Thursday, 15 December 2016

Contempt of Parliament

Three stories last week illustrated the Westminster view of Britain.

In the Supreme Court the Westminster government made plain - for anyone who still had any doubt - that the entire farrago of the Scotland Act, the Vow and the Smith Commission was just an exercise in duplicity. The Sewell Convention was only "a political restriction upon Parliament's ability to act, no more and no less than that" and in no sense any "qualification or inhibition upon parliamentary sovereignty" - [Richard Keen QC Advocate General for Scotland (i.e. Westminster's point person on Scottish Law), with comment from The Lallands Peat Worrier].

This is a story of Westminster lies. Of economy with the truth. Of purposeful deception of the people of Scotland.

We were told we would get power to run our country, or at least to run some elements of our country...and now we are told that in any circumstance that the Westminster government deems not to be 'normal' we will lose that power.

Brexit is not 'normal'. Would a sudden economic collapse, or a war breaking out in the Baltic, or a 'terrorist threat' be 'normal'? The Westminster government and its Coalition predecessor sold us on a Vow, then on the Smith Commission, then on the Scotland Act.

All of it was just a load of make-believe.

Meanwhile, Twitter lit up with Theresa May's £995 leather breeks. A silly season story. But one that shows how Westminster leaders think. They think that it is OK to be photographed relaxing in ostentatious wealth. For the price of her trousers, Ms May could have fed 100 families at the Trussell Trust foodbanks, or provided a person in need with four months of Disability Living Allowance.

Ms May's trousers illustrate the gap between people and power. Ms May has no conception, no care, no interest in how a hungry person would view the self-indulgence of £995 trousers.

And then there was the data from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation showing that there are 13.5m people in Britain living in poverty, of whom 960,000 live in Scotland. Almost a million people in Scotland living in poverty, with more than half of them in working poverty. Working hard, but on incomes so low that the family lives in poverty. The proportion of people - one in five - who live in poverty has not shifted in the last ten years.

Looking down from the Elizabeth Tower at Westminster, our Imperial Masters fail to see all of this. For them, the poor, the families surviving on foodbank hand-outs, and anything north of Hadrian's Wall are of no interest.

Scotland is too wee, too poor to receive anything other than the contempt of Parliament.

It does not have to be this way. 

We could have our own Parliament, led by a government we can believe in, by politicians with an ounce of empathy alongside the blather. We could have an independent Scottish Parliament, built on social inclusion, social justice and as much honesty and empathy as we can hope for, from politicians.

We could be independent.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Top Down

Dear Elites

You got us into this bloody mess. Now fix it.

It was you, the comfortably wealthy, the private-school educated, the home-owners with the Volvo for the weekend cottage, the beneficiaries of Westminster's obsession with The City and finance. You who supported the neoliberal politics that first Margaret Thatcher and then all of the main political parties espoused. You who decided that 'immigration' was suddenly a big enough issue to vote Leave. You, who read the Daily Mail or the Telegraph,  who watched the hypnosis of Sky, your news intake controlled by Nondoms and aristocrats. You, whose brothers across the pond voted for the right-wing hawk who will Trump us all.

And now you can't step back from your cliff-edge. You have created a monster that is bigger than all of us, the fear-monster of foreigners at the picket-gate. So you add to your neoliberal austerity a regime of migrant control and visas. Government cuts, and, by the way, no visas for the Polish plumber or the French lorry driver or the Catalan software engineer, so your economy is under a double yoke with no real government spending, and no way for businesses to expand and grow.

I'm talking to you, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson. And all your cronies in the UKIP-Tories.

But hang on, old chap. 

I too went to a private school. I own two cars. I live in a nice house in the country. I have a (fairly) regular wage, food on the table, a comfortable job. I use social media owned by tax-dodging multinationals (yes, this blog is on a site owned by Google...) I, in an earlier life, voted for Tony Blair thinking that he could bring fairness to Britain.

I am part of the elite. I am part of the problem.

I, we, made the mess we are in. All of us in the comfortable classes, the blog-reading classes, the 'Just About Managing' JAMS...we got it wrong. We did not stand up and shout when we were favoured with lower taxes, even though we knew, if we had given the maths a moment's thought, that less tax meant less help for the poor. We did not protest loud enough, or in big enough numbers, when Westminster took us into its stupid wars in Libya and the Levant. We thought it broadly OK that the government of the day should privatise services previously thought essential - rail, water, telecoms, health, transport.

We have built the monster that is neoliberal, racist, Brexit Britain. We must slay it.

How? By changing us, first. By recognising that people in poverty are more important than a penny off income tax. By realising that our private schools are the nurseries of a permanent elite, and thus that we must close them or convert them into truly 'public' schools. By not buying that extra bottle of chilled Prosecco and giving the money to a foodbank instead. By reading more, and more widely, than the madness of the Daily Mail or the bias of the BBC.

And then by changing  our government. Scotland has shown that it can be done, kicking out the Red and Redder Tories and replacing them with politicians who don't get it all right all of the time, but at least move the ship of the Scottish state in the right direction.

Changing the government of England is very hard to imagine in our lifetime. And while that government is led by the elites of England it is not going to let the rabble of Scotland build the society that the people of Scotland want.

Dear elites, there are two clear conclusions. The elites of Scotland - me, you - must stand alongside the poor and fight for a socially just, international, welcoming Scotland. We must stand up for an independent Scotland, free to build the society its people want. A society built by all, for all - not just for us in the elite.

The elites of England will have to decide for themselves whether they want more Prosecco or less poverty. I hope, for their sake, that they wake up and vote for the latter.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Red Tories

Imagine the scene. It is November, 2020. England has Brexited and immigration controls are in place.

You are the boss of a small software company in Shropshire. Your latest computer game, Zombies on Mars, has gone viral and you urgently need to recruit games animators and developers. No-one in London seems to wants to work in Shropshire, so you plan to recruit people from Spain, Poland and Germany.

These people, post-Brexit, need a visa to work here.

You apply to the new Ministry of Work. They tell you that the 2020 quota for software engineers has now been filled and that you must reapply in January 2021 and 'join the queue.' 

You complain to your Member of Parliament. How can you grow your business if you cannot recruit these people? She replies that it is 'our Government's duty to ensure England's jobs go to English people.'

The Ministry of Work website says that there are still visa places available for;
  • Dog Groomers
  • Ball boys (tennis courts)
  • Polo pony Stable Assistants
  • Golf Caddie drivers
  • Beaters and Gun-porters for Hunting and Game Estates

If you enjoy golf, polo and shooting, you can employ anyone. But if you want to run a business, you are throttled by the Ministry.

The light starts to dawn. You now live in a planned economy in which a central government body is controlling the flow of the one resource that all businesses need - people. 

The Ministry of Work becomes increasingly powerful, for it dictates how the economy will function. Lobbyists work hard to persuade the Ministry to favour their industry, and senior civil servants are offered sexual services (provided by migrant sex workers) as part of a widening scandal of corruption.

As part of the government's Northern Powerhouse programme, the Ministry of Work announce that unemployed people 'who do not hold British passports' are to be moved to northern England where they will be employed in vast new factories to make golf balls and 12-bore cartridges. People refusing to move will have their benefits cut off, and if they continue to refuse will be moved by the police.

Amnesty International publishes photographs of the new 'factories' and reveals that they are surrounded by razor-wire. Amnesty compares the camps to the Gulags.

Welcome to the planned economy of Stalin's England. The Ministry of Work is now in control and she or he who runs it, runs the economy. As Cambridge economist Ha-Joon Chang pointed out in '23 Things they don't tell you about Capitalism', controlling the supply of labour controls the economy by controlling wages; 'Wages in rich countries are determined more by immigration control than by anything else.'  ['Thing 1', page 5]

This is, finally, the supreme irony. The Conservative Party is now the party of the planned economy, the party that tells you what you can do and where you can do it. The party that will be faced with a choice between visas for care workers and visas for stablehands...and will favour the horses over the nurses every time. These are the real Red Tories.

Back in Shropshire it only takes the boss a few minutes to work out that the best thing she can do is relocate her firm to Scotland. In newly-independent Scotland there is free movement of labour, and open access to the vast market of the EU.

This is the independence bonus, the huge boost to Scotland that will come when England Brexits and an independent Scotland Remains. Let's get there.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Ground Zero, Faslane

Now you know how it feels to live in uncertain times. The nervousness created by a shift in the established order. The worry of a new warlord in our nearest neighbour due west of Glasgow. The fear of the imposed, extreme, policies - the anti-gay, anti-minority, anti-migration policies of Donald Trump.

Donald Trump in the White House, with his finger on the nuclear button. The nuclear button that would fire Trident warheads from submarines based in Faslane - be clear, it is the US that controls 'our' bomb. Meaning that Faslane, and thus Scotland, would be obliterated in the Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) retaliation.

We in Europe are not used to these levels of unease, of nerves.  We have allowed ourselves to get richer at the expense of the world's poor - both at home and abroad. We have felt comfortable with that wealth when, in fact, it was riches built on a false premise. Abandoning the masses whilst the few enrich themselves is fun (for the rich) for a while, but as Brexit and Trump have shown us,  eventually 20, 30 or 40 years later the poor get back their voice and either by vote, by revolt or by war overturn the established order.

Feel glad that in the UK and USA this revolt has come by vote; in too many other places - the Levant, north Africa - it has come with a bullet or a bomb.

Until now we have been the ones exporting the uncertainty, supplying arms to regimes around the world that use them to supress, to kill and to ensure fearful, compliant populations. 

Arms trade, Scotland, source

Now we're getting a spoonful (no more than a spoonful - our lives are still going to be comparatively comfortable) of that medicine back.

What can Scotland do? We're a wee country with no power, little influence and a lightweight (in comparison to the USA) economy.

There is much we can do.  Scotland can be a model for tolerance, decency, peace and the environment. We're already showing ourselves to be more international, and much more tolerant, than the voters of England. Scotland is building a sustainable, green future for itself, despite the hollowing out of the sustainable energy business by Westminster.

Now we need to take the next step. We must become a country of peace. A country that converts its arms manufactures - which still employ more than 12,000 people in Scotland - into factories for products that conserve energy, feed people or improve science.  We must, absolutely must, get rid of the weapons of mass destruction on the Clyde, handing them back to England so that she may store them in a more appropriate location, such as the Thames.

We can only reach that state of peace if we rid ourselves of Westminster. An independent Scotland can be a wee beacon for good, in a world that is Trumped.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Vote Right

Scotland is a tiny, poor, meaningless appendage on the edge of Britain, whose tenement-born population are condemned to Tory rule for the rest of their lifetimes.

That's the depressing picture this morning.

Westminster now has the most right-wing government in a generation. Amber Rudd and Jeremy Hunt have made racism OK.  The mainstream media, controlled by a handful of right-wing barons, will take up this theme and soon we will have lynchings in the streets. Rupert Murdoch and Lord Rothermere, who between them control 60% of UK print media, will (ironically, in Murdoch's case) bang the no-foreigners drum.

As the excellent Dr Tanja Bueltmann has pointed out, they - the barons and the Tories - are shining their Tory-blue spotlights on 'foreigners' and 'immigrants' in order to distract our attention from the bigger issues.

The bigger issues are much, much more important than the bash-the-migrants distractions of the Tories. They are as big as the millions of refugees fleeing wars created, in part, by Westminster governments. As big as the poverty that affects 220,0000 children in Scotland, or that means poor Scots cannot warm their homes this winter. As big as climate change.

The people of Scotland did not vote for this right-wing mess. Scotland's view will be ignored while Westminster plunges into the Dark Ages of a 21st century Fortress Britain.

Monday, 3 October 2016

No Hostage

I am one of those Britons in Europe, to whom David Davis, Brexit Secretary, referred yesterday:

"When it comes to the negotiations, we will protect the rights of EU citizens here, so long as Britons in Europe are treated the same way."

So now I am a bloody hostage to the Tory Party. 

One of a million people with a UK passport who have taken 'freedom of movement' at its face value and have moved across the waters to continental Europe or the Republic of Ireland.

And now we are hostages.

Hostages for the 134,910 non-UK EU citizens living in Scotland - the 'reverse diaspora' - who include Catalan students at Glasgow and Stirling Universities whom I know, and thousands of others.

I welcome EU citizens to Scotland in the same way as I was welcomed here in Catalonia. Scotland needs these bright, young, exploring, adventurous people for lots of reasons - to help business and the economy to grow, to keep Scotland thinking global, and because we have an ageing population. Migrants bring new ideas, new ways of working and a wider world view to the place.

I don't want to be a hostage to the fortune of Mr Davis' calamitous negotiations with Brussels. I don't want to be a one-for-one hostage exchange on some Bridge of Spies over the channel, my life in Catalonia for my friend's life in Scotland.

Count me out, Mr Davis. 


Friday, 23 September 2016

Six-Party State

Westminster is befuddled about Brexit.

It is now 91 days since England voted us out of the EU, and there appears to be no plan, no action, and a divided Parliament.

We now have a six-party state:

  1. ToRemain
  2. TorLeave
  3. Labomb
  4. Labairns
  5. Libwhos
  6. SNP

ToRemain is the not-so-far-right part of the Tory Party, who would really like to forget the EU Referendum and stay in the EU, whilst tinkering mildly with the rules on free movement. These ideas are supported by all kinds of people including Martin Wolf, chief economist at the Financial Times, who calls the Referendum 'consultative.'

TorLeave are the crazies who are currently in the lead in the Cabinet, who want a hard Brexit. BoJo wants out, now, whatever the consequences.

Labomb supports the renewal of Trident. The UK Parliamentary party at Westminster wants to blow £100 billion on the bomb, whilst keeping it upwind of Glasgow (just in case the Branch Office revolts).

Labairns is the tiny Scottish Branch Office of the former Labour Party. It is opposed to the renewal of Trident, favouring #BairnsNotBombs. As the very irreverent Wings Over Scotland pointed out this week (a) the bomb is a reserved issue and (b) the tiny wee Scottish Branch Office can't outvote the big boys and girls in Westminster - the numbers just don't add up.

Libwhos are the hirsute rump of the LibDems or Liberals or whatever they used to call themselves. They have no policy apart from reminding us that they didn't enjoy being in bed with the Tories last time.

Which leaves just one coherent, effective, political party at Westminster. A party that turns up for debates in the Chamber, that makes good strong points about policies that matter - Mhairi Black's continuing battle for women's pensions is a great example - and that is clearly against the Bomb, and the bombs. It's a beautiful irony that the SNP is the only functioning political unit in the English Parliament.

There is a parallel with the situation in Spain; Madrid is unable to form a government because it also has multiple parties which are unable to agree with each other; PP, PSOE, Ciutadans, Podemos, and others including the Catalan parties Esquerra Republicana and the Partit Demòcrata Català. The two Catalan parties have their differences, but both stand for one clear policy; independence for Catalonia.

Scotland needs to free itself from the horrible mess that is Westminster - to free itself from Westminster's wars and its Trident bomb, from Westminter's neoliberal politics and from the inequalities that creates. 

We must do this before a confusion of Tories, led by an unelected Prime Minister, drags Scotland out of the EU.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

One More Munro

We have one more hill to climb. It's a Munro, old and craggy, with boggy burns blocking our path, impossible cliffs and dangerous scree slopes.

This Munro is right in the middle of Glasgow and Edinburgh, Stirling, Inverness and Perth. It's all over the Fife and Ayrshire coasts, and it's out in Gullane and St Andrews.

It is the Munro of the older Scots. The population over 55 who appear to be voting as much as 80:20 against independence.

We can stand at the bottom of the hill and rant and rage at it, shouting at the people on the top that they are not thinking about the bairns, about their grandchildren and the future. But that's not going to get us up there.

We have to study this mountain, listen to it, look for the climbing line that will get us there.

The SNP's listening project is a good start, but we will have to do more. Think about the concerns of the 75 year old who voted 'No' two years ago, her fears for her home, her pension. But also the image she has of a Great Britain that survived the threat of invasion and fascism, of the  people in her and her parent's generation who rebuilt Britain.  That pride in a unified British response to threat. And years of postwar Westminster governments that genuinely tried to bring the white heat of technology to every corner of the British Isles.

When she was young and interested in politics - like you are now - Britain under Labour and Tories felt like a fairer place. By the time the real unfairness arrived, as neoliberalism took hold of both main parties at Westminster, she had lost interest.

Her views haven't shifted much in the last thirty years. For her, today, independence means breaking up a place she still thinks of as 'Great'. Great enough to stand alone outside Europe - yes, she voted Leave in the EU Referendum.

She is the mountain. How do we help her to understand that the country she remembers has been ravaged by Westminster? How do we show her that she, and the weans, will be better off in an independent Scotland?

We start by listening to the mountain. Her concerns and her prejudices,
in the positive and negative sense of that word. Then we try to give her an answer; help her understand that the Westminster that provided for her when she was young has lost interest in Scotland, that it has lost interest in anyone who is poor or dispossessed, and that Holyrood has taken on that mantle. That Scotland has been caught in another war, a hidden war, a battle of the classes in which, inevitably, the wealthy of South East England won. Now we have to rebuild Scotland, just like she and her sisters did after WWII. We need her help to do that.

One more mountain. From the top, I can see freedom.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Cha-ching! The HInkley Bonus

Thank goodness for the Conservative Party. Without them, Scotland's independence cause would be so much poorer.

The potential independence bonus just got £1.8billion bigger, thanks to the Tories and their utterly ridiculous Hinkley Point decision. That £1.8bn is the approximate population share of the cost that people in Scotland - a country which is now generating more than half its electricity from renewables - will pay for building a madness of a £18bn nuclear power station. 

That's £18bn at current prices. You may rely on the cost going sky-high (just like you can rely on the roof of the reactor going sky-high at some point, blighting Somerset and Western England for generations).

If Scotland were independent it would not have to pay for Hinkley Point.

Add to this the Scottish population share of the equally nuclear but horribly more murderous Trident missile system (our share would be around £10bn-£20bn, and rising), and you are looking at an independence bonus of perhaps £12bn-£20bn. 

That's an independence bonus of between £2,200-£3,750 per person.

It is equivalent to the total expenditure on health, wellbeing and sport in the 2016-17 Draft Budget for Scotland, planned for £13 billion. 

Independence will make everyone in Scotland better off. And by pulling Scotland out of the Tories' mad nuclear plans, we will be richer, more sustainable, and safer.

Friday, 26 August 2016

Scotland, UK

I found an old suitcase in the cellar yesterday, a battered, well-travelled old thing, covered in customs labels and dust. The luggage label, in my grandfather's hand, gives his address as 'Kilmacolm, Scotland, UK.'

The case was last used, I'd guess, in the 1960s.

Back then, independence for Scotland was the pipe-dream of a few, a very few, brave souls.

But the luggage label is a reminder that Scotland has always been seen as a nation, as something distinct in the United Kingdom. Even for my grandfather, who would have dismissed independence as "stuff and nonsense," Kilmacolm was clearly in Scotland, not just in the UK.

In the 'uncharted' territory after the Brexit vote, could Scotland remain in Europe, but also in the UK?

It's the topic of the moment over at Common Space. Kirsty Hughes had an article out on the options just a few days after the vote, and Nicola Sturgeon has spoken about independence as 'only one option' in keeping Scotland in the EU.

The idea - known as the 'reverse-Greenland model' - is attractive in part because it fits with what the voters have said; 55% voted for Scotland to stay in the UK in the 2014 indyref, and then two years later gave a firm Remain response to the Brexit referendum, with 62% voting to stay in the EU. If we could keep the kingdom united but also stay in Europe, mebbe we would not need an indyref2.

But it's going to be difficult to sell on the doorsteps.

Let's ask Mrs Marietta Cosmopilite*, of 14a Dunked Road, Bridgeton, Glasgow. 

Dave from the SNP is about to chap her door.

Dave: Hello Mrs Cosmopilite. I'm Dave from the SNP. I've come to talk to you about constitutional arrangements.

Mrs C: My constitution is quite the thing, young man, now awa and bile yer heid.

Conclusion: It's going to be tricky to sell the reverse-Greenland in Glasgow. 

Let's try another doorstep;

Nicola: Hello Theresa, I'm Nicola from the SNP.

Mrs May**: Get on with it girl, I haven't got all day.

Nicola: We'd like to be like Greenland, only reversed.

Mrs M: Ah, you mean cold at the bottom and all melty at the top?

An aide; Ehem, Ma'am, I think she is referring to our constitutional arrangements. This is the Scottish First Minister.

Mrs M: Ah yes, Nicola Davidson. No. We don't have a constitution to arrange. And thanks to BoJo we're all going down the Brexit Swannee together. Now b*gger awf.

Conclusion: Reverse-Greenland might look good on paper, but it's only independence that will allow Scotland to escape from the pit of egocentric snakes that is Tory Westminster.

* A fictional character, with apologies to the late, great Terry Pratchett
** Not a fictional character

Tuesday, 9 August 2016


I'm helping Pilar Aymara ( to put together a campaign to keep Scotland in the EU.

Take a look at our ideas at and be the first to comment!

We especially want to reach folk living in EU countries outside the UK - so please pass on the link to friends and contacts.

And if you know of other groups that are being created with the same aims, then put us in touch (our contact details are in the document at

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Catalonia, Nation-Building

The National is the only UK newspaper to headline the significance of yesterday's vote in the Catalan Parliament, the Generalitat.

Because yesterday the Catalan parliament directly challenged the Spanish government and its constitutional court (the Tribunal Constitutional) in two votes. The first was a vote to accept a route-map to independence, and the second to create a new Catalan social services agency.

The route map - in Catalan it is called the 'procés constituent' - has 11 points, laid out in detail in Catalan in Vilaweb. In summary, the plan is for a transparent, participative, process in which the Catalans would create a Constituent Social Forum (Fòrum Social Constituent*, FSC) with civil society and the political parties. the FSC would debate the various points of the future Constitution, and encourage public participation in the creation of a Constitution.

In a second phase, the Generalitat would pass 'laws of disconnection' with Spain, and create a Constituent Assembly (Assemblea Constituent) - in effect a new government - which would finalise the Constitution and put the final document to a public referendum. At the moment at which the public vote in favour of the constitution it would come into power, creating a new Republic of Catalonia.

The Madrid interim government uses the constitutional court to break many of the laws that are passed by the Catalan parliament. Because the government in power can select the judges who sit in the constitutional court, it is in effect just another arm of the ruling Partido Popular. It is absolutely not an independent judiciary.

But Madrid is at a very weak point at the moment. Paul Kavanagh, whose Wee Ginger Dug comes from Valencia and who is an expert on Spanish politics, was correct to point out yesterday that enfeebled Madrid is much more bothered about Gibraltar than it is about Scotland. Unable to form a government despite two general elections, Madrid politicians are doing what Tories and Labour in Westminster know best; focusing on me-me-me egos, stabbing each other in the back and then in the front, and not getting on with forming a government. There is every possibility that there will be a third, fourth or fifth general election here. 

Meanwhile, the Catalans are quietly getting on with building their own state.

*I'm having difficulty translating the much-used Catalan word 'constituent' into English. It means 'constituting' in the sense of 'we are constituting a new state.' [UPDATE; Thanks to @michauthor for putting me onto this Wikipedia page, which gives the translation as 'Constituent Assembly.']

Catalonia, Nation-Building

The National is the only UK newspaper to headline the significance of yesterday's vote in the Catalan Parliament, the Generalitat.

Because yesterday the Catalan parliament directly challenged the Spanish government and its constitutional court (the Tribunal Constitutional) in two votes. The first was a vote to accept a route-map to independence, and the second to create a new Catalan social services agency.

The route map - in Catalan it is called the 'procés constituent' - has 11 points, laid out in detail in Catalan in Vilaweb. In summary, the plan is for a transparent, participative, process in which the Catalans would create a Nation-building Social Forum (Fòrum Social Constituent*, FSC) with civil society and the political parties. the FSC would debate the various points of the future Constitution, and encourage public participation in the creation of a Constitution.

In a second phase, the Generalitat would pass 'laws of disconnection' with Spain, and create a Nation-Building Assembly (Assemblea Constituent) - in effect a new government - which would finalise the Constitution and put the final document to a public referendum. At the moment at which the public vote in favour of the constitution it would come into power, creating a new Republic of Catalonia.

The Madrid interim government uses the constitutional court to break many of the laws that are passed by the Catalan parliament. Because the government in power can select the judges who sit in the constitutional court, it is in effect just another arm of the ruling Partido Popular. It is absolutely not an independent judiciary.

But Madrid is at a very weak point at the moment. Paul Kavanagh, whose Wee Ginger Dug comes from Valencia and who is an expert on Spanish politics, was correct to point out yesterday that enfeebled Madrid is much more bothered about Gibraltar than it is about Scotland. Unable to form a government despite two general elections, Madrid politicians are doing what Tories and Labour in Westminster know best; focusing on me-me-me egos, stabbing each other in the back and then in the front, and not getting on with forming a government. There is every possibility that there will be a third, fourth or fifth general election here. 

Meanwhile, the Catalans are quietly getting on with building their own state.

*I'm having difficulty translating the much-used Catalan word 'constituent' into English. It means 'constituting' in the sense of 'we are constituting a new state.'

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

See's a pound, son

The Scottish Government is starting to make noises about a currency for an independent Scotland...with the predictable response of the Tories that 'the SNP want to take the pound from your pocket.'

The media are stuck in their old trope - that it was love of the pound that saved the Union in the September 2014 Referendum.

In fact, as Rob Johns at the University of Essex showed in a fascinating and detailed analysis after the Referendum, the pound was only one of a number of factors.

Dr Johns uses data from two large-scale (n=5,000) studies prior to the Scottish Referendum. He shows that voters in Scotland thought it likely, back then, that if Scotland stayed in the Union, the UK would vote to leave the EU. They felt it was likely that the gap between rich and poor would grow wider, and that welfare benefits would go down.

In other words, prior to the September 2014 Referendum, voters were already factoring in these consequences of staying in the Union.

But 42% of voters said it was unlikely that they, personally, would be better off if Scotland became independent, against 23% who felt that it was likely. Combine this with the fact that older people intended to vote no (around 70% of the 70+ age group intended to vote no) and you had a No-wins combination. 

Keeping the pound was a small part of the picture, and may be linked to the willingness to take risks in general. Yes voters were much more willing to take a risk than No voters. No voters felt that there was a danger that they would lose out in an independent Scotland.

So it's not about the pound. It's about whether we can show the voter, especially older voters and women, that they will be better off (or at least, not worse off), in an independent Scotland.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Dropping Billions on the Bomb

The Westminster parliament will vote today to renew the Trident missile system. We know it will vote that way because the Tories and most of the Labour Party support the renewal. In 2007, MPs backed "Tony Blair's bid to spend between £15bn and £20bn" on new submarines to carry the Trident Missiles.

As always happens with major defence projects, Tony Blair's £20 billion turns out to have been an under-estimate. CND's latest estimate is, er, more than ten times that amount at £205 billion.

These estimates are how it looks today. We can be sure that if we renew Trident, and then look back 40 years from now, the spend will be substantially more.

In 40 years, assuming an accident does not happen.

Westminster's atomic bombs are housed west of Glasgow. Upwind of Glasgow. So when there is an accident, a leakage, a wee dropped component or weakened gasket that releases nuclear material into the atmosphere,  it will endanger the entire Central Belt - most of the population of Scotland.

And an accident will happen. As submariner William McNeilly pointed out two years ago, the human errors in safety systems meant that Trident is a "disaster waiting to happen."

And the cost! George Kerevan writes an excellent piece in today's National describing the hidden costs of the atomic bomb. Even if the cost were not to rise - even if CND's maths is wrong and we were just spending the £23 billion that the MoD claims - those are billions that are not being spent on hospitals, on schools or on people living in poverty. Each of these alternatives would produce more prosperity than dropping billions on the bomb.

For Scotland, Trident is worse than useless. As a piece of defensive equipment you'd do better to toss your Sgian Dubhs into the Clyde.

The military threats to Scotland are not going to be answered with an atomic bomb.

Because the bomb is a moral outrage, a weapon that would kill millions of civilians and destroy millions of hectares of land. For what? So that the other side could lob a bomb at us, at Faslane, in turn destroying most of Scotland's people and land.

Despite the cost, despite the uselessness, despite the potential for killing the people of Scotland, Westminster's English MPs will vote today to impose Trident on Scotland. Scotland is abused and degraded by this decision.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

BoJo Woe

The pantomime that is Westminster just got funnier. BoJo for Foreign Secretary is worse than the nightmare of my last blog.

Funnier for some. But this further-right Conservative government, led by a Prime Minister whose views on migration ended up on the side of go-home advertising trucks, is going to come down hard on Scotland.

This will be a government that sticks to its £100 billion Trident missile renewal. That's £100 billion that will not be spent on the NHS, or on social welfare, or on better benefits for the poor, or on ending the iniquitous benefits tribunals.

This will be the government that will make Brexit mean Brexit, against the democratically expressed will of the people of Scotland and despite the implications. Because Brexit means the removal of the few protections that the EU provided for workers and consumers, and the removal of EU grants to voluntary organisations, universities and rural projects across Scotland. Those grants don't particularly help the better off...but they do have an impact on people on average wages, or less.

BoJo may be a joker of a Foreign Secretary. But he will not win many laughs in Scotland. His appointment confirms that Westminster still revolves around the privileged few.

It is past time that Scotland stepped away from the Bullingdon Club, and made its own, independent, international, European way in the world.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Boris' Balls

This could be the nightmare scenario.

Boris Johnson becomes Prime Minister, Theresa May the Foreign Secretary, and Michael Gove, Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Boris confesses to feel 'jolly sorry' about the the idea that Scotland would leave 'our wonderful United Kingdom.'  He delays enacting Article 50, and then delays it more, and finally decides not to pull out of the EU at all, saying that 'losing Scotland would be too high a price to pay,' and, 'we voted to escape from Brussels, not from Edinburgh.' Boris dismisses Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon's call for a second independence referendum for Scotland. 

Boris does not have the balls to exit the EU and lose Scotland.

But then the nightmare gets worse. Because now, after an EU Referendum that was just a very complicated way of choosing a new Tory leader, we have a further right Tory Government (as Nicola Sturgeon warned us) with more austerity cuts and a lock-down on migration. The Labour Party does another round of back-stabbing, and continues to be wholly ineffective as an opposition.

Poor people and people with disabilities have their benefits cut further by 'Super-Austerity' Chancellor Michael Gove. Migrants are made to feel thoroughly unwelcome with discriminatory legislation put in place by Theresa May. The Human Rights Act is revised to make it 'more flexible.' Read 'V for Vendetta' and you'll see where my nightmare comes from.

Westminster, the London media led by the Daily Mail, and a xenophobic campaign of fear have combined to persuade the voters of England to leave the EU. They have brought on a sharp right turn in the Tory party. 

And they have once again imposed all of this on Scotland, against Scotland's express will. How long can we live with this nightmare?

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Scotland, Spain, Catalonia

Do you want to help promote Scotland's position in the EU? Do you live in Spain, Catalonia, Galiza, Euskadi, or one of the other nations of the Iberian Peninsula?

With Pilar Aymara, I'm reaching out to anyone who wants to help keep Scotland in the EU. We'd like to talk to you about:

How to best support Scotland's case to remain in the EU
What we should do to maintain our own position as EU citizens

Please pass this on to anyone you know who might be interested.

Twitter; @serosedker



Friday, 24 June 2016

Goodbye, Little England

It has been a long relationship, with lots of good stuff and lots of not so good. But now it is time to say goodbye.

Not to Europe, but to England. 

Scotland has voted to Remain and that is precisely what we should do. Whatever weirdness happens in Westminster, and it is going to get pretty weird (Farage for PM, anyone?), we should be backing Nicola Sturgeon as she fights to keep Scotland in Europe. 

We have voted for the workers' rights, for the openness, for the wider international view that Europe offers. We must not be denied that, whatever happens.

Three further points:
The vote in England illustrates the divisive politics of Westminster, which coddles London and the South East and abandons the rest. The demarcation between the people Westminster cares for and the people it does not is marked by the Leave/Remain divide in England.

Scotland's politics and its politicians have been much more inclusive. The gender equal cabinet, Nicola Sturgeon's response to the Belgian bombings - she gave her statement in a mosque, next to the Imam, to emphasise Scottish inclusion - the range of sexualities of our leaders, all of these help to ensure that more people feel that Holyrood represents their interests. When you feel that a parliament takes an interest in you, you take time to listen to what your politicians say.

Nicola's campaign in Scotland was outstanding. She was the only UK political leader who stated clearly, and repeatedly, the positive benefits (workers' rights, women's rights, travel, business) of EU membership. She never tried to frighten us. And she won. Perhaps there is a lesson there for the Westminster scaremongers.


Thursday, 23 June 2016

Breaking, Catalonia

Remember before the September 2014 Independence Referendum in Scotland, when there were rumours that MI5 was undermining the Yes case? I thought it was all conspiracy hoo-haa.

But the news, today, from Catalonia is that the Minister of Justice in Madrid, Jorge Fernandez, and the head of the 'Catalan Antifraud Office' in Barcelona, Daniel de Alfonso, had a conversation in 2013 that was secretly recorded. The tape has been released, and it is clear (a) that both men were searching for a way of finding leading pro-independence Catalan politicians guilty of fraud and (b) the Spanish President (Mariano Rajoy) knew that this was going on.

This news comes just 3 days before Sunday's state-wide election. It will not damage the right-wing Partido Popular (their voters seem immune to the corruption and bad government of their party) but it will finish any hope in the short term of a reconciliation between Madrid and Barcelona.

Anyone got a tape of Theresa May talking to MI5 about dropping a corruption charge on Alex Salmond, around late summer, 2014?

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Nicola's Right

The EU Referendum turns out to be a simple vote. Here, electors, are your voting choices:

David Cameron, Tory Right

Boris Johnson, Tory Further Right

Both of these splendid fellows studied at Eton. Both live comfortable, wealthy lives at the top of English society, so they are ideally placed to lead their fellow citizens and then to receive the Knighthood they so richly deserve.

It's not much of a choice, but as Nicola Sturgeon pointed out yesterday

 "a ‘Leave’ win would be a victory for politicians who actually believe George Osborne and David Cameron are moderates, and it would leave Scotland at their mercy. Outside the EU but within the UK, with most economic power still concentrated at Westminster, Scotland would be left vulnerable to the most right-wing Tory government in modern history."

This new government, created out of a vote which on the surface is about the EU, would be right-wing in every respect. 

Austerity and cuts that would affect poor people, not the rich. The removal of employment laws that protect the street-cleaner, not the banker.

And the horrible undertone of racism that has been central to the Leave campaign, where 'immigration' is the vote-winning ghoul that Johnson, Gove and Farage invoke. 

If you, dear reader, are like me an EU migrant then you can expect to be pilloried by a Boris Johnson government. And if you are Ahmed, or Reem, or Rajshree or Aliyah or anyone else that Leave can paint as an 'immigrant' then you can expect much worse from a right-wing Westminster government untroubled by human rights legislation, workers' rights or any other of the pesky EU regulations.

The EU Referendum is a vote about the Tory Party. I am only going to ask you to do this once in my life; 

"Vote Right, not Further Right."


Monday, 6 June 2016

Dear Aymara

23rd June 2036

Dear Aymara

Happy 20th birthday!

When your dad - my son - met your Mum in that refugee detention centre in Greece back in 2015 her situation was desperate. She had escaped with her sister from the cluster bombs of Aleppo and then spent three months walking across Turkey trying to avoid the kidnappers and the people-traffickers.

You were born on the day that Britain voted to stay in Europe.

Thanks to a massive vote in Scotland in favour of staying in, the UK voted 51% to 49% to remain. It was horribly close. The campaign for the EU Referendum was particularly nasty, focusing on migration in a way that hinted at, even if it did not directly condone, discrimination. This was especially ironic in Britain whose islands were populated by migrants who had settled there after the last ice age, and then by endless waves of peoples - Romans, Vikings, Normans… after that. Britain had been the source of huge migrations to Canada, the USA and Australia, and then had taken back the people of the world either as refugees (the Jewish children and the Norwegian resistance during WWII) or because it needed the labour force. The result is that the Glasgow I know and love is a wonderful mixture of Vikings and Pakistanis, of Picts and Italians (Mr Nardini in Largs always made the best ice cream!), of Afro-Caribbeans and Irish.

I am a migrant, one of the hundreds of thousands who has taken advantage of the EU to move to Catalonia (remember your tenth birthday, when we cerebrated Catalonia becoming independent? That was a p-a-r-t-y!!!) You spent last year as an Erasmus student in Paris being a migrant. You and I know that migrants are good for their adopted country; you were able to help your new friends in Paris to understand what happened in Syria all those years ago and I saw the lovely pictures of the dinner you cooked for them; dolmades from Greece, Kebab Halabi from Aleppo and cranachan from Scotland!!

In the end the EU referendum was not about migration. It could never be about migration in a country made by migrants. It was about beliefs.

The closeness of the vote, like the Referendum in Scotland two years previously, made us all think. What did we believe in? Did we believe in a US style of capitalism, focused on individual freedoms? Or in the European style of welfare state that protects people who are poor, in pain or in need?

Thanks to the EU Referendum our special European model, the welfare state, was revived.

That meant the end of a set of political beliefs started when I was about your age by a Westminster leader called Margaret Thatcher. She believed (it sounded reasonable at the time) that if you cut back on the state's responsibilities and cut taxes, the rich would be encouraged to be more entrepreneurial, building new businesses and creating new jobs. The result would be that the wealth would 'trickle down' to the poor.

By the time you were born (under a different prime minister called David Cameron - but I doubt you know his name, he left no mark in history) it was obvious that this idea, called 'neoliberalism', did not work. The gap between the rich and the poor had widened. Not only had neoliberalism made hundreds of thousands of people in the UK poorer, it had allowed people of wealth to stash away billions in secret hiding places, including many former British colonies. The wealth was not trickling down. It was bleeding out.

The people of the British isles - migrants all of us - voted for our belief in a welfare state.  The revival of the welfare state has finally started to close the gap between wealth and poverty. You and I and 500 million other people across Europe have benefited in the last 20 years from the results of that choice by the people of Britain. We have had opportunities - from your education to my pension - that we might not have had, had Britain voted itself out of the arms of Europe.

Enjoy every day of that - your birthday especially.



Tuesday, 31 May 2016

It's so slow

How long will it take politicians to realise that inequality is bad? That poverty, the measure of inequality, is making everyone poorer?

A very long time, judging by what is going on now.

In a 2007 article the prescient George Monbiot gave us a brief history of the politics of inequality - the political movement that began just after World War II and that was supported by 'American oligarchs and their foundations.' Monbiot makes clear that this movement - we now call it neoliberalism - was specifically in the interests of the rich. The combination of government austerity and the privatisation of anything that was not core government business meant a 'massive shift of wealth, not just to the top 1% [of the population] but to the top 0.1%', returning us to levels of poverty and inequality not seen since the 1920s.

In March George Kerevan, writing about the resignation of Iain Duncan Smith in The National,  wrote about the 'social upheaval' caused by the many years of austerity, of shrinking the state, and said that the 'SNP needs to press on with a radical alternative to the failed neo-liberal agenda'

And this week an article by the International Monetary Fund, highlighted in Saturday's Financial Times, admits that 'increased inequality ... hurts the level and sustainability of growth.' The article picks on two neoliberal policies - free movement of capital across borders, and government austerity. On the first, it advocates some controls to stop short-term rushes of capital into and out of countries. And on the second it says that 'austerity policies not only generate substantial welfare costs..., they also hurt demand—and thus worsen employment and unemployment.'The hot news (for the FT) is that the article uses the word 'neoliberalism' to define these politics; 'the use of the term "neoliberalism" is provocative,' storms the FT. 

How long will it take Cameron and Osborne to wake up and listen to the mood music? How much more poverty, how many more cuts, how many more people sanctioned by the 'benefits' system? How many more wars that drive millions out of their homes and into abject poverty? 

When will they learn that poverty is bad, for all of us? When?