still have a few left for other targets. Scotland would just cease to exist. To take just one example of possible contaminants, the half-life of Uranium-235 is 700 million years. To put it another way, it takes 700 million years before it becomes half as dangerous. Scotland could become just a bigger example of Gruinard, an entire Scottish island contaminated by UK biological weapons testing and uninhabitable for years.

Secondly, recent events in Ukraine have brought the possibility of nuclear war back into the media, though hopefully not really any more likely. Boris Johnson and other members of his cabinet have been warning of the threat Russia poses and the possibility of a nuclear attack. To make matters worse, members of the Scottish Government seem to be adopting a similar line to Westminster. Of course, we in Scotland are lucky enough to have a nuclear weapons base just 25 miles from the centre of Glasgow, a base which would be a prime target should a European war break out.

This is the risk politicians and the media are taking when they ramp up pro-war rhetoric. Of course, they are betting that it won’t come to that. They are betting your life on it. They are encouraging war on a more limited scale. Limited in scale and limited to someone else’s country. Limited so no one important dies, just a few hundred soldiers and a a few thousand (or tens of thousands) civilians (or foreigners as they are better known).

But why? The tiny amount of political influence gained for the cost of a war reminds me of many of the actions in the Great War of 1914-18, when Allied generals (those allegedly on our side) believed that a few dozen yards gained were worth the cost of hundreds, even thousands, of human lives, even when they knew that the ground would likely be lost again in the next Central Powers (the other side) attack, also at the cost of hundreds or thousands of lives.

So, if it’s not political influence, what’s to be gained? The obvious answer is of course money. War requires weapons and weapons require money and the money goes to those whose cash bankrolled the election of the politician. So a win-win situation for all the important people. And that’s all that counts, isn’t it?

Of course, war is not the only way to cause nuclear explosions. I’m sure everyone remembers Chernobyl and Fukushima, neither of which were caused by war. They were accidents. Accidents can happen at any time, Accidents can be small or large. Larger accidents tend to make news, but smaller ones don’t. No one hears about the smaller accidents until one causes a problem which escalates and suddenly becomes a bigger accident.

A report issued in 2018 told us that in the period from 2006, there had been over 500 recorded accidents at Faslane, half of them from 2015. So from 2015, 250 accidents. That’s about 7 accidents a month, or about one every four days, each with the potential to escalate to something more troubling.

I don’t know how many nuclear weapons are kept at Faslane, probably nothing like 50 megatons in total, but enough to make a pretty big explosion should someone press the wrong button – accidentally.

So let’s get moving on independence, which seems to be the only way we can tell Westminster to get their stuff out of (our) harms way. Obviously, it would be better if they were all gone, but moving them to Plymouth (or somewhere even further away) would be a good start.

Will the SNP use this threat of a nuclear attack to get moving on independence and the removal of all nuclear weapons from Scotland? Or will the SNP be using the Ian Blackford line of using the threat of nuclear attack as another excuse to delay idependence?

What do you think their priority is?

Beat the Censors

BEAT THE CENSORS
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The Return of the Slave Trade – Part 2

I wrote the following blog just after the 2016 Scottish election, though now, five and a half years later, almost nothing has changed. Everything I wrote then still applies, but it has become apparent that I missed out one aspect of modern slavery that has particular relevance in the independence debate.


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?


In the earlier posting, I said that, generally, people are no longer differentiated by their race or colour, but in this modern United Kingdom, there is still one active differentiator – nationality.

The view of the rich English, and some of the not so rich, is that those UK citizens who hail from one of the other three countries, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, are a lesser class of human, fit only for doing the jobs beneath your true (i.e. rich) English person, working to provide them with the money that keeps them in the style they’ve become accustomed to, and taking part in their wars of personal enrichment (as cannon-fodder, of course), only able to survive due to the largesse of their English masters.

Of the problems (as the English see it) caused by lesser humans being allowed to take part in normal society, solutions needed to be found, and were found.

They have solved the voting problem, not by preventing the Scots, Welsh ans Northern Irish from voting, but by putting those whom they vote for into a parliament where they are collectively outnumbered, so the English always get their own way.

They have solved the human rights problem, as I mentioned in 2016, by replacing EU human rights legislation by a UK version which can be summarised as:

You can have any rights you like as long as they don’t interfere with the right of the true Englishman to make as much money as possible by making sure the rest of humanity works only for them.

Already the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill will place restrictions on gatherings and protest marches, unfortunately an idea enthusiastically taken up by the Scottish Government. The Internal Market Act gives Westminster the power to decide what food you will be allowed to eat and what you will pay for it. If that means some Scottish producers (and the jobs they support) are priced out of the market, then so be it. Do you think Westminster will care?

The Covert Human Intelligence Sources Bill (informally known as the Licence to Kill Bill) makes it legal for any member of the security services to execute, without trial, anyone they suspect of acting against the best interests of the state, and that includes the state’s political and financial interests. Arguably, anyone supporting Scottish Independence is advocating an action that will damage the UK both politically and financially. Just think about it.

If you think that is too extreme an interpretation, remember Willie McRae, a senior SNP politician who was alleged in 1975 to have committed suicide by shooting himself twice in the head and then throwing the gun away, just when he was about to expose a bunch of rich, politically-connected child abusers. He was being followed at the time by members of the security services, but, allegedly, they had nothing to do with his death.

Even if not formally ackowleged, few would argue against the relationship between England and Scotland being that of coloniser and colonised. The dictionary definition of colonialism is:

The policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically.

Is that not exactly what has happened to Scotland over the last 314 years.

England has full political control through a parliament in which they have a large majority over all other countries combined. Most major decisions are made for Scotland by an English dominated parliament, made by English MPs who know very little about Scotland. Even the decisions the Scottish Government is allowed to make are subject to scrutiny by Westminster, so any they don’t like may be struck down.

The last census held in Scotland was in 2011 as the 2021 census was postponed by the Scottish Government, allegedly because of the pandemic, though the census was held in the remainder of the UK. I wonder why Sturgeon didn’t want the answer to be known? In 2011, approximately 15% of those resident in Scotland were settlers, i.e. they originated from another part of the world. By far, the largest number of these, about 10% of the population, were from England. With an estimated 50,000 new immigrants moving to Scotland every year, over half from England, the proportion of English ‘settlers’ is set to increase.

Of course, the number of settlers is in itself not significant. More significant is the number of settlers who occupy senior positions in government and government sponsored and cultural organisations. Look and see how many public bodies in Scotland are led by someone who’s experience is in a different country and in a different area of business, with little knowledge of Scottish environment, culture and history. Ask yourself whether the decisions these people make are likely to be influenced by their largely non-Scottish background and ask yourself why there’s rarely a Scottish candidate considered for the position.

The ways in which Scottish resources are exploited by Westminster are almost without number.

The revenue from Scottish oil was used by Thatcher to enhance the attractiveness of London as a business centre and to destroy the Scottish manufacturing base, effectively paying for the Scottish unemployed with money stolen from Scotland. An act of deliberate economic vandalism.

Now the same thing is happening with the energy produced from Scottish wind and water, transferred to the National Grid at a cost to the producers, then sold back to Scots consumers at a much higher price. Scotland get very little benefit from their own energy.

Water will be next as plans are in place to build pipelines to transfer Scottish water to England. Just like oil and wind, there will be no benefit to Scotland.

The biggest irony in the scandal of the exploitation of Scottish resources for English benefit is the annual production of the GERS figures, supposingly describing the Scottish economy, produced by the Scottish Government but based largely on estimates supplied by Westminster. If you think there’s any chance of these numbers representing an accurate statement of the Scottish economy, bear in mind that the report was first produced by Tory Scottish Secretary Ian Lang as a way of preventing devolution. It was, and still is, a way of making the Scottish economy look bad.

So we can see that Scotland’s relationship with England fits the definition of colonialism exactly. England has total political control. English setttlers occupy many senior positions in Scottish organisations and their numbers are sufficient to sway the results of elections and referenda. Scottish resources are removed from the Scottish economy for the benefit of England, with little or no benefit accruing to the Scottish people.

We’ve seen that the relationship between Scotland and England fits the definition of colonialism. So what’s the connection between colonialism and slavery. One definition of slavery is:

A civil relationship whereby one person has absolute power over another and controls his life, liberty and fortune.

Just change the wording slightly andyou get a perfect description of Scotland’s current position:

A civil relationship whereby one group of people has absolute power over another and controls their life, liberty and fortune.

And then, from a paper on Afican slavery by Songhikenjou Bama at Penn State University:

Colonization is like enslaving an entire area.

Can anyone deny that Scotland, despite its long history as a free nation, has been colonised by England and that England’s control over Scotland is effectively slavery?

For Scotland’s future, will you choose freedom or slavery?


For a much better explanation of the effect of colonialism on Scotland, why not read the excellent series of papers by Professor Alf Baird available on the Yours for Scotland website. This is a link to the synopsis. The whole series is also available in paperback or kindle form from Amazon (and no doubt from other booksellers) as Doun-Hauden: The Socio-Political Determinants of Scottish Independence.

Beat the Censors.

Many Facebook sites are increasingly censoring bloggers like myself who are sometimes critical of the actions of the SNP and the Scottish Government. They are attempting to prevent bloggers from getting their message out, so we have to depend on readers sharing the blog posts. If you liked this post or others I have written, please share this and take out a free subscription by clicking the follow button on the home page or on the posts. You will then be notified by email of any new posts on the blog. Thank you.

Will it be a Guid New Year?

This is the last blog of 2021 and my last chance to give my opinion on whether the SNP can still be considered a party of independence.

2021 was a year, like many others, that started with so much hope and enthusiasm. We had the Scottish Parliament election to look forward to, with the promise of progress on independence. There was the promise of an update of the independence prospectus. There was the promise of an independence bill being brought to parliament. There were so many, many promises. “Vote for me”, said Nicola and no one will be able to stop us: no one will presume to interfere with Scotland’s right to become independent. Of course, no one heard her mutter under her breath, “except me”.

So 2021 is coming to a close and we are no further forward in our struggle for independence. “Blame Covid”, said Nicola. “We can’t do any work on independence when we are in the midst of a pandemic. We can have an election to give us five more years leaching of the public purse; we can work on defining Hate Crimes; we can threaten to charge people for what they say in their own homes; we can turn men into women in the blink of an eye; but what we can’t do, what we can never do, we can’t do any work on independence in the midst of a pandemic.

The New Year is just around the corner. Will 2022 start with hope and enthusiasm? Will there be an independence bill? Will the independence prospectus be updated in preparation for the latest promise, a referendum in 2023. If it arrives, will the referendum be a simple yes/no to independence, or will Devo Max, or Home Rule be included on the ballot paper, virtually assuring that it will win.

If it is included, no one, least of all Nicola Sturgeon, will tell you that, like the infamous vow in 2014, the implementation will depend on the Westminster government agreeing to it and the chances of that happening, like 2014, are nil. In fact, the best we could hope for is the status quo, but the more likely outcome would be a continuation of the current Westminster plan to further reduce the powers of the Holyrood government, a plan that the current Scottish government seem to be reasonably happy to accept.

So does that mean 2022 will be another black year for independence supporters? Is there no way out? Can nothing be done to improve the prospects for independence?

Given that we have established that the biggest blockage on the road to independence is Nicola Sturgeon, then her removal would clear the road, but only if she was not replaced by one of her close associates, such as the odious and ineffectual Angus Robertson. No sense in getting rid of Satan, only to replace her with Beelzebub.

How do we do that? Is there a best way to convince Nicola Sturgeon that her time is up?

Can it be done from inside the party? What the last several years have shown us is that the SNP leadership have given up paying attention to the membership. If you’re an ordinary member, you play a disappearingly small part in the party’s plans or political strategy. Your part in this charade is to provide money, deliver leaflets and sing the praises of Nicola to anyone who’ll listen, to yourself, but mainly, on every opportunity you get, to Nicola herself. And remember, she’s always right.

So does it have to be done from outside the party? Fortunately, the SNP themselves have made plans to increase the numbers outside the party. They’ve made the Hate Crimes plan: they’ve made the Self-Id plan: they’ve made the Let’s jail everyone who doesn’t agree with us plan: they’ve made lots of plans, none of which involve independence, and as a result of their plans, thousands of previously active independence supporting members left the party.

There are just about four months left before the next test of people’s belief in the SNP’s capabilities and particularly their independence plans, the Local Elections. Of course, voting for Local Government has not the same impact on independence as voting for National Government. However, parties tend to campaign using party labels and voters tend to base their voting on their opinion of the parties, so it will still be a valid test.

So what can we do? In the four months we have to persuade the SNP that their election chances are under threat if they do not change their priorities and start making moves to bring independence closer. But it has to be actions. Talk of independence and promises of future action is no longer enough. Failing the success of that, and unfortunately I think it will fail, we need to encourage Alba and ISP and other truly independence supporting parties to stand candidates to allow as many of us from outside the SNP to show their displeasure by voting against them. If the SNP won’t listen to advice, perhaps they’ll pay attention to the electoral impact.

As a brief aside, I see that some remaining SNP supporters are starting to use the old Scottish Labour argument, which was if you don’t vote Labour, you’ll let the Tories in. That used to work in Scotland until Labour fell from 41 Westminster seats in 2010 to 1 (yes one) in 2015. Now we’re hearing if you don’t vote SNP, you’ll let the unionists in. Is this the SNP’s final conversion into a Scottish Labour lookalike? Of course, in the Holyrood election, votes for SNP meant the Unionists got in. Funny that!

I hope everyone has as good and as safe a time as possible over the New Year and comes back refreshed and ready to restart the battle for independence.

Saor Alba!

Independence coming soon?

This election campaign has been characterised by arguments between what we may now call the two main independence parties, SNP and Alba. Anyone mentioning the Greens in this context may be asked to undergo a brain scan to find out if there is one present. Of course, the disputes between independence supporters and the SNP predate the appearance of the Alba Party by several years and have been mainly concerned with the SNP’s apparent lack of progress on independence. Independence always seemed to have taken second place (or should that be third or fourth or ……. ) to Brexit, to gender issues and hate crimes, and now to Covid. There always seems to be something just that little bit more important than independence.

Of course, we know from a freedom of information request that the Scottish Government spent absolutely no time at all in the years between 2015-16 and 2018-19 on preparing the case for independence (that’s none, zero, zilch, sfa) and the very little time spent in the following year produced no tangible results. We also know that the ringfenced money collected from the two SNP IndyRef fundraisers, almost £600,000, has disappeared into the black hole of other spending (did we really pay to keep Alyn Smith out of jail?), though the party leaders are trying to pretend it still exists by reclassifying headquarters payroll spending as IndyRef preparation and therefore part of the £600,000. Wow, what a wheeze!

But believe it or not, there’s one thing the SNP and Alba do agree on. They both say Scotland’s recovery from Brexit and Covid-19 will not be successful unless organised and delivered from Scotland by the Scottish Government and not from London by the Tory UK Government. Unsurprisingly, both parties tell us that the UK Government may not have Scottish interests at the top of their priority list, even if they’re on the priority list at all. Who knew?

We all know that decisions taken by the Tory Government in London will be entirely for the benefit of London and the South East of England, with little regard for their impact on Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (or even on other parts of England). Of course that’s why Tories in Scotland are not talking about policies other than no IndyRef (or no democracy as it should properly be called). The policies of the London Tory party are not something the Tories want to talk about in Scotland (the so-called Scottish Tory party is only a branch of the UK Tories and doesn’t have its own policies).

So as both parties agree about what is required, how it can only be achieved by being delivered from Scotland and that can only happen with independence, you would expect both parties to equally keen to start the process of delivering independence as soon as possible. But is that the case?

Alba have said that, if elected, they will immediately bring forward a motion to require the Scottish Government to begin negotiations with Westminster/Whitehall for Scottish independence. Alex Salmond has long believed that the Scottish Government headed by Nicola Sturgeon hasn’t shown the necessary urgency to begin independence discussions and one of Alba’s main aims is to inject that urgency into government thinking.

The SNP, or more particularly Nicola Sturgeon, has decided, if elected, to ignore independence for the first 100 days of of the parliament. It will be on the back burner until she decides that the impact of Covid-19 is over and that means it is unlikely that any serious time will be spent on thinking about independence before 2023 (and I mean thinking, not doing). Given that it is apparently important for recovery to be delivered by Scotland, does that mean she doesn’t believe the recovery will begin until the second half of the parliament? Or is this something else where rhetoric is not matched by actions? She has also said that if Alba bring forward the motion on independence negotiations, she will instruct SNP MSPs to vote against it. Is that the action of a party that wants independence above all else?

I’ve just watched the SNP’s Get Out the Vote rally. Astonishingly, it was all about independence and how so many things are only possible if Scotland is an independent country. Speaker after speaker made the same point. The only note of caution came at the very end when Nicola Sturgeon was interviewed and we learned that independence would only be possible after we are no longer suffering from the effects of the pandemic. Long grass, here we come?

A whole one hour devoted to telling us all about the goodies independence would bring, followed by one minute telling us it won’t happen soon. Oh, well!, such is Scottish politics, SNP style.

One last point. With the election just hours away, everyone is telling you how to vote, so I feel obliged to follow suit. If you want independence and you have a strong enough clothespeg, get it on your nose and vote SNP in the constituency, but be warned, you will need a very strong clothespeg (see below). If you don’t have a strong enough clothespeg, please don’t vote for a Unionist party for obvious reasons and please don’t vote Green, the only party arguably worse than the SNP in their desire to bin women’s rights and raise a whole generation of children destroyed by their dependence on drugs and surgery.

On the list, vote Alba in the hope they get a strong enough representation to make something happen about independence, because it may be our last chance. I firmly believe that the Tories will try to make independence impossible if we wait till the 2026 election, even if there’s a parliament to vote for by then.

Happy voting!!!

The lethal ideology of British exceptionalism

A fantastic explanation of our current situation and our government’s pathetic attempts, not to make things better, but to keep us in the dark about what’s going on, or more correctly, about what’s not going on, courtesy of Wee Ginger Dug.

On Friday it was announced that the number of people who died in the UK after being diagnosed with the coronavirus had risen to 980, a number which is greater than the daily total ever reported for Italy or Spain. Yet this figure is misleading. There is a difference in the way in which different parts of the UK report their figures. In Scotland and Wales, the figures given are for all deaths where coronavirus is mentioned on the death certificate. This includes deaths in care homes. The figures for England where the Tories are in charge are however only the number of those who have fallen ill with coronavirus symptoms and who have died in hospitals and whose deaths have been registered in the past 24 hours. The true number of deaths is going to be considerably higher, yet the British government does not seem disposed to let us know what that figure might be.

Possibly this is because the British state doesn’t want us to realise that the UK was badly placed to deal with this disease because of policy decisions taken by successive British governments over the years, because of the privatisation of public services and the lack of funding for social programmes that support good health and full employment. Maybe they’re trying to cover their collective arses because their handling of this crisis was a disaster from the beginning. Maybe it’s because they don’t want to scare us with the possibility that there are many more deaths to come. Maybe it’s a deliberate and cynical attempt to reduce the headline figures in an attempt to disguise the true extent of death toll from us because the herd immunity strategy that was pursued in the early weeks of the crisis has bitten this government on the bum. Maybe it’s due to some issue with the way in which the figures are collated which is perfectly innocent. I don’t know which of these scenarios it may be, or whether there’s some other explanation, and neither do you. This is because the British media doesn’t think it’s a worthwhile line of questioning.

1000 people are dying every day, you’d think that in a normal democracy with a properly functioning media there would be an outrage about that. 144 people have died in the UK due to terrorist attacks since 2000. Even on the UK’s government’s partial figures the number of people who are dying every single day from the covid-19 virus is seven times the number who have died in the UK as a result of terrorism over the past twenty years. It’s Hillsborough, Aberfan, Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, and the Herald of Free Enterprise combined, every single day. Yet the true figure is certainly higher, and the number is set to grow. And every single one of those who add to the number represents a human being, with dreams, with families, with ambitions, with fears, with loves and losses and a life no longer led.

Instead of the sound of a media that’s clamouring for answers with a steely eyed determination to hold the British government to account, there’s the syrupy symphony of sychophancy. The BBC merely parrots Tory propaganda, and promotes rousing messages from Ibris Elba as though it were the North Korean TV channel. Meanwhile the tabloid press has turned into a sickening chorus of fangirlishness for Boris.

We’re getting our intelligence insulted by the likes of today’s front page in The Sun, which helpfully informs us that Boris Johnson’s girlfriend Carrie Symonds has sent him copies of the scans of their unborn baby. And according to The Sun’s chief political editor, Tom Newton-Dunn, Boris Johnson is enjoying watching movies and playing sudoku on his iPad as he lies in his hospital bed recovering from his illness. We’re promised a lot more in tomorrow’s Mail on Sunday about how Boris is spending his time in convalescence – which movies he’s watching, how he’s doing with his sudoku scores. I can hardly wait.  It is all lovely, at least if you define sickening sycophancy as lovely, but it’s not exactly helpful to anything but the self-serving mythos of the liar and charlatan who wormed his way into Number 10 on the basis of made up stories about Brexit.

Cos here’s the thing. You don’t become a hero by virtue of coming down with an infection and surviving it, for all the attempts of the British media to paint Boris Johnson as some sort of martyr for Great British Spirit. The heroes are those who put their own lives on the line in order to treat the tsunami of victims who are overwhelming our health services. A task which is not made any easier by the Boris Johnsons of this world, who have cut public services to the bone in an ideologically driven austerity for which there was never any need.

Some of these deaths could have been prevented if different policy decisions had been made. Some deaths could have been avoided if the British government had followed the example of Germany or South Korea and adopted a rigorous policy of testing and tracing the contacts of those infected. Deaths could be avoided if medical staff had access to the protection equipment that they’re screaming out for. But hey. Boris Johnson is feeling better. Isn’t that lovely.

The reason that the media isn’t holding this woeful government to account is the same reason that the wrong policy decisions were made in the first place. British, or more exactly English, exceptionalism. It’s that exceptionalism which leads British nationalists not to recognise their own nationalism. It is the unshakeable, deep rooted, conviction that British is best, that Britishness is the natural state which is envied by everyone else. It’s a British belief in itself which cannot be nationalist because it’s inherently better. It’s the belief that because within the British state English priorities, politics, and policies effortlessly dominate the other nations of the UK that Britishness has somehow transcended mere nationalism. It is of course a delusion.

The ruling class of the UK is imbued with the unshakeable conviction that the rules and norms which Johnny Foreigner adheres to need not apply to a red blooded Englishman. When you represent a state which has just left the EU because it considers itself unique and different, you’re not going to quibble when the government proposes not to follow World Health Organisation recommendations for tackling the virus.

The English nationalist exceptionalist mindset means that it becomes expected, desired even, that the British state will follow a different model from the rest of the world even though the rest of the world is following a model which is proven, scientifically based, and which works. And it’s taken for granted that the ‘lesser’ nations of the UK will obediently follow Westminster’s example. Exceptionalism is why the British government squandered the lead that the UK had in the early days of the epidemic with its reluctance to introduce the social isolation rules that were already in force elsewhere. Because the British are special. The British are different. The British won’t tolerate the restrictions on their personal liberty that lesser breeds put up with. Exceptionalism is why the British media won’t hold the government to account for it – even though it’s an exceptionalism which kills. British exceptionalism is a lethal ideology.

The British state is however truly exceptional in one area. It’s exceptional in its disregard for its citizens, its lack of concern for the wider good, and its single minded focus on enriching those who are already wealthy. British nationalist exceptionalism is holding Scotland back, not because Scotland could also be exceptional. It’s preventing Scotland from being normal.

For those who want to find out more about Wee Ginger Dug’s blog or read some of his other posts, click here.

Are you one of the herd?

Despite their repeated denials, it’s fairly obvious that the UK Government has been pursuing a strategy of herd immunity, but just not telling us.  Their announced actions, often unbelievable, have been designed to delay implementing another solution, not promoting one.  They don’t care that their excuses have been easily found out, because they were only put forward to waste time, to make herd immunity inevitable.  They can’t be embarrassed and, in any case, they have had another equally unbelievable excuse ready.  It’s a case of ‘if you don’t like this excuse, we have others’.

The World Health Organisation declared coronavirus a global emergency on 31st January, but several weeks passed before the UK Government paid much attention.  In the early days of the coronavirus outbreak, the UK Government were quite open about the herd immunity idea. Who can forget Boris Johnson’s “let’s just take it on the chin” comment in one of his early press briefings?  The concept of herd immunity is, of course, one that underpins the use of vaccines.  The more people vaccinated, the fewer will catch the disease, so limiting the spread.  This, after all, was the technique responsible for the elimination of smallpox and the reduction in many other diseases.  What could go wrong?  Surely there’s no difference between a mass vaccination programme and deliberate mass exposure to a virulent disease.  Is there?

The more people catch the virus, the more will develop immunity to it and that will inevitably reduce the spread.  So went the plan.  Of course, there was another aspect to the plan that wasn’t so widely publicised.  As has now become much more obvious, those younger and fitter will likely be less seriously affected by catching the virus.  They’ll have milder symptoms or even none at all.  But those older and less fit and those disabled or suffering serious life limiting illnesses are going to be much more seriously affected if they catch the virus.  Their symptoms will be much more serious.  They could become very ill.  They may die.  But who can forget Dominic Cummings’ reported statement that “what does it matter if a few pensioners die”.

But is the UK Government really adopting a strategy which could cause the unnecessary deaths of thousands, even tens of thousands, of people?  Let’s look at the evidence.

Do not resuscitate letters are being given out to many of the elderly or disabled.  This was first revealed when a surgery in Wales sent out letters to many of their patients asking them to sign a do not resuscitate order.  The surgery was forced to apologise, but, subsequently, it was found that other surgeries and care homes were doing the same thing.  Is this just a practical response to the pandemic when medical resources are in short supply or is this an attempt to cull those in our communities who are no longer making enough of a contribution, those who are costing money that the UK  Government could spend better elsewhere, such as on tax cuts to those few rich folk who actually pay tax?

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there are steps that should be taken by the government of any country affected.  These can be summarised as identify, isolate, contact trace, or, as the Director General of the WHO put it, test, test, test.  The UK Government response was to say that this advice was aimed at poorer countries with less developed health services.  Richer countries with more developed health services didn’t need to test so aggressively.  As a result, in the early stages of the pandemic, little effort was made to introduce any form of mass testing, despite the proven success of such regimes in several Far East countries, particularly South Korea and China.  In fact, nothing much happened until people started to compare the UK’s pathetic efforts against Germany’s: hardly a poor country.  Are these the actions of a government concerned for its people?  Instead of testing, the UK Government have relied on people staying at home and, if they were out, on social distancing, staying at least 2 metres apart at all times.  Was this because they thought this was the best course of action, or was it just a ploy to place the blame for anything going wrong with the Government’s plans on the people and not the Government?

Of course, if you don’t test, you don’t need testing kits, so little effort was made by the UK government to acquire them until they were forced into it by the bad publicity they were getting. They had string of excuses, of course, lack of available supplies, lack of chemical reagents, all shown to be lies by the manufacturers, who inevitably told that the government had not even approached them about supplies. In fact, companies who contacted the UK Government directly were either stalled, or didn’t even get an answer.  Are these the actions of a government concerned for its people?

People who contracted coronavirus and became ill had to be admitted to hospital for treatment, the most serious being admitted to an Intensive Care Unit (ICU).  Here we see the effects of Tory government policy over the last 10 years, the deliberate underfunding of the Health Service since the Tories came to power in 2010, initially with a little help from their LibDem friends.  To see the full scale of the reduction, look at the chart below, particularly at the difference between the average annual spending increase for the latest decade, from 2010, versus the one before.  The last two decades are post devolution and are for NHS England only, but the Barnett formula ensures Scotland doesn’t escape.  As you can see, the per capita spending increase during the period of Tory government is only just above zero, compared with almost 6% in the previous decade of Labour government.

NHS funding

The result of this reduced funding is an NHS that has fewer reserves of both staff and equipment to cope with the additional requirements.  In terms of staff numbers, let’s look at vacancies in England, most badly affected by the Tory Government cuts. In 2010, the vacancy rate for consultants (doctors and dentists) was 3.5% and this rose to 9.0% in 2019.  In 2010, the vacancy rate for nurses was 2.5% and this rose to 12.3% in the 1st quarter of 2019, reducing slightly in the following two quarters (figures from NHS Digital).  In Scotland, the vacancy rate for consultants in 2010 was 2.9% rising to 7.8% in 2019.  In 2010, the vacancy rate for nurses was 0.8%, rising to 5.0% in 2019 (figures from ISD Scotland).  So the Scottish figures are better, though still showing a rising trend.  Thank goodness NHS Scotland has been better funded by the Scottish Government during this last decade, even though it’s not been completely shielded from the Tory cuts.

What has the UK Government done to overcome the NHS staffing issues?

Despite the large amounts of NHS money being spent on private health providers, little money is being spent on NHS staff.  Only 3 years ago, while Jeremy Hunt was Health Secretary, Tory MPs cheered when a pay rise for nurses (in NHS England) and other public sector workers was voted down.  Gives you an indication of the Tory party’s level of respect for NHS workers in the days BC (Before Coronavirus).  Nurse’s pay in Scotland, funded by the Scottish Government, has been consistently higher than England.

For many years, the NHS has depended on overseas workers to fill the gaps in their staffing.  More than 10% of the total workforce come from abroad, with an even larger proportion of doctors.  Given that, it is astonishing that the UK Government chose to separate the UK from the rest of Europe and introduce rules to significantly limit the numbers coming from abroad.  Why would any sane government do this?  Were they influenced by the largely racist British press, who for years had mounted a never-ending campaign of hate against any and all ‘foreigners’?  Were they influenced by the owners of the press, most of them living abroad (non-doms) and non-taxpayers, but big contributors to the Tory party?  Were they influenced by the fact that hedge funds could make money from the situation, hedge funds also being big Tory donors, and nothing beats money?  Or was it all three?  Was this the action of a government concerned for its people?

What has the UK Government done to overcome the NHS equipment shortages?

Funding, or the lack of it, over the last 10 years has also affected the equipment available to the NHS staff.  Coronavirus has highlighted, in particular, the the lack of ICU beds, the lack of ventilators and the lack of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE).  In the days BC, these were considered optional extras by the UK Government.  Three years ago, the UK Government knocked back a proposal to acquire eye protection for frontline NHS staff on the grounds of cost.  It’s that Jeremy Hunt again!!!  His fingerprints are all over the underfunding.  If eye protection had been suggested for MPs to defend them from the frothing on the opposite benches, would cost have been such an issue?

However, with the onset of coronavirus, you would expect that the UK Government would at last see sense and made every effort to correct a situation which threatened to affect a large part of the UK population.  But you’d be wrong.

Take ventilators.   With all European countries affected, the EU organised a joint procurement exercise for ventilators.  Even though they were in the process of leaving the EU, the UK were invited to join.  After initially trying to pretend they didn’t get the email and not bothering to attend meetings, the UK Government finally declined the offer.  They said they could do better, allegedly.  Apparently, Brexit was more important than people’s lives.  Finally, after rejecting or even ignoring several offers from UK companies, the Government placed an order for 10,000 ventilators with Dyson, a company with no ventilators and no experience in their production.  However, Dyson did have one important advantage: they were major contributors to the Tory Party.  Hopefully, the ventilators work, pass the appropriate regulatory tests and arrive in time to help in the current crisis.  They are certainly needed as, recently, Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary (no, he’s not related to Tony Hancock, despite many of his TV appearances being a bit funny) admitted that the target of 18,000 ventilators available by the peak of the infection will not be reached, despite the target being a significant reduction from the initial estimate of 30,000.

PPE has been another on-going problem for the UK Government.  Though the government have consistently told us that they have loads of PPE available and that distribution problems were the reason why they weren’t getting through to where they should be, though I’m not sure how difficult it is to hire a couple of vans or get a delivery company to do it for you.  At times, the government even seemed not to understand the level of protection required, surprising considering the number of medical advisers they employ.  The result of their failure to deliver enough of the correct PPE has been that many health workers, especially in hospitals, have been using inadequate protection, causing many to become infected by the patients they are treating.  This has meant that many doctors and nurses have had to stop work to let the infection run its course, but, more seriously, has caused many serious illnesses and even some deaths.  Especially sad has been the number of retired doctors and nurses who have put themselves at risk by returning to help out in the current emergency and have died after contracting coronavirus.

Is it surprising that the NHS have found it difficult to cope with the coronavirus pandemic?  Is there any doubt that UK Government inaction has greatly magnified these difficulties?  What do you think?

Johnson, the Wannabe Dictator

Here’s what I wrote just a few short weeks after Johnson became the latest, and hopefully, the last UK Prime Minister (pretty please, SNP).

As I write, Boris Johnson has been PM for just 33 days, but during that time he has made his intentions quite clear.  Firstly, he appointed what is easily the most right wing UK cabinet in modern times, further to the right than Genghis Khan as the old saying goes.  Secondly, he has set 31st October as the date when the UK leaves the EU, no matter what.  Next, he has dropped a few hints that, unless the EU simply fold in any discussions and say ‘Yes, Boris’ to his every request, he is prepared to leave without a deal with the EU.  With a couple of exceptions, and they’ll probably get very little attention, each member of his Cabinet is a known Brexiteer, and in Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, there is someone who is known to be a supporter of a No Deal Brexit.

A lot has happened since then, little of it good, and most of it showing that I was probably more generous than I should have been in describing Johnson as a wannabe dictator.  I won’t go through everything that has happened; it would take too long and most of you won’t want reminding, but the main events were the change of date to the 31st of January and the surprise(?) general election, a surprise only because Johnson could only get it through Parliament if he got the support of other parties.  As it happened, he was supported by the third and fourth placed parties, both expecting to make big gains.  Though that worked out quite well for the SNP, who made 13 gains to 48 seats (controversial, eh), the LibDems probably wish they hadn’t been quite so optimistic as they’re now smaller than they were in the last parliament, even before the defections (the Jo Swinson effect?).  Whether both parties should have taken a more long term view, rather than seeking short term party advantage, is another question altogether and is a discussion for another time.

Since becoming PM, Johnson has shown a complete inability to compromise to achieve his ends and has the same messianic belief in Brexit as his predecessor Theresa May.  In both cases, was their belief in Brexit anything to do with what they thought is good for the country or is it more to do with what they thought is going to be good for them.  Who knows?  Unlike May, Johnson has managed to unite the Tories behind his withdrawal deal, perhaps down to the difference in personality.  While May could hardly be described as likable and failed to get colleagues to back her deal, Johnson is (sometimes likeable), and those he can’t persuade by telling them a joke or two, he can persuade because they know that behind the affable facade is someone who will do whatever it takes to get his own way.  This is a man who lies, a man who cheats, a man who conspires to get journalists beat up, a man who intends to prevent the judiciary having any say on his actions: and these are his better points.

Ironically, Johnson’s deal is virtually identical to May’s, except in one tiny little area, the involvement of Westminster.  Whereas May included some oversight of the negotiations by Parliament, Johnson has no need to as he has apparently got the unbounded support of the Tories in Parliament and probably beyond.  But the impact of Johnson’s attempt to acquire absolute power will be felt by all of the parliaments of the UK. 

There has been much talk in Scotland about the impact of the Withdrawal Bill on Holyrood though not so much in the largely foreign owned press and the unfriendly broadcast media or by the English based political parties masquerading as Scottish. The impact could be quite severe as it gives Johnson carte-blanche to ignore Holyrood in the negotiations with the EU and to overrule any decision taken by the Scottish Parliament, but that’s largely what happens now, so no one will be surprised.  That the other devolved administrations are affected in a similar way is not surprising as by virtue of their numbers and their interests, English MPs dominate Westminster debates.  As an aside, there’s a rule that non-English MPs can’t vote in Westminster on what are ruled by the speaker as matters that only affect England, though no such rule prohibits English MPs from voting on Scottish only matters.  Wonder why that is?

Anyway, back to the point.  As the Withdrawal Bill removes all oversight on the Brexit negotiations from the Westminster Parliament and provides the executive, i.e. Johnson and his cronies, with power to ignore or overrule the devolved administrations, which leaves all decision making in the hands of the executive.  Is this how modern democracies work or it just the UK?  Is the UK still a democracy?  There’s a word for countries which are run by a small group of individuals with no influence from anyone else and it’s not democracy.

Now although what’s described here only applies to the EU negotiations, it’s not a long stretch of the imagination to see the same rules being in place for other trade negotiations, including particularly those with the US.  Imagine Johnson, Gove and Raab being the only ones to decide on the import of chlorinated chicken.  It’s beyond belief.

But there’s more.  Using the same precedent, is it not a short step to see the same rules applying to other political decision making, foreign affairs (by the way, I don’t mean Johnson sleeping with a woman from another country), control of the NHS, military deployment, police regulations, human rights, food hygiene, the environment. etc., etc., etc., all under the total control of a small group of politicians with no input from anyone else.  Is that not a dictatorship, because it sure seems like it to me.

So come on Scotland, and Wales and Northern Ireland, surely you don’t want to live in a country run by a narcissistic dictator like Johnson.  If you don’t, get off your collective arses and do something about it.  NOW!

All for Brexit’s Wedding

A Modern Political Fable.

Brexit. Is it the most stupid action ever by any UK government, perhaps the most stupid action ever by any government in the world? Heaven knows what was going through Cameron’s tiny mind when he embarked on this utterly ridiculous exercise. To solve the problem of the idiot right wing Tories defecting to UKIP and damaging the Tory’s electoral chances (step forward and take a bow Messrs. Cash, Redwood and Rees-Mogg, you know you want to), he decided to shut them up permanently by proving once and for all that most Brits were European at heart. He was so confident that he would win, that he did very little proper campaigning and, worst of all, he didn’t bother to think through what he would do if he lost. Well, when I say what he would do, I meant what the country would do, because we all know what he personally would do, because he did it. He pissed off to make loads of money, helped out by the mates he helped out when he was PM, and left the rest of us in a great pile of steaming ordure. In any case, what made him think that the loony Tory’s BritNat wing would shut up just because they lost a vote. Was never going to happen.

With Cameron off to make money elsewhere, The Tories needed a new leader with a plan to stop them sinking into the aforementioned ordure. All seemed lost until Treeza started spinning and, in a puff of smoke, revealed herself to be WonderMay. We must embrace Brexit, she said. Brexit is Brexit, she said. We’ll have the biggest, hardest Brexit that anyone has ever had, she said. We’ll show them all that we’re the bestest Brexiteers in the history of Brexitting, she said, especially those f’ing Europeans. Cue Tory cheering. We’ve found our saviour, they said.

Little did they know then that their idol had feet of clay, or do I mean head of clay, and, unfortunately, events over the following year only showed that the clay was of the thickest, most impenetrable kind as May stumbled from one self-made crisis to another, her only solution being to throw money at them. She threw money at the DUP. She threw money at the EU. She even threw money at Scotland, although that turned out to be more like Monopoly money, the kind you can’t spend, except when you’re playing games.

But even the peasants were starting to get restless. Some of them were openly expressing the opinion that SuperMay wasn’t really all that super, that she wasn’t in control of Brexit, that Brexit was really in control of her, that she was just as stupid as she appeared. Some were even questioning the whole Brexit idea and saying that another referendum was needed. This had to stop. Money was at stake. Super-rich money.

Make no mistake, money is what Brexit is all about. The ability of the super-rich to keep all the money they’ve got and make much, much more. Brexit has nothing to do with improving the lives of most of the UK population. Taking back control is nothing more than a slogan invented by the Brexiteers and parroted by the media to sway enough the masses. It is years of anti-EU propaganda finally paying off. There was never any intention to take back control. If the intention had been to take back control, why the efforts to prevent the UK Parliament having any involvement in Brexit, why the secrecy about putting documents before parliamentary committees and why have the government not bothered to work out the impact of Brexit on the economy. The intention has always been to remove the EU from any involvement in UK lawmaking and transfer total control to the super-rich, fronted by a bunch of compliant politicians, well paid for their efforts. The EU was proving too big for the super rich to control and the last straw was an EU proposal to introduce rules to prevent multi-national companies from transferring their profits out of higher taxed EU countries to lower (or zero) taxed off-shore tax havens. A proposal likely to take effect in the Spring of 2019. Does that date ring a bell? The proposal would particularly impact the City of London, which has been described as the world’s biggest tax haven through its use of a multitude of British Overseas Territories and Dependencies where serious amounts of super-rich money is hidden away. The UK and its territories represent a haven for over 25% of the world’s offshore funds.

But it was all going wrong. NoLongerSuperMay had proved incapable of driving the changes necessary while keeping enough of the population onside. A popular movement against Brexit could derail the whole project. But what to do? Replacing NoLongerSuperMay would almost certainly strengthen the feeling against Brexit among much of the population, so that was not really an option. The choice of actions was extremely limited.

There was only one last hope. They had to deploy their ultimate weapon. They called in the “Family”. Yes, it was time for the thermonuclear royal device. Never previously known to fail, the thermonuclear royal device could take two forms, either the baby royal strategy (BARS) or the wedding royal strategy (WARS). The only decision to be made was which to go for. It was a hard choice, but there had to be something to take everyone’s attention away from Brexit and the disaster it had become.

In conjunction with the Family, the Tory government did what they always do in such circumstances, they set up a committee. And here the Tories made what might turn out to be a fatal mistake. Given the seriousness of the problem, they set up two committees, one to examine the BARS option and one to examine the WARS option. But each committee was determined to be the winner in the race to prove that their strategy was the bestest, that their strategy was the one to give the best possible result in the shortest possible time, so neither team wanted to share information and, as a result, communication between the BARS team and the WARS team was almost non-existent.

With the agreement of the Family, the BARS team had set out a development plan with a scheduled completion date of April, 2018, so, because of the strict timetabling in place for projects of this type, a start had to be made in July. Everything was put in place. The Royal Prince Willie was prepared to do his duty and the Royal Princess was said to be receptive, though, as with any plan (except Brexit, Ed.), a number of backup strategies were readied, in case the first attempt flopped. However, we won’t go into details of the backups just now.

The WARS team had more flexibility in making their arrangements and initially had aimed for the merger to take place much earlier, but their plans were delayed by indecision on the part of certain senior members of the Family and uncertainty that the Princely participant had completely run out of wild oats. Finally, agreement was reached and a date in May 2018 was set.

Imagine the shock when it was realised that the two events almost coincided. Images of babies being breast-fed during the wedding ceremony or even crying while the Royal vows were being exchanged flashed through people’s minds. How would that go down with the TV audience? After all, the solemnity of the occasion was what kept the audience glued to the screen. Turning it into a comedy show could have the opposite effect. Was this bad timing just an unfortunate coincidence or was it proof that, under the stress of the situation, even the Family were losing their touch? Another Royal baby and another Royal wedding in the same year? Surely one of them should have been delayed for twelve months to take our minds off Brexit. Isn’t that what the Royals are for?

To be slightly more serious for a moment, does the whole ongoing fiasco that is Brexit, combined with the disaster it represents for most of us should it actually happen, not mean we need to be doing all we can to get away from it? Do we really want to be ruled by a bunch of BritNat idiots who can’t tell truth from lies. Do we really want to live in a world created by David Davis, Liam Fox, Michael Gove, Boris Johnson and Theresa May. David Davis, who doesn’t seem to know if he has any documents or not. Liam Fox, who tells us he can magic trade agreements out of thin air. Michael Gove, Rupert Murdoch’s little placeman in the UK Government. Boris Johnson, surely the UK’s worst ever Foreign Secretary, who’s desperate to do whatever it takes to be in charge. And Theresa May, whose only interest is in creating laws which allow her husband to further enrich himself and his super-rich clients. And that’s before we get to the likes of Jeremy Hunt, whose job it is to give away the NHS as quickly as possible, mainly to Richard Branson.

Is that the future for Scotland we are happy to see? Or is there another way? Surely now is the time for us to create our own future. Surely now is the time for another indyref.

Money, money, money, it’s a rich man’s world

Last week we had a budget statement from the chancellor.  Note I said “a budget statement” and not “the budget statement”.  I’m certainly old enough to remember when there was only one budget a year and most folk looked forward with apprehension to how much the chancellor was going to slap on drinks and smokes.  The media were full of suggestions for days in advance about what should be announced and, afterwards, the analysis of winners and losers went on for more days.    Now we seem to have a budget announcement about every month and anything interesting is leaked to the media by the Treasury in advance of the statement so everyone has a decent excuse for sleeping through Phil’s speech.

For Scotland, the best news appeared to be an extra £2bn on the Scottish block grant and the decision to remove the VAT liability from Scottish emergency services.  However, a more careful look at the announcement shows a slightly less optimistic view.

Firstly, looking at block grant, the £2bn (actually £1.97bn) is the total effect on Barnet consequentials of the UK spending changes announced in the Budget for the four year period from 2017 to 2021.  It includes over £1.1bn of financial transactions, money which has to be repaid to the UK Treasury.  Let’s call it a loan.  Perhaps Scotland only gets given the money so that Westminster can have the fun of taking it back, now that we don’t have a Labour First Minister to return money they can’t think of anything to spend it on (© Jack McConnell et al, 2000-2007)  Of the remaining approximately £850m, £500m are increases in capital spending, leaving only £350m for additional day-to-day spending.  Of course, that’s the raw cash terms amount, but that increase represents a reduction when inflation is taken into account.  So perhaps not just as good a settlement as the UK Government, and of course the Tories and the BritNat media, would try to make us believe.

Secondly, the VAT change.  In the period since its inception in 2013, Scottish Police and Fire have been the only UK forces not able to reclaim VAT, costing the Scottish emergency services well over £100m.  Over this whole period, the Scottish Government and the SNP MPs have constantly pointed out the unfairness of the situation, but have been more or less ignored by the UK Government, whose only response had been to say “Suck it up, Scotland.  We told you we would screw you, so you can’t complain now”.

So, what has changed?  The cynical amongst us (not me, of course) might point out that the only change is the election of a few more Tory MPs.   Hammond, somewhat pathetically, tried to justify his decision to remove the liability as a consequence (more consequentials?) of the new Scottish Tory MPs being able to explain the problem in such simple language, that even he could understand.  Well, I have heard that the new Scottish Tory MPs are quite good at being simple.  Given they have Fluffy Mundell, the master of simple, as their mentor, I suppose it’s no real surprise.  However, I’m not sure what bit of “It’s no fair” was proving difficult for Hammond to grasp.

Of course, there’s another interpretation that can be placed on the reluctance of the UK Government to do the right thing.  In 2011, Scots elected a majority of SNP MSPs to the Scottish Parliament, something that the voting system was expressly designed to prevent.  It wasn’t supposed to happen and it was baad.  To make matters worse, in 2015, Scots elected a majority of SNP MPs to the UK Parliament.  That was even more baad.  It was very baad.  The aforementioned cynics might even suggest that the Tory government’s decision to retain the VAT liability had more to do with punishing the Scots for having the temerity to elect a government that Westminster and the BritNats didn’t approve of, rather than any rule based logic.  In fact, the change requested by the Scottish Government was little different to the rule introduced by Westminster in 2011 to make schools which became academies exempt from VAT.  OK for English schools, but not for Scottish police and fire services.  In fact, the same cynics could argue that Westminster recognised they were wrong and took the first available politically expedient opportunity to get out of an increasingly embarrassing hole.  However, they were not sufficiently embarrassed to return the money they had stolen since 2013.  Perhaps that would have really given the game away.

All this comes at a time when Brexit could change everything, but the establishment have a cunning plan to stop folk thinking about bad Brexit stuff.  Can you guess what that is, readers?  Come back shortly for an update.