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.


Borderline Farce

Posted on September 24th, 2020

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

Brexiteers do love their borders. One of their slogans was that they wanted to take back control of the UK’s borders to prevent an invasion by hordes of immigrants, and yet controlling the borders during the Covid19 pandemic is something they have signally failed to do. You’d think it would be relatively easy for an island state to keep control, but clearly it’s impossible. Unless you are New Zealand, of course.

And let’s not forget the Irish border which was always going to be a major flaw in the progress of Brexit. The solution to this seems to be to move it into the Irish Sea and hope that nobody notices.

We shouldn’t forget Gibraltar either, although it must be said the entire UK media seems to have done a pretty good job of that. What is happening there? Apparently nothing. Perhaps the UK Government are adopting the same attitude as they are to the Irish border and simply hoping the problem goes away.

Then there’s the Scottish border which may or may not exist when you are reading this. It seems to very much depend on which particular argument the Tories / Brexiteers are making at any given point in time. Sometimes the border is there, sometimes it isn’t.

And now, to top it all off, we are going to have a border around Kent. Perhaps this is all part of a cunning plan to ensure readiness for Brexit. Maybe they think that the more borders they have, the more practice they will have at controlling them. Based on their performance so far, they certainly need an awful lot of practice. I wonder how long it will be before the Kent border joins the list of borders the Tories wish wasn’t there.


A Sea Of Corruption

Posted on September 23rd, 2020

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

I’m far more interested in the cause of Scotland becoming a normal, self-governing country than I am in the internal politics of the SNP. The trouble is that, with no viable alternative route to gaining independence through political means, we are reliant on the SNP to deliver this. That’s why things like the GRA and the Hate Crime Bill are so worrying. How, in all conscience, can I vote for a Party which is promoting ideas which I disagree with at a fundamental level? Of course, every Party will have some policies some of their supporters will disagree with, but they are usually things you can accept, even if grudgingly, because of the overall package the Party offers. I must say that the SNP are making it difficult to follow that line of argument at the moment. Then, when you add in the increasing evidence that people at the very top of the SNP leadership instigated a vendetta against Alex Salmond, you do start to fear for the direction the Party is taking.

But what alternative do we have? The ISP are trying to go about things the right way, publishing their own policies, but do they genuinely have the financial wherewithal to become viable political contenders? Gaining a foothold is extremely difficult and, as I’ve mentioned in previous articles, I believe the ISP need a lot more high profile candidates, a lot more public exposure, and an awful lot more money.

On a more positive note, support for independence continues to grow, and the SNP seem to be on track to gain a majority at next year’s Holyrood elections despite the system being weighted against that. I believe this shows either that a majority of the Scottish public does not know much about the GRA, the Hate Crime bill, or the shenanigans within the NEC of the SNP to block some potentially high calibre candidates from standing in the elections because they do not conform to the ideas which are taking control of the Party, or that the public do know and don’t care because gaining independence is their overriding priority. I must admit I am leaning towards that latter camp myself, even though I know I may need to hold my nose when putting a cross against the SNP on a ballot paper.

But this highlights a double-edged sword for the SNP in the coming months. If they gain a majority and are unable to deliver independence because of their subservience to Westminster protocols, or if they don’t quite gain a majority on their own and then meekly accept the Unionist argument that only achieving that near-impossible majority is a sufficient mandate, then they may well see their support plummet. After all, there are only so many times you can fail to deliver before your backers give up on you.

On the other hand, if they do drive forward with IndyRef2, and if Scotland does make the sensible decision this time, then the SNP faces losing the first post-Indy election unless it ditches its more controversial policy ideas. I, for one, would be looking for a Party which more closely reflected my views. If the SNP leadership recognise that loss of support as a genuine threat, they will need either to drop the controversial ideas, or accept that they might not form a post-Indy Government.

Unless, that is, there is another scenario. There is no doubt that the SNP would have a lot of goodwill if they do actually deliver independence, but they might also face an election in which there is little real opposition. Can the three Unionist Parties maintain themselves without the financial backing of their London bosses? Or will they simply collapse? I must admit I can readily imagine the demise of UK Labour in Scotland and UK Lib Dems in Scotland, although I strongly suspect that the Tories would continue to be funded by dark money in the interests of wealthy speculators and investors seeking to make a profit from a newly independent country, or seeking to take over the political narrative as they have done in the current UK and USA among others. Even so, if faced with a binary choice between the SNP and the Tories, I suspect most Scots would vote for the SNP. Is that what they are hoping for?

The most worrying scenario, though, is that next year’s Holyrood elections won’t matter because of the power grab currently under way. By the time the SNP decide to return their focus to IndyRef2, it may well be too late. I know there is always a chance that the Internal Market Bill may be blocked or watered down, but I honestly don’t think that is likely. The noises from the USA will not deter the extremists who currently control Westminster. After all, these are the same people who are forging ahead with a No Deal Brexit despite knowing full well how disastrous that will be. The threat of not having a trade deal with the USA is hardly going to deter them. In any event, they are probably counting on Donald Trump being re-elected. Horrendous as that may sound, we should not forget that he has big business on his side, so I expect he will win the election. Even if he loses, he’s already making noises about not standing down because his defeat would obviously mean that the election was rigged. This, of course, is classic projection since it is the Republicans who seem to be doing their best to tamper with electoral rolls and voting access.

But whatever happens in the USA, the UK Tories won’t care. The welfare of the nation is of no importance to them whatsoever. They are intent on squeezing as much money out of the system as they can, as evidenced by the ludicrous contracts and jobs given to their pals.

But, to return to the IMB, we cannot ignore the fact that it will give Westminster power to strike down any Bill passed in the Scottish Parliament. It shouldn’t take too much of a stretch of the imagination to realise that this could extend to any proposal to hold IndyRef2 on the grounds that Scotland becoming independent would fracture the UK’s internal market. After all, this Bill gives Westminster the power to do whatever it wants in any circumstance no matter what current laws prevent it.

What’s the upshot of all this? Well, the UK is a basket case, and the SNP seem content to ride the crest of the Indy wave without doing too much to take things to the next level.

Now, it may well be that my views are too extreme. Perhaps slow and steady is the way to go. In normal times, I would probably agree. I’m no radical extremist. All I want is a safe and prosperous future for my family, and for every other family in Scotland. The trouble is that these are not normal times. The UK Tories are, by any measure, extremists, and they will not play by the rules the SNP seem determined to follow. In fact, as we are seeing with the internal Market Bill, they are more than willing to ignore any law they find inconvenient, or simply to change the rules to suit themselves. They have no morals, honour, or principles except the principle of self-serving greed. The SNP may feel it is better to seize the moral high ground, but the very real danger in that approach is that you may find yourself isolated on a small outcrop of good intentions, while everything you hoped for has vanished beneath a sea of corruption.


NO Laughing Matter

Posted on September 14th, 2020

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

The regulations covering what we can or cannot do under Covid19 restrictions are pretty complex, and the situation is not helped by the fact that they keep changing, with some areas having even stricter impositions placed on them. This has resulted in some sarcastic social media comments about being allowed to go to the pub but not being allowed to meet family members in your own house, and this is quite understandable since the rules do seem to incorporate rather a lot of conflicting messages. For example, it’s OK for pupils to attend school, and for people to go to a pub or restaurant, but having family over for dinner is forbidden if it exceeds 6 adults from more than 2 households.

Now, it’s fine to mock, and no Government should be beyond having the mickey taken where appropriate, but there are a few things we do need to keep in mind when criticising these restrictions.

First of all, we must remember that nearly everyone hated Lock Down. People wanted to get out and about, and many businesses began to struggle financially. What the Scottish Government is trying to do is balance returning to some sort of limited normality while still keeping the spread of the pandemic under some sort of control. This means that pubs and restaurants should be allowed to open with restrictions in place in order to keep them going as viable concerns, but that indoor meetings in households, which seem to play a significant role in the spread of Covid19, also need to have restrictions placed on them. It would be easier to simply shut down all public venues again, but we cannot lose sight of the fact that the Scottish Government has no powers to pay furlough or business support payments. If businesses are not permitted to trade, most will go under before very long. It’s a difficult balancing act, and I don’t envy Nicola Sturgeon the responsibility she bears for making these judgement calls.

The increase in cases is very worrying, and it must be said that it seems to be the younger generations who are socialising more and therefore spreading the disease more. It’s perfectly understandable that younger people want to mix, but if that is going to result in more deaths, then the inevitable consequence will be more restrictions.

As for going to work, the message is still to work from home if at all possible. This is being clouded by the UK Government’s apparent desire to get people back to work because wealthy landlords are suffering due to buildings being unoccupied. As usual with Westminster, it’s the rich who matter most. In Scotland, let’s try to observe the rules even though we know some of them seem contradictory on occasion.

And if you are not sure whether you are allowed to do something, then the best thing is not to do it. Lives are at stake here, so let’s do our best to tackle the spread of the pandemic by being sensible.

And please download the Protect Scotland app. If you’re worried about the Government being able to track you, then you might want to take a look at your own social media posts where you tell the world what you have been doing. Your phone is tracking you anyway, and Google and Apple probably know more about where you go than your family do. Besides which, the app is anonymous and, according to folk with technical expertise, doesn’t track you in any case. All it’s doing is using Bluetooth to record which other Bluetooth devices are near you, and for how long. Around 20% of the Scottish population have already downloaded it, but we need more than that.

Finally, by all means make fun of the current situation if it helps you cope. Humour is, after all, a basic human response to most situations. But don’t let that humour persuade you to break the rules because you think they are silly. Some may be less effective than others, but all of them are intended to save lives – possibly yours.


The Greater Risk

Posted on September 10th, 2020

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

Some people are drawing comparisons between the UK’s proposed Internal Markets Bill and the Enabling Act passed in Germany in 1933 under which the Nazi Government took effective control of all aspects of life in Germany. At the risk of invoking Godwin’s Law, it must be said that there are worrying similarities in the powers the new Bill will provide to the UK Government.

As you would expect, the SNP are coming out with strong condemnations, as are representatives of the Welsh and Northern Ireland Governments. The problem is that strong words will not prevent this happening, and reports yesterday suggested that the hard-liners in the ERG want the Bill to go even further than is already drafted. Ever since the euphoria of the SNP’s 2015 General Election success, we have repeatedly seen that strong words and voting against the wishes of the extremists in the Tory Party rarely gets us anywhere. This is particularly true given the 80 seat majority the Tories have.

For the past four years, SNP MPs have fought against Brexit with no success. "We will not be dragged out of the EU against our will" was a rallying cry, and yet that is exactly what is happening. Now we hear, "We will not let powers be stripped away from us", and yet that is exactly what is happening.

There is always a slight chance that the UK Government will back down in the face of EU threats of legal retaliation, but I’m not counting on that. Even if they do, you can be sure they will come back with some slightly altered version of the same Bill, so I think the very best we can hope for is a temporary reprieve, and even that seems unlikely.

It is very difficult to see what the SNP in Westminster can do to block or even tone down this Bill. Some have suggested they walk out of Westminster in protest at being tarnished by association with an Act of Parliament which the UK Government has already admitted will break international law. To be honest, I think that is the sort of gesture which is needed now. Playing by Westminster’s rules will get us nowhere.

Of course, this sort of move would please the Tories immensely, and you can already see the headlines, so it would be a bold move, but perhaps boldness is now needed. The gradualists within the SNP will argue that they have brought us close to independence, but surely they must see that allowing Westminster to proceed with this Bill will make independence more difficult? If we wait, we may miss our chance.

For some years now, I have been saying that I really hoped Nicola Sturgeon had a plan other than politely asking for a Section 30 Order. Some very astute political commentators have been saying for just as long that there is no other plan, and I am concerned that they seem to be right. Proposed draft Bills presented late in the current Holyrood Parliamentary session will achieve nothing in the short term, and we won’t know for some months yet what sort of timescale the SNP plan to put on IndyRef2. Sadly, time seems to be running out, and perhaps it will take the emergency of this Internal Markets Bill to prompt the SNP leadership into some real action.

Whatever they do will be a risk, that’s for sure, and I can understand why they might fear upsetting middle class voters, but more and more people are beginning, at long last, to recognise that becoming a normal, self-governing country is the only way to escape being dragged into a post-Brexit economic calamity. Yes, independence will present many challenges, and nobody ever said it was easy, but plenty of other countries have done it, and none have ever asked to be ruled by Westminster again.

Above all, though, the risk of doing nothing now seems greater than the risk of doing something.


How You Say It

Posted on September 7th, 2020

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

It’s not often I agree with Lib Dem MSP, Alex Cole-Hamilton, but he made a very valid point when he criticised a tweet from Dehenna Davison MP which claimed that the reason Richard Leonard is doing so badly in Scotland is that he speaks with a Lancashire accent. As Mr Cole-Hamilton pointed out, this was an attempt to denigrate someone not only on their accent, but on purely ethnic grounds. It pandered to those who believe that everyone who supports Scotland becoming a normal, self-governing country is anti-English. Mr Cole-Hamilton’s indignation and outrage was perfectly justified, and I must put on record that I do not believe that the accent a person speaks with has any bearing on their ability or lack of it. As long as a person can be understood, how they say things is irrelevant.

Richard Leonard himself took exception to the Tweet by Ms Davison, and pointed out that he has a Yorkshire accent rather than a Lancashire one, something Ms Davison might be expected to recognise seeing as she was born in Yorkshire.

So credit to Alex Cole-Hamilton for calling this out. But the story does not end there, because it seems he deleted his tweet when he discovered that, rather than being an anti-English SNP MP, Dehenna Davison is actually a Tory MP. Why would he do such a thing? His point was perfectly valid, and Ms Davison’s Tweet was outrageous. Yet, on discovering that she is on the same side of the constitutional debate as he is, he seems to have pulled his comment from social media. What a strange thing to do. If a comment is unacceptable, it should not matter who said it; it should be called out for what it is. The Tweet by Ms Davison was clearly a racially-motivated slur, and it seems very strange that Alex Cole-Hamilton should withdraw his comment on discovering which Party she belongs to.

Readers can make up their own minds as to his motivation.


Welcome News

Posted on September 2nd, 2020

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement that a timetable for IndyRef2 will be set out before the end of the Parliamentary session is welcome news indeed. Many would say it is about time. However, I’m not getting too excited about it just yet, and there are several reasons for this.

First of all, we have heard Nicola Sturgeon declare an intention to make the case for Scottish independence before, and nothing much has come of it. However, she really won’t need to do all that much since the combination of Brexit and Covid19 have exposed the Union for what it is. Let’s hope she drives those messages home.

There are other reasons for my reservations surrounding the announcement. Perhaps it is too cynical to suggest that she knew she had to say something to quieten the growing discontent among many Yes supporters about the lack of any real progress. The increase in support for independence suggested by the polls isn’t really down to anything the SNP have done other than appear competent when compared to the Tory UK Government, and it must be said that’s a pretty low bar.

Then there’s the timing of when this draft Bill is going to be produced. I get the impression it will be very late in the Parliamentary session, which would mean MSPs would not be able to vote on it. It would therefore become more akin to a manifesto promise than an actual Bill. Of course, the SNP do currently seem to be on track for a landslide victory, so then they would need to act on any promises made in the draft Bill, although there is always a concern that such drafts can be watered down before any vote is held.

And then there is the content of the draft Bill. When will it propose holding IndyRef2? Is it going to be kicked down the road for a few more years? If it is, what choice do voters have other than to accept this because, as things stand, the SNP is the only possible vehicle for obtaining independence. Nicola Sturgeon cannot afford to further alienate those Yessers who are clamouring for an escape from the UK before it is too late, but can she dress up a delay of several years sufficiently to appease them? Or will she go for it as soon as possible, perhaps risking the effects of a bombardment of Project Fear propaganda aimed at wavering voters? If she loses IndyRef2, her own political career could be over, so it’s perhaps no wonder that she’s been cautious.

And, finally, will the draft Bill confirm that the only way the SNP will countenance IndyRef2 is with the kind permission of our Westminster masters? Will it insist on a Section 30 Order even if, by then, the current court case has confirmed that such an Order is not required to hold a valid referendum? Because, whatever rumblings we hear, it seems highly unlikely that Boris Johnson would agree to sign a Section 30 Order. He knows England has too much to lose if Scotland becomes a normal, self-governing country. When he says NO, what response will the draft Bill outline?

So, the announcement is a welcome step, but there are still too many unknowns for us to get too worked up about it.


Camping Checklist

Posted on August 26th, 2020

By Stan Donderite

A checklist for anyone considering travelling to Scotland for a camping holiday.

Please ensure you have all the following before setting off:

  • Face masks.
  • Insect repellent. (It won’t work on the midges, but it will give the locals a laugh).
  • Tent & camping equipment.
  • Instructions on how to erect a tent.
  • Waterproof clothing. It’s Scotland, FFS!
  • Your mobile phone. Only kidding. You won’t get a signal, so you may as well leave this at home.
  • Water bottle. Useful for extinguishing fires you may have lit for a photo shot.
  • An English / Gaelic dictionary. Useful for reading road signs.
  • Your credit card. Remember, a Pound spent in Croydon is worth at least twice as much as a Pound spent in the Western Isles. With an exchange rate like that, you can afford to splash out. Please help boost the local economy by spending lavishly.
  • Stout walking shoes. These are invaluable for trekking through the magnificent landscape. They are also essential if you feel the need to climb fences into fields to pitch your tent.
  • Something to read. We suggest Neil Oliver’s latest historical book. It will give you a deep understanding of Scotland and the Scots. Particular attention should be paid to the section on happy Highlanders leaving their homes voluntarily to seek out new lives in America.
  • Police security detail to keep unwanted locals away.
  • A Daily Mail photographer.

That should ensure you have a happy and safe holiday, but if things don’t work out, it is recommended that you have an alternative venue arranged as a back up. For example, your father might have a villa in Greece he could let you use.


A Basic Fact

Posted on August 19th, 2020

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

I’m not going to make any comment on the recent retrials of Alex Salmond by the BBC. I didn’t watch the Kirsty Wark show, nor listen to Dani Garavelli’s radio programme because, like most supporters of Scotland becoming a normal, self-governing country, I was pretty sure they would be stitch-up jobs. Judging by the comments I’ve seen on social media, this was a pretty accurate assessment. What a shock! Not.

However, things continue apace with a Holyrood Committee investigating the handling of the investigation into allegations against Alex Salmond, with Craig Murray’s blog having some harsh words to say.

The only point I’d like to make is that, whatever revelations or further allegations come out over the coming days and weeks, none of it fundamentally alters the case for Scottish independence. It does not matter which politicians are in charge, nor what skulduggery, if any, they have been up to. Yes, a major fall out within the SNP may well harm the cause in terms of how we achieve independence, and that is surely what the Unionists are hoping for, but it should not alter our view on independence in any way at all. It is the normal way that normal countries operate. How we get there is subject to much debate, but be in no doubt that we must get there, and nothing that any individual politician says or does can change that basic fact.


Rethinking Exams

Posted on August 9th, 2020

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

We all know how stressful a time it can be when sitting important exams, and also when waiting for the results. I am not going to get too deep into the details of the current unedifying row except to make a couple of points.

The first is that the Unionist Parties are, as usual, whipping up a storm of protest without actually offering any viable alternative solution to the one the SQA has put in place. They are also turning a blind eye to the very similar situations in England and Wales, where no appeals are being permitted at all to the decisions on downgrading. Political opposition is fine, but surely it is incumbent on anyone with genuine aspirations to be a serious politician to come up with a better idea than simply to demand the Education Minister’s resignation. As far as I can tell, not a single Unionist politician has come up with any serious alternative system except, presumably, to allow the teachers’ assessments to stand unchallenged. In this case, the pass rate would be so high that the Unionists would then be able to scream from the rooftops that the system was clearly not fit for purpose.

This leads onto my second point. If the pass rate was unusually high because of the change of procedure for measuring students’ abilities, then having politicians casting aspersions as to the validity of the qualifications earned is only going to harm the students. Employers and Universities would undoubtedly view any such qualifications as suspect because of the furore created by people with a political agenda.

But the main point is that it is perhaps the whole system of examinations that is questionable. Some students are unable to perform at their best under the pressure of an examination situation. Others may skimp on their course work because they know they can perform well in an exam. It is a one-day opportunity for students to show their ability, and all sorts of things can have an impact on how they perform. Yes, I know that the SQA has procedures in place which allow students some dispensations for their performance being affected by outside circumstances, but we cannot ignore the fact that teachers know their pupils best. If the teachers have marked students highly, then perhaps it is because the majority of those students perform better over the course of a year than they do in a three hour examination.

So perhaps we should be looking at whether exams are really the best way to assess ability. The PISA results are often used to bash the Scottish Government, who seem inclined to accept that Scottish Education should move more towards a learning by rote system in order to attain better PISA scores for the nation. Perhaps what the current situation shows is that this is very much the wrong way to go. If the teachers’ assessments are correct, then the current generation of students has far more ability than exam results would indicate.

Of course, moving away from an examination system would present problems of its own, not least the need to have a consistent approach all across the nation. It would also require new checking and validation procedures to prevent schools awarding marks which are artificially high in order to boost their own position in rankings. However, none of these problems are insurmountable, so maybe we should be having a radical re-think about how we measure students’ abilities. Because, in the short term, there is no guarantee that Covid will not still be around next year. And if we can devise a proper, measurable and valid way of awarding qualifications based on course work, why not keep that system going forwards? Yes, the unionists will howl about it being too easy when higher results are achieved, but they are going to howl whatever we do, and unless they can come up with a better idea, why not give it a try?


Tax the Rat Farms

Posted on August 4th, 2020

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

There’s a scene in a book by the late, great Terry Pratchett where his fictional city of Ankh Morpork is being overrun by a plague of rats. In an effort to solve this, the City Council offers to pay a bounty for each rat that is killed. People can claim their reward by bringing a rat’s tail to the Council as proof. Despite this, the plague becomes even worse. In desperation, people turn to a man famous for his wisdom and political insight, and he provides an answer.

"Tax the rat farms."

As usual with Pratchett, he uses his fictional world to highlight human nature. In this case, it is to demonstrate that, whatever human system is put in place, some people will seek to find a way to take advantage for their own personal benefit.

Look around and you’ll see examples of this everywhere. Whether it be scammers phoning you pretending to be from Amazon, or emails threatening to cut off your internet service unless you click a link, there are scams everywhere.

And then, of course, we have politicians. Here I give you the House of Lords, and offshore bank accounts as examples. You can add to that the contracts handed out to pals of Cabinet Ministers and unelected Personal Advisers without any proper tendering or competition because speed is required to tackle the Covid19 pandemic. That’s a convenient smoke screen which allows rules to be ignored in order to benefit those in power.

In normal times, of course, such actions would be exposed by the media and pressure would be applied by the public, forcing the guilty party to resign. These days, the political system has been infiltrated by self-serving extremists to such an extent that they are able to brazen out any such issues. The Tories have well and truly taken advantage of the system, and even though more and more people are starting to realise just how dreadful the consequences will be for the majority of people in the UK, it is now too late to do anything about it.

And when it comes to people taking advantage of a system, no matter how good the intentions behind that system may be, I cannot ignore the Gender Recognition Act. It’s a topic I have largely avoided because, as a heterosexual white male of mature years, I do not feel qualified to make much of a contribution to the debate. There are only two things I feel I ought to say. The first is that most people I’ve discussed this with in private have no issues at all with Trans people being treated with equality and fairness. What they do have a problem with is legislation which some individuals will be able to take advantage of for their own personal gratification. Raising the status of one group should not adversely impact the status of another.

The second thing is more of a question. Given our media’s propensity for leaping on any topic which might paint the SNP in a bad light, why is the GRA not receiving condemnation from Unionist politicians and the press? I shall leave that for others to puzzle over.

As for the wider point, it is clear that democracy is in grave jeopardy. Autocratic rulers are cropping up everywhere, pushing the limits of what they can get away with. And it is in those supposed bastions of democracy, the UK and the USA, where things are worst.

As for Scotland, we face a stark choice. Becoming a normal, self-governing country won’t be easy, but plenty of other countries have managed it. Yes, there will be some individuals who will seek to use independence for their own advantage, but that is no reason we should deny ourselves the opportunity of taking our place on the world stage. If we had a normal media covering a normal country’s normal politics, any such abuses could be highlighted, and the people could hold those in authority to account. That’s what should happen in a normal country, but the UK is very far from normal, and the sooner we can escape its clutches, the better.


Push Back

Posted on July 27th, 2020

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

It’s no real surprise that Unionist politicians are pushing the line that Scotland is only coping with the Covid19 pandemic because of financial support from our generous benefactors in England. It’s simply another version of the Too Wee, Too Poor narrative we’ve heard for as long as most of us can remember.

It’s hardly less surprising that the BBC are also pushing this narrative as evidenced by Naga Munchetty telling Ian Blackford that an independent Scotland would have had no money to combat the pandemic at all.

It seems our media are incapable of understanding that other medium-sized independent nations have managed to tackle the threat of the virus because they have their own central banks and control their own economy. If that were not true, every small or medium-sized country in the world would have been begging Westminster for handouts.

It also seems that nobody in the media is able to understand that some people in Scotland do actually pay taxes, and that many taxes paid by businesses registered in England make their profits through selling goods and services in Scotland as well as in England.

The real question here is why Scotland needs to go cap in hand to Westminster to ask for some of our own money back. Normal, self-governing countries don’t need to do that.

All around the globe, countries have reacted to the pandemic in different ways. Some have been very successful in minimising deaths, others less so. The UK’s pathetic handling has resulted in thousands of deaths, and Scots have also suffered because the Scottish Government was compelled to go along with the delays in imposing Lock Down. That’s because, not being a normal, self-governing country, we did not control the economic levers which would have allowed us to go our own way. If we had been able to control our borders and introduce financial support measures like other countries, the chances are we’d have seen far fewer deaths.

It is, quite frankly, disgraceful that UK politicians are crowing about the amount of support they have given to Scotland when every country in the world has been supporting its citizens. What the UK Government has done is the bare minimum we should expect any Government to do.

So please let us here Scottish politicians pushing back a lot harder when this sort of ludicrous, ill-informed and offensive accusation is levelled against us. Because, farcical as the claims may be, far too many people still believe what they hear on the TV News. Unless pro-Indy politicians push back a lot harder, that’s not going to change.


Voting Alternatives

Posted on July 21st, 2020

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

It’s interesting that the Independence for Scotland Party (ISP) is receiving very little publicity from the mainstream media while Dave Thompson’s Alliance for Independence is receiving much greater coverage. This could be because the media hacks are in a bubble where only the actions of former MSPs are considered, but given the way the media usually operates, it could suggest that they view the Alliance as something that will harm the SNP, while they know the purpose of the ISP is to boost support for independence.

I have said before that the biggest problems for ISP will be getting their message out to the wider public. They need a lot of money to pay for advertising, and they need some very high profile candidates who will force the media to pay attention. So far, neither has been evident. Of course, they could gain media coverage by being openly critical of the SNP, but too much of that will only create a greater split in the Yes movement, and may well deter some people from voting for them.

One thing the commentary so far is showing is that the Unionists will not consider votes for the ISP as evidence of support for independence. Despite the fact that supporters of the three main Unionist Parties have fairly evidently played the electoral system in the past, any such voting shenanigans by Yessers will apparently render such votes meaningless. This is despite ISP having produced their own policies which differ from those of the SNP in some key areas. But the Unionists will continue to push the line that only an SNP majority in Holyrood will provide any proof that the people of Scotland want their nation to become a normal, self-governing country. Sadly, the SNP appear to be going along with this line of argument in spite of the well known fact that gaining a majority is almost impossible. The polls may indicate that such a feat is on the cards next year, but it must be said that it will require a considerable slice of good fortune if the trick they accomplished in 2011 is to be repeated.

A big question must be whether the Unionists could stick to the argument that having a super-majority of pro-Indy MSPs is somehow invalid because a new Party arrived on the scene to scoop up Yes voters. The Tories, of course, can argue black is white and the media will probably go along with them, and whatever your thoughts on whether voting for the ISP (or any other pro-Indy List Party) might be, we cannot ignore the fact that the media continue to hold big sway over the wider public. If they say the result of the election is flawed because voters played the system, then many will believe it. Whatever the rights or wrongs, overcoming that hurdle will not be easy unless there are some heavyweight candidates who can argue the case in such a way that the media cannot ignore them.

Putting that issue aside, there is still a long way to go before the elections, but many Yes supporters will be in a quandary. They know how the D’Honte voting system works, and they know that many votes for the SNP on the list are wasted. From that point of view, having another choice on the List could considerably help. On the other hand, some people have produced calculations suggesting that the ISP could remove SNP and Green MSPs rather than their Unionist targets. This is definitely something the ISP will need to take careful account of when deciding where to put up candidates.

What some in the SNP do not appear to realise is that many of the people who have voted for them in recent elections are far more interested in gaining independence than in keeping the SNP in power. For those people, a vote for the ISP must be a great temptation because the SNP seem content to win elections then find some excuse or other to do nothing to bring independence any closer. Now, Covid19 is certainly what any Government should be concentrating on tackling, but the reality is that the Tories have not stopped Brexit nor the Power grab. By putting independence on the back burner for what could be several more years, the SNP are playing into the Tories’ hands. Concentrating on Covid19 might be the moral thing to do, but the Tories don’t do morality, and while the long, cautious approach to gaining support for Indy may be starting to bear fruit, the Tories may not allow us enough time for it to bring about the solution we need. This is the fundamental reason why many Yessers are in favour of the idea of an alternative pro-Indy Party, be it ISP or whoever.

Yet if the ISP stand in regions where they could remove other pro-Indy MSPs, they will harm their own cause. And if they don’t get enough public attention, they won’t gather enough votes at all while reducing the SNP vote even further.

So it’s a tricky decision, and it’s one I remain undecided on. For the moment, though, I am intrigued by the way the media has responded to the ISP. The fact they are being blanked suggests they might be onto something.


Last Chance

Posted on July 10th, 2020

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

Criticism of the SNP leadership is growing, with both George Kerevan and Jason Michael having recently written powerful articles outlining some of the issues. No Government should be free of criticism, of course, and it must be said that the UK media may actually help the SNP in this regard as its criticism is so blatantly biased that any remotely valid negative opinions are lost in the noise of SNPBad

Many in the Yes movement are critical of the reaction of the Scottish Government to the recent opinion polls, with the gradualists among the Party faithful insisting that 54% is not yet enough to risk IndyRef2, this being despite our opponents assuring us that the 55% No vote in 2014 was decisive.

On the other hand, it must be said that the gradualists can point to the recent uplift in support for Yes as vindication of their approach. It must also be said that Nicola Sturgeon’s response to the Covid19 pandemic has raised her personal profile significantly, while the ludicrously inept performance of the Westminster Tories has certainly helped banish the notion that politicians of real ability are only to be found in Westminster.

Nicola Sturgeon is undoubtedly the most accomplished politician in the UK, but the important word there is "politician". She has led the SNP to an almost unassailable position in Scottish politics, and opinion polls – for what they are worth – suggest she is in line for even greater success in next year’s Holyrood elections. The big question must be what she will do if that expected majority does appear. Will she go for IndyRef2, or will she find another reason to put it off? The problem for Yessers is that, if she does delay once again, what alternative do they have? Much of the current support for the SNP is based on the knowledge that they are the only Party capable of delivering independence for Scotland. Cynics have suggested that the reason IndyRef2 will not happen under the current SNP leadership is that they are perfectly happy with the status quo, and that they know that independence will see much of the electoral support disappear as voters shift to other parties once Scotland has a normal Parliament which is not dominated by constitutional matters. This argument suggests that, while independence may be good for Scotland, it may not be so good for the SNP.

Of course, others disagree. Many are buoyed by the recent opinion polls and remain convinced that the SNP will push for IndyRef2 next year, especially as the effects of Brexit will have begun to bite by then, thus further demonstrating the sheer incompetence of the UK Government. This is certainly a valid point of view, and only time will tell. However, there are a couple of other factors which we should also keep in mind.

First is the current case being brought by private citizens to obtain a ruling from the Courts on whether Scotland needs a Section 30 Order to hold a valid and binding referendum. Courts being what they are, it is difficult to know how this will turn out, but a positive result for the case will put more pressure on the Scottish Government. Will they continue to insist on asking for – and being refused – a Section 30 Order in spite of such a ruling? Or are they leaving it to private citizens to obtain a ruling which they feel they cannot pursue themselves for political and constitutional reasons? Again, a crystal ball would be required to predict the outcome of this.

Then there is the Alex Salmond situation to be considered. Will he hold his tongue in light of the recent opinion polls? He wants independence as much as any of us, and he surely must know that any revelations about his recent Court case have the capacity to seriously damage the SNP. Or will he, as some have suggested, step up to lead a second pro-Indy Party? Again, polls suggest this could be a game changer for Scottish Politics. Polls indicate such a Party, putting up candidates only on the List, would produce an overwhelming majority of pro-Indy Parties in Holyrood. The SNP’s response has been to view this as a threat, which is quite revealing. They are, their supporters claim, on track to deliver a majority in Holyrood once again, even though the mathematics of the electoral system are against that. Don’t forget that the D’Honte voting system already significantly dilutes the SNP vote when they more or less sweep the board on Constituency seats. Nevertheless, polls suggest they are on track to break the system once again. Why should we jeopardise that by splitting the Yes vote? This argument raises the possibility that the SNP may well be putting Party before country, because having a second Party would surely send a strong message of how the people of Scotland view their future.

Or would it? There are a couple of problems here. First is that the UK media always equate support for Indy with support for the SNP. Look at how the Greens are ignored despite their pro-Indy stance. So the media would no doubt attempt to downplay the arrival of a second pro-Indy Party and would almost inevitably give them little air time in any election campaign. To get the message out, the new Party will need to raise a lot of money in a short time, and have some very high profile candidates so they can ensure their message is relayed to the wider public. Can anyone achieve that? If they can, then another pro-Indy Party in Holyrood may be able to apply pressure on the SNP to push for IndyRef2.

And finally, we do need to push for it, because the other thing lurking behind Brexit is the Power grab. Be in no doubt that the Tories want to strip away Holyrood’s powers. They might not abolish the Scottish Parliament, but they certainly intend to gradually neuter it, rendering it essentially ineffective. The 2021 Holyrood elections will probably be our last chance. Whatever transpires between now and then, somebody needs to take that chance.


Discussion Time

Posted on July 1st, 2020

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

It is increasingly clear that Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings believe they can get away with anything. It doesn’t matter which set of statistics you look at, the UK has one of the worst, if not the worst, death rates from Covid19 in the world. Add to that the refusal to request a Brexit Transition Period extension, the Dominic Cummings flagrant breach of Lock Down rules, the probable corruption in the Robert Jenrick property affair, the removal of civil servants in order to replace them with political appointees, and the rush to get England out of Lock Down far too soon, and you see just how little they care for public opinion.

What can be done to stop this? Quite frankly, not very much. Few media outlets are critical of the Tories, and even if they were it would make no difference as Donald Trump has so patently demonstrated in the USA. Negative headlines are simply dismissed, and he just carries on. It’s fairly evident that Boris Johnson and his cronies have learned that lesson well.

As for the Labour opposition, Sir Keir Starmer seems content with making solemn pronouncements, then going along with whatever the Tories suggest. The clue to his behaviour may well be in his title.

Some people have expressed a wish for some Tory back benchers to rebel against the obvious malfeasance of the Government, but the chances of that are slim at best. When you consider they are happy to support a Government which has been negligent and/or downright malicious in things like the Windrush scandal, the grenfell affair, the suppression of the Russia Report, the whitewashing of the Jennifer Arcuri affair, the PPE scandal, the deliberate transfer of Covid sufferers to Care Homes, the non-existent ferry contract, the farce of the Covid Tracking system, and buying the wrong satellites for a new GPS system, the chances of them going against the Whips for anything else is minimal.

Some commentators have pointed out that the actions of this Government are comparable to those of 1930s Germany. Whether that is true or not, we should all be extremely concerned by the direction they are moving. It is fairly clear that they are aiming to impose a fascist-like rule on the UK, all the while proclaiming freedom and sovereignty.

There are suggestions in some polls that public opinion is now against Brexit but, as mentioned before, it is too late now. The majority which the British public gave the Tories in December ensures they can get away with pretty much anything they like. As a result, we can expect things to get a whole lot worse in the coming years.

Scotland, of course, has a potential way out, but surely the Scottish Government has realised by now that they are not dealing with reasonable people. There is no way the Tories will ever agree to a section 30 Order, and by holding out for this, Nicola Sturgeon will be condemning Scots to live under extreme Right Wing rule forever. Don’t forget the Constituency Boundary changes which are intended to ensure perpetual Tory rule.

The Covid pandemic may have made more Scots realise that we could not possibly do much worse than we will fare if we remain part of the UK, but unless we see a clear route to holding a meaningful referendum, it is difficult to envisage how we can escape the madness.

Pete Wishart, an SNP MP who advocates a gradualist approach, has at least acknowledged that some other course of action will be required if the SNP gain a majority of seats at the Holyrood Parliament next year and if the Tories still refuse to grant a section 30 Order. This is a welcome development, and he does make some good points. However, I feel there are a few weak areas in his argument.

He rightly says that the Unionists equate support for the SNP with support for independence, and that any reduction in SNP seats will be viewed as a loss of support for indy. To be fair, this is a point I have made myself in the past. However, what Mr Wishart does not seem to acknowledge is that the D’Honte voting system is specifically designed to prevent any one Party gaining a majority. The SNP did manage it once, but that was a bit of a fluke, and there can be no guarantees it would happen again. Having a second pro-Indy Party as a choice on the List vote could well boost the number of MSPs who support Scotland becoming a normal country. It is perhaps telling that the SNP regard this as a threat, but while the argument that it would dilute the Yes vote must be acknowledged, it must also be pointed out that the D’Honte system dilutes the Yes vote considerably more. It is also worth pointing out that the Unionist Parties always tally their own votes when making claims about support for the Union. If that’s good enough for them, surely it must be good enough for Yes to tally the votes of every pro-Indy Party.

But let’s put that aside for one moment, and assume that the SNP do achieve the majority Pete Wishart seeks. His solution is then to approach the EU for backing to hold another IndyRef. This sounds appealing on the face of it, but the big question must be whether the EU would dare interfere in the internal politics of a non-member State. My own guess would be that they will offer general comments on democracy and self-determination, perhaps going as far as saying they would welcome any nation which wishes to be a member, but that’s probably as far as it will go. It is tempting to suggest that the UN might be a better ally, but I can foresee the Tories raising a stink about foreigners meddling in British democracy, and point blank refusing to let anyone interfere.

Still, at least some sort of discussion has developed, which is better than the Westminster approach of holding competitions to see who can do the most press-ups. Perhaps some in the SNP are now growing worried at the pressure being applied by the creation of the Independence for Scotland Party. Some commentators, notably Robin McAlpine of Common Weal, have insisted the SNP has no plan for holding IndyRef2 beyond repeatedly asking for a Section 30 Order. Recent events have suggested that claim may well be true, and perhaps it will take the advent of a second Party to bring matters to a head and begin a mature conversation about developing an alternative strategy.

And be in no doubt that we need some sort of alternative. Nicola Sturgeon has repeatedly shown that she is far more capable than any other politician in the UK, and there is no doubt that her performance over the Covid19 disaster has won many new admirers, especially when she is judged against the clowns running Westminster. But next year will be a crunch point. We cannot go on like this because Brexit is only going to exacerbate the problems we already face, and there is no way the Tories are going to rein back their drive for absolute control of the whole UK.

So let’s hear more from the ISP, and let’s hear more from the SNP about a Plan B, because we need to act soon if we are to preserve democracy in Scotland.


The Keyboard is Mightier Than the Sword

Posted on June 16th, 2020

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

Language is important, and the media knows this, as do politicians. That is why comments on the Black Lives Matter protests included such words as "Thuggery" and "violence", while the actual violent scenes from London at the weekend were described as "scuffles", and the people who protested in Glasgow were described as "activists" or "loyalists".

You may also have noticed that the few statements from Right Wing politicians are bland enough that they ensure no one group is specifically targeted by their words. There are, as Donald Trump said, very bad people on both sides. This is, of course, true, but any rational person looking at what is happening in the UK just now must surely recognise that, while a minority of BLM protesters may have resorted to drastic action by hurling an offensive statue into the water, the sole purpose of the self-confessed racists was to harm other people. It was not a minority who attacked the Police. Indeed, they attacked the Police because the people they really wanted to attack had the good sense not to turn up. Driven and motivated by hatred and anger, they simply directed their hatred at the nearest available target. The evidence has been widely shared on social media, yet the mainstream media still insists these were scuffles. And, as usual, the loudest howls of outrage were about one of the thugs urinating against a statue of PC Keith Palmer. Given that the thugs’ stated aim was to protect the statues, I doubt very much whether the man in question even considered where he was urinating, but he provided an excellent distraction for politicians and the media to focus on instead of condemning the violence.

We’ve also seen some comments which can only be described as showing how out of touch the commenters are. Lord Ashcroft, for example, went on Twitter to state that "We were once a tolerant country". Since he is English, one assumes the country he is talking about is England, although it is not inconceivable that, like so many, he equates England with the UK and thinks the UK is a country rather than a sovereign state comprising three countries and a province. Setting that aside, though, either he is attempting to reinforce the official view of England/the UK, or he has himself fallen for the one-sided view of British history. Sadly, racism has always been a part of British culture. There have always been bigots who can only express themselves through anger and hatred. The difference now is that Right Wing politicians have led these people to believe that their views are acceptable. Instead of keeping a low profile, they have been enabled to such an extent that they have no qualms about taking part in violent protests. Even if some of them are arrested and convicted, they will wear such convictions with pride because they believe they are patriots. That’s another word you’ll see used quite a bit because, as patriots, they distinguish themselves from vile nationalists who are, if the media is to be believed, the people who cause all the trouble. That claim is quite hard for them to justify now, so I expect most headline news programmes will either downplay or completely ignore the Right Wing thuggery.

The pen, so the saying goes, is mightier than the sword. When it comes to shaping public opinion, the pen has now been replaced by the keyboard, but the principle remains true. Words are important, and it has long been official policy in the UK to keep the population ignorant of facts which do not fit their narrative. In place of knowledge, they are fed slogans and a skewed history of past glories. Can we really be surprised when some of them resort to violence when they have been raised on a diet of hate?

Sadly, we can expect to hear and read a lot more carefully chosen words. It is a feature of most Governments who have a compliant media. Watch out for it, and call it out when you come across it.


D in the Park

Posted on June 14th, 2020

By Dan Iron

Disclaimer: The writer of this article is not a medical doctor and has no medical experience. Nothing in this article should be taken as personal medical advice. It is a call to the Scottish government for action. Professional medical advice should always be sought, especially for people on medication and even more so for people on blood-thinning medication.

I watched a lecture about Covid-19 given by Professor Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer for England, at Gresham College in April. It was a very good and comprehensive lecture, about one hour and twenty minutes long, but with one significant omission. There was a lot of detail about general public health issues - washing hands, social distancing, vaccines, possible drugs etc., but there was nothing about what measures individuals could take to improve their own health and thereby improve their chances of avoiding serious disease or death with Covid-19.

At the present moment we don't actually know for certain what personal health measures people can take. There will be so much data arising from the Covid-19 pandemic that it will keep scientists busy for years, if not decades. It seems that people who have better outcomes generally are younger, are not overweight and whose blood pressure and blood sugar are within normal limits.

In addition, there have been several studies announced recently which suggest that levels of vitamin D in blood serum are related to avoidance of serious disease or death from Covid-19. With levels above 75 nmol/l (nanomoles per litre) outcomes are greatly improved. It must be stressed that these studies have largely been produced as pre-prints and have not yet been peer reviewed. It must also be stressed that these studies show a relation between vitamin D levels and outcomes, not cause and effect.

So let's take this information and put it together with what we already know about vitamin D. We know that vitamin D insufficiency is linked to worse outcomes with respiratory diseases, colorectal cancer and bone health. We also know that there are many Scots who have low levels of vitamin D. Edinburgh GP Dr Helga Rhein (https://scotsneedvitamind.com/), now retired, has been reporting on this for years. However, nothing ever seems to get done about it. Every so often, a newspaper will have a feature on the importance of vitamin D. And then nothing happens. This is something the Scottish Government should be dealing with. The government recommends supplementing with 400 IU per day (International Units, 400 IU = 10 μg (microgrammes), 1,000 IU = 25 μg). To put this in context, I am watching two regular video updates on Covid-19 by front-line professionals. One is taking 2,000 IU per day and the other is taking 2,500 IU per day. Personally I'm taking 3,000 IU per day. But it's the serum level of D (in the form of 25(OH)D) that is the important measure. You have to take a blood test to find this level.

So what is the optimal level of serum vitamin D? To investigate this we can look at two peoples in East Africa still living an ancestral lifestyle - the Maasai and Hadzabe. Their mean levels of vitamin D have been measured to be 119 nmol/l and 109 nmol/l respectively. Does it need to be this high? Probably not. Most of the benefits kick in at a level of 75 nmol/l. My personal strategy is to reach 100 nmol/l by the end of the summer and take a supplement during the winter months. This will ensure that my vitamin D level will be above 75 nmol/l throughout the year. Vitamin D levels always drop in the winter as you cannot get D from sunshine in Scotland between October and March. Vitamin D is stored in fat cells and we all have a tendency to put on weight in the winter months, thereby reducing the amount of vitamin D circulating in the blood. By keeping a high level during the year, we can possibly avoid a second spike of Covid-19 this coming winter. There might also be a benefit in avoiding influenza this coming winter as there is normally an outbreak during the winter months.

We can get vitamin D from food, supplements and sunshine. It is difficult to get enough vitamin D from food. We can get some from oily fish, eggs, liver and so on. The best ways of getting vitamin D are taking supplements and from the action of ultraviolet (UV) B rays on exposed skin. There are possible risks here. Vitamin D makes it easier to assimilate calcium from food. This can lead to problems such as kidney stones. Personally, along with vitamin D I take some vitamin K2 which helps calcium get into the bones, where it belongs. (K vitamins have an effect on blood coagulation so please read the disclaimer at the top of the page.) You also have to make sure your diet contains enough magnesium to balance the calcium (which is a good excuse to eat some dark chocolate). There is also a risk of skin cancer from too much UV light. You have to be sure not to burn your skin. I use the Dminder app (available on iPhone and Android) to let me know what the safe exposure time is.

It is important not to look at the vitamin D issue in isolation. It is important we look at our overall fitness too.

There is also one very important factor which has arisen from the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the Office for National Statistics, in England and Wales BAME people are more than four times more likely to die from Covid-19 than white people. We do not yet have sufficient data from Scotland, but results from the USA show a similar pattern to England and Wales. There are bound to be socio-economic factors at play here but we cannot ignore the fact that people with darker skin take longer in the sun to get vitamin D compared to people with lighter skin. Research in the USA has shown that BAME people have lower serum levels of vitamin D.

The Scottish government should have a plan for this summer for people to get fitter and top up our levels of vitamin D so that we are in better shape to withstand the possible second spike of Covid-19 in the winter. I'd suggest we aim for a serum level of 100 nmol/l by the end of September and take a supplement of 1,000 IU per day in the winter. We need to get everybody tested. This might turn out to be just as important as the Covid-19 antigen or antibody tests. So let's have a fitness programme in our public parks (with social-distancing) led by BAME Scots who can stay in the sun for longer to increase their vitamin D level. Let's call these sessions "D in the Park". We can make sure that "a' the bairns o' Adam" can find D. We can make sure that Black Lives Matter in a tangible, constructive way.


On A Pedestal

Posted on June 11th, 2020

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

The toppling of the statue of Edward Colston has had a profound effect all across the UK and even further afield. After years of prevarication by the Authorities, the local people took matters into their own hands, and their action has now triggered discussions and even some actions in other places where statues are being removed.

Of course, some people object. Tories always prefer symbols of power over the lives of ordinary people, while others see such destruction as erasing history.

But do we really learn history from statues? I would argue that we do not. Statues are erected to commemorate people or events, and because they are expensive to put up, they are generally funded by the wealthy. As a consequence, they tend to represent people those wealthy and powerful individuals respect. They look up to people who did what they perceive as great things, and then the rest of the population is required to literally look up to those symbols of power.

As for history, we learn this from books and other written records. I generally discount television interpretations of history since most programmes are intended to portray the vision of the past which the UK Establishment wishes us to see. There are exceptions, of course, but TV does not really provide a proper platform for an in-depth discussion of historical events, so many programmes are superficial in what they tell us.

As for the statues themselves, they are interesting as historical artefacts, but they do not teach us anything except that people with wealth and power respect other people with wealth and power, and they wish the rest of the population to be reminded of their perceived greatness.

So toppling a statue does not erase history. Instead, it provides an opportunity to create a new interpretation of our past.

Personally, I’d prefer to see such statues removed to museums where they can be exhibited as part of a wider display providing the full context of their meaning. But sometimes dramatic action is required to trigger a response from wider society, so I shed no tears over the toppling of the Colston statue.

However, we should not take the current trend as signs of a major victory. The Establishment may accede to demands for controversial statues to be removed, but we already know they are putting forward arguments about who decides what is controversial. Winston Churchill, for example, is a divisive figure, but it is unlikely his statues will be taken down.

More importantly, statues may be a symbol of how the UK Establishment perceives the world, but taking them down will not alter that perception in their own minds. Removing some obviously inappropriate statues is certainly a victory and a step on the long road towards equality, but it’s a small victory in the overall scheme of things, and we should not ignore the fact that institutional racism is still very much a part of British culture.

But let’s end on a positive note. The removal of some statues has at least opened the discussion on the UK’s past. There’s a long way to go yet, but it is good that people are openly talking about it. Perhaps there will come a day when more people will recognise that the UK’s past glories were often founded on the misery of others.


Keep Right On

Posted on May 25th, 2020

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

In previous posts on this site, I have had occasion to refer readers to the list compiled by Umberto Eco of the traits of a fascist government. You can check this list at:

http://www.openculture.com/2016/11/umberto-eco-makes-a-list-of-the-14-common-features-of-fascism.html

Of the 14 points listed, I reckon the current UK Government meets 11. Others may come to a different answer, but comparing the UK against the list makes for alarming reading.

Of course, the UK has always been a very Right Wing state. After all, you don’t build a world-spanning empire by being nice and cuddly. Many of the things done in the name of Empire were quite horrific, yet many UK citizens – sorry, subjects – still don’t know about them.

Given those traditions, it’s not really a surprise that the likes of Nigel Farage, aided by the media, were able to drag UK politics ever further towards extremism. Whether you call the current Government fascist probably depends on how you interpret the meaning of that word, but I must admit that, while they certainly tick a lot of boxes on Eco’s list, the truth is that they are actually not very good at being fascists.

The Dominic Cummings scandal has exposed just how bumbling and incompetent this Government is. Yes, they remain cruel, heartless and corrupt, but they simply don’t seem to have grasped how Right Wing extremist Governments behave. Being British, they are perhaps hampered by the need to retain a veneer of democracy, for there have been plenty of extreme measures put through quietly, but bungling incompetence remains the overarching theme. This has become so obvious thanks to Boris Johnson’s refusal (at time of writing) to sack Dominic cummings for his flagrant breaches of the Lock Down rules, that even the Daily Mail is questioning their competence. When that happens, surely the writing is on the wall?

But, while I agree wholeheartedly that Cummings should be dismissed, it’s maybe worth thinking a bit about the consequences, so I thought I’d engage in a bit of crystal ball gazing.

For starters, even if Cummings does go, either through being dismissed or resigning, that won’t be the end of him. He’ll soon be back, either even more deeply behind the scenes, or being brought back in a few months as an alleged reformed character. (See also Priti Patel & Liam Fox).

Secondly, if Boris Johnson does sack him, that may offer the Bungler in Chief a slight reprieve, but he and his clownish Ministers are so hapless that some other scandal will soon come to light. Sooner or later, Johnson will probably be forced out.

And what happens then? It’s very doubtful there would be a General Election. Even if there was, the voters of England would no doubt rally behind the next Tory extremist who stepped up to the plate. More likely, though, is that we will have another Tory Party leadership contest. Will it be Michael Gove, or will it be Michael Gove? One thing we can be fairly sure of under his leadership is that we will see the UK veering even more to the Right.

And let’s not forget that the Brexit clock continues to tick.

Don’t get me wrong. I’d love to see Boris Johnson step down or be pushed out, but he is merely the latest symptom in the UK disease. Even if, for the sake of argument, there was to be a General Election and Labour won, things would not change all that much. On the face of it, there may be cosmetic changes, and it must be said that Keir Starmer would almost certainly perform better and more decisively than Boris Johnson, but let’s face it – that’s a pretty low bar we’re setting. Starmer is part of the system. While he would be an improvement in many respects, the fundamental problems with the UK would not be swept away with him as Prime Minister. The fact is that the UK is, and has been for a long time, a failing state, wrapped up in dreams of past glories which were anything but glorious when you scratch beneath the surface. It is obsessed with its own sense of exceptionalism, and it is one of the most unequal states in the world.

The Cummings debacle has opened the eyes of many people to some of the systemic problems. Perhaps it will also open the eyes of more Scots to the solution which was first made available in 2014 which, sadly, we did not take because too many were persuaded by the lies they were told. There have been many more lies since then. Surely people can see that? As soon as the current crisis has passed, the SNP really need to grasp the thistle and let us have some positive steps towards becoming a normal country.


Universal Basic Ideology

Posted on May 19th, 2020

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

It is encouraging to see that the SNP and Scottish Greens are both now seriously advocating the possibility of introducing a Universal Basic Income in a post-independence Scotland. Whether the SNP are doing this because they genuinely realise it would make handling such things as the current crisis easier, or whether they are talking about it as a ploy to gain support for independence doesn’t really matter. The fact that they are talking about it is a major step towards a fairer society.

One thing you can be sure of is that UBI will not be introduced in the UK. This is because it is fundamentally at odds with Tory ideology. They need millions of low paid workers to be reliant on employment. This allows employers to exploit people, using the fear of unemployment as a tool to ensure compliance. UBI would place more power in the hands of workers as it would remove that fear of unemployment. Anyone who was not happy at their work could leave in the knowledge that they would still receive some income, albeit not enough to maintain a lavish lifestyle. However, a modest income would allow many people to bridge a short period of unemployment far more easily than the current system of applying for Universal Credit, which is itself a tool used by the UK Government to encourage a reliance on taking any job, no matter how low-paid or unsuitable it might be.

UBI has been shown to work in places where it has been introduced. Mental wellbeing and health outcomes are improved, and the impact on the economy is positive. But that won’t stop the Tories objecting to it. Above all, UBI shifts the balance of power away from employers towards employees. In Tory eyes, that is simply not acceptable.

What the current pandemic has shown, however, is that UBI would have mitigated many of the problems people are experiencing, so becoming a normal country and establishing a Universal Basic Income must surely soon become a priority.


Confused? You Will Be!

Posted on May 11th, 2020

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

It’s amazing how easily confused some people are. Tories have been at pains to point out that having different lock down measures in Scotland will confuse simple souls like Prince Charles who won’t know whether he’s allowed to visit his second home or not. It certainly seems to confuse many journalists who are at pains to tell us just how confusing it is. None of them seem to realise that other nations seem perfectly capable of following different rules. Portugal adopted a different approach to Spain; Sweden adopted a different approach to Norway. Whether these different approaches have resulted in different outcomes is not really relevant to the point. The main thing is that the citizens of these countries understand that they are required to follow the laws and regulations which apply in their country of residence.

Of course, we are often told that Scots are uniquely incapable of doing what other countries find perfectly normal. Or perhaps it is the people of England the Tories are concerned about, for a great many of our southern neighbours don’t seem to understand what social distancing means. The last thing we want to do is confuse them further by issuing confusing statements on the Lock Down rules. That, it seems, is Boris Johnson’s role. His meandering and rather vague statement on Sunday strongly hints that, whatever he says about controlling the virus, England is going to force people back to work sooner rather than later. It is noticeable that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have all said they will not be following these relaxed rules. This is, apparently, confusing, although changing the slogan from "Stay Home" to "Stay Alert" is, it seems, not confusing at all.

The other remarkable thing is that the same Tories who last week demanded that Scotland remain in step with England in order to ensure that all four parts of the UK followed the same path to coming out of Lock Down, are now saying that they always recognised different regional approaches were appropriate. So far, I’ve not seen any journalist calling them out on this U-turn, but perhaps the media don’t find that sort of thing confusing at all.

The mixed messages coming out of the Westminster Government are, quite frankly, appalling. While comparing statistics between different countries is fraught with difficulties given the various ways such statistics are compiled, there is little doubt that the UK has seen one of the worst death tolls in the world. Whichever way you spin that, it’s an absolute disgrace. There should be no confusion over that.


Caring Conservatism?

Posted on May 1st, 2020

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

There are lots of things you can criticise both the Scottish and UK Governments for in their handling of the Corona Virus crisis. Whether through lack of information, poor scientific advice or simply misjudgement, many mistakes have been made. It’s easy to criticise, but hindsight certainly helps us see the errors that have been made.

One thing, however, was not an error. The UK Government made a deliberate decision to downgrade Covid-19 so that it was not classed as a High Consequence Infectious disease. By removing it from this classification, they were able to advise health staff that the highest standard of Personal Protective Equipment was not required. It is now claimed that the reason they did this was because they knew they did not have sufficient supplies of PPE to protect NHS and Social Care staff. It was, therefore, a deliberate decision made to cover up a Government blunder, and was made in the knowledge that it would result in deaths because Covid-19 most certainly should be classified as an HCID. If nothing else does, this single decision should tell everyone all they need to know about the UK Government’s total disregard for the safety of its citizens. (Sorry, that should be subjects, since people eligible for a UK passport don’t qualify for the exalted status of citizens; they are mere subjects of a more elevated personage).

The Tories retain a lot of support in England, along with a hard core of voters in Scotland who prize their precious Union above all else. That seemingly includes hearing about thousands of unnecessary deaths due to failures in Government policy.

But perhaps we can hope that some people who have voted Tory out of habit without realising just how extremist their elected representatives have become, might be thinking twice about their decision. If there are any such people, then it is incumbent on the rest of us to encourage them to change their minds. Giving them abuse and trying to make them feel guilty for the deaths that have resulted from the Tories’ reign is not likely to help them support a change of Government. Those of us who use social media to seek out alternative sources of information and opinion can sometimes forget just how pervasive the mainstream media influence can be. People who rely on mainstream TV and print media often hear no dissenting voices, so their opinions are shaped the way the Tories require.

If you did vote Tory, then please don’t feel guilty. Instead, you should feel angry. You were lied to. It may have taken a bit longer for you to realise that than it took others to see through the lies, but if you have seen them now, then please let that anger grow. And next time you get a chance at the ballot box, make sure you don’t vote Tory again. They are still lying to you, and they still don’t care about you in the slightest.


Confusing Business

Posted on April 23rd, 2020

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

Yesterday, news leaked out that a great many back-bench Tory MPs were agitating for an end to the lock down because it was harming business.

Now, it should come as no surprise that Tories prefer to put making money ahead of saving lives, but there’s another odd thing about this pro-business opinion. You see, it seems highly likely that these same MPs are the ones who want to bash on with Brexit despite the current Covid19 crisis. They must surely realise that Brexit is going to do even more damage to the UK economy. After all, their own Government’s analysis, such as it was, confirms this. If it comes hard on the heels of the Covid19-driven recession, it is going to be even more devastating.

In summary, it seems the Tories wan business saved from Covid19, but don’t care about the impact on business of Brexit.

Am I the only one confused by this?


The Price Of Staying

Posted on April 15th, 2020

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

In my social media comments, I’ve been quite critical of the Scottish Government’s response to the Corona Virus. It seems likely they had the same warnings as the UK Government, yet they were content to go along with the UK strategy of doing nothing much until it was too late. Yes, the Scottish Government began making announcements on mass gatherings, but it was still much later than it should have been.

Hindsight is easy, of course, and who knows whether any of us would have done any differently in the same circumstances, but the Scottish Government does seem to be following a very similar policy to the UK approach, albeit with some small adjustments.

There is no doubt NHS Scotland was better prepared and equipped than its English counterpart, and we should be grateful for that. It’s also very true that the briefings given by Nicola Sturgeon are gaining much more favourable responses than those carried out by the Tories at Westminster. However, bearing in mind the shower of incompetents who currently govern the UK, being more capable than them isn’t really much of an accolade.

As for my social media remarks, I put out a Tweet the other day saying I hoped the Scottish Government would have the guts to adopt a different approach if the Tories decided to end the lock down sooner rather than later. This was very much an emotional comment, since I have key workers in my immediate family who are seeing the effects of the virus at first hand. Quite frankly, it’s scaring me. However, as usual with Scottish Twitter, I received some very thoughtful responses amidst those mostly agreeing with me, and this made me think a little more deeply.

The big problem with the Scottish Government adopting a different approach, perhaps authorising Police Scotland to close the Border with England except to essential traffic, and maintaining a lock down while England relaxes theirs, is the financial impact. The truth is that Westminster controls our purse strings. The financial aid packages, insufficient as they are, come from Westminster’s magic money tree. In a hypothetical situation where Scotland continued the lock down but England did not, you can bet every penny you own that Westminster would immediately stop the aid packages, thus forcing people back to work in Scotland whatever the Scottish Government wanted to do.

I’m not even going to get into the claims about PPE being reserved for England rather than being pooled and shared with the rest of the UK. That sort of thing is normal for the UK, but what that, and the financial aid situation demonstrate is that Scotland really needs to become a normal, Self-governing country. If we had control of our own finances, the Scottish Government could continue to fund financial aid packages. If we had control of our own borders, we could prevent virus-refugees coming up to their second homes and placing additional strain on our NHS. If we had control of our own supply base, we wouldn’t need to sit helplessly by and watch as England takes it all for themselves. If we had full control of our own decisions, we could be doing far more testing for the virus. All the experts seem to agree that this is the most efficient measure for containing the spread.

Instead of all that, we are tied to copying whatever Westminster decides to do. I’m glad Nicola Sturgeon has said Scotland will make its own decisions. It’s about time we heard that. But now that she’s said what I initially wanted to hear her say, I’m worrying about how Scotland can afford to go its own way.

Usually, it is Unionists who tell us we wouldn’t be able to afford things if we were a normal country, but the reality is that it is being shackled to Westminster that hampers our finances.

When this is all over, I hope the SNP will at last make the case for independence. We’ve been waiting a long time to hear it, and the current shambles, plus the impact of being controlled by Westminster, surely presents us with a golden opportunity to highlight the very real dangers of being governed by another country. I’m not saying the Scottish Government would have done things differently, but the fundamental point is that, if they had behaved in the way the Tories in Westminster have done, we would be able to vote them out of office. If the media and polls are to be believed, England will probably vote Tory no matter how many people die as a result of their disastrous policies. It is a great shame for the decent people of England that so many of their countryfolk continue to vote Tory, but there is not a great deal we can do about that except perhaps to provide an example of how things should be done by establishing a new, progressive nation where people are more important than money, and where those in power are held to account for breaching their own rules. Imagining this possibility is one of the few things keeping my spirits up at the moment. Let’s hope the day comes soon.


A Better Society?

Posted on April 6th, 2020

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

The lock down has created a couple of interesting social reactions, one within the disabled community, and another in wider society.

As a blind man, I do my best to keep up with the sentiments expressed within the disabled community, and it’s been interesting to note that many disabled people have been pointing out that all the things they were told were simply not possible have suddenly become available now that able-bodied people are faced with restrictions on their mobility. Home working is now a major thing, as is remote learning. People are stuck in the house and cannot visit pubs and restaurants, and many disabled people are saying, "Welcome to our world. Maybe when this is over, you’ll be a bit more sympathetic to our requests for reasonable adjustments."

In wider society, many people are pointing out that it is right wing ideology which has left the various National Health Services struggling to cope with the pandemic. In England, in particular, brutal cuts over several years are causing major problems now. We’ve also seen a recognition that so-called low-skilled workers such as delivery drivers and supermarket staff are actually the people who keep the countries of the UK going, and that many of these people are the same foreign immigrants who have been so reviled by the Right Wing extremists. Naturally, the hope is that this will be recognised once the lock down has been lifted, thus creating a more equal society.

I know this is going to sound very pessimistic, but I’m afraid all these hopes are probably doomed to remain unrealised.

The disabled community will at least have precedents to point to when asking for reasonable adjustments in future, and some people will no doubt have more empathy now that they have experienced the problems for themselves, but I very much fear that far too many organisations will revert to their old ways as soon as they can.

In wider society, history has some lessons for those who think society will change. A century ago, those who had served in the armed forces during World War 1 were promised a land fit for heroes when they returned to civilian life. Instead, they came home to mass unemployment and very little, if any, support from the UK Government. This was, of course, in the tradition of such Government responses. Soldiers who were wounded during the Napoleonic and Crimean Wars were left to beg on the streets once they were of no further use to the state. A similar thing may well have happened after World War 2 had the General Election not kept the Tories out of power and paved the way for the Welfare State.

Predictions are dangerous things, but I’m prepared to say that, if the Tories remain in power, nothing will change after the pandemic. We already know Brexit is still going ahead despite calls for the transition period to be extended. Sweeping new powers have been introduced, and you can bet your last penny on the Tories watching developments in Hungary with keen interest. Of course, this being the UK, they won’t overtly proclaim a dictatorship, but we’ve already seen creeping increases in authoritarian laws, and I’m afraid I expect that to continue. They have no incentive to call another General Election any time soon, so I fully expect them to resume their policies of cutting public expenditure, no doubt blaming the vast cost of countering the pandemic as an excuse to reintroduce Austerity on an even grander scale than before. Foreign nationals will continue to be deported, Local Authorities will have their budgets slashed even further, and you can wave goodbye to the NHS in England, probably with the justification that the problems it experienced in coping with the pandemic are due to systemic failures rather than underfunding, and privatisation is the only way to go.

I hope I’m wrong making these pessimistic forecasts, but history, and the way the Tories operate don’t fill me with any feelings of hope for a better society emerging from the pandemic. What we need to remember is that those who currently hold the power, wealth and influence in the UK have a vested interest in keeping things the way they like. They may trot out slogans about all being in this together, but the reality is very different, and I’m afraid I don’t see that changing.

Of course, an independent Scotland could choose a different path, but how likely is that to actually come about? We’re going to hear "Now is not the time" over and over again because you can always find excuses not to do things, especially in politics. And, unless Nicola Sturgeon breaks away from her enthrallment to following Westminster processes, IndyRef2 is looking pretty unlikely.


Everyday Reality

Posted on March 30th, 2020

By Dave Mac

Can we fixate on a different gruesome statistic (for a moment of silence), instead of the usual daily diet of COVID death counts in the press? The tally of little babies under 5 bombed and starved to death in Yemen, which met with near total indifference from the global community over the last 5 years, now stands at 85000. That's not to suggest that unspeakable horror can be measured in numbers.

Now I don't know much about this nasty little civil war, I'm just wondering how much empathy we could expect from any of the surviving mothers for our current crisis? What empathy too from the other millions of human beings who, through our routine indifference, are condemned to a life without hope in other war zones, and in overcrowded, impoverished, undernourished, unpoliced and insanitary conditions all across the world? How lucky are we. This is the awful everyday reality for uncounted numbers of souls on earth, while our leaders control and monopolize the power and resources that could make a difference, but lack any clear mandate from us to act.

Putting thoughts of 'empathy' aside (there would be more than we deserve), is it possible for the world's left-behinds to actually comprehend the particular global media shit storm that's blighting us on a daily basis right now? For them, near daily exposure to death up-close and personal, is a routine part of normal life. So what is this thing that we are compulsively obsessing over, and why are we so insensitive to their plight? I don't know for sure why I feel such a strong need to post this. Maybe my close-call accident makes it easier for me to relate to this question, maybe it’s just that the double standard is so shockingly stark. I can't speak for the bereaved of course, but let me try anyway to imagine their perspective on this...

"As a sub-species, first-world-humanity, is exhibiting all the classic symptoms of a (possibly short term) psychosis during this crisis, but its underlying mental condition has always been one of a deep set and persistent mass insanity. They instinctively choose the delusion of "self" and "other'' and use it to blinker themselves against the sight of distant suffering. By this trick of auto deception, they can get on with their cosy lives, freed from the burden of all-consuming guilt. They pretend that the accident of birth that placed them amongst the "haves", with all their social stability and unbridled opportunity, somehow entitles them to pull up the drawbridge and to exclude the "have nots", blaming our misfortunes on assumed flaws like indolence and corruption, or anything that works for them. True we are plagued with disadvantages, but what they know about indolence, they certainly wrote themselves. They prefer to perpetuate the historical injustices that still shower them with wealth and privileges, rather than working to redress the unjust inequality of opportunities that we constantly suffer from. They pretend that today's mass migrations are somehow a different phenomenon from the urbanization that has attended their own industrialization since the day it started, just because today's journeys cross some arbitrary lines that they recently drew on a map. The funny thing is that they simply don't see that a better place for everyone, offers the ultimate best possible future for them too. They think in zero-sum games, and whatever little obstacle life places in front of them they exaggerate out of all proportion, and project the blame for it on us. The racial inferiority argument is currently out of fashion, but it has never gone entirely away. In polite circles it is usually relegated to "the lie that dares not speak its name", and we remain the universal bogeyman, filling a role needed for their cohesion as a distinct elite group. We are still the 'them' that defines their 'us'. But in reality we all share something more primal than our differences. We too seek, and fully deserve, a chance at happiness for ourselves and families".

My earnest hope is that a positive take-away from today's collective corona threat, might be to raise the blindfold a little and cause more people to adopt a more realistic assessment of how the dice of life are actually loaded. This might help to encourage a more credible and coordinated effort to respond to ALL of the collective threats and suffering that the world faces in future, not just the one we are facing today.

And what if we don’t? Well, there is no such thing as 'distant suffering' in a global village, and this little crisis is just the opener. No way is it the last of it. When this one is behind us, let’s make sure our national leaders don't forget that we are all in this together, with just one planet, and realize that it will still need to be saved for everybody who lives on it.

The usual suspects are already lining up their pre-emptive counter threats - seeding and talking up fears for 'the economy', as if to insist that we are all in thrall to the market, rather than the market being there to serve our needs. This time round we can't afford to let them get away with that. Hitting the weakest and the poorest and the most vulnerable, both domestically and abroad, just to restore Wall Street to business-as-usual, would be like some horror 'B' movie rerun of the last decade. We mustn't sleepwalk into letting that become a political option. From this side of the event, I think we can all see clearly - from the pressing health imperative we now face - that the economy is just a side show (all except for Donald of course, but his unerring instinct to pick the wrong answer just confirms it). Let's not forget this insight when we are looking back at these events.

The real life-and-death issue here is getting our politicians across the world to attend to the correct agenda. We need them to put the planet to rights, instead of perpetuating the current insanity, and standing in the way of ever more desperate social, population and climate needs.


Spot The Difference

Posted on March 29th, 2020

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

You’d never know it from the media, but there are some significant differences between the ways the Scottish and UK Governments are tackling the Corona virus. I’ve been chatting to a lot of people over the past few days, and the feedback from people working in various sectors is that the Scottish Government is doing a good job in very difficult circumstances. Yes, there are some problems, but industry, retail and service sectors are doing their best to cope with the impact of the virus and the containment measures now in place. I am not at liberty to reveal some of the things I’ve been told, but it does seem that manufacturing is working hard to supply what the NHS needs, the NHS itself has prepared as well as it can by stopping non-essential procedures and reallocating staff, as well as setting aside wards for the specific treatment of Covid19 patients. Food supplies are not scarce, but the social distancing measures are causing problems with long queues at some shops. However, many neighbourhoods are working together to reduce the number of people actually visiting the shops. It’s tough for everyone, but Scotland does seem, so far, to be coping reasonably well.

So why aren’t we hearing about this? It’s easy to blame media bias, and it is certainly noticeable that many media outlets are focusing on negative stories whenever they can. For those who are trying to rouse the spirit of the Blitz, that’s hardly the right approach. Perhaps the Scottish Government should do more to announce the measures it is taking, but I suppose the media would ignore or misrepresent such announcements anyway. Yes, I’m feeling cynical about the media, but how else can you react when you start thinking Piers Morgan is doing a better job of holding the UK Government to account than most journalists? It’s quite a bizarre feeling to find myself agreeing with some of the things he’s said.

As for the UK Government, I fully endorse the comments about the sheer hypocrisy of their attitude. To stand on a doorstep clapping to show support for the NHS is all very well, and I know many NHS staff were grateful for this display, but it would probably mean a lot more to them if people stopped electing Tory Governments whose intent is to scrap the NHS and replace it with a US-style healthcare system which will benefit nobody except the healthcare companies and their shareholders.

The stories coming out of NHS England are quite horrific, and the debacle over ventilators is a scandal which should have seen the Government thrown out of office. The shortage was highlighted in an exercise three years ago, yet nothing was done, and offers from the EU to participate in a Europe-wide acquisition scheme were rebuffed, with the UK Government then coming up with some pathetic excuses to explain why they have not joined the scheme. The most plausible, yet at the same time the most reprehensible, is that we are no longer in the EU, so don’t want to undermine Brexit by joining the EU’s programme. That fits with what we know of Brexiteer thinking, but it does ignore the fact that these same people are happy to have their new blue passports produced in the EU. Then again, logic and rational thinking were never part of the Brexit philosophy.

Contracts for the supply of new ventilators go to Brexit-supporting Dyson, while companies who actually have expertise in this field claim they have been ignored.

The bungling and incompetence, not to mention the outright lies from the Prime Minister, have now led to a situation where people are genuinely questioning whether Boris Johnson does have the virus or not. The man is a habitual liar, so can we believe him when he says he is displaying mild symptoms? It is, quite frankly, a ludicrous position that such questions can be seriously entertained, but Boris Johnson lies so often, it is no wonder people simply do not trust a word he says.

One positive thing I have noticed in my conversations with friends is that one or two who voted NO in the 2014 IndyRef are now acknowledging just how well the Scottish Government is doing compared to the UK Government. When this is all over, and assuming there ever is another indyRef, perhaps this might just help bring them to Yes. It’s a small consolation, of course, for people are dying as a result of this virus. Who knows which of us will be next? Even if we all follow the advice, many of us are going to suffer, even if it is only mildly. For too many, it will be far more serious. It is at times like this that a Government displays its strengths and weaknesses. Once again, people in Scotland should be grateful our devolved Government, for all its faults, is performing better than their counterparts in Westminster. It is dreadfully sad that it may take a calamity like the Corona Virus to convince people that Scotland could do much better as a normal country, but if that is the outcome of this horrible period then perhaps our future generations will reap the benefits both in their everyday lives and when similar calamities strike. As I said, it’s a small crumb of comfort, but it is a hope we can cling to in these dark times.


Get The Finger Oot!

Posted on March 17th, 2020

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

Whether you think Corona Virus is just like the flu or a lot more serious, it must be said that the responses so far from the UK and Scottish Governments has been less than reassuring. In particular, a advice to stay away from pubs, clubs, restaurants and other public meeting places has effectively condemned many thousands of small businesses to potential bankruptcy. It is also incomprehensible that schools remain open while other public meetings are being advised against. I’m sorry, but you can’t have it both ways. Either you ban public meetings in an attempt to contain the spread of the virus, or you don’t. The current situation is neither one thing nor the other.

Of course, whatever course of action is taken, it will seriously affect many people in an adverse way, but we must not forget that this virus has the capacity to kill our elderly or health-compromised friends and relatives. When put that way, taking precautions must be top of the list.

As for closing schools, that’s a sensible move provided some action is taken to help parents who cannot afford childcare but equally cannot afford to take time off work because the way the UK economy is structured, low wages and no bargaining power makes workers vulnerable to exploitation. In addition, many healthcare workers whose attendance at work is vital in the current crisis will need childcare provision to allow them to do their jobs. Some sort of emergency provision would need to be made to cover these circumstances, but surely that is not beyond the ability of the Scottish Government to organise? They have control over healthcare and education, and it would be nice to see them taking a more proactive role than simply parroting Boris Johnson’s vague and unhelpful suggestions. In particular, more proactive testing for the virus is essential. People need to be tested and isolated if necessary, yet neither the UK nor the Scottish Government seems keen on testing anyone except those who present themselves at hospital already displaying symptoms. This isn’t good enough.

Other Governments around the world are taking more decisive action, including such ideas as cancelling energy bills, guaranteeing loans or making cash payments to every vulnerable or self-employed person in the country. In the UK, where the Party of Business is in power, businesses have been thrown to the proverbial wolves with no support whatsoever. Self-employed people and those on low incomes are forced to continue working yet see their customer base being told not to use their services.

It is, of course, impossible to stop all human interaction without society collapsing. Elderly and disabled people still need social care, supermarkets and shops still need deliveries, and people still need to eat. We need to keep the basic structures of society operating as normally as possible, and where shut-downs are necessary, Government support is essential. So far, the responses of the UK and Scottish Governments has fallen well short of what the public should expect. Let’s hope that, by the time you read this, things have changed.


That Is All

Posted on March 10th, 2020

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

Let’s get one thing straight. Alex Salmond may or may not be guilty of the crimes he is charged with. Either way, he deserves a fair trial. But if he is found guilty, it will not affect the case for Scotland becoming a normal, self-governing country. The words or actions of any individual cannot undermine the case for a nation governing itself. Independence is normal.

That is all.


Economically Inactive?

Posted on February 28th, 2020

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

Home Secretary Priti Patel (don’t laugh at the back there!) has claimed that the millions of people she describes as being economically inactive can take up the jobs of the millions of foreigners who are not going to be available due to being deported / encouraged to leave / not allowed into the UK. Quite apart from the basic fact that there aren’t enough of the people she puts into this category, I have another problem with the term "Economically inactive". What does it mean? Who is actually included, and are they really economically inactive?

What Priti Patel seems to mean is that these are people who don’t work to earn a living, such as students, carers and pensioners. Now, in the privileged world of Patel and her fellow Tory Cabinet Ministers, perhaps students can afford to live off the allowance Mater and Pater provide, but a great many students outside of that privileged bubble have part time jobs to help pay their way through study or, at the very least, provide them with some weekend boozing money. So, if being economically inactive applies to people who don’t earn any income, then it certainly doesn’t apply to an awful lot of students.

As for carers, these people deserve praise rather than any implied criticism. If you are caring full time for an elderly or disabled relative, you know only too well that this is a 24/7 job. It’s also unpaid. Carers don’t do this for anything other than love and dedication, and there is no way they would have free time to take over a job picking fruit or working in a hospital or school.

Ah, but what about pensioners? Those idle loafers, having spent their lives working to earn the worst pension in the OECD, are now living a life of luxury, contributing nothing to society. Why can’t they go out to the fields and pick fruit and vegetables? Why can’t they take jobs in care homes where they can take care of … other pensioners? Make them earn their paltry pension seems to be the message, and that’s pretty much in keeping with current Tory philosophy.

But are these students, carers and pensioners really economically inactive? It depends on what the term means, but my reaction on hearing it was that very few people are economically inactive. Even if you are a pensioner, you need food. You probably also pay bills. I know my bank statements show I spend rather a lot of money on such trivial things as food, heating and Council Tax. And each time I spend money, am I not contributing to the UK’s GDP? Whatever you may think of GDP as a proper way to measure an economy, every £ spent adds to it and fuels the demand for goods or services. A pensioner may not spend as much as other people because they are on low income, but that’s the fault of the appallingly low level of the State Pension as anything else. Students can surely be excused even if they don’t have a job and live on fresh air for three or four years, since they will – or would in a normal economy – find well paid jobs and thereby benefit society both through their chosen career and by paying higher taxes. Unless, as happens to far too many in Tory UK, they end up in a dead-end job earning the minimum wage because the economy has been turned into a low tax, low wage dystopia.

As for making carers take up low-paid employment, who will then look after the person they were caring for? That creates another job which would need to be filled.

Priti Patel’s idea, as you would expect, is farcical. It’s an attempt to paper over the societal cracks Brexit is creating. It will no doubt appeal to Tory hardliners who won’t need to rely on a State Pension and who view students, the poor, the disabled and the unemployed as being of little value. Unless the UK Government is going to set up convoys of buses to transport thousands of the so-called "economically inactive" from inner cities out to the countryside to work in the fields, geography alone will condemn this farcical idea to the dustbin of history.

And if anyone ever accuses me of being economically inactive, I’ll invite them to pay all my bills for a few months to see just how inactive I am.


Travel Disruption

Posted on February 24th, 2020

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

I had a very interesting conversation with a young German woman the other day. She’s lived and worked in Scotland for years but travels back to visit family quite frequently. The last time she went to Germany was on the Monday when Storm Ciara was causing a lot of travel disruption. She managed to cross the Queensferry crossing and get to Edinburgh airport, all the time fearing her flight would be cancelled. However, the flight left on schedule and she reached Frankfurt to discover that every train had been cancelled due to weather disruption.

How did the Germans handle this disaster? Well, because so many people were stranded, they opened the trains which were stuck in stations and turned them into temporary hostels, allowing passengers to sleep on board. My friend was fortunate enough not to need this facility as she was able to catch one of the first trains which braved the disruption, and she reached her destination with no problems. But what a great idea the Germans put in place. Perhaps there’s a lesson for Scotrail there. Except, of course, most Scotrail trains continued to run during the storm. There were a fair number of cancellations, but we did not face a complete shut down of the rail network.

What we did face was a barrage of media reports of how dreadfully Scotland had coped because the Queensferry Crossing was closed for a couple of days. In contrast, the Germans seem to have accepted that extreme weather causes travel problems and, instead of attacking the Government, simply reported the problems as a public information service. It’s almost enough to make you think the media in Scotland has some sort of agenda. Can you imagine the screaming headlines if the entire rail network had shut down?


Another Step Down the Road

Posted on February 14th, 2020

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

I’m no fan of Sajid Javid, but we must give him some credit for refusing to give in to the pressure being applied by Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings which would have seen his entire staff sacked and replaced by people loyal to Cummings. It’s nice that Sajid Javid showed some principles, even if he only did so when confronted by a Government action which directly affected him personally. Still, at least he had the guts to resign rather than be turned into a lap dog.

Which leads us on to the succession of new Ministers in Johnson’s Cabinet. Were they chosen for their ability? Comments and videos posted on social media of some of their past performances suggest not, and we are left with the probability that they were chosen for their willingness to simply do as they are told.

It’s nice that the UK has escaped being governed by unelected, faceless EU bureaucrats and is now to be governed by a genuinely unelected bureaucrat in the shape of Dominic Cummings. This Cabinet reshuffle has taken the UK another step closer to becoming an authoritarian state.

And still, around half the population of Scotland think they are better off being governed by Westminster. I remain fearful that, by the time they wake up to what is happening, it will be too late to change things.


Building Bridges

Posted on February 10th, 2020

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

So Boris Johnson wants to build a bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland? Coming from a man who couldn’t even build a bridge across the Thames, that’s quite an ambition. However, before we deride the idea, I must say that, in principle, I have no objections to such a bridge as I think it would benefit the economies of both Scotland and Ireland, particularly if it links an independent Scotland with a unified Ireland, with both nations in the EU. Of course, that is the last thing Boris Johnson wants, but it would be nice if the UK paid for the construction of a bridge which was then taken over by Scotland and Ireland.

It’s also very nice to see an avowed Unionist proposing a new bridge since we know from the Queensferry Crossing saga that bridges are anathema to Unionists. Unless, that is, their hatred is only reserved for bridges built under the auspices of the SNP. No, that can’t be right, for it would show them up as being pathetically tribal in their outlook, so I expect to hear howls of outrage from all the Holyrood Unionist Parties and from the media in Scotland.

The main objection I would have to seeing such a project undertaken is that, if it is done under the control of the UK Government, it will turn into another white elephant like HS2, Crossrail and any number of projects which run hugely over budget and take far longer than originally planned. They could, of course, allow the Scottish Government to take over supervision which might give the project a chance of being done properly, but I doubt they’ll even consider that option.

On the whole, though, I’m in favour of a bridge – as long as they make sure it isn’t constantly being accidentally rammed by nuclear submarines.


Scunnered

Posted on January 31st, 2020

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

As some had predicted and many had feared, Nicola Sturgeon’s long-awaited statement was extremely underwhelming. It leaves us no further forward and has done little more than tell the Tories that the SNP have no real plans for what to do next except keep asking politely for permission to hold IndyRef2.

Many of the posts on this site have mentioned the hope that Nicola Sturgeon really did have some cunning plan, but it seems the doubters were right all along. I fear Ms Sturgeon has made a serious mistake in following this softly, softly, long-term approach to gaining independence. Not because being canny is necessarily a bad thing, but because it takes no account of the fact that she is dealing with Westminster Tories who, having seen what Donald Trump has got away with, will use every dirty trick in the book to keep Scotland captive within their precious Union. If anyone should know that the Tories cannot be trusted, it is Nicola Sturgeon, yet she seems determined to play by the rules while her opponents abandoned any adherence to rules long ago.

So, like many other Yessers, I’m very disappointed. However, that doesn’t mean I’m chucking my toys out of the pram and refusing to have anything to do with the SNP any more. I’d certainly be very interested if another explicitly pro-Indy Party were to be formed as hinted at by Wings Over Scotland some time ago, but the reality is that, even though the SNP have repeatedly let us down when it comes to IndyRef2, they are currently the only political Party who can achieve the goal. If we fail to support them, you can bet that the Unionist media will crow about a loss of support, and the Tories will bang on even more about there being no support for independence. We cannot afford to let that happen. If it does, our chances are gone for good.

And let’s not forget that, for all their faults, the SNP are protecting Scots from many of the evils of Westminster policies. How long they will be able to do that remains to be seen, but they are running Scotland pretty well all things considered.

Sadly, I must now admit what I’ve been saying privately for some time. I honestly don’t think Scotland will become a normal, self-governing country in my lifetime. We had our chance in 2014 and we blew it. The Tories cannot afford to let us go, and the SNP’s timid approach is only going to allow Westminster to do more and more harm, both to us and the whole of the UK.

But, while that may sound defeatist, it doesn’t mean I’m giving up. You don’t stop fighting for a just cause just because you think you are losing. Scotland should be an independent country. Self-governance is normal, and we must continue to push the case even if the ultimate target now seems a long way off.


Don't Be Bullied

Posted on January 29th, 2020

by Rab Bruce’s Spider

I was chatting to my son about politics the other day. He’s pro-Indy but, like many people, doesn’t take a close interest in daily politics. He does, though, like to have answers for those who oppose Scotland becoming a normal country, and he told me he had a friend whose boss had told all employees that he would shut down the business if Scotland ever became a normal country, thus putting them all out of work. The lad in question has therefore already decided he will vote No in any referendum. My son wanted to know how you can argue against this point of view.

My initial reaction was that the lad intends to vote selfishly, putting his personal situation ahead of what is best for the country, but that’s a fairly common attitude, and we can’t really blame people for acting in what they see as their own best interests.

The stated intentions of his boss are even less laudable, but they are typical of those who have done well out of a system and therefore don’t want anything to change, although how closing down his own business isn’t a massive change is, I’m afraid, beyond me. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face. But it’s the sort of bullying response we have come to expect from those who support the Union. You have to ask whether he would really go ahead with such a threat considering it would affect his own livelihood, but there’s no accounting for the hatred some people have for the very notion of Scotland becoming a normal country.

Of course, the views of both employer and employee are personal opinions and highly subjective, but I’ve now had some time to think about the wider factors which may help answer the question of how we can respond to people who feel intimidated into voting against independence.

Of course, it’s not pleasant when you lose your job, so fearing for your job safety is understandable. What a lot of people don’t yet appreciate is that Brexit will put nearly everyone’s job more at risk as the economy falls into recession. The first effects are already being seen as factories lay off workers, and it will only get worse. After December 2020, once the transition period has ended, problems are really going to bite hard. So voting against Scotland’s independence may result in some uncertainty, but voting against it will definitely result in economic recession for the UK.

And let’s say you are unfortunate enough to lose your job. What then? Can you expect the State to look after you? Quite frankly, no. The introduction of Universal Credit shows that it is aimed at making life extremely difficult for vulnerable people. It would be nice to think that the Government of an independent Scotland would implement a more caring and responsive welfare system which would provide protection for anyone who is unfortunate enough to lose their job, but we certainly can’t rely on the UK Government to do anything of the sort. We’ve recently seen Tory Ministers praising food banks as examples of caring society, but they have no intentions of changing their economic policies to reduce poverty levels and so do away with the need for food banks. This is all part of the ideology which keeps many people in fear of losing their jobs, thus giving more and more power to employers. And with the Torie’s stated intentions of reducing workers’ rights even further once we are out of the EU, that situation isn’t going to improve.

The other issue is that, in a normal country, you would like to think that people would be able to find alternative employment relatively easily. Yet that is not the case in the UK, particularly in Scotland where successive Westminster Governments have done their best to close down most heavy industries, and to make life difficult for businesses operating in many sectors. There is a reason many ambitious Scots move to London in search of employment; it’s because successive Westminster Governments have succeeded in making London the centre of most economic activity to the detriment of the other regions and nations of the UK.

The overall UK economy, though, is struggling, as witnessed by continual reports of retail outlets closing down. For the 7th largest economy in the world, this is not a good look, and it suggests that something is seriously wrong with the management of the economy.

So who is to blame for that? Well, the picture is often muddied due to the Scottish Government’s habit of claiming credit for any good news on Scotland’s economy while blaming Westminster for any failings. This is, sadly, standard political practice, and you cannot really blame the Scottish Government. It would be worse if they sat quietly and made no noise about economic success stories. However, the reality is that they actually have little ability to affect the economy. They can tinker at the edges, but all the fundamental controls remain with Westminster.

If you look at things like decisions on interest rates and quantitative easing, these are made by the Bank of England in order to comply with UK Government policy. The UK Government also retains control over around 80% of Welfare Benefits, along with most taxes. Rates of Capital Gains Tax, Value Added Tax, Inheritance Tax, Duties on alcohol and tobacco, and Vehicle Licencing all remain under UK Government control.

In addition to all this, the Barnett formula ensures that Scotland does not retain control over all the taxes it does raise. The whole point of independence is that the Scottish Government could set rates of tax on all areas and retain full control over the money raised. In addition, a programme of national infrastructure investment would allow our economy to expand, creating more jobs. Let’s face it, if England goes ahead with its intention to create trade barriers with the EU, Scotland is going to need some way of sending exports around the world. Our airports, particularly Prestwick, will need to handle more traffic, and our ports on both east and west coasts will need some serious upgrading. Power transmission connectors between Scotland and Ireland, Norway and even Denmark will help take advantage of Scotland’s huge potential in renewable energy. We could even create new towns in the Highlands on areas which are currently given over to grouse moors. At the very least, our forestry industry could expand into some of those areas. Those are only a few ideas, and there will be plenty of people who can come up with other suggestions. What these have in common is creating work which in turn puts money in the hands of the public which creates demand for other services. This is how Trickle Down should work, except that it trickles down from Government investment instead of from the wealthy who have had forty years to prove that their version of Trickle Down Economics works. They have instead shown that all they want to do is keep a larger slice of the pie for themselves.

So there are plenty of reasons to vote Yes even if your boss is threatening you with unemployment. I know it’s a brave step to make, but unless your boss comes into the polling booth with you, they’re never going to know how you voted anyway. If you take a wee step back and look at the wider picture, you are either voting for continuing deterioration in the economy or the chance of making things better for everyone.


Carry On Regardless

Posted on January 16th, 2020

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

I’ve seen a few people commenting that Boris Johnson cannot continue to deny the right of the Scottish people, and this certainly seems to be the Scottish Government’s official line, but I fear such hopes may well be misplaced. If Boris Johnson continues to deride Scotland, to walk out of the House of Commons when SNP MPs rise to speak, and to ignore the Scottish Government, what can anyone do to prevent it? I’m afraid I can think of nothing. If every SNP MP were to walk out of the HoC, that would be a gesture, but it would accomplish nothing. The best thing it would do is save those individuals a lot of daily hassle, but we should not forget that they are there to represent their constituents, many of whom will be supporters of the Union, and all their constituents still require some sort of voice.

But, getting back to Johnson’s continuing refusal, he may become more unpopular, and support for Scotland becoming a normal country may increase in light of the ongoing snubs and insults, but is there anything to stop him? The Tories are already planning to implement constituency boundary changes which will ensure that, under their beloved First Past The Post voting system, they will remain in power for the foreseeable future. Even if Johnson is replaced, the next Tory PM will be just as extreme, and can continue to refuse a Section 30 Order.

I very much get the feeling that Nicola Sturgeon has decided on a strategy of trying every legal and constitutional move in the full knowledge that she will be thwarted at every turn. This will allow her to play the victim when it comes to appealing to the international community, but will it accomplish anything other than to obtain sympathy?

Calls for civil disobedience may well rise, but we should face the fact that most Scots are law-abiding individuals who may not wish to break the law. Of course, the Poll Tax revolt was a notable exception to this, so perhaps someone will come up with some sort of peaceful civil action that people can take. So far, I’ve seen no real proposals. Whether the Scottish Government would support any such disobedience must, though, remain doubtful since they seem determined to play by the rules. In addition, the comments by Lisa Nandy of the Labour Party show that English politicians have been paying attention to events in Catalonia and are quite prepared to advocate violent suppression of any signs of disloyalty to the Union. While she will no doubt try to explain that her remarks were taken out of context, this is a typical ploy as used by Donald Trump and many UK politicians. They say something outrageous in order to bring the discussion into the mainstream so that it can be normalised. You can be sure that such tactics have been discussed within the UK Government, although whether they would actually go that far is yet to be tested. I’d venture to suggest that the majority of scots would not be prepared to test it.

As for the Yes community resorting to acts of violence, I’d like to think only a few extremists would ever consider that course of action. Whatever targets are aimed at, innocent people would undoubtedly be harmed, and that sort of response does nobody any good.

So, sadly, I must conclude that, on the basis of what we know at present, Boris Johnson can carry on denying Scotland its democracy for as long as he likes, and there’s not a lot we can do about it except continue to support the SNP in order to demonstrate that support for becoming a normal country has not gone away. We need to do this whatever happens because you can be absolutely sure that any sign of a fall in support will be pounced upon by Unionist politicians and the media to declare that nobody wants IndyRef2.


Glass, Bottle; Bottle, Glass

Posted on January 14th, 2020

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

I’m a pessimist by nature. For me, it’s not a case of my glass being half full or half empty, it’s more like the glass has been knocked to the floor, has smashed and emptied its contents all over me, leaving me drookit. So, while I’ve always tried to keep my blog posts balanced and fair, and to try to see both sides of any argument, I have privately been expressing the opinion that I don’t think Scotland will become a normal country in my lifetime.

I sincerely hope I’m wrong, but while I can understand why Nicola Sturgeon wants to follow a properly constitutional path to gaining independence, I fear she has made a huge mistake by playing to Westminster’s rules. After all, the UK has never been one of the world’s good guys, and it must be blatantly obvious to everyone that Westminster never plays fair.

Many people have expressed the view that the SNP must have some grand strategy they are keeping up their sleeves, but I am increasingly of the opinion that those who have been claiming there is no master plan have got it right. Today’s events have done nothing to alter my opinion on that. Nicola Sturgeon said that Boris Johnson’s refusal to grant a section 30 Order had been anticipated, yet she has no riposte ready. Why do we need to wait until later in the month to hear what her next step will be?

I have enormous respect for Nicola Sturgeon as a politician. She makes the Westminster mob look like the buffoons they are when it comes to debates and media interviews, but she really needs to galvanise things now, and the signs of that happening are sadly lacking.

We cannot afford to wait too long because people adapt to whatever circumstances are around them. Just look at the effect that the 120,000 unnecessary deaths caused by Tory policies have had on most people you meet. They may shake their heads and tut, but for the vast majority, these things do not touch them closely enough to have any real impact. People are now accustomed to low paid jobs and zero hour contracts. They are accustomed to food banks. The Tories have normalised all these things and are well on the way to normalising hatred of foreigners. Once Brexit begins to bite, people may complain about shortages of medicine and food, higher prices and long queues when travelling abroad, but they will adapt to it and, moreover, will probably fall for the blame being placed on foreigners.

So if we wait too long for IndyRef2, our chances of winning are not as great as you might hope. The same propaganda efforts will be expounded by the BBC and the newspapers, more promises will be made, as will threats, and people will look around and think, "Maybe this is not so bad".

I fear we missed our chance in 2014, but that doesn’t mean I will be giving up the cause. Being independent is normal, and Scotland needs to become a normal country. It’s just that, at the moment, I can’t see how we are going to get there.

So, while my glass may be less than half full, I really want Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP Government to show some bottle.


Welcome, Monica Lennon

Posted on January 8th, 2020

By Brotyboy

In an article in The Daily Record here Monica Lennon has suggested that Scottish Labour should become a 'separate political party in our own right'. Fair enough, but why? Lesley Riddoch in the excellent podcast here has exposed the position as being rooted in unionism rather than socialism.

So what could the newly Independent Labour Party in Scotland do to establish a position rooted in its traditional values while looking ahead as Ian Murray has proposed?

The Scottish Independent Labour Party could set out its stall to eradicate poverty. After all, we've had trickle down, the Laffer curve and all sorts of neoliberal economic theories and sayings which live on only in the fantasy land which exists between Patrick Minford's ears, so why not go straight for the main driver of ill-health, inequality, crime, drug taking and unhappiness?

A societal change could be brought about by the introduction of a Universal Basic Income/Citizens' Income of £200 a week for every man, woman and child. The benefits are many and appeal to people from across the political spectrum. It encourages entrepreneurship and drives up wages. How would this be raised from taxation?

Land Value Tax. The least unproductive tax. The tax which has no effect on supply. The tax which can't be moved offshore.

It is explained in more detail here by the excellent Graeme McCormick.

Furthermore, the Scottish Independent Labour Party could go the whole hog and campaign for a Green New Deal. They could take the work carried out by Common Weal in their Common Home Plan here which shows how to decarbonise Scotland over the next 25 years. It would create 100,000 jobs, pay for itself and reduce heating bills for almost everyone.

I would support any party proposing such moves in a devolved Scotland. If that is a Scottish Independent Labour Party so be it. After all, Independence is not an end in itself, but a means to an end and the end should be to change people's lives for the better.

In any case it would lead to an Independent Scotland so the net result is the same.


The Crossroads

Posted on January 3rd, 2020

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

It is easy for Unionists to stick together. All they need to do is say No to a Section 30 Order and the cause of transforming Scotland into a normal country is stymied. Meanwhile, the Yes side continues to argue over the best way to achieve normality. Some demand no more delay, while others seem to be arguing that the long game must continue, with mention of reaching our goal by the end of the decade – by which we must presume 2030 is the target.

Such cautious talk is very worrying, because if Scotland isn’t going to vote for independence soon, it probably never will.

That’s not to say some of the Softly Softly talk has no value. It is certainly the case that shouting at people who voted No in 2014 will achieve nothing. We certainly need to use persuasion rather than angry accusations, but to extrapolate that tactic into saying we should take years rather than months is playing into the hands of Westminster. Delay and obfuscation is how the UK Government has always behaved when faced with a difficult problem. They promise things, then fail to deliver, and we’ve seen plenty of that over the past five years. If we continue to delay, people will adjust to the diminished circumstances brought about by Brexit and will again believe that there is no point in risking further change. People get used to pretty much anything, especially when their media is constantly telling them that things can never be better. Just look at how it was loudly proclaimed in 2014 that Scots would not vote for independence if it left them £10 per week worse off. So we voted No, and all of us are considerably more than £10 per week worse off than we were, but nobody does anything except grumble about the cost of living. Sterling has crashed by a far greater extent than that which was threatened if we had voted Yes, yet people just shrug and complain about how few Euros they get for their Pound. Situations which cannot be affected by individuals are accepted by those individuals because they know there is nothing they can do to alter them. So if we wait until we see just how bad Brexit is going to be, people will soon get used to the higher prices, the shortages of food and medicine and the increasing strain on public services as those evil foreigners are deported by Westminster. If we wait too long, the Tory grip on power will be too strong to break.

Whether it is within a few weeks, or within a few months, the SNP really need to start doing something to move the case forwards.

But what can we do if they don’t? This is the big concern. There is no viable alternative. Not voting in elections simply allows the Unionist alliance to gain more seats, and there really is nobody else to vote for. The Greens perhaps, although they generally don’t have sufficient candidates to warrant putting much support behind them.

The trouble is that the SNP know this all too well, and they have little incentive to alter the situation. I do hope that the voices who are suggesting the SNP want the current situation to continue for the sake of their own salaries and pensions are wrong. I hope the SNP will stop talking and start acting. Yes, we may well lose again because the full might of Westminster and the media will be brought into play to threaten and bribe the waverers, but doing nothing is not exactly going to improve things either. This year is a crossroads. Let’s hope the SNP chooses the right path.


An Open Letter to the People of England

Posted on December 30th, 2019

By Stan Donderite

Dear friends and neighbours in England. I am writing this letter to ask you to ignore some of the scurrilous rumours being propagated by vile separatists in North Britain. Some of these crazed nationalists would have you believe that Scotland is a wealthy nation with a host of natural resources, including most of Britain’s fresh water, most of Britain’s oil, plus such things as whisky, gin, beef, salmon, an abundance of food crops, a huge percentage of Europe’s renewable energy sources in wind and wave power, medical research at top universities, a thriving digital games industry, and many other such resources.

I beg you not to pay any attention to these unfounded and, quite frankly, untruthful claims. Scotland is, as your media and politicians have told you for decades, subsidised by England and is a drain on your hard-earned taxation. Nobody in Scotland pays tax, yet they benefit from your generosity with such things as free prescriptions and education. This is grossly unfair, and you should petition your MP to ask them to do everything in their power to allow the Scots to become independent as soon as possible. They will, as everyone south of the Border knows, soon regret their foolish decision. After all, their education and healthcare systems are already failing. Please do not pay any attention to such trivial things as official statistics which show Scotland’s NHS as being the best performing in the UK, nor to official OECD statistics which show Scotland has the best educated workforce in Europe. These figures have clearly been manufactured by the vile SNP simply in order to persuade their own populace that things could be better if they broke away from control by Westminster. Instead, you should continue to believe such eminent publications as the Daily Mail, Daily Express and Telegraph, whose benign owners only have your best interests at heart. Scotland is an economic basket case despite more than three centuries of nurturing, loving care and control from Westminster. The ungrateful Scots have no conception of just how much worse things would be for them if your Government had not retained control of all the major levers of their economy.

So please pay no attention to any claims that Scotland could be a successful independent nation. The idea is ludicrous. Every other medium-sized independent nation in the world would love to be controlled by Westminster, as evidenced by the way the EU are being obstructive over the UK leaving. It is not just that they fear a rising UK becoming a dominant pawn of the USA, they cannot abide the thought of not having the Brits around to tell them what they are doing wrong, how awful their food is, and how laughable their languages are. Most of them even speak English with a funny accent, just like the Jocks. And please do refer to the north British as jocks. It is viewed as an offensive term with racist connotations, so fits very well with your Tory Government’s current attitudes towards pretty much everyone who is not English. I encourage you to use this term whenever you are speaking about or to anyone who claims to be Scottish. Please do not think about those scots who wish to remain in your glorious UK. They will not be offended no matter what you say or do to them, as long as you wave a Union flag at them. You are therefore free to emulate the fine examples set in the House of Commons by insulting Scotland and the Scots at every opportunity. After all, these are the scrounging layabouts who are sitting around claiming Benefits from your taxes.

So please do your best to ensure that Scotland becomes an independent nation as soon as possible. Let them stay in the EU with its unelected lawmakers. They will soon discover their error. After all, the vile SNP do not even have any representation in the wholly democratic House of Lords, so how can they have any idea of how real democracy works?

It is your civic duty to unburden yourselves of North Britain. Until you do, the vile separatists will continue to oppose your fabulous Brexit, and may even attempt to point out when Boris Johnson has lied to you. This would be unforgiveable, but it is just the sort of thing they would do in defiance of the BBC’s far more balanced reporting of the Tory Government’s words and actions. Please always believe the BBC and ignore the comments of the CyberNats on social media, no matter how many facts they may cite.

You also need to ignore the comments from politicians about a One Nation UK. Scotland is a very different country, with very different social attitudes. For example, they disdain Morris Dancing, and they hardly ever play cricket. They really hate the English, just as your media tells you. Please do not listen to anyone who points out the large number of English-born SNP members living in Scotland. These are entirely fictional beings, created by online social media bots. If you want evidence of this, just watch the BBC reporting of the so-called All Under One Banner marches for independence. You will not see a single English flag on display during these marches. In fact, you won’t see the marches at all on the BBC, which just goes to prove my point.

Finally, you should point out to your MP (who is probably a Tory), that England will be able to rid itself of the very occasional Labour Government your voters elect from time to time. This horrendous fate can be completely removed by getting rid of the Scottish MPs. Without them, the Tories will have eternal majorities, which is what your voting record over the past century or so seems to demonstrate as your preference.

It’s a win-win. You will be able to bask in the glory of a Tory-run nation free from interference by the EU, and you’ll be able to laugh at the Jocks who will be condemned to becoming yet another failing European state like Ireland, Estonia, Finland and the rest. Again, though, pay no attention to actual economic data about these countries. Such statistics are meaningless when set against the chance of having blue passports and chlorinated chicken imported from the USA. You will be rid of Scotland and free to pay for your NHS while you live a life of luxury sitting around applying for jobs because your workplace shut down.

That is all. Have a very Brexity New Year.

Yours,

Stan.


Hitting The Ground Running

Posted on December 17th, 2019

By Rab Bruce’s Spider

Boris Johnson’s Tory Government have only been in power a few days, and already we’ve had insights into how they are going to operate. Over the past few days, we’ve heard:

  • People will need to get used to an Insurance-based healthcare system.
  • Police will be given powers to seize and destroy the property of Roma families who do not park on approved sites.
  • An investigation is to be launched into the roles of pro-Corbyn websites – allegedly on the grounds that they may have helped spread anti-Semitism.
  • Disabled people are not worth the minimum wage.
  • The Government are considering boycotting Radio 4 because of what they claim was anti-Johnson bias.
  • Commitments to maintain standards on Workers’ Rights and trading standards will be scrapped.

Where do you start with those sort of things? The one thing they all have in common is a strong authoritarian streak, which is what you should expect from a Government, and increasingly a society, which ticks so many boxes on Umberto Eco’s list of traits of a fascist regime. They are designed to demonise and marginalise vulnerable people, and to place even more people into situations of vulnerability. Coercion of media sites, whether mainstream or independent is also clearly high on the list of priorities. Sadly, I expect all of the above, and more, to become reality before too long.

Of course, some of the points listed were foreseen as probabilities before the General Election, and a lot of people who voted Tory are eventually going to discover they were lied to, but one other potential move was also predicted. That is the intention to repeal the Scotland Act and / or neuter or abolish the Scottish Parliament. It hasn’t reared its head yet, but you can be sure it is being considered. They didn’t acquire offices in Edinburgh and hire all those staff just to sit about doing nothing. Once the Withdrawal Bill is passed and the UK leaves the EU at the end of January, the power grab will begin.

Whatever plan Nicola Sturgeon has, she’s going to need to act quickly before she finds the rug pulled out from under her feet.


The RBS who actually cares about Scotland.  If at first you don't secede, try, try again.

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