Self-determination thwarted. For now.

And the anger is still and quiet now – and leaden in ma thrapple. Squatting grim on every in and out breath. It’s Westminster. And I am just this wee wummin from a wee village in Lanarkshire. Powerless to do owt but rage on social media and bore folk who don’t care. Shifting the deckchairs on the Titantic ma Granpa used to call it – politics talk and raging about politicians is as useful as that.

We had the wake on Friday. Fellow 45 percenters gathered for food and booze and reassurance in a warm and friendly place. And whilst George Square hosted the ugly evil face of Unionism and British Nationalism we stared down the momentary loss of hope with that clarity born of practice.

We laughed. Got drunk. Tried to make sense of it all.

I am angry that I allowed myself to hope so much. Got taken in  by some positive polls and the fact that so many I knew seemed to be leaning to ‘Yes’. I’d known all along that No would out.

Some commentators claim the 45% as a win of sorts. Evidence of progress. They point to the constitutional storm that’s been unleashed UK-wide as victory. And in many ways, they are right.

But I’m not yet there. It still feels like what it is: defeat.

I wanted an Independent Scotland. I wanted a born-again democracy. I wanted to be cut free from the corruption of Westminster and those Party machines. But I respect the decision and will work with what we have.

I apologise in advance, for I am using this post as a means of exorcising some demons – a riposte to those whose words and actions hurt so much during the campaign.

I want to start looking forward and being positive. But before I can do that I must look back – if I am to make sense of some of the most painful bits of the last few months and weeks.

  1. ‘You’re a fascist’ and ‘you’re a racist’: those ones hurt folks. Every time you likened Salmond and the SNP/Yes Campaign to Hitler and his Gestapo, you flagged the depth of your contempt for almost 50% of your friends and family. Ok. Ok. Insults are meant to hurt. So from that point of view it was successful. But did you really believe that one? Because if you did then I worry about your capacity to engage in civil debate and discussion and about the thought process that could allow you to conclude that my assessment that Independence offered an opportunity to renew and strengthen democracy, was synonymous with a political movement that machine murdered millions on the basis of ethnicity and religion… I worry about the sincerity of your current magnanimity… I wonder whether your smiling mouth says one thing and your mind thinks quite another…   And if you didn’t believe it but said it anyway… well… 
  2. ‘You’re turning your back on (Proletarian) Internationalism’: Yip. If your definition of ‘international’ is ‘the United Kingdom’, then I suppose I am/did. Independence would have meant a border – and I know you internationalists don’t like those. Despite the fact that co-operation between states is always possible and that there are a great many ways in which our interdependence can be articulated – ways that do not require full legal and constitutional Union. Ways in which the unique local voice is recognised and respected. Perhaps, if you’d really looked at the outline proposals, you’d have realised what was being described was a mature partnership based on mutual respect. It’s the ‘mutual respect’ that’s missing in the current relationship. Bear in mind it didn’t take union with South Africa for me to express my support for the ANC. It didn’t take political union with all those anti-labour countries for me to campaign and to lobby for fellow trade unionists facing imprisonment for their activism. Think global. Act local?
  3. ‘Project Fear’: Yes, it’s a well-tested campaigning strategy – the dissemination and propagation of Fear can secure the votes of the susceptible. It’s despicable. But ‘politics is a dirty game’ and ‘the end justifies the means’? Only it shouldn’t be and it doesn’t. It’s legitimate – desirable – that you question and cross-examine the offering. You’ve got to ‘test’ your opposition. You have a duty and responsibility to do that in a measured and reasonable manner. Your job is not to strike fear into hearts. It’s not to create panic that economic Armageddon is assured; that pensions will go unpaid; that food will be scarce and over-priced and that folk will need to go over the Border on shopping raids. It’s not good or proper to use your Old Boy network Establishment power to orchestrate a mass media and Big Business/Banks onslaught. To meet with the supermarkets and agree with them their press releases – each announcing big price rises in the event of Independence. To leak business sensitive information to your Government owned Broadcaster – detailing the planned movement of a state-owned Bank’s registered office and spinning this as a massive loss of jobs and business for an Independent Scotland (latterly denied by the Bank – but the damage had been done). Do you recall conceding – to a person (Alistair Darling – you remember this?) – that an Independent Scotland could be an economically successful country? But of course, that would be why it was all the more important you stage-managed the impending economic meltdown scenario.
  4. ‘the Markets won’t like this’: Now, this one I understand and expect from those on the Right. But from those of you on the Left? Ha. Black-burning shame on you for battering Yes with financial advice from such ethical luminaries as Credit Suisse. To use the very arguments from the very people who are used to keep you down. Used to defeat your arguments for your ‘socialist’ nirvana. Yes, yes. From a Labour perspective you conceded that argument a long time ago. Blair taught you the value of political expediency and real politicking. Power wasn’t to be achieved until you’d sold every principal – and then the exercise of that power left you without any detectable values and unelectable for at least another generation. But the rest of you? 
  5. ‘but Labour will win in 2015’: you still don’t get it, do you? a) You likely won’t but b) Labour, Conservative, LibDem – you’re all the same. Indistinguishable when it comes down to it. No vision or value that couldn’t be abandoned or altered or sold if there was the least suggestion power would follow cosmetic change. An £8 minimum wage? Is that ‘the big idea’? Really Labour? You all need to listen, really listen to the people who are turning away from the ballot box in their droves. Because many are turning to the very rabid, xenophobic Right. And I don’t just mean UKIP. UKIP sound almost reasonable in comparison to the EDL or the BNP. No, you need to listen to those who feel disenfranchised. Who feel utterly abandoned by Westminster. Who feel they have no voice. And who are repelled by Westminster’s expenses scandals and sex scandals and lies. They need to feel that they have some say over how they are governed and they need to feel that what matters to them will be reflected in policy and action. If you are all losing to the far Right it is because in your arrogance you thought you didn’t need grassroots activists (inconveniently reminding you of promises made and not kept and wanting a say in policy design); and in your arrogance you have travelled far, very far, from the people you say you represent.
  6. ‘it’s all about the SNP and Salmond’: No. It really wasn’t. Of course the initiative came from the SNP – the White Paper etc. But look at the Yes people. Really look. From the Radical Independence Campaign to the National Collective to Women for Yes; Academics for Yes; Business for Yes; Teachers for Yes; Students for Yes; the Greens; the SSP; the pensioners and the 16 and 17 year olds and the mothers and fathers. They were your friends; fellow workers; your family. And you treated them with contempt when you stated time after time that it was ‘all about Salmond and the SNP’.
  7. But we’ll have an SNP government for decades if Yes wins’: And if the Scottish electorate vote for SNP Governments in open and free and democratically constituted elections tell me why this would be an evil? Admittedly this anti-democratic little gem was said most often by Labour’s folk. Which probably hurt even more. Because it emphasised the naked ‘power at all costs’ ideology they operate by. And no – I don’t buy the argument that you can have social justice without ethical behaviour.
  8. ‘I love my family. I’m voting No.’: And because I voted ‘yes’, I don’t love my beautiful family? Ugh. I despair. You really need to apologise for that one.
  9. ‘the vow’: here we go again. Back of fag packet promises made by the toxic trio of Cameron, Clegg and Miliband. Pushed by the bankrupt ‘great clunking fist’ Gordon Brown. A last minute promise that surely breached ‘the Edinburgh Agreement’ and reassurances given that there would be no ‘last minute policy changes’  designed to undermine the Referendum choice. And which were – foreseeably – hitched to ‘the West Lothian’ question by Cameron as soon as the ‘No’ was announced. I’ve no argument with ‘English votes for English issues’ – so get on with it Miliband – stop trying to safeguard your Scottish MPs. Strengthen the party in England – and you’ll not need them.
There’s so much more.
But I know. This is boring stuff for those who have no connection with the politics or interest in politics generally.
One last thing though. Sorry, bear with me.

On Saturday. In the clear light of a beautiful midday I became another statistic: an ex-Labour Party member who signed up to join the Scottish National Party.

And for those who know the bitter tribalism of Scottish politics they will recognise that for the major conversion that it is. 

If it’s nationalism to want to bust the Bankocracy of the Westminster/British State then, yes, I am a nationalist. If it’s nationalism to want to see progressive and radical change that empowers the electorate and gives them a strong voice then I am proud to be a member of a Scottish civic nationalist party.

There. I’ve said it. ‘Nationalist’. A word that I’ve been taught to despise. And yet I now find myself embracing.

I struggled to explain why until I stumbled on its perfect articulation. It was Billy Bragg who managed to sum it up for me here: 
“In Scotland, Wales and Ireland nationalism is the name given to the campaign for self-determination. James Connolly gave his life for the nationalist cause; John MacLean, perhaps the greatest leftwinger that Scotland has produced, was in favour of independence and campaigned for a Scottish parliament.
Both recognised that the British state was highly resistant to reform, and that the interests of working people were best served by breaking with the United Kingdom.
England’s dominant role has meant that it has never felt the urge to be free of the British state. As a result, the nationalism that has emerged there has been ethnic, seeking to unite the indigenous population against the perceived threat of outsiders. And for all of us in Europe, ethnic nationalism casts a long shadow.
Given that dark legacy, it is unsurprising that many on the left have a knee-jerk reaction whenever they hear the word nationalism. However, close inspection of the respective manifestoes of the SNP and the BNP should give pause for thought.
The ethnic nationalism of the BNP is there for all to see – a plan for a society that excludes people on grounds of race. The programme of the SNP takes a diametrically opposite position – an inclusive society based on where you are, not where you’re from.
This is civic nationalism – the idea that all citizens should be engaged in the process of deciding where society is headed, not just getting their hands on the tiller once every four or five years. It utilises the n-word because democracy on a national level offers the best opportunity for fundamental change.”

Scotland: To Be or Not to Be…

Where on earth do I begin?

This Indyref. This vote we residents of Scotland face on the 18th of September. Yes or No. Independence (or Independence Lite, depending on your position on currency union) versus a status quo that’s rapidly morphing into a confused message of promised federalism (more or less).

To my former comrades (though it’s been a long time since they appreciated that moniker) in the Labour Party and ‘the left’ I am a quisling. A traitor. A naive idealist. A clown. A nazi and a nationalist. Stupid. Hateful. Populist. Unthinking.

My voting intention is simultaneously anti-English, anti-British, anti-common-sense, anti-solidarity, bonkers and even ‘evil’. I stand accused of being in thrall to Salmond and his lies. Of having been seduced by the devil. Or of not loving my family enough to think of the bleak future a Yes will give them. I am selfish. Blind. Economically illiterate.

But this is not ethnic nationalism. I am not stupid. I do not hate ‘the English’ (my family and friends remain in England – how could I hate?). I am no Salmond or SNP lover…

In fact, just a few short months ago I assumed that I’d vote ‘No’.

But then ‘No’ got increasingly harder to say. It started to stick in my throat. And the appearance of every new ‘heavy-hitting’ corporate body or Investment Bank or Economic specialist’s ‘You’re all doomed if you vote for Independence’ Report ensured my doubts grew and the questions multiplied.

When Credit Suisse issues an admonitory note advising that an Independent Scotland will be an economic basket case (I paraphrase and because the note itself is impossible to get a hold of first-hand I can only refer you to the excerpts in the Telegraph here: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/finance/ambroseevans-pritchard/100028065/credit-suisse-warns-of-grave-deflationary-shock-for-scotland/ ) I wonder to myself if Credit Suisse has a vested interest in the continuation of the Union and maintenance of the status quo. So, I do some research. (https://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/summary.php?id=D000000134&cycle=2014 and any googling of them will turn up the massive £2.5 Billion dollar ‘settlement’ re felonies committed in the US: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304908304579564040486046408 ).

Then, of course, I have an injudicious ‘discussion’ on FB, where my card-carrying Labour Party member and fully signed-up No supporter pal/s tell me that Credit Suisse is ‘politically neutral’ and that of course Credit Suisse has to be believed because Credit Suisse had no interest at all in the politics of this referendum.

The company that’s just been convicted in the US on major felony charges; which the US Government is bending over backwards to ‘accommodate’ and to ‘exempt from the usual sanctions and which spends millions every year on supporting politicians, political parties and lobbying is ‘politically neutral’.

Aye right. And Jimmy Saville was really a good man because of all that charity work he did.

The suggestion that Credit Suisse’s interests may not be identical or even dissect – at any point – Scotland’s interests, gets short shrift. The suggestion that they might need to ensure the status quo for personal corporate reasons gets short shrift – or is taken as evidence of their ‘objectivity’ and ‘neutrality’. The expression of surprise that they wish, now, to pray in support the very corporate and investment entities that they last year held out as embodiments of criminality, inequality and amorality is dismissed with a clever: The fact that they know how to commit a fraud so large they can get away with it shows that they fully understand the casino that is global banking.’ 

Oh. So that’s why we should trust them…?

On any cynical reading she’s right, of course.

Only it’s not a casino. It’s a better bet than that. It’s a guaranteed money-making machine for the astonishingly rich – a criminal entity who’s too big to prosecute.

The thing is – too many of the warnings and threats miss the point entirely.

For a start, too many folk here reckon they have got nothing left to lose. Their salaries, their life expectancy and their life expectations are so low that no threatened economic instability could make things worse.

And then there’s the widespread disaffection with Westminster: with its expenses scandals and child sex scandals and broken promises and austerity and lack of accountability and failure to listen or connect or to engage with the electorate. Its remote and out-of-touch politicians reinforcing just how remote and out of touch they are, with their ludicrous, last minute sprint to plead with the Scottish people ‘not to go’. ‘Don’t leave us’ they beg.

What the f* do they think they are doing? They’ve spent the last 2 years assuming that ‘No’ was certain to win – and so have ignored us. They were so remote that it took the shocker of a weekend poll (from a company the No establishment believes is fairer to them) giving Yes a 2% point lead over No to wake them up. And now we have the embarrassing, unedifying sight of a discredited and despised (Yes, George, David and their Tories utterly despise him – along with a sizeable chunk of his own party) ex-Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, – truly a yesterday’s man, a man who doesn’t even have the good grace to turn up to take his seat in Parliament despite being an MP – being wheeled in to front a shambolic last minute bid to pretend that ‘No’ really means ‘Yes-to-greater-devolved-powers’. Though none of the three unionist parties can agree on what they will actually be; they are not guaranteed and the government has had to fight off accusations that they are breaching the very rules they agreed to regarding the publication of new policies etc in the 28 days prior to an election (see S125 of the Political parties, elections and referendums Act 2003 – the Edinburgh Agreement signed by Cameron and Salmond is the non-statutory version).

The Truly Toxic Trio of Cameron, Clegg and Milliband cancelled Prime Minister’s Question Time (oh my God how will things ever be the same?) and hot-footed it to Edinburgh and Glasgow and ither airts n pairts to love-bomb us wonderful people ‘up here’.

Well, to love-bomb in between threats.

Sure, there’s much that I do not agree with in the Scottish Government’s White Paper. I’m not convinced about the currency proposals (though I think the rUK protest just a bit too much – they need the Scots as much as we may need them in that respect). And more detail is required, primarily in the economic areas and for pensions, investments etc.

But that’s also the nature of the game. That negotiations are required and that ‘details’ can only be those of intent or general desire. Details will emerge in negotiation. That’s life. And I am placing my trust in ‘life’ – and in the very clever, able men and women who will negotiate on our behalf (I have faith because I have been involved in the negotiation of major bits of legislation and know the folks who will get that job).

For me, Independence holds out the hope of strengthened, reinvigorated, vibrant and thriving democracy. It offers a new way of doing things. A written constitution. The engagement of the electorate. Accountability. A sense of control.

It offers the possibility of a grown up and mature country which will take responsibility for its own destiny and direction.

Yes, mistakes will be made. Yes, the short term will no doubt be difficult.

But all that pales into insignificance against the prize: the creation of a new order; a new politics; a new country and government.