Old Arguments

Posted on July 22nd, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

The Westminster Government’s announcement that the State Pension Age would be increasing to 68 several years earlier than originally intended has caused quite a stir, not least because there was no mention at all of this plan in the Tory manifesto for the General Election.

As always, there are arguments on both sides as to whether this announcement is a sensible move to protect the UK’s finances or simply another example of Tory heartlessness and ideological thinking.

First, some points about the aging population. Nobody can deny that people are now living longer than they used to. Many tory policies introduced since 2010 appear to be reversing this trend, but the fact remains that people alive now are living longer than they did when the State Pension was first introduced. For example, when the State Pension Age was set at 65 in 1925, average life expectancy for males was only 58. The comparable figure is now around 80, so the argument goes that the Pension Age should be increased because of the significant additional drain on the State finances caused by the need to pay pensions for longer than first anticipated.

In purely monetary terms, this is a strong argument. Taxpayers are being asked not only to provide income for the elderly, they also need to fund the health costs of the aging population who take up a large portion of NHS resources which help to prolong their lives, thus exacerbating the problem.

The big issue with this argument is that it views things from a purely monetary aspect. The aim of any Government must surely be to improve the lives of the citizens it is elected to govern. Attempting to revert to a situation from 90 years ago is hardly progressive, especially when the original provisions, for all their good intentions, meant that most people still had to work for most of their lives. We should be aiming to provide longer retirement to our older generation, not forcing them to work longer and longer.

There is also the point that the average life expectancy figure conceals wide discrepancies across the UK. Average life expectancy in Glasgow is infamously at the lower end of the scale, with the rise in state Pension Age meaning that many people will have very short retirements indeed. Socially, this is a disgrace.

But what about the money? There is no Magic Money Tree, after all. But consider the UK’s Pension. It is one of the poorest in the OECD as a percentage of average income. UK Pensioners receive far less than their counterparts in most Western countries. It is true that many European nations are gradually increasing their State Pension ages, but part of the reason for this is that EU nations do not control their own money supply and are constrained by the Neo-Liberal Austerity economics imposed by the ECB. The UK controls its own money supply, so it is only Neo-Liberal economics which drives this move to increasing Pension Age.

Wait! What? You can’t just print money to pay for Pensions, can you?

Yes, actually, you can. Of course, pumping money into the economy can cause inflation, so it needs to be done carefully. But don’t forget that Pensioners who rely on the State Pension tend not to hoard their money. They contribute to the economy by spending. This creates work which in turn, generates taxes.

But that is a small part of the argument. The main problem is the Neo-Liberal economic theory which dominates our culture. Politicians and journalists are obsessed with knowing how Government expenditure will be funded, thus demonstrating that they have little idea of how Governments actually spend and tax. If you don’t believe me, check this post from Richard Murphy on how we can afford to pay for all Public Sector expenditure.

http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2017/07/21/we-can-afford-all-the-public-services-we-need-its-only-our-economic-model-that-prevents-it/

So there is a Magic Money Tree, after all. It is called the Bank of England. You will note that those who claim there is no money to fund the UK’s meagre State Pension never make the same point when it comes to vanity projects like Trident, new Aircraft Carriers or HS2. The UK always has enough money for militaristic projects, the cost of which greatly exceeds the possible savings which will arise from the Pension Age increase. It is not really a question of money, it is a question of priorities. The Pension Age increase is only one example of how the Tories are cutting public expenditure. They claim this is because they need to balance the books, although economists who do not ascribe to the Neo-Liberal consensus have repeatedly pointed out that Governments who control their own money supply do not need to balance the books. What they need to do is inject money into the economy in order to boost economic activity. The current Austerity model simply isn’t working, as evidenced by the fact that UK debt has now risen to £1.75 trillion. The whole point of Austerity and making cuts was to reduce the debt, yet seven years of Austerity have failed to make any impact. The entire concept is flawed.

The other trick employed by the Neo-Liberal thinkers is to cite the burden on taxpayers. This is because people tend to equate that to the burden of tax they pay themselves. The argument carries force because of the conditioning of attitudes where tax is viewed as a burden. In many countries, paying tax is viewed as a social obligation because it helps to fund social care like Health, Education and Pensions. Notably, those countries where such attitudes are prevalent tend to be far less warlike than the UK.

Additionally, we should not forget that it is not only individuals who pay tax, although you would be forgiven for thinking so in view of the major tax avoidance by large corporations in the UK. A fairer tax system, where corporations paid tax instead of dodging it would significantly improve the UK’s cash flow.

So, if we were to abandon the Neo-Liberal Austerity model, we would be able to pay for all the public services and the pensions of our older people. Sadly, this is not likely to happen in the UK.

The greatest irony of this is that the Better Together campaign warned Pensioners that their State Pensions would only be safe if they voted No in the 2014 IndieRef. As with so many other claims, this one hasn’t stood the test of time.

It cannot be denied that an aging population presents problems for any nation. Some people are arguing that all State Benefits should be replaced by a State Universal Income. This may well be a solution, although details of exactly how it would operate need to be closely looked at.

Another possible solution for a small, independent country with a vibrant and diverse economy would be to gradually transform into a high pay, high tax, high social care society, where the emphasis is on caring for people rather than squeezing wealth upwards towards the pockets of a wealthy minority while engaging in constant military ventures. Will that ever happen? Perhaps it is a fanciful dream, but surely it is better to aim for a more equal, caring society than to simply sit back and accept that the way things are is the way they should be.


Standing Up For Scotland

Posted on July 16th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Scottish independence won’t be won at Westminster, but it might be won because of Westminster. In particular, the actions and attitudes of the Labour and Tory MPs elected by Scottish voters at the last General Election should give us some indication of where Scotland stands in this so-called Union of Equals.

The Scottish Labour MPs haven’t done much at all so far, and their inaction has been overshadowed by the very noticeable actions of their Tory counterparts. These are the 13 Tory MPs who allegedly hold significant power – power which makes Colonel Davidson even more important than she thought she was previously.

So what have they done?

Well, they’ve voted to maintain the cap on Public Sector Wages while criticising the Scottish Government for maintaining the cap on Public Sector wages in Scotland even though the Scottish Government has said it will abandon that cap. Hmm. Not a great start.

Even less worthy of respect was Douglas Ross, Tory MP for Moray, who made great play of his support for the WASPI campaign during his bid for election, but who abandoned all pretence by voting against proposals to help the affected women when it came to a vote in the Commons. Some cynical observers might view this rapid abandonment of election pledges as being tantamount to him having lied to his constituents. Either that or he simply obeyed his London masters because that’s what Scottish Tories do.

What else have the 13 Scottish Tories been up to? It can’t all be like this, can it?

Well, there was a debate in the Commons on the subject of seasonal workers in the Agricultural industry. Seeing as this is a sector which is important in the North-East of Scotland where the bulk of the Tory MPs were elected, you’d think they would be right in there, defending the interests of their constituents. But, according to Twitter comments from SNP MPs, not a single one of the 13 Tory MPs turned up. Perhaps they were too busy doing their day job. Oh, hang on, their day job is to represent their constituents at Westminster. Still, at least it saved them the embarrassment of copying Douglas Ross’s U-turn.

To be fair, one Scottish Tory MP did turn up for a later debate. Luke Graham, NP for Ochil & South Perthshire, spoke in a debate on communications and Broadband. Not only was he present, he actively participated. He stood up and denounced the SNP MPs for not bothering to attend such an important debate. This would have been a telling point had the Speaker not reminded him that the debate was in relation to England only, so there was no point in any Scottish MP being there. Mr Graham was therefore speaking in a debate on which he would not be permitted to vote by dint of being a Scottish MP. The word “competence" doesn’t spring to mind, does it?

The word, “Truthful" isn’t really applicable to the Scottish Tories either. Despite all the loud promises from David Mundell, Colonel Davidson and her MPs, publication of the Repeal Bill has shown that no new powers will be coming to Scotland once the UK leaves the EU. Is anyone really surprised?

Having said all that, this is not intended solely as a Tory-bashing article. It might be easy to make such claims because the Tories demonstrate time and time again that they represent themselves rather than their constituents, but such whataboutery is admittedly rather petty when compared to the wider issue of Scottish independence.

It is not surprising that the SNP failed to match the spectacular wins of the 2015 General Election, but one thing must by now be amply clear to all Scottish voters. Even if we returned 59 SNP MPs, they would be unable to achieve very much in practical terms because they would always be outvoted by the Unionist Parties. But what they would achieve would be to deny those 59 seats to the Scottish Labour and Tory MPs who will always defer to the wishes of their Westminster masters rather than stand up for Scotland. It is still possible that there might be another General Election soon, so the SNP really need to be a lot better prepared for it than they were last time. If it does happen, then the Scottish electorate need to know that voting in Labour and Tory MPs only helps Westminster – it does not help Scotland.


How Much Better?

Posted on July 6th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

As usual, the latest economic data has split the country. Those who support Indy are delighted that Scotland’s performance has improved significantly and outperformed that of the UK as a whole, while Unionists are deflated because they have lost another opportunity to criticise the SNP. You could almost hear the frustration from the mainstream Scottish media when the data was announced because they were ready to take full advantage had their predictions of recession been validated. That, in itself, is a sad indictment of the state of journalism in Scotland.

to be honest, though, this split is all rather silly. Whenever there is good news, both sides try to claim responsibility, but bad news is always laid at the door of the other side. The problem, of course, is that the media are firmly on the side of the Union, so it is understandable that Yessers will take a strong opposite view, but neither stance is helpful to the Indy debate. Arguing over who is responsible for a few fractions of a percentage point in GDP misses the whole point of the Indy argument.

It seems likely that the collapse of sterling may have helped GDP by boosting export sales, but the only element of the figures which really gives any indication of how an independent Scotland could operate is the uplift of 3.1% in Production output. This has been ascribed to an increase in work related to North sea Oil which is beginning to come out of its long slump, and to the restored Dalzell steelworks. This latter project only happened because the Scottish Government stepped in to save the plant, and that decision is now bearing fruit. After decades of having our manufacturing base destroyed by Westminster Governments, this significant contribution to boosting Scotland’s economic output shows what could be done if Scotland rediscovered its talent for manufacturing quality products.

But the real issue is that, without all the levers of economic influence, Scotland’s economy will always be hugely affected by Westminster decisions. We can tinker around the edges, but we cannot make major decisions which could make a serious and long-term difference. All this talk of potential recession and/or outperforming the UK as a whole is mere distraction from the fundamental issue. There will be updated figures out in another few months, and no doubt we will go through the whole rigmarole again. Any increase in GDP will be heralded by the Scottish Government, while even a small dip will be proclaimed in the media as evidence of their mismanagement. In truth, it is likely that Brexit will have much more impact than anything else, and that is something which is totally outwith the control of the Scottish Government.

This whole argument is merely a distraction. The news is welcome, no matter who is responsible, because only a rabid fanatic would celebrate bad news for their own country. The point is that we cannot possibly know how Scotland’s economy would fare as an independent country until we become independent and begin shaping our own future. We know that is not how the media will portray things, but please let’s try to rise above their attempts to talk Scotland down. Whatever the economic data shows, our response really should be, “Think how much better we could do if we controlled every aspect of our economy."


A Growing List

Posted on July 5th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

So the boss of Highland Spring is sorry that his comments on the Scottish Government were taken the wrong way? He is, apparently, sorry about this. Mind you, it is difficult to see what other way his words could have been taken, seeing as he mentioned that the Scottish Government needed to stop talking about independence, and get on with helping the UK Government with Brexit. If that’s not an anti-independence statement, what is?

Of course, his apology, such as it was, was triggered by the wave of protest which was backed by a wave of customers cancelling orders. This won’t change his private opinions and, indeed, may harden them further, but it may serve as a reminder to business leaders that making political statements has consequences.

Of course, many people who went onto social media to proclaim they would be boycotting Highland Spring were reminded that affecting the profits of a business could harm the employees. This is quite true, but the fact is that the general public do not have much of an alternative when it comes to expressing their displeasure. Businessmen who want to make anti-independence statements will always find a willing media happy to report their words. Indeed, STV in particular trumpeted the comments all day on their Twitter account. This is deliberate as it seeks to reinforce an anti-independence message in the minds of the public. Few pro-Indy businesses ever have their message reported with such prominence, and individual members of the public have no chance of being heard. A boycott is therefore the only effective measure people can adopt. It may appear petty and irresponsible to some but the alternative is to remain quiet, carry on as usual and allow the anti-Indy message to be repeated over and over again by other wealthy businessmen who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

So, however silly it may seem, Highland Spring now join Asda, BP and Tunnocks on my list.


Get Used To It

Posted on July 2nd, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

People can get used to pretty much anything. That is why changing society is so difficult. Our politicians and media convince us that, no matter how bad things might be, they’d be even worse if we dared to take some drastic action such as, for example, voting for Scotland to be a normal country running its own affairs. Fear of change, and the human ability to adapt to circumstances result in people sticking with the status quo even if that means ignoring the hope that they could improve their situation.

This phenomenon is visible now with Brexit. The Pound has crashed to a far greater extent than even the worst predictions of what would happen if Scotland had voted Yes in 2014, yet the media downplay it, and the reaction from most people is to simply grumble a bit when they don’t get as many Euros or Dollars for their Pound when they go on holiday.

Businesses who rely on imports are either remarkably silent about the problems the collapse in sterling has caused, or the media are giving them no voice. Instead, we hear about the boon for exporters – except that the UK doesn’t actually export very much. Scotland does, and we have seen some benefit, but that must be countered by rising inflation as goods and food prices creep ever upwards due to the lower value of the Pound.

But we get used to it because that’s what people do.

We are now being reminded that Brexit is happening, so we must get used to it. Never mind the consequences because you’ll adapt no matter how bad they are. There is no need for a second referendum on EU membership, nor another IndyRef. Why bother? Both Labour and the Tories are determined on a hard Brexit, and that’s what we’ll get. There is no point in complaining, because most people will adjust.

This natural tendency to shrug one’s shoulders and get on with it is precisely what the Westminster Establishment want. Westminster has a long tradition of resisting any change to the status quo. Look at how long it took for slavery to be abolished, or how long the Suffragette movement was vilified. Westminster talks a lot, but rarely takes any action which will diminish what it sees as its prerogative.

It has happened again in the case of Scotland. We were told to lead the UK, not leave it, so we sent 56 SNP MPs to Westminster – and they were ignored. They made a lot of noise, they worked really hard, they delivered telling speeches and they voted, but it made no difference at all. Westminster will never change unless forced to, but they and the media work hard to ensure that ordinary people don’t protest too much. Marches and demonstrations are inconvenient for the Establishment, but achieve very little in practice.

What is the solution? That’s a tough question. One thing is for sure, though; we can’t sit back and meekly accept that the way things are is the way things should stay. We need to keep trying to persuade others, but we need some political leadership and we need a media platform.

We also need to keep telling people just how bad Brexit is going to be. Jeremy Corbyn has, at last, confirmed what this blog and others have been saying for a long time – he is pro-Brexit and anti-Scottish Indy. Sticking with the UK means Brexit even if Labour do somehow manage to form a Government in the unlikely event that the Tories are kicked out. The Scottish Government can protest all it likes, but it will make no difference. The only solution for avoiding Brexit is independence, so we need to be ready for it, and we need to persuade people that they don’t have to accept whatever Brexit brings. We need to offer a vision of hope rather than the vision of despair Brexit brings. Independence won’t be a bed of roses, that’s for sure, but it must offer more hope than being governed by a xenophobic, insular UK. It’s a big step, but, just as people are being conditioned into accepting the changes already being wrought by Brexit, once that step has been taken and Scotland becomes a normal country, people will soon adapt to the changes. More importantly, if they don’t like the changes the Scottish Government brings about, they can actually influence that by voting the ruling Party out and electing a Party which offers policies the people prefer. That option simply isn’t available within the UK.

So, don’t sit back and accept this slow, dreary decline which is the only thing on offer from the UK. Let’s start hoping for a chance to make a difference. The way things are is not the way things have to be. Let’s get used to believing we can make things better by becoming a normal country.


In Gratitude

Posted on June 29th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

In one of the recent terror attacks in London, a police officer died while carrying out his duty to protect MPs in the Houses of Parliament. Yesterday, the Tories, backed by their new DUP allies, voted down Labour’s proposal to begin recruiting more Emergency Service personnel and to scrap the current freeze on Public Sector pay. One wonders how those Tories can look the Police officers in the eye this morning.

This disgraceful ingratitude is only the most egregious of recent Tory displays of uncaring arrogance. They have praised the NHS workers who ran to help victims of the attacks, they have praised the bravery of Fire Service personnel who fought the blaze at Grenfell Tower, yet, while spending £1bn to ensure the DUP help them retain power, they have proven unwilling to acknowledge the dedication of Emergency Service Personnel. Worse, they actually cheered when they won the vote.

Let us not forget that the pay cap also applies to teachers, Armed Forces personnel and Council workers among others. All of these people must surely now know what the Tories think of them. All the talk of ending Austerity was merely empty rhetoric, and the Magic Money Tree is apparently only available for the Tories themselves.

And in case you were wondering how Ruth Davidson’s 13 Scottish MPs voted, it may not surprise you to learn that they dutifully backed their London bosses and helped swing the vote against removing the pay cap. That might be worth remembering the next time Colonel Davidson stands up in Holyrood to complain about Scottish NHS, Police, fire Service, etc.

This is about more than simple fairness, though. Austerity is a failed project. It is purely ideological and has been called out as highly flawed by many leading economists. What this continuing pay cap does is keep wages in the public sector low. That is not only bad for those public sector workers who see Brexit-induced inflation eroding their pay, it allows private sector employers to keep their wage bill down because there is no competition from the public sector. So everyone in employment loses out. With less money to spend on anything except essentials like mortgages, rent, food, transport and heating, people simply stop spending. This will slow the economy even further.

Scottish public sector workers may take a little comfort from the fact that, unlike the administrations in the rest of the UK, the Scottish Government has, so far, followed the recommendations of the Public Pay Review Board, but that extra money has to come from somewhere and, as long as Westminster holds the purse strings, something else will need to be sacrificed to honour even modest pay increases.

There is, of course, a solution to this for Scotland, but a great many of our fellow citizens remain quite happy to go along with the cruel and dysfunctional workings of the UK. One wonders what it will take to alter their opinions.


A Bad Deal

Posted on June 27th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

A great deal has already been said and written about the Tory / DUP deal, but much of it has been centred on the money element. There is, though, far more to the deal in terms of its possible ramifications, so here’s a wee run down of some of the wider issues.

First of all, it must be said that, in a normal country where the Parliament is elected via a more proportional electoral system, minority Governments are more commonplace. IN such Governments, the largest Party is generally required to concede some policy issues in exchange for the support of other, smaller Parties. Thanks to the bizarre First Past The Post, Two-Party system which generally prevails in the UK, a minority Government is something of an aberration, and forming a Government therefore more problematic since politics in the UK is about confrontation and argument rather than compromise.

So, as far as the parties to the new deal are concerned, one cannot attach any blame to the DUP for squeezing as much as possible out of the Tories. They would be remiss to do otherwise. Indeed, they have already built into the agreement that they have the right to come back after two years and demand even more. What they have already got is pretty significant, with a more than 10% increase in Northern Ireland’s budget, and the ability to influence the Brexit negotiations to achieve the hard Brexit they desire. They have also, very significantly, put Sinn Fein in a really awkward spot. This is because the deal is dependent on the Stormont Power Sharing Executive being reformed. The major sticking point to this has been the presence of Arlene Foster as leader of the DUP. Sinn Fein have refused to work with her and have demanded she step down before they participate in the Power Sharing Executive. If they stick to this position, they jeopardise the extra money now being promised, and that could seriously damage their political reputation in Northern Ireland. But giving in and agreeing to work with Arlene Foster will be a massive climb down for Sinn Fein and, again, could seriously damage their political aspirations in Northern Ireland. Whatever they choose to do, tensions in the Province will be greatly heightened, and this is perhaps the most worrying thing about the whole Tory / DUP deal, that the Tories are prepared to put peace in Northern Ireland at risk solely in order to retain power for themselves.

Indeed, the Tories do not come out of this at all well. Not only are they risking peace in Northern Ireland, they have created further rifts with Wales and Scotland, not to mention the citizens of England, all of whom will see Austerity continue in every part of the UK except Northern Ireland.

Let me be clear on one thing. I do not grudge the Irish the money being promised. What is depressing is that it takes a situation like this before the Tory Government considers providing money for much needed investment in a variety of worthwhile areas. These funds should be available throughout the UK because Austerity is a failed ideology. Yet, despite characters like David Mundell promising that Barnett Consequentials would mean more money for Scotland if the DUP deal went ahead, the Tories have sneakily claimed that these funds are entirely separate and there will be no Barnett Consequentials for England, Wales or Scotland. This is both underhand and foolish because they must know it will create an adverse reaction, thus further splintering the creaking anachronism that is the United Kingdom. They could easily have offered some sort of concessionary payments to the other devolved Parliaments and announced some further spending in English regions. Instead, they have shown that, while they cling to the false assertions about there being no Magic Money Tree for the NHS or Education, there is plenty of money available for things the Tories want – like preserving their fragile grip on power. This is cynical, and most people are able to see it.

As for Scotland, David Mundell has shown that he was either lying when he announced the Barnett Consequentials, or he was so far out of the loop that he wasn’t consulted because Scotland doesn’t really count. And Mundell’s reaction, like that of Colonel Ruth Davidson, is to simply back down and support the Westminster line. Mundell said the 13 Tory MPs would represent their Unionist constituents, but they haven’t even done that. When both Mundell and Davidson could have made strong representations to Theresa May that some sort of additional funding should be made available to Scotland to match the funds being pumped into Northern Ireland, they instead did absolutely nothing.

So the money is really the least of the issues here. The big questions lie around the constitution of the UK, the treatment of the devolved Administrations and, most importantly, the fragile peace in Northern Ireland. On all counts, the UK Government has shown itself to be uncaring because its sole aim is to retain power in order to drag the UK out of the EU. That’s a sad state of affairs and does not bode well at all for the Brexit negotiations.


Pointing The Finger

Posted on June 23rd, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Carrying on with the day job hasn’t done the Scottish Government a great deal of good this week. after the row over the relaxation of the ban on docking puppies’ tails, the opposition Parties had a go on two other areas of contention where the Scottish Government appears to be failing.

To be fair, the issue of farmers’ EU Common Agricultural Policy payments is pretty diabolical, and the Scottish Government really needs to hold up its hands, admit the failure, and get on with sorting things. The development of the IT system to run the admittedly complex payments scheme has been fraught with the usual delays and massive cost over-runs one expects from a Government-run IT development, and a lot more control should have been exercised.

However, to put a little bit of context on the affair, it is worth noting that the Scottish Government is not the only one experiencing problems. Indeed, the UK has already been fined £642million for repeated failures over a period of several years, and is apparently the 6th Worst country within the EU at paying these amounts. This does rather suggest that the entire CAP system is overly complex, but it does not let the Scottish Government off the hook. If there is a league table, we should be aiming to be near the top, and it seems we are a long way from that.

One thing which does seem to have been overlooked amidst the shouting and accusations, though, is that the Tories have come up with a solution. Brexit will mean that no farmer will receive any EU CAP subsidy at all, so that should solve the problem, shouldn’t it?

Sorry, that was more than a bit facetious. Without these payments, many farmers face financial ruin. Whether they can expect any replacement payments from the UK Government remains uncertain, but I wouldn’t like to bet on it. It does make me wonder why so many in the farming community are, or were, pro-Brexit.

On the other main issue, though, the Scottish Government has come in for some unfair criticism. Following publication of Audit Scotland’s latest report on the state of Scotland’s Colleges, there were accusations of failure because the number of students studying in Scotland’s colleges is at its lowest since 2007. Kezia Dugdale blamed this on “SNP cuts". Now, it is true that the Scottish Government has forced colleges to reduce the number of part-time courses in order to focus on full time Further Education for young people, but is the latest fall in numbers really due to these cuts?

You can read the full report from Audit Scotland at:

http://www.audit-scotland.gov.uk/report/scotlands-colleges-2017

A couple of things are worth mentioning in terms of student numbers. First of all, it seems more young people are going directly into work after leaving school. Secondly, there has been a 7% increase in the number of school leavers going directly to University. Both of these are welcome, and both will affect the number of students going to college.

Most importantly, though, the Report clearly states that demographic changes are impacting on the College sector and one very likely reason for the fall in student numbers is that there are fewer 16 – 19 year-olds in Scotland. So, if there are fewer people leaving school, and more of them are going directly to work or to University, it logically follows that there will be less demand for college places. This means that, unless Kezia Dugdale can find a way to blame the SNP for the decrease in the birth rate around 20 years ago, it is difficult to see how they can be blamed for this particular statistic.

Colleges are a vital part of our Education system and our economy, and there is no doubt they face challenges, but the reduced number of students can’t really be blamed on the SNP this time. Not that this prevented Kezia Dugdale blaming them anyway. One can only conclude that she didn’t manage to read the entire report because she surely wouldn’t be petty enough to hurl accusations at Scotland’s College workers out of a desire to attack the Scottish Government, would she?


Pointing The Finger

Posted on June 23rd, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Carrying on with the day job hasn’t done the Scottish Government a great deal of good this week. after the row over the relaxation of the ban on docking puppies’ tails, the opposition Parties had a go on two other areas of contention where the Scottish Government appears to be failing.

To be fair, the issue of farmers’ EU Common Agricultural Policy payments is pretty diabolical, and the Scottish Government really needs to hold up its hands, admit the failure, and get on with sorting things. The development of the IT system to run the admittedly complex payments scheme has been fraught with the usual delays and massive cost over-runs one expects from a Government-run IT development, and a lot more control should have been exercised.

However, to put a little bit of context on the affair, it is worth noting that the Scottish Government is not the only one experiencing problems. Indeed, the UK has already been fined £642million for repeated failures over a period of several years, and is apparently the 6th Worst country within the EU at paying these amounts. This does rather suggest that the entire CAP system is overly complex, but it does not let the Scottish Government off the hook. If there is a league table, we should be aiming to be near the top, and it seems we are a long way from that.

One thing which does seem to have been overlooked amidst the shouting and accusations, though, is that the Tories have come up with a solution. Brexit will mean that no farmer will receive any EU CAP subsidy at all, so that should solve the problem, shouldn’t it?

Sorry, that was more than a bit facetious. Without these payments, many farmers face financial ruin. Whether they can expect any replacement payments from the UK Government remains uncertain, but I wouldn’t like to bet on it. It does make me wonder why so many in the farming community are, or were, pro-Brexit.

On the other main issue, though, the Scottish Government has come in for some unfair criticism. Following publication of Audit Scotland’s latest report on the state of Scotland’s Colleges, there were accusations of failure because the number of students studying in Scotland’s colleges is at its lowest since 2007. Kezia Dugdale blamed this on “SNP cuts". Now, it is true that the Scottish Government has forced colleges to reduce the number of part-time courses in order to focus on full time Further Education for young people, but is the latest fall in numbers really due to these cuts?

You can read the full report from Audit Scotland at:

http://www.audit-scotland.gov.uk/report/scotlands-colleges-2017

A couple of things are worth mentioning in terms of student numbers. First of all, it seems more young people are going directly into work after leaving school. Secondly, there has been a 7% increase in the number of school leavers going directly to University. Both of these are welcome, and both will affect the number of students going to college.

Most importantly, though, the Report clearly states that demographic changes are impacting on the College sector and one very likely reason for the fall in student numbers is that there are fewer 16 – 19 year-olds in Scotland. So, if there are fewer people leaving school, and more of them are going directly to work or to University, it logically follows that there will be less demand for college places. This means that, unless Kezia Dugdale can find a way to blame the SNP for the decrease in the birth rate around 20 years ago, it is difficult to see how they can be blamed for this particular statistic.

Colleges are a vital part of our Education system and our economy, and there is no doubt they face challenges, but the reduced number of students can’t really be blamed on the SNP this time. Not that this prevented Kezia Dugdale blaming them anyway. One can only conclude that she didn’t manage to read the entire report because she surely wouldn’t be petty enough to hurl accusations at Scotland’s College workers out of a desire to attack the Scottish Government, would she?


Tails, You Lose

Posted on June 22nd, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Those of us who suffer from cynophobia are admittedly poorly qualified to comment on the latest furore surrounding the Scottish Government’s decision to relax the ban on the docking of puppies’ tails, but there are a few points it is worth making on this subject.

First of all, it must be noted that the ban remains in place for the vast majority of dogs; it is only where a long tail is deemed unsuitable for a working dog that a vet may carry out the operation. Now, while most sensible people are against any unnecessary cruelty towards animals, it should be noted that vets do carry out other procedures on dogs which it could be argued are not strictly performed for the dogs’ benefit, but for the owners’. It should also be noted that the reason for relaxing the ban is that long tails may actually cause considerable pain to a working dog if it becomes caught in, say, a wire fence.

On the other hand, it can reasonably be pointed out that being trained to perform any duty which is likely to cause hurt to a dog means that the dog should not be required to carry out that work at all.

And here we come to a major problem with this legislation, because working dogs are, essentially, used by the wealthy in the pursuit of their preferred pastime of blood sports. Some have claimed that this relaxation of the ban is an example of the Scottish Government caving in to the influence of a few wealthy landowners, and that it would be more progressive to carry out a radical reform of land rights to effectively bring a halt to this sort of activity. However, while this certainly appeals to the egalitarian side of many people’s nature, it must be recognised that this would be a drastic measure and would probably take some years to implement in the face of strong opposition from the Tories and the media. While this was being done, dogs could be injured if the docking ban remained in place or, equally likely, illegal docking would be surreptitiously carried out in much the same way as birds of prey are being illegally killed. It is worth bearing in mind the analogy with women’s rights to an abortion. Whether one agrees or not, it must be recognised that there is no way to ban abortions, there is only a way to ban safe abortions. One cannot help thinking that a total ban on the docking of puppies’ tails would result in an increase in the number of “accidents" which require amputation of the injured tail.

As to where the rights and wrongs of this argument lie, I will pass no judgement since I do not know enough about the details. But one thing is absolutely clear; the SNP have again provided ammunition to their opponents by putting forward a controversial piece of legislation. Getting on with the day job hasn’t done them any favours, but that is because far too many people conflate the issue of SNP policies with the constitutional issue of Scottish independence. This is, I suppose, inevitable, but we really should keep in mind that the two are quite distinct. Scottish independence is not about the policies of either the Scottish Government or the Westminster Government; it is about our nation’s right to self-determination. If Scotland were a normal country, then we should be able to argue about policies put forward by the Government of the day. Instead, any controversial Government decision is somehow transformed into evidence which backs the claims that Scottish independence is a bad thing. The conclusion we can draw from this is that those who dislike the SNP because of the Party’s pro-Indy stance, automatically assume that the SNP would remain in power in an independent Scotland. They seem incapable of realising that an independent Scotland would be free to make its own choices once normality has been achieved.

So, by all means debate the issue of docking of dogs’ tails, but please don’t translate that into an argument either for or against Scotland’s constitutional future.


How Do We Spread the word?

Posted on June 21st, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Recently, there have been calls among the online Yes community for a genuine alternative media in order to get the independence message out to a wider audience without the message being filtered through the mainstream Unionist media. I must say I heartily endorse these calls, because there is a crying need for our message to break through the mainstream barrier.

Unfortunately, I have no idea how this can be achieved in practice. There are many excellent websites and plenty of articles online, but the problem is that most of the people we need to persuade don’t pay any attention to them. Others have tried, and failed, to launch news reporting and analysis, but creating TV-like programmes is expensive, and there seems no way to break into the public consciousness. Even if some multi-millionaire decided to establish a TV channel which could broadcast into every home in Scotland, the big question is whether anyone would watch it. For example, how many of those who voted No in the IndyRef have ever read a copy of The National? These people simply aren’t interested in what they see as a biased nationalist agenda.

Something needs to be done, and I wish I had some suggestions, but we are up against a difficult mindset because far too many people still trust the BBC. I have had recent experience of trying to get the message across to one of these No voters who trotted out all the Unionist messages he’d heard on TV. He lives in the highest-taxed part of the UK; the NHS in Scotland is in crisis, as is Education; The Scottish Government is obsessed with independence; Scotland is too poor to be independent. I have tried and tried to get him to read some online articles which provide him with an alternative view, but he has steadfastly refused, claiming to be too busy to bother with stuff like that. He insists he is well-informed because he watches the BBC News, listens to BBC Radio Scotland and watches Question Time. The simple truth is that he does not want to hear any inconvenient facts which might upset his view of the UK. I’ll keep plugging away, but this attitude is all too prevalent amongst a great many in Scotland. They have grown up being taught that the BBC is impartial, and they have no interest in obtaining information from what they regard as little better than “Conspiracy Theory" websites.

It must be said, though, that the SNP really need to come up with some way of addressing this problem. During my discussion with this chap, he kept saying, “If you are right, why don’t I hear the SNP saying any of that?"

This is a good question. There is no doubt that the media distort and misrepresent anything the SNP say, but it is equally true that the SNP do not come out and combat the misrepresentations nearly strongly enough. They need to up their game on this, but they also need an unbiased platform where the message can be spread – and not in the format of a Party Political Broadcast. I just wish I knew how this could be achieved.


A Lesson For Next Time

Posted on June 16th, 2017

by Puzzled Pundit

In 2015, the Scottish electorate returned an astonishing 56 SNP MPs to Westminster. This was mostly down to the freakish nature of the First Past The Post voting system, but it terrified the Westminster Establishment.

Predictably, all the pleas for Scotland to lead the UK and not leave it which we heard during the IndyRef were soon shown to be hollow words. For all their hard work, the SNP MPs achieved very little in practical terms.

Is it possible that some Scottish voters realised this, and that this contributed to the fall in votes cast for the SNP in the 2017 GE? Voter turnout in Scotland was down by around 180,000 from the 2015 General Election, and the SNP seem to have suffered most from this. Have people realised that there is a genuine democratic deficit at Westminster, and Scotland’s voice will never be listened to? Is that why they didn’t bother voting this time? Maybe it was the terrible weather which put them off, but maybe that was just the final straw in convincing them it would be a waste of time.

It’s just a thought. Maybe people are more concerned with leaving the UK than leading it, so didn’t bother to cast their votes to back the SNP because they knew it would achieve nothing.

It’s hard to blame people for having that view when you look at how the SNP have been ignored and sneered at in Westminster, a place which has demonstrated that it will never change unless forced to. There is no way any number of SNP MPs can force them to do anything.

As ever, though, people need to realise that any perceived drop in support will be pounced upon by the Unionist media. Let this be a lesson. Next time, get out and vote!


Where's The Outrage?

Posted on June 14th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

So David Mundell says Theresa May will not countenance another IndyRef during the five year term of this Parliament. Apparently, the election result in Scotland shows there is no demand for it. Well done to those Yes supporters who voted for Parties other than the SNP. You fell right into the trap the Tories had planted.

OK, maybe that’s a bit unfair. People should vote for whoever they wish, but it was pretty obvious that a vote for anyone other than the SNP was going to play into the hands of the Unionist media.

The trouble is, the SNP are behaving as if they really did lose when, in fact, they have a clear majority. This is more than can be said for the UK Tories who are now scrabbling desperately to be propped up by the DUP. Yet Theresa May, who claims that a majority in Scotland is insufficient to allow another IndyRef, insists that her Brexit plan will proceed even though she lost the majority she demanded we increase in order to give her the mandate she wanted. Does anyone in the media find this hypocritical in any way? Apparently not.

Don’t get me wrong. I have no objections to the Tories attempting to form a Government. They won the most seats, so they are entitled to try. I abhor their chosen method of doing so, but that’s the Tories for you. What I find appalling is their brazenness in saying that an SNP majority in Scotland counts as a loss of mandate.

The Greens have already stated that IndyRef2 should remain on the table, and they are quite right. Brexit is happening, and we need a choice once we know what the alternatives are. To remove IndyRef2 as an option is to go against the result of the EU Referendum in Scotland, to go against the pro-Indy majority elected to the Scottish Parliament, and to go against the request of that Parliament to hold another IndyRef. All those democratic decisions are, it seems, to be overridden by the dictat of Theresa May – and that is an outrage.

Yet where is the anger? You can’t expect anyone in the Scottish media to protest, because they are happily promoting Ruth Davidson as the saviour of the UK, and insisting that the SNP lost the election. But you could expect the SNP to come out fighting against this appalling snub to our democratic wishes. Instead, they are contemplating what to do, and have shut down their IndyRef fundraiser, thus giving out the signals that they agree with the Unionist Parties and are prepared to go back on their manifesto pledge to hold another IndyRef if Scotland faced being dragged out of the EU against its will. This is folly of the worst kind. The Tories are providing an open goal with their high-handed dismissal of the Scottish Parliament’s decision, and this needs to be challenged.

it’s not as if we want IndyRef2 now. Nobody ever said that. But we need to have the option to escape once we know just how much of a disaster Brexit will be. Nothing has altered that.

I find it hard to believe that the SNP are about to drop their founding principle of seeking independence for Scotland, but they really need to do more than sit and sulk. It has become increasingly apparent that far too many Scots simply do not appreciate how much the Scottish Government has protected them from Austerity Britain, nor how much the media are misleading them. Competent government isn’t enough to convince people to take a major step like independence; it will take a lot more than simply governing better than the alternative Parties. We were promised a campaign to highlight the positive case for independence - and we are still waiting. Reflection is all very right and proper, but bunkering down in the face of a setback which was always going to happen isn’t the right thing to do when the Tories are blatantly disregarding the wishes of Scotland as expressed in several elections under a variety of voting systems. Instead of feeling sorry for ourselves, we should be motivated to spread the word on this latest democratic outrage. Like it or not, the SNP must lead that charge because the greens will never be given the public platform they deserve. And the wider Yes movement needs to keep shouting about this, because the Scottish media aren’t going to help us.


Arithmetical Navel-Gazing

Posted on June 13th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

One of the many faults of the First Past The Post voting system is its tendency to disenfranchise what can often be the majority of voters in a constituency. The winner is the candidate with the most votes, but that doesn’t mean it is the majority of votes, because voters are able to vote for a number of candidates and their preferences can be spread over a wide number. FPTP works best if there are only two candidates, and even then it has flaws.

A consequence of this splitting of votes is that it provides the opportunity for all losing sides to cast accusations at other losers along the lines of, “If you’d voted for us, we would have won!"

To which the response, “But if you’d voted for us, we would have won!" is normally equally valid.

Such recriminations are pointless because this is exactly how FPTP works in a multi-candidate situation, and these woeful cries serve no purpose at all except to create further tension between the losing sides, which is precisely what the winning side wants.

FPTP lends itself to tactical voting, and you can’t blame voters for taking advantage of that.

The other result of this bizarre system is that it can lead to some other misconceptions. For example, Ruth Davidson is currently basking in the glow of media adulation since her – or, rather, the Conservative Party’s – 13 seats in Scotland are being credited with swinging the tide for the Tories. Now, while this is true to an extent, it is not the whole picture. Arithmetically, if those 13 seats had been lost, the outcome of the General Election would have been different but, since it was a UK election, one could just as easily argue that 13 of the seats won by the Tories in England were the ones which swung the result, particularly those with narrow majorities.

The reason the media are fawning over Ruth Davidson, and even suggesting she leads a separate Party to Theresa May’s Conservatives, is that they are desperate to hammer the SNP. The actual arithmetic of seats is a distraction. What matters is that the UK is hurtling towards Brexit with no apparent leadership and no plan. Concentrating on issues like vote share and what might have happened if voters hadn’t voted tactically are academic.


Hypothetical Question

Posted on June 12th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

The dust still hasn’t settled after the General Election result, but there are a lot of comments flying around about the demise of the Indie movement. As usual, the media have consulted some disgruntled former SNP officials who have dutifully delivered the criticism of the Party that the media want. That’s not to say that some of the criticism may not be deserved, but we really ought to put the Scottish results into some sort of context.

For a start, the 2015 result was a freak, delivered by the iniquities of the First Past The Post electoral system. There was no way the SNP would retain all those seats. What dismayed so many was the number of seats lost but, in fact, again due to the vagaries of FPTP, the outcome is still very good, since the number of seats the SNP now hold is, while perhaps more representative, larger than their vote share would warrant. However the media portray the result, the SNP retain a significant majority of Scottish seats.

But the big question is whether it matters. Independence is not dependent on the number of Westminster seats the Party holds. All that the 56 MPs previously elected were able to prove was that Westminster could ignore their comments and concerns, and there was nothing they could do about it.

We must also remember that UK General Elections don’t allow 16 & 17 year-olds to vote, that non-resident citizens were excluded, and that the greens were hardly represented. There is also the fact that some Yes voters appear to have voted for Labour in the mistaken belief that Jeremy Corbyn might deliver a socialist Government. Now, while I would have been far happier to see Corbyn win the election than May, the truth is that he is pro-Brexit and, although he has made some conciliatory comments, he is against Scottish independence. Even if he had won an outright victory, the chances are that the Tories would be back in power within 5 years because English voters deliver a Tory Government more often than not, so anyone looking for a more socialist Government in the UK is ultimately going to be disappointed, especially given the inherent unfairness of the FPTP system which can deliver a massive Tory majority on a relatively low percentage of the overall vote.

The issue for Yes supporters, no matter which Party they support, must surely be to gain independence first, then vote for the sort of Government you want. With a more proportional voting system, a more representative Government could be elected in Scotland. But, to get there, the reality is that we need to back the SNP for now. Like it or not, they are the effective political arm of the Yes movement, and we won’t gain independence without them. Equally, though, the SNP need to recognise that we won’t gain independence without the wider Yes movement being given more support.

The Independence issue is not dead; it is still very much on the cards. The calls for the SNP to abandon the commitment are simply echoing the desires of the Unionists for the question to go away, for us all to fall back into line as nice little BritNats and not challenge the status quo. It is inevitable that any setback, whether real or imagined, will be used to promote this line of thinking. We know this, and we need to accept it. But the Yes movement is bigger than the SNP, something the media deliberately ignore and which many BritNats are incapable of understanding. Where the SNP need to up their game is in making the positive case for independence. We’ve heard lots of talk about how they are going to do this, but very little actual substance. It may well be true that people are fed up of Referendums and elections, but the Brexit clock is ticking, and the UK is leaving the EU, no matter which set of Westminster politicians is in charge. Leaving the EU is directly against the expressed will of the Scottish electorate, the SNP had a manifesto pledge to call an IndyRef if something like that happened, and that issue has not altered one bit. Whether the SNP has 35 Westminster MPs, or 59, or even only 1, the Brexit timetable is going ahead. Scotland will be ignored, our farmers and fishermen will find their demands dismissed, and we will be dragged into a bleak, isolationist future if we stick with the UK. Many Scottish BritNats will be happy with that because, for them, being British overrides every other concern, no matter how much harm it does to our society but, at the very least, we should be given the right to decide whether we, as a nation, wish to stick with the sinking Britannia or should take the chance of becoming a normal country. Nothing in the General Election result alters this very fundamental issue.

And here’s another thing to contemplate. It’s a hypothetical question which will hopefully never be asked in practice, but it might serve to make people realise the consequences of voting for Unionist MPs simply in order to block the SNP.

Let’s say, for example, that the Tory/DUP coalition goes ahead. Let’s say that the Tories decide they need to unify the UK and that the best way to do this is to abolish the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly. Power Sharing in Northern Ireland has already collapsed and there is no effective Government there. The Tories do not appear concerned at all about jeopardising the Good Friday Agreement, so they may want to go the whole way and take all power for the entire UK back to Westminster.

So, hypothetically, if it came to a vote in the House of Commons as to whether all the devolved Administrations were to be abolished, how do you think the Scottish MPs would vote? Would Ruth Davidson’s 13 MPs vote to keep the Scottish Parliament? Would the Scottish Labour MPs vote to retain Devolution? Or would they all fall into line with their Westminster bosses and vote to abolish the Scottish Parliament? What do you think?

Probably the very best we could expect from Corbyn’s Labour would be to abstain, but I’m pretty sure the Tories would happily vote to scrap Devolution. That would not only allow the Brexit negotiations to go ahead with no inconvenient sniping from the SNP, it would allow the Tories to expand their policies into Scotland. Goodbye to free prescriptions and University tuition; hello to NHS privatisation, the Bedroom tax and a host of other lovely policies on Education and Transport.

I’m not saying this is a likely scenario by any means, but politics has been crazy for a couple of years now, so nothing is impossible. The main thing is, people should think about whether, in a situation like this, the unionist MPs so recently elected would stand up for Scotland or would side with Westminster. Be honest.


Media Culpability

Posted on June 7th, 2017

by Jammy Dodger

(Editor’s Note: This article first appeared as a series of posts on Twitter and has been reproduced in text format with the kind permission of Jammy Dodger. The original Tweets incorporated photographic evidence of his claims which, due to technical issues, it has not been possible to reproduce here. You can find the full thread of Tweets by following @MrJammyjamjar3 on Twitter.)

So Khuram Butt, London Bridge attacker, was a supporter of Anjem Choudary? The British media has a lot to answer for.

The media gave Anjem Choudary a platform to spew his hate.

Not us Muslims. We threw him out of our mosques. He wasn’t allowed to speak there.

But the media lapped him up. Anjem was a regular guest on News panels, discussion shows, given plenty of column inches in the newspapers.

But us Muslims, we kept telling you, “He doesn’t represent us. Why are you giving Anjem Choudary, the Hate Preacher, a platform?"

Young, impressionable Muslim men are drawn in by the well-spoken Choudary who seems to be the only one speaking up for Muslims.

So how are these young men radicalised? Because the media gave Anjem Choudary that platform to draw them in. The media loved Anjem. He loved them.

Did the media ever tell you how stage managed Anjem’s demos were, so it appeared Anjem Choudary had more supporters than he actually did?

OK, let me show you how the media portrayed Anjem Choudary as if he were a leader of UK Muslims, when he has always been rejected by us.

Anjem Choudary appeared on Fox News, where he was described as a leader of Islam for the UK. LMAO. The media made him a leader.

He was photographed at demos with thousands of his followers. Or so the media would have you believe.

Let me tell you about Anjem Choudary’s demonstrations and his rallies.

They always took place outside mosques at 1.45pm on a Friday afternoon.

The timing of this is crucial. 1.45pm is just AFTER Jummah prayers, which in the case of Regent’s Park Mosque, thousands of worshippers attend.

The Police assist in this charade by setting up barriers just outside the main entrance to Regent’s Park Mosque a good 2 hours before.

Then, at 1.45pm when the Jummah prayers finish, the police say the thousands of peaceful worshipers must leave only from the front entrance.

Act 3 of this elaborate stage play is Anjem and his two dozen supporters appear at the front gate of the mosque with their flags and banners.

Since Police are directing thousands of worshippers leaving the mosque to the front entrance, a bottleneck is created.

There you have it. The picture they wanted. Anjem Choudary and his thousands of Islamist followers who are demanding Sharia law in the UK.

It is all a con, and you all fell for it. Us Muslims were telling you, “He doesn’t represent us. Your media and your Govt promoted him, not us."

But what if I was a vulnerable young Muslim watching Anjem on TV?

“Wow! Look at him! He’s always on TV. He must be an important Muslim.

Because Nicky Campbell loved him on The Big Questions, because Paxman loved him on Newsnight, because Andrew Neil loved him on This Week.

They, the media, created Anjem Choudary. They alone promoted him, not us Muslims.

The media radicalised Khuram Butt. They were accomplices.

Muslims used to call it a media circus whenever Anjem Choudary appeared on TV. We saw through him.


Dire Prediction

Posted on June 4th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Predictions are dangerous things, and can come back to haunt you. However, while everyone is getting excited about polling data as the General Election draws near, there is one possible scenario which doesn’t appear to have been mentioned. So, while this is not a prediction as such, it’s a suggestion as to one hypothetical outcome of the vote.

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that the Tories lose their overall majority, and Labour could claim the right to form a Government if backed by the SNP. This situation has been suggested as possible, even if it’s not the most likely outcome.

So what would happen? Here’s a thought. Would Jeremy Corbyn take up the position as Prime Minister if it required the backing of the SNP? Kezia Dugdale says he would do no deals, but it doesn’t require a deal to have support from another Party. Corbyn can hardly tell the SNP not to support him.

The big problem is that, for a distressingly large proportion of the English electorate, the SNP are regarded as little better than barbarians. Forget all the love-bombing Scotland received in 2014, the reality is that Corbyn might find he would lose a lot of support if he relied on the SNP.

So here’s the radical idea. Is it possible that Corbyn would refuse to form a Government and allow the Tories to run a minority Government simply to prevent the SNP having any influence?

That might not be as daft as it first sounds. You only need to look at Labour’s recent voting record in the House of Commons to realise that, for all their socialist rhetoric, they don’t actually stand up to the Tories on very many issues at all. Abstaining or even voting in support of Tory legislation is more their style. The recent examples of Labour Councillors backing Tories in Local Councils are further instances of Labour cosying up to the Conservatives rather than cooperate with the SNP.

Let’s face it, on the two big constitutional issues facing the UK - Brexit and Scottish Independence - Corbyn is fully behind May’s approach. He could save himself a lot of flak if he ducked out of forming a Government which required SNP support. And, as mentioned in earlier posts, he needs a majority of English MPs anyway, since EVEL would preclude him passing any legislation which only affected England, so why bother forming a Government which would not be able to satisfy the majority of the UK electorate?

So EVEL gives Corbyn a handy Get Out of Jail Free card if he wants to reject SNP support, and we have seen in recent weeks that Labour would infinitely prefer a Tory Government than allow the SNP any influence.

This is not a prediction; but it’s something to bear in mind. The Tories are still likely to have a majority, because too many voters in England love the Tories but, if we do end up with a hung Parliament, it will be interesting to see whether Corbyn will step up to the mark, or whether he’ll cave in to the anti-Scottish sentiment which is so prevalent at Westminster.


Vote Labour; Get what?

Posted on May 29th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

The latest polls suggest that an increased Tory majority in the House of Commons is far less certain than it appeared a few weeks ago. Some people are even suggesting Labour’s recovery could result in a hung Parliament. Now, we all know how accurate polls can be, so let’s not get too excited about any of this, but the changes in the polls do have implications for Scotland.

To begin with, there is no doubt that a Jeremy Corbyn victory would be preferable to another Tory Government, even though Corbyn is not a good leader, is very anti-Indy and is pro-Brexit. None of those things augur well for Scotland, but at least he’s not wilfully cruel like the Tories.

Having said that, it seems unlikely he will be able to form a Government because the Lib Dems will inevitably back the Tories in a coalition in the unlikely event that the Tories do not gain an absolute majority, although British politics is so weird, who knows what will happen.

What the Labour mini-revival, or rather the disastrous Tory behaviour in the campaign so far, has resulted in, is a re-awakening of the cries that Scottish voters should support Labour in order to keep the Tories out of power. There are, though, several problems with heeding this rallying call.

First of all, Labour are anti-Indy. If Scottish Labour were to regain a substantial number of seats from the SNP, the chances of Scotland ever becoming a normal country would be greatly diminished.

Secondly, Scottish Labour does not really support Jeremy Corbyn. They may be a branch Office rather than a separate Party, but they really don’t like Corbyn at all, so who, exactly, would we be voting for?

Next is the very real problem that Scottish Labour are so anti-SNP that, as the recent Council elections have shown, they would rather support the Tories than form even an informal alliance with the SNP. This tribalism is so bad that Corbyn would prefer a Tory Government than rely on SNP support of a Labour Government, while Kezia Dugdale’s only election strategy appears to be to oppose the SNP and to call for voters to vote Tory in order to keep the SNP from winning seats.

Then there’s the problem of Labour’s recent voting record in the House of Commons, where they have repeatedly shown themselves to be supportive of Tory policies. Corbyn may talk a socialist agenda, but recent voting suggests he’s more in tune with Tory philosophy than he claims. Labour don’t appear to realise that abstaining from a vote is not opposing the motion. Anyone who watches Parliament TV or checks Hansard will know that the main opposition to the Tories has come from the SNP.

And, finally, there is the very big issue of EVEL which completely scuppers Corbyn’s call for voters to support Labour in Scotland. Let’s assume that, for once, Scottish votes swing the election. If every single Scottish constituency went to Labour and that was just enough to give them a majority in the House of Commons, it still wouldn’t help Corbyn operate an effective Government. That’s because Scottish MPs aren’t allowed to vote on English matters. Without a majority of English MPs, Corbyn could enact no legislation on English matters. In other words, EVEL has confirmed to an even greater degree, that Scottish votes don’t really count in Westminster.

So forget all the calls to support Labour because only they can defeat the Tories at a UK level. If you want to vote in the best interests of Scotland, then there really is only one choice on 8th June. There are many voters in Scotland who would love to support the greens, a genuinely socialist Labour Party, or some other socialist Party, but the reality is that, until Scotland becomes a normal country, such votes are not going to count when it comes to Westminster. The only thing we can do on 8th June is support the SNP and return as many SNP MPs as possible to show Westminster that the desire to live in a normal country has not diminished. Once we gain normal status, then the field is wide open when it comes to voting, but the Westminster elections are not the time to dilute the pro-Indy vote.


In Two Minds

Posted on May 27th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

I’ve generally taken the view that, while political debate is fine online, there is no point in entering into discussions with some people, or getting involved in arguments about which individual did or said something stupid, because such arguments distract us from the more important issues. By and large, I’ve managed to stick to this, but a couple of things have happened recently which have made me think twice.

First of all was the Food Bank Nurse. I have no intention of making personal attacks on her. For me, the real culprit in the affair was the BBC. Whether the Nurse helped them willingly or not is beside the point, as is the issue of whether she was entirely truthful. Whatever her motivation, she helped the BBC achieve their aims, which were to attack the SNP, deflect scrutiny from the Tories, and to create another CyberNat bullying media story. They achieved all three, aided by far too many Yes supporters repeating unsubstantiated allegations about the Nurse and, in so doing, making us all look silly because, as the media delights in telling us, every Yesser is directly controlled by Nicola Sturgeon and we are all equally to blame for the actions of those who were too quick to spread rumours rather than wait for facts.

Since the programme aired, I’ve seen several anti-SNP posts on social media trumpeting the CyberNat bullying angle. I resisted the temptation to become involved because such discussions are rather petty when the greater issue of Scotland’s independence is concerned, and I have no wish to become involved in a slanging match.

The second event was a Tweet by the odious Katie Hopkins who, in the wake of the Manchester bombing, called for a Final Solution to the problem of Muslim extremists. Yes, she really did use those words. Naturally, her comments were approved by some of the more xenophobic among her followers, while some people reTweeted it to highlight her despicable viewpoint. Others urged people not to spread her vile views and insisted the best thing to do is to ignore her. That’s what I decided to do.

The thing is, I’ve had some time to consider whether ignoring things like this really is the best thing to do. There is no doubt that engaging with Trolls is pointless, but the BBC and Katie Hopkins are not your average Trolls. One is the State Broadcaster which is intent on beaming State propaganda into every household in the UK, while the other is a very high profile individual whose role is to pump out vicious and divisive comments in order to stir up the xenophobia and hatred the Right Wing media love so much.

The thing is, there comes a time when you need to stand up to bullies. Simply shaking your head when you see people endorsing the views of individuals like Hopkins or believing the BBC’s version of political analysis, isn’t going to change things. Perhaps we should highlight this sort of thing as a warning to others and, with luck, to persuade them that they are being misinformed and driven towards a political stance where hatred of foreigners is the accepted view.

No doubt everyone will have their own opinion on what is the best way to counter such things, but I’m certainly caught in two minds now.


Critical Situation

Posted on May 24th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

The thing about secret Intelligence reports is that they are secret. This means that we can’t possibly know the basis on which Theresa May has announced that the Terror Threat has been raised to Critical. All we will see is the impact of the announcement. There are, though, some questions we should at least consider before either applauding or decrying the presence of troops on our streets.

First of all, we must acknowledge that any criticism of the Government’s response is likely to be received with accusations of mocking the memory of the innocents who were killed or injured in the Manchester bombing. That, however, is not the intention here. The bombing was a callous and cowardly act, no matter who carried it out or for what purpose, and the tragic loss of life is appalling to contemplate. But one of the things we keep hearing from our politicians and journalists is that we must not let the terrorists defeat us, and that we should carry on our lives as normal. Except that having troops on the streets isn’t the normality we have grown up with, so we should at least take a little time to consider what the consequences of the bombing might be.

It is, of course, impossible to know whether the presence of troops will deter a copycat terror attack. The sight of armed soldiers might well convince some impressionable idiots that it is not worth the effort. On the other hand, if someone is so full of fervour that they are willing to kill themselves in a suicide mission, might not the sight of British troops persuade some nutcase that this represents an ideal opportunity to take revenge on some representatives of the State which has been bombing Middle eastern countries for years? We can’t know what goes on in the minds of suicide bombers, but we should not dismiss the possibility that the presence of troops might actually encourage more attacks.

There is also the question of why the terror threat was raised at all. Presumably there are reasons to believe that an attack is imminent. If so, can we expect arrests soon? Will the threat level be lowered once the identified threat has been nullified? Or, as some people are suggesting, has the threat level been raised solely to make the Government look tough? Why was it not raised before the Manchester bombing instead of after it? How long will the Critical threat level be maintained? Again, it is not possible to know the answers to these questions, but let’s hope the raising of the threat level isn’t a knee-jerk response.

The other thing we must keep in mind is the immense difficulty of preventing terror attacks. Our Intelligence Services face a difficult task, but it is even more difficult for the Police – and now the Army – to prevent an attack. Even if we ignore the issue of whether the sight of armed troops might provoke another attack, how do they actually prevent a lone suicide bomber from killing him or herself and others? Will every sporting venue be ringed by soldiers? What about every concert venue? What about pubs and nightclubs? What about High Street shops or shopping malls? Will we see troops deployed in every location at all times? It’s doubtful that Britain has nearly enough soldiers to do that. This renders the whole thing questionable in terms of effectiveness. There is no doubt many members of the public will take reassurance from the sight of soldiers who are there to defend them, but can those soldiers really do what they are ostensibly there for? If some lone bomber is determined to carry out a suicide attack, there really isn’t an awful lot anyone can do to stop him or her.

So should we simply shrug our shoulders and carry on as normal? As far as possible, we probably should. We obviously need to remain vigilant, and we need to ensure that the Police are informed if we happen to stumble across some knowledge of a potential threat, but, ultimately, we must rely on our Intelligence Services whose job it is to track down potential terror threats. What we must avoid is becoming accustomed to the sight of armed soldiers patrolling our streets, because that would mean that the terrorists have won.


Nursing A Grievance

Posted on May 22nd, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

There has been a right rumpus over the BBC Leaders’ Debate, with many Yessers complaining about a fairly obvious Tory plant in the audience. The lady in question said she was a nurse who has had to go to food banks, and who attacked Nicola Sturgeon for the parlous state of the NHS. What raised the ire of many CyberNats is that this same lady recently appeared on Question Time, making the same point. There were claims she was either the wife or the daughter of a Tory Councillor, and that she works for BUPA rather than the NHS.

Some of the saner voices on Twitter did tell people to stop repeating unfounded allegations unless they had proof, but the Twittersphere was alive with loud accusations which will only play into the hands of the media who will no doubt delight in proclaiming a CyberNat witch-hunt.

Now, I know nothing about the lady in question. It does seem odd that she should appear on two BBC programmes when others find it impossible to obtain admission to even one, far less be allowed to ask questions both times. Other than that, though, nothing else is known about her. It may be odd that someone on a nurse’s salary must rely on food banks, but many people suffer financial difficulties and we don’t know whether she is a regular attender at food banks or whether it was a one-off issue.

The real problem here is not so much the nurse as the culpability of the BBC. While her complaint may be justified, the BBC know full well that Health, like Education, is a devolved matter. This Debate was supposed to be about the Westminster General Election, yet the bulk of the time was spent attacking the SNP over their handling of matters which are the preserve of Holyrood and nothing to do with Westminster. This was clearly deliberate, because questions are selected in advance, and all it did was play into the hands of the Tories who are desperate to talk about devolved issues in order to avoid any scrutiny of their own UK-wide policies such as Welfare, pensions, Immigration, Defence, etc.

If the nurse in the audience is suffering such dire financial problems that she must rely on food banks even though nurses in Scotland are paid more than their counterparts in the rest of the UK, then she deserves some sympathy and understanding. It is the BBC who are at fault for misleading the public by concentrating on issues which are irrelevant to the Westminster debate, and thus aiding the Tories by allowing them to escape examination of their policies.

As for Scottish journalists, they should know there is a story here. If that nurse really is suffering, her story should be told in order to highlight the plight of people like her and to ask the question why food banks are necessary at all. Instead, most of them will focus on attacking the SNP over the NHS, and Yessers for repeating unfounded allegations on social media.

What they really should be asking is why anyone should need to rely on food banks and why the BBC is so blatantly aiding the Tories.


Divisiveness

Posted on May 19th, 2017

by Wee Hamish

I was out with some pals last weekend. We talked about lots of things, ranging from football, to TV shows, to politics, all accompanied by fairly large amounts of alcohol.

On the topic of football, our wee group included supporters of three different teams. The conversation was, as you’d expect, divisive, with each person promoting their own team and sneering at the others.

The TV shows were only a bit less divisive, with a couple of the gang announcing they actually quite liked the Great British Bake Off. Seriously. That was quite divisive.

And, on politics, as you’d imagine, the conversation became quite heated, and was definitely divisive.

The odd thing is that, at the end of the evening, we are all still pals and can still have a good laugh at and with each other. It makes me think that anyone who actually falls out over divisive conversation really ought to take a look at themselves to see where the problem really lies.


Turbo Charged Nonsense

Posted on May 17th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Jeremy Corbyn has announced that Scotland would see turbo-charged Austerity if it became independent. His views on Scottish independence remain as baffling as ever, since he is in favour of a united Ireland and a free Palestine, yet insists Scotland must not be allowed to become a normal country.

As for the Austerity claim, it is equally baffling that someone who allegedly took economic advice from the excellent Richard J Murphy actually believes this nonsense. Austerity is an ideological choice, driven by political desire. It has been implemented by the Tories on the spurious excuse that the UK needs to operate a budget surplus, so costs must be cut. They continue to espouse the false analogy that a nations’ finances are similar to a household’s budget, ignoring the fact that the Government controls the money supply, and can raise funds from a variety of sources, not solely from personal income tax.

In fact, the cuts to Social Security are proving totally ineffective in controlling costs and are merely inflicting harm on the most vulnerable people in our society. Austerity is a failed policy, and has little to do with economic necessity. The USA spent its way out of the great economic Depression of the 1920s and 1930s, and there is no reason why the UK could not do the same if money were spent on sensible projects instead of being wasted on things like HS2 and Trident.

Unless Jeremy Corbyn was asleep when Richard Murphy was explaining this to him, he knows that Austerity is a choice. So his comment is nothing more than scaremongering, announced because he is unable to shake off the imperialist attitude of most Westminster politicians when it comes to Scotland. Perhaps Richard Murphy could have a word with him.


A Minor Bump

Posted on May 13th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

A recording of Ruth Davidson’s recent interview on BBC 5 Live has been doing the rounds on social media and is being referred to as a “Car Crash". If you haven’t heard it yet, it is worth listening to. The link is:

https://ayerightradio.wordpress.com/2017/05/12/ruth-davidson-car-crash-interview-radio-five-live/

Now, you can be forgiven for wondering what all the hype is about. In common with most experienced politicians, Ruth Davidson did not lose her cool, and did not get tangled up in mumbled responses. She restated questions in her own terms, she deflected and she simply avoided answering some of the trickier questions. So it wasn’t a Car Crash interview, but it was notable nonetheless; the reason being that it was one of the only times any BBC interviewer, or any journalist at all, had actually challenged Ruth Davidson with some searching questions. Pro-Indie politicians are subjected to intense grillings and constant interruptions during interviews, while Unionist politicians are generally permitted to simply relay their spin with little challenge. For once, we have heard Ruth Davidson actually being pressed. Superficially, she survived the ordeal, but some reactions to the interview from Unionist or neutral listeners have demonstrated that, for far too many people, how a politician speaks is more important than what they say. Ruth Davidson may have sounded a little rattled, but she came across as being determined to hold her ground on policy issues.

What makes this interview important – apart from the almost unique example of a challenge being made – is what she actually said. If you listen closely to her answers, she managed to misrepresent facts and contradict herself more than once. She also spouted Tory propaganda which wasn’t challenged by the otherwise excellent interviewer.

So what did she say? Quite a lot. Let’s begin with her relationship with Boris Johnson and her stance on the EU. In her amazing volte face, Ruth Davidson’s political image is that of a self-seeking opportunist. From vehemently opposing leaving the EU to the extent of virtually calling Johnson a liar, she is now an ardent Brexiteer. Her justification for this is that she has accepted the will of the people, even if that will was not expressed by her own constituents. In this, she may have a point, but she has clearly demonstrated that, for her, the UK is more important than the wishes of the people who elected her.

As for her desire to obtain the best possible deal on leaving the EU, this is empty rhetoric. The best deal the UK can obtain is to minimise the amount of money it pays to meet its existing obligations to the EU. Other than that, leaving means leaving, and we can’t pick and choose which parts of the EU we want to retain. The UK media may be pushing the “Best possible deal" line, but the EU politicians are virtually unanimous in their view that the UK will be leaving on terms which suit the EU.

But, to get back to Ruth Davidson, toeing the Party line is how many politicians behave, so let’s not dwell on this aspect of her behaviour. Suffice to say that she will be an avid supporter of whatever policy Theresa May’s Government comes up with next. Her personal beliefs won’t hamper her willingness to throw in her lot with her London masters.

As for the policies which were discussed in the interview, that’s where the contradictions lie. She supports the tory aim of reducing immigration to the tens of thousands, but simultaneously thinks Scotland should have more immigrants. She was careful to word this as a desire for a more equitable percentage of immigrants, and that’s because anyone with a moderate grasp of arithmetic would be able to point out that a larger percentage of a much smaller number is … well, smaller. One can only conclude that she holds this numerically challenged view because the needs of Scotland must be subservient to the wishes of Westminster.

Then she told us that the reason more immigrants do not come to Scotland is that Scotland is the highest taxed part of the UK. This is a serious misrepresentation of the facts, since it refers only to the income tax paid by a minority of the Scottish workforce. When you take into account other taxes, such as Council Tax, plus things like Tuition Fees and Prescription Charges which are taxes in all but name, Scotland is most definitely not the highest taxed part of the UK.

Later, though, she implied that the Scottish Government should increase Income Tax in order to mitigate the harm caused by Westminster policies, apparently having forgotten that, by her own logic, this would further reduce the number of immigrants Scotland needs.

Another contradiction was her view on Child Tax Credits being capped at two eligible children. Scotland would not need as much immigration if its own population increased. For this, we need more children, yet Tory policy is to make that financially more difficult for many families to contemplate. She then trotted out the usual Tory mantra of work being the best route out of poverty, completely ignoring the fact that the majority of people who claim Children’s Tax Credits are in working families. Several social studies have shown that work is not a route out of poverty because wages are so low that many people are living far too near the poverty line.

Which brings us to child poverty. Ruth Davidson asserted several times that UK child poverty is falling. I’ve not been able to locate any official statistics to confirm this one way or another, but we must not forget that the Tories recently adjusted the definition of poverty in order to lift many families above the official poverty line. Indeed, this article from the Guardian suggests that, until this Big Brother–style redefinition was made, child poverty in the UK was actually increasing.

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/mar/16/child-poverty-in-uk-at-highest-level-since-2010-official-figures-show

So, while Davidson may not have lied in a technical sense, she was certainly being economical with the truth. Indeed, the IFS have predicted that child poverty will continue to increase as more Austerity cuts to Social Security bite.

Needless to say, the admitted rise in child poverty in Scotland is all the fault of the SNP. Davidson was eager to make this point, referring to the extensive new Welfare powers granted to the Scottish Government. Again, she omitted to mention that these new powers relate only to a small percentage of the total Welfare powers and that they have been allocated so recently that very little has been put in place. It’s as if, having graciously granted some limited powers, Westminster expects the Scottish Government to immediately wave a magic wand to dispel child poverty.

Then, when challenged on what she would do to address the issues, she came out with the usual waffle about improving Scotland’s economy. Again, this went unchallenged, but anyone with a passing knowledge of Scotland knows that all the major economic levers of power are reserved to Westminster. All the Scottish Government can do is tinker around the edges and fight the various fires lit by Westminster’s policy of de-industrialising Scotland so as to make us allegedly dependent on English largesse.

The main thing about this interview is that, while it wasn’t a car crash, it was certainly a minor bump and, to continue the analogy, some of the paintwork was scraped away to reveal what lay beneath. In that regard, for anyone who was paying attention to what she actually said, Ruth Davidson revealed that what lay beneath her veneer of political certainty was a mish-mash of contradictory statements based on misrepresentations of facts and, with her refusal to even utter the word, “rape" in relation to the discussion on the Rape Clause, she showed her complete lack of empathy with the sufferings of women who have experienced this trauma. Indeed, she was far more concerned with lumping it in with other “exceptional circumstances" and describing the mechanism of dealing with it than with demonstrating any compassion. This hard-hearted view was reinforced by her stated support for the Two-child Tax Credits Cap. As mentioned above, this is not only illogical from the point of view of boosting the population, it is driven solely by the ideology of the Austerity agenda which insists that the way to incentivise poor people is to take money away from them. This policy has failed on its own terms since, not only has seven years of Austerity failed to reduce the UK Deficit, it has emerged that many of the cuts cost more to administer than they save.

This interview remains important, but the car crash was a minor one, and Ruth had her Tory Ideological seatbelt fastened. In the eyes of many, she probably got away without too much damage, so what we need now is for more journalists and interviewers to challenge her and other Unionists and to highlight their contradictions. We’re not looking for bias; we’re looking for equal treatment, and this was the first time we’ve heard it. That’s simply not good enough.


Apples and Pears

Posted on May 9th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Election results have been the focus of much attention over the past few days, in both mainstream and social media channels. The bias of the UK broadcast and print media has been well attested on other blog sites, so there is little need to dwell on that aspect, but we do need to be careful about how we assess different voting systems.

It seems that many people do not fully understand the Single Transferable Vote system, with reports of many spoiled papers and even more where voters did not use the full range, the message of “Vote Till You Boak" not having reached them. As James Kelly points out in this article, the system can work to block candidates if used to its fullest:

http://scotgoespop.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/take-bow-snp-voters-of-irvine-valley.html

However, while many Yesers will be happy that a Tory Councillor was blocked, we really must ask ourselves whether the STV system is properly democratic. Imagine if it had been an SNP or Green candidate who had garnered a large proportion of First Preference votes and been denied election because of later preferences. The system is very complex and, because not every voter understands how to use it, can produce some results which can only be regarded as not reflecting the proportion of voters who prefer a particular candidate.

Of course, every voting system has some flaws, and STV is certainly better than First Past The Post, but it is by no means the fairest system.

Having said that, we now know that Vote Till You Boak can work, and if that is the system we are going to be faced with in future Council elections, then we really should make best use of it and make sure that we rank all candidates.

The other major point which really ought to be made is comparison between voting systems used for entirely different situations. Many people on social media are pointing out that Marine Le Pen gained a larger percentage share of the French Presidential Election votes than Ruth Davidson’s Tory Party gained in the Scottish Local Elections. Despite this, the media are reporting Le Pen’s abject defeat, while the Tories are being praised for a stunning success. Now, while it is perfectly true that the media in Scotland is desperate to hype up the Tories as much as possible, our complaints about the comparison do not stand up to scrutiny because the two elections were totally different. In the French Presidential election, the contest was between two candidates, others having been eliminated in earlier rounds. Voters had only three choices: Macron, Le Pen, or not voting. It was a straight First Past The Post contest. It’s good news that Le Pen lost, although around a third of voters who did cast a vote chose her, and that is worrying. Still, her defeat was quite emphatic, and that is another blow to the Far Right.

In contrast, the Scottish Council elections used STV, and there was a multiplicity of candidates, with several being elected in each electoral ward. In this contest, the Tories made spectacular gains compared to the last Council elections, even if this was largely because Labour voters switched to their hard-line Unionist rallying cry. In this respect, comparison of vote share in the two elections this week is relatively meaningless because we are not comparing like with like. Marine Le Pen may have gained a higher percentage of the vote than the Tories in Scotland, but she won absolutely nothing, while the Scottish Tories have 276 Councillors to show for their efforts. It’s way behind the SNP but, coming from a really low base, it does look superficially impressive, which is why the UK media are falling over themselves to promote it as evidence of waning support for the SNP.

Further evidence of the alleged SNP slump is demonstrated by the vote share for pro-Indie Parties being only around 36%. This is, however, slightly up on the previous Council elections, and we must bear in mind that the turnout in Council elections is always lower than in General Elections. As Tories almost always vote, the pro-Indie vote is always likely to be lower in Council elections. Comparing these results with Westminster and Holyrood General Elections is a classic example of comparing apples with pears, because it tells us very little.

The media will, however, try to promote the same “SNP support waning" spin after the General Election where a consolidation of the Unionist vote behind the Tories will inevitably lead to the SNP losing some seats because the pro-Union vote will not be split between Labour and the Tories to the same extent as in the last General Election. What will be interesting to see is a comparison of the vote share between the 2015 and 2017 General Elections. Whatever the outcome in terms of seats won, the vote share will be a real demonstration of the Scottish public’s appetite, or lack of it, for independence.


Trust In Me

Posted on May 6th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

When Donalda MacKinnon was announced as the new Director of BBC Scotland in December, 2016, she acknowledged that many people had lost trust in the BBC and stated that she would work to address this and win people back. Since then, her personal presence has been virtually invisible to viewers and listeners, and her impact has been equally difficult to detect.

For example, we recently saw the BBC do their best to ignore the Holyrood debate on the Rape Clause, while continuing to churn out any story which could possibly be spun as harmful to the SNP.

In fairness to Donalda MacKinnon, it may well be that her ability to alter the BBC’s inherent bias is extremely limited, since she will be given her instructions from London. The only real question is whether she follows these instructions willingly or grudgingly. Whichever it is, the outcome is the same. The BBC continues to mislead the public, as exemplified by their inaccurate reporting of the Scottish Local Election results.

These days, it is difficult to know which sources of information to trust but one thing is clear; we cannot trust the BBC to be fair and impartial, no matter what Donalda MacKinnon says.


Vote Tory!

Posted on May 2nd, 2017

Recently, a few members of the RBS community had some fun compiling a list of reasons why people might want to Vote No in a second IndyRef. Well, it began as fun but became depressing as we read through the list. However, Theresa May’s U-turn on calling a General Election has rather changed the situation. Since the list was of policies, it’s probably more relevant to a General Election anyway. Bearing in mind that the Tories are pursuing Brexit and opposing Scottish independence, the General Election has turned into something of a binary choice for most voters in Scotland. You may not like the thought of Scotland becoming a normal country, but here’s what you’ll get if the Tories stay in power and we can’t escape. If you are inclined to vote Tory in order to preserve the Union, you really ought to read this list to see what is in store for all of us.

Read on if you dare.

Vote Tory if you think nuclear weapons are a good thing, even though the UK doesn’t control the launch codes, and you think our nuclear weapons should be based close to our major population centre.

Vote Tory if you like your country being at war on a more or less permanent basis.

Vote Tory if you believe that the refugees created by our wars should be kept out of the UK because their lives aren’t important.

Vote Tory if you think pretty much any foreigner should be kept out of the UK because, after all, who needs foreigners?

Vote Tory if you want to receive one of the lowest Old Age Pensions in Europe, as well as having the pension age increased so that you will likely end up working until you die.

Vote Tory if you are in favour of the Triple Lock Guarantee on Pensions being removed.

Vote Tory if you believe the NHS should be privatised because ordinary folk don’t really need healthcare, do they?

Vote Tory if you believe people should pay for their prescriptions, thus forcing poor people to choose between eating or taking their medication.

Vote Tory if you believe students should pay tuition fees, either saddling themselves with debt or forcing poorer students away from Further Education.

Vote Tory if you genuinely believe, in defiance of the facts, that Austerity economics is essential in order to reduce the National Debt.

Vote Tory if you believe the burden of tax should fall on ordinary citizens and that Corporations should be allowed to avoid paying tax.

Vote Tory if you want workers’ rights restricted and pay kept down to the minimum employers can get away with.

Vote Tory if you agree with the policy of shutting down Scotland’s military bases.

Vote Tory if you want to be burdened by paying for things like HS2 which will never reach Scotland.

Vote Tory if you agree that the defence monitoring of Scotland’s coastline should be left in the hands of our fishing fleet because the Royal Navy doesn’t have enough coastal patrol vessels.

Vote Tory if you are happy to see most Tax Offices closed down.

Vote Tory if you believe, in defiance of the facts, that a country cannot produce all its electricity from renewable sources, so subsidies to Scotland’s Renewable industry must be cut so that we can pay for a nuclear station in England which probably won’t work anyway.

Vote Tory if you think it is right that Scotland’s conventional electricity generating power plants should be shut down because of National Grid connection charges imposed by Westminster.

Vote Tory if you want to ensure that your ruling Government is always elected by the voters of England, no matter how Scotland votes.

Vote Tory if you agree that anyone who is Disabled deserves to have their social security payments reduced because they contribute nothing to society.

Vote Tory if you think people who are unemployed don’t deserve any financial assistance and should be sanctioned for missing appointments due to illness.

Vote Tory if you think children should be penalised for being born into poor families by their parents having Tax Credits restricted.

Vote Tory if you think it is right that a woman who has been raped should be subjected to a humiliating interview process if she wishes to claim an exemption from the Tax Credits cap.

Vote Tory if you think wages should be kept so low that hard-working families must still rely on Tax Credits to bring their income to a basic level.

Vote Tory if you are not bothered that 14 million people in the UK are living in poverty.

Vote Tory if you think poor people should be forced to rely on food banks.

Vote Tory if you believe it is in your interests to have your EU citizenship removed despite you voting to retain it.

Vote Tory if you want American corporations to impose their trading standards on the UK, and to be able to sue the UK Government if any legislation prevents them making money, even if the things they do harm our environment and people.

Vote Tory if you think chlorine-washed chicken from the USA sounds yummy and you want to eat lots of that lovely High Fructose Corn Syrup from genetically modified corn.

Vote Tory if you think fracking is a good idea, and are quite prepared to put up with property subsidence, carcinogenic toxins being released into the air and the water supply, while your gas bills will still go up.

Vote Tory if you are happy that your rail fares are among the highest in Europe, while the rail companies receive the highest Government subsidies. (If you can figure out why that is, let us know).

Vote Tory if you agree the Scottish fishing industry should be sacrificed in order to obtain concessions for the City of London from the EU during Brexit negotiations.

Vote Tory if you agree that Scottish farmers should stop receiving EU funding, sending many into bankruptcy.

Vote Tory if you think Scottish universities should stop receiving EU funding. After all, four of Scotland’s universities are in the top 100 in the world, so they don’t need any help to maintain this position, do they?

Vote Tory if you think the unelected House of Lords is a good thing.

Vote Tory if you believe, in defiance of the facts, that you won’t be able to watch the BBC in an independent Scotland.

Vote Tory if you want to have to apply for a visa every time you travel to Europe.

Vote Tory if you think it is right that anyone blowing the whistle on secret Government policies or leaking financial information damaging to the Government should be imprisoned.

Vote Tory if you are happy to have the Government monitor all your phone calls, texts and emails, and has the power to try you in a secret court at which you are not permitted to know the charges against you. (Yes, that really can happen).

Vote Tory if you agree Legal Aid should be made too expensive for the majority of citizens to afford.

Vote Tory if you believe that the way to incentivise rich people is to offer them more money but that the way to incentivise poor people is to reduce their income.

Vote Tory if you want all imports to become more expensive due to trade tariffs being imposed when the UK leaves the EU.

Vote Tory if you prefer doing trade deals with crazed dictators rather than our fellow Europeans.

Vote Tory if you believe families should be split up if one of the couple was not born in the UK and should be deported.

Vote Tory if you want to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia so they can murder children in Yemen.

Vote Tory if you like living in a country which, based on the proportion of national income taken by the top 1%, makes the UK the third most unequal in the developed world.

Vote Tory if, in spite of this fact, you still believe that being part of the UK involves “Pooling and Sharing".

Vote Tory if you think the Scottish Parliament should be abolished so that Westminster can rule Scotland directly and proceed with policies such as the privatisation of the NHS.

Vote Tory if you don’t care about any of the above because you’re doing OK and other people don’t matter to you.

I don’t know about you, but that’s helped me make up my mind.


A Bigger Problem

Posted on April 27th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

The news that the UK has slipped further down the rankings in the latest Press Freedom Index has been met by cries of anguish from some journalists bemoaning the fate of their profession, and it must be said that the UK Government’s stance on freedom of expression is growing more and more authoritarian as they seek to crush dissent and prevent anyone obtaining or publicising information which shows them in a bad light. The latest ranking, a drop to 40th place, is a sad, if unsurprising, indictment of Tory policies.

But another question must surely be why they are adopting this approach. It may well simply be their automatic attraction to suppressing any possible opposition, but the reality is that it is not so much freedom of the Press which is the problem in the UK; it is the bias of the Press. Freedom of expression should be everyone’s right, but the UK newspapers regularly abuse that right by printing stories which are often outright lies. And the reason they are doing it is to demonise any opposition to Right Wing tory rule. The SNP and anyone associated with them have been targets for years, and Jeremy Corbyn is now being subjected to the same treatment. The Press are, in fact, doing the Tories’ job for them.

So, while the steady slide down the Press Freedom Index ranking is deplorable, we shouldn’t confuse the freedom of the Press to report stories and voice opinions with the content of the stories and opinion pieces they actually publish. There is a difference and, while the UK Government is failing to uphold the principles of democracy, the Press themselves are failing the UK public without any help from anyone else.


Independence: Now IS The Time

Posted on April 26th, 2017

by Dan Iron

There are two separate strands in development which are coming to fruition at the same time. Scotland has a part to play but we must grasp this opportunity with both hands.

Firstly Scotland is blessed with humongous amounts of renewable energy. We have hydro, wind, wave and tidal energy. There is always a point where new technologies move away from being leading edge technology to commonplace, when the cost of implementing these technologies begins to get radically cheaper. We are now at this point - onshore wind power is now one of the cheapest ways of generating power.

Just recently, we have had the world’s first large-scale tidal energy farm in Scotland, in the Pentland Firth. It will eventually have 269 turbines, collectively providing enough energy to power 175,000 homes.

We already have large scale hydroelectric schemes including two incorporating pumped storage, which pump water back up to the reservoir using cheap off-peak electricity. There is a limited potential of new schemes of the same scale but other smaller scale projects are possible, either by a diversion weir and canal to run parallel to the river and thence to a turbine, or by a “run-of river" development.

There are also developments in solar power technology where, instead of using crystalline silicon, cheaper amorphous silicon is used. This is less efficient than the traditional solar panels using crystalline silicon but more environmentally friendly. It’s possible to create thin-film solar cells which can be bonded to other surfaces, such as roof tiles. Other thin-film technologies such as cadmium telluride (CdTe) photovoltaics are also available.

As Energy is reserved to Westminster there is a limitation to the measures that we in Scotland can take. At the end of 2015 many subsidies to renewable energy were reduced and the proposed Carbon Capture Scheme in Peterhead was cancelled. The UK was also the only G7 country to actually increase subsidies to fossil fuels. Scotland needs to be independent to take full advantage of renewable energy. We cannot rely on Westminster to take the right long-term decisions.

On a separate track has been the increasing use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) using advanced computing power. One component of AI is Machine Learning (ML) where neural networks are used to teach computers to recognise people, animals, objects etc. For example for computers to recognise pictures of cats, a large dataset of cat pictures and pictures not contain cats and labelled accordingly is provided to a neural net which can then, with a high degree of accuracy, distinguish between them.

The idea of neural nets has been around for some time but it is only recently that computing power has advanced to such a level that they have found real practical uses.

I mention ML because there is significant crossover between ML and another field where Scotland does particularly well - computer games. Increasingly in ML a graphics processing unit (GPU) is being used - the same ones that are used to drive computer games using high-definition 4k monitors. These GPUs operate at the speed of several trillion floating point operations per second (teraflops). For the cost of about £2,000 you can build your own ML computer. Alternatively, you can use cloud services such as Google’s.

The best way to advance economically is usually leveraging knowledge gained in one field into another closely related field. We can do this from computer games into ML. We can then do this from ML into another field in which Scotland does well - food production.

As I mentioned before, a particularly important aspect of ML is image recognition. Using these techniques it will be possible to revolutionize farming. Increasingly, fields of crops would be monitored by teams of solar-powered drones looking for and identifying any undesirable weeds and pests. Instead of mass spraying of chemical herbicides and pesticides, individual problems can be dealt with accordingly. Farming can then transition to, if not a completely organic system, one which is much more environmentally friendly.

Similar techniques can be used to harvest one of Scotland’s other resources - the seabed. To take one recent example, instead of dredging the seabed for scallops, individual underwater robots can be trained using ML to recognise scallops and collect individual scallops, and allowing them to harvest an environmentally sustainable quantity.

We will, in the next few years, see an increasing use in these technologies. Our opportunity in Scotland is going to be on the software, rather than the hardware side. We will increasingly see the creation of large scale robot-driven factories based closer to the products’ end destination. The big bucks will be in design and development of new products rather than their production.

The fundamental technology underpinning all these new developments is fast broadband. Many ML techniques can make use of the “cloud" - where, rather than purchasing your own expensive hardware, you make use of online storage and processing power. Of course, to use the “cloud" involves the transfer of large amounts of data in either direction. This brings us to the main limiting factor in the UK - the lack of symmetric high-speed broadband. This is one area where the UK is lagging behind - if not compared to the rest of Europe then certainly compared to the Far East. You might think you’re doing well if you have a 36 Megabits per second (Mbps) connection, but this was the standard internet offering in Tokyo at least ten years ago. In Singapore, for example, you can now get a 10 Gigabits per second (Gbps) connection. This is almost 300 times faster than 36Mbps. The standard internet speed should be 1Gbps - this is the same speed as a local network would be using.

However, current broadband speeds are too low. Any speed above 30Mbps is classed as “superfast" broadband for example. It’s simply not fast enough. Even some of the commercially available broadband connections go up to 300Mbps for download but only 20Mbps for upload. This is fine if you’re streaming videos or films but insufficient when you are working in the “cloud". For this you need a symmetric connection with similar download and upload speeds. This entails fibre connections all the way to the home or business, Fibre To The Premises (FTTP).

Telecommunications is reserved to Westminster and commercial rollout of fibre broadband is being done in Scotland by BT and Virgin. (There is a separate programme being carried out by the Scottish government called Digital Scotland in more remote parts of the country where the commercial products will not be available.) As this is a commercial rollout, BT and Virgin will need to make a profit, so FTTP connections will only be done where there is sufficient demand. What we need in Scotland is a 1Gbps network in the entire country. We need to take full control of telecommunications and for this Scotland needs independence. We cannot look to Westminster to help Scotland advance - we have to do it ourselves.

We now come to the crux of the title of this article - why now? Firstly climate change is getting pretty serious. Last Tuesday 18th April the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii recorded a CO2 reading of 410.28 parts per million (ppm). This was the very first time that any measurement above 410 ppm was recorded. For comparison, when the observatory first began recording CO2 levels in 1958, it was 280 ppm. It is believed we now have the highest CO2 levels in millions of years. We really have to go full speed ahead for renewables.

Secondly, we are going to see major changes in the next few years with the introduction of robots and AI. I know that this has been talked about for a long time, but it’s only recently that the hardware has caught up with the science. I believe that we are going to be surprised by the speed of change. And it’s coming in the next few years. A lot of jobs will disappear and, although new jobs will arise, the overall job situation will not look good. One consequence of this will be the necessity of introducing Universal Basic Income (UBI). UBI is the chance, for once, to get ahead of the game. A medium-sized independent country with its own currency can be in a very good position to prosper from the changes to come.

We need independence and now IS the time.

Please note, nowhere in this article have I mentioned the commodity comprising three letters beginning with “o".


Loves Labour's Lost

Posted on April 23rd, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

So the Tory revival in Scotland is well and truly underway. Depending on which poll figures you believe, the SNP’s lead is anywhere from 11% to 15%, with many Unionists proclaiming a swing from SNP to the Tories. IN fact, the far greater swing appears to be from Labour to the Tories because the SNP vote is largely holding up, while Labour’s is collapsing.

What this suggests is that, for a great many former Labour voters, being controlled by Westminster, even with the Tories in charge, is more important to them than the socialist values they once professed to champion. If that’s not a sign of blind nationalism, what is?

Labour’s demise now seems inevitable, since they previously lost a lot of voters to the SNP, which is why they slumped to third place in the Holyrood elections. It wasn’t that Ruth Davidson did particularly well – she didn’t – but much of Labour’s support shifted to the SNP. Now a fairly significant portion of Labour’s residual supporters seem to have abandoned them in favour of the Tories.

Many people have argued that the only way Labour can save themselves and regain support is to alter their stance on Scottish independence. That’s not going to happen because Scottish Labour is not an independent Party, merely the famous Branch Office of Westminster Labour, and that ruling body is very, very, pro-Union. Even if Kezia Dugdale was minded to do a U-turn on independence in order to save her Party, she wouldn’t be allowed to.

Which, if the current polling figures are to be believed – and we should all be taking polls with a very large dose of salt in light of recent voting results – is probably good news for the SNP. That’s because a Labour announcement of support for independence might woo back some of the voters who previously switched to the SNP, but it certainly wouldn’t attract those who have happily abandoned their socialist principles in order to help the Tories preserve the Union. Because of the iniquities of the dreadfully undemocratic First Past The Post voting system, that would result in the pro-Indie vote being split even further, and would open the door to even more Tory MPs being elected than the dozen or so which is now being forecast.

On which point, it is worth saying that, even if the Tories do win a dozen seats, that’s still a victory for the SNP who only need 30 seats to have a majority of Scottish MPs. Just because you didn’t do as well as you did the last time you won, it doesn’t mean you’ve lost.

As for Labour, let’s leave them to wallow in their pro-Union decline. All future elections in Scotland are going to be about the binary choice between the union and Independence. That’s not how it should be, but it’s what the Tories have turned it into. Like it or not, that’s the electoral battleground we face.


What A Choice

Posted on April 19th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Theresa May has shown, once again, that you can’t really believe anything she says. As recently as the Easter weekend, her stated position was that Now is not the time for divisive referendums because the country is uniting to make the best of Brexit. Then, all of a sudden, now is the time for a divisive General Election which will no doubt be used as a proxy for re-runs of the EU and Scottish Independence referendums because, you know, the country isn’t united enough and May feels the need to confirm her mandate.

The problem we all face is that, if the Pols are to be believed, the Tories are likely to gain a much larger majority this time round despite their harmful policies.

You have to wonder at the mentality of voters who keep electing a Government which is determined to take away their Health Service, reduce Pensions, remove Human Rights and constantly cut public services, but perhaps it is the lack of an alternative which keeps the Tories in power.

But are there any alternatives? What are the choices facing us in this snap General Election which definitely wasn’t going to be called until it was?

In Scotland, it’s pretty clear. The choice is essentially a two-way fight between the SNP and the Tories. Labour might trot out the old mantra about needing to vote Labour to defeat the Tories but there are two excellent reasons why people shouldn’t heed this warning. The first is that, as the last GE demonstrated, even if Labour had won every Scottish seat, they still wouldn’t have had a majority in Westminster because England voted Tory. The second reason is Jeremy Corbyn who lacks any real leadership talent and has no chance of winning an election anyway. Besides, for all their loudly proclaimed Socialist policies, Labour remain a Unionist Party and are also pro-Brexit. Why vote for them when they are essentially copying the Tories on the two most important issues facing us?

It’s probably fair to say that the SNP didn’t want this election. The three non-SNP seats all hang by slim majorities, so there’s a chance they could be taken. However, the chances of the SNP retaining all the seats they took in 2015 are slim, mostly because a lot of former Labour voters are going to vote Tory simply in order to preserve the Union. Unionist media commentators are already trying to say that any reduction in the number of seats will be a defeat. It’s patent nonsense, of course, since a majority remains a majority, but that’s not how it will be portrayed. It will be interesting to see how Theresa May (if she is still PM after the election) responds to the next call to grant another IndieRef. She’s stalled the section 30 request by calling this snap General Election, but she can’t put it off forever.

Some people are urging the SNP to make the General Election all about independence and saying they should simply declare Indy if they gain a majority of seats. It’s not impossible that they will adopt this approach but the SNP tend to be cautious and it seems more likely that they will simply use a majority to press for another IndieRef, saving the drastic action for later if May continues to be intransigent.

But what about England? For voters there, the choice is rather more difficult. If you are pro-EU, then the Tories and Labour shouldn’t get your vote. Which leaves the Greens or the Lib Dems.

It would be great to see the Greens do something significant but the reality is that, especially under the unfair First Past The Post voting system, they are unlikely to win more than a handful of seats at best. That’s a shame, but English voters seem to regard the Greens as outliers and too far from the mainstream to attract much support.

As for the Lib Dems, their only real saving grace is that they are pro-EU. This might see them pick up a lot of seats if voters decide May’s Brexit is going to be as bad as we all fear. The problem is that voters will need to hold their noses as they vote. The Lib Dems are proven liars, and you can’t help thinking they would probably have no qualms about entering into another coalition with the Tories if the election result brought about a hung Parliament. And then there is Tim Farron, as imperialist in outlook as any Unionist. This won’t do him any harm in England, but he’s also very reluctant to speak out in support of gay rights. Again, many voters may not care about this, but if you are a socially progressive, pro-EU voter, the Lib Dems wouldn’t be your ideal choice.

It’s all a bit of a mess, isn’t it? Is there anything positive that can be said about UK politics just now? Well, no, not really. Northern Ireland is in political limbo, Scotland’s request for the right to choose its future has been put on hold, Wales is largely ignored, the Brexit negotiations are going to be delayed, nobody knows what the outcome of the GE will be. Isn’t it funny that the Tories have suddenly stopped talking about Uncertainty? But everything is uncertain, and it seems that, not only are we driving at full speed towards that cliff edge, everybody has let go of the steering wheel.


The Moral Low Ground

Posted on April 18th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

The IndieRef has a lot to answer for. It’s reached the stage where you can’t even go away on holiday without frequently checking up on what’s going on in Scottish Politics. Sad, isn’t it? But the holidays are over, so it’s back to pontificating.

The main topic of discussion last week was the Rape Clause and the 2 Child restriction on Children’s Tax Credits. Plenty has been written and said about those dreadful policies, so there is no need to add much to that except to say that, morally reprehensible as the Rape Clause is, the number of women who will be affected by the 2 Child cap will be even more significant, and this latest attack on the poorer people in society will inevitably lead to more cases of homelessness, to further reliance on food banks, and to yet more burdens being placed on already stretched Council services.

However, moving slightly away from the specifics of the latest Tory attacks on the less well off, there are some broader observations on the issue of State support which might be worth considering. For example, why should the State pay parents to bring up their children at all?

This sort of question strikes a chord with many of the better off people in our society. The reason is that, being humans, we are all to some extent prone to emotions like self-interest, jealousy, and a tendency to adopt an air of moral superiority over others who do not share our views or standards. Take a hard look back over the last time you interacted with strangers to see what I mean. Did you come across a shop assistant who was slow, incompetent or rude? Did you encounter some inconsiderate lout who blocked your path or bumped into you without apologising? Did you get stuck behind a driver who dawdled along at 25 mph when you were in a hurry to get somewhere? If you did, I’ll bet you were angry at their attitude because you, of course, would never behave that way. As another example, those of us who have children tend to view our own kids as perfectly well behaved if sometimes a little boisterous, while other people’s children can be badly behaved and undisciplined.

It is this natural tendency to look down on others which the Tory arguments rely on and, because we can all empathise with the view when we encounter someone whose behaviour offends us, it can be difficult to argue against the blunt arguments which pander to the “Me first!" attitude so prevalent in British society.

As for the recent Tax Credits furore, people who are relatively well off often adopt the attitude of affordability when considering any major decision, and this may even extend to having children. That is certainly the impression they give when they say things like, “People who can’t afford to have children shouldn’t have any at all."

What this mindset goes on to reinforce is the issue of responsibility. Of course, taking responsibility for one’s actions is important, which is why the Tory soundbites are so effective in shaping public opinion. But should affordability really be taken into account when it comes to children because, after all, having children is pretty essential to the continuation of the human race.

“Yes," say the Tory-minded. “You can’t expect the State to pay for your kids, especially when it’s my taxes that are funding your lack of willingness to accept responsibility for your own children."

As I say, these ideas have some power, because we all know the sort of people who don’t pull their weight at work, or who don’t seem to care much about the upbringing of their children.

The perception inherent in these views is that such people have lots of children simply in order to extract more money out of the State, but it would probably be fair to say that those who hold these opinions would be likely to change their minds rather quickly if they had to swap places with a family trying to live on State support. Anyone who thinks the few pounds a week paid for each child is sufficient to feed and clothe that child either doesn’t have children or has never had to think about the amount of money they have spent on their own children.

Now, it must be admitted that there are always people who will attempt to use a system to benefit themselves. You only need to watch TV to see stories of benefits claimants, Health tourists and other scroungers. This media exposure is, however, misleading. For one thing, you rarely see programmes about MPs claiming ridiculous amounts for ridiculous items on their Expenses, or large Corporations avoiding tax or mistreating their employees. It does happen occasionally, but not nearly so often as programmes which allow us to hate poor people who are scrounging from us.

All of this is part of the great British Class Divide. Having children you can’t afford to support is seen as a cause of poverty rather than a symptom, in much the same way as smoking cigarettes, drinking cheap alcohol and being dependent on drugs are seen as causes and not symptoms in spite of several social studies providing evidence to the contrary.

Which leads to the issue of why Tax Credits are needed at all. If the UK economy worked for the people instead of for the major Corporations and the wealthy, jobs would pay well enough to avoid the need for the State to pay out in Tax Credits. That, however, would require a very long term change of direction in policy even if the political will existed. In the UK, that political will is totally lacking. Low wages benefit Corporations, so the UK is never going to encourage higher wages for the working class.

That aside, there is a more sinister aspect to the view that poor people should not be allowed to have children, because that attitude is rather too close to ideas of eugenics for my liking. On a moral and philosophical level, what gives anyone the right to play God and determine who should have children and who should not?

But let’s get down from the moral high ground for a moment and try to look at the problem as a Tory would look at it – in economic terms. It is here that we see another major problem with the entire concept of denying State support for the raising of children.

To begin with, we all know that the UK has an aging population. This is why the Pension Age is being slowly but steadily increased, and why the UK has one of the lowest State Pensions in the OECD when compared to average earnings.

How can this be addressed? Putting aside the issue of prioritising expenditure so that social care moves up and things like paying for nuclear weapons and incessant war move down the list, there are still a few options available. We’d better look at these because, quite frankly, the UK is never going to prioritise social care over vanity projects and muscle-flexing.

So, let’s consider Private Pensions. Since the 1980s, the UK has been trying to persuade people to set up Personal Pension Plans. This has now reached the stage where it is compulsory for employers to set up Pension plans for their employees. This gives the Government an excuse to keep State Pensions low since they can point out that individuals need to take responsibility for their own retirement but, compared to pension arrangements in other European countries such as Denmark, the UK Private Pensions pay out very low amounts since they are largely used as vehicles for the Pension Providers to make a lot of money from fees and Management charges.

So how else can we tackle the Pensions Deficit? One way is to increase the Government’s tax income. This could be most easily done by raising more tax from Corporations, but the UK has long pursued a very different path, mostly because the large Corporations pay large sums of money into Party coffers for the Tories and also provide sinecure jobs for retiring MPs.

OK, let’s try another option. How about expanding the personal tax base? If we brought in more immigrants, we could earn more in tax from the jobs they take up. Ah, you see the problem there, don’t you? The UK has told the world it hates immigrants, so that’s not much of an option either.

Or, finally, we reach the conclusion that one way would be to encourage people to have more children. Other countries do this. IN Germany, parents apparently receive higher amounts of State support for each successive child, a stark contrast to the UK which has decided to penalise younger children. Yet without a new generation who can grow up to fill job vacancies and pay taxes, how on earth do the people who complain about poor folk having children expect their Pensions to be paid when they grow old? If the answer to that is that these individuals have managed to secure healthy pensions for themselves and they don’t care about people who will be relying on the State Pension, then all you can say is that this is another symptom of the uncaring “Me first!" attitude which drives so much of Tory policy.

So we have returned to social morality. But don’t go away with the impression that I’m in favour of some Communist Utopia where everyone is equal. There is nothing wrong with people who work hard being rewarded. Climbing the ladder is perfectly fine because we all want to do the best for ourselves and our families. The problem with the UK is that, by and large, working hard is no longer a route out of poverty. There are an estimated 14 million UK citizens living in poverty, and most of them belong to an in-work household. If you are born poor, you are likely to remain poor all your life because those who have climbed the ladder have pulled it up after themselves. Pooling and sharing sounds fine as a concept, but it has utterly failed in reality. That is why State support is needed because, in all these discussions, we must not lose sight of the fact that the restriction on Tax Credits is going to harm the most innocent and vulnerable people imaginable; the children themselves. If for no other reason, that ought to be enough to condemn the policy in the eyes of any person who has an ounce of compassion.


Chocolate Teapots

Posted on April 4th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

To be fair to Theresa May, if somebody had asked me what I thought of Cadbury’s and the National Trust banning the word, “Easter" from their chocolate egg hunt, I probably would have responded that it was a ridiculous thing to do. To that extent, I have some empathy with her statement.

That, however, is as far as my empathy goes, because there are a few other quite ridiculous things about this silly saga.

First of all, it is ridiculous that the media should whip up such a storm over a story which, it transpires, is Fake News of the classic sort, since Easter has not been dropped by either Cadbury’s or the National Trust. You’d think any journalist of reasonable competence might be able to check little details like that but, as in so many areas, the UK media is about as much use as a chocolate teapot.

The whole absurd claim seems to have emanated from the Church of England who, for reasons best known to themselves, seem to want people to believe that Easter is being relegated to the status of some minority religious festival. OK, maybe that’s fair, since Easter, for most people, is more about chocolate eggs than religion. And before you get upset about that remark, compare the number of people who eat chocolate eggs to the number who go to Church, and you’ll see what I mean. In that respect, I can appreciate the Church wanting to make a bit of a fuss, but making false allegations surely isn’t a very Christian thing to do, is it?

The media, of course, has been complicit in highlighting the non-story. That’s because it has an agenda, which is to distract the public from more serious issues, which is another of the ridiculous things about how the UK system works. Never mind embarrassing threats of war with Spain, never mind Brexit, never mind fresh cuts to Social Security coming into force, never mind the potential break up of the UK. Let’s just complain about a non-existent threat to what they seem to think is the Christian tradition of eating as much chocolate as we can.

Then there is the most ridiculous aspect of the whole thing. Giving Theresa May the benefit of the doubt and assuming that the question about chocolate eggs was put to her unexpectedly and wasn’t a set-up, it still seems odd that she is willing to denounce this as ridiculous but seems incapable of denouncing other things which some people might regard as perhaps more important. You know, things like her trying to sell more arms to Saudi Arabia so they can murder Yemeni civilians, or Michael Howard and others making bellicose threats against a NATO ally. But no, these things appear to be further down the list of issues than chocolate eggs. That’s not only ridiculous, it’s downright disgraceful.


Yes, But Is It Legal?

Posted on April 3rd, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

The confirmation that Spain has never had any intentions of blocking an independent Scotland from joining the EU is, at long last, beginning to filter through to the UK’s mainstream media, despite being well known via alternative media sources for ages. There is, however, a potential problem for the Indie movement in Spain’s attitude which has, so far, received very little attention.

Spain insists it will not have an issue if Scotland gains its independence through legal and constitutional channels. That’s great, and hopefully Scotland will be able to achieve that goal. However, we cannot ignore the possibility that Theresa May will absolutely rule out another IndyRef. It would be a political clanger of epic proportions but, technically, she is perfectly within her constitutional rights to do so. This is, of course, one of the problems which lies at the very heart of the Indie movement, that Scotland is not allowed to do anything if Westminster says, “No", but that doesn’t remove the problem.

So, if May is dictatorial enough to show the entire world that Scottish democracy counts for nothing, and is prepared to put up with the inevitable backlash from thrawn scots who might just see that as the last straw preventing them from switching to Yes, Nicola Sturgeon has a real problem.

There are those who believe Scotland should make a Unilateral Declaration of Independence, but UDI is dangerous for a variety of reasons, not least of which is that it puts a Spanish veto back on the agenda because it would clearly be unconstitutional and illegal, just as Spain does not recognise Kossovo for precisely the same reasons.

So, it was pleasing to hear Mike Russell, the Scottish Government’s Brexit Minister, repeat his assertion that the Scottish Government intended to work for independence in an entirely legal and constitutional way. That will definitely keep the likes of Spain onside, but it raises the question of what alternatives the SNP has if May sticks to her guns. There is no doubt they will have worked out some sort of strategy, but what that might be is anyone’s guess. There has been some speculation that it might involve a referendum incorporating some different wording which would make an assertion of independence legally acceptable, but we’ll need to wait and see.

The ball is very much in Theresa May’s court now, and she’s going to have a hard job justifying an absolute refusal to agree to another ScotRef when this past weekend has been all about recognising Gibraltar’s right to self-determination.

As for all the nonsense about war with Spain, the most alarming thing about this is the fact that Downing Street did not quickly move to distance itself from the comments by Michael Howard and others. This suggests he was acting as an unofficial spokesman to lay the groundwork for an official stance, and to test the waters. The speed with which The Telegraph produced its pro-war articles also suggests they were briefed beforehand. All of which shows that the imperialist attitudes of the Westminster Establishment are alive and well. The fact that such Gunboat diplomacy is still the default reaction of some members of the establishment is really very worrying. The only glimmer of hope is that such idiocy might be enough to persuade undecided Scots that our best hope for the future is to let England go its own way and to vote for Scottish independence if and when Nicola Sturgeon manages to arrange a legally and constitutionally valid Referendum.


The BBC Effect

Posted on March 30th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

A few days ago, I had a long and very worrying conversation with a chap who insisted he would be voting No in the next Scottish IndyRef. He claimed he had voted Yes last time, although I have a strong suspicion he only said that in order to establish some credentials as a floating voter who would be persuaded by arguments.

Let’s call this chap Jim. Jim is in his fifties, is well educated and has a good job. He lives in a nice house in a pleasant suburb, has a wife and three kids, two cars and a decent standard of living. Jim insisted that, for him, the economic and financial case for an independent Scotland had not been made. He was concerned by the collapse in the oil price, the £15bn Deficit, the fact that Scotland is the highest taxed region in the UK, the threat of even higher taxes which would be necessary to cope with the enormous deficit, and the fact that the inevitable hard border between Scotland and England would increase prices.

Where have you heard all that before?

Naturally, I did my best to explain things to him. That was even more alarming for me because he made a number of very revealing statements. He did not know, for example, that the NHS in England is being privatised; he had never heard that Theresa May had implied that foreign doctors would be deported as soon as British doctors were able to replace them; and he did not know that Norway had managed to earn billions of dollars from oil revenue while the UK had barely managed to scrape in a few odd coins.

All in all, the level of Jim’s ignorance was quite astounding. Yet he firmly believes he is well informed on political issues. So I asked him where he got his information from. His response probably won’t surprise you. He listens to BBC Radio Scotland, he watches BBC Question Time and he reads The Scotsman.

Now, it is easy for Yessers to mock the naivety of someone of Jim’s mature years who still genuinely believes that the BBC is completely impartial, but we shouldn’t forget that his generation grew up being constantly told that the BBC was unbiased and impartial. The scales have fallen off the eyes of many, but Jim’s absolute faith in the BBC shows that the message has not reached everyone.

I must admit I was worried for his sanity when he informed me that he thought The Scotsman was fair and balanced in its reporting of Scottish politics, and even more worried by his incredulity when I explained that every mainstream newspaper apart from The National and The Sunday Herald is against Indy.

But, as I say, our task is not to mock the ignorance of people like Jim. I now have a mission to pass on some alternative views to him, and that has already begun. Whether he will be able to shake off a lifetime of indoctrination by the UK State remains uncertain, and there is a risk he will either dismiss or even not read any of the information I send him, but I’ll keep plugging away.

But this little episode should serve as a reminder for all Yessers. We may think the arguments are on our side, and we may deride those politicians who spout half-truths, misrepresentations and downright lies without being challenged by the media, and we may laugh at that same media’s ridiculous attempts to distort the facts in order to promote the UK’s agenda, but we really must recognise that there is a very good reason these politicians and media outlets do what they do. It may seem pathetic and ridiculous to us, but it works. It works because many people like Jim have no idea that there are alternative sources of information available to them. They have spent their lives trusting the BBC without knowing they are being fed propaganda.

I know the bookies are giving a Yes vote good odds this time, but my discussion with Jim left me feeling that we have an awful lot of work to do.


Remarkably Remarkable

Posted on March 28th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Theresa May is a remarkable politician. Yesterday, on the day that the Power-Sharing Agreement in Northern Ireland was collapsing, it was quite remarkable that she chose to ignore the Province and visit Scotland instead. There, she gave a speech in which she mentioned Unity several times but, remarkably, failed to mention Northern Ireland’s lack of unity at all. The citizens of Northern Ireland and Scotland are perhaps justified in wondering why she made this remarkable decision. It couldn’t have anything to do with the relative wealth of the two constituent parts of the UK and which one she is more desperate to hold onto, could it?

As for the rest of her speech, this was also remarkable. Standing in front of a sign proclaiming a Plan for Britain, she conspicuously failed to articulate any actual policies which might help deliver her vision of a United UK. Instead, all we got was a lot of spin and empty rhetoric which was applauded by her audience of civil servants because, allegedly, they had been ordered to applaud her. She then walked off without answering any questions. Not that there were any journalists there to ask questions, since they were kept outside.

As for the little she did say, there were a few remarkable comments.

According to May, the UK is a force for good, working for everyone. It is probably fair to say that there are a great many residents (or former residents) of places like Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Libya who might disagree with her assessment.

She also told us that the UK is a kind and caring country which never turns its back on people in need. This is another remarkable claim which would probably be disputed by a wide range of people, including refugees from the countries listed above, as well as by anyone who has been sanctioned for being a few seconds late for an interview at their Job Centre.

Then, as if rounding off a series of remarkable statements, she informed us that the UK is an unstoppable force. That’s quite belligerent language, since it implies that anyone trying to stop us will be overpowered, but let’s be generous and point out that she was, in fact, referring to a leading scientific research project being undertaken at the University of Glasgow, seeking to combat the Zika virus. To be fair, it would be wonderful if the UK proved unstoppable in that sort of research. What was remarkable about her comment, though, was that she, or whoever does her research for her, failed to mention that the research is largely funded, not by the UK Government, but by the EU. As an example of how a post-Brexit UK can be a force for good, it was a remarkably bad choice.

And, at the end of it all, what did we learn? Well, we now know Brexit means Brexit, it will be a Red, White and Blue Brexit, that Now Is Not The Time, and that the UK is an Unstoppable Force which will be more united after Brexit. If anyone can decipher that and put into the context of some actual policies, that would be an even more remarkable accomplishment than May’s ability to speak for ten minutes without saying anything of any value.


Hate Free Zone

Posted on March 26th, 2017

by Wee Hamish

My neighbours are English. You can tell that as soon as they speak to you. As far as I’m concerned, though, they’re just my neighbours. They’ve lived and worked in Scotland for nearly thirty years. Their children grew up here and they’ve now got grandchildren who were born here.

I was chatting to them the other day and asked whether they’d ever experienced any anti-English hatred, especially since the last IndyRef. Both of them looked at me as if I was daft.

“Not once," they both said.

Which makes a lot of the online claims being made even more mysterious. Some of these are so absurd, it’s becoming clear that the Unionists are waging an online war by spreading lies. Some of them can be hard to spot, but others are so plainly ridiculous it’s a wonder they think they can get away with it.

One example last week was particularly hilarious. A woman claimed her child was attending State School in Scotland and could not spell in English because she was being taught in Scots.

Seriously? Who in Scotland talks about State schools? And who is ever taught in scots?

This claim met with much ridicule, but it’s a warning sign that there may well be other, less obviously idiotic claims out there. The sole purpose of these claims is to paint a picture of Scotland as a racist, anti-English place.

The thing is, what is the point of this tactic? It’s clearly intended to demonise supporters of Indy, but anyone who actually lives in Scotland and believes this nonsense isn’t going to be a supporter of Indy anyway. Most Scots will know that, while we’ve got our fair share of bampots, being English – or being any other nationality – doesn’t create the same sort of racist response which is becoming more common in England.

But what is the point of this? It’s hardly likely to create the sort of united country the unionists keep calling for, is it? The aim seems to be to demonise supporters of Indy so that the media can latch onto this idea of Scotland being a place full of anti-English resentment. By goading people with lies, the trolls are trying to provoke a reaction which they can then use to prove their point. But it’s a strange way to try to persuade people to change their minds on Indy. Insulting people isn’t usually a good way to convince them they are wrong. Many Unionists don’t seem to understand this because they’ve become used to divisive politics.

So, if you see or hear anyone making this sort of claim, call them out on it, but do it politely or with humour. Don’t fall for the trap they are setting.

And if you do see or hear any Scot making anti-English or anti-Muslim or anti-anyone remarks, call them out too. We want to make Scotland a welcoming country. That’s what Nicola Sturgeon said in her speech at the SNP Conference, and that’s what all of us ought to be doing. Let’s make Scotland a hate-free zone!


Fish Supper?

Posted on March 20th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Economies are complex things, which is why making accurate economic forecasts is virtually impossible, even for the genuine experts. For example, take a look at the Office for Budget Responsibility. While some might quibble over this organisation being classed as expert, the Chancellor of the exchequer relies heavily on OBR forecasts when making Budget plans. Yet, since being established in 2010, the OBR has produced a startling consistency in the inaccuracy of its forecasts, even when making predictions only six months ahead in relatively stable political and economic periods. It is wrong every time.

Other expert economists are equally incapable of predicting what is going to happen with any degree of certainty on specific issues. In this regard, we really ought to view economists more like dentists; they can give general advice and predict likely eventual outcomes but there is no way they can specifically say when one particular bad (or good) thing is going to happen. They can be much more helpful when something does happen, in that they can help fix it, but predicting specifics is difficult; much more difficult for economists than for dentists.

Which is why all the predictions we are being bombarded with about the calamity facing an independent Scotland should be taken with a very large pinch of salt. Equally, specific predictions on , say, how many jobs will be lost as a result of Brexit must be viewed with some scepticism. All expert economists can do is give us a broad picture of what might happen and, even then, there are so many unpredictable variables that such forecasts will be, at best, broadly accurate and, at worst, wildly off the mark.

Last time round, the economy of an independent Scotland came under intense media scrutiny and this time will be no different, although there is huge hypocrisy among Unionist pundits since most of them are completely silent on the total lack of an economic plan for a post-Brexit UK. Still, that’s the way the UK media works, so we won’t escape the barrage of doom-mongering.

There is no doubt that the economic future of an independent Scotland is uncertain. There will inevitably be challenges and difficulties to overcome, especially establishing the economic infrastructure of a Central Bank, reserves of foreign exchange and, in all likelihood, a new currency. Having said that, we must bear in mind that plenty of other countries have overcome these obstacles without apparent disaster, so the only reason to believe Scotland could not do the same is if you suffer from a particularly strong strain of The Cringe.

What can be said with a fair degree of certainty is that the choice we face in the next Referendum will be a much starker one than the first. If you had to place a bet on which country would come out of things in better economic shape, you must ask yourself whether it will be a small nation with membership of the EU, having a wealth of natural resources, a currency backed by oil revenues (and a new tax regime along the lines of Norway’s system would guarantee future revenue from this source), with a welcoming attitude towards citizens of other nations, and with the drive and ingenuity that has seen Scotland contribute a host of industrial and scientific advances in the past, or a xenophobic, isolated tax haven with low wages, trade restrictions and a passion for Austerity economics. Quite frankly, it’s a bit of a no-brainer.

The media will always find some people who have lost out whatever happens, because there are winners and losers in all walks of life and with all political and economic decisions, but the chances must be in favour of an independent Scotland soon establishing itself as a wealthy nation. Don’t forget that the Ratings Agency, Standard & Poors, said they would give Scotland their highest rating (i.e. AAA, higher than the UK’s current rating of AA), even excluding the financial benefits of North Sea Oil. Cynics amongst you might point out that the Credit Agencies failed to spot the warning signs of the 2008 financial crash, but it cannot be denied they generally know how wealthy a country is.

Looking at the comments of a second Ratings Agency, Fitch said in 2014 that Scotland becoming independent would mean it would take longer for the UK’s rating to return to top grade. This is an odd remark if we are to believe the Subsidy Myth. If Scotland really is subsidised, losing this drain on resources should mean the Ratings Agencies would be happy to see the RUK’s improved financial position, yet Fitch said exactly the opposite. Again, ignoring the media assertions and looking to independent commentary, we are forced to conclude that other people have a lot more confidence in Scotland’s economic outlook than do many Scots.

But all this talk of economics masks another issue. Should we really be so hung up on what might or might not happen in the future? Economics are important, but every country’s economy is affected by political and economic factors outside its own control, and every country must manage whatever comes along to the best of its ability. Perhaps we should take a leaf out of the Brexit book and decide that the economic consequences are not the most important factor in our decision over independence.

What is important is that Scotland should be able to make its own decisions on all areas of policy, including economic matters. Sticking with the UK means we will lose such valuable things as Workers’ Rights, everyone’s Human Rights, the right to freely travel and work throughout the EU, as well as the enormous trading benefits of the single market. The social issues are even more important than the financial ones. Voting No is likely to result in the abolition of the Holyrood Parliament; perhaps not immediately, and perhaps not in one fell swoop, but, with Labour in disarray, the Tories are set to retain power for the foreseeable future and they detest Holyrood with a passion. Without the Scottish Government to protect us, we not only stand to lose the various rights we currently enjoy as part of the EU, we stand to see our NHS privatised, Austerity economics imposed even more harshly, cuts to Social Security and Pensions, as well as the very important issue of foreign nationals being deported in what are often quite inhumane circumstances. All of these things are valuable for a truly compassionate society, and they will all be lost if we vote No again.

So, take economic predictions with that pinch of salt – even if they support the Yes cause, and let’s not lose sight of the enormous damage that will be done to our society if we don’t make the right choice this time. After all, there has never been any other country which, when faced with the chance to gain independence, made its first question, “Can we afford it?" The fact that this dominates Scottish thinking is actually rather sad, and is a symptom of the UK Establishment’s policy of constantly telling Scots they are dependent on the UK for everything. Too many people have believed this in the past. Hopefully, more and more will see that being able to make our own decisions on how we want to live is more important than whether we’ll be richer or poorer by the price of a fish supper.


Not Now!

Posted on March 16th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Let’s get one thing clear. Theresa May has not blocked Scotland’s next IndyRef. The Scottish Parliament has not yet approved that any formal request be made to Westminster. Once that approach is made, then May will have a decision to make. Until then, all she is doing is trying to set out a position.

In doing so, she is digging a hole for herself. She has tacitly admitted that the Scottish electorate will be able to decide on whether they want to abide by the outcome of the Brexit negotiations. What she has also admitted is that her own timetable for reaching agreement with the EU is far from certain.

To be fair, you can understand why she doesn’t want to be involved in a referendum campaign while also trying to negotiate with the EU but, quite frankly, that is her problem. It is unrealistic for her to expect the Scottish Government to agree to Scotland being taken out of the EU before the IndyRef is held. The principal reason for calling the referendum is to maintain EU membership, not to leave and then be placed in limbo until we gain independence and re-apply.

A couple of other reasons for May’s desire to delay have been suggested. First is that she wants to be able to use Scotland’s fishing waters as a giveaway in the EU negotiations. Quite frankly, I can’t see the EU falling for this if they know there is a good chance those fishing waters will not be hers to give away.

The second reason cited is that a delay until after the UK has left the EU will disenfranchise the thousands of EU citizens currently living in Scotland. Most of these are likely to vote Yes in order to preserve their current status, so it is in May’s interests to have them removed from the franchise. However, unless these thousands of individuals have either voluntarily left Scotland or been forcibly deported, they should still have a vote since it is the Scottish Government who decides who can vote in the referendum.

Next week should be interesting. With the support of the Greens, the section 30 proposal should go through against the protests of the Unionist Parties. After that, Theresa May must decide whether to accept the democratic decision of the Scottish Parliament or to adopt the stance of a dictator and deny it. More likely, she will enter into some intense bargaining with Nicola Sturgeon over the timing of when the IndyRef should be held. The outcome of that discussion will be very revealing. Someone is going to have to back down.


Surprise, Surprise!

Posted on March 14th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

I must admit I didn’t think Nicola Sturgeon would call for IndyRef2 before Article 50 was officially triggered. As usual, though, she has shown not only that she’s a lot smarter than me, but also that she’s a lot smarter than Theresa May. She’s caught the PM flat-footed and it is perhaps no coincidence that the official notification of leaving the EU has been postponed from its expected date of today. Sturgeon’s pre-emptive move has left Downing Street in a real bind as they try to figure out their options.

When the UK does begin its Brexit negotiations, the people at the other side of the table will know that the UK has potentially lost some of its main bargaining chips. Nigel Farage has claimed that the UK’s fishing waters were top of the list to be sacrificed but that’s now rather a hollow threat since most of the fishing waters could potentially move outwith London’s control.

Is there anything May can do to bring Nicola Sturgeon back onside? It seems unlikely. May’s Little Britain view of life won’t permit her to include Scotland in negotiations or to pay any attention to the compromises offered by the Scottish Government. The hardline Tories won’t countenance bowing to pressure from Scotland, so the only threat May now has is that she can refuse to allow IndyRef2, or can control the timing of when it is held. This would be a dangerous tactic since it strikes at the very heart of the whole constitutional issue. Why should one country in a Treaty of Union need to ask permission from the other to hold a democratic referendum? Whatever May decides to do, it seems certain Nicola Sturgeon will have anticipated her reaction and will be prepared with a response of her own.

The other thing Nicola Sturgeon did yesterday was display how a leader should operate. Instead of standing in front of an admiring audience at her Party conference, she instead held a briefing with an almost unanimously hostile Press and spelled out her reasoning before taking a series of questions. Compare and contrast that style with Theresa May who merely insisted that “Brexit means Brexit" and that it would be “Red, White and Blue", with very little challenge from the media. Indeed, when challenged, May tends to avoid answering difficult questions, while Sturgeon takes them in her stride. By adopting this approach, she also cleverly avoided linking IndyRef2 specifically with the SNP. If she had announced it at the Party conference, she might have left other Pro-Indie groups, particularly the Greens, feeling excluded. Instead, she made the announcement as Scotland’s First Minister, thus demonstrating that she is by far the most capable politician in the UK.

Not that her approach prevented the media immediately going into full blown pro-Union mode by promoting anti-Indy spin and telling downright lies. We’ve had Sky News telling us we are too wee and too poor, and that the FM was forced into making this announcement by Alex Salmond; we’ve had Channel 4 regurgitating the Spanish veto myth, and we’ve had BBC journalists deliberately misrepresenting what the FM said. On top of this, most of the political programmes on TV seem unable to grasp that the split in opinion is around 50/50, and persist in putting up one pro-Indy speaker with at least two and usually three Unionist speakers.

Some have queried whether the media can sustain this level of propaganda for up to two years. Unfortunately, the answer is Yes. They know that the majority of the over-60s are against Indy, and that these are the same people who still trust the BBC and the newspapers because they don’t have access to other sources of information. This is also the generation which is most likely to vote, so anyone who believes a pro-Indy majority in the upcoming referendum is guaranteed, needs to re-think. There is a lot of work to do to convince the older generation in particular. Fortunately, Nicola Sturgeon has played a blinder so far. She’s offered compromise after compromise, has stood her ground, given fair warning, and stuck to her promise. Let’s hope she continues to steer this course over the next couple of years.

The other big help for the Yes movement is that Theresa May seems to be working hard to ensure we win this time. For all her attempts to reincarnate herself as Thatcher 2.0, she seems to be out of her depth as Prime Minister. And when you consider that her main lieutenants in the upcoming debates are Ruth Davidson, Kezia Dugdale, Willie Rennie and David Mundell, she must know she’s got a big problem. She’ll be relying on the BBC to promote the Union and to denigrate the Yes movement at every opportunity. Let’s not give them that chance. Robust debate is fine, but we all need to make sure we don’t insult or abuse anyone.

Here we go!


Same Old Song

Posted on March 12th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

In the early years of the 20th Century, UK newspapers ran articles declaring that Norway was too wee and too poor to be a viable independent country.

In the 1920s, UK newspapers ran articles declaring that Ireland was too wee and too poor to be a viable independent country.

In the 1930s, UK newspapers ran articles declaring that Iceland was too wee and too poor to be a viable independent country.

In the 1960s, UK newspapers ran articles declaring that Malta was too wee and too poor to be a viable independent country.

In the 1990s, UK newspapers ran articles declaring that Slovakia was too wee and too poor to be a viable independent country.

Anyone spotting a theme here? It’s a pretty impressive track record of predictions. And now, true to form, they are telling us Scotland is too wee and too poor to be a viable independent country. Not only is this claim patently absurd, it’s not even original.


Mistaken Identity

Posted on March 10th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

In 1964, Malta declared its independence from Great Britain. In the weeks and months running up to that, the UK Press was running articles insisting Malta was too wee and too poor to be a viable independent country. Fortunately for Malta, it had an abundance of natural resources and a host of vibrant local industries. These included, fishing, tourism, farming producing world-renowned foodstuffs, whisky and gin production, oil and gas, enormous renewable energy potential, biomedical research, several top-class universities, shipbuilding, precision engineering, computer games development, publishing, woollens and knitwear, banking and finance and ….

Wait! Hang on a minute. Sorry, Malta has tourism and some manufacturing industries in electronics and pharmaceuticals. That’s about it. I must have got it mixed up with some other pathetic little country which couldn’t possibly survive as an independent nation.

Incidentally, Malta is still doing fine, thanks very much.


Rewriting History

Posted on March 7th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

You don’t really expect intellectual rigour from a prominent Brexiteer, and they certainly don’t appear to bother about facts, as evidenced by their Leave campaign, but Liam Fox’s assertion that the UK is one of the few EU countries which doesn’t need to bury its 20th Century history is either totally deluded or betrays an astonishing ignorance of his own country’s past.

Every country has things it can be proud of, and the UK is especially prominent when it comes to social improvements like the NHS, scientific inventions and philosophical treatises, but it has more than its fair share of dark and dirty deeds which are nothing to be proud of at all. That anyone can claim otherwise betrays a mind-boggling attempt to re-write the past in order to bolster some fanciful notion of former greatness. The British Empire, like most empires, was gained through violence and cultural suppression, and its final decades were marred by a great number of atrocities.

Many people have taken to Twitter to counter Liam Fox’s absurd claim, but Twitter’s limit of 140 characters simply isn’t enough to enumerate even a reasonably short list of the crimes against humanity carried out in the name of Britishness.

Presumably, Liam Fox hasn’t heard of events such as the Boer War concentration camps; the suppression of the Mau Mau; the killings and torture carried out in places like Aden, Iraq, Cyprus, Malaysia and others; the Amritsar massacre; the Bengal famine; and the depopulation of the Chagos Islands.

That list is not exclusive, but it’s a pretty horrendous roll call as it stands. And we haven’t even got onto events closer to home, like Bloody Sunday and other alleged State-sponsored murders in Northern Ireland; the treatment of the Suffragettes; the slums in which many Britons lived in the early 20th Century; the fact that the Government refused to issue air raid warnings during World War 1 because they didn’t want people to have an excuse not to go to work, a decision which resulted in hundreds of unnecessary deaths.

But all of these are in the past, so what does it matter? Other countries have carried out atrocities, haven’t they?

Yes, but the important thing here is that people need to be aware that the British Establishment often seeks to whitewash its past so that it can promote a vision of British greatness. Liam Fox’s bizarre claim is only the latest example of this revisionist view of the past. It allows the pro-Brexit campaigners to appeal to a nostalgic view of a Britain which never existed, so that they can wave the flag and feel proud of a country which lives mostly in their own imaginations.

Like many countries, Britain has a past which includes some dreadful acts of violence. The fact that Liam Fox suggests such things should be buried is in itself a shameful attitude. We can’t change what was done, but we surely need to recognise and acknowledge the faults of the past and try to atone for them by adopting more humanitarian policies from now on. Simply claiming that such things never happened can only lead to us repeating the mistakes of the past.


The Oscars & Independence

Posted on March 6th, 2017

by Dan Iron

OK, you’ve probably clicked on the link thinking, “how on Earth can you make a connection from the Oscars to Independence?" Well, I’m going to have a bash. Please stay with me.

I forced myself to watch the whole sequence of the presentation of the 2017 Best Picture award, the very last award of the evening. I used to watch the Oscars live when it was shown by the BBC, way back in the day when I had both a TV and a licence. It was a long Sunday night with frequent advertising breaks during which the coverage turned to the BBC’s own studio and Barry Norman’s comments. And why not. But now we have Youtube.

By now, you all know what happened. The award was initially given to La La Land by mistake, then to the actual winner, Moonlight. It’s excruciating to watch and your heart goes out to the La La Land producers who’d thought they’d won.

The whole sequence lasts over 12 minutes and starts with Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty (who starred as Bonnie and Clyde in the 1967 film, 50 years ago). Warren is holding the envelope containing the card with the supposed winner of the Best Picture Oscar. The envelope is red and, at first sight, watching on TV it looks like there is nothing obviously written on the outside of the envelope. It turns out that the award category is written on the outside of the envelope but it’s gold lettering on a red background - not the easiest to see under the lights.

Why doesn’t the red envelope have

Best Picture

Winner

printed in big bold letters, possibly black lettering on a white label, on the outside of the envelope?

It gets worse. When the winning card itself is shown to the audience, it says

Oscars

“Moonlight"

Followed by the names of the producers. The category of “Best Picture" is in tiny letters at the very bottom of the card. Warren Beatty reaches the age of 80 later this month. He’s never going to be able to read that. Why on Earth doesn’t the card have

Best Picture

Winner

“Moonlight"

printed in big bold letters on it?

What really is astonishing is that Faye and Warren are out on stage for over 5 minutes going through all the nominated films. Nobody rushes out from backstage with the correct envelope. Warren then opens the envelope and appears to be puzzled. He’s obviously confused by what he’s reading but then shows the card to Faye who says “La La Land". The producers of La La Land come on stage and start making their speeches. It’s over 7 minutes before someone from backstage comes to look at the card. Finally, more than 8 minutes after Faye and Warren come on stage is the actual winner announced and the winning card shown to the audience.

It seems that there are two people each of whom has a full copy of the winning envelopes and Warren was mistakenly given the envelope that was left over from the previous award, Best Actress. It’s a woefully designed system. There’s no sign of a backup plan if something goes wrong. The presence of two people with copies has backfired. It was supposed to make the system safer but has resulted in the system being less safe. Why not, for example, have different coloured envelopes? The two people with the envelopes would then be able to be backstage facing each other holding up identically coloured envelopes, so if one makes a mistake the other can correct it. Why not have the name of the award on the envelope? Why not have the name of the award in big bold letters on the card itself? Warren would then have noticed that the envelope had Best Actress, Winner printed on the envelope. Even if he’d missed that, upon opening the envelope, he would have seen Best Actress, Winner on the card.

What really is amazing is that the Oscars is just about the biggest media event on the planet and the people entrusted with counting the votes and custody of the envelopes are from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), one of the biggest consultancy firms in the world. And they can’t get it right. In fact, given that system, it’s a wonder that this kind of mistake doesn’t happen more often.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences thought that they were safe in outsourcing the counting of the votes and the envelopes and cards. After all, this was one of the biggest consultancy firms in the world and they had done this job for 83 years. Apparently this relationship is now “under review".

Is this ringing any bells for us in Scotland? For that is what we have done with the governance of our country. We have effectively outsourced it to the British Establishment. After all, these people have run an empire! They must know what they are doing! I think it is becoming more obvious to more and more people that they don’t have much of a clue, especially with the unfolding saga of Brexit. To some of them it’s even just a game. If Brexit turns out to be a disaster these people will be perfectly OK. They won’t have to worry about losing their jobs, their homes, their livelihoods, unlike the rest of us.

What if the successes of the United Kingdom all along have been down to the peoples of the UK rather than the Establishment? Perhaps the successes have been achieved in spite of the Establishment?

It’s time to stop this outsourcing of the governance of our country and act like a normal country. There are currently 193 Member States in the United Nations. There should be 194 and Scotland should be one of them. Scotland is a country and has been a country for over 1,100 years. Its borders have not changed since before Columbus boarded the Santa Maria. If any country has a claim to being an independent nation, it’s Scotland.

It’s time to take the job in-house.


A Gloomy Outlook

Posted on March 4th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

The result of the Northern Ireland election was rather dramatic, with the Unionist Parties losing their overall majority and a significant pro-EU majority being returned.

Quite what all this will lead to is still uncertain, but there is one message we ought to pay attention to. Which is that, no matter how the UK treats people, a great many of them will still vote to remain part of the Union. The overall majority may have gone, but Northern Ireland appears to be divided pretty much down the middle.

The same statistics apply in Scotland, where Unionist support is still clinging on to a small majority. With Brexit, the expulsion of foreigners, the plummeting Pound, the proposed abolition of Human Rights, the threats of becoming a low wage tax haven, the disappearance of EU funding, the continued attacks on Social Security, and everything else that goes with Tory Britain, you would think that more people might start to question whether there might not be a better way to run the country. However, it seems the Tories are relying on the fear of change to pound away at the cause of Scottish independence. They think they can get away with pretty much anything they like because enough people will vote for them whatever they do. If the Northern Ireland election result tells us anything, it is that they might not be wrong.

Let’s hope the people of Scotland wake up before the next IndieRef.


Spot The Difference

Posted on February 28th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

The Scottish Labour Party conference contained the usual stuff you’d expect. There was hardly a mention of the Tories, but constant bashing of the SNP; there were the traditional promises of Federalism and some other incoherent nonsense from Kezia Dugdale; and Jeremy Corbyn confirmed for everyone to see that he is either totally ignorant of the rules covering adoption of the Euro, or he’s an outright liar.

But, of course, the main event was Sadiq Khan’s comparison of nationalism to racism, which attracted a lot of hostile reaction, along with many people citing examples to prove him wrong.

You’d have thought that would be an end to the nonsense but the unionist media, growing increasingly bereft of actual arguments, seems determined to repeat the Racist claims in order to demonise the Yes movement in general and, because they seem incapable of differentiating, the SNP in particular. Accordingly, an opinion piece in The Guardian penned by one Claire Heuchan, pointed out that Sadiq Khan was correct because there are parallels between Scottish Nationalism and Racism. If you want to read her article (which isn’t recommended), you will find it at:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/feb/27/parallels-scottish-nationalism-racism-sadiq-khan

Her arguments are rather strange but seem to rely on three main points. First, that there are racists in Scotland; second, that the Nationalist argument depends on comparing Scotland to England; third, that Nationalists deny Scotland’s role in imperialism and the slave trade.

Where to start with that lot? OK, let’s begin with the racists point. Yes, there are racists in Scotland. There are racists in every country. That doesn’t make everyone a racist. You can see examples of racist comments on social media where, oddly, it is generally those who espouse hardline Unionist views who make these remarks. Of course, anecdotal evidence isn’t all that strong, so it would be better to look at recent crime statistics where we see that crimes involving racist elements have fallen in Scotland while they have increased in England.

Oh dear! I’ve just proved her second point, haven’t I? Comparing ourselves favourably with England is racist, isn’t it?

Well, no, I don’t think it is. Countries are compared against one another on a variety of issues all the time. That’s not racist, it is a valid comparison in order to identify where a country’s policies might be in need of review because it is not doing as well as other countries. Racism is where a particular country’s actions or policies are derided simply because they are the policies and actions of a foreign country. For example, saying you would not like to live in North Korea because you fundamentally disagree with their autocratic version of communism is not at all the same thing as saying you would not like to live in North Korea because you hate North Koreans. One of those is a racist statement and, if you can’t tell which it is, I’d suggest it is you who has the problem.

It is certainly true that many Scots take the moral high ground when comparing Scotland to England, but that’s not difficult given the heartless news coming out of England on all sorts of issues like homelessness, disabilities, expulsion of non-British citizens, poverty levels, crises in the NHS, education and Prison service, etc. We compare Scotland’s performance favourably not because we feel superior to the English, but because we feel our policies are superior to those being adopted by the Westminster Government. Indeed, there are many people who were born and raised in England who have moved to Scotland and fully support independence. If Scottish Nationalism was a racist movement, do you seriously think that would happen?

This is where the claim of racism is most easily refuted. The Yes movement is famously inclusive. It operates on the principle that anyone who is prepared to live in Scotland and contribute to society is Scottish, no matter where they come from. You only need to look at who was allowed to vote in the Scottish IndieRef and compare it with who was allowed to vote in the EURef to see which system was the most inclusive and which excluded people based on their place of birth.

The important point here is that Scots do not feel inherently superior to the English, or to anyone else for that matter. We (and I include everyone in the Yes movement) believe that the sort of society we want to live in will be fairer than the sort of society Westminster is creating. That is not racism, that is a nation holding a different set of political aims and values. As individuals, we are not any better or worse than individuals from other nations, we just want the chance to be like other nations and control our own destiny. If that is racism, then every citizen of every independent nation must also be regarded as a racist. Surely everyone can see that is stretching the definition too far?

As for denying our role in the past, that’s an odd claim. Many people may be only vaguely aware of Scotland’s past but those of us who do know our history never deny what happened. To put things in perspective, though, many industrialists became wealthy by exploiting the poor of Britain, just as many became wealthy exploiting the slave trade. Yes, Scots participated in that, and nobody can deny it. But it is in the past. Living in the past is what many Tories seem to want to do, but surely the best answer to overcoming the wrongs of the past is to ensure that we do not repeat them. By creating an inclusive society, where all are welcome no matter their background, we can help atone for the deeds of people who do not match up to our 21st Century standards because, funnily enough, they didn’t live in the 21st Century.

It really shouldn’t be necessary to write articles like this but it is becoming increasingly clear that the Yes movement is going to be the subject of a great deal of this sort of contrived accusation, so we need to have our arguments ready. Above all, we need to ensure we do not give the Unionist media any opportunity to point to individual acts or comments which they can construe as racist. Let’s behave like proper human beings. If that means taking the moral high ground and comparing ourselves to those who would divide society into the deserving and the non-deserving, then so be it.


What's The Answer?

Posted on February 24th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

After hearing the result of the Copeland By-Election, I posted a question on Twitter, wondering if anyone could explain why, when the Tories are dismantling the English NHS, which is supposed to be the one thing most citizens want to retain, voters in England persist in electing Tory MPs.

This is a conundrum. If there is an answer, it is probably that, like all elections, it has a variety of reasons, since there is no accounting for how people will vote in any election, and every individual will have their own reasons.

So why does England insist on voting Tory? Here are some possible answers, all of which are more than a bit concerning.

First, Tory supporters are more likely to vote than other people. The turn-out for Copeland was less than 50%. What on earth are the non-voters thinking? Are they so disillusioned with politics that they can’t be bothered to vote for changing a system which has failed them? Do they care so little that their Health service will soon disappear that they can’t register a protest vote?

A possible second answer is the dire state of Labour. Under Jeremy Corbyn’s insipid leadership, the Party has torn itself apart and offers no opposition to the Tory Government, often supporting them in votes in the Commons or, at best, abstaining. Given such little choice, do voters think the Tories are a safer bet? Voting for the Greens, or even the Lib Dems at a push, would surely send a message to the Government.

Thirdly, and this one is really scary, has the dominance of UKIP propaganda so influenced voters in England that they are more concerned about keeping foreigners out of the UK than they are about preserving the NHS? Would they rather see their hospitals, libraries, Police stations, Fire stations, etc close down than see another Polish family move in down the street? Disdain for foreigners has always been a part of British culture, but far too many people have transformed this into rampant xenophobia. Are they so blinded by this that they cannot see what the Tories are doing to them?

The fourth reason might be that voters in England are really, really poorly informed and don’t understand the consequences of what their votes will achieve. Fed on a diet of tabloid hate-mongering and BBC promotion of Right Wing policies, have they fallen for the Establishment view without taking the time to question it or to find alternative sources of information?

To be honest, if this was a multiple choice question, I wouldn’t know which answer to give. “All of the Above" might cover it, I suppose.

There is, though, one glaring answer which comes out of this. Whatever reasons English voters might have for electing MPs who will actively work against their interests, it is clear that the UK is going to be under Tory rule for the foreseeable future. Scotland needs to escape that fate, and there is only one way to accomplish that.


Let Me Eat Cake!

Posted on February 23rd, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

There are, as you would expect, differing opinions over the BBC announcement of a new Scottish channel. Personally, I doubt very much that I’ll watch any news output on that channel since the BBC is charged with maintaining the Union, so any news output is bound to be biased against Scottish independence. It is pathetic that Scotland is unable to control its own broadcasting, and having the London-based BBC tell us what they are going to give us is really just another manifestation of the contempt in which Scotland is held by the London Establishment.

And what value can we place on this new channel? It has been pointed out that the new funding, as opposed to reallocated funding, for the new venture is less than the amount Channel 4 are paying for the Great British Bake Off. This raises the question of whether the amount being put into the new BBC Scottish channel is ludicrously inadequate or whether the amount Channel 4 are paying for a programme about baking cakes is ludicrously inflated.

Quite frankly, I don’t think I’ll be watching either of them anyway. I’d much prefer to eat cakes than watch some so-called Celebrity baking cakes for some other Celebrities to taste. And, given a choice between tucking into a large slice of chocolate cake or watching BBC News, there really is no contest. Let me eat cake!


The Big Issue

Posted on February 21st, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Whether an independent Scotland would remain or be allowed to join the EU is a hot topic at the moment, but we shouldn’t get too excited about it yet. There is a tendency for people to believe any comment which supports their own view and there is no shortage of European politicians prepared to make comments.

For what it is worth, I think it is inconceivable that the EU would not permit Scotland to remain a member, especially as Scottish citizens currently hold EU citizenship. Whether the membership would be immediate, delayed, fast-tracked or involve some sort of transitional stage is, at the moment, little more than speculation. We won’t know what the actual state of play is until it happens.

Which suggests that, as the Brexit negotiations are going to be complex and probably drag on for some time unless both parties dig their heels in and talks collapse at an early stage, then Scots are likely to be required to vote on independence before we know precisely what our EU status is going to be. Hopefully, some sort of definitive answer will be available, but we shouldn’t count on it.

Which leads to another point we are in danger of forgetting; namely that independence is about far more than whether we are members of the EU. Brexit may be the trigger for a second IndieRef and may well be a deciding factor (one way or the other) for many voters, but it is far from being the only issue. Independence, we must not forget, is, at its core, about becoming a normal country responsible for our own future. The details of that future will be determined by a Scottish Government elected by the people of Scotland and will cover every aspect of our lives, from regulation, through taxes, border controls, defence, EU membership, trade, foreign aid, social Security, and a host of other things right through to our Old Age Pensions.

So let’s not get too hung up on what some Spanish or German politician has said, either on or off the record, about Scotland’s EU membership until we know what it might actually look like. Even then, let’s not view the EU as the sole reason for wanting independence. It is a big reason for many people, but the driving force behind independence remains the right of a nation to democratic self-determination.


The British Way

Posted on February 12th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

In political terms, two of the UK Establishment’s greatest achievements must surely be to convince the bulk of its population that the British way of doing things is superior to the way other countries operate, and that the way things are is as good as it is going to get.

This first achievement lies at the root of much of the xenophobia displayed in recent months. It implies that Britain is superior to other countries, and that our way of doing things is both normal and correct.

As far back as my school days, I can recall one oft-repeated lesson from my Modern Studies class. This was that the UK electoral system of First Past The Post produced strong Governments and that Proportional Representation as used by foreign countries produced weak Governments. This way of thinking is so ingrained that many people still cling to it, despite the obvious iniquities of FPTP. Indeed, I was recently speaking to a Unionist chum who simply could not understand how a PR voting system might work. He could not comprehend how individual MPs might be elected under a PR system. When I pointed out to him that PR may well have flaws, but that it clearly isn’t impossible to operate since many countries have PR electoral systems, he merely subsided into a disdainful silence, as if it must be obvious that PR might be good enough for those countries, but it couldn’t possibly work in the UK, and why would the UK need it in any case?

This way of thinking covers so many aspects of political life that it is difficult to see how some people will shake it off. Of course, many of them never will, partly because they don’t want to, and partly because they are unable to comprehend that the British way might not be the best way, and have been taught not to question this fundamental belief.

As for the conviction that things can never be better than they are, this is what Project Fear plays on. People are so afraid of losing what they’ve got, even if they haven’t got much at all, that they are scared to take a risk on changing the status quo. This is precisely what the Establishment relies upon, and why they use scare stories so frequently.

The big question is what scare stories the UK can possibly use to terrify Scots into voting No in the next IndieRef (whenever it comes along). Pretty much every claim they made last time has been demonstrated to be a lie, so they are going to struggle to come up with anything particularly new.

You’ll be out of the EU!

So what, we’ll be out anyway if we stick with the UK.

The Banks will move their Head Offices!

They are already planning to leave London in light of Brexit.

The oil is running out!

No, it isn’t. There have been record finds in the past couple of years.

You need the UK’s broad shoulders to protect against oil price volatility!

Yes, that worked well recently. How many jobs were lost?

You need the UK’s military to defend you!

How many military jobs have been cut? how many bases are closing? How many ships does the Royal Navy have and do any of them work in warm water?

There will be no shipbuilding contracts awarded!

How many ships did you promise last time?

Jobs in Government offices like HMRC are only safe with a No vote!

You mean the 5% you aren’t shutting down? Along with Job Centres and DWP Admin centres.

You won’t be allowed to use sterling!

We probably wouldn’t want to. Even if we did, you can’t stop us. Anyone can use sterling.

Your relatives in England will become foreigners!

Ah, got me there. We all hate foreigners, don’t we? No, hang on. We don’t.

You won’t be allowed to watch the BBC!

Not much loss, to be honest, but it’s a total lie in any event. People in Ireland regularly watch the BBC.

There will be a hard border between England and Scotland!

Yes, there might be, but it works both ways. It will also mean that Scotland will be protected from having goods and foodstuffs which don’t meet EU safety standards, so it won’t be all bad. Besides, sticking with the UK will, initially at least, give us a hard border with every other country in the world.

Scotland is too poor to be independent. You’ll face years of Austerity!

Whereas staying with the UK means we’ll face ….?

There are plenty more I’ve probably missed, but with all these scares having been addressed already, will Project Fear have anything left?

Sadly, yes. I suspect they will change tack slightly and play on people’s fear of change.

It is well known in both business and political life that most people dislike change. We all get accustomed to doing things the way we have done, and any change can throw us off balance. When it comes to major change, people are naturally uncertain and apprehensive, and this is where Project Fear can aid the Union cause.

Take currency as one major potential target. There can no longer be much doubt that an independent Scotland will need to adopt its own currency. This is a fairly major change and Project Fear will no doubt home in on it as a source of concern for voters. Will it mean new bank notes? What about our bank accounts? What about pensions and salaries paid by Companies based in England? What about Direct Debits to English-based Companies? What happens when you cross the border?

Of course, many countries have adopted new currencies and many people cope easily with cross-border travel. Look at Ireland for an example close at hand. Issues over notes and bank accounts are logistical matters which all major banks are perfectly capable of handling, and so are things like direct Debits. Any organisation operating across borders with different currencies is accustomed to using accounts in those currencies, so the change should not prove very difficult. People quickly get used to new situations as long as there is plenty of explanation available in good time. The trick for the Yes movement will be to get those explanations out there because you can be sure that the media will pump out the scares like an avalanche of doom. Facts don’t matter much to Project Fear, and this will be one of the great challenges for Yes in the next IndieRef.

We can expect similar scares over other issues such as Driving Licences, Passports, Pensions, etc. All of these are, of course, practical issues to be addressed, but they are surely not insurmountable hurdles for a modern country. Daily life is full of hassles in any event, so a few changes to the way things work are certainly not reasons to ignore the far greater issue of self-determination and the normalisation of our country.

And, amid all the scaremongering we can expect, our main argument must surely be that the changes which will come if we stick with the insular, xenophobic and austerity-obsessed UK will damage us far more than anything we might expect from standing on our own two feet. Instead of accepting that the British way is best, and that things might be worse if we don’t listen to our betters, we really ought to have enough self respect to say that we are capable of running our own affairs and establishing our own processes and systems just like any other country.


No Time To Quit

Posted on February 7th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

After yet another appalling display of contempt for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in the House of Commons, many people are calling for SNP MPs to withdraw from attending at Westminster. This is an understandable reaction given the obvious bias within the House, the inability of Scottish MPs to exert any influence whatsoever, and the supine response of UK Labour to anything the Tories decide to do. It’s understandable, but it would be wrong.

Can you imagine the media response if SNP MPs refused to attend Westminster? They’d gleefully report we’d gone off in a huff, that the SNP was not interested in contributing to UK governance, that Scots were being divisive and creating unnecessary uncertainty by abrogating their responsibilities.

It must be very frustrating for our MPs in Westminster, because they are clearly held in contempt by the Tories and most of UK Labour, but to give in and give up would only provide the unionists with further ammunition. So, however difficult it must be for the MPs in question, they can’t afford to give up now. What helps the cause of Scottish independence is the constant overruling of their views and the perpetual sneering and condescension directed at Scotland by virtually every Tory.

And let’s not forget that, even if they did refuse to attend, the Tories would still impose their will on Scotland. We need our MPs to be there and to show people just how much of a democratic deficit there is. We can let Westminster stew in its own juices after we’ve become a normal country, with full responsibility for our own choices. Until then, we can’t afford to give up.


Ask Yourself This

Posted on February 3rd, 2017

by A Yes Mum

IN 2014, I was at a party in a friend’s house. With the Independence Referendum only a matter of weeks away, it was the subject of a lot of chat, but I soon discovered I was in a minority of one. Although everyone there was supposedly intelligent and well-read, not a single person believed me when I told them the NHS in England was being privatised. Nor were they convinced Pensions would be safe in an independent Scotland. Project Fear had obviously done its work because the one question they all kept firing at me was, “What if it all goes wrong?"

Well, two and a bit years later, I’d say things have gone pretty wrong. Every promise made has been broken and every threat about what would happen if we voted Yes has happened anyway.

What really bugs me is that, if I ever get together with the same people again )yes, I’ll admit I haven’t made much effort to keep in touch after the way they treated me that evening), they would probably all still insist on voting No in a second Independence Referendum. Why? Because all of these people lived in big houses, had good jobs and at least two cars per family. They probably don’t regard themselves as rich, but they’re certainly pretty well off compared to most. And, as is the case with far too many people, they will vote out of self-interest rather than what is best for the nation as a whole.

That might sound as if I’m adopting a holier-than-thou attitude, and maybe I am. But self-interest is what politicians rely on, and those who have done well in life are driven to hold on to whatever material things they have managed to gather. You can maybe understand that, but it’s a very selfish attitude indeed when the reality is that even times of severe economic downturn won’t greatly affect the lives of people with good jobs and good incomes. They might pay a bit more tax, their favourite exotic foods might cost them a bit more, but they are never going to experience the difficulties and hardships that far too many of their fellow citizens suffer on a daily basis. I know mums who can’t afford to heat water for their kids to have a bath more than once a week, who struggle with rent arrears and food bills, who can’t afford new clothes. The thing is, these people make up a very large percentage of our population but they rarely go out and vote. You could say it’s all their own fault, but they’ve seen how nothing ever seems to change. This is a failure of human perception because things do change over time; it’s just that we are often too close to everyday life to notice the changes in society. They also tend to believe what they see on the BBC News and what they read in the newspapers, and what they see and read tells them that they shouldn’t dare take any risks with their future because they might lose what little they’ve got. That’s how Project Fear works.

So it takes courage, both moral and actual, to look at the state of your nation and ask yourself, to paraphrase John F Kennedy, not “What is best for me?", but “What is best for the country as a whole?". I understand the reluctance to adopt this attitude, but I also understand that there is a desperate need for Scotland to escape the downward spiral into poverty which is the hallmark of Tory rule for far too many people.

When the next Independence Referendum comes, as it surely will, we must hope that more people take the time to evaluate the society they live in and decide to opt for the chance of living in a fairer, friendlier, more outward-looking, and more equal society.

Saor Alba!


On The Escalator

Posted on January 30th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Did anything happen over the weekend? If you listened to Ruth Davidson, the main news was that she has again demanded that the SNP abandon all thoughts of another IndieRef. This is almost a daily demand from the Truthless one, and she usually issues it when she wants to deflect from some other news which shows the Tories in a poor light.

Deflecting from what, you may ask? Well, some people noticed that Donald Trump has set about fulfilling his election promises by banning Muslims from several countries from entering the USA. As you’d expect with such an ill thought out plan, it created havoc and resulted in a great many people being held in detention for hours, with some allegedly set to be deported until a judge ruled this was illegal.

There was an outcry on social media, with the leaders of many European nations quickly condemning Trump’s actions, although Theresa May was noticeably silent for a long time before eventually coming out with a mildly disapproving comment. She later instructed her Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, to phone the USA and try to sort out the issues for UK citizens like Mo Farrar who were now banned from entering the USA. Boris achieved this, gaining an exemption for UK citizens, an action which was promoted as a triumph of diplomacy. The only problem with this victory is that Canada had already achieved the same exemption some 15 hours before Boris even picked up the telephone, so he probably didn’t need to employ many of his famous diplomatic skills.

So everything’s OK again now, isn’t it?

Well, no. To claim that things are sorted is to cling to the usual UK vision of “I’m All Right, Jack!". UK citizens may have been granted exemptions, but there are hundreds of thousands of other human beings who remain affected by this ban. But what else can you expect from the UK? Not much, since those other people are only foreigners, after all, and Theresa May would probably love to replicate Trump’s action if she thought she could get away with it.

So, even though the UK can smugly sit back and try to ignore what Trump is doing, this matter is far from over. Already, Iraq has retaliated by banning the issue of visas to all US citizens. Other countries will no doubt do the same before too long, putting the ball back in Trump’s court and potentially bringing about a gradual escalation in the collapse of international relations. It is no secret that many of Trump’s advisors would love to go to war with Iran, and the consequences of that don’t bear thinking about.

It is natural for those countries which have been singled out by Trump to take offence, but their sense of injustice must be exacerbated by the knowledge that the main sources of anti-US terrorism are countries which are not on his proscribed list, such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Funnily enough, Trump allegedly has business interests in those countries. Is that a coincidence? Some might think that, in addition to being a liar, a misogynist and a xenophobe, Trump is already tainted by the whiff of corruption.

Naturally, not all Americans think as Trump does, and there have been a lot of protests. This, too, is understandable, but it could also be playing into Trumps’ hands. There can no longer be much doubt that he subscribes to a Fascist doctrine, and a classic way of such regimes enforcing their grip on power is to foment protest, then use those protests as an excuse to clamp down very hard indeed.

One thing we can be pretty sure of is that he’s not going to change his mind in a hurry. He has a lot of Americans cheering him on, and he will want to ensure that his hold on power is as firm as possible. Before he was elected, many people were concerned about the prospect of having him in control of America’s nuclear weapons, but a far greater concern is how he is already shifting America to the extreme Right. History tells us that such shifts are dangerous, and when it is a country with the economic and military might of USA which is moving towards extremism, we really should be very concerned indeed.

As for the UK’s relatively supine response, he probably doesn’t care much one way or the other what we think, but he must know Theresa May doesn’t want to upset him too much because the UK will be desperate for a post-Brexit trade deal on whatever terms he decides to give us.

Which brings us back to Ruth Davidson’s anti-IndieRef demands. A second IndieRef is increasingly likely with every day that passes, but we must wait until we know exactly how the Brexit negotiations go, so we’re in for a long wait, but this weekend’s events have shifted the balance of the arguments. Next time, economic arguments may well be high on the agenda, but the UK’s position on those isn’t as strong as it was the last time. Besides, people should realise by now that predictions of how any economy will operate in the future are futile. Economies are complex things, and nobody can predict anything with much certainty.

No, what has happened this weekend is that the arguments are beginning to focus more on social attitudes. For Scots in the next IndieRef, it may well be less about potential economic outcomes than the choice between clinging desperately to an insular, xenophobic UK or taking the chance that Scotland might just be able to create a more progressive, outward-looking nation. The way things are going, that should be an easy choice for all but the most rabid of BritNats.


Cutting Corners

Posted on January 27th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

The announcement by the Tory Government in Westminster that yet more Job Centres and DWP Administration offices in Scotland are to be closed is yet another attack on the very fabric of Scotland’s society. As you’d expect with the Tories, it is being portrayed as a money-saving decision, but its effects will be long-lasting.

In the short term, there will be job losses among the staff, and significant difficulties for those who use these Job Centres, particularly people who have been accustomed to using the one in Benbecula. How far are they expected to travel, and at what cost, to reach the nearest alternative Job Centre?

In the medium term, closing the DWP Centres means that, when Scotland takes control of the limited Social Security Benefits which are to be devolved, there will be fewer staff available to administer them. This will inevitably lead to problems in administration, providing Ruth Davidson and Kezia Dugdale with more ammunition to hurl at the Scottish Government when things go wrong.

In the longer term, if Scotland ever does have the opportunity and the courage to become independent, the administration issues will need to be addressed by opening new Centres and employing and training new staff. These are headaches and costs a new nation could do without.

All of which is, of course, in keeping with the Tory agenda of stripping assets and skills away from Scotland. HMRC offices, military bases, Job Centres and DWP Administration Centres are all being closed down. It’s hardly the scenario painted by Better Together during the IndieRef, but asset stripping of a nation verging on independence is a policy the UK has adopted in other places, and they are going all out to make life harder for Scots, both now and in a possibly independent future.

As for the cost-saving aspect, it is a very poor excuse. For one thing, the Tories have managed to nearly triple the UK’s debt to a mind-boggling £1.9 trillion. That’s too many zeroes to present easily. For all their attempts at saving costs, they can’t control the Deficit, and this penny pinching idea isn’t going to make much of a difference when they propose wasting billions on Trident and HS2 among other things.

But even that misses the point. The whole purpose of Government is to safeguard its people and to provide public services. Withdrawing those services on the pretext of saving taxpayer money goes against the entire principle of how Governments should operate.

Caring Conservatism? Aye, right!


It's People, Stupid!

Posted on January 24th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

It’s the economy, stupid! When it boils down to it, politics generally focuses on the economy, and with good reason. We all know that there are some things in life upon which you cannot put a value; things like family, friends, and having a good laugh, but the fact is that there are very few people who can do without money.

this explains why so much of the conversation around Brexit is on predictions of economic success or disaster, depending on your point of view. Because of the threat of IndyRef2 becoming so inextricably linked with Brexit, we’ve also seen a resurgence in predictions of economic Armageddon should Scotland dare to break away from the UK. Both sides are bandying around comments on the relative sizes of export markets, on unemployment, growth, GDP and investment. The thing is, though, that many of these arguments are rather pointless.

Take exports, for example. There are “official" figures for how much Scotland exports to the rest of the UK but they are not very accurate at all, and nobody really knows the true figures. But it doesn’t really matter because, like the claims over the black hole in Scotland’s finances, the unionist assertions on exports are based on the fallacious presumption that an independent Scotland would continue to operate in exactly the same way as it does when its economy is largely controlled by Westminster. NO recognition is made of the possibility of doing anything differently, yet examples from other countries show that a newly independent country will begin to alter its trading profile and, instead of having its former partner or controlling state as its major trading partner, will diversify and trade openly with other countries. Ireland is perhaps the best example of this, because almost all of Ireland’s trade used to be with the UK, a situation which has changed considerably since Ireland gained its independence. The Czech Republic and Slovakia are other examples.

Naturally, each side in the Brexit/IndyRef quotes the statistics which favour its own argument. For example, Brexiteers will often cite the UK’s allegedly impressive growth and GDP, but will never mention growth or GDP per capita because these are not nearly as impressive. Indeed, they suggest that the UK’s growth is largely due to immigration providing the economic stimulus, a stimulus which will soon disappear if the Brexiteers get their way. They also generally ignore the UK’s enormous and ever-increasing debt, along with the associated economic ratios such as debt to GDP which generally show that even Greece is in a better economic position than the UK.

As for trade and what is going to happen, nobody knows yet, although one thing is fairly certain; trade won’t grind to an overnight halt. Whether in or out of the European Single Market, whether with official trade deals with other nations or with tariffs imposed, goods will continue to be traded. All that will happen is that there will be more hassle and prices will rise for the consumers. More on that in a moment.

As regards investment, there certainly are some large Companies which have said they will continue to invest in the UK, but there are others who have said they either will not, or that they have doubts. Even Nissan, who allegedly obtained written assurances from the Westminster Government, are making noises about re-evaluating their position in the light of the outcome of Brexit negotiations. But arguments about who is investing and who is not are fruitless, since both sides are able to cite Companies whose outlook favours their own. What should be far more worrying for the Brexiteers is the financial businesses in the City of London who are actively looking to move out of the UK because of the loss of access to the Single Market.

In the past few days, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup and, ironically, Lloyd’s of London, have announced plans to move elsewhere. Will we soon see Lloyd’s of Luxembourg?

The problem for the UK is that, after decades of systematically running down our manufacturing industries and concentrating business in the financial sector, the loss of these businesses will leave the UK potentially derelict. Trade deals are all very well if you have something to trade, but the UK doesn’t actually produce very much in comparison with its neighbours.

But with all these economic arguments going on, there is one very important aspect which is being overlooked. The reason for the importance of the economy is that it affects us all, although people rarely seem to get a mention in any of the discussions, most of which concentrate on businesses. This is why the Brexiteers usually ignore the devaluation in sterling, a devaluation which is, incidentally, significantly greater than the dire calamitous collapse which was predicted should Scotland have voted for independence in 2014, but which is now merely mentioned as a “correction" or “adjustment" in the market. That’s your UK media for you.

Allied to sterling’s plummeting value, inflation has already begun to creep up and will be further exacerbated should import tariffs become a feature of the UK’s future trading model. Added to that, the Bank of England is coming under increasing pressure to raise interest rates at some point this year.

All three of these factors (currency value, inflation and interest rates) will have immediate and direct consequences on the spending power of ordinary citizens. When you add in the potential consequences of financial businesses moving away, of falling inward investment and of the Tories’ stated desire to turn the UK into a tax haven where Companies pay even less tax than they do now, the outlook for ordinary people is pretty grim. That’s because, if Companies aren’t paying taxes, individuals will need to pay a larger share. When you add in all the other pressures on disposable income which inflation will bring, people are going to be hit where it hurts – in the pay packet.

Of course, it will, as usual, be the worst off in society who will suffer the most, and you can be sure that the wealthy political elite won’t suffer too much.

But this is all speculation, isn’t it? To an extent, yes, but the signs are already there, yet very few politicians are talking about the impact on ordinary people. And, worryingly, there is potentially worse to come. Because the loss of Workers’ Rights in the wake of Brexit will mean many people will be trapped in minimum wage, zero-hour contract jobs with minimal prospect of escape. The power of trade Unions, which was far too strong in the 1960s and 1970s, has all but evaporated, with the pendulum having swung so far in the opposite direction, it is hard to see how Companies can be prevented from exploiting their employees. When you consider that any recourse through the Courts or Industrial Tribunals is also rapidly moving beyond the reach of most workers due to the cost of pursuing any claim for unfair treatment, the social impact of the UK’s current course could be truly disastrous for a great many people. The disabled, the unemployed and the poor are already suffering grievously but this is now becoming the norm. Food banks are commonplace, yet the only solution the Government seems to have is to blame immigrants and foreigners.

If the Tories get their way, the UK will also withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights. They will come up with plenty of seemingly plausible reasons for doing so, but you can be fairly sure that the consequences won’t be beneficial to the majority of people.

So, for all the talk about economics, the social impact is, for me, more important. We are speeding down this road towards a Red, white and Blue vision of a country that never existed except in the imaginations of the well-off, and it’s about time our politicians and journalists began putting this higher on the agenda.


Beating The Pensions Argument

Posted on January 20th, 2017

by Brotyboy

Whether or not it is a fact, the pensions issue was deemed by many to be a weakness for us in IndyRef1, and it has raised its head again recently with a comment from the floor at the Scottish Independence Convention (SIC) meeting last Saturday, about Better Together (BT) phoning pensioners to tell them their pensions were at risk in an Indy Scotland. I saw a few pics on Twitter, I think, of a letter issued to pensioners by the DWP itself. It confirmed what we know, that living in a separate country didn't endanger the payment of your UK pension.

How should we deal with this next time round? In line with many, I think canvassing for IndyRef2 should be more confident and assertive. I think we should raise the issue on the doorstep, particularly if the voters claim to have been contacted on this subject previously.

Canvasser; ' How were you contacted about this?'

Voter; ' I had a phone call/ I was told.'

Canvasser; ' Were you given any evidence. Did you see anything in writing?

Voter; ' No.'

Canvasser; ' You know why that is, don't you? Two reasons; because the evidence doesn't exist, and because whoever said it can deny it afterwards, there's no proof of the conversation.'

'But I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll get you the evidence, I'll get it in writing that your pension is not at risk in an Independent Scotland.'

At first I thought we should collect names and then send out a letter to them with the DWP logo. Probably not allowed, I know, but what can they do about it if it's done within the last week before the IndyRef? If we called it a vow we'd probably get away with it. There is a precedent, after all.

But then I thought, no, better to get a name and fill in a pro forma letter to the DWP and send it off to them, so they reply direct to the voter. From what I remember, there was no sign of a NI number on the letters the DWP sent to pensioners confirming that their pension was not at risk from Independence, and the enquiry is regarding a principle not an individual, so there's a chance that a name and address is all that would be needed.

So a standard letter, completed with a name, address and a signature could be taken away for posting, with the reply going to the voter direct from the DWP. Rather than posting, they could be collected at a central hub and couriered in boxes, to save on postage costs.

How would the DWP react? Well last time out they replied factually, so there's no reason they wouldn't do the same again. They could set up a template (perhaps it's already there on their system) and just complete the addressee, so their main gripe may simply be an extra workload one. The main objective would be achieved; pensioners would have the evidence in their own hands of their continuing income in an Independent Scotland.

But what if the number of enquiries got to the 250,000 mark, or even 500,000? After all, there's no age limit on enquiring to the DWP; it's perfectly legitimate for the under 60's to ask about this, even the under 50's.

Imagine, if this was done on a grand scale; the DWP could be inundated.

Would it be possible to get enough requests for confirmation on this question to be sent to the DWP that they eventually throw up their hands and issue a briefing to the effect that they guarantee your UK pension rights will be unaffected by Scot Indy? It's an intriguing thought, as it would remove one of the main planks of the BT argument from 2014, whether you think it made the difference between winning and losing or not.


Hold Your Horses

Posted on January 19th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Theresa May’s Red, White and Blue vision of Brexit, and her dismissal of concerns expressed in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar, have led to a great many cries for IndyRef2 to be called sooner rather than later. Even some Tories are saying that Sturgeon’s bluff has been called and she needs to put her money where her mouth is. That’s rather a turnaround from their stance last week when they were demanding she abandon all thoughts of another IndyRef because of the uncertainty it is causing, but total reversal of previously held positions is becoming rather commonplace for the Tories, so I won’t dwell on that particular contradiction in their statements.

As for IndyRef2, it is clear that all our fears over what the Tories would do are coming true, and there is no doubt many of us feel Scotland would be far better off outside this bizarre, xenophobic and increasingly Right Wing UK, but the reality is that now is not the time for anyone to call an IndyRef.

Because, although sterling has taken a hammering on the foreign exchange markets, all we’ve really heard are a lot of pronouncements about what the UK is going to demand. Article 50 has not been triggered yet, and negotiations haven’t begun, let alone ended. Nicola Sturgeon would be walking into a Better Together trap if she called for IndyRef2 now. She needs to wait, to reach the situation where Scots will be able to clearly see that they face a very stark choice. Once the 27 EU nations dig in their heels and refuse to cave in to May’s demands, the Brexit consequences for the UK will be much clearer and more certain. That’s when IndyRef2 becomes viable. To call it while there is no clarity on what Brexit actually entails would be foolhardy in the extreme.

One other aspect which is also pertinent is the Supreme Court ruling on whether the Westminster Parliament must debate and vote on whether article 50 should be triggered at all. The question of the rights of the Devolved Legislatures is also to be decided in the supreme court. Rumours abound that the Government will lose the case and that Parliament must vote on whether to abide by the result of the EU Referendum or to vote it down. Admittedly, it seems unlikely the Government would lose such a vote, seeing as Tories always stick together and most Labour MPs will either support them or adopt their more usual stance of abstaining, but there is an outside chance that Parliament might decide Article 50 should not be invoked in light of the fact that the result of the EU Referendum was clearly influenced by flagrant lies on the part of the Leave campaign.

Until all these issues are clarified, IndyRef2 must remain on hold. Once we know what the choice really is, then we stand a much greater chance of winning, because people will be faced with taking a chance on becoming a normal country, or sticking with an isolated and dysfunctional UK. The first IndyRef proved that a great many Scots were fearful of change, but if the Brexit negotiations turn out as most non-Tories think they will, sticking with the UK will present a far greater risk than going our own way. This will hopefully mean that only the most ardent BritNats will vote against becoming a normal country, and we can then look forward to building a better nation. Until then, though, we need to bide our time and let circumstances, plus the blinkered, UKIP-motivated Tories, do our work for us.


Trust In Me!

Posted on January 14th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

The new boss of BBC Scotland, Donalda MacKinnon, has a tough job on her hands. When first appointed, she announced that her intention was to rebuild trust in the BBC, but that isn’t going to be easy.

Most of us grew up believing that the BBC generally maintained standards of impartiality and balance in its news reporting, but events over the past few years, combined with easy access to alternative sources of news and information exchange, has led to a dramatic re-evaluation of the BBC’s attitude by a great many people in Scotland.

If Donalda MacKinnon is to keep to her word, she really is going to have to crack down on many BBC Scotland journalists who are going out of their way to perpetuate the biased attitude to which we have recently become accustomed.

As one current example of the continuing distortion of news designed to run Scotland down in the eyes of its own citizens, take a look at the BBC’s stance on NHS Scotland. Scottish Labour’s Branch Office is going out of its way to conflate the NHS crisis in England with NHS Scotland. They have churned out a series of stories about so-called crises in NHS Scotland which have turned out to be, at best, exaggerations of the facts. Online Yessers are usually able to put these stories into some context fairly easily by undertaking a little bit of research, yet BBC Scotland journalists simply repeat the Labour Press Releases uncritically, headlining them as if they were gospel truth.

Yesterday, the BBC stooped to the levels of STB’s Digital team by going onto Twitter to ask people affected by the alleged Maternity crisis in Glasgow to get in touch with them. Bearing in mind that this crisis consisted of two procedures being postponed because the Maternity Unit was running at full capacity, along with three mothers in labour being transferred to other hospitals which were not full, the BBC surely should not have been surprised if most of their responses were from angry Tweeters accusing them of ambulance-chasing in the hope of generating a story designed to undermine the hard-working NHS staff. Let’s face it, babies will come when they are ready, and you can’t always plan for a precise date. If any unit in a hospital becomes full, it is perfectly normal for new patients to be transferred to another hospital. They are not “Turned away", as the BBC claimed.

It may well be an inconvenience to be transferred to a hospital which is further away from your home, but it’s not a crisis by any stretch of the imagination. Scottish Labour are doing their very best to undermine confidence in NHS Scotland, acting as a tag team with the Scottish Tories to demoralise NHS staff. That’s pretty reprehensible in its own right, but when the State Broadcaster joins in, then it is no wonder people are sceptical of Donalda MacKinnon’s claims. If she really wants to rebuild trust, she’s going to have to tell her journalists to act like proper reporters, and she’s going to have to do it very soon.

However, it is doubtful whether she has any intentions of actually changing the anti-independence bias because her bosses in London won’t allow it even if she was minded to begin a more balanced approach to news reporting. For many of us, though, she’s too late anyway. Trust has gone, and it won’t be coming back.


Too Stupid

Posted on January 5th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

It never ceases to amaze online Yesers how biased the Scottish media reporting is. Most of us cannot understand why such blatantly anti-SNP stories are repeated on an almost daily basis, because some of them are so laughable they can be demolished in a matter of minutes.

The reason, of course, is that the unionist media knows that a great many people will succumb to an endless barrage of propaganda. Whether the younger generations, who are more accustomed to searching online for alternative news sources, will fall for this in the same way as the older generations seem to have done, remains to be seen. In the meantime, the Scottish media has begun 2017 with a series of quite preposterous reporting – and I’m not even going to discuss the Baby Boxes saga.

We began with the Tories claiming that thousands of calls to NHS 24 were being abandoned because callers did not want to wait for up to 30 seconds to have their call answered. This, apparently, denotes some sort of NHS crisis.

How did the media react to this ludicrous assertion? Instead of asking serious journalistic questions as to why people might be hanging up before their call has been answered, such as being told they were in a long queue due to staffing issues, or the automated response had advised them to call 999 for genuine emergencies, or even trying to discover whether Scottish Tories really do have such a low patience threshold, the media simply repeated the claim as if it were somehow a valid criticism.

Then we had the claims about the amount of compensation paid by Police Scotland. OK, it is always concerning when public money is being spent and the amount is going up, but no attempt was made by anyone in the media to put the figures into some sort of context. When this was done by the estimable Prof John Robertson, he easily demonstrated that the figures, while increasing, are actually pretty reasonable when compared to other Police Authorities.

This morning we’ve had Scottish Labour again missing an open goal by making a silly assertion. Figures released under yet more Freedom Of Information requests which are clearly designed to make NHS Scotland look bad, have revealed that, over a 19-month period, at least 680 people have died in hospitals while waiting to be discharged. Now, this is a cause for some concern, since the Scottish Government pledged to improve figures on so-called “bed blocking" by improving links between hospitals and social care. So far, their measures do not appear to be working. This would have been an entirely valid criticism, but Anas Sarwar, Labour’s Health Spokesperson, made the quite bizarre comment that late discharge from hospital presents some dangers to patients.

What did he mean by this? One cannot suppose he seriously believes these deaths – presumably of mostly elderly and very infirm individuals – would have been prevented or delayed if they had been discharged from hospital? The issue is surely more of NHS resources being tied up by terminally ill patients for whom nothing more can be done. To claim that being in hospital presents some sort of danger to one’s life is a very odd take on things. Admittedly, most people tend to feel better in themselves once they are discharged from hospital because a home environment is always comforting, but such respite is generally very short-lived. Needless to say, though, the media have simply repeated Mr Sarwar’s assertion without comment or challenge, thus implying that being in hospital is somehow dangerous.

But this is Scotland, after all, and we don’t ask probing questions when some SNP-bashing can be promoted. No, the only time the media asks questions is when some good news about Scotland is reported. Here, the Cringe is so much in evidence it is embarrassing.

Rough Guides announced that Scotland has been placed 2nd on their list of places to visit in 2017. OK, that might not be earth-shattering news but it’s the sort of thing that most countries would seize on in order to promote tourism. Think of the publicity you should be able to generate in countries around the world where people are looking for just the sort of things Scotland can provide for a holiday. Surely this is good news, isn’t it?

Well, no. Not according to BBC Radio Scotland who, in accordance with their policy of ensuring that scots are kept in a permanent state of self-doubt, ran a programme and went online to ask whether Scotland really deserves to be ranked so highly. That’s your State Broadcaster for you, folks; maintaining a diet of stories designed to tell Scots they don’t deserve anything except what their betters deign to grant them. We’re too wee and too poor to achieve anything on our own. This must be true, because the BBC have been telling us this for years.

One thing is for sure, though. If we fall for this sort of propaganda, we really are too stupid to deserve any better.


Opportunity Knocks

Posted on December 30th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

An increasingly common view being expressed in the media is that Brexit presents opportunities for the UK, so everyone should stop complaining and get behind the Westminster Government’s plan. Or lack of plan, if you prefer.

This point of view is classic 1980s ManagementSpeak, which can be paraphrased as ,"When difficult circumstances arise, don’t see them as presenting problems but find solutions to turn them into opportunities".

It’s a fine sentiment, and difficult to argue against unless you want to be seen as someone who is ultra negative and dead set against change. And, like all aphorisms, it contains an element of truth. After all, even some of the worst situations can present opportunities. Imagine, for example, that you are on a ship crossing the Atlantic and you fall overboard. This presents you with an opportunity to learn how to become a long-distance swimmer.

OK, Brexit might not be as bad as that, and there is no doubt that some people will benefit from whatever transpires once the UK leaves the EU. The problem, which more and more people are beginning to slowly realise, is that the people who will benefit are not those who voted for Brexit in the belief that it would change things for the better. Westminster is very much against change. Not the sort of change Brexit will bring about for the majority of citizens, but the sort of change which might weaken its grip on power and the access to wealth which political power provides. Once trade tariffs and travel restrictions start to bite, once the economy begins to flounder even more drastically than it already is, then the Tories (of all colours) in Westminster will tell us that the only way we can travel down the road to making Britain great again is to impose more austerity, to punish the lazy unemployed and the scrounging disabled, and especially to expel all those evil foreigners who are over here taking our jobs.

The media will ferret out individuals and companies who have benefitted from Brexit and these will be heavily publicised, while the impact on the majority, who will soon see their rights eroded, their purchasing power diminishing and their mortgages and rents rising, will be pretty much ignored.

Brexit does present opportunities, but only for a few. The trouble is, it is those few who govern us. It probably won’t be a cataclysmic disaster, nor a sudden implosion of the economy, but will be a slow, gradual change until it is too late to reverse the situation.

That’s my prediction for what faces us. But, while Brexit seems likely to cause misery for most people in England and Wales, it does at least present Scotland and Northern Ireland with opportunities to break free and steer a different course. Whether we will be brave enough to take that decision remains in doubt, but let’s hope the message can persuade enough people this time.


Trading Places

Posted on December 23rd, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

There is a great deal of speculation and propaganda being thrown around by both sides in the Indie Debate about how much of Scotland’s exports go to the UK rather than the EU. The claim most commonly seen is that around 4 times as much goes to the UK as goes to the EU.

In fairness, this figure is backed up by official Scottish Government statistics but it must be borne in mind that the figures are estimates and are based on completion of a voluntary return which not all Scottish Companies complete. In other words, the figures are a bit of a guess.

This hasn’t stopped the Tories using the figures in their anti-independence claims and, since the Tories are shouting about it, the media has dutifully picked up on the claim and will no doubt push it for all it is worth.

On the other side, there are claims UK Government sources have said the figure of Scottish exports to the UK is only around 44% of the total. However, I’ve not yet been able to source this claim and the figure appears to be the total of UK exports allegedly sent to the EU.

Then there’s the big bugbear of what is actually counted as Scottish exports. Whisky is the product most commonly cited, since it is alleged that all exports of whisky are shipped out from English ports and therefore don’t count as Scottish. There seems to be no way of differentiating between any goods exported to the UK and goods exported elsewhere via the UK, for example shipped to the EU via the Channel Tunnel.

To be honest, it’s all very confusing and the best advice would be to treat all claims with a degree of caution, since nobody really seems to know the true figure. If that is the case, don’t expect anyone in the UK Government or the mainstream media to carry out an investigation since it is in their interests to quote statistics which are, on the face of it, unfavourable to Scotland’s independence.

But the truth is that it doesn’t really matter how much of Scotland’s current exports go to the UK or the EU. There are a couple of reasons for this.

Take Ireland as a prime example of how economies adapt when circumstances change. In the immediate aftermath of Irish independence in the first half of the 20th Century, nearly 100% of Irish exports were sent to the UK. Since then, things have changed dramatically, as you would expect, because Ireland now exports goods all over the world. The same could equally apply to an independent Scotland which already exports goods worldwide, albeit mostly via the UK. Given a bit of time and investment, there is no reason why Scotland could not develop direct trade links all around the world. IN the interim, English ports are hardly likely to turn down business by refusing to transport Scottish goods, are they?

The other bit of illogical reasoning in the scare is that it asserts it is better to continue to trade with a population of around 55 million RUK citizens than develop trade with the EU market of over 500 million people. If you are looking to build your exports, which market would you target?

But the main reason it doesn’t matter, and why we should ignore the Unionist scares, is that exports will not suddenly stop if Scotland becomes independent. We are constantly assured that the UK will be able to negotiate trade deals with the rest of the world once it leaves the EU. Are we to believe that they will refuse to trade with Scotland? If Scotland is independent and remains in the EU, any trade deal the UK does with the EU must logically include trading with Scotland, so the entire argument collapses on that point alone.

But let’s take the Armageddon scenario where Scotland becomes independent from the UK but fails to remain in the EU. Would we be isolated? Would we be utterly unable to negotiate trade deals? There’s no doubt it would be a challenge, but it’s certainly not beyond the abilities of scots who have traded around the world for centuries, including long before the Act of Union.

If you are still not convinced, then ask yourself why the RUK would not trade with Scotland. Would they deliberately cut off their own access to such things as whisky, gin, beef, salmon and electricity, all of which are currently exported to the UK from Scotland. NO doubt you can think of many other Scottish products which could be added to that list.

In short, this is a frantic attempt to scare Scots into sticking with Brexit UK. With the full weight of the media backing it, we will no doubt hear a lot more about this, but it’s just about the only thing Project Fear has got left.


Scotland's Place

Posted on December 21st, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

the paper on Scotland’s place in Europe published by the Scottish Government yesterday is a fairly comprehensive look at the various options facing Scotland. It pretty much sets out the various ways Scotland could remain in the UK and still manage to offset the worst damages of Brexit. This, as you may recall, is in keeping with the wishes expressed by every Party in the Scottish Parliament in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit referendum.

Of course, the unionist Parties have now changed their minds. NO doubt in accordance with instructions from their Westminster bosses, the Tories are now very pro-Brexit, a complete reversal of their previous stance. Scottish Labour have decided that anything the SNP want must be bad, and the Lib Dems are so set against the SNP that they have actually gone against the views of their Westminster bosses and are now anti-EU.

What this all means is that a well researched, cogently argued and very reasonable document has been dismissed out of hand by all three Parties, all of whom have chosen to concentrate on the fact that the SNP would prefer Scotland to be independent. But, while that is mentioned in the document, it is not the main thrust of the paper, which sets out various ways in which the damage of Brexit could be mitigated in Scotland.

If the Unionist Parties were capable of behaving like real politicians, they might have argued that the latter chapters of the document are where their real problem lies. This is because the Scottish Government has set out what additional powers the Scottish Parliament would need in order to carry out the revised duties which flow from the suggestions it made in the opening chapters. This is where the real threat to the UK lies, for the powers are quite extensive and would give Scotland something approaching Home Rule or, at least, something a lot closer to Home Rule than the current Devolution arrangements. But that’s not how Unionist politicians operate, so we have been left with them simply shouting that the SNP are being divisive when the entire situation has come about because Westminster pandered to UKIP and created the Brexit shambles in the first place.

it is also worth noting that not a single MSP from any of the Unionist Parties has come up with any positive proposals for how Scotland could remain in the European Single Market while also remaining part of the UK. They have all simply fallen into line with the Westminster dictat that Scotland must do as it is told.

We were told that Scotland should lead the UK, not leave it, so it is rather galling that, when the Scottish Government becomes the first devolved Government to issue any sort of outline plan for dealing with Brexit, it is immediately derided by Unionist Parties and then, to make matters worse, dismissed by Theresa May who clearly has no intention of keeping her promise to involve Scotland in the Brexit negotiations.

As for the Scottish Government’s proposals, one notable thing missing from the document was mention of Human Rights. While Workers’ Rights and other social rights were discussed, one of the major compromises the Scottish Government has apparently made is to accept that Scottish citizens will no longer be safeguarded by the European Convention on Human Rights. That’s more than a bit worrying, although it could be argued that their comments on social protection might mean they intend to use the additional powers they have demanded to copy the ECHR rather than sign up to the proposed British Bill of Rights. If that is their plan, they haven’t said so in as many words.

But, at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what this document proposes. While it has been largely applauded in Europe and America, it has been scoffed at in the UK, which is symptomatic of the way Scotland is regarded by Westminster, by Scottish Unionist politicians and by the bulk of the Scottish media. This was inevitable, and actually plays into the SNP’s hands.

That’s because the documents contents are not nearly as important as the fact that it has been produced at all. What the Scottish Government are doing is showing that they are willing to compromise, that they are prepared to offer suggestions and solutions, and that they are following the democratic desire of the Scottish electorate by attempting to find a solution which would retain many of the benefits of EU membership while also remaining part of the UK. By dismissing these attempts, the Unionists are simply showing that they do not value Scotland at all, and that can only help provide ammunition for the SNP if and when the next IndieRef comes along. They’ll be able to say that they tried, that they made positive suggestions and that all their efforts were mocked, derided and ignored. This will leave the Scottish electorate with making the choice between going our own way or sticking with the sinking UK. The result of that decision is still very much in the balance, but many people who voted No last time will surely be persuaded that the calls for Scotland to be an active and equal partner in the UK were just so much empty rhetoric.


Swear Words

Posted on December 20th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

There’s a suggestion that immigrants and public officials should be forced to swear an oath to uphold British values such as democracy, freedom of speech, tolerance, etc. Unsurprisingly, it comes from the Tories who seem to have missed the point entirely. In fact, they’ve missed several points.

For a start, these so-called values are not exclusive to Britain. They are values held dear by a great many people of all nationalities. That may be quibbling, since such attitudes are, or should be, prevalent in British society even if Britons cannot claim exclusive rights to them, but it is an example of British snobbery that we assume an air of superiority because the entire thinking behind this proposal is that foreigners coming to Britain are automatically assumed not to hold the same values as we do.

Another problem with this sort of thinking is that it is, well, intolerant. What if someone refused to take such an oath? While it’s difficult to visualise anyone openly admitting that they do not believe in such values, there may be reasons why some might not wish to publicly declare an allegiance to Britain. In such a case, what happens to them? If nothing, then what is the point of the oath? If they are censured, that’s hardly tolerant, is it? That would send the message that tolerance does not extend to anyone who holds a different view to the Government which imposes the oath.

Another point to consider is that, for people in public service, such attitudes are already required and covered either by legislation or codes of conduct. That’s not to say that a school, for example, is an establishment run on democratic lines with total freedom of speech, but its purpose is to instil such values in its pupils and any teacher who was, for example, espousing the benefits of Fascism to a class would soon find him or herself in trouble.

But the biggest problem is that it is the Government of the UK which itself ignores such values on a regular basis. It is intolerant of the views of independence expressed by Scottish and Welsh MPs, it monitors freedom of speech through sweeping surveillance powers, its democratic election is dominated by First Past The Post, which ensures that power is retained by the existing Establishment, and it actively backs extremist Governments in other countries which have quite appalling human rights records. All of that is before we look at the UK Government’s track record on treatment of the poor and disabled. There are thousands of families living in poverty even though the parents have work; the number of children living in poverty or homeless has rocketed; use of food banks continues to spiral; disabled people are being victimised to such an extent that many have taken their own lives. Amidst all this, the rich continue to grow richer, we spend billions of pounds on vanity projects like Trident and HS2, corporate giants are permitted to avoid paying tax and the ordinary citizen must bear the burden of Austerity which has, as predicted by many economists, utterly failed in its stated objective of reducing National Debt. When it comes to fairness, equality and tolerance, the UK Government is certainly setting a pretty shocking example.


Springing the Trap

Posted on December 16th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

It’s easy to criticise any Government’s Budget. After all, the aim is to give money away with one hand while taking it with the other, so there is always something for critics to focus on.

Needless to say, the Scottish Tories have focused on Income Tax. This is no real surprise since David Mundell, Secretary of state for Scotland, has openly admitted that Income Tax was only devolved in order to set a trap for the Scottish Government. If they do not alter tax rates in Scotland, the Tories can continue their cry of “Use the powers you’ve got!", while using them to reduce taxes would result in howls of outrage from English taxpayers who would feel they are being asked to subsidise Scotland, and increasing taxes would permit the Tories to proclaim that Scotland is the highest taxed region within the UK. I say “region", incidentally, because Mundell has also compared Scotland to Cumbria when talking about the possibility (or lack thereof) of a special Brexit deal for Scotland. Yes, Scotland’s representative in Westminster thinks Scotland is comparable to a region of England.

But let’s get back to the budget. As you’d expect, the Tories are not at all interested in the fact that more Scottish children than ever are living in poverty even if their parents are working, or that the use of food banks continues to increase at an alarming rate, or that 300 people slept rough in Edinburgh last night in order to highlight the plight of the homeless. No, what Ruth Davidson and her chums are upset about is that Higher Rate taxpayers in Scotland are having their taxes hiked.

Yes, the Tories claim the Budget announced yesterday, which will take effect from April 2017 as far as Income Tax is concerned, included a tax hike. This is an interesting choice of words, since a Higher Rate taxpayer will see an increase in their tax bill next year of …. wait for it …. £0.00. That’s correct. a higher rate taxpayer will pay no more income tax next year than they’ve paid this year; nada; zilch; diddly.

What the Scottish Government are proposing is that the wealthiest earners in Scotland should not be handed a tax giveaway as the rich in England will be given by Westminster. By any stretch of the imagination, that’s not a tax hike. OK, inflation may mean those people have a little bit less disposable income and it is possible that some people whose income is close to the Higher Rate threshold will move into that band if they receive a pay rise, but they’ll still be better off than not receiving a pay rise since, contrary to what the Tories would have you believe, the Higher Rate does not take away all your income, it only charges you 40% on the amount of income you earn which is above the threshold. In other words, would you rather receive an extra 60% of something or 0% of nothing? Bit of a no-brainer, really.

The other issue is how many people this actually affects. Estimates vary, but it is claimed by the Telegraph that only around 400,000 people in Scotland pay Higher Rate tax. That’s around 1 in 10 of the eligible workforce. In other words, 90% of the working age population will be treated exactly the same as taxpayers in England, while the top earning 10% will pay slightly more than their English-based counterparts.

Perhaps what the Tories are suggesting is that the burden of helping to counteract the cuts to the Scottish Block Grant which have been imposed by .. um, the Tories, should fall on the poorest, or the disabled, or the unemployed? Come to think of it, when you look at how the Tory Government in Westminster behaves, that’s exactly what Ruth Davidson and her pals must want.

Of course, nobody likes paying more in tax. But that is another symptom of the “Me First" culture which now dominates the UK mindset. In other countries, citizens pay more in tax but are reasonably content to do so because they know their taxes fund things like pensions and education, etc. Yet the UK persists in telling its citizens that taxes are bad and should be reduced. This sort of thinking goes hand in hand with the economically discredited Austerity programme, and a system which has left the UK with a widening equality gap, one of the worst pensions in Europe, and the ever-increasing drive towards a low pay economy.

As for the Scottish Budget, it’s the usual mix of things you’d expect from a budget, but the one thing Derek Mackay, the Finance Minister, has done is to gently spring the Tax Trap in a way which will only outrage the wealthiest section of the community. To be honest, if somebody needs to pay a little extra, at least those people are more likely to be able to afford it. They may feel hard done by, but they have the comfort of knowing they are earning more than 90% of the population and that they needn’t worry about relying on food banks.

Government spending is always a question of priorities. What the Scottish Tories have done with their outcry is demonstrate exactly where their priorities lie, and it’s not with the welfare of the majority of Scots.


Gross Domestic Potential

Posted on December 11th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

A Twitter comment by Rev Stuart Campbell of Wings Over Scotland prompted me to do a little investigation into GDP.

GDP, or Gross Domestic Product, to give it its full name, is a fairly crude measurement of a country’s ability to generate wealth. Theoretically, it includes all the money generated within an economy, so every pound you spend adds to GDP. It’s a figure which is open to manipulation, as has been seen when the UK recently overtook countries like France by including estimates of the money spent on drugs and prostitution as counting towards GDP.

But, as a measure of comparability, it’s commonly used to show where a country stands in economic terms, particularly when it is expressed as a figure of the GDP per person. This is usually referred to as GDP per capita. In order to compare countries, the figure is normally expressed in US Dollars. After a quick Google search, I found a comparative list of nearly 300 countries and territories, and pulled out the figures for a few relatively well-off countries.

Sweden $40,900

Germany $39,500

UK $37,300

Japan $37,100

France $35,700

The UK’s figure includes Scottish GDP and, while it is impossible to be definitive, Scotland’s GDP is estimated in official Scottish Government statistics as being $41,180 per person.

Yes, that’s right. Scotland, even with its economy hampered by being part of the UK, would be placed at 26th on the list, above such poverty-stricken countries as Germany, Sweden, France and Japan to name but a few.

It’s also worth noting that Scotland becoming independent and its GDP per capita being stripped out of the UK’s figures would see the RUK slipping even further down the table.

Now, it is important to bear in mind that GDP per capita is only one measurement and it is by no means the only figure which shows a country’s wealth. It is, however, an indicator of a country’s ability to generate wealth. What it does with that wealth will contribute to other economic measures such as National Debt, Balance of Payments, inflation, etc. But, in terms of potential to be wealthy, the GDP per capita puts Scotland in a very healthy place indeed.

So why does anyone believe Scotland is too wee and too poor to be independent?


Appropriate Behaviour

Posted on December 2nd, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Ruth Davidson has inadvertently assisted a St Andrew’s Day fundraiser set up by the SNP by Tweeting her disdain for what she terms their appropriation of a Patron Saint to help a handout for a partisan cause. She asserted that the SNP is not Scotland, which is perfectly true, but her comments only added to the publicity the fundraiser received, so her jibe has rather backfired.

However, there is another aspect of this which I feel is worth mentioning. Now, it is perfectly true that appropriating any national symbol such as a Patron Saint or, say, a flag, can be viewed by some members of society as being inappropriate and perhaps even offensive. But it is worth considering that the SNP have used these national symbols because they were largely ignored by Unionists until relatively recently because they represent Scotland, and that nation’s culture was merely tolerated by the UK Establishment.

I’m not a great one for promoting flag-waving,

jingoistic nationalism, because I think our nation deserves better than that, but I recognise that symbols have a powerful emotive hold on a great many people, and this is what makes the use of national symbols such a big deal. Every nation on earth has a national flag as a symbol of identity and most nominally Christian countries, as far as I know, have a Patron Saint. This is because, human nature being what it is, people identify with symbols.

But have the SNP really appropriated Scotland’s flag and Patron Saint, and, if so, why is it such an issue?

Looking back even thirty years ago, how often did you see or hear people mention St Andrews’ Day? It was an event more notable for being largely ignored than for being celebrated. Unlike St Patrick’s Day in Ireland, St Andrew’s Day still remains something of a non-event but it is, at least, mentioned more often these days. As for the Saltire being a political symbol, that’s true enough, but only because it has been treated as little more than a regional symbol by the UK for the past three centuries. It was waved at football matches and flown alongside the Union flag on civic buildings in Scotland, but it was rarely regarded as a symbol of national unity. For that reason, the UK Establishment did not fear its use.

Hang on, you may be saying to yourself. It’s only a flag. Why should anyone fear it? But flags are amongst the most potent of symbols, as is amply demonstrated by the Union Flag which is forever being displayed on our TV screens, as well as now appearing on such diverse things as Driving Licences and bridges. it is a political tool, designed to reinforce national identity, and anything which challenges it will inevitably be attacked by British Nationalists.

So it is understandable that Tories like Ruth Davidson will be upset at what they see as the appropriation of Scottish national symbols. That’s because they have long denied that Scotland is a proper nation. As more and more people come to realise this, such national symbols will become more and more politicised. The problem for British Nationalists is that these symbols were never taken very seriously except in a “Proud Scot but" sort of way. Having been left to gather dust, it is no wonder that the SNP, a Party who proclaim themselves as quintessentially Scottish, should promote their usage. It is, however, the people of Scotland who have appropriated them in order to express their growing sense of national identity which had, for many, been subsumed beneath their British identity.

It is important for any State that its citizens identify with that State. That is why the UK has always sought to diminish any expression of identity which differs from British Nationalism. In the past, this has usually been done in a subtle way, acknowledging differences so long as they remained within a narrow band of acceptability and did not threaten the State because British identity was an overarching cultural glue which bound most UK citizens together.

Scots may have always acknowledged their separate identity but the only aspects of Scottish culture which have generally been tolerated are those which play up to the British view of quaint regional customs, such as kilts, haggis and bagpipes which are good for tourism but don’t result in large swathes of the population forming up behind them as symbols of national identity.

Even events such as Burns Suppers cannot be described as having broad social appeal within Scotland. Families might mark Burns Night by eating haggis, but most formal Burns Suppers are attended by the well off socialites and business men and women who were likely to have voted No in the IndieRef. They are socialising, networking events to entertain clients with a bit of quaint and archaic custom, but they hardly represent a national pastime. The Bard has probably been spinning in his grave for decades over this, although recent political events in Scotland may well see a shift in how Burns Suppers are perceived. Maybe the people will appropriate them as well.

Of course, all of this coils down to the Cringe. We aren’t supposed to celebrate our national identity except in small ways which are acceptable to the UK State because they are harmless. As soon as they are used for political purposes which threaten the State, the UK turns nasty. If you are in any doubt about this, consider the reaction in the House of Commons on Wednesday when Angus Robertson, the SNP’s Deputy Leader, wished everyone a Happy St Andrew’s Day. His remark was jeered and booed by the Tories in the House. That is what asserting a separate, non-British identity does.

But it is too late now for the genie to be put back in the bottle. The point is that, as soon as people began to realise that Scotland really is a very distinct nation, they wanted a way to express that through symbolism. The symbols were there, dusty and largely unused, or treated like trophies which are displayed as prizes of war. Is it any wonder we appropriated them?


It's Nice To Dream

Posted on November 28th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Arron Banks is a wealthy businessman who largely funded UKIP’s anti EU campaign. Judging by his comments on social media, he has all the attitudes one would expect from a UKIP supporter.

His latest target is Scotland. It appears he is quite liberal in his attitudes to foreigners and counts Scots among those he dislikes. Indeed, his dislike has reached the stage where he is now mooting the idea of England having a referendum to evict Scotland from the UK.

Before you dismiss the idea as daft, bear in mind that Arron Banks effectively bankrolled Brexit. He got his way on that, so there is no reason why, in time, he could not make this seemingly bizarre idea a reality.

Let’s hope he does. Can you imagine it?

What would the campaigns look lie? Let’s call them “Scotland Must Stay" and, politely, “Get Lost, Scotland!".

The Get Lost campaign would bring out all the usual stereotypes of Scottish scroungers which Ruth Davidson is so fond of; they would call for Hadrian’s Wall to be rebuilt, completely ignoring the fact that this would put a sizeable chunk of Northern England into Scottish territory; and they’d play the race card because that’s UKIP’s main weapon. It would be distasteful in the extreme and might irritate even ardent No voters.

But it would be the Stay campaign which would be most interesting. No doubt they’d play the history card, harping back to more than three centuries of Union, because living on dreams of the past is what Unionists do best, and we certainly shouldn’t underestimate the appeal of the old Imperial mindset which still holds sway over many people in England.

But the intriguing thought is that the barrage of Subsidy Myth statements from the get Lost campaign might force the Stay campaign to reveal Scotland’s true value to the UK. To counter the Scrounger claims, they’d need to tell the truth about the subsidy myth. People in England might actually need to be told that the UK could not afford to lose Scotland in financial terms.

So, if such a referendum ever does happen, the result really doesn’t matter all that much. If the vote is to evict Scotland, then that’s great, although there would no doubt be a period of severe economic and political upheaval since such an eviction is unlikely to lead to a harmonious split.

But if the Stay campaign were to win after being forced to tell the truth, it would make the next Scottish IndieRef so much easier for Yes to win because even the fearties would have learned the truth about Scotland’s wealth.

It’s all just “What if?" speculation, of course, but sometimes it’s nice to dream.


A Unionist Plan

Posted on November 26th, 2016

by Wee Hamish

There are five of us in my family. We’re doing OK because three of us have jobs, so we really can’t complain, even if the jobs aren’t great and don’t pay a huge amount. We’re not rich, but we’re not struggling as badly as some folk are. Still, things could be better, and I think I know how to take a step up in the world.

I have a friend who voted No in the IndyRef. He’s married but got no kids. Both him and his wife have very well paid jobs. In fact, you could say they’re minted. They’ve got two flashy cars and a big house.

So here’s my great plan. When I meet up with my pal next time, I’m going to suggest Pooling and Sharing. Because my household is larger than his, I’m going to insist he gives me all his money from his salary, his bank interest and his share dividends, along with everything his wife earns. Then I’ll pay them what I think they deserve based on a complicated formula which I’ll work out so that they gets a share of the total income from both families.

Of course, seeing as my house has most people in it, I’ll need to make sure that all our neighbours know we have entered into this fantastic new United Household arrangement. This means my family will need a bigger house, flashy cars, hi-tech gadgets and all the latest mod cons. That’s because we will need to let everyone know the Union of Households works and makes us Great.

Don’t think I’m being cruel here. We’ll all get a good deal out of this arrangement. All important decisions will be made democratically. Everything will be voted on, with my pal and his wife having two votes to add to the five from my family. The only time he and his wife won’t get their own way is if a majority vote goes against them. I can’t see why they might be upset about that.

I think this is a great idea. I wonder if my pal will go for it?


Railroaded Again

Posted on November 19th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

There was a train crash in The Netherlands yesterday. No Government Ministers are being asked to resign.

There was a dreadful tram crash in Croydon earlier in the week. No UK Government Minister is being asked to resign.

A train broke down in Edinburgh, causing severe disruption to Scotland’s rail network for a few hours … and there are calls for Transport Minister Humza Yousaf to resign.

Only in Scotland can a mechanical failure of a single train be the fault of the Government. This is, of course, because the Unionist Parties in Holyrood and their media pals will pounce on any excuse to scream that the SNP are very bad indeed. You’d think no train had ever broken down before although, as anyone who has ever been a regular commuter will tell you, such things are not, in fact, unknown. Some trains even used to break down or be cancelled when Labour’s Scottish Branch Office was in power at Holyrood. Perhaps their Transport Ministers resigned every time this happened, although I don’t recall that.

Of course, the rail disruption came at a great time for the Unionist Parties since it allowed them to deflect attention away from their refusal to support the notion that Scotland should try to remain within the European Single Market. Their blinkered British nationalism couldn’t bring them to vote in Scotland’s best interests, but they don’t want anyone to pay too much attention to that, so chaos on the railways came as a superb distraction.

They certainly made the most of it, with questions in the Holyrood chamber and the BBC headlining the story for all it was worth in attempts to put the Scottish Government on the defensive, as usual.

Amidst the furore, there were claims that the rail network should be nationalised, and most people would probably support that notion. The problem however, is that the legislation to permit such a move was a reserved matter and it is only when the additional devolved powers from the Scotland Act come into force that the Scottish Government will be able to do anything about this. Even then, it won’t be allowed to fully nationalise the service. All it will be able to do is establish a publicly owned Company which can bid for the franchise in competition with private Companies and other countries’ state rail operators such as Abellio who recently won the Scotrail franchise. Labour’s calls for a nationalised rail service are particularly hypocritical since, during their thirteen years in power at Westminster, they did absolutely nothing to devolve power over the rail network to Holyrood.

But there is another aspect to the hypocrisy of the Unionist politicians and media. We constantly hear them complain that the SNP is a centralising and controlling Party who should allow Local Authorities and other institutions to get on with their jobs without interference. Yet, as soon as a train breaks down, they demand that the Scottish Government interfere. Sorry, but you can’t have it both ways.

Now, it must be said that, if you are a commuter stuck in the middle of such a disruption, it is very annoying indeed. Been there, done that. It is also true that it is incumbent upon the Scottish Government to monitor the performance of a company which is running the rail franchise, but you cannot expect a Government Minister to resign because one train broke down, no matter how much chaos that caused. If that were the case, the Westminster Government would soon run out of Transport Ministers because, believe it or not, Scotrail’s performance is better than the operators in most parts of the UK. If you want to know what a dreadful train service is like, try commuting in the South of England.

Still, while we are on the subject of railways, it must be said that other countries run their rail networks much more efficiently than anywhere in the UK. We also face problems of track capacity and old rolling stock, and these things must be addressed. It really shouldn’t be too much to ask that our trains run on time and have sufficient capacity to carry the increasing number of people who wish to travel by train. Lower fares wouldn’t hurt either. Some of these things are outwith the control of the Scottish Government but some can be, and are being, addressed, although the work will take a long time.

Having said that, it cannot be denied that rail services in Central Scotland are significantly better than they were ten years ago. As someone who used to commute to and from Edinburgh on a daily basis, I can well remember the continual doubt as to whether I would be able to actually get onto an overcrowded train at all. That sort of fear is, by and large, less of an issue nowadays.

We’ve also seen the electrification of many routes and the opening of the Borders railway although that latter project is, predictably, suffering regular delays due to the job being done on the cheap and the line consisting of a single track in far too many places. Demand has, though, exceeded expectations, which can only be viewed as a good thing.

Of course, things are much worse when you go north of the River Forth. There is a lot of work to do to bring many routes up to scratch. Whether Abellio are up to the task remains to be seen. They certainly seem, from an outsider’s perspective, to be more interested in cutting costs than on improving the service. Their plans to have driver-only trains is particularly disappointing since it not only has a potentially dangerous effect in terms of safety for all passengers, but also discriminates against disabled passengers, many of whom are unable to board a train without assistance from a guard.

So let’s not kid ourselves that the rail system in Scotland is perfect. It’s far from it and the work to upgrade and make further improvements will be never-ending. Equally, let’s not get ourselves worked into a froth when something goes wrong. And if something does go wrong, let’s make sure any blame is directed at the right place. It is down to Abellio to operate the trains and it is down to them to minimise the disruption. Humza Yousaf is a talented guy, but he’s not a railway mechanic as far as I know.


The Projectionists

Posted on November 17th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

So every Scottish Political Party was in favour of remaining in the EU and maintaining membership of the Single Market. Until it came to actually voting on a Holyrood resolution. Then, in accordance with their inability to vote for anything the SNP suggests, the Tories and Lib Dems voted against the motion, while Labour abstained.

The vote was won by the SNP and Greens, but that in itself is not hugely significant. What really matters is that the Unionist Parties have shown that, when it comes to acting in Scotland’s interests, they will always put the UK first. Their pro-EU stance lasts only as long as it takes the SNP to suggest actually doing something about maintaining membership. They have totally ignored the result of the EU referendum in Scotland, gone against the wishes of the majority of their constituents, and voted to stick with Brexit no matter what the consequences might be for Scotland.

If there still happened to be anyone who was in any doubt as to where the allegiances of these Parties lie, it must surely be clear to everyone that it does not lie with the Scottish people. Their tribal instincts and allegiance to the UK come first every time. It is Nationalism par excellence.

Yet they will deny being Nationalists of any sort. They heap scorn on anyone who describes themselves as a Nationalist, always using the term to imply a link to Hitler’s Germany, and conveniently forgetting that virtually every other country in the world is run by Nationalists. Nelson Mandela was a Nationalist, as were many other famous world leaders who are almost universally admired.

What the BritNats seem incapable of understanding is that having pride in your own country does not mean you must hate people from other countries. The reason they struggle with this concept is because British Nationalism is founded on the myth of British superiority. This has produced the unfortunate result that it is actually British Nationalism which is beginning to most closely resemble the antics of 1930s Germany, Italy and Spain, although it must be admitted that the USA is now competing to see who can get there first.

But the projection of one’s own traits onto one’s opponents does not stop there. Tory MSP Murdo Fraser attacked the Scottish Government for having no clear plan on how to deal with Brexit. Yes, that’s right; a Tory attacked the SNP administration for having precisely the same lack of policy as his own Westminster Government, conveniently overlooking the fact that the Scottish Government can hardly be expected to make detailed plans until they know what Westminster proposes.

There have been other examples of this projection tactic. Some commentators are attempting to equate the rise of the Scottish Yes movement to the rise of Far Right ideology when, in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. The SNP may well be more Right Wing than they often like to claim, but they are only a little to the Right of what used to be the Centre Ground, and are certainly well to the Left of the Unionist Parties who have all now openly declared, through their voting record in Holyrood, that they adhere to UKIP’s stance on the EU.

Ruth Davidson has been one of the prime proponents of this projection tactic, using reports on the state of NHS England to attack the Scottish Government over NHS Scotland’s performance, and we can expect this tactic to continue because the better Together Parties cannot rely on expounding their own policies since all we need to do is look over the Border to see the results of Tory rule.

As for the Lib Dems, Tim Farron recently boasted that they are the only pro-EU Party left, again conveniently ignoring the SNP. Willie Rennie and his handful of fellow MSPs put the lie to that when they voted against Scotland remaining in the Single Market.

As for Labour, all they can do is abstain, confirming their virtual irrelevance to everyone in Scotland except the BBC.

Post-Truth politics has come to this. Devoid of any real plans other than to maintain the rule of the wealthy elite and multi-national corporate entities, all the unionist Parties have left are lies and smears. They will attack their opponents for doing precisely what they themselves are doing, they will rely on a tame media to repeat the slurs and they will endeavour to keep the general public as misinformed as possible.

The trouble is, many people will fall for it. Don’t be one of them.


The New Normal

Posted on November 15th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

I’ve made several aborted attempts to put my concerns about the current state of politics into a readable article. Sadly, it has proved to be very difficult to express things in the way I’d like without coming across as some sort of sanctimonious zealot.

I remain angry at what is happening, but I’ve confined myself to a couple of comments which I hope will resonate with others.

First, I am increasingly concerned that the move to the far Right by elected leaders in the UK and USA could have disastrous consequences. I hope I’m wrong, but both nations are already deeply divided and the push to extremism may result in a violent reaction from those on the Left. That won’t do anyone any good and, if it happens, will only result in the authoritarian Right Wing Governments becoming even more extreme. What we need is common sense, strong political opposition to the Far Right, not protests about the result of elections which we don’t like.

Secondly, I am appalled by the media in the UK which is attempting to portray both the Brexit politicians and Donald Trump as holding views which are perfectly normal. Of course, the newspapers have pushed the Hate agenda for years, demonising foreigners, the poor, the unemployed and the disabled, and they are only going to become more extreme now that their hate-mongering has virtually become official Government policy.

The BBC cannot escape criticism either. They have promoted Nigel Farage and UKIP at every opportunity, and are now openly giving platforms to Fascists who are permitted to expound their doctrines with virtually no challenge, while anyone on the Left of politics is mercilessly grilled on every tiny aspect of their agenda.

The thing we must all keep in mind is that these authoritarian, Far Right views are not normal. Donald Trump has shown himself to be a xenophobic, homophobic, misogynist racist. Theresa May and her Brexit Ministers have also displayed xenophobic tendencies and are likely to take encouragement from Trump’s election success. I fully expect to see further examples of authoritarian extremism from Westminster.

But none of this is normal! It is merely the latest symptom of the increasingly Rightward drift of the political mainstream. It is only portrayed as normal because journalists know their paymasters wish to retain their positions as part of the wealthy elite. It is in the interests of the media to assure citizens that every harm done to them, every instance of public services being cut, every example of the wealthy and of corporate entities avoiding paying tax is perfectly normal. This is because the neo-liberal system suits those in the upper echelons of society. They want a docile, unquestioning public who are too afraid of losing their jobs; they want things to stay just the way they are. That’s why they’ll tell us that there is nothing to fear from Trump or May, why they’ll tell us that anyone who disagrees is a bigot, a fool or naïve.

There is only one way to counter this barrage of propaganda. If you must listen to the mainstream News, don’t accept what they tell you at face value. They have an agenda, so please find alternative sources of information to counter the propaganda. And don’t buy the newspapers which peddle hatred. The best way to hurt them is by not buying their papers.

Then, when you get the chance in the ballot box, show the Far Right that it is not they who are normal, it is the rest of us.


The Wrong Protests

Posted on November 10th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

The US Presidential Election has produced some drastic reactions, with people going so far as to hold demonstrations to protest the result.

Now, many of us have been on the losing side in recent votes, particularly the Scottish IndieRef and the EURef, so we can understand the anger people feel at their preferred candidate not winning, especially when Donald Trump has a proven track record as a liar, not to mention his extreme views on Gay Rights, climate change and other issues.

But that’s the trouble with democracy, and those who are protesting really ought to take a look at themselves. Nobody is saying you need to be happy with the result, and it is perfectly acceptable to hold demonstrations to protest about specific issues on which the Government has passed, or intends to pass, controversial legislation. But Donald Trump hasn’t even taken office yet, so what these people are protesting about is democracy itself. They are, in effect, displaying all the attributes of the very people they oppose.

There have also been many claims regarding Trump’s misogyny and homophobia. Again, these complaints are perfectly justified and it is difficult to ignore the fact that many people support his extreme views. However, we cannot assume that everyone who voted for him also agrees with him on every issue. Some will no doubt have been prepared to put up with some of his more extreme views because they feel that his overall political stance best reflects what they want to see in a President. We may disagree with that point of view, but it does not help calm matters to claim that every Trump voter (as opposed to active supporter) is a homophobic misogynist. All of us who vote often have to make concessions to some aspects of our preferred candidate’s policies. It’s just that Trump’s views are so extreme, and his character so unpleasant, that many people are struggling to understand why he received so many votes.

According to early reports on voting statistics, the answer is simply that Republicans voted for him because he was standing as a Republican candidate. He won because so many Democrat supporters refused to vote for Hilary Clinton and so stayed away from the polling booths. That is quite significant and raises an issue which has implications for Scottish independence. But more on that in a moment.

There is little doubt that Trump will make some awful decisions when he becomes President, and people have the right to protest about those decisions. But protesting about the democratic choice of the American people is pointless. It’s the sort of behaviour we can fully expect from Right Wing extremists should any votes go against them, although that seems unlikely in the present political climate, since Right Wing extremism has captured the imagination of a large percentage of the populace in both America and the UK.

Losing any election or referendum is disappointing and can make people feel utterly disheartened, but protesting about the result itself does no good. That doesn’t mean anyone should simply give up the cause they believe in. People will continue to campaign for Scottish independence in the hope of persuading others to change their minds, but that is not to say we do not respect the result of the last referendum. Indeed, as others have pointed out, it is the unionists who have not respected the result since they have reneged on virtually every promise they made in order to secure that result.

What recent democratic decisions have shown us is that politicians and their media pals are quite prepared to lie in order to gain support and are unrepentant about breaking promises. That shouldn’t come as any real surprise, except that they are even more blatant about it now. Or perhaps it is just that the internet allows their hypocrisy to be highlighted more easily.

The other thing which is becoming apparent is that, no matter what political or economic arguments people may use, voters tend to cling to their core beliefs. US Republicans voted for Trump in similar numbers to Republicans in previous elections, many Unionists in the UK will vote against Scottish independence no matter how much harm Westminster does to Scotland, and confirmed Yessers will vote for independence no matter what dire predictions the media make about the consequences. That is why winning the next IndieRef will be so difficult – because opinions are becoming more and more entrenched. As the UK continues its march towards Fascism, those who want a different way are becoming more vocal and extreme in railing against it. The trouble is that such protests are often misdirected, as in the case of the rallies protesting about Trump’s election. There may well be an angry groundswell against the result, but energies should be concentrated on campaigning against his policies when he implements them, not on attempting to undermine a democratic decision. There is certainly an argument to be made that the First Past The Post system employed in the UK and the USA produces results which do not necessarily reflect the views of the majority, but that is a separate argument altogether. It’s the system we are lumbered with until such time as there is sufficient will to alter it.

What many people are losing sight of at the moment is that we face a difficult and dangerous future. With the Right Wing extremists dominating control, there will be a great many things to protest about over the coming years. Let’s make sure our protests are made at the right time, and are aimed at the right issues.


Depressing Thoughts

Posted on November 9th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Amidst all the wailing and gnashing of teeth over the result of the US Presidential Election, here are a few things to consider.

The first is that pandering to people’s baser instincts still works as an election strategy.

The second is that many people are so fed up with the way neo-liberal dominance of political thinking has treated them, they are prepared to vote for anything that offers the promise of change.

The third, and most worrying for people living in the UK, is that Trump’s election will only spur on the extreme Right Wing xenophobes who currently pose as our Government. They have a few years’ head start on Trump but will no doubt take his election as confirmation that their brand of hatred is what the voters want. Sadly, given the most recent Opinion Polls which give the Tories a very substantial lead, they are justified in holding that view. We can only hope that the Opinion Polls are as wrong about that as they have been about most recent election results.

Still, these are worrying times, and things will probably get a lot worse before they get better.


Silver Lining

Posted on November 4th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

The Court ruling on the need for Parliament to approve the triggering of article 50 has created quite a stir. Brexiteers are furious that, having taken back control from the EU and placed sovereignty in the hands of Parliament, it is now necessary for Parliament to exercise that sovereignty.

The Right Wing Press has gone into full-blown Fascist mode, virtually calling for the overthrow of democratic institutions such as Courts which have the temerity to pass judgement in accordance with current UK law.

These are dangerous times since, judging by their comments, there is clearly a group of Westminster politicians who would be quite happy to see the UK become a totalitarian state. Never has there been such a feeling amongst Yessers that Scotland needs to break away from this dysfunctional State.

And yet the court ruling has also caused concern in the Yes community because there is a feeling that Westminster might vote not to invoke Article 50, thus leaving the UK within the EU and removing the reason for holding another IndieRef. Goodness only knows what sort of response that will bring from the frothing tabloids, but, while it remains likely that Theresa May will force Brexit through in order to maintain her grip on power, the Court ruling means that the UK remaining in the EU has become more of a possibility.

So how should Scotland react if there is a chance of Westminster voting on Brexit?

There really is only one answer. Scottish MPs must vote to remain part of the EU. That was the clear will of the majority of Scottish voters. While the three Unionist MPs may ignore that and vote to keep the Brexiteers happy, the SNP MPs do not really have any viable choice even if it takes IndieRef2 off the table for several more years.

But let’s not be downhearted at this prospect. For one thing, negotiating another IndieRef while Brexit discussions are taking place is going to be very problematic. Given that the outcome of Brexit negotiations may not be known until very late in the process, arranging, campaigning for, and holding an IndieRef will be logistically difficult. If the actual date of independence in the event of a Yes majority were to be after the date the UK leaves the EU, Scotland will be in a state of limbo which may last anything from days up to years.

Of course, one would hope that the Scottish government is fully cognisant of these issues and will attempt to arrange things so that there is either a smooth transition or a period of agreed semi-membership of the EU while the formalities are dealt with, but there is no doubt it will present some practical issues.

More importantly, though, let’s not forget that this is dependent on Yes winning the next IndieRef, and the truth is that this is by no means certain. You can guarantee that the full force of establishment propaganda will be unleashed by the media, led by the BBC, because The UK is terrified of the double blow to its prestige and its finances should it lose its grip on Scotland. This relentless campaign will have an effect because we must not lose sight of the fact that there are still an awful lot of people who feel so attached to the UK they would prefer to sink into Third World poverty as long as they are allowed to wave their Union Flags. There are also a great many who will remain too afraid of change to take that final step towards becoming a normal country. So the likelihood is that a Yes win would be by the slimmest of majorities, which is not a healthy position to start from. Sadly, the Brexit fiasco has probably come a bit too soon for the Yes movement, so having an enforced delay might be no bad thing.

On the other hand, there are concerns about delaying too long. Yes, the time will allow for a younger, more informed generation to vote, and it will also allow more time for Westminster and the media to demonstrate their contempt for Scotland. The more they treat Scotland like a colonial asset, the more the desire to break away will grow.

But the longer it takes, the more time Westminster has to strip Scotland of its wealth. Our heavy industry has already all but vanished, our Renewables industry is being penalised, our coal power stations are being closed, our Government’s annual cash handout is being squeezed, pressure is building to allow fracking, jobs are being transferred to England, military bases are being shut down, our Universities are being penalised by the removal of Post-Study Work Visas, and Austerity economics still holds sway, forcing ever more people into poverty.

So there is a very difficult balancing act to be achieved here. The timing of the next IndieRef must be spot on. If we lose the next one, we really will have lost our chance for a generation.

So, while Brexit will no doubt have more shocks and surprises in store, and it may yet lead to Scottish independence, let’s not be too upset if the UK decides to remain in the EU for the time being. That’s what the majority of scots voted for, after all.

There might even be an unexpected silver lining. Imagine the furore from the London media if it is the votes of SNP MPs which keeps the UK inside the EU. We may find that the Brexiteers will be so desperate to have their way, they’ll demand that England leaves the UK.

We can but hope.


Jabbering On

Posted on November 1st, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Apart from following a couple of Unionist journalists on Twitter just to keep tabs on what they are saying, I don’t generally follow many Unionists at all since I disagree with their opinions and find most of their arguments spurious at best. I find it keeps my blood pressure at manageable levels not to engage with such extremist views as are often propounded by BritNats.

However, one particular Tweet came to my attention yesterday. I won’t name the author, but suffice to say it was one of the high profile Unionist bloggers. What she said is a superb display of how to incorporate unthinking ignorance and colonial arrogance in a mere 140 characters.

The tweet read:

“There isn’t a Gaelic for pothole. It’s like jabber jabber jabber helicopter jabber jabber jabber pothole jabber television."

There are two aspects to this comment which need to be pointed out.

First, Gaelic is not alone in borrowing words from other languages to convey a name or idea for which the language does not have a suitable equivalent. Indeed, the language which borrows most words from others is English. That is one of English’s great features. Off the top of my head, I was able to think of Vuvuzela, Schadenfreude and Déjà vu as words or expressions which are used in English because there is no equivalent word in the native language. It is also worth pointing out that English did not have a word for Helicopter until it was invented.

I see no reason to mock English for these gaps in vocabulary, so why any speaker of English should see fit to mock another language for adopting foreign words is a bit of a mystery.

Or is it?

It is apparent that many British Nationalists view Gaelic with disdain. This is a hangover from the UK’s imperialist past, where local cultures were seen as inferior. The fact that this viewpoint remains strong even in the 21st Century is a testament to the power of British Nationalism. Gaelic is seen as inferior to English, so anyone who speaks it must be inferior to English speakers. It’s a very warped view of the world but is typical of the BritNat mentality which has seen Brexit MPs declare that they will obtain deals from the EU before they have even begun their negotiations. Foreigners, you see, should bow down to the superior culture of Britain.

This arrogance is completely illogical when applied to issues of language. A monoglot English speaker is somehow able to convince him or her self that someone who has the ability to be fluent in two languages is inferior to a person who can speak only English.

Hardline BritNats apply this logic to all foreign languages, but Gaelic is particularly targeted since it is native to Scotland and is therefore perceived as a threat to the culture of the UK. It’s a particularly narrow-minded outlook and is grounded in xenophobia. Mocking a language and its speakers is a way of demeaning and belittling them in order to assert the superiority of one’s own culture. It’s a view which is, sadly, deeply entrenched in British culture. Thankfully, more and more people are beginning to realise that, whether you speak Gaelic or not, its continued use is a part of Scottish culture which should be celebrated.

So, if you hear someone speaking Gaelic, or any other foreign language come to that, please don’t think to yourself, “That person must be stupid because they aren’t speaking English". Instead, you might want to reflect that, from their point of view, it is you who lacks the ability to converse in two languages.


Not A Believer

Posted on October 27th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Yesterday, the newspapers were full of headlines proclaiming insights into what Theresa May really thinks of Brexit. This followed the leak of a recording of a speech she gave to some city bankers before the EU Referendum. According to this report, she was against Brexit because of the risks it presented, some of these having already come to pass in the wake of the Leave result.

But is this what she really thinks? This is, after all, the woman who told the triumphant Leavers that “Brexit means Brexit"; who told Nicola Sturgeon that Scotland’s views would be taken into account during Brexit negotiations but who then told the UK media that there would be a united UK stance; and who told the Little Englanders of the Tory Conference that foreign doctors would be booted out of the UK as soon as practicable.

Just about the only thing we can conclude from these statements is that Theresa May will say whatever she thinks her current audience wants to hear. Her reason for doing so is fairly obvious; she wants them to like what she is saying, which is political code for wanting them to vote for her. Of course, all politicians want people to vote for them and they choose their arguments accordingly. Few, however, so blatantly alter their opinions depending on the audience they are addressing. It is the sort of tactic which may have worked well in the Victorian era back to which the Tories seem determined to take us, but in today’s world, where every word and gesture is liable to be on the internet within minutes, all it does is reveal the naked cynicism and hypocrisy of politicians who change their views more easily than a chameleon alters its skin pigmentation.

NO doubt the BBC and other Right Wing media outlets will do their best to minimise the damage, but surely more and more people will soon begin to realise that all the Tories in general, and Theresa May in particular, are interested in is remaining in power.


They Will

Posted on October 24th, 2016

THEY WILL

By Tcswim

Flatten the munros and the bens

Build toon-hooses in awe the glens

Fill up the lochs, drain the sea

Sold to the UK bourgeoisie

Loch Lomond fill it up wi Tory concrete

A Disney World in Princes street

Sell Edinburgh for Trump courses

Glasgow for US nuclear Forces

Silence the workers; no woman may speak

Export the poor, enslave the weak

Employ kilted robots run by computers

Jock-servants for London commuters

Scotland for sale: some Tory will buy

& ban the Gaelic: Let Scotia die

Unless, unless unless unless

Say YES & YES and AYE!


A Price Worth Paying?

Posted on October 18th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

During the IndieRef, a poll suggested that many people would be influenced by whether they believed they would be £10 per week worse off. It was a very depressing statistic to be presented with because it showed just how deeply the selfish, penny-pinching attitude of neo-liberalism had pervaded the thoughts of so many people.

Yet, as the outcome of the Brexit vote is demonstrating, the reality is very different. In practice, we are seeing that a great many people do not care about the economic consequences as long as their political aim is achieved. In this respect, those of us who support an independent Scotland really ought to be wary of mocking Brexiters because, for many of us, independence is worth paying a price for. Our view on that is little different to the view of the average Brexiteer, even if the consequences of Brexit are far more severe than those we expect from Scottish independence.

This presents us with a potential problem for the next IndieRef because there is a strange dichotomy in how people respond to such important issues. We know we can fully expect the media, led by the BBC, to trumpet warnings about the disastrous economic consequences for Scotland should it break from the UK. Indeed, they have already begun their campaign of widespread misinformation and propaganda. This constant repetition of the Subsidy myth and other aspects will continue and will conveniently ignore the already visible results of the Brexit vote. On the face of things, many Scots will use these warnings as a reason to stick with the Union, although the reality is that it will be little more than a convenient excuse used to back up their attachment to the UK. The reality is, as we can see, that a plunging Pound, an ever-increasing Deficit and a clueless Government who seem to think that the EU will give them whatever trade deal they demand, do not, in practice, affect people’s essential allegiances. This means that changing the minds of Scots who feel an attachment to the UK is going to be very difficult indeed.

So how do we persuade people that, contrary to what the media are telling them, independence is a less risky option?

There must certainly be more made of the desperate state of the UK’s financial prospects, the growing inequality, the dreadful Social Security system, the appallingly low Pensions and the privatisation of the English NHS. But those things, on their own, will not be enough because many people will simply shrug and deem them an acceptable price to pay for what they mistakenly see as the stability of the UK.

What we also need to do is talk Scotland up. It won’t be easy because the media will do their best to suppress any good news about Scotland but we should remember that, in contrast to the UK as a whole, Scotland is a net exporter. For all the talk of the plummeting pound benefitting UK exporters, the UK does not export all that much when compared to most of our European neighbours, but Scotland has the food and drink sector, including whisky, fish and beef; we have expertise in computer gaming and bio-medical science; we have five universities in the world’s top 200; we have the potential to develop industries such as shipbuilding which have been deliberately run down by successive UK Governments; we have an often-overlooked forestry industry; we have a growing and leading renewable energy sector; and, yes, we have oil which, despite the fact that it has apparently led to Scotland becoming impoverished, is actually regarded as a valuable asset by every other country in the world. If we can demonstrate that becoming independent and retaining membership of the EU would allow us to take advantage of these and other factors such as Human Rights, a more compassionate Social Security system, better Pension provision, etc., we will be able to paint a vivid contrast between the prospects for an independent Scotland and an increasingly isolationist and xenophobic UK.

For many of us, independence is an article of faith, its value outweighing the costs, but it is increasingly becoming the sensible option in economic terms and we need to ensure that more of our fellow Scots understand this.

One final, and important, point needs to be made. We should not take any delight in the awful move towards Fascism which is increasingly evident in England. I would still want independence for Scotland if the UK was a benevolent society with a tolerant attitude and was to remain in the EU. Sadly, that is not the course English voters have chosen to follow. I feel nothing but sorrow at this state of affairs but it is a choice of their own making and there is nothing we in Scotland can do about it except, hopefully, go our own way and hope, for everyone’s sake, that things do not become too dreadful south of the Border.


Not So Secret List

Posted on October 11th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

In the wake of the abhorrent Tory proposal to force Companies to publish lists of their non-UK workers, the Right Wing media have been desperate to find another stick with which to beat the SNP.

In the week of the SNP conference, most newspapers are going out of their way to publish articles which are critical of the Scottish Government, but the prize must surely go to the Daily Express who have launched a ferocious attack on the SNP for using a secret list of foreign nationals to write to EU citizens living in Scotland. The thrust of the story is that the NP are, at best, hypocrites for criticising the patriotic UK Government for quite rightly wanting to list foreign nationals while at the same time using their own secret list of names and addresses to allow them to identify EU citizens.

It sounds worrying, doesn’t it? Until you realise that the secret list in question is actually the Electoral Register. When you register to vote, you give your Name, Address, Date of Birth and Nationality. All political Parties are given access to the Electoral Register to allow them to contact their constituents. Identifying EU nationals is therefore pretty easy. How do you think the Electoral Commission knew how to exclude non-UK citizens from the Brexit Referendum?

Using the Electoral Register for this sort of purpose is a far cry from forcing Companies to publish details of their foreign employees solely in order to vilify them.

So the moral of the tale is, as usual, never to take media stories at face value.


The Widening Gulf

Posted on October 9th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Much has been said and written about the growing gulf between the general attitudes in Scotland and England. Some have put this down to historical cultural outlooks, where Scotland has retained some memory of the ancient tribal and clan customs of community interdependence, while England has, since Anglo-Saxon times at least, placed a higher value on property than on people.

However, that is all ancient history and, while Scotland can certainly point to historical evidence for the sovereignty of the people rather than the sovereignty of a monarch or Parliament, there are more modern reasons why the outlook in the two countries has diverged so much.

The two main reasons are the attitude of the Government and the Internet.

Since the establishment of the Scottish Parliament, the governing Parties have had responsibility for domestic areas such as Health and Education. Unable to legislate on reserved matters, they have concentrated on attempting to improve the areas where they do have responsibility. This general rule applies not only to the SNP Government but to their Lib / Lab predecessors. However, it is the SNP Government which has pushed things rather further than previous Administrations. Such things as free prescriptions, banning smoking in public places, and free University tuition to name but a few, have established social matters as a priority for the Scottish Government.

It is an interesting “What if?" question as to whether the Scottish Government would have had the will to progress these sorts of measures had Scotland been an independent country where the Government would have had wider responsibilities, but let’s leave that for the philosophers to discuss.

The SNP certainly aren’t perfect because no Government is, and they are not as Left Wing as they like to portray themselves, but the fact that they have championed socially progressive policies has had an impact on the outlook of many Scottish citizens.

Yet the hangover from previous decades still looms over us. The 1980s saw many individuals become wealthy and the infamous “Greed is good" quote from the film Wall street became something of a symbol of the growing attitude that people should look after themselves. This panders to our natural instinct to want to do the best we can for ourselves and our families but, when taken too far, it can be the cause of social division, especially when people come to believe that anyone who has not succeeded in becoming moderately well off has failed because of their own innate laziness or lack of ability. In hindsight, we can see that many of the policies which made some people wealthy also resulted in a widening inequality in British society.

Then came the Independence Referendum and many of us turned to the internet for information because that is what people do these days. In so doing, we discovered sources of information other than the BBC and the national newspapers. Not only that, we discovered that there were things we could do for ourselves. As the grass roots of the Yes campaign took off, social media was able to spread information on events and we discovered that, instead of merely shaking our heads and tutting when we heard that some people were relying on food banks, we could go out and do something about it.

The whole IndieRef campaign became something of a social as well as a political awakening for many of us. We realised that it might be possible to create a fairer, more benevolent country than the one we had become accustomed to.

This awakening has not reached everyone and it probably never will. There will always be those who prefer to accumulate wealth for themselves; there will always be those who will cling to the UK whatever happens; and there is also the older generation who were brought up to believe that the BBC is impartial and fair.

By the time of the IndieRef, less than half of the electorate shared the vision of a fairer country but the message had reached a significant proportion of Scottish citizens. So much so that the SNP Government now faces some problems in keeping its hugely expanded membership happy. For example, how much of their newly won support will they retain should they approve fracking in Scotland? In issues like this, the electorate has realised that the people truly are sovereign.

None of this is to say that an independent Scotland would be some sort of socially democratic Utopia. No country has ever managed that although some strive to attain the goal. An independent Scotland would hopefully become one of those countries where socially progressive policies become the norm. Even then, every country faces challenges and difficulties and there would no doubt be mistakes made as the newly independent country made its own way in the world.

This is, of course, still not guaranteed. We don’t have independence and we cannot yet be certain that enough of our fellow citizens have realised the opportunities that independence presents as well as the potential risks it poses.

However, events in England over the past week or so are showing up the difference in attitudes in stark contrast.

Again, it comes from the top. Theresa May and her Brexit Ministers are ramping up the anti-foreigner rhetoric to unprecedented levels for a UK Government and this, like the influence of the Scottish Government on social attitudes, has resulted in Right Wing views dominating the general outlook of the public. This is aided, of course, by the media who are themselves largely responsible for creating the situation in the first place.

A word of warning here about making sweeping generalisations. We must remember that not everyone in England thinks this way. There are millions of English people who share the values the Yes movement has championed. The problem they have is that, until very recently, they had no alternative media to look to for sources of news and information. This is beginning to change but it may already be too late since the xenophobes have seized control. Opposition is fragmented and, thanks to Labour’s in-fighting, effectively leaderless. Even if Jeremy Corbyn were to unite the Labour Party, he is not a genuine leader and is also a product of the Westminster system, with little interest in, or knowledge of, many regions outside London.

The sad result of the growing xenophobia and isolationist rhetoric, much of it harking back to some mythical golden age and thoughts of Empire, is that some extremists are taking matters into their own hands. Attacks on foreign-born nationals and on anyone perceived as gay, have increased dramatically in the wake of the Brexit vote.

We can see, then, that the attitudes of a Government give licence to individuals to adopt certain behaviours. In Scotland, this has produced a large minority in favour of broadly Left of Centre values, while England has a small majority who seem to have adopted the xenophobic perspective of the Brexit-dominated Tory Government and the Right Wing media.

Nothing is ever black and white in such matters, of course. Scotland has its share of Right Wing enthusiasts and England has its Left Wing idealists. There are many shades of grey in attitudes because people are human and each has their own opinions on pretty much any matter you care to raise. But those opinions are shaped by our media and our Government. What is different now is that the internet has provided an alternative way to source information and, more importantly, to share it. That is a tool we need to make great use of over the coming months because the mainstream media will remain implacably hostile to Scottish independence. By using social media and, most importantly, by talking face to face with people and persuading them that we can build a better country where people are valued for what they contribute, not for their country of birth, the colour of their skin, their religion, their sexual orientation or any disability they may suffer from.

The Hash Tag #WeAreScotland has burgeoned on Twitter, proclaiming that not all of us subscribe to the view that foreigners should be hated. Some people may deride such things as meaningless and ineffectual but that is to underestimate the power of the internet to reinforce a sense of social cohesion. Such messages, whether relayed online or face to face, are important if we are to change the broader social outlook of even more Scottish citizens. It is happening, it is growing, but we need to keep it moving and, above all, we need to make a stand against the division and hatred being spread by those who revel in such things.

So don’t sit quiet. Whether online, in the pub, in the street, at work or at school, don’t let the unsavoury attitude of the Brexiteers go unchallenged. Stand up and speak up. You may not change the mind of the person confronting you but you will influence the others around you. Each of us needs to lead by example because there are a great many people who voted No in the IndieRef who are genuinely nice human beings but who just need a bit more convincing that there is a better way to live.


Godwin's Law

Posted on October 5th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

I had an argument with a couple of Unionists the other week. In response to their assertions that Theresa May is the sort of strong Prime Minister the UK needs, I stated that, according to the definition in my dictionary, she can be regarded as a Fascist, i.e. an extremely Right Wing authoritarian with nationalistic views.

to be honest, I said it in exasperation at their unwillingness to believe there is anything wrong with the state of UK politics but the past couple of days have, unfortunately, proved me rather more correct than I want to be.

Since coming to power in 2010, the Tories have become increasingly Right Wing, far more so than even their predecessors in the Conservative Party. They have, of course, been aided by a Right Wing media which portrays their views as normality and paints anyone with opposing views as some sort of loony Left Wing extremist. Thanks to this prevailing attitude in the media, the Tories have been getting away with blatant hypocrisy almost unchallenged.

Like so many evil things, the route to Fascism is taken with small steps. It began with the lie that the Tory Party was adopting the correct economic strategy to tackle what was portrayed as Labour’s disastrous financial legacy. This has been countered by many leading economists and by the simple and very checkable fact that the UK’s debt has doubled under the tory Government. Despite this failing policy which has seen increases in poverty, a widening of the equality gap, the loss of the UK’s Triple A credit rating and one of the worst economic recoveries in the world, the Tories still peddle the line that their way is the right way and few in the media bother to point out that they are, in fact, dragging the country into another economic slump which is only being aggravated by the Brexit vote.

Since Theresa May took charge, though, things have rapidly degenerated. Buoyed up by the knowledge that the media will not challenge them but will simply repeat their Press Releases as if they are gospel truths, the Tories have become emboldened far more quickly than any sane person would expect. It is a horrifying thought that, in comparison to May’s Government, David Cameron and George Osborne can be viewed as relatively benign.

In recent days we’ve seen Ruth Davidson claim that the SNP deliberately stir up anti-English sentiment when all the evidence points to the exact opposite. We’ve also seen David Mundell assure us that there will be a Team UK approach to the Brexit negotiations as long as Scotland understands that Westminster is the team Captain and will make all the decisions without consultation.

It is worth bearing in mind that both Davidson and Mundell were pro-EU during the Brexit campaign but both have sacrificed their principles to unite behind the Leave stance and are now proudly insisting that all the economic problems we face are the fault of the SNP and that things would certainly be much worse for Scotland should the citizens be stupid enough to vote to leave the UK.

But those things, annoying as they are, are merely the tip of the iceberg. We’ve been hearing for months about May’s intention to scrap the European Convention on Human Rights but things have taken a much darker turn in the past couple of days.

According to the speeches made at the Conservative Party Conference, Brexit now means a Hard Brexit in order to preserve the UK’s borders and control immigration. The Tories, it seems, have decided to out-UKIP UKIP by lurching even further to the Right in their hatred of foreigners.

In order to realise just how deep this xenophobia goes, you need only look at the case of Doctors. Theresa May has said that foreign Doctors practising in the UK will be allowed to remain only until British Doctors can be trained to replace them.

Just think about that for a moment. Doctors are coming here, helping to cure people, saving lives with their skills, and they are being told that their time in the UK is limited because they’ll be chucked out as soon as a British citizen is competent enough to replace them.

To ensure this programme of ethnic cleansing goes ahead, Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, has told British medical students that he will fine them if they have the temerity to train in the UK and then seek work abroad. Never mind trying to broaden your experience, you must stay in the UK because we need to get rid of those nasty foreign doctors.

Foreign students have also been a long-standing target. They are welcome to study in the UK since they pay very expensive fees to do so but they’d better not harbour any thoughts of staying here and contributing to our society once they have finished their studies. Get your degree and then get out because we don’t want your sort here.

But it’s not just the domestic scene the Tories have their eyes on. We were informed that the UK intends to go into its next war with its soldiers no longer answerable to the Human Rights Convention. That’s an awful statement on a couple of levels. First of all it assumes there will soon be another war which, to be fair, is probably a certainty given the UK’s proud history of attacking other countries for the flimsiest of reasons. Secondly, our soldiers will be free to carry out pretty much any act of violence they fancy against civilians without any fear of comeback. Now, we must be careful not to paint every service man and woman as a violent psychopath who would torture innocent civilians but the evidence suggests that there are those in the British Services who are not averse to carrying out acts of torture. The reason the MoD have pushed for this change in the law is that they have been compelled to pay out millions of pounds in compensation to victims of British brutality in Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s bad enough but the Tory response to solve the problem is unconscionable. To announce to the world that your troops are to be given carte blanche to do whatever they fancy when they invade another country is quite appalling.

Unbelievably, things got even worse as the Tory conference continued. Liam Fox, himself a descendant of Irish immigrants, has refused to give any assurances as to the fate of EU nationals living and working in the UK. They are, according to him, one of the UK’s best cards in the upcoming negotiations. They are not, you will note, viewed as people but merely as pawns to be exploited by the UK Government. What sort of message does this send to these people who are contributing to our society, to the EU negotiators and to the millions of UK citizens who live in other EU countries? The human consequences of such a stance don’t bear thinking about.

But then came the coup de grace. Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, announced that firms will be required to publish lists of the foreign nationals they employ in order that they can be shamed into employing more British citizens.

Yes, that’s right. Non-UK citizens are to be treated as a class apart.

What, one is entitled to ask, will be next?

All of this is to be done in the name of patriotism. Anyone who does not support these views will be deemed unpatriotic. There is, according to Theresa May, nothing wrong with patriotism but that’s only as long as it is British patriotism which is, of course, superior to any foreign patriotism and isn’t at all like Nationalism which is evil and divisive.

Are you seeing any similarities with 20th Century Europe here? We are not so much taking small steps towards Fascism as running there as fast as we can.

There is a great deal to be afraid of in this dystopian vision of Tory Britain and it is becoming increasingly clear that Scotland has only one chance of escaping the nightmare. That is why the Tories and their media chums are pumping out so many SNPBad stories, and why Scotland is being belittled as too wee, too poor and too stupid for us to cope on our own.

And, as anyone who dabbles in the world of social media knows only too well, the final hypocrisy of the BritNats is that it is Yessers who are frequently called Nazis.


Feel The Love

Posted on October 3rd, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

What a day that was! First we had Theresa May driving a coach and horses through all the Better Together rhetoric of “We love you, Scotland!" and “Lead the UK, don’t leave it!" by stating categorically that she didn’t care what Scots want regarding Brexit, the majority in England want out of the EU, so Scots will be out too. Without any apparent sense of irony or self-awareness, she then went on to say that divisive Nationalists will not break up a valued Union.

Then we had Ruth Davidson, allegedly a woman who believes she can be First Minister of Scotland in 2021, telling an audience of her English paymasters that Scots are no better than vandals and thieves. Someone ought to tell her that a country’s leading politician really shouldn’t denigrate her citizens quite so brazenly.

And, in what must be a huge disappointment to fans of Monty Python, John Cleese took to Twitter to ask why the English media (not the British media, you’ll note) is run by so many “Half educated tenement Scots". He then went on to assert that Scots must be xenophobic because English journalists don’t run Scottish newspapers.

It is true that comedy has often trod a fine line between being humorous and being offensive but John Cleese, undoubtedly one of the 20th Century’s comedic geniuses, has crossed that line and shown himself to be little more than a racist bigot.

Can’t you just feel the love, Scotland?


May Not Be Logical

Posted on September 25th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Holyrood Magazine has reported Prime Minister Theresa May as having said that the SNP must bear a portion of the responsibility for the result of the Brexit Referendum. Holyrood Magazine is one of the few broadly pro-Indie publications so you would expect them to produce a rather sensationalist headline but reading the report of what the PM said revealed that, whatever you think of Theresa May, you must admit she is a clever politician. By conflating facts and misrepresenting situations, she has made an attack on the SNP in an attempt to deflect scrutiny away from the Tory Party’s turmoil over Brexit. It was very clever, if extremely disingenuous.

What she claimed was that many people voted for Brexit because of their anti-Establishment opinions, having felt they had been let down by the political system. May argued that, since the SNP have been in Government in Scotland for nine years, they are part of the Establishment, so it follows that they must bear responsibility for the result.

This is quite a bizarre leap of logic for several reasons. The Referendum was called by the Tory Party; Theresa May herself kept a very low profile during the debate; the SNP actively promoted a Remain vote while the Tories were split down the middle; Scotland produced a resounding Remain result; and, well, you get the picture.

May claimed that feelings were running just as high in Scotland as in the rest of the UK, a claim which is not supported by inconvenient things like facts. Only 38% of Scottish voters opted to leave the EU, while a majority of English and Welsh voters were for Brexit. Those 38% may well have strong feelings but the Scottish result revealed a very wide split between majority views here and in England and Wales.

One of the most illogical parts of Theresa May’s argument is that she seems to be implying that there is an element of blame to be levelled at politicians for the Brexit result. She doesn’t use that word but by attacking the SNP in this way, it could be inferred that she thinks there is blame to be apportioned. Mind you, it’s difficult to tell with our current Prime Minister because, to be honest, it’s not clear what she really thinks or believes when it comes to Brexit. This is not a reassuring trait in a country’s leader. Brexit may mean Brexit but May contradicts her Cabinet Ministers and EU officials whenever any of them express an opinion on what Brexit meaning Brexit actually means in practice.

More blatantly, though, is her attempt to portray the SNP as part of the Establishment. It is certainly true that they have virtually entrenched themselves as representatives of the political norm in Scotland but they can hardly be viewed as part of the Westminster Establishment which so many voters in England and Wales were protesting against. Like Jeremy Corbyn, the SNP are viewed as an anti-Establishment force within the UK which is why the vast bulk of the UK and Scottish media is so hostile towards them. It cannot be denied that the SNP would probably be perfectly happy to become the Establishment in an independent Scotland but they are far from reaching that position as things stand just now.

So, when it comes to reasoned argument, all Theresa May has done is reveal that there is little logic behind her claims. No surprise there, then.


Blues

Posted on September 24th, 2016

This piece was published in Scottish Left Review and is reproduced here by kind permission of the author.

Blues? By Thom Cross

We got the blues! Blue on blue

black n blue: Tory-boyz, Eton-boyz blues.

Where we all lose.

Bad news for folk like me and you just trying to get through :

the lies and the hate from the blue Tory state and their chums in the press spewing a shitty news-mess paid for and sold by corrupt-Tory gold.

By the inches watch them buy lie after lie;

Read the Tory-life of lies In a state where all truth dies

‘Create hate mate!’ Say the pompous and the great

“Create red n blue frustration, demonize immigration: If you don’t look like me there’s leaky boats on the sea."

“Vote Brexit & be proud" shouted loud to drown out the defence of the innocent

.

Join the Eton chorus Of Bullington Boris “Follow me! Follow me! Brexit is for some of us like ME! T’hell with the economy Fk- the pols and the frogs, the jocks and the Calais nogs".

In Engerland’s blue and unpleasant land! Democracy is a mirage! With Boris, May nfn Farage!

Don’t dance to that band. Let’s have jahzz in our land

The drum beat o fraternity: horns that give us dignity

Wi the bass-strum o solidarity, an the pipes o sovereignty.

Give us stramach ‘n rock n roll! With an honest Celtic soul.

Give us Euro-romance and we’ll hooch n we’ll dance across Europe n France

In a great Ceilidh of joy!

So dance Greek kore n boy; wi garcon n lassie, with zolkie and brahzie

Dance across the Rhone n Rhine in soul an prance in reel-time

and through our heather oh how we’ll dance!

We will dance; dance the gither brother n sister!

Post-Script

Oh what a nonsense that we cannie dance

Ideas leap and birl in this wee country

In reels of thought and dreams

And in the progress of the steps it seems

that in our dance we hope,

for in that step n glance

We choreograph a future.

Justice is our destiny: for this we dance.


Headline Hustlers

Posted on September 19th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

The Unionist media are very fond of telling us that Scots don’t want a second IndieRef. They were at it again with headlines proclaiming that two-thirds of Scots don’t want another IndieRef until after Brexit.

On the face of it, this is bizarre. Why wait until you have been dragged out of the EU before deciding you might want to do something about it? However, it makes more sense if you read it as stating that two-thirds of scots don’t want another IndieRef until the outcome of the Brexit negotiations is known. That’s because a large section of the Scottish electorate is pretty well informed and engaged in politics. It makes perfect sense to wait until you get confirmation of the details before voting on whether you want to make the sensible decision to abandon England and Wales to their petty xenophobia. Saying you want to wait until you know what Brexit actually entails is not the same thing as saying you don’t want another IndieRef.

The main thing to bear in mind is that we want to hold a second IndieRef when we are pretty certain of winning it. At the moment, too many people are uncertain about what Brexit means in practice. The Scottish Government may well be making discreet enquiries among European diplomats but, until we know whether Scotland is, in fact, to be hauled out of the EU and stuck with eternal Tory rule, there is no point in demanding an IndieRef because a sizable portion of the electorate will still retain doubts. I don’t understand those doubts myself but it would be foolish to ignore them.

As for the screaming headlines, I’ll ignore them too. The media are in a panicked frenzy because they know the tide is turning so they are trying to convince us that most Scots love the union so much they’ll put up with any hardship or indignity as long as they can remain UK citizens. Fortunately, we don’t need to pay attention to the media because we are perfectly capable of making up our own minds. But let’s see the details first.


Normalism v Nationalism

Posted on September 15th, 2016

by Dan Iron

As a supporter of independence for Scotland, I'm always a bit perturbed when we are described as Nationalists. I think to myself, "am I a Nationalist?" I have never thought of myself as one.

One form of Nationalism is thinking that your own country is somehow special, summed up in the phrase, "my country, right or wrong". I do not think Scotland is a special country and I would never describe myself as a "Proud Scot". Scotland has done some great things in the past and some things which are not so great. The people who think that Scotland cannot become an independent country are the ones who think Scotland is special.

Another form of Nationalism is creating a country out of a territory which has never been a nation . An example of this is Italian Nationalism in the 19th Century or, more recently, Quebec Nationalism.

A slightly different form of Nationalism is re-creating a country - recovering the national status of a territory which is currently a province of a larger country. An example of this is Breton Nationalism.

None of this applies to Scotland. Scotland is a country and has been a country for a long time, whether you take the formation of Scotland as 843 with Kenneth MacAlpin as King, or 1018 when the Lothians were joined to Scotland, or 1320 with our explicit declaration of independence, or 1472 when Orkney and Shetland became part of Scotland. Scotland's borders have been unchanged since 1482 after the final capture of Berwick-upon-Tweed by England. By retaining our own systems of law, education and church at the time of the Union in 1707 we expressed our intention to remain a country. There are many countries around the world who would envy our long history and stable borders.

So what is the correct expression for a country taking responsibility for its own governance, like normal countries do? Ah yes, normal. The ideology which underpins our position as Scottish Independentistas is simply that - Normalism. The belief that your country is best served by effectively outsourcing its governance to a body outside your own country is not normal. This is not a nationalistic point - Scots are not inherently better than other nationalities in running a country. But would it not be best to have your country run by people who have a direct and personal interest in the success of the enterprise? Would you not want them to have “skin in the game"? To outsource the governance of Scotland to Westminster is simply irrational. To hand responsibility to the bunch of incompetents currently in the UK Cabinet is the height of folly.

So that is the term that defines us best - Normalism. This expression avoids any false dichotomy between so called hard Nationalists and those who want independence to create a more socially just society. We can be favour of independence because that's normal, not nationalistic. And we can all be in favour of a more just society - I haven't yet met any independence supporter who wants a less just society.

This approach not only helps to define our position - it also helps to define our opponents’ position. For those who do not think Scotland is a country, to those who believe that their country is the United Kingdom, we simply have to respectfully agree to differ. There is nothing to be gained by conversing with them. We’d be wasting our time.

To those who believe that Scotland is a country but that it should not be independent we should ask them why. Why can Scotland not be normal? What is the difference between Scotland and all the other countries in the world? It puts the onus on them to justify their position, rather than on us to justify ours.

This leaves those who are open to the possibility of Scotland being independent but who are not convinced of the economic case, or those who worry about their own jobs or livelihood. This is where we have to do a lot more work to convince them. We simply have to make a better case than we made last time and I believe that we can make that better case. This will be the subject of a future blog.

So when the day comes when the Saltire is unfurled at the United Nations my heart won't be surging with patriotic fervour. I'll just have the quiet satisfaction that Scotland will have achieved its destiny by becoming a normal country.

Just a normal country.


Broken System

Posted on September 13th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

I heard a couple of interesting things this morning. The first was a podcast on the history of the Labour Party in Scotland which was very balanced if a bit rambling at times. It reminded me that the reason Labour did so well in Scotland for so long was that, in the immediate post-war decades, the Labour Party did a lot of good for Scotland in terms of inward investment, promotion of industry, social housing, etc. This was achieved through their system of using the levers of the British State to benefit the working classes, which is exactly what Labour were originally founded to achieve.

Of course, it all began to go horribly wrong for Labour and for Scotland with the industrial conflicts and turmoil of the 1970s and the advent of Thatcherism. Since then, the economies of UK regions outside of the South East of England have been sacrificed for the benefit of that wealthy corner of these Sceptred Isles and Scotland has suffered as a result.

The reaction has been slow in coming but Devolution and the establishment of the Scottish Parliament were a step on the road towards increased voter recognition that the system which had provided such enormous social advantages, including the formation of the NHS among other things, was no longer working in their interests. As this recognition spread, the fortunes of Labour waned until we reach the current situation where they can only muster third place in the Scottish elections.

The simple message here is that people can recognise when a system is not working to their advantage. When they see that the system is working against them rather than for them, they tend to react. The Labour Party in Scotland has, however, clung to its attachment to the UK because the system worked forty years ago and they seem unable to throw off the shackles of that attachment.

However, the second thing I heard was that there has been another poll on Scottish independence and that a majority of Scots would still prefer to remain part of the UK even after the Brexit fiasco which threatens to strip away many of their rights. The poll shows only a slight increase in support for Indie which is statistically insignificant although, according to some comments I’ve seen, there are some issues with the Polling data, not least of which is that 16 and 17 year-olds were not polled.

However, what this all suggests is that far too many Scots are still so attached to the UK that they would prefer to stay within a system which demonstrably takes advantage of them and penalises them. Pensioners, in particular, seem content to receive the second lowest Pension in the EU because they have grown up being British and cannot bear to vote against the UK no matter how much harm it intends to do to them. Talk about turkeys and Christmas!

These contrasting experiences present a conundrum. Like most people in Scotland, I grew up under a system of government which, for all its many faults, generally worked for the benefit of the majority of working people but which increasingly turned away from that model. It is one thing to be content to be governed under a model which broadly works but there comes a time when you need to realise that the system is not operating properly. Sadly, it seems a great many people have not yet reached that stage. That means we have a huge task on our hands if we are to persuade people that if something is broken, we should try to fix it instead of accepting that nothing can be done.

We know nothing can be done if we remain in the UK because the Tories are rigging election boundaries to ensure they remain in power for the foreseeable future. Scotland’s MPs are already struggling to exert any influence at Westminster but Scotland, together with Wales, stands to lose proportionally more MPs than England under the proposed boundary changes, a situation which will reduce our already minimal influence even further.

Living in a post-Brexit UK under Tory rule isn’t going to make things better for the majority of people but that message still isn’t getting through to a great many of them. Which means that the calls for a second IndieRef as soon as possible are perhaps a bit premature because we cannot afford to lose again. The Brexit vote has perhaps forced our hand on this but, unless we can alter a lot of minds, we will be condemned to sticking with the UK for years to come. We need to keep telling people the UK system isn’t working and that the only possible solution is to escape it and become a normal country.


Bordering On Ridiculous

Posted on September 11th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Ruth “Don’t Talk about a 2nd IndieRef" Davidson has been … er, talking about a 2nd IndieRef while assuring us that we don’t need or want one. She has a strange obsession with this topic but that’s probably because she’s trying to divert attention away from the Tory-engineered brexit fiasco. Devoid of any ideas, her only tactics are to bang on about an IndieRef and to laugh while her Press Office issues xenophobic comments about EU citizens who reside in Scotland. Her refusal to apologise for claiming that an EU citizen has no right to comment on political matters in Scotland shows just how the Tories intend to treat EU nationals once the UK formally leaves the EU.

An independent Scotland could avoid this fate but Ruth, while insisting we don’t want a second IndieRef, is nevertheless going out of her way to fight that referendum already. As part of this campaign which she says we don’t want, she’s recently made a bizarre point about trade and borders and, as you’d expect, the media has simply repeated her assertions without bothering to apply even the most basic journalistic scrutiny. So, since the media won’t do it, here’s a quick look at the issues.

The Ruth Davidson Party is pushing the line that an independent Scotland which remained a part of the EU would face enormous difficulties trading with England since a hard border would need to be imposed, with all the difficulties that implies, along with trade tariffs which would present hassle and increased costs for Scottish businesses.

If this sounds familiar, that’s because it is the same claim that was made during the first IndieRef but with the positions reversed because, at that time, we were assured that Scotland would be kicked out of the EU while England and the Rest of the UK would remain members. How times change! Yet note how the Unionist arguments remain unaltered.

But is there any chance of this happening? Well, yes, there is a chance but there are a few things Ruth is not telling us.

For starters, the UK’s Brexit Minister, David Davies, has been assuring people in Ireland that the border will remain open whatever happens with the brexit negotiations. Now, there is a chance there will be no Irish border if Northern Ireland decides to become part of the Republic but it seems unlikely a Tory like Davies would be contemplating that scenario since it involves losing a part of Westminster’s dominion. Which leaves the situation that either Davies or Ruth Davidson is talking a load of rubbish. Either there are hard borders or there are not. The only justification for keeping the Irish border open and imposing a hard border between England and Scotland would be sheer perversity which would harm English businesses as much as it would harm Scottish ones. Can you imagine how English Pubs would cope if their supplies of Scotch whisky were interrupted or became suddenly more expensive?

Not that a hard border is impermeable. Trading would continue, it would just mean people adjusting to a new regime of paperwork and potential delay. But nations trade with one another all the time and, in practice, the biggest issue is likely to be tariffs which would probably be applied to imports and exports between an EU and a non-EU country, thus increasing costs for businesses and consumers on both sides of the border.

But the really big thing Ruth ignores is that the EU is not likely to play ball with RUK. Westminster politicians fondly believe that the UK (for which read England in their minds) has only to tell the EU what it wants and the EU will gladly cooperate. That is sheer fantasy. Most Tory politicians and journalists don’t seem to understand that access to the European Single Market requires allowing the free movement of people and capital as well as goods. Since keeping foreigners out of the UK was one of the prime motivations behind the brexit vote, it is impossible for the Tories to negotiate any alternative method of accessing the Single Market since the EU has repeatedly said this is non-negotiable.

Which means that either the Tories will back down and allow free movement of people in order to retain open trading or they will stick to their guns and lose free access to the Single Market in order to satisfy the xenophobic demands of their voters.

In the first scenario, open trading will continue and there will be no hard border between Scotland and England because the EU won’t allow it. In the second scenario, there would indeed be a hard border but there would also need to be one between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland, as well as England and Wales finding they had hard borders in terms of trade and travel with every other EU member State. So, while Scotland might have a problem until it adjusts its economy to increase direct trade with the EU, it is England and Wales which would face the far larger problem of having no open trade borders with any of its neighbours.

What Ruth Davidson is effectively telling us is that, if Scotland votes to become independent in a 2nd IndieRef and remain in the EU, the RUK will cut off its nose to spite its face and enter a phase of economic and trade isolation. The BritNats fondly believe it is Scotland that will suffer the most from this because they are convinced RUK will be able to negotiate trade deals with other countries very swiftly. However, comments from several officials from other countries, notably Australia, have strongly suggested this is wishful thinking on the part of the UK Government. Formal trade deals aimed at reducing tariffs and bureaucratic barriers can take several years to negotiate. This means that RUK businesses will face issues with all imports and exports while an independent Scotland will face similar issues if trading with England and Wales but will find no such issues in its trade with the rest of the EU. Indeed, since the EU has already negotiated trade deals with other countries, Scotland’s international trade will continue as normal with every country in the world except England and Wales.

In practice, of course, hard borders are not insurmountable. Switzerland is not in the EU but manages to trade with other EU nations without too many problems. The border between Canada and the USA is a hard one but the two countries carry out a huge amount of trade. Having hard borders probably won’t affect either Scotland or England as much as the Project Fear mongers like to make out. An open border would obviously be preferable in terms of trade but a hard border, while presenting some potentially serious obstacles until a formal trade agreement is reached, won’t be a catastrophe. It certainly won’t be as bad as remaining in a post-Brexit UK and having your Human Rights abolished, having Workers’ Rights abolished, living under a Government committed to perpetual Austerity economics, having the NHS privatised (and that will come to Scotland as the funding from Westminster dries up), seeing the imposition of the Investigatory Powers Bill, seeing foreign nationals, including EU citizens, expelled, and seeing Scotland’s economy held back while our elected MPs continue to be ignored by the ruling Westminster Government. Quite frankly, I’d be happy to have border controls between Scotland and England if it meant being freed from that lot.


Did EU Know This?

Posted on September 8th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

My recent article about the conflation by the Tories of the two Unions of which Scotland is currently a member produced some interesting feedback. Most of this was very positive but Twitter user Smoo pointed out that I had omitted some areas where the EU imposes control over its member states. Now, even if he is correct, I’m not sure that this invalidates the argument I was trying to make, that Westminster controls Scotland far more completely than the EU controls its member states but Smoo certainly gave me a couple of things to think about and I thought it worth highlighting the issues because they aren’t problems I was aware of.

I did invite Smoo to write an article which I offered to publish but he claimed this would be a waste of time since the Yes movement is only interested in removing Tories and not in the wider issues. I must take issue with this because, although removing the Tories is a main objective of the Yes movement, it is not the primary one. For example, if Labour had won the last General Election, the UK would be slightly different from its current situation but that would not prevent the Yes movement wanting independence for Scotland. Our primary aim is to have Scotland governed by a Government of its own choice, not to have voters in England decide who will rule our country. The fact that England generally votes Tory is one reason why there is a growing gulf between the two countries but there is absolutely no reason why an independent Scotland could not elect its own Tory Government, no matter how unlikely that may seem at present. The issue is that, if such a Government were elected and then enacted policies the people of Scotland did not like, they would be able to vote them out at the next election. This choice is currently denied us.

However, as I mentioned, my discussion with Smoo did show up some interesting points, so let’s take a look at them.

In particular, he mentioned that the EU control what is known as the Trans European Transport Network and that things like, for example, HS2, are part of this imposed infrastructure development which aims to enable high speed rail all across Europe. According to Smoo, and a website he directed me to, the UK is not in charge of HS2 but is being compelled to construct it by the EU under the TETN project which means the UK must build and pay for HS2 even though the EU is directing the development. That article can be read at:

http://www.theeuroprobe.org/2015-088-hs2-controlled-by-eu-not-our-gov/

Now, a couple of things strike me as odd about this. The first is that, if the claims are correct, why did the Brexit politicians not mention this during the EURef campaign? I suppose one could argue that they were too lazy and stupid to do anything other than invent scare stories but I think that is being too harsh even on such an incompetent crowd of charlatans. If there was a genuine case of the EU imposing something on the UK and forcing the UK to pay for it, you’d have thought they’d have shouted it from the rooftops. But no. It wasn’t mentioned at all.

The second odd thing is that this alleged pan-European transport network isn’t coming as far as Scotland despite the fact that we are still in the EU at the moment. This suggests to me that the UK Government does have some control over HS2. Smoo argued that HS3 and HS4 would see the line extended and perhaps that is the intention but whether it is an intention driven by EU imperatives, I am not so sure.

The other comment I would make is that the website quoted is unashamedly anti-EU. There’s nothing wrong with that but the site does appear to harbour a few conspiracy theorists among its contributors.

I did some searching of my own and could not locate anything from the EU which supports the claims made in the first article. Indeed, the following suggests that, while TETN is a genuine project, the EU provides funding to assist the developments, that these are not restricted to high speed rail and that national Governments are consulted and involved in the projects.

http://www.out-law.com/en/articles/2014/july/eu-announces-funding-for-new-transport-infrastructure-projects--/

Of course, one would not expect the EU to openly flaunt the fact that it is overriding national Governments in matters of infrastructure development so, to be honest, I have ended up a bit better informed but not really near reaching a definitive conclusion on the scope of TETN. If anyone has any more definitive info, please do let me know. I don’t yet share Smoo’s belief in its power to override national Governments but I’m keeping an open mind until I can learn a bit more.

The other thing that bothered Smoo was the 2007 Treaty of Lisbon which is, according to his interpretation, intended to do away with national borders and create a European State with its own institutions such as a European Army.

To be fair, many people have raised concerns about the impact of the treaty of Lisbon. I’m no expert on EU constitutional matters but I’ve done a bit of reading over the past few days and can say that opinions seem divided on the intent and scope of the Lisbon Treaty.

The Treaty was apparently designed to reformulate the EU’s constitution which was viewed as out of date given the expansion of the organisation. There is no doubt that, from one perspective, it can be interpreted as being an attempt to move towards the creation of a European Super State. In particular, the intention to create an EU Foreign Minister was regarded as potentially stripping sovereignty from member states. This proposal was slightly watered down but the post of EU High Representative, which is effectively the same position with a fancy title, was created.

There is no doubt that there is a drive for greater integration within the EU and it may well be that the Treaty of Lisbon represents the latest step in a gradual “mission creep" sort of incorporation of member states into a Borg-like collective. However, I remain sceptical that the practical implications are anywhere near reaching that stage yet. The Lisbon Treaty certainly means that countries will not be able to block new laws which can be passed by majority rather than unanimous vote but that’s actually pretty normal in most democratic organisations anyway. Whether this constitutes a Super-State, is debatable.

There are a couple of reasons for my current scepticism. For example, can anyone name the current EU High Representative who is acting like a Foreign Minister and usurping the roles of member states’ national Foreign Ministers? I certainly couldn’t and I had to Google to learn that her name is Federica Mogherini. She’s certainly kept a low profile so far and doesn’t appear to have upstaged any national Foreign Minister despite being presented with the easy target of Boris Johnson who could be upstaged by just about anyone. For what it is worth, my own cynical view of many of the outcomes of the Treaty of Lisbon are that much of it was simply to create more jobs for the boys and girls who work within the system. That is reason enough for outrage since our money is paying for them but I’m not yet convinced it denotes a seizure of sovereignty.

But the main reason I don’t believe we will see the creation of a Super-State any time soon is that national interests will prove intractable. Europe, for better or worse, is comprised of many different nationalities, with people speaking many different languages and having diverse cultures. It is great that the EU has brought a period of peace and cooperation but I don’t yet see that any member State will voluntarily surrender all its sovereignty to some monster EU State. For one thing, national politicians will want to preserve their own roles and status. Even if they didn’t, the ordinary citizens of various European countries have been very vocal in their desire to remain independent within the framework of European cooperation. There is already evidence of tension in those countries which are suffering economic problems as a result of using the Euro and this is producing an anti-EU backlash in countries like Italy where there is a growing feeling that, while they are happy to remain in the EU, they would love to ditch the Euro. Given this growing hostility, I can’t believe citizens will readily agree to wholly renounce their national status to become citizens of a Greater Europe. In fact, we have seen that recent history suggests a greater willingness on the part of smaller nations to proclaim their independence – Scotland excepted – while being willing to cooperate with their neighbours as part of the EU.

Having said that, my investigation has at least prompted me to be more aware of any gradual power grab by the EU and it is certainly something I’ll be watching out for. I don’t think the situation is as bad as Smoo fears and I genuinely believe most nations will veer away from any formal integration which denies them self-government. Surrendering some elements of sovereignty to the EU to gain the benefits of trade, travel and cooperation is not the same as surrendering full sovereignty. There are no doubt some within the EU who would love to create a super-state but, equally, there are plenty who recognise that individual member states cannot be squeezed into a one size fits all box and that a federal approach is the best way to ensure a (broadly) mutually beneficial arrangement.

There is, though, one thing I do agree with Smoo on. He is generally pro-Indie and he dislikes the idea of elitism. I’m in broad agreement with that although I am realistic enough to know elitism cannot be eradicated. What we can do about it is narrow the gap between those at the top and the general public and ensure that our politicians know to whom they are answerable. Having wealth and status should not mean that one is treated any differently to anyone else. Everyone deserves basic respect and my hope is that an independent Scotland will move away from the elitist class structure which is so evident in the UK.

Finally, to return to my original point, if Smoo and I disagree on the detail of how an independent Scotland should be run and whether it should remain in the EU, that is fine. If we had full control over our country, we could vote for Parties which represented our own particular views. That, unlike the absurd situation Scotland is in just now, is proper democracy.


A Tale of Two Unions

Posted on September 4th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

The Tories, as you would expect, have united behind the Brexit banner. That’s because the Tories are more concerned with retaining power than with the welfare of the country they are supposed to govern or its citizens. In keeping with this new zeal for UK independence, they are already trotting out the usual propaganda aimed at winning the next Scottish IndyRef which, coincidentally, they insist isn’t necessary.

David “Fluffy" Mundell was the latest to repeat the mantra that the best Union for Scotland is with the UK, not the union with the EU. This, of course, is a gross over-simplification of the situation aimed at influencing people who don’t bother to think beyond a headline. The fact that Scotland is currently within two Unions allows the Tories (including their allies, Labour and the Lib Dems) to conflate the term “Union" as if there is a direct comparison between the two. This is complete nonsense.

The EU is a trading union which also involves an element of political and financial union depending on whether a country uses the Euro and on what other deals it may have made for membership. Yes, the EU has its faults because all large organisations do. There is no doubt waste, bureaucracy and very probably some corruption but the EU does not wield the same sort of control over any member state that matches the control Westminster has over Scotland. Even Greece retains control over some areas of government in which Scotland must defer to the UK.

For example, the EU does not:

set our rates of tax;

Order our armed forces into conflicts;

Tell us we must retain nuclear weapons;

decide on levels of Social Security payments;

Control our monetary policy;

control our economic policy;

set laws on any areas outside those within its remit, e.g. trade & competition and Human Rights.

It is the UK Government which does all of these things and, in most cases, does them rather poorly. So the real question is whether it would be better to remain part of the UK and be controlled by Westminster, or should we go our own way and stick with the EU?

As mentioned above, the EU certainly has flaws. TTIP is probably the biggest threat it presents to our society. Nobody in their right minds thinks TTIP is a good idea. Fortunately, people appear to be seeing sense and the latest rumours from within the EU suggest that the deal might collapse. That can only be good news since the UK Government has declined to exclude public services from the scope of TTIP as currently envisaged. And that fact should serve as a warning because, assuming the UK leaves the EU and Scotland remains part of the UK, does anyone seriously believe the Tories would not sign up to a TTIP deal with the USA at the drop of a hat? TTIP’s entire premise is that it places the rights of global corporations over those of any civil authority. This is precisely the sort of society the Tories are attempting to build in the UK.

As for the much-vaunted cost of EU membership, member countries do pay their fee and receive investment funds in return, thus reducing the level of overall financial commitment. It does not, as the UK does to Scotland, take every penny and then hand back an amount which Westminster deems appropriate. Don’t be fooled by the new tax powers which are to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament. These are very limited and the taxes will still, in practice, be collected by HMRC and then handed back. Whether anyone within the Scottish Government will be allowed to check and verify that the amount being handed back is accurate isn’t clear.

There is no doubt that, whatever Scotland does, it will face issues and problems. That’s life. There is no country in the world that doesn’t face problems of some sort. It is having the ability to deal with those problems that makes the difference to society. It is well known that, politically, Scotland has a very different attitude to England in how society should operate. The Tories have demonstrated their desire to punish the Disabled and Unemployed and there is no reason to believe they will not continue down this route, especially under Theresa May who will no doubt soon demonstrate that she is the most Right Wing Prime Minister the UK has ever had. If you doubt that claim, consider the Investigatory Powers Bill which she champions and which will give the UK Government the right to intercept and read every email, text or other transmitted message by any citizen. May has already instituted secret courts where people can be tried without being told what the charges are, without seeing any evidence against them, and without being able to present any defence. Big Brother is coming and that should scare us all.

But it is not only the ideology that is different. One of the other claims the Tories like Ruth Davidson and Kezia Dugdale like to make is that the Scottish Government isn’t concentrating on its main job of running the country. It is a claim which doesn’t stack up when you look at the statistics. It is true that the Scottish Government makes mistakes and certainly doesn’t get everything right but can you name any Government that ever has got everything right? When you consider some details, though, it becomes apparent that, in the areas where the Scottish Government has control, things are a lot better than they are in England.

NHS Scotland is, by every measure, performing better than any other NHS in the UK and patient satisfaction levels are at an all time high;

Crime is at its lowest level for forty years;

Scotland has the best educated workforce of any country in the OECD;

Scotland is the only country in the world which holds the Carbon Trust’s triple Standard Certification for carbon, water & waste reduction.

Yet in every area where Westminster retains control, we see incompetence and a distinct lack of interest. According to the UK’s own figures which they supply to the Scottish Government to produce the infamous GERS figures, Scotland has the worst economy of any country in the OECD. This is despite 308 years of management by Westminster and despite Scotland possessing an enormous wealth of resources. Something, somewhere, isn’t working within this Union.

Nobody is claiming life will be easy as an independent country but surely it would be better to take control of every lever of our economy. We certainly couldn’t make a worse job of it than Westminster has done.

Then, as we adjust to life as a normal country, we’ll also be able to wave to our fellow holidaymakers from England when we jet off to Spain and breeze through the EU Citizens’ border channel while they queue up to present their visas.


Offensive Behaviour Required

Posted on September 2nd, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

this blog is unashamedly pro-Indie but that doesn’t mean we can’t criticise the SNP and there is currently a growing feeling on social media that the Scottish Government is failing to keep its promise to promote the case for independence.

Take GERS as an example. Anyone who has done the slightest bit of research knows these figures are questionable at best, being a series of guesses and estimates based on figures supplied exclusively by Westminster Governmental Departments. The actual raw data is kept secret. But even if GERS figures are accurate, the only thing they prove is that Scotland’s economy is being seriously mismanaged by Westminster. For a country with the resources that Scotland possesses to be allegedly the poorest in the OECD surely must suggest that whoever is in charge of its economy is either incompetent or malign.

Yet these points are being left to the Alternative media and amateur bloggers to point out. The SNP barely say a word about them. Why?

OK, it must be admitted that the BBC and other media would probably suppress or, at best, play down any such statement because it would not fit the Unionist agenda of keeping Scots in ignorance but surely the more noise the SNP make about this sort of thing, the more some people might start to listen.

GERS isn’t the only instance of SNP reticence. The Named Persons legislation has been strongly defended on social media and in many blogs but all we hear in the public forum from the SNP are a few bland statements.

Now, we all know the media will always do their best to censor any claim which contradicts their Unionist message but we need all guns blazing if we are to win the next IndyRef. So far, the SNP have, in public at least, been well off the pace. Blogs and Alternative media sites are constantly highlighting the lies and misinformation being spread by the Mainstream media but there seems to be a strange acceptance within the SNP that the media cannot be challenged. Perhaps there is a good reason for this strategy but, from the perspective of the online Yessers, it is very frustrating because we feel there is still a huge percentage of Scots who are not being properly informed of what is going on and are, instead, being influenced by UK State propaganda.

Isn’t it about time the SNP went on the offensive?


Interesting Figures

Posted on August 25th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Proud Scots all across the country have been celebrating the apparent impoverishment of their nation and its alleged reliance on handouts from its larger southern neighbour. It really is rather sad to see how happy some people are that their country is apparently an economic basket case after 308 years of Westminster rule. The solution to this problem is, it seems, to continue to allow Westminster to mismanage Scotland’s economy to ensure that … er, … Scotland remains the poorest country in the Western world.

Much has been written about GERS by people who are far better qualified than me but I’ve gleaned a few pertinent details on the latest figures which I thought it might be useful to bring together, acknowledging that this information comes from other people who have actually taken the time to check through the figures. I did that once a couple of years ago and ended up with a thumping headache so I’m going to let others do the hard work this time.

The main thing to remember is that GERS is a collection of guesses and estimates, often using out of date data. Even if those guesses and estimates somehow proved accurate which seems unlikely given the track record of UK Government agencies in making accurate forecasts, GERS would still only show a snapshot of Scotland’s finances as part of the Union. It has absolutely no relation to how the finances would look if Scotland were an independent country with full control over all the economic levers available to normal governments. As such, its only real purpose is to show how inept and incompetent the UK Government is at managing Scotland’s economy. It might also be worth considering why no other “regions" within the UK have similar figures produced. Could it be that Westminster wants to keep telling Scots how pathetic they are in order to keep them under control? And why would they do that if Scotland really was such a drain on the mighty UK? You’d think they’d dump us in order to save themselves some money but apparently they are so kind-hearted they’d rather keep subsidising us. It is worth bearing in mind that the UK has used this tactic for centuries, warning colonies that they could never cope on their own and must therefore remain under UK control. A certain nation known as the United States of America was the first to stick two fingers up to this idea and go its own way. On the whole, they haven’t done too badly.

But back to GERS and the latest set of figures. There are a few interesting statistics.

North Sea Oil revenue fell 97%. This was so devastating to the oil-reliant Scotland that GDP fell a whopping 0.45%. What? But that actually suggests Scotland’s economy is not reliant on oil which we all know is nonsense because the media keep telling us Scotland has no other business sectors worth a damn. Odd, isn’t it that the dramatic failure of our major source of income resulted in almost no change to the country’s GDP? It’s almost as if Unionist politicians and the media have been lying to us.

The expenditure allocated to Scotland also shows some odd figures.

Transport is a devolved matter, so Scotland pays all of its own transport infrastructure costs such as the building of the new Forth Crossing, the Borders railway and the upgrading of the A9. However, we also, according to GERS, are deemed to contribute to “National" transport projects. “National" in this sense meaning projects in the rest of the UK, predominantly London. For example, Scotland is deemed to pay a share of upgrading and maintaining London Underground, developing the London CrossRail link and taking a share of HS2 development costs. The allocated share for this has risen from £181m in 2014/15 to £427m in 2015/16. That’s an increase of 136%. What it covers isn’t revealed but what is known is that none of these costs would accrue to an independent Scotland.

Scotland’s deemed share of International Services was £839m. this has reportedly increased by £200m in the past three years. what for? We don’t know. Perhaps it’s all those UK embassies hosting parties to promote Scottish exports – except that we know they have been told not to do that so why the costs are escalating is anybody’s guess.

The allocated cost of Science & Technology rose by £64m to £494m. That’s an increase of 13% but it’s not clear what it’s for because Universities and Researchers are complaining that their funding is being cut. Odd, isn’t it? Westminster is imposing cuts on all Governmental Departments but Scotland’s share of this cost has increased at a rate several times the rate of inflation.

Those are just a handful of examples and I haven’t even covered the cost of Trident or building massive aircraft carriers which don’t have any planes, or the costs of bombing Syria in order to persuade Syrians to stay at home and not flee here. But, quite frankly, I can’t be bothered going into it any further. Anyone who believes GERS is an impartial and accurate assessment of Scotland’s finances is looking at them through Union Jack tinted spectacles and seems oblivious to the fact that there are plenty of independent countries in Europe who are managing fine even in these difficult economic times and who don’t have the great burden of oil on top of their other woes. Of course, most of them probably have other major sectors like tourism, Scotch whisky, salmon and beef, computer games and biomedical research. Perhaps Scotland would cope better if it had things like that.


Flagging Fruits

Posted on August 23rd, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

The summer silly season has not stopped the flow of hyperbolic SNPBad stories even though most of them have been easily proven false or simply laughable. Now, though, the silly stories seem to have switched sides as it is the Yes movement getting itself all hot and bothered by the revelation that Tesco have removed the Saltire from the packaging of their strawberries and replaced it with the Union Jack because they had received some complaints from consumers in England about the fruit bearing Scotland’s flag. It is not clear whether the people making the complaints also objected to the flags of other countries like France and Italy being displayed on imported goods. If they were Brexiteers, that is a distinct possibility but the inference seems to be that the complaints stem from a belief that Scotland is simply a region of the UK and so should not have its flag displayed in England.

Before you get too worked up about this, it is worth reminding pro-Indie Scots about their outrage when news broke that the Union Jack was to be printed on Driving Licences, placed on bridges and even displayed on the packaging of Tunnock’s teacakes. Dislike of another country’s flag obviously isn’t the exclusive preserve of the Unionists.

However, it should be pointed out that Tunnock’s at least had the good sense to place the Union Jack on packaging for the English market, thereby showing that they at least recognise the potential marketing impact of displaying it in Scotland. Tesco seems to have adopted the “One Nation" approach so beloved by the Tories and I suspect they’ll see a corresponding decrease in sales of strawberries in their Scottish stores.

All of which is a bit silly on both sides but the whole saga serves to demonstrate just how emotive symbols can be, especially in today’s so-called United Kingdom. The constitutional fabric of the UK is slowly unravelling and this latest spat is a small indicator of the widening gulf between Scotland and England.


Drowning in Murder

Posted on August 12th, 2016

With swimming being one of the main features of the Olympics just now and following on from our piece on why athletes cannot rely on UK funding to help them, here’s a timely piece on swimming. It is an extract from a novel titled, “Drowning in Murder" by Thom Cross.

Life ain’t easy when yu ain’t winnin’

Life is lonesome without good women

Life ain’t sweet when they ain’t willin’

Life don’t smile, if yu ain’t sinnin’

Life turns sad if yu ain’t singin’

And Life is Death if yu ain’t swim

For swimmin’ is Life,

is better than a lovin’ wife

Swimmin, lord, I can’t get enough

Swimmin’ is sweeter than makin’ love.

The whole bar sang the chorus with all the gusto and irony that forty pairs of young swimmers’ lungs could muster. The song was led by Big Dennis, our sprint king, who had learned the song and others swimming for Arizona State University on a swimming-scholarship. He was chuffed, real proud for making the Scottish team to Jamaica, the land of his father. His mother, ironically, was from just across the Jamaica Bridge in the Gorbals.

We were not very far away either, singing to our success in a friendly wee pub next to the team’s hotel, tucked away in the centre of Glasgow.

The whole Scottish team was assembled for the Commonwealth Swimming Championship’s training camp. This was the ‘first night’, the icebreaker and the last night of the ‘nights-oot’. There were more pints of orange juice than beer as we all knew there was plenty pressure coming soon. Many of the faces gathered in this low-ceilinged, smoked-filled cellar of this howf were familiar from galas and training camps over the years. This was my first full Scottish cap and my eyes moistened at the ceremony of welcome, the camaraderie and the pride of representing Scotland.

It should have been my Granda sitting here, receiving praise and plaudits, sharing my pride. It was the wee man who should have been here feeling the warmth, basking in the overwhelming sense of victory and satisfaction of being part of a Scottish team. For it was ma Granda who taught me Scotland. Aye, Granda, it should have been you.

For it was the wee man in his bunnet who would wrap me up in the winter months and walk with me down the street, down the Peth along the lang Kirkcaldy prom and its biting, snell North Sea wind, tae the baths. It was the wee man with the broad miner’s shoulders, the ex-boxer, who talked with me about the great days of Wilkie and Black and McGregor. How as a laudie he had only the dirty, cork- filled water of the Kirkcaldy harbour to swim in, and how I have a chance he and his generation never had. If only I keep trying hard, keep trying hard and punch away.

He would sing the Lauder anthem, ‘Keep right on till the end of the road’, as we had to walk it up the long brae, for the busfare was no there.

The pits had closed and he hadnae found the jannie’s job yet. How, when I went to my first few galas at aged six or seven he would stan’ up in the stand and shout for me in his big boxer’s baritone until the coughing started and he couldnie shout any mare and his jannie’s pay packet had to stretch for my club fees and fins and kick-boards and track suit until he was able to talk tae a man he kent on the council, thro the union, who found a wee grant tae gi him tae help oot a bit, especially aifter he retired and it was me and him on the pension and me wantin’ brand name gear like the ither yins at the high shool where the auld toffs and the new professionals sent their children in their ain cars but I had ti run ma papers in the morning, then run up the hill through the den to school an run hame again at denner time and back again and hame again and then run doon tae the baths and then try and run hame again aifter trainin.

It wasnie until I was big-thirteen or fourteen before I could manage that bloody brae and he always had hot tasty food on the table, every meal, especially soup fur it was guid for me and even the night I qualified, right here in Glesgie, he was there up in the stands, no able to shout at awe noo, but a pal, who had gin ’im a lift thro, had leant him a horn to squeeze and make noise, like the noise in this pub, noo.

As I attempted to casually, secretly, flick at the tears of remembrance. I quickly blamed the smoke. For the truth, especially hard family truths in the Scotland I knew, were not for telling but for feeling

If you would like to read more, the e-book is available from Amazon at:

https://www.amazon.in/Drowning-Murder-Scottish-Crime-Fiction-ebook/dp/B015TOOH8C


Teamwork

Posted on August 9th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

The “Too wee, too poor, too stupid" argument takes many forms. Its latest manifestation is a claim that Scottish athletes going to the Olympics as part of Team GB have benefited from being part of a larger nation, with the clear inference that they wouldn’t have managed to get there without the help of the UK.

Now, there is an element of truth to this but, as with so many Unionist arguments, it is revealed as absurd when examined more closely.

For a start, there are athletes from a great many countries competing in Rio. Most of them got there without help from the UK. Indeed, former colonies such as Jamaica have managed to produce world class athletes without any assistance from the UK. For example, it seems unlikely that Yusain Bolt could have won any more medals than he has done already if Jamaica had still been ruled from Westminster.

When it comes to small nations, countries like Finland and Slovakia have produced athletes who have won Olympic medals and larger but poorer countries like Ethiopia and Kenya still churn out world class competitors. This suggests that neither population size nor a country’s wealth has much to do with the calibre of athletes that country produces. Naturally, a country with a higher population is likely to produce more athletes of the required standard to compete in the Olympics but that is not at all the same thing as saying Scottish athletes could not get there without help from the UK.

but let’s look at that help. Like all organisations, the British Olympic team has to make choices about where to spend its money. There is no doubt that many of the Scottish athletes will have benefitted in some way from UK funding but that funding tends to go to sports where there has already been an element of success. For example, Table Tennis gets very little in comparison to other sports because Britain hasn’t produced any medal winners in Table Tennis. This reveals the different priorities. For the athletes, it is taking part that counts but the money men in charge concentrate only on medals and they do it in such a way that the medals need to come first. In other words, if Britain were to produce a Gold medal at Table Tennis, that sport would receive more funding next time round but the medal needs to come first. This means athletes have to do it more or less on their own before the British Olympic team steps in with greater financial assistance.

Even for those sports which do receive assistance, most of the athletes who are out there representing the UK will have reached their current level of ability largely through their own dedication, natural ability, sponsorship money, and significant help from friends and family rather than financial assistance from the UK’s Olympic team.

It cannot be denied that UK funding will have helped Scottish athletes but the extent to which it has made the difference between them reaching a qualifying standard or not making the grade is difficult to quantify. Above all, the claim that they are only there because of UK funding implies that an independent Scotland would be too wee and too poor to provide similar financial support. This is perhaps the worst aspect of this sort of argument because it implicitly assumes that Scotland would be unable to match the achievements of other small nations when it comes to producing athletes. As ever, putting your country down seems to be the aim of those people promoting this line of thought and that is the saddest thing about it.


Hit For Six

Posted on August 3rd, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Scotland must be the only country in the world where there is any debate over whether it should produce its own News programme. That is, of course, a symptom of the One Nation attitude of the BBC and the unionist media. Quite frankly, though, it doesn’t really matter because a Scottish Six (as it is usually known) won’t be much good anyway.

There are a couple of reasons for this even if we discount the ludicrous claims by the likes of David Torrance and others that, and I paraphrase here, Scots are not genetically programmed to operate difficult machinery like television cameras and would be incapable of producing a News programme.

No, the practical difficulty is that BBC Scotland is ultimately controlled from London. Without its own network of dedicated news crews and equipment, it will rely on BBC London to provide many of its international and UK reports. Unless there is a massive boost in funding and BBC Scotland is given complete autonomy, the News will still be largely local with everything else being beamed in from London.

Then there is the political angle. The simple fact is that the BBC do not want a Scottish Six to succeed. The BBC is part of the UK State and promotes the UK at every opportunity. If BBC Scotland were to successfully produce an independent News show which genuinely provided Scottish and international news from a Scottish perspective, it would completely undermine the BBC’s role as protector of the Union.

Not that there is much danger of this because, unless there is a massive change in personnel, the pro-Union bias will remain and Scottish News will be dominated by the usual Cringe.

So, all in all, even if a Scottish Six does come about, I won’t be turning to it as my main source of information.


Blow For Sturgeon?

Posted on July 29th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

The Ruth Davidson (We’re not really Tories – Honest!) Party have shown their true colours again by asking people to sign a petition against the Named Persons’ legislation. This comes in the wake of them realising that the “Blow for Sturgeon" trumpeted by the BBC and other Unionist media was no such thing. It does, though, confirm to anyone who still harbours any lingering doubts about the Ruth Davidson Party that they would far rather score political points in order to preserve the Union than actually support a scheme which is intended to prevent children suffering abuse, harm or even death.

Of course, they will claim, the Named Persons’ legislation is hated because it is a Snoopers’ Charter. Coming from the Ruth Davidson Party, this is pretty rich considering the IP Bill the Tories are pushing through in Westminster which will allow the UK Government to spy on every email, phone call or text message made by any UK resident. In comparison, the NP Bill is nothing. Indeed, if it is so hated, one should perhaps ask the Ruth Davidson Party why the Bill passed through Holyrood without a single MSP voting against it. Could it be that they actually thought it was a good idea but have now jumped on the back of a bandwagon started by a small number of zealots who haven’t bothered to read the legislation or listen to the experiences of people who have been involved in the trials of the scheme?

But what about this “Blow for Sturgeon"? According to initial media reports, the Supreme Court had ruled the NP Bill incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. There was much gloating and celebrating by the Ruth Davidson Party and others until people actually took the time to read what the judgement said. It transpired that the Court found the intention of the legislation to be legitimate and benign, not at all the sort of language you’d expect if they had ruled it as breaching the ECHR. In fact, the only part of the legislation they found fault with was the Data Sharing aspect which, under the current wording, could result in confidential data about children and parents being inappropriately shared without consent. The Court knows this can be rectified and has given the Scottish Government six weeks to amend the wording to make it compatible. In legislative terms, six weeks is nothing, showing that the Court expects the Bill to be suitably amended very quickly.

When the true facts emerged, they were so obvious that even the BBC was forced to amend its jubilant headlines to admit the truth. The ruling was so much of a “Blow for Sturgeon" that Children’s charities and Highland Council, where the scheme has been in use for some years on a trial basis, have officially come out and confirmed they are happy with the Court ruling.

This judgement means there may be a slight delay to the Bill coming into full force but it will not prevent NP becoming law. This is what has upset the Ruth Davidson Party and other people who have no idea what the legislation is intended to do or how it is intended to work. Their opposition is based on the one ideological strand that anything the SNP Government does must be bad and they are deliberately putting children at risk solely in order to perpetuate this tribal perspective.

And, of course, the most ironic thing about the whole saga is that many of the people who were acclaiming the Court decision are the same people who want to take the UK out of the EU so that the ECHR does not apply. But then, irony never does seem to register with them.

One final word of warning. This will not be the last we hear of this because no system is capable of completely eliminating child abuse. NP is an attempt to improve the current system and, if the trials are anything to go by, it seems to make a difference. However, we should expect the Ruth Davidson Party to loudly proclaim its failure as soon as one child suffers any sort of harm. When that happens, ask yourself what sort of person would take delight in a child suffering harm?


Still The Same

Posted on July 28th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

The one thing you can say that is positive about Scottish Labour is that they can issue any sort of Press release in the certain knowledge that it positively won’t receive any scrutiny whatsoever from the Scottish media.

Their latest plan for a post-Brexit Scotland makes it clear that they do not regard the Brexit vote as warranting a second IndieRef. Scotland, it seems, must be kept under Westminster’s control no matter what happens.

Scottish Labour seem to inhabit a very different world to the rest of us. They insist that the Scottish Government must find a way to protect the status of EU citizens working in Scotland, must protect Human and Workers’ Rights and even to establish a Brexit fund to provide help for people who might suffer as a result of the UK leaving the EU.

What seems to escape them completely is that there is only one way to protect those various rights. Unless Theresa May takes the enormous gamble of not proceeding with Brexit, the UK is leaving and Scottish Labour’s principal demand is that Scotland leaves with it. If that happens, there is no way the Scottish Government can do anything about the various rights Scottish Labour want protected.

As for the Brexit fund, it is a laudable idea but Scottish Labour don’t even have a Plan A as to where the money is to come from, let alone a Plan B. Presumably they want some other services cut so that they can shout “SNPBad!" when the money is set aside for the Brexit fund. They also casually ignore the fact that it should really be the UK Government who set up any such fund. Why should money be taken out of Scotland’s ever-dwindling budget to cater for things inflicted on us by the UK? Oh, wait, that’s normal, isn’t it?

All in all, this latest bizarre call from Scottish Labour merely confirms their decline into irrelevance. They cannot bring themselves to support Scotland as a viable, independent country yet they demand that the Scottish Government take steps it could only take if Scotland were independent. They seem to be stuck in this “Best of Both Worlds" mindset but haven’t realised that the two worlds they want to have the best of are mutually incompatible. They will soon need to choose one or the other and they surely must realise that choosing the UK will sound their final death knell because the Ruth Davidson (“We’re not really Tories, vote for Ruth") Party have got the Unionist vote sewn up. Labour never seem to have learned that you can’t out-Tory the Tories and trying to portray yourselves as saviours of the Union when Ruth and her buddies have grabbed all the Union flags is a complete waste of time.

All of this seems very obvious but it would have been nice to hear some Scottish media voices pointing out these major inconsistencies in Scottish Labour’s muddled proposals. Still, some things never change.


Rock, Meet Hard Place

Posted on July 22nd, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Theresa May faces a difficult decision regarding Brexit and neither choice seems to offer anything but constitutional crisis.

She has said that Brexit means Brexit which implies that she will indeed encourage the Westminster Parliament to vote through agreement to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. The problem with this course of action is that it will inevitably lead to another Scottish IndieRef and may also see Northern Ireland vote to become part of the Republic of Ireland, thus leaving England and Wales as a very much diminished UK.

Can you imagine the angst Theresa May must face at the prospect of being the PM who oversaw the break up of the UK? Her one saving grace is that she could perhaps stomach this because she can point the finger at others for bringing about the prospective calamity. That’s a calamity from the perspective of BritNats, anyway. The majority of citizens of Scotland and Northern Ireland would probably view it very differently.

So, it is possible that Theresa May might see herself as the saviour of England, guiding that isolated and increasingly xenophobic country to its bleak new future which will see the Tories in perpetual power.

On the other hand, she might have realised that losing control over Scotland and Northern Ireland is too great a price to pay. Under UK rules, the result of the referendum is not binding and must be confirmed by the Westminster Parliament. What if Theresa May decides to quietly encourage her MPs to vote not to trigger Article 50? After all, the lies of the Leave campaign are now well known and the realisation that having access to the single market in Europe would still allow unrestricted access to the UK by hordes (or is it swarms?) of nasty foreigners might be enough to persuade Westminster that Brexit just isn’t worth it.

If Article 50 is not invoked, Theresa May virtually cuts the rug from under the feet of the Scottish Indie movement. She might believe she can keep the UK together and mollify the very large minority who voted to Leave by explaining that they were sold a lie by UKIP and others.

There are already some people calling for this course of action because the next General Election will be in 2020, by which time the UK will be outside of the EU. Given the problems Brexit is likely to bring, either through not delivering what the Leave campaign wanted or through placing England and Wales in a very isolated position and a declining economy, many voters may decide that it wasn’t such a good idea after all and might turn against the incumbent Government. As the main aim of the Tory Party is to remain in power, some MPs may be attracted to the idea of indefinitely postponing Brexit and attempting to handle the fallout rather than face the prospect of being voted out in 2020.

This is, however, a high risk strategy. For a start, Scotland may decide to go its own way anyway. Brexit may have been the trigger for many people but the Trident vote and the betrayal of the Clyde Ship workers have added to the case for independence and cancelling Brexit may still not be enough to persuade voters to return to the Union fold.

The other reason is that it may not be possible to suppress the outcry from the Leave campaign. While some voters may have altered their opinions now that they realise they were lied to, we should not underestimate the power of British Nationalism, for which read English Nationalism. The referendum may not be legally binding on the Government but refusing to act on the result could cause another major constitutional crisis for the Tories. UKIP would undoubtedly see another surge and the xenophobic Press would have a field day as they whipped up support for the referendum outcome to be honoured. Four years is a very long time in politics but it is very possible that cancelling Brexit could also see the Tories ousted, or at least losing their majority, not thanks to Labour but by a revitalised UKIP.

Remaining within the EU would also be very difficult because the other members would know that the UK’s membership is half-hearted and they would be very unlikely to be sympathetic to any demands the UK might make in negotiations.

So it’s a tough call, whichever way Theresa May decides to jump. If she’s smart, she may recognise that she’s already lost Scotland and so she might decide to bite the bullet and go for Brexit. If she tries to be clever and negotiate a way of postponing Brexit, who knows what could happen? She might end up having one of the shortest Premierships in UK history when Boris sticks the knife in and seizes control.

Either way, though, it is increasingly evident that Scotland is better off outside this truly dreadful Union.


Be Patient

Posted on July 16th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

There are growing calls on social media for Nicola Sturgeon to launch her promised summer campaign for Scottish independence. However, those calling for this are probably going to be disappointed.

The problem is that, since Nicola Sturgeon made this promise, there has been a material change in circumstances. There is obviously a risk in delaying because the Unionist media and politicians have already begun Project Fear to persuade people that independence is a bad idea. The longer the SNP allow this to continue unchallenged, the more harm it will do.

But there are some excellent reasons why we should not rush into calling another IndieRef at the moment.

First of all, the main reason many people are now waking up to the positive case for independence is the Brexit referendum result. The promise that only a No vote in the IndieRef could secure our place in the EU has, like virtually every other Better Together claim, been proven to be a lie and this one seems to have been the final straw for many people.

The problem the SNP face here is that, until Article 50 is invoked, the UK is not certain to leave the EU and Theresa May is already soft-pedalling on that front. I am sure she will be compelled to formally issue the required proclamation eventually but she may yet harbour thoughts of persuading the Westminster Parliament that it should not be done notwithstanding the Brexit vote.

If Article 50 is not triggered, the main reason for calling a second Scottish IndieRef falls away, leaving the SNP open to accusations of making a knee jerk reaction and hurrying towards a referendum without good cause.

The second reason is that Nicola Sturgeon has established a group of experts to examine the various options open to Scotland. If she were to call for an IndieRef before that group had reported – and it has met only once so far – this would also leave her open to accusations of exploiting an uncertain situation with no Plan A, let alone a Plan B. The fact that the Tories went into the Brexit Referendum without a plan A is immaterial because we all know it is only Scotland that will ever be held to account for such things.

So, until we have a clear idea of what the UK is going to do and until Scotland has a clearly defined plan of how our EU membership can be retained, don’t expect any progress on a second IndieRef.

Be patient; it will come.


The RBS who actually cares about Scotland.  If at first you don't secede, try, try again.

Rab Bruce's Spider is a collaborative blog site where individuals who support Scottish Independence can express their views. If you would like to contribute, please email your suggested article to ga.author@sky.com.