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.


Contradictions

Posted on March 8th, 2022

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

It hasn’t taken long for the Unionists to insist that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a blow to independence for Scotland. A recent article in the Scotsman was so ludicrous in its contradictory assertions that I honestly could not bring myself to read it to the end.

Apparently, if an independent Scotland wanted to become a member of NATO, this would cause a problem with the SNP’s desire to abolish Trident nuclear submarines from Scottish waters. The writer seemed blissfully unaware that very few members of NATO actually have nuclear weapons. Or perhaps it was simply a false assertion to paint NATO membership as a problem for Scotland.

Continuing on the theme of Trident, if Scotland insisted on abolishing it, this would be a major blow to the west’s defences because there is nowhere else in the current UK for the submarines and nuclear warheads to be stored. This would mean that the Trident submarines would simultaneously be taken out of action, leaving the UK with no nuclear weapons, but also needing to be relocated to some other NATO base in another country, perhaps as far away as the USA. I still haven’t figured out how relocation and dissolution are the same thing.

And then, of course, there was the claim that breaking up the UK at a time of international crisis would be folly because the UK is one of the prime opponents of Putin’s Russia. This is so laughable I gave up reading any further. Again, the writer seemed oblivious to the fact that the Tories, compromised by Russian money, have already done more than enough to warrant the break-up of the UK, and the current shambolic Westminster government isn’t doing anything like the same as the EU when it comes to imposing sanctions on Russia or helping Ukrainian refugees. As usual, the Tories are big on rhetoric and very poor on actual action. In fact, the Scotsman article was pretty similar. Lots of assertions which contradicted each other, all written out in a sort of stream of consciousness way as if simply stating that Scotland has a problem is sufficient argument in itself.

The reality is that an independent Scotland which was a member of both NATO and the EU would be in a far better position to help Ukraine and sanction Russia than it is as part of the dysfunctional and compromised UK. Not that the evidence of our eyes and ears will ever stop Unionists from making absurd claims. But we are accustomed to that by now.


Flawed Law

Posted on March 6th, 2022

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

As a heterosexual male, I have rarely offered an opinion on the reform of the Gender Recognition Act. The debate about Trans rights seemed to concern matters about which I had no experience or knowledge, so I felt it best not to come out with sweeping statements which were ill-informed and might be offensive.

Now, however, I realise that I had fallen into the trap which many proponents of the new Bill have set. Anyone who expresses concerns over the new legislation is quickly labelled as anti-Trans and vilified for their reactionary attitude. However, I do believe I can speak for most opponents of the legislation when I say that I am not anti-Trans. What I am against is poorly thought out legislation which removes all barriers to exploitation by predatory individuals (usually men) who wish to take advantage for their own purposes. It is the legislation, not the people it is intended to help, which presents a problem for many people. Sadly, by conflating opposition to the legislation with opposition to Trans people, the advocates of the new Bill have created a volatile environment in which discussion is overshadowed by abusive comments and a disregard for the views of others. It has also, I believe, done a great disservice to genuine Trans people who may experience a harmful backlash because of the angry environment that has been created.

Let me state right now that nobody should suffer any abuse no matter who they are. I have noticed that one reason being put forward for the new law is that trans people suffer discrimination. That is wrong, but I cannot help thinking that many other people suffer discrimination on a regular basis either because of the colour of their skin, their accent or a disability. Now, it is not good enough to accept that Trans people should put up with discrimination simply because other groups also suffer, but equally, any legislation intended to prevent such discrimination really needs to be fit for purpose.

I have said many times before that some people will always seek to find a way around any rules or laws in order to exploit gaps in that system. That applies whether it is something like avoiding paying tax, fiddling expenses claims or gaining a position of power over vulnerable people. We have seen in the past far too many examples of predatory men taking advantage of vulnerable people, often children, with awful consequences for the lives affected. This is why a system of PVG checks was put in place. Now, all such rules are to be swept aside if someone merely declares they identify as a person of the opposite biological sex. To me, that feels like giving predators a green light, and if even one person is harmed as a result, that is one person too many.

Of course, supporters of GRA reform are asserting that Trans people have rights, and that is quite correct. Their rights should be as protected as anyone’s, but this legislation strikes me as making those rights a smokescreen which predators can exploit.

Let me try an analogy with something I do have experience of. If I have understood the intent of the new GRA correctly, then it will soon be easier and cheaper for me to be legally treated as a woman than it will be for me to renew my Blue Badge Disabled Parking Permit. That doesn’t seem right to me. Since I am permanently and provably disabled, why do I need to keep paying renewal fees and undergoing face to face interviews, producing documentation to verify my status?

I hope that most readers will realise that the reason I need to undergo this often humiliating experience is to prevent other people abusing the Disabled Parking system. Indeed, many able-bodied people already abuse the system by parking in Disabled spots for convenience because they clearly have no conception of just how difficult and dangerous it is for a disabled person to park in a normal parking spot.

But what would happen if the Government decided that anyone could simply identify as Disabled and use a Disabled parking spot without needing to provide any evidence at all? I think we all know the answer to that. Most people would respect the safe spaces, but some would park there, thus causing potential harm to genuinely disabled people. And that harm could result not from any malicious intent but simply due to selfishness and a lack of consideration. Compared to the potential harm the new GRA could result in, that seems almost benign.

Once again, for the hard of thinking, the problem here is the legislation, not the people it is intended to help. There needs to be a recognition that checks and regulations are required in this as in so many other aspects of life in order to prevent predatory individuals taking advantage of the gaping loopholes in the proposed law.

I don’t care how a person identifies. That is up to them. What I care about is the safety of vulnerable people, and I fear the Scottish Government has lost sight of that potential danger. To say that this legislation is required because other countries are doing it is a rather facile argument. Most countries used to regard slavery as legal and normal. That did not make it morally right.

The new Bill is not law yet. Let’s hope enough MSPs realise the flaws and prevent it passing in its present form.


Another Fine Mess

Posted on March 3rd, 2022

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

It’s very difficult to know exactly what is happening in Ukraine. We know that Putin is a past master at spreading disinformation, and the Ukrainian Government has shown itself to be equally good at propaganda. News reports from other agencies often contradict one another, and we should be familiar with the spin our own mainstream media puts on everything. The one thing we can be certain of is that we are living in dangerous times.

There are still plenty of opinions about what has caused this, with some pro-Russian writers placing much of the blame on the West and NATO for pushing ever closer to Russia’s borders. I can certainly understand that this would create concern in Russia because if things were the other way around, the UK would be terrified. If the Warsaw Pact had endured and other western European countries had joined it, Russian influence could have been very close to us indeed in a physical sense.

But, of course, the Warsaw Pact did not endure, and the reason that the EU and NATO have spread so far east is that many countries wanted to join and did so voluntarily. Nobody forced them to join NATO or the EU. This is the message Russia has not understood. I’ve seen someone claim that Russia’s fear is based on having been invaded twice in recent centuries, first by Napoleon, then by Hitler. That same writer ignored Russia’s own invasions of Afghanistan, the Crimea and eastern Ukraine among others, and did not seem to consider that, while NATO has certainly been provocative, it is Russia’s own aggressive stance which has driven many eastern European countries to seek some sort of insurance against a Russian attack. The invasion of Ukraine has clearly only confirmed the belief of many European politicians that such insurance is very much needed.

Another view being expressed in several quarters is that Russia’s invasion is little different to the USA’s invasion of Iraq which was, naturally, aided and abetted by America’s UK poodle. The USA and UK have no qualms about bombing Muslim countries who are in no position to fight back, and their own militaristic aggression has been cited as a justification for Russia’s attack on Ukraine. The old saying that Two Wrongs don’t make a Right springs to mind. Whatever the provocation, whatever the actions of others, Russia’s invasion is inexcusable, just as the current bombings in Yemen are inexcusable. The fact that our media and politicians focus on white European countries as more important than nations inhabited by non-white people is not our fault. Many of us are all too aware of the horrors being perpetrated in Yemen and Palestine. But the hypocrisy of our media and politicians should not deflect from the fact that Russia’s actions are far more dangerous because they could easily lead to a much wider European and possibly World War. Rightly or wrongly, the western nations are going to focus far more on a war on their doorstep than on conflicts further away.

I can only hope that some sort of peaceful resolution can be found to this crisis, but there is little any of us can do to help other than contribute to the aid packages being sent to Ukraine. Hopefully, some senior people in Russia will soon realise that Putin has turned almost the entire world against them. Let us hope that they will be able to make him realise that as well.

And since I’ve mentioned hypocrisy, I cannot let Boris Johnson off the hook. His comments about the UK supporting the rights of every nation to decide who governs them and which organisations they wish to belong to were quite laughable considering his attitude towards Scotland. And as for his continual claims of the UK’s world-beating position in helping refugees, they are simply in line with his habit of lying about pretty much anything and everything. When the world needs strong leaders, the best the UK has to offer is Boris Johnson? That says it all, really.


What is Marxism Anyway?

Posted on March 1st, 2022

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

From a fairly early age, right back to when I first started paying a little bit of attention to the televised News and began skimming through some newspapers, I learned that a Marxist was a very dangerous person. Not only were their ideas heretical and unorthodox, they were dangerously so because of their intention to overthrow nation states and impose either Communism or anarchy on western civilisation. This viewpoint was expressed so often that I rarely ever thought to question it, and it was a matter of faith that calling someone a Marxist was a way to dismiss them from any discussion because of their ludicrous ideas.

But what is Marxism? I must admit that I struggle to read any textbooks about economics. I find them dry and dull, and I soon lose interest. As a result, I’ve never read Das Kapital. However, I recently decided to try to learn a little bit more about what Marx actually said as opposed to what both his detractors and adherents advocate nowadays. For anyone who is interested, there is a very useful little summary produced by Washington State University which you can access at:

PowerPoint Presentation (wsu.edu)

When you get to the end of that presentation, you will probably agree that the concepts proposed for the Marxist State which will succeed capitalism are both scary and unrealistic. Many of them were tried in communist Russia and the ideas essentially failed because … well, because a lot of people are greedy. Whichever economic or social system is implemented, there will always be those who wish to take advantage of any weakness in that system to enrich themselves.

So I’m not all that keen on the new type of state which Marx envisaged. However, if you read the explanations of how capitalism works and its effects on ordinary workers, it is very hard to argue against what Marx stated because it has largely come true. His ideas of how capitalism would be replaced as the dominant economic model have not yet come to pass, and it is hard to see how they ever will, but that does not invalidate his descriptions of how the greed of capitalists exploits workers, drives down wages and creates huge inequalities. You only need to look at the UK and USA for daily examples of these inequalities.

Now, I must stress that I am not a Marxist in the current use of that word, and I’m certainly not advocating a communist-style regime as the one Scotland should be aiming to become, but I do think that we should avoid knee-jerk reactions to Pavlovian-type triggers such as someone’s ideas being dismissed out of hand simply because they identify as a Marxist. As mentioned, though, the solutions to correcting the imbalances created by rampant capitalism do not lie in a sudden sweeping away of that system as was tried in Russia and China to name the two most prominent Communist states which arose in the 20th Century. In my opinion, Socialism rather than Marxism is a better option, but even that cannot simply wipe away the current world economic situation and replace it overnight with some other type of socio-economic model. We are where we are, and we need to find a way to change things. This won’t be easy because capitalism and the Tory way of thinking are so embedded in the UK population’s outlook. For decades we have all been told that taxes are bad, that free markets are more efficient than state monopolies, and that the way to escape poverty is to work harder. I really do hope that a lot more people have now realised that all of these statements are not matched by the reality of life in the UK.

So change will be difficult, but it’s not impossible. Capitalism does create wealth, but the big problem is that the wealth is far too concentrated in the hands of a few people.

So how do we solve this? Well, for a start, many enterprises which were privatised under the Tories should be taken back into public ownership. Energy supplies and public transport of all sorts would do for starters. We should also remove any trace of privatisation from our Health Service.

Some people might argue that placing things in public ownership encourages inefficiency. That may be partly true, but I’d rather have some level of inefficiency than outright wealth extraction. Also, there is no reason why those who are appointed to run such public bodies should not be rewarded on a par with their counterparts who run private businesses.

And what about those private businesses? How do we prevent them from creating ever more inequality? Well, a bit of regulation would help. Like many things, capitalism needs to be regulated to prevent the greed factor driving decisions within capitalist markets. I have said in several earlier posts that human nature being what it is, some people will seek to exploit any loopholes in any system, and capitalism is no exception. This is why de-regulation has brought about the precise situation which Marx envisaged. The wealth which is currently concentrated in the hands of a few needs to be shared around a lot more evenly, large corporations need to be compelled to pay taxes, and workers need to be paid a living wage as an absolute minimum. Adding a firm regulatory oversight to capital markets might even end the "Boom and Bust" cycles we see all too often. That means that, instead of bailing out businesses like Banks in times of trouble, then allowing them to make huge profits once the crisis has passed, we could force them to follow a more conservative (that’s with a very small c) method of operating.

Restrictions on how much senior business executives could earn would also be required. I’m not necessarily advocating following the example of Dan Price, the American business owner who slashed his own income so that he earns the same as all his employees, but some sort of multiplier should be put in place. If, say, senior executives were only allowed to earn ten times the amount of their lowest paid employee, we would surely see some raising of lower salaries.

And if you think this sort of thing would cut productivity, then read about Dan Price in this article:

The boss who put everyone on 70K - BBC News

In short, then, I do believe that regulated and controlled capitalism operating within a socialist political framework could benefit everyone. As both Karl Marx and Dan Price have pointed out, greed is the problem. This creates huge inequalities which harm far more people than they benefit. I doubt very much that we will ever see complete Levelling UP to solve the problem of poverty, but a bit of Levelling Out would work wonders.


Breaking Heart

Posted on February 24th, 2022

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

We have our youngest grandson with us today. He’s just turned one year old and has taken a few faltering steps on his own. Like most kids of his age, he loves making a noise, grabbing things he’s not supposed to touch, and climbing to places he’s not supposed to go. He also likes cuddles, and today the best thing I could think of doing was to give him an extra hug. He doesn’t understand why, but the thought of what is happening in Ukraine, and how it is affecting millions of people of all ages, but especially the very young, filled me with despair.

This blog site concentrates on Scottish politics and I certainly don’t know nearly enough about the situation in Ukraine to make any sort of informed comment. I’ve tried to read up on it recently, but the contradictory reports and the sabre rattling from both Russia on the one hand and the USA and UK on the other have done little except to ramp up the tension.

Nobody can know how this is going to end, but one thing I think we can be fairly sure of is that it completely undermines any claims anyone might ever make that Putin can be trusted at all. I expect he will push this as far as he thinks he can get away with, and I expect the West will let him largely get away with it, sacrificing Ukraine’s independence in order to avoid a truly catastrophic World War. Whether Putin will push it further, who knows? I hope for all our sakes that he pulls back from that brink.

A part of me can understand Russia’s fear of NATO’s ever-encroaching advance towards its borders, and we should not forget the USA’s horror at the time of the Cuban missile crisis. Poking a bear will, sooner or later, result in a reaction. But the miscalculations of the West do not in any way excuse this blatant act of aggression. What the Western leaders need to do now is rescue as much as they can from this awful situation. The big problem is that Russia has done its best to de-stabilise European democracy, and in the UK it has had its greatest success because the UK Government is almost completely compromised because of ties to Russian dark money. And even if the Tories did decide to turn their backs on their Russian backers, they have repeatedly displayed just how incompetent they are at just about everything.

I’ll stop here because I just can’t face writing any more about these dreadful events. My heart goes out to all of those who are suffering because of the greed, war-mongering, incompetence, callousness and corruption of all the world leaders who have brought us to this dark place.

I’m going to give my grandson another hug.


How Do They Do It?

Posted on February 14th, 2022

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

Every so often, a comment on social media attracts a fair bit of attention. One of my recent Tweets about the re-awakening of the "You won’t get your pension if Scotland becomes independent" threat fell into this category. My question was why, even if this claim was true, did so many people believe that Scotland, uniquely among the advanced economies in the world, would be incapable of paying a Pension. My question was to ask how other countries manage it.

Needless to say, when a tweet gains some traction, it receives a lot of backlash from staunch Unionists. I usually don’t even bother replying to any of them because I learned a long time ago that it is a waste of time. I made an exception this time because, among all the usual comments about me being a knuckle-dragger, a fantasist, a cult member and yes, you guessed it, a Nazi, a few people did respond by asking how Scotland could possibly pay a Pension when there are only around 2.4 million taxpayers in the country. One of them did actually ask the question in a reasonable way, so I did reply, pointing out that other countries manage just fine because Income Tax is not the only source of revenue a Government has, and that normal countries usually borrow to fund their spending. I did point out that the UK has a National Debt of over £2.6 trillion, and nobody seems to worry about that.

Of course, twitter is not the ideal platform for any sort of in-depth discussion, especially when the chat is constantly interrupted by accusations of knuckle-dragging, cultism and Nazism, so I thought I’d better set out some thoughts in a blog post.

First of all, nobody is claiming that an independent Scotland would not run a deficit. Indeed, many economists have pointed out that, contrary to what Tories would have you believe, a Government surplus is actually bad for a country’s economy because if the Government is running a surplus, then the ordinary citizens and businesses must be running a deficit. Whether Scotland’s deficit would reach anywhere near the artistically created £8billion so beloved of the GERS Believers remains open to debate, but for the sake of this argument, I’ll go along with it for a change.

Of course, most of the respondents to my Tweet either didn’t have space or the understanding to differentiate between deficit and debt. But again, for the sake of a hypothetical argument, let’s say that Scotland ran a deficit of £8 bn in its first year as a normal country. That would give it a National Debt of £8bn. If that situation persisted, the Debt would grow by £8bn each year.

But wait! Let’s take a quick look at the UK National Debt. It stands at over £2.6 trillion, and is increasing at a rate of over £5,000 per second. Yes, you read that right, every second of every day, the UK’s National Debt is growing at a rate of £5,000. That’s equivalent to £432 million per day, or nearly £158 billion per year.

But, for the purposes of this argument, let’s stick with £2.6 trillion as the UK’s Debt. With a population of around 65 million, that is equivalent to roughly £40,000 per person.

So if we return to Scotland which has a population of around 5 million, a Debt of £8bn equates to roughly 1,600 per person. And yet Unionists are terrified of this, while apparently quite relaxed about the UK’s Debt per capita being 25 times greater. So Scotland’s deficit would need to remain at £8bn for 25 years to get close to the UK’s current per capita Debt level, and by that time, at the current rate of growth , we’d still be a long way behind because the UK’s debt would have reached nearly £7 trillion.

My interlocutor’s response to this was that the UK has the 5th largest economy in the world, a Central Bank and a stable currency, so there is no need to worry about the UK’s debt. All of that is fair enough as far as it goes. Whether the economy will remain that high in the league table post-Brexit is open to debate, though. As for a Central Bank, Scotland will undoubtedly need one, but every other independent country seems able to create or nominate a Central Bank, so I think it is reasonable to assume that Scotland would be capable of doing the same. As for a stable currency, that admittedly presents a potential problem because if Scotland wants to re-join the EU, we will need to adopt our own currency. To have any chance of becoming a reasonably strong currency in the short term, the international monetary community would need to know that the Scottish currency is backed by some strong assets such as oil, a major export resource such as whisky, or a major potential source of energy such as renewables. If only we had those things. Creating a sufficient reserve of foreign currencies would, I think, pose a greater short term problem, but again other countries seem to manage it. Finally, and I know this is a bit of a low punch, but when it comes to having a stable currency, it seems to have escaped the notice of most Unionists that sterling has dropped by nearly 15% in value against the US dollar since 2015. It seems the Brexit vote has resulted in a greater fall in sterling’s value than the calamitous 10% we were told Scottish independence would create if we had voted to become a normal country in 2014. Still, no worries, eh?

So much for all that mental arithmetic. But let’s get back to the main question which began all this. How do other countries manage to pay Pensions to retired workers without the beneficence of the UK to support them? Even such economic powerhouses as Malta manage to pay a Pension which, in terms of percentage of average working earnings, is better than the pittance the UK pays. How is this possible?

As outlined above, borrowing comes into it, but none of the people on my Twitter timeline were willing to explain how other countries can afford to pay pensions. All they were interested in was repeating the mantra that, because we have so few taxpayers, Scotland could not afford to do the same. Income Tax was very much the focus of their opinions.

Now, this is understandable because Income Tax is the most visible of all taxes. This is why the UK Government eventually devolved some Income Tax powers to the Scottish Government. It was a carefully laid trap because whatever the Scottish Government did, it would provide ammunition for Unionists. If they increased taxes, this would raise howls of outrage because Scots were being taxed more than their fortunate neighbours in England; if they reduced taxes, this would raise howls of outrage because it would mean the generous English taxpayers would be subsidising layabout Scots even more; and if they did not use the powers, that left them open to accusations of demanding more authority and then not using it when it was available. As things have turned out, the Scottish Government has handled it fairly well by some judicious tinkering with the tax bands and rates, so most of that hubbub has died down now.

There is also the fairly basic proposition that if the employment rate could be increased, then more Income Tax revenue would flow. Under the UK’s control, Scottish unemployment is far too high. It will take any Scottish Government time to alter that, and they may not be successful, but they could scarcely do a worse job than the UK. This perspective does not seem to occur to Unionists who remain unable to explain how countries such as Slovenia, Denmark and Malta can pay pensions.

Of course, people are entitled to ask questions about the future of an independent Scotland, although I do believe that the last few years should have amply proven that demanding answers of the future is a rather pointless exercise. However, what I do find disappointing is that far too many people see problems but are unable to envisage solutions. I have said many times before that the point of becoming a normal country is that we should not do things the way the UK does. Sadly, even the Growth Commission Report fell into this trap, and the Scottish Government does seem too willing to follow the UK economic model. But, once again I say that other countries can afford to pay better pensions than the UK, so what are they doing differently? How could Scotland change things? Increasing employment levels, encouraging immigration and even establishing a Universal Basic Income are all possibilities. At the very least, we should look to those other countries and see what it is they are doing that the UK is not.

But, of course, Income Tax is not the only source of Government revenue. Things like Corporation Tax, Capital Gains Tax, Inheritance Tax, Alcohol Duty, Petrol Duty, Road Fund Licences and a host of other things provide Governments with income. In Scotland’s case, we could even start charging England for the electricity generation we supply them with instead of having to pay them for the privilege of keeping their lights on. Unionists never seem to mention any of this, always concentrating on Income Tax which produces only a portion of revenue. After all, Norway did not become the richest country in the world by taxing its citizens’ income. I agree that we want to shift away from extracting oil, but oil is still needed at the moment, so why don’t we tax the oil companies? They pay taxes to every other nation where they drill for oil and gas, yet the UK gives them tax rebates. That is bizarre to say the least.

Again I return to my question. Instead of Unionists demanding to know how Scotland could pay a Pension, they really should ask how other nations can do it. They also need to consider why the UK Pension is so appallingly low in relation to average earnings. It is, I believe, the worst in the OECD and one of the worst in the world. If an independent Scotland could not do better, then I’d say we would have a problem. But, of course, if the Government of a normal Scotland stuck to Tory austerity measures, at least we would have the option of voting them out; something we simply cannot do at a UK level.

All of this does, as most readers will know, ignore the fact that the DWP confirmed in writing as long ago as 2014 that the UK would have an obligation to pay Pensions to anyone who had paid into the UK National Insurance scheme. I expect that this obligation would be transferred to the Scottish Government during independence negotiations, no doubt with some financial transfer being involved, very possibly on an annual payment basis. It would then be up to the Scottish Government to top up Pensions from their own resources in order to provide a decent Pension rather than the paltry sum offered by the UK.

As mentioned, it is impossible to foresee the precise details of how a Scottish economy would operate, but I would suggest that copying the UK model is very much the wrong way to go. For too long, UK citizens (sorry, we are subjects, not citizens), have been repeatedly told that taxes are bad and must be kept low. To match this, wages have been driven down, power given to employers, and the levels of poverty increased. Yet if we look across to our Nordic neighbours, we see high income, high tax and high social security economies. That’s not to say they are perfect, because no country is, but the Nordic countries always do well in the research into national happiness levels. Could that be more than a coincidence? Not that Scotland could suddenly catch up with those countries. That transition would take time, but unless we break free from Westminster control, we will never know how much we are capable of. The only thing we can be sure of is that remaining part of the UK will condemn us to high levels of unemployment and poverty, a failing economy, low wages, and one of the worst Old Age Pensions in the world. Surely we can aspire to better than that?


Gonnae No Say That

Posted on February 8th, 2022

By Rab Bruce’s Attercap

I dinnae uisually scrive this blog in Scots. That’s on accoont o me bein taucht tae speak and writ proper Inglis baith at hame and in the schuil. Ma auld granny uised for tae gab in Scots, so I hae a smidgin o the leed, but I’m nae so fluent as I’d like, and it’s a sair fecht that I’ve had tae uise a dictionar tae help me writ this airticle.

Onyhoo, I wis fair chuffed when I heard that Billy Kay’s beuk, "Scots: Mither Tongue" wis oot in audio form. Since I cannae see, I need tae hark tae audio beuks acause I cannae read like I uised tae.

It’s a braw beuk, fu o stories o how oor ain leed wis scorned and mair or less replaced by Inglis. All I can say is, if ye havnae read it yet, dae yersel a fauvour and get haud o a copy. Ye’ll no regret it.

It maist maks me greet when I think o how so many o us were brocht up no kennin how tae speak oor ain leed. Oft in the beuk, Billy says that the schuils should teach Scots at least fer ane lesson each week, and I couldnae gree mair. Oor weans should be taucht how tae speak Scots and no be feart tae dae so. There’s nocht wrang wi speaking Inglis an aw, but it wid be a bonny thing if awbody coud speak baith leeds wi fluency.

We hae a muckle count o years tae owercome acuase the boul in the mou fowk wha are in chairge o the so-cried United Kingdom aye want awbody tae be like them, tae act like them, and tae think like them. A body wha disnae dae thon things is cried a nyaff or iller. Ton’s no richt. Naebody shoud be telt no tae speak the leed o their ane nation. It’s oor heritage, and we shoud be prood o that.

So mony thanks tae Billy Kay fer mindin me that Scots isnae a dialect o Inglis, it’s a tongue by itsel, and it’s ane we shoud aw try tae speak mair.

My apologies to anyone who speaks fluent Scots who identified mistakes in the above. For anyone who doesn’t understand Scots, a translation of the text is noted below. I should say that it is a measure of just how ingrained learning English has been during my lifetime that it took me over half an hour to write the above text because of the need to constantly look up words in an online dictionary. My thanks to www.Scots-online.org for their excellent resource. Of course, I can speak Scots a lot better than I can write it, but even so I am embarrassed by how little I know, and I still had to check the spelling of words I can say without thinking about them.

I also attempted to avoid the use of apostrophes as far as possible because I agree with Billy Kay’s comment that using them reinforces the view that Scots is a debased form of English. If a letter is dropped in Scots because that is the way we speak, I see no need to insert an apostrophe to suggest that the English pronunciation of the word includes an additional letter. So, "of" in English is simply "o" in my written version of Scots. I am not at all sure whether this convention is normal in written Scots, but it’s something I think we should make more of. Scots is a language, not a mere dialect of English, and we should not attempt to make it fit English grammatical conventions.

Translation of Article:

I don’t usually write this blog in Scots. That’s because I was taught to speak and write proper English both at home and in school. My old grandmother used to chatter in Scots so I have a smattering of the language, but I’m not as fluent as I’d like to be, and it’s annoying that I had to use a dictionary to help me write this article.

Anyway, I was really pleased when I heard that Billy Kay’s book, "Scots: Mither Tongue" was available in audio format. Since I cannot see, I need to listen to audio books as I am unable to read the way I used to.

It’s a good book, full of stories of how our language was scorned and more or less replaced by English. All I can say is, if you haven’t read it yet, do yourself a favour and get hold of a copy.

It almost makes me cry when I think of how so many of us were brought up not knowing how to speak our own language. Often in the book, Billy says that schools should teach Scots for at least one lesson each week, and I couldn’t agree more. Our children should be taught how to speak Scots and not be afraid to do so. There is nothing wrong with speaking English as well, but it would be a grand thing if everybody could speak both languages with fluency.

We have a great many years to overcome because the upper class people who are in charge of the so-called United Kingdom always want everybody to be like them, to act like them and to think like them. A person who doesn’t do those things is called an uncouth commoner or worse. That’s not right. Nobody should be told not to speak the language of their own nation. It’s our heritage and we should be proud of that.

So, many thanks to Billy Kay for reminding me that Scots is not a dialect of English. It is a language by itself, and it’s one we should all try to speak more.


Strong Government

Posted on February 1st, 2022

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

When I was at school back in the 1970s, a new subject had recently arrived on the curriculum. It was called Modern Studies, and it offered a different route to the traditional subjects of History and Geography. Many of us in my year group opted for Modern Studies, either because we didn’t like History or Geography as subjects, or didn’t like the teachers, or thought that Modern Studies would be a bit of a skive since the teacher running the course was reputed to be less than competent. To be honest, I still don’t know how I managed to scrape a Higher pass in Modern Studies, and much of the little we did learn has long ago vanished into the recesses of my memory.

There was, though, one thing which was drummed into us so often that it has stuck with me ever since. It was that the First Past The Post voting system meant that the UK had a strong Government, while the Proportional Representation system used by most foreign countries in one form or another produced weak Governments who often failed to implement their promised policies. This mantra was repeated many times during our study of the UK electoral process, and I’m pretty sure every one of us sitting the Higher exam regurgitated it word for word.

This was, as I now know, a very useful way of indoctrinating pupils in the "World-beating UK" mindset which is still so prevalent. It was, as many readers will recognise, constantly reinforced by the media in newspapers and on TV. The sub-text, as with so many aspects of "British" culture, was that PR might be all right for those silly, namby-pamby foreigners who don’t know how to run a country properly, but it’s not nearly good enough for the world-beating UK which has the best system in the world.

I clearly wasn’t the only one who underwent this indoctrination. A couple of years ago, I was speaking to a friend who is, or at least was, very pro-Union. We moved onto the topic of voting systems and he expressed great concern over any proportional system, asking how on earth it could possibly work. He was so entrenched in FPTP through his experiences of voting that he simply could not conceive of any other system working effectively. This was the "World-beating UK" philosophy in action.

Yet even today’s sycophantic media are struggling to portray UK democracy as anything except a total farce. Yes, we have a strong Government, but we are now seeing the true weakness of FPTP because there is absolutely nothing anyone can do to prevent this autocratic Government pushing through legislation which is designed to harm the majority of people in the UK. Indeed, the Government is so strong that the Prime Minister can repeatedly lie quite brazenly and get away with it, while an MP who calls him a liar is evicted from the House of Commons for a lack of decency. Credit to Ian Blackford for saying what everyone knows to be true, and he certainly made a point which has resonated with most observers of UK politics. The sad fact is, though, that his highly symbolic gesture is nothing more than that – a gesture. Boris Johnson doesn’t care that it happened, and neither does his pet Speaker who continues to protect him from the consequences of his lies. Boris Johnson will continue as Prime Minister for as long as it suits the Tory Party, and he will continue to tell lie after lie in order to reassure those voters who still think he is a good leader. At the moment, with no General Election on the horizon, the Tories can afford to keep him in place so that he can be blamed for all the ills afflicting the UK thanks to Covid, Brexit and anti-social Tory policies. As I’ve stated before, they will ditch him as soon as it looks as if a General Election is imminent, but for the meantime they will happily back him because he is enriching them and their wealthy pals.

Thus we see the consequences of having a strong Government elected via FPTP. It has always been this way, of course, but most previous Governments have kept their machinations well concealed and have not been too openly corrupt. Boris Johnson simply does not care. He has taken advantage of the weakness in the UK electoral system and has ruthlessly exploited it for his own advantage. In doing so, he has caused immense damage to the UK as a whole, to Parliamentary process in particular, and to everyone around him who must surely realise that he will happily sacrifice their careers if it suits him. He probably doesn’t even care that he has turned the UK into an international laughing stock because I doubt very much that he is capable of caring about anything except Boris Johnson.

What his ridiculous antics have shown everyone who cares to pay attention is that the UK system of democracy is broken. It is open to abuse and its rituals and conventions are barriers to progress. Even the Two-Party system, giving voters a choice between an extreme Right Wing Party and a Very Right Wing Party is designed to maintain the status quo. We will never see electoral reform in the UK because the current system helps maintain things for the benefit of those at the top. Even if the English electorate does turn on Johnson or his successor as leader of the Conservative Party, Labour’s stint in office will be barely distinguishable in terms of policies. Its presentation may be more acceptable, but it will not reverse Brexit and will leave most Tory policies in place. But then, when a Party is led by a Knight of the Realm, you cannot expect much else. And if recent history tells us anything, it is that the English electorate will always elect a Tory Government sooner or later.

So people living in Scotland really do need to wake up to what is going on and take the opportunity to escape as soon as it comes along.


Nothing Like A Dame

Posted on January 31st, 2022

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

Last week I put out a Tweet mocking the inaction and subsequent action of the Metropolitan Police over the PartyGate scandal. In that comment, I mentioned that I thought it must be a coincidence that their actions are helping support a Tory Government which had made their Commissioner a Dame. Needless to say, Twitter being what it is, someone took me to task over this sarcastic remark, Quote Tweeting my original Tweet with a list of previous Met Commissioners which included their lordly titles as Sir So-And-So. He ended with the comment that, after all these examples of Met Commissioners receiving knighthoods, it was ridiculous of me to cite Dame Cressida Dick’s reward as suspicious. It was a reasonable comeback to my initial remark, but it missed the point I was trying (and obviously failing) to make.

My comment was not at all having a go at Dame Cressida Dick on a misogynistic basis. If she is capable of doing the job she was appointed to do, then I have absolutely no issues with her being a woman. Others have made plenty of comments as to her competence in the role, and she has certainly made some very controversial decisions, but again that was not the point of my Tweet.

The point I did want to make is that, whether the incumbent of the position of Met Commissioner is a Sir or a Dame, they are likely to be very loyal towards a system which rewards them with this exalted rank. This is, after all, the point of the Honours System. The Establishment dishes out baubles and trinkets which are designed to make individuals feel they have succeeded in some aspect of their life, and to make them feel more a part of the system.

The problem Cressida Dick has is that she is Commissioner at a time when the Government of the day is so blatantly and outwardly corrupt that her every move is instantly pounced upon as evidence of her loyalty to Boris Johnson. And, as I remarked in my original Tweet, her actions do have all the appearance of being designed almost solely to protect Boris Johnson in his role as Prime Minister. Some of her predecessors may very well have performed actions which assisted the Governments of their day; indeed, I would be astonished if they had not. But former Governments were not as openly corrupt as the current one, so those actions would have gone largely unnoticed by the public. Social media has also had an undoubted impact as people now have a forum to highlight what they may perceive as inappropriate actions.

Do I feel sorry for Dame Cressida Dick for finding herself in this situation? No, not at all. She has willingly aligned herself with Tory authoritarianism and, on the face of it at least, done her best to help Boris Johnson avoid the consequences of his uncaring and Hypocritical actions. My criticism of her has nothing to do with whether she happens to be a female Commissioner. I’d be equally critical of a Sir who behaved in the same way. Mostly, though, I want everyone to realise that the real fault lies with the entire UK system which attempts to bind people to the Establishment through the offer of knighthoods, medals and other rewards. Far too many people are impressed by such things, although it must be said that the UK media has, over the years, done its best to promote such beliefs. The class system is still very much in force in the UK, and this lies at the heart of many of the current problems.

It is long past time that Scotland made its own way, leaving such archaic and corrupting systems behind.


Time To Go

Posted on January 21st, 2022

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

At time of writing this, Boris Johnson’s future as Prime Minister is still in doubt as to when it will end. Indeed, it may already have ended by the time you read this, but I’m fairly sure he will stick around for a while yet. Being a narcissist, he will never admit to himself that he has done anything wrong, so I doubt he will resign because that would be an admission of failure.

Of course, the ultimate decision as to whether he stays will be made by the Tory MPs themselves. Some may be agitating for a vote of No Confidence, but I think there are enough self-serving Tories to ensure he survives any such vote.

There is, though, no doubt that the Tories will ditch him in a heartbeat if he continues to perform poorly in Opinion Polls. The one thing the Tories will not abide in a leader is an inability to keep them in power. They are not rigging the constituency boundaries and passing laws to disenfranchise poor and disabled people just for Boris the Clown to mess things up through his obvious incompetence and corruption. The Tories don’t mind incompetence and corruption as long as it is kept behind closed doors, so Boris will, I am sure, be ditched before the next General Election. His successor won’t be any better in practice, and may be even worse, but they’ll put on a more pleasant front and pretend to be all contrite about Johnson’s premiership while simultaneously continuing the same policies.

So I don’t think the writing on the wall is very clear yet. I may be wrong, but I really don’t care all that much because, as mentioned above, whoever replaces him will be another greedy, self-serving Tory.

Some people may argue that having a Tory MP defect to Labour shows that Johnson has gone too far, but I think that move says more about Labour being a Right Wing party under Sir Keir (Knight of the Realm) Starmer. One MP moving from an extremely Right Wing Party to a moderately Right Wing Party won’t alter the basic problem with UK democracy. The First Past The Post voting system is an abomination, the unelected House of Lords as undemocratic as you can get, the patronage and class system inherently dangerous to true democracy, and a complicit media is a barrier to more people understanding just how corrupt the entire system is. The fact that Scotland is still a part of this dangerous farce is utterly depressing. We need to escape, and we need to escape soon.


BBC TTFN

Posted on January 17th, 2022

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

I suppose there might be something to the pro-BBC argument that they must be getting something right if both Left and Right accuse them of bias, although I confess I can’t see it myself. I’m probably biased too, but I believe that, like many Scots, I’ve seen the BBC in Scotland for what it is.

However, the Tories seem determined to do away with the BBC, which is a strange attitude when viewed from the position of a pro-Indy Scot.

Indeed, I’ve seen a lot of people based in England, often with connections to the BBC, telling us how much we would miss it. Now, there is no doubt that the BBC do produce some excellent programmes, and some which are extremely popular despite pandering to the current obsession with celebrity culture. But their news and current affairs programmes are so biased in favour of the Tories, I cannot understand their opposition to it. Except that Rupert Murdoch wants to do away with the BBC in its current format, which perhaps explains the latest threat to the Beeb.

Personally, I won’t miss it a great deal. Where there is a demand for a specific programme, some independent production company will step in, as witnessed by the bizarrely popular Great British Bake Off moving to Channel 4. Many older people will recall with fondness the magnificent and ground-breaking nature documentaries produced by David Attenborough, and while the BBC continues to produce high quality programmes of this sort, so do other documentary channels. Yes, there can be a lot of drivel to wade through before you find something worth watching, but there is a lot of drivel on the BBC as well.

What has been interesting is the level of backlash from Scots to those who claim the BBC is a trusted organisation. Clearly, I am far from alone in my view of the propaganda which emanates from BBC Scotland.

In any event, despite the Tories’ latest pronouncements on the abolition of the Licence Fee, I very much doubt that the BBC will disappear. If it is able to earn money from advertising, it will continue, albeit probably in a slightly different form. Perhaps that will damage the quality of some shows, but it surely can’t make their news and current affairs programmes much worse.


Wasted Oil

Posted on January 12th, 2022

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

A recent article on the Business for Scotland website highlighted the massive profits oil giants Shell and BP are expected to make in light of the increasing price of oil.

You can read this article at:

https://www.businessforscotland.com/oil-and-gas-giants-gain-from-tax-cuts-as-scottish-fuel-bills-to-rise/

It’s interesting that few in the mainstream media are highlighting the ever-increasing price of oil. They were very quick to trumpet its fall a few years ago, but anything which might suggest Scotland could be a wealthy country is taboo for our journalists.

But to earn money from oil, you need to impose taxes on the oil companies, and as the BFS article shows, the UK is alone in allowing the oil companies to extract this valuable natural resource without paying tax. No doubt this lack of income will be reflected in this year’s GERS figures which will once again demonstrate just how impoverished Scotland is with Westminster controlling our finances.

Of course, we were warned by Sir Ian Wood in 2014 that oil was about to run out, so I suppose we should congratulate the oil companies for continuing to make enormous profits by extracting a resource which no longer exists. Or perhaps Sir Ian Wood was merely spouting a scare story to influence voters in the IndyRef? Who knows what might have motivated a Knight of the Realm to say something so palpably untrue.

Of course, we want to move away from oil and switch to renewable sources of energy, but that is a long term project and, for the moment, we are sadly reliant on oil. That being the case, the very least a responsible Government should be doing is extracting a share of the profits by imposing taxation. But then, we all know that the UK does not have a responsible Government. If Scotland was a normal, self-governing country, we could impose taxes on these oil giants and use that revenue stream to develop our renewables sector. The chances of the UK adopting that sort of strategy are, sadly, virtually nil. Once again, we have an example of how Scotland, far from benefitting from the Union, is actually being held back by it.


NHS Identity Crisis

Posted on January 9th, 2022

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Most Yessers will be only too familiar with England often being equated with the UK, and also with the UK Government’s habit of promoting the UK as a country instead of a sovereign state comprised of three countries and a province. This is so widespread that it is often impossible to know which country or countries politicians are talking about when they say "this country".

We are also very much aware of the habit of Union Flags being plastered over our foodstuffs even when those products are produced in Scotland. This is very much in line with the One Nation view so beloved of Tories.

Not that Tories are alone in promoting this view of Britishness. Sir Keir Starmer, Knight of the Realm and lover of all things British, often seems to be trying to outdo the Tories when it comes to British nationalism.

Then we have the recently announced request for more singing of God Save the queen, plus the desire for the National Anthem to be played by the BBC at the end of each day. This is, of course, the English National Anthem which, funnily enough, also doubles as the UK National Anthem.

Recently, I came across another example of this British nationalism that I wasn’t aware of. The NHS is often portrayed as UK-wide by the media and UK politicians, but many of us know that there are separate NHS organisations for each of the three countries and one province of the UK. Imagine, then, my surprise when I went online to order Covid Lateral Flow Tests and was directed to a website which, according to my screen reader, was very much labelled as being part of NHS UK. I didn’t think there was any such organisation. However, if you open a web browser and type in "NHS.UK", you’ll find there is a website presenting itself as being a UK-wide NHS.

The thing about this is that it is clearly not a UK website. While there are some general health tips and links to details of medication which will apply everywhere, the site is very much an English one. If, for example, you try to book a Covid vaccination, or try to find your nearest GP by following the links on the NHS.UK main page, it is immediately apparent that this is only available to residents in England.

Now, it may seem a small thing to get worked up over England once again portraying itself as the UK, but this is yet another warning that the UK Government’s policy of promoting One Nation is creeping into every aspect of our lives.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, the latest rumours are that free provision of Lateral Flow Tests will be withdrawn before long. This is very much in keeping with Tory policies of not caring about the poorer members of society, but the worst thing about it is that it confirmed that NHS.UK is in charge of distributing these test kits. All that Nicola Sturgeon has been able to do is issue a protest because Scotland apparently does not source its own supply of LFTs. If that is indeed the case, it is a ridiculous state of affairs. No nation should be dependent on another for a supply of equipment which is essential in combating a global pandemic, especially if that other country is going to insist on charging ordinary citizens for the provision of these kits. Once again we see that the best solution for Scotland is to become a normal, self-governing country. Let’s hope we don’t need to wait much longer.


Delivering Bad news

Posted on January 4th, 2022

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

Every Yesser knows by now that the BBC is little more than a propaganda outlet for the UK Government and the maintenance of the status quo. However much the Tories bash the BBC as being too left wing, anyone who has followed the anti-Yes utterances of the BBC knows full well that we will never get a fair hearing from the State propaganda outlet. I very rarely listen to any news or current affairs programme on the BBC because I just get too wound up listening to the bilge they are pumping into our houses under the guise of impartiality.

However, I did have the misfortune to hear a little bit of BBC News on the TV the other day when they were highlighting that Scotland is out of step with the rest of the UK in insisting on a 10 day isolation period for anyone testing positive for Covid. The rest of the UK, we were told, has reduced this to 7 days, while the USA has gone as low as a 5 day isolation period. Now, this is factually correct but, as so often with the BBC, context was sadly lacking. There was no mention that the UK and the USA have death tolls from Covid which are among the highest in the world, so perhaps citing them as evidence of good practice when it comes to pandemic control is not the smartest thing to do. But by missing this out, the BBC was able to portray Scotland as the guilty party when, in fact, there is scientific advice that 10 days is the minimum we should adopt. Indeed, I saw a news article from CNN stating that Taiwan has utterly rejected the US advice because they know that covid can still be infectious for up to 10 days. I should possibly not add an anecdote here, but if it's good enough for Alex Massie to use unverified speculation, then I can probably get away with it, especially as this is not speculation, albeit it is only one incidence. It concerns a young couple I know. The young woman contracted Covid ten days before Christmas and so both went into isolation, taking care to remain apart as much as possible. They hoped that they would still be able to attend a family Christmas meal on Boxing Day after her 10 day isolation had ended. The young man kept taking Lateral Flow tests during this period and was negative right up until the 10th day when he tested positive. If Scotland’s rules had been relaxed to 7 days, both of them would have attended a large family Christmas and spread the infection even further. That’s why Scotland really ought to stick with the 10 day isolation period, and I hope that Nicola Sturgeon sticks to her guns on this point.

As for the BBC, their biased reporting has manifested itself in other ways recently. Someone on social media pointed out the vast difference in media reporting between the Ghislaine Maxwell trial verdict and the Alex Salmond case. While Maxwell has received coverage which has often been sympathetic despite the sickening nature of the crimes she was found guilty of, Alex Salmond has been vilified despite being found not guilty. The cynics among us might suspect that this treatment might relate to their respective positions vis-a-vis the Establishment. One was very much a part of the elite, while the other wants to dissolve the Union to allow Scotland to become a normal country. The BBC, who have featured programmes damning Alex Salmond, even went so far as to interview Jeffrey Epstein’s lawyer as a so-called independent commentator on the Maxwell trial verdict. They have admitted they were wrong to do so, but how many times have we seen the BBC mistakenly broadcast opinions and comments, then admit a mistake once the message has been delivered? It’s such a common tactic, and usually involves any admission of error being far less prominent than the original claims.

So let us be in no doubt at all that the BBC will be against us if and when IndyRef2 comes along. It is, after all, part of their remit.


Irrelevant Polls?

Posted on December 27th, 2021

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

Recent polling suggests that the Tories could lose all their seats in Scotland if there was a General Election now. They are even in trouble in England where some forecasts suggest that Labour would win a majority of seats.

This is, of course, good news in a way, but hardly relevant to the issue of independence.

For one thing, the polls have not come about because of any stellar leadership displays by Sir Keir Starmer. Instead, it seems Tory voters who are not at all concerned by the proliferation of food banks, by the UK economy being crippled by Brexit, by shortages of food and medicines in some places, by the slaughtering of pigs which cannot be taken to market, by petrol shortages, by the cruelty of letting people drown in the sea, and by their rights being diminished on a regular basis, are incensed by Government politicians and advisors having Christmas parties.

Now, I can understand the outrage because those parties should never have taken place and the fact that they did merely confirms the utter disdain and contempt Tory politicians feel for other people. It seems, then, that Tory voters don’t really care about what policies their leaders enact, but are outraged when those leaders are too brazen in showing their contempt. Still, whatever triggers the reaction that makes voters realise that they have been lied to, it still won’t make much difference to Scotland. That’s because Sir Keir Starmer (always give him his full title) is part of the Establishment and would really behave as just a more reasonable Tory. There are few signs that he would repeal any of their inhumane policies, and that’s probably because he knows that it is not the policies which have caused this latest backlash.

Let us not forget either that any change to a Labour Government is usually fairly short-lived. Voters in England always seem to look to the Tories to govern them after a while. Their underlying message of personal enrichment seems to strike a chord with far too many of those voters.

As for Scotland, I’d really like to hope that we become a normal, self-governing country before the next UK General Election. If that were to happen, then the polling should be regarded as irrelevant. Sadly, I am increasingly of the opinion that the Scottish Government will find more excuses to delay IndyRef2. I really hope I’m wrong about that, but there are few signs that there is any interest in pushing for IndyRef2 with any sort of energy. That is a great shame because it really is depressing to think that the only good news for Yessers is that the Tories might lose a General Election we really ought to have no part in.

Surely more and more people are open to the idea of becoming a normal country now. The handling of the Covid pandemic and the constant stream of scandals and ineptitude emanating from Westminster has revealed, time and time again, that the current constitutional arrangement is holding Scotland back. All we need now is a chance to show the world that we want to take our own place in the international community. Let’s hope 2022 brings us some real progress on making this a reality.


Masking the Problem

Posted on December 18th, 2021

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Much is being made of the North Shropshire By-Election result, and there’s no doubt it is historic in terms of the loss of one of the Tories’ safest seats. Whether it heralds the end of Boris Johnson, I’m not so sure. For one thing, only a fool would want to be Prime Minister at this point in time, and for another there is no General Election in sight, so there is, as yet, no need for the knives to come out. We should also bear in mind that Johnson is in charge of probably the most corrupt Government in UK history; certainly the most blatant in its corruption. And the people who have benefitted the most are the Tory MPs and their pals, so they’re not going to be in a rush to kill the golden goose.

It does seem, though, that the fiasco of the Tory Xmas Parties has got through to voters in England in a way that their actual policies have not. Perhaps that explains a little about why the Tories keep winning in England when it comes to General elections. English voters don’t seem to mind harmful policies as long as the Government enacts them in a sober and responsible manner.

Despite this stunning By-Election result, I fully expect the Tories to win the next General election as well, although possibly with another leader. Not that the leader matters a great deal. As I’ve said many times, Boris Johnson is not the real problem; he is merely a symptom of the problem. He’s a massively harmful symptom, but whoever replaces him will inevitably pursue similar policies, perhaps with not quite so much blatant corruption on display, although we should be in no doubt that underhand goings-on will continue behind the scenes.

Where does all of this leave Scotland? Quite frankly, it makes no difference. It’s like watching politics in a foreign country. The problem for us is that the foreign country in question controls our own country. If Scotland was a normal, self-governing country, I’d wager Nicola Sturgeon would have been much stronger in her responses to the Omicron Covid surge. There are some things she could do within existing powers which I’m disappointed not to see. For example, I think schools should be closed now because the statistics from other countries, notably the USA and South Africa, show that children in the 5 to 9 age group are particularly susceptible to Omicron Covid, and many suffer severe infections. Closing the schools a week early would reduce the impact of this outbreak.

I’d also liked to have seen her make working from home a law rather than advice. I know of at least one Tory-supporting employer who has told his staff that they will only be allowed to work from home if it becomes law. This is despite almost his entire staff working from home successfully during the first lock down.

At the risk of sounding too authoritarian, I also think it would help if mask-wearing was enforced more vigorously. While some people do have legitimate reasons for not wearing a mask, it really is not at all onerous for the vast majority of us. I was talking to a lady in the USA the other day (I’m afraid I didn’t ask her which State she lived in), and she told me that enforcement is vigorous where she lives. Buses will not allow anyone to board unless they are wearing a mask, and the bus will stop if the driver becomes aware of anyone taking their mask off. In shops, people are refused admittance or, in smaller stores, refused service unless they are wearing a mask. Some people may consider these sorts of measures Draconian, but really all they are doing is compelling people to have some consideration for those around them, and I do believe they would help curtail the spread. As for those who object that this is an authoritarian approach, some of us are old enough to remember the outcry when seat belt wearing was made compulsory in the UK. Many people insisted it was an infringement of their right to endanger their own lives, and there were some prosecutions in the early days. Nowadays, pretty much everyone wears a seat belt without even thinking about it. Mask wearing in public could do with that same attitude applying.

Having said that, there is a lot more that could be done if Scotland had control over its finances and used its own currency. If we were a normal country, then the hospitality sector could be recompensed for the loss of business they are experiencing. Furlough could also be re-introduced to help keep other workers safe until the worst of the outbreak has been tackled.

Sick Pay is another area where far more could be done. Due to the UK’s low wage economy, far too many people are compelled to go to work because they cannot afford to be off sick. The irony of this is that, by going to work, they increase the risk of becoming very ill indeed. The UK’s Sick Pay is pathetically inadequate, and I’d like to think that an independent Scotland could pay a much higher rate which could be increased temporarily even further during the Covid pandemic.

Unfortunately, without those powers which most countries take for granted, we are stuck with meekly following the Tory path to more deaths than necessary. So far, Nicola Sturgeon has been careful not to point an accusing finger at Westminster, but perhaps it is time she began letting people know just how much her hands are tied. I suspect, however, that she is wary of being seen as a Grinch who wants to impose restrictions which other parts of the UK aren’t bothering with. Again, this demonstrates one of the problems of the UK. Unionists and the media always try to portray the UK as a single country, and a great many people believe it because they have been constantly told it is a fact. But if Scotland were a normal country, we could impose our own Border restrictions on anyone coming in from other countries, including a period of quarantine. At the moment, that is impossible because we have no control over our Borders, and because the infrastructure of the UK is such that Scotland is far too reliant on food and other goods arriving via England. Without our own direct trade routes to the wider world, we are exposed to the importation of Omicron and any future variants of Covid because of this reliance on traffic coming via England.

It is, of course, very easy to blame the constitutional arrangement for pretty much anything, and there is no saying that an independent Scotland would get things right in tackling Covid. But, quite frankly, could they do any worse than the bumbling buffoon that is Boris Johnson and his band of ideologues? I do think the Scottish Government could do a bit more with the powers they have, but they could do a huge amount more if they had full control, and much of that could be in ensuring that the livelihoods of people affected by any Covid restrictions are not impacted too severely. Nicola Sturgeon is currently attempting to persuade Boris Johnson to make additional funds available to cushion the impact of restrictions. I wish her luck, but I doubt she will have much success. And, of course, if the Clown in Chief does make more money available, it will be trumpeted as yet another Union dividend. If that happens, I hope Nicola Sturgeon points out the absurdity of any nation needing to go cap in hand to its larger neighbour just to allow it to do what almost every other country in the world can do without any problems.


Worst Yet

Posted on December 9th, 2021

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

The revelations about Boris Johnson’s propensity for lying to anyone and everyone continue to mount up. Whether any of this will be enough to have him ousted from office is, sadly, debatable. If anyone in the Scottish Government had lied so consistently and brazenly, they’d have been hounded out of office long ago, although I’d like to think that most of them would have resigned long before the media pack descended on them.

The media, of course, are complicit in promoting Boris Johnson in the first place, but there are plenty of others who bear responsibility. Yet surely they must see that he is playing them for fools as well? He is clearly a narcissist who has no compunction about lying or using other people to promote himself. Take, for example, Allegra Stratton who resigned over her sneering and laughing about lock downs in a leaked video. The big question is, "Who leaked that video"? When you look at who benefits from this, it is perhaps overly cynical to suggest that she has been offered up as a scapegoat so that Boris Johnson had someone to blame. But then, with so much lying and deception at the very heart of the UK Government, perhaps we are entitled to be extremely cynical about each and every development.

And let us not forget that while many in the media are now pursuing Boris Johnson over the Christmas Party scandal, his Government continues to push through laws which any fascist regime would be proud of.

The man is a dangerous liar, and he is almost as dangerous to those who attached themselves to his coat tails in order to gain positions of power and influence as he is to the rest of us.

I have said before that Boris Johnson is not the main problem; he is simply the latest symptom of the fundamental problem at the very foundation of the UK system of Government. He is, though, the most dangerous symptom we’ve encountered so far.

I suspect he will continue to brazen things out, and will probably get away with it. The only thing likely to alter that is if the Tories slump in the opinion polls. Power is what Tories crave, and if Boris Johnson poses a threat to that, they will have no hesitation in ousting him. Until then, he will continue to laugh at us, and use and discard his underlings whenever it suits him.

Boris Johnson as Prime Minister is a classic example of why Scotland needs to become a normal, self-governing country as soon as possible. He may be the worst we’ve seen to date, but whoever succeeds him will have his example to follow. They know they can get away with things, and they will continue to do so. The only difference might be that his successor might not be quite so brazen about it. That’s really not much of an improvement.


Communicating Normality

Posted on December 2nd, 2021

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

The latest poll by IPSOS MORI shows Yes on 55%. If we take the word of Unionists, that’s a decisive figure, although naturally the media aren’t mentioning that.

It is, of course, only a single poll and could be an outlier, so there’s no cause to get too excited about it.

What bothers me at a basic level is that the reactions of voters are once again focused on the individuals heading either side of the argument, i.e. Nicola Sturgeon and Boris Johnson. As I’ve repeatedly said, Johnson is not the problem, he is merely the latest symptom of the underlying problem. Nor, for all her qualities as a politician and communicator, is Nicola Sturgeon the solution, she is simply the current leader of the Party which should have the solution in its hands. Neither of these politicians will be around forever, yet becoming a normal, self-governing country is a permanent change.

I do understand that the messenger is as important as the message when it comes to politics, and I’d far rather have good communicators on our side than not because we need to persuade a lot of people to shift their views if we are to establish a solid and permanent lead in the polls, but it really is quite disappointing that some voters might suddenly switch away from Yes if Boris Johnson were to be replaced as Prime Minister. Can people not realise that this would not be a solution at all? The problem would still be there.

Still, I suppose that, as long as the arch-clown remains in office, the more people might come to appreciate the extent of Scotland’s situation. Perhaps some of them might decide to stick with Yes once they realise that someone else very like Johnson or, heaven forbid, even worse, could easily gain power thanks to the inherent unfairness built into the Westminster election process.

So, let’s keep working on promoting the cause of normality. Independence is normal. That’s the message people need to understand.


On Your Marks!

Posted on November 30th, 2021

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

So Nicola Sturgeon has given another commitment to putting the wheels in motion for IndyRef2. Some, like me, will say it’s not before time; others will point out that we’ve heard this before, and yet others will say that giving Westminster notice only gives them more time to put obstacles in the way. I’ve also seen some people claim this is what Nicola Sturgeon wants. That way, she can hold up her hands and announce that she’d love to hold IndyRef2 but her hands are tied. I’m not sure that is a viable position for any politician to put themselves in, far less one as capable as Nicola Sturgeon, but I do worry that it is taking so long to put the wheels in motion. "Next year" is also a fairly vague and broad time frame.

However, even natural pessimists like me must appreciate that we really have no option but to trust that she really is going to deliver in one way or another. I suspect she will need to abandon the Section 30 route as there is no way the Westminster Government will agree to this. Quite what solution she comes up with remains to be seen. Let’s hope it is something definitive which will allow us to progress to becoming a normal, self-governing country before too much longer.

As for the timescale itself, there are a lot of factors to be considered. I came in for some criticism on Twitter the other day for insisting that there was no reason to delay. Apparently, I am one of those people who don’t understand the complexities of setting up a referendum. Now, my memory may be failing me, but I don’t recall much in the way of complexities in establishing either IndyRef1 or the Brexit referendum. Once the decision to go ahead has been made, much of the work can be done before the referendum is held. Such things as deciding the date, deciding the actual question and so on need not be done before the decision is made. As long as they are taken within a reasonable time, that is all that is required.

There are undoubtedly other issues needing addressed. The currency question needs to be explained, with a Scottish currency the only real option if we are to re-join the EU. But that requires a Scottish Central Bank, and work will need to be done on that. However, there is no reason why an existing Bank, such as the Scottish National Investment Bank, could not be appointed to this role. Alternatively, one of the existing Scottish Banks which has its Head Office registered in Scotland could be given that role provided they were disentangled from ownership by English Banks. So, yes, there’s work to be done there, but Scotland won’t become a normal country the day after IndyRef2 (assuming Yes wins), so there will be time to finalise these arrangements.

Then there is the issue of campaigning. There can be no doubt that the Scottish Government will need to play a leading role and will need to set out proposals for things like currency, borders, etc., but there was a White Paper last time, and a similar, but hopefully more persuasive, document can surely be produced this time around. I’d also like to see a draft Constitution produced. I think that could go a long way towards helping persuade people to Yes.

But, when it comes to spreading the word, it will not all be down to the SNP. The Yes movement was far broader than the SNP last time although very few Unionists seemed capable of grasping this point. For them, anyone pro-Indy must be a member of the SNP. It wasn’t true then, and it isn’t true now. Yes is far more widespread than that, so spreading the message won’t be left to one Party.

There will be a huge number of issues to be addressed during the campaign because everyone will have their own specific circumstance at the forefront of their minds. People being people, they will look at their situation and demand to know how they will be affected. Unionists will be able to pick on any number of business sectors and find fault with whatever plans the Scottish Government devises. The media will no doubt help them amplify these questions. The big answer, of course, is that these are mere deflection tactics. That’s because independence is normal. Focusing on the specific impact on a specific group of people is to miss the big picture. It’s what the UK media will do, but we must never lose sight of the fact that independence is normal.

I’ll say that again.

INDEPENDENCE IS NORMAL!

Plenty of other countries cope just fine without Westminster controlling them. Scotland can surely cope as well. Yes, transition may be tricky for many, but it won’t be as disastrous as Brexit, and will open up opportunities which Scots will surely embrace. We can protect our NHS from Tory privatisation, we can expand and develop our ports, we can create direct shipping routes to Europe, we can welcome scientists, doctors and other professionals who can help boost our universities and hospitals. We could even sell electricity to England rather than have them simply take it from us without payment.

Naturally, the threat of a hard border will be raised yet again, but as I’ve said many times before, this border will be England’s border with the EU. If we can re-join the EU, we open so many more borders. And England will still want our food and drink produce. As for our own supplies of food which currently come from depots in England, I am confident that the major supermarkets will quickly establish new depots or expand existing ones. Business looks for a market, and they won’t ignore the potential of the Scottish market.

Personally, I can’t wait for IndyRef2 to begin. The majority of Scots aren’t paying much attention because they are too busy coping with their own lives, but once a date is confirmed, it will focus their minds and force them to think about the issues. Those of us already convinced of the need to become a normal, self-governing country will have our work cut out for us, but if we each manage to persuade 1 other person, Yes will win. That’s not a daunting target, is it?

So, while I retain reservations about why it is taking so long to get the ball rolling, I welcome this announcement and look forward to seeing some actual progress. I still don’t know how the Section 30 issue will be overcome, but the Scottish Government needs to have a contingency plan ready. All we are waiting for is the green light.


Limited Vision

Posted on November 21st, 2021

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

Sir Kenneth Clarke, former Tory MP and Government Minister, has recently denounced the lack of democratic accountability in the UK and warned that Boris Johnson is on the brink of turning the UK into an elected dictatorship. It’s hard to disagree with that assessment, but reading an account of his warnings in The Guardian, I was struck by how far Sir Kenneth Clarke did not go.

It is important to remember that Sir Kenneth Clarke is a Knight of the Realm and very much part of the Establishment. He may bemoan the fact that the Party he is a member of has moved away from what he sees as Tory core values and lurched to the extreme Right, but his solution is sadly lacking in focus. He says the UK needs a written Constitution, and again I don’t think many people would disagree, but he made no mention of some other changes which would be essential. To be fair, it may be that a proper Constitution would set these issues out, although Sir Kenneth Clarke glossed over that aspect. Perhaps he did that because he knows full well that there is no way the current UK parliament would approve a Constitution which actually addressed the fundamental problems with UK democracy. Because, among the many things wrong with the way democracy works in the UK, the two real big issues are the archaic and inherently unfair First Past The Post electoral system which is designed to ensure that one of the two Establishment Parties retains power, and the impending boundary changes will deliver the Tories a massive advantage there. If they can be elected with an absolute majority by less than 40% of the electorate voting for them, they are never going to want to change that. But FPTP is one of the major obstacles to a fairer democracy. It is out of kilter with the way most modern democracies work, and it really needs to be changed to a more proportionate system. However, as said above, that will never happen in the UK because both Establishment Parties are content to stick with FPTP. Quite why Labour aren’t against it is a bit of a mystery, but their leader is, after all, a Knight of the Realm.

The second major reform the UK needs is to replace the House of Lords with a properly elected second chamber with defined powers when it comes to passing laws. Some countries, notably the Scandinavian countries, operate a single chamber Parliament, but since they are elected proportionately, that’s less of an issue since Proportional Representation generally requires Parties to form alliances in order to pass laws. However, most democracies have a second chamber which is elected rather than manipulated by the Government, and most second chambers have genuine powers which extend far beyond the ability to merely delay Bills passed by the lower chamber as is the case with the House of Lords.

Without these two fundamental reforms, Sir Kenneth Clarke’s hopes for a written Constitution are nothing more than the wishes of a toothless tiger.

But, once again, we must not lose sight of the fact that these changes will never come about in the UK unless there is some sort of revolution which completely overthrows the Establishment. That’s so unlikely as to be of no concern. But within the current political landscape, neither of the main Westminster Parties is going to advocate Proportional Representation, nor will they abolish the House of Lords. That’s because the system is geared towards preserving power in the hands of the elite, and most MPs belonging to these Parties have the principal aim of attaining a place in the House of Lords. Everyone plays by the Westminster rules, and those rules are designed to maintain the status quo.

So, while I applaud Sir Kenneth Clarke’s words as far as they go, they don’t go far enough, and until the weight of opinion is in favour of fundamental change, he may as well be talking to the wind.

As for that public opinion, it is not going to shift because the media will ensure that any discussion of change is either kept very low key or ignored completely. That’s because the media also has a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

Yet again, we see that Scotland’s only chance of escaping the madness is to become a normal, self-governing country, preferably one with a written Constitution and a Parliament of two chambers, both of which are elected by the people.

That naturally leads on to the other thing Sir Kenneth Clarke did not mention; the role of the Head of State. The current political Establishment is thirled to the monarchy, and we have seen how the monarchy behaves. Whether it is protecting Prince Andrew or refusing permission for renewable energy projects on their land, they serve only themselves. The image the media provides them is very far from the truth. So, while majority public opinion in Scotland – opinion which is shaped by the media – is still in favour of the monarchy, I believe that becoming a normal country would give us the opportunity to become a Republic with an elected Head of State. I’m not in favour of the US system which has too many things in common with the UK system, but other countries are able to operate systems which put power in the hands of the electorate rather than deferring to the inherited rights of the wealthy elite.

As we see all too often, Sir Kenneth Clarke’s aspirations are limited by his acceptance that the UK system should be largely preserved. That is no good for an independent Scotland, and we should aim much higher. That’s not to say we will rid ourselves of individuals who seek to use a political career to further their own personal interests, but at least it would allow us the opportunity to get rid of them; an opportunity which is currently denied us. And, as I’ve said before, the current Tory corruption under Boris Johnson is not the problem; it is merely a symptom of the underlying problem. Without radical change, the UK is doomed to be regularly governed by self-serving charlatans.


Polling Doubts

Posted on November 17th, 2021

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Some recent Opinion Polls show that, at long last, the Tories have slipped below Labour in UK voting preferences. It seems that, although many voters were content to support the Tories despite the lies, one of the worst Covid death rates in the world, Brexit, the threat to peace In Northern Ireland, and betrayal of the people in the North of England who fell for the xenophobic promises of Brexit, it appears that the thing voters detest most is Tories enriching themselves through corrupt practices. Perhaps it is simple jealousy, but I must admit I thought most people should have understood this is fundamentally what many Tories stand for. But then, Boris Johnson’s Government have perhaps been just too blatant in their greed and utter scorn for ordinary people. Maybe voters in England have woken up at last, although those of us old enough to remember the fall of Norman Major’s Government may be feeling a sense of déjà vu at the moment. Whatever happens, it will be a short term thing because the Tories long ago captured the hearts and minds of enough voters to allow them to gain power thanks to the archaic and fundamentally undemocratic First Past The Post electoral system.

Still, some people are taking comfort from the Polls. I’m afraid I do not share that view, and there are several reasons why, not least of which is that Polls are not the same as elections.

First among my many reasons for not feeling a surge of hope is Sir Keir Starmer. It is important to give him his title to highlight the basic problem with him. His opposition to the Tories has been lacklustre at best, and behind the scenes, he has been doing his best to rid Labour of any actual socialists. He is pro-Brexit, pro-Union and generally pro most Tory policies. I can’t help feeling he is in the wrong Party, and it must be evident that it is not his leadership which has caused the rise in support for Labour. The way the electoral Establishment works, voters in England really have only two realistic choices of Party, so if they fall out with the Tories, Labour is their obvious home. All in all, then, if Labour were to gain power with Sir Keir Starmer, Knight of the Realm, as leader, I doubt very much would change. All we’d really see is more vicious attacks on the Government by the UK’s extremist media (who still masquerade as the mainstream media). Even adopting Tory Light policies won’t protect Labour from this.

The second reason I can’t get too excited about the polling data is a very practical one. There won’t be a General election for two or three years yet, and as we have seen, far too many voters cast their vote based on short-term or immediate concerns, with very little thought for the long-term future. Again, I cite the so-called Red Wall voters who actually voted in Tory MPs because they were more afraid of foreigners than the people who do actually exploit them and take away their jobs and social security benefits. This lamentable tendency to vote on short-term, populist issues means that, by the time the next General election comes around, these people will have had plenty of time to revert to type and elect a Tory Government once more.

Then there is the Boris Johnson issue. Perhaps more people are recognising him as a lying cheat who has only his own best interests at heart rather than being simply a lovable wide boy. But Boris Johnson is merely a symptom of the problem at the heart of the UK system; he is not the problem. If Tory MPs decide they’ve had enough of him making them look like stooges who will vote for anything as long as it suits their leader’s interests, then Johnson’s days as PM will be numbered. But what then? All that will happen is that the Tories will elect a new leader who will become Prime Minister without the need to go to the voters. And, while that new leader may present a different public face to the world, he will still be a tory who has been part of this Government for a few years, and who shares their aims and ambitions; i.e. he or she will be out to make themselves richer.

So even if the Polls are correct, I see little reason for cheer. The only thing that can save Scotland is to become a normal, self-governing country so that we can escape the built-in corruption and lack of democratic accountability which is the main feature of Westminster. There’s no doubt that an independent Scotland would have its own fair share of chancers in politics, and I think we could all name a few of them already. The difference is that, with a properly proportionally representative Government, we could vote out anyone who did try to pull the same tricks and cons Boris Johnson is currently getting away with.


What's In A Name?

Posted on November 8th, 2021

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

Words are important, and names especially so. The other day, I contributed to a social media chat about whether Scots regard the term, "Jock" as offensive. The general response was that it was offensive, and my contribution was to say that English linguistic culture often ascribes de-personalising names to people from other nations. The examples I quoted were Jock, Paddy, Taffy, Fritz and Ivan, but I’m sure you can think of others. My point is that these terms, often regarded as mere banter by those who use them, are very rarely used by the people at whom the names are targeted to refer to themselves because they regard them as derogatory. Indeed, I strongly suspect that the sort of person who would claim that referring to Scots as Jocks is mere banter is also the sort of person who would be annoyed if an Australian called them a Pom. They would recognise it as not being complimentary, yet they cannot understand why terms they use themselves are viewed as derogatory by those they address in such ways.

One respondent in the chat did have a go at me for attacking everyone in England and, while I believe the English are the worst culprits for this sort of verbal insult, I think it is important to note that I referred to English linguistic culture which extends to all native English speakers. Yes, that includes Scots, and before any Scots start denying they use such terms, I would point out that older generations will undoubtedly remember when it was common practice to refer to people from Pakistan and China by names which are most definitely frowned upon nowadays. So, we are not blameless, and the chat went on to include lots of suggestions for derogatory terms for the English, something I am not really interested in discussing since it reduces us to the same level as the people we were complaining about.

I’m afraid that much of this is wrapped up in British Exceptionalism. Using derogatory terms to describe other people reinforces their lesser status, and I often recall the Fawlty Towers sketch where the Major describes people from various countries using a succession of words which were, sadly, in common use only a few decades ago. I know that particular scene is now sometimes cut from screenings of the programme but I think that misses the point. It was supposed to highlight bigotry and condescension which used to be built in to British culture. It was a superb portrayal of precisely the sort of attitude which still enables people to use terms like "Jock" and claim it is merely banter.

We all know that the N Word is now taboo unless spoken by people in the Black community when talking among themselves. I think it’s about time these other derogatory terms were viewed as equally taboo.

But there have been other examples of casual misuse of language recently which have highlighted the lack of knowledge about, and interest in, Scotland by people who really should know better.

Last week on Twitter, Clarence House’s official account proudly announced that Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall had visited Glasgow Station. Anyone who is going to produce official statements surely should be aware that some basic research so as not to use inaccurate names is an essential part of their job. Yet the Prince’s own household could not be bothered to check the actual name of the station, perhaps holding the London-centric view that a provincial place like Glasgow must have only one railway station. It was, once again, sloppy and condescending use of language.

The problem is that this was not a one-off example. We’ve now had Sky News broadcasting that Kay Burley would be reporting from the Isle of Sky. OK, maybe that was a simple typo, but it’s pretty poor from a national broadcaster. But then, it was only the Jocks who would notice, so they possibly thought it didn’t matter very much.


Cop Out 26

Posted on October 26th, 2021

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

So what can we expect from COP26 apart from another spike in Covid cases? Well, I may be overly cynical, but I don’t think we’ll get much more than fine words and some promises to take action which will be completed at some point in the future when all the politicians giving the commitments will be long retired from politics and probably working for hedge funds.

I’m afraid that letting the UK Government host a conference on environmental issues is as contradictory as appointing Tony Blair as Middle East Peace Envoy. The Tories love making grandiose statements about their world-beating ideas, but their actions always contradict their public announcements. Take, just as the latest example, the permission given to have sewage pumped into English rivers at the time they are championing the environment.

No, I’m afraid Nicola Sturgeon’s strong words will be ignored. All COP26 is going to provide is a lot of hot air, plus a publicity platform for Tory propaganda. Union flags will abound, rousing speeches will be made, and then they will congratulate themselves for a terrific conference before going back to doing the bare minimum required to make it look as if they actually care.

Everyone ought to know by now that all the Tories care about is their own personal financial wellbeing. Whatever environmental calamities afflict us, they’ll be all right, Jack. (That’s Union Jack in case you were wondering). Everyone else can just suffer. Floods, droughts, storms, petrol shortages, food shortages, medicine shortages, energy price rises, all affect the less well off the worst. It is only when things begin to affect Tory politicians themselves that they will take genuine action, just as happened during the 1858 Great Stink which resulted in a proper sewer and waste management system being instituted in London. Until the stench of the polluted Thames affected the House of Commons, they did nothing about it. I’m afraid very little has changed since then in the way they think and behave.

Their attitude is amply demonstrated by their refusal to allow the Scottish Government to participate even though the conference is being held in Glasgow. I’m afraid these people are stuck with a Victorian colonial way of thinking, and nothing is ever going to change that. Surely more Scots will wake up to the urgent necessity for us to become a normal, self-governing country rather than allow Westminster politicians to drag us into the shit. That’s literally what is happening in England, and Scottish Water is not safe thanks to the Power grab which they still claim doesn’t exist. The Internal Markets Bill gives them the power to do pretty much what they like in Scotland without us being able to do anything to prevent it. Just how far are we going to let them go?


The Wrong Outlook

Posted on October 19th, 2021

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Byline Times continue to provide some of the best journalism around. They recently produced an article about healthy life expectancy in the so-called Red Wall constituencies. You can read this at:

Healthy Life Expectancy has Fallen in 80% of ‘Red Wall’ Areas Since Conservatives Took Power – Byline Times

What this article demonstrates once again is that far too many voters fall for Tory lies and will elect Tory MPs even if a Tory Government will act directly against the best interests of the voters who elected them. Indeed, under Boris Johnson, we have seen unprecedented levels of Tory greed and corruption which has resulted in them and their friends being enriched at the expense of pretty much everyone else.

So why do so many people actually think that the Tories will do anything to improve their lives? It’s a puzzle, and there is no doubt that the media has a large role to play in delivering the sorts of messages that the Tories want delivered. After all, the Tories are the main Party of the Establishment, a social order which is underpinned by the class structure and which teaches ordinary people that they are better off letting their social betters run things. This social order includes such things as adoration of the monarch, respect for wealth, militaristic bombast and, of course, unhealthy lashings of British Exceptionalism.

The Tories do not only rely on the social order , education system and media to cultivate this world view. They dangle carrots such as the proven lie that hard work can lift people out of poverty. A handful of individuals will be celebrated for this, but they are very much the exception rather than the rule, but a great many people still seem to think that they can join the wealthy elite if only they would work a little harder. Inherent in this outlook is the belief that anyone who is successful will leave the ordinary plebs behind. There is no aspiration towards lifting society as a whole, simply an aspiration to join the ranks of the rich and famous.

Then there is the belief that taxes are bad and must be kept low. Not that most people would complain about paying less tax, but the Tories combine this with a low wage economy which ensures that workers have little power and can be exploited by employers, as well as giving them every excuse to close down public services and privatise things like the Health service.

The question of where power lies is one reason why Universal Basic Income will never become reality under a Tory Government; it places power and decision making about employment in the hands of workers. The fact that it also reduces poverty, improves mental health and wellbeing is entirely beside the point. For Tories, it is power and control that matter, and those things must never reach the masses.

In many countries, notably the Nordic countries, the model is very much high wage and high tax. This allows them to provide first rate public services and pay high levels of Old Age Pension and other social security benefits. Whether Scotland could ever reach that level is doubtful even if we were to become a normal, self-governing country. Too many of us have grown up accepting the UK way of doing things that this would be an enormous change which will take generations to implement. Yet it is the sort of model which would give us the sort of public services and pensions that most of us want. And yet, the threat of higher taxation is wheeled out whenever any economic discussion of Scotland’s future is under discussion. As far as the media narrative goes, taxes are bad. End of discussion.

The entire mindset of the Scottish population needs to alter. That isn’t easy when the media constantly reinforce the Tory perspective, but at least the proportion of Scots who do realise that there is a better way is considerably higher than the equivalent number of people in England who seem so thirled to the Tory way of thinking it is impossible to see how the situation will ever change. If people are prepared to vote Tory even when it has been demonstrated that this will result in poorer health and earlier deaths, then what hope is there? At least Scotland has a choice. It’s about time we made it.


Build Back Blether

Posted on October 10th, 2021

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

The sheer inanity of Boris Johnson’s "Build Back Better" campaign is quite shocking. It is well known that the Tories love three word slogans rather than actual policies, but the way this one has been presented has reached new levels of cringe. The Tory faithful seem to be lapping it up like a bunch of Primary School children being told jokes on a theme, and that seems to be the way Boris Johnson views them as well. His smirking amusement as he delivers his dreadful lines comes across every time.

This is not politics. This is a children’s entertainer putting on a performance. It is a distraction from the cruelty of the policies the UK Government is enacting, and above all it is a deflection from the calamitous consequences of Brexit. The underlying theme of the slogans seems to imply that the EU has held us back and that it is therefore necessary to rebuild. As with most Tory remarks, it is the precise opposite of what is actually happening. Does anyone, apart from hardened Unionists and the UK media actually take any of this seriously? I hope not, but even dismissing Johnson as a clown is dangerous because that is what he is counting on. It is all an act, and it is a highly dangerous one for the vast majority of people in the UK.

Scotland really needs to escape this madness sooner rather than later. Despite what Nicola Sturgeon may believe, time is not on our side.


What Will It Take?

Posted on September 27th, 2021

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

Brexit is proving to be every bit the disaster the so-called fear merchants predicted. Indeed, did any of us really understand just how dependent the UK was on the EU supply chains? Covid and other world supply issues have not helped, but Brexit is the prime reason for the current problems.

Naturally, the Tories and the compliant media will hide behind excuses, but my big worry is that people will do that usual British thing of simply shrugging and getting on with life.

What will it actually take before people wake up to the fact that the Tories are dragging us back to the 1970s in more ways than one?

Mobile phone roaming charges? It’s those bloody foreigners, isn’t it?

Long queues at airports? It just shows how vindictive and inefficient those foreigners are.

Food shortages? We survived rationing in the war, didn’t we?

Restricted menus at restaurants? Well, we’ll just eat what they have.

Petrol shortages? Just join a queue. You’ll get some fuel eventually.

No beer at the pub? OK, that’s bloody infuriating. I’ll have a whisky.

No turkey at Christmas? Grin and bear it.

I’m old enough to remember the Three Day week, scheduled power cuts and shortages of sugar and bread. What happened? People just got on with things as best they could.

The problem with these Brexit issues is that they are being drip fed to us, disguised as Covid issues. Yes, those drips may be turning into a steady stream which may soon become a flood, but we are still in frog boiling territory. And every problem can be deflected by blaming somebody or something else. We’ve seen byline TV produce an interview with a major supply of turkeys who stated quite categorically that Brexit is the sole reason for the supply problems, and further claim that his interviews with mainstream media outlets have been either edited or unused because he dares to lay the blame on Brexit.

How long will the Tories get away with this? I fear it will be a very long time. People in the UK are always told that things could be worse if we don’t stick with our current Government. It’s the fear factor the Tories always rely on; and it’s the same fear factor Better Together used in 2014. They use it because it works.

So what will it take? And even if people do get fed up of the Tories, what can be done? There probably won’t be a General election for a couple of years and, quite honestly, Labour aren’t any better than the Tories in terms of their policies. They are, above all, pro-Brexit because they have this bizarre idea that the EU referendum reflected the permanent will of the people for all time. And, being pessimistic, even if Labour did somehow overcome the burden of being led by a Tory-supporting knight of the realm, and managed to win a General Election on a promise of re-joining the EU, who could blame the EU for telling them to take a running jump? Who, after all, would invite a petulant, bullying narcissistic nation into their club?

Scotland, of course, has another option, although the SNP do seem to be doing their best to find excuses not to hold IndyRef2. Many political experts are warning that 2023 is not a feasible date because so little preparation has been done, and because the Tories will probably call an election that year, thus blocking any chance of holding the referendum we so badly need. As usual, I hope these predictions are wrong, but I’ve seen very little to give any confidence we will see IndyRef2 any time soon.

Barring any major civil unrest – which I am not advocating except in some peaceful way which might actually have some impact – I cannot see how we are going to avoid being dragged back into the unlit uplands of post-Brexit Britain. Having lived through the problems of the 1970s, I, for one, am not looking forward to that at all.


Let's Be Friends

Posted on September 17th, 2021

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

So there’s been another Broontervention. For the first time (again), Gordon brown has told us why Scotland is better off being controlled by Westminster rather than being a normal, self-governing country. Now, I will admit that I did not listen to his comments, so perhaps I have misunderstood, but the reports I’ve heard suggest that he had some polling evidence which he claims shows that Scots have a lot in common with their English neighbours. Well, knock me down with a feather. Who’d have guessed it. After three centuries of common control, speaking the same language and consuming the same media, we have things in common?

But do these shared interests mean we want to be governed by our neighbours? That’s an entirely different question, and from what I’ve heard, it seems Gordon brown is up to his old tricks of conflating issues to make a point. He's also a great one for making things that aren't going to happen sound very plausible. Remember his promises of a near-Federal UK? They were nonsense at the time and remain so. It sounds as if his latest arguments are just as facile.

What made me laugh was when I heard that one of his arguments for remaining part of the UK was that Scots prefer Coronation Street to River City. Since I don’t watch either of them, I can’t comment on what would make one more watchable than the other, but it’s a very strange argument to suggest that enjoying Coronation Street means you want to be governed by Westminster, and have the ruling Government of the day decided by your neighbours in England. After all, I suspect many people in Ireland watch Coronation street as well, but they don’t seem to use it as a gauge of how they want to be governed.

As for Scots, a whole generation of us grew up watching US sitcoms such as Cheers and Frasier, and the next generation fell in love with Friends. But, much as I enjoyed these programmes, it did not fill me with a desire to be governed by the USA. It was simply a case of enjoying entertainment programmes which were well written and acted. The source of those programmes was immaterial to my politics.

You can, of course, throw in Australian soaps such as Neighbours which were huge hits when they first aired in the UK, and which are still being broadcast today. Again, while these shows may have persuaded some individuals to move to Australia for a change of lifestyle, I don’t recall a mass demand for Scotland to be governed by Australia.

As so often, it sounds as if Gordon brown is clutching at straws and using any old argument he can think of in order to bolster an increasingly fragile argument for remaining in the UK. Personally, to pinch a corny line from a theme song, I’d much prefer Scotland to become a normal country and then, because of shared interests, hope that our neighbours to the south become good friends.


Campaign Highlights

Posted on September 10th, 2021

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

So we are to see IndyRef2 by 2023. Personally, I think that’s too long to wait, but I am eager to see how Nicola Sturgeon is going to get round the Section 30 issue when Boris Johnson shows the world that Tories don’t do democracy and says "No".

If and when we leap that hurdle, we then need to see a very hard-hitting campaign. It is all very well to promote a positive case for being a normal, self-governing country, and it is fairly easy to say that having full control of our own affairs would give much more power to the voters of Scotland. But we need to recognise that the Better Together mob rely on fear of the unknown to persuade people not to vote for change. Their two main weapons are to trumpet the greatness of the UK, referring back to past events which suit their agenda, with particular reference to World War 2 which ended over 75 years ago. This flag-waving rallying cry still resonates with older voters who were raised on a constant diet of British greatness.

And then there is the dire warning tactic.

"You may think things are bad now, but it would inevitably be worse if you left the UK"

What few voters know is that the UK has used this tactic many times in the past. Going back as far as the American War of Independence, Westminster was warning Americans that their new state would be too wee and poor to survive. They’ve done the same with Malta in particular.

And don’t forget how they fought tooth and nail to cling on to India because they were extracting wealth at an enormous rate, so much so that India, once the wealthiest nation on Earth, has still not regained its position among the top rank of financial powerhouses.

People also need to be told in no uncertain terms that empty supermarket shelves and rising prices in all sorts of sectors are down to Brexit. And they need to be reminded that Scotland did not vote for Brexit. It is perfectly fine that the people of England should be able to vote to wreak economic disaster on their own country if they think it is a price worth paying to keep out foreigners, but it is not right that they should drag the other nations of the UK out with them. I want to see the Yes campaign, and particularly the SNP, hammer this message home.

There are other things we need to constantly highlight. Things like the Bedroom Tax, the cuts to Universal Credit – not to mention the inherent flaws in that Tory brainchild.

We need to highlight that Scottish military personnel are frequently placed in danger because the UK is almost always at war in one part of the world or another.

Then there are the obstacles put in the way of our renewable power potential, and the fact that England charges Scottish power generation businesses for the privilege of sending electricity to England. We don’t need to dismantle the current so-called National Grid, but we should be able to sell our electricity to England rather than watch them take it.

Pensions are another issue, particularly since it is the older generations who are most opposed to Scotland becoming a normal country. The paucity of the UK pension must be highlighted, and a commitment given to raising it substantially when we have the power to do so. This should be one of our headline campaign issues.

These and other areas are easy to point to, and people must be made aware of them. Our campaign must strike home at the doubters and persuade them that Scotland can do much better as an independent nation than it ever can as part of the UK.

Of course, there will be difficult aspects to consider, but there are arguments we can put forward. The "Too wee, too poor" argument relies on GERS, and the Scottish Government need to come out strongly with criticisms of this flawed analysis of our wealth. The message that GERS shows just how bad a job the UK has done of running Scotland’s economy needs to be shouted loudly and widely.

Inevitably, the Currency and Border questions will arise. On these points, people need to understand that Scotland already has Scottish Pound banknotes. It is perfectly feasible to establish a new currency which, if backed by Scotland’s wealth, will soon establish itself. Having our own currency is essential for membership of the EU, and that message also needs to be explained clearly. And we should not forget that the 2014 IndyRef included Better Together claims that Sterling would fall by as much as 10% if Scotland became a normal country and retained use of the Pound. Yet Brexit has seen Sterling fall by more than that and nobody seems to care. We need to make it clear that a Scottish Pound would almost certainly perform better. Initially, this would be due to our oil reserves, but the climate catastrophe facing us means we need to ensure this is a short term benefit. It will, however, give us time to establish our currency and put our economy on a more stable basis than the one we would have as part of the UK. Given our potential for renewable energy, we can surely find a way to remove oil as a major prop of our economy.

As for the Border, it must be reiterated that this is a construct of England. By re-joining the EU, we open up the world to our importers and exporters. Current supply chains will need to adapt, but since they are collapsing thanks to Brexit, any change would surely be an improvement. What becoming a normal country would do is push us into developing our ports and establishing ferry routes to the EU, just as Ireland has done to avoid sending goods through England. If Ireland can do that in a matter of months, Scotland can surely match it.

There are lots of other areas we could talk about, but whatever we do, we need to see the official campaign repeat messages on every factor they can think of. The biggest problem will be the media who will do their utmost to prevent these messages reaching the public. That’s why the work of grass roots campaigners will be so important.

Let’s get ready!


Union Jack Smokescreen

Posted on August 27th, 2021

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

The pronouncement from Scottish Secretary Alister "Union" Jack that a second IndyRef would be permitted if support for it remains consistently at 60% is the usual smokescreen from a Tory Minister. He gives no clarification on how long this consistency will be required, thus allowing plenty of wriggle room to weasel out of any sort of genuine commitment. Still, it’s nice to know that our Lords and Masters might graciously condescend to grant us some sort of democratic decision over our own future at some unspecified point in the future if we abide by their imposed rules which don’t really seem to have much in common with actual democracy.

Besides all that, we were assured in 2014 that 55% provided a decisive decision, so why now do we need to produce 60% support for the idea of becoming a normal country? And, just in case there is anyone out there who doesn’t know how a normal country operates, it does not rely on the beneficence of a larger neighbour for permission to make its decisions.


The Primary Goal

Posted on August 23rd, 2021

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

I have no interest in the war of words between supporters of the SNP and Alba. Quite honestly, it does nobody any good and, in a practical sense, is rather pointless. The only elections we are likely to face for the next few years are the Council elections. I want to see all pro-Indy parties doing well in those elections, but the reality is that, in terms of bringing IndyRef2 closer, the results really won’t make much difference.

So I’m hoping that Scotland will have decided to become a normal, self-governing country before the next Scottish elections. The announcement of a deal between the SNP and Greens will, I sincerely hope, make it more likely that IndyRef2 will happen since we now have the majority pro-Indy Government all Yessers wanted, and which the Loyalist Parties claimed was necessary to show that Scots had a desire for self-government. As I’ve said before, and as many are saying online, the SNP really need to deliver this time around. If we get to 2026 without IndyRef2, I believe their credibility will be gone. They need to see it through this time, and they need to ensure we win the vote.

As for the inter-Party rivalries, I doubt these will disappear, but they will surely be put to one side once a proper IndyRef campaign begins. All we need is to hear the starting gun. There are some positive noises coming from some senior SNP representatives, notably Mike Russell, but what we need to see sooner rather than later is action, not more words. Scotland’s case has never been stronger, the contrast between our nation and England has rarely been more stark in political terms.

I have sympathy with those who believe Nicola Sturgeon’s approach to IndyRef2 has been far too cautious, but I think she has taken a large step in the right direction now. Let’s hope she maintains that forward momentum. I’ve seen a few people express the opinion that the Greens have only been brought into Government to help push through controversial legislation such as the Gender Reform act, but I think we need to wait a little while to see what the actual impact is as regards IndyRef2. After all, the SNP could probably have counted on Green support for the GRA anyway. They didn’t need to bring them into a formal co-operation agreement for that. So I’m hopeful that, at long last, we are going to see some movement on IndyRef2.

When and if that happens, we will need a positive campaign from all pro-Indy Parties, and we can expect support from the EU now as the UK is no longer a member, so EU politicians will be free to make statements they could not during the first IndyRef. I know there will be controversial issues such as currency and borders which will need to be firmed up, but becoming a normal country must be the primary goal.


Not The Right Answer

Posted on August 17th, 2021

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

The recent horrific events in Plymouth have led to some additional atrocities, although these have, thankfully, been confined to social media. The worst, if genuine, is truly horrific. In a Tweet, someone identifying as a Doctor has asserted that the way to prevent young men killing other people in rage is to give them available women in order to satisfy their desires. I hope this was the work of an online troll, but even then it is an opinion worthy of a fantasy barbarian world.

There have been other misogynistic statements, as if women are to blame for a young man going out to shoot people because he could not get a girlfriend. There seems to be no suggestion from the people making these sorts of claims that the reasons for his Involuntary Celibate ("Incel") status might just be his own attitude and behaviour.

I will readily admit that I have no solution as to how young men who harbour these feelings of resentment against women for their own social failings can be helped. Clearly, they suffer from an extreme identity crisis and probably a lack of self-esteem which they believe can be restored through acts of violence. It is too glib to simply assert that support should be available to anyone in that situation. The problem is identifying them in the first place. But treating women like goods to be handed out to anyone who wants one is the most bizarre and horrible solution I think I have ever heard. Whatever the answer is, it is not that.


Time To Go

Posted on August 5th, 2021

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

There have been several articles written recently on the thorny topic of whether SNP MPs should leave Westminster as a mark of protest at the way they are regularly ignored or abused by MPs of other Parties. I must admit that I often feel they are serving no purpose there at all and wish they would simply walk out permanently, but I don’t think there is any chance of that. But if they stay, what can they do?

Gerry Hassan’s recent article for The National outlines some ideas, and I must say that I think these are worth pursuing. You can read the article at:

Westminster, the SNP and Independence: How SNP MPs can stand up for Scotland's right to decide - Gerry Hassan - writing, research, policy and ideas

While I think there is merit in adopting this sort of stance, I’m afraid I can’t see the SNP doing anything like this. It’s not that I think too many of their MPs have become entranced by Westminster and are happy to stay there, although I do think the fire has been sucked out of most of them by the stultifying effects of UK democracy in action (or possibly inaction). What I do believe is that the SNP are determined to demonstrate to the world that they are good, law-abiding parliamentarians who will play by the rules. But, admirable though this stance is, I think it is bound to be unsuccessful for at least two reasons.

The first reason is that old bugbear, the UK media. No matter what the SNP do, they will never be given fair coverage by the UK media. At best they will be ignored unless they do something really dramatic like walking out of the House of Commons, but more likely they will be painted as dangerous extremists who want to break up "The Country" for which read the sovereign state of the UK which most of us are tired of pointing out is not a country at all. But the media will be relentless in this attack line, and there is no way the SNP will ever gain wide public support for their stance if the media have anything to say about it.

The second reason is more serious. It is that the UK Government does not even abide by Westminster’s rules. This should be abundantly clear to anyone who has been paying even the slightest bit of attention. While the SNP try to maintain a dignified position, the Tories are undermining the Devolution Settlement at every opportunity. Better Together may have formally disbanded, but the Tories have continued the attacks on Scotland relentlessly for the past 7 years. Playing by their supposed rules will do the SNP no good at all.

There are, at last, some noises coming from the SNP that they will be pushing forward with plans for IndyRef2. For me, as for many others, this cannot come soon enough. The Polls are not going to shift until and unless we have an active campaign. Only then will most people begin to pay attention to the arguments. We hear about the dangers of losing a second IndyRef, but I am convinced that the dangers of not holding that IndyRef soon are even greater. If we cannot convince a majority of the Scottish public that we would be better off as a normal, self-governing country when the alternative is to continue to be ruled by a corrupt, racist, venal Government elected by a minority of English voters, then we really will deserve everything that is coming to us.

There really should be no more reasons to delay. Covid has not gone, but if it is deemed safe enough to open nightclubs, surely it is safe enough to run an IndyRef campaign. And, for those who believe we need to recover from the social and economic effects of the pandemic, I would suggest that the best and fastest way to do that is to escape the clutches of a Westminster Government which is determined to extract as much wealth from Scotland as possible while simultaneously exposing all the citizens of the UK to its discredited herd immunity strategy.


Withholding Consent

Posted on July 29th, 2021

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

The latest news about the queen’s interference in the business of the Scottish Parliament should come as no real surprise. Unfortunately, centuries of indoctrination and propaganda have led most UK subjects believing that the monarchy is a good thing; so good, in fact, that ordinary citizens don’t even qualify as citizens but are regarded as subjects. That has been reinforced by the matter of Queen’s Consent now coming out into the open.

There are two things I’d like to mention about this. First, the clamours for such interference and lobbying to be made public are absolutely justified. The Scottish Government’s craven submission to pressure from the monarch is bad enough, but to then try to conceal it behind a veil of silence is simply not acceptable in a country which aspires to be a modern democracy.

Of course, the Scottish Government could quite rightly claim that, without Queen’s Consent, some important Bills might not pass into law which could be to the detriment of the wider public. Perhaps carving out exemptions for the monarch is an acceptable price to pay in order to get parliamentary business done.

Actually, it’s not. What we are seeing here is that the Scottish Parliament is hampered by the same elitist entitlement which infects Westminster, where what goes on behind the scenes is more important than what is on public display. UK subjects are taught to believe in a benign monarchy which does much good work for the three nations and one province of the UK. Yet the truth is that the monarchy still retains its wealth and privilege and does nothing at all to help most ordinary people. Sticking up a plaque naming a hospital or other public service building after a member of the Royal family does not signify that the Royal family contributed in any way to the completion of the building. It is simple advertising to reinforce the position of the monarchy which never uses its wealth to better the lot of anyone outside the Royal family.

So what can be done about this? On the face of it, very little. Queen’s Consent is embedded in the procedures of the Scottish Parliament, and nothing can be done unless the monarch gives assent. However, the next time the queen’s lawyers demand changes, the Scottish Government should refuse to accept them. It should then announce in Parliament that the proposed Bill will not be proceeding because the Queen demanded exemptions from the laws which would have governed everyone else.

I know this may result in some important, perhaps even vital, legislation being stalled, but this might just have the effect of making the wider public wake up to the machinations of the monarchy. If and when Scotland does become a normal, self-governing country, we might then have a chance of becoming a Republic. At least in that situation, a venal Head of State can be voted out of office.


A Bit of Focus, Please

Posted on July 26th, 2021


Training For A Pandemic

Posted on July 20th, 2021

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

Scotland’s ludicrous constitutional arrangement has thrown up yet another silly and potentially dangerous situation with the decision by LNER that they will follow England’s Covid rules even on their trains which are bound for Scotland.

Now, the profit motive is a large part of Boris Johnson’s nonsensical decision to accept the deaths of many more people and possibly threaten the entire world if yet another Covid variant develops. You really cannot be surprised at LNER for wanting to cram passengers aboard their trains even if it means some of those passengers will become ill, and some may die. That’s what adherence to the profit motive results in.

Equally, are the passengers to blame? I would like to think that people may follow the sensible course and not travel on crowded trains, but the way things are going, I suspect many will take their chances and, in so doing, will spread the virus even further.

Of course, in a normal country, our Government would put its foot down. I know LNER only operate in the UK, but imagine a scenario where they were able to run trains to France or Germany. What would the Governments of those countries say if LNER announced that they would only obey English rules on Covid? Would LNER even have the temerity to make such an announcement? Well, if they are run by Little Englanders, perhaps they might, but I doubt they would have much success.

But it’s only Scotland, and in the entitled and arrogant minds of far too many people in England, Scotland is very much a second-class member of this Union of Equals. Our laws, our rules, our customs and our Covid guidance are over-ruled by English decisions.

I hope some sort of common sense will prevail here, but I’m not overly confident. Hopefully, LNER will back down if there is sufficient backlash, but I’m not counting on it. If they don’t, we really need to see a very strong response from the Scottish Government, because once one company flouts our laws like this, you can bet plenty others will follow suit.

There is, of course, one way to change situations like this, and the sooner we move towards becoming a normal country, the better. Because until that day, we are going to get more and more of these situations.


Cancellation

Posted on July 16th, 2021

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Lately, this blog has been in danger of being more about football than politics, but I’m afraid there’s yet another football-related issue I feel I need to mention.

It was announced the other day that the planned meeting at Downing Street between Boris Johnson and the England football team had been cancelled. Naturally, there has been much speculation as to why.

There are two likely reasons. Let us not forget that Johnson is never shy of a publicity opportunity, especially if he can bask in the reflected glory of other people’s very real achievements, so a simple clash of diary dates seems improbable.

No, either the England team refused to meet him because of his support for the racists who abused their young players, or he cancelled the meeting because they failed to win the competition and in so doing ruined his chance to proclaim it a triumph for Brexit Britain.

The former reason seems to me to be far more likely than the latter, and if that is what happened, then my admiration for the England players has been justified once again. Well done, them.

It may seem inconceivable that Boris Johnson would cancel such a meeting. Why would he do so? It certainly seems strange, and it would be the act of a very petty person indeed. Which is why it might just be plausible.

Either way, though, Boris Johnson doesn’t come out of this looking very good. Not that that ever seems to bother him, the media or the voters. Incredible as it may seem, polls still put the Tories well ahead of Labour in Westminster voting intentions. What is wrong with people? As ever, the only solution for Scotland if we are to escape this madness is to become a normal, self-governing country. Sooner rather than later.


They Can't Help It

Posted on July 13th, 2021

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

All football rivalry aside, England did really well to reach the Final of the Euros, and the game could have gone either way right up to the end. Gareth Southgate has proved to be a very capable manager, and he has a lot of highly talented players who have gelled into a very good team. Not only that, their collective response to the abhorrent racist remarks directed at the young players who missed the penalties has been nothing short of superb.

In fact, the only blot on their behaviour I was disappointed with was when they removed their Runners-Up medals. I can understand that a winning mentality demands that only winning will do, but there is such a thing as sportsmanship, and I think they could have behaved with more grace in defeat. After all, they may have lost the Final, but they earned their medals during the previous six matches. Hopefully, they will soon realise that they made a mistake which they will not repeat should they ever be Runners-up in the future.

Despite my general admiration for the England players, I’m still glad they lost because it has saved us from years of the English / British media banging on about their victory. After all, they still haven’t got past memories of 1966. I know that may sound a bit like sour grapes considering Scotland’s disappointing performance, but I honestly don’t mind English fans celebrating a victory, especially if it had been one as prestigious as the Euros. What I do mind is that their media are able to broadcast their triumphalism into my living room every time I turn on my TV or radio.

Since this is not a sporting blog, I’m not going to say anything more about the team’s performance, nor the behaviour of some of their fans. Instead, I’d like to mention an issue regarding Gareth Southgate’s comments before the game. He may have been pandering to the English media and giving them quotes they wanted to hear, but I suspect he was genuine when he harked back to the Blitz spirit being important before their match against Germany, and then he went on to refer to England as an island. Now, some may argue that Gareth Southgate is a footballer and cannot be held to the standards we might expect of a senior politician, but he is an intelligent and articulate man, and the fact that he thinks this way is indicative of a very strange mind set in the thinking of far too many people in England.

I suppose it is not really their fault. They are fed a daily diet of media stories which reinforce this type of British exceptionalism, and I fear that many of them do not even realise how insulting this way of speaking is to other countries.

We’ve seen recent examples of others telling us what a success it is for Britain that England reached the Final, thus confirming that the England = Britain = UK way of thinking is as strong as ever. When reminded that there are three other countries in the UK, they will come out with excuses or platitudes about us being a family of nations, but the fact that they need to be reminded at all is the problem. For people raised to think this way, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are mere geographic anomalies, like slightly odd regions of England which are similar but somehow a bit different.

I honestly don’t think there is any way we will ever be able to change this way of thinking. Only the break up of the UK might jolt them into realising that there is more to Britain than England. That’s a bit sad, really.

But there is a more dangerous aspect to this British exceptionalism. After all, this sort of thinking is part of what drove the Brexit decisions and the stance against Black Lives Matter. It also drove the booing of most national anthems, and the shocking insults directed at a young German fan who was upset after her team lost. Yes, I know the England team have taken a very strong stance in supporting BLM and other causes, and I have no idea what the individual players’ views on Brexit are, but that is not the point I am trying to make. It is simply that British exceptionalism is rife, and if even moderate, thoughtful and compassionate people like Southgate and his team can be caught up in it, it is no wonder others have fully succumbed to the mind set.

As ever, the only way Scotland can escape being viewed as a quaintly different region of Greater England is to become a normal, self-governing country. The day can’t come soon enough; if only to allow us to have our own media broadcasters who will give us programmes with a Scottish perspective instead of being compelled to listen to the views of our greatest and oldest sporting rivals. The way things are just now, it’s like Celtic fans only being able to watch their team on Rangers TV and vice versa. That’s a pretty dire state of affairs for any country.


ABE?

Posted on July 9th, 2021

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

So England are destined to win the Euros, and that is, apparently, good for the UK. I’ve seen several English people put forward this point of view, and it is always linked to a failure to comprehend why Scots and Welsh football supporters won’t back England. They claim, and I suspect they are genuine when they say it, that they would support Scotland or Wales if those teams were in similar positions. That being so, why won’t we support their team?

Now, there are a couple of levels to this. When watching football as a neutral, I tend to offer my support to the team playing the best football. That, however, does not usually extend to my team’s rivals. So, as a Scottish supporter, why would I support England? In football terms, it just isn’t done. The very best any football team can expect from supporters of their rivals is a sort of grudging respect. They certainly shouldn’t expect celebrations of their achievements, no matter how impressive they might be.

So why do so many England supporters express a desire to see Scotland and Wales do so well? Is it really all down to being friendly neighbours? Why doesn’t football rivalry impinge on their thinking at all?

I’ve seen a few comments on this topic recently, and I have to agree with those who have put forward the view that it comes down to the whole England = Britain = UK mind set which is so prevalent among many in England. It is not their fault, of course, because this is what they are taught to believe, but far too many of them seem to regard Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as subordinate regions of the UK, and therefore subordinate to England. This is, of course, precisely the position in political terms, but not in cultural terms, yet that is what these UK supporters seem to think.

Someone (whose name I am afraid I cannot recall) summed this up very nicely on Twitter recently. I’m not sure of the precise wording, but it was along the lines that, in order to be more British, we always seem to be required to become less Scottish, but never less English.

True Brits (and there are admittedly many Scots who fall into this category) seem to regard Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales as quaint anomalies in the football world, being little more than UK B teams rather than national teams in their own right.

The one comfort I take from the England team’s inevitable success at Euro 2020 is that the stark difference between the nations of the UK will become ever more apparent. After all, Boris Johnson didn’t even know Wales were in the competition when asked about it at the outset, and all the focus of the Westminster Government seems to be on riding the coat tails of the England football team’s success. If England win, you can pretty much guarantee that it will be touted as a Brexit success, just as you can be sure that voters will be reminded that England won under Boris Johnson’s Government.

But while I’m moaning about the UK Government, and bemoaning the success of a rival football team, I should put it on record that I think Gareth Southgate has expressed some wonderful humanitarian opinions. He is a fine leader, and a very fine human being, and the same can be said for his team. After all, Marcus Rashford has shamed the UK Government into adopting more humanitarian policies, and the team’s insistence on supporting the BLM sentiment by taking the knee in the face of hostility from their own fans and their own Government is to be applauded. They have set an excellent example which I hope will resonate with the majority of their fans. I’m not entirely convinced this is how it will work out, and that would be a great shame for the England squad. Sadly, the nation they represent seems to hold very different values to the team themselves. Hopefully, their example will help alter people’s outlook.

But, much as I admire them as people, and much as I know they are a very talented football team, that doesn’t mean I won’t be cheering on Italy on Sunday. That’s got nothing to do with politics, and everything to do with football rivalry.


Reverse Propaganda

Posted on June 28th, 2021

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

I learned a long time ago that it’s not worth getting into Twitter spats with Unionists, but it’s still interesting to read some of the responses when you put up a pro-Indy post or reply. There’s always the usual, "Too wee, too poor" comments which seem hard-wired into the Unionist psyche, but recently I’ve noticed another trope being pushed quite hard. Perhaps it is because of the Scotland vs England football match in the Euros, or maybe it has to do with Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham’s very public spat with Nicola Sturgeon over Covid measures, but an awful lot of people, including some pro-Union Scots allegedly really believe that the Scots hate the English. Considering the anti-foreigner rhetoric being churned out in the UK media and by the UK Home Office, the old saying about pots and kettles springs to mind. However, we should not conflate media and Government pronouncements with the outlook of ordinary citizens. In any country, you will always find a range of views on any topic, and each nation has its share of racists and bigots. Sadly, the UK has become a place where such people feel free to express their views publicly.

Obviously, it’s always disappointing when someone accuses you of hating other people simply because of their ethnicity, although we also need to keep in mind that Twitter is not really representative of wider public views given the propensity for polarisation among those of us who use it. However, given the spate of recent outbursts about how much the Scots hate the English, I can’t help thinking that their own media attempts to demonise the Yes movement may actually be helping us. That’s because, the more English voters who really believe this nonsense, the less opposition to our independence there may be.

Now, I know their politicians are more likely to know the real reasons for keeping hold of Scotland’s natural resources, so IndyRef2 is not going to be easy to achieve, but if the public mood in England moves ever further towards wanting rid of Scotland, then their tabloid media will prey on that. And when the media barons start pushing for something, the UK Government normally pays attention.

So, much as I dislike the unfair allegations, a part of me mentally ticks each one up as another small step towards Scotland becoming a normal, self-governing country.


Scots Wha Hae Voted

Posted on June 22nd, 2021

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

So, once again, the Tories are pushing the line that Scots resident outside of Scotland should have a vote in any IndyRef. It’s nice to know that they recognise IndyRef2 is going to happen, although this doesn’t quite square with Boris Johnson’s insistence that he will never grant a Section 30 Order.

Of course, the rationale behind allowing Scots living elsewhere (by which they mean England) is the expectation that such people will vote to preserve the Union because they depend on their jobs in England. You cannot fault the logic, and there is another reason for these Scottish exiles to vote No. That’s because, if Scotland did decide to become a normal country, those Scots would automatically be regarded as foreigners by their English neighbours and employers. As such, they will be prime targets for the Home Office’s hostile environment for undesirables.

What those Scots should be asking themselves, though, is why they needed to move to England in order to find work. Perhaps they should consider why such jobs are not available in Scotland given that we have been part of the allegedly most successful union the world has ever seen for over three centuries. Surely the broad shoulders and benevolence of the Union would have ensured that Scotland’s economy was booming? Yet many Scots have had to leave in order to find employment. That should tell you all you need to know about the Union.

All that aside, the very concept that people who do not live in Scotland should have a say in how we run our country is simply illogical. And didn’t the Brexit-loving Tories leave the EU for this very reason – except that the control the EU exerted over the UK was far less significant than the control Westminster exerts over Scotland because, despite all the attempts to conflate the two Unions, the EU and the UK are very different entities indeed. Still, being illogical and hypocritical is the Tory way, I suppose.

As for allowing Scots living elsewhere to vote, I’ve seen many people insist it will never happen, but I am not so sure. Unless there is some electoral rule I am not yet aware of, I can just see Boris Johnson telling the Scottish Government he will only grant a Section 30 Order on condition that Scots living in England are allowed to vote. If he does impose that condition, what should the Scottish Government do? I honestly don’t know.

And, if the UK Government are going to insist on being allowed to set the voting rules as a condition of agreeing to a Section 30 Order, then you can bet your last pound that they’ll want EU citizens excluded, and will set the voting age at 18.

As far as I know, the Scottish Government normally sets the voting eligibility criteria, and I sincerely hope it stays that way. However, I don’t think we can dismiss these noises coming out of Westminster. The UK Government have repeatedly demonstrated that they are not to be trusted, so I fully expect them to try to pull some sort of bullying trick if and when we ever get to the stage of negotiating the terms of IndyRef2.

I do hope I have overlooked something in electoral law, but I really do worry that Westminster will try to set the agenda if they ever agree to sit down and discuss IndyRef2.


Singing Along

Posted on June 17th, 2021

by Rab Bruce’s spider

Perhaps it is the fact that fans are now back in football stadiums, but I’ve actually quite enjoyed listening to the various national anthems being played before the Euro 2020 matches. Normally I’d ignore them, but it’s been a treat to listen to the passion and fervour as fans have joined in the singing.

As for the anthems themselves, one or two are worthy of special comment. For example, the rendition of the Danish anthem before their match with Belgium was so packed with emotion it was enough to bring a tear to the eye of anyone except the most ardent Tory.

Then there is the Spanish anthem which famously has no lyrics, yet their fans did add some vocal accompaniment when the anthem was played. Whether they have made up their own lyrics or were simply singing the Spanish equivalent of "La la la", I don’t know. It was just great to hear them belting it out.

And there is the Polish national anthem which, according to some accounts I’ve read, sings more about Lithuania than Poland – surely unique among national anthems which generally focus on pride in the nation.

Speaking of national pride, Scotland’s anthem, "Flower of Scotland" often comes in for criticism for being something of a dirge. However, the fact that the tune is easy to sing, and the words memorable were the features that first made the song so popular. And if you listen to an original rendition by The Corries, it’s far from a dirge. Allowing public participation seems to have slowed the tempo somewhat. But, despite calls for an alternative to be found, this song stirs the blood and is very popular among football fans.

Naturally, in these days of rampant British nationalism, even Scotland’s anthem has been targeted, with some claims that it is anti-English and therefore singing it could be construed as a hate crime. This is taking things to extreme silliness because, as mentioned above, national anthems are intended to promote pride in a nation, and Flower of Scotland celebrates one of the most significant events in our history. Those who claim it is anti-English should perhaps ask why the English king is even mentioned. He was, after all, leading a military invasion of Scotland which can’t really be construed as anything other than anti-Scottish. Perhaps it is just that British nationalists don’t like being reminded of our history.

But in all this talk of national anthems there is one which deserves special mention for its approach to stimulating national pride. It is, of course, the English national anthem which, for some reason those who insist the UK is a union of equals cannot explain, also doubles as the anthem of the UK. What is special about this mournful dirge is that, unlike songs commemorating proud national history, or invoking love of one’s homeland, it instead celebrates the people’s subservience to an unelected head of state. Yes, they actually take pride in being regarded as second-class citizens. In fact, they don’t even warrant the title of citizens, and are proud to be servile subjects. I can only say this is a bizarre way to mark national pride, but each to his or her own.

There is one other fairly unique feature about GSTQ. I’ve noticed that the anthems of each country are generally being treated with respect by opposing fans. You can be sure, however, that the Tartan Army will boo when GSTQ is played. This is as certain as the fact that English commentators will mention 1966 and Gazza’s 1996 goal every few minutes during the match. Such scorn of another nation’s anthem will no doubt stir up bafflement, resentment and anger among English media commentators, but as I mentioned above it is a significant feature of the UK that the English anthem is deemed to also be the UK anthem. The negative reaction from the Tartan Army is indicative of the resentment felt towards colonial overlordship. Sadly, I don’t expect many people in England to even attempt to understand that. They will see it simply as more evidence of anti-English sentiment among Scots. Unfortunately, I don’t think there is anything we can do to alter that thinking.

Still, that’s more than enough havering about anthems. It’s time to get stoked up for the match.


The Danger of Delaying

Posted on June 11th, 2021

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

With the easing of Lock Down restrictions, and with Scotland still unable to control its own borders, it was inevitable that cases of Covid would rise. The big concern must be the extent of that rise and the severity of the cases of those unfortunate enough to contract the disease. The vaccination programme is still rolling out and let’s hope it does help keep symptoms mild in those who do contract Covid, although the number of cases certainly doesn’t seem to be diminished by the vaccinations.

With that in mind, it was little wonder to see the Scottish Government announce that they will be seeking an extension to the Covid powers for at least another year, and possibly up to September, 2022.

Now, some cynics may view this as the Government simply wanting to retain control over people’s lives by using emergency powers even if there is very little to the emergency. After all, Governments like having power and control. However, given the severity of the impact of Covid so far, I don’t think many people would argue with the need to retain some sort of ability to react quickly to any major outbreaks.

For many Scots, though, the announcement of the extension of powers simply confirms that the SNP are looking for excuses to delay pushing for IndyRef2. In fact, it’s not as if you needed a crystal ball to predict this would happen since Nicola Sturgeon has been quite clear that she has no intention of trying to gain independence while the Covid pandemic remains her number one priority.

What many of us have been asking is why it is unsafe to hold a referendum when it was deemed perfectly safe to hold an election, especially when the vaccination programme should be helping minimise the number of Covid sufferers requiring hospital attention. What I have found disappointing is the SNP’s refusal to even address this question.

In fact, there is an answer they could easily give. The 2014 referendum clearly demonstrated that it was face to face discussion which helped persuade many voters to Yes. If the pandemic does continue to dominate, and if cases cannot be kept under control, then allowing doorstep canvassing is going to be very difficult. It could therefore be argued that we cannot risk holding IndyRef2 until conditions are such that we will have the greatest chance of persuading people to vote Yes.

I can see both sides of this debate, but I do wish the SNP would be a bit more open about their intentions. So far, despite all the pre-election rhetoric, the actions we are seeing suggest IndyRef2 is as far away as ever, and comments from SNP representatives that becoming a normal country could take another ten years really don’t inspire confidence. The big danger with delaying is that Westminster will never stop campaigning against Scotland, no matter whether there is a pandemic or not, and they have the media on their side to help the messaging. I agree that it is difficult to counter that messaging unless activists can get out and pound the streets, knocking on doors, but the longer we wait, the less chance there will be of ever getting IndyRef2. The Power Grab is under way, Brexit is causing immense damage, and sitting back to watch it all happen is not in Scotland’s best interests. Yes, you can argue that people may become so fed up of the poverty and hostile environment as Westminster strides ever further down the road to extremism, but people’s capacity to adapt to circumstances should not be underestimated. The big argument the Unionists have is fear of the unknown. They will say, "Yes, things may be bad just now, but it would be even worse if Scotland became independent". Sadly, many people would fall for it again. That’s why we need to have the positive case advanced among the general public, not just on Scottish Twitter. That’s why we need to be able to talk to our neighbours face to face.

So I can appreciate why IndyRef2 may not be rushed, but the SNP must start making plans, and they really need to be a lot more vocal about the positive case for becoming a normal country. The message needs to be delivered time and time again to help lay the groundwork for when a proper campaign can begin in earnest.

And, if the vaccination programme does reduce the severity of Covid, then we really need to see some action on IndyRef2 before much more time goes by.


Business As Usual

Posted on May 29th, 2021

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

I didn’t watch much of Dominic Cummings’ testimony because, quite frankly, I doubt it will make much difference. The main take away by BBC Scotland was that Nicola Sturgeon was at fault for not going along with the chaotic incompetence of Boris Johnson’s Government, so nothing new there from the state propaganda outlet. The SNP are very bad, and the BBC will always be there to remind us.

As for the criticisms aimed at Matt Hancock, I doubt any right-minded person would disagree with them, yet the Secretary of State for Health & Social Care seems to have successfully shrugged them off because, well, never mind the death rate, look at the vaccinations.

The big problem with Dominic Cummings is that he is Dominic Cummings. What he has said may be absolutely true in every respect, yet his every word is tainted by his background. From what I saw of his remarks, he came across as very self-serving, and the whole thing smacked of him getting his revenge in first. I was particularly struck by the fact that, even though he openly admitted he was not up to the job he had been given, he nevertheless stayed in the role for a long time, and collected a very handsome remuneration. He may have accepted some culpability for what was going on, but that was more than outweighed by his apportioning of blame to pretty much everyone else. That’s not to say that everyone else was blameless, because it’s patently clear that everyone in the Tory Government is cut from the same cloth.

The allegations he made were not really anything most people weren’t already sure of. All he did was confirm our worst suspicions about the self-serving greed and incompetence that currently passes for Government in Westminster.

Above all, I don’t think anything much will come of this because the English electorate, gulled and gaslit by the media, will simply shrug their collective shoulders and applaud the Tories for their efforts to keep foreigners out of the UK.

Hopefully, more Scots will begin to realise that the UK is dysfunctional, and will at last accept that being an independent country is normal. I do hope so, because I can’t get my head around why anyone would prefer to remain in an abnormal constitutional arrangement run by an obviously corrupt and incompetent Government.


Eurovision Hate Contest

Posted on May 28th, 2021

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

I see SNP Councillor Rhiannon Spear has been reported to the Police for a comment made on anti-social media after the Eurovision Song Contest. Now, I’m no fan of Ms Spear, and her Tweet did seem to be rather ill-advised coming from an official representative of the governing Party in Scotland. However, whether it can really be said to be a hateful comment is debatable. She certainly used the word "Hate", but she was clearly referring to the UK as a constitutional entity and, to be fair, an awful lot of Scots are opposed to being part of that entity. Perhaps it was that she said she hated the UK. Is the use of that word to be forced out of everyday speech now? Most young kids hate vegetables, and I will admit to hating dogs, but I do hope that won’t get me into bother with the RSPCA. Is an admission of hate sufficient to have someone report me to the Police?

On the other hand, I am sure that if a Tory Councillor had posted a Tweet declaring that a lot of Tories hate Scotland, a great many Yessers would have been howling for the Police to do something. Perhaps everyone needs to calm down a bit.

As for the event which sparked the controversy, I did not watch the Eurovision Song Contest. In fact, I haven’t watched it for years, principally because I don’t like the sort of formulaic pop music it normally produces. The only exciting part of the show used to be the voting, and that has become so politicised it is a travesty.

It is no real surprise that the UK attracted the infamous "Null Points" but from all accounts that was partly because it was not a good song. Going by Eurovision standards, that must mean it was really dire. However, I don’t think we can ignore the Brexit issue because if you spend years insulting your neighbours, you can hardly be surprised if they treat you as a pariah.

Naturally, the Brexiteer response was to chide the ungrateful foreigners who are only free because of the British war efforts. Remember the war? That thing that happened over 75 years ago and for which the whole of Europe must apparently be grateful to the UK for? Not only is this argument old hat, it is also inaccurate, since more than half of the countries of Europe were liberated from Nazi control by Russia – which immediately placed them under Soviet control. The UK had nothing to do with their current status as independent nations. And yet they are supposed to be grateful to the UK and so give votes to UK songs? As Mr Spock would say, "That is illogical, Captain".

As far as I am concerned, the Eurovision Song Contest is an irrelevance. The only thing that may tempt me to watch it in future is if Scotland is represented as an independent country with our own song. Wouldn’t you just love to see the Proclaimers win it for us?


Foreign Relations

Posted on May 21st, 2021

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

I honestly thought that the old "I don’t want my relatives to become foreigners" line had long been consigned to the list of failed arguments against Scotland becoming a normal, self-governing country, but I noticed someone using it on a Facebook thread I had the misfortune to stumble across. Not wanting to get into an argument, I let it slide, but it irritated me so much that I haven’t been able to shake off the sheer stupidity of the claim.

It’s easy enough to point out that many residents in the UK have relatives who are citizens of another country. (Oh, wouldn’t it be great if we could qualify for the exalted status of citizens instead of being subjects, but that’s another story). We have a large number of relations in Australia, and we think of them as relatives, not as foreigners. I’m sure the same goes for most Scots.

But – and perhaps I am a bit slow on the uptake here – I have come to believe that there is something rather more sinister to the desire not to have foreigners as relatives. It is, I suspect, part of the long tradition within the UK of regarding all foreigners as somehow second-class human beings, somehow inferior to the magnificent Brits. Foreigners are, at the very least, incapable of accomplishing anything to the same standard as the Brits, And that’s the best that can be said about foreigners. According to the BritNat way of thinking, most of them are good for very little at all.

If that is indeed why some Unionists still cling to this view of foreigners and think that their relatives will suddenly become second-rate human beings simply by dint of living in another country, then there is a word for that. It’s racism, pure and simple.


Wings Over

Posted on May 17th, 2021

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

So Stuart Campbell has decided to let his Wings Over Scotland website suspend, and possibly end, its operations. Personally, I’ve not visited the site nearly as often as I used to because I found his attacks on the SNP rather tiresome. He is, of course, entitled to his view, and he’s certainly put forward a lot of arguments as to why he believes the chances of getting IndyRef2 while Nicola Sturgeon remains First Minister are virtually non-existent. However, I do believe he could still have helped the Yes movement by paying attention to the machinations of the Westminster Government and their Scottish allies, while still being able to take pot-shots at the SNP if he wanted. By concentrating solely on the SNP, it’s evident he has lost a lot of support. Not only that, he has undoubtedly helped widen the rift in the Yes movement.

That said, what disappoints me, as with the backlash against Alex Salmond, is the way so many Yessers have turned vitriol against Wings rather than counter his arguments with reasoned debate. Then again, I suppose those who live by the swear word are condemned to suffer derision via the swear word, and in this respect it’s hard to have much sympathy with a man whose first response was always verbal aggression. Even so, Wings provided an invaluable service during the 2014 IndyRef, and the Wee Blue Book certainly made an impact. I do think that many of those who now deride Stuart Campbell ought to remember that he probably did as much to bring us close to winning more than most of the rest of us.

Of course, things change, and relationships are not immune to that, but the reported comments coming from the SNP about Alba are equally concerning. If we lose our chance of independence because of personal rivalries, that will be unforgiveable, no matter who is responsible.

As things stand, I don’t think many people will be mourning the demise of Wings Over Scotland, although quite who is going to fill the breach this leaves I am not sure. It certainly won’t be the SNP’s virtually invisible Media Team.

For now, all most Yessers can do is wait to see what happens next and put our support behind anything which seems likely to bring ab out IndyRef2. What really bothers me is that if it turns out that Stuart Campbell’s prediction is correct, and we are still no closer to becoming a normal country by the time of the next Holyrood elections, what will his detractors say then? I must admit that I have a nagging fear that he might be right, although I do believe that the leadership of the SNP must realise that they cannot remain in power on the goodwill of pro-Indy voters for much longer. I’ve been waiting for Nicola Sturgeon to push the pro-Indy message and set out a proper plan for a long time. I’m still worried that her current approach simply gives Boris Johnson time to thwart her plans via the Courts, but maybe her approach is the correct one if we are to take a majority of Scots along with us. I sincerely hope so. We need to escape the increasingly xenophobic and corrupt UK sooner rather than later.

And once we are a normal country, we can bicker among ourselves as much as we like.


Give the Polls a Push

Posted on May 15th, 2021

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

There has long been a view expressed by some Yessers, including some elected SNP representatives, that the best time to hold IndyRef2 is when polls suggest that the level of support is at least 60% and preferably as high as 70%. A friend of mine repeated this opinion to me in a recent conversation. In his view, Scotland should not become a normal, self-governing country while only around 50% of the population are in favour of it.

Now, there are several things I find worrying about these sorts of statement. Let’s begin with the polls. We’ve not seen much movement in recent years, and although there has been a succession of polls suggesting Yes has a slight lead, that’s actually not very comforting when you consider Scotland has been dragged out of the EU despite all the promises the Scottish Government would not allow this to happen. When you add in the blatant corruption and incompetence displayed by the Westminster Government, it really is astonishing that support for Scotland remaining in the UK is still around 50%. And let’s not blame Covid for this, since Nicola Sturgeon’s performance during the pandemic has made Boris Johnson look like the buffoon he is. Yet even with that, around half of Scots remain unconvinced of the merits of becoming independent.

Why is this? I am sure there are many political experts out there who can provide theories. My own is that most voters are too busy living their lives as best they can to even think too deeply about politics. They only become engaged when there is a campaign. Look at what happened during the first IndyRef, when support for Yes rocketed from the low twenties to the mid-forties. That’s because people listened to the arguments and were convinced in huge numbers. Not enough, as it turned out, because too many were fearful enough to fall for the promises made in the Vow. Next time, let’s hope they remember just how many promises were broken.

But a new campaign, highlighting the positive things that could flow from becoming a normal country, and highlighting just how much Westminster has exploited Scotland’s wealth will surely result in the polling figures moving in favour of Yes. But that won’t happen unless there is a campaign, with a vote at the end of it. Sitting around, waiting for polling to move in our favour of its own accord could mean us still waiting in fifty years’ time.

As for my friend’s comment that having only a slight majority should not be good enough to push through the decision, he perhaps has more of a point, although many people seem prepared to accept that the slim majority who voted in favour of Brexit should be accepted as the will of the people – a will which has condemned us to decades of economic stagnation and political isolation unless Scotland can re-join the EU.

But even if we put aside the Brexit precedent, is it right that the nearly 50% of the population who are currently against becoming a normal country should hold us back if slightly more than 50% do want us to stand on our own feet as a collaborative member of the world community? Why should those who oppose change have more of a say than those who want it? Why does their opinion count for more than ours? And if we are going to wait until the polls shift before we are allowed to hold IndyRef2, isn’t that effectively saying we can’t hold IndyRef2 at all?

What we need is a high profile, pro-active campaign to persuade people that becoming a normal, self-governing country is … well, normal. The problem with such a campaign is that the media will ignore it unless some major political figures begin pushing it far more vociferously than we have seen so far. In essence, it’s up to the SNP to start delivering on the promises they have made in the past to make the positive case. The Tories make the case for "No to IndyRef2" every single day, and the media give them a platform to proclaim how wee and poor Scotland is. The SNP need to seize that platform and turn it into a spotlight on the damage Scotland will suffer if we remain in the UK, and on the possibilities that face us if we grasp the nettle and go for independence. Yes, that means addressing the currency and border issues, but a lot of work has been done on topics like these by pro-Indy think tanks such as Common Weal. The proposals are there. Other countries have tackled such issues successfully, so what we need is for people to hear an awful lot more about what we could achieve if we were not being held back by Westminster. That’s when you’ll see the polls start to move.


Fallout

Posted on May 10th, 2021

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

So the Alba Party suffered the same fate as most new Parties and failed to attract nearly enough votes to have any impact on the newly elected Parliament. At the same time, the SNP 1 & 2 strategy could also be described as a failure in that it produced a predictable result. With such an impressive performance in the Constituencies, most List votes for the SNP were ineffective. This, as I’ve been saying on social media for what seems an age, has allowed the Tories to claim that the lack of a majority means there is no mandate for IndyRef2. Failure to accomplish the near-impossible is being hailed as absolute failure, with many in the media seeming to go along with this, either out of ignorance of how the Scottish Parliamentary election process works, or simply to reinforce the Tory message.

As for the pro-Indy vote, the Greens did well, but that is, predictably, being ignored by the Tories who always equate demand for independence with the SNP alone.

No doubt this argument will be played out for a long time yet, but what I really want to see now is an end to the bickering in the Yes community. Supporters of the SNP and Alba still seem intent on deriding each other. Terms like "Toxic", "transphobes", or "useful idiots" are helping nobody. And if Alba really are going to stay around, then both Parties are going to need to at the very least tolerate each other.

The first point I’d like to make is that it is illogical to expect the SNP not to promote the "SNP 1 & 2" line. They are a political Party, and so will push for voters to support them. What did disappoint me is that an awful lot of Scots do not appear to understand how the AMS List vote works, although there may well be other reasons why Alba failed so miserably. The Party themselves have put forward several reasons, some of which may be accurate, and some of which sound a bit like clutching at straws. From the few discussions I have had with fellow Yessers, I think a significant reason was the perception of Alex Salmond as an opportunistic glory-seeker. For others, it seems the relentless smear campaigns against him have succeeded in turning many people who used to fervently back him now turn against him.

Some months ago, I expressed doubts as to whether Parties like the ISP or AFI could succeed. I liked the principle of using the voting system to maximise the number of pro-Indy MSPs, but I felt that such Parties really needed some major political figures as leaders. Alba got Alex Salmond, but that may have backfired on them. Whether he really is yesterday’s man remains to be seen.

As for the votes, I had a long conversation with members of my family on the evening before polls opened. I had to explain how the D’Honte system worked. Some grasped the concept quickly, others seemed bemused but took my word for the impact of success in Constituency votes. By the end of our chat, some had decided to vote Alba, others to stick with SNP for the List vote, and all had valid reasons for their decisions.

One told me that a vote for Alba was predicated on the assumption that the SNP would definitely win a majority of the Constituency seats.

"If that doesn’t happen, I’d never forgive myself for not voting for the SNP on the List," was their reason for voting SNP 1 &2.

Now, everyone is entitled to vote for whoever they like, and I have never felt the need to justify my voting choices. On this occasion, however, I do feel I need to explain why I voted SNP in the Constituency ballot and alba on the List.

The first vote should need no explanation. I am pro-Indy, and there was only 1 pro-Indy candidate on the ballot paper. Nuff said.

As for the List, I was primarily motivated by the chance to elect more pro-Indy MSPs. In my Region, the SNP haven’t won any List seats in the past few elections, so I went on the basis that would continue, and that my vote for them on the List would be wasted. I decided I might as well waste it on Alba on the chance that other voters would make the same choice. As it turned out, my first idea was spot on as the SNP won no List seats in my Region, but I was wrong on the second part.

I did, though, have other reasons for voting Alba. When I looked at their policies, they matched my aspirations more closely than some of the SNP’s. For example, I fundamentally disagree with the Growth Commission’s Austerity-laden plans. Anyone who thinks there is no magic money tree should read Richard Murphy’s e-book, "Money for Nothing and My Tweets for Free". With its own central Bank, Scotland need not be bound by Tory policies on public spending.

Secondly, I firmly believe we need to adopt our own currency as soon as possible. This is essential if we are to completely free ourselves from the influence of the Bank of England, and also if we wish to re-join the EU.

I appreciate that these are issues for after we become a normal country, but I hope they will soon become burning topics of conversation because I don’t think we can wait too long before we must hold IndyRef2. The Tories are going to forge ahead with the Power Grab, and I’m pretty sure that Baroness Colonel Davidson will soon be in charge of the Scottish Office with plans to neuter Holyrood as quickly as possible. Again, Alba’s policy on this chimed more with me than the SNP’s slow and cautious approach. Indeed, I was appalled to hear one of the new SNP MSPs declare that he would be happy to wait another ten years.

As for the not inconsequential matter of Covid and how we recover our economy, I would argue that the best way to do that is to ensure we have all the economic power in our own hands by becoming a normal, self-governing country.

So my decision was based on policies, not personalities. Clearly, I am in a very small minority, but it is now up to the SNP to deliver what Scotland needs above all else. I sincerely hope they do, and I’ll back them all the way in efforts to win IndyRef2, but I do think this is their last chance. If Westminster has not abolished or completely neutered the Scottish Parliament by the time of our next election, and if the SNP have had no success in holding IndyRef2, I suspect more voters will be looking for an alternative pro-Indy Party.

Finally, I’d better address the issue which seems to preoccupy a great many people. It should probably form a separate blog of its own, but I can’t ignore it any longer. It is, of course, GRA reform.

I was very disappointed to see a couple of newly elected MSPs proclaim that people did not vote for Alba because of that Party’s transphobia. That, I think, is a gross misrepresentation of people’s voting decisions.

As a heterosexual male, it’s not a topic I have delved into too deeply, but I do have a lot of female relatives. When I mentioned GRA reform to them and asked them what they thought, most shrugged it off. It simply didn’t register with them. That attitude may appal some people, but it is easy to think that Twitter is representative of the wider community – and it’s clearly not in my circle of friends and family.

As for the allegations of transphobia themselves, I find this unhelpful at best. I am all for equality for everyone (especially as I am a member of a minority group myself which is constantly battling for equal opportunities). However, I have strong reservations about any system which does not have safeguards built in, and I think we need to have calm, sensible discussions about the best way to ensure that everyone’s rights are upheld. The simple fact is that there are some very unpleasant, predatory people in our society. These people will always look for a way to take advantage of any opportunity which might allow them to take advantage of vulnerable people. We have seen this in the Catholic Church, in the coaching of boys’ football teams, and sometimes in Care Home environments where helpless residents have been abused by people who are supposed to be looking after them. I therefore believe we need to have some safeguards before we allow people into what should be safe environments simply because they declare their right to be there. I don’t believe that wanting proper debate on this topic is transphobic, nor do I believe this makes me a transphobe. I would like trans people to feel safe, but I want everyone to be safe, so any reform of the GRA must surely ensure equality for all.

Wherever you stand on these issues, the fact is that we are where we are. The SNP will, quite rightly, form the next Government, and they face some difficult problems, not least of which will be dealing with a Westminster Government which has shown itself to be corrupt, greedy , incompetent and, above all, totally untrustworthy. Nicola Sturgeon is an excellent politician, and she’s going to need every ounce of her ability to bring us through the next few years. For that reason alone, she needs everyone to back her now, even those of us who believed Alba were a better choice on the List. So let’s stop the bickering and name-calling. Our opponents here are the Tories and their Labour and Lib Dem allies. They are the ones we need to keep challenging. Call out their lies and misinformation, and always put Scotland first.


Border Threats

Posted on April 29th, 2021

by Rab Bruce’s spider

One of the very few attack lines the Unionists have left to them is the threat of a hard border between Scotland and England if Scots should have the temerity to vote for their country to become normal. As always with Unionists, they play on fear of the unknown with the promise that things can only ever be worse than they are under Westminster control.

It is worth noting a few things ab out a hard border. If Scotland follows the sensible approach and adopts its own currency and re-joins the EU, there will certainly be a hard border because that is what England wants and has already established between the UK and the rest of the world which, thanks to their incompetence, now includes Northern Ireland. An independent Scotland within the EU will, however, have open borders with the rest of the EU and, thanks to EU trade deals, a chance to trade with the rest of the world on far better terms than it will have if it remains in the UK.

Logistically, of course, a hard border with England will present challenges for many businesses such as supermarket chains which send food and other goods across the border daily. But Common Weal showed some time ago that use of technology can ease border congestion and improve the level of duty raised well above the levels currently taken by the UK Border Force. As long as that technology is not developed under Westminster control, it could greatly enhance Scotland’s financial position and ease the flow of cross-border traffic.

And let’s not get too excited about border delays, They are likely to happen, but this is England’s choice, not Scotland’s. Once Lock Down ends and English tourists try to travel to the continent, they’ll soon discover exactly what ending freedom of movement means for them. Yes, Scots travelling to England will also face delays, but perhaps that will encourage people to look further afield for business and leisure travel. But we must remember that the hard border would be created by England, not by Scotland. If the UK had remained in the EU, there would be no hard border at all.

It is also worth bearing in mind that there is a border between Canada and the USA which has far more crossing points than the Scotland / England border, yet cross-border trade and travel doesn’t seem to be a major issue there. Why should it be any different here? Despite what the media would have you believe, Scots are not uniquely incapable of doing things other countries regard as normal. Any issues will stem from England’s intransigence, and there are solutions to that.

As I’ve said many times before, our sea and air ports need to be developed to greatly increase levels of transport and trade between Scotland and Europe by-passing England. If England does not want our food, water and electricity, comoodities of which it is desperately short, they don’t need to make trade easy for us, so we would need to re-balance our trade, just as Ireland did in the 20th Century when it became a normal country, and as Slovakia and the Czech Republic have done since they agreed to split. It is not something that can be done overnight, but it can be done, and it is worth noting that many former Eastern Bloc countries are now overtaking many UK regions in terms of GDP. Being a normal country means you can direct your own affairs, while remaining under Westminster control will simply mean a continuation of the current stagnation. More and more people are waking up to the fact that the UK is run for the benefit of a wealthy elite who are based mainly in the south-east of England. Anywhere outside that area is paid little more than lip service, and occasionally thrown a few scraps to keep the people quiet and quiescent. Surely we can aspire to better than that?

So don’t be frightened by threats (or promises) of a hard border with England. It will be their choice, not ours, and they will soon change their minds when they discover that they need our natural resources. What it will mean is that they will need to pay for them through trade like a normal country rather than simply take them like some colonial despot.

I’d prefer no border, but it was England’s choice to leave the EU. One day they may realise the harm that decision has caused, although I suspect a majority of English voters will think it a price worth paying to keep foreigners out. A hard border may create some short-term problems for Scotland, but it will be as nothing compared to the harm remaining in post-Brexit UK will cause.


Terribly, Terribly, Boring & Dull

Posted on April 24th, 2021

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

I must admit I’m not paying much attention to the current election campaign. I’m told we are receiving plenty of bumf in the mail, but I can’t be bothered scanning the letters and leaflets to see what they say. Nor can I bring myself to watch any of the Leaders’ Debates on Tv.

This is not because I am not bothered about policies, but because the entire campaign is overshadowed by the constitutional issue. Until that is resolved, very few of the policy commitments have any value. Only those offered by the SNP have any realistic chance of being implemented, and I suppose they are attractive enough to entice some floating voters to put their cross in the SNP box, but the rest of them really have very little chance of becoming reality.

The other thing putting me off social media comment is that supporters (and in some cases representatives) of the SNP and Alba are spending far too much time attacking each other, often in insulting terms. I’m not taking sides in any of that because it’s not only pathetic, it distracts us from the real opponents.

The entire campaign is, I’m afraid, meaningless. We know where all the Parties stand on independence, and that is the most important issue. It needs to be resolved in favour of Scotland becoming a normal country, and it needs to be resolved soon because every single election is going to be like this until we shake off Westminster control.


Can't You Just?

Posted on April 18th, 2021

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

With the election campaign under way, each Party is telling us what plans they have for the new Parliament session, and it must be said there are quite a few welcome proposals, with even the Tories getting in on the act with their plans to help people with mental illness. I must say, though, that the SNP have certainly come up with some very welcome ideas. Whether any of the Parties will actually keep all of their manifesto promises remains to be seen, although history would suggest that more than a few of the announced ideas will fall by the wayside.

However, as welcome as many of these proposals may be, this election will be dominated by the constitutional issue. Because of that, the SNP will inevitably win the greatest number of seats. Let’s hope for the sake of independence that they do win a majority because, sadly, they seem to have accepted the Tory narrative that only a majority justifies holding IndyRef2.

The Tories, of course, continue to issue contradictory statements. They are desperate to prevent an SNP majority in order to block IndyRef2, while simultaneously insisting that Westminster will not allow IndyRef2 anyway. They also insist that Nicola Sturgeon concentrate on the day job and forget IndyRef2, while also asserting that it is not possible to hold a referendum during the current pandemic.

"You just can’t, colin!"

In those four words, Douglas Ross (or whatever name his London bosses have given him this week) has encapsulated the Tory vision of Scotland. Uniquely among the developed nations of the world, we just can’t do things other countries take for granted. He has, quite rightly, been savagely mocked on social media for this utter lack of ambition for, and confidence in, Scotland.

It is always easy to mock the Tories because, as their complete reversal of their position on the safeguarding of children’s rights has shown, they will always do as they are told by their London masters. What concerns me more is that the message on IndyRef2 coming from both the SNP and the Greens is that it must wait until the current Covid crisis has passed. I’m afraid it is difficult to differentiate that attitude from Dross’s, "You just can’t, Colin!". What I’d really like to hear from Nicola Sturgeon is why it is safe to hold an election, but not safe to hold a referendum. Surely the same arrangements are in place for both of these? If not, then what is different? I know she has insisted it would be a dereliction of her duty to change focus while tackling Covid, but she has also said it would be a dereliction of her duty to let the Tories drag us further in the wrong direction. In Ms Sturgeon’s defence, this may simply be a clever political stance which keeps her options open, and that is very much in keeping with her usual cautious approach. However, it must be obvious to anyone who is paying attention that those two duties she feels so strongly about cannot be reconciled. If she delays IndyRef2, the Tories will take full advantage because, despite their words, they are most definitely concentrating on their Power Grab even though Covid has not yet been brought under control. If Nicola Sturgeon does not push ahead with IndyRef2, she may leave it until it is too late.

As for the new kids on the block, Alex Salmond has put forward the idea that a pro-Indy majority in the Parliament will be sufficient justification to begin negotiations immediately, without the need for a referendum. Whether you agree with that or not, it won’t happen because even if Alba gain half a dozen seats, they won’t be able to exert enough pressure to force Nicola Sturgeon to abandon her slow, cautious approach.

There may well be a practical reason for delaying IndyRef2 because the SNP, who will form the next Scottish Government, may feel they do not have the resources to tackle Covid and run a referendum campaign, and hopefully thereafter enter negotiations with Westminster. That, I think, is not an entirely valid argument. What it shows is that Nicola Sturgeon might feel she would be under too much pressure personally because she is busy enough with the Covid situation. Now, nobody can deny that she has done a terrific job of fronting the Covid task force, but with the vaccine roll-out continuing apace, and with Lock down easing, surely she can now feel justified in delegating some of those responsibilities to whoever her new Health Minister will be. If not, why not? For the same reason, I would not expect her to take part in daily negotiations with Westminster over Scotland becoming a normal country. She should appoint a negotiation team and should maintain a watching brief over the discussions. Nobody expects her to be Superwoman and do all the work herself.

Finally, it shouldn’t need to be pointed out that the SNP are taking part in an election campaign during the pandemic, and I am struggling to see what would be different about running a referendum campaign.

So, once again, I must ask, why is it not possible to hold IndyRef2 sooner rather than later? Citing the current crisis is all very well, but when will it be judged to have ended? And what if another crisis comes along? Let’s hope it will not be another pandemic, although that is not impossible, but crises are pretty much the norm, whether they are long-term financial disasters such as we are still feeling the effects of after 2008, or a self-imposed disaster like Brexit, or climate-driven weather disasters, or some sort of scandal in Health or Education, we lurch from one disaster to another. OK, Covid has pushed the effects to an extreme level, but my point is that it is always easy to find an excuse not to do something.

Fear of failure may well be an element in the SNP’s reasoning, but my fear is that waiting only helps the Unionists. People being people, most will adapt and adjust to altered circumstances. Whether it is the impact of Brexit, possible ongoing Lock Downs, re-imposed Austerity, the UK is a past master at convincing people that things would be even worse if they did not continue to support the status quo. They have no positive case for their position, but they play on fear of the unknown, relying on people simply shrugging and getting on with things when their own, self-imposed disasters strike home.

But with Brexit, and the rampant and all too obvious corruption at the heart of everything the Tories do, surely now is the time to paint a proper vision of what Scotland could achieve? There is no need to delay things. Or, if there is, I wish someone would explain what the reason is.

"You just can’t, Colin!" simply isn’t good enough.


Visions of the Possible

Posted on April 12th, 2021

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Over the years since the first IndyRef, this blog has from time to time mentioned aspects of the sort of Scotland I’d like to see once we become a normal, self-governing country. Listening to the excellent Lesley Riddoch Podcast last week, I had to agree with the comments that none of the Parties vying for election have very much to say about their vision for an independent country. We can ignore the Unionist Parties for the purposes of this article because none of them have any vision other than to keep Scotland tied to Westminster no matter how far down the road to Right Wing authoritarianism that might lead.

So what do I want to see in a normal Scotland post-independence? It’s a long list, and, as the popular saying goes, these are in no particular order, although there are one or two things that need to be done fairly quickly after we become independent.

A priority must be to establish our own central Bank and move as quickly as we can to having our own currency. This is a prerequisite for re-joining the EU, so anyone who favours returning to the EU family must go along with the currency option. It also frees us from being tied to the UK’s apron strings, and Richard J Murphy of Tax Research UK has written many pieces on the necessity of Scotland adopting its own currency. It’s not really as daunting as it may sound, and Common Weal have also produced some excellent information and proposals. You can read more at How to Launch a Scottish Currency – Source (sourcenews.scot)

I also want to see a written Constitution, preferably establishing Scotland as a Republic, although I suspect that might be a step too far in the short term since a great many people have spent lifetimes being subjected to propaganda exhorting them to adulation of the Royal family. I expect the monarch will remain Head of State in the short term at least. If we do go for the Republican option, then provision will need to be made in the Constitution for the role of President (or some Scottish equivalent) to be established. The powers and role of that person will need to be clearly defined.

As for the Parliament, I would like to see a fully PR electoral system, preferably through a Single Transferable Vote system. STV is difficult to get your head around at first, and there are some variants, but it is the fairest way of electing representatives who actually represent the preferences of the voters.

Whether we need a second House is up for debate. The current system at Holyrood of having scrutiny by Committee has been shown to have flaws, but I’m not in favour of a second House unless it cannot be avoided. The Scandinavian countries seem to cope with a single House of Parliament, and I’d like to learn more about how they impose checks and balances on that single House.

Universal Basic Income could transform our society. Yes, it may seem expensive to run, but it would also result in the scrapping of all other benefits (with one or two exceptions for things like people with disabilities, or for child support. Administration of all such social security would hopefully be streamlined, thus making many savings. In the longer term, UBI has been shown to improve all sorts of things, reducing demand on social services, and greatly improving the mental wellbeing of the population.

We also need to revise the Tax system. The current UK system is far too complex and has so many loopholes, it is not really fit for purpose. A much simpler, fairer system must be possible, and that system needs to ensure that large corporations and wealthy individuals pay their fair share. With full control over tax income, and with the borrowing powers of a normal country, Scotland could ensure that its public services are run to higher standards than are currently possible.

As for those public services, the NHS should remain free and in public control. I’d also like to see public transport under Government control. That need not be a recipe for inefficiency, because management within those businesses can be given targets and remuneration to encourage efficient running, and also keep prices low for the public who use their services. Utilities like gas and electricity could also be run this way, with a publicly-owned service provider perhaps running in competition with the existing suppliers rather than full nationalisation of all existing energy.

We should return to a system of encouraging houseowners to install solar panels or other renewable systems, with the Feed In Tariff reintroduced for new entrants. This is a great way to encourage people to install such systems, and the more energy we produce for ourselves, the better for the environment. I’d certainly like to see all new houses built with solar panels or some other form of renewable energy supply.

Talking of energy, our renewables sector needs to be encouraged to grow even faster. Government subsidies and incentives could encourage this. If we could establish undersea connections to places like Ireland, Norway and Denmark (no doubt a challenging engineering task), we could sell our surplus electricity to our other European neighbours as well as to England.

As for other links to the continent, our ports need to be greatly expanded. We need direct freight and ferry operations running from the east coast of Scotland to European destinations, and while air travel is problematic from a climate perspective, it would surely be more efficient to allow flights to more destinations from Glasgow and Edinburgh rather than require travellers to connect via London. Perhaps Prestwick could at last achieve the role it was originally envisaged to have as a major international flight hub until Westminster decided to give that role to Heathrow.

Sticking with transport, moves are already under way to switch motor vehicles away from fossil fuels towards electric power, and I’d like to see this speeded up. As a blind person, I’d also like to see driverless cars become the norm. For one thing, that ought to reduce the number of road traffic accidents since it will remove the human error factor.

Education is always a difficult topic, but I’d be in favour of abolishing private schools. However, it is essential that this is done with a view to increasing overall attainment, not bringing every school down to the level of the poorest. It’s a mammoth task, and anyone who has been involved in education understands just how difficult it can be to run properly. However, other countries manage it just fine, so I see no reason why Scotland could not do the same.

Land Reform is another area where Scotland needs to take drastic action. We need to see far more land taken back from the handful of wealthy owners and put to better use than grouse shooting. Reforestation, even full re-wilding with the introduction of such species as wolves and lynx should also be part of this. Farmers may protest, but compensation for livestock lost to predators can be part of the re-structuring of our landscape. Again, other countries do this, so there is no reason why we can’t do the same. Re-wilding could also help reduce the risk of rivers flooding because predators like wolves mean that deer spend less time at river banks where they might be preyed upon, and so they eat fewer young trees, which means the trees grow, the banks are bound better and can prevent flooding.

I’m not going to dwell on the current nuclear weapons situation except to say that England should be told to remove them from our waters. Our own armed forces need to be proficient and efficient, but their numbers and role should be relatively small since Scotland should have no aspirations to go around the world threatening other nations or bombing them. Our armed forces should be focused on protecting our land and sea areas, and that will probably mean we will need a good number of coastal patrol vessels, with many of them hopefully built in Scotland.

I haven’t mentioned things like developing in areas such as sports and the arts, but I think Scotland has no shortage of the sort of people who can promote such things. Even putting those to one side for the moment, I’m sure I have missed some important things, and no doubt more will occur to me as soon as I’ve posted this, but those are just some of the things I think could make Scotland a better place for everyone. Above all, many of these ideas could reduce poverty, close educational attainment gaps, and make Scotland a fairer country. I’m not saying it would be a Utopia, because no country is, but if you aim for Utopia, you can only improve things from where you start. And let’s face it, after three centuries of control by Westminster, many aspects of our society are starting at a pretty low level. We need to rebuild some heavy industries, reduce deaths from drugs, alcohol, and suicide, and we need to do our very best to eradicate poverty. We certainly want a Scotland where food banks are not necessary.

Of course, all of these are aspirations, but there is no reason why we cannot work towards achieving them. What you can be sure of is that none of them will even be attempted, let alone achieved, if we remain under Westminster control.


The Real Culprit

Posted on April 7th, 2021

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

There can be no doubt that Covid has dealt a sever blow to the world economy. In the UK, many people are still either fully or partly on furlough, many others are working from home, thus reducing demand for things like fuel, public transport and air flights. Many self-employed people have seen their income decimated in spite of UK Government payments intended to relieve the worst impact of being forced to close, while others have slipped through the cracks completely, and even those who have been allowed to continue working have seen demand for their services severely curtailed.

And yet, with the vaccination programme rolling out, and some restrictions easing, we are hopefully seeing an end to the pandemic restrictions. It is likely to take several months yet, but a return to some sort of normality is hopefully not too far away. Naturally, I’d like to see that new normality take some cognisance of the plight of disabled people who will hopefully be permitted to continue to use things like remote working, online meetings and so on, but even with that, demand for services will inevitably pick up relatively quickly. I know the overall economy will operate at a lower level than before, but surely it will not take too long for it to recover? I’m not talking about GDP here, but I’m looking for an economy where unemployment can be reduced and where employment offers a decent wage for as many people as possible.

The problem I foresee is that Covid is going to be blamed for the real culprit which will continue to impact on the UK economy for the foreseeable future. That is the debacle which is Brexit. The problems this is already creating will only become more evident as more and more businesses begin their route out of lock down, and I fear many will never recover.

Then there is the return of violence in Northern Ireland. Brexit has created yet another powder keg which the UK Government has continually turned a blind eye to. You can argue this is because Northern Ireland really doesn’t matter to the Tories, but the consequences for the peaceful majority in Northern Ireland really don’t bear thinking about.

Of course, any problems, whether with law & order, or with the economy will be masked by flag-waving appeals to Britishness, appeals which will completely ignore the fact that it is precisely such calls which have created the current situation.

Covid has been a global catastrophe, with far too many people having died due to Government mishandling, although it must be said that very few Governments outside of eastern Asia had the foresight or the plans to cope with the outbreak. But Brexit, while not as deadly in its impact, will be much longer-lasting and, I believe, even more damaging in the long run. The problem will be that the Tories, aided by the media, will continue to paint Covid as the cause of all the problems even after we reach a situation where it has largely been eliminated. How long will they play that line? Well, they still sometimes trot out the excuse that it was the 2008 financial crash which caused Austerity, so I expect Covid may well be blamed for several years yet.

As far is Scotland is concerned, we cannot fall into that trap, tempting as it might be. A normal, self-governing country should be able to re-build its economy once the virus has been brought more or less under control. But we are not a normal, self-governing country. We are controlled by Right Wing extremists who have dragged us out of the EU, imposed unnecessary austerity, and are clamping down on civil liberties. They have little interest in re-building anything except their own bank balances. Scotland needs to escape this madness. Threats of a hard border with England need to be offset by a drive to re-join the EU, thus opening borders with 27 other countries, a move which will allow us to re-balance our economy just as other countries have done after becoming independent. Ireland is one example from history, and the mysteriously vanishing blog on the LSE website cited the Czech Republic and Slovakia as more recent examples. Scotland, with its wealth of natural resources, can surely match what those nations have achieved. It will require some vision and drive, but it is perfectly possible, especially if we adopt our own currency and take full control of our economy. Covid has delivered a blow, but we must not let Westminster keep pummelling us with blow after blow to our economy. It’s time to go our own way.


Poll Results Aren't Votes

Posted on April 4th, 2021

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

It is often said that Opinion Polls are designed to influence public opinion rather than reflect them. The polling companies would no doubt deny that, but it has become clear to many of us that the way a question is worded can influence the outcome of any particular Poll. However, asking how people intend to vote on the List isn’t really capable of being anything other than a straightforward choice.

In the past few days, two Polls which have reported the support for the new Alba Party have given the figure as 3% and 6%. It is far too early to tell which of these most closely resembles the actual level of support, especially as the difference of 3% is within the statistical variation most polling companies warn about, so it will be interesting to see what the next few polls show. However, it is beginning to look as if Alba may make a dent in the number of Unionist MSPs. Personally, I’d take that, even if it does mean arch-Unionist George Galloway also getting a seat. If he does, I’m sure he’ll provide Yessers with plenty of memorable video clips as he demonstrates his love for the Union.

But, once again I need to reiterate that all the Opinion Polls in the world are meaningless unless people actually get out and vote. That’s the main priority for anyone who wants to see Scotland become a normal, self-governing country. You can be sure that those who hate the idea of Scotland not being controlled by Westminster will definitely vote no matter what. We cannot let apathy decide the future of our country, so make sure you vote.


Get Out And Vote

Posted on April 3rd, 2021

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

The other day, I put up a Tweet exhorting supporters of the SNP and Alba Party to stop the personal attacks on each other, pointing out that our opponents in the upcoming election are the Tories, the newspapers and the BBC. I was pleasantly surprised at the number of positive responses to this remark, although I did receive a few critical comments and also a few in which people aimed personal attacks at either Alex Salmond or Nicola Sturgeon depending on the point of view of the commenter. Ah well, such is Twitter life.

As for where to place my vote, I am still undecided. In my region, I don’t think the SNP have managed to get a List MSP for a very long time. As a supporter of independence, I suspect my List vote will go to either Alba or the greens, but there is still some time before I need to make up my mind.

I must say, though, that I don’t necessarily agree that using a List vote in this way is Gaming the System. Every voter decides who to vote for on the basis of what they want to achieve. If you have an overriding political concern, then you vote for the Party you believe could deliver that aim. All political systems have flaws, and although Whataboutery is not a great way to argue, I would say to critics of the plans for a Yes majority that the First Past the Post system employed in Westminster elections is also being "Gamed" by the Tories. They can win an absolute majority having received only around 40% of the votes, and they are adjusting constituency boundaries and introducing plans to disenfranchise poorer voters simply in order to ensure they retain control indefinitely. If that’s not gaming the system, I don’t know what is.

Elections, though, always present a quandary. I’ll be voting for Yes, but each of the Parties I could vote for have disappointed me in some ways, and that’s pretty impressive going for Alba who have only been in existence for a week. But the SNP have their own problems, and have failed to deliver on promises before, while the Greens’ treatment of Andy Wightman was pretty appalling, and I have trouble with some of their policies as well.

As so often, I will need to vote for whichever Party best matches my political aims, always knowing that the said Party will also have some policies or attitudes which do not accord with what I want. It will be a matter of priorities because I don’t think there has ever been any Party which completely matches what I have wanted. The good thing about that is that, not being a member of any Party, I don’t need to toe the Party line and outwardly support policies or ideas I do not agree with.

Which brings me back to my original point. Disagreement about politics is fine. But please let’s disagree on policy issues. Making personal attacks or engaging in Whataboutery when it comes to where to place your List vote serves no purpose except to split the Yes movement even further. This is precisely what the Unionists want to see, and you can bet they’ll be stoking it up for all they are worth. I do understand that people who are members of a Party and who wish to confirm their loyalty will vote in accordance with that Party’s calls, but for people like me, I suspect the List vote will very much depend on which region you live in. In some places, SNP 1 & 2 is likely to produce List MSPs. In other regions, a List vote for the greens may return several pro-Indy MSPs, while in other areas, an Alba vote might achieve the same thing. Of course, that last one is the most difficult to predict since there has only been one opinion poll to suggest what level of support Alba might expect, and the 3% support it suggested is only around half of what they will need. Then again, 3% is quite impressive after only a week, but whether they can double that in the short time remaining must be doubtful, especially when they are under severe attack from the SNP as well as the Unionists. Alex Salmond has always been a divisive figure, and that is even more the case now. Much as I dislike the obsession with personality politics, it will undoubtedly be a major factor in the election because most voters focus on short-term issues without considering that the current Party leaders, no matter which Party they represent, will not be around forever, while the constitutional issue will be a constant until Scotland becomes a normal, self-governing country or is consigned to the minor role of North Britain under permanent tory rule from London.

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Personally, I’d like to see the SNP win a majority solely through the Constituency vote. That’s not because I necessarily want to see a majority Government in a Parliament which is supposed to work on consensus, but because, sadly, the SNP seem to have bought into the Unionist narrative that only an SNP majority justifies calling for IndyRef2. I have a horrible fear that, if the SNP were to fall one seat short of a majority, Westminster will insist it is a sign that the people of Scotland do not want another IndyRef, and the SNP will meekly accept that. Perhaps that is too cynical, and I’d like to think they will forge ahead whether they gain an absolute majority or not, but some of the noises being made suggest they are buying into the Unionist narrative a little too much for my liking. I’m also a little worried that the Alba Party are falling into a similar trap by insisting that a super-majority will force Westminster’s hand. The other side of that coin is that, if their support remains at only 3%, and if they end up with no List MSPs while reducing the number of SNP MSPs, Westminster will again crow about the lack of desire for independence in Scotland. We all know that the number of votes cast will be ignored unless pro-Indy Parties gather less then 50% of the overall vote. If that happens, we’ll hear all about it. So, whichever Party you support, the main thing is to get out and vote, and to make sure as many of your friends and family do likewise. This election is critical for our future, and we can’t afford to lose our chance at becoming a normal country just because too many people couldn’t be bothered voting.


Straw Poll

Posted on March 28th, 2021

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

As nobody can fail to have noticed, Alex Salmond fronting the Alba Party has caused quite a stir, with proponents and opponents all making points to justify their reasons for either voting or not voting for the new Party. Personally, I remain undecided for a variety of reasons, and I’m not going to tell anyone else how to vote on the List, even though I think everyone understands that we need to vote SNP on the Constituency ballot.

One thing I think we all need to keep in mind is that Twitter is not the world, so I took a quick straw poll of four female members of my wider family, to see what they thought of Alex Salmond’s decision. The ages here range from mid-twenties to … let’s just say well into retirement age.

The responses were interesting.

"Oh, no! Why can’t he let it go?"

"Who on earth is going to vote for him?"

"He’s a dirty old man."

And one, "Hmmm."

All four of these women are firmly in favour of Nicola Sturgeon. Issues like the reform of the Gender Recognition Act have passed them by. They trust Nicola Sturgeon implicitly. Some readers may regard that as displaying how ill-informed they are, but it is very interesting that, as members of the wider public away from the Twitter spats, they all hold this opinion. That’s not to say that one or more of them might not decide to vote for the Alba Party, but at the moment, it seems Nicola Sturgeon has their complete trust.

Of course, this mini poll is even less reliable than a Twitter poll, so I’m not placing any great emphasis on it. I just wanted to get a feel for what others were thinking.

As for the male members of the family, the response was the usual, "So who should I vote for?"

My response to that has always been, vote for whoever you like, but this is who I am voting for, and here are my reasons."

As for where my List vote will go, I’ll decide nearer the time. I am, as so often, hampered, by appreciating some of the arguments of both sides. I understand that Alex Salmond is a divisive figure, and it’s clear the media reporting of his trial, plus some of the admissions that came out of it, have damaged him in the eyes of many. So far, it seems that the suggestions of impropriety within the upper echelons of the SNP have not yet filtered out in my neck of the woods.

I have always been concerned that Westminster and the UK media always equate support for independence with support for the SNP.. In many ways they are right, but they always ignore votes for other pro-Indy Parties like the Greens. In that respect, I know it is vital that the SNP form the next Scottish Government. I know they will have the best chance of that with the greatest support, and I acknowledge the claim that, if everyone who voted for them on the Constituency ballot also voted for them on the List, they would gain more seats. It’s a strong argument, but it does fall down in many regions because, as far back as I can recall, they have never gained as many List votes as Constituency votes. This means that, even though I have always given them my List vote in recent elections, they’ve never managed to gain a List seat.

One bit of rhetoric I’ve seen from SNP supporters is that they need a majority if we are to get IndyRef2. I dislike that because the system is designed to prevent such a majority, and it smacks of buying into the UK media message that anything less than a majority will be a failure. I really do hope the SNP does win a majority, but I think that must remain at the very upper levels of expectations. And if we accept that only a majority will produce IndyRef2, we are allowing the Unionists to set the narrative and are giving them yet another excuse to block IndyRef2.

I can also understand the argument that voting for another pro-Indy Party could indeed split the vote so that they end up with no List seats either. New Parties have always failed to make much impression, but I do think having Alex Salmond as leader will attract a fair number of votes. Whether it is enough to win any seats, who can say?

I must admit that, at the moment (and I change my mind on this every hour or so), I am thinking I might as well waste my vote on a pro-Indy Party which has a small chance of winning a seat than wasting it on the SNP who have virtually no chance of winning a List seat. I still have time to swither over my decision, and I genuinely don’t know how I’ll vote.

I must say, though, that I have huge admiration for the members of AFI who have stood down to make way for (and in many cases join) the Alba Party. Wherever you stand in the debate, this does show that some people place political goals above political careers.

I fully expect the media to unleash a barrage of propaganda against the Alba Party. Whether this will dilute the media campaign against the SNP remains to be seen. After a little reflection, I have come to the conclusion that the media has more than enough bile to direct hatred against both. Even now they are portraying it as Alba vs SNP, which rather misses the point, although an awful lot of SNP members do seem to be trailing the same line of argument. That’s a little disappointing, and only adds fuel to the line of argument which claims that the SNP are not really interested in independence. However, I do understand that, being a political Party, they need to campaign for as much support for themselves as possible, to do otherwise would inevitably result in accusations of the Parties playing the system. Not that the media ever accuses the three Unionist Parties of playing the system, even when a former Labour leader openly encouraged voters to vote Tory simply to block the SNP, and when the current leader of the Tories has called for a coalition to block the combination of pro-Indy Parties.

It’s going to be an interesting few weeks, but I think that, however you vote, having a choice can’t be a bad thing. Above all, as I’ve written before, this is a crucial election. More than anything else, we must show the world that the people of Scotland want to live in a normal, self-governing country. That means, as a minimum, the SNP being the largest Party, and the Parliament having an overall pro-Indy majority. Quite what the make-up of that Parliament will be, I don’t think anyone can say, but as far as the campaign is concerned, I hope all the pro-Indy Parties refrain from ad hominem attacks on each other’s representatives. They should each make their case, then let voters decide. That’s how democracy works, and the more choice voters have, the better it can work.


Never A Dull Moment

Posted on March 26th, 2021

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Well, things don’t stand still in Scottish politics, do they? I suspect Alex Salmond may just have made up some minds as to where people could place their List vote.

Naturally, his decision is already causing a backlash, with many ardent SNP supporters insisting the SNP need every List vote they can get, but many of us know that the voting system is arranged in such a way that most votes for the SNP are wasted if they do well in the Constituency vote. Quite apart from whether you are one of those people who have reservations about voting for the party at all, this arithmetical handicap is what has caused other pro-Indy Parties to be formed. My main issue with the likes of AFI and ISP is that they neither had big names fronting them, nor did they have the financial resources to make the public more aware of them. While I have no knowledge of the financial resources of the Alba Party, the very fact that Salmond is fronting it should guarantee it air time.

Whether the Alba Party will help or hinder the Yes movement only time will tell. Yes, there is a definite danger that the existence of yet another pro-Indy Party could split the List vote and allow Unionists to gain seats. Equally, there is a chance that, with Salmond at the helm, it could hoover up a lot of votes which might otherwise have gone to the likes of the Greens.

Salmond is, of course, a divisive figure, and his very public falling out with Nicola Sturgeon has only helped harden attitudes towards him. Whatever your thoughts, though, he is a major figure in Scottish politics and, like him or loathe him, you cannot ignore him. I expect a lot of people in the SNP and Greens are already worrying about their prospects in May’s election.

One thought I cannot dispel, silly as it may seem, is that this gives the UK media a problem. Who will now be the main target of their attacks? Will their hatred of Alex Salmond mean that they deflect attention away from attacking Nicola Sturgeon? Or will they retain focus on the SNP and simply ignore Alex Salmond and the Alba Party? We shall see.

There’s never a dull moment, is there?


Crisis Point

Posted on March 26th, 2021

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

Scottish politics fair puts you through the wringer of emotions. I often find that sitting down to write a blog post helps me put my own thoughts in order, but it is becoming increasingly difficult because of all the conflicting emotions whirling around in my head.

I honestly thought we might be able to draw something of a line under recent events, albeit a very thin and shaky line, but Alex Salmond’s announcement that he will be initiating legal action against the Scottish Government left me feeling totally scunnered.

Don’t get me wrong; I can understand why he would do this. Alex Salmond has suffered some dreadful treatment, and I don’t think there can be much doubt that some people in the SNP were out to get him. That nobody has accepted any responsibility for the botched investigation is disgraceful.

Having said that, it seems clear that Alex Salmond could be difficult to work with, and some women obviously felt uncomfortable with how he behaved, although others seemed to cope with it. I can’t help thinking that a word of apology from him could have gone a long way. But the trial he faced was clearly a step too far, and I can understand his anger. I just wish he had waited until after May’s election before making any further announcement.

As for Nicola Sturgeon, I must say that serious doubts remain about the direction the SNP has followed under her leadership. Quite apart from the lingering suspicions about the extent of her involvement in the crusade against Salmond, I am not yet entirely convinced that she actually wants Scotland to gain independence. Her impressive leadership during the Covid pandemic may have helped the cause, but that is the only thing I can think of which she has done to improve our chances of becoming a normal, self-governing country, and she seems intent on giving Westminster advance warning of pretty much everything which she is proposing, thus giving them time to counter it. I really hope she makes me eat my words on this, but I retain strong doubts as to whether we will ever get IndyRef2 under her leadership.

Having said that, I am certain that our chances would have gone from poor to almost non-existent if she had been removed from office. Much as those of us who pay attention to politics might distrust her, it must be said that most other people I have spoken to outside of Scottish political Twitter regard Nicola Sturgeon very favourably. Her Covid performance, combined with her attempts to be reasonable and constructive during the Brexit fiasco have left a strong impression, and other issues have been pretty much disregarded. You may think that is short-sighted, but that is the overwhelming view I hear from friends and wider family who have only a slight interest in daily politics. Indeed, a recent poll suggests that Nicola Sturgeon is the most trusted politician in the UK. Some may laugh at that, but bear in mind that, if we don’t win IndyRef2, the politicians we will have to put up with will be a lot less trustworthy. The Tories have demonstrated time and time again that they cannot be trusted with anything, let alone controlling Scotland.

For myself, I am not taking sides in the Sturgeon vs Salmond saga. I think both are hugely impressive politicians, but they are also human beings with the same share of flaws and weaknesses we all have. Unfortunately, they are also both very strong-minded, and I can’t see either of them backing down. There will, though, be only one winner to emerge from this contest, and it’s not either of them; it is the British Establishment.

We saw the media frenzy over the Salmond trial, with most MSM opinion having him found guilty before the trial had even begun. I was delighted when he was found not guilty, just as I was pleased earlier this week when Nicola Sturgeon was found not to have breached the Ministerial Code (albeit with caveats). Because we saw once again that the media, having been foiled in its campaign against Salmond, turned on Nicola Sturgeon as soon as they caught a whiff of a chance that she might be ousted. One thing is certain; the media did not run the stories it did out of concern for finding the truth. Their sole aim was to have Nicola Sturgeon removed as a possible threat to the continued existence of the UK. That gives some comfort that she might actually be able to deliver what we so urgently want and need.

We now face a critical time in Scotland’s history. Westminster is determined to turn Scotland back into North Britain, overwhelmed with Union flags, stripped of any real powers, and exploited for its wealth. We may have only one chance to escape a very bleak future indeed.

I know that many people will find it hard to vote for the SNP in May. Too many unpopular policies, too much secrecy and evasion, and too much authoritarianism have put some people off. But, realistically, the SNP offers the only chance we have of getting IndyRef2. Not only that, they need to win this election with resounding support. We have already seen the media trail polls suggesting that the SNP might win an overall majority, something which the voting system is designed to prevent. But, with that having been pushed as a possibility, you can be sure that a failure to achieve the almost impossible will be proclaimed as a failure by the media. It won’t matter how many List seats the Greens, AFI, or ISP win, they will be discounted by the media and Westminster because, in their minds, the Yes movement is always conflated with the SNP.

So, much as it may offend your moral judgement, I don’t think we have much choice in our Constituency vote. The future of our country is at stake here, and only a resounding victory will give the Scottish Government any leverage with Westminster. And if you are one of those people who are struggling to find a reason to vote SNP, then look at it this way. Until Scotland becomes a normal, self-governing country, the constitutional issue will hang over every single election. Failing to vote for the SNP effectively becomes a vote for the Union, because you can be sure Unionists will turn out in numbers to vote against any prospect of Scotland becoming a normal country. Unless a viable alternative to the SNP suddenly materialises, they are our only hope of ever gaining normal status. After that, elections will hopefully return to something approaching normality. Yes, I know some people dislike the direction the SNP are taking in some areas, and I know concerns have been raised about the heavy-handed policing approach directed at opponents of the Scottish Government, but if you think that is bad, just wait and see what awaits us if we remain part of the UK. Fascism is on the rise, and it is coming our way. Our best hope; our only hope, is to escape Westminster’s control, then elect the sort of Government we want to see.

An independent Scotland will not be a Utopia. We will have a lot of problems to face, but we need to reach that goal first, Only then can we face the challenges like a normal country.

We should not forget that "Divide and Conquer" is not just a cliché; it is the modus operandi of the UK Establishment. In the current split in the Yes movement, they see all their dreams coming true. They have botched attempts to remove Nicola Sturgeon, but that doesn’t mean they will not keep trying to set us all against each other. It is fine to disagree with one another; it is even normal for people to fall out over their political opinions, but the one thing we must all agree on is that only by becoming a normal, self-governing country can we begin to sort the many problems that beset us. The constitutional issue distorts everything, and it needs to be resolved in favour of independence. That’s my aim. For the sake of future generations, we must not let this chance escape our grasp.


Mr Angry

Posted on March 19th, 2021

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

Over the past few days I have drafted and discarded several versions of a blog post covering this week’s antics about the Sturgeon / Salmond case. I have found this very difficult because I am not a member of the SNP, and I don’t really "support" either of these individuals. I know they are both highly skilled politicians, and both are extremely capable, with strengths and weaknesses of their own. My main concern, though, is with Scotland becoming a normal, self-governing country, and I fear this whole sorry episode is putting that in danger. My main emotion just now is anger, and that’s why it has been so hard to put my thoughts down in writing.

I am angry at so many things, but here’s just a short list to allow me to get this off my chest.

I am angry that politics in Scotland is so dominated by the constitutional crisis and so tribal that the members of the Holyrood committee have, entirely predictably, voted along Party lines.

I am angry that the vote has been leaked to the media in advance of the final report – surely a disciplinary matter of itself.

I am angry that the media are, as usual, reporting only one side of the story in their ongoing attempts to demonstrate that Scotland would be incapable of running its own affairs because, quite obviously in the eyes of the media, the Scottish Government has too many failings.

I am angry that people are falling for this personality-driven view of independence. The words and actions of any individual should have no bearing on the fundamental fact that independence is normal. Nicola Sturgeon, Alex Salmond, Douglas Ross and Boris Johnson will not be around forever. They are merely products of the current bizarre constitutional arrangement, but being a normal country is a permanent thing. Anyone whose decision on how to vote in an independence referendum is based upon whether they like or dislike any individual politician really doesn’t understand the issue.

Above all, though, I am angry at the SNP. They have brought this situation about at the very worst time. May’s Holyrood elections could be our last chance at demonstrating our desire to be a normal, self-governing country for a very long time to come. Yet Nicola Sturgeon made a huge error of judgement when she either instigated, approved or turned a blind eye to the attempts to have Alex Salmond jailed. Ever since then, those at the top of the SNP seem to have been scrabbling around trying to cover up the whole sorry saga.

What on earth were they thinking of? Anyone who has been following Scottish politics for even a few years knows that the unionist Parties and media will seize on any opportunity to proclaim how bad the SNP are. By conflating support for the SNP with support for independence, they attempt to portray the whole idea as nonsensical and dangerous when, in fact, it is the UK which is the aberration in terms of how countries govern themselves. But the media has always done this, and the leadership of the SNP ought to have known better than to give them ammunition. We know that the Unionists will stoop to any level in order to damage their reputation, and that will involve a lot of mud-slinging. The last thing the SNP should have done was provide them with more mud to fling.

I have no idea whether Nicola Sturgeon will resign. Quite honestly, I would not blame her given the stress she must be under due to Covid. Whether her going would help the independence cause probably depends on what view you take of her desire for Scotland to leave the UK. There has been very little evidence that, despite her words, she actually intends to go through with it, and she does seem to be willing to give the Westminster Government every opportunity to block it. Others would argue, with some justification, that this approach will undoubtedly result in Scotland gaining international support which could help us if the UK continues to block calls for a section 30 Order. Countries come into existence if they are internationally recognised, and there is always a chance that Scotland could hold its own referendum, declare independence unilaterally and be recognised by the international community who would recognise the undemocratic nature of the UK. Personally, I think that is a dangerous route to go down, but perhaps it would work as a last resort.

None of this speculation diminishes my anger at the current situation, but I would say that this anger is also directed at too many in the social media sphere who are doubling down on taking sides. I’ve even seen someone claim that Alex Salmond is to blame for the whole thing which, wherever you stand on this, is a ludicrous suggestion. I do not recall Alex Salmond doing anything except defend himself from accusations and win his case every time. I know he is not popular with many people, but facts should not be ignored. But this sort of claim shows that the Yes movement is fragmenting, and that is what the Unionists want. Tick another box on the Reasons to be Angry chart.

The one saving grace is that support for independence remains strong. Whoever leads the SNP into the elections will probably be able to count on a lot of support. If they do form the next Government – which seems more than likely – then they will need to deliver. I want to see their leader come out before the election and give an unequivocal guarantee that an SNP Government will drive forward with IndyRef2. I also want to see them promise some eye-catching policies which an independent Scotland could follow. They need to paint a picture of positivity which will outweigh the inevitable barrage of negativity which will come from the media. I honestly don’t care who that leader is, as long as they have the passion to deliver. And the good sense not to provide our Unionist opposition with chances to point the finger at behaviour which is in any way less than exemplary.


Banana Republic

Posted on March 15th, 2021

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

The UK does not have a tropical climate and so cannot really be described as a Banana Republic unless you count the bananas on supermarket shelves, and also ignore the existence of the Royal family. Despite these impediments, however, the Westminster Government has been behaving in classic Banana Republic style, with greed and corruption being the norm. Anyone who has studied a little bit of history of the past few centuries will know that self-interest, dodgy dealings and skulduggery have always been fundamental to the way the UK operates, but until Boris Johnson became Prime Minister, such traits were partly concealed by a veneer of probity. All such pretence has been abandoned by Johnson and his cronies, and perhaps those of us who wish to see Scotland escape the control of Westminster should be grateful for this since it may make more people think twice about committing to remain part of the UK.

It is worth bearing in mind that Boris Johnson’s corrupt Government are merely a symptom of the constitutional farce that is the UK. The problem has always been there, but it is now far more prominent. And now Johnson himself has adopted the role of Tinpot Dictator in Chief by sticking to the position that he will not allow another IndyRef even if the SNP do achieve the supposedly impossible and win a majority of seats in the Scottish parliament elections in May.

Putting aside the typical conflation of support for the SNP with support for independence, this position, perhaps intended to mollify those of his hard-line supporters who still regard Scotland as part of the Empire, surely gives Nicola Sturgeon all the ammunition she needs to proclaim to the international community that Scotland is being held against its will, and that democracy is being denied. Yes, we still need to win IndyRef2, but every obstacle Johnson puts in our way helps win that argument in the eyes of the world. What we need is for Nicola Sturgeon to come out and state categorically that this election really will provide the push for IndyRef2 we have been waiting for. It shouldn’t really need saying since the Tories have, as usual, already begun insisting that the election is about independence, but the SNP must also make that perfectly clear.

But, apart from appeasing his imperialist followers, what does Johnson hope to gain by holding this position? Is he trying to impersonate a strong statesman? If so, denying democracy in direct contravention of the UN Charter is a strange way to go about it. Could there perhaps be another bit of weird reasoning behind this move?

We already know that the Tories dislike democracy. It’s why the UK will never move away from First Past The Post voting. They need to remain in power, and are taking steps to ensure they do not lose their grip. Altering constituency boundaries in their favour, and introducing things like Voter ID to effectively disenfranchise the poorer sections of society are measures intended to ensure that their grip on power remains permanent. Labour seem to be doing their best to help them in this, and the media are certainly on their side. Even if Labour ever look like stepping out of line by electing a leader like Jeremy Corbyn, the knives quickly come out to undermine any attempts to disrupt the Establishment.

If you are wondering what this has to do with Boris Johnson’s insistence that, as one member of a voluntary union of equals, England will not allow Scotland to leave, then it may be that all he is trying to do is limit the impact of a democratic vote. It occurs to me that he may simply be trying to reduce voter turnout in the Scottish Parliament elections. If voters know in advance that there is no point in voting because their vote will not have the effect they want, some of them may just decide to stay at home. And if there is any drop in support for the SNP, that will be loudly proclaimed by Johnson and the media as proving that there is lessening support for independence. Votes for the Greens, AFI, ISP and any other pro-Indy candidates will be conveniently ignored because, in the eyes of the media, only the SNP presents a threat.

Yes, I know this theory may sound absurd, but the Tories do not understand Scotland at all, and they may feel that persuading voters there is no point in supporting the SNP may well be an idea they have discussed. It wouldn’t be the weirdest policy suggestion they have considered.

Whether it is true or not, we need two things to happen. First, Nicola Sturgeon must make it crystal clear that IndyRef2 will follow on from a pro-Indy majority in the Parliament. Second, voters need to put aside all doubts and concerns (of which I know there are many) and turn out in large numbers. The SNP need to win as many constituency seats as possible. As for the List, I’m still not entirely sure where my vote will go, but it will certainly be for a pro-Indy Party.

After that, we need to go ahead and let Johnson either present himself to the world as a fascist dictator, or act the statesman for once and give in to democracy. Either way, we have a chance at becoming a normal, self-governing country, although the first of those possible routes will be a difficult one.

And to those in the SNP who seem to be doing their best to alienate a large section of their supporters, I can only say that they must put independence back at the top of their agenda. This could be the last chance at becoming a normal, self-governing country that we will have for a very long time. We cannot afford to let this opportunity pass.


Taking The Short-Term View

Posted on March 1st, 2021

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

So there’s a new poll showing that support for independence has fallen? That’s obviously disappointing, but my main sense of disappointment is that the sheer short-sighted stupidity of far too many people. The decision whether to become a normal, self-governing country should not depend on short-term issues like the immediate effect of Brexit or the hope that the Covid pandemic will soon be manageable, and nor should it depend on which individuals hold prominent political positions. Quite simply, independence is normal, and anyone who is swayed by current political events is looking at things from a skewed perspective.

Even the current enquiry into the Scottish Government’s handling of the botched case against Alex Salmond should make no difference. Even if the SNP were the most corrupt Government in the history of the world, that should not undermine the case for independence. The whole point of becoming a normal, self-governing country is that we could vote out a corrupt Government. As things stand, the SNP gain an awful lot of support from those who want to see independence, so they seem likely to win the election in May, and I hope they do because I see no future for the Yes campaign without them. And, of course, if we do not win our independence we will always be stuck with one of the most corrupt Governments in the world having ultimate control because the Tories seem likely to govern the UK more or less permanently. How anyone can think that the current constitutional arrangement is the best we can do is beyond me.

My big worry is that the SNP leadership will view a fall in support as an excuse not to pursue IndyRef2 if they do win the election. I sincerely hope they don’t, because that would surely be their last chance as far as the Yes community is concerned.

As for those numpties who can’t see further than the end of their noses when making political decisions which will affect the future of their descendants for generations to come, let’s hope they come round to a more long-term view before it is too late.


Hobson's Choice

Posted on February 26th, 2021

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

The cause of independence is bigger than any person or any political Party. I understand why so many people are angry at the direction the SNP is taking on a variety of fronts, and there are some very worrying claims and accusations being made regarding the leadership of the Party.

Watching the current in-fighting is depressing, and I can see no good coming from it. Whether you believe Alex Salmond or Nicola Sturgeon, the plain fact is that the SNP, for good or ill, are currently the only political Party which has any chance of turning Scotland into a normal, self-governing country. While I can understand why some people are now claiming they will not vote for the SNP in the upcoming Holyrood election, I can only ask what good this will do. Who else has even the remotest chance of getting us independence? Even if you do not vote for any of the Unionist Parties, we should all know by now that the British media will pounce on any drop in support for the SNP as "evidence" that there is waning support for independence. Whether there is a reduction in turnout, in the SNP’s vote share, or the number of seats they win, the slightest reduction will be seized upon to "prove" that there is a decline in support for independence. The fact that the Yes movement is far wider than the SNP will make no difference to the media interpretation of a loss of votes.

There is still a debate to be had on the best way to use your List vote, but anyone who truly wants independence must surely give their support to the SNP with their Constituency vote.

Some people are expressing doubts as to whether the SNP under Nicola Sturgeon have any intentions of actually pushing for IndyRef2. They have certainly not shown many signs of being keen on the project, but there really is no other choice. If they fail to act this time (assuming they do achieve the allegedly impossible and gain an overall majority) then surely some other pro-Indy Party will step up and fill the breach. But there is no time for any such Party to gain enough support between now and the May election.

As for those who have lost faith in the SNP because of GRA reform and the Hate crime Bill, I share many of your concerns. But the best way to address these issues is for Scotland to become a normal, self-governing country. After that, elections will no longer be dominated by the constitutional question, and the SNP will be just another Party who can be voted out if they continue to pursue unpopular policies.

Of course, that leads on to other areas of discussion. Is that possible loss of power the reason the SNP are not pushing for Indy? Do they fear being voted out when they lose the support of those who put independence above other considerations? I would hope not, but there is no doubt that the Party has attracted many career politicians who may feel that way.

And then, of course, there is the question of what will happen to the Unionist Parties once they lose funding from their London masters. Can they survive? The Tories will inevitably be fine since dark money and support from wealthy right wingers will always flow their way, but the future must be bleak for Labour and the Lib Dems unless the SNP haemorrhages support due to their pursuit of unpopular policies.

But I am venturing into the realm of speculation, something I dislike, especially as it is dependent on us actually gaining independence. That must be the immediate goal, and whether you are disillusioned with the SNP or not, I’m afraid I can see no alternative but to vote for them in May. To do anything else diminishes our chances of ever becoming a normal country. That future is in enough doubt as it is, with extremists in power in Westminster and a hostile media pounding us with pro-Union propaganda on a daily basis. If we don’t break free soon, it may never happen.

I wish there was some viable alternative. I wish the SNP had followed a different route and had not placed us in a position where Westminster still holds all the cards. I wish the focus of the SNP leadership was far more on IndyRef2. Sadly, wishing won’t achieve anything. Only acting has any chance of achieving change. And the only action we, as voters, have is to use that vote in a way which shows our support for independence.


Not My Party So I'll cry If I Want To

Posted on February 21st, 2021

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

It’s at times like these that I am glad I am not a member of a political Party. The civil war within the SNP seems to have broken out into downright hostility, with some rather over-the-top claims being made by people on both sides of this polarised debate. Actually, debate is the wrong word, since there doesn’t seem to be much debate, with critics of the SNP leadership making some very strong accusations, and supporters claiming that anyone who agrees with those claims, or even reads them, should not be a Party member. Sadly, that latter viewpoint is too akin to book-burning for my liking. I read Wings Over Scotland, just as I read other blogs, some of which disagree with Wings. I read mainstream media articles online, and I’ve even been known to read an article by a Covid-denier just to see what sort of arguments they were putting forward. Just because I read things doesn’t mean I necessarily agree with them.

I can understand the fundamental point that people within any organisation need to behave in accordance with the ethics and culture of that organisation, but a political Party, unlike a commercial organisation, really ought to be a place where things are debated and policies decided upon after informed debate.

Things have become so toxic online that I’ve seen some people claim they cannot bring themselves to vote for the SNP in the upcoming Holyrood elections. While I can understand how angry some may be, I cannot subscribe to this view. Whether you like it or not, the SNP is the only possible political vehicle we have if we wish Scotland to become a normal, Self-governing country. If they do not attract enough votes in the Constituency seats, then the UK media will have a field day as they crow about a lack of support for independence. Like it or not, the SNP are the political face of the Yes movement, even though the current leadership seem keen to seize upon any opportunity to delay IndyRef2. This year’s elections must surely be their last chance, but voters really have no option if they genuinely support the cause of independence.

Where to place your List vote is another question. I must admit I am still undecided. In many regions, a List vote is likely to be wasted if the SNP pick up all the Constituency seats. Of course, that premise may not be a given despite what the Polls say. And then, when you look at the comments being made online by some SNP List candidates, I must admit it is difficult to justify voting for them even without the problem of how many constituency seats they will win. Should I hold my nose and vote for people who hold views which are very different to my own in the hope of gaining enough of a majority in Holyrood to ensure IndyRef2?

What about the other Parties? AFI and ISP are the obvious choices since the greens themselves have alienated a lot of Yes supporters in the past few years. But are these new Parties big enough to attract sufficient vote numbers? Without some really big names fronting them, I fear not. And, oddly, the UK media in Scotland does not seem keen to promote these Parties to any great extent even though, on the face of it, they could split the Yes vote. Perhaps the media fear that making people more aware might just result in the massive pro-Indy majority in Parliament that these Parties are aiming for.

So I’m still undecided on where I should vote, but I have decided that I will never join any political Party. It really would be too much of a strain on my loyalties.


Trouble and Strife

Posted on February 17th, 2021

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

In these days of binary, confrontational politics, it is perhaps no surprise that arguments within the Yes community as to the best way to gain independence for Scotland have now spread to in-fighting within the SNP. As someone who is not a member of any political Party, I look on with dismay at the once united SNP beginning to form into factions. Worse, it often seems that debate is being stifled, and that is always a concern.

The SNP have been in power for a long time, and it must be said that they have done a lot of good things in that time. There are always areas where people can grumble that faster progress should have been made, but on the whole, the SNP have amply demonstrated that they can form a competent Government. Nicola Sturgeon’s personal performance in dealing with the Covid pandemic has also confirmed her position as a leader most nations would be proud of. She had a shaky start due to a desire not to rock the UK boat, but has since demonstrated greater leadership than any of her Westminster counterparts.

So what is the problem within the SNP, and why are so many Yes supporters expressing disappointment or, in some cases, downright hostility?

The main catalyst must be the lack of progress towards gaining independence. This is not to say that the slow, constitutional approach is the wrong one, because quite frankly, the only way we will learn whether it has worked or not is with the benefit of hindsight. Personally, I think the SNP should have done a lot more to progress this. I’d have hoped that they would have pressed the case for IndyRef2 much harder, that they would have abandoned the Growth Commission’s cautious approach and announced that an independent Scotland would have its own currency. After all, this is a requirement if we wish to re-join the EU. I wish they would produce a draft constitution for an independent Scotland, and I wish they would counter the propaganda emanating from Westminster and its Scottish agents. Social media suggests I am not alone in these wishes.

In past months, though, other concerns have caused ructions. The botched case against Alex Salmond began it, but we’ve also seen controversy over GRA reform, the Hate Crime Bill, the "sacking" of Joanna Cherry, and the FM’s refusal to condemn the abuse and threats directed at Ms Cherry. Wherever you stand on any of these issues, you must surely agree that these controversies are an unwanted distraction when we are approaching a crucial time in our history. If we wish to become a normal, self-governing country, we need to push for it now. Conditions have never been better in a political sense, with the twin disasters of Covid and Brexit showing just how inept and corrupt the Westminster system is. And there is no chance of that system ever changing, so our only viable option is independence. And yet, at this vital time, serious concerns are being raised about the way the SNP has been operating, and it must be said that some of these concerns seem valid. This has led to a great deal of argument on social media, with both sides accusing the other of causing the problems, and even though both agree that unity is essential, the ever-widening gap between them means that such unity can only be achieved if one side surrenders to the other, and that doesn’t seem likely. I suspect that an announcement that IndyRef2 is going ahead would cover the cracks, because independence is everyone’s aim, but any such announcement depends on quite a few things happening over the next few months.

In the meantime, concerns about the SNP remain, and even Party members are speaking out. I have been speaking to a member of the SNP who is as disillusioned about recent events as me. They have kindly agreed that I can quote them in this article. Here is what they told me about their worries over the direction the SNP is heading.

"My own thought is that we need someone other than the Greens (who are fully woke) to get the SNP back onto the straight and narrow.

"I have just had the e-mail about the hustings for the SNP highland region. What SNP is having is NOT anything I recognise as a hustings in all the years I have been a member of the party. It appears to be nothing more than a stage-managed public event. It is not restricted to members.

"We have been given nothing but names - no bio data, nada, zilch, zippo. Thee-mail arrived today with a deadline of tomorrow for the questions to go in. This will be a first as there has never been a requirement for Questions to be submitted before the event, before the candidates give their speeches.

"Apparently, candidates can choose to give only speeches or only answer questions, or do a mix of both. Thus we, the membership, have no guarantee that they will even deign to answer any questions at all.

"I doubt if many of the membership know who these people are. As far as I am concerned, this is a farce.

"As far as I can see, this SNP leadership is hell bent on alienating as much of the party membership as possible. In that they are having a rip roaring success."

That’s pretty strong stuff, and I’d like to think the SNP leadership will pay attention to its disgruntled members, but it must be said that doesn’t look likely.

And yet, for all this dissension in the ranks, and for all the media spin of #SNPBad at every opportunity, the Yes community knows its only chance of gaining independence lies with the SNP. The polls are bearing up, and showing a consistent majority in favour of independence, and it seems the SNP can rely on most of us giving our Constituency vote to them in the upcoming Scottish Parliament elections. We must hope that they do not take such support for granted, and that they act on the new mandate they seem likely to be given.

The one good thing about all this is that, even though many Scots are switched on to politics and keep an eye on all these internal arguments, the wider public do not seem overly concerned. For many Scots, they will vote SNP whatever else is going on. This, though, must surely be the Party’s last chance to deliver. If they descend into yet more internal bickering and find excuses not to push for independence, then the Yes community may well look for another vehicle. After all the SNP has done to get us this far, that would be a shame, but some new alternative Parties have already been formed. They may be too new and small to offer much at the moment, but that can change. We saw with the demise of Scottish Labour that support can switch very quickly. For the sake of the SNP and of Scotland, I hope such a switch is not necessary, because the reality is, if we don’t take our chance soon, it may not come around again for a long time.

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The Final Frontier

Posted on February 11th, 2021

by Stan Donderite

As credits roll, the deep, authoritative voice of the narrator is heard.

Narrator: Reality. The final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Tory UK Enterprise. Having left the safety of the EU Federation, it must now explore strange new places, seeking countries willing to enter into trade deals with a Captain and crew who have already proved themselves to be untrustworthy liars. The Starship ploughs on, its never-ending mission to explore the world, find other civilisations and to conquer them through a combination of bombastic propaganda, faithless negotiations and, as long as they can’t fight back, military power. To boldly plumb the depths which most nations would never contemplate.

The scene switches to the bridge of the Starship. Captain Boris D Johnson sits in his command chair, swivelling it around and idly playing with the control switches to see what they do. Other senior command officers sit around the bridge, studying display screens. A group of advisors stand beside the Captain’s chair.

Advisor 1: Captain, the crew of the northern section are threatening to evacuate.

Captain BDJ: Phwaa! Again? Burble, burble. What is it this time?

Advisor 1: They say you are dragging them to places they don’t want to go. They say this voyage is being made against their will.

Captain BDJ: Harumph! Well, we can’t let them just leave. Blah, blah. We need the manpower and resources they provide. I’d better go and give them one of my famous pep talks. I’ll quote some bad Latin at them. Phwaa!

Advisor 1: Do you think that’s wise, Captain? There was a near mutiny the last time you went to speak to them.

Captain BDJ: Nonsense. Um … ah … I shall tell them they would never survive without us. Then I’ll have First Officer Gove and Commander Jack confiscate their phasers, thus leaving them powerless. They’re bound to fall for that again. It works every time.

Advisor 2: But what about the Welsh contingent, Captain? They are making noises as well.

Captain BDJ: Ah … um … blah. Let them. Nobody cares what they say. Anyway, our own crew members have been sent in great numbers to infiltrate their population and dilute any threat from there.

Advisor 3: But the Irish crew are also threatening to abandon ship, Captain. They want to join their own planet.

Captain BDJ: Phwaa? But we’ve already given them the best of both worlds! They are never happy. Perhaps we should cut our losses and let them go.

Um … I can let Security Officer Patel take care of that.

Security Officer Patel: It will be a pleasure, Captain. I shall cast them adrift, ejecting them from the air locks with no space suits. That will teach them.

Captain BDJ: Ah! Um, isn’t that a bit heartless, Patel?

Security Officer Patel: Thank you, Captain.

Officer Kuenssberg interrupts: Captain! We are being hailed by Space Shuttle Labour.

Captain BDJ: Kuenssberg? Phwoar! Is that you? You’re not part of our crew, are you?

Officer Kuenssberg: I always have been, Captain. Ready to relay your words of wisdom without question.

Captain BDJ: Jolly good! Well, Blah! you’d better put Captain Starmer on screen. He’s one of us, after all. Harumph!

First Officer Gove: But, Captain. He’s after your job. You shouldn’t trust him.

Captain BDJ: I wouldn’t bother about that, First Officer. Burble. You’re after my job as well, but I put up with you.

The intercom blares: Captain! Engineering to bridge.

Captain BDJ (rolling his eyes): Broonie? What is it now?

Engineer Broon: We need to slow down, Captain. The ship cannae take much more o’ this. She’ll fall apart if we keep heading towards Planet Brexit.

Captain BDJ: It’s too late to stop now, Broon. You’ll need to keep the ship together. Can’t you make some sort of intervention?

Engineer Broon: I’ve done that dozens of times, Captain, but the pressure is too much. We’re going to lose all the outer parts of the ship.

Captain BDJ: That’s not good enough, Broon. Now is not the time for parts of the ship to break off. Promise me you’ll hold it together.

Engineer Broon: You want me to give you a vow, Captain?

Captain BDJ: Phwaa! That works every time, Broon. Now get back in your engineering box and stop pestering me.

Officer Kuenssberg: What about Captain Starmer, Sir? Will you speak to him now?

Captain BDJ: No, Um … ah …burble. I can’t be bothered answering his questions. Just tell him to follow my lead whatever I do. He’s used to that.

Officer Kuenssberg: Very good, Captain.

Captain BDJ turns to the helmsman.

Captain BDJ: Mister Rees-Mogg! Plot a course for the 18th Century.

Helmsman Rees-Mogg (gleefully): Aye, aye, Captain !

First Officer gove: Captain, you do realise that is a dangerous route? It will lead us to austerity, massive wealth inequality, a plethora of food banks, poorhouses and all sorts of social deprivation.

Captain BDJ: But … Phwaa! the rewards for us are great, First Officer. We will all become even richer than we are now, and the plebs will be kept in their place. Is that not so?

First Officer Gove: Indeed it is, Captain. Now that we have left the control of the Federation, we are free to do as we please.

Captain BDJ: Huzzah! Then make it so!

The closing scene, in which the Starship Tory UK Enterprise is seen plummeting into a black hole from which there is no escape.

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to living persons is purely deliberate.


Values on display

Posted on February 8th, 2021

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

A couple of interesting things have happened in the past few days, both of them casting a light on societal values within the UK.

First, we had the revelations in the Guardian that the Queen had put pressure on the UK Government to amend a new law on transparency to ensure that nobody could learn the true extent of her wealth. This brought to light the strange constitutional device known as "Queen’s consent" under which the monarch is entitled to be given advance sight of any proposed law which may have a direct impact on her. And when she discovered that her subjects, many of whom still adore her, might learn just how wealthy she is, she demanded that the UK Government block it.

This sort of thing is pretty much what we expect from the monarchy, so I’m not really surprised by the news as it merely adds yet another confirmation as to how the Royal family view ordinary people. No, what really surprised me is that the Government of the day was Ted Heath’s Tories. Yes, that’s Tories proposing a transparency law on financial holdings. Can you imagine that nowadays? It just shows how far to the right politics has moved in the intervening decades. Heath’s Tories, for all their many flaws, were very possibly further to the Left than today’s Labour Party.

And, speaking of the Labour Party, it was they who eventually introduced the Bill under Harold Wilson, even retaining the monarchical privileges - because that’s what the Establishment required, and Labour, even back then, were desperate to become and remain part of the Establishment. Now look at Keir Starmer’s Labour and see how well they have succeeded despite continuing media hostility to the faintest whiff of socialism.

This example of deference to wealth and power is typical of the way the UK operates, and it also shows just how much the likes of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson have done to shift politics towards the extremities of the Right.

The other issue was the uproar over some Scottish Rugby players not taking the knee before their match against England. Of course, everyone is entitled to their own views on the best way to demonstrate their opposition, or otherwise, to racism, but the big take-away for me was the question of whether players should take a knee was not discussed at all beforehand. This, I think, demonstrates how low a priority it was for Scottish Rugby Union and the players. If there were two or three black players in the team, I suspect the issue might have been discussed, thus allowing them to make an informed decision. The fact that it was not mentioned prior to the game suggests that it is not seen as an important issue.

Of course, there are lots of views on whether taking the knee is an appropriate or proportionate thing to do. Everyone is entitled to make up their own mind, but as far as I am concerned, I think it is an important gesture. If just one child sees it and asks why the players are doing it, then the issue has been raised in the mind of one person. That can only be a good thing. And yet, all this incident has done is, as seems the norm these days, polarise debate. Sadly, things like the rightwards drift of politics has facilitated this sort of argument. It would be nice to think we can move away from such polarised debate in all walks of life, but it looks as if we are stuck with it for the time being, and unless we can get away from the malign influence of Westminster politics, our leaders (whoever they might be) are never going to be able to set a more conciliatory and measured approach to debate.

How Disabled?

Posted on February 2nd, 2021

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

I am not, and never have been, a member of any political Party. I think the current in-fighting within the SNP shows why. Sooner or later, divisions appear within any organisation, especially when it is one which is involved in such an emotive and wide-ranging subject as politics.

Since I don’t know the full details of the reasonings behind the latest shenanigans, it is difficult to comment. Suffice to say that it is very disappointing that members who speak out vocally in support of strong action to gain independence seem to be being marginalised while those who appear to have other priorities are driving the direction of policy-making.

One thing which did astonish me was that the recent ruling of the SNP’s NEC gave an opportunity for disabled people to receive priority places on the Scottish election List. I have no problem with disabled people being given opportunities because they are usually severely under-represented, but I understand that the NEC received legal advice that such positive discrimination could be successfully challenged. That’s a matter for the lawyers, although it must be pointed out that things like women-only short lists have been around for a long time in many areas of life and have rarely been challenged.

No, what really surprised me was that these priority positions are to be given to people who self-identify as disabled. For me, that opens a whole new can of worms.

Disability is difficult to pin down because there are so many types of disability, and so much variety in the impact it can have on a person’s life. For example, if you break your leg or arm, you are definitely disabled, albeit hopefully temporarily. But what about diabetes? It’s definitely a serious medical illness, and it can cause real problems. So, too, can something like epilepsy. Are these disabilities even though they can largely be controlled by medication? No doubt those who suffer from them would argue that they are disabilities, and I find it hard to know where to draw the line. However, I know people who have diabetes and epilepsy, and I can assure you that they can lead lives which are a lot less difficult than mine, or of any person who needs to use a wheelchair. So where do we draw the line on self-identifying as having a disability? Does being short-sighted or slightly hard of hearing count?

The problem with self-identification, whether on disability, gender or anything else, is that it is far too open.

I’d be willing to bet that there are several people currently working in the Scottish Government who have diabetes. It’s not all that uncommon. Do they regard themselves as disabled? Does it prevent them doing their job? Does it prevent them driving a car or travelling independently? If it doesn’t, is it really a disability? I’m not picking on anyone who has diabetes because I know how careful those who have it need to be, but it can be managed and those who have it can lead fairly normal lives for the vast majority of the time, and the same goes for other medical conditions.

To take another example, are you disabled if you’ve had one leg amputated and use a prosthetic limb? Remember Oscar Pistorius competing in the Olympics? And yet, by any reasonable person’s view, he was surely disabled.

So where does this leave us? Is any one of us really qualified to say what constitutes a disability? Can we put a definition on it? Perhaps not, because, like so many things, disability is in the eyes of the beholder. That, however, is the big problem here. Self-identification as belonging to any category, whether it refers to disability, gender or anything else, is fine in everyday life, but when it comes to gaining priority for things like financial support, public office or anything similar, it is far too vague and, I’m afraid, open to abuse by those who wish to exploit a situation for their own purposes.

I don’t know any of the individuals involved in the NEC decision, nor can I comment on their motivations, but I think every person on that committee really ought to have given more thought to their decision. As it stands, the definition of who should be given priority is far too open.

Some disabilities are obvious, but all have degrees of seriousness. Some blind people can see a little, and some wheelchair users can stand or take a few steps. Does that mean they are not truly disabled? This is a really complex subject. It may be convenient to decide that self-identification removes the problem of how to assess how disabled a person may be, but in fact, it makes things more complex and, as mentioned earlier, open to abuse. If I, as someone with no vision at all, announced that I wished to self-identify as a sighted person, that would plainly be ridiculous. To come at the issue from the other direction is, I’m afraid, equally ridiculous.


You and Whose Army?

Posted on January 26th, 2021

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

It’s like 2014 all over again, with a British Prime Minister scurrying to Scotland to save the Union, and with Labour and the Tories, in the shapes of Gordon Brown and Michael Gove, joining forces to produce yet another Vow because the last one worked so well, and they didn’t even need to honour the promises made. They seem to think the same thing will happen again because nobody in Scotland noticed how we’ve been shafted since the 2014 IndyRef result.

As for the claims that Scotland has benefitted from the strength of the Union because of the supply of vaccines and the assistance of the British Army, where do you even begin with that? Of course, the media will promote this line for all it is worth, and no doubt some people will lap it up, but a few moments of critical thinking reveals it for little more than spin.

Other countries are getting hold of vaccine supplies without the aid of the UK, so it seems more than likely that an independent Scotland could have done the same. As for the British Army, which Army would we expect? Under the current constitutional arrangements, it is our Army too, although the way the Tories are talking about it, you could be forgiven for thinking it is the Army of a foreign country come to save us. They seem to think an independent Scotland would be incapable of having an Army of its own, which is plainly ludicrous since the current British Army has had Scottish regiments since the early days of the Union, primarily because they provided useful cannon fodder for the commanders who were at the forefront of the military conquest of much of the rest of the world.

So an independent Scotland could have obtained its own vaccines, and could have deployed its own Army. But the big thing the Tories won’t point out is that an independent Scotland would not have needed to goa long with the UK pandemic responses at the outset, and could have closed its borders to reduce the impact of the virus. It is not much of a boast that we have a lower infection and death rate than England, but things in Scotland could have been much better if we had the power to close our borders, and implement our own relief packages instead of relying on HM Treasury.

Let’s hope not too many Scots fall for the propaganda. Fortunately, just about everyone must know by now that if Boris Johnson is talking, he’s probably lying.

And yet, as a recent poll confirms, over 40% of voters in England still intend to vote Tory in future elections. That possibly tells us more about the quality of the Westminster Opposition than it does about the attitudes of English voters, but we cannot ignore the fact that they keep voting Tory. For Scotland, there can only be one route out of here. And, despite all the squabbling over tactics, at least we can be sure that everyone on the Yes side will vote with one mind if and when IndyRef2 comes along. Let’s hope it’s soon.


Paint It Black

Posted on January 22nd, 2021

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

Despite their calls for the Holyrood elections to be postponed, it seems the Unionist Parties in Scotland continue to send out electioneering leaflets. Oddly enough, from what I am told by sighted family, none of these pamphlets ever seem to contain any actual policies. All they seem to go on about is stopping the SNP and demanding that there be no IndyRef2.

So where is the positive case for the Union? Why do Unionist politicians not have any actual policies? Are they that devoid of imagination? OK, don’t answer that. But we really ought to have some sympathy for them, because the reality is that they cannot put forward any policies for the fundamental reason that Scotland does not control its own economy. With a fixed budget, any new policy needs to take money away from other policies, and they would need to explain what they would cut in order to fund their new idea. When you add in the fact that many matters are reserved to Westminster, they cannot do anything other than blame the SNP for failings. It is impossible for them to propose new policy ideas because they know such proposals would be blocked by Westminster.

So there is no positive case for the Union, and Unionist politicians know this. All they have is #SNPBad and the old, worn out Better Together slogans about deficits and shared history.

That is why they, with the willing aid of the BBC, will continue to smear the SNP in particular and Scotland in general. Everything must be painted black in order to frighten people into believing that, without the broad shoulders of the UK (remember them?), things would be even worse. Fortunately, recent polling results suggest that a majority of Scots, many of whom have become politically aware over the past decade, are not going to fall for the negativity. That won’t stop the media barrage, nor the election leaflets. But you can use the Off button on your TV or radio, and you have a recycling bin for the leaflets. Make good use of them.


A Different Path

Posted on January 7th, 2021

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

the events in Washington should have come as no surprise to anyone who has been paying even the slightest bit of attention to Donald Trump’s words and deeds. The only real unknown was the timing of when he would rouse his supporters to direct action, using the threat of violence to overthrow a democratic process. His pathetic video response asking them to go home while simultaneously encouraging them to believe his election defeat was rigged, was typical of the rhetoric of a fascist leader.

Yes, I’ve used the F Word. It is a term which is used too often, but I feel completely justified in using it because I have referred to Umberto Eco’s list of the 14 traits of a fascist regime. You can check this for yourself at:

Umberto Eco Makes a List of the 14 Common Features of Fascism | Open Culture

Trump’s USA ticks an awful lot of those boxes, and the really disturbing thing is how many Americans support him.

Of course, things like that could never happen in the UK, could they?

Well, take a look at Eco’s list again, and check off how many could be applied to the UK under its current extremist Right Wing Tory Government. I counted 11, which is very alarming.

Don’t be fooled by the more subtle approach of British fascism. George Orwell warned that any British variant of fascism would not come marching down the street wearing jackboots. That is not the British way, but all the signs are there, and we know that the UK Government under Boris Johnson in particular, is happy to tacitly encourage hate speech.

So let us not be complacent about this and imagine it is only an American problem. Our problem is going to be how we deal with whatever the UK Government and its more extreme supporters are going to do in order to keep Scotland under their control. Remember George Square in 2014? That was how they celebrated a victory, so how do you think they will react when their precious Union is really under threat?

Of course, the threat of violence should never stop a democratic process, but the really big worry has to be just how far the UK Government will go. We’ve seen Parliament illegally prorogued, we’ve got boundary changes designed to ensure permanent Tory rule, we’ve seen xenophobia become a mainstay of policy. There will be more to come, and the UK media will almost certainly act as cheerleaders for whatever the UK Government decides to do, especially in relation to keeping Scotland shackled to the UK. We are already seeing media claims that the Holyrood elections should be cancelled because of the Covid pandemic. This is despite plenty of other countries having held elections in the course of the past year, and it is noticeable that they are not calling for English local elections to be cancelled. Voting can almost certainly be made safer than going shopping, so there is no way the democratic process should be stopped. But fascists don’t like democracy, especially when they know they are going to lose, so keep a wary eye open for their attempts to subvert our elections.

We need these elections to go ahead because the fascists have become emboldened by the past few years of incitement. We need to rebuild a society in which their views once again become an unacceptable minority opinion. Above all, we need Westminster to know that Scotland is choosing a different path. The Tories may admire Trump, but we have now seen the consequences of following his type of leadership, and we really don’t need that in Scotland.


Season's Greetin'

Posted on December 21st, 2020

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

Many people seem to be suffering feelings of anxiety and distress over the new, stricter lock down measures being imposed across the UK in order to contain the spread of the Covid virus. As a disabled person, I can understand this since it mirrors the feelings many disabled people suffer when they are faced with living a restricted life due to their disability. I’m afraid there is no magic bullet to cure these feelings. All I can say is that every individual must come to terms with it in their own way, but equally, we should all do our best to empathise and also to point out that such things are not the end of the world. Indeed, unless you are living with a permanent disability, a brighter future lies on the horizon in the shape of the several vaccines which should soon become more widely available and thus allow restrictions to be eased if not abolished. Bearing that in mind, celebrating Christmas without your family around you is perhaps a small price to pay.

Having said that, this whole fiasco is, I believe, yet another symptom of an inherent problem in British society. In my opinion, it is British Exceptionalism, which is always tainted by racism, which lies at the heart of the bungling of Boris Johnson’s decisions. It is this particular way of thinking which has caused the unnecessary distress to so many people.

Let me explain.

Some time ago, Boris Johnson got it into his head that Christmas had to be as normal as possible. This was despite followers of minority religions needing to observe their own festivals under strict lock down rules. Christmas was, Johnson decided, different. Whether that decision was reached because of a fundamental Christian outlook or, as I suspect, a feeling that Christmas is a British tradition and therefore must be seen to be treated specially, does not really matter. I suspect the latter because the Tories are great ones for British traditions, so Johnson decided that Christmas had to be saved whatever the scientists said.

I wrote at the time of the initial announcement that I felt the Scottish and Welsh Governments had agreed reluctantly in order not to be cast as the Christmas Grinches when Johnson announced the five day relaxation. Nicola Sturgeon, in particular, made it clear she was not happy even though she was going along with it.

But, as many scientists have kept pointing out, the virus does not respect human wishes. Johnson clung to his decision far too long before giving in to reason. It is this late change of mind which has caused many of the complaints now being expressed. People have made plans, only to have them whisked away at the last moment. Expectations and hopes were raised under false pretences, and now those have been shattered. That is what has caused much of the current misery. It is, as the saying goes, the Hope that kills you.

This could have been largely avoided had Boris Johnson announced weeks ago that Christmas would not be an occasion for relaxation of the rules. That would have been hard for many people, but at least they could have planned for it. Instead, in his desire to be seen as the upholder and protector of British traditional values, he created a situation which was always fraught with problems. This was British Exceptionalism at its worst, thinking that the virus could be suspended by waving red, white and blue flags, wearing paper hats and listening to the Queen’s speech. I hasten to add that I will be doing none of those things on Christmas Day. Well, I may be forced to wear a paper hat, but I’ll ditch it as soon as I can.

Quite apart from the fiasco of covid Christmas, a greater problem for all of us is that Johnson has adopted a very similar outlook in his attitude towards the Brexit negotiations. He has ignored realities and pressed on as if a fundamental belief in the superiority of British ways of acting will overcome any hurdles. He is as wrong about that as he has been about Christmas.

So, Christmas will, for many of us, be different this year. But it is just one day. An important one, especially if you have young children, but it is one we will need to cope with. We’ve come a long way, and there’s still a way to go, but don’t let your dismay cloud your vision. Vaccines offer a much better hope than Boris Johnson’s bumbling words ever can. Stick it as best you can, and do your best to enjoy whatever type of Christmas you face in the knowledge that a few more months should see the roll out of the vaccine.

Let’s all try not to face this season greetin’. Enjoy the day if you can, and help your loved ones do the same, even if your contact is restricted to phone calls or video chats. And remember that, for most people, things could be a lot worse.


Suggestions, Please

Posted on December 16th, 2020

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

Do you remember the furore when schools were closed in the first lock down back in March? The Scottish Government were accused of harming children’s education and mental wellbeing.

When they announced that they were planning Blended Learning for when schools returned after the summer holidays, there were protests from opposition MSPs who insisted this was not good enough and that schools needed to re-open in full.

Now the schools have re-opened, the same people who demanded they be fully open now seem to be angry because of the health risk.

It’s almost as if the Scottish Government will be attacked no matter what they do. Who knew?

Now, I am sure many teachers will have a view on how safe it is to operate in class. What I hope is that schools themselves have introduced measures to mitigate the risk of transmission without needing to be told what to do by the Government. I am sure many of them are doing this already, but I have yet to hear one positive suggestion from opposition MSPs or anyone in the media as to how things could be improved to ensure the safety of teachers, staff and pupils. It’s all very well to say, "This is not good enough", but you really need to have some suggestions as to how the situation could be improved. If you are now calling for schools to be closed, what are your proposals for continuing children’s education?

On a slightly different note, I see Richard Leonard has been tweeting about the radical and decisive policies Labour will introduce to tackle poverty. I applaud his sentiments, but I have yet to hear him elaborate on exactly what these radical and decisive measures will be. Considering that a great many issues such as drugs abuse, health and education are all symptoms of poverty, tackling this should indeed be a priority, but without all the economic levers at their disposal, I’m not sure what it is Richard Leonard plans to do. As with the issue of schools being open during a pandemic, I hope to hear some positive suggestions soon, but I won’t hold my breath.


No Win Scenario

Posted on December 10th, 2020

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

At time of writing, I have no idea whether Boris Johnson has managed to agree a deal with the EU, but I must say I doubt he will be successful. Quite what he hopes to achieve in a few hours what years of negotiations have failed to agree, I cannot imagine. I suspect he sees himself as a grand statesman, and that he has visions of returning in triumph as if he were a reincarnation of his great hero, Churchill. Personally, even if he does come back with some sort of deal, I think it will be more like Neville Chamberlain waving a meaningless piece of paper and proclaiming it a great triumph.

But the reality is that whatever he does, Johnson cannot win. A bad deal – probably the only kind on offer – will see the Brexiteers in his Party annoyed at a capitulation, while No Deal (still the most likely scenario in my view) will result in economic and social disaster which people will soon realise is nothing like the sunlit uplands the Tory propaganda has been telling them it would be.

Johnson may well cling on to power for the remainder of his time in office, but he’ll be a lame duck, and the knives will be out for him when people at last realise what a disaster Brexit is. He cannot win, and I cannot find it within myself to have any sympathy for him.


No Deal? Big Deal!

Posted on December 1st, 2020

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

Time is running out for the UK to get a deal from the EU. I have always thought that No Deal was the most likely scenario, but even if there is a late breakthrough, you can be sure the UK will be at a disadvantage. Come January, a lot of people are going to get multiple shocks as the true impact of Brexit takes hold.

However, that’s not what this post is about. That’s because I’ve seen some Tories starting to push the notion that Scotland should not vote to become a normal, self-governing country because of the threat of leaving the UK with no deal from Westminster.

Where do you even start with this. For one thing, it’s the sort of comment an abusive partner would make, threatening to cast you adrift with no help at all. "See how you like that!" seems to be the thinking behind it. It’s a stupid notion, of course, because England needs Scotland, so the only way they’ll agree to us leaving the UK with no official agreed deal is out of pure spite. Some may say, with justification, that Westminster has always operated on a spiteful basis, and they are forging ahead with the highly damaging Brexit despite the damage it is going to do, so why wouldn’t they sever relations with a newly independent Scotland?

This is where we come to the other major problem with the "No Deal" threat. That’s because the EU and the UK are two very different types of union. The EU is a trade bloc, and any deal done with the EU is about trade. Any deal between a normal Scotland and England will be about how to split an equitable share of assets and liabilities. Things like using UK embassies, how many ships, aircraft, tanks etc would Scotland get? Would Scotland agree to bear a share of the UK debt? (I hope not, but it seems the SNP are content with that ridiculous suggestion).

Scotland would also need to establish new agencies to take over responsibility for a host of things like border control, full social security, collection of taxes, administration of driving licences and road tax, etc. It may be that they would wish the UK to continue to administer some of these things in the short term until the Scottish Government has been able to establish its own agencies.

So what if there’s a threat of No Deal on those things? As I said, that will only happen if England decides to really cut off its nose to spite its face. Because Scotland produces an awful lot of the electricity England needs. We also provide a lot of their food, and we have more water than we need, while England has a shortage. And that’s not even taking into account their precious nuclear weapons which have no other home to go to, nor their new blue passports which are issued from Glasgow.

As for trade, if Scotland re-joined the EU, we would automatically have trade deals with every other country in the world, which may even include England if they ever get their act together and strike a deal with the EU. There will inevitably be delays and adjustments needed to cope with the hard border England will insist on erecting because … well, because foreigners, but those will be short term compared to the benefits Scotland would accrue from joining the EU. If we develop our ports and establish ferry routes to places like Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands and Germany, Scotland could become more connected to Europe than ever before.

And if England insists on slamming an iron curtain border down and letting us do our own thing, I’m sure they’ll do just fine without our food, water and electricity. Oh, yes, and the oil. They don’t want that either, do they?

Speaking of oil, there’s one thing that nobody ever seems to point out. The price of oil is important because that’s what generates the massive profits of the oil companies, but what is just as important is the level of taxation levied on those profits. The major oil companies pay virtually no tax to the UK Treasury, yet they pay taxes to other countries. So don’t get fooled into thinking that the low tax revenue would be a major problem, because the UK deliberately keeps that revenue low.

So don’t be scared by the No Deal threat. Like so many Tory threats, it’s built on sand.


Bah, Humbug!

Posted on November 25th, 2020

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

So Christmas has been saved. Wonderful news, unless you prefer to remain Covid free and avoid contact with others as much as possible.

I can fully understand why the Scottish Government has gone along with this 4 Nation approach. Can you imagine the uproar if the Scottish Government had said, "Naw, we’re staying in our tiered lock down"?

Another reason for the relaxation is that a great many people may ignore the rules anyway, although it could be argued that’s not such a good reason really. However, if the UK Government fears people in England would breach lock down over Christmas, what are they thinking about Hogmanay in Scotland? Or does that not matter?

Not that I am advocating relaxing lock down over Hogmanay, but it cannot be denied that the reasons being applied to Christmas south of the Border apply equally well to Hogmanay in Scotland.

Personally, I’d prefer to stay at home and keep both myself and my relatives safe, although I strongly suspect I’ll be outvoted on that one when it comes to Christmas Day. But the bottom line is that Covid will not care about our annual holiday feast, and all a relaxation of the rules will do is result in another spike. Some may argue that, from a societal point of view, it may be worth the risk in order not to further damage the mental wellbeing of many members of society. Other people are simply fed up of the restrictions. I don’t think there is any right answer to how this is handled, and I don’t think the Scottish Government had any option but to go along with the UK plan. That plan, however, is going to result in more unnecessary deaths. Not that Boris Johnson and his chums will care about that. The whole thing smacks of a publicity stunt, with much of the pressure coming from the media. Let’s hope the majority of people are sensible and restrict their meetings to the minimum. After all, there is hope on the horizon, Why risk things now?


A New Way Of Voting

Posted on November 16th, 2020

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

So Gordon Brown says this is not the time for another IndyRef. What a surprise that is. However, many people do seem to agree with him that holding a referendum in the midst of a pandemic is a bad idea. Such a referendum would require millions of voters to gather in polling stations, thus presenting a risk of passing on the disease. What Gordon Brown completely fails to do is offer any suggestions as to how such risks could be mitigated. For arch-Unionists like him, there must always be an excuse for not allowing the people of Scotland a democratic choice.

So let’s look at voting and see if there is any way it can be improved. This is actually a sore subject for me because, as a blind person, voting independently is something I simply cannot do.

The most obvious solution is to allow people to vote online if at all possible, either through a phone or tablet app, or via a website. The problem with this approach, so the counter-argument goes, is that such things cannot be secure. I must admit to some scepticism on this point since many of us use online banking and, although some scams out there are aimed at obtaining ways to access our accounts, Banks generally have very secure apps, with procedures like Face ID, Touch ID, text verifications and call-backs. Surely it cannot be beyond the wit of Scots to come up with a secure voting system?

But time is the other issue. It may well be possible to devise and develop a secure app to allow online voting, but not everyone has access to the internet, and for those of us who do, how long will it take to develop such a system? Too long, perhaps.

So here’s another suggestion which would not only help mitigate Covid risks, it would also help visually impaired voters vote independently.

First of all, Polling Cards are sent to every voter. In addition, each Polling Station has a supply of ballot papers. Systems already exist to produce these. So why not have the ballot papers available online in an accessible format? Anyone who has access to the internet can go online, find the ballot paper for their polling station, perhaps by following a link printed on their Polling Card. (Yes, there’s an accessibility issue there, but the system should also allow people to search online to locate the appropriate ballot paper.

This means you can complete the ballot paper online. Then print it and have it ready to take to the Polling Station. At the same time, a separate page would also be printed, showing your name and address, plus an identifier number for your ballot paper which would have been allocated by the system.

As regards actual voting, the same system should allow users to book a time slot when they can visit their Poling Station. This will hopefully help reduce the number of people arriving at the same time. With social distancing measures in place, people can be admitted one at a time, present their voting details to allow the officials to mark them off the list and record the number of their ballot paper, then they can drop their pre-printed ballot paper into the box. This will speed up the entire process.

Of course, there will always be some people for whom arrangements like this will not work, and who need to vote in the traditional way, but surely this solution would at least help reduce the number of people arriving at the same time. After all, GP surgeries use a time slot system for dispensing the flu vaccine, and even my local library has a time slot system for picking up and returning books. OK, voting in a referendum will mean far greater numbers of people are involved, but we could also change the way we vote so that the Polling stations are open over a weekend. This would save closing schools which act as Poling Stations, and would allow a longer time for people to cast their votes. Indeed, Polling Stations could even open at around 7.30 pm on a Friday, remain open from 6 am until 10 pm Saturday and Sunday, thus making many more time slot available.

I’m sure people can point out flaws in this, but I’m not saying it must be done like this for everyone. However, if a majority of people were able to vote this way, the risks of contagion would surely be minimal. It also could be used for any Election, not just for a referendum. With Holyrood elections coming up next year, a system like this may well make voting safer and easier for a great many people, not just for the visually impaired.

One thing you can be sure of, though, is that Gordon Brown will insist it is impossible. Just because. Unlike Brown, however, I do not believe that Scots are genetically programmed to be incapable of devising solutions to problems. As long as we don’t let the UK Government devise a world-beating system for us, I’m confident we could come up with something like this without too much difficulty.


A New Project

Posted on November 10th, 2020

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

I have a confession to make. I actually have a sneaking regard for John Major. He always struck me as a fair-minded and reasonable man who, despite his image, actually had some empathy with others. Of course, he is thoroughly steeped in the traditions of the UK, and is therefore a Unionist to his core, so I’m not going to pay much attention to his latest pontifications on Scotland or our desire to become a normal country.

But you can almost smell the fear. Scotland is moving more and more towards a desire to govern itself, so the Unionists are coming up with ever more ridiculous ideas to put hurdles in the way. Two referendums? When has that ever happened before? It would actually be more honest of him to get behind Alister Union Jack’s war cry of, "Wait at least forty years!", because that’s all John Major is trying to achieve, even though he’s making an attempt to look reasonable while doing so. He may be far to the Left of the current crop of neo-Fascists who run the UK Government, but he’s still part of the problem we are trying to escape.

And don’t even get me started on Gordon Brown’s latest intervention. The Broon Buffoon still hasn’t delivered on the promises he made in 2014, and he is becoming increasingly irrelevant except in his ability to generate anti-Indy headlines for the Scottish media.

I expect we’ll hear a lot more of this sort of thing over the coming weeks. The only good thing is that there has been a definite shift in tone from Project Fear to Project Block Indy At All Costs. They’re being quite open about it now. I do hope the Scottish Government is paying attention.


Untenable Positions

Posted on October 27th, 2020

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

The Tories certainly know how to seize the moral low ground. If anyone had any doubts as to the fundamental cruelty of current Tory policies, then the refusal to feed starving children over the school holidays has certainly shown them up for what they are.

Credit is due to Marcus Rashford for not holding his tongue when offered the bribe of an MBE. If Boris Johnson thought that would buy his silence, he has certainly been proven wrong. It’s just a pity that young Mr Rashford accepted the bauble in the first place, but such is the conditioning of the British public, a great many people accept such honours, so let’s not be too hard on him. His persistence in challenging the UK Government’s cruelty is to be applauded.

Underlying all this, though, is the fundamental problem with British society. Instead of arguing over who should be feeding children, we should be asking why so many children are in such dire poverty that they need help from charities or the Government simply in order to survive. This is Dickensian, and it really should not happen in a modern state. Eradicating poverty may well be virtually impossible, but the level can surely be reduced to make it a truly exceptional thing rather than an everyday expectation for around 30% of the UK’s children. The only thing preventing a programme of eradicating poverty is the political will. The problem is that successive UK Governments have paid far too little attention to this. Under Labour, some improvement was made, but England rarely keeps a Labour Government in power long enough for their policies to have much effect, and all that work has been undone by the Tories, whose main aim is overtly to enrich themselves and their wealthy pals at the expense of everyone else.

Let’s hope the UK Government makes another U-turn, but at time of writing, this has not yet happened.

It may seem unconnected, but this leads onto another question; that of the tactics for Scotland holding another IndyRef. There is a lot of in-fighting in the Yes camp as many become exasperated at the lack of action from the SNP while the Tories continue their programme of abolishing Devolution - in practice if not in name.

Now, I do understand the logic of going through the process of abiding by Westminster rules in order to demonstrate to the world that Scotland has tried every democratic and constitutional route and been stymied at every turn. IN many ways, that makes total sense. There are, though, a few problems with that approach which I sincerely hope the SNP leadership will address sooner rather than later. The first is that it may well be too late to do anything because Holyrood will be effectively neutered by the Power grab. But even if it is not, then we really need to hear what the next steps will be when a request for a Section 30 Order is refused. Because let us be in no doubt that a UK Government which can happily see English children starve is not going to be swayed by a popular majority of pro-Indy MSPs returned at the next Holyrood election. We keep hearing that refusal to agree to a Section 30 Order will become untenable, but I honestly don’t think it will. Any Government which can sacrifice its own people to starvation certainly won’t quibble about refusing the Scottish people a democratic right to choose their future.

So, while I support the Section 30 route in principle, with some strong reservations about the length of time we seem to be putting this off, the main concern must be that the SNP really do have some Plan B which can be put into motion swiftly once the Section 30 route has been blocked. Because if they don’t, then I fear we will have lost our chance at becoming a normal, self-governing country for many years to come.


Political NewSpeak

Posted on October 23rd, 2020

By Stan Donderite

Figuring out what politicians really mean when they speak is not easy, so here’s a short compilation of words and phrases which don’t mean what you think they mean. This may help you understand what the politicians and their media lackeys are telling you.

Absolutely!

Absolutely not! If you believe what I’ve just said, you’re an idiot.

Die in a ditch

This is a rhetorical device to suggest opposition to something the speaker will go along with without a second thought. See also: Lie in front of the bulldozers.

Get on with the day job

I have run out of arguments and have no positive policies to put forward.

Let me be clear

Let me have a few seconds to figure out how I can waffle my way out of answering that question.

Once in a Generation

Once only. We’re never going to make that mistake again.

Oven Ready

Ha ha! We knew you’d fall for that one.

Taking back control

Keeping all power in our hands so we and our pals can get rich.

Unelected Bureaucrats

Any EU politician. Note: this phrase does not apply to members of the House of Lords.

We’re following the science

We’ve scoured academia to find some scientists who will say what we want them to say.

World Beating

It’s going to be crap, but our pals will make a lot of money from it.


Jack It In

Posted on October 19th, 2020

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

After spending a couple of years condemning the Scottish Government for not getting on with the day job, the Scottish Tories have now changed tack and have decided to attack the Scottish Government for getting on with the day job. They have begun an orchestrated campaign to mock the SNP for making an issue over food labelling during a pandemic. It’s almost as if the Scottish Government cannot win.

Still, it is the job of the opposition to oppose, and the Tories are certainly doing that, although the sheer brass neckedness of their attacks is something to behold.

There are actually a couple of strands to this. In the longer term, they are attempting to dismiss food labelling as an issue because the trade deal they want with the USA is dependent on the USA being able to flood the UK market with food which is produced to much lower health standards than currently apply. To ensure that nobody notices, the USA wants country of origin labelling to be scrapped. The Tories, naturally, will roll over and do what they are told, so labelling as we know it will soon vanish. The only way to have any idea of the source of food will be to judge it by its price, and many families on low incomes will opt for the cheaper products which will almost invariably be from the USA. This also means that Scottish food producers will be priced out of the market, leading to what many have predicted as the end of UK farming as we know it. Even some Scottish farmers seem to be waking up to the fact that they have been sold down the river by the Tories, but unfortunately it is too late now. They have got what they wished for, and the consequences will be borne by all of us for many years to come unless Scotland can somehow break free of the UK.

Which brings me to the other strand of the labelling. The current furore is over the proliferation of Union Jack symbols on Scottish produce. There is a discussion to be had over who is behind this. The UK Government, naturally, but who is producing the packaging, and why? Is it the supermarkets themselves insisting they will only sell UJ-branded foods?

The main point, however, is that the predominance of the UJ is part of a drive to ensure Scotland remains an effective colony. It is classic colonial behaviour to impose your own symbols and values on a colony, and that is precisely what the UK is trying to do. They want to normalise the UJ, to let it subliminally sink into the minds of Scots so that we accept the dominance of the UK without question.

But could this tactic backfire? Many people, including my own family, refuse to purchase goods branded with the UJ, but if everything has it, what choice will we have? Perhaps the answer lies in the Subsidy Myth.

There’s a video doing the rounds on social media featuring Kelvin Mackenzie, the one-time editor of The Sun. In it, he resorts to many stereotypes, referring to Scots as Jocks, mentioning everyone in Scotland lying around eating deep fried Mars bars and living off his taxes. He also, coincidentally, mentioned the UK when he clearly meant England, although he did hastily correct himself. That was, though, a revealing insight into his thinking.

But what was most important about this laughable video, which was so bad it may well have been intended as a parody, is that he seems to genuinely believe the Subsidy Myth.

The story of Scotland only surviving because of generous handouts from its wealthier neighbour began some time in the 1980s as a serious claim. Since then, it has been repeated over and over again as a way of convincing Scots that they could not possibly afford to become a normal nation. There have been plenty of articles disproving the claim, yet it persists to this day, and is one of the very few arguments Unionists now have.

The problem they have is that people in England now believe it more firmly than most Scots, so the myth is in danger of actually encouraging the break up of the union. If enough English voters believe it, and if they apply pressure on their MPs, there’s always an outside chance that public opinion will allow the Tories a way to climb down from their current strong opposition to Scottish independence. I should say that I am not overly confident of this since those in the WM Government must know the reality, although to be fair, their grasp on reality doesn’t actually seem all that strong at the moment. So if public opinion swung in favour of freeing England from the burden of paying for Scotland, we might yet see a way out of this mess. From that point of view, I am all in favour of promoting the Subsidy Myth. It’s starting to work in our favour.

And perhaps the Union Jackery could work the same way. If we are forced to buy goods which are emblazoned with the UJ, we should make a point of telling people and apologising for serving up this food. Our younger generations should be reminded every time they see a UJ that it is a symbol of our subservient status within the UK. Instead of meekly accepting the removal of our own national symbols, and instead of letting our world-renowned brands be usurped, we should take every opportunity to highlight that the UJ is being imposed on our products and that it reduces their value because of its tainted reputation. I’m not talking about history here, but about Scottish food having a world-class reputation, and not allowing GM adaptations. Scotland the Brand is important in the eyes of the world, and if the UK is attempting to suppress it, then we need to turn their own actions against them.

If it’s got a Jack, put it back. And if you can’t put it back, make sure everyone knows you are buying it under protest.


Sinking Feeling

Posted on October 13th, 2020

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

Although a lot has been happening in the political world, much of it has degenerated into in-fighting, with personalities becoming more important than the cause of independence. Recent developments within the SNP are giving huge cause for concern among many Yessers, and it is easy to see why.

Personally, I’m not all that interested in the details of who did what to whom. Those are important in a local context, but are distractions from the main goal. The big issue is what the Scottish Government intends to do to stop the power grab. At the moment, the answer seems to be a resounding, "Nothing".

Much is being made of the chance to obtain a majority of pro-Indy seats at next year’s Holyrood elections. My big fear is that this will be far too late. The gradualist approach has merit in that it portrays Scotland as having done all it can as far as the international community is concerned, but it presents a very real danger that the Westminster Tories will have completely scrapped or neutered the Devolution settlement long before we ever get to the ballot box.

Support for Indy may be at an all time high, but that will do us no good at all if that sentiment is not turned into action. As I’ve said before, Nicola Sturgeon may well have taken the moral high ground by putting things on hold during the pandemic, but we see daily evidence that the Tories do not concern themselves with morality. They are pushing ahead with their One UK policies, and nobody seems willing to do anything to stop them. The only thing that might save us is that they are so incompetent they may yet provide the Scottish Government with a chance to take Scotland out of the precious Union. Let’s hope so, because otherwise we are going to go down with the good ship Britannia and all who sail in her.


Sinking Feeling

Posted on October 13th, 2020

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

Although a lot has been happening in the political world, much of it has degenerated into in-fighting, with personalities becoming more important than the cause of independence. Recent developments within the SNP are giving huge cause for concern among many Yessers, and it is easy to see why.

Personally, I’m not all that interested in the details of who did what to whom. Those are important in a local context, but are distractions from the main goal. The big issue is what the Scottish Government intends to do to stop the power grab. At the moment, the answer seems to be a resounding, "Nothing".

Much is being made of the chance to obtain a majority of pro-Indy seats at next year’s Holyrood elections. My big fear is that this will be far too late. The gradualist approach has merit in that it portrays Scotland as having done all it can as far as the international community is concerned, but it presents a very real danger that the Westminster Tories will have completely scrapped or neutered the Devolution settlement long before we ever get to the ballot box.

Support for Indy may be at an all time high, but that will do us no good at all if that sentiment is not turned into action. As I’ve said before, Nicola Sturgeon may well have taken the moral high ground by putting things on hold during the pandemic, but we see daily evidence that the Tories do not concern themselves with morality. They are pushing ahead with their One UK policies, and nobody seems willing to do anything to stop them. The only thing that might save us is that they are so incompetent they may yet provide the Scottish Government with a chance to take Scotland out of the precious Union. Let’s hope so, because otherwise we are going to go down with the good ship Britannia and all who sail in her.


Wrong Is Wrong

Posted on October 2nd, 2020

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

We can moan all we like about the SNP being held to higher standards than other parties, but that is the reality, and SNP politicians really should know this by now. Margaret Ferrier’s inexcusable actions in travelling on public transport after testing positive for Covid have given the Nat-bashers all the ammunition they need, and you can be sure the BBC will take full advantage of it.

Yes, there is hypocrisy here, with politicians from other parties having done equally inexcusable things and got away with it, but again that is the nature of UK politics, and we are never going to change that. What all pro-Indy campaigners need to realise is that they cannot afford to give the media the excuses they are looking for.

What has been quite pleasing is that much of the comment criticising Margaret Ferrier has come from the Yes side of the constitutional debate, although that will cut no ice with the media, whose view of Yes is confined to us being vile CyberNats.

But let’s state this quite clearly. Wrong is wrong, no matter which political party you belong to or support. Equally, if you only call out wrongdoing when it is done by your political opponents, that is wrong as well.

Margaret Ferrier must resign. To do otherwise would give the media and the Tories a huge stick with which to beat the SNP, and they will certainly exploit this. She has damaged the pro-Indy cause, and however much she apologises, it won’t be good enough. To complain that Unionist politicians have done similar things in the past is to miss the point. They are held to lower standards than the Yes movement, and we should take pride in that. That’s because it is not only the media which demands higher standards from the pro-Indy side as a result of their bias, it is because we demand higher standards of ourselves. We look at the cesspit of corruption and greed that is UK politics, and we want nothing to do with it, so we must set and maintain much higher standards of behaviour than our opponents when it comes to setting a public example.


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.