Fish Supper?

Posted on March 20th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Not Now!

Posted on March 16th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

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

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

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

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

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

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


Surprise, Surprise!

Posted on March 14th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here we go!


Same Old Song

Posted on March 12th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

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

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

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

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

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

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


Mistaken Identity

Posted on March 10th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

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

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

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


Rewriting History

Posted on March 7th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Oscars & Independence

Posted on March 6th, 2017

by Dan Iron

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

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

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

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

Why doesn’t the red envelope have

Best Picture

Winner

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

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

Oscars

“Moonlight"

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

Best Picture

Winner

“Moonlight"

printed in big bold letters on it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s time to take the job in-house.


A Gloomy Outlook

Posted on March 4th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

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

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

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

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


Spot The Difference

Posted on February 28th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


What's The Answer?

Posted on February 24th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Let Me Eat Cake!

Posted on February 23rd, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

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

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

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


The Big Issue

Posted on February 21st, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

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

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

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

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

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


The British Way

Posted on February 12th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

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

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

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

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

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

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

You’ll be out of the EU!

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

The Banks will move their Head Offices!

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

The oil is running out!

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

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

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

You need the UK’s military to defend you!

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

There will be no shipbuilding contracts awarded!

How many ships did you promise last time?

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

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

You won’t be allowed to use sterling!

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

Your relatives in England will become foreigners!

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

You won’t be allowed to watch the BBC!

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

There will be a hard border between England and Scotland!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


No Time To Quit

Posted on February 7th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

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

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

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

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


Ask Yourself This

Posted on February 3rd, 2017

by A Yes Mum

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saor Alba!


On The Escalator

Posted on January 30th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Cutting Corners

Posted on January 27th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Caring Conservatism? Aye, right!


It's People, Stupid!

Posted on January 24th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Beating The Pensions Argument

Posted on January 20th, 2017

by Brotyboy

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

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

Canvasser; ' How were you contacted about this?'

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

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

Voter; ' No.'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Hold Your Horses

Posted on January 19th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

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

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

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

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

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


Trust In Me!

Posted on January 14th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Too Stupid

Posted on January 5th, 2017

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Opportunity Knocks

Posted on December 30th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Trading Places

Posted on December 23rd, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Scotland's Place

Posted on December 21st, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Swear Words

Posted on December 20th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

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

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

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

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

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


Springing the Trap

Posted on December 16th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Gross Domestic Potential

Posted on December 11th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

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

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

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

Sweden $40,900

Germany $39,500

UK $37,300

Japan $37,100

France $35,700

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

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

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

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

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


Appropriate Behaviour

Posted on December 2nd, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


It's Nice To Dream

Posted on November 28th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


A Unionist Plan

Posted on November 26th, 2016

by Wee Hamish

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

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

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

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

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

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


Railroaded Again

Posted on November 19th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Projectionists

Posted on November 17th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The New Normal

Posted on November 15th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Wrong Protests

Posted on November 10th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Depressing Thoughts

Posted on November 9th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

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

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

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

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

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


Silver Lining

Posted on November 4th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We can but hope.


Jabbering On

Posted on November 1st, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

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

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

The tweet read:

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

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

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

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

Or is it?

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

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

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

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


Not A Believer

Posted on October 27th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

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

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

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

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


They Will

Posted on October 24th, 2016

THEY WILL

By Tcswim

Flatten the munros and the bens

Build toon-hooses in awe the glens

Fill up the lochs, drain the sea

Sold to the UK bourgeoisie

Loch Lomond fill it up wi Tory concrete

A Disney World in Princes street

Sell Edinburgh for Trump courses

Glasgow for US nuclear Forces

Silence the workers; no woman may speak

Export the poor, enslave the weak

Employ kilted robots run by computers

Jock-servants for London commuters

Scotland for sale: some Tory will buy

& ban the Gaelic: Let Scotia die

Unless, unless unless unless

Say YES & YES and AYE!


A Price Worth Paying?

Posted on October 18th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Not So Secret List

Posted on October 11th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

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

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

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

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

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


The Widening Gulf

Posted on October 9th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Godwin's Law

Posted on October 5th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Feel The Love

Posted on October 3rd, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

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

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

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

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

Can’t you just feel the love, Scotland?


May Not Be Logical

Posted on September 25th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

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

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

This is quite a bizarre leap of logic for several reasons. The Referendum was called by the Tory Party; Theresa May herself kept a very low profile during the debate; the SNP actively promoted a Remain vote while the Tories were split down the middle; Scotland produced a resounding Remain result; and, well, you get the picture.

May claimed that feelings were running just as high in Scotland as in the rest of the UK, a claim which is not supported by inconvenient things like facts. Only 38% of Scottish voters opted to leave the EU, while a majority of English and Welsh voters were for Brexit. Those 38% may well have strong feelings but the Scottish result revealed a very wide split between majority views here and in England and Wales.

One of the most illogical parts of Theresa May’s argument is that she seems to be implying that there is an element of blame to be levelled at politicians for the Brexit result. She doesn’t use that word but by attacking the SNP in this way, it could be inferred that she thinks there is blame to be apportioned. Mind you, it’s difficult to tell with our current Prime Minister because, to be honest, it’s not clear what she really thinks or believes when it comes to Brexit. This is not a reassuring trait in a country’s leader. Brexit may mean Brexit but May contradicts her Cabinet Ministers and EU officials whenever any of them express an opinion on what Brexit meaning Brexit actually means in practice.

More blatantly, though, is her attempt to portray the SNP as part of the Establishment. It is certainly true that they have virtually entrenched themselves as representatives of the political norm in Scotland but they can hardly be viewed as part of the Westminster Establishment which so many voters in England and Wales were protesting against. Like Jeremy Corbyn, the SNP are viewed as an anti-Establishment force within the UK which is why the vast bulk of the UK and Scottish media is so hostile towards them. It cannot be denied that the SNP would probably be perfectly happy to become the Establishment in an independent Scotland but they are far from reaching that position as things stand just now.

So, when it comes to reasoned argument, all Theresa May has done is reveal that there is little logic behind her claims. No surprise there, then.


Blues

Posted on September 24th, 2016

This piece was published in Scottish Left Review and is reproduced here by kind permission of the author.

Blues? By Thom Cross

We got the blues! Blue on blue

black n blue: Tory-boyz, Eton-boyz blues.

Where we all lose.

Bad news for folk like me and you just trying to get through :

the lies and the hate from the blue Tory state and their chums in the press spewing a shitty news-mess paid for and sold by corrupt-Tory gold.

By the inches watch them buy lie after lie;

Read the Tory-life of lies In a state where all truth dies

‘Create hate mate!’ Say the pompous and the great

“Create red n blue frustration, demonize immigration: If you don’t look like me there’s leaky boats on the sea."

“Vote Brexit & be proud" shouted loud to drown out the defence of the innocent

.

Join the Eton chorus Of Bullington Boris “Follow me! Follow me! Brexit is for some of us like ME! T’hell with the economy Fk- the pols and the frogs, the jocks and the Calais nogs".

In Engerland’s blue and unpleasant land! Democracy is a mirage! With Boris, May nfn Farage!

Don’t dance to that band. Let’s have jahzz in our land

The drum beat o fraternity: horns that give us dignity

Wi the bass-strum o solidarity, an the pipes o sovereignty.

Give us stramach ‘n rock n roll! With an honest Celtic soul.

Give us Euro-romance and we’ll hooch n we’ll dance across Europe n France

In a great Ceilidh of joy!

So dance Greek kore n boy; wi garcon n lassie, with zolkie and brahzie

Dance across the Rhone n Rhine in soul an prance in reel-time

and through our heather oh how we’ll dance!

We will dance; dance the gither brother n sister!

Post-Script

Oh what a nonsense that we cannie dance

Ideas leap and birl in this wee country

In reels of thought and dreams

And in the progress of the steps it seems

that in our dance we hope,

for in that step n glance

We choreograph a future.

Justice is our destiny: for this we dance.


Headline Hustlers

Posted on September 19th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

The Unionist media are very fond of telling us that Scots don’t want a second IndieRef. They were at it again with headlines proclaiming that two-thirds of Scots don’t want another IndieRef until after Brexit.

On the face of it, this is bizarre. Why wait until you have been dragged out of the EU before deciding you might want to do something about it? However, it makes more sense if you read it as stating that two-thirds of scots don’t want another IndieRef until the outcome of the Brexit negotiations is known. That’s because a large section of the Scottish electorate is pretty well informed and engaged in politics. It makes perfect sense to wait until you get confirmation of the details before voting on whether you want to make the sensible decision to abandon England and Wales to their petty xenophobia. Saying you want to wait until you know what Brexit actually entails is not the same thing as saying you don’t want another IndieRef.

The main thing to bear in mind is that we want to hold a second IndieRef when we are pretty certain of winning it. At the moment, too many people are uncertain about what Brexit means in practice. The Scottish Government may well be making discreet enquiries among European diplomats but, until we know whether Scotland is, in fact, to be hauled out of the EU and stuck with eternal Tory rule, there is no point in demanding an IndieRef because a sizable portion of the electorate will still retain doubts. I don’t understand those doubts myself but it would be foolish to ignore them.

As for the screaming headlines, I’ll ignore them too. The media are in a panicked frenzy because they know the tide is turning so they are trying to convince us that most Scots love the union so much they’ll put up with any hardship or indignity as long as they can remain UK citizens. Fortunately, we don’t need to pay attention to the media because we are perfectly capable of making up our own minds. But let’s see the details first.


Normalism v Nationalism

Posted on September 15th, 2016

by Dan Iron

As a supporter of independence for Scotland, I'm always a bit perturbed when we are described as Nationalists. I think to myself, "am I a Nationalist?" I have never thought of myself as one.

One form of Nationalism is thinking that your own country is somehow special, summed up in the phrase, "my country, right or wrong". I do not think Scotland is a special country and I would never describe myself as a "Proud Scot". Scotland has done some great things in the past and some things which are not so great. The people who think that Scotland cannot become an independent country are the ones who think Scotland is special.

Another form of Nationalism is creating a country out of a territory which has never been a nation . An example of this is Italian Nationalism in the 19th Century or, more recently, Quebec Nationalism.

A slightly different form of Nationalism is re-creating a country - recovering the national status of a territory which is currently a province of a larger country. An example of this is Breton Nationalism.

None of this applies to Scotland. Scotland is a country and has been a country for a long time, whether you take the formation of Scotland as 843 with Kenneth MacAlpin as King, or 1018 when the Lothians were joined to Scotland, or 1320 with our explicit declaration of independence, or 1472 when Orkney and Shetland became part of Scotland. Scotland's borders have been unchanged since 1482 after the final capture of Berwick-upon-Tweed by England. By retaining our own systems of law, education and church at the time of the Union in 1707 we expressed our intention to remain a country. There are many countries around the world who would envy our long history and stable borders.

So what is the correct expression for a country taking responsibility for its own governance, like normal countries do? Ah yes, normal. The ideology which underpins our position as Scottish Independentistas is simply that - Normalism. The belief that your country is best served by effectively outsourcing its governance to a body outside your own country is not normal. This is not a nationalistic point - Scots are not inherently better than other nationalities in running a country. But would it not be best to have your country run by people who have a direct and personal interest in the success of the enterprise? Would you not want them to have “skin in the game"? To outsource the governance of Scotland to Westminster is simply irrational. To hand responsibility to the bunch of incompetents currently in the UK Cabinet is the height of folly.

So that is the term that defines us best - Normalism. This expression avoids any false dichotomy between so called hard Nationalists and those who want independence to create a more socially just society. We can be favour of independence because that's normal, not nationalistic. And we can all be in favour of a more just society - I haven't yet met any independence supporter who wants a less just society.

This approach not only helps to define our position - it also helps to define our opponents’ position. For those who do not think Scotland is a country, to those who believe that their country is the United Kingdom, we simply have to respectfully agree to differ. There is nothing to be gained by conversing with them. We’d be wasting our time.

To those who believe that Scotland is a country but that it should not be independent we should ask them why. Why can Scotland not be normal? What is the difference between Scotland and all the other countries in the world? It puts the onus on them to justify their position, rather than on us to justify ours.

This leaves those who are open to the possibility of Scotland being independent but who are not convinced of the economic case, or those who worry about their own jobs or livelihood. This is where we have to do a lot more work to convince them. We simply have to make a better case than we made last time and I believe that we can make that better case. This will be the subject of a future blog.

So when the day comes when the Saltire is unfurled at the United Nations my heart won't be surging with patriotic fervour. I'll just have the quiet satisfaction that Scotland will have achieved its destiny by becoming a normal country.

Just a normal country.


Broken System

Posted on September 13th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

I heard a couple of interesting things this morning. The first was a podcast on the history of the Labour Party in Scotland which was very balanced if a bit rambling at times. It reminded me that the reason Labour did so well in Scotland for so long was that, in the immediate post-war decades, the Labour Party did a lot of good for Scotland in terms of inward investment, promotion of industry, social housing, etc. This was achieved through their system of using the levers of the British State to benefit the working classes, which is exactly what Labour were originally founded to achieve.

Of course, it all began to go horribly wrong for Labour and for Scotland with the industrial conflicts and turmoil of the 1970s and the advent of Thatcherism. Since then, the economies of UK regions outside of the South East of England have been sacrificed for the benefit of that wealthy corner of these Sceptred Isles and Scotland has suffered as a result.

The reaction has been slow in coming but Devolution and the establishment of the Scottish Parliament were a step on the road towards increased voter recognition that the system which had provided such enormous social advantages, including the formation of the NHS among other things, was no longer working in their interests. As this recognition spread, the fortunes of Labour waned until we reach the current situation where they can only muster third place in the Scottish elections.

The simple message here is that people can recognise when a system is not working to their advantage. When they see that the system is working against them rather than for them, they tend to react. The Labour Party in Scotland has, however, clung to its attachment to the UK because the system worked forty years ago and they seem unable to throw off the shackles of that attachment.

However, the second thing I heard was that there has been another poll on Scottish independence and that a majority of Scots would still prefer to remain part of the UK even after the Brexit fiasco which threatens to strip away many of their rights. The poll shows only a slight increase in support for Indie which is statistically insignificant although, according to some comments I’ve seen, there are some issues with the Polling data, not least of which is that 16 and 17 year-olds were not polled.

However, what this all suggests is that far too many Scots are still so attached to the UK that they would prefer to stay within a system which demonstrably takes advantage of them and penalises them. Pensioners, in particular, seem content to receive the second lowest Pension in the EU because they have grown up being British and cannot bear to vote against the UK no matter how much harm it intends to do to them. Talk about turkeys and Christmas!

These contrasting experiences present a conundrum. Like most people in Scotland, I grew up under a system of government which, for all its many faults, generally worked for the benefit of the majority of working people but which increasingly turned away from that model. It is one thing to be content to be governed under a model which broadly works but there comes a time when you need to realise that the system is not operating properly. Sadly, it seems a great many people have not yet reached that stage. That means we have a huge task on our hands if we are to persuade people that if something is broken, we should try to fix it instead of accepting that nothing can be done.

We know nothing can be done if we remain in the UK because the Tories are rigging election boundaries to ensure they remain in power for the foreseeable future. Scotland’s MPs are already struggling to exert any influence at Westminster but Scotland, together with Wales, stands to lose proportionally more MPs than England under the proposed boundary changes, a situation which will reduce our already minimal influence even further.

Living in a post-Brexit UK under Tory rule isn’t going to make things better for the majority of people but that message still isn’t getting through to a great many of them. Which means that the calls for a second IndieRef as soon as possible are perhaps a bit premature because we cannot afford to lose again. The Brexit vote has perhaps forced our hand on this but, unless we can alter a lot of minds, we will be condemned to sticking with the UK for years to come. We need to keep telling people the UK system isn’t working and that the only possible solution is to escape it and become a normal country.


Bordering On Ridiculous

Posted on September 11th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Ruth “Don’t Talk about a 2nd IndieRef" Davidson has been … er, talking about a 2nd IndieRef while assuring us that we don’t need or want one. She has a strange obsession with this topic but that’s probably because she’s trying to divert attention away from the Tory-engineered brexit fiasco. Devoid of any ideas, her only tactics are to bang on about an IndieRef and to laugh while her Press Office issues xenophobic comments about EU citizens who reside in Scotland. Her refusal to apologise for claiming that an EU citizen has no right to comment on political matters in Scotland shows just how the Tories intend to treat EU nationals once the UK formally leaves the EU.

An independent Scotland could avoid this fate but Ruth, while insisting we don’t want a second IndieRef, is nevertheless going out of her way to fight that referendum already. As part of this campaign which she says we don’t want, she’s recently made a bizarre point about trade and borders and, as you’d expect, the media has simply repeated her assertions without bothering to apply even the most basic journalistic scrutiny. So, since the media won’t do it, here’s a quick look at the issues.

The Ruth Davidson Party is pushing the line that an independent Scotland which remained a part of the EU would face enormous difficulties trading with England since a hard border would need to be imposed, with all the difficulties that implies, along with trade tariffs which would present hassle and increased costs for Scottish businesses.

If this sounds familiar, that’s because it is the same claim that was made during the first IndieRef but with the positions reversed because, at that time, we were assured that Scotland would be kicked out of the EU while England and the Rest of the UK would remain members. How times change! Yet note how the Unionist arguments remain unaltered.

But is there any chance of this happening? Well, yes, there is a chance but there are a few things Ruth is not telling us.

For starters, the UK’s Brexit Minister, David Davies, has been assuring people in Ireland that the border will remain open whatever happens with the brexit negotiations. Now, there is a chance there will be no Irish border if Northern Ireland decides to become part of the Republic but it seems unlikely a Tory like Davies would be contemplating that scenario since it involves losing a part of Westminster’s dominion. Which leaves the situation that either Davies or Ruth Davidson is talking a load of rubbish. Either there are hard borders or there are not. The only justification for keeping the Irish border open and imposing a hard border between England and Scotland would be sheer perversity which would harm English businesses as much as it would harm Scottish ones. Can you imagine how English Pubs would cope if their supplies of Scotch whisky were interrupted or became suddenly more expensive?

Not that a hard border is impermeable. Trading would continue, it would just mean people adjusting to a new regime of paperwork and potential delay. But nations trade with one another all the time and, in practice, the biggest issue is likely to be tariffs which would probably be applied to imports and exports between an EU and a non-EU country, thus increasing costs for businesses and consumers on both sides of the border.

But the really big thing Ruth ignores is that the EU is not likely to play ball with RUK. Westminster politicians fondly believe that the UK (for which read England in their minds) has only to tell the EU what it wants and the EU will gladly cooperate. That is sheer fantasy. Most Tory politicians and journalists don’t seem to understand that access to the European Single Market requires allowing the free movement of people and capital as well as goods. Since keeping foreigners out of the UK was one of the prime motivations behind the brexit vote, it is impossible for the Tories to negotiate any alternative method of accessing the Single Market since the EU has repeatedly said this is non-negotiable.

Which means that either the Tories will back down and allow free movement of people in order to retain open trading or they will stick to their guns and lose free access to the Single Market in order to satisfy the xenophobic demands of their voters.

In the first scenario, open trading will continue and there will be no hard border between Scotland and England because the EU won’t allow it. In the second scenario, there would indeed be a hard border but there would also need to be one between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland, as well as England and Wales finding they had hard borders in terms of trade and travel with every other EU member State. So, while Scotland might have a problem until it adjusts its economy to increase direct trade with the EU, it is England and Wales which would face the far larger problem of having no open trade borders with any of its neighbours.

What Ruth Davidson is effectively telling us is that, if Scotland votes to become independent in a 2nd IndieRef and remain in the EU, the RUK will cut off its nose to spite its face and enter a phase of economic and trade isolation. The BritNats fondly believe it is Scotland that will suffer the most from this because they are convinced RUK will be able to negotiate trade deals with other countries very swiftly. However, comments from several officials from other countries, notably Australia, have strongly suggested this is wishful thinking on the part of the UK Government. Formal trade deals aimed at reducing tariffs and bureaucratic barriers can take several years to negotiate. This means that RUK businesses will face issues with all imports and exports while an independent Scotland will face similar issues if trading with England and Wales but will find no such issues in its trade with the rest of the EU. Indeed, since the EU has already negotiated trade deals with other countries, Scotland’s international trade will continue as normal with every country in the world except England and Wales.

In practice, of course, hard borders are not insurmountable. Switzerland is not in the EU but manages to trade with other EU nations without too many problems. The border between Canada and the USA is a hard one but the two countries carry out a huge amount of trade. Having hard borders probably won’t affect either Scotland or England as much as the Project Fear mongers like to make out. An open border would obviously be preferable in terms of trade but a hard border, while presenting some potentially serious obstacles until a formal trade agreement is reached, won’t be a catastrophe. It certainly won’t be as bad as remaining in a post-Brexit UK and having your Human Rights abolished, having Workers’ Rights abolished, living under a Government committed to perpetual Austerity economics, having the NHS privatised (and that will come to Scotland as the funding from Westminster dries up), seeing the imposition of the Investigatory Powers Bill, seeing foreign nationals, including EU citizens, expelled, and seeing Scotland’s economy held back while our elected MPs continue to be ignored by the ruling Westminster Government. Quite frankly, I’d be happy to have border controls between Scotland and England if it meant being freed from that lot.


Did EU Know This?

Posted on September 8th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

My recent article about the conflation by the Tories of the two Unions of which Scotland is currently a member produced some interesting feedback. Most of this was very positive but Twitter user Smoo pointed out that I had omitted some areas where the EU imposes control over its member states. Now, even if he is correct, I’m not sure that this invalidates the argument I was trying to make, that Westminster controls Scotland far more completely than the EU controls its member states but Smoo certainly gave me a couple of things to think about and I thought it worth highlighting the issues because they aren’t problems I was aware of.

I did invite Smoo to write an article which I offered to publish but he claimed this would be a waste of time since the Yes movement is only interested in removing Tories and not in the wider issues. I must take issue with this because, although removing the Tories is a main objective of the Yes movement, it is not the primary one. For example, if Labour had won the last General Election, the UK would be slightly different from its current situation but that would not prevent the Yes movement wanting independence for Scotland. Our primary aim is to have Scotland governed by a Government of its own choice, not to have voters in England decide who will rule our country. The fact that England generally votes Tory is one reason why there is a growing gulf between the two countries but there is absolutely no reason why an independent Scotland could not elect its own Tory Government, no matter how unlikely that may seem at present. The issue is that, if such a Government were elected and then enacted policies the people of Scotland did not like, they would be able to vote them out at the next election. This choice is currently denied us.

However, as I mentioned, my discussion with Smoo did show up some interesting points, so let’s take a look at them.

In particular, he mentioned that the EU control what is known as the Trans European Transport Network and that things like, for example, HS2, are part of this imposed infrastructure development which aims to enable high speed rail all across Europe. According to Smoo, and a website he directed me to, the UK is not in charge of HS2 but is being compelled to construct it by the EU under the TETN project which means the UK must build and pay for HS2 even though the EU is directing the development. That article can be read at:

http://www.theeuroprobe.org/2015-088-hs2-controlled-by-eu-not-our-gov/

Now, a couple of things strike me as odd about this. The first is that, if the claims are correct, why did the Brexit politicians not mention this during the EURef campaign? I suppose one could argue that they were too lazy and stupid to do anything other than invent scare stories but I think that is being too harsh even on such an incompetent crowd of charlatans. If there was a genuine case of the EU imposing something on the UK and forcing the UK to pay for it, you’d have thought they’d have shouted it from the rooftops. But no. It wasn’t mentioned at all.

The second odd thing is that this alleged pan-European transport network isn’t coming as far as Scotland despite the fact that we are still in the EU at the moment. This suggests to me that the UK Government does have some control over HS2. Smoo argued that HS3 and HS4 would see the line extended and perhaps that is the intention but whether it is an intention driven by EU imperatives, I am not so sure.

The other comment I would make is that the website quoted is unashamedly anti-EU. There’s nothing wrong with that but the site does appear to harbour a few conspiracy theorists among its contributors.

I did some searching of my own and could not locate anything from the EU which supports the claims made in the first article. Indeed, the following suggests that, while TETN is a genuine project, the EU provides funding to assist the developments, that these are not restricted to high speed rail and that national Governments are consulted and involved in the projects.

http://www.out-law.com/en/articles/2014/july/eu-announces-funding-for-new-transport-infrastructure-projects--/

Of course, one would not expect the EU to openly flaunt the fact that it is overriding national Governments in matters of infrastructure development so, to be honest, I have ended up a bit better informed but not really near reaching a definitive conclusion on the scope of TETN. If anyone has any more definitive info, please do let me know. I don’t yet share Smoo’s belief in its power to override national Governments but I’m keeping an open mind until I can learn a bit more.

The other thing that bothered Smoo was the 2007 Treaty of Lisbon which is, according to his interpretation, intended to do away with national borders and create a European State with its own institutions such as a European Army.

To be fair, many people have raised concerns about the impact of the treaty of Lisbon. I’m no expert on EU constitutional matters but I’ve done a bit of reading over the past few days and can say that opinions seem divided on the intent and scope of the Lisbon Treaty.

The Treaty was apparently designed to reformulate the EU’s constitution which was viewed as out of date given the expansion of the organisation. There is no doubt that, from one perspective, it can be interpreted as being an attempt to move towards the creation of a European Super State. In particular, the intention to create an EU Foreign Minister was regarded as potentially stripping sovereignty from member states. This proposal was slightly watered down but the post of EU High Representative, which is effectively the same position with a fancy title, was created.

There is no doubt that there is a drive for greater integration within the EU and it may well be that the Treaty of Lisbon represents the latest step in a gradual “mission creep" sort of incorporation of member states into a Borg-like collective. However, I remain sceptical that the practical implications are anywhere near reaching that stage yet. The Lisbon Treaty certainly means that countries will not be able to block new laws which can be passed by majority rather than unanimous vote but that’s actually pretty normal in most democratic organisations anyway. Whether this constitutes a Super-State, is debatable.

There are a couple of reasons for my current scepticism. For example, can anyone name the current EU High Representative who is acting like a Foreign Minister and usurping the roles of member states’ national Foreign Ministers? I certainly couldn’t and I had to Google to learn that her name is Federica Mogherini. She’s certainly kept a low profile so far and doesn’t appear to have upstaged any national Foreign Minister despite being presented with the easy target of Boris Johnson who could be upstaged by just about anyone. For what it is worth, my own cynical view of many of the outcomes of the Treaty of Lisbon are that much of it was simply to create more jobs for the boys and girls who work within the system. That is reason enough for outrage since our money is paying for them but I’m not yet convinced it denotes a seizure of sovereignty.

But the main reason I don’t believe we will see the creation of a Super-State any time soon is that national interests will prove intractable. Europe, for better or worse, is comprised of many different nationalities, with people speaking many different languages and having diverse cultures. It is great that the EU has brought a period of peace and cooperation but I don’t yet see that any member State will voluntarily surrender all its sovereignty to some monster EU State. For one thing, national politicians will want to preserve their own roles and status. Even if they didn’t, the ordinary citizens of various European countries have been very vocal in their desire to remain independent within the framework of European cooperation. There is already evidence of tension in those countries which are suffering economic problems as a result of using the Euro and this is producing an anti-EU backlash in countries like Italy where there is a growing feeling that, while they are happy to remain in the EU, they would love to ditch the Euro. Given this growing hostility, I can’t believe citizens will readily agree to wholly renounce their national status to become citizens of a Greater Europe. In fact, we have seen that recent history suggests a greater willingness on the part of smaller nations to proclaim their independence – Scotland excepted – while being willing to cooperate with their neighbours as part of the EU.

Having said that, my investigation has at least prompted me to be more aware of any gradual power grab by the EU and it is certainly something I’ll be watching out for. I don’t think the situation is as bad as Smoo fears and I genuinely believe most nations will veer away from any formal integration which denies them self-government. Surrendering some elements of sovereignty to the EU to gain the benefits of trade, travel and cooperation is not the same as surrendering full sovereignty. There are no doubt some within the EU who would love to create a super-state but, equally, there are plenty who recognise that individual member states cannot be squeezed into a one size fits all box and that a federal approach is the best way to ensure a (broadly) mutually beneficial arrangement.

There is, though, one thing I do agree with Smoo on. He is generally pro-Indie and he dislikes the idea of elitism. I’m in broad agreement with that although I am realistic enough to know elitism cannot be eradicated. What we can do about it is narrow the gap between those at the top and the general public and ensure that our politicians know to whom they are answerable. Having wealth and status should not mean that one is treated any differently to anyone else. Everyone deserves basic respect and my hope is that an independent Scotland will move away from the elitist class structure which is so evident in the UK.

Finally, to return to my original point, if Smoo and I disagree on the detail of how an independent Scotland should be run and whether it should remain in the EU, that is fine. If we had full control over our country, we could vote for Parties which represented our own particular views. That, unlike the absurd situation Scotland is in just now, is proper democracy.


A Tale of Two Unions

Posted on September 4th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

The Tories, as you would expect, have united behind the Brexit banner. That’s because the Tories are more concerned with retaining power than with the welfare of the country they are supposed to govern or its citizens. In keeping with this new zeal for UK independence, they are already trotting out the usual propaganda aimed at winning the next Scottish IndyRef which, coincidentally, they insist isn’t necessary.

David “Fluffy" Mundell was the latest to repeat the mantra that the best Union for Scotland is with the UK, not the union with the EU. This, of course, is a gross over-simplification of the situation aimed at influencing people who don’t bother to think beyond a headline. The fact that Scotland is currently within two Unions allows the Tories (including their allies, Labour and the Lib Dems) to conflate the term “Union" as if there is a direct comparison between the two. This is complete nonsense.

The EU is a trading union which also involves an element of political and financial union depending on whether a country uses the Euro and on what other deals it may have made for membership. Yes, the EU has its faults because all large organisations do. There is no doubt waste, bureaucracy and very probably some corruption but the EU does not wield the same sort of control over any member state that matches the control Westminster has over Scotland. Even Greece retains control over some areas of government in which Scotland must defer to the UK.

For example, the EU does not:

set our rates of tax;

Order our armed forces into conflicts;

Tell us we must retain nuclear weapons;

decide on levels of Social Security payments;

Control our monetary policy;

control our economic policy;

set laws on any areas outside those within its remit, e.g. trade & competition and Human Rights.

It is the UK Government which does all of these things and, in most cases, does them rather poorly. So the real question is whether it would be better to remain part of the UK and be controlled by Westminster, or should we go our own way and stick with the EU?

As mentioned above, the EU certainly has flaws. TTIP is probably the biggest threat it presents to our society. Nobody in their right minds thinks TTIP is a good idea. Fortunately, people appear to be seeing sense and the latest rumours from within the EU suggest that the deal might collapse. That can only be good news since the UK Government has declined to exclude public services from the scope of TTIP as currently envisaged. And that fact should serve as a warning because, assuming the UK leaves the EU and Scotland remains part of the UK, does anyone seriously believe the Tories would not sign up to a TTIP deal with the USA at the drop of a hat? TTIP’s entire premise is that it places the rights of global corporations over those of any civil authority. This is precisely the sort of society the Tories are attempting to build in the UK.

As for the much-vaunted cost of EU membership, member countries do pay their fee and receive investment funds in return, thus reducing the level of overall financial commitment. It does not, as the UK does to Scotland, take every penny and then hand back an amount which Westminster deems appropriate. Don’t be fooled by the new tax powers which are to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament. These are very limited and the taxes will still, in practice, be collected by HMRC and then handed back. Whether anyone within the Scottish Government will be allowed to check and verify that the amount being handed back is accurate isn’t clear.

There is no doubt that, whatever Scotland does, it will face issues and problems. That’s life. There is no country in the world that doesn’t face problems of some sort. It is having the ability to deal with those problems that makes the difference to society. It is well known that, politically, Scotland has a very different attitude to England in how society should operate. The Tories have demonstrated their desire to punish the Disabled and Unemployed and there is no reason to believe they will not continue down this route, especially under Theresa May who will no doubt soon demonstrate that she is the most Right Wing Prime Minister the UK has ever had. If you doubt that claim, consider the Investigatory Powers Bill which she champions and which will give the UK Government the right to intercept and read every email, text or other transmitted message by any citizen. May has already instituted secret courts where people can be tried without being told what the charges are, without seeing any evidence against them, and without being able to present any defence. Big Brother is coming and that should scare us all.

But it is not only the ideology that is different. One of the other claims the Tories like Ruth Davidson and Kezia Dugdale like to make is that the Scottish Government isn’t concentrating on its main job of running the country. It is a claim which doesn’t stack up when you look at the statistics. It is true that the Scottish Government makes mistakes and certainly doesn’t get everything right but can you name any Government that ever has got everything right? When you consider some details, though, it becomes apparent that, in the areas where the Scottish Government has control, things are a lot better than they are in England.

NHS Scotland is, by every measure, performing better than any other NHS in the UK and patient satisfaction levels are at an all time high;

Crime is at its lowest level for forty years;

Scotland has the best educated workforce of any country in the OECD;

Scotland is the only country in the world which holds the Carbon Trust’s triple Standard Certification for carbon, water & waste reduction.

Yet in every area where Westminster retains control, we see incompetence and a distinct lack of interest. According to the UK’s own figures which they supply to the Scottish Government to produce the infamous GERS figures, Scotland has the worst economy of any country in the OECD. This is despite 308 years of management by Westminster and despite Scotland possessing an enormous wealth of resources. Something, somewhere, isn’t working within this Union.

Nobody is claiming life will be easy as an independent country but surely it would be better to take control of every lever of our economy. We certainly couldn’t make a worse job of it than Westminster has done.

Then, as we adjust to life as a normal country, we’ll also be able to wave to our fellow holidaymakers from England when we jet off to Spain and breeze through the EU Citizens’ border channel while they queue up to present their visas.


Offensive Behaviour Required

Posted on September 2nd, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

this blog is unashamedly pro-Indie but that doesn’t mean we can’t criticise the SNP and there is currently a growing feeling on social media that the Scottish Government is failing to keep its promise to promote the case for independence.

Take GERS as an example. Anyone who has done the slightest bit of research knows these figures are questionable at best, being a series of guesses and estimates based on figures supplied exclusively by Westminster Governmental Departments. The actual raw data is kept secret. But even if GERS figures are accurate, the only thing they prove is that Scotland’s economy is being seriously mismanaged by Westminster. For a country with the resources that Scotland possesses to be allegedly the poorest in the OECD surely must suggest that whoever is in charge of its economy is either incompetent or malign.

Yet these points are being left to the Alternative media and amateur bloggers to point out. The SNP barely say a word about them. Why?

OK, it must be admitted that the BBC and other media would probably suppress or, at best, play down any such statement because it would not fit the Unionist agenda of keeping Scots in ignorance but surely the more noise the SNP make about this sort of thing, the more some people might start to listen.

GERS isn’t the only instance of SNP reticence. The Named Persons legislation has been strongly defended on social media and in many blogs but all we hear in the public forum from the SNP are a few bland statements.

Now, we all know the media will always do their best to censor any claim which contradicts their Unionist message but we need all guns blazing if we are to win the next IndyRef. So far, the SNP have, in public at least, been well off the pace. Blogs and Alternative media sites are constantly highlighting the lies and misinformation being spread by the Mainstream media but there seems to be a strange acceptance within the SNP that the media cannot be challenged. Perhaps there is a good reason for this strategy but, from the perspective of the online Yessers, it is very frustrating because we feel there is still a huge percentage of Scots who are not being properly informed of what is going on and are, instead, being influenced by UK State propaganda.

Isn’t it about time the SNP went on the offensive?


Interesting Figures

Posted on August 25th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Proud Scots all across the country have been celebrating the apparent impoverishment of their nation and its alleged reliance on handouts from its larger southern neighbour. It really is rather sad to see how happy some people are that their country is apparently an economic basket case after 308 years of Westminster rule. The solution to this problem is, it seems, to continue to allow Westminster to mismanage Scotland’s economy to ensure that … er, … Scotland remains the poorest country in the Western world.

Much has been written about GERS by people who are far better qualified than me but I’ve gleaned a few pertinent details on the latest figures which I thought it might be useful to bring together, acknowledging that this information comes from other people who have actually taken the time to check through the figures. I did that once a couple of years ago and ended up with a thumping headache so I’m going to let others do the hard work this time.

The main thing to remember is that GERS is a collection of guesses and estimates, often using out of date data. Even if those guesses and estimates somehow proved accurate which seems unlikely given the track record of UK Government agencies in making accurate forecasts, GERS would still only show a snapshot of Scotland’s finances as part of the Union. It has absolutely no relation to how the finances would look if Scotland were an independent country with full control over all the economic levers available to normal governments. As such, its only real purpose is to show how inept and incompetent the UK Government is at managing Scotland’s economy. It might also be worth considering why no other “regions" within the UK have similar figures produced. Could it be that Westminster wants to keep telling Scots how pathetic they are in order to keep them under control? And why would they do that if Scotland really was such a drain on the mighty UK? You’d think they’d dump us in order to save themselves some money but apparently they are so kind-hearted they’d rather keep subsidising us. It is worth bearing in mind that the UK has used this tactic for centuries, warning colonies that they could never cope on their own and must therefore remain under UK control. A certain nation known as the United States of America was the first to stick two fingers up to this idea and go its own way. On the whole, they haven’t done too badly.

But back to GERS and the latest set of figures. There are a few interesting statistics.

North Sea Oil revenue fell 97%. This was so devastating to the oil-reliant Scotland that GDP fell a whopping 0.45%. What? But that actually suggests Scotland’s economy is not reliant on oil which we all know is nonsense because the media keep telling us Scotland has no other business sectors worth a damn. Odd, isn’t it that the dramatic failure of our major source of income resulted in almost no change to the country’s GDP? It’s almost as if Unionist politicians and the media have been lying to us.

The expenditure allocated to Scotland also shows some odd figures.

Transport is a devolved matter, so Scotland pays all of its own transport infrastructure costs such as the building of the new Forth Crossing, the Borders railway and the upgrading of the A9. However, we also, according to GERS, are deemed to contribute to “National" transport projects. “National" in this sense meaning projects in the rest of the UK, predominantly London. For example, Scotland is deemed to pay a share of upgrading and maintaining London Underground, developing the London CrossRail link and taking a share of HS2 development costs. The allocated share for this has risen from £181m in 2014/15 to £427m in 2015/16. That’s an increase of 136%. What it covers isn’t revealed but what is known is that none of these costs would accrue to an independent Scotland.

Scotland’s deemed share of International Services was £839m. this has reportedly increased by £200m in the past three years. what for? We don’t know. Perhaps it’s all those UK embassies hosting parties to promote Scottish exports – except that we know they have been told not to do that so why the costs are escalating is anybody’s guess.

The allocated cost of Science & Technology rose by £64m to £494m. That’s an increase of 13% but it’s not clear what it’s for because Universities and Researchers are complaining that their funding is being cut. Odd, isn’t it? Westminster is imposing cuts on all Governmental Departments but Scotland’s share of this cost has increased at a rate several times the rate of inflation.

Those are just a handful of examples and I haven’t even covered the cost of Trident or building massive aircraft carriers which don’t have any planes, or the costs of bombing Syria in order to persuade Syrians to stay at home and not flee here. But, quite frankly, I can’t be bothered going into it any further. Anyone who believes GERS is an impartial and accurate assessment of Scotland’s finances is looking at them through Union Jack tinted spectacles and seems oblivious to the fact that there are plenty of independent countries in Europe who are managing fine even in these difficult economic times and who don’t have the great burden of oil on top of their other woes. Of course, most of them probably have other major sectors like tourism, Scotch whisky, salmon and beef, computer games and biomedical research. Perhaps Scotland would cope better if it had things like that.


Flagging Fruits

Posted on August 23rd, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

The summer silly season has not stopped the flow of hyperbolic SNPBad stories even though most of them have been easily proven false or simply laughable. Now, though, the silly stories seem to have switched sides as it is the Yes movement getting itself all hot and bothered by the revelation that Tesco have removed the Saltire from the packaging of their strawberries and replaced it with the Union Jack because they had received some complaints from consumers in England about the fruit bearing Scotland’s flag. It is not clear whether the people making the complaints also objected to the flags of other countries like France and Italy being displayed on imported goods. If they were Brexiteers, that is a distinct possibility but the inference seems to be that the complaints stem from a belief that Scotland is simply a region of the UK and so should not have its flag displayed in England.

Before you get too worked up about this, it is worth reminding pro-Indie Scots about their outrage when news broke that the Union Jack was to be printed on Driving Licences, placed on bridges and even displayed on the packaging of Tunnock’s teacakes. Dislike of another country’s flag obviously isn’t the exclusive preserve of the Unionists.

However, it should be pointed out that Tunnock’s at least had the good sense to place the Union Jack on packaging for the English market, thereby showing that they at least recognise the potential marketing impact of displaying it in Scotland. Tesco seems to have adopted the “One Nation" approach so beloved by the Tories and I suspect they’ll see a corresponding decrease in sales of strawberries in their Scottish stores.

All of which is a bit silly on both sides but the whole saga serves to demonstrate just how emotive symbols can be, especially in today’s so-called United Kingdom. The constitutional fabric of the UK is slowly unravelling and this latest spat is a small indicator of the widening gulf between Scotland and England.


Drowning in Murder

Posted on August 12th, 2016

With swimming being one of the main features of the Olympics just now and following on from our piece on why athletes cannot rely on UK funding to help them, here’s a timely piece on swimming. It is an extract from a novel titled, “Drowning in Murder" by Thom Cross.

Life ain’t easy when yu ain’t winnin’

Life is lonesome without good women

Life ain’t sweet when they ain’t willin’

Life don’t smile, if yu ain’t sinnin’

Life turns sad if yu ain’t singin’

And Life is Death if yu ain’t swim

For swimmin’ is Life,

is better than a lovin’ wife

Swimmin, lord, I can’t get enough

Swimmin’ is sweeter than makin’ love.

The whole bar sang the chorus with all the gusto and irony that forty pairs of young swimmers’ lungs could muster. The song was led by Big Dennis, our sprint king, who had learned the song and others swimming for Arizona State University on a swimming-scholarship. He was chuffed, real proud for making the Scottish team to Jamaica, the land of his father. His mother, ironically, was from just across the Jamaica Bridge in the Gorbals.

We were not very far away either, singing to our success in a friendly wee pub next to the team’s hotel, tucked away in the centre of Glasgow.

The whole Scottish team was assembled for the Commonwealth Swimming Championship’s training camp. This was the ‘first night’, the icebreaker and the last night of the ‘nights-oot’. There were more pints of orange juice than beer as we all knew there was plenty pressure coming soon. Many of the faces gathered in this low-ceilinged, smoked-filled cellar of this howf were familiar from galas and training camps over the years. This was my first full Scottish cap and my eyes moistened at the ceremony of welcome, the camaraderie and the pride of representing Scotland.

It should have been my Granda sitting here, receiving praise and plaudits, sharing my pride. It was the wee man who should have been here feeling the warmth, basking in the overwhelming sense of victory and satisfaction of being part of a Scottish team. For it was ma Granda who taught me Scotland. Aye, Granda, it should have been you.

For it was the wee man in his bunnet who would wrap me up in the winter months and walk with me down the street, down the Peth along the lang Kirkcaldy prom and its biting, snell North Sea wind, tae the baths. It was the wee man with the broad miner’s shoulders, the ex-boxer, who talked with me about the great days of Wilkie and Black and McGregor. How as a laudie he had only the dirty, cork- filled water of the Kirkcaldy harbour to swim in, and how I have a chance he and his generation never had. If only I keep trying hard, keep trying hard and punch away.

He would sing the Lauder anthem, ‘Keep right on till the end of the road’, as we had to walk it up the long brae, for the busfare was no there.

The pits had closed and he hadnae found the jannie’s job yet. How, when I went to my first few galas at aged six or seven he would stan’ up in the stand and shout for me in his big boxer’s baritone until the coughing started and he couldnie shout any mare and his jannie’s pay packet had to stretch for my club fees and fins and kick-boards and track suit until he was able to talk tae a man he kent on the council, thro the union, who found a wee grant tae gi him tae help oot a bit, especially aifter he retired and it was me and him on the pension and me wantin’ brand name gear like the ither yins at the high shool where the auld toffs and the new professionals sent their children in their ain cars but I had ti run ma papers in the morning, then run up the hill through the den to school an run hame again at denner time and back again and hame again and then run doon tae the baths and then try and run hame again aifter trainin.

It wasnie until I was big-thirteen or fourteen before I could manage that bloody brae and he always had hot tasty food on the table, every meal, especially soup fur it was guid for me and even the night I qualified, right here in Glesgie, he was there up in the stands, no able to shout at awe noo, but a pal, who had gin ’im a lift thro, had leant him a horn to squeeze and make noise, like the noise in this pub, noo.

As I attempted to casually, secretly, flick at the tears of remembrance. I quickly blamed the smoke. For the truth, especially hard family truths in the Scotland I knew, were not for telling but for feeling

If you would like to read more, the e-book is available from Amazon at:

https://www.amazon.in/Drowning-Murder-Scottish-Crime-Fiction-ebook/dp/B015TOOH8C


Teamwork

Posted on August 9th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

The “Too wee, too poor, too stupid" argument takes many forms. Its latest manifestation is a claim that Scottish athletes going to the Olympics as part of Team GB have benefited from being part of a larger nation, with the clear inference that they wouldn’t have managed to get there without the help of the UK.

Now, there is an element of truth to this but, as with so many Unionist arguments, it is revealed as absurd when examined more closely.

For a start, there are athletes from a great many countries competing in Rio. Most of them got there without help from the UK. Indeed, former colonies such as Jamaica have managed to produce world class athletes without any assistance from the UK. For example, it seems unlikely that Yusain Bolt could have won any more medals than he has done already if Jamaica had still been ruled from Westminster.

When it comes to small nations, countries like Finland and Slovakia have produced athletes who have won Olympic medals and larger but poorer countries like Ethiopia and Kenya still churn out world class competitors. This suggests that neither population size nor a country’s wealth has much to do with the calibre of athletes that country produces. Naturally, a country with a higher population is likely to produce more athletes of the required standard to compete in the Olympics but that is not at all the same thing as saying Scottish athletes could not get there without help from the UK.

but let’s look at that help. Like all organisations, the British Olympic team has to make choices about where to spend its money. There is no doubt that many of the Scottish athletes will have benefitted in some way from UK funding but that funding tends to go to sports where there has already been an element of success. For example, Table Tennis gets very little in comparison to other sports because Britain hasn’t produced any medal winners in Table Tennis. This reveals the different priorities. For the athletes, it is taking part that counts but the money men in charge concentrate only on medals and they do it in such a way that the medals need to come first. In other words, if Britain were to produce a Gold medal at Table Tennis, that sport would receive more funding next time round but the medal needs to come first. This means athletes have to do it more or less on their own before the British Olympic team steps in with greater financial assistance.

Even for those sports which do receive assistance, most of the athletes who are out there representing the UK will have reached their current level of ability largely through their own dedication, natural ability, sponsorship money, and significant help from friends and family rather than financial assistance from the UK’s Olympic team.

It cannot be denied that UK funding will have helped Scottish athletes but the extent to which it has made the difference between them reaching a qualifying standard or not making the grade is difficult to quantify. Above all, the claim that they are only there because of UK funding implies that an independent Scotland would be too wee and too poor to provide similar financial support. This is perhaps the worst aspect of this sort of argument because it implicitly assumes that Scotland would be unable to match the achievements of other small nations when it comes to producing athletes. As ever, putting your country down seems to be the aim of those people promoting this line of thought and that is the saddest thing about it.


Hit For Six

Posted on August 3rd, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Scotland must be the only country in the world where there is any debate over whether it should produce its own News programme. That is, of course, a symptom of the One Nation attitude of the BBC and the unionist media. Quite frankly, though, it doesn’t really matter because a Scottish Six (as it is usually known) won’t be much good anyway.

There are a couple of reasons for this even if we discount the ludicrous claims by the likes of David Torrance and others that, and I paraphrase here, Scots are not genetically programmed to operate difficult machinery like television cameras and would be incapable of producing a News programme.

No, the practical difficulty is that BBC Scotland is ultimately controlled from London. Without its own network of dedicated news crews and equipment, it will rely on BBC London to provide many of its international and UK reports. Unless there is a massive boost in funding and BBC Scotland is given complete autonomy, the News will still be largely local with everything else being beamed in from London.

Then there is the political angle. The simple fact is that the BBC do not want a Scottish Six to succeed. The BBC is part of the UK State and promotes the UK at every opportunity. If BBC Scotland were to successfully produce an independent News show which genuinely provided Scottish and international news from a Scottish perspective, it would completely undermine the BBC’s role as protector of the Union.

Not that there is much danger of this because, unless there is a massive change in personnel, the pro-Union bias will remain and Scottish News will be dominated by the usual Cringe.

So, all in all, even if a Scottish Six does come about, I won’t be turning to it as my main source of information.


Blow For Sturgeon?

Posted on July 29th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

The Ruth Davidson (We’re not really Tories – Honest!) Party have shown their true colours again by asking people to sign a petition against the Named Persons’ legislation. This comes in the wake of them realising that the “Blow for Sturgeon" trumpeted by the BBC and other Unionist media was no such thing. It does, though, confirm to anyone who still harbours any lingering doubts about the Ruth Davidson Party that they would far rather score political points in order to preserve the Union than actually support a scheme which is intended to prevent children suffering abuse, harm or even death.

Of course, they will claim, the Named Persons’ legislation is hated because it is a Snoopers’ Charter. Coming from the Ruth Davidson Party, this is pretty rich considering the IP Bill the Tories are pushing through in Westminster which will allow the UK Government to spy on every email, phone call or text message made by any UK resident. In comparison, the NP Bill is nothing. Indeed, if it is so hated, one should perhaps ask the Ruth Davidson Party why the Bill passed through Holyrood without a single MSP voting against it. Could it be that they actually thought it was a good idea but have now jumped on the back of a bandwagon started by a small number of zealots who haven’t bothered to read the legislation or listen to the experiences of people who have been involved in the trials of the scheme?

But what about this “Blow for Sturgeon"? According to initial media reports, the Supreme Court had ruled the NP Bill incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. There was much gloating and celebrating by the Ruth Davidson Party and others until people actually took the time to read what the judgement said. It transpired that the Court found the intention of the legislation to be legitimate and benign, not at all the sort of language you’d expect if they had ruled it as breaching the ECHR. In fact, the only part of the legislation they found fault with was the Data Sharing aspect which, under the current wording, could result in confidential data about children and parents being inappropriately shared without consent. The Court knows this can be rectified and has given the Scottish Government six weeks to amend the wording to make it compatible. In legislative terms, six weeks is nothing, showing that the Court expects the Bill to be suitably amended very quickly.

When the true facts emerged, they were so obvious that even the BBC was forced to amend its jubilant headlines to admit the truth. The ruling was so much of a “Blow for Sturgeon" that Children’s charities and Highland Council, where the scheme has been in use for some years on a trial basis, have officially come out and confirmed they are happy with the Court ruling.

This judgement means there may be a slight delay to the Bill coming into full force but it will not prevent NP becoming law. This is what has upset the Ruth Davidson Party and other people who have no idea what the legislation is intended to do or how it is intended to work. Their opposition is based on the one ideological strand that anything the SNP Government does must be bad and they are deliberately putting children at risk solely in order to perpetuate this tribal perspective.

And, of course, the most ironic thing about the whole saga is that many of the people who were acclaiming the Court decision are the same people who want to take the UK out of the EU so that the ECHR does not apply. But then, irony never does seem to register with them.

One final word of warning. This will not be the last we hear of this because no system is capable of completely eliminating child abuse. NP is an attempt to improve the current system and, if the trials are anything to go by, it seems to make a difference. However, we should expect the Ruth Davidson Party to loudly proclaim its failure as soon as one child suffers any sort of harm. When that happens, ask yourself what sort of person would take delight in a child suffering harm?


Still The Same

Posted on July 28th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

The one thing you can say that is positive about Scottish Labour is that they can issue any sort of Press release in the certain knowledge that it positively won’t receive any scrutiny whatsoever from the Scottish media.

Their latest plan for a post-Brexit Scotland makes it clear that they do not regard the Brexit vote as warranting a second IndieRef. Scotland, it seems, must be kept under Westminster’s control no matter what happens.

Scottish Labour seem to inhabit a very different world to the rest of us. They insist that the Scottish Government must find a way to protect the status of EU citizens working in Scotland, must protect Human and Workers’ Rights and even to establish a Brexit fund to provide help for people who might suffer as a result of the UK leaving the EU.

What seems to escape them completely is that there is only one way to protect those various rights. Unless Theresa May takes the enormous gamble of not proceeding with Brexit, the UK is leaving and Scottish Labour’s principal demand is that Scotland leaves with it. If that happens, there is no way the Scottish Government can do anything about the various rights Scottish Labour want protected.

As for the Brexit fund, it is a laudable idea but Scottish Labour don’t even have a Plan A as to where the money is to come from, let alone a Plan B. Presumably they want some other services cut so that they can shout “SNPBad!" when the money is set aside for the Brexit fund. They also casually ignore the fact that it should really be the UK Government who set up any such fund. Why should money be taken out of Scotland’s ever-dwindling budget to cater for things inflicted on us by the UK? Oh, wait, that’s normal, isn’t it?

All in all, this latest bizarre call from Scottish Labour merely confirms their decline into irrelevance. They cannot bring themselves to support Scotland as a viable, independent country yet they demand that the Scottish Government take steps it could only take if Scotland were independent. They seem to be stuck in this “Best of Both Worlds" mindset but haven’t realised that the two worlds they want to have the best of are mutually incompatible. They will soon need to choose one or the other and they surely must realise that choosing the UK will sound their final death knell because the Ruth Davidson (“We’re not really Tories, vote for Ruth") Party have got the Unionist vote sewn up. Labour never seem to have learned that you can’t out-Tory the Tories and trying to portray yourselves as saviours of the Union when Ruth and her buddies have grabbed all the Union flags is a complete waste of time.

All of this seems very obvious but it would have been nice to hear some Scottish media voices pointing out these major inconsistencies in Scottish Labour’s muddled proposals. Still, some things never change.


Rock, Meet Hard Place

Posted on July 22nd, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Theresa May faces a difficult decision regarding Brexit and neither choice seems to offer anything but constitutional crisis.

She has said that Brexit means Brexit which implies that she will indeed encourage the Westminster Parliament to vote through agreement to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. The problem with this course of action is that it will inevitably lead to another Scottish IndieRef and may also see Northern Ireland vote to become part of the Republic of Ireland, thus leaving England and Wales as a very much diminished UK.

Can you imagine the angst Theresa May must face at the prospect of being the PM who oversaw the break up of the UK? Her one saving grace is that she could perhaps stomach this because she can point the finger at others for bringing about the prospective calamity. That’s a calamity from the perspective of BritNats, anyway. The majority of citizens of Scotland and Northern Ireland would probably view it very differently.

So, it is possible that Theresa May might see herself as the saviour of England, guiding that isolated and increasingly xenophobic country to its bleak new future which will see the Tories in perpetual power.

On the other hand, she might have realised that losing control over Scotland and Northern Ireland is too great a price to pay. Under UK rules, the result of the referendum is not binding and must be confirmed by the Westminster Parliament. What if Theresa May decides to quietly encourage her MPs to vote not to trigger Article 50? After all, the lies of the Leave campaign are now well known and the realisation that having access to the single market in Europe would still allow unrestricted access to the UK by hordes (or is it swarms?) of nasty foreigners might be enough to persuade Westminster that Brexit just isn’t worth it.

If Article 50 is not invoked, Theresa May virtually cuts the rug from under the feet of the Scottish Indie movement. She might believe she can keep the UK together and mollify the very large minority who voted to Leave by explaining that they were sold a lie by UKIP and others.

There are already some people calling for this course of action because the next General Election will be in 2020, by which time the UK will be outside of the EU. Given the problems Brexit is likely to bring, either through not delivering what the Leave campaign wanted or through placing England and Wales in a very isolated position and a declining economy, many voters may decide that it wasn’t such a good idea after all and might turn against the incumbent Government. As the main aim of the Tory Party is to remain in power, some MPs may be attracted to the idea of indefinitely postponing Brexit and attempting to handle the fallout rather than face the prospect of being voted out in 2020.

This is, however, a high risk strategy. For a start, Scotland may decide to go its own way anyway. Brexit may have been the trigger for many people but the Trident vote and the betrayal of the Clyde Ship workers have added to the case for independence and cancelling Brexit may still not be enough to persuade voters to return to the Union fold.

The other reason is that it may not be possible to suppress the outcry from the Leave campaign. While some voters may have altered their opinions now that they realise they were lied to, we should not underestimate the power of British Nationalism, for which read English Nationalism. The referendum may not be legally binding on the Government but refusing to act on the result could cause another major constitutional crisis for the Tories. UKIP would undoubtedly see another surge and the xenophobic Press would have a field day as they whipped up support for the referendum outcome to be honoured. Four years is a very long time in politics but it is very possible that cancelling Brexit could also see the Tories ousted, or at least losing their majority, not thanks to Labour but by a revitalised UKIP.

Remaining within the EU would also be very difficult because the other members would know that the UK’s membership is half-hearted and they would be very unlikely to be sympathetic to any demands the UK might make in negotiations.

So it’s a tough call, whichever way Theresa May decides to jump. If she’s smart, she may recognise that she’s already lost Scotland and so she might decide to bite the bullet and go for Brexit. If she tries to be clever and negotiate a way of postponing Brexit, who knows what could happen? She might end up having one of the shortest Premierships in UK history when Boris sticks the knife in and seizes control.

Either way, though, it is increasingly evident that Scotland is better off outside this truly dreadful Union.


Be Patient

Posted on July 16th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

There are growing calls on social media for Nicola Sturgeon to launch her promised summer campaign for Scottish independence. However, those calling for this are probably going to be disappointed.

The problem is that, since Nicola Sturgeon made this promise, there has been a material change in circumstances. There is obviously a risk in delaying because the Unionist media and politicians have already begun Project Fear to persuade people that independence is a bad idea. The longer the SNP allow this to continue unchallenged, the more harm it will do.

But there are some excellent reasons why we should not rush into calling another IndieRef at the moment.

First of all, the main reason many people are now waking up to the positive case for independence is the Brexit referendum result. The promise that only a No vote in the IndieRef could secure our place in the EU has, like virtually every other Better Together claim, been proven to be a lie and this one seems to have been the final straw for many people.

The problem the SNP face here is that, until Article 50 is invoked, the UK is not certain to leave the EU and Theresa May is already soft-pedalling on that front. I am sure she will be compelled to formally issue the required proclamation eventually but she may yet harbour thoughts of persuading the Westminster Parliament that it should not be done notwithstanding the Brexit vote.

If Article 50 is not triggered, the main reason for calling a second Scottish IndieRef falls away, leaving the SNP open to accusations of making a knee jerk reaction and hurrying towards a referendum without good cause.

The second reason is that Nicola Sturgeon has established a group of experts to examine the various options open to Scotland. If she were to call for an IndieRef before that group had reported – and it has met only once so far – this would also leave her open to accusations of exploiting an uncertain situation with no Plan A, let alone a Plan B. The fact that the Tories went into the Brexit Referendum without a plan A is immaterial because we all know it is only Scotland that will ever be held to account for such things.

So, until we have a clear idea of what the UK is going to do and until Scotland has a clearly defined plan of how our EU membership can be retained, don’t expect any progress on a second IndieRef.

Be patient; it will come.


Silver Lining

Posted on July 14th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

As the full horror of Theresa May’s premiership begins to dawn on people, it is worth noting her stance on Unions.

It appears that, while she is happy for the UK to leave the European Union, she is determined to keep Scotland in thrall to Westminster as part of the UK. Her first speech confirmed as much and it really isn’t a surprise. That’s because Westminster is only keen on Unions when it has total control over what happens within that Union.

Membership of the EU requires diplomacy, negotiation and compromise, none of which sit well with the Westminster culture. but when it comes to the UK, Westminster rules the roost and can dictate terms. That’s the sort of Union Theresa May and her new band of Right Wing zealots like.

Just about the only good thing you can say about May’s appointment as PM is that it makes the chances of a second IndieRef that much more likely. It’s a silver lining on an otherwise very dark cloud.


Too Late

Posted on July 11th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

So Devo Max or possibly a Federal UK is back on the agenda. At least, it is if you listen to the Unionist media which is pushing the idea for all it is worth. Funny how it is always promised whenever the UK State is threatened by breakup but somehow never actually seems to be delivered.

There are many who still see a Federal solution as the best option for the UK but it certainly isn’t the best option for Scotland. For a start, even assuming each of the four nations had its own Parliament with a central UK Parliament responsible for foreign affairs, defence and an overarching responsibility for the economy, does anyone seriously think that these things can be left with Westminster? A seemingly endless procession of foreign wars have destabilised the global political situation but the UK is determined to keep bombing people who can’t fight back except through acts of terrorism. We’ve angered our fellow EU members and the value of sterling is plummeting. What sort of argument does any of that give for allowing Westminster to control Scotland’s place in the world?

The other big flaw in the latest push for Federalism is that it completely and wilfully ignores the biggest issue in UK politics just now. With Brexit very much on the cards, massive constitutional change resulting in a Federal UK will still not keep Scotland in the EU. If Scotland remains in the UK, it will be forced out of the EU. Presumably the Unionists promoting the latest version of Devo Max are either so stupid they haven’t realised this or, more likely, they genuinely believe that we are so stupid we won’t notice.

The only way this suggestion could have any merit is if the UK Parliament refused to invoke Article 50 and the UK remained in the EU. That seems increasingly unlikely as it would undoubtedly create yet another political crisis in England but even if it does happen, a Scotland which remains in the UK would have no guarantees that the same Brexit scenario would not arise again. There is also the distinct possibility that a UK which remains in the EU would suddenly decide that there is no real call for a Federal solution to its problems after all.

But Federalism isn’t the solution anyway. The time for that is long past. There is only one viable solution and we all know what it is.


Conspiracy Theory

Posted on July 9th, 2016

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Sir Nicholas MacPherson has written an article asserting that Brexit offers some excellent opportunities for an independent Scotland, a comment which has been widely welcomed by many in the Yes movement, not least by Nicola Sturgeon.

However, the cynics amongst us are sceptical about Sir Humphrey’s – sorry, Sir Nicholas’s - motives.

Remember, this is the man who was so committed to the UK that he was prepared to ignore the Civil Service rules of impartiality and brief against Scotland becoming independent. It is also worth noting his title. He is an Establishment man through and through, owing his career and status to the UK.

So why would he make such a comment now? There are three possible reasons.

First, he may genuinely believe that retaining membership of the EU is so important that it outweighs any loyalty to the UK and that Scotland would genuinely be better off as an independent nation. But, bearing in mind his former position and his proven loyalties to the UK State, this really has to be taken with a very large pinch of salt.

A second possible motive is that he intends to move to Scotland if we do become independent. He apparently owns estates here and he may want to retain the EU subsidies he is no doubt eligible for. Given that he spent his working life in a system which promotes personal betterment at the expense of pretty much everything else, this cannot be ruled out as a reason for his apparent change of heart.

There is, though, a third and more Machiavellian reason why he might have made such a pronouncement. You see, some members of the Establishment know that Brexit is a bad idea which will not only cut the UK off from the single market and create financial hardship for years to come, it is also likely to lead to the break up of the UK. The vestiges of the colonial mindset which still retains a massive influence over many in England may just baulk at the thought of Scotland going its own way. It’s a high risk strategy but reminding people of the international prestige they stand to lose if Scotland leaves the UK might just be enough to deter them from going through with Brexit. The reason it is high risk is because patriotic pride is a driving force amongst Brexiteers and Scotland hasn’t exactly displayed the appropriate amounts of jingoistic fervour recently so it is possible that many in England will be glad to let the whingeing Jocks go their own way.

But if this is the aim of the strategy, who could come out and plant the seeds? Current members of the Civil Service might not be willing to put their heads above the parapet or they might have more scruples about breaching regulations than Sir Humphrey – oops! – did during the IndieRef. But he is retired now and therefore in a position to say whatever he likes. Perhaps he thought up this wheeze himself or perhaps he was approached and agreed to write the piece in order to help out his old chums.

If this hypothesis sounds like a conspiracy theory, maybe it is. It could be completely wrong and Sir Humphrey – damn! – may be absolutely sincere in his views. After all, there is a first time for everything.


Ye'll hae had yer Chilcot then?

Posted on July 7th, 2016

by Wee Hamish,

Ye’ll hae had yer Chilcot then? Efter a’ that time and money, whit did we actually learn? Nothing we didnae already ken. George Dubya said, “Let’s take out Saddam" and Teflon Tony wagged his tail and jumped to help, spinning the facts tae mak’ sure the muppets in the Hoose o’ commons went alang wi’ him.

Will he get awa’ wi’ it? Probably. He’s made his millions and he can spin oot any legal action fur years.

Whitever happens, though, there’s ane thing ye can be certain o’. Gordie Broon and a’ thae ither MPs wha voted tae gang tae war in Iraq will keep their heids doon and hope naebody bothers them. But when the BBC needs somebody tae stand up and scare the fearties awa’ fae IndyRef2, they’ll a’ come oot o’ the woodwork and be queueing up tae see wha can shout the loudest.

We Got The Blues

Posted on June 30th, 2016

By Tcswim

We got the blues!

Blue on blue

black n blue

Tory-boyz

Eton-boyz blues

We all lose.

Bad news

for folk like me and you

trying to get through

the lies and the hate

from the blue Tory state

and their chums in the press

spewing a shitty news-mess

paid for and sold

by corrupt-Tory gold.

By the inches watch them buy

Lie after lie;

Read the Tory-life of lies

In a state where all truth dies

“Create hate mate!"

Say the pompous and the great

Create red n blue frustration

Demonize immigration

If you don’t look like me

There’s leaky boats on the sea

Vote Brexit & be proud

Watch the dip in the pound

Join the Eton chorus

Of Bullington Boris

Follow me! Follow me!

Brexit is for us and ME!

T’hell with the economy

Fk- the pols and the frogs

The jocks and the Calais nogs

In Engerland’s blue and unpleasant

Land!

Democracy is a mirage!

With Boris, Gove n fkn Farage!"

Don’t dance to that band

Let’s have jazz in our land

The drum beat o fraternity

Horns give us dignity

Wi the bass-strum o solidarity

An the pipes o sovereignty

Give us stramach ‘n rock n roll

With an honest Celtic soul

Give us Euro-romance

We’ll hooch n we’ll dance

Across Europe n France

A great Ceilidh of joy

So dance Greek kore n boy

With garcon n lassie

With zolkie and brahzie

Dance across the Rhone n Rhine

In soul n prance n reel-time

and through our heather

Oh how we’ll dance!

We will dance; dance the gither!

Oh what a nonsense that we cannie dance

Ideas leap & whirl in this wee country

In reels of thought and dreams

And in the progress of the steps it seems

That in our dance we hope, for in that glance

We choreograph a future.

Freedom is our destiny: for this we dance.




Follow The Leader

Posted on June 27th, 2016

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

Do you remember the days when people used to sneer at Holyrood politicians and say that they were so lacking in ability they couldn’t be trusted to run a sweetie shop? All the really clever politicians were to be found at Westminster, weren’t they?

How times change. The past couple of days have shown that there is only one politician who has considered the potential outcomes and consequences of the EURef and who has shown any degree of leadership. Thankfully, that politician is Nicola Sturgeon who has displayed genuine statespersonship with her calm but authoritative speeches.

In contrast, what has the UK Government done? David Cameron has washed his hands of things while George Osborne spent the weekend in hiding, perhaps along with Theresa May and the rest of the pro-EU Front Benchers. No doubt they are busy plotting their own career moves which is about what you would expect from Westminster politicians who put their own interests before those of the country they are supposed to be governing.

As for Labour, this should be the chance they have been waiting for. With the Government in disarray, they should be putting the boot in and showing some genuine leadership. However, Jeremy Corbyn, who displays all the leadership qualities of a shop manikin at the best of times, has instead been fighting off a revolt among his own Shadow Cabinet.

So, at this time of constitutional crisis, we have no effective Government and no effective Opposition.

But what about the Brexit mob who won the Referendum? Surely they have been prominent and telling us what happens next? Um, no, actually. Boris Johnson went to a cricket match while Michael Gove and Ian Duncan Smith have kept a relatively low profile as has the normally publicity-hungry Nigel Farage. Why? Well, basically because they didn’t expect to win and they have no idea what to do next. One of the pro-Brexit Tory MPs has told Sky News that they don’t have a plan because they expected No.10 to devise one.

It’s quite incredible, isn’t it? Do you recall how mercilessly the SNP were challenged over the Independence White Paper? If that level of questioning had been put to the Leave campaign by anyone in the media we wouldn’t be here now because they didn’t have anything approaching a White Paper. In fact, it seems they didn’t even have a few notes scribbled down on the back of one of Nigel’s fag packets.

What Leave seem to have been hoping for is that a Brexit vote would bring the EU to the bargaining table in an effort to persuade the UK to remain. That is a typically arrogant, Brit-centric view of the world because the EU doesn’t appear to have any intentions of playing ball. There are too many rumblings of discontent among other EU countries and the organisation needs to treat the UK harshly to discourage others from thinking about holding their own referendums. On top of that, the UK has behaved so scornfully towards the EU – whose other members are foreigners, remember – that you can hardly blame them for wanting to kick us out.

But what about Scotland? Some BritNats have been loudly proclaiming that EU sources are ruling out the “Reverse Greenland" option whereby Scotland could remain in the EU while also remaining part of the UK. This unofficial ruling has been proclaimed as a “Blow for Sturgeon" by at least one media outlet who appear not to have noticed that Nicola Sturgeon’s ultimate aim is independence for Scotland. If the Reverse Greenland option is off the table, the only viable option presently available if Scots are to remain in the EU is for the country to become independent and retain its current EU status. By ruling out Reverse Greenland, the EU are helping Scotland’s independence cause. Indeed, there have been several unofficial comments from people within the EU suggesting that a request from an independent Scotland would be favourably received.

There is a long way to go yet and no doubt it will be a rocky and difficult path but Nicola Sturgeon has one major advantage over any of the politicians running the UK Parties at Westminster – she’s competent and puts the interests of her country first.

I didn’t think independence would come for several years yet but the arrogance and incompetence of the ruling class in Westminster seems to be doing the job for us. Fingers crossed.


Ceud Mille Failte

Posted on June 26th, 2016

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

It is easy, and tempting, to say, “We told you so" but this is not the time. Many people who voted No in the Scottish IndieRef had reasons for doing so but, with the Brexit result having shattered the last of Better Together’s lies, the only real reason anyone can have for opposing Scottish independence is that they are imbued with such deep-rooted British Nationalism that nothing will change their minds.

For those who are now willing to switch sides, it is incumbent on those of us in the Yes movement to welcome them aboard. What happened in 2014 is in the past and both Scotland and the UK are very different places now. We need to face the future together. After all, what we want is to build a fairer, progressive, inclusive, outward-looking and peaceful society which, quite frankly, the UK cannot provide.

Switching to Yes is easy. The only criterion is that you have decided to make your home in Scotland and want to contribute to our nation’s prosperity. Your ethnic or religious background does not matter. Nor does your political affiliation. The SNP may be the de facto political arm of the Yes movement but the campaign was always much wider than the SNP. Indeed, in a post-Indie Scotland it will be essential that our Parliament contains a variety of views. But that is still some way in the future. What we need to do now is gather support for a Yes vote in the next IndieRef, whenever that may take place.

So if you know someone who voted NO but who has changed their minds, offer them a smile, a handshake or a hug and let’s work together to make this happen.

The Yes campaign is famous for hijacking its opponents’ slogans and now we have a chance to completely reverse the meaning of “Better Together".


Some Certainties

Posted on June 24th, 2016

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

Today is not a day to express anger even if we feel it. We face a challenging time and a very uncertain future. Only time will tell how this will be resolved and it is too early to speculate on anything.

Despite the widespread uncertainty, though, there are one or two things we can now be certain of.

First is that the Better Together claim that the only way to safeguard EU citizenship was to vote No in the Scottish IndieRef has finally been nailed down for the lie it always was. This makes the prospects of a Yes vote in any second IndieRef a bit more likely since it is now hard to think of a single Better Together threat that hasn’t been proved to be a falsehood or has come true despite the No vote. Whether that will be sufficient to swing enough No voters to Yes remains to be seen and, at the moment, I wouldn’t bet on it.

Secondly, we can now see with absolute certainty that Scotland’s voice in the UK simply doesn’t count. All the pleas to Lead the UK, not Leave it have been shown up as mere platitudes. Scotland can never lead the UK and can’t even influence things even with a majority of voters making the same choice. This is not an equal union and never will be.

Another thing that is certain is that the oft-repeated claim that social attitudes in Scotland are much the same as those in England has been shown up as another falsehood. It may be true in some areas because, after all, we share a language, a currency and an imperialist history, so there are undoubtedly some things held in common but every vote since the IndieRef has shown that Scots have a very different attitude towards the way they want to be governed.

My overriding reaction today is one of dismay. This Brexit vote may well result in Scotland becoming an independent nation but, if that does happen, it will be a depressing way for it to come about. That’s because, although Scotland has a potential escape route, I can’t help but feel sorry for my friends and relatives in England who face the prospect of a very bleak future under perpetual tory rule with all the austerity and hardship that will inevitably entail.


The ABC of Leave

Posted on June 22nd, 2016

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

The EU debate has been truly appalling, with the Tories having dragged everyone else into their civil war. Neither side has made a proper case, with scare stories and invented financial estimates bandied around as if nobody is going to care whether there is any foundation to the figures. The media has gleefully kept the debate to an argument on immigration and those few politicians who have tried to make the positive case for the EU have either struggled badly to do so or have been given very limited time on a public platform.

So, when it boils down to choosing between two groups of arrogant, vindictive liars, which Tories should we side with? I’ve said before that, while I detest being on the same side as David Cameron and George Osborne, the alternative is even worse. But we shouldn’t bring personalities into this. None of the Tories heading either campaign will be around forever but the consequences of the Referendum outcome will last a long time, so we really ought to examine the claims of the Brexit mob quite carefully before accepting their vision of a Britain outside the EU.

First of all, I acknowledge, once again, that the EU is far from perfect and there are several aspects about it that I dislike intensely. However, the argument that we would be better off outside the EU boils down to three main areas. Let’s look at this A, B, C of Leave.

A is for the Amount the UK pays to the EU.

This has been claimed to be £350million per week, a figure which has been disproved since it takes no account of the UK Rebate nor the sums paid to the UK under schemes like the Common Agricultural Policy, Scientific Research, Investment in infrastructure, etc. When pressed, the Leave campaign will admit that the net figure of the UK’s contribution is around £10billion per year, which cleverly avoids comparison with the weekly figure they headline. For your information, £10billion per year is a little over £190million per week, or around 55% of the gross figure.

The claim from Leave is that even this £10billion could be better spent in the UK than on funding the EU. The NHS is usually cited as the main beneficiary of this although I have heard Brexit campaigners also say it could replace University Research funding, pay for infrastructure development and fund British industries. This money, it seems, will go a long way if you believe the promises of people who have formerly pledged to abolish the NHS.

But there is more. The thing with the contribution is that it gives the UK access to the single market. Without this, UK trade would suffer. The counter argument is that we could adopt the Norwegian model but those who claim this never mention that Norway actually pays a hefty contribution to the EU for access to the single market but has no representation within the EU while needing to adopt all EU regulations, including the free movement of people. So adopting the Norwegian model would save a very small amount of money but still leave us with the same requirements to meet EU trading standards and the free movement of EU citizens. That’s not much of an incentive, really.

The other argument is that the UK could adopt its own trading agreements with the EU and it must be admitted that there would certainly be a desire on the part of many in Europe to continue to trade with the UK. Again, though, what is never mentioned is that agreeing such trade deals takes several years. What happens in the meantime? Nobody really knows but it’s a fairly safe bet the economic outlook for those years will not be particularly rosy.

B is for Borders.

Immigrants are the great scare story. Despite several studies showing that immigrants contribute far more to the UK economy than they take out, they are still portrayed by Brexiters as the cause for all the problems ordinary people are suffering throughout the UK. This is nonsense. The reason people are suffering, businesses closing down and adequate housing being in short supply is the rule of a Tory Government in Westminster which is wedded to neo-liberal ideals and Austerity in public spending. People clearly see something is wrong but they are being directed by the likes of UKIP and a Right Wing Press to blame immigrants. Blaming outsiders is a common tactic in authoritarian regimes. It is being used by Donald Trump in America, that was used in the 1990s in Rwanda, in the 1930s in Germany, in 19th Century Russia and in many other places throughout history. It is, quite frankly, appalling that anyone should make a political decision based on hatred of people from a different ethnic or cultural background but that is essentially what Leave wants us to do.

The focus on immigration also ignores the fact that one of the basic principles of the EU is the free movement of people. Britons can, and do, travel and live all across the EU. It is this principle which has helped to ensure that Europe, a continent which spent hundreds of years in a state of almost perpetual war, has experienced seventy years of peace. That’s no small thing.

It is also worth mentioning that many of the so-called immigrants who are flooding into Europe are refugees from wars which the UK has not only supported but actively participated in, while doing the bare minimum to house any of the refugees it has helped to create.

C is for Control

We keep hearing we need to “Take Back Control" from Brussels. This is a cleverly-crafted bit of spin which appeals to the basic notion of self-determination and is used to berate supporters of Scottish independence who, it is claimed, don’t want to be ruled by Westminster but are happy to be ruled by the EU.

Of course, there is no real comparison between the two governing bodies. The EU does not dictate to the UK which countries to bomb or send troops to; it does not dictate that the UK must retain nuclear weapons and park them close to Scotland’s largest population centre; it does not dictate the UK’s position in other bodies like the UN or NATO; it does not set UK tax rates; it does not set UK Social Security Benefits; it does not dictate UK economic policies. I could go on but I’m sure you get the idea.

The rules the EU does set are principally around the single market and the issues of Human Rights, Workers’ Rights and Environmental matters. Those who want to take back control of these things are the very people who want to abolish them. That is hardly likely to be done with the intention of making life better for ordinary citizens.

We should also ask whether the UK does actually have laws imposed by the EU. The claim that around 60% of our laws are dictated by Brussels is simply nonsense. When you take Statutory Instruments into account (i.e. laws passed by Westminster Governments without debate in the Commons), the percentage drops to around 13% and, as mentioned, these are concentrated in specific areas of legislation. Even these laws are not really imposed. Analysis of votes in the European Parliament show that the UK has been on the losing side only around 2% of the time. If we are on the winning side 98% of the time, we can hardly claim we do not have an element of control.

And let’s not forget that, as mentioned earlier, we would need to abide by EU trade regulations if we wanted to trade with them at all, whether we are in the single market or not, so taking back control of that area would be impossible. Adopting the Norwegian model wouldn’t give us control over immigration either, since we would need to accept the free movement of people as a prerequisite of gaining access to the single market.

There is another spurious argument being touted by some in the Leave campaign. The example is the Scottish Government’s attempt to introduce Minimum Pricing on alcohol. This democratically decided issue has been overturned by the European Court of Justice. This sort of thing, it is implied, would not happen if the UK was outside the EU. It is, though, an incorrect argument. The courts are not the same as the EU Parliament. This law has been blocked by the vested interest of the whisky industry taking legal action. We may not like the outcome but we cannot confuse legal actions decided in the Courts with Parliamentary decisions. Even in the UK, the Westminster Government has had policies challenged in the UK Courts and been found to have acted illegally. The EU decision on Minimum Pricing is based on giving trade priority over people’s health. It’s not the decision we wanted but it is in keeping with the EU’s general policy of promoting free trade. It is an example of a legal ruling we don’t like but it is, by itself, no reason to quit the EU. Instead, the Scottish Government should challenge it on the issue of the Human Right to health but to do so means staying in the EU.

So that’s the three main areas the Leave campaign have based their arguments on and none of them really stands up to scrutiny. That’s not to say the EU is ideal because no large organisation ever is but the reasons we are being given to vote Leave simply aren’t good enough to convince me.


On The Politics Of Hate

Posted on June 20th, 2016

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

In the aftermath of the dreadful murder of MP Jo Cox, the vast majority of people have been calling for an end to the Politics of Hate. Sadly, this situation is not likely to last, especially as it has not gone away, only slightly toned down its screeching. It is no coincidence that, while some newspapers are concentrating on the Killer’s links to extremist Far Right organisations, the Right Wing newspapers are focusing on the state of his mental health without any consideration being given to the possibility that the two often go hand in hand.

This is, of course, because the Right Wing Press are seeking to distance themselves from any responsibility for fostering hatred yet, as has been pointed out on social media, these are the same newspapers who insist that young Muslims can be radicalised by listening to a hate preacher yet refuse to admit that the decades of anti-immigration rhetoric they themselves have been churning out can have any effect on anyone’s views. This is utterly hypocritical since the whole point of newspapers is to influence people’s attitudes. That is why politicians know it is important to cultivate relations with the media barons.

So the Politics of Hate will soon be in full flow again because that is the way the British State operates. Many people on social media have been calling for a return to the British Values of Fairness, Compassion and Tolerance. What this call does not recognise is that while those values are held by a great many ordinary people in the UK and all around the world, they are not values maintained by those in power. Even a cursory look back over the history of the British state shows that Fairness, Compassion and Tolerance have been sadly lacking in the way our country has operated. This is still true today, with British munitions contributing to much of the death in the Middle East and refugees from those conflicts being demonised by the Brexit campaign. Not that the official UK response has been much better, with the UK taking in far fewer refugees than any other EU country.

Closer to home, the British Establishment has always used scare tactics to keep its populace in check. Tudor England demonised the French, scots and Spanish depending on which country England was at war with at the time, the Jacobites were subjected to the same scaremongering and the Napoleonic Wars saw these tactics used on a large scale. It has continued ever since. Only with the advent of the internet and wider social use of the new online media have more and more people had access to alternative visions of our past and present.

Yet it may not be enough. Politicians and journalists know that a lie, if repeated often enough, becomes true in the minds of many people, especially if it is a short, snappy and imaginative lie which appeals to the baser instincts.

Making Britain Great again is one such mantra. It cleverly conflates the two meanings of the word, “Great" to appeal to some patriotic vision of past glories. Of course, Great Britain is named because the British Isles comprise two large islands surrounded by many smaller ones. Of the two, the larger one, composed of the nations of England, Wales and Scotland, is called Great Britain as a geographical term indicating its larger size compared to Ireland. That geographical meaning has been hijacked to imply that Britain is Great in the other sense of the word meaning magnificent, powerful and worthy of admiration. Yet, strangely, when you go abroad you will find less admiration for Britain than the term implies. This, though, tends to reinforce the BritNat view that foreigners are somehow lesser people.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with being proud of your country and its achievements and people but that should not be taken to mean that other countries and people are not equally important or that military victories are the only things that make a country admirable. British culture as portrayed by the Establishment and media has, regrettably, resulted in far too many people deriding anyone from a different culture or ethnic background. Fairness, Compassion and Tolerance are conspicuous by their absence.

But there is hope. Social media is spreading the word that the values many of the ordinary citizens of the UK hold dear are fighting back against this surge in xenophobia and hatred. Whether it will be enough to prevent Brexit becoming a reality remains to be seen. Yet even if it does, the result promises to be so close that the EU issue will not go away. Just as the Scottish IndieRef has not killed off the Yes campaign, so a defeat in the EURef will not kill off the Brexit campaign. It is not a pleasant prospect but it is more than likely that Westminster’s culture of smear and hatred will soon reassert itself.

It may sound selfish but the best thing Scotland can do is gain independence from this unpleasant system of Government as soon as possible. If we don’t, we are going to be subjected to many more examples of the Politics of Hate.


Propaganda Case Study

Posted on June 19th, 2016

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

We all know that the media is almost completely united in its opposition to the idea of Scottish independence and, by extension, to anything the SNP say or do. The barrage of #SNPBad stories wasn’t diminished in any way by the Orlando killings and the farcical EU Referendum debate, although these stories did tend to push the SNP-bashing into the background. Even the awful murder of Jo Cox MP wasn’t enough to prevent a couple of ultra-Unionists attempting to twist things, with one Radio presenter allegedly making the bizarre and unfounded claim that the MP’s murder was akin to the sort of acts perpetrated by Yes supporters during the Scottish IndieRef.

By and large, I am able to brush off most of these stories because they are obvious propaganda but one in particular caught my attention last week because of its subtle misrepresentation of facts.

It came from the Aberdeen-based Press & Journal and bore the headline: “How the Named Person Scheme abandoned tragic toddler Clyde".

Now, strictly speaking, the headline could be interpreted as being factually accurate although it is highly misleading.

It centres on the tragic death of a two-year-old toddler whose mother has been found guilty of neglecting her child and the story concentrates on the fact that, after two initial visits from a Health Visitor who was nominated as the child’s Named Person under the trial system taking place in Highland Region, there were only to further attempts at contact, both by telephone. After the second of these calls, the mother stated that she no longer wished to receive visits from the Health Visitor. The inference in the article is clearly that this “abandonment" was principally to blame for the child’s death eighteen months later.

It was only when you read the entire article that several other facts came to light.

Firstly, the child’s death was attributed to Cot Death, also known as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, a desperately sad occurrence which even the newspaper could not directly link to the neglect the toddler had suffered.

Secondly, the Police, Children’s Services, Hospital and Nursery staff were all in contact with the family and ostensibly reviewing the child’s situation. Again, there was no comment made as to how any of these parties could have prevented a Cot Death.

Clearly, something was wrong in the review process if the mother was found guilty of neglect but, at least according to the press & Journal, that neglect was not directly responsible for the child’s tragic death. Even if the various parties had taken steps earlier to place the toddler in care, there is no guarantee that this would have prevented a Cot Death as this awful fate can afflict anyone.

From this we can see that the focus of the article is nothing more than a politically-motivated attack on the SP’s Named Persons’ policy. The Named Person has no power to place a child in care. All he or she can do is refer concerns to the appropriate Authorities. In this case, even though the Health Visitor had not seen the child for eighteen months, various other bodies were looking at the case, so the involvement of the Named Person would probably have made little difference.

That is not to say the circumstances should not be closely examined because any child’s death needs to be carefully reviewed to identify any shortcomings, whether by individuals or by the system which is supposed to monitor the child’s welfare but to imply that it was the “abandonment" by the Named Person which was responsible for this tragic death is, quite frankly, nothing more than a despicable attempt to use a tragedy for political purposes.

There is another significant issue in relation to this sort of reporting. The main opposition to the Named Persons’ legislation is that it appoints a “State Guardian" who can interfere in family life and deny parents the right to bring up their own children. That is a gross misrepresentation of the way the system operates as the Named Person is merely a first point of contact who has some formal responsibilities to raise concerns and refer cases to the appropriate Authorities if deemed necessary. The Named Person is not a State Guardian and it is a bizarre feature of the opposition to the system that, in the mercifully few cases where a death has occurred, the Named Person is actually being blamed for not interfering enough. That’s Unionist media logic for you. As long as they can say, “The SNP are bad", they will misrepresent any story.

Of course, the Press & Journal will claim that they were merely putting an editorial slant to a factually correct story and, in strict terms, they are perhaps correct although that is a matter of interpretation. The story itself consisted of little more than the basic facts of the case plus quotes from parties who either opposed Named Persons’ or who represented Child Welfare Services. In other words, as we have come to expect from our media, there was no attempt to critically analyse the facts or comments, merely to reproduce them with a headline which was intended to arouse anger against the new policy. Is it any wonder more and more people are turning to online sources for an alternative media where there is at least some attempt to put things into context and provide evidence to support arguments?


Plan B?

Posted on June 11th, 2016

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

I was disappointed to hear that Nicola Sturgeon has announced an independent Scotland would continue to use Sterling. I have long advocated the creation of a Scottish Pound as a separate currency and, with the currency issue perceived as the Yes campaign’s Achilles’ Heel during the IndieRef, my initial reaction was to ask, “Has she learned nothing?".

I believe an independent Scotland would suffer by clinging to the currency of a country which has cut itself off from the EU and which clings stubbornly to Austerity Economics despite the mounting evidence of the harm this does. In my view, Sterling will lose a significant percentage of its value if the UK leaves the EU and I see little value in Scotland continuing to use a shunned currency. In economic terms, the only benefit would be that our exports of whisky, beef, salmon and oil would be relatively cheap for other countries to purchase and there may be a slight boost to tourism. The downside is that it would take longer to build up reserves of foreign currency because those purchasing our goods would require less of their currency to do so. In addition, the cost of our imports would be higher than at present. Thirdly, a falling Pound would put pressure on the Bank of England to raise interest rates, with a potentially devastating impact on anyone with a mortgage and a knock-on effect on the overall economy

So why declare sterling as the preferred option?

After some reflection, I think I understand the motivation behind this. At one level, it means Nicola Sturgeon is seen to support the stance held by Alex Salmond when he was First Minister but the principal reason must surely be to allay the fears of the great many Scots who demonstrated their worries about any sort of change. Switching to a new currency, while not that difficult in practice, would trigger alarm bells and give the Unionists an easy target for scaring the elderly and anxious.

To be fair, creating an independent state, even if we already have many of the institutions and societal infrastructure in place, is a big enough task without needing to constantly fend off attacks over a new currency.

Then there is the need to focus on one thing at a time. It is the EURef which currently dominates and discussing a hypothetical change of currency after a Yes vote in a second IndieRef which might not take place anyway, is a waste of time.

But let’s hope that, if and when there is a second IndieRef and we get the vote Scotland needs and deserves, the use of Sterling as a currency will be relatively short-lived. Once things settle down and the fearties start to realise that things are not so bad after all, we can start laying the plans for a separate currency which would give us full control of one of the major levers of the economy.


Forked Tongue

Posted on June 8th, 2016

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

So David Cameron says a vote for Brexit could trigger another Scottish IndieRef? Don’t get too excited, folks. This is the same man who ruled out a second IndieRef only a few months ago. Of course, he’s entitled to change his mind when the facts change but the only fact that has changed is that he is in danger of losing the EURef and his position as PM.

It’s not as if we have become accustomed to Call Me Dave telling the truth on anything at all, let alone the breakup of the UK. So his comment must be regarded as nothing more than a deliberate, unscrupulous ploy to frighten English voters into sticking with the status quo.

But if we can discount Cameron’s claim as cynical scaremongering, we should also ask ourselves why he thinks this prospect should scare so many people. He can’t have been aiming the remark at Scottish Unionists because, quite frankly, there probably aren’t enough of them to greatly influence a UK-wide vote. So he must have been addressing English voters who, for some reason, are worried by the thought that Scotland might leave their precious Union.

There can surely be only two reasons for this. One is that these voters know that Scotland has been subsidising the UK for decades and they fear the economic consequences of losing that funding. However, given that the Scottish subsidy myth is alive and well in England, this seems an unlikely reason.

Which, I believe, leaves only BritNat pride. Cameron must be banking on the fact that the loss of Scotland would be such a blow to English pride that the mere thought of it will scare voters into supporting his call for a Remain vote.

In other words, nothing has really changed since the IndieRef. Scotland is still viewed as part of greater England and Cameron will say anything in order to persuade people to vote the way he wants. I don’t know about anyone else, but I find it impossible to trust a word he utters.


The EU Dilemma

Posted on June 4th, 2016

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

The arguments which are currently being passed off as a debate on the EU Referendum don’t seem to have captured the imagination of the general public the way the Scottish IndieRef did in Scotland. Perhaps that is because most of the claims from the opposing campaigns are repetitions of the same old scare stories we heard during the IndieRef. The Tories are so accustomed to keeping the general public afraid of change that their only tactic is to produce as many scare stories as they can, predicting financial disasters and job losses.

Even when there is a reasonably sensible debate, such as the LBC Radio discussion between Alex Salmond and Ian Duncan Smith, it is hard to take any of it seriously.

After a great deal of reflection, I have come to the conclusion that this is because of two major factors and I must acknowledge that it was IDS who helped me reach this conclusion. This is because, while listening to him speaking passionately and sincerely about the issues he has with the EU, I recalled how passionately and sincerely he used to speak about his desire to help the Disabled and Unemployed while simultaneously going out of his way to cause significant harm to these very people. In other words, I find it hard to believe anything this unpleasant character says and the same goes for most of his fellow Brexit campaigners. If they are for something, my immediate reaction is to be against it.

Of course, that is not a very sensible way to decide how to vote on anything but, as for the EU itself, I remain ambivalent and I think this goes for a great many people. There are undoubtedly some serious issues with the EU, such as the neo-liberal thinking which dominates the money men and which resulted in the quite shameful and appalling treatment of Greece.

The biggest problem with the debate is, though, that IDS and his fellow Brexit campaigners have some easy targets. The EU has made mistakes and has problems which the Brexiters have pounced on and use to enflame passions. They quote misleading financial figures about the UK’s contribution, they cite the treatment of Greece, and they bang on endlessly about immigration, thereby pandering to the inherent racism which seems to lie at the heart of BritNattery. All of these are easy for the Brexit mob to point to and don’t need much explanation for even the politically ill-informed, so IDS and his Brexit pals have some nice, juicy topics to use as campaign drivers.

When it comes to the Remain side, most people are fed up of the same old financial scare stories and long for someone to make the positive case for staying in the EU. It is a sad reflection that the best attempts at this have been by amateur bloggers online whose audience reach is relatively small. The politicians have largely struggled to make the positive case and even Alex Salmond didn’t make all that great a case during the LBC debate although that was largely due to IDS talking over him at every opportunity.

The difficulty in making a positive case is perhaps because the advantages of the EU are often less immediately visible to the general public and are rather intangible when placed against such emotive topics as immigration and the disastrous results of the single currency project as far as countries like Greece, Portugal, Italy and Spain are concerned. You can talk about the European peace that has remained intact since the end of the Second World War but that doesn’t mean much to many people except for the dwindling number who can still remember that dreadful war. You can mention workers’ rights and human rights but those are topics which many people do not consider important unless they are directly affected by the lack of them. Most voters know all about immigration and the Greek financial crisis because these are highlighted by the media but a great many are less aware of the rights they stand to lose if there is a brexit vote and Boris Johnson gets his way.

So I’m still not convinced of the positive case for remaining but there are some things I am pretty certain about. One is that, as with the Scottish IndieRef, all the dire warnings about the financial impact, whichever side is predicting disaster, should be ignored. Nobody knows what is going to happen whatever the outcome of the result. Let’s face it, the OBR can’t even forecast the UK’s Deficit figures six months ahead so there is no way they can predict anything with any certainty covering the next decade or so.

I’m also pretty certain that the right to travel and work anywhere in the EU is a good thing. The fact that this results in net immigration to the UK should not be regarded as too serious a threat since study after study has shown that immigrants, by and large, bring more benefit to the UK than they place a burden.

Trade is another good reason to stay. The EU’s single market may no longer be the UK’s largest export market but that doesn’t mean we should make things more difficult for our exporters, nor that we should place barriers in the way of those seeking to import many of the goods the British public have come to expect to see in their shops.

But what about the serious problems with the EU which we cannot ignore? Are they really serious enough to make leaving a genuine solution? Well, let’s take a look at some of them.

Immigration is the big bugbear of the xenophobes. You only need to watch BBC Question Time for a few minutes on any given week to recognise this. Personally, I’ve never disliked anybody solely because of their ethnic origin. Yes, I’ve come across some Asian people I dislike, just as I’ve come across some African, American and European people I dislike and a not insignificant number of Scots I dislike but, on the whole, I’ve found most people are pretty decent when it comes down to it, no matter where they come from. I refuse to hate someone based on their ethnic origin, so the xenophobic claims of the UKIP crowd leave me cold. As for the impact of immigration, I’ve already mentioned that most serious investigations show that the majority of immigrants contribute to our society and help boost the economy, so there really isn’t an economic argument against immigration, only a racist one.

As for the issue of Greece, I deplore the behaviour of the EU financial entities but they can’t pull the same stunt with the UK because the UK does not use the Euro. Greece’s economy simply wasn’t compatible with the single currency regime and the country’s population is now being punished for its previous Government’s errors. It is shocking and depressing what has been done to Greece but it can’t happen to the UK. That, I admit, smacks of an “I’m All Right, Jack" attitude and it can certainly be argued that voting to leave the EU because of the treatment of Greece would be morally justified. However, in practical terms, the UK leaving the EU won’t help Greece either. And if we are debating the merits of the EU in so far as they impact on the UK, then Greece and the appalling treatment that country continues to suffer under is not a material concern.

Another complaint by Brexit is that the UK pays money to the EU which it could spend on domestic things such as the Health Service. This is a rather strange argument when you examine it more closely. Every country pays into the EU. It’s like your golf club or gym membership. You pay in and you get certain rights in return but you don’t expect to make a profit. I would certainly prefer that there were more rigid controls over EU bureaucratic expenditure because too many people are on that particular gravy train but for Westminster politicians to use the UK’s contribution as a reason to leave the EU is very much a case of pot, kettle and black. I don’t for one minute think the saving in a contribution payment would benefit the NHS. You only need to look at how the Tories are slashing public expenditure to know our public sector wouldn’t see a penny of that money.

For anyone claiming to be a democrat, the undemocratic nature of the EU is one of the hardest criticisms to argue against. What is odd is that politicians who remain in favour of the unelected House of Lords in the UK are unhappy at the European Commission not being directly elected. Putting that aside, it is worth bearing in mind that the Commission needs to have laws ratified by the European Parliament which is elected. Part of our problem here is that, for some reason, the UK electorate has never really taken the EU Parliament all that seriously. How many of us know the name of our MEP?

Another issue for many of us is that the EU is so large that we feel remote from the decision making process which can appear faceless and bureaucratic and it is no wonder many of us feel helpless when confronted by rules and regulations we find irksome but had no idea were even being discussed, let alone brought into force. That, though, is a feature of the general lack of interest within the UK in what happens in the European Parliament. We tend to react to new EU laws only once they have come into force.

Speaking of EU legislation, Brexit claim that around 60% of our laws are imposed on us by the EU but, as Salmond pointed out in the LBC debate, this figure actually falls to around 13% when you take Westminster Statutory Instruments into account, these being documents by which the Government can pass laws without the inconvenience of having them debated in the House of Commons.

As for the EU laws themselves, the vast majority of these are in the areas of trade and social rights. Things like uniformity of safety standards on electrical equipment, roaming charges on mobile phones and Equality Rights stem from the EU.

AS an example of a proposed new law, the EU wants to set targets for a significant reduction in the number of deaths caused by air pollution. That sounds like a pretty good idea to me. However, it appears the proposals are to be watered down when the law is presented to the European Parliament because one country in particular has been lobbying to have the targets set at a lower level. Guess which country that is? Yep, it’s the UK, the same country that tells its citizens the EU imposes ludicrous red tape on us is happy for more of its citizens to die from air pollution because achieving the targets might be an inconvenience for British businesses. But in terms of the EU Referendum, air pollution is a silent and invisible killer, certainly less visible than the faces of the immigrants we are being told are at the root of our problems so , once again, the positive case for remaining in the EU to benefit from such socially progressive laws will not feature in any debate.

It must be admitted that there are some European directives which might seem unfair but, on the whole, they are not as bad as portrayed by the Brexiters.

So, as far as democracy within the EU goes, I’d like to see more of that and less money spent on wasteful bureaucracy but I’m not yet convinced that the current arrangement is grounds for walking out in a huff.

TTIP, that really scary treaty which masquerades as a trade deal, is perhaps the greatest single reason to disapprove of the EU but thinking Brexit will save us from its consequences is a mistake. Westminster panders to big business and would inevitably sign a TTIP-like deal with the USA at the drop of a hat.

So where does this leave us? Making a decision on how to vote based on the information we are being given is not an easy proposition. The positive case for staying remains rather woolly while the clamours for leaving are often proclaimed by politicians whose general views I find distasteful. That said, there certainly are some valid reasons for voting to leave and I’m sure many of my friends will do so and, quite frankly, it is difficult to argue against some of the concerns, the immigration question excepted.

Sadly, I suspect it could boil down to one’s outlook on life when it comes to deciding where to place that cross on Polling Day. If you are someone who looks outward, with an international perspective, knowing that it is possible to be immensely proud of your own nation but still recognise that people in other countries are not that much different to us even if they speak a different language or have a different colour of skin, then you will be of a like mind with a great many Scots who have always been keen on exploration, travel and trade. You might not like some of the more autocratic aspects of the EU but you will probably not feel as threatened by it as someone who is inclined to be isolationist, inward-looking and fearful of foreigners. That’s a fairly sweeping generalisation, I know, and not how I usually prefer to decide how to vote, but I think it lies at the heart of how many people will vote when it boils down to it.

Which leads me to another fairly minor but rather irritating point. During the LBC radio debate, the show’s presenter, Iain Dale, made a passing comment when the Scottish IndieRef was mentioned. His view, unremarked by either participant in the debate, was that the EURef was a larger issue than the IndieRef. Now, I know I am biased about this but it struck me that a vote which would have resulted in the breakup of a highly-integrated political union which has lasted more than three hundred years and which would have seen the creation of not just one but effectively two new nation states is perhaps more important than the withdrawal of one country from a largely economic trading block of which it has been a member for a little over forty years.

Perhaps what Iain Dale meant was that there are more people eligible to vote in the EURef but I didn’t gain the impression that was what he was implying. It seemed to me that he thought the EURef was more important because it affected his London audience more than Scotland leaving the UK would have done. Perhaps I am wrong and was simply being overly sensitive about a dismissive comment by a London-based media presenter but, for me, it was symptomatic of the self-centred, inward-looking view which seems to dominate in the London bubble, a view which goes a long way to explaining the appeal of Brexit for many people in the South East of England.

So, on balance, I’m still for remaining part of the EU, even if I might need to hold my nose as I put my cross in that box. And you never know, it might result in the ideal outcome for pro-Indie Scots because if England votes narrowly to leave but Scotland votes to remain and the Scottish votes edge the overall result in favour of remaining, you can be pretty sure Westminster will soon come up with a plan for Scotland to become independent. That would put the final nail in Gordon Brown’s claim that Westminster wanted Scotland to lead the UK, not leave it. If Scotland leads the UK to remain while England wanted out, they’ll want shot of us as soon as they can. It’s an unlikely scenario given the disparity in the number of eligible voters but we can always dream.


Terribly, Terribly, Boring & Dull

Posted on June 1st, 2016

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

When is anything interesting going to happen in politics? Recently, it’s all been pretty drab and boring. We haven’t even had any ludicrous claims from Scottish Labour apart from a call for the SNP to give up being bad and to join a progressive alliance with Labour; the Party which spends its time attacking everything the SNP say or do.

Other than that, we’ve had petty arguments over the Named Persons’ legislation which seem more concerned with scoring political points than attempting to build a social care system which will protect children.

And then there is the Tory civil war which manifests itself as two versions of Project Fear masquerading as the EU Referendum debate.

Am I the only one who can’t raise much enthusiasm for any of this? It’s not that I’m losing interest in politics, it’s just that the whole thing seems rather petty and pathetic. The only matter of any real interest is the Tory Election Fraud investigations which the BBC are doing their best to downplay which is a scandal in itself.

Let’s hope we get some proper debating points soon but, quite frankly, I’m not holding out much hope.


What The Papers Aren't Saying

Posted on May 26th, 2016

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

The UK media does a fine job of self censorship. In the past few days we’ve heard all about one Labour MP’s possible election Fraud but the news that at least a dozen Tory MPs are being actively investigated by the Police has been kept rather quiet. Odd, that, don’t you think? Then, when a well known source of anti-Tory information went on twitter to claim that he had access to a much bigger Tory Election fraud story which had the potential to bring down the Government,and this news would break very soon, he mysteriously went very quiet. Of course, he could have been inventing the story but those who like conspiracy theories are already claiming he has been silenced in some way – hopefully just his online access, not personally. But if the story really is that big, why are no media outlets on the case?

Then Scotland was regaled with the news that oil revenues fell to their lowest ever last year. This is hardly surprising given the fall in the price of oil and the additional investment and exploration money being spent in the North Sea, so it’s probably not a shock to anyone. What it did do, though, was allow the “Too Wee, Too Poor" crowd to gloat about how pathetic their country is while conveniently overshadowing the fact that the price of oil has been steadily recovering and has broken the $50 per barrel mark, just as experts predicted it would.

And, finally, we have discovered that the Office of National Statistics has confirmed that the UK has the third highest level of poverty in the EU although, so far, most news agencies don’t seem in much of a rush to report this. For a country that is always boasting about the wealth of its economy and being on the Road to Recovery after the big crash which was, let’s not forget, nearly eight years ago, that’s a pretty damning statistic. Mind you, we were told that we would be on a par with Greece after the IndieRef, so that’s one prediction that has come true. You’d think the media would be crowing about that, wouldn’t you?

Never mind, I’m sure we’ll soon be regaled with lots of photographs of Royal children. That ought to keep the poverty-stricken masses happy.


Flawed System

Posted on May 16th, 2016

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

We all know that the UK Establishment, actively supported by the bulk of the mainstream media, has long vilified Benefits claimants or, as those of us who are old enough to remember used to call them, people reliant on Social Security.

Part of the reason this mindset has widespread popular support is that many young people who have been lucky enough to obtain full time employment experience jealous anger when they see some of their contemporaries living on Benefits and earning almost as much as they are themselves. When you are slogging your guts out in a demanding job and earning the minimum wage, it is natural that you should feel aggrieved at people who, on the face of it, can’t be bothered to earn a living for themselves and instead live off your taxes.

This is an emotion most of us have experienced at some time in our lives and, indeed, it is often difficult to justify why some people should enjoy any of the comforts of modern living when they apparently have no intentions of contributing to society. Let’s face it, most of us have come across people like that.

The problem with this sort of attitude is that it ignores some wider social issues. For one thing, the majority of people who claim Benefits would rather be in meaningful, well paid employment; it’s just that the media highlights those who they deem scroungers.

Secondly, and very importantly, the gap between the incomes of those who are working and those who rely on Social Security is narrow not because Benefit payments are so high but because income from employment is generally so low. So low, in fact, that a great many people who are in full time employment still need to claim Benefits in order to keep their families at even a fairly modest standard of living. This is a shocking indictment of Westminster policies which, despite the continuing claims of aspirations to “Make Work Pay", instead seem to concentrate most of their efforts on reducing Social Security payments rather than raising incomes to more than a basic subsistence level.

This is the worst feature of the UK employment model. Corporations are pandered to and encouraged by the tax regime and the profit motive to keep wages low. They get away with this because of the low level of the minimum wage and the reluctance of Westminster to enact any legislation which will seriously impact on profits. Even the recent modest increase in the minimum wage has seen some employers make people redundant, citing the minimum wage as the reason. All this does, of course, is pass a further burden onto the State which, because Corporations so often avoid paying tax, means that the majority of working people bear the brunt of the cost through their own taxes.

What no UK Government wishes to acknowledge is that this model is not working. This is because the alternative, compelling employers to pay much higher wages and accept lower profits as well as paying all their taxes, is unpalatable to big business, which means it is unpalatable to Westminster MPs because it is big business which makes the largest Party donations.

Yet, if people were able to earn more, they would pay more income tax. Higher earnings would give individuals more spending power which would boost the economy, and would also reduce the need for the State to top up earnings with the various Tax Credit schemes. As far as the Government was concerned, the combination of higher tax receipts and lower Tax Credit payments would also reduce the burden on the State. It would also mean that those who still rely on Social Security would be earning less than those in work while still being awarded enough to maintain a reasonable standard of living.

But this model is never going to become a reality as long as the neo-liberal consensus governs the minds of those in power. Instead, they know that the working people must be kept divided and this is why those on benefits are so often vilified in the Press. It is classic Divide and Rule.

The other major social factor to bear in mind is that any civilised society ought to have some system in place to help those who, for one reason or another, are unable to help themselves. People doo have disabilities and need extra help; some people become too ill to work; some lose their jobs through no fault of their own; some young people need to leave home or are left destitute for a variety of reasons. If something like that happened to you, wouldn’t you want the State to help you? Of course you would.

So why hate people who are in that situation? Because any system is open to some abuse and, humans being what they are, there will always be some who are able to take advantage. Look, for example, at MPs’ Expenses. The system was abused and only refined when it became public knowledge yet MPs’ Expenses claims are now running at a higher level than they were when the scandal broke.

Look at Offshore Tax Havens and how the rich elite are avoiding tax through these legal but immoral loopholes in the system. Yet we simply shrug and accept this as normal while we take out our frustrations on the people next door who are apparently living off the State while we are working hard to keep food on the table and a roof over our families’ heads.

There isn’t an easy answer to this and certainly no quick fix. It requires a major shift in public awareness and attitudes and this will be almost impossible to achieve while the Right Wing consensus remains in charge at Westminster and the media reflects a Right Wing viewpoint. That doesn’t mean we should give up, only that the argument needs to be made often and clearly. What we need to aim for is a society where we are not jealous of people who rely on Social Security but are thankful that the State is there to help anyone who is in need. If that means putting up with a few individuals who exploit the system, it is still far better than seeing the poor banished to workhouses or left in the streets to starve.


Taking Sides

Posted on May 13th, 2016

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

As with the EURef, it might be worth taking a look at the protagonists on either side of the Named Person’s arguments to see who it is you are siding with.

So, against the legislation are the BBC, the Daily Mail, the Daily Express, the Telegraph, the Scotsman, the Herald, and Unionist politicians who were originally in favour but decided to speak out against it when they saw a chance to score political points during the election campaign.

Those in favour of the legislation include most Children’s Charities, the majority of people who work in childcare and education, and many children who have experienced the benefits in the four regions where the scheme has been trialed.

Looking at it that way, I know which side I’d prefer to be on.


Told You So

Posted on May 12th, 2016

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

When IDS resigned and Stephen Crabb took over at the DWP, he said he had no plans for further cuts to Disability Benefits. This site warned at the time that a Tory saying he or she has no plans to do something almost inevitably means that he or she has plans but knows they need to be delayed for a while.

Sadly, it seems the warning was appropriate because Stephen Crabb has told the Work & Pensions Select Committee that he will be publishing details later this year on how to make further cuts to spending on Disability Benefits because he doesn’t think the reforms already announced go far enough.

I hate saying, “I told you so" but what else is there to say?


Say It Again

Posted on May 9th, 2016

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

So all those pollsters and seat predictors got it wrong. The SNP did not gain a majority in Holyrood. Whether you think that’s a good or bad thing, it shows that you can’t rely on polls.

The constant repetition that the SNP were on track to take all constituency seats and therefore didn’t need Regional List votes may have induced some voters to switch their List vote but it is equally possible that the ludicrous refrain of “One Party State" had a bearing on the matter. What these show is that constant repetition of any statement, however loosely based on fact, can result in it seeping into the social consciousness.

The mainstream media is still at it, telling us that the Ruth Party are not really Tories but that, nevertheless, the Tories have revived in Scotland. Neither of these statements stand up well to scrutiny but that isn’t stopping the media pushing them for all they are worth. That’s because they know a great many people will believe them simply because they are repeated so often. That’s why we need the alternative media and why we need to persuade more people to stop relying on the mainstream for their information.


A Mixed Bag

Posted on May 6th, 2016

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

Everyone is putting forward their initial reaction to the result of the Holyrood election so here’s my contribution.

So far, the media headlines concerning the Holyrood Election begin with phrases like “SNP fail" and “Tory Revival". No doubt this will continue for some time but there is, when you look at the results, a more nuanced appraisal required. No doubt various statistics will be quoted by all the Parties but a few things stand out.

First the good news. UKIP did not earn a seat. Hooray! The Greens increased their presence and Scottish Labour have turned into a rump Party.

One odd feature is the survival of the Lib Dems. It seems some voters don’t mind being represented by a Party with a proven track record of lying and also of facilitating Tory rule in Westminster. Odd, but that’s democracy for you.

The not so good news for those of us who want Scotland to become a normal country is that the SNP did not reach the magic 65 seats required for a majority despite gaining around 156,000 more votes than they did in 2011 and earning more votes than both Labour and Conservatives combined in both Constituency and Regional votes. This, of course, is a feature of the voting system which is specifically designed to prevent any one Party gaining a majority. The fact that the SNP managed it last time was a bit of a fluke but they still came within two seats of repeating the virtually impossible. However, the system worked as intended and the SNP now face the issue of how to proceed in Government; either as a minority, in coalition, or in some sort of Confidence & Supply arrangement.

The greens are the obvious choice for any coalition or informal alliance. Many on the Yes side are consoling themselves that the overall pro-Indie majority is now slightly greater than it was before the election but there are a couple of issues surrounding that view.

First of all, the greens, while supporting Indie in principle, are not as keen on holding a referendum as the SNP. It is conceivable that even a brexit in the EURef might not be sufficient to prompt the Greens to support a call for another IndieRef. There is also the issue that the Tory Westminster Government will regard the lack of an SNP majority as a reason to ignore calls for another IndieRef because, in the Unionist mindset, the Yes movement is entirely concentrated in the SNP and they will claim that Scotland does not support independence because the SNP failed to gain a majority despite the system being rigged to prevent them doing so.

The other issue is more complex and could go several ways. One thing the Greens may well be able to do is exert influence on the SNP on issues like Land Reform, Fracking, Renewable Energy and Council Tax Reform. On all of these, the SNP have been fairly cautious and many of their own members might welcome a more radical stance for which the greens can take the blame if things go wrong and both Parties can try to take the credit if they work.

The problem which might arise is that these more radical policies which the Greens will undoubtedly push for could harden the attitude of the Right Wing voters if they see Scotland diverging even further from UK policies. That stance is hard enough already as yesterday’s vote confirms. It seems that many voters are prepared to support the Conservatives simply in order to continue waving the Union flag and are quite prepared to put up with the policies Ruth Davidson never wants to talk about, like charging for prescriptions, charging students for university tuition, privatising the NHS, cutting Scotland’s budget, refusing to help Scottish industries like steel and shipbuilding, cutting social security benefits, closing down public services, allowing fracking, overseeing a proliferation of food banks, vilifying the Disabled and Unemployed, refusing to aid refugees from warzones where the UK has been involved in bombing their homes, pandering to tax evading Corporations and making the wealthy 1% of the population even richer at the expense of everyone else.

Now, I can understand why someone who is relatively well off thanks to having prospered under the current UK social model would want to preserve that model and would therefore vote Conservative. You may regard that attitude as selfish and greedy but most people look out for themselves first so, while it might be distasteful to some of us, the attitude is at least understandable. What is harder to empathise with is the attitude of the hardline Unionists who seem to have voted solely in order to prevent another IndieRef, irrespective of the consequences. The expression about turkeys and Christmas springs to mind.

Fortunately, though, the Conservatives are not in power in Scotland so we don’t need to face the double whammy of both Westminster and Holyrood attempting to slash public spending. It may be more difficult for the SNP to get every Bill passed but, with cooperation from the Greens, we will hopefully continue to see policies which help mitigate the worst excesses of Westminster cuts. The chance of another IndieRef is virtually gone now so the best we can hope for is another five years of pretty decent government. Despite the claims of the hostile media, the SNP have done a fairly decent job in many areas, especially in improvements to infrastructure such as the Borders railway and the new Forth crossing. Scotland’s NHS is the best performing in the UK and continues to be exempt from the wholesale privatisation in England & Wales, not to mention the Junior Doctors’ strike action which continues south of the Border. Failing shipyards and steelworks have been saved, the worst impact of the Bedroom Tax has been offset and there are advances in childcare provision which should help more women return to work. The SNP are not perfect and they have misjudged a couple of things but no Government is perfect so I’m not going to get too hung up about that, especially because they have accomplished these things despite massive cuts to the Block Grant which Westminster graciously allows us. In general, their policies have been designed to aid the majority, especially the less well off, while not overly upsetting the better off.

As to where we go now, time will tell. It is apparent that the constitutional issue is paramount. That’s down to the Unionist Parties, especially the Tories, who have not stopped banging on about another IndieRef and the need to prevent it. That call has clearly been heeded by some voters. As I mentioned, more radical policies over the next five years, spurred on by the greens, might make the case for Indie even more difficult as the Unionist support digs in against more Left Wing policies.

On the other hand, Ruth Davidson will now lead the main Opposition and this will allow Nicola Sturgeon to highlight the Tory policies which are designed to wreck the universal social benefits the SNP have already introduced. Ruth Davidson, for all that the media love her, isn’t all that impressive when put under pressure on these sorts of issues and some voters may begin to see the reality of Tory rule.

Another interesting feature is how the BBC and STV will react now that the Greens have pushed the Lib Dems into fifth place. Will TV panels now be more balanced when it comes to the inevitable constitutional arguments? Instead of three Unionist MSPs shouting down one SNP MSP, will it be two v two? I suspect not because the TV companies, especially the BBC, have little interest in balance when it comes to the pro-Indie movement.

And, finally, what of Labour’s Scottish Branch Office? Labour, both at UK and Scottish levels don’t seem to have learned the lesson that you can’t out-Tory the Tories. They were used as stooges by better Together and they have suffered from losing pro-Indie supporters to the SNP and anti-Indie supporters to the Tories. They are, in effect, caught between the two and unable to appeal to either. Their only chance of revival would appear to be changing their entire stance and supporting the case for independence. That might regain them some support but trying to be more Unionist than the Tories simply isn’t going to work. But, of course, Scottish Labour won’t change tack because they are controlled by UK Labour who are staunchly Unionist. In a Scotland where the constitutional issue dominates, that has doomed them.

So it’s been quite an election and we now face an interesting future. What was all that we used to hear about Uncertainty?


Eyes On The Prize

Posted on May 2nd, 2016

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

At the weekend, I tweeted that the chances of a second IndieRef rest on the SNP gaining a majority in Holyrood once again and that, whatever people’s political affiliations, it would be better not to take the risk of them not achieving that allegedly impossible feat for the second time. This Tweet evoked a fair bit of response and two things were mentioned by people who were having second thoughts about supporting the SNP.

The first came from a fairly lengthy exchange of Tweets from people who object to the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act; the second was a complaint that Nicola Sturgeon had posed for a photograph in The sun, a newspaper which has rightly been excoriated for its appalling stance on the Hillsborough Disaster.

Both of these responses actually confirm the point I was trying to make. In the first place, it is everyone’s right to decide which Party to vote for based on that Party’s policies. If there is one policy you feel particularly strongly about, then you have every right not to vote for that Party. However, I challenge anyone to find a Party with which they agree on every point. Indeed, a Party which might have a different stance on the policy which concerns you might well have other policies you disagree with even more fundamentally. There is also the issue that what a Party says and what it does are not necessarily the same thing. Yes, I’m looking at you, Labour.

As for Nicola Sturgeon appearing in The Sun, that’s a move which is bound to upset some people. The Sun is an appalling newspaper but, much as I would not blame the SNP for refusing to have anything to do with any of the mainstream newspapers or the BBC in view of the constant stream of anti-Scottish and anti-SNP propaganda these outlets constantly churn out, we should not forget that the SNP politicians are just that – politicians. As the estimable David Halliday pointed out on Twitter, politics is the art of persuading people round to your point of view. It is hard enough for the SNP to get their message across against the outrageous media bias but to cut off all contact with media outlets is clearly a step they regard as being one too far. I was at a public meeting once where Nicola Sturgeon was speaking and, when asked about the media, she said that it was what it was and she would have to deal with it, much as she wished it might be otherwise. She obviously hasn’t changed her mind on that. IN her place, I might well let my temper get the better of me and refuse to have anything to do with the rags which pose as purveyors of news in the UK but can you imagine how the already hostile media would react to that sort of stance? The SNP have clearly decided that they need to play the politics game and maintain contact with the media, even though that decision has upset some people. But, if your job is to persuade people to come round to your way of thinking, refusing to speak to them probably isn’t the best way to go about it, no matter how much personal satisfaction it might give you to tell them where to go.

But, to return to my main point. If you support Scottish Independence, the reality of the matter is that the SNP represents our only real choice on Thursday. Refusing to vote for them because you are annoyed about a particular policy or a specific interaction with the media isn’t going to help the Yes movement because the Unionist Parties have all nailed their colours to the Union Flag mast and declared that, whatever the wishes of the people of Scotland, they won’t allow a second IndieRef. This is particularly important when a recent Opinion Poll has suggested that Yes now has a lead in the event that a second IndieRef were to be held soon. Because the reality is that, without a majority, the SNP cannot push through a referendum at all. Putting aside the important constitutional issue that Westminster may well refuse to allow another IndieRef, the Scottish Unionists have made it plain that they would ignore the wishes of the scottish people and would kill the chances stone dead if they can. The only way to avoid this is for the SNP to repeat their astonishing success in gaining a majority of Holyrood seats.

To those who say that they would prefer a wider pro-Yes Parliament and intend voting for the greens, I would point out that, while the Greens have said they would support a Yes vote in a second IndieRef, they have been very ambivalent about whether they would support the call for an actual referendum. It’s an odd stance but that seems to be their official position.

As always in Scottish politics, the Holyrood vote is influenced by the IndieRef question. It boils down to whether you think obtaining independence is the priority or whether you’d rather see a more diverse Parliament. If you want the latter, that is your choice but don’t forget that a more diverse Parliament may well kill off any chances of having another IndieRef.

For me, Independence is the priority. Once we have that, I’m all for changing the voting system to a fully proportional one so that a majority Government is even less likely than it is under the current system. I’d like to see the greens have more seats and I’d like to see some effective opposition from the other Parties who, once the question of independence is off the agenda because we have achieved it, might actually begin to free themselves from the shackles of their Westminster overlords and concentrate on issues which directly affect Scotland.

But we don’t have that yet and we might never get it unless we demonstrate, through our votes, that we support the SNP’s primary objective of obtaining independence and becoming a normal country.

So, to those who are having second thoughts about supporting the SNP because of a single policy or a single newspaper photograph, I’d say again – be sure that is your priority because you might well lose the bigger prize.


Our Imperial Past

Posted on April 25th, 2016

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

You expect Nigel Farage to make outrageously racist comments but he’s far from the only prominent UK politician to do so. Boris Johnson has rightly been castigated for claiming that Barak Obama’s anti-Brexit comments are inspired by his part-Kenyan ancestry. Not only is this comment typical of the BritNat belief that race lies at the heart of most issues, it reveals something which the media has, so far as I know, not mentioned.

Because Boris Johnson has, in the past, acclaimed the achievements and legacy of the British Empire. But his remark about Kenya shows that he must know that the British Empire was not a benevolent ruler. If it had been, why on earth would he think that someone of Kenyan ancestry would feel any bitterness towards the UK? If the British Empire had been such a good thing, wouldn’t Boris believe that Kenyans must feel some attachment to the UK? To use Kenyan ancestry as a reason for antipathy shows that Boris Johnson must know how brutal the British were when in control of Kenya. Concentration camps, executions and torture were part and parcel of colonial rule. These things don’t normally feature in BritNat thinking so it’s nice to see that, even obliquely, Boris Johnson has acknowledged the deliberate harm the British Empire caused in its colonies.

I don’t for one moment think that President Obama was influenced by his ancestry when making his comments. His primary aim is to ensure that US Corporations retain their hegemony over the EU through deals like TTIP, and scoring points based on ethnic backgrounds was probably the last thing on his mind. Sadly, the same cannot be said for Little Englanders like Boris Johnson for whom ethnicity is central to their belief system. Whatever you think of Obama’s intervention, we should be grateful that it prompted Boris Johnson to show his true colours and also to tacitly acknowledge the harm the British Empire did to its colonial subjects.


Job Security

Posted on April 23rd, 2016

By Wee Hamish

I don’t recall anyone saying all jobs would be safe if Scotland had become an independent country. I do recall Better Together telling us that jobs would only be safe if we stayed in the UK.

Vote NO, they said, to protect jobs in the north Sea Oil industry if the price of oil falls, because only the broad shoulders of the UK can protect these jobs.

Vote NO, they said, to save jobs in HMRC offices in Scotland.

Vote No, they said, to protect Scottish Renewables which are subsidised by the generosity of Westminster.

Vote NO, they said, to protect jobs at the Peterhead Carbon Capture Project.

Vote No, they said, to protect jobs in Scotland’s steel factories.

Vote No, they said, to protect jobs in Scottish shipyards.

How many more lies need to be revealed before a majority of Scots wake up to the contempt Westminster holds us in? Before the IndieRef, Wings Over Scotland warned Scotland would be punished if we voted No. Looks like that prediction was correct.


Don't Vote For Us

Posted on April 21st, 2016

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

There is much muttering on social media that the SNP are somehow being unfair by campaigning for voters to give them both votes in the Holyrood elections, as if this is some sort of betrayal of the wider Yes campaign which arose during the IndieRef. Some people seem to think that the SNP should be happy for voters to give their Regional List vote to another pro-Indie Party such as The Greens. I have yet to hear anyone call for Green supporters to give their Regional List vote to the SNP because that would give Scotland its best chance of holding a second IndieRef but this goes to demonstrate how much the “One Party State" lie has infiltrated the public consciousness. Even people who did not bat an eyelid when Labour held a majority of Westminster seats and were able to form coalition Governments in Holyrood now seem to be questioning the SNP’s right to have a majority in Holyrood as if the public who voted in the SNP despite the system being rigged to prevent a majority Government have somehow got it wrong.

The important thing to remember is that the SNP is not the Yes campaign. They are its effective political arm but they are a political party, just like any other. They want to be in Government and will use all the same political ploys to achieve that aim. They just do it better than the other parties and, for all their faults, they do manage to deliver policies which, by and large, many people approve of. With the other Parties having lurched ever further towards the extreme Right Wing, the SNP, who are far from a Left Wing Party, have nevertheless managed to portray themselves as more socialist than the other main parties with the exception of The Greens who haven’t yet been able to garner a large support across the country. Given Scotland’s disillusionment with the Tories and Labour, the SNP are making the most of the current situation. Their desire for political dominance may not please some on the Yes side but we must recognise that the SNP are pragmatic politicians and, as far as I can recall, no political Party has ever gone into an election with the slogan, “Please Don’t Vote For Us!".


Disability Hustings

Posted on April 20th, 2016

By Blind Pew

I was lucky enough to attend a Hustings event hosted by Disability Agenda Scotland the other day. The audience comprised disabled voters from six different Disability Charities, plus their guides and carers, along with representatives from the six charities represented by DAS.

The panel was composed of five politicians from the main parties. These were Jamie Hepburn, SNP; Zara Kitson, Greens; Robert Brown, Liberal Democrats; Michael Shanks, Labour; Graeme Brooks, conservatives.

The main thing that struck me about the event was the cross-Party agreement on almost every matter. There was sympathetic understanding and a general commitment to helping the Disabled from all panel members and there were also some excellent suggestions for how things could perhaps be improved, especially from Zara Kitson of the Greens. There was very little Party political axe-grinding although Robert Brown of the Lib Dems did manage to slip in a mention of State Guardians in his opening remark when he briefly touched on the Named Persons legislation and Michael Shanks of Scottish Labour plugged the 1p tax increase several times, while Jamie Hepburn reminded the audience of measures the Scottish Government have already taken to help Disabled people. Other than that, it was refreshing to see that four of the five panel members used the term, “Social Security" rather than “Welfare Benefits" and agreed that the current system is grossly unfair to the Disabled. As you would expect, the one exception was Graeme Brooks of the Conservatives who insisted that making cuts to Social Security payments was not the UK Government’s main aim but that the Tory Welfare reform was aimed at getting people out of their beds and into work. As if this wasn’t enough to anger people who often struggle physically to get out of bed, he also managed to outrage most of the audience with some bizarre comments that it was Westminster democracy which prevented George Osborne’s budget attempt to impose further cuts and that this wonderful example of democracy was far better than the alternative which, in his mind, would be gangs of people roaming the streets armed with guns. For me, the most worrying thing was that he seemed absolutely sincere in his views. Quite how he squares his professed attachment to Christianity with the actions of the Tory Government is, I confess, beyond me. That apart, though, the discussion was generally positive from all panel members.

The other main feature was the universal anger and sense of helpless betrayal felt by the majority of the audience. The cuts, the move from DLA to PIP and the closure of many lifeline services and centres were of great concern, as was the low pay available to most workers in the care sector and the derisory sums paid via the Carer’s Allowance. Employment was also a major concern, with a general acknowledgement that Disabled people still face considerable issues, not to mention discrimination, when trying to get into work.

The panel were in general agreement that the current system is failing Disabled people but, while it was nice to know that these politicians were listening seriously to the grievances, the one big problem that was often alluded to but rarely discussed in any detail, was the serious funding issue. Of course, this was a Disability Hustings and a detailed discussion on the economic situation would not have been appropriate but the ideas and ambitions of each Party (apart from the Tories) were, unfortunately, all doomed to be hampered by the cuts to Scotland’s budget. Even Labour’s much-vaunted tax increase will not necessarily affect this since they seem to have allocated the estimated increased revenue to cover an awful lot of things and Disability Benefits will inevitably be in competition for whatever money such a system might raise.

This was an interesting and worthwhile event and all the panellists, with one exception, spoke well and were clearly well-intentioned. Hopefully, whichever Party is in power after the Holyrood elections will organise some sort of cross-Party support for further measures to mitigate the effect of the Tory policies which deliberately discriminate against the Disabled. It is a shocking indictment of those policies that the other Parties recognise the need to do something about them but, sadly, unless there is a reversal of the crippling Austerity Economics pursued by Westminster, it seems Scotland is doomed to fight an ongoing battle against these cuts. What was good to know is that, with the exception of the Tories, the other Parties professed a desire to try to do something to alleviate the many difficulties faced by Disabled people. Let’s hope that consensus view has a chance to blossom in the next Holyrood Parliament and the current Opposition Parties turn their fine words into deeds.


Lies, Damned Lies & ...

Posted on April 15th, 2016

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

Today saw the release of some very concerning statistics about life in the UK.

First was the announcement from the Trussell Trust that the use of Food Banks had increased by 2% during 2015, bringing levels to an all time high. That’s bad enough but the figures for Scotland were even more alarming, with a whopping 13% increase in Food Bank usage. Perhaps that is part of that Better Together Union Dividend we were told so much about in 2014.

As if this sad indictment of UK social policies wasn’t dreadful in its own right, I was appalled to hear a lady from the Trussell Trust being interviewed and almost bending over backwards in her attempts not to plame the Tory Government’s Austerity and Benefits Sanctions regime for the ever increasing reliance on Food Banks. Her evasive platitudes about the need for dialogue with Government and perhaps some minor tweaking of systems was quite bizarre. At first, I thought the lady might be an avid Tory herself, a conclusion which didn’t make much sense seeing as she was obviously concerned at the harrowing circumstances which force people to use Food Banks and, equally obviously, she knew the root causes of the upsurge. Then it occurred to me that she would need to be careful what she said because the UK Government has already made it clear that they will cut funding to any charity which is critical of their policies. That’s the sort of Government we elected, folks. Or, rather, the sort of Government we didn’t elect but got saddled with anyway thanks to the result of the IndieRef.

In a further demonstration of British Values, the other snippet of information was that UK Graduates from ethnic minorities are two and a half times more likely to be unemployed than their White counterparts. Following on from the announcement earlier in the week from The Guardian newspaper that, of the ten of its writers who receive the most abuse via Readers’ Comments, eight are women and the two men are black, this news is yet more confirmation of the endemic racism at the heart of British society. It is no wonder that UKIP and the xenophobic UK Press find such fertile ground when they spread their hate.

These statistics show the sad state of the UK today but the very worst thing is that, in all likelihood, the only reaction from the majority of people will be to shake their heads and tut at how deplorable things are, then carry on as if nothing had happened. Because another claim this week was that the voters in Scotland are far more engaged in politics than voters in the rest of the UK. Conditioned by decades (some would say centuries) of media propaganda, British voters seem content to put up with things like the Panama Papers, Food Bank usage, corrupt and lying politicians, rising inequality, low pay, etc., as long as they are fed a diet of Royal Family photo opportunities and episodes of Downton Abbey or Strictly Come Dancing.

What will it take to change this? In Scotland, the IndieRef made people far more politically active and engaged but it doesn’t look as if the EURef will have the same effect throughout the UK because, so far, all we have heard is the same old scare stories and Uncertainty alarms which many Scots have become inured to but which, judging by the comments from BBC Question Time audience members, still resonate with voters elsewhere.

It is all very depressing and, quite frankly, it’s on days like this that we could do with some genuine good news.


Don't Ask Questions

Posted on April 14th, 2016

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

It’s difficult to get excited about the Holyrood elections. Despite a relentless media campaign against the SNP, they look to be on track to gain another majority which, we should not forget, is supposed to be virtually impossible to achieve once, let alone twice. The only thing that seems likely to prevent this is voter apathy or a draining of votes to other Parties like the Greens or Rise.

Labour’s Scottish Branch Office seems doomed to be kept aloft only by their hardened core of voters and are largely irrelevant despite the BBC’s attempts to push their chances at almost every opportunity.

But what about the Tories? Will they really sneak into second place? They might because they have a better spin machine than Scottish Labour. I know that sounds daft when placed against the BBC’s support for Labour but the Ruth Davidson fan club in the media commentariat is pushing her for all it is worth.

But what does Ruth Davidson have to offer? Nothing much except more cuts to Scotland’ budget, flag-waving from a variety of militaristic vehicles and undying support for the Union. The media, of course, lap this up and we are constantly told that Ruth Davidson is very popular with voters. Nobody seems to question this by pointing to the leadership popularity polls which suggest she is only slightly more popular than Kezia Dugdale which, let’s face it, isn’t setting the bar very high. IN fact, Ruth Davidson is really only popular amongst older voters which is hardly surprising seeing as many of these people are those who find it impossible to shake off their lifelong allegiance to the Union.

As for Ruth’s policies, such as they are, the inherent anomaly at the very heart of their pro-Union stance has already been pointed out on social media but seems to have escaped the attention of the mainstream media. It is, quite simply, this: if the case for Scottish independence is dead, as Davidson claims, why is there a need to promote a case for the Union? Maybe a journalist will ask her one day but I’m not counting on it.


A Cynical Agenda?

Posted on April 8th, 2016

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

You can’t blame David Cameron for being rich.

You can’t blame him for his father being a tax-dodger.

You can’t really blame him for inheriting money in a manner that was tax efficient.

What you can blame him for his not amending the rules to prevent this sort of immoral tax avoidance being so widespread among the wealthy, not to mention among the world’s criminals.

And you can certainly blame him for not telling the truth when first asked and for continuing to prevaricate as much as possible.

There is, quite rightly, a lot of pressure on him just now, with many calling for his resignation. In a normal country, that might well happen but I suspect Dave will cling on. Besides, the alternative candidates for PM are too horrendous to contemplate. But Westminster operates by riding out storms, by delaying, by distracting and relying on the UK public not to make too much fuss.

Cameron’s problem, though, is that the media are jumping on the bandwagon and I have a cynical explanation for why even this arch-manipulator might be hounded out of office. The thing is that the data containing the details of who is involved in hiding money in tax havens is controlled by journalists. And those journalists work for news agencies which have agendas.

I have yet to see an explanation of why, with over 200 journalists working on this data for over a year, only a handful of prominent Western politicians and public figures have been named and even then only at one remove. Are we really to believe that there aren’t others?

It may be that data will be drip fed in order to prevent overload but that’s not usually how the media works and, when it does, it doesn’t normally take this long. Which suggests there is an agenda at work.

I may well be wrong on this but I expect George Osborne to come under the microscope next but I will be pleasantly surprised if any pro-Brexit MPs are named as being involved because, cynical as this may sound, most of the UK media is controlled by pro-Brexit tax-avoiding millionaires. This may be a convenient way for them to oust Cameron and Osborne and install their pet poodle, Boris Jognson, as PM.

Will the full truth ever come out? I doubt it. But this confirmation of what many of us have been saying about the UK for some time is yet another blow to the increasingly fragile UK. When the skeletons come out of the closet and start hanging the dirty laundry on the washing line, the public has two options. They can either shrug their shoulders and accept that the wealthy can do pretty much what they like or they can use their votes to get rid of untrustworthy politicians. Yet even that second choice is limited because Westminster is corrupt to the core. And we all know what Scotland’s solution to breaking free of that corruption is. Quite frankly, even if some of the scare stories we heard during the IndieRef were to come true, independence surely couldn’t be any worse than being governed by the self-serving hypocrites who rule the roost at Westminster.


Developing Story

Posted on April 4th, 2016

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

The Panama Papers are receiving the sort of response you’d expect from the UK media. They can’t hush it up entirely but are being very circumspect in making sure that most attention is directed at foreign politicians who are, of course, bad almost by definition.

It remains to be seen whether news will come out of any significant involvement on the part of US or UK politicians and public figures but it would not be entirely surprising if this was neatly swept under the carpet because, after all, the media is owned by the sort of people who might be using offshore tax havens to hide their own ill-gotten gains. I do hope I’m wrong but I suspect the media will either play down any stories through a self-imposed censorship policy or will have pressure applied from Establishment figures to ensure such stories reveal only the identities of a handful of expendable sacrificial scapegoats.

It may be that social media could disseminate any revelations but the problem is that the data is, so far at least, being controlled by media organisations and any information released will be at the discretion of journalists. Let’s hope there are enough of them who have the courage to publish the details.

Whether the full details come out or not, the whole episode merely confirms what we already knew; that the wealthy elite are stashing their money away while telling the rest of us that we need to tighten our belts because there is no money to spend on public services. IN a sense, they are right but at least we now know where all the money has gone. It certainly doesn’t seem to have been trickling down into the economy, does it?

It will be fascinating to see how this story develops or, as I fear, does not develop, over the next few days.


No Plans

Posted on March 29th, 2016

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

Some people might take comfort from the UK Government’s announcement that, following cancellation of the cuts to Disability Benefits which were revealed in George Osborne’s disastrous Budget, they have no plans to reintroduce these cuts at a later date.

But should we take this reassurance lightly? A quick Google search suggests we shouldn’t be too surprised if the cuts to PIP are soon back on the Tory agenda.

For example, the Tories had no plans to:-

cut child Benefit but did it anyway;

raise VAT but did it anyway;

sell off Channel 4 but now say they are considering it;

allow fracking in National Parks in England & Wales but passed legislation permitting this anyway;

privatise the NHS in England but are doing it by stealth anyway;

introduce extensive spending cuts if elected to Government and we all know how that has turned out;

cut Pensioners’ Winter Fuel Allowance then did it anyway;

impose a top-down reorganisation of the NHS in England but did it anyway.

Scrap Educational Maintenance Allowance, then did it anyway.

Now, politicians are often required to adapt their policies in light of changing circumstances but, with a track record like that, it seems the Tories adapt their policies more in line with when they think they can get away with something rather than when circumstances require a rethink. So, cynical as this may sound, don’t be too surprised if cuts to PIP payments reappear in a slightly amended form at some point in the next few months.


Here Comes The Sun

Posted on March 27th, 2016

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

Boris Johnson has been at it again, claiming the Scots are stealing daylight from the English because of our resistance to changing the current system of using Greenwich Mean Time during winter and British Summer Time during summer.

It’s becoming almost an annual event now, and there is little doubt that, sooner or later, the likes of Boris will have their way and we will move either to BST all year round or perhaps even Double British Summer Time, with BST applying during winter and BST +1 applying in summer.

What most of the people arguing for this don’t seem to recall is that there was an experiment with this in the late 1960s. Some of us can remember going to school in the dark, with fluorescent strips on our schoolbags and shining armbands on our coats. It was cold, dark and miserable and the experiment was abandoned after a couple of years.

The odd thing was that, overall within the UK, the increase in road deaths during the dark mornings was offset by a greater decrease in evening road deaths although this was complicated because it coincided with a change to drink drive laws so it was difficult to ascertain whether the evening decrease was entirely due to the lighter evenings.

It is a tricky call but there are a few solutions to it. First of all, it should be remembered that the actual hours of daylight don’t change – it is only the clocks that change. Scotland, being further north, really needs to stick to GMT / BST but if that changes, a simple solution would be for Local Authorities to amend school opening hours so that children continue to travel to and from school in daylight. That might also ease congestion on the roads if other commuters stuck to the traditional 9 to 5.

A more radical solution would be for Scotland to operate in a different time zone to the rest of the UK. NO doubt there would be some initial confusion, not to mention howls of outrage from BritNats at Scotland being different but let us not forget that countries all across the world operate in different time zones and manage it perfectly easily. Just look at the USA where several different time zones apply. It is accepted as normal, although that probably wouldn’t prevent the BritNats from claiming it would be impossible in Britain because we are incapable of managing without the time of day being dictated from London.

The other solution is for Westminster to impose the change across the UK and then sit back and watch the reaction in Scotland. I think this is my favourite one. You can just see the Grievance Meter going through the roof.

Not that this would stop Boris from pandering to the South East of England and imposing the change anyway. Sometimes I almost wish he really would become Prime Minister because he seems to be doing his best to put the final nails in the coffin of the failing Union.

Tick tock.


What It Takes

Posted on March 27th, 2016

By Wee Hamish

What does it take to block a financial programme which is intended to harm the Disabled people in our community?

Is it electing 56 (now officially 54) SNP MPs to oppose the plans in the House of Commons?

Is it setting up online petitions to demand the UK Government does not implement the changes?

Is it scores of Disabled people dying as a direct result of earlier cuts to their Social Security payments?

Is it dozens of newspaper articles highlighting the damaging effects of earlier cuts?

Is it social media campaigns highlighting the names of rich Tory MPs who voted for the cuts while trousering hundreds of thousands of pounds in Expenses claims?

Is it protests outside the House of Commons by Disabled people? Protests which were, incidentally, not broadcast to the nation because of Government censorship rules.

No, it is none of the above because they all happened and George Osborne announced the further cuts in his Budget anyway.

What it took to reverse the decision was the resignation of a single Government Minister who had, until then, happily persecuted the Unemployed and Disabled and who almost certainly had an ulterior motive for his resignation and used the cuts as a handy excuse to break from the Cameron / Osborne camp so that he can side with Boris in the brexit campaign.

That’s all it took. One man resigning.

Don’t get me wrong – I am not complaining about the cuts being stopped, just about the way they were stopped. The Tories ignored every protest, every bit of proof that their cuts were killing people and causing misery for thousands until it actually affected their own factions. If that’s how British democracy works, I’d rather we lived under a different system or, preferably, a different country.


A Song For Scotland

Posted on March 25th, 2016

By Tcswim

In this time of bitter sorrow

Forget the loss. Work for tomorrow !

Come gie us an honest heartfu’ song?

Tae mak us feel that we belong

Confident aye; Independent? (sigh).

But Listen! From sea and munro

from Kelso to Thurso

On wind and tide

On Tweed, Tay and Clyde

None but ourselves can make us whole

None but ourselves can heal the soul

Let the folk tide bring us hame

Leave behind auld Longdone’s shame

Wi’ it’s Wasteminster arsetocracy;

a politricks hypocrisy;our famed damokracy.

Scotia is still in birthin’ pains

In this big world o’ Adams weans

Let us sing the great song,

That echoes in the bone

sing it like yon Davie’s stone

“Freedom Come all ye"

Cry it on the lonely wind

In housing schemes ahent the blind

On mountain tops let us sing

Feel the spirit a Dr. King

Sing it wi’ drams or cups a tea

Cross glens an toons on oily sea

We can, we should be

Yes dear Lord… mak us free!

Aye, free fae endless poverty

fae a persistent unfair society

from posh-built inequality

an unjust corrupting economy

auld hardships and a false modernity

Bringing new forms of auld misery

Built on shibboleths of prosperity

In a Scotland built by Mundell-Fluffy?

Or some other labour-tory numpty?

No not for you. Not for me.

A Union land of hope and glory?

Not for you…not for me!

Only Scottish sovereignty!

One destiny! LIBERTY!

SNP SNP! Make us FREE!


A Taxing Day

Posted on March 24th, 2016

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

So we’ve heard the SNP’s plans for Income Tax and Labour’s plans for scrapping the Council Tax. Of the two, it must be said Labour’s is the more radical as the SNP demonstrate, once again, that they are not nearly as Left Wing as the media would have you believe.

That media has, of course, been quick to decry the SNP as very bad indeed, castigating them for punishing high earners by not passing on the UK Chancellor’s proposed increase in the higher rate tax threshold while simultaneously wailing that they have not imposed a 50p top rate to get more money out of those high earners. Do you ever get the feeling you just can’t win?

I can understand why the SNP have declined to introduce a 50p tax rate in Scotland when the rest of the UK does not have one, especially since their research suggests that it would only take around 1,000 of the 18,000 or so high rate taxpayers to quit Scotland for the policy to be rendered pointless.

But does taxation cause people to move? Across the world, different countries have different levels of taxation but it does not generally cause mass migration. For example, Poland has much lower rates of tax than the UK but the general movement of population is from Poland to the UK, not the other way around. This is because people move for work. We in Scotland should know this since too many of our young people move to London in search of work in spite of the much higher cost of living there due to high property and rental prices.

On the other hand, Scots tend to pay more for things like fuel and groceries due to higher transportation costs but, again, this hidden cost does not generally cause people to up sticks and move.

In broad terms, then, people move in order to find work, not to escape taxes, so perhaps tax rates are not the driver that the media tell us they are.

There is, however, a major caveat to this. The problem is that wealthy people on high incomes are more likely to move jobs and, all other things being equal, an increase in their tax burden might just persuade many of them to move. This decision will be made easier because relocating from Scotland to England or Wales is much less of an upheaval than moving to, say, Poland.

But it isn’t as simple as that. Would these individuals give up their high pay jobs when they move? If so, somebody else would presumably need to replace them and therefore the tax would be paid, just by a different person. The alternative is that the original jobholder remains in post but commutes from England, thus probably paying more in travel costs than they are saving in tax. That doesn’t seem logical, does it, especially for people for whom money is the principal motivating factor?

The problem is that we won’t know what would actually happen unless we introduce a top rate of 50p. So the SNP have stuck to the cautious centre ground, with just a little tinkering which won’t really affect that many people and means that most will continue to pay the same amount of taxation they have been paying so far.

As for Labour’s Council Tax replacement, that sounds grandiose but actually it’s just a simplification of the existing system since it is based on property values, just like the Council Tax, so it’s not all that radical. In principle, it sounds reasonable, even though it will mean the so-called “Squeezed middle" Labour are always on about paying a lot more than they do at the moment.

My main issue with the proposal is that it takes no account of regional property values. So, for example, someone in a small flat in Edinburgh or Aberdeen, where prices are high, could be paying the same amount as someone living in a three-bedroom detached house in a rural area, or a semi in a town outside theCentral Belt.

Others have gone into the plan in some detail and pointed out its other flaws but, of course, the most important thing to remember about Labour’s proposal is that it doesn’t matter because they haven’t got a hope of being in a position to implement it, even if it had no flaws.

Of course, the problem with taxation is that, whatever system you put in place, someone will be worse off and you can bet the media will be able to track that person down so that they can proclaim the unfairness to the world. (Or, at least, to Scotland).

There is no such thing as a perfect taxation system but we need to get away from this notion that tax is a bad thing. It is essential to the running of the public services we all demand and, quite frankly, those who can afford to pay a bit more should be compelled to do so in order that the burden can be relieved on those who are currently penalised by all sorts of taxation. Not only that, our culture needs a major shift so that those who pay more in tax because they can afford to do so, should take pride in the fact that they are contributing to the overall wellbeing of the country. That’s a long way off but it’s an aspiration to aim for and really should occupy our minds more than simply bickering over tax rates and structures.


When We Were Wee

Posted on March 22nd, 2016

By Tcswim

When we were wee we were forced to ask for pocket-money

“There! That is all you will get Jock-Johnie

Don’t ask for more there isn’t any!"

We hated to beg:-the awfie shame

“And forced to say, ‘thank-you’ to big Daddy."

Oh, how we want to be on oor ain; never to hae tae beg again

Too often oor hand, palm upwards formed a begging bowl

-an empty glass

making us feel shame: a kind of anger in the soul

and in our class

Now turn the hand over

Pull the fingers together

Beg no longer sister or brother

Look! The fist is stronger


Toasting The Lords

Posted on March 21st, 2016

By Tcswim

A toast to the House of Lords

And still they fill the House of Lords/

With greedy privilege & dirty frauds/

All seated on their well paid arses/

Welfare for the ruling classes

Labour henchmen & insiders

Tory bagmen business bribers

Pals of Gideon and Dave lickers

Friends of Charlie, robes nae knickers

Power handed to the unelectable

Noble but not respectable

Clowns in this corrupting circus

With power handed out to fk us

Who will rid us of this vermin

Dressed in arrogance and stained ermine

We can be rid of this subservience

You got it ! Independence!


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.