Feeling Sick

Posted on April 23rd, 2024

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

X / Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s latest declaration that he plans to end the perceived culture of sick note workers displays all the hallmarks of classic Tory tactics of both victim blaming and divide & conquer.

As a wealthy man who has no concept of what it is to be poor, he sees workers as expendable assets, and he has no conception of the problems the majority of people face. His Party has overseen a rise in poverty levels, has normalised foodbanks and slashed spending on the Health Service so that waiting lists are at record levels. When you factor in the cost of living crisis created by Liz Truss’s Budget and exacerbated by Brexit, it is no wonder so many people are falling ill, either physically or mentally.

People are suffering, and his solution is to force them to work when they are not fit to cope with the demands his low wage economy places on them. As so often, he is blaming the victims of his own policies for their failings without acknowledging the role he, his predecessors, and their Government have played in creating the problem.

But he knows this will play well with many people. Let’s face it, we’ve all worked with someone who takes a sickline whenever they feel like it. There have always been work-shy people, but even though they are in a minority, Sunak is relying on workers focusing on the people they know like that and so hoping his policy will be supported. Yet what the workers who support this idea don’t realise is that, one day, they might need to take time off due to physical or mental illness, and then they’ll appreciate just how cruel Sunak’s idea is.

There is, of course, the other issue of the much-hyped claims that younger people don’t have much of a work ethic. Anecdotal evidence suggests this might be true, but if it is, then who can blame them? If all you have to look forward to is a lifetime on minimum wage, with no chance of buying your own home, and ending up working for over fifty years with the worst pension in the developed world as a reward, why would you bother putting yourself through physical and mental stress?

As ever, Scotland needs to escape this economic model so beloved of the UK. We need to discover a more humane way of running our society, and to treat people properly.

Yet Another Grab

Posted on April 9th, 2024

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

X / Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

There is a Bill making its way through the Westminster Parliament which is receiving very little attention from the media. I’ve tried several online searches and cannot find any recent articles about it. The Bill is titled "Economic Activities of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill" and it really ought to have been in the news because both the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly have withheld consent for it to pass. Naturally, the Tory Westminster Government has ignored this and, in direct contravention of the now discredited Sewell Convention, is charging ahead anyway.

The stated purpose of this Bill, another brainchild of the ultra-authoritarian Michael Gove, is to ensure that all public entities within the UK adhere to UK foreign policy. This tramples over the historic right of public bodies such as local Councils, Universities etc to make their own decisions when entering into procurement contracts, and it will also affect the ability of the Scottish Government to make procurement decisions which do not align with the stance of the UK Government. For example, deciding to boycott Israeli suppliers would be illegal if this Bill comes into force.

Now, you might believe that public bodies should be barred from undermining official Government policy, which is a fairly authoritarian view in itself, but the Bill goes a lot further. Not only would the Scottish Government be banned from making any decision to boycott a supplier on moral or ethical grounds, they would not be allowed to express any opinion at all as to why they might want to. Even saying that they would like to boycott a supplier but are prevented from doing so by the Bill would be illegal. Any Government Minister or local Councillor or University official could face criminal charges if they dared to even mention that they disagree with the UK stance.

This is Orwellian to say the least, but it is the next logical step after the Internal Markets Act, and it is designed to stamp out any form of protest by anyone working in the public sector. To say this is authoritarian is an understatement.

Yet you will struggle to find anyone in the mainstream media who is talking about this. There were a few articles in mid-2023, but I’ve been unable to find anything since then. Yet the Bill is progressing, and the Tories are refusing to accept any amendments to it because, in true Tory fashion, they want to stifle any argument and enforce their own extreme views on everyone.

Why is the media not talking about this? I leave you to draw your own conclusions.

It is worth remembering that we were assured that Brexit would not result in a Westminster power grab, yet that is precisely what the Tories are pushing through at every opportunity. Whatever you think about the competence or otherwise of the Scottish Government, the fact is that Westminster is taking steps to prevent it operating as it should. That is an affront to democracy.

The House of Lords may delay this Bill, but the only thing that might stop it is a General Election. Even then, Keir Starmer supports so many Tory policies that he may well pick up this Bill and push it through anyway.

There is only one way Scotland can escape the ever-increasing authoritarianism of the UK. Sadly, it is hard to see how we can achieve our aim of becoming a normal, self-governing country because nobody seems to care about what Westminster is doing to us.

NHS in Real Life

Posted on April 2nd, 2024

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

X / Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

I haven’t posted anything here for a while because I’ve been out of action. A few weeks ago, I had a bad fall and broke my upper arm. Fortunately, it was my left arm, and it seems to be recovering, albeit slowly.

I was fortunate in that there were plenty of people around when it happened, and one of them was a paramedic, so I was quickly diagnosed and made comfortable. My Apple Watch triggered alerts to the Police, Ambulance and my family, so score one for tech aids right there. My wife soon arrived in her car, and off we went to A&E. We were in Dundee at the time, on a visit to some relatives, so it wasn’t our usual hospital. Even so, the staff at Ninewells were magnificent, and we were in and out in under two hours, with most of that time seeming to be taken up with trying to remove my wedding ring from my rapidly swelling finger. The doctor who saw me said that they normally follow up such injuries with an orthopaedics check, and he promised to contact my local Health Board.

This all happened on a Saturday, and on the Monday morning, I received a phone call from my local Health Board advising me that an appointment had been made for me a week later. How efficient was that? To say I was impressed was an understatement.

With a sighted guide, I attended that appointment and the staff were again amazingly efficient. We were out little more than an hour and fifteen minutes later, including an X-Ray and a meeting with a Consultant. The prognosis is good, although I’m told I’ll need some physio appointments later. As things stand, I’m slowly improving although still sore, and even typing this post has taken some effort.

But the main thing is that the NHS is wonderful. I have no complaints at all about the A&E service, and every single member of staff, from porters, receptionists, radiologists, nurses and doctors were all very kind and efficient. This is in stark contrast to the news reports we read in our media, and it is important to remember that they are seeking out stories which show the Scottish NHS and Government in a bad light. Yes, the NHS has problems, and the Tory policy of slashing funding has most certainly had an impact, but NHS Scotland is still pretty wonderful. When I posted about my experience on social media, I had several people reply, all of them telling me that their personal experiences of the NHS were a far cry from the way the Health Service is portrayed in the media.

The NHS is precious, and we must ensure that it is preserved. As ever, the best way to achieve this is for Scotland to become a normal, self-governing country. That is the only way we can ensure that Tory privatisation policies don’t kill off our most vital of public services.

I Protest

Posted on February 29th, 2024

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

X / Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

The UK Home Secretary, James Cleverly, has told people protesting over the genocide in Gaza that they have made their point and should stop protesting because of the cost in Police time to safeguard and monitor the marches. Yesterday, The Newsagents Podcast devoted some time to this topic, and had some interesting interviews with a former senior Police officer and a leading protest organiser. What struck me, though, was that none of the people involved, nor the Home Secretary, seemed to acknowledge that there is a simple way to end the protests. It is for the UK Government to acknowledge the genocide, to stop supplying arms to Israel and to vote for a cease fire in the UN Security Council. Until such time as that happens, protesters really have not made their point because, as so often, the UK Government simply isn’t listening to them whatever James Cleverly may say. For him to use the cost of policing the marches as a valid reason to stop protesting is a typical Tory diversion tactic.

The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, is not helping with his depictions of the protesters as violent extremists intent on harming MPs. Again, this is a tactic to turn the public against the protesters and to pave the way for yet more draconian anti-protest laws.

The right to protest is a fundamental part of our democracy, and people will keep protesting for as long as the issue they are concerned about is not addressed. That is how protests work, and it is disingenuous of James Cleverly to ignore that basic fact.

Another thought occurred to me while I was listening to the discussion. Much of the Tories’ clampdown on protest marches is based on the level of inconvenience they cause to the public. This can include things like disruption to traffic because of road closures and the noise made by the protesters. However, I recall a couple of events last year which included road closures and significant disruption but which nobody seemed to be too concerned about. The funeral of the late Queen and the coronation of the new King probably created more disruption than any protest march, yet I don’t think a single Tory MP complained about that.

Sticking To Principles

Posted on February 22nd, 2024

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

X / Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

I am no expert on Westminster parliamentary procedures, but from what I can gather, Labour have used, or perhaps misused, those procedures in order to maintain their slavish adherence to the Bain Principle which was established many years ago and which, as outlined by former Labour MP Willie Bain, demands that Labour must never agree with the SNP on any policy. I did wonder how their recent conversion to calling for a cease fire in Gaza could be reconciled with the Bain Principle, but now we know.

Of course, there is a lot more going on here, and the most important issue, that of the thousands of deaths in Gaza, has been rather overshadowed by the farce of Westminster procedural customs. Not that Israel and Hamas would have paid much attention to the UK Government, but a vote calling for a cease fire would at least have symbolically put the UK where it should be on the world stage, even if, under those same customs, the Tory Government is not obliged to pay any attention to the vote either.

It also occurs to me that no political commentators flagged this potential issue prior to the debacle in the House of Commons. The texts of the SNP motion and the proposed amendments by Labour, the Lib Dems and the Tories were all available, and all said more or less the same thing but with the emphasis on different aspects of the horror taking place in Gaza. As so often in politics, the arguments were over semantics rather than outcome.

But if, as we now understand, the debate was set aside as an SNP opposition day, why did Labour bother drafting an amendment at all? As has been pointed out, they could easily have proposed their own motion on one of their days for doing so. Instead, they hijacked the SNP motion by allegedly coercing the speaker into breaching the parliamentary rules. Now, I have some sympathy with the Speaker because, on a matter like this, I would have thought that all parties should be able to propose motions for the debate, but it seems that Westminster’s arcane rules mean he should not have allowed this to happen. So we end up with the SNP motion being completely ignored, the SNP walking out, along with some Tories, and Labour congratulating themselves on having got their amendment through while still adhering to the Bain Principle. There are, however, some casualties, albeit not the same as the actual casualties suffering in Gaza. In Westminster, the Speaker’s position now looks almost untenable, while the SNP’s position there must now be in real doubt. Once again, they have experienced being completely dismissed by the Westminster establishment, and many people must now be asking what is the point of them staying there? In terms of advancing Scotland’s right to become a normal, self-governing country, they have achieved nothing in nine years. They may have had some minor successes in things like challenging the unlawful suspension of Parliament, but that was really a solo success by Joanna Cherry, and even then she needed support from other Parties, the House of Lords, and the Good Law Project. But any small successes they have had can be counted on the fingers of one hand, and this latest insult serves as a reminder of just how much contempt Labour has for Scotland. If anything good comes out of this farce, it might just be that more Scots will wake up to the futility of voting for Labour.

What We've Won

Posted on February 19th, 2024

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

X / Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

Living in Scotland nearly a decade after the IndyRef is a bit like being a losing contestant on the old darts/quiz game show, Bullseye. Or perhaps it is like that but in reverse. Instead of being shown, "Here’s what you could have won!", we are instead very much seeing what we have won, and it isn’t a very inspiring list. Instead of being a normal, self-governing country, with all the benefits and problems that go with that status, we are instead left with a huge list of problems and very few discernible benefits as part of the dysfunctional UK. So, in the spirit of sharing my grim mood, here’s a list of just some of the things being shackled to the UK in a so-called voluntary union have left us with. I know some of them could have happened if we had been a normal country, but being stuck in the UK has made even those bad things a lot worse.

Longer queues at borders as a result of Brexit;

Higher food prices;

Higher energy bills;

Lower exports;

Union flags emblazoned on Scottish food produce;

The proliferation and normalisation of food banks;

A Right Wing Government which is clamping down on our right to protest and which wants to remove our Human Rights;

The return of Victorian illnesses such as scabies, scurvy and rickets;

Falling life expectancy;

A rising pension age, with one of the worst pensions in the OECD;

Failing infrastructure due to lack of investment;

A Government which blames pretty much everything on immigrants and which is enacting horrific policies against refugees;

An economy in recession, with higher inflation than most OECD countries;

A Government riddled with corruption which sees Tory donors rewarded with peerages or enormous Government contracts;

Increasing levels of poverty, particularly among children;

One of the very worst rates of wealth inequality in the world;

And, to top it off, we have a media which is almost exclusively hostile to Scotland and which, in spite of all the things mentioned above, insists that we are better off as part of the UK. When you appreciate that bias, you’ll maybe start to see that the media is not serving your best interests.

I came up with that list in just five minutes. No doubt I have missed some other issues. Feel free to join in the chat on social media.

The Way You Tell 'Em

Posted on February 9th, 2024

by Rab Bruce’s Spider
Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot
X / Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider
I come from a generation which was raised to believe that, while you should not believe everything you read in a newspaper, you could trust the BBC because, unlike news agencies from other countries (which usually meant Russia), the BBC was fair, balanced, impartial and trustworthy. How that all changed as I grew older, and especially when I saw what they got up to during the IndyRef campaign in 2014. And even though they helped keep Scotland changed to their beloved Union, they are still at it, with constant denigration of anything positive about Scotland, especially if that thing was introduced by the Scottish Government or an SNP-led Council.
I will admit that I am probably too antagonistic towards the media in general and the BBC in particular, and I sometimes take umbrage over news reports which, when viewed with less passion, might appear reasonable Yet their bias is so ingrained, that my own response is to see that bias even in articles which may, on the face of it, be impartial and accurate. But then, as comedians used to say, it’s the way you tell ‘em.
This past week has been another classic for the UK media in Scotland. To begin with, Michael Matheson’s resignation gave them precisely what they wanted, and at one point the BBC had no fewer than three separate headlined articles about him, most of them raking over the same story. Now, I do believe Mr Matheson was foolish to claim for his extraordinarily high browsing charges against his expenses, and he should never have done that. Nor should he have taken so long to repay them himself. This whole matter could have been avoided if he had done the right thing and paid the whole lot himself at the outset. His silly mistake has provided the media with what they crave – a chance to portray the SNP as venal, with the criticism extending by insinuation to the wider Indy cause. Pro-Indy politicians really ought to know by now that they need to be squeaky clean at all times to prevent this sort of thing happening. And then there was the Scottish Tories and their ridiculous plan for saving the NHS in Scotland, a plan which was reported without criticism by the media even though it is obvious to anyone who has been paying even the slightest bit of attention that it is the Tories in Westminster who have deliberately engineered a crisis in the NHS. Despite this, the situation in Scotland is significantly better than it is in England’s NHS, although that’s not a very high bar, and it is no reason to become complacent. But the hypocrisy of Dross, the Scottish Tories’ part-time leader in between his main job as a football assistant referee, is breathtaking. The media, though, let him get away with it, and when SNP MP and former surgeon, Dr Philippa Whitford, issued a superb takedown of the nonsense contained in the plan, most of the media somehow failed to report it. Funny that. Perhaps the word, "balance" doesn’t mean what I thought it meant.
On other issues, I am perhaps being too picky, but the BBC has been quick to print reports which portray ULEZ in a poor light, despite evidence that reducing emissions is good for people’s health. But, much like the baby boxes, the fact that the idea was introduced by an SNP Council means it must be criticised.
Finally, there was a headline which caught my attention about the newly-introduced ban on pavement parking which is being enforced by Edinburgh Council. The article was, I suppose, accurate, but the fact that it claimed drivers had been hit by large fines gave me the impression that this was somehow a bad thing. It was only at the very end of the piece that the article mentioned that the ban had been introduced in order to improve safety for vulnerable pedestrians. I know that Edinburgh Council is not run by the SNP, but the powers to enforce the bans was introduced by the Scottish Government, so again it seems it is viewed within the BBC as inherently bad.
OK, maybe I’m being too critical, but the BBC’s constant denigration of Scotland really does get me down. I no longer watch any TV news programme, and even reading news websites is about all my blood pressure can stand. And even if I am being overly sensitive to perceived bias, I believe that the media will be our strongest opponent as we strive to become a normal, self-governing country.

Spot The Difference

Posted on February 2nd, 2024

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

X / Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

Following Nicola Sturgeon’s appearance at the Covid Enquiry, many articles have been written about her responses to the questioning. Her supporters have applauded her, and her opponents have vilified her, all of which is much to be expected. It is, however, the reaction of the mainstream media which I wish to comment on. For what seems like weeks now, they have been banging on about deleted Whatsapp messages, implying that the Scottish Government must have something to hide. Douglas Ross, an SFA Assistant Referee and sometime politician, has been given plenty of media time to rail against this apparently near-criminal act of deleting messages. Very few in the media seem to have spent much time reporting that Scottish Government practice was to delete messages which were not linked to important decisions, and to only delete messages relevant to decision-making once they had been formally recorded. Compare and contrast with the treatment given to the responses of Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak who actually did use Whatsapp in the decision-making process and who came up with frankly unbelievable excuses for those messages vanishing.

I should say that I am not at all in favour of any messages being deleted. By all means use Whatsapp as a convenient and quick way to communicate, especially during a time of social distancing, but those messages should never be deleted. Yet the media have hounded Scottish Government Ministers for openly admitting that messages were deleted in accordance with their (admittedly misguided) rules. Yet when Tories make brazen claims about how their messages mysteriously disappeared, it all seems like a huge joke.

And yet, when you compare what the Governments might have been trying to conceal, it was not the Scottish Government who were setting up dodgy PPE procurement lanes to benefit their friends, nor was it the Scottish Government who ignored scientific advice with their Eat Out To Help Out scheme. What, precisely, do the media think the Scottish Government were trying to hide? I’ve yet to hear any journalist express any opinion on that. Their focus has been on potential secretive decisions, using deletion of messages to throw mud in the hope that some sticks. I do wish they would focus more on clearly bad decisions about moving elderly people out of hospitals into care homes. That was poorly handled at the time, although I think we ought to acknowledge the pressure on hospitals to find beds for the huge influx of people suffering from Covid. It was a No-win situation, but Even so, I’d like to think it could have been handled better because too many people died in extremely distressing circumstances. Still, Nicola Sturgeon deleted her Whatsapp messages, and that makes a better headline.

The latest media furore surrounds claims that the Scottish Government were still thinking about independence for Scotland during the Covid crisis. This seems to be regarded as some sort of heinous act, while the fact that Michael Gove prepared a document stressing the importance of maintaining the Union has been remarked upon but is not seen as political. I’m struggling to spot the difference.

To move away from the Covid Enquiry, Anas Sarwar, Scottish Labour branch Office Manager, seems to have got away very lightly after doing a complete U-turn on his views of a cap on bankers’ bonuses. Having decried the Tory decision to scrap this cap, he now supports his London boss’s decision not to reintroduce such a cap. I can only imagine the media frenzy if a pro-Indy politician did the same thing.

As ever, the main thing we have learned this week is that the UK media in Scotland is not our friend. Some of the things they do and say are ridiculous, but they do and say these things because they know that most people are too busy to pay close attention and will respond emotionally to powerful headlines. Despite this, polls are showing support for becoming a normal, self-governing country remaining strong. Let’s hope that, when the Covid Enquiry does eventually make its report, it highlights the differences in approach of the Scottish and UK Governments, and does so in such a way that leaves no doubt as to which handled a disastrous pandemic better.

Not for EU

Posted on February 1st, 2024

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

X / Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

So all meat and dairy products produced and sold within the UK will now bear a label saying "Not for EU". This is part of the latest post-Brexit deal which has been set up to appease the hardline DUP and persuade them to rejoin the Stormont power-sharing Government in Northern Ireland. At this stage, it is not clear whether other goods produced in the UK will need to bear a similar label, but that would seem to be the next logical conclusion given that the UK is determined to lower its standards on just about everything. This world-beating approach won’t be welcome in the EU, so expect to see more and more of these labels proliferate. I dare say they will be emblazoned with the Union Flag just to reinforce the point that those damned foreigners can’t use our stuff because we’re British. Rule Britannia and all that.

But what are the majority of the non-Northern Irish population going to make of this? Considering how ill-informed the UK media keeps most people, how will they react when they see their supermarket food labelled this way? I doubt very much that the majority will simply nod and say, "That’s the appeasement price demanded by the DUP".

Some will no doubt smile and convince themselves that their food is labelled that way to prove how world-beating the UK is, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the reaction of most folk will be to ask, "Why can’t it be sold in the EU? What is wrong with it?". Perhaps some of them might eventually start to realise just what they have lost thanks to Brexit.

After a while, of course, everyone will get used to this, but one thing we can be sure of is that Scottish produce, famed the world over, will be subsumed into this new UK packaging, with all signs of Saltires vanishing. That process has been under way for some time, but just watch it accelerate. We are British, whether we like it or not, and even our food packaging will reinforce that message. The Union Flag will be everywhere, and there is not a thing we can do about it. Well, there is one thing, but we need some political leadership to get us there.

Perceptive Perception

Posted on January 30th, 2024

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

X / Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

UK Culture Secretary, Lucy Frazer, was doing the media rounds recently, insisting that viewers perceive bias in the BBC. Naturally, she thinks that is anti-Tory bias, and it is no coincidence that she believes GB News to be fair and impartial. This is the same Lucy Frazer who, in her maiden House of Commons speech, earned laughter and applause by telling her fellow MPs that Oliver Cromwell found a solution to the West Lothian Question by enslaving Scots and sending them to the colonies. What a nice person she must be.

Anyway, in her search for actual evidence of BBC bias, I would point out a few facts which may help her.

To begin with, how many times has Nigel Farage been a guest on BBC Question Time? And how many pro-EU MEPs have ever been on that panel? It’s less than one.

As viewers in Scotland know only too well, there are issues which go beyond perception. For example, it is a fact that BBC Scotland issues more corrections to news items than all the other BBC regional stations combined. It has also been shown that pro-Indy politicians on Good Morning Scotland are interrupted by the interviewer far more often than pro-Union politicians.

There are plenty of other examples, but I think it is sufficient to say that, while perception is important, in Scotland we have actual evidence of bias. Unfortunately, I doubt that this will fit into Lucy Frazer’s skewed view of the media landscape.

Proud Scots But

Posted on January 23rd, 2024

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

X / Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

Later this week, all across the world, people will be dressing in kilts, drinking whisky and eating haggis to celebrate Burns Day. They will enjoy an evening of celebrating one of Scotland’s best known characters who was a major influence on Scottish Culture. The day after that, they will return to their normal lives, many of them resuming their positions within business or the media, and they will also resume their denigration of Scotland at every opportunity.

I recently had the misfortune to spend some time with a Scottish Rugby fan who regaled me with tales of his trips to away matches in Ireland and Wales, expeditions which he thoroughly enjoyed. He assured me that he always wore a kilt to such events. As you may have guessed, the guy is an ardent Unionist who refuses to believe that Scotland could ever cope as a normal, self-governing country because we are too dependent on England’s largesse.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I really don’t know how to deal with people like that. Argument and facts bounce off them because of their innate conviction that Scotland is, and always will be, too wee and too poor.

I’ve never worn a kilt in my life, but I genuinely feel I am more of a Scot than any of the people who adopt Scottish identity only when it comes to special occasions.

More Equal Than Most

Posted on January 16th, 2024

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

X / Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

The news that the handful of the very wealthiest people on the planet have seen huge increases in their personal wealth while the vast majority of humans have become poorer should come as no surprise. Wealth inequality, particularly in places like the UK and USA has always existed, but free market economics has turned it into a much wider split than ever before. Of course, wealth inequality has always existed, and examples can be seen in many ancient civilisations such as Rome, but that is no comfort when you are one of the people who is becoming poorer.

Corporate greed as well as personal hoarding of wealth is a major cause of this. Driven by financial markets to earn ever greater profits or incur the wrath of speculators and investors, businesses have adopted some very ruthless tactics, and much of the burden of providing increased profits has landed on the shoulders of ordinary employees. While company executives award themselves huge salaries and bonuses, most workers have found themselves left behind. So the rich get richer, and the poor become poorer.

The sad thing is that this way of thinking and operating is so embedded in our society that it is difficult to see how we can escape it. It would be simple to pass a law stating that no company executive should earn more than, say, 20 or 30 times the salary of their lowest paid employee, but while this would force companies to increase wages, you can just imagine the howls of outrage from the financial markets as profits took a hit. The alternative would be for the highly paid executives to cut their pay packets, but the culture of greed is so embedded, that seems unlikely in the extreme.

Nations can learn and adopt new habits and customs, especially if they are shown strong leadership and example, but with the UK verging on fascism, such leadership is non-existent. And anyone who does try to go against the orthodoxy that wealth is good is usually silenced by the media. When was the last time you heard Mick Lynch, General Secretary of the RMT Union being interviewed? His calm, reasonable and well-argued points made such an impact on people that the media have clearly decided he should no longer be given a platform to spread his heretical view that workers deserve a decent living.

I wish I had the answer to this, but the only solution I can come up with is the usual one of allowing Scotland to detach itself from the corrupt and venal UK. Whether our own wealthy elite would put up with a more socialist agenda would then be put to the test. I fear there would still be significant wealth inequality, but perhaps it would not be as egregious as the disgusting inequality gap we are currently experiencing. There is, of course, only one way to find out. One thing is for certain, things couldn’t be much worse than they are with us stuck as part of the UK.

Something Is Rotten

Posted on January 11th, 2024

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

X / Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

The Post Office Horizon scandal has taken far too long to become a hot political issue. In this regard, I think the comments by Stephen Flynn MP were spot on. The UK Government never does anything to rectify an injustice unless it has no choice. That usually means only when there is public outrage thanks to some media event highlighting the issue. It is sad that it took a TV dramatisation to make the UK Government pay attention, but perhaps some measure of justice will now be seen to take place. Personally, I’m not convinced the Tories will do very much. They will delay compensation payments, and will seek to find a suitable scapegoat. Don’t count on it being former Post Office CEO Paula Vennells. For many in the Tory Party, handing back her CBE will probably be considered a suitable punishment.

There were, of course, plenty of other people involved in this shameful persecution and cover-up, and it is astonishing that so many auditors, IT specialists and managers could not accept that there was a problem with the Horizon software. This smacks either of widespread incompetence or equally widespread complicity in the cover-up. A great many heads should roll, especially those who must have knowingly lied to the Courts. If any such thing does happen, I fear it will take a very long time, but hopefully some of those responsible are feeling very uncomfortable now.

One person who is very exposed is Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey. His lack of action during the time he was responsible for the Post Office was certainly disgraceful, but I expect the Tories to turn on him simply because he will be a convenient scapegoat. Whether any other politicians or Post Office executives will be similarly sought out is, I fear, unlikely.

But this dreadful matter is not the only sign of everything that is wrong in the Corporate world in the UK. Company executives seem to think they can do as they like, taking all the rewards they can grab, while treating their employees abominably. The announcement by Brewdog that it would no longer pay new employees the real living wage was horrible enough, but now the media are reporting that the CEO enjoyed a luxury holiday in the Maldives shortly before Christmas. This is emblematic of the way bosses behave in the current UK, and there will be plenty of similar episodes for as long as the culture of corporate greed continues. I will admit that I know nothing about the finances of Brewdog, but I am fairly confident that, if they were seeking to reduce costs - a perfectly understandable and standard thing in business - I doubt very much that they looked at reducing the executive pay and bonus awards. Instead, like most businesses, they will have looked at employee pay as the main target of cuts.

The UK is among the worst in the world for pay inequality, and this leads to the wealthy bosses becoming entirely detached from the problems their employees face. I do hope Brewdog will reconsider, because it really does not look good if you publicly announce that you don’t intend to pay your workers the very minimum they need to live on. But even if they do backtrack, other companies will soon come out with similar ideas. We need an entire culture change in the corporate world, but there is no way we will get it in the UK. If only there was a solution to that.

Tax Attacks

Posted on December 19th, 2023

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

X / Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

Tax is an emotive topic. UK subjects have been conditioned to view taxation as a bad thing, and this message is repeated ad nauseam by UK politicians and media so often that few people even think twice about it. Oddly, many UK subjects are astonished at higher levels of living standards when they visit other European nations which have adopted a High Pay, High Tax economy. Because the UK has become a Low Pay, allegedly Low Tax economy, our public services, pensions and other benefits lag far behind the vast majority of our European neighbours.

Naturally, the UK Government uses taxation for political purposes, and it has been able to target the Scottish Government thanks to its clever ploy of allowing Scots power over Income Tax. This is the tax that most people are most aware of, so any change the Scottish Government makes leaves it open to attack.

When Income Tax was first devolved, I recall writing that if the Scottish Government reduced tax rates, they would be accused of allowing Scots to pay less tax while still relying on English beneficence paid via the subsidy England allegedly pays to Scotland. This Subsidy Myth is, of course, nonsense, but facts rarely bother the Unionists when it comes to Scotland. And, of course, if the Scottish Government raises taxes, they will be accused of turning Scotland into the highest taxed part of the UK. Which is, to nobody’s real surprise, precisely what Rishi Sunak has done, ignoring the fact that recent media analysis after Jeremy Hunt’s latest Budget pointed out that the overall tax burden on UK subjects is higher than it has ever been.

But the Tories are crowing about low taxes for everyone except those poor rich people in Scotland who will be asked to pay a little more to help fund public services. And, sadly, many will fall for this spin, completely unaware that public services in England are far worse than they are in Scotland, and that taxpayers in England pay far more in Council Tax than most Scots, as well as paying for NHS prescriptions, university education, etc. There are a lot of ways governments raise money from taxes, yet Income Tax is the big focus because that’s the one the Tories have devolved to Scotland precisely because they can use it as a political weapon.

This whole thing is a farce, but many people will fall for the rhetoric. As for the wealthier people who are asked to pay a bit more, some will object because people who already have a lot often want more, but I’d like to think that the majority of Scots would not object to paying a little more if it meant maintaining public services. Then again, Project Fear terrified many Scots in the IndyRef campaign by announcing that Scots would be £10 a week worse off if we became a normal, self-governing country, so perhaps that same fear will inflict anyone affected by a small rise in the higher rate tax bands in Scotland. As an aside, though, it is worth noting that recent financial analysis suggested that everyone in the UK is £1,500 per year worse off after Brexit and the Tories’ shambolic disaster Budget under Liz Truss. That £10 per week looks like a real bargain now, but don’t expect anyone in the media to point that out.

As ever, we come back to the fundamental point that Scotland would be far better off as a normal, self-governing country. Then our Government would have control over all taxation, not just the high-profile Income Tax. If they used those powers wisely, Scotland might have a chance of eventually developing into a High Pay, High Tax society, with everyone benefitting from all that entails. It could take several decades, but a future in which everyone could enjoy a decent pension and good levels of social security is surely something worth aiming for.

Parental Control

Posted on December 13th, 2023

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

X / Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

Every parent knows that teenagers can be difficult to keep in line. You can try bribery or threats, but sometimes nothing seems to work.

What has this got to do with politics? Readers, I present to you the UK Government which is treating Scotland as if our nation was just like an unruly teenager. The latest spat really does show just how pathetically inadequate the UK is, with a furore over whether Scotland’s First Minister is allowed to speak to other delegates at the Cop28 climate conference without a nanny to supervise him. They really do worry that other nations will realise that Scotland is more than a region of England. Their own insecurity makes this a fearful prospect for them, and they will resort to any petty reaction as they struggle to control Holyrood.

We’ve had the bribes in the shape of so-called Levelling Up money which, to the surprise of nobody at all, seems to go mostly to Tory constituencies, and now we’ve had threats and accusations from Sir Dave Cameron and Minister of State for Keeping Scotland Under Control, Alister Jack.

As usual with the Tories, they are getting all worked up about not very much at all as they strive to show the world how much in control they are. Instead, I suspect that this absurd episode has only served to show other international leaders just how much Scotland needs to break away from the dysfunctional UK. And I do hope that, without his UK minders being there to keep him right, Humza Yousaf drops more than a few hints about the UK’s infantile behaviour.

Above all, I do hope that, like most teenagers, Scotland can escape the controlling shackles of Westminster and become a fully-fledged adult nation on the world stage.

Reality Check

Posted on December 7th, 2023

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

X / Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

Reading the political news often makes me think that I live in a different reality to our politicians and journalists.

To begin with, I will admit that it is quite funny seeing Anas Sarwar desperately attempt to disassociate himself from the pro-Tory remarks being made by Sir Keir Starmer. Mr Sarwar deserves some credit for this, but he seems to have forgotten the earlier pronouncement by Sir Keir that what he says, Anas Sarwar says. In other words, Anas Sarwar will soon be put back in his box He might try to salvage some political kudos by making statements which are at odds with official London Labour policy, but that won’t alter the reality that he will need to toe the line when push comes to shove..

I also had a wee chuckle when I read an article on City AM insisting that Brexit wasn’t as bad as Remainers had predicted. This is apparently because the UK’s GDP has held up quite well in comparison to other EU countries. Now, this may be correct, but the article signally failed to mention other things like the far worse inflation which probably makes the GDP significantly worse in real terms. It also ignored the collapsing social services, the spiralling cost of living - mostly fuelled by energy prices, soaring levels of poverty, and did not mention that many of the checks and tariffs required as a result of Brexit have not yet been implemented because of the damage they will do to the UK economy.

On top of that, the social aspect of the abolition of Freedom of Movement will really start to be noticed when UK subjects require visas to go on holiday. Our young people have been denied so many opportunities by Brexit, and just because the UK’s GDP has slightly increased cannot disguise the huge harm Brexit has done to our society.

If Scots want to escape this madness, there is a solution. All we need is the political leadership to help us realise the goal.

Levelling Down

Posted on December 1st, 2023

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

I had the misfortune to hear a propaganda promotion on the radio the other day. An actor with a strong Scottish accent was gleefully telling us about the benefits of the UK Government’s Levelling UP agenda, mentioning how money was being pumped into Scotland. Naturally, the puff piece did not mention that the money is significantly less than we used to obtain from the EU, nor did it mention that the funds are going predominantly to Tory constituencies. But that’s how propaganda works, and with control of our media in the hands of the Union, I’m sure a great many of the uninformed and / or gullible will believe this nonsense.

As for Levelling UP, it is another Tory trick to fool people into believing they care about anything except themselves and their wealthy donors. Home Secretary James Cleverly gave the game away when he showed his utter contempt for a northern constituency where the MP was asking why so many children in his area were in poverty. Mr Cleverly muttered that it was because the place was a sh*thole, thus summing up in one contemptuous expression precisely what the Tories actually think about the vast majority of the places and people they are supposed to be governing. Poverty arises from political choices, and it is clear that the Tories simply don’t care about poor people.

Like so many things, Levelling Up will do very little to help Scotland, and it certainly won’t replace the money we have lost access to by being dragged out of the EU against our will.

As ever, it is long past time that we left this toxic Union.

The Poverty Trap

Posted on November 28th, 2023

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

Tory Government Ministers really do talk a lot of nonsense. Of course, they know that they can get away with telling brazen lies because that principle was established by Boris Johnson a few years ago. But I do wonder whether some of them actually believe what they are saying. For example, in giving evidence to the Covid Enquiry, Kemi Badenoch asserted that the Tories do not have a cure for poverty, and that they would have used it if they could.

I’m not sure whether she was being disingenuous, or whether she really is that ignorant, but this is patent nonsense because there is a very simple cure for poverty. It is to give people more money. But the UK has been transformed into a low wage economy, paying the worst state pensions in the OECD, and with a social security benefits system which is recognised by the UN as being dangerously inadequate.

And a recent report has even suggested that the huge scale of wealth inequality in the UK costs the economy billions of pounds each year. From being one of the most equal societies in the 1970s, the UK is now one of the most unequal. It is not that there isn’t enough money, it is that far too much of that money is in the hands of a very few people.

The Tories may bang on about the economy, and it is clear from the evidence given to the Covid Enquiry that many top Tories believe the economy is more important than people’s lives, but I doubt they will do anything to alter the inequality situation even if it would improve the economy. That’s because it would harm their own interests.

And don’t count on Labour changing things. Even if they decide to abandon the Tory policies they are adopting with such readiness, they won’t have long enough to alter the situation very much. Such societal change takes decades, and we know from history that the English electorate will vote the Tories back into power before too long.

It is way past time that Scotland escaped this madness.

Widening The Split

Posted on November 25th, 2023

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

I will admit I was very surprised to learn that Alex Salmond has decided to sue the Scottish Government. Since there is now a legal case under way, I’m not going to comment on that aspect, but I am wondering about his motivation.

Clearly, an experienced politician like Alex Salmond is not going to begin any court action unless he feels he has a good chance of winning, but I do wonder why he has taken this action now. It certainly flies in the face of his appeals for all pro-Indy Parties to work together, but perhaps he has decided that, since all of his requests have been rebuffed, he has nothing to lose.

I’d venture to say that the rest of us have a great deal to lose because this is only going to split the Yes movement even further. And if Alex Salmond plans to effectively bring down the Scottish Government with the aim of replacing the SNP with Alba as the primary Party of independence, then it is going to take a long time because the case won’t be heard for several months at least. By that time, we may already have been through the next UK General Election.

Or perhaps Mr Salmond is playing a long game, having already decided that the SNP’s plan for turning Scotland into a normal, self-governing country is doomed to failure, and he is positioning his own Party to step into the breach that such failure will bring.

Whatever his thinking, I’m afraid this isn’t doing the Yes movement a great deal of good at the moment. And if Alex Salmond really is trying to bring Alba to the fore by bashing the already struggling SNP, then he will have another fight on his hands. That’s because the UK media in Scotland may be happy to promote his action against the SNP, but the moment he begins to look as if he might have a chance of persuading the Scottish electorate to switch allegiance (which is a major task in its own right), the media will turn on him just as they have done before.

As ever, all we can do is look on, scratching our heads and wondering where we go from here.

In The Deep Midwinter

Posted on November 21st, 2023

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

I posted on social media about the comments made by Tory MP John Glen who is calling for some sort of means testing on Pensioner’s Winter Fuel payments. Mr Glen argues, with some justification, that some pensioners do not need this extra cash, and he would rather see it used to help alleviate child poverty.

Now, at first glance, many people will agree with his sentiment. However, while I’ve not been able to check Mr Glen’s voting record on child poverty, I would respectfully point out that it is the Tories themselves who have massively increased poverty at all levels, but particularly among children. Perhaps he now feels they should do something about this, but I’d say it’s a bit late for that. In any event, the Chancellor knows full well that children don’t vote, so no Tory has much incentive to take money away from the people most likely to vote for them, then hand it to people who have no vote.

As for using money paid to pensioners, even Mr Glen admits that it would be difficult to decide which pensioners should miss out by virtue of being well off. HMRC don’t carry records on household wealth, so deciding who should miss out could be problematic. Besides, as has been demonstrated by things like free NHS prescriptions in Scotland and the payments made to the self-employed during Covid, it is usually cheaper to provide a universal benefit than it is to introduce and maintain a system of means testing.

And why can’t the Tories do both things? Why not alleviate poverty while also paying pensioners a bit extra to help with the enormous energy bills they face? We keep hearing that there is no money, but this mindset, largely driven by outdated views in the money markets, doesn’t seem to apply when the Bank of England needs to create billions of pounds in order to bail out banks. Modern Monetary Theory says that, if you have a magic money tree like, say, a central bank, then you can spend as much as you like. Taxation should then be used to rein in the inflationary pressures created by that extra cash. Taxing the wealthiest in society would certainly help that, but again, no Tory Chancellor is likely to do that. And let us not forget that the vast majority of people who receive either the Winter Fuel payment or who might benefit from additional funds to alleviate child poverty, are actually going to spend that money. They aren’t going to hoard it in offshore trust funds. So pumping extra money into the economy to help both pensioners and children will actually stimulate spending and help boost the economy.

As for those wealthy pensioners who don’t need the money, they are under no obligation to do so. They can always donate it to their local food bank or to a children’s charity. But how many of them will actually do that? Not many, I’d guess.

A Long Time In Politics

Posted on November 17th, 2023

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

It has been an interesting week in the House of Commons, a place which masquerades as the home of democracy.

First of all, we had the Supreme Court ruling that the Tory Government’s Rwanda scheme was illegal, immediately followed by the Tories insisting they would amend the law to make it legal. It will be interesting to see how they do that, considering that once UK law has been changed, international treaties and the ECHR need to be altered. Given that the ECHR is a fundamental part of the Good Friday Agreement, I wonder whether the Tories will be prepared to sacrifice peace in Northern Ireland for the sake of deporting a couple of hundred asylum seekers to Rwanda.

Another alleged Tory achievement was to bring inflation down to less than half of what it was earlier. Rishi Sunak is claiming that he has achieved one of his five key pledges, apparently hoping that the majority of the UK population is so ill-informed or stupid that they don’t realise that he achieved this by doing nothing proactive, but simply waiting until the huge price rises in energy costs were dropped from the annual inflation calculation by virtue of taking place 13 months ago. Now we hear that energy prices are likely to increase significantly again in 2024. Will Rishi Sunak accept responsibility when inflation leaps up again? Somehow, I doubt it.

But the big news of the week, unless you are part of the Scottish media which is obsessed with a bill run up on an iPad by a Scottish Government Minister, is that nearly 60 Labour MPs defied Sir Kid Starver and voted to call for a cease fire in Gaza.

Now, it must be said that the vote really didn’t matter in the overall scheme of things because neither Hamas nor the Israeli Government was ever going to pay much attention to what was voted for in the House of Commons. It must also be acknowledged that Hamas, who have vowed to destroy Israel, are unlikely to observe a cease fire even if the whole of the world agrees that it is necessary. However, the vote was symbolically important in setting out the stance of the UK Parliament, and anyone who argues against stopping the slaughter of innocent civilians, including women and children, really needs to take a good look in the mirror. Whether those civilians are Palestinians or Israelis is beside the point. Anyone with a modicum of humanity must want the killing to stop.

As is becoming normal these days, Sir Kid Starver decided to side with the Tories. Some of his MPs showed a bit of backbone and voted with their conscience, earning them the sack if they were on the front bench. It may have been a symbolic vote, but Starmer has symbolically demonstrated his lack of humanity. He may be trying to present himself as a statesman, but even he must have known that the result of the vote would make no difference to what is happening on the ground in Gaza, so why not vote to call for a cease fire? Instead, he’d rather align himself with the USA and the Tories. That, in my view, was reprehensible.

Naturally, the media in Scotland was happy to headline the result as a defeat for the SNP, and it was interesting to note that even the Newsagents Podcast kept referring to the call for a cease fire to be the SNP amendment. That was technically correct, but the media do love to portray things as being SNP this or that, and to claim that the rebel Labour MPs were voting with the SNP as if that was a bad thing. It really shouldn’t have mattered which Party called for a vote supporting a cease fire, wanting to stop innocent people dying should surely be the most important issue. Sadly, as so often, the UK media managed to drag it down to a Party political level as they tried to portray the SNP’s call as somehow being less than humanitarian. And don’t get me started on Jackie Baillie’s claim that, by calling for a cease fire, the SNP were playing Punch & Judy politics. I’m not even sure what that means except that it shows Jackie Baillie is happy for people to die if it means she can score a cheap point against the SNP. Since when was wanting to prevent people dying a sign that you are playing at politics? Quite frankly, I found her comments extremely distasteful.

Finally, I must mention MP Michael Shanks, recent victor in the Rutherglen & Hamilton West by-election. He made a great play during his election campaign of being a new voice for Scotland, who would not kow-tow to Westminster Labour. Yet, at this first opportunity to demonstrate that his thinking is in line with the majority of Scots, he immediately followed the official Party line and refused to vote for a cease fire. I do hope the voters of Rutherglen & Hamilton West were paying attention to his decision. Labour’s Scottish Branch Office Manager, Anas Sarwar, was almost certainly paying attention. You’d think by now he would have realised that his views are unimportant to Westminster Labour, yet still he clings to the ridiculous claim that he runs an independent Party.

So there we are. The Tories can get away with callously deciding to change the law as long as it allows them to persecute helpless refugees; Labour can refuse to do the right thing from a humanitarian perspective; but it’s the SNP who are bad for wanting to stop innocent people being massacred. The UK really is a weird place. It’s long past time that Scotland left this Ruritania and became a normal country.

Cursed by Interesting Times

Posted on November 14th, 2023

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

Rishi Sunak certainly caught everyone by surprise by bringing back David Cameron as Foreign Secretary. It changed all the headlines, partially obscuring the news that Suella Braverman had at last been sacked. Whether any of this will change Rishi Sunak’s standing is doubtful. Cameron is tainted by Brexit, Austerity and, in Scotland, by introducing EVEL the day after the IndyRef, thus shattering all the earlier promises. As for his ability to deal with foreign Governments, he didn’t do too well when he was PM, so it’s doubtful he’ll do anything more than spout platitudes for the TV cameras. At least he’ll do it in a smooth, smarmy way, with all the confidence of a fraudster, so he might give us plenty of quotes to save for posterity.

And what of Suella Braverman’s replacement, James Cleverly? Well, he’s apparently a loyal Tory, always prepared to regurgitate the Party line on anything. Whether he’s competent enough to hold down such a senior role remains to be seen. If he is, he will prove to be the exception in this appallingly incompetent Government. One thing you can be sure of is that, even if he presents a less vicious and inhumane face to the public, he’ll carry on with the vicious and inhumane policies the Tories love so much. Still, he might settle things down a little after the havoc of Suella Braverman, just as Rishi Sunak has, on the face of things, settled matters down after the chaos of Boris Johnson and Liz Truss. Except, as we all know, the chaos, greed and incompetence continue, just with a better public image.

As for Suella Braverman herself, no doubt she will soon stir things up as she attempts to put herself at the head of the fascist wing of the Tory Party. Of course, she’ll have some competition because Liz Truss won’t fade quietly into the background, and if Nigel Farage does decide to rejoin the Party, Suella Braverman’s chances of becoming leader will be severely diminished as the rabid Brexiteers line up behind Farage.

It would be nice to think that this sort of in-fighting will spell the end of the Tory Party, but it’s been going on for a long time already in one shape or form, and they are still clinging desperately to power.

There’s an old Chinese curse which says, "May you live in interesting times". At the moment, it feels like someone has cursed the entire UK with that fate. If only Scotland had a way to escape the madness.

Creeping Along

Posted on November 7th, 2023

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

In my last blog post, I pointed out that the UK Government is behaving just like a fascist Government. I suppose that now makes me an extremists. According to media reports, the UK Government now plans to introduce legislation to expand the definition of extremist so that anyone who criticises the UK or its institutions and values can be termed as an extremist.

The conclusion we must draw from this is that anyone who supports Scottish or Welsh independence, or who would like to see a united Ireland, will be classified as an extremist.

Many people on social media seem to be of the opinion that nothing will come of this because the Tories will be voted out of power at the next General Election, but I would not put it past them to push this through using their much-vaunted Henry VII powers via a Statutory Instrument. Failing that, they will rely on Keir Starmer’s Labour Party adopting this policy, just as he has adopted most other Tory policies. And if you think that is far-fetched, consider just how much of a British Nationalist Starmer is. He has declared this many times, and he loves to be seen surrounded by union flags. Why would he not want to reinforce the strength of the union by clamping down on any dissent? He’s already doing that within his own Party.

If this sort of thing was happening elsewhere, we would see media stories about how other countries are controlled by authoritarian Governments, yet the UK’s march towards fascism goes mostly unremarked.

I made a comment on Mastodon that I fear this proposed legislation is only one step away from declaring political Parties who seek the breakup of the UK as illegal organisations. Whether the UK Government would actually go that far is debatable, and many will be of the opinion that my fear is completely unfounded. I really hope it is, and it would certainly be a massive step for the UK Government to take. For one thing, it would completely demolish any claims that the UK is a democracy. That reassures me that such overt action is probably unlikely, but then I look at some of the things the UK Government has done over the past few years. Ten years ago, most people would have thought it unthinkable that any form of protest would render people liable to arrest, or that all legal routes to immigration would be closed down, or that food banks would become a normal part of society. As I mentioned in my earlier post, the UK is creeping towards fascism rather than marching towards it, and I don’t think we should rule anything out when it comes to Westminster exerting its authority, especially if Nigel Farage becomes leader of the Tory Party.

Whether my fears are valid or not, this latest proposal shows that the lurch to the Right continues unabated. Humza Yousaf had better get his finger out with his plans to release us from the autocratic UK.

Speaking for the People

Posted on November 6th, 2023

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

Actor Steve Coogan recently upset many on the Right Wing by claiming that people who support the Royal family are flag-waving idiots. What he actually said on the Off Menu Podcast was:

"Most people who are into [the royal family] are flag-waving people who, I think, are kind of idiots because they support a power structure that keeps a foot on the throat of working-class people."

I think it is very fair to say that I agree with his comment, and I believe that this unthinking behaviour on the part of flag-waving monarchists is a testament to the power and influence of the UK media and the class structure which is still inherent in UK society and which manages to persuade people to support a system which is designed to keep the power structure in place.

But the monarchy is not the topic I wish to talk about in this piece. That’s because some of the outraged responses from Tories were interesting in their own right. The main thrust of their complaints, once you set aside their defence of the Royal family, was to question Steve Coogan’s working class credentials, and to demand to know why he felt he could speak for the working class.

That in itself is quite laughable coming from Tories. For one thing, nobody needs to be born into a working class family to be able to speak for the poorer people in society. Anyone with a modicum of compassion can do that.

Secondly, how often have you heard a Tory MP, Minister or Prime Minister tell an interviewer what it is that people want the Government to concentrate on? They are always at it; constantly telling us what our priorities are even though very few of them ever seem to have bothered to check with ordinary people. It never seems to strike them as unusual that what they claim the people want happens to tally precisely with the things they themselves have decided are their priorities.

Politicians of all Parties are very fond of telling us what we think and want, yet it seems that Steve Coogan cannot even make a comment on behalf of working class people without being derided by those same politicians.

As usual, those who benefit from the class structure are have been quick to jump on any criticism of that structure. It is yet another sign of how dysfunctional the UK is at its core.

As further evidence for the bizarrely skewed thinking of those in power, we only need to look at Home Secretary Suella Braverman who has announced that she wants Councils to clamp down on homeless people who live in tents on the streets. She has no thought of actually doing anything to reduce homelessness, she just wants to further punish the poor souls who have nowhere else to go. And, to add insult to injury, she subsequently claimed that living in tents was a lifestyle choice. Quite frankly, I find that sort of mentality absolutely sickening.

I feel so sorry for the people of England who, I’m afraid, have only themselves to blame for electing extremist politicians. George Orwell was right when he said that fascism would not come to Britain by marching down the High Street in jackboots. He saw clearly enough that the UK operates using a gradual approach to things, insinuating new ideas and ways of thinking so that nothing appears too extreme when taken in isolation. However, most of the pronouncements coming out of the UK Government are exactly what you would expect from a fascist Government, it’s just that most people don’t seem to have realised it yet.

As ever, Scotland needs to escape this madness before it is too late.


Posted on October 30th, 2023

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

The news that Ash Regan MSP has decided to leave the SNP and join Alba has once again brought to light the split in the Yes movement. SNP supporters are outraged, and many are calling for her to stand down so that a By-election can be held. Personally, I think that a By -election should always be held when any politician declares that they wish to leave the Party they were a member of. However, that never happens because the UK has this absurd idea that politicians are elected because of their individual merits. Scotland seems to have adopted this stance as well, although most members of the public vote for a Party because of its leader, and many have no idea who their own MP or MSP is. However, while I support the idea of always holding a By-election, it is not going to happen unless Parliamentary rules are re-written.

Ash Regans’ defection comes on the heels of Dr Lisa Cameron moving to the Tories, and in some ways these two defections are similar. It seems fairly clear that Dr Cameron always held Tory views because a move to that Party is unthinkable unless you believe in their selfish, cruel policies.

As for Ash Regan, she stood in the SNP leadership campaign on a platform of putting independence above all else. She was unsuccessful partly because she did not seem to possess the gravitas of the other contenders, and she was viewed by many as an outlier. However, in moving to Alba she has, I believe, followed her conscience. She is clearly of the opinion that the SNP are not doing nearly enough to move Scotland towards being a normal, self-governing country, and she has decided that, if she cannot change that from within, she might as well move to a Party whose avowed intention is to push for independence far more aggressively. Whether that will prove successful will only be known at the next Holyrood election. If the SNP continue to produce soundbites and slogans but very little real action, then perhaps voters will look for an alternative. Up until now, very few have put their faith in Alba, so Ash Regan’s move may well signal the end of her political career. Time will tell.

As for the SNP, Humza Yousaf has had a lot of personal issues to contend with recently, but he continues to act with dignity. That is all well and good as far as it goes, but we need more than dignity if we are to progress the cause of independence. We really need to see a lot more fire and action rather than words. I do hope that will change very soon, but I’ve been let down before, and the signs are not good so far. For example, what has the much-vaunted Rebuttal Unit been doing since it was relaunched? I’ll admit that I am not on the social platform X very much these days, but I don’t recall seeing anything from them in the past couple of weeks. Is their relaunch going to be another damp squib? If so, that is simply not good enough.

Returning to the defections, I’m not sure the two recent departures will make very much difference to the SNP. But now that Lisa Cameron and Ash Regan have set a precedent, the big question for me is whether any others will follow them? I cannot see many defecting to the Tories, but Alba might not remain on the fringes if a few more MSPs and / or MPs decide to switch allegiance. Whether that would signal a unification within the Yes movement is doubtful, but it might stir the SNP up a bit. As ever, we can only wait and see.

The Nasty Party

Posted on October 27th, 2023

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

I’ve been accused of bashing Labour when they are, according to many, the only hope of getting rid of the Tories. I suppose that is an understandable view if you live in England, but Scots do have other choices, and I remain disappointed that any Yesser can contemplate voting for a British Nationalist Party whose leader is adopting as many Tory policies as he can, and who seems to be supporting war crimes.

Having said that, I am not going to stop bashing the Tories, and they’ve given us quite a lot to bash them over the heads with recently.

Let’s start with Education Minister Gillian Keegan who insists there is no cultural problem within the Tory Party after yet another Tory MP was arrested on suspicion of rape and possessing illegal drugs. Following on from the Peter Bone scandal, the Pincher scandal and another unnamed MP also being investigated for rape, one must commend Gillian Keegan for her blind loyalty to the Party. Not that she’s averse to creating problems of her own after her recent sweary complaints about not being congratulated for doing what she believes was a good job over the RAAC issue. And don’t forget the PPE corruption issues, nor the utter disgrace of Partygate, and the horror of the Care Home deaths during the Covid pandemic.

To go off on a slight tangent, Rishi Sunak’s billionaire father-in-law, Narayana Murthy, has displayed some very Tory ideals by stating that young workers in India ought to be working 70 hours per week for the glory of their country. I do hope PM Sunak doesn’t adopt that as a new policy, but it’s the sort of thing we might expect now that it has been voiced.

Back in the UK, even some Tory Councillors, MPs and lords have been begging the UK Government to allow disabled councillors to attend meetings via online platforms. Needless to say, the Government has refused, a bizarre decision which is in keeping with their attitude towards disabled people. What really strikes me about this is that some of the disabled Councillors were Tories. I can’t help thinking they are in the wrong Party. Surely they must have recognised just how badly the UK Government treats disabled people?

And on the topic of work, the UK Government have also demanded that English Councils abandon all experiments in moving to a four day working week. Apparently, they believe that this change will not provide value for money. It’s not quite the same as Sunak’s father-in-law demanding a 70 hour working week, but the thinking is along the same lines.

The thing is that every trial of a 4 day working week has shown increased productivity, better retention of staff, improvements in staff wellbeing, and a better working environment. It says quite a lot that the Tories are prepared to ignore the evidence, and to push back against such reform. Given the evidence that a 4 day week produces such results, I can only conclude that the real reason for refusal is that Tories are very firmly wedded to the idea of management control. They detest the idea of working from home because it means managers can’t keep a close eye on their staff. One could suggest that this is a very Victorian attitude, but I actually think it says more about the work ethic of Tories themselves. Remember that Boris Johnson revealed this when he said that working from home consisted mainly of visiting the fridge to get snacks. He clearly believed that his own lazy attitude to work was shared by everyone else, and it seems many Tory politicians share his view because that is the main reason I can think of which would make them object to people working from home. There is, of course, the side issue that they will believe people are getting money for nothing if their working hours are cut while their pay remains the same. Imagine MPs being upset at people receiving what is effectively a pay rise!

The Tories really do seem to live in a different world to the rest of us, as evidenced by Environment Secretary Therese Coffey making the absurd claim that the devastating floods caused by Storm Babet were because the rain came from the wrong direction. I do hope she is cringing over that one, although I doubt it since most Tory Ministers seem prepared to spout any old nonsense with conviction. What I haven’t been able to find is any comment on what would have been different if the storm had come from the west. Given the scale of the deluge, I can’t see that it made any difference at all which direction it came from . The important thing is that flood defences proved useless, and that this sort of event is going to keep happening. Indeed, it is coming back, perhaps not quite so strongly but seriously enough, this weekend. And Italy is also suffering from severe floods, only a few months after their last inundations. Given the scientific evidence that these weather events are symptoms of climate change, you’d think any sensible Government would push ahead with environmental policies as quickly as possible, but this is the Tory Party we are talking about, so they are doing the precise opposite because that’s where the money is.

Of course, it is not all doom and gloom. If you happen to be a ludicrously wealthy London banker, you’ll soon be even more ludicrously wealthy because the cap on bonuses has been lifted. It doesn’t take a seer like Nostradamus to predict that allowing bankers to take risks with other people’s money in order to make short term gains which earn them a bigger bonus is only going to end in another financial calamity.

There are so many issues with the Tories, including their unequivocal support for Israel despite the evident war crimes, the running down of the NHS, and the constant anti-immigrant rhetoric that this article could go on for a very long time. However, I’ll leave it there for the moment. NO doubt I’ll be back with more before too long.

What a mad place the UK is. If only there was some way Scotland could become a normal, self-governing country and escape the insanity.

Real Leadership

Posted on October 19th, 2023

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

There are a few political commentators whose opinion I respect because of their past track record of being correct in their predictions, and who have derided the SNP’s latest plan for progressing Scotland towards becoming a normal, self-governing country. Given their expertise, it is difficult to argue against their opinions, and I will admit to having been very guilty of constantly hoping the SNP will come up with some clever plan, and being constantly disappointed.

However, some time ago, I myself advocated using Westminster’s First Past The Post voting system against them on the basis that we should use the number of seats won as our benchmark. In light of that, it is hard for me to disagree with the SNP’s latest proposal for moving us forward. My concern though, is that the timing could have been a lot better. If we’d used that benchmark a few years ago, I’d like to think that we’d be in a very different place to where we are now. The obvious concern is that Labour might actually recover a lot of seats on the basis that some voters will decide that the SNP has no chance of gaining independence, so they might as well vote to get the Tories out. While I can understand that thinking, I do believe it is the wrong path to follow. Labour are as Unionist as the Tories, and unless sir Keir (Knight of the Realm) Starmer does another U-turn, we won’t be any closer to becoming a normal country with a Labour Government in charge, especially since Labour have more or less adopted every policy the Tories come up with.

The other problem with voting Labour MPs into power is that the UK media will proclaim that independence is dead, and you can bet everything you own that the Scotland Office will be given even greater powers under a Labour Government. The Tories have laid the groundwork for undermining the Scottish Government, and I have no doubt that, egged on by the Unionist media, Labour will follow their lead on that, just as they are doing on so many other issues.

So I retain some concerns over the SNP’s chances of success, but after hearing Tommy Shepherd MP on the excellent Lesley Riddoch Podcast, it seems that the SNP do have a plan for what to do if they win a majority of seats and are still denied. That is encouraging, but the biggest problem will be winning the required number of seats, especially since the media will be advocating loudly for a Labour Government.

As for the plan itself, I was a little concerned that proposals to count votes for any pro-Indy Party have been knocked back, but if we are in a First Past The Post election, then votes for other Parties won’t count anyway. The cynical will undoubtedly say that this is merely another ploy by the SNP to retain seats at Westminster, but I honestly believe we need to give them the benefit of the doubt – again. A lot will depend, however, on what we see over the coming months in terms of leadership. On that point, the buck stops with Humza Yousaf, and I must say that, until now, I’ve been less than inspired by what I’ve heard from him. However, his speech to the SNP Conference was excellent, and I am hoping that we will genuinely see the beginnings of a strong campaign making the case for independence. We need a vision, not a whole load of detailed processes, and perhaps Humza Yousaf will actually follow through on those promises. Time will tell, and I will keep my fingers firmly crossed, not because I am necessarily a supporter of the SNP, nor because I think they have better domestic policies than other pro-Indy Parties, but because the reality is that they remain, at present, the best political vehicle for bringing about the change we so desperately need. If this promised campaign falls flat, though, I suspect I won’t be the only one looking for an alternative choice.

As for Humza Yousaf’s speech, the media are concentrating on his promise of a Council Tax freeze. While that is important, it is noticeable that few outlets of the UK media in Scotland have bothered to mention the compassion and humanitarianism Humza Yousaf displayed, especially when talking about the crisis in Israel and Gaza. This is probably because his heartfelt words on this and on other social issues are in stark contrast to the cruel racism of the Tories, as well as to the awkward, insincere mumblings from Keir Starmer who seems to have offered support for war crimes as a reasonable response to terrorist attacks.

What is happening in Gaza is a humanitarian crisis. Advocating for innocent civilians to be protected is not the same as supporting terrorism. Yes, Israel is in a very difficult position, and any person with an ounce of humanity will understand the horror and grief Israelis must be suffering after the Hamas’ atrocity. But committing atrocities of their own is not the way forward. So far, Humza Yousaf is the only leading UK politician to have the courage to say this, so he deserves immense credit for that. I sincerely hope that he continues to demonstrate the same leadership qualities when it comes to making the case for Scotland to become a normal, self-governing country. Above all, we need strong leadership now.

This will be a real test for Humza Yousaf, and he cannot afford to delay, but let’s give him a chance to prove that he’s got what it takes. After all, if the SNP fail dramatically at the next General Election, he'll be out of a job, so it is in his interests to drive a strong campaign. After so many disappointments, I’m wary of being too optimistic, but we must all retain some hope and, quite frankly, the SNP remains the only game in town at the moment for those of us who want Scotland to become a normal country.

An Odd Defection

Posted on October 13th, 2023

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

I have absolute sympathy with anyone who suffers from being bullied. Workplace bullying simply should not happen, although it does with dreadful frequency. So I fully understand why Dr Lisa Cameron has decided to quit the SNP Westminster group if she has been bullied. It is always better to remove yourself from any toxic culture.

What is most bizarre about her defection, though, is that she has switched to join the Tories. I’d have thought she has been at Westminster long enough to know that empathy and understanding of others is not exactly high on the list of Tory attributes. The move seems especially bizarre since she claims it will help her speak out for the disabled and vulnerable. Again, has she not noticed that the Tories make a particular point of picking on the disabled and vulnerable in society?

She has claimed that she still supports Scottish independence, yet has moved to an Ultra Unionist Party because she thinks that the SNP need to focus more on helping people cope with immediate problems. This is a typical Tory line because they know most people want everyday issues attended to by their Government, but it misses the fundamental point that becoming a normal, self-governing country would put us in a much better position to be able to tackle those important issues like the cost of living.

I am not here to defend the SNP. Indeed, I believe they have shown a distinct lack of leadership over the past few years, and there is little sign of that changing in the immediate future, but I do find Dr Cameron’s decision baffling to say the least. But perhaps her decision has something to do with the fact that her local Party were refusing to back her as their candidate in the next General Election. If that came on top of a sustained period of bullying, her decision may have been designed to cause the maximum damage to the SNP.

Whatever her motivation, the UK media has adopted its usual stance, loudly proclaiming the end of the SNP and the cause of Scottish independence. In fact, the BBC managed to find a few voters who supported Dr Cameron’s decision, confirming that the SNP were indeed very bad. Oddly, this did not tally with the same research undertaken by The National which actually provided a more balanced and impartial view than the BBC. Quelle surprise!

More worryingly, nobody in the media appears to be asking questions about the bullying. If there is a culture like that in the SNP Westminster group, it really must be stopped. The SNP leadership should step in without delay and get to the root of the problem. The fact that they seem content to do nothing does not reflect well on them. But, oddly, the media are not pursuing this as an attack line. It seems such an obvious target that I’d have thought they would have jumped on it with the aim of revealing who the bullies are. So far, though, we’ve heard nothing about that. I am probably being too cynical, but perhaps there is more to this story than we have been told so far.

Lessons To Be Learned

Posted on October 12th, 2023

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

This article is a couple of days late due to technical problems with the blog site which are hopefully now resolved.

So Labour, as expected, won the Rutherglen & Hamilton West By-election. Also as expected, the UK media are crowing about the severe blow to the cause of Scottish independence, apparently unaware that there is a big difference between support for the SNP and support for independence. It is not at all unusual for a governing Party to lose a By-election, especially when that Party has displayed levels of incompetence and disarray in the way the SNP has done recently. I sincerely hope that this will be the kick up the backside that the Party needs in order to re-focus its priorities and to up their game on domestic policies. I suspect I am likely to be disappointed in that, but that won’t stop me hoping.

As for the result itself, there are several things I take from it. First, as mentioned above, the SNP got a deserved kicking for messing things up. Yes, they’ve done a lot of good work, and things like our NHS, while far from perfect, still perform better than the Health Services in other UK countries, but that’s a pretty low bar anyway. Of course, if we were a normal country in full charge of our own economy, we would hope to do a lot better, but that is precisely why the SNP need to get their act together and really come up with some strong pushes towards independence. They could do a lot worse than read Robin McAlpine’s proposals for the way ahead.

But there are other points to be gleaned from the By-election result. The most obvious is the low turnout which is, once again, traditional in By-elections. Voters, for whatever reason, seem reluctant to turn out for these elections. If only they would realise the glee they are causing for the UK media by not supporting a pro-Indy Party. But that is how By-elections have nearly always gone.

The other point which has caused some merriment among Yessers is that the Tories lost their deposit. Funny as that is, I strongly suspect that a major factor in that is that Tory voters switched to Labour with the sole intention of kicking the SNP out. The Tory vote collapsed, but Labour’s went up considerably, so tactical voting, a ridiculous aspect of First Past The Post, probably played a big role, and that is a major danger for Yes Parties in future elections. Yessers may be split, but Unionists rarely are, and FPTP gives Unionist voters a huge advantage if they vote tactically. Pro-Indy Parties need to learn from that.

Another issue was Voter ID. So far, reports are only anecdotal, but it seems that a not inconsiderable number of people were turned away because of lack of acceptable ID. This really should not have happened, and the SNP must take a portion of blame for not getting the message out. Generally speaking, people in lower income brackets are more likely to be Yessers, while also being less likely to have documents like passports or Driving Licences. The SNP really should have worked harder at telling people about the Tory disenfranchisement policy, and helped them to obtain suitable ID. It would not have made a difference to the overall result because Labour’s majority was considerable, but it is a lesson that needs to be learned for future elections which are run under UK laws.

I must say that I am disappointed, although not surprised, by the result of this vote. My main hope now is that the SNP pay attention. They really need to display some very strong leadership, and get their message out far more clearly than they have done so far. It is vital that we become a normal country as soon as possible, and anyone who does not believe there is urgency about this should refer back to the recent Tory Party Conference where all sorts of fascist views were on display for the world to see. It will be little comfort if Labour win the next UK General election because they have promised to maintain Tory policies as far as possible. And even if they do several U-turns and actually try to help the majority of people rather than big business, history shows us that English voters will soon elect a Tory Government again. Scotland needs to become a normal country before that happens.

Stranger in a Strange Land

Posted on October 5th, 2023

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

It’s been hard to know what to make of the Tory conference. These people seem convinced that their way of governing is the right way despite 13 years of evidence to the contrary. Rishi Sunak’s only chance is to paint himself as somehow different to all the many Prime Ministers who have preceded him since the Tories came to power, yet he is as culpable as any of them when it comes to telling blatant lies. His speech listing all the things that he wasn’t going to do anyway but which he claims he had cancelled was almost unbelievable, yet he was outdone by other speakers who made outrageous claims based on conspiracy theories or stoked culture wars and ramped up the hatred of foreigners and immigrants.

The fact that Liz Truss can gain ecstatic applause or that Nigel Farage walked around with a huge entourage of admirers seems so far out of kilter with what most UK citizens (sorry, subjects) actually want. Or perhaps it is me who is wrong and what UK subjects want is to demonise foreigners, promote cars over public transport, continue to contribute to climate change and unhealthy air. That certainly seems to be what Tory voters want. And even if the Tories are trailing in the polls, it’s not as if Labour are any better since all they’ve done is U-turn on every promise and simply adopt whichever policy the Tories come up with.

Watching all of this unfold, I couldn’t help but feel that it was like watching events in a foreign country. Sadly, it seems we are stuck being attached to that country for the foreseeable future. What a chance we missed in 2014.

Scots in Europe

Posted on September 23rd, 2023

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

I’ve just returned from a short break in Germany where I visited the Munich Oktoberfest. Copious amounts of beer were drunk, and I ate far too much schnitzel, but thanks to my sighted friends, I survived the event. It was a magnificent party.

What this trip also gave me were a few interesting insights. When we arrived in Munich, there was a queue for passport control. A man in the queue behind us was complaining that he did not see why he could not go through the EU channel since he still had a red EU passport. I refrained from making any comments, but it does show how little some people understand about the effects of Brexit.

When we handed over our passports, the German official knew we were Scottish because the plane had come in from Edinburgh. Also, I have covered my new UK passport with a Saltire cover just to be sure they know I’m not claiming to be part of Brexitania. The official chatted to us briefly in perfect English. He was no doubt doing his job by asking us why we had travelled to Munich but when we told him we would be visiting Oktoberfest, he laughingly asked us if we knew that they only sell beer by the litre. It was all very sociable, and we passed through without a hitch.

I’ll skip ahead to our return journey where we had a very brief stopover in Brussels to transfer flights. Here, the passport control insisted that my Saltire cover be removed and there was no banter at all. On arrival back in Edinburgh, the welcome was more friendly, but again the Saltire cover had to be removed before they would examine the passport. I really don’t know why this is because the cover does not in any way conceal anything except the black outer cover, but perhaps I am missing something. It certainly didn’t bother the German passport check.

However, the main thing I want to mention about this trip is just how much Scotland is loved in Europe. I made a point of wearing Saltire sunglasses instead of my usual Bluetooth audio sunglasses. The latter would have been useless anyway because the noise inside the beer tents is phenomenal. One of my companions also sported a Scotland hat, and these to items attracted a huge amount of attention. We were stopped or spoken to by people from Switzerland, New Zealand, Italy, USA, France and Germany, including some of the serving staff, all of whom told us how much they loved Scotland. It really was wonderful to hear such affection for our people and nation from citizens of normal countries.

The other thing about Oktoberfest is that, despite the vast amount of beer being drunk, it really is a party. I’ve been to the Edinburgh version and it is not a patch on the real thing. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine an event on the Oktoberfest scale taking place in the UK without there being some serious crowd trouble. And yet we only witnessed one act of violence which took place outside the complex, when two guys got into an argument and began swapping punches. Other than that, the whole event, with tens of thousands of well-lubricated people from all over the world, was like a huge friendly gathering where everyone just wanted to have fun and meet new friends.

That’s not to say the Germans don’t take security seriously, but their security staff maintain a low profile, only appearing when there is any trouble. And they do take a zero tolerance approach. One of our group was in a long queue for the toilets when a young Englishman jumped the queue, laughingly barging into one of the cubicles. Security must have spotted him because they were waiting as soon as he emerged. He was ejected from the tent for anti-social behaviour.

All in all, Oktoberfest is a cultural experience unlike any other. I can’t wait to go back again, even if only to hear so many people who have a positive view of Scotland which is so at odds with the way our own media portrays our country.

Short Sighted

Posted on September 4th, 2023

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

There can be no doubt that there is a split in the Yes movement. While I can understand why people may hold different views, I can only reiterate my disappointment that this is playing into the hands of the Unionists. The UK has always operated on a divide and conquer basis, and I fear it is proving successful for them.

I must also express my severe disappointment that those who said that Nicola Sturgeon never had any clever plan for turning Scotland into a normal, self-governing country have been proved correct. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe them, because her actions, or lack of them, were fairly clear to see, but I retained the hope that the SNP might still prove to be the political vehicle which would gain us independence. Increasingly, this looks unlikely, although it must be said that no other political Party has yet shown itself capable of replacing the SNP in the eyes of the majority of voters who, let’s face it, do not keep fully up to date with the details of daily politics.

However, some who claim to be Yes supporters do seem to be taking a very short-sighted view of things. A recent article on the Wings Over Scotland website went into great detail about Rev Campbell’s reasons for feeling abandoned by the SNP. While it was difficult to disagree with much of the detail in the piece, I was extremely disappointed in the response of some readers who claimed that if there was another IndyRef, they either wouldn’t vote or would actually vote No simply out of dislike of the SNP and the current crop of Scottish Government Ministers.

Now, whether these accounts on social media are genuine or whether they were pro-Union accounts masquerading as Yessers, I cannot say. But the sentiment is typical of the short-sighted view that so many people take when it comes to voting. Whether in an election or a referendum, people really need to look at the bigger picture. Voting because of personal circumstances is understandable if selfish, but when it comes to a referendum on independence, what people really need to understand is that the whole point is to turn Scotland into a country where we can vote out unpopular politicians. Some may say that this is the reason the SNP is not moving us towards independence because it would spell the end of that Party’s core reason for existing. I’m not so sure about that, but it would certainly remove the constitutional question which overrides every election in Scotland. If we did somehow manage to become a normal country, then the SNP would need to justify itself to Scottish voters. Given that most of their opposing political Parties are merely branded versions of English Parties, whether the SNP would face much opposition is a moot point. But the overriding principle is that the main reason to become a normal country is so that you can choose your own Government and not be ruled from the country next door. If you make the wrong choice, then you vote them out at the next election. At the moment, the only election choices are essentially between the SNP and a Unionist Party. That is an awful situation which needs to change.

So, however much you may disagree with the SNP, to say that you would either abstain or vote No in any future IndyRef is, quite frankly, a ludicrous position to adopt. If we get the chance, we must vote to become a normal country. Failure to do so would condemn future generations of Scots to even more exploitation by Westminster, and those future generations might never get another chance. And if you hate the SNP so much, then you can vote against them in an independent Scotland in the same way as every voter in a normal country can do. As I’ve said before, independence will be around a lot longer than any individual politician, and just because you dislike the current SNP politicians should not undermine the fundamental cause of independence which is greater than any Party.

How It Begins

Posted on August 24th, 2023

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

I will admit that I have not read a great deal about the trial of former Nurse Lucy Letby. That anyone could consider harming a child, let alone killing several, is so appalling that I could not bring myself to read any of the horrendous details. I can only imagine the heartache and grief experienced by those families whose lives she wrecked by ending the lives of so many newborn infants.

But there is more controversy surrounding her because she did not attend her sentencing at Court, and the UK Government intends to change the law so that, in future, nobody can refuse to be present when being sentenced.

While this feeling is understandable, I’m not sure that the reaction has been helpful. As was discussed in an episode of the excellent Newsagents podcast, it is not impossible that some accused could turn their appearance in the dock into a farce through their behaviour. And when someone has been sentenced to a life in prison, what further punishments could a judge hand down?

As with so many things in life, this matter is more complex than it first appears, but what is worse is that some people do have suggestions for how to treat uncooperative prisoners. None other than TV "personality" Richard Madeley does have a suggestion for how to add further punishment to force people to attend their own sentencing. He is advocating the use of Tasers and truncheons to disable, bludgeon and perhaps seriously injure anyone who is uncooperative. That such medieval ideas can be promulgated to a wide audience is yet another symptom of the lurch to the Right in UK society. It may be idealistic to insist that even despicable murderers should be treated as human beings, and I do appreciate that there can be situations within some institutions where violence needs to be met with an appropriate measure of force, but if someone is simply refusing to cooperate, do they really deserve to be physically assaulted? We often hear complaints about Police brutality, and yet now we have influential people calling for violence as a first resort to punish people even when they are offering no violence themselves. I find that a very disturbing train of thinking, but it is sadly indicative of the suggestions and comments being made by some people about anyone else they consider undesirable. We’ve even had people calling in to radio stations to advocate using military forces to turn back refugee boats even if it means that it will result in deaths. This is sadly reminiscent of a scene in the early pages of George Orwell’s prescient novel, "1984" in which a cinema shows scenes of helicopter gunships massacring refugees in boats for the entertainment of the crowd.

We often wonder how the Nazis came to power in Germany. It is through the normalisation of brutality that these things come about, and that begins with the normalisation of brutal words and thoughts. Richard MadeLey’s comments were perhaps intended to be provocative, but the very fact that he can feel empowered to suggest such things on television shows just how far towards depravity the UK is sinking.

Extreme Nimbyism

Posted on July 21st, 2023

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

So the Tories managed to cling on to the Uxbridge constituency in the By-election, and most commentators seem to think it is because they turned it into a single issue campaign, with voters urged to show their displeasure at the proposed expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone. Since many Tories are motivated by self-interest rather than what is good for society, the tactic seems to have worked, but this really is an extreme example of Nimbyism. Reducing air pollution improves the environment and health, and it can reduce deaths. Yet, for some people it seems that being allowed to drive polluting cars is more important.

This sort of thinking is not confined to the UK, and it is impossible to introduce any policy which will not find someone opposing it, but the benefits of cleaner air must surely be visible to everyone. Everyone with the exception of Tories in Uxbridge, that is.

In a wider context, this result may be a harbinger of what to expect in the next UK General Election. Along with all the lies and obfuscation the Tories will employ, focusing on narrow self-interest may well attract voters. The only thing that might work against that idea is that the Tories have introduced so many harmful policies, and some voters may feel that a change is needed. Given that Sir Keir Starmer, aka Sir Kids Starver, offers a party which is so close to the Tories in its political ideology, even proclaiming that Greed is Good may not be enough to save the Tories from electoral disaster.

From a Scottish perspective, there is probably not much we can take from this. Scotland is very different in outlook, and we can expect both Tories and Labour to bang on about SNP incompetence and alleged corruption, while also playing the Union card at every opportunity. But perhaps the SNP can take a leaf out of the Tory playbook and focus on a self-interest campaign. Quite simply, if you don’t want Tory policies inflicted on you by Westminster, vote for independence.

Scotland in the Media

Posted on July 5th, 2023

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

The other week, I was discussing the shocking state of the mainstream media with an English relative of mine. We were both bemoaning the biases, and he has even come to agree that the BBC are not impartial as he had once believed. I managed to recommend some alternative news websites and podcasts, so hopefully he’ll be able to find views not available from the mainstream media.

This did make me wonder about the general view that English people have about Scottish politics, and an article in today’s Guardian brought this home. The article featured research by a Think Tank called More IN Common UK, an organisation which, according to its website, was founded in the aftermath of the tragic murder of Jo Cox MP, with the intention of carrying out research in areas of the UK outside London and the South East of England to find out what people are thinking.

What caught my eye was the headline, which read, "Get a ‘Grip and Listen’. Scottish voters share views as Yousaf reaches 100 days in office".

On reading the article, it was clear that the research had produced a wide range of views from people who had all voted SNP in the past, and all of whom resided in the Westminster constituency of Lanark and Hamilton East, traditionally a Labour stronghold, which perhaps reveals the bias inherent in More In Common UK’s attitude. It was also revealing that the quote in the headline was not attributed to any individual although many comments were cited. These ranged from admiration of Anas Sarwar, through disappointment with Nicola Sturgeon, the usual stuff about there being more important things for politicians to deal with than a referendum, and the view that independence was the best way to resolve those problems. Views on Humza Yousaf were equally mixed.

So, an English-based reader of the article might well have come away with the view that there was a fairly even split, although the unattributed headline quote suggests that Scottish voters are not impressed with our new First Minister.

But what was most revealing was that there was no background on More In Common UK, nor was there any caution about using research which focused on a single constituency, yet is implied to be relevant to the whole of Scotland by the headline. Nor, I noted, was any information given about how many people were interviewed, nor any percentage record of whether they still intended to vote SNP at the next General Election. In essence, then, the article is pretty meaningless in its attempt to ascertain what the voting public is thinking. The quotes were so wide-ranging that you could pick and choose to find the opinion you want. And, as so often with Anglo-centric media, they chose a negative one for the headline, even though the article did not confirm that anyone had actually said it.

Next time I’m chatting to my English relative, I think I’ll use this article as an example of how the media distorts views of Scotland. For myself, I’d have focused on the quote about the way to tackle our problems is to become independent. But then, I’m biased.

Progress to the Right

Posted on July 4th, 2023

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

I’m old enough to remember the days of Margaret Thatcher’s Government. I was a young lad in a decent job, and I do recall that the Tories were swept in on a wave of expectation after the many disasters of the 1970s. Three day working weeks, regular power cuts and endless strikes had left the UK in a sorry state, and because there was no media other than the newspapers, TV and radio, most people’s thoughts were shaped by what they were told to think, with any protest voices being labelled as part of the "Loony Left". I’m sure that sounds familiar to many readers because the media still plays those same cards when any threat to the established order presents itself.

Looking back, I’m embarrassed to admit that I initially fell for some of the Tory slogans. Trickle Down economics sounded quite sensible to a teenage lad trying to work his way up the employment ladder. I know I was not alone in this, but I would add in my defence that I was far more interested in beer, sports and girls, with politics being a long way down my list of concerns.

One other thing I do remember, though, is that, for all the many faults of Thatcher’s Government, most of the politicians seemed competent, and most displayed some gravitas even when they were spouting Tory rhetoric. Recently, I’ve begun to wonder whether that was my memory playing tricks, because we all know the damage the Tories did to so many aspects of our lives. Indeed, the legacy of those days is still with us in far too many ways.

Recently, however, I was listening to The News Agents podcast. It’s very Anglo-centric, but since England controls Scotland on an ever-tightening leash, I find it can help to keep tabs on what is going on at Westminster without the BBC bias getting in the way. Last week, one of their features was an interview with Lord Deben, better known to my generation as John Selwyn Gumer, once a member of Margaret Thatcher’s Cabinet. He has recently retired from his role on the Climate Change advisory Group, and it was a fascinating listen. Compared to today’s Tories, he sounded like a Leftie snowflake in his thinking. He was, though, articulate, sensible and made a number of very good points, most of which were critical of the current UK Government. I could not help thinking that Gummer, who was often viewed as a bit of a buffoon back in the 80s, would run rings around any member of the current UK Cabinet in a one on one debate.

Now, he is a Lord, so he is fundamentally part of the problem in the undemocratic way the UK functions – or, as most of us have realised, does not function. Even so, it was a reminder to me of how far to the extreme right UK politics has shifted. When a man who was part of the Government which killed off Scotland’s heavy industry, which introduced the poll tax and began the privatisation move, and which encouraged the greedy, "Me first!" society, can sound reasonable and sensible, it shows how far towards fascism the UK has degenerated. And Margaret Thatcher still lies at the heart of this problem because she helped create the environment in which today’s authoritarians have been able to flourish. As a result, the UK is a broken state. Even Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour Party is further to the right than Thatcher’s Government ever was, and that is quite an achievement.

As ever, Scotland’s only hope is to become a normal, self-governing country. My hopes for this are actually encouraged because, thanks to greater political awareness and the advent of social media, today’s young people are far more aware of current affairs than my generation ever was.

What's The Plan?

Posted on June 26th, 2023

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

I’m glad I wasn’t the only person who was a bit confused by Humza Yousaf’s speech about the way forward for turning Scotland into a normal, self-governing country. Although there is some debate over his plan, it seems that the bar he is setting is quite low, simply requiring a majority of Westminster seats at the next UK General election. Now, I’ve been an advocate of this approach for a long time because it uses Westminster’s own archaic electoral system against the UK Parliament. However, I’m honestly not sure it will work now. I fear we have missed our chance for using this measure as evidence that the people of Scotland want to live in a normal country. It should have been done back in 2015, and I’m afraid that, with polls looking the way they are, the chances of winning a significant majority of seats are slim. That would give Westminster the ideal chance to portray any claims of wanting independence as ridiculous.

The really big problem, though, arises whichever measure of electoral success is used. It is that, quite simply, Westminster will say "No" whether the Government is formed by corrupt Tories or promise-breaking Labour. And what does Humza Yousaf intend to do then? There doesn’t seem to be a plan for dealing with that inevitable situation.

But what choice do Scots have? If we want to become a normal country, the SNP is still the only viable political party we can look to. That may change, of course, but I don’t think it will be happening any time soon.

So I’m not overly impressed with this latest iteration of the SNP plan, although I must give credit to Humza Yousaf for raising the issue of independence so frequently. If nothing else, he is gradually bringing it back to the forefront of politics. In itself, this may seem no big deal, but it may be the first step in his strategy of building up support. I wish him luck in that, and I welcome his announcement that he’ll be at the pro-Indy rally in September. I also like the way he is politely correcting English interviewers and pointing out the democratic deficit we are faced with. On that front, he needs to keep going. Whether it will change minds, we can only wait and see, but at least he is actively raising the profile of the Yes cause.

Unfortunately, unless there is some seismic shift in Scottish politics, I don’t think we are very much closer to independence than we were in 2015. Let’s hope that changes soon, although it is difficult to see how that’s going to happen. I fear we need some more radical plans than the one Humza Yousaf has put forward.

Devo Minimum

Posted on June 12th, 2023

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

It was nice to hear Humza Yousaf state his determination to see Scotland become a normal, self-governing country within the next five years. I really hope he is able to deliver because some of the recent pronouncements from other SNP politicians on the topic of independence have been worrying to say the least. It seemed to me that they were setting up a scenario where they’ll admit that independence is not an option, but that we might be able to obtain some sort of Devo max which, while not ideal, could be the best option available. Of course, they framed this carefully so as not to give the impression that they have given up on independence, but the fact that they are clearly considering Devo Max is very concerning, and I’d like Humza Yousaf to come out and dispel any such notions as soon as possible because Devo Max should never be an option in a future referendum.

The reason for this should be plain enough. Devo Max has been promised before in the shape of Gordon Brown’s "Nearest thing to federalism" promise in 2014, and we all know how that worked out. Would any Westminster Government actually deliver Devo max? I very much doubt it. They’d say all the right things, then backtrack on promises as soon as they could. Nobody in Scotland should trust any Westminster Government to keep its promises.

And even if, by some miracle, a Labour UK Government did deliver, we must not forget that power devolved is power retained. That has been said so often in recent years that everyone should be sick of hearing it by now, but that does not make it any less true. So, even assuming a Labour UK Government scrapped the Internal Markets Act and granted (because they would be in control, so they would need to graciously permit us to behave like an almost-normal country), then what do you think would happen as soon as the English electorate voted in yet another tory Government? Yes, they’d soon find ways to reclaim all those powers that their Labour predecessors had granted.

But I doubt we’ll ever get that far. Sir Keir (Knight of the Realm) Starmer is an out and out Unionist. He loves standing in front of as many Butcher’s Aprons as he can, and his politics are so far to the right that only the neo-fascist Tories can outmatch him. Whatever he may say, and no matter how many times Gordon brown produces lengthy documents spelling out proposals for reform of the constitution, there is no way Starmer will contemplate allowing Scotland any more autonomy. He may promise much, but he’ll not keep his promises. Just look at all the things he said he’d do when he was running to be Labour leader. He’s dropped just about every pledge he made. Why would anyone think he’d behave differently towards Scotland?

So, while I’ve supported the SNP for years in their quest for independence, I strongly disagree with any plans to consider Devo Max. They may claim that they need to deal with the realities of politics, but playing the UK political game by the UK’s rules has got us nowhere in the past eight and a bit years. That is not going to change whoever is in power at Westminster.

I know many Yessers are becoming increasingly convinced that the SNP don’t actually want independence. I’m more of the view that they do want it, but they don’t want to face the hassle and risk of taking dramatic action in order to achieve the goal for which most of their supporters elected them. Because it would be risky, and they would face enormous backlash from the media and the hardened Unionists in Scotland. But the SNP’s support is largely due to a desire for our nation to become like every other normal, self-governing country, and if they don’t produce some clear plan soon, they will find that more and more of their support will drift away.

We should know by now that Westminster always operates on a delaying basis. They pontificate and talk, and they make many promises, but they wear down their opponents by placing so many obstacles in their way that people get fed up. That is precisely what they have been doing to Scotland since 2014. This is why some in the SNP are now openly talking about Devo Max as possibly the best we can hope for. I’m sorry, but it’s not nearly good enough. What we need is strong leadership providing a clear plan for how to gain independence. Humza Yousaf has said the right things. Now he needs to turn words into action.

Kicking The Can - Again

Posted on June 8th, 2023

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

So the SNP have decided not to decide anything for a few more months. It’s not an entirely unsurprising move since many in the Yes community are convinced that the SNP have no real intentions of ever attempting to make Scotland a normal, self-governing country. I’m not entirely convinced by those who argue that, but I must say that the SNP continually provide ammunition for those who believe they are far more interested in simply remaining in power in a devolved Government than in pursuing the purpose for which the Party was founded. After all, we’ve had nine years to figure out a strategy, and the options are fairly limited to say the least, especially when an emboldened Westminster knows it can get away with refusing a Section 30 Order indefinitely. Some other tactic is required, and the only real choice is which of the few available routes to pursue.

It is reasonable to argue that, with no UK or Scottish elections likely to take place this year, there is no harm in delaying any decision, especially when the new First Minister is still finding his feet in the role. But, as with so many things, politics is almost as much about the optics as it is about actions, and the optics of this decision are not good. For one thing, it will reassure Westminster that the SNP are in a mess and don’t know what to do; for another, it will send a signal to the Scottish public that there is unlikely to be another IndyRef any time soon. Some will be pleased about that, but Yessers will be disappointed to say the least. I wonder how many disgruntled SNP supporters will decide to switch to Alba or ISP? Or will they stick with the SNP, giving them yet another chance to actually do something?

To be honest, it is no wonder that the SNP leadership are reluctant to make that important decision because it carries a great deal of risk. I would argue, though, that remaining tied to Westminster carries even more risk. The UK Government is ramping up its process of undermining the Scottish Government at every opportunity, and the longer we delay, the more difficult it will be to break free of their neo-colonial grip.

What really puzzles me about this decision is that part of the reasoning seems to be that the summer will be spent campaigning. Campaigning for what, precisely? With no stated goal in mind, the public will be entitled to ask what the SNP proposes doing to turn us into a normal country. If that decision hasn’t been made, then any campaign is going to be fairly pointless.

On the other hand, Scots who are not obsessed with politics and are simply doing their best to cope with the stresses of daily life may go along with things for a while yet. But you can only kick the can down the road so many times before people start to ask why they should continue to back you. Actions speak louder than words, but if your principal course of action is to delay, prevaricate and procrastinate, then you are playing into your opponents’ hands. Sooner or later, Humza Yousaf is going to have to stand up and be counted. I sincerely hope it is sooner.


Posted on June 7th, 2023

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

Unsurprisingly, the House of Commons voted to suspend Margaret Ferrier MP for 30 days, thus almost certainly triggering a by-election in the constituency of Rutherglen & Hamilton West. I can’t say I have a great deal of sympathy for her, but it is interesting to note who voted in the decision. Barely a third of the total number of MPs took part, suggesting either that the majority didn’t care very much, or that they cared a great deal not to be seen to be passing judgement on such a highly charged case. And the reason it is highly charged has little to do with Margaret Ferrier’s blunder, and everything to do with the precedent this vote has created. It can be inferred from the fact that 40 Tory MPs voted against her suspension. This is because they know only too well that Boris Johnson broke lock down rules in an even more outrageous way than Margaret Ferrier did. These Tories actually seem to have developed a tiny bit of self-awareness, and realised that they could hardly vote against her when they fully intend to back Boris Johnson to the hilt despite his flagrant breaches of his own Covid rules.

So self-interest was at play in that vote, although the outcome was inevitable despite Tory attempts to fudge things. And self-interest also seems to be at play in the furore over Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme. We know that the Tory Government has completely switched its position on the inclusion of glass in any such scheme, but the reasons for that switch are only now becoming apparent. Of course, it may be complete coincidence that Tory politicians have received hospitality from drinks’ companies who oppose the inclusion of glass, or own very large shareholdings in companies who oppose the inclusion of glass, or that a lobby group representing companies who oppose the inclusion of glass has made a large donation to the Tory Party. But it is a hell of a coincidence. There may be perfectly valid reasons for excluding glass, especially when we already have a system of bottle banks, but I can’t help thinking that the Tory reasons are mostly inspired by self-interest. But then, that lies at the heart of Tory philosophy, and the only way Scotland can ever escape being controlled by people who hold that attitude is to become a normal, self-governing country.

Bottling It

Posted on June 2nd, 2023

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

It’s been yet another Brownhog Day, with Gordon Brown once again promising us something or other which he isn’t able to deliver. Not only is Labour not in power, but even if they do form the next UK Government, Sir Keir (Knight of the Realm) starmer has already said that reform of the House of Lords may not be the priority Gordon Brown thinks it should be. So it’s yet more nonsense from the Broon.

One of the attendees at this talking shop was Mark Drapeford, First Minister of Wales. I like a lot of the things he has to say, and I can’t help feeling he is in the wrong Party. But as well as joining the Labour pontificators, he also backed Humza Yousaf in calling for Westminster to respect Devolution. Now, I know they need to say things like that, but they must know themselves that it is a total waste of breath. Westminster will never respect Devolution, and we are seeing that yet again in their ludicrous stance over Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme. Westminster was apparently quite happy for Wales to design a scheme which included glass bottles, even signing a joint document to that effect. But, buoyed by their successful blocking of the Gender reform Bill, the Tories are really going on the offensive now, using their internal Markets Act as a sledgehammer to squash pretty much anything the Scottish Parliament tries to do. After insisting that glass should be included in the DRS, they have now decided that they can block Scotland’s new legislation by changing their minds and insisting that glass be excluded. This will not only create havoc with the scheme, costing many retailers a lot of money, it allows the Tories to chip away at Holyrood’s decision-making powers. They will not stop here, but will use the IMA to block as much Scottish legislation as they can. Those who were jubilant when the Gender Reform Bill was blocked really should have tempered their feelings because, whether you agreed with that Bill or not, blocking it was an act of deep significance. Having succeeded, the Tories are now emboldened.

Of course, their hypocrisy over the inclusion of glass in the DRS, while evident for all to see, does not embarrass them in the slightest. Having demanded that Scotland’s plans be scrapped, they have now completely swivelled on their agreement with Wales, and are now telling Mark Drapeford that his plans will need to change. So far, he is digging his heels in, but it remains to be seen how far he will push things.

There’s no way yet of telling what will happen here, but one possible outcome is that both Scotland and Wales will either scrap their plans entirely or will go ahead without the inclusion of glass. But whichever way they go, it will cause much confusion and financial cost. It will also allow the BBC to mock the Scottish Government. And, once all of that has been achieved, just watch what happens when Westminster devises its own DRS. I’m not a betting man, but I’m fairly confident that their scheme will include glass, because that will allow them to point the finger at both Wales and Scotland, telling them they are out of step and had better improve their own schemes.

As ever, the only way to escape this madness is to become a normal, self-governing country. The same goes for Wales, and the sooner Humza Yousaf and Mark Drapeford get on with making this a reality, the better.

Boiling the Frog Since 2014

Posted on May 28th, 2023

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

Do you remember how, back in 2014, author J K Rowling, a Labour diehard supporter, assured Scots that, if we voted No in the IndyRef, we would be in a very strong position and could ask for virtually anything we wanted from the UK Government? How did that turn out, I wonder?

Another author, Alan Bisset, made an impassioned speech around the same time, and he gave precisely the opposite view, insisting that Westminster would trample on Scotland, knowing that they could get away with pretty much anything because we had given away our sovereignty. And not just given a little bit away as happens to member countries of the EU, but we’d have given everything up.

Needless to say, the media at the time promoted J K Rowling’s views heavily, while Alan Bisset’s claims were barely covered. But that’s the UK media in Scotland for you. But, as we know only too well, Alan Bisset was correct.

As usual, Westminster has adopted a gradualist approach, but it has reached the stage now where they feel no compunction about overriding legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament. Whether or not you agree with the gender Recognition Reform Bill or the Deposit Return Scheme, Westminster has decided to squash our new laws, using the flimsiest of excuses. Be in no doubt that they will continue to do this sort of thing on a regular basis, and no amount of complaining by the Scottish Government will make any difference. The Tories intend to reduce Holyrood to little more than a talking shop, and will use their Internal Markets Law to prevent us doing pretty much anything.

And for anyone who thinks that a Labour victory at the next UK General Election will change things, then I’m afraid you are very mistaken. Labour now is to the right of what the Tories used to be, and they will revel in the chance to keep Scotland subservient to their own desires. That’s because every UK Government knows that England is reliant on Scotland’s resources. They will never agree to a situation where they might have to pay for things that they can exploit for free, so they’ll fight Scotland’s independence every step of the way.

We need some radical ideas on how to escape the Union because Westminster will never grant another Section 30 Order no matter how many times we beg for one. They came too close to losing last time, and they will not take that risk again, especially since there is so much evidence that every promise they made has been broken.

I appreciate that things have been bad for the SNP recently, but Humza Yousaf and his team really need to get the finger out before Westminster’s frog-boiling tactics leave us with no route to becoming a normal, self-governing country. We’ve had plenty of talking, but we need to see some action soon. And the SNP should not fear taking bold action, because the Yes movement is ready and willing. All we need is a clear route. Let’s get moving.

Forget GDP

Posted on May 24th, 2023

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

There’s a great article in The National today about GDP and how ineffective it is at providing any detail on the health and wellbeing of an economy. It reminded me that the UK boosted its own GDP recently by including an estimate of the amount of money spent on prostitution and illegal drugs. With this help, the UK maintained its position as one of the largest economies in the world.

If you were in any doubt at all as to why GDP is such a poor measurement, take a look at the current UK. The levels of wealth inequality, poverty and destitution are at their worst for a century, yet the UK is still viewed as a major economy. Obsession with GDP places focus on the wrong things. If we want a healthy society, we need to use other principal measurements such as employment, wealth inequality, poverty levels, life expectancy and so on. Yes, these are measured, but they are not the principal focus of either the UK or the Scottish Governments. If we are to become a richer society in terms of mental wellbeing and happiness, that needs to change.

All Quiet On The Indy Front

Posted on May 22nd, 2023

by Rab Bruce’s Spider
Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot
Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider
I haven’t posted any comments for a while because there really hasn’t been a great deal to talk about. Yes, there has been a lot of talk, but we haven’t seen much action on any front. The media, of course, has continued to put the boot into the SNP at every opportunity, but that isn’t news; it’s par for the course.
I hope that we see some action soon. The SNP’s rearranged Convention really needs to come up with a positive plan. If it turns out to be yet another talking shop with lots of promises but no actual progress, then I fear that discontent within the Yes community will continue to grow. That is not good, and the constant bickering between supporters of the SNP and Alba is only doing the Unionists’ job for them. I know both sides feel justified in their views, but the fact that there are two sides simply plays into our opponents’ hands. There is nothing wrong with having different views, but the insults really need to stop.
Given all the bad publicity over the Police investigation, the SNP really need to step things up several gears in order to galvanise the movement. If they can come up with some definite proposals, and can turn the talk into action, then I’d like to think that a lot of the arguments will fall away as the Yes community swings into gear.
I’ll keep hoping, but I must admit it is hard when we’ve had years of promises and yet are not one step further on the road to becoming a normal, self-governing country. Let’s hope that changes soon.

Coronation Spin

Posted on May 7th, 2023

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

I managed not to see a single moment of the coronation yesterday but, while social media was full of comments on how ridiculous the pageantry was, my newsfeeds were full of headlines proclaiming what a superb spectacle the event was, what a wonderful, benevolent, caring person Charles is, and how we are all celebrating with street parties and celebratory meals. All I can say is that this is very different to my experience of what is going on.

With any luck, the thing most people will take away from the flummery is that peaceful protesters were arrested before they had even begun their protest. This was despite being given Police permission beforehand. But, of course, the UK Government rushed through legislation which essentially allows the Police to arrest people for Thought Crime. It seems George Orwell was right; he just got the year wrong.

Carry On Clowning; Sorry, Crowning

Posted on May 4th, 2023

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

A lot has been written and said about the farce of the upcoming coronation of King Charles III, so I thought I might as well get in on the act.

One interesting poll suggested that a majority of Scots view the monarchy as very much an English institution, and the reaction to the event in Scotland certainly suggests that there is little interest in it. I dare say a lot of people will watch out of curiosity or simply because it is, allegedly, a historic occasion, but I’ll certainly find something else to do with my time.

I’ve heard some claims that the cost of this day will now be in the region of £250 million, which is a disgrace when so many of the new King’s subjects are living in dire poverty. I’d have a lot more respect for him if he met the cost from his own immense wealth and even donated some of the cash he’ll never find enough things to spend his money on, to helping the poor. But he won’t. The monarchy is an institution at the very heart of UK society because it establishes the social class system. Adulation of the royal family is encouraged by the bulk of the media, and the King’s subjects are even taught to celebrate their inferiority by singing a national anthem which, unique in the world as far as I know, celebrates the personage of a single person whom we are supposed to treat with reverence. Perhaps North Korea has a similar national anthem, but I doubt many other countries celebrate their subservience the way UK subjects are taught to do.

As for the ludicrous attempt to persuade people to speak an oath of allegiance while watching on TV, I really don’t know where to start with that. It is so medieval that it has been rightly mocked. Sadly, I know at least one person who will probably dutifully recite it while standing to attention in his living room. Such is the power of indoctrination, although I’m thankful that it doesn’t seem to have affected most of my friends and family, all of whom expressed disgust at the very idea of stating their allegiance to an English king.

The other aspect which is gaining some publicity is the prospect of protests. Apparently, known members of republican organisations have been warned that they will be targeted by the Police. Now, I can understand that the authorities must be concerned about the prospect of some idiot with a home-made bomb making an attack, but peaceful protest used to be one of the British values we hear so much about. But even that is too much for the Tories who are almost on the verge of passing Thought Crime laws. If you even look as if you might be considering joining a protest, you could find yourself with a criminal record. Any resemblance to 1930s Germany seems to be quite deliberate.

There is no way I am going to London to watch this ludicrous spectacle, but I do think that a way of protesting which would have an international impact would be for people to join the crowd of spectators lining the route, but to turn their backs as soon as the royal carriage puts in an appearance. There would be no need for banners, shouted slogans or anything else, just the sight of hundreds of people turning their backs. I doubt that will happen, but it’s nice to dream.

The bizarre thing is that people living outwith the UK seem to have a far greater fascination with our royal family and this ridiculous pageant. Of course, they don’t need to live in a society which is directly impacted by having such a wealthy family lording it over them. Or maybe those citizens who are fortunate enough to live elsewhere and not be subjects are simply laughing at the pomposity of it all. For those of us living in the UK, the effect is quite different in that the existence and enormous wealth of the royal family is used as a media tool to maintain the vast social inequalities in our society. It is, quite frankly, disgraceful, and it is noticeable that, while other European countries have royalty, none of them pursue this constant adulation of monarchy the way the UK does. It’s as if they need to keep reminding us to know our place. Sadly, it works, although probably not on as many people as it used to.

As far as I am concerned, there really is no defence for maintaining a monarchy. Some people claim that the royals do so much for us, but what, exactly, do they do? Very little that is of any use. And even that old claim that they bring tourists is nonsense. Tourists come to visit interesting historical sites, but the presence of actual royals has nothing to do with that, as the Tower Of London and the Palace of Versailles constantly prove. And, of course, Brexit is putting many tourists off visiting a place which is portrayed in the international media as cruel and unfriendly, a far more influential factor than the presence of a royal family.

I only wish the Scottish Government would find some route to turning us into a normal, self-governing country sooner rather than later. Then we could take the sensible step of becoming a Republic.

Compare and Contrast

Posted on April 17th, 2023

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

The UK media in Scotland are certainly ramping up the pressure on the SNP, with more and more revelations about murky goings on being reported every day. It will be interesting to see whether any of these propaganda outlets are prosecuted for contempt of Court, but I suspect they’ll get away with it because that’s how the UK operates.

As for the stories themselves, some people will say, "We told you so", others will be dismayed, and some will insist that none of this will harm the underlying cause of independence. That may be true, although the SNP is, at the moment, the only viable political vehicle for us to become a normal country. The UK media is desperate to bring about its demise, which is why they are working so hard to stir things up.

Now, I must say that if anyone within the SNP is found guilty of wrongdoing, then they deserve whatever punishment the Court decides. Actually, hang on a moment. The Court will probably impose a very tough sentence should anyone ever be convicted of wrongdoing because that is also how the UK operates.

I do hope that the Yes cause will remain strong in the face of these attacks. We need a political Party, and the SNP is still best placed to be that Party. If it does fail, then we will need to look elsewhere. Some people have already done so. What I find most disappointing about that is the vitriol being exchanged between supporters of the SNP and Alba. There may well be valid reasons for disagreement, but arguing amongst ourselves is playing into Unionist hands. We all want Scotland to become a normal country, and that must be our priority aim. We can argue about policies afterwards. Please, let’s stop the in-fighting.

With all that said, I do hope that everyone will be noticing the difference in media coverage regarding alleged misdemeanours within the SNP and the evident corruption within the Tory UK Government. If you ever had any doubts about whose side the media is on, those should have been dispelled by now.

Standing Up

Posted on April 13th, 2023

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

To the surprise of nobody at all, Humza yousaf’s decision to challenge the use of a section 35 Order by the UK Government has stoked up all the debate about Trans rights once again. It is, unfortunately, the role of the UK media in Scotland to bash the SNP as often and as hard as possible, and by conflating concepts and ideas, they are using this as a very large stick.

There are a couple of aspects to this. As regards trans rights, I don’t believe anyone has a genuine problem with trans people being afforded as much assistance as possible to lead their chosen lives. What most people who object to the legislation are concerned about is predatory males using the legislation for their own ends. Those are two very separate concepts, but the media has done a good job of stoking up argument and confrontation. This is made easy for them because there are genuine concerns on both sides. We have seen time and time again that predatory males will take any opportunity to gain access to vulnerable people. Whether it be in care homes, in youth sports teams or in religious organisations, stories of abuse have been all too common. Establishing protections while also improving the lot of trans people is a delicate balancing act and the whole thing needs rather more sensible debate than it is currently receiving.

The main issue, though, does not rely on this particular piece of legislation. The issue is that Westminster has blocked Scottish democracy in an autocratic and high-handed manner, offering no real justification, and certainly not offering any tangible solutions. For this reason, I think the Scottish Government is right in its decision to challenge the use of Section 35. I am sure the Supreme Court will find against them, ruling in favour of Westminster as it usually does in such cases. In legal terms, the Scottish Government does not seem to have much in its favour in this situation, and many will argue that pursuing Court action is a waste of money.

However, I think it is a necessary action because when the Supreme Court inevitably rules against the Scottish Parliament’s ability to pass laws, then the world will see once again that Scotland does not have the most powerful devolved Government in the world. We will see Westminster over-ruling our Parliament on a whim, using this legislation because it is high profile. But the blocking is purely political and we should be outraged no matter what the subject of the legislation is. Westminster is simply showing Scots that the UK is in charge. Let’s hope that the reaction of most in Scotland will be to appreciate just what that tells us about the current constitutional situation. The balance is heavily weighted against Scotland, and once a successful Section 35 enforcement has been made, you can be sure they will do it again and again. We are often told that we need to stand up to bullies, and I applaud Humza Yousaf for taking this stance. As I said, I don’t think he will succeed, but that is not the point. If Westminster can use this proposed legislation to make a political point, then the Scottish Government, on behalf of our Parliament which passed the legislation with the approval of MSPs from all Parties, can surely do the same.

Where Next?

Posted on April 4th, 2023

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

I have not written anything much about the SNP leadership contest because I’m not a member of the Party, so had no input to the contest. I do feel that it was an unedifying spectacle seeing the contenders gift arguments to the unionists by slating each other rather than promoting themselves, and I must admit I was not overly enthralled by the prospect of any of them becoming First Minister. However, we now have Humza Yousaf, and I do hope he will do a lot more than create headlines by making meaningless statements or gestures about independence without actually doing anything to further the cause. For a start, I’d love to see him attend the All Under One Banner march on 6th May. Some might consider that a meaningless gesture, but the Yes movement is sorely in need of some positive action, and it would be a statement of intent.

Quite how any FM can bring us closer to becoming a normal, self-governing country, I am not sure, but I think we should all give Humza Yousaf the benefit of the doubt for a little while yet.

As for the wider Yes movement, it is disheartening to see supporters of both SNP and Alba slagging each other. I know there are some fundamental disagreements on policies, but if we all genuinely want Scotland to become a normal country, that must be the priority aim. Fighting amongst ourselves only helps the Unionists. As we know only too well, they have no qualms about joining together to maintain the Union, and the chances are that they will do so again. Already we hear stories of a proposed pact for the two main Unionist Parties to urge their voters to vote for the other Party solely in order to block the SNP at the next election. Since there is very little between the two Parties in terms of policies, I suspect this proposal may well turn into reality despite Labour’s Scottish branch office issuing denials. After all, they insisted they would not enter in to coalitions in local Councils, but have done so quite willingly in several areas. The Tory proposal to stand only one Unionist candidate in any area may seem far-fetched, but let’s not dismiss it out of hand.

As for Yes, where do we go from here? A recent poll suggests that Alba might be on track to gain some Holyrood seats, but since the next Holyrood election is years away unless Humza Yousaf calls a snap election, I think we need to reserve judgement on that one. At the moment, I’m not sure what the impact would be if Alba did gain seats. I think the hostility between them and the SNP needs to settle down or we will see yet more unedifying squabbles which would only help the Unionists. On the other hand, some would argue that the SNP need another Party to prod them along because the Greens, while expressing support for independence, don’t seem to have it as a priority.

As for all the polls which can suggest several things depending on how you read them, what strikes me is a point I have been trying to make for ages. Far too many Scots are falling for the Unionist trap of focusing too much either on individual politicians or on domestic policy issues. Yes, the energy bills crisis and cost of living, not to mention health and education, are important, but they will be important whether we are a self-governing country or remain under Westminster rule. Becoming a normal country will not solve those issues overnight, but it would give us a chance to address them as every other country does without having the Westminster Sword of Damocles hanging over our heads, ready to cut our funding or strike down our laws on a whim. The cause of independence is fundamental, and nobody should be lulled into changing their minds on it because of any individual politician or domestic policy. The whole point would be to elect politicians who promise to enact policies we want, and to have the ability to remove them from office if they fail to deliver. At the moment, the SNP gather so many votes because they are the recognised Party of independence. This is not healthy for our democracy no matter how effective they might be in Government.

We need change, and we need political leadership. At the moment, that means relying on Humza Yousaf to deliver on his promises. But whether you are a member of the SNP, or of Alba, or of some other or no Party at all, please let’s stop the in-fighting.

The Media Trap

Posted on March 15th, 2023

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

As I am not a member of the SNP, I haven’t spent a great deal of time watching the leadership debates. From what I can gather, the Hustings have been well received, with sensible debate and answers to audience questions. It has, though, been a very different affair on the televised debates.

I must say that I feel the SNP were in a no-win situation here. If they had stuck to their original decision of not allowing the media access to the debates, they would have been accused of trying to hide. But agreeing has left all three candidates open to the media hostility we all know exists. The TV format is designed to encourage argument and create an aggressive interaction, and I’m afraid the three candidates seem to have fallen into the trap of going along with this. The insults they have been throwing at each other have been a godsend to the Unionist Parties, which is precisely what the media wanted, and I am disappointed that the candidates did not agree beforehand to keep things civil while still promoting themselves as the best candidate. That sort of approach was perfectly possible, but it seems they have blown it.

From all accounts, the BBC did their usual trick of packing the audience with Unionist supporters. Now, I do understand the argument that whoever wins is going to become First Minister, so it is right that non-SNP members should be able to see what they are going to get, but I don’t recall the same thing happening with the Tory leadership debates where the audience was, as I recall, full of Tory Party members. Whether it was right to confine the audience to Party members, or fill it with opponents is something that can be debated. What is not in doubt is that the BBC did their best to give the Tory candidates a much easier ride than the SNP. That’s BBC impartiality in action once again.

As for who will become our next First Minister, I’m not enamoured of any of the candidates. All have points in their favour, but all have points against. Since my main concern is that Scotland should become a normal country, Ash Regan seemed positioned to be my preferred choice, but the truth is that she does not seem to have performed well when it comes to detail on her other policies. Both of the other candidates have said things which have slightly alarmed me, and I’m not convinced that either of them would be the leader we need if we are to gain independence. As always, I hope that I am wrong on that, but so far, I’ve not seen any signs of the sort of determination we need.

The one good thing about this contest is that it will be over fairly soon.

Uni-Directional Impartiality

Posted on March 9th, 2023

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

Like most Yessers, I am fully aware of the BBC’s bias when it comes to reporting news and current affairs. The latest furore over a tweet sent out by Gary Lineker has, however, reinforced my views even further. In the aftermath, with huge amounts of BBC airtime being given over to this Tweet, the BBC are now doing their level best to promote the UK Government’s reaction to it. Apparently, Gary Lineker’s Tweet has diminished the horror of the Holocaust if we are to believe Home Secretary Suella Braverman. Naturally, the BBC are highlighting this, as well as having promised to have a strong word with Mr Lineker.

But, of course, the Tory response is intended to misdirect attention. The Tweet in question did not mention the Holocaust; what he said was that the language being used around immigration was similar to that used in 1930s Germany. The point being that rhetoric aimed against minorities which encourages hatred and violence can be a precursor to much more horrible events further down the line. In this, Mr Lineker’s sentiments are matched by comments from some German commentators, and indeed echo the angry speech by a Holocaust survivor who challenged Suella Braverman only a few weeks ago, accusing her of precisely the same thing that Gary Lineker has done.

As if this were not bad enough, readers should note that the BBC happily condones Right Wing extremist language, and actively promotes Right Wing views on the truly awful Question Time programme which is largely responsible for promoting Nigel Farage and UKIP. And when you have the new Deputy Chair of the Tory Party joining GB News and being happy to be photographed with members of Far Right organisations, then I think it is fairly obvious which way the Tories have been heading for some time now. Anything like the Holocaust is unthinkable, but we’ve already seen riots outside hotels housing immigrants, which is precisely the sort of thing hate speech encourages.

There is very little chance that the Tories will change. They are too focussed on garnering votes from the most Right Wing elements of the electorate, but what is just as bad is that the BBC seems intent on silencing or at least distancing itself from any criticism of this hatred of foreigners. It seems that being impartial only works in one direction.

Leadership Choices

Posted on March 3rd, 2023

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

As I’m not a member of any political Party, the current SNP leadership contest interests me only in so far as I want to know that whoever gets the job will pursue the cause of independence as a priority. We all know that the Unionist Parties will bang on about the Scottish Government needing to get on with the day to day issues, but that is a deflection tactic. Yes, things like the economy, Health service, education and so on are important, but the fact is that the Scottish Government is always dealing with these things with one hand tied behind its back because Scotland is not a normal, self-governing country. That is not to say that all social issues will miraculously be resolved once we do become a normal country, but it would mean that the Scottish Government would at last have all the tools available to normal countries. Most importantly, it would mean we could vote them out if they don’t use those powers to benefit our people. At the moment, the SNP receive a lot of votes simply because they are seen by the electorate as the pro-Indy Party with the best credentials. That in itself is an unhealthy situation since it means many people will vote for them even if they disagree with their other policies. That is a situation which is likely to continue until the constitutional question is resolved.

It's been no real surprise that Humza Yousaf is seen as the continuity candidate. Of the three, he is most likely to maintain the direction the SNP has taken under Nicola Sturgeon, and that, I think, is the problem as far as a great many Yessers are concerned. While there is no doubt that Nicola Sturgeon is a highly capable politician who has consistently shown her Unionist opponents to be second-rate, she really has not advanced the cause of independence very much at all. In fact, the encouraging recent polls have largely been due to the authoritarian attitude of the Westminster Government which has been behaving pretty much as most Yessers have predicted it could and would behave if given the chance.

As for who I’d vote for, I honestly don’t know. All three candidates have strong points, and all three have weaknesses. All I would say is that the Yes movement needs some strong leadership in the coming months, and the new SNP leader will need to provide that in spades.

In the meantime, of course, the Unionist media will keep churning out articles about how bad everything is in Scotland, and will continue to dig dirt on all of the leadership hopefuls. I hope the SNP members remain mindful that the media is not our friend.

The Games Begin

Posted on February 22nd, 2023

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

Not being a member of any political Party, my interest in the SNP leadership contest is based solely on whether the new leader will provide the leadership that the wider Yes movement needs. Which of them will actually deliver on turning Scotland into a normal, self-governing country? That’s my overriding concern.

From what little I’ve gleaned in the past couple of days, I’d say that all three candidates have strengths, and all have weaknesses. It’s rather a pity they couldn’t act as joint leaders in a triumvirate, but that didn’t work out too well for Republican Rome, and I doubt it would work in the modern political environment, although the Scottish greens seem to be able to cope with joint leaders.

My main concern is actually for the mental wellbeing of whoever does become the next SNP leader and First Minister. Both Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon had the mental strength to withstand the hostility of the UK media in Scotland, and whoever takes over will need that same mental strength. The fact that the media are already making a huge issue out of Kate Forbes’ religious beliefs seems to have scuppered her chances, although it is noticeable that they never apply the same scrutiny to the religious beliefs of other political leaders in Scotland. Of course, the media will focus on anything at all which gives them a chance to bash the SNP, so I suppose this is only to be expected, especially as Kate Forbes has shown herself to be a talented Government Minister. But, rightly or wrongly, I suspect it is a step too far for a Party to elect a leader whose fundamental beliefs on social issues is so far out of alignment with the Scottish public.

I’m sure we can expect media hatchet jobs on the other two candidates before long. NO doubt journalists are already digging deep into social media profiles and chasing anyone who might have some negative comments on any of the leadership hopefuls. It is, sadly, a sign of the times that the entire media has fallen to this tabloid level of journalism, but I suppose they need to do their masters’ bidding.

As for the candidates, it’s still early days to make any assessment, but I must admit that I do like some of the comments on bringing the wider Yes movement together and working with other parties, but I fear the SNP’s Sturgeon loyalists won’t go for that at all. Some of them seem to detest Alba more than they hate the Tories. And before anyone gets upset at that remark, I know that the same holds true in the opposite direction. Still, it would be nice to see every Yes Party working towards the same goal and putting their differences aside until we achieve that goal. As ever, though, the media will be the greatest opponent in that as well. You can be sure they’ll focus on splits and division, both within Yes and within the SNP. Divide and conquer has always been the British way.

Whoever does become SNP leader, I wish them well, and I sincerely hope they can take us beyond the current constitutional roadblock. Now, more than ever, we need strong leadership.

What Next?

Posted on February 15th, 2023

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

Nicola Sturgeon’s surprise resignation has met with varying responses within the Yes community. I would like to reaffirm that I think she is one of the most capable politicians in the UK, and has demonstrated time and time again that she is a superb communicator and is never afraid to take questions. She can think on her feet, and has always shown herself better able to debate than any of her rivals in other Parties.

Of course, there are those who have wanted her to go for a long time, and her critics can point to the total lack of progress on achieving independence despite several mandates, and also to policy choices and competence in carrying them out. Yes, the UK media in Scotland will always pounce on any mistake to hammer the SNP, but there have been rather too many mistakes recently.

All that is, though, in the past. The main thing now is what happens next. Who will replace her? We need someone more than just a highly competent politician. We need someone with a bit of fire and energy who will take us to independence. Being a good politician is simply not enough. My big fear is that nobody of that calibre is likely to be available. I do hope I’m wrong on that.

My other fear is that the SNP could dissolve into factions. This would set the cause of independence back yet again, and we cannot afford that.

And then there is Alba. Tainted as Alex Salmond is in the eyes of many, I am curious to see how he will respond. His fallout with Nicola Sturgeon has been one of the big problems faced by the Yes community, resulting in followers of both taking aggressive stances against the other. As I’ve said before, becoming a normal country is far more important than individuals, Parties or policies. Whoever becomes the next SNP leader and First Minister, I hope they will find a way to work together with all other pro-Yes Parties for the common good. By all means disagree on domestic policies, but we all need to focus on the real target.

Missing The Point

Posted on February 8th, 2023

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

It was interesting to listen to Nicola Sturgeon’s recent media interview where she fielded questions on a range of topics. The hostility of most journalists was fairly evident, and most of them focused their attention on the recent GRR controversy.

I must admit my admiration for the way Nicola Sturgeon did not lose the rag at some of the questions. One, in particular, struck me as quite lacking in self-awareness on the part of the journalist posing the question. He wanted to know how the FM thought that people outside of Scotland would view the GRR furore.

The FM did not retort with the obvious remark that the uproar is largely of the media’s making. She did, quite rightly, point out that other countries have passed similar legislation without there being such opposition. She did, though, refrain from pointing a finger at the main culprits in Scotland even though they were all sitting in front of her.

Now, wherever you stand on the GRR, the one thing you can be sure of in Scotland is that the media, which is almost exclusively pro-Union, is going to seize on any opportunity to bash the SNP. Look at things like NHS waiting times which are pounced upon every time they are poor; look at the reporting of the delays in building ferries; look at the howls of outrage over the minimum pricing of alcohol. They even ran many articles critical of the building of the Queensferry Crossing, and are always delighted when there are traffic problems on that new bridge. With that sort of track record, it was inevitable that the media would use the GRR as a stick to bash the Scottish Government.

This is where I think the FM has got things seriously wrong. Much of the criticism over ferries is justified, so it serves no purpose to provide the media with yet more ammunition to bash the SNP. The GRR was always going to be controversial, and pushing it through has given the media a field day. Nicola Sturgeon would probably claim that the legislation is the right thing to do to help a stigmatised minority, and that politics should focus on what is the right thing to do. She may have a point, but public opinion, in part stoked by the negative media coverage, is not with her on this topic. Many people have serious misgivings about the potential loopholes in the proposed law which could give predatory males access to female spaces. In light of historic cases of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and youth sports coaches, those fears are understandable even if the Scottish Parliament believes they are unfounded.

My main point here is not about the various opinions on the gRR Bill, but on why it was wrong to bring the legislation forward at this time. Given Scotland’s ridiculous constitutional situation, it is foolish to give the media such an opportunity to create an uproar with which to bash the Scottish Government and, by extension, to turn people against the idea of independence. The latest poll shows support for becoming a normal country has fallen, with the blame being placed on reaction to the GRR.

Now, this reaction may or may not be the real reason. Opinion polls are notoriously capable of producing the result desired by whoever commissions them. However, if there has been a fall in support for Scottish independence, then there are two things we can take from this.

First, it is confirmation that the media can influence people’s views by seizing on any news event which allows them to bash the SNP. Since the SNP is synonymous with the desire to become a normal country in the eyes of the UK media and many Unionists, it is something of a political blunder to provide them with what they are looking for.

Secondly, and the part which really bugs me, is that the electorate are influenced on independence by policy issues or personalities. Becoming a normal country should not depend on who is in power or whether you agree with any of their policies. Scotland as a nation has been around for centuries, and will be around long after the current crop of politicians have gone. If current politicians do something you dislike, that really should not alter your views on independence. Indeed, even the current crop of proto-fascists who form the UK Government should not really influence views on independence except in so far as they are extreme examples of the fundamental problem. The English electorate seems to like right wing extremists, and Scotland has no power to vote them out. But these extremists are symptoms of the problem, not the cause, and we should only point to their behaviour to provide examples of why Scotland must become a normal country.

That recent poll has rather depressed me as it confirms that far too many people are missing the point entirely. Let’s hope they soon appreciate the real constitutional issue, and are not distracted and misdirected by the media whose job it is to keep them in ignorance of the real problem. On this point, I do wish Nicola Sturgeon, when responding to questions about teachers’ pay from those Unionist journalists, had made far more of the fundamental problem being that Scotland’s budget is set by Westminster. She alluded to it in a vague way, but she really ought to hammer the point home. Some may see that as playing the grievance card, but it is factually correct, and failing to mention it allows the media to point the finger of blame at the Scottish Government for not agreeing a pay deal. Public sympathy may well be with the public service workers who are taking industrial action, but as we’ve seen with the GRR, the media are capable of influencing that opinion. By always avoiding the central issue of who controls Scotland’s purse strings, the media are able to create the #SNPBad headlines they crave. Many Scots are immune to this now, but clearly, a great many are not, so the FM needs to do a lot more to highlight the problem. And she certainly needs to stop giving them ammunition by supporting unpopular policies.

Predictions of Normality

Posted on January 27th, 2023

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

It is notoriously difficult to make accurate predictions. In any given situation, you can usually find people who hold diametrically opposing views on what will happen next. This is why I have an issue with Unionists and their media who constantly demand predictions from the Yes movement on what will happen in an independent Scotland. We can have ideas about what we want to achieve, and proposals for how we want to achieve those goals, but it is impossible to predict everything to the level demanded by the unionists.

Of course, Unionists are not so great at predictions either. Look at all the benefits we were promised in the sunlit uplands of Brexit. I don’t think I’ve seen a single prediction come true except that we would get blue passports again. Come to think of it, even that wasn’t strictly accurate as the old passports in the pre-Eu days were black, not blue, and I’m told the new ones are similar.

But as I look around at the utter mess the UK is in at the moment, I could not help recalling two people who did give predictions about what the result of the 2014 IndyRef would bring. By coincidence, both were writers. First, J K rowling, these days more famous for her stance in the gRR debate, was an ardent supporter of Labour, and willingly sat beside Alistair Darling at media events promoting Better Together. She went so far as to assure us that if we voted No, Scotland would find it had more influence within the UK than ever. As usual with such pro-UK announcements, she received a lot of media coverage over this. And her prediction lasted right up until the morning after the vote, when David Cameron announced English Votes for English Laws. Since then, things have developed pretty much as Scots writer Alan Bissett predicted. He insisted that a No vote would give Westminster free rein to do as it liked with Scotland and that, far from having greater influence, we would see ourselves seriously weakened.

Naturally, Alan Bissett’s predictions were not as highly publicised at the time because he was on the Yes side, but you can still find them on Youtube if you can bear to listen to just how cannily accurate he was.

As we now know, pretty much everything Better Together told us was a lie. I’m sure some of them actually believed it at the time, but they have all been proven disastrously wrong. We now find ourselves out of the EU, and shackled to a UK whose Government has veered so far towards the right that it now, by my count, meets at least 10 of the 14 traits of fascism listed by Umberto Eco. Google that list and make your own count. You could argue the UK’s score is even higher.

We’ve seen the sewell Convention broken, we’ve seen the Supreme Court rule against our right to hold another referendum, we’ve got an ongoing Power Grab, and we’ve got a Tory Government who are intent on keeping Scotland subservient to its own rule. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m getting heartily sick of this.

As to how we escape and become a normal, self-governing country, I honestly don’t know what the best route is. This is another situation where you can drop in on social media and find a wide range of views and predictions. For my part, the only prediction I will make is that, whichever route the Scottish Government does decide to follow, the whole Yes movement needs to be united. Arguing among ourselves will only result in us remaining trapped in the Union. That may well require some pro-Yes Parties to stand aside in some constituencies, but if that is what it takes, then egos and arguments over policies need to be forgotten. The time to bring those out is once we are independent. After all, the whole point of being a normal country is that you can elect a Government which represents the people, preferably in a PR voting system which will hopefully bring us into line with other modern democracies. We have seen only too vividly the mess that First Past The Post creates. Some may claim it produces a strong Government, but it should be clear to everyone that it actually results in an authoritarian Government. We need an electoral system where the resulting Parliament is dominated by the need for compromise and discussion.

Will we ever reach that goal? You can make as many predictions as you like, but the only way we’ll ever achieve it is if everyone campaigns hard and makes sure as many Yessers as possible get out and vote when given the opportunity. If we win, then I think I can confidently predict it will not be a land of sunshine, milk and honey. There will be problems and difficulties; mistakes and successes. But that’s what being a normal country is all about, and I’d like to think that most people can now see that we could do an awful lot better than the posh elite in Westminster who have been running our nation for over three centuries and still insist we are an economic basket case.

The Way Ahead

Posted on January 15th, 2023

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

Whether Yessers like it or not, the SNP is still the de facto political arm of the Yes movement. Some might argue that we aren’t going to become a normal, self-governing country as long as Nicola Sturgeon is First Minister, but as things stand, we certainly aren’t going to get independence without the SNP in power.

So the recent announcement about the options now being suggested for the March convention are interesting and important. At the moment, it seems SNP members will be given a choice of whether to stick with the next UK General Election as the de facto Referendum, or whether to wait until the next Scottish elections.

I will make no secret of the fact that I think using the General Election is not the way to go. The only way I would support that is if the SNP decided that a simple majority of elected MPs would be sufficient mandate. I know they are not even considering that, but I still think it could work because it uses Westminster’s own unfair electoral system against it. After all, we’ve had three centuries of Governments elected by a minority of the electorate imposed on us by the First Past The Post system, so why not let Westminster know that we will play by their rules?

But that is, I admit, irrelevant because the SNP seem to have no intention of doing it, sticking instead to the idea that they need to gain over 50% of the popular vote to grant yet another mandate. This, in my view, is very risky. It is almost unheard of for any Party to attain that level of vote in a UK General Election, and the UK voting system means that we will be automatically disenfranchising a large number of people who are likely to vote Yes. EU citizens and anyone in the 16-17 age group is not allowed to vote in a UK General Election. So to use this as your route to independence is, I fear, risking failure.

Which leaves a Scottish election where far more residents of our country are eligible to vote. I think this is still the safest route, as long as the choice of Yes supporting votes is not restricted to the SNP. Votes for the greens or any other explicitly pro-Indy Party must also be counted. If the SNP stick to their stance of saying that only votes for them will count, then they will again be leading us on the road to failure.

The big problem with using the Scottish elections is that they are still a few years away. That gives the Tories far more time to ruin Scotland and destroy our democracy completely. For those hoping Labour will get in at the next UK General Election, I’m afraid I don’t see that making much difference. Sir Keir (Knight of the Realm) Starmer is an ardent Unionist and Brexiteer, so he’s not going to change much at all.

So can we afford to wait until 2026? I don’t think we can, especially as actual independence will not be for another couple of years after that. I honestly don’t think our NHS and other public services can survive that long under Tory aggression.

I do hope the SNP decide to use the Scottish elections as that will provide a far clearer view of the will of the Scottish people, but if they do go for that, then Nicola Sturgeon needs to call an election this year. I’m afraid to say that I don’t think she will do that because, fine politician as she is, she seems determined to postpone our chances of becoming a normal country whenever she can. To say I am dismayed to have reached that conclusion is an understatement, but she has done very little to demonstrate that she is prepared to push really hard for independence sooner rather than later. You can, of course, argue that using the UK General Election would show that she does want an early resolution, but as I mentioned, that is only an early way to losing the vote because of all the restrictions. If she sticks to that, she may kill our chances completely.

I will watch the Convention with interest because whatever they decide could seal the fate of our nation. That’s how critical this is, and I hope that the SNP will create conditions which give us the best possible chance of winning. We’ve tried playing by Westminster rules, and it has got us nowhere. It’s time to change the rules.

NO, Your Honour

Posted on January 3rd, 2023

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

For the past few years, I’ve been posting out on social media how pleased I am not to have been named in the New Year’s Honours Lists. Of course, the chances of me ever being named are so negligible as to be almost non-existent, but I do sometimes have a hankering to be approached by the Honours Committee just so that I could tell them where to stick their award.

This year, I got to thinking about why the Honours system is still so prevalent in the UK, and why so many people still seem to be impressed by the awards handed out.

To begin with, I know that almost everyone wants to feel appreciated, and sometimes it is nice to receive a reward for a job well done. The Honours system plays on this natural human reaction by handing out awards to people who have allegedly done something to make UK society better. This does include sports personalities, actors, charity workers and other campaigners, but the principal recipients tend to be people who have provided services to the people who run the UK. These awards are, I believe, a way to draw those people ever closer to the Establishment, and to make them part of the governmental system.

"Back the status quo and you’ll be rewarded with titles and a chance to earn more money," seems to be the way that operates.

As for those more ordinary people who are given awards, I must admit to a feeling of disappointment that they accept such baubles and trinkets which are designed only to make them feel grateful to the UK state. Much like military medals which are handed out to members of the armed forces who display bravery, these awards are designed just as much to reinforce loyalty as to show genuine appreciation. Indeed, the awarding of military honours was initially to encourage soldiers to try to outdo one another in their efforts to achieve the aims of their commanders. The Romans, for example, used to award prizes to the first man to reach the top of the wall of a city that was under attack. If that man survived, he could then strut around to show off his prowess to his comrades.

These days, a lot of people do seem almost as proud to display their awards. Perhaps I am in a minority, but I’ve never felt the need to show off the few awards I’ve ever received. Most of them have been for academic achievements rather than anything more unusual, but I’ve still never felt the need to put such things on display. I know of a couple of people who achieved those same qualifications and had the certificates framed and hung on their walls. Quite honestly, I have no idea where any of mine are. Probably at the bottom of a drawer or stuck up in the attic. For me, the achievement was the thing, not the reward.

But an awful lot of people do seem to feel that being given an award in the Honours List is in some way special. Perhaps it is, and I realise that my own objections to this system stem from the way it is implemented and controlled by those in power within the UK.

If Scotland ever does become a normal, self-governing country, I expect some similar sort of Awards system will be implemented. If it is, it would be a much better idea for it to be controlled by an independent review body rather than being left to the whims of whichever politicians happen to be in power. Perhaps a People’s Assembly could be convened once a year to propose and consider candidates, then convey their decision. Any such awards could then be physically handed out by an elected Head of state on behalf of the Republic of Scotland. Even I might consider accepting an award issued under such a system. As long as I have space left in the bottom of a drawer to store it.

Media Musings

Posted on December 20th, 2022

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

While there have been lots of public complaints about Jeremy Clarkson’s misogynistic comments, the media outrage seems to me to have been rather less than the outpourings of fury over Nicola Sturgeon saying that she detests the Tories. Perhaps my own confirmation bias is at work here, but I haven’t seen nearly as many furious articles about Clarkson. His comments have been reported, but usually in bland terms, while there were huge debates about whether Nicola Sturgeon should have said anything so detestable as expressing her detestation. Tory politicians, in particular, seem to be maintaining a much lower profile this time around. Since Mr Clarkson compared his hatred of Nicola Sturgeon as being comparable to his hatred of a mass murderer, I’d venture to suggest that his words were far more detestable than anything Nicola Sturgeon said.

Most of the focus about his remarks has been on his use of a scene from Game of Thrones to express his hatred of Meghan Markle. He has apologised for any offence and promised to be more careful in future, but, as with most such comments, the damage has been done. Quite why he thought that using a Game of Thrones analogy was appropriate is beyond me since George R R Martin, the author of the Game of Thrones series, often goes out of his way to shock readers with such scenes.

The media, of course, is funded by wealthy people whose aim is to maintain the status quo because a Tory regime (or even a Tory-light Labour one) suits them perfectly. This is why The Sun newspaper is still churning out its propaganda despite eye-watering financial losses. It is in the interest of the Establishment to have a means of distributing its view of how the UK should operate. This is the reason why The Sun published Mr Clarkson’s outrageous comments; it is the reason that the Michelle Mone PPE scandal was largely ignored by the media until the outcry became too loud, and even then the reporting was often superficial. It is the same with the rapid and highly persuasive debunking of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s claim that giving nurses a pay rise would cost every household £1,000. Anyone who does not rely on the mainstream media for their news will know this is a highly inaccurate and misleading claim, yet the debunking gets barely a mention, while the lie has been repeated so often that many people will have fallen for it.

Which is, of course, the whole point of repeating lies in the media. Since hardly any TV interviewer challenges such assertions, the lies are able to sink into the consciousness of those who lap up such short, punchy phrases even if they have the same relationship with the truth as the claims about NHS funding which the Leave campaign put on the side of a bus.

I’ve also seen some criticism of our new Queen Consort for hosting a dinner at which Jeremy Clarkson and Piers Morgan were present. It should be pointed out that plenty of other, less controversial "celebrities" were there as well, but the presence of these two arch Meghan Markle haters has been pounced upon as yet another sign of poor judgement on the part of the royal family. Social media has gone into overdrive about this sorry affair, and I've seen some people state that they believe the past week signals both the end of Jeremy Clarkson’s career, and the beginning of the end for the royal family. Perhaps I am too cynical, but I doubt it is the end for either of them. The royal family is at the very heart of the Establishment, and even though it sometimes suffers criticism, the media is generally very supportive no matter what the royals do. This may change slightly with a new King on the throne, but I doubt it. The Establishment needs the royal family as a figurehead and a distraction from daily life. Republicanism is frowned upon to such an extent that it barely gets a chance to make its case to the public. Adulation of the royal family is a cornerstone of Britishness, so I doubt that simply inviting a couple of misogynistic right wing celebrities is going to make much of an impact. As for Mr Clarkson himself, as long as he keeps saying things which align with the interests of the royal family, I’m sure his career will be just fine. It may take a slightly different path if the public refuses to engage with him, but he’ll still be around to dispense his particular brand of unpleasantness.

As ever, people need to realise that the media is not our friend. Demonisation of striking workers is already in full swing but, as I mentioned in an earlier blog post, the media are currently out of step with public opinion. This may change if the constant barrage of anti-Union propaganda continues, but I doubt it. Everyone can see what 12 years of Tory rule have brought. Some may revel in this because they believe that keeping foreigners out is more important than anything else, but more and more people are able to recognise where the root of the UK’s problem lies. The media will continue to try to persuade people to act against their own best interests by portraying anyone who seeks to disrupt the status quo as dangerous. Remember how they treated Alex Salmond and Jeremy Corbyn? Meghan Markle and Nicola Sturgeon face the same treatment, as does Mick Lynch. There is a reason for this, and I’m pretty sure you know what it is.

Thanks for reading, and if I don’t publish another blog before Christmas, then here’s wishing you as happy a time as you can manage in the current circumstances.

We Need A Better Form Of Democracy

Posted on December 11th, 2022

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

News has recently broken that the UK Government might attempt to block the impact of the Scottish Government’s Gender Recognition Act (GRA). Their reasoning is that the Bill introduces things which are important for reserved matters such as pensions and benefits, or the issuing of official documents such as passports. If someone has their Birth Certificate altered, the UK Government may not recognise that change.

Wherever you stand on the GRA reform, this episode demonstrates once again the craziness of Scotland’s Government being effectively over-ruled by Westminster. I can fully understand the reasoning behind this because the current constitutional arrangement creates many such farcical situations, and it is, quite frankly, absurd that we should be in this situation at all, no matter which piece of legislation is the subject of the problem.

The constitutional divide also present Scottish voters with a very difficult problem. If you are desperate to see Scotland become a normal, self-governing country, but fundamentally disagree with the GRA, how do you vote? If you refuse to back the SNP in the next General Election, you may harm our chances of becoming a normal country simply because you disagree with the Scottish Government on one (or possibly more) elements of their policies. That’s a tough call to make.

That situation, of course, gives the SNP free rein to do pretty much as it pleases because it knows it can rely on the support of many people who simply want independence from Westminster control, and who see the SNP as the main vehicle for achieving that. Yes, I know there are other parties out there, but none of them have yet made much impression on the electorate, largely due to a virtual media blackout of their policies. In itself, this situation where the SNP know they will have huge support because of one over-arching policy is not good for democracy either. What we need is a situation where we could vote out a Government which introduces unpopular legislation if that is what we want. At the moment, every election is fundamentally founded on the constitutional issue, an issue which is so important that it creates this difficult situation for many voters. Because we know full well that any diminution of the SNP vote in any election will be loudly proclaimed by the Unionist politicians and media as proving that the desire for independence is lessening. Again, this is an unwelcome feature of the current state of Scottish politics. None of this: Westminster’s ability to over-rule the Scottish Government, the SNP’s ability to push through legislation in the knowledge that they will have a great deal of support no matter what they do, nor the predictable responses of the Unionist politicians and their media pals, is good for democracy.

As ever, there is an easy solution. If Scotland becomes a normal country, we can vote for any Party we like, basing our decision on their policies, not on the matter of their stance on the constitution. And every day that passes seems to throw up a situation which makes this more and more obvious. Perhaps that is why polling now shows a majority for Yes. Let’s hope we can turn that into some positive action before much longer.

As Others See Us

Posted on December 9th, 2022

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

While I prefer not to give too much credence to articles produced in the Unionist press, I do have an RSS app which provides newsfeeds from a number of sources. I think it is important to try to keep abreast of what both sides are saying on the political front. The downside to that is that, every so often, you come across an article that is so barking mad it leaves you shaking your head in wonder. Just such an article appeared on the City AM site recently. It was so full of inaccuracies and wild statements that I really didn’t want to share it. For the curious, you can read it in its full glory at the link below. Be warned. Your blood pressure may be affected by the craziness.

Scotland needs to abandon its dream world and realise what independence truly means (cityam.com)

It is, of course, important that we should try to see ourselves as others see us, but that piece is so bereft of facts, and so full of unfounded opinions, it really must rank as one of the most ridiculous yet. I rather hoped it was a spoof, but I fear it is genuine. Yes, some English commentators actually do believe that nonsense. Or, being charitable, they don’t believe it at all but know they must churn out that sort of drivel in order to persuade their readers that Scotland should remain shackled to Westminster in this not-so-voluntary Union of Equals.

It's hard to know where to begin countering that stream of nonsense. The unnamed writer clearly believes all the BBC propaganda about the ineptitude of the Scottish Government.

But it gets worse as it goes on. To say that Scotland acquires its wealth from England is just plain wrong. In fact, as statistics have demonstrated for years, it is England that benefits from the plundering of Scotland’s wealth and resources. Our oil, gas, electricity, whisky, salmon, farm produce, and so many other things should make us a wealthy nation, yet we allegedly remain an economic basket case after more than 3 centuries of Westminster rule. And yet, the writer of that piece seems to think that this is the best we can hope for because we would be so poor without the beneficence of our English neighbours.

This is, apparently, due to geography. England is closer to Europe and so has better trade links. This is an utterly bizarre statement when you consider that Brexit has severed those ties. It completely ignores Ireland, whose people are significantly better off than their counterparts in the UK; it ignores that Iceland seems to be managing perfectly well despite being even more remote, and it does not even consider the fact that the UK controls our exports as being in any way part of our problem. Our ports are not controlled by our Government, so creating links to other countries direct from Scotland relies largely on private business, few of whom have any great incentives to establish those links. Ireland, on the other hand, has created a fast ferry link direct to the continent in order to by-pass England when sending goods for export. An independent Scotland could, and should, do the same. Links to Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands should be a priority for us But to say that geography makes this impossible is, quite frankly, weird..

Geography may have an impact, but it is certainly not the barrier that this article seems to believe. After all, hasn’t the UK recently agreed world-beating trade deals with Australia and New Zealand? You can’t get much further away than that, and geographical distance doesn’t seem to have had any effect on the UK’s ability to agree deals which add to the damage Brexit is causing.

As I say, it’s incredible that anyone should come out with such utter nonsense, and it is baffling to me that so many people in England actually believe this sort of thing. It’s almost as if England is a foreign country.

Striking Attitudes

Posted on December 2nd, 2022

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon. Scot

Nobody needs telling that the UK is in turmoil. It seems, though, that some people still don’t get who is to blame for this mess. I was appalled to see a Tweet by Kelvin MacKenzie, former editor of The Sun, in which he referred to ambulance drivers as "Creeps" for announcing that they intend to take strike action. Not only is it almost laughable that a person like Kelvin MacKenzie can refer to anyone as a creep with no apparent trace of irony, he seems oblivious to why the men and women in this difficult occupation have taken the desperate decision to withhold their labour. The Tory government has sent the UK into a spiral of poverty and hardship for so many of its citizens that workers in far too many occupations are really struggling. It is not just ambulance drivers, but pretty much anyone who is paid by the UK state who is feeling the pinch, which is why we see nurses, teachers and others taking strike action. Yet the response of those on the extreme right is to blame the workers.

Similar things are happening in other occupations. The ongoing rail and postal strikes are taking place in privatised businesses where the management has adopted Tory philosophy by enriching themselves and their shareholders at the expense of their workers.

I am old enough to remember the many strikes of the 1970s and 1980s. But I sense a real difference between the current industrial disputes and those which helped give the UK the reputation of being the Sick Man of Europe. You see, back then, strikers were vilified by the media, and public opinion was at best ambivalent, and often hostile, towards the strikers. But people are no longer so reliant on the mainstream media for their news, and this time around I sense a very different attitude. Far more people realise that it is Government decisions which have created this utter shambles, and I detect a lot more sympathy for the workers than for the bosses or the UK Government. The premiership of Boris Johnson has shone a light on the greed and corruption at the heart of the Tory Party, and Brexit is so obviously the root of many social as well as economic problems that even the best efforts of the television and newspaper media cannot fool people into blaming the workers.

We have seen with recent announcements of thousands of job losses in the major tech companies that billionaire owners treat their employees as disposable items. On top of that, the huge inequalities in society both in the UK and USA are now so apparent that it is not jealousy which is driving protests, it is a deep sense of injustice.

Where will this end? I don’t think many people would venture to offer a prediction on that, but the way things are going, it’s not going to be a happy ending for many people at all.

Not A Colony

Posted on November 24th, 2022

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

So the Supreme Court has given a definitive decision on whether Scotland is a colony or not. Legally, they are probably correct, but I thought it worth noting down a few thoughts on this question because, while Scotland may not legally be viewed as a colony, it has rather a lot in common with most colonies. Definitions vary, but there are some things that colonies have in common, so I’d like to take a look at them.

Military occupation or control by a foreign country.

The military occupation of Scotland was an established fact in the 18th Century but is no longer a feature. One could argue that British Armed Forces are based in Scotland, and that they owe allegiance to the monarch, who in turn identifies more with England than Scotland, but I think that’s stretching things a bit. However, there is no doubt that military occupation was very much a thing in the early days of the Union. As for control, that’s pretty clearly the case in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling, our exit from the EU and the various Power Grab Acts of UK Parliament. Devolution may have lessened this aspect recently, but the UK Government is now hell bent on re-establishing control. In that respect, while Scotland may not feel like a colony to many, it does have something in common with traditional colonies.

Exploitation of resources.

Oil, Gas, electricity, whisky. Need I say more?

Suppression of culture and language.

The Highland Clearances play a part here, although their purpose was more to benefit greedy landowners than to deliberately suppress Scottish culture. They did, though, clearly play a part because many people who were a major part of maintaining Scottish culture were forcibly evicted and sent overseas.

Scottish culture used to be tolerated on BBC TV with shows like the White Heather Club, although these generally served to portray our customs as quaint and parochial. In my view, this situation has not changed very much, although I’ll admit I don’t watch TV very often these days, so I might be wrong. But how many of us were taught at school that we must speak proper English? And in recent years, things like Gaelic road signs have come in for a disproportionate amount of vilification from Anglophiles. Back in the 18th Century, kilts were banned, and if that’s not suppression, I don’t know what is. Since then, the methods of keeping Scottish culture as very much a minority aspect have been less overt, and Scottish language is certainly undergoing something of a rebirth. It could be argued that Scottish culture is reacting against centuries of direct or subliminal suppression, but I think there is little doubt that Scots are encouraged via the media to behave in a more British way rather than an outwardly Scottish one. And I don’t think I need to say very much at all about the BBC’s attitude towards Scotland becoming a normal, self-governing country. Most of the mainstream news is more than happy to talk Scotland down at any opportunity.

In these respects, then, Scotland has a lot in common with colonies of the British Empire. It does, though, differ in a couple of major respects. First, Scots were always free to rise to the top of British society provided they adopted British ways of thinking and acting. In regard to this, I think it is fair to say that for "British", read "English". But Scots were prominent in the empire building, and that’s something we cannot overlook.

Secondly, colonies are not usually given political representation, and Scottish MPs have featured since the Union of Parliaments. They have always been outnumbered, and we know that they are currently despised unless they, like their ancestors who helped build the empire, are prepared to conform to British behaviour. Indeed, we have seen Scots become Prime Minister, although moves have been taken to prevent this happening in future. Is that suppression? If not, what is it?

So is Scotland a colony? Technically, probably not, although it does have many things in common with a colony. The greatest irony of yesterday’s ruling was that the Supreme Court specifically declared that Scotland is not a colony because it has a measure of political representation, then promptly ruled that our political representation counts for nothing because Westminster is in control of our political future. I don’t know about anyone else, but that strikes me as contradictory at best.

The main thing is, though, that the entire world can now see that Scotland is most certainly not an equal partner in a voluntary union. That particular lie has been well and truly buried.

As Expected

Posted on November 18th, 2022

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

In one way, Jeremy Hunt’s Autumn Statement was reasonably benign in that it was not as harsh as many had feared. And yet he has followed the usual Tory policy of hammering ordinary citizens while letting the wealthy go relatively unharmed. Yes, more people will fall into the 45% tax bracket, but I’d venture to suggest that most of them will be able to cope given the income level required to fall into that bracket. Increases in pensions and benefits may appear generous, but those won’t kick in until next year, so many people will need to suffer through the winter.

He's also performed that Tory trick of delaying some of the worst increases for a couple of years, meaning that if Labour do manage to win the next election, they’ll be faced with either scrapping the changes and incurring the wrath of the money markets, or sticking with them and incurring the wrath of ordinary workers.

But even if this Statement wasn’t called a Budget, it was still a typical tory Budget. Taxes imposed on renewable energy providers, while the taxes on fossil fuel extractors still have the loophole that they can avoid tax if they keep finding new places to drill for yet more fossil fuels. Tories may claim to be going Green, but their actions defy those words they spout so easily.

There were, as expected, no attempts to curb money going to offshore tax havens, nor to make the giant multi-national companies actually pay any tax in the UK. Instead, the burden has fallen on the citizens, with a few of them being given meagre handouts as a token gesture to make it look as if Jeremy Hunt cares. He doesn’t. He doesn’t need to worry as he’s a multi-millionaire. That’s not jealousy speaking, it’s a comment on the fact that the very wealthy have done very nicely under the Tories. As usual, everyone else is being hit, and we now face the prospect of a very significant fall in our standard of living. And with energy prices authorised to increase again in April, that situation is only going to get worse.

A lot of commentators are insisting that the Tories know they will lose the next UK General Election, and Jeremy Hunt’s budgetary decisions certainly suggest that he’s aware that is a distinct possibility, but I’m not so sure. By the time the next GE comes around, you can bet that the media will be portraying Messrs Sunak and Hunt as the sensible guys, the ones who calmed the markets and steered the UK through difficult times which had nothing at all to do with Brexit. It’s all the fault of that horrible man Putin and those disgusting illegal immigrants. Smear campaigns will be launched against all other Party leaders, including Sir Keir (Knight of the Realm) Starmer, and I’m very concerned that the English electorate will fall for it again. They usually do.

As always, Scotland needs to take another path as soon as possible to escape this nightmare.

Picturesque Pachyderm

Posted on November 12th, 2022

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

There are lots of enjoyable things about Mastodon, where a lively community is springing up on Mastodon.Scot. The culture there is a lot more welcoming than Twitter ever was, and one of the reasons I find it especially enjoyable is that the custom is for people to add image descriptions to the photos they post. This is not compulsory, but it is very much part of the culture on Mastodon, and I have been very impressed with both the number of people doing this, and the quality of some of the descriptions. My thanks to all who do this, and it is no wonder there are so many visually impaired people on Mastodon if adding image descriptions is the default behaviour. I’m sure I’ve come across more image descriptions in one week than I have in the past year on Twitter, and that is not an exaggeration.

Unfortunately, some new arrivals are sticking with their lazy Twitter habit of posting pictures without descriptions. I do hope they will soon adopt the Mastodon custom.

But one thing some people seem to worry about is what to say in an image description, so I thought I’d provide a few pointers.

The main thing is to mention what it is that makes your picture important. For example:

who is in it?

If they are doing something relevant to the message you are trying to send, explain what it is they are doing.

If the location is important to the picture, say where it is.

If what they are wearing is important to the message, describe what makes it important.

If it has text, it is possible on some apps to copy that text into the image description. If not, either copy and paste or at the very least explain what is important about the text.

If it’s a cartoon or some other joke, explain what the joke is, and what makes it funny.

If it’s simply a nice photo of a landscape, explain what it shows. Are there trees? Buildings? Water? Is the light important to the image? Be as descriptive as you like. I’ve already found some photographers who must spend as much time describing their pictures as taking them, and it really makes a huge difference to the level of my engagement with the picture.

If it’s a photo of your cat, say whatever you like because I’ll skip past it pretty quickly. (Sorry cat lovers). Seriously, there are plenty of visually impaired cat lovers, so be gushing in the description of your pet. What colour? What is he/she doing?

There are a lot of visually impaired people on Mastodon, and now I know why, but we could ruin this wonderful environment if we don’t adopt the Mastodon culture. It’s a friendly, inclusive place, and I’d like to think that most people will want to keep it that way.

And I really don’t want to hear people coming up with the excuse that they don’t have time to add descriptions. Mastodon allows users to type up to 500 characters rather than Twitter’s 280, and I bet nobody will complain that this means it takes too long to type a message. Mastodon doesn’t have the same pressures as twitter, so take your time when posting, and take a little extra to prove that you are willing to be inclusive. And have fun doing it. It’s not a chore if you enjoy it.

Thanks very much for reading, and I hope to come across some of your descriptions soon. Please don’t worry that you are making a mess of it. Any description is better than none. As they say on that silly TV show, "Just say what you see".

Hostile Climate

Posted on November 8th, 2022

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Plenty of UK media outlets, and the usual pro-Union trolls, have been demanding to know why Nicola Sturgeon had the temerity to attend the COP27 conference in Egypt. Now, I have little time for these grotesque events which create far more CO2 than necessary and which tend to be talking shops where politicians say a lot of good things before returning home and doing either nothing or, as will no doubt be the case with Rishi Sunak, the precise opposite.

But, while I can be critical of Nicola Sturgeon for some things, I think the protests and questions about her attending this event were completely over the top. For one thing, Glasgow hosted COP26, so it was only good etiquette for her to attend the subsequent meeting, if only to symbolically hand over the baton. More importantly, though, Scotland has huge renewable energy potential and, if it were not for the UK Government insisting on sticking with fossil fuels and nuclear power, Scotland could be a world leader. It is quite right that Nicola Sturgeon should let other world leaders know this, and that Scotland could be a beacon to follow if it became a normal, self—governing country.

It is also worth noting that, until Rishi Sunak decided he needed to be there in order to prevent Boris Johnson hogging all the limelight, Nicola Sturgeon would have been the only UK political leader to attend.

Of course, no matter what Nicola Sturgeon does, she will be criticised. I’m fairly sure that, had she stayed at home, the media would have pointed to her lack of enthusiasm for the battle against climate change. But then, that is how the UK media operates.

What's Wrong With The Euro Anyway?

Posted on October 27th, 2022

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Unionist journalists are gleefully reporting that Scotland would need to adopt the Euro if it wants to become a member of the EU. This, to judge from the framing of the headlines, is apparently a bad thing.

Of course, what those screaming headlines don’t tell you is that every country which joins the EU must make a commitment to adopt the Euro as its currency. This commitment is, however, left open-ended, and several countries have still not got around to using the Euro. Sweden, for example, joined the EU in 1995 but still uses its own currency, as does Poland which joined in 2004.

So giving the commitment is one thing, but actually switching to the Euro is quite another, and this is not a new EU regulation, it has been around ever since the Euro became the currency of Europe.

What we are seeing here is another attempt at Project Fear. The big question is why this should strike fear into people. It harkens back to the standard UK tactic of abhorring anything foreign. The Euro is a foreign currency, therefore using it is a bad thing. Yet, over the decades since its introduction, the strength of the Euro has steadily improved against sterling which, as recent events have shown, is far from the stable currency British Nationalists like to think it is.

So would using the Euro be a bad thing? Well, to begin with, an independent Scotland would need its own currency for at least three years before it could even attempt to use the Euro. Having our own currency is vital if we wish to re-join the EU, despite what the Scottish Government seems to think with its bizarre pronouncements that Scotland would re-join the EU while retaining the use of sterling. As many have argued, our own currency is also vital to help us break the shackles of UK economic policies.

Of course there are risks to having your own currency, not least of which is that it could be targeted by speculators. However, given the strength of Scotland’s position regarding the potential to export oil, gas, whisky, salmon and renewable electricity among many others, demand for a Scottish Pound is likely to be high. Would there, then, be any need to move to the Euro after three years? It carries the hallmarks of the disadvantages of using sterling in that it is controlled by the European Central Bank, and some people point to Greece as an example of what can go wrong. This is fair enough except that Greece should never have been allowed to join the Euro currencies in any case since its economic books were doctored to make it appear that it met the criteria. I’d like to think Scotland would go about the change properly.

As far as Scotland is concerned, the Euro should present few problems since our economy would be strong. Ireland manages just fine with the Euro despite not having the many advantages that Scotland possesses.

Personally, switching to the Euro would not bother me overly much. The argument that it means dealing in a different currency to our main export market is not sustainable since we’d have a different currency if we adopted our own Pound. Also, once back in the EU, England would quickly fall away as our main export market, as amply demonstrated by Ireland who now deal mostly with the EU rather than the UK. If Scotland did adopt the Euro, our trading with major exporters like Germany and Netherlands would be much easier, and our exports of food and drink would also find a very large and willing market.

Then there is the spurious argument that people who cross the border regularly would need to use two currencies. As usual, this is portrayed as a problem for Scots even though it is not a problem for people in Ireland or Switzerland who need to use two currencies. Besides, many transactions are electronic nowadays, so carrying cash is not as vital as it used to be.

My only real objection to switching to the Euro after three years is that it would mean two changes of currency within a very short time, and I don’t think that is a great idea politically. But if the EU were to make an exception and let us move from using sterling to using the Euro, then the only reason to fear this is because the Euro is foreign, and foreign things are bad because UK culture says so.

As ever, if it’s in the newspapers and it proclaims some disadvantage to Scotland, it’s probably not worth worrying about.

Pants On Fire

Posted on October 24th, 2022

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Does anyone actually believe that Boris Johnson would have pulled out of the Tory leadership race if he really did have the requisite number of votes from MPs? Well, some BBC journalists did, but their role is to repeat Johnson’s claims without question, so they don’t really count as impartial observers.

Of course, there is always a chance that he did have the votes but had learned that the Tory membership was unlikely to vote for him, but that seems highly unlikely given his cult status among the Tory faithful. Let’s not forget that these are the same people who elected him leader initially, and who also thought Liz Truss was the best possible replacement for him despite all the evidence to the contrary.

No, I think we all understand that Boris Johnson is a liar to the core. What was funniest about this latest venture was how he once again threw a load of gullible MPs under the bus by getting them to declare their support and then deciding to quit. Some of them, naturally, immediately declared their unwavering support for Rishi sunak whose approach to the role of PM is very different to that of Johnson. It’s almost as if they are desperate for a job in the Cabinet. And, for the avoidance of doubt, I don’t think that Sunak will necessarily be better as a Prime Minister, although it would be hard to be worse. He’s just a different type of uncaring, callous Tory.

I also laughed quite hard at the claim Johnson is putting out that he decided to step down from the contest because the Party needed to be united. Allegedly, he did this out of a sense of honour. How anyone can believe that Boris Johnson has an ounce of honour or integrity is beyond me. No, his brazen attitude is quite in keeping with his usual bombastic style because he is the one who caused the disunity in the first place. He seems to think everyone will have forgotten the record number of MPs who announced that they no longer trusted him because of his appalling record of lying and cheating. Having said that, many Tory Party members do seem to have forgotten it, although perhaps they just don’t care.

As for who will win now, the Tory faithful face a difficult choice. Penny Mordant is a woman, and Rishi Sunak isn’t white, so they will need to overcome some deeply ingrained biases whoever they decide to vote for.

In the meantime, the rest of us need to struggle on in the face of inflation and the Brexit fallout. But at least the Tory leadership contest is funnier than Friday Night Live.

What A Choice

Posted on October 23rd, 2022

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

The pro-Johnson propaganda has gone into overdrive, ably aided by the UK media giving platforms to any politician brazen enough to declare support and completely misrepresent Johnson’s achievements during his first stint in office. What’s really dismaying about this is that a lot of people will fall for it, and the same out-of-touch extremists who elected Liz Truss as PM are likely to support Johnson.

The apparent alternative is Rishi Sunak, although the colour of his skin will certainly count against him among the tory Party membership.

As for the rest of us, it has come to something when a multi-millionaire who despises the poor is probably the best Prime Minister we can hope for.

As far as Scotland is concerned, I’m almost tempted to say we should back Boris Johnson because he will undoubtedly make such a mess of things that it will boost the case for Scotland to become a normal, self-governing country. The trouble with that idea is the pain and damage he will cause.

Of course, that highlights the other problem we face. Far too many people base their political thinking on very short term views which directly affect them. Support for Scottish independence may rise if Johnson returns as PM, and it may fall if Sunak or some other extremist takes the reins, but that entirely misses the point that it is the structure of UK democracy which is the problem. The individual acting as PM is not the cause of our dire situation; it is that we are chained to a political structure which allows Westminster to exploit our country while simultaneously trying to persuade us that we have nothing worth exploiting.

The sooner we get away from this toxic union, the better.

Same Difference

Posted on October 21st, 2022

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

so that’s another Tory Prime Minister gone, or at least going. This has resulted in many people calling for a General Election and, while that is understandable, it’s almost certainly not going to happen. Quite apart from the fact that the Tories can’t afford to hold a GE now because they’d certainly lose, the UK system is that voters elect a Party to govern, and each political Party chooses its own leader. Nicola Sturgeon, in particular, seems to have forgotten that she was elected as First Minister without being elected by the public. In fairness, the Scottish system is slightly different to the UK one in that she had to be elected as leader by her Party, then as First Minister by the Parliament, but since the SNP had a majority, that wasn’t much of an issue for her. But let’s not forget that Gordon Brown and Theresa May were also elected as Prime Ministers by their Party, not through a General Election. Every time this happens, opposition Parties demand a General Election and the governing Party refuses because that’s not how the UK system operates. And, in fairness, the current farce is not caused so much by this system as by the chaos within the Tory Party.

But would it make much difference in any case? Even if there was a General Election and Labour were to win, the UK would still be governed by a Pro-Brexit Party which is vehemently opposed to Scottish independence, and determined not to undo the various right wing policies the Tories have introduced. They might re-impose a ban on fracking, but don’t expect them to do much about the energy crisis, the cost of living crisis or very much else. Sir Keir (Knight of the Realm) Starmer is probably the most right wing leader Labour have ever had, and he only looks moderate in comparison to the fanatics who run the Tory Party.

So I can’t get too excited about Liz Truss resigning. Whoever the Tories inflict on us next probably won’t be any better. They will continue to treat the people of the UK as expendable and exploitable.

As has been the case for many years now, Scotland’s only hope of improving things lies with becoming a normal, self-governing country.

Economic PR Case

Posted on October 18th, 2022

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

So the Scottish Government have published their long-awaited paper on the economic case for Scotland becoming a normal country. I’ve waded my way through it and managed to stay more or less awake most of the time. There were, though, only a couple of points which really interested me.

In terms of background, the paper contained some interesting facts on comparisons with other EU nations, and plenty about the damage being part of Brexit UK is causing, but we all know that Unionists are impervious to facts, so I doubt this paper will cause many of them to change their minds.

I was pleased to see a commitment to rejoining the EU, but this was countered by an insistence on retaining the use of sterling for an unspecified time before switching to our own currency. These two things are mutually incompatible as the EU requires member states to have their own currency, yet this was not mentioned at all as far as I could see. I’m still not clear on how the Scottish Government intends to reconcile these two diametrically opposed plans, but I’ll return to that in a moment.

Some people, notably the estimable Richard J Murphy, have condemned this paper in the strongest terms. I find it hard to argue with someone with Mr Murphy’s expertise and knowledge, but I’m not sure I would go quite as far as he has in his comments. One thing I do agree with him about is that the audience for this paper is probably not the ordinary Scot. Indeed, how many people will read through a 110 page document? No, this paper is designed to reassure the money markets and present Scotland as a sensible member of the global economy. After all, if the Liz Truss misgovernment has shown us anything, it is that the markets need to be satisfied that you know what you are doing.

One thing many Yessers are upset about is the commitment to accept part of the UK’s national debt from the outset. This is not a legal or internationally recognised route to follow, but I think Nicola Sturgeon is trying to present herself as being reasonable when it comes to negotiations with Westminster. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad idea. If she began negotiations with all guns blazing, refusing to budge on this issue, she might not be able to wring other concessions from the sociopaths who run the UK. And if she insisted Scotland would not contribute towards the UK debt but then had to concede it in order to gain some other important point, she would be open to even harsher criticism. So, whether Scotland will actually end up taking on this unnecessary burden remains to be seen. I hope we don’t, but I’m prepared to accept the need to put on a show of willingness at this stage.

Of course, we need to win IndyRef2 before any of this can be put into practice. I’m not convinced that this paper helps in any way, but not producing it would only have handed ammunition to the Unionist media, so it was a necessary publication even though it does contain some things which disturb a lot of Yessers. Producing the paper was more of a political manoeuvre than a genuine attempt to convince anyone of the merits of becoming a normal country.

Of course, the Unionist media have pounced upon certain aspects of the paper. They are gleefully reporting that goods traveling between Scotland and England would be subject to Customs checks. What none of them are too keen to highlight is that this would be solely because England voted to leave the EU and is determined to abandon equivalence in standards so that it can import food produced to lower quality levels in order to … well, I’m not quite sure what they are aiming for, but the effect will be to totally undermine the UK farming sector. That’s another reason Scotland needs to go its own way. But, as for those border checks, it is England’s doing. They want checks with every EU nation. Scotland, as part of the EU, will have open borders with 27 other EU nations, and we are surely capable of re-aligning our trade to take advantage of this. Ireland has done it, so why can’t Scotland? You won’t find a Unionist journo telling you that.

The other thing the media have leaped on is the commitment (albeit a rather half-hearted one) to adopt a new currency. I think this may be why the paper makes such great play of only adopting a new currency when the time is right. We all know that far too many people in Scotland have been conditioned to fear change, so insisting on a new currency straight away, while the obvious and sensible thing to do, is likely to terrify those people who would rather stick with a sinking ship than risk swimming towards a lifeboat. This is why some media outlets are loudly proclaiming the intention to adopt a Scottish Pound without headlining all the caveats the Scottish Government has placed on this move.

Personally, I remain concerned at the SNP’s apparent willingness to remain shackled to sterling, but I remain hopeful that reality will force their hand on this when the EU insists on us having our own currency before we can re-join. That’s when the frightened voters will come to realise the necessity of ditching a failing sterling.

As for the rest of the document, I really didn’t take too much from it. It was, I’m afraid, an exercise in PR. Of course, that is what much of politics is about, so I can understand why it took this format. And it might yet prove to be a minor blessing that the publication was largely overshadowed by the continuing farce of Westminster politics. Then again, the timing might prove to be beneficial in another way. Those international money markets might look at the Tory mess that is the UK, then compare it to the rather bland and less than radical proposals from the Scottish Government and decide that they know who is more worthy of backing.

In essence, then, I am neither inspired nor dismayed by this paper. I am mildly disappointed in the currency angle, but sooner or later, even the SNP are going to face the fact that their currency plan is going to need to be revised. By that time, I sincerely hope we have voted to become a normal, self-governing country.

Taxing Media

Posted on September 27th, 2022

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Once again, the Tories and their media allies are using the tax trap to point a finger at the Scottish Government. The argument they are putting forward is that the UK Chancellor’s cutting of higher rate tax puts pressure on the Scottish Government to match it or face a loss of income because of all the Scottish millionaires who will flee to England to avoid our punitive rates of tax. Some media outlets have even gone so far as to track down wealthy people who claim they are considering moving to England. However, what none of these stories ever mention is the collapse in the value of the pound as a result of the UK Chancellor’s ideologically-driven tax cuts. What the British media in Scotland are hoping is that nobody will notice the looming disaster and will instead focus on the dastardly Scottish Government who are unwilling to adopt the same demonstrably disastrous tax cuts. It really is a superb bit of journalism because the Scottish Government could be attacked for adopting harmful policies if it does copy the Westminster model. In other words, the media will attack them whatever they do.

But why do they focus on the tax cuts when the arguments against it are so evident? Quite apart from the fact that the British media in Scotland is always desperate to find any angle which can be used to criticise the Scottish Government, another reason they do this is because they know it works on some people who are fully indoctrinated in the UK system. I have a relative who has already complained to me about living in the UK’s highest tax area. He’s certainly not a millionaire, but compared to many he’s pretty well off with a nice house and car, and is able to support his family. Obviously, with the current cost of living crisis, he is affected as all of us are, but he’s not on the poverty line by any means. However, he is very unhappy at paying more tax than people who live in England.

When I pointed out that there are other benefits to living in Scotland, he was very dismissive. He has no need of medical prescriptions except on a rare occasion of illness, so he does not regard that as important. It is, after all, the sort of benefit which is aimed at scroungers.

As for free university education, his kids aren’t old enough to go to university yet, so that hasn’t even crossed his mind, and he simply shrugged it off when I mentioned it.

When I then pointed out that he could move to England but would find that house prices would more than wipe out any tax benefit, that his Council Tax would be much higher and that the public services he takes for granted would be of much lower standard, he was not convinced. After all, he has no plans to move to England, so none of those things will affect him. His only concern is that he will be paying more tax than English residents. He will not be paying more tax than he is at the moment, of course, but that is not the point. His comparison is with other people who he perceives as being better off than he is thanks to the Scottish Government’s apparently punitive tax rates.

This is a very weird sort of logic, but I was unable to convince him that paying taxes to help other members of society might actually be viewed as a good thing by many. Sadly, Tory ideology is so ingrained in his thinking that his only concern is with himself and how unfairly he is being treated.

Naturally, we must still try to persuade people that the tax trap argument is deeply flawed because of its focus on a single aspect of taxation, but I think we should always bear in mind that some people will never be convinced. That is why the UK media in Scotland is pushing this line of argument. They are providing comfort for those who seek any justification for sticking to their Tory values.

As far as I am concerned, the media, notably including the BBC, is not providing news, it is promoting Tory propaganda. They are going out of their way to push this story despite the very obvious economic calamity the Tories are inflicting on the UK. The sooner we escape the madness, become a normal country and establish a normal media, the better.

Saintly Thoughts

Posted on September 25th, 2022

by Rab Bruce’s spider

Just when you think the flag-waving British Nationalists can’t get any more ridiculous in their worship of the monarchy, they come up with yet another bizarre idea to promote adulation of the late Queen. Apparently, there are now calls for her to be declared a saint. And yes, that is as daft as it sounds because there are a couple of reasons why it shouldn’t happen. I won’t say it can’t happen because the extremes to which the UK will go to further its royal fetish should not be underestimated, but I’d like to take a look at the arguments against this outlandish proposal.

First of all, the idea of sainthood is that it is earned through selfless acts which benefit either other individuals or the Church. There is a caveat to that idea which I’ll address shortly, but I think it fair to say that those criteria would be generally accepted by most people as being required before sainthood can be awarded.

So what selfless acts did the late Queen exhibit during her long life? She certainly had a lot of hospitals and schools, not to mention bridges and other public constructions, named in her honour, but as far as I know, she did not use even a tiny portion of her massive wealth to pay for any hospitals, schools or even food banks. In fact, as recent revelations have shown, she often went out of her way to ensure that her wealth was protected from any of the laws which affect her subjects. I’m afraid that simply being polite and dignified while remaining silent on social issues isn’t my idea of what would qualify one for sainthood. As far as I’m concerned, I can’t think of any act the Queen undertook in her long reign which would come close to being a saintly act. Perhaps those advocating her canonisation can come up with some examples, but I’m stuck at a count of zero.

There is, though, another very good reason why this almost certainly can’t happen. First, though, that caveat I mentioned. I’ll admit that I’m no expert on religion as it has no bearing on my life, but my understanding of the Protestant faith is that it regards every Christian as a saint by default. That means the Queen is already a saint in the eyes of the Protestant religion, but so is every other Christian. However, the Protestant version of Christianity is generally confined to Scotland and Northern Ireland as far as the UK is concerned. As with most things in this so-called union of equals, it can therefore be discounted for the purposes of this argument because it is Anglicanism which is the version of Christianity most relevant to the idea.

A wee bit of history first. When King Henry VIII of England was awarded the title, "Defender of the Faith", the faith in question was Roman Catholicism. Henry retained the title even after he ditched Catholicism and transformed England into a Protestant state because he didn’t like the Pope’s views on divorce. UK monarchs retain the title, but the faith they are defending is never really explained. Is it Christianity as a whole? Probably not, considering that Catholics are not permitted to become part of the royal family. So is it only Protestant versions of Christianity? Or is it only Anglicanism? I’m not sure at all.

As for Anglicanism, it is often viewed as a half-way house between Protestantism and Catholicism. It does retain some features of Catholicism but, importantly, it does not canonise new saints. That is still the preserve of the Pope of Rome. This presents something of a problem for the idea of sainthood for the late queen. The royal family’s highly sectarian stance on Catholics is, like most things monarchical in the UK, rooted in history, but nobody seems inclined to modernise it at all. Unlike railway workers, it seems the monarchy has no need to modernise. But what this means is that an institution which specifically bans an entire religious sect from participation now needs to ask the Pope, as leader of that sect, for permission to allow its former head to become a member of the Catholic Church’s most exclusive club. If the Pope spoke Scots, I can imagine his response being, "Aye, right!".

Despite this rather obvious reason why queen Elizabeth II is very unlikely to be canonised, it is always possible if sufficient influence and inducements are offered to the Vatican, but I think it unlikely.

Anglicanism, though, does recognise saints who feature from the early centuries of Christianity, and does have a sort of quasi-sainthood for important members of (normally English) society who are held in high regard. It’s not sainthood as such, but it is an elevated status which allows those individuals to be revered if not actually worshipped. Perhaps, in the Alice through the Looking Glass world of the UK media, according this status on the Queen will be sufficient to begin referring to her as a saint. If that’s what they want to do, good for them. Personally, it won’t alter my opinion of the monarchy in general or Queen Elizabeth in particular, although I dare say it might reinforce my opinion of the extremists who are promoting this bizarre idea.

Deal Or No Deal

Posted on September 22nd, 2022

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

The odd thing about Liz Truss’s admission that a trade deal with the USA is not on the immediate horizon is that this is simultaneously good news and bad news. On one hand, any deal with the USA would inevitably have been agreed on even worse terms than the trade deals the Brexit Tories have agreed with Australia and New Zealand, and would have led to an influx of food produced to much lower standards than those currently required in the UK. Cheap imports of things like chlorinated chicken would have been commonplace, and these and similar cheap imports would be yet another disastrous blow to the already struggling UK agricultural sector, much of which is based in Scotland. So hearing that the deal is not imminent is good news.

On the other hand, it leaves the UK having left the EU and having no major trade deals to replace everything we have lost. It really is the worst of both worlds. Or possibly not if you feel some relief that we aren’t going to be flooded with cheap US imports. It’s all really very confusing.

Let’s not forget that this USA trade deal was touted as being the easiest deal ever, but that was when Donald Trump was President, and he was very keen on a deal because it would have allowed US healthcare and pharmaceutical companies to take over the NHS in its entirety. President Biden has a very different outlook, and his insistence that the Good Friday Agreement is respected is a deal breaker. That’s because the Tories have no intentions of respecting the GFA, and they seem quite prepared to abandon their ideas of a US trade deal in order to separate Northern Ireland from the EU. Once again, we have both good and bad news.

Then again, having the Tories decide our futures is bad news all round. Whatever they turn their hands to, the vast majority of UK citizens (sorry, subjects) will see no benefit at all.

On the whole, though, I think this admission that no US deal is imminent is probably good news for Scotland in the long run. That’s because it leaves the UK floundering in a Brexit mess of its own making, and the worse things become, the more likely the clamour for Scotland to leave the dysfunctional UK will grow. However, considering the pain we will go through because of Brexit, that’s no more than a silver lining on a very dark cloud.

Not Worshipping

Posted on September 18th, 2022

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

One of the adjustments I’ve made since losing my eyesight is that I watch far less television than I used to. There are several reasons for this, not least of which is that few programmes have Audio Description, so watching them is largely a waste of time. The quality of available programmes is also a major factor. I have no interest in celebrity this that or the other, and I find that there are a great many podcasts now available which provide far greater insight into current affairs than any television programme does. As a result, I’ve been pretty much insulated from the seemingly endless and inane royalist propaganda being churned out, particularly by the BBC. Like many Indy supporters, I learned several years ago that what passes for informed news reporting on the BBC is mostly pro-Union propaganda.

Naturally, I’ve seen comment and come across a few video clips on social media, but none of them have Audio Description either, so I’ve tended to ignore the majority of them.

I’ve never really bothered too much about the monarchy. I’d certainly prefer to live in a republic where our Head of State is elected, but I know enough about British history to understand that this is never going to happen in the UK, where adulation of the monarchy is a central part of the Establishment system for maintaining control. As a result, I’ve been largely indifferent to the goings-on among the royal family. You can’t ignore it because worship of the royals (unless they don’t fit the proper Establishment requirements) is almost compulsory in the UK media, but I’ve never paid more than cursory attention to the bulk of it.

I think this past week or so confirms that my feelings about the monarchy are justified. We’ve seen an allegedly grieving King travel around the UK in an overtly political statement of intent while he’s busy laying off staff he deems surplus to his requirements. We’ve seen any anti-monarchy protest clamped down on or carefully studied by the Police, and we’ve seen endless over-the-top media interviews with royalist commentators and members of the public (sorry, loyal subjects), while there has been no republican viewpoint allowed. Now, you can say that this is out of respect for the UK’s longest-reigning monarch, but the monarchy has been very quick to conflate her death with the accession of the new King. I don’t think I’ve seen a single anti-monarchist insult the memory of the Queen at any of these protests; they are protesting about the institution of monarchy itself, and the automatic accession of King Charles.

The other main thing that has irritated me about all of this is the number of people claiming that the outpouring of grief and mourning among Scots is a clear blow for the cause of independence. These commentators seem very quick to conflate showing respect for an individual monarch with wanting to be ruled by Westminster. The two are not inextricably linked, and I’m sure there are many pro-Indy Scots who still want a monarchy. I’m not one of them, but that is irrelevant because it is SNP policy to retain the monarchy as Head of state when Scotland does become a normal country. Deciding on whether to become even more normal by transforming into a Republic will be a decision for the future, just as some former Empire countries are doing now.

One thing that intrigues me about this, though, is the numbers being cited. I’ve seen claims that over 750,000 people have or will join the long queue to file past the Queen’s coffin. Now, this is a historical event, so some people will want to be a witness for that reason. Others will genuinely want to pay respects, while I’m sure there may be a few tourists amongst them as well.

But if that figure is accurate, then we should expect the Scottish part of that to be around 64,000, based on Scotland’s population being around 8.5% of the UK. Yet the figure quoted for the Edinburgh pageant was only 33,000. If these figures are broadly correct, then I don’t think it supports a Scottish desire to worship the monarchy quite as much as the media and Unionist politicians would have us believe.

I understand there will be other "national" events such as a two minute silence. I doubt very much that I’ll be observing that except by the expedient of being busy listening to an audiobook at the time. I’m sure the media will tell us how well it was observed, but I’m not sure how much faith we could put in any such claims. After all, there was supposed to be a "Clap for the Queen" event during the week when we were encouraged to stand on our doorsteps and applaud, just as we did for the NHS during Covid. I don’t know about anyone else, but my street was silent when this event was scheduled to take place.

So is Scotland a monarchist country? As with so many other things, I expect there will be a binary split, but if we were fated to have a monarch as Head of State, I’d much prefer it to be a Scottish monarch rather than an English one. And before anyone gets too upset about that, I know that Charles III is King of Scots, but that’s just a feature of the Union of the Crowns. Scotland gets the monarch England wants, as demonstrated by the advent of George I of Hanover. When the throne was vacant with no obvious line of succession, it was the majority wish of the Westminster Parliament to invite George, much against the wishes of the Scots. Nothing much has changed in the past three centuries.

Monarchy Rules

Posted on September 10th, 2022

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

There is no doubt that the death of Queen Elizabeth II is a historic event, and the first thing I must say is that the death of any individual is a tragic and emotional event for anyone who knew them closely. We have all lost loved ones, and it often takes a long time to get over such loss. From a personal perspective, therefore, I have sympathy with the members of the royal family at this sad time.

It must also be said that Queen Elizabeth II carried out her public role with an extraordinary degree of duty, diligence, commitment, grace and dignity. From anecdotes of people who met her, she does seem to have had a sense of humour and a level of empathy with individuals she encountered at close quarters.

Having said all that, though, I think it is important to differentiate between the person and the position of monarch. While I can fully understand that the Queen’s death will have had a significant impact on those who knew her well, I am struggling to empathise with those members of the general public who never met her and yet who seem afflicted by grief. Yes, it is sad, but the reaction, undoubtedly encouraged by the UK’s sycophantic media, is out of all proportion to the actual impact the Queen had on these people.

I am not going to dwell on some of the more sordid revelations about the royal family as readers can find those elsewhere, but I want to consider why the UK’s response to this event is so extreme.

I don’t wish to sound too callous, but I must say that the Queen’s passing has had no emotional impact on me at all. I feel neither joy nor sorrow, only the same level of sympathy I would feel about the death of anyone I did not know personally. I never met the Queen, and her only influence on my life in a personal way was when my entire Primary School class was bussed out to stand at a roadside waving small Union flags while the Queen was driven past us at high speed. It was a bizarre event, and even back in those tender years of my childhood, I struggled to appreciate what all the fuss was about. Personally, I’d have preferred to be out playing football with my pals.

I think the main thing which irritates or even annoys those of a republican persuasion in the UK is the over-the-top reaction of our media, particularly the BBC where presenter Clive Myrie went so far as to tell his viewers that the new Prime Minister’s speech about the cost of living crisis was insignificant compared to the news coming from Balmoral. I do hope Mr Myrie will take some time to reflect on that, because the current crisis is going to result in the deaths of many more elderly people, and a lot of those deaths are avoidable. When millions of people don’t have enough money to heat their homes or cook hot food, that is not insignificant.

This adulation of the monarchy actually goes back a long way. It really began in England in the 11th Century when William the Bastard, having defeated Harold II at the Battle of Hastings, found that his position as King of England was not as secure as he would have liked. He therefore began calling meetings of his nobles where he would make a point of parading around in expensive robes, wearing a crown and insisting on being title, "Your Majesty". This was the beginning of the move by the ruling family to instil an aura of mystique around their position.

Of course, this has not always worked too well. Under Richard II, the people revolted until they were mercilessly slaughtered. King John famously had to make concessions to his Barons, while Edward II and Charles I met violent ends. Over the centuries, though, and especially since the restoration of Charles II, the process of elevating the monarch to a status far above that of mere mortals has continued. The English (now the UK) national anthem is, I believe, unique in the world in that it does not celebrate the nation, but instead celebrates the person of the monarch, with the singers revelling in their inferior status. This was an important tool in reinforcing the social order during the 18th and 19th centuries, but the advent of television has greatly helped convince the British public of the value of the royal family in general and the monarch in particular. The Divine Right of Kings may have been abolished by Cromwell, but the royals are still regarded by many as being somehow inherently superior, and so are worthy of reverence. It is a testament to the power of this indoctrination that many people I would regard as sensible are going out of their way to express grief over the death of the Queen. This unthinking adulation of a Head of State is the sort of thing we would expect from North Korea and I find the obsession rather unhealthy. It seems to me that a large part of the official promotion of national grief is designed to remind people of their place in UK society.

My gripes about the institution of monarchy are many, although it must be said that other European nations do seem able to handle it in a far less extreme way. The UK, though, turns all royal events into enormous, expensive pageants, and the media do their best to shame people into joining in the show. This has led to the ludicrous cancellation of some, but not all, sporting events which means that people are still expected to work during the long mourning period yet are denied opportunities to find some enjoyment. And, having cancelled all senior football this weekend, it seems likely that the same will happen next weekend because the official mourning period will still be in progress, and having set a precedent, the sporting authorities will find it difficult to justify restarting their competitions. But cricket and rugby, sports generally not associated with the working class, are going ahead, and I will be interested to discover what happens in horse racing.

As for the oft-repeated claim that the royal family generate tourism, this is largely nonsense. I’m sure retailers of royal memorabilia can make some money from it, but it is worth noting that the UK’s largest visitor attraction is the Tower of London, where no royals have lived for centuries.

My greatest feelings, however, come from the vast accumulation of wealth acquired by the monarch. When her subjects are struggling to afford to live, the Queen did nothing to help, and we know from recent media exposures that her lawyers went out of their way to ensure that she was not affected by laws which everyone else needs to comply with. I’m afraid that the whole institution of monarchy in the UK is an affront to a modern state. Yes, it is sad that the Queen has died, but I find it even sadder that so many people who never came closer to her than handling a bank note with her picture on it, are now going out of their way to show how upset they are. Whether this is genuine grief or mere virtue signalling, it shows how ingrained the idea of adulation of the monarchy has become. People are conditioned to view themselves as inferior thanks to a simple accident of birth. For me, that just doesn’t sit right.

Will things change with the accession of Charles III? Some people think it presages the break-up of the union, but I have my doubts that it will have that much impact. It may be a small factor if the political process goes the way I hope it does, but I don’t believe that having a new monarch essentially alters the proposition for Scottish independence. Charles himself has clearly indicated that he intends that things should carry on by proclaiming his elder son as Prince of Wales without apparently giving any thought to how the people of Wales might feel about this.

I think things will carry on as before because it remains in the interests of the ruling Establishment in Westminster, along with their corporate and media allies, to maintain the status quo. We can therefore expect the media to continue to churn out eulogies for a long time yet. Continuity will, I believe, become a strong theme in the coming weeks and months.

In the short term, we will no doubt see a continuation of the barrage of programmes designed to maintain a feeling of loss and mourning. Whether even the BBC will be able to keep it up for ten days remains to be seen, but I’m sure they will have a damned good try. After all, their role is to persuade people how special the monarchy is, and it’s a message they will hammer home because they know that a great many people will believe it.

But it is not only ordinary citizens (sorry, subjects) who are subjected to this conditioning. The royals, too, are products of their environment. They have been brought up to regard themselves as special, and they will inevitably expect deference and obedience from their subjects. They are, after all, only human, and they, too, have been conditioned to believe that the UK’s monarchical system is, like most things British, the best in the world.

For me, all I can say is thank goodness for Podcasts and Netflix.

Suppressing Democracy

Posted on September 5th, 2022

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Last week, I heard a video clip of what sounded like a gentleman of senior years asking a question on what sounded like a panel show. If I had to guess, I’d say it was probably on the BBC’s extreme Right Wing propaganda show, Question Time. That’s not really important except to give a flavour of the question and the audience reaction. To cheers and applause, this gentleman made the point that the next UK Prime Minister must treat the preservation of the Union as of primary importance, and he asked what steps should be taken to suppress Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP.

This sorry episode raises several points. First of all, whatever some pro-Indy Scots may think of the SNP’s efforts to turn Scotland into a normal, self-governing country, many people in England still perceive them as a serious threat to the preservation of the UK in its current form. This preservation seems very important to many in England, but while Unionist politicians may appreciate the truth that England needs free access to Scotland’s resources, the majority of ordinary English citizens (sorry, subjects) seem to view retaining Scotland under Westminster control is simply a matter of faith. They never seem to articulate any reason except their usual historical fantasy of winning a couple of wars together, and it is probably not too unfair to state that, if any of them actually came to Scotland, they would spend most of their time complaining that it is not sufficiently like England. That may sound over the top, but I’ve certainly come across English visitors like that. Effectively, though, this absolute conviction that Scotland must not be permitted to leave the UK is essentially a colonialist attitude. In the minds of people like that, the British Empire is still a fond memory, and the very thought that anyone in Scotland might want to leave the UK is a genuine puzzle for them. They simply cannot get their heads around it. Worse, they don’t even want to try.

Then there is the use of the word, "Suppress". Unconsciously or not, the questioner used a word which any fascist would be proud of, and he probably didn’t even understand why it might be offensive. The very fact that a member of the public can go on UK-wide TV and say such a thing is ample evidence that Right Wing extremism is now the norm in Unionist politics. People now feel free to express abhorrent ideas as if they were perfectly normal. Suppression is a term with violent overtones and from the audience reaction to the question, far too many people agree with Lisa Nandy MP that the UK should employ violence against anyone supporting Scottish independence.

The UK Government will, of course, officially decry such a reaction, but that does not mean they are above using underhand tactics to prevent Scotland from becoming a normal country. On Sunday, we heard that they intend to introduce a law which would require over 50% of the Scottish electorate to vote Yes before the result would be recognised. This is pretty much what they did in 1979, and it means that anyone who does not vote, for whatever reason, is deemed to have voted against. This goes against all idea of modern democracy, and I don’t think any other democracy has ever decided anything using this ridiculous method. The whole idea is to ensure that, even if the UK Government does reluctantly accede to the democratic demands of the Scottish electorate, the result will be heavily skewed in favour of the Union. When you consider that, under UK rules, 16 and 17 year olds will not be permitted to vote, nor will EU citizens living in Scotland, then the chances of us ever winning are remote.

More than ever, this convinces me that we must not play by Westminster rules. Nicola Sturgeon really needs to change her own requirements and declare independence on winning a simple majority in a referendum, or winning a majority of seats in a UK General Election. Any other way of doing it simply plays into the hands of people who will have applauded the anti-democratic question asked by that gentleman on TV.

Excuses, Excuses

Posted on August 31st, 2022

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Now is not the time! We’ve heard it before, and we hear it constantly from Unionist politicians and journalists. There was the Covid crisis, then the war in Ukraine, and now the cost of living crisis. For those who are fortunate enough to survive these various crises, the only thing you can be sure of is that there will be another crisis along very soon.

Unionists will seize on every one of these crises to insist that holding a referendum is the wrong thing to do because the Scottish Government should be concentrating on other, more important, things.

So when would the right time be? If we lurch from crisis to crisis, we will never be able to hold an IndyRef. Yet UK General Elections take place, Scottish Parliament and Council elections take place, but holding an IndyRef is deemed somehow wrong?

As with most big decisions in life, there is rarely a good time to take a major step. Anyone who wants to postpone a big decision can always find excuses. That’s all the Unionists are doing; finding excuses.

The whole point of becoming a normal country is so that we can tackle crises in our own way. Let’s face it, even an inept Scottish Government could probably still deal with things a whole lot better than the self-serving proto-fascists who currently run the UK. Most importantly, if the Government of an independent Scotland did make a mess of things the way the UK Government is currently doing, at least we would be able to vote them out, something we cannot do to the UK Government no matter how we vote. It is English voters who decide who runs the UK, and they almost always vote Tory.

And yet we will continue to hear the same old story from Unionists about now not being the right time because of some perceived crisis or other. On the contrary, now is definitely the right time. Independence is normal. Let’s get it done sooner rather than later.

Managing Expectations

Posted on August 29th, 2022

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

There has been a lot of grumbling in some sections of the Yes community about the SNP’s commitment, or lack thereof, to turning Scotland into a normal, self-governing country. Wherever you stand on this point, there have certainly been some very worrying comments coming from senior members of the SNP.

In any field of work, managers soon learn the expression, "Managing expectations". In general, this is a phrase used to describe how to impart bad news to junior members of staff or, indeed, customers. I can’t shake off the feeling that some of the comments we have heard recently fall into this category.

It began a while ago with Pete Wishart putting himself forward for the position of Speaker of the House of Commons. Mr Wishart hasn’t earned the nickname of "Comfy Pete" for nothing, and this was perhaps the greatest signal yet that he feels he is at Westminster to settle down rather than settle up. Since then, he has directed most of his Twitter ire at supporters of the Alba Party rather than at the Tories which is another disappointment.

Then we’ve had Ian Blackford declare that he enjoys working at Westminster and is pals with a Tory peer. Considering that most Tories walk out of the House whenever Mr Blackford stands up to speak, I’d have thought he’d be far more angry with the place than he clearly is. Has he, too, settled down? I sincerely hope not.

And then there is Nicola Sturgeon telling us that she feels British. Now, everyone is entitled to feel how they like, but identity is a very important part of the Yes movement. I have actually been trying to put into words my own feelings on identity which I will readily admit have swung very much towards Scottishness rather than the Britishness I, and many others of my generation, were brought up with. The 2014 IndyRef certainly has a big part to play in this, but I think it is the rise in English nationalism since then which has done more than anything else to make me identify ever more strongly with my Scottish roots. And, if statistics are to be believed, over 60% of Scottish residents feel the same, now identifying as solely Scottish rather than British. Personally, I find it a little disappointing that the leader of the SNP still feels British in spite of the way the British political and constitutional arrangements have treated Scotland.

I really hope all of this is not the SNP attempting to manage our expectations. You can argue that Nicola Sturgeon’s decision to treat the next UK General Election as a plebiscite election shows that she is prepared for the inevitable ruling of the Supreme Court in favour of Westminster, but I am very worried that she is playing right into the Unionists’ hands. Getting a majority of seats should pose no problem, but setting the benchmark as a majority of votes, which is virtually impossible, and then using the UK’s electoral rules of disenfranchising 16 and 17 year olds, EU citizens and anyone without photo ID is simply giving all the advantages to Westminster. I know people would argue that declaring independence on less than 50% of the popular vote would be undemocratic, but the entire Westminster voting system is undemocratic and we have had to live with its consequences for over three hundred years. How can they complain if we use their own rules against them?

But whichever rules we decide to play by, we really need to see some more impassioned statements on why Scotland must become a normal country. It’s all very well publishing a series of documents, but these need to be followed up, and followed up with outspoken passion and conviction. I’m afraid that, so far, all I’m hearing is some managementspeak which seems designed to manage my expectations, and that’s never a good thing.

Summer Round-Up

Posted on August 14th, 2022

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

Well, it’s been an interesting holiday season. The farce of the Tory leadership election continues, with each of the main contenders doing their best to prove how much they hate the poor, the Scots, the Welsh, refugees, or anyone struggling to pay their energy bills. Meanwhile, Boris Johnson has been jetting off on holiday while he holds the fort for his successor. His only recent contribution seems to have been an announcement that he will set up talks with the devolved Governments of the UK to discuss the energy crisis. I suspect these will be as productive as the talks he held with the energy companies, the talks about Covid strategies and the talks about Brexit. As usual with Boris Johnson, the announcement is almost certainly a publicity stunt to make it look as if he cares and is doing something. The reality will be a waste of time, with no tangible results.

And those sunlit uplands of Brexit seem as far away as ever, with the UK now recording the worst trade deficit since records began in the 1950s. The most remarkable thing about that is that the Brexiteers will continue to deny that this dismal economic outcome has anything to do with their precious project.

As for the value of sterling, it continues to fall against the US dollar, and its value has declined by far more than the allegedly catastrophic fall of 10% which was predicted if Scotland voted to leave the UK. Isn’t it funny how most of the media is silent on this?

And then there is the contentious issue of the proposed new freeports, although some of them now seem to be going under a different name in an attempt to convince us that they are something new and shiny. The most disappointing thing about this is the Scottish Government’s support for these Tory-inspired projects whose only benefit for ordinary people is that they may provide some low-income jobs with few workers’ rights attached. Any money being earned will, as usual in Tory Britain, flow upwards. In my view, the Scottish Government should be arguing against these Freeports which will become beacons of exploitation. Instead of proclaiming the imagined benefits of establishing Freeports, the Scottish Government really ought to be loudly proclaiming the case for Scotland becoming a normal country, and the creation of freeports could be used as an example of how the Tories intend to enrich their pals at the expense of working people who are desperate for even the lowest paid jobs.

Amidst all this nonsense, I’m told that nearly every item of food available in the majority of supermarkets is now emblazoned with a Union Jack even if it is produced in Scotland. This is offensive no matter which way you look at it, and it reminds me chillingly of those newsreels you see of Nazi Germany where everything had a swastika on it. This is one of the few things which makes me almost glad I can’t see, because the sight of so many Union Jacks would probably make me boak.

Related to that, I recently discovered that one of the backpacks I regularly use had a Union Jack stitched to it. It wasn’t visible when I was wearing the rucksack, but was there for all to see when I took it off. I was appalled when I heard this, but the problem has been resolved thanks to the judicious use of a pair of scissors to remove the offending (or is that offensive?) decoration. I’m now looking for a small Saltire sticker I can put on in its place.

All in all, the past few weeks have simply confirmed that the UK is a political and economic basket case, and the sooner Scotland becomes a normal country, the better.

Media Power

Posted on August 1st, 2022

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

I came across a tweet by Stephen Daisley the other day. He was promoting his article again, this time apparently focusing on the drugs death toll in Scotland. I will readily admit that I did not read the article because Daisley really only writes one piece, and it’s always about how awful the SNP are, and how Scotland is uniquely incapable of operating like a normal country. I did, though, take a quick look at some of the replies, and that is really what has prompted this piece. That’s because most of the responses pointed the finger of blame very squarely at the SNP in general and Nicola Sturgeon in particular. Not a single one of these respondents seemed to have any idea that drugs policy is reserved to Westminster. I’m sure Stephen Daisley knows that well enough, but presumably he either glossed over it or didn’t mention it in his article. Or perhaps the respondents simply gave a knee-jerk reply because blaming the SNP for everything is their default reaction.

This lack of basic understanding of how devolution works is a testament to the power of the British media in Scotland. By keeping people ignorant, they can play on fears and distract from the fundamental point that independence is normal. It is so normal that, even if the SNP were the worst Government in the world (and they’d need to go some to be worse than the Westminster lot), then I would still want Scotland to become independent. That’s because, once we are a normal country, we can elect whichever Government we like, and elections will not always be overshadowed by the constitutional question.

Getting back to the drugs death figures, I will agree that they make grim reading. But blaming the Scottish Government ignores the fact that addictions to drugs, tobacco and alcohol are symptoms of poverty, not causes. Poverty is a result of Tory rule, and Scotland has been particularly badly hit since the days of Margaret Thatcher and her de-industrialisation which offered very little in the way of alternative sources of employment.

There are ways to tackle the drugs problem, and Portugal has done an incredible job on that front, proving that alternative strategies can work. The Tories, though, will never budge in their view that criminalisation of drug users (unless they are Tory MPs) is the way to go. The Scottish Government is, as with so many aspects of governing a country, operating with its hands tied because of Westminster control. This should be self-evident, yet as the replies to Stephen Daisley’s tweet demonstrate, it clearly is not evident to some people.

As ever, the media is going to provide the greatest obstacle to independence. I was unlucky enough to hear a radio news bulleting on Heart Radio just this morning. There was a snippet about politics, with an SNP spokesperson being quoted by the newsreader, and then a clip being played of a Tory MSP giving his response. The subject of the snippet is not important here; what is important is the way these pieces of news are presented. Pro-Indy politicians are usually quoted by the newsreader, but pro-Union politicians tend to have their quotes recorded and played back. Should that make a difference? It shouldn’t, but it does. Listeners hear the words being spoken by the person concerned, and are more likely to remember that because it stands out from the rest of the newscast. It’s a subtle and common trick, used by most broadcasters, and it’s another media weapon we will need to overcome in our quest to become a normal country.

Resigned to Chaos

Posted on July 8th, 2022

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

When is a resignation not a resignation? When Boris Johnson announces it. The man is such a scheming liar that he can’t even resign properly. What is truly shocking is that his gaslighting seems to have fooled the Tory MPs who were resigning in droves from his Government because of his lying and untrustworthiness. Some of them are even accepting Ministerial positions in his new, possibly interim, Government. If that doesn’t smack of poor judgement, I don’t know what does.

I’m no fan of Dominic Cummings who is himself a shifty character who shouldn’t be anywhere near a position of power, but I find myself in the bizarre position of having him agree with me that Boris Johnson has merely used that bombastic speech to stall for time so that he can figure out a way to remain in power.

With any luck, the Tories will see through this sham, although I’m not confident.

Not that it matters a great deal because the choice of successor presents even more problems. Who will the Press Barons plump for? The range of possible candidates is horrifying to contemplate.

Scotland needs to escape this Ruritania as soon as possible.

Stranger in a Strange Land

Posted on July 6th, 2022

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Things are so bad for Boris Johnson just now that this article may well be out of date before you read it. There have been plenty of excellent articles written about the current meltdown of the UK Government, so I’ll keep this one short, and will only mention a few things which strike me about it.

First of all, as many others have said, the latest resignations are not demonstrations of some Tories developing a backbone at last. All of these people have backed Johnson to the hilt until now, and their resignations, in true Tory style, are simply to gain personal benefit by removing themselves from his toxic orbit. They have certainly not suddenly developed consciences, and I expect we will see them jockeying for position should the Tories decide it is time for Johnson to go.

As for those fanatics who remain ultra loyal to Johnson, it is hard to feel any sympathy for them. Either they are so stupid that they don’t realise he will throw them under the proverbial bus the moment it suits him, or they actually do believe in him. I’m not sure which is worse.

And what about Michael Gove? He’s been suspiciously quiet for a while now. Is he keeping his head down until he decides the time is right to stick the proverbial knife in Johnson’s back?

As for who will succeed Johnson when he is eventually forced out either by the Tories or by the electorate, it really doesn’t matter. I have said many times before that Johnson is merely a symptom of what is wrong with the UK. He may be the most extreme symptom so far, but that does not mean that his successor will be any better in substance. After all, the Tories have lurched so far to the right (dragging Labour along with them) that there only seem to be hard core Brexiteers left in their party. So Johnson’s successor will undoubtedly be just as xenophobic and uncaring as he is, although they might put up a better show of hiding it.

My final observation is perhaps the most important one from a Scottish perspective. Looking on at what is happening in Westminster, my over-riding reaction is that it is like watching a political farce unfold in a foreign country. Unfortunately, the current constitutional arrangement means that these ridiculous goings-on will affect us here in Scotland, but it still has the feeling of being somehow remote and very, very different to the sort of politics we want to see in our own country. The sooner we escape, the better.

Mountain to Climb

Posted on June 30th, 2022

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

I thought Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement on IndyRef2 was measured, sensible and forceful. I know many (including me) wish she had taken these steps a lot earlier, but at least she has now outlined her plan for what will happen when a section 30 Order is inevitably refused and when the Supreme Court rules against the competence of the Scottish Government. Perhaps that latter statement is overly pessimistic, but even if the Supreme Court rules in our favour, you can bet that the Tory Westminster Government will quickly pass another law to override the Court ruling. They have form on that sort of thing.

I know there is still a lot of suspicion among some ardent Yessers, and others, notably Wings Over Scotland, are saying that Nicola Sturgeon could and should have done this years ago, but I take the view that it is better late than never, and the one thing those intervening years have done is reinforce how far the UK is veering into extremism.

As usual, Nicola Sturgeon has taken a slow, cautious approach. Many will disagree with that tactic, but if it works, then I don’t think anyone except the most bitter of her opponents within the Yes movement will complain. We have a strategy, clearly outlined, and, with one very important caveat which I will come to shortly, I think she is going about this the right way. She’s certainly caught the Unionists off balance, as witnessed by their rather inane questions after her announcement.

What we need to see now are those long-promised explanations of the important issues like currency and borders. In all honesty, a Scottish Pound is the only viable solution if we wish to rejoin the EU, but selling that message is going to be the hard part because so many fearties are afraid of change. But sterling is rapidly becoming a second-rate currency, so I’m hopeful that a strong case can be put forward.

As for the border, that’s England’s problem as much as it is Scotland’s, and rejoining the EU, or joining EFTA, would open up a lot more borders, as well as significantly improving our ability to welcome immigrants who could help us cope with the shortage of workers.

Of course, we can expect a barrage of SNP Bad and Scotland too wee stories in the media now, and I do hope that the Scottish Government’s media team are going to be far more pro-active than they have been up until now. There will be lie upon lie thrown at us, and this needs to be countered at an official level, not simply left to the Yes community to argue against.

Now that caveat I mentioned. For some time, I have been worried that Nicola Sturgeon’s detractors among the Yes community were right, and that she would pin all her hopes on a Section 30 Order, then simply shrug her shoulders when it was turned down, and explain that there was nothing else she could do. Her announcement about using the next General Election as a de facto IndyRef caught many people by surprise, and my initial reaction was very positive. However, it has since been quietly mentioned that, to count as a Yes win, the SNP would be looking for more than 50% of the popular vote in that General Election. If true, I think this is a horrible mistake. I can understand the rationale behind it, but achieving that level of support in a General Election is almost impossible. In the 2019 GE, the SNP managed to achieve only 45% of the popular vote, with the greens bringing in another 1%. Because of the vagaries of the First Past The Post system, this resulted in an overwhelming victory in terms of seats, but I fear that, by setting this impossibly high benchmark, Nicola Sturgeon has left the door open for the No campaign to block Scotland becoming a normal country.

Now, I can already hear you thinking that we would need 50% in an IndyRef, so why not use the same criterion for the GE? Well, because the two are very different beasts. The SNP may campaign on a single issue, and if they stick true to form, they will insist that votes for the greens, Alba or ISP don’t count. This could well result in them winning every seat in Scotland and yet still fall short of 50% because you can bet anything you like that the Unionist Parties will latch on to the fact that they can campaign on other issues, thus painting the SNP as obsessed with independence. Aided by the media, they will be able to muddy the waters to such an extent that many voters may be hesitant about supporting the SNP.

I do hope I am wrong about this, but I do feel it would be far more of a threat to Westminster to let them know that we will be playing by their rules, and that a majority of seats will count as a victory. It is their antiquated and unfair voting system, so we should use it against them.

Perhaps I am being too cynical, and I know that a majority of the popular vote would be a safer result in terms of demonstrating the democratic will of the Scottish people, but I fear it could be a mistake to go down this route. After all, we know the Unionists won’t play fair whatever system we choose, so why make it even harder for ourselves when their own electoral system could be used against them? And remember, the Electoral Commission will be very firmly under Tory control by the time of the next GE, and the requirement for Voter ID will also be in place, thus disenfranchising many of the very people who might vote Yes.

Again, I hope I’m wrong. Whatever happens, we have a mountain to climb, especially with the media set against us, so I see little point in taking the most difficult route to the top when an easier path is already laid out in front of us.

Fit For What Purpose?

Posted on June 28th, 2022

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

According to rumour and gossip, several Tory MPs are secretly negotiating to cross the floor of the House of Commons and join Sir Keir (Knight of the Realm) Starmer’s Labour Party. Quite apart from the interesting thing this says about Sir Keir (Knight of the Realm) Starmer’s adherence to as many tory policies as possible, it reveals quite a lot about how unfit for purpose Westminster politics is. Some would argue, I am sure, that the current Labour Party is unfit for purpose as well, especially since Sir Keir (Knight of the Realm) and his closest allies have decreed that it is not the role of Labour MPs to join picket lines or support Trade Unions in strike action. Perhaps I missed a lesson in History class, but I thought that was the whole point of Labour. Not any more, it seems. Who would have guessed that a Knight of the Realm would have taken Labour so far to the Right that they are now seen as a perfectly viable home for disillusioned Tories? I can think of another Keir who must be birlin’ in his grave.

But what else does this rumour tell us? Despite official denials, there is no reason to believe it is untrue, and we’ve already seen MP Christian Wakeford cross the floor earlier this year, so it’s perfectly possible that others may follow his lead. But this gets to the heart of the problem with UK politics. Theoretically, of course, voters elect an individual to represent their constituency, and no doubt some voters still do place their vote in support of a specific individual, but the vast majority of voters look for Party first, and place their cross against whichever individual is representing that Party. That is partly down to the media landscape where national issues are beamed into households on a daily basis, and it may also be partly because MPs, although officially representing their constituents, are doing so at a UK-wide level. If voters like the politics or, sadly, the personality of a specific Party Leader, they will vote for anyone who is put up by that Leader’s Party.

MPs themselves will present themselves in the media either as representatives of their constituents, or as representatives of their Party depending on circumstances, but the reality is that you really can’t have it both ways. I’ve had experience of this myself some years back when I approached my then Labour MP regarding a proposed Bill which I feared would seriously impact the disabled community. He listened, assured me he understood, and promised to see what he could do. What he did was vote for the Bill because that was his Party’s policy. As far as I was able to ascertain at the time, he didn’t even bother raising any concerns during the debate. On that occasion, Party loyalty overrode a constituent’s concerns. Now, I am sure others will be able to point to situations where a local MP has acted in the best interests of his or her constituents’ concerns, but how many of them have done so in defiance of their Party’s whip? Not many.

So, if you accept the premise that an MP is elected because of the Party who chose them to stand in a particular constituency, then surely that MP should stand down if they decide they can no longer represent that Party. At this point, I should say that I believe this should apply no matter which Parties are involved in a switch of allegiance. Most voters vote for a Party first and foremost, so if the MP no longer wishes to represent that Party, it is a betrayal of the electorate to simply switch sides. I suppose that, in the case of Tories moving to Labour, it is hard to tell the difference between the Parties at the best of times, but the principle should still apply. However, it seems most MPs in this situation are more concerned with preserving their status, salary and pension rights than in actually observing the wishes of their constituents. The fact that the UK system allows them to do this shows how unfit for purpose it is. Any MP wishing to stop representing their Party should announce their intention to stand down, thus triggering a by-election. They can always stand as representatives of the Party they wish to move to and, quite frankly, in many English constituencies, switching to Labour at the moment might well see them re-elected anyway. That, though, is beside the point. The entire system makes a mockery of electoral democracy. Whether it be Tory MPs defecting to Labour, SNP MPs switching to Alba, or any other transfer of allegiance, MPs should not be permitted to assume that they have the ongoing support of those who elected them.

I will admit that one possible effect of forcing MPs to stand down if they become disillusioned might be to persuade them to stick with the Party they represented when elected. It would take some strength of character to take a principled stance, and perhaps that is asking too much of our political representatives. But then, if they feel that strongly, they can always vote against the Party whip on any issues they feel strongly about. That may well result in other problems for them, but it would certainly be a more principled stance than crossing the floor of the House of Commons, thus preserving their job. As things stand, the system benefits the MPs far more than it benefits the cause of democracy.

Stating The Positive Case

Posted on June 19th, 2022

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Tory MSP Murdo Fraser recently gave an interview on GB News. I’m not going to post a link to it as I wouldn’t inflict GB News on anyone for the sake of their mental health. However, a short clip from that interview is currently all over pro-Indy Twitter, and it makes for incredible viewing as Mr Fraser lays out the case for Scotland to become a normal, self-governing country. Of course, that wasn’t his intention, but his comments are probably among the best arguments for independence that any Tory is likely to make.

For readers who haven’t seen it, or who don’t wish to watch, I note below the quotations from Mr Fraser. You should pay close attention to them.

He said that, if Scotland leaves the UK:

"We lose roughly a third of the land mass of Great Britain, probably around half of our territorial waters."

"We lose the magnificent resource that is Scottish fishing waters."

"We lose opportunities from North Sea oil and gas which is still there despite Nicola Sturgeon’s best efforts."

"We lose the potential from renewable energy from Scotland’s coasts in the North Sea and the Atlantic."

"We lose access to barrier free trade to Scotch whisky and Scotch salmon; all those great exports."

"The opportunity to study at some of the world’s greatest universities in Scotland."

"And the joy of having Scots as part of the British nation."

Now, there is quite a lot to unpack here, so bear with me. Let’s take the last point first as it is easy to deal with. Britain is not a nation. It is a geographical area, like Europe. The UK is not a nation either; it is a sovereign state comprised of three nations and a province. And anyone who regularly views Unionist comments on social media might take issue with Mr Fraser thinking his supporters view Scots (both the people and the language) as a joy.

Naturally, he could not resist having a dig at Nicola Sturgeon about North Sea oil and gas. It’s an odd comment since even the most casual observer knows that the Scottish Government wants to move away from fossil fuels and focus on renewable energy. Winding down the oil and gas sector is a climate issue. It’s also worth noting that the Tories have cut taxation on North Sea oil extractors to prevent them having to admit that Scotland could make money from those companies if they were taxed the way other countries tax them.

Now let’s look at his constant use of the pronoun, "We". Who does he mean? He is Scottish, elected to the Scottish Parliament, yet it is absolutely clear that he is not talking as a representative of Scotland. Instead, he seems to be very much siding with the people who rule Scotland via the Westminster Government. I suppose that should come as no surprise, but any self-respecting Scot should surely cringe at the Cringe he is displaying.

And then there is the main point; the one which really ought to ensure that this video clip forms the basis of the Scottish Government’s next pro-Indy political broadcast. In quite some detail, he lists all the things he and his Westminster masters will lose control of if Scotland decides to become a normal country. In other words, they don’t want to trade for any of these things like normal countries do, they want absolute control to exploit Scotland’s resources. And you only need to look at the difference between Norway’s sovereign wealth fund and the one the UK doesn’t have to see how Westminster manages Scottish resources. Whoever is going to benefit from that control, it certainly isn’t going to be the ordinary people of Scotland.

The conclusion most pro-Indy Scots have taken from this is that Mr Fraser is happy for Scotland’s resources to be exploited and used for the benefit of those "we" he identifies with. His words are those of a colonial master who refuses to relinquish control of a colonised state. You can argue all you like about whether Scotland truly has been colonised, but the things he said could easily be put in the mouth of a 19th Century plantation owner listing all the things he would lose if his slaves were freed.

Mr Fraser’s interview should reveal to every Scot the true feelings of Westminster. That is who he was speaking for, and we really should accept his words at face value. They want our resources, but they don’t want to pay for them. And if Scotland was a normal country, all of those resources would be ours to use for our nation’s benefit.

So, well done to Murdo Fraser. He’s stated the positive case for independence. I’ll bet he can’t state the positive case for the union with anything like such clarity.

On Your Marks

Posted on June 15th, 2022

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

I am delighted that, after so many promises, Nicola Sturgeon has at last begun the moves towards promoting the cause of Scotland becoming a normal, self-governing country. I know that there remain some Yes supporters who do not believe she will deliver, and others who distrust her motives in doing this now, but in all honesty, if IndyRef2 is to take place next year, then she really had no option except to begin the campaign now and I, for one, welcome this.

I was also pleased to see her change of stance regarding a Section 30 Order. Not that she won’t ask for one, but at least she has now admitted that she must consider what routes are available when the UK Government inevitably refuses to grant such an Order. That, of course, gets to the heart of the democratic problem, because why should we need to ask permission at all if this really is a union of equals?

No doubt we can now expect a bombardment of "SNPBad" and "Too wee, too poor" media headlines, but hopefully most Yessers are familiar enough with these to be able to refute the increasingly desperate and sometimes bizarre arguments put forward by ardent Unionists. I hope that the Scottish Government will get its Media Team into gear to officially refute such arguments as well.

So is this the starting gun? Not quite, because there is no date for IndyRef2 yet, but to stick with the racing analogy, we should now be on our marks. Let’s hope that the "Get set!" and "Go!" stages are not too far away.

Same Old Scene

Posted on June 8th, 2022

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

I must be a bit sad. I was having a bit of family time on Monday evening, but I kept checking in on social media to find out the result of the vote of No Confidence in Boris Johnson. I had previously dismissed this as a bit of a non-event when someone mentioned to me that the Prime Minister might be forced to resign. I was fairly confident that the Tories would keep him because they have no other really viable candidates, and Johnson seems able to bribe enough of them to have been fairly sure of keeping his job.

There was always a slight chance I might have been wrong, but the Tories stuck to their extremist views and voted to keep the lying narcissist in place.

Not that a different outcome would have made much difference to Scotland. Any successor to Johnson will still be an ultra-Right Winger, and will continue to push policies which will be indistinguishable from those an outright fascist Government would enact. A new leader might not be so overtly corrupt, dishonest and venal, but that will be all surface, a mirage to present a better image to the public.

Worst of all, the big thing that will not change is the English voting public’s apparent belief that, despite all the evidence to the contrary, having the Tories in power is the best way to run their country. I know there are many voices, some of them very articulate, who show up the UK Government for what it is, but far too many people, predominantly although not exclusively in England, seem to have been trapped into dreams of past glories, of Empire 2.0, and xenophobia on an industrial scale.

Some may argue that the current farce of a Government will lead to a Labour victory at the next General Election. However, that election is still some years away, and under Sir Keir Starmer (Knight of the Realm) Labour will be almost as right wing as the Tories. Indeed, the lurch to the right has been so dominant in UK politics that voters who want a genuinely socialist Government have no prospect of finding a party which has any chance of gaining power.

And, for the sake of argument, let’s say Labour did win, and Sir Keir starmer (Knight of the Realm) did go against his principles and begin to undo some of the damage the Tories have done, history shows us that the media would turn on him, and the Tories would be back in power before very long. Sadly, too many people still seem to defer to social class and wealth rather than ability when selecting their political leaders.

Scotland can, and must, do better than this. Our politics is certainly not perfect, but our voters generally believe in a far more democratic form of Government than Westminster will ever provide. Most of all, if we were a normal country, we would be able to vote out an incompetent or corrupt Government. At the moment, even if there is a change of Government in Holyrood, the over-arching power of Westminster means that the Scottish Government will still be hamstrung.

If nothing else, the result of the No Confidence vote should make more Scots realise that there is only one way of us avoiding yet more harm to our nation.

Lovely Jubly

Posted on June 5th, 2022

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

I’ve never been a monarchist, and the deeds and words of the Royal family went largely ignored for most of my life. I honestly never felt that the Royals held any relevance to everyday life. Equally, I never really thought about adopting an ardent Republican stance because, although I did feel this was morally the approach I ought to take, I realised at an early age that adoration of the monarchy is so deeply ingrained in the British psyche that it was, and remains, unthinkable that the UK could ever become a Republic.

Of course, things changed with the dramatic rise in support for Scotland becoming a normal country with the advent of the 2014 IndyRef. This provided, for the first time I can recall, the first potential opportunity for Scotland to turn away from the farcical quasi-democracy of the UK and become a modern, normal country which would have the opportunity to become a Republic.

In all honesty, though, I don’t think an independent Scotland would be founded as a Republic. The monarchical system is so deeply embedded in UK society, I think the SNP’s current stance of retaining the monarchy is actually the sensible approach in the short term because, as 2014 amply demonstrated, there are still an awful lot of Scots who fear, or actively oppose, change. Switching to republicanism immediately may just be a step too far for some people who might vote Yes if they could be reassured that their comfort blanket of the monarchy would be retained. It’s rather sad, but I fear that is the reality of the current situation.

However, if the current media frenzy over the Jubilee has done nothing else, it must surely have raised some doubts in the minds of questioning people as to why we are encouraged to adore the monarchy quite so much. The Queen is one of the largest landowners in the world, one of the wealthiest women in the world, yet she does nothing to assist her subjects, many of whom now face destitution thanks to the policies of her Government. Is that really the reaction of a caring monarch?

And while we are on the topic of subjects, why do the people of other nations get to be called citizens, but we in the UK are treated with such contempt that we must constantly be reminded of our status as lesser beings than the exalted Royals? Even worse, why do so many people revel in this status? It is absolutely cringeworthy.

Naturally, the media has been highlighting some individuals who portray all the right attributes of loyal subjects, assuring us how much they love a queen they have never met and are never likely to meet, and how much she does for the country. Quite what the things she does are is never actually explained except that she brings in lots of tourist money. This is a fallacy since the most popular tourist visitor site in the UK is the Tower of London where no Royals have lived for centuries. It is the history and the buildings which bring the tourists, not the existence of a Royal family who do as much as they can to avoid contact with the public except in carefully stage-managed appearances.

I’ve taken care not to pay too much attention to the media this weekend, and I can’t say there have been many signs locally of street parties or celebrations in my neighbourhood. Unless they were very quiet parties, of course. But it seems that the number of Scots who did join in the fawning and sycophantic celebrations was relatively low. Perhaps Scotland should re-visit the idea of becoming a Republic after all.

Voting Outcomes

Posted on May 21st, 2022

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

It should have come as no surprise to anyone that Labour Councillors across Scotland are going into coalition with Tories in order to run the Council, normally excluding the SNP who have the majority of seats on most Councils. After all, they did this in at least three Councils after the last local elections, and things have become even more hardline with the accession of Anas Sarwar as Labour leader. He may have claimed in his election campaigning that no deals would be done, but he was so obviously lying I cannot understand why anyone would believe him.

The Single Transferable Vote system is designed to provide proportional representation, which normally means that no single Party will have a majority. Indeed, I believe there are only two Councils this time where one Party does have an actual majority. In a normal country, this would be accepted as quite routine, requiring Parties to enter into coalitions to run the Councils. Unfortunately, Scotland is not a normal country. Here, the constitutional question overrides all other considerations. As a result, many Labour Councillors must feel that they have no option but to make deals with other Unionist Parties. They seem to have no qualms at all about this, even when it means aligning with a Party which has shown itself, through the medium of Westminster, to be leaning strongly towards fascism as a mode of government. Those who founded the Labour Party must be spinning in their graves.

However, not all the blame lies with Labour. I thought the SNP’s "Vote SNP 1 & 2" advice was misguided in the extreme, because many voters do not really understand the voting system. If voters used their STV to mark 1 & 2 on the ballot paper and then stopped, this opened the door for Unionist Councillors to be elected.

My own Ward is a distressing example of how much better the pro-Indy Parties could have done. Of the 8 candidates, only 3 were pro-Indy. I had 2 SNP and 1 Green, and these naturally attracted my first three choices. I then ranked the others in a fairly arbitrary way, but making sure that the solitary Tory candidate was the last choice.

The results in my Ward were very interesting. One SNP Councillor was elected in Round 1, meaning he had received enough first choice preferences at the first round of counting. Great!

The second round elected the second SNP Councillor. So far, so good.

But then it gets weird. In a traditionally Labour-voting area, I was fairly sure one of the two Labour candidates would eventually be elected.

However, much to my surprise and disappointment, the Tory candidate was elected, but not until round 7. I can only conclude from this that far too many SNP voters did not give their third choice to the Green candidate. I suppose it is entirely possible that there was not a sufficient surplus of votes after the first two rounds, but for the Tory to scrape in in round 7 was very disappointing.

Now, the STV system is complex in its detail, so I cannot say for certain whether more pro-Indy votes ranking Green third would have made a difference, but it might have helped. The fact that the SNP advised their supporters to stop after number 2 has, I fear, played into the hands of the unionists. If a Tory only got in in round 7, it surely demonstrates that the unionist vote was split in this particular Ward.

As for the upshot, at time of writing, no formal coalition has been announced, but since the Labour and Tory Parties formed the last Council, I fully expect them to repeat this. In democratic terms, that’s perfectly reasonable. In political terms, it merely proves that they are simply two sides of the same Unionist coin. A vote for one is a vote for the other. The sooner the SNP put aside their grievances with other pro-Indy Parties, the better. And it would not do any harm to educate voters in how to use the STV system either.

Encouraging Thoughts

Posted on May 19th, 2022

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

I read with interest that Chancellor Rishi Sunak is set to tell business bosses that he will be cutting corporate tax bills later this year. In exchange for this generosity, he is going to encourage them to invest in the UK, creating jobs and driving innovation to help boost the economy.

That all sounds wonderful if you think like a tory, but what Mr Sunak seems to forget is that the people he is talking to also think like Tories. If they do create any jobs at all, it will be at the lower end of the pay scale, paying as little as they can get away with. Most of their profits will be retained after paying themselves large bonuses and forking out on dividends for their shareholders. Encouragement to act for the greater good of the UK economy is never going to cut it with business leaders.

Sadly, it simply does not seem to have occurred to Mr Sunak that raising business taxes would produce money for the Government which they could then be certain would be invested in the UK. Infrastructure projects could create wealth and the additional tax income could actually be used to help people on low incomes or who rely on social security. But no, let’s use encouragement instead. That’s bound to work.

Perhaps I am being unfair. Perhaps Mr Sunak has looked at the bungling incompetence of his fellow Tories when it comes to managing large projects and decided that he has a better chance of not having billions of pounds wasted if he leaves things up to the beneficence of business leaders. It’s probably got as much chance of helping the sinking UK economy as any other plan this bunch of inept bunglers has ever come up with.

Keep It In The Fridge

Posted on May 15th, 2022

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

So Boris Johnson says that, in his experience, working from home does not work because people spend time making coffee, going to the fridge to get some cheese, then wander back to their PC having forgotten what it was they were doing. Jacob Rees Mogg, on the other hand, thinks people who are supposed to be working from home are instead watching daytime TV.

What can you say about this level of ignorance? Now, it must be admitted that working from home does not suit everyone. Domestic circumstances may mean that working from home is difficult or even impossible for some people, but for many others it really does work. In fact, many people who work from home are more productive because they have a genuine work ethic. What Boris Johnson and his Right Wing pals are really admitting is that they themselves are feckless, indolent layabouts with no self-discipline. Not only that, they have the arrogance to assume that everyone else is the same as them. This is, quite frankly, disgusting.

There is, of course, the other angle in that they want workers back in the office because their rich landlord pals are feeling the squeeze having all those empty office spaces. That’s certainly in keeping with Tory philosophy, but I do believe it is backed by a genuine belief that most workers are lazy and need to be kept under constant surveillance by their bosses. I’m sure we all know office managers who think this way.

And then there is the question of what Boris Johnson does all day when, since he lives in 10 Downing Street and is, by definition, working from home. Is he constantly raiding the fridge and forgetting which area of public policy he intends to meddle in? In all honesty, I think I’d prefer it if he hid in his fridge permanently.

As You Were

Posted on May 8th, 2022

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

So what can we take from the results of the Scottish Council elections? As with so many statistics, people can read into them what they want to see, emphasising one aspect while ignoring others which might not meet their narrative. There is, though, no doubt that the SNP can rightly claim to have won the overall election, although that really isn’t the point of these local elections which really ought to be judged at a local level. Still, the SNP’s performance after so long in Government is quite remarkable, but there is, of course, one over-arching reason why they were so successful, and I’ll return to that later in this piece.

There are a couple of things to bear in mind regarding Council elections. First, turnout is usually quite low. On this occasion, it was below 50% overall, with some Council areas reporting less than 40% turnout. Whether that can be taken as providing a true reflection of voter intentions at a national level is debatable. We also know that Tory voters almost always turn out, so the Tory vote is amplified when turnout is low. It could be argued that their poor performance, losing over 60 Councillors, could perhaps have been worse if supporters of other Parties had turned out in greater numbers.

Yet, despite their losses, the Tories retain over 200 Councillors, showing that there are still plenty of people in Scotland who look at the shambles that is Westminster and think, "Yes, that’s the sort of Government we want".

And what happened to replace those 60 plus losses? Well, the split was roughly even, with around 20 additional seats going to each of the SNP, Labour and Lib Dems. Quite what we can infer from that is difficult to say, and each Party will no doubt provide their own interpretation. Overall, however, we must keep in mind that the pro-Union vote still prefers Labour and Lib Dem representation even if they can’t bring themselves to vote for the Tories who are now on the extreme Right of politics.

What I think we can say is that this does not really demonstrate a fight-back from Labour as some are claiming. They have simply benefitted from the dilution of trust in the Tories. Nor can the SNP get too excited about their successes because their overall vote share actually fell when compared to the last Council elections. In short, every Party gained from the Tory losses, but those losses were not great enough to result in a complete turn-around in the greater picture.

The other point we must remember is that the Single Transferable Vote system is designed to return a representative proportional number of candidates. Normally, this means that an overall winner in any area is unlikely. Indeed, we see that the SNP have control of 1 Council, Labour control 1, while the rest have no overall majority for any Party. In this system, the concept is that co-operation and compromise are required. In practice, I suspect we will see Labour going into coalition with either the Lib Dems or the Tories simply in order to deny power to the SNP. I strongly suspect that is what will happen in my own Council, thus meaning that the election has changed nothing except a shift in the numbers representing each Party.

One aspect of the elections was the STV system and the lack of understanding of how it operates. This was not helped by the SNP advising supporters to simply vote 1 & 2 for them, leaving other boxes blank. This is misguided advice. In my own Ward, for example, the Tory candidate was elected in Round 7 of a possible 8. If more voters had ranked her 8th, she might not have been elected at all.

As for other Parties, the Greens did quite well, but perhaps could have done better if more SNP supporters had voted them 3rd on their lists.

And what of Alba and ISP? Their performance was rather abject to say the least. Alba are, of course, are hampered by a lack of publicity in the media, and also by the media’s success in damaging Alex Salmond’s reputation with many voters. What I find most disappointing is the crowing by some SNP supporters at Alba’s failure. When the Unionist Parties are our main opponents, all pro-Indy Parties should be backing each other, and to see this acrimonious split is disappointing to say the least.

Whether Alba will ever make any impact on Scottish politics is difficult to say. They really do not feature in the thinking of most voters I know. But this brings me back to the question of why the SNP remain so successful. It is the simple fact that every election in Scotland is dominated by the constitutional question. In the minds of most voters, the SNP represent the desire for Scotland to become a normal country. This is why they win elections, gaining mandate after mandate. I fear that, sooner or later, much of that support will begin to question their own ongoing support if the SNP do not show signs of actually trying to deliver IndyRef2. If there is growing disillusion, where will those voters turn? That is possibly where Alba might begin to gain ground, but they are going to have to do much better at getting their points across to the wider public.

One thing I keep thinking is that UKIP never represented much of a threat in electoral terms, yet they pressured every Unionist Party in Westminster to veer alarmingly towards fascism. Could Alba apply similar pressure in Scotland, forcing the SNP to push harder for independence? On reflection, I think not. The reason for UKIP’s success was the media coverage and promotion, especially by the BBC. There is no chance of Alba or Alex Salmond ever benefitting from such promotion. So it will all come down to voter perceptions, and with the rancorous split between Alba and the SNP, I fear that many voters will remain hostile to the very thought of voting for Alba, or indeed any other pro-Indy Party. It is, sadly, a classic example of the UK’s "Divide and conquer" strategy. Because, unless all the pro-Indy Parties can put aside their differences, then we face an uphill struggle on the road to Normality. And I do mean all, because I’ve seen far too many hostile comments from Alba supporters towards the SNP as well.

So can we read much into the Council election results? I don’t think so. We are still in a form of stasis which will not be broken until a definite date for IndyRef2 is announced. Many fear that the polls have barely moved, but that is because most voters need a deadline date to focus their minds. They are too busy getting on with their lives and coping with the cost of living crisis to think about a referendum. But when a date is announced and all Parties begin campaigning, then we should see the polls move as the case for Normality is made and people know they must make a decision. And, quite frankly, if the Yes movement cannot make a case for normality in light of the past few years of Westminster bungling, then we won’t deserve to become a normal country.

HMS Ruritania

Posted on May 3rd, 2022

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

Jacob Rees Mogg, the Minister for Brexit Opportunities, has admitted that actually imposing the border checks demanded by brexiteers would be an act of self harm. So, taking back control of the UK’s borders now seems to mean relinquishing control because doing the checks which any normal country would do would result in food shortages, just as many who recognised Brexit as a folly predicted. To avoid the shortages which would result from properly enforcing border checks, those checks have now been scrapped. Sorry, postponed. Implementation will now take place late in 2023. Unless they are postponed again, of course. Since they have already been postponed several times, that seems the most likely outcome.

British exporters, meanwhile, must go through all the hoops of paperwork, extra costs and delays when sending goods to the EU, thus placing them at a disadvantage compared to their EU competitors.

What a pointless farce this all is. And when you add the almost comical resentment of British travellers towards Irish people who are able to sweep through EU Customs checks while the brits are forced to wait in long queues while their passports are checked, you cannot help but wonder what Brexiteers thought they were voting for. It certainly wasn’t to take back control, because all that has happened is that power has now been grabbed by a group of extreme Right wing ideologues who fully deserve the appellation of fascists because their behaviour is very much in the mould of 1930s Italy and Germany.

Like most of those who wanted to remain in the EU, it gives me no pleasure at all to say, "We told you so." The problem was that, most of the information about what we would lose actually came out after the result of the Brexit referendum. Whether the result would have been different had that information been available beforehand is, though, debatable. The referendum was not decided on facts but on emotional attachment to dreams of British past glories, combined with a loathing of foreigners which has long been endemic in UK society.

And now we are seeing the folly of that decision, and there is absolutely nothing we can do about it. Future General Elections are being rigged, and the Tories are using every trick in the fascist playbook in order to ensure they remain in power. England’s media seems mostly content to let them do this, and far too many of England’s voters seem oblivious to what is going on. Not that they have a great deal of choice, since Sir Keir Starmer, Knight of the Realm, is dragging the Labour Party further rightwards in an effort to appeal to the xenophobic bigots who have put the Tories in power. And since all three of the Unionist Parties are pro-Brexit, those voters who want to make a protest really have nowhere to go.

Voters in Scotland should have another choice. It’s about time we were given an opportunity to exercise that choice. Because, if we don’t, we risk being dragged down with this Ruritania of a state.

Indulgent Jubilee

Posted on May 2nd, 2022

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

It is an ample demonstration of Tory priorities that Chancellor Rishi Sunak has reportedly been persuaded that it would be a good idea to have a permanent Bank Holiday to commemorate Queen Elizabeth II. This is, so it would seem, important, while helping ordinary people to cope with the horrendous price rises currently dominating everyday life is not on his agenda.

And what of the Jubilee celebrations? These are what we should expect from a sovereign state which venerates its monarch at every opportunity. No doubt various members of the royal family will be present at some of the adulatory celebrations, and the entire show will be covered in detail by the BBC. Some people may regard this as outrageous sycophancy on the part of the state broadcaster, but it is really just a part of the Establishment’s way of reinforcing the class structure which the UK has never really shaken off. The public will be encouraged to gape in awe at the displays, and to realise that their monarch is far above them in society. It is a way of reminding people of their own lowly status.

Will the Queen, or indeed any member of the royal family, care about any of this? They will revel in the adulation being poured their way, but I suspect that will be as far as it will go. After all, the Queen herself is so rich that she could ameliorate many of the social problems currently facing UK society. She won’t do anything of the sort, and instead will continue to demand exemptions from laws which others must observe, while retaining her wealth for her own benefit. We should not forget that this is a woman who wants the Government (for which read Taxpayer) to refurbish the palace she hasn’t bothered to maintain during her long reign, and who wants another private yacht paid for by those same taxpayers who will be encouraged to fawn over her and her family. If ever there was a reason for Scotland to become a republic, I think the behaviour of the royal family is it.

Incredibly, a great many members of the public still cling to the belief that the royals care about them, but actions speak louder than words, and there are precious few signs that the royals have anyone’s best interests at heart except their own.

It will be interesting to see how many people in Scotland will turn out for Jubilee celebrations. Those who participate in the annual Orange Walks will probably be at the forefront, but I expect the event will pass most of us by. Elizabeth may be Queen of Scots, but I think there is a growing gulf between her and the people she ostensibly presides over.

Why Your Vote counts

Posted on April 22nd, 2022

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

My postal ballot paper came through last week. I moved to postal voting because of bad experiences when trying to vote in person since the aids provided for visually impaired voters are not fit for purpose. With a postal ballot, I can at least get sighted help from a trusted family member rather than rely on a member of staff at a voting station.

In my Ward, there are eight candidates standing. I was disappointed to discover that only three of them were representing pro-Indy Parties, and there were no candidates from either ISP or Alba. With only two SNP and one Green candidate, my first three choices were decided straight away, but after that things became tricky. There was one candidate who was standing on a pro-life platform, but since that is generally a euphemism for anti-abortion and anti-women’s rights, he didn’t really feature in my reckoning and was always going to be ranked very low.

But what about the other Parties? OK, it’s easy to rank Tories last because they have amply demonstrated their greed, incompetence and corruption for the world to see. But that still left me with two Labour and one Lib Dem candidate. How does any Yesser make that sort of decision? The Lib Dems have already declared that they will ally with the Tories in any Council where they gain seats, and Labour have shown a great willingness to do precisely the same in practice, even if they pretend they aren’t doing it. Any vote for any of these candidates sticks in the craw, but the best use of the STV system demands that we Vote Till We Boak, so I wanted to make a choice. Eventually, I decided that Labour were more likely to gain Unionist votes in my area, so ranking the Lib Dem candidate above the two Labour candidates might help scupper the Labour vote.

The STV system is very complex, and although I understand the theory, the practicalities of it are still something of a mystery to me. I sincerely hope that my vote will count in at least one of the first three rounds, and I’m fairly sure they will, but you never know. I’d really have loved to have candidates from other pro-Indy Parties so I could have ranked the Unionists even lower. It might have made little difference in the end, because we should not forget that our vote only counts once even if we rank all the candidates. The issue really is where you want your vote to count, but it still would have given me a lot of satisfaction to rank a Tory at number 10 on the list.

Sadly, I fully expect my Council to be run by a Tory/Labour coalition again. I’ll be delighted if the recent Tory scandals do undermine their vote share, but I fear the likely outcome of that is that the SNP will have most seats but without an overall majority, leaving the Council hamstrung. Whatever the final result, the one thing I can be certain of is that the three Unionist Parties will act as one. This is why I get so annoyed about the sniping and in-fighting between supporters (and politicians) of the SNP and Alba. Where our opponents always put aside their differences in order to thwart our aim of becoming a normal country, Yessers are split. We really cannot afford that. Our priority should be gaining independence, just as the over-arching priority of the Unionist Parties is to prevent it. We need to back all pro-Indy Parties until we achieve our aim. The time for internal squabbling is once we are a normal, self-governing country. Hopefully, our new Parliament will be elected on a fully Proportional basis so that discussion and compromise become the norm rather than the sort of confrontational politics we see today, especially in Westminster.

The Council elections may not seem like the sort of arena where constitutional matters should dominate, but the reality in Scotland is that every vote is decided by the constitution. That’s a desperate shame, and the only way it will ever change is once we gain independence and the Unionist Parties will actually need to develop some genuine policies if they wish to be elected to the Scottish Parliament. So, much as we might wish it otherwise, it is vitally important that we elect as many pro-Indy Councillors as possible, no matter which Party they represent. Because if the pro-Indy vote falls even a tiny bit from the last Council elections, you can be sure that the Unionists and their media pals will be declaring that Indy is dead. Let’s not give them that chance. You may detest Alba, or despise the SNP because of their failure to deliver on repeated promises, but you should still rank both of them above any Unionist on the Council ballot paper. Anything less gives our opponents exactly what they want.

An End To Charities?

Posted on April 16th, 2022

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

There are a great many worthwhile charities in the UK. Like many people, I donate to quite a few whenever I can, either sending a cash donation or making deliveries of clothes, food, etc. And, like many people, I sometimes need to call on the services of some sight loss charities because they are the only ones who provide the help and equipment I need.

But charities should not be necessary. The very fact of their existence demonstrates a failure of Government. It is the responsibility of Governments to take care of their citizens, and the fact that charities are needed clearly show that far too many people are abandoned by the UK Government.

Of course, there are charities in other countries, but the UK relies on them far more than most other nations. This, I believe, is not only due to a failure of Government, but a failure of the UK’s social model which has developed over the past few centuries. Ordinary people in the UK are taught that paying tax is a burden, so taxes must be kept low, and that working hard is the only way to escape poverty. These messages are so heavily ingrained, few people ever question them, yet the truth is that it is the less well-off who pay the highest proportion of their income in taxes, and many people who are in work still cannot escape poverty.

In contrast, in the Scandinavian countries where taxes are high, social security is also high. In the UK, we must put up with the lowest pension in the OECD, minimal levels of unemployment and sickness benefits, and appalling public services when compared to other countries.

This is why charities exist. When Governments fail, ordinary people do extraordinary things and establish ways to support those who would otherwise have no help. This suits the Government as it means they can spend money on other projects while leaving the less well-off and vulnerable to the care of others.

The trouble is, this has been going on for so long, it has become completely normalised in the UK, just as the need for food banks has been normalised. This deeply embedded system has been reinforced in the social structure for so long that most of us simply take it for granted. Yet it need not be this way. It is not something that can be altered overnight, or even in a few years, but can you imagine living in a high pay, high tax and high social security nation? Introducing Universal Basic Income would be a start, but it is precisely because that would place more power of choice in the hands of ordinary people that the UK will never introduce it. The UK is still a very class-orientated nation state, with the aim of the ruling class to keep everyone else in their allotted place. Wages are kept low, workers’ rights are being eroded, and all the power resides with employers who can use the threat of unemployment to keep workers in line. Having a UBI system in place would mean that people would have the opportunity to seek alternative employment knowing that they had a built-in safety net. This would not only reduce the need for many charitable organisations, it would move power towards workers, which is why it won’t happen here.

Perhaps we could gradually change things in an independent Scotland. Maybe one day we could reach a stage where charities are not required because our high taxes, deducted from our high earnings, pay for all the things that charities currently do. I live in hope. One thing is for sure, though; it won’t ever change if we remain in the UK.

Going To Extremes

Posted on April 14th, 2022

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

The tide of public opinion may have turned against Boris Johnson and his Tory cronies, but there seems little prospect of them stepping down any time soon. Most of those who dared speak out previously have stepped back into line, most notably the spineless Douglas Ross who now insists that we cannot get rid of a Prime Minister in a time of crisis. As many people have pointed out, the UK changed its Prime Minister during both World Wars, so to use the Ukraine war as an excuse to keep Johnson in power is laughable.

Comedian Frankie Boyle has attracted some criticism for comparing the Tory Government to fascists, but his comparison is, in my view, justified. As I’ve said before, if you check Umberto Eco’s list of the traits of a fascist government, the UK ticks most of the boxes.

And still the Tories appear on TV and Radio to insist that Boris Johnson is the right man to lead what they still insist on saying is a country instead of a sovereign state comprised of three countries and a province. To be fair, that’s quite a mouthful to mention each time, and "country" is a useful abbreviation, but it does serve to reinforce the "One Nation" view so beloved of Tories.

But let us not forget that many ordinary citizens were given substantial fines for breaking Lock Down rules, while Johnson seems to have got away with little more than a slap on the wrists. This is a man who does not recognise a Party when he walks into it, and who seems not to realise that people were not supposed to gather together indoors at all, even though he was the one making the rules. And still Tories think a man who has such limited powers of perception is the right man to lead their country. It really is pathetic, but the way the Tories are behaving is just the sort of behaviour you can expect from a Right Wing extremist government. Be in no doubt that they will say or do anything to retain power. Democracy in the UK has always been something of a veneer, but now it is barely recognisable at all. The Tories are behaving in ever-increasing authoritarian ways, and we should not expect them to stop now. They will continue to tell lies and half-truths in order to mislead the public, and they will continue to make life worse for the vast majority of UK citizens. Sorry, we are subjects, not even considered worthy of being called citizens. That ought to tell you a lot about UK society.

The latest policy, to send refugees to Rwanda, is so abhorrent I had to check whether it was an April Fool’s joke. But, no; they really are that cruel and heartless. They detest coloured people so much that they are prepared to spend millions of pounds to send them overseas to a country which is hardly renowned for its observance of human rights. And be in no doubt that this policy is aimed at coloured people. I doubt very much that any Ukrainian refugee will be sent to Rwanda.

Why Rwanda anyway? Probably because no other country would go along with this barbaric idea. It harks back to the time of deportation which only Tories would regard as a golden age. Some people are saying that announcing this heartless policy is to serve as a distraction from Partygate, but I’m not so sure. It may help deflect away from it, but they can use Royal announcements or Russian jets flying close to UK airspace as distractions. This policy is, I think, intended to appeal to their hard core supporters, the very people Frankie Boyle was talking about when he said that the reason we don’t have a fascist Party in the UK is because those voters who would support such a regime are happy with the current Government. Sadly, I think he was spot on with that assessment.

Will this be the last inhumane announcement from the Tories? I rarely engage in making predictions, but I think it is a pretty safe bet they will come up with something equally bad or even worse before too long.

It really is time Scotland escaped from this madness. Becoming a normal country will not solve all our problems, and it will raise many challenges, but if other countries such as Norway and Malta can manage it, I don’t see why Scotland can’t. And let’s hope it happens before the Tories drag us completely down with the sinking UK.

Oh, To Be Normal

Posted on March 23rd, 2022

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

The latest anti-Scottish independence ploy seems to be an attempt to convince the public that Vladimir Putin would support Scotland becoming a normal country. Since Vladimir Putin is clearly an evil despot, this allegation is obviously intended to persuade people that Scotland should remain part of the UK.

It’s a pretty desperate measure whichever way you look at it. The inference is that the UK needs to be united to present a strong front against Putin’s aggression. However, that falls apart if you have taken even the most cursory attention to recent events. The Tory Party is so wedded to Putin’s oligarchs that the UK Government is completely compromised. The EU recognises this and has signally failed to invite Boris Johnson to a joint meeting of EU leaders plus other notable leaders such as the US President. Johnson is not invited because the EU knows he is (a) not up to the job of being a proper leader in a time of crisis; (b) compromised by the amount of Russian money supporting the Tories; and(c) because his crass comments about Ukraine have offended pretty much everyone with an ounce of human decency.

Given the UK’s rather pathetic attempts to join the sanctions regime against Russia, I don’t see how the break-up of the UK could make much difference to the united stance most nations are taking against Russia. In fact, if Scotland was a normal country and a member of the EU, we would be a part of the group which is actually trying to stand up to Putin.

Putin probably doesn’t care what happens in the UK now. He has already achieved his aim of rendering the UK ineffective, and Scotland’s desire to become a normal country probably makes no difference to him.

The main lesson for us here is that the British media will seize upon any event anywhere if they think they can spin an anti-Indy headline out of it.

Oh, to be a normal country and not have to put up with this constant nonsense.

Opportunities or Excuses?

Posted on March 11th, 2022

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

It was very disappointing, although not really all that surprising, to hear that the SNP’s Westminster leader, Ian Blakcford, has said that IndyRef2 might be delayed beyond 2023 because of the Ukraine crisis.

Now, I can fully understand that the SNP may fear attracting accusations of bad faith if they were to begin an IndyRef campaign while the war continues, but I think we should all know by now that it really does not matter when IndyRef2 is announced. Whenever it happens, the Unionist media will loudly proclaim that it is the wrong time because of all the other things that need attention.

In my view, now would be an ideal time to begin the campaign. We have on record Boris Johnson’s assertion that every country should be free to choose who governs it, and at a time when democracy is under threat, surely that is when we should show how it should be done.

It is always easy to find excuses to delay, but I don’t think the war in Ukraine is one of them. After all, it is not as if we could hamper the UK’s sanctions regime against Russia or their project to help Ukrainian refugees. The whole world has noticed how inept and callous the UK Government is and how little it is doing, and an independent Scotland could surely do much better.

Of course, even if IndyRef2 was announced tomorrow, we would not become a normal country for some time, and I sincerely hope that the Ukraine war will be over before then. This raises the question of just how long Ian Blackford thinks the war will go on. Is IndyRef2 to be delayed indefinitely? Because one thing you can be sure of is that some other crisis will occur before too long.

Whether you are one of those people who now believes the SNP have no intention of ever calling IndyRef2, or whether you still believe they plan to go through the process properly and sensibly, I hope you will agree that even Covid is not an excuse for delay. Yes, it remains serious, but it did not prevent the Scottish Parliament elections, and I doubt that it will affect the upcoming Council elections, so I cannot fathom why it should be cited as a reason to delay IndyRef2. It is perfectly possible for campaigners to chat to people on their dorrsteps with a little bit of social distancing and the wearing of face masks.

I have heard one SNP supporter claim that now is not the right time because there are other things the Scottish Government needs to focus on , such as energy bills, the NHS and so on. I would argue instead that an independent Scotland would be far better placed to tackle these issues than we can while we remain under Westminster control.

So what can we do to tell the Scottish Government that we want to become a normal country sooner rather than later? Well, wherever you stand in the IndyRef debate, I hope you will use the Council elections to make a statement. With the Single Transferable Voting system, all Yessers really ought to rank the pro-Indy Parties at the top of their lists. Whether it be SNP, Greens, Alba, ISP or whoever, if they are pro-Indy, put them as your first choices. I really do hope that the silly in-fighting so visible on social media will not carry over to these elections. Would a Yesser really vote for a unionist Party ahead of another pro-Indy Party? If they did, I would suggest that independence is not high on their list of priorities. Not only that, this sort of squabbling is precisely what the Unionists want, so let’s use our votes sensibly. It should not be a case of giving the SNP yet another mandate for IndyRef2, it should be about telling the world that we want to become a normal, self-governing country.

I fully expect the SNP to do well in the Council elections because I don’t think the likes of Alba and ISP have managed to gain much traction in the wider public, nor do most people seem to have latched onto the GRA reform issue. So the SNP will probably still be the largest pro-Indy vote winners by a considerable margin.

But they cannot take our continued support for granted. Yes, there are large issues in the world, but there always have been, and there always will be. Instead of playing it safe to avoid media accusations of poor judgement, we should instead have arguments ready to counter those accusations. Taking the Ukraine war as an example, we could point out that an independent Scotland as part of the EU would be able to do far more to help Ukraine than we ever can as part of the UK whose Government has been utterly compromised by Russian dark money.

Now is the time to show the world that Scotland can be a normal country with a much more empathetic outlook than the cruel UK Government. We really cannot afford to be chained to Westminster much longer, and the SNP need to start looking at opportunities instead of finding excuses for further delay.

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.