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.”

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Scotland? Independent? Gie’s a Break.

Scotland? Independence?

Gi’ me a break.

This little country’s miserable mealy-mouthed politicians begin to unravel at the thought of all that responsibility. Having to run things ourselves? Having no one to blame? No way hen. Am no goan there.

But ever since the Condems embraced Austerity-for-the-great-unwashed and Osborne’s punchable fizzug started popping up on Newsnight, making me boak over my dinner, the doubts about the benefits of unionism have been building.

A family wedding encounter with Little Englander You sure you can afford it? You got a job? Or are you here to steal our jobs? Eh? You Scots are a theivin’ lot of subsidy junkies. Whinging and spending our money. Go back where you come from, why don’t you. You lot need to piss off back home. Nobody wants you here. (Charming man. This genuinely was his response to my eldest innocently asking him, as father of the bride, if he wanted a drink.). And I was well on my way to manning the Border and instituting passport control and shoot to kill.

But what the hell is ‘a country’? And supposing there’s a satisfactory answer (this is personal – the answer might satisfy you but I’m not convinced turf wars are me) – is Scotland really a country?

Alex Salmond (Leader of the governing Scottish National Party) has been cleverer than his opponents. One step ahead. But, like all politicians who’ve been at the top of their party – and leader of their country – for too many years, the lustre’s beginning to lose its sheen. Taking power for granted is dangerous. Complacency leads inexorably to mistakes. And he’s beginning to be found out. For an empty vessel. A charlatan medicine man peddling dodgy claims. He has been living on hypotheticals and appealing to emotive nationalism and patriotic Scottish jingoism for years. And when attacked and asked to explain his rationale or the basis for policies adopted he has done a fine line in deflective defence and logical fallacy: I say to the honourable lady, she may ask where the money is going to come from but I say I have faith in the ability of this proud country to….blah blah blah’. Aka ‘you are unpatriotic anti-Scottish and pro-Condems’. With a strong whiff of: ‘you are a stupid fud’.

‘Country’ comes from the late Latin ‘contra’. Meaning ‘against’.
Country: country is a region legally identified as a distinct entity in political geography. A country may be an independent sovereign state or one that is occupied by another state, as a non-sovereign or formerly sovereign political division, or a geographic region associated with sets of previously independent or differently associated peoples with distinct political characteristics. (Wiki – which will do me for now).

So, Scotland can be said to be a formerly (1707) sovereign state. ‘Against’ England. Politically distinct (enough) from England to have to sign a Treaty to bring the United Kingdom of Great Britain into existence.

The truth is muddier than that. I’m no royalist – but the Royal Houses of Scotland and England had been inter-marrying (and fighting each other) for centuries. The DNA of this mean little island has a glorious mongrel pedigree. Romans. Celts. Picts/Britons. Angles. Saxons. Normans. Jutes. Flemings. Vikings.

We are a’ Jock Tamson’s bairns as my sexist old Granpa always said. All progeny of the original man. I prefer original woman. But it comes down to the same thing. He never could think in terms of ‘it’s ma baw’ – and neither can I.

It’s true though that the further North you go from London or the Home Counties the more ‘left-leaning’ local politics become.

Scotland has a well-developed preference for re-distributive economics, with a heavy emphasis on social justice, community, looking after your vulnerable, striving for equality of opportunity. Even our old Conservatism (before the 1950s the natural party of power here) was community-minded, soft. more paternalistic MacMillan than free market Friedman.

Scotland provides a useful boost to Westminster coffers of course. Oil revenues. Whisky revenues. Corporation tax. Income Tax. Stamp Duty. Car tax duties. And the rest (http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2011/06/21144516/10 )

Of course Scotland’s been ripped off by its neighbour for centuries. That good man Blair re-drew the marine boundaries in 1999 ensuring that ‘English waters’ stretched up to Carnoustie. That’s deep into Pictish Scotland for you non-Scots readers. http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2012/01/scotlandengland-maritime-boundaries/
and the government’s own confirmation of this: http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si1999/99112601.gif

A cynical Westminster move to ensure that devolved powers did not disadvantage England too much. And to make pro-Independence financial arguments even more difficult to make.

We currently contribute more than we take (you have to count the Oil and Gas and Whisky revenues here – not do the usual Telegraph/Daily Mail wheeze of happily ignoring them). But we take more back per head of population than our union partners because of the Barnett Formula. England (or the South of England at any rate) could survive without us. No doubt. And Little England-er from the wedding demonstrates a real desire to be shot of us. But they still want our cash. And a diminished UK of GB is bad for the global reputation. So the Unionist parties defend the status quo.

Cameron, in fact, continues to defend ‘the union’ despite paralleling Scottish Independence arguments in his Euro-Referendum ‘In or Out’ speech. Reform the terms of our Union he shouted. (And then the wheels came off because it wasn’t clear whether he’d push for a ‘No to Europe’ vote if he didn’t get what he’s yet to explain he wants from illusory negotiations that aren’t going to start unless DC wins a majority for his party).

Phew. What a grand wheeze. Defended by that very odd man with the strange voice – William Hague. A desperate attempt to unite his own Conservatives; scupper the electoral chances of UKIP; deflect attention from their dire economic policies and distance them from their Coalition partners. The electioneering starts here. There will be a General Election by next May.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cartoon/2012/oct/15/scotland-independence-referendum

David Cameron Alex Salmond Scottish independence referendum
A Belltoon. David Cameron to the Left and Alex Salmond to the Right. 

Where are our Scottish politicians when we need them though?

In the middle of all of this Westminster disarray they could be making hay. No?

No. Alex and his cohort of incompetents are running to the aid of their unionist opponents. They’re revealing – with their every response – their lack of answers to the thousands of questions Scots have. Worse – the answer to many of the hard questions appears to be: Westminster will continue to exercise that power.

UK to continue to control Green Energy subsidies? Adoption of Sterling? Control of interest rates by the Bank of England? The list is growing by the day. What’s the point of Independence, Alex?

I wish politicians – wherever – would grow up. Would grow a set.

Be honest. Stop treating us all like idiots.

Scotland would have no easy road if it chose Independence. It is not a rich country. Though it’s richer than the unionists pretend. There would be hard political choices to make.

Free prescriptions? Or free transport for pensioners? Or free personal care? Or maximum class sizes and teaching time? What service do you Change? Reform? Get rid of?

But that’s the mark of a grown up state.