Driven To Despair

Posted on November 23rd, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Where to start? So much has been happening, so much has been said, and it’s all making me very angry.

From Tories spouting lies to BBC journos repeating those lies without making any attempt to challenge the mendacity; from lack of reporting of the arctic Circle Convention taking place in Scotland to Poppy Scotland allowing Ruth Davidson to turn what should be a sombre symbol of sorrow and reflection into a happy photo-shoot opportunity; from Jeremy Corbyn over-ruling Richard Leonard on whether to suspend Kezia Dugdale to the same Jeremy Corbyn telling his MPs to support a hard Brexit instead of opposing the disaster; from David Davis insisting on being given private flights to and from Europe for his Brexit discussions to the EMA and EBA moving out of the UK; from the covering up of MPs’ involvement in sex scandals to election fraud involving overspending or the influence of Russian Bots; from petty outcries over Alex Salmond allegedly supporting Putin by having his new show on RT to the British media failing to report on anti-Food Bank protesters outside Downing Street; from assertions that the UK Government has undertaken Brexit Impact Studies but will not release them because the results are so appalling to the astonishing claims that the Government didn’t actually bother doing any Brexit Impact Studies after all; all of these things are enough to drive you to despair.

The UK is a mess. Its politics are corrupt to the core, its media no better. If Nicola Sturgeon can’t make the positive case for independence now, when will she ever be able to do it? Yet, as usual, all we hear is that the SNP are preparing detailed plans on how the economy of an independent Scotland would operate. If the past couple of years have taught us anything, it is that the majority of voters don’t care about the economy when it boils down to putting their cross in a box. They may say they do, but Brexit has shown us that far too many people are happy to accept a massive slump in the value of the pound, failing public services, rising inflation, rising interest rates and the worst Growth forecasts of any western European nation as long as they can vent their xenophobic anger at foreigners.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, most people seem more concerned with Strictly Come Dancing or the weather than the state of British politics and the economy.

How much longer can we put up with this? The positive case for Scotland certainly involves a brighter economic outlook, but that will come about through proper management of Scotland’s wealth of natural resources. The real positive case must surely be about the sort of society we want to live in; a society where the poor, the disabled, the elderly and the unemployed are properly cared for, where ex-service personnel do not need to rely on charities, where foreigners and refugees are welcomed and encouraged to participate in society and, most importantly, where any Government which does not live up to the aspirations of the people can be voted out and replaced. If you want any of these things, you aren’t going to find them inside the UK.


Brexit Explained?

Posted on November 20th, 2017

This letter from a Mr Les Mackay was published in the Dundee Courier recently. Mr Mackay has no connection with this blog site, but his points are so intriguing and well made, we thought it worth posting them here in full. Since he has already made his views public by writing to a newspaper, we hope he doesn’t mind us re-posting his letter.

WAS IT ABOUT TAX AVOIDANCE?

Sir: I had often wondered why the very rich and powerful in the UK seemed to be so strongly in favour of a Brexit which will almost certainly severely damage the British economy, and impoverish the majority of the population for a generation at least.

Then when the Paradise Papers were released, divulging the numbers of the great and good in the UK involved in tax avoidance, including the Queen , the enormous amounts of tax lost to the country, and the UK's central role in the worldwide network of tax avoidance/evasion, I remembered an article I had read about a plan for an EU directive that would end tax avoidance practices amongst its member states. This was first mooted in 2013, and the EU draft proposal for The Anti Tax Avoidance Directive was completed in January 2016.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron and his government fought against this measure from its inception and, within a month of the draft proposal being presented, he had announced the date for the EU referendum.

The campaign to leave would never have prevailed without the support of the Sun, Daily Mail, Sunday Times, Daily Express and Telegraph, all of which are owned by tax avoiding media tycoons.

If it is indeed the case that the British establishment have sought to protect and maintain their power and wealth by deliberately damaging the country, it is sad day for democracy, and a further blow to the UK's already tarnished reputation in the world.


Question Time for BBC

Posted on November 19th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

The BBC comes in for a lot of criticism from a great many people on the Yes side of the Indy argument. This is not because it is the only culprit, but because of its claims to be impartial and balanced. Anyone looking closely at the BBC’s output in Scotland will soon see that this impartiality is a myth.

In recent weeks, we have seen several examples of how this manifests itself, with BBC journalists joining in the condemnation of Alex Salmond for hosting his show on RT, the Russian State broadcaster. The reason for the criticism was that, by appearing on RT, Salmond was somehow supporting Vladimir Putin. Wings over Scotland did an excellent demolition of this argument which you can read here.

The worst thing about this rather silly argument was the total lack of self-awareness of the BBC in condemning RT for its bias while appearing to be oblivious to its own inherent biases.

Then we saw the typical anti-SNP angle coming out when the Supreme Court ruled that the Scottish Government’s plans for Minimum Pricing on alcohol can go ahead. This has been a long-running saga, and it is definitely a triumph for the Scottish Government. Whether this policy will succeed in improving the nation’s health remains to be seen, and the results will not be known for several years at least, but the Scottish Government are to be commended for at least trying to do something. misuse of alcohol, as with tobacco and drugs, is a symptom of poverty. Minimum Pricing will not cure that, but it is one tool in the armoury to combat binge drinking on low-priced, strong alcoholic drinks. Without all the economic levers of a normal nation at their disposal, the Scottish Government must use what powers it has to try to improve both the health and social wellbeing of its citizens. The fact that this move is supported by most health professionals shows that it is a well intentioned move.

Naturally, as with any Government legislation, there are those who disapprove. It must be said that few of these people have any positive suggestions to make as to how the problem of low cost alcoholic drinks should be tackled, and the main objection seems to be that this policy is doomed to failure. Now, it may well be that it will not work, but surely it is better to try. After all, there were similar outcries when the Scottish Government banned smoking in public places and when they introduced the 5p charge for carrier bags. Both policies, and particularly the carrier bag charge, were derided, but both have produced very positive results in health and the environment. Perhaps we should give Minimum Pricing a chance.

Naturally, the BBC has led the criticism of the policy, pushing the line that we will see binge convoys of vehicles travelling across the border to buy cheap booze and bring it back to Scotland. It is worth remembering that the BBC highlighted similar claims when the Scottish Government introduced the lower drink driving limits, but that story seems to have died a death. What the latest headlines ignore is that Minimum Pricing is targeted at the super-strength, low price drinks which are commonly purchased by teenagers. Whether any of them would wish to spend money on petrol to save a bit on their beverage of choice seems highly doubtful. No doubt a handful of people will think it worthwhile if they can fill a transit van full of slightly cheaper booze, but it seems extremely hypocritical of the BBC to suggest this will be a major problem when they ignore the fact that many people who live in the south of England do precisely the same thing on cross-Channel trips to France.

Amidst all the hysteria, it also seems to have been forgotten that most drinks purchased by the majority of people will not be affected since the drinks already cost more than the initially proposed minimum. Not that you would know this from listening to the BBC.

And then we have another example of bias, this time bias by omission in order to protect the UK Government from criticism. The BBC, remember, is the UK State broadcaster, with a mission to protect and promote the UK, hence its antipathy towards the SNP who are, after all, a threat to the integrity of the UK – if integrity is a word we can use to describe anything to do with the Westminster Government. This, according to its critics, is why the BBC has failed to report on a study which suggested that cuts to social services have resulted in 120,000 additional deaths since 2010 in England alone. The reason the BBC did not report this is because, according to them, the research was not up to scratch. You can read more about this in an article by The Canary.

This excuse is quite laughable. Not only was the research carried out by several Universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, but it was published in the British Medical Journal. However, the BBC is so desperate not to criticise the UK Government over such dreadful confirmation of its murderous social policies that it used criticism of the report from another scientific group as justification for not reporting the news.

Now, you might argue that this is an editorial decision for which there is some justification. It would be a weak argument, but it could perhaps be made. However, what that line of justification ignores is that the BBC in Scotland is only too ready to report any claims from so-called independent Think Tanks when the news is in any way critical of the Scottish Government or can be used to criticise the SNP. Many of these so-called independent sources turn out to be funded by groups who are active opponents of the SNP in particular or Scottish independence in general, yet that does not prevent the BBC showcasing their “findings". Perhaps the BBC has turned over a new leaf and will now introduce an extremely rigorous vetting procedure before reporting the findings of any scientific or economic study, but you probably shouldn’t count on it. This is, after all, a broadcaster which will go to any lengths to equate the SNP with anything bad. Even a short radio report on the military coup in Zimbabwe mentioned that Robert Mugabe had been in power for 37 years which was “even longer than the SNP have been in power".

What? Seriously? What on earth has Robert Mugabe got to do with the SNP except if one has a desire to equate them to a dictator? Is that sort of comment impartial and balanced?

But balance rarely enters into it where the BBC are concerned. The recent highlighting of cases of harassment and abuse in public circles has spread to Scotland, and the BBC has been quick to doorstep SNP MSP Mark McDonald in light of allegations made against him and his own admission that his behaviour had not been acceptable. If he has been guilty of inappropriate behaviour, then it is right that this is newsworthy in light of his public position. However, the BBC has notably declined to adopt the same door-stepping technique in relation to Labour’s Alex Rowley whose alleged unacceptable behaviour has involved a Police investigation. Similarly, the BBC have been at pains to play down the scandal of Tory Councillors who engaged in homophobic and racist abuse on social media. Again, the BBC might well argue that they need to take editorial decisions on which stories to cover, but surely it must be more than coincidence that SNP politicians are subjected to far more rigorous scrutiny than their Unionist counterparts?

Some might say that we should ignore this sort of thing. Simply not watching the BBC should be enough of an antidote. However, the real problem here is that their bias is so relentless and there are so many people who still trust the BBC that any campaign for independence faces a massive uphill struggle. IndyRef2 may not be happening soon, but we need to keep calling out the BBC on this sort of thing, and we need to keep telling people about their constant misrepresentation of Scotland. Question Time should happen every day, and it is we who must do the questioning.


Eck of a Stooshie

Posted on November 13th, 2017

by Wee Hamish

What a stooshie Wee Eck has caused by agreeing to allow RT to broadcast his new chat show! You’d think it was the end of the world.

Actually, it might be as far as the Yoons in the media are concerned, because they’ve lost control of the message. It’s maybe a coincidence, but Steve Keen, the Australian economist, wrote just last week that the reason he appears more on RT than on the BBC is because RT allow him to say what he wants to say, while the BBC are more interested in entertainment than facts, and don’t want him giving out the wrong message. Nae wonder Eck went with RT, because you can bet the BBC wouldn’t allow him on their precious channels.

The other thing that bothered me was Nicola Sturgeon’s response. She said going with RT wouldn’t have been her choice. Naturally, the Scottish media were all over this like a rash. But Eck is a free citizen now, bound by no rules of Parliament, and nobody can stop him making his own programmes and doing a deal with whichever broadcaster is prepared to show it. And, as far as Nicola Sturgeon is concerned, am I the only one who gets the feeling she is far too cautious about not rocking the boat? I mean, she’s promised to make the case for independence, but we’re still waiting to hear that from the SNP. A few Tweets from senior SNP MSPs isn’t going to get the word out to the wider public.

We’ll have to wait and see whether Eck’s show will be any good, or whether anyone watches it, but one thing is for sure: he’s already rattled the UK media, and he might just be able to do something the SNP seem incapable of doing just now; persuading people that being independent is Scotland’s best chance for the future.


Referendums! What Rules?

Posted on November 12th, 2017

by The Citadel

In the last three years we have seen three referendums. Why are the all so different? Are there no common rules? Does democracy have no value?

Many applaud the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum. It had agreement between the UK government and the Scottish government and minimal ground rules were set down; even the question to be asked was scrutinised. There was a long lead time to allow issues to be discussed. But, and there is always a but, these are all organisational and process; there were no rules on substance. Lies were allowed to be offered as if they were the truth; vote buying promises were allowed to be made with no guarantees.

Then there came Brexit. No organisational process rules – no rules to speak of - a speedy campaign fought on slogans and no verification of facts – even when you could find one. It could be compared to being offered a free camping holiday which, if you agreed to take part, you are not allowed to back out even if unhappy or not satisfied. Then the itinerary arrives two years later informing you that the camping holiday (under canvas), is all booked for two weeks in June on South Georgia in the South Atlantic which time is their mid-winter. Would you not think that justice and fair play would allow you to decline? But, this is Brexit, nobody, or at most only a very few in the secret inner circle, knew what the outcome would be (and we still don’t). Surely, in the interests of justice and fair play, the negotiated result must be subject to an acceptance referendum?

Then, finally, there is the Catalonian Referendum which was brutally suppressed by violence. And now they are talking about allowing Catalonia a second referendum in which the whole of Spain will vote. Don’t they tell you never to play cards with a marked or a stacked deck? The rules, cards and tables must give all players an equal chance. But then this is just another example of the abuse of power; it is the same issue as Westminster, Holyrood and Hollywood are facing over the abuse of women.

If we are the democracies we claim to be this kind of behaviour by the authorities must be regulated and stopped. Each side of the debate needs to present facts that they can irrefutably assert. If it is only an opinion, they should say so. Vote buying toffee promises must not be made, particularly during campaigning when that side looks like losing. Since we seem to be good at laying down the ground rules on the mechanics of running referendums, why are we so inept at rules of debate and engagement? Ah! Yes. The object is not to settle an issue and neither is it to provide justice or fair play; it’s to get your own way – winner takes all – daddy knows best.


Avoiding The Issue

Posted on November 10th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

The Right Wing media are using a couple of tactics to limit the damage from the Paradise Papers.

The first method is the usual one of distraction. Not that there isn’t plenty of other scandalous political news around to divert attention, but the media still see it as their duty to focus on people like Bono, Lewis Hamilton and Gary Lineker (who, it must be said, is adamant that he has paid all his taxes and does not use tax avoidance schemes). By concentrating on high profile individuals from the sporting and entertainment business, the media are doing their best to divert any scrutiny of rich Tories like Lord Ashcroft or members of the Royal family, particularly the Queen who seems happy to invest in businesses which exploit the poverty her Government has inflicted on the people she considers to be her subjects.

This is all fairly standard from the media’s perspective.

The second tactic is to attempt to justify it, and this is the more insidious strategy. We hear, for example, that none of this is illegal which is true enough; we hear that it is common practice for many people and businesses to avoid paying tax, and this is also true. A third claim is that the outrage being expressed is motivated by jealousy, since anyone who earns a fortune would adopt the same tax avoidance strategies.

Now, all of these may indeed be true. A reluctance to pay tax is a human trait which is as old as the invention of taxation itself. However, that does not mean it is morally right to engage in tax avoidance on such a massive scale. The outrage is not so much that people are using legal methods to mitigate their tax obligations, but that such methods are legal in the first place. When the vast majority of people are facing tough times financially, some to extreme levels, then learning that the mega-rich are siphoning money out of the economy which could help pay for hospitals, schools, social security, emergency services and so on is what enrages people. This is not jealousy, it is righteous anger at the greed of those who are in a position to help society but instead prefer to act in a selfish manner when they already have so much money they can afford to put millions away in a tax haven.

The wealthy have always acted this way, but by seeking to excuse it on the grounds that everyone would do the same if they had the chance, the media are perpetuating the ethos of the “Me First!" culture which is so ingrained in our society. Now, of course, we would all like a bit more money in our pockets but there is another way of looking at taxation, especially for the better off in society. To begin with, is it not rather arrogant to believe that a pound in your pocket will do more good for society than a pound in the hands of a responsible Government? OK, you may stimulate the economy by spending that pound, but, once you reach a certain level of income, you are just as likely to save the money away for a rainy day rather than spend it. This doesn’t help anyone except yourself, whereas a responsible Government would use the money to fund public services which benefit everyone.

OK, that’s a bit moralistic, but hopefully it gets across the point that there is nothing inherently wrong with taxation as long as it is progressive and not punitive. Ideally, each individual should be left with sufficient income to fund a good standard of living and have the ability to save a portion of their income to cope with emergencies and their own retirement, but the main benefits to society come from the range of public services which are funded by the Government. We need teachers, schools and universities; we need doctors, nurses and hospitals; we need the Police, Fire and Ambulance Services to name but a few of the things a Government should provide.

What we also need is a change in attitude so that people take pride in paying their taxes. And, of course, we also need legislation to make tax avoidance of the sort revealed by the Paradise Papers illegal. Unfortunately, we aren’t going to see either of those things in the UK because greed and self-interest are what drives the people who run the country.

There is, of course, a solution for Scotland.


How Legal is a Constitution?

Posted on November 8th, 2017

by The Citadel

When the Scottish Parliament was enacted, quite rightly, Human Rights were enshrined in the empowering act as it was argued that it was an EU requirement. This being so, the EU should also insist that human rights should be enshrined in the constitutions of all member states. They demanded constancy in fruit and veg etc., is it too much bother to insist that all member states must ament their constitutions to guarantee human rights equally throughout the EU?

My query is this: as I understand it, Spain and all EU states are a signatory to the UN Charter which defines Human Rights.

Were the Spanish Government, and all signatories, not honour bound to amend their constitution in line with their agreement with the UN Charter?

If their signing of the UN Charter had been sincere their constitutions would have been amended. The fact that it was not declares all such signatures to be a sham, an act of blatant political posturing: an act of supremacists’ rights not human rights.

In the, not so distant past, Rosa Parks defied the law and we applauded it as being just. Earlier than this, Nelson Mandela and Gandhi defied the law and we applauded them for the justice of their causes.

Currently, UK media proclaim that Catalonia has acted illegally. But is this true? They are being brutalised and denied their human rights. The media claim, with no accurate facts that those seeking independence are not a majority. So, if they are right about where the majority lies, why not furnish the proof. The proof of who is right about the numbers would have been easily settled if the referendum had been allowed to go ahead without any violent repression.

I am sure that no one wishes to see a repeat of the 1930s in Europe. So, if that is true, why do we blindly accept the legality of current events in Spain? If we were to lay aside our political and self-interests, European Governments and Media should be questioning the legality of the Spanish Constitution and not unquestioningly supporting their reaction.


Paradise Found

Posted on November 6th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

So the Paradise Papers confirm what we already knew; that the wealthy elite in our society are laughing at us. While they tell us that we are all in this together, they do their vest to ensure that they contribute as little as possible to the finances of the UK. It is an absolute scandal that the media spends so much time telling us about Benefit fraud, while ignoring tax avoidance which costs the treasury many times more. Then again, since most of those who run the media are part of the wealthy elite, perhaps that’s not a surprise.

The worst thing about this latest revelation is that nothing much will come of it. The BBC are already spinning the Queen’s involvement as little more than an embarrassment caused by those who manage her investments on her behalf. They fail to mention that anyone who has investments, even by way of a Private Pension, can instruct the investment managers on which type of investments they prefer or, if that option is somehow not available, can withdraw their funds and pass them to a more ethical investment manager. HRH, it appears, has done neither of these things. What makes this even less palatable to anyone with a sense of social justice is that she is to be given £370 million to refurbish Buckingham Palace, which means her own personal fortune won’t be impacted. Three cheers for the monarchy!

What sort of populace puts up with such flagrant greed? Apparently, the British people. Have we become so complacent that we no longer care what is done to us by those who hold power, or are we so inured to stories of greed, corruption, sleaze and blatant lies that we simply shrug and say, “That’s the way it’s always been. We can’t change things." ?

In Scotland, we can change this situation, but only if people wake up to what is being done to them by the people who hold the majority of the wealth and power. Far too many of these people appear to have become so caught up in the system which rewards greed that they have completely lost touch with the hardships faced by huge numbers of ordinary citizens. Or, more likely, the “Me First!" culture which exploded in Britain in the 1980s and which has rewarded the top 1% so well, has resulted in them simply not caring what the majority of people think about them.

And yet a majority of Scots are happy to be ruled by politicians who are part of the problem. For a supposedly politically informed electorate, we seem to have a very odd view of the sort of society we want to live in.


Sex & The City

Posted on October 31st, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

For anyone who has been paying attention, stories of a paedophile ring operating in Westminster have been doing the rounds for years. The lack of any progress in identifying the perpetrators has led to all sorts of conspiracy theories and claims of cover ups, and it must be said that the loss of vital files and the succession of people resigning from positions of chairing investigations certainly hasn’t given anyone the impression that the UK Government is keen to take any positive action to either verify or rule out the many claims.

Now, the picture has moved slightly, with talk of a list of 36 Tory MPs who have engaged in sexual harassment, and stories that a small number of similar cases has been highlighted in Holyrood.

First of all, it should not need saying that such actions are totally unacceptable and anyone engaging in such behaviour in any workplace needs to understand that this sort of behaviour will not be tolerated.

It is noticeable that much of the talk in political circles is about the damage this story is doing and may still do to the Tory Party and to Theresa May. Nobody seems to care very much about the victims of this alleged behaviour, which is perhaps indicative of how Westminster and the media operate.

It is also disturbing, although not entirely surprising, that there are claims that the Prime Minister knew about these allegations and kept them quiet. If this is true, it reinforces the perception that Westminster only takes action when they are found out.

The media reactions are also quite revealing. Some news organisations are doing their best to play down or even ignore the issue, concentrating on other stories instead, while in Scotland we have, unsurprisingly, seen headlines claiming it is only the SNP who have been faced with allegations about sexual misconduct. This is, sadly, the state of the British media today.

It would be foolish to think that any political Party can be exempt from criticism in matters like this. Acts of sexual harassment are usually carried out by individuals, and those individuals can be a member of any Party. What allows them to get away with this behaviour is the culture in which they operate. If their harassment is tolerated, and if victims are not believed or are simply told to accept it as part of their job, then those who wish to act inappropriately will believe they can continue to get away with it.

One thing is clear; any society which has pretensions to be open, honest and equal needs to know that those who are in positions of authority will not abuse that authority. We need clear, unequivocal action from both Holyrood and Westminster. Whether we will get that remains to be seen but, quite honestly, let’s not hold our collective breath. Westminster, in particular, has a long tradition of publicly condemning one or two scapegoats and sweeping most things under the carpet. Even the scapegoats often make a return to public life as if nothing had happened. This needs to change. If ever there was a time for strong and stable leadership, this is it.


UK v EU?

Posted on October 29th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Many countries came into existence following what were technically illegal declarations of independence. The Republic of Ireland and the USA are of particular historical relevance as far as Britain is concerned, but there are plenty of others. It is very disappointing that, so far, the likes of RoI and USA have refused to recognise the new state of Catalonia. What was good enough for them is not, apparently, good for the Catalans.

That irony aside, however, it is easier to see why most EU countries have so far refused to recognise the Catalan declaration. As this site has pointed out before, the EU is not Europe’s policeman and has little real power which can be exercised quickly when a member state acts the way Spain has done. The irony here is that much of the Brexit argument relied on painting the EU as an all-controlling authoritarian super-state when, in truth, we see that it is something of a toothless tiger when it comes to applying pressure on a member state.

Of course, the EU could introduce economic sanctions against Spain, and perhaps that might still happen. What is very disappointing about the EU’s response so far has been its tacit support for Spain’s position and its refusal to condemn the violent and repressive tactics of the Spanish Government. Whatever you might think of Catalonia’s actions, the fact remains that the Catalans are European citizens and deserve some protections. The EU has shown itself to be particularly spineless by not condemning the Spanish Government’s brutality.

Sadly, it seems unlikely the EU will take any real action unless there is a major move by several EU member states. The problem is that Spain is an important part of the EU project and taking any action which is seen as a punishment may well spark a further disintegration of the EU. The EU can live without the UK, but another major nation breaking away in a fit of pique might well spur others to do the same.

While it remains to be seen what will happen – and it seems the EU will do very little – we should not let this sad episode distract us from the important question of Scotland’s place as regards the EU. We have plenty of evidence now that the EU will not intervene in what it sees as internal issues unless those issues affect the neo-liberal financial institutions of the EU as they did in the case of Greece. Scotland will get no help from the EU until we become a normal country. After that, there is the question of whether the EU is still an attractive option for Scotland.

Many Yessers have expressed dismay over the EU’s response to the Catalan situation and declared that they have reconsidered their views on whether Scotland should remain a member of the EU as a result. This is understandable, but it misses the point that Scotland’s economic future will surely be better secured by being a member of the EU, with all the benefits of free movement of people, goods and services that entails, together with the safeguards of EU rules on Human and Worker’s Rights, than it would if we remained part of an isolated and xenophobic UK which sees Scotland as a mere region to be exploited rather than as an integral and valued part of a larger social and economic area.

The EU has many faults, as does every organisation which is comprised of members with different priorities, but the shambles of Brexit must surely show us that the UK has very little to offer us.

As for the argument that the obvious difficulties of disentangling UK regulations and public bodies from the EU shows that Scotland disentangling itself from the UK would be horrendously difficult, let’s squash that now.

Scotland already complies with all EU laws. Disentangling from the UK would not involve any great legal changes since we could simply continue with the current EU-compliant laws and regulations. The EU already has overarching bodies covering a wide range of areas, so Scotland would not need to recreate such bodies from scratch as the UK is going to have to do. Our NHS, our Education, our Emergency Services are already separate, there are distinct Scottish Battalions in the Army, and we have, of course, our own Parliament already. The promised establishment of a Scottish National Investment Bank sets the groundwork for having a Central Bank and our own currency, so that would be another important hurdle which could be overcome relatively easily.

Where we would need new public bodies is in areas like replacing DVLA, the Passport Office, and most especially HMRC. However, these are far from impossible tasks and a period of handover could be negotiated quite sensibly unless the UK Government decides to be obstinate. However, Scotland has a strong hand in any negotiations since England relies on Scottish power generation and will also want access to such things as Scottish water and farm produce, as well as wishing to divest itself of responsibility for paying Scotland’s Social Security and Pensions bills.

None of that is to say that everything will run entirely smoothly because life simply isn’t like that, but these things are eminently achievable, especially because the UK Government keeps telling us how keen it is to do trade deals with as many countries as possible. It is inconceivable that even the most pig-headed Brexiteer would demand trade deals with every country except Scotland. And if Scotland were part of the EU, then we wouldn’t even need to negotiate the trade terms for our dealings with RUK.

IN summary, then, the current situations with Brexit and with Catalonia should not fundamentally alter our stance. Scotland should remain pro-EU with the aim of influencing the organisation from the inside as a fully fledged member instead of a mere ignored region of the UK. Above all, Scotland must remain committed to becoming a normal country and should not be scared off by the latest incarnations of Project Fear. The past century has seen scores of countries become independent. Some have fared well, others less so, but their fate has always been in their own hands. And none of them have been frightened off by the thought that they are too wee, too poor and too stupid to take control of their own destiny. It is a testament to the power of the UK media that so many Scots believe that they are incapable of governing themselves successfully. Even the desperate ineptitude of the current Westminster Government does not seem to have shaken this belief. Let’s hope a few more see the light over the coming weeks and months as they begin to realise that not a single thing Better Together claimed has proved to be true. It may be better for the UK to keep Scotland, but it certainly isn’t better for Scotland, so we cannot let the media persuade us that Scotland’s future would be better served within the UK rather than within the EU as a full member in our own right.

Normal countries face difficult decisions on a regular basis. They don’t always make the right decisions, but we should not let fear of making mistakes hold us back. The goal remains the same, so let’s keep moving towards it.


A Powerful Obsession

Posted on October 24th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Projection of power seems to be something of an obsession with some Unionists, particularly MPs and journalists. In recent weeks, we have heard how the two new aircraft carriers will allow the UK to project its power anywhere in the world, while there have been claims that a new Royal Yacht would act as a symbol of Britain’s power wherever it docked.

Now, to be fair, these statements are probably true. Whether those symbols would be appreciated by the people seeing them is another matter. It is widely acknowledged in military circles that aircraft carriers are offensive, not defensive, weapons of war, so the chances are that the intention is to project the UK’s power onto nations we wish to bomb or intimidate. Gunboat diplomacy seems to be very dear to the hearts of the UK Establishment.

This obsession with appearing powerful is clearly a hangover from the days of Empire which far too many people seem unable, and indeed unwilling, to shake off.

The thing is that individuals who go around trying to prove how tough they are often tend to be bullies, or attempting to overcome their own feelings of inadequacy, or both. It’s hard to dismiss the thought that this analogy can be extended to the UK. Worse, the realities of the Brexit negotiations have revealed the paucity of Britain’s actual influence, which may explain why so many British Nationalists are seeking solace in expensive and unnecessary prestige objects. The Emperor may have no clothes, but at least he can sail around in a big ship and try to intimidate people into doing what he wants.


Big News?

Posted on October 19th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

It’s been a busy week for political news. We’ve had the scandal of an MSP who suffers from asthma paying £4.68 for a short taxi ride to ensure she arrived at a talk on time, we’ve had the continuing shambles of Brexit, with the Tories seemingly intent on coming away with no deal at all from the discussions, we’ve had the Spanish Government moving into full Fascist mode in their treatment of Catalan independence supporters, and we’ve had the startling news that Colonel Davidson is to appear on a celebrity version of Bake Off.

This latter news has raised much scorn amongst Yessers but, to be fair to the Colonel, she is doing it for charity, so fair play to her for that. The fact that she will gain extra publicity and her appearance is being relentlessly promoted by the BBC is par for the course. The best advice is simply not to watch the programme. Unreliable sources claim she will be serving up a large portion of mince followed by Empire 2.0 biscuits.

But the biggest news of the week surely must be that the BBC has not reported on the biggest news of the week. We fully expect them to ignore the First Minister’s international visits and speeches, but to ignore the latest admission from the Office for National Statistics is quite breath-taking even for the BBC. The ONS, it seems, has been miscalculating the UK’s wealth and has now admitted that some £490bn has had to be removed from the calculations. That’s nearly half a trillion pounds!

With inflation hitting a new high, and the Bank of England under increasing pressure to raise interest rates, this news is pretty cataclysmic for the UK economy. With businesses leaving and Brexit clearly going to have an enormously detrimental effect on all of our lives, this adjustment to the perceived wealth of the UK really should be major news. The fact that it isn’t shows, if any doubt remained, that the BBC is nothing more than a tool of the British State which provides propaganda rather than actual news. To make matters worse, they know a great many people still trust them, so they are not going to change. They will carry on misleading us right to the bitter end. Let’s hope that end isn’t too far away.


Road To Recovery

Posted on October 14th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

The UK now has the lowest growth and highest inflation of any major economy;

in real terms, wages are lower than when the Tories came to power in 2010;

the Bank of England is under pressure to increase interest rates;

the value of Sterling has crashed;

Brexit threatens the livelihood of Britain’s farmers;

Brexit will result in lower funding for Universities and research;

Businesses are already shifting their Head Offices and some operations out of the UK;

Inequality continues to increase;

The UN has slammed the UK Government for its treatment of Disabled people;

child poverty is at a record high;

having a job is no guarantee of escaping poverty, since many people who have a job still rely on Social Security;

Fuel poverty is increasing. For example, West Lothian Council recently announced that 29% of households in that region were in fuel poverty;

the NHS in England is failing because of funding cuts.

And some people still think voting Tory is the best way to ensure that the economy is well run.


On Balance

Posted on October 10th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Many of us are appalled by events in Catalonia and the actions of the Spanish Government in denying democracy. The EU’s weak response has also caused some people to reconsider their views on whether joining (or staying in) the EU is a good idea.

As this site has said before, the EU is far from perfect, but we really must recognise that it is not Europe’s Policeman. It is not an authoritarian entity which exercises absolute political control. If it were, the Brexiteers would have had a much stronger case when arguing that the EU controls what sovereign Governments can do. Some people might wish it did have those powers, but it simply does not.

The EU does, of course, have control over many economic aspects of its member States, particularly if, like Spain, they use the Euro. But for the EU to inflict any sort of financial penalty on Spain for what the EU views, rightly or wrongly, as an internal Spanish matter, would be a step further than they have gone before. Also, any such decision cannot be made quickly, since all member States would need to agree a plan of action, even if that plan was to delegate decision-making to an appointed representative or group of representatives. Whether any action at all will be taken remains doubtful for the moment.

It must be said that the moral case for intervention is strong, because Spain would probably not have been admitted to the EU if it were a new applicant behaving in the way it is currently doing. The moral case is also strong because the EU should recognise democracy and not Fascism.

But the political case is much more nuanced. By acting as a Policeman, the EU would be setting what many member countries would view as a dangerous precedent because it would most definitely be interfering in the sovereign rights of a member State. When some of those member States, notably Poland and Hungary, are already behaving in increasingly authoritarian ways, they are never going to support the EU taking any action against Spain.

It would be nice to think that the EU might at least condemn the actions of the Spanish Government, but for whatever reason, it has declined to do so. That is extremely disappointing, but it does not fundamentally undermine the case for an independent Scotland remaining in the EU. The benefits of access to the Single Market, of being a part of the organisation and therefore hopefully being able to exert some influence, the benefits of free movement, of research funding, of Human and Workers’ Rights, are all very important issues, as we are seeing with all the outcry over Brexit and the harm it will do to the UK. These are not small matters to be dismissed because Spain’s Government has revealed itself to be dictatorial. To turn our backs on the EU because one member State is behaving appallingly would be short-sighted.

None of this is to condone the EU’s insipid response, but we ought not to condemn the entire organisation for a poor decision in one area.

Let us not forget that the UN has been largely silent on Spain as well. Indeed, the UN itself rarely intervenes directly in such issues unless the interests of some of its major nations is at stake. So far, the Catalan issue remains confined to Iberia.

I wish the Catalans well. I hope they achieve independence, and I hope the Spanish Government will see sense although they seem to have little incentive to alter course at the moment. I do wish the EU would come out with a strong condemnation and even threaten some form of financial penalty for not following democratic principles, but I suspect I will be disappointed in that hope.

But, for all that has happened, I still believe that, on balance, an independent Scotland would be better off inside the EU than on the outside looking in.


In Control

Posted on October 4th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

The recent events in Catalonia and the EU’s insipid response to them has resulted in many people who were ostensibly pro-EU to express doubts as to whether an independent Scotland should become a member after all.

Of course, many of us were rather ambivalent about the EU in the run-up to the EU Referendum, but the past year or so must surely have shown us that the benefits far outweigh the many disadvantages.

As for Spain, the actions of the Government are deplorable, and it would be nice to think that the EU will take some strong action. The trouble is that there are other Right Wing Governments within EU countries who will naturally support Spain’s violent suppression of perceived opposition, so forcing through any severe action may well be difficult. Equally, taking no action will surely give those other Governments a signal that they can do pretty much what they want without fear of EU action.

Which brings us to the thorny problem of EU control. One of the reasons the Brexit vote succeeded was because so many people in England wanted to “Take back control". Yet we see now that, in practice, the EU is very reluctant to interfere in the internal politics of a member country. Or, at least, in the internal politics of a major member country. Whether the response would be the same had a smaller member country behaved the way Spain has done is a moot point.

Then there is the question of Greece, where the EU did intervene in a big way. The ironic thing here is that the people complaining about the lack of involvement in Spain were equally vocal in their condemnation of the intervention in Greece. But, of course, the situations were very different, because Greece’s case was an economic one which threatened the neo-liberal economics of the EU, while Spain’s issue is a political one rather than a mostly economic one.

Yes, politics was involved in Greece, and economics is a factor in Spain, but the driving principles in the two countries were different in emphasis. For the sake of the (mostly German) Banks, the EU could not allow Greece to get its way on financial matters. For the sake of being seen to be the overbearing, authoritarian mega-State the Brexiteers claimed it is, the EU does not want to exert too much pressure on Spain. Hopefully, some individual political leaders will begin to apply pressure of their own, and the EU will follow suit. Whether it will be enough to make Spain alter its attitude seems doubtful.

As for the potential for Scotland to become a member, the Catalonian situation does not really alter anything. Membership brings huge benefits in terms of trade, of research, of rights, and a host of other things. Yes, there are issues with the agricultural and fishing sectors to name but two, but the best way to obtain a better deal for Scotland is to be in the EU rather than outside it. Even countries like Norway and Switzerland have to abide by EU trading rules and standards if they wish to trade with EU countries, and a Scotland outside would be faced with the same issues. What we would need to appreciate is that the EU would let us get on with our own political affairs as long as we stuck to the economic rules.

It should also alert us to the fact that the EU will not intervene in the process of setting up IndyRef2. If Westminster sticks to its “Now is not the time" position, Scotland will get no help from the EU. Even if we call IndyRef2 and seek confirmation from the EU that an independent Scotland would be fast-tracked into membership in its own right, no such confirmation will be given. There may well be hints and unofficial statements from individuals, but that’s as far as support will go.

As for Spain and Catalonia, we’ll need to wait and see what happens. Whatever it is, the outcome will not please everyone. At most, I expect some verbal condemnations and perhaps some financial penalties. Even that is not certain, since it will do nothing to change Spain’s attitude. Only expulsion from the EU would have any real impact and that isn’t going to happen since it could lead to the break-up of the EU as well as being enormously complicated as we have seen with the farce of the Brexit negotiations. So, rightly or wrongly, Spain will probably be permitted to get away with its repressive behaviour with minimal punishment. If nothing else, that should show us that the EU does not control its member countries to the extent that the Brexiteers have so often claimed.


Already Gone

Posted on October 2nd, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

What has happened in Catalonia is a disgrace which is unworthy of any democratic nation. Events have been well documented elsewhere and opinions abound as to what might happen next.

The only thing I’d like to add to the many discussions is that, whatever happens, Spain has already lost Catalonia. Legally and politically, Spain may retain control, but to need to resort to force to do so will only ensure that, in spirit, Catalonia has already seceded.


What's the Cost?

Posted on October 1st, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

So that was the Labour conference, then, with Jeremy Corbyn speaking for ages yet managing not to say very much at all, while his followers did a grand job on social media of showing just how out of touch they are with Scotland in particular and Brexit in general. Some of them genuinely seem to believe Corbyn is anti-Brexit, which perhaps explains his apparent popularity.

But let’s move on because contemplating Labour’s weird brand of politics isn’t good for your mental health. It is the subsequent media discussions which caught my ear this time. Corbyn’s pledge to renationalise Utilities such as Water, Electricity, Gas and Rail have resulted in the usual media commentary of, “How will all this be paid for?". We even had an audience member on BBC Question Time repeating Margaret Thatcher’s tired old mantra that the problem with Socialism is that, sooner or later, you run out of other people’s money.

Now, these are tried and trusted arguments and, to be fair, most of us accepted them unquestioningly for a long time because they were difficult to argue against, just as the claims of, “There is no money left" or “You can’t spend what you haven’t got" were generally accepted as true because we can relate to those concepts.

But things have changed in recent years. Access to social media and alternative points of view have helped make many people realise that these arguments are, in fact, deeply flawed and take no account of how a modern economy works. Looking back in history, you can understand how the economies of the Roman Empire or medieval Europe suffered when coin was short or so debased that it was virtually worthless. But that is not how modern economies work, especially if a country has control over its own currency. If you have your own currency, you have a magic money tree. You can never run out of money, so there is never a question of how things will be paid for. The question is, how can you pay for them without pushing the economy into a period of high inflation? To do this, you need to control the money supply and use taxation. As Richard Murphy of Tax Research UK has so often pointed out, it is not, “Tax and Spend", it is “Spend then tax". Taxation means that a Government can exercise an element of control over the amount of money in circulation – and that’s electronic money, not only notes and coins. By creating public money to invest in public improvements such as infrastructure or even nationalising Utilities with a view to halting the seepage of money out of the UK to foreign owners or Hedge Funds which salt the proceeds in offshore Bank accounts, a Government can stimulate an economy to create employment, and thus increase the tax base to offset the original spending.

But the important thing to note is that you can’t run out of money, so you need not worry how things will be paid for. Sadly, our media has not yet cottoned on to this way of thinking and continue to repeat the old arguments to the accompaniment of much sage nodding.

The other hypocrisy in all this is that, while Corbyn is derided for having uncosted plans, an even more rigorous expectation is placed on the Scottish Government. Remember how the Better Together campaign wanted to know every last detail of the finances of an independent Scotland, right down to the cost of a stamp? It will be the same again next time, that’s for certain. In the meantime, nobody questions how the DUP deal will be funded, nobody bats an eyelid over how the unnecessary General Election was paid for, nobody worries about how the refurbishment of Buckingham Palace or the Houses of Parliament will be funded, nobody wonders where we will find the now doubled cost of repairing Big Ben, and even those who complain about how the cost of renewing Trident could be better spent elsewhere ever questions where the money will come from to pay the eye-watering cost of this supremely useless status symbol.

The problem is that the “How will it be paid for?" argument resonates with the public and serves the interests of those who control the Right Wing media. It is unlikely that any presenter on a political discussion programme will ever acknowledge the flaw in the claims. Which means it will be up to us to spread the word. Tell people about alternative economics as propounded by Richard Murphy, Steve Keen and others. A Government needs to be prudent when deciding which projects to fund, and it certainly can’t produce an unlimited supply of money without consequences, but paying for things which will benefit the economy is never a bad idea, and people need to understand that there really is a magic money tree if the money is spent in the right way and in a controlled manner.

Which is why, when Scotland does eventually become a normal country, we will need our own currency. This idea will frighten many people, which is why the SNP dared not take that bold step last time round. Next time, it needs to be portrayed as an essential part of the whole independence project. And if we can explain to people why control over our own currency gives us control over our economy, then we need to be prepared to counter the “How will it be paid for?" question.


Atomic P*sh

Posted on September 30th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

It looks as if MSP Jackie Baillie hasn’t been the only politician who could be accused of talking p*sh this week.

Secretary of State for Defence, Sir Michael Fallon, came to Scotland to tell us that Trident is the only way to keep us safe from North Korea and Russia.

Russia is, of course, becoming increasingly aggressive in its foreign policy, but the UK’s nuclear weapons make up such a tiny portion of the world’s nuclear arsenal that Fallon’s claim seems to be talking it up more than a little. Nuclear weapons cannot be uninvented, so until we find a foolproof way to scrap them all and ensure that nobody ever builds any ever again, mutual deterrence between the world’s superpowers is, unfortunately, the best way to ensure that no one country uses its nukes to enforce its will on other nations. But the UK is not a world superpower, and our weapons, even though they are capable of immense destruction, form only a very small percentage of the world’s nuclear weapons. It is probably fair to say, then, that Russia is more concerned by the vast nuclear arsenal of the USA than by the UK’s Trident missiles.

But it’s on North Korea that Fallon has excelled himself. First of all, President Trump and his allies have been making it very clear that possession of nuclear weapons would make North Korea a target. This is rather at odds with Fallon’s assertion that nuclear weapons keep the UK safe. Either they keep you safe or they make you a target. Which is it? Perhaps that depends on who your perceived enemies are. Ponder that thought.

The main inaccuracy in Fallon’s statement is, though, that North Korea is a threat to the UK. At the moment, North Korea doesn’t have a missile which can reach mainland USA, let alone travel half way round the world to strike at the UK. What keeps us safe from North Korea is geography. Of course, this may change in the future, but whether a North Korea which is capable of launching such an attack would bother itself with the UK when the USA is much closer and is viewed as a more immediate threat remains doubtful.

Still, inconvenient little facts have never stopped British politicians talking up the UK’s need for military power.


Just Gonnae No

Posted on September 21st, 2017

by Gordon

A short time ago, I wrote an article on language snobbery which you can read here.

Examples of this sort of attitude continue, and there seems little doubt that, like so many things in the UK, the recent rise of nationalist views in all four of the constituent parts of the UK have encouraged people to highlight such snobbery. One example I heard of recently was a shopkeeper asking a woman why she was talking “foreign muck" to her child when the woman was speaking to her child in Welsh … in Wales. It seems we have a long way to go before people begin to appreciate that being bilingual is something to admire and be proud of.

However, in this short essay, I want to discuss a more specific aspect of language snobbery as it relates to the scots language.

Recently, there were some outraged splutterings over the news that some Scottish schoolchildren were being taught how to translate English written works into scots. This was decried as disgraceful because, in the minds of those who complained, Scots is merely bad English.

Sadly, it seems that this attitude is again linked to political bias rather than any understanding of language, because there are two rather important issues the grumblers appear to be unaware of.

The first is that the language spoken by most Scots these days is what could be termed Scottish English, i.e. it is modern English with some additional vocabulary which comes from Scots, and is spoken with a different and very distinctive accent. It is not what linguists would call Scots. Scottish English can be viewed as a dialect, while Scots is, in the eyes of many linguists, a separate language even though it shares a great deal of its vocabulary and grammar rules with modern English. Indeed, it is often known as “Lallands" in order to distinguish it from Scottish English.

Secondly, it is important to understand that Scots, like modern English, descended from Middle English and its predecessor, Old English. In fact, Scots retains many pronunciations which would be recognised by speakers of Old English. For example, “There’s a moose loose aboot this hoose" and “It’s a braw, bricht, moonlicht nicht the nicht" are pronounced in much the same way as they would have been by the Anglo-Saxon speakers of Old English. Scottish English retains many features of Old and Middle English which Modern English has dropped or altered over the centuries. That does not mean one language is any better or worse than the other, simply that they have diverged in different directions from their original source language in much the same way as the Romance languages such as Spanish, Portuguese, French and Italian have diverged from Latin.

As for Scottish English, it has been heavily influenced by the transmission of radio and television programmes which have spread the influence of British English, just as British English itself has been influenced by American television and movies. There are a great many words in modern British English which were introduced relatively recently after first appearing in US English. “Commuter" is one such word, as is “movies".

Scottish English is a variant of British English, but whether it can be termed “bad English" is a matter of opinion. It is certainly not formal English but, like many regional versions of English, it has a wealth of phrases which its speakers can use which are unavailable to speakers of formal British English. The fact that many of those phrases are jocularly insulting perhaps says something about the Scots.

But we must not forget that there are many variants of English even if we ignore the wide variety of accents and dialects which can be found in the British Isles. For example, a speaker of formal British English who travels to Singapore would find a variant known as Singlish. This is English with strong Malay and Chinese influences, and it is very distinct from British English. A speaker of British English who claimed that Singaporeans were speaking bad English could equally be accused of speaking bad Singlish.

As I’ve said before, language is a tool for communication. Even formal British English often borrows words and expressions from other languages to convey a meaning which English cannot properly express. This is one of its great strengths, but it does mean that, as a global language, English will alter and develop many variants. We should never forget that, while we may find the way a Canadian or Australian says something to be odd or amusing, they think the same about some of the things we say.

But, to return to the original complaint about pupils being taught Scots, we must recognise that Scots is not the same as modern Scottish English. While Scots does retain much of its inherited vocabulary and grammar which makes it a sister language to British English, it is different enough that pupils studying the poems of Rabbie Burns are usually provided with translation notes so that they can understand the unfamiliar words which have dropped out of modern Scottish English.

It is probably fair to say that Scots, as opposed to Scottish English, is indeed a separate language, albeit one which retains a great deal of similarity to British English. For comparisons, look to the Scandinavian languages which are recognised as distinct but which all developed from Old Norse, and retain many similarities as a result.

So, first of all, the grumblers must recognise that speaking Scots is not the same as speaking Scottish English. By confusing the two, they seek to diminish the status of scots by implying that it is merely a local dialect of formal British English. One wonders whether these people have ever criticised the lyrics of Auld Lang Syne on the grounds that they are written in bad English? I suspect not.

Once we accept the difference between Scots and Scottish English, we must accept that there is absolutely nothing wrong with pupils being taught Scots. The language has a rich heritage and its influence on modern Scottish English can be heard all the time. I wonder whether there would be an outcry if the pupils were being taught to translate modern British English texts into Anglo-Saxon Old English? I suspect not, but, like Old English, Scots has a long and rich tradition which deserves some study.

Of course, it is important that pupils learn formal British English since this provides the tool through which they can communicate with people all around the world, but there is nothing wrong with them also learning their traditional language. It may not be as immediately useful as learning a modern foreign language but, aside from teaching them something of the heritage, history and culture of their country, it does help them develop language skills as they delve into the grammar and vocabulary of a new tongue. Sadly, I have a suspicion that those who have expressed their anger over the lessons are really more concerned with the historical and cultural aspects rather than the linguistic ones. If so, that is a great pity.

To sum up, those who have been vocal in their criticism have only shown their ignorance of the history of the language they themselves speak. To them, I say, “Gonnae no dae that."


Dark Matter

Posted on September 16th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Events in Catalonia are moving so quickly that this article may well be out of date by the time you read it. However, for the purposes of comparison with Scotland, the details are less important than the overall picture which is emerging. Sadly, the Spanish Government appears to be adopting tactics which are worthy of any extreme authoritarian State. The fact that the Catalans, or some of them at least, are still prepared to go ahead with their planned referendum on independence in spite of the legal, financial and physical intimidation they are suffering shows a degree of resolution which the majority of scots have not so far displayed.

The reasons for this will be many and varied, but there can be little doubt that the fact Catalonia has its own media must play a significant part in shaping public opinion there. In contrast, Scots have no control over their own media which constantly tells them they are better off being subject to Westminster rule no matter the consequences.

In political terms, the Catalonian experience presents a thorny problem for the Scottish Government. Naturally, there are calls for Nicola Sturgeon to express support for the rule of local self-determination which is seen to operate in a democratic way. However, doing so could create difficulties in the future. Despite the long-running and persistent claims by the Unionist media, the Spanish Government has never threatened to veto Scotland’s admission to the EU. Its stance has always been that it will not intervene in the constitutional affairs of another State and that any Referendum which is carried out in accordance with a state’s constitution will be respected. Whether that attitude would alter should Scotland ventured opinions on Spain’s constitutional affairs is something which , politically, the Scottish Government must consider carefully. To be too vocal in criticising Spain’s actions could turn Spain’s view on Scottish independence from one of neutrality to one of political hostility. That may sound cynical, especially because there is no doubt a lot of support for Catalonia on a personal level, but we live in a political world, so such decisions cannot be taken lightly.

As for that Spanish constitution which lies at the heart of the current Catalonian situation, it does serve to show how public opinion can shift in the space of a few decades. Spain has had a raft of constitutions since the 19th Century, and several in the 20th Century. The current constitution was adopted as recently as 1978 following a Referendum in which, it must be noted, Catalans voted 95% in favour on a turnout of 67%. That there is now a considerable demand for independence shows just how public opinion can shift. The Spanish example also shows that no constitution can be cast in stone, since the current one is only the latest in a long line, albeit we must acknowledge that the political situation in Spain over the past two Centuries has been very volatile, involving invasion, occupation and civil war, with shifts between dictatorship, absolute monarchical rule, and democracy under a constitutional monarchy. Bearing that in mind, it is little wonder that the constitutional position has shifted so often.

What is worrying is the Spanish Government’s apparent determination to prevent any move to break away from the unitary State. They may have the legal right, or even the obligation, to uphold the constitution, but they must realise that, while repressive tactics may succeed in the short term, they will only serve to harden attitudes, as well as creating a poor impression internationally. Of course, they may not care about this, since the loss of prestige and access to its wealthiest region may be the driving issues behind its attitude. The law is often a convenient smokescreen for such views, and we should not forget that laws can be altered to cope with new situations. Indeed, if that were not so, there would be no need for Parliaments to legislate at all. Currently, though, the Spanish Government seems determined to entrench its position no matter what Catalan public opinion might say.

Does any of that sound familiar? The question of prestige is close to the heart of the UK’s arguments against Scottish independence, as is the loss of Scotland’s wealth, a wealth which the media has done its best to disguise with, it must be admitted, considerable success.

So, does the current Catalan situation provide any clues as to what might happen in Scotland? It is too early to say because events are still unfolding, but there are two potential outcomes at opposite ends of the spectrum of possibilities which may turn out to provide some clues.

The happiest outcome would be that Spain sees sense, realises it will never control the move for Catalan independence without severe authoritarian clampdown, that Catalonia votes Yes and is welcomed into organisations such as the UN and EU with minimal difficulty. The new nation’s relationships with Spain would no doubt be strained for some time, but the Catalans clearly believe that it would be worth some problems in order to achieve self-government.

If all of that happened – and it’s a big if at the moment – then perhaps more Scots would realise that Scotland could follow the same path, especially when the full horror of Brexit eventually becomes apparent.

On the other hand, there is a much darker scenario. What example would it provide if Spain did clamp down, impose a virtual Police State in Catalonia, and stamped out all opposition by imprisoning the leaders of the Yes movement and abolishing the Catalan Parliament?

You can see where this is going, can’t you? The Tories are already instigating a power grab which is reminiscent of the moves taken by the likes of Vladimir Putin. (In order to avoid invoking Godwin’s Law, I won’t mention similar characters from the 1930s, but you can no doubt appreciate that history is full of people who came to power more or less legitimately and then took measures to ensure they could not be ousted).

One advantage the Tories have over Putin is that he had to contend with a considerable portion of the Russian media which opposed him. Gary Kasparov, the former World Chess champion turned Human Rights activist and political commentator, has written that Putin was forced to concoct charges against the media moguls who opposed him. Once these individuals were either imprisoned or driven into exile, Putin installed some of his cronies in their place, thus ensuring that the Russian media is always on his side.

In the UK, the media is already on the side of the Tories. This is why Brexit is being normalised and why we are seeing a concerted effort to portray Devolution as a failed experiment. These could well be the latest steps on the road to the abolition of Holyrood. If the Tories see Spain getting away with repressive measures, then they will feel emboldened even more than they already are. And, gloomy and pessimistic as this may sound, we should not forget that the UK has serious form when it comes to taking repressive action against people it viewed as rebellious secessionists from its Empire.

Hopefully, this dark outlook will prove wrong. Things have moved on in the post-War era, and it may yet be that Brexit and the Tories will be thwarted by democratic means. However, one thing we must take from this is that the time for IndyRef2 is once the full calamitous consequences of Brexit are known, but before we are actually dragged out of the EU. To wait any longer would be folly.

As for the lessons of Catalonia, only one thing is clear at the moment; we should never underestimate the lengths to which an authoritarian Government will go in order to protect its own position of power.


The First Steps

Posted on September 12th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Are we seeing the first signs of the campaign for IndyRef2? That’s from the Yes side, since the Unionists have never stopped campaigning, but perhaps the Scottish Government are beginning to put things in place in anticipation of another IndyRef when the full calamity of Brexit becomes apparent.

The Programme for Government announced last week was full of exciting, progressive ideas. Of course, the Scottish media concentrated on the tax hikes which weren’t included but only mentioned as a possibility. This, of course, is the infamous Tax Trap which the Tories set, and they are doing their best to spring it even though no tax rises have been announced. Having spent the past few years calling on the Scottish Government to use the powers it has – even though powers over Income Tax only came into force this year – they are now squealing about the possibility of tax increases to fund the very things they are claiming the Scottish Government needs to do. Hypocrisy is becoming an overused word when it comes to the Unionist Parties, but it is very apt when talking about the Tories and the Tax Trap.

But let’s get back to the Programme For Government. From environmental issues to scrapping the Public Sector Pay Cap, the Scottish Government clearly intends to use its limited powers to improve things in Scotland in some quite radical ways. Of course, some of the announcements are aspirational and are very long term, which means they could be completely derailed if the SNP are ever voted out of power, but at least they are showing some ambition.

The most important announcement, though, was the creation of a Scottish National Investment Bank. Not only is this an excellent idea for creating funding for national investment, it is a clear signal that this new Bank could become the foundation of a new Central Bank for an independent Scotland which has its own currency. This is one of the vital building blocks of any nation, and we should not underestimate the importance of this new Bank. The sooner it is up and running the better.

Less well publicised is the fact that the Scottish Government are sending “ambassadors" to several overseas posts. They are not official ambassadors, of course, with their stated objective being to help foster relations in order to boost trade and inward investment, but the very fact that the Scottish Government is doing this at all suggests that, at last, they are beginning to realise that, as a step on the road towards becoming a normal country, Scotland needs to act as if it is already independent.

There is no doubt that the First Minister’s call for IndyRef2 in the wake of the Brexit vote backfired slightly, but that’s because of the anti-SNP media stance and the fact that most people haven’t yet realised the true impact of Brexit. The danger in waiting is that the media will normalise Brexit and persuade people that it would be better to stick with an insular, xenophobic, Right Wing, Austerity-driven and economically impoverished UK than to take the step into the unknown waters of independence.

Except, of course, that these are not uncharted waters. There are around 200 independent nations in the world. Many of them have problems, but Scotland is ideally placed to become a stable nation with a wealth of natural resources and an outward-looking philosophy. We already comply with all EU requirements, we have more natural resources than just about any other country of our size, and we have a long tradition of producing inventors and innovators thanks to our excellent universities, five of which are in the top 200 in the world. For a nation of 5.4 million people, that is quite phenomenal.

So, let’s hope that we are indeed taking those first steps and that, when the time is right, the SNP will come out with all guns blazing. With support from the greens and the wider Yes movement, we might just be able to persuade enough people that British exceptionalism does us more harm than good. We’ll only get one shot at it, so the foundations need to be in place. Fortunately, the Scottish Government appears to be laying those foundations.


The First Steps

Posted on September 11th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Are we seeing the first signs of the campaign for IndyRef2? That’s from the Yes side, since the Unionists have never stopped campaigning, but perhaps the Scottish Government are beginning to put things in place in anticipation of another IndyRef when the full calamity of Brexit becomes apparent.

The Programme for Government announced last week was full of exciting, progressive ideas. Of course, the Scottish media concentrated on the tax hikes which weren’t included but only mentioned as a possibility. This, of course, is the infamous Tax Trap which the Tories set, and they are doing their best to spring it even though no tax rises have been announced. Having spent the past few years calling on the Scottish Government to use the powers it has – even though powers over Income Tax only came into force this year – they are now squealing about the possibility of tax increases to fund the very things they are claiming the Scottish Government needs to do. Hypocrisy is becoming an overused word when it comes to the Unionist Parties, but it is very apt when talking about the Tories and the Tax Trap.

But let’s get back to the Programme For Government. From environmental issues to scrapping the Public Sector Pay Cap, the Scottish Government clearly intends to use its limited powers to improve things in Scotland in some quite radical ways. Of course, some of the announcements are aspirational and are very long term, which means they could be completely derailed if the SNP are ever voted out of power, but at least they are showing some ambition.

The most important announcement, though, was the creation of a Scottish National Investment Bank. Not only is this an excellent idea for creating funding for national investment, it is a clear signal that this new Bank could become the foundation of a new Central Bank for an independent Scotland which has its own currency. This is one of the vital building blocks of any nation, and we should not underestimate the importance of this new Bank. The sooner it is up and running the better.

Less well publicised is the fact that the Scottish Government are sending “ambassadors" to several overseas posts. They are not official ambassadors, of course, with their stated objective being to help foster relations in order to boost trade and inward investment, but the very fact that the Scottish Government is doing this at all suggests that, at last, they are beginning to realise that, as a step on the road towards becoming a normal country, Scotland needs to act as if it is already independent.

There is no doubt that the First Minister’s call for IndyRef2 in the wake of the Brexit vote backfired slightly, but that’s because of the anti-SNP media stance and the fact that most people haven’t yet realised the true impact of Brexit. The danger in waiting is that the media will normalise Brexit and persuade people that it would be better to stick with an insular, xenophobic, Right Wing, Austerity-driven and economically impoverished UK than to take the step into the unknown waters of independence.

Except, of course, that these are not uncharted waters. There are around 200 independent nations in the world. Many of them have problems, but Scotland is ideally placed to become a stable nation with a wealth of natural resources and an outward-looking philosophy. We already comply with all EU requirements, we have more natural resources than just about any other country of our size, and we have a long tradition of producing inventors and innovators thanks to our excellent universities, five of which are in the top 200 in the world. For a nation of 5.4 million people, that is quite phenomenal.

So, let’s hope that we are indeed taking those first steps and that, when the time is right, the SNP will come out with all guns blazing. With support from the greens and the wider Yes movement, we might just be able to persuade enough people that British exceptionalism does us more harm than good. We’ll only get one shot at it, so the foundations need to be in place. Fortunately, the Scottish Government appears to be laying those foundations.


The First Steps

Posted on September 11th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Are we seeing the first signs of the campaign for IndyRef2? That’s from the Yes side, since the Unionists have never stopped campaigning, but perhaps the Scottish Government are beginning to put things in place in anticipation of another IndyRef when the full calamity of Brexit becomes apparent.

The Programme for Government announced last week was full of exciting, progressive ideas. Of course, the Scottish media concentrated on the tax hikes which weren’t included but only mentioned as a possibility. This, of course, is the infamous Tax Trap which the Tories set, and they are doing their best to spring it even though no tax rises have been announced. Having spent the past few years calling on the Scottish Government to use the powers it has – even though powers over Income Tax only came into force this year – they are now squealing about the possibility of tax increases to fund the very things they are claiming the Scottish Government needs to do. Hypocrisy is becoming an overused word when it comes to the Unionist Parties, but it is very apt when talking about the Tories and the Tax Trap.

But let’s get back to the Programme For Government. From environmental issues to scrapping the Public Sector Pay Cap, the Scottish Government clearly intends to use its limited powers to improve things in Scotland in some quite radical ways. Of course, some of the announcements are aspirational and are very long term, which means they could be completely derailed if the SNP are ever voted out of power, but at least they are showing some ambition.

The most important announcement, though, was the creation of a Scottish National Investment Bank. Not only is this an excellent idea for creating funding for national investment, it is a clear signal that this new Bank could become the foundation of a new Central Bank for an independent Scotland which has its own currency. This is one of the vital building blocks of any nation, and we should not underestimate the importance of this new Bank. The sooner it is up and running the better.

Less well publicised is the fact that the Scottish Government are sending “ambassadors" to several overseas posts. They are not official ambassadors, of course, with their stated objective being to help foster relations in order to boost trade and inward investment, but the very fact that the Scottish Government is doing this at all suggests that, at last, they are beginning to realise that, as a step on the road towards becoming a normal country, Scotland needs to act as if it is already independent.

There is no doubt that the First Minister’s call for IndyRef2 in the wake of the Brexit vote backfired slightly, but that’s because of the anti-SNP media stance and the fact that most people haven’t yet realised the true impact of Brexit. The danger in waiting is that the media will normalise Brexit and persuade people that it would be better to stick with an insular, xenophobic, Right Wing, Austerity-driven and economically impoverished UK than to take the step into the unknown waters of independence.

Except, of course, that these are not uncharted waters. There are around 200 independent nations in the world. Many of them have problems, but Scotland is ideally placed to become a stable nation with a wealth of natural resources and an outward-looking philosophy. We already comply with all EU requirements, we have more natural resources than just about any other country of our size, and we have a long tradition of producing inventors and innovators thanks to our excellent universities, five of which are in the top 200 in the world. For a nation of 5.4 million people, that is quite phenomenal.

So, let’s hope that we are indeed taking those first steps and that, when the time is right, the SNP will come out with all guns blazing. With support from the greens and the wider Yes movement, we might just be able to persuade enough people that British exceptionalism does us more harm than good. We’ll only get one shot at it, so the foundations need to be in place. Fortunately, the Scottish Government appears to be laying those foundations.


Enabling Cruelty

Posted on September 6th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

I have several friends and acquaintances who are quite open about their support for the Tory Party. They aren’t members of the Party, but they do vote Tory at most elections because they firmly believe in such things as the benefits of a free market economy and that trickle-down economics works. They also tend to believe that addiction to alcohol, tobacco and drugs are causes of poverty rather than symptoms.

Naturally, I argue with them on issues like this, but it doesn’t make much difference. They have voted Tory for years and continue to do so because they believe that the Tory Party best reflects their personal views.

Now, that is a perfectly valid stance; we should all vote for whichever Party best represents our personal values and which offers policies which we broadly support.

This, of course, is where the Tory support reveals the insidious nature of Party politics. My Tory pals are ordinary people who enjoy a good pint, like a bit of a laugh and are genuinely friendly and generous in nature. They would not, for example, shout abuse at someone because they are disabled or have a different colour of skin, nor would they discriminate against a person who is gay.

So why on earth do they continue to vote for a Party which ranks xenophobia as its driving policy? Why do they condone the racist and homophobic comments from elected representatives of their preferred Party? Why do they simply shrug and say all politicians are the same when you challenge them on why Colonel Davidson refuses to condemn such racist comments?

The simple truth is that the Tory Party these individuals grew up with is not the same Tory Party as we have now. You may have thought Margaret Thatcher was bad but, for all her many faults, she did not go nearly as far as the current Tories have done since 2010. She opened the door for greed and selfishness to become the driving forces in the UK economy and society, but the current Tories, driven by UKIP, have gone so far to the Right that they should have left most people behind. That they have, instead, dragged a sizeable portion of the public along with them is a testament to the power of the media in normalising such behaviour. We witness this every day as the media attempts to normalise Brexit, to normalise hatred of foreigners and to normalise the growing gulf in inequality in the UK.

I really wish my Tory pals would take a good look at the policies they are supporting, compare them with their own values and realise that, when a political Party moves away from your core beliefs, it is time for you to abandon that Party.

Sadly, their response is generally that “The alternative would be worse". Again, media support for the status quo means that they genuinely fear change while not realising that change is happening all around them. It can be difficult to admit you were in the wrong and to change your mind, but it is especially hard when the media are telling you that you are right. Let’s hope a few of them begin to realise just what sort of country they have voted for.


Brass Neck Needed

Posted on August 30th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

There are plenty of opinion pieces on Kezia Dugdale’s resignation, so I’ll keep this fairly short.

First of all, it seems more than likely that she was persuaded to resign by Jeremy Corbyn. Even he must have realised that what passed for briefings on Scottish politics from Scottish Labour were so full of lies and distortions that relying on them made him look more than foolish and ignorant. It is very possible that Kezia Dugdale has paid the price for that. Corbyn is certainly very ignorant when it comes to Scotland, which is not a very desirable trait in an aspiring Prime Minister, but even he must have realised he was being badly misled. Like all Westminster Unionists, he is desperate to keep Scotland in the UK, but being made to look so out of touch was denting his image despite the media’s best efforts to play down his succession of gaffes.

As for Kezia, her own resignation statement confirms that, like many politicians, she was more concerned with Party than with Country, because she claimed that she had spent every waking moment working for the betterment of Labour. Somehow, I’m not sure that’s why people ought to go into politics, but perhaps that’s nit-picking.

The next thing to dominate the Scottish headlines will be the choice of her successor. The problem for Corbyn is that there are very few Scottish Labour MSPs who actually support him. However, what Kezia Dugdale’s continual changes of stance on just about every matter of policy - except Scottish independence - has shown is that there are probably plenty of people in Scottish Labour who would be prepared to say just about anything in order to claim the top job. There is no shortage of brass necks in Scottish Labour. We await the outcome of the leadership contest with interest.

Finally, the big question is whether jumping on the Corbyn bandwagon will help Scottish Labour at all. Perhaps the short-term dream of a socialist Labour Government which will somehow be elected even though there is no General Election in the offing might tempt some of the less committed Yessers to back Corbyn. With IndyRef2 nowhere in sight, this is perhaps an understandable view. If we are going to be chained to the UK, why not back somebody who has an outside chance of defeating the Tories?

In the longer term, however, surely even the most ardent Labour supporter can see that Corbyn’s pro-Brexit, anti-Indy stance is totally at odds with what any sensible Yesser wants. Besides which, he has shown that he has little interest in targeting Tory seats at all, concentrating instead on attacking the SNP at every opportunity. Since the SNP have publicly stated that they would back him in the House of Commons against the Tories, this reveals his true motivations; he would prefer to keep the Tories in power than see Scotland become a normal country.

Even if you set all these fairly major considerations aside, the quality of contenders to replace Kezia Dugdale must make it doubtful that any of them will be able to make much difference to Labour’s current third place ranking in Scottish politics.


Believe It Or Not

Posted on August 25th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

It’s been an interesting few days in Scottish politics, with the media asking us to believe in a few things which, quite frankly, stretch credulity.

to begin with, they have been doing their best to protect Colonel Davidson from the ramifications of her agreeing to allow two suspended Councillors to be reinstated in spite of their publicly expressed racist and sectarian views. Of course, it can be argued that everyone is entitled to a second chance, and perhaps these two individuals might undergo a complete transformation in their outlook. However unlikely that may seem, hopefully it will result in them curbing their natural instincts when it comes to making abusive comments online. Quite how that will work in the environment of a Council meeting remains to be seen.

What is most annoying about the saga, though, is the media reaction. While the case has been mentioned, the witch-hunt we could expect had it been the SNP who had behaved this way has been noticeable by its absence. One could argue that this is a good thing if it heralds the beginning of a less vitriolic media, but it is probably fair to say that the gloves will come off again should any SNP representative step out of line. I hope I’m wrong on that, but I doubt it.

As for Labour, the Scottish media continues to allow them to operate without any suggestion of real challenge, so it might be worth making some points which the media seem reluctant to comment upon.

This is relevant because Jeremy Corbyn has begun his tour of Scotland, pushing his campaign to overturn the Tory majority in Westminster by … um, targeting SNP seats which might be vulnerable in the next General Election which isn’t likely to happen anytime soon.

It’s a very strange decision from a strategic point of view, since even if Labour did win those seats in a General Election, it would do nothing to diminish the Tory majority. Still, Corbyn is entitled to spend the summer recess campaigning in any way he likes, so what has he been proclaiming in his efforts to persuade us all to vote for him and topple the Tories?

Oddly, he seems to be perfectly happy with the Tories, aiming all his comments at the SNP. His latest wheeze to undermine the campaign for Scottish independence is to announce that a federal UK is on the table if he becomes Prime Minister.

Wow! But wait, haven’t we heard that before? Wasn’t there a Vow of some sort?

Of course, Corbyn could claim that he wasn’t in charge last time and he really, really means it. Except that Labour have been talking about Federalism for years and have never done anything about it. There are, as you would expect from a slogan, no details at all on how this federal structure would operate. Would it mean England being split into regions? What powers would the devolved administrations have? We don’t know, and we’re not likely to find out. Still, he may be sincere, but perhaps the only way to tell whether he means it is to look at the other things he’s said recently and judge how reliable he is from those remarks.

Or what he has not said. He has been very quiet on Brexit. All his appeals to Scottish voters ignore the fact that Scotland prefers to remain in the EU, while Corbyn is dead set on a hard Brexit. How does he square those views? By ignoring the question and being allowed to do so by the media.

Having dealt with that thorny issue by pretending it does not exist, he has said that the SNP should use the powers available to them to reduce the impact of Tory Austerity. That’s something, isn’t it? Note, though, that he appears to have no problems with Tory Austerity itself. Indeed, he is perfectly happy to maintain most of the cuts the Tories are pushing through, and Labour’s voting record on Austerity measures and things like the Public Sector Pay Cap speak for themselves.

So he’s in favour of Austerity, but wants the SNP to do something about it. What he appears not to have noticed is that the SNP have already done a great deal. To mention just a few things, they already mitigate the Bedroom Tax and the removal of Housing Benefit from Under-21s; they have established the Scottish Welfare Fund to provide emergency funding for distressed families; Community Care Grants provide support to assist independent living; they have mitigated Westminster cuts to Council Tax Support and Child Allowances; they set up the Scottish Independent Living fund to assist Disabled people; they are currently setting up a Scottish Social Security Agency and have announced that Private Companies will not be allowed to undertake Fit For Work assessments; they have announced that they will introduce a new Funeral Expenses Allowance within the next two years. And those are on top of the fundamentally anti-Austerity social measures like free prescriptions, free University tuition, and maintaining bursaries for Student Nurses.

So, if the SNP are doing all that, why is Corbyn claiming that they need to use their powers to mitigate the Tory cuts he himself would impose on Scotland?

What he’s getting at, of course, is the powers over Income Tax. What he is essentially saying is that Scots should pay more tax for the privilege of being part of the UK. OK, that’s maybe a bit unfair. If Scotland were a normal country and able to set all of its own tax rates, we may well end up needing to pay a bit more for all the benefits of the social policies we want. That is not a bad thing in itself, since many countries, notably the Scandinavian ones, have higher tax – higher social benefits strategies, and they’re doing OK. The problem with doing that while Scotland remains part of the UK is that our taxes currently go towards funding a whole host of things Scotland neither wants nor needs. Think Trident, HS2, London Crossrail, etc. So why should we pay more income tax to mitigate policies we didn’t vote for, especially when the burden of the additional taxation will fall on individuals rather than corporate entities who are expertly avoiding tax under UK tax rules?

What Corbyn essentially seems to be saying is that, if he became Prime Minister, he would continue to impose Austerity on Scotland and that Scottish Labour, if in power in Scotland, would raise income tax in order to offset the impact of his own policies. When you put it like that, it doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it? It’s certainly not very appealing from a voter perspective.

However, let’s see what Corbyn has to say on another issue, because he’s claimed Labour will build more social housing to address the current shortfall. Again, we must suppose that he will adopt a different approach to former Labour Governments who managed to build 6 new council houses in their last term in office. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt because, after all, he’s a new leader and the SNP aren’t addressing the problem at all, are they?

Actually, they are. While there are petty squabbles over whether refurbishing derelict properties counts as new build, the SNP Government has created over 30,000 new homes and is aiming to increase that to 50,000 by the end of the current term in office. It may not yet be sufficient to meet the demand, but it’s a damn sight more than 6 and, given the funding constraints imposed by Westminster, it’s quite impressive.

So, can we trust Corbyn’s claim that he will bring about the much-vaunted Federal UK? Based on his failure to mention Brexit, his lies about the SNP mitigation of Austerity, his desire to maintain Austerity cuts and his failure to acknowledge that the SNP are actually building new social housing, his track record on truthfulness isn’t exactly unblemished. The fact that he is targeting SNP seats instead of Tory ones isn’t really in his favour either because it shows that, at heart, he is happy to maintain the Westminster status quo and keep Scotland within the Union.

Personally, I’m struggling to see where the appeal lies in all of that.


Shifting Meanings

Posted on August 23rd, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

The recent article on language snobbery which was published on this blog site contained reference to the fact that words can change meaning over time. Are we seeing an example of that in today’s Scottish media?

In his book, “Through the Looking Glass", Lewis Carrol had his character Humpty Dumpty tell Alice that, “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less."

Since Nicola Sturgeon admitted that the word “Nationalism" is problematic, the Scottish media and Unionist politicians have had a field day proclaiming how evil nationalism is. Putting aside the hypocrisy of some of those politicians, are we witnessing a change in the meaning of this word?

The association, of course, is with the Nazis who proclaimed themselves National Socialists, with the emphasis very much on Nationalist. In much the same way that the Nazis altered the meaning of the swastika, which used to be a good luck symbol and still is in parts of Asia, they have tarnished the meaning of “Nationalist" and “Nationalism".

Of course, what those who wish to denigrate Scottish Nationalism conveniently forget is that most nations have a majority of citizens who are nationalists in so far as they believe that their country should govern itself. Individuals such as Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi were nationalists, yet are also dismissed by those who seek to portray all nationalists as violent and evil.

So what does the word actually mean? Is a Nationalist someone who simply believes that the citizens within a nation should be allowed to determine that nation’s political makeup, or is a Nationalist someone who believes that their nation is superior to all others and should be able to impose its will, by force if necessary, on those who disagree?

Dictionaries are not a great deal of help. For example, Merriam-Webster defines a Nationalist as “someone who believes in nationalism", which doesn’t make things much clearer. Its second definition is:

“a political Party or grouping which advocates national independence or strong national government".

Take your pick as to which you think applies to the SNP. It also depends on what you mean by the term “Strong national government". Again, images of Right Wing authoritarianism leap to mind, and don’t forget that Theresa May made great play of being strong and Stable during the General Election campaign.

So the word can mean whatever you want it to mean. The problem in Scotland is that the media are pushing their version of its meaning. For example, the BBC described the Charlottesville neo-Nazis as “White Nationalists". Now, this may be technically correct since American Nationalism is one of their core beliefs, but it is a rather narrow definition. News reporters choose their words carefully, and many in the pro-independence camp believe that this description was deliberately used in order to further tarnish the term “Nationalist" and so imply that anyone supporting Scottish independence is, essentially, a Nazi.

This may be an extreme reaction to the reporting, but there can be little doubt that the media and Unionist politicians are working hard to alter the meaning of this word. Words have power precisely because they are the tools through which we express ideas and persuade people to our point of view. The media has a great deal of influence, and politicians have demonstrated time and time again that repeating a claim often enough will make some people believe it, whether or not the claim is true.

It is certainly no coincidence that Unionist MPs in the House of Commons constantly refer to the SNP as the “Scottish Nationalist Party" rather than the “Scottish National Party". They know full well what they are saying because they wish to associate the Party with the more negative connotations of the word.

But if the perceived meanings of “Nationalist" and “Nationalism" are changing, this leads to the intriguing possibility that the word “National" might also be tarnished. This would certainly create problems for several charities, including such estimable organisations as the RNLI & RNIB, not to mention the National Lottery and the National Health service.

But, getting back to Nationalist, there can be little doubt that the media are succeeding in creating the impression that anyone who describes themselves as a Nationalist is someone who believes in violence and hatred. The facts behind the Yes movement do not support this, but facts have very little to do with human perception when it comes to politics. Donald Trump has shown that people will believe whatever he says, even if he flatly contradicts what he said only moments earlier. Indeed, the Washington Post has run an article claiming that the number of false claims Trump has made now exceeds 1,000, yet his supporters are unwavering in their devotion to him.

So, if the media are attempting to alter the meaning of Nationalist, what can we do about it?

One option would be to choose an alternative name which Yessers could use as their primary description of themselves. “Yessers" is one example, with “Independista" and “Normalist" other, less frequently used, alternatives. But the problem here is that the SNP remain the main political force for independence and, unless the name of the Party is changed, “Nationalist" will remain very visible. Also, we should not forget that changing the Party name would be seen as an admission that the unionists were right all along and that all Nationalists are wicked and divisive.

The other option is to attempt to reclaim the word. This can be done, but it is not easy. “Gay" certainly has a different meaning to what it meant in the 1940s, and “CyberNat" is often claimed as a badge of pride by online Yessers. The problem is that, whatever Yessers do on social media will not counteract the mainstream media onslaught.

All we can probably do is keep demonstrating, through words and actions, that the Unionist definition is wrong when it comes to describing Scottish Nationalism. We won’t persuade the British Nationalists who don’t even recognise their own brand of nationalism as being nationalism at all, but we might be able to persuade those who remain open-minded. So let’s point out the Unionist hypocrisy but please don’t respond to abusive comments in kind. That only helps the Unionist agenda.

The main thing we must remember, though, is that, while words remain important, this whole debate is intended to distract us from the underlying issue. Whatever we call ourselves, or whatever the media call us, this does not alter the fundamental principle that a nation should govern itself. Because they have no real answer to this, Unionists are focusing on the negative inferences of the word “Nationalist" in order to denigrate the entire movement. By associating it with violent nationalism, they seek to paint the Yes movement as inherently violent. The best way we can reclaim the word is to demonstrate, time and time again, that it is our definition which is most accurate. British Nationalism may be xenophobic at heart, but Scottish Nationalism needs to keep proving that it is possible to be proud of one’s country and its achievements without hating anyone else.


Mind Your Language

Posted on August 20th, 2017

by Gordon

Language is the most powerful tool available to human society. When our children are growing up, we look forward to all their stages of development, but the two major milestones are when a child learns to walk and then learns to talk. Once a child knows how to communicate, he or she is ready to begin the lifelong process of socialising with other human beings.

Yet language can also be a barrier. In the biblical tale of the Tower of Babel, divine retribution was posited as the reason why there were so many languages which hindered understanding. More recently, linguistic scholars have determined that the vast majority of European – and therefore World – languages derive from a single language which was spoken by people who probably originated somewhere in what is now western Russia. The experts call this language Proto Indo-European because its descendant languages include Sanskrit, Latin, classical Greek, and pretty much every major European language. There are a few exceptions, notably Hungarian and Finnish, but most of the rest derive ultimately from Proto Indo-European. The reason they are so different now is the passing of thousands of years and the separation as the original PIE speakers split into smaller tribal groupings and migrated into India and Europe. This common ancestry should serve as a reminder that we are all related if we go back far enough. We don’t need DNA research to tell us that, because our languages confirm it. As an aside, if you would like to know more about this ancestry, there is an excellent Podcast called “The History of English" by Kevin Stroud which traces the ancestry of English all the way back to Proto Indo-European.

Language can also be the subject of national pride. In France, there is official protection for French from the influence of words stemming from other languages. This may seem absurd to modern English speakers, but similar suggestions have been made in centuries past to protect the purity of English. Jonathan Swift, the creator of Gulliver’s Travels, put forward the view that a dictionary of acceptable English words should be created and that any word not included in that list should not be used. He was very much against the use of slang words, with “mob" being one of his pet hates.

Thankfully, Swift’s arguments did not prevail. Indeed, he should have known better. Taking his assertions to a logical conclusion, it would have been fair to ask him why he and his contemporaries did not speak the Old English of Alfred the great. If English was to be kept pure, then we should all still be speaking that highly inflected and very restricted language. But, as Swift apparently failed to notice, Old English was impacted by several sources, particularly Old Norse and Norman French. Words from classical Latin were also adopted thanks to the use of Latin by the Church, and classical Greek also contributed a number of words to the English vocabulary. Indeed, the most wonderful thing about English is its ability to create new words and to readily adopt foreign words if a native expression is not available.

Many people decry what they regard as sloppy use of language, but the simple fact is that languages evolve by themselves because people use language every day and adopt what is generally the simplest way of expressing themselves. This means that pronunciations vary and the Meanings of words and phrases shift whether we like it or not. Sometimes that is a shame, but there is little we can do about it in the face of general consensus. My pet hate is the misuse of “imply" and “infer" which mean slightly different things but which are commonly used as synonyms. There are other examples, but common usage is what determines what a word means, so we are fighting a losing battle in trying to maintain the original meanings. Lots of words now mean something completely different to their original sense, but we accept that because we have grown up with the current meaning and regard the original sense as odd.

Even if we agree on the meaning of words, how we pronounce them is often the subject of language snobbery. Many people try to speak in what was once termed “the accentless accent" known as Received Pronunciation. Think of BBC presenters of the 1950s to get an idea of RP. It is still the preferred mode of speech for people in the upper echelons of society or those who have pretensions to poshness. (Yes, I made that word up. But you know what I meant, so that’s OK).

But we should not persuade ourselves that language snobbery is confined to those who speak in a refined accent. Anyone who is unable to speak “properly" can find themselves at a distinct disadvantage in pretty much any social situation. It’s probably a safe bet that every one of us has, at one time or another, turned our noses up at the way someone else speaks. It seems to be either a part of our social conditioning or a natural response to somebody who is clearly different in a very recognisable way. And, of course, we should not forget that reverse snobbery is also a phenomenon. Somebody speaking with an RP accent who encounters a group of people who talk in a pronounced regional accent is likely to find themselves mocked for their perceived difference.

This is an aspect of language we all need to be more aware of. And, yes, I did end that sentence with a preposition. That’s a normal English usage which is only frowned upon by those who decided that Latin grammar rules should be adopted in English because, in the 17th and 18th Centuries, Latin was viewed as a superior language to the common tongue of the English-speaking people. That’s another example of language snobbery. We need to accept that English is a diverse language, with many regional dialects and other variants around the world, and we should stop mocking anyone who does not speak the same way that we do.

Unfortunately, the tendency to mock those who speak differently is very much ingrained in British society. This is so prevalent that LBC Radio recently took a call from a listener who wanted all foreign languages banned within the UK because he found them offensive. Now, that’s an extreme viewpoint, but it is merely the most egregious example of language snobbery related to foreign languages. It seems to be accepted by far too many English speakers that foreign languages are in some way inferior. This may be a throwback to the days of Empire but, whatever its origin, it is still far too common. When meeting someone who speaks a different language, my reaction is to try to communicate with them and hopefully learn a few words or expressions in their language. When visiting foreign countries, the first thing I always try is to pick up a few phrases of the local language. It is, after all, only common courtesy. Yet far too many English speakers seem to expect everyone to speak English and look down on anyone who cannot do so, while apparently not appreciating that they themselves are monolingual. This is a real problem, and it persists within the UK, where languages like Welsh, Scots Gaelic and Cornish are viewed with derision by many people who are proud of their Britishness. It is a classic example of fear and suspicion of others. It is as if someone who does not share our language must be against us in some way. These native British languages are often derided, and that is rather pathetic when you think about it. I have heard someone mocking Gaelic television programmes because, amidst the stream of incomprehensible words they have suddenly heard something modern like “Smartphone" or “Helicopter". This, for some reason, is deemed a reason to mock the language because it does not have words to describe these modern inventions. Yet those same people will happily use words like “Schadenfreude" or “Déjà vu" without appreciating the irony.

So we are left with the fact that language can be a barrier. This is patently obvious, yet there are ways to get round it. That doesn’t mean only that we should make more effort to learn foreign languages, it is more that we need to alter our response to hearing a foreign language. Instead of instantly regarding it as a sign of “otherness", we should see it as an opportunity to enhance our learning and understanding. And, if you are a monolingual English speaker, you really must shake off the view that people who speak Welsh, Gaelic or Cornish are somehow inferior because they speak a language which is not the same as yours. Remember that all of these people are pretty fluent in English as well, which means they can already speak twice as many languages as you.

Language snobbery, whether focused on regional accent or foreign language, is an integral part of our society, and it is something we need to try to eradicate. There are perfectly valid reasons for written language to be more formal and precise, but the spoken language is our most valuable asset, and we should enjoy its diversity. It is a good thing that a variety of English accents can now be heard on mainstream television programmes because this helps to normalise regional accents. The next step is for us to appreciate that hearing foreign languages is an opportunity, not a threat.


Selective Statistics

Posted on August 17th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

If anyone retains any lingering doubts about the BBC’s agenda to undermine the Scottish Government, the release of the latest Quarterly Unemployment statistics yesterday showed their bias once again.

The figures showed that Employment in Scotland is at a record high, with the number of Unemployed falling by 12,000 compared to the previous quarter. That, however, was not what the BBC reported. By comparing the statistics to those released last month rather than last quarter, they discovered a slight increase in Unemployment by around 3,000, and this was the figure they highlighted. It was only when the Scottish Government pointed out that they were not comparing like with like that they corrected their story and issued an apology. You can read their revised article at:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-business-40947422

This morning, however, Radio Scotland focused on the 3,000 rise as its headline statistic, despite the correction issued by BBC London yesterday.

Now, statistics can prove anything, and it is fair to point out that there has been a slight rise in Unemployment on one reading of the figures, but it is not at all the main feature of the statistics. By using this as their primary headline, BBC Scotland are attempting to show the Scottish Government’s economic efforts are failing. Of course, the Scottish Government is quick to hail good news on the economy as being down to their policies, while bad news can be blamed on Westminster since the Scottish Government does not have all the economic powers of a normal Government, but that is a separate argument. The issue here is that BBC Scotland continues to concentrate on bad news whenever possible.

Generally, these statistics are good news. Scottish Unemployment is lower than anywhere else in the UK, more people than ever are in work, and the quarterly comparison shows a fall in Unemployment. That should be the story, even if a caveat on a small month to month increase is worth mentioning.

You can make what you like of the actual statistics, but the only thing you can take from the BBC reporting is that Donalda MacKinnon has completely failed in her stated intention of rebuilding trust in the BBC.


What We Need

Posted on August 17th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

A few months ago, I was discussing politics with some Unionist pals who roundly slated me for expressing the opinion that Donald Trump and Theresa May are, essentially, Fascists. This was based on my definition of a Fascist as someone who believes in an extreme Right Wing authoritarian form of Government with strong nationalistic and xenophobic tendencies.

But whether you agree with that definition, or the assessment of both Trump and May meeting the criteria, is not really the point. the issue is that the political leadership in both the USA and UK has displayed increasingly Right Wing tendencies, and people take their lead from the politicians. There can be no doubt that Trump has enabled the Alt Right in America. His unwillingness to condemn the overt displays of Fascism have provided further encouragement, and it is difficult to see how this trend can be halted as long as he remains President.

George Orwell wrote that, when it arrived in England (yes, he said England, not Britain), Fascism would be of a more sedate and subtle kind. Fascism does not need jackboots, black shirts and swastikas to proclaim itself. Things are not yet as bad here, but we should not forget that Theresa May was responsible for sending vans around the streets with signs telling foreigners to go home. Her Government are actively deporting hundreds of non-UK nationals, and Brexit, which she is pursuing vigorously if incompetently, is encouraging thousands more to leave. The promotion of UKIP by the BBC has ensured that the Tory Party has continued its move to the Right ever more rapidly, with the result that hate crimes in England have increased to an alarming degree. It may not be outright Fascism yet, but it is definitely heading that way.

How can this be stopped? Fascists love confrontation on the streets. It allows them to play the victim card when violence erupts, just as we have seen in Charlottesville this week. Yet ignoring them will not make them go away either. The best way to defeat them is at the ballot box but we have missed our chance for at least another five years – unless May’s Government collapses which looks unlikely now that she has bribed the DUP – another extreme Right Wing group – into backing her.

The one thing that will help is if every political leader stopped trying to score petty political points and spoke out unequivocally against this sort of behaviour. Whether we like it or not, our political leaders set the tone, and all of them must act or we will be doomed to repeat the tragic mistakes of the past.


Sticking Plaster

Posted on August 13th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

It was very interesting to hear the comments of Steven Purcell on Derek Bateman’s latest Podcast. Mr Purcell reported that, in his experience, there are many people who voted Yes in the IndieRef because they wanted a drastic change from the way Westminster government operated, but that these same people voted for Labour in the General Election because they saw Jeremy Corbyn as a viable alternative to Tory rule. This is an interesting concept because it implies that, should another IndieRef ever come along, these voters would be more likely to vote No if they thought there was a realistic chance that Jeremy Corbyn might soon become UK Prime Minister.

To be fair, the overriding principle such voters would be adhering to is the “pooling and sharing" of resources across the UK in a truly Socialist ideology, but this sort of reasoning has a serious logical flaw.

Let’s put aside Jeremy Corbyn’s support for Trident and Brexit, as well as his more worrying view that every country in the world should be independent except Scotland and Wales.

Let us indulge in some “What if?" speculation to see where votes for Corbyn could have led us had more Scots decided to vote for Labour in the General Election and that this had led to him becoming Prime Minister, even if that had required the support of the SNP and other Parties.

What would the UK have looked like if that had come about?

Probably not very much different to the way things are turning out now. Corbyn would proceed with Brexit, thus removing Scotland from the EU against the wishes of the majority of Scottish voters. Austerity would remain largely the dominant economic strategy since, despite having the estimable Richard Murphy as one of his advisors, Jeremy Corbyn seems incapable of understanding how national economies operate, leading to his manifesto pledged to retain the vast bulk of the existing Tory Austerity measures. To be fair to him, most MPs share his inability to perceive the flaws in Austerity, but that isn’t really much of an excuse.

So we’d have Brexit, we’d have Austerity, and we’d soon have Trident being renewed. We’d have Scotland stuck to the UK because Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t believe in national self-determination for Scotland. Perhaps those who decided to vote for him believed these are prices worth paying to have the railways re-nationalised, to regain free University tuition in England and Wales, and to maybe have existing student debts written off. Or maybe not.

Quite frankly, it is difficult to see the appeal of these measures from a Scottish perspective, but voters cast their votes for a variety of reasons, so maybe some people would indeed have thought it was worth sticking with Corbyn because he might just improve the lot of the poorest citizens in our society instead of victimising them the way the Tories do.

OK, fair enough so far, but let’s take the assumptions a stage further. Let’s assume that Jeremy Corbyn had become Prime Minister and had undergone an epiphany as regards Austerity economics. Let’s assume that he dismantled the Austerity programme, reversed the privatisation of the NHS in England, changed his mind on Brexit and generally improved things for the majority of UK citizens.

Hooray! Surely that would be worth it? Why on earth would Scotland want to break free from a more egalitarian UK which adopted a truly internationalist viewpoint, stopped making war on Middle Eastern countries who can’t fight back, entered into a spirit of cooperation with its EU counterparts and generally became a much more pleasant and welcoming place to live?

There is one very obvious answer to that which those who espouse Corbyn’s case in Scotland do not appear to appreciate. It is that there would be another General Election in a few years’ time, and more after that at five-yearly intervals. Jeremy Corbyn will retire sooner or later. Would his successor continue to pursue the socialist policies Corbyn’s supporters applaud? Even if he or she did, what guarantee is there that a socialist Labour Party would be re-elected? The voters in England have a distressing tendency to vote Conservative more often than not. If Theresa May and the Brexiteers who currently run the UK had been swept away by a new generation of Tory leaders, might not the voters of England decide to give them a chance?

What would happen then? Scotland, having lost its chance of escaping, would again be condemned to Tory rule.

Jeremy Corbyn might be seen by some as the solution to the Westminster problem. In reality, he is part of the Westminster problem, but even if he wasn’t, he could only ever be a short-term solution to a long-term problem. The truth is that the only way Scotland will ever be able to make its own decisions is to become a normal country. Any vote which goes to a Unionist Party, for whatever reason, only undermines the case for independence.


Don't Believe A Word

Posted on August 11th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Anyone who thinks the talks between the UK and Scottish Governments to discuss repatriation of powers post-Brexit will lead to anything meaningful should think again. This is a typical Westminster tactic. They declare a willingness to talk, they even turn up and make some meaningless pronouncements, but they will only ever do the very bare minimum required to allow them to justify their stance.

Westminster will not change. Do you remember the MPs’ Expenses scandal? They made a big hullabaloo about changing the system to prevent such abuses, yet the new system means that the Expenses bill is now larger than it was before the earlier scams were revealed.

Do you remember the Smith Commission? After promises of “Nearest thing to Federalism", we were given a few scraps with built-in snares.

Do you remember the Scotland Act? Every single amendment proposed by the SNP was ignored. We were given what Westminster decided we would be given.

It will be the same with Brexit. The Repeal Bill will mean that powers will mostly reside with Westminster, and any gracious grants of devolved powers will come with strings attached.

We’ve already seen Michael Gove assure Danish fishermen that they will be allowed to fish in British waters after Brexit – a direct contradiction of the loud promises made to Scottish fishermen who rather foolishly believed that Westminster would look after their interests.

There will be more of this sort of thing in the coming months. There are already reports that the Repeal Bill will incorporate measures to ensure that nobody can sue the Government for breaking the law. That’s how much they care about the people they are supposed to be governing. Power is all that matters to Westminster, so don’t expect anything from the promises being made. They won’t be kept.


The Colonel Is Coming

Posted on August 9th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Today’s Times has an article informing its readers that Tory grass roots activists are becoming increasingly fed up with the old order running their Party and are looking for a new, fresh face to assume control. Jacob Rees-Mogg and Ruth Davidson are mentioned as those whose popularity is such that they might well be welcomed as a new Tory leader.

Stop laughing at the back. You should know by now that nothing is too outrageous for Tories to think it is a good idea.

So, if it does come to a choice between the two, who would we prefer? Well, quite apart from the fact that Rees-Mogg has been referred to as the Honourable Member for the 18th Century who would be popular with the Hanging & Flogging brigade, wouldn’t it be great to see Colonel Davidson in charge? Can you imagine how the DUP would react to that? Can you imagine the shocked realisation of her English Tory fans when it dawns on them that she is devoid of any actual policies and doesn’t respond well to any sort of pressure, let alone the scrutiny a Prime Minister can be put under by even the Right Wing media?

Of course, having the Colonel in charge would be pretty awful for the UK, but would Rees-Mogg be any better? Would either of them be able to turn the mess that is the UK into an even greater fiasco than it already is? The Westminster Establishment has become so full of virtual clones that there is absolutely nobody capable of steering the UK back to even a semblance of normality. Don’t for one minute believe that Jeremy Corbyn is the answer. He is pro-Brexit, anti-Indy and every bit as much a member of the Establishment as any other Westminster leader. You might think that Vince Cable could offer an alternative but, apart from the fact that he might be in favour of a second Brexit Referendum, he has little to commend himself. He was part of the Austerity-obsessed Coalition Government of 2010, and he has jumped on a couple of bandwagons, including calling for Corbyn to condemn the murderous Venezuelan Government while he and his Tory pals remain silent about the UK’s love of equally murderous regimes in Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

The sad fact is that all of these politicians are from the same mould, and whatever happens with Brexit, the UK will continue to lurch ever further into Right Wing extremism.

Whatever your views on Scottish independence might have been in 2014, surely you must be starting to question the wisdom of chaining ourselves to such a dysfunctional State?

The only question raised by the rumblings among Tory activists is whether the UK will disintegrate sooner under May or under a new leader like Rees-Mogg or Colonel Davidson.


Taking Sides?

Posted on July 30th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Although it hasn’t really filtered through to the mainstream media to any great extent, the Twittersphere has been alive with arguments over the decision by Rev Stu of Wings Over Scotland to raise a legal action against Kezia Dugdale for claiming that one of his Tweeted comments aimed at Oliver & David Mundell was homophobic. Battle lines have been drawn, with many people stating their loyalty to Wings or opposing him and agreeing with an opinion piece published by Common Space. This has now reached the stage where some Yessers appear to be choosing between Wings or Common Space as the genuine voice of Yes.

this is all very silly. There is no doubt that Rev Stu can be blunt to the point of aggression on Twitter. He is outspoken and does not shy away from confrontation. Whether his comment was homophobic will now be for the Courts to decide, which is rather sad. There is no doubt it was in poor taste and rather unpleasant, and there are probably few people who would not have been annoyed to have been on the receiving end of such a comment.

Having said that, we should not forget that comedy can be cruel. Many comedians, notably Frankie Boyle, make a living from making comments which are far more distasteful than Rev Stu’s remark. To that extent, Kezia Dugdale’s reaction smacks of political opportunism rather than anything else. If you take offence at someone’s comments, you don’t need to keep listening to them. We should not ignore the fact that Wings Over Scotland represents a threat to the unionists, so they will seize upon any opportunity to discredit the site.

Equally, the whole thing could surely have been settled if Rev Stu had simply told Kezia directly that the comment was not intended to be homophobic and apologising if she took it that way. Offence is generally in the ear of the receiver, but a quick apology would surely have brought this sorry tale to a quick conclusion. Both parties do seem to have over-reacted.

But there is a wider issue at stake here. Yessers are taking sides in this squabble, and that helps nobody. Whatever you may think of Rev Stu, the Wings Over Scotland site provides a much-needed service for the Yes movement. Whether you agree with Rev Stu’s personal views on any particular subject does not detract from the fact that the Wings site does what it does better than any other website, and the Yes movement would be diminished if it were not for Wings.

As for Common Space, they publish a range of articles, not all of which are pro-Indie. This is as it should be, because Common Space is a news agency which provides an alternative to the mainstream media. It is as entitled to an opinion as any one of us.

We really should not be taking sides between these two. Both provide information in their own ways, and we need both. Just because one of them may, from time to time, say something with which you may disagree should not invalidate the wider service each provides. It certainly should not be a case of Yessers needing to side with one or the other. That, when you think about it, is precisely the sort of tribalism we are trying to get away from. If we genuinely have pretensions towards building an independent nation which is fairer and more inclusive, we need to have room for all sorts of voices within that nation. That does not mean we must all slavishly agree with every pronouncement from every nominally pro-Yes source. Indeed, it is essential that we listen to dissenting voices and opinions.

So please let’s stop these petty arguments. The Court case will take care of itself and should be nothing to do with the far wider and more important issue of campaigning for independence. The time for arguing amongst ourselves is once Scotland is a normal nation. When that happens, we will need a Parliament and a society which is able to argue and debate on all sorts of issues, and which is able to do so in a mature, respectful manner.


EU Meddlers

Posted on July 26th, 2017

by Wee Hamish

I can’t wait until we take back control. Those EU meddlers have been at it again recently, adding to the long list of things they are forcing us to do against our will.

As if it wasn’t bad enough that they’d abolished mobile phone roaming charges, they’ve only gone and announced that excessive charges for paying by debit or credit card will be scrapped. What’s that about? Don’t tax-dodging companies have enough to worry about without more consumer protection? All the plebs will do is spend that money on other things. At least, after Brexit, the UK will be able to scrap those rules so that companies can charge people whatever they like.

But that’s not all. We heard last week that cod will now be available as a sustainable food because stocks have increased to a viable level. That’s the EU’s fault as well. Against the wishes of the UK’s fishing industry, they imposed rules preventing stocks being exhausted. The sooner we can get back to depleting our fish stocks, the better. They are British fish, after all, so we can’t have Johnny Foreigner telling us what we can and can’t do with them. Who cares if stocks of cod run out? Haddock tastes a lot better anyway.

And if you are a farmer, you must be looking forward to Brexit, when the EU’s CAP payments will stop. Well done for voting Tory, for voting Leave and for voting NO. You’ll get exactly what we need- control of our own agricultural industry where farmers will be required to prove to Westminster that they deserve some subsidy payments to keep producing food. “You’ll need to earn any payments," said Michael Gove. That’s the stuff! Take back control. Then give it to Donald Trump so that he can send us chlorinated chicken and GM food while US corporations take over the NHS, and the EU stops accepting all UK food because we’ve lowered our standards to match the USA.

What really hacks me off is that some companies are jumping the gun. Instead of waiting for the glorious day when we reclaim our sovereignty, a whole load of banks are already planning to leave. Don’t they understand what Brexit means? And what about Ryanair? They’re planning to stop flights to and from the UK? Who cares? We don’t need their cheap flights anyway, because we won’t be able to afford to go abroad on holiday after Brexit.

But at least we’ll have taken back control.


Loud and Clear

Posted on July 23rd, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Do you remember how we were assured before the IndyRef that Scotland was a valued member of the equal family of nations? Do you remember how we were told we should lead the UK, not leave it? Do you remember J K Rowling telling us all that voting NO would place Scotland in a position of unprecedented influence within the UK?

As predicted by most Yessers, all those claims have turned out to be complete nonsense. Scotland’s status within the UK is being eroded step by step, in a gradual process which, thanks to media complicity, is going largely unremarked by a large portion of Scottish citizens.

The latest move is the announcement that Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland, will no longer be allowed access to Theresa May in face to face meetings, but will instead be forced to deal with David Mundell because, as First Minister of a mere UK region, she does not have sufficient status to warrant taking up the Prime Minister’s valuable time.

It is not yet clear whether the same rule will apply to the leaders of the other devolved Assemblies. Not that Northern Ireland has a leader at the moment, but it will be interesting to see whether the same embargo will be applied. Is it intended to apply only to Scotland? Is it intended to apply only to an SNP First Minister? Would a Labour or Tory First Minister be granted face to face meetings? We don’t know the answers to these questions yet, although we can probably have a fair guess at them.

The saddest thing is that a lot of people appear not to care. OK, we know the Westminster Government doesn’t care, but people in Scotland, no matter which Party they support, really ought to be appalled at this latest slap in the face.

It is all too evident now, if it wasn’t beforehand, that Scotland is viewed as a possession to be dealt with as Westminster sees fit. We know the Sewell Convention is meaningless; we know EVEL was what the IndyRef was all about; we know that all the promises made before the IndyRef have been broken; we know powers will be withheld post-Brexit; we know SNP MPs are mocked and derided in the House of Commons. What more will it take before a majority of Scots wake up to the way they are treated as second-class citizens?

The thing is, it is not just the Tories who are treating Scotland this way. Jeremy Corbyn intends to launch a serious campaign to target SNP seats in Scotland in case there is another General Election this year. This is despite the fact that, even if Labour were to win every single seat currently held by the SNP, it would do absolutely nothing to affect the Tory majority in Westminster. As usual, Labour would prefer to attack the SNP than attack the Tories. Of course, every political Party wishes to win as many seats as possible, but Labour must surely realise that the only way they can form a Government is to unseat Tory MPs. The real reason they are going after the SNP is because they wish to reinstate the Two-Party system so beloved of Westminster. As a confirmed Unionist, Jeremy Corbyn wants to crush the SNP every bit as much as the Tories do. If he achieves that, Westminster will be able to resume its cosy pattern of consensus, with the two dominant Parties exchanging words but effectively combining to keep things the way they were before the SNP raised the spectre of Scottish independence.

The message from both Westminster Parties is loud and clear; the people of Scotland should get back in their box and behave like proper BritNats. Never mind that we voted to remain in the EU, we must do as the voters of England say.

But what, realistically, can we do about this? It is all very well calling for the SNP to take some positive action, but what form should that action take?

To be fair, there is definitely a case for sitting back and doing very little. The Brexiteers are doing a superb job of dismantling the UK with their petty in-fighting, grubby deals with the DUP, and their obvious unpreparedness for the looming disaster of Brexit. There is still a slim possibility that Westminster will see sense and call Brexit off, or will agree to hold a second referendum on the final EU deal which might yet result in a majority of people in England seeing sense. If either of those things happen, then IndyRef2 will be off the table for a while yet.

The problem with waiting is that it allows the Unionist politicians and media many more months to chip away at Scotland’s status. By meekly accepting every indignity and broken promise, the SNP will be kept on the back foot and will look defeated and demoralised. The Yes movement is, of course, wider than the SNP, but the Unionists will not portray it that way, and we must all recognise that, without the SNP acting as the political leaders, there will be no Scottish independence.

But what can they do in practice? Some of their MPs and MSPs are quite outspoken on Twitter, but this is generally preaching to the converted. Being outspoken on mainstream media would help, but we must recognise that the media will distort and spin every word and may simply refuse to give the SNP much of a platform. Some rousing Podcasts might help, but again would reach only a limited audience. Without any control over broadcasting, there is no chance of establishing a pro-Indie radio or TV channel which might provide a challenge to the BBC and STV.

Having said that, there are surely some things that can be done. We keep hearing that the SNP will make the positive case for Indie, yet there has been precious little sign of it so far. This needs to be stepped up. There are also some actions which the Scottish Government should seriously consider whether IndyRef2 seems likely or not.

First of all, why not go ahead with setting up a Scottish Investment Bank? This organisation could help with the issue of Government Bonds to facilitate the very limited borrowing powers now available. It would also allow the Bank time to bed in before any IndyRef, allowing it to adopt the role of Scotland’s new Central Bank if that IndyRef produced a Yes majority. There doesn’t seem to be any reason why this Bank cannot be established now.

Secondly, the Scottish Government could announce that, if Scotland were to become independent, it would create its own currency. This might seem premature, but it would set out the position clearly and would allow time for the idea to take hold. They need not provide details of exactly how the new currency would be introduced because they could claim that it will only happen if there is another IndyRef and that, in the meantime, they are concentrating on getting on with the day job. All they need do is begin to persuade people that plans are being prepared and that it is not such a drastic change as they might imagine. Common Weal have already produced some excellent documents outlining how a new currency could be established and such an announcement might bring these ideas to a wider audience, thus making acceptance much easier if and when IndyRef2 is called.

To support this announcement, it would not do any harm at all to recruit an economist who does not subscribe to the neo-liberal school of thinking to explain via the media why Austerity does not work and why the analogy of a domestic budget does not apply to a country which issues its own currency. If more people understood how economies operate and how Governments fund their spending, the idea of an independent nation issuing its own currency would become more attractive.

Another thing which could be announced is that a draft written Constitution for an independent Scotland is being prepared. Again, details do not need to be released straight away. The idea would be to have it ready for publication if and when IndyRef2 happens. If people were able to read such a Constitution before voting, it would help them understand what sort of country they would be voting for. The UK has nothing comparable, so a written Constitution would give Yes a significant advantage.

These are all practical steps which would demonstrate that Scotland is thinking and acting like a potentially independent country. In the meantime, the First Minister and her colleagues in Government must continue high profile meetings with other world leaders, especially within the EU. The case for Scottish independence needs wide support from the international community and, unlike last time, other nations are likely to be far more receptive.

The other thing which is most definitely needed but which needs to be kept under wraps is a plan for how to respond if the Prime Minister, whoever that might be by the time Brexit negotiations are concluded, refuses to allow a section 30 order agreeing to IndyRef2. “Now is not the time" worked because most people are incapable of looking very far into the future and saw no need for an IndyRef. As Brexit looms ever closer, that will hopefully change, but we cannot ignore the fact that the media will be set against it and that the Westminster Government will have had two years of eroding Scotland’s status. It is not inconceivable that they might decide to call the Scottish Parliament’s bluff and refuse to allow another IndyRef. What will the SNP and the Greens do then? They need to work out a detailed plan, perhaps taking some inspiration from Catalonia.

Above all, though, we need a very loud and very clear message that IndyRef2 is still very much on the table if Brexit goes ahead. Even the illusory “Soft Brexit" which somehow retains access to the Single Market becomes a reality, we must not lose sight of the fact that we still stand to lose a lot of rights which we currently enjoy as individuals. All of this needs to be taken into account, and we need some strong leadership. Perhaps, as a final suggestion, former MPs such as Angus Robertson and Alex Salmond could be given media roles where they become the face of the political arm of the Yes movement. That would diminish the opportunities for Colonel Davidson to accuse the Scottish Government of not doing the day job.

As for the rest of the Yes movement, let’s keep talking to people and denouncing the lies and misinformation. We cannot allow Brexit to become an accepted fact without pointing out the alternative vision. If recent elections and referendums have taught us anything, it is that you need a message which inspires, not dry facts if you want to win. The facts are useful ammunition, but it is hope and inspiration which will win IndyRef2.


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.


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.