Wednesday 20 July 2016

Scary Thought

It's a strange thing to be writing a blog about your homeland from 10,000 miles away in mid-winter weather that most Scots could only dream of and by that I mean light drizzle.

A while ago I kinda made a decision not to engage in African or even South African politics for one simple reason; I can't vote here. There is absolutely no need for me to act as a political change agent, after all what do I know about being South African? Who needs another white voice on the arduous processes of a very young democracy?

So despite being a long way from home and having not set foot on Scottish soil for nearly four years, Scotland and the wider UK remain my political focus. The amazing thing with a Scottish accent in a very international city it's hard to dodge the issue of origins, especially when your country is still deemed to be internationally relevant and by country that I refer to the UK.

The UK has voted Brexit, Scotland, Northern Ireland and London have voted remain. Right at this moment Theresa May is refusing to invoke article 50 until such time as our thinly veiled democratically elected government has figured out exactly what the UK wide approach is to leaving the UK. Scots can consider themselves lucky having actually been consulted on what the leaving process might be. I doubt either London or Northern Ireland will be afforded the same civilities.

Two days ago Westminster voted to renew Trident. For those of you not in the loop Trident is the UK's nuclear arsenal. Which just happened to be almost entirely located in Scotland.  The wider media would have you believe that it's somewhere in a remote inaccessible sea loch off the west coast, when in fact it is just a jaunty 45 min drive from the heart of Glasgow.  Be under no illusions if there were nuclear war most of the central belt of Scotland would be wiped out with one press of the big button were always being warned about. Scotland is the unwilling sacrifice of nuclear war. In light of these facts it's easy to understand why all Scottish MP's with the exception of one (the Tory) voted against the renewal and why the political stalemate between Scotland and Westminster is set to continue. Under current circumstances Scotland is now hitched to the leaving the EU and housing a nuclear arsenal it doesn't want. There are fewer and fewer ways to avoid the obvious; that Scotland is tied into an undemocratic union. Scotland's motivations for becoming an independent country couldn't be more clear.

A further exploration of this information would underline the  arrogance of Westminster establishment that the UK would leave itself so exposed. Here we have Scotland a country at odds with UK hegemony and housing it's nuclear arsenal. It doesn't take a genius to figure out how this might play out, should Westminster refuse to play fair, now that a second independence referendum is quite firmly on the table. What would happen if Nicola recalled the troops?

To be clear it will probably never happen but what if?

Tuesday 15 September 2015

We lost, we won and then we went left.

Apart from opening this long overdue blog pot with WTF? All I can really tell you is that I have a very nice bottle of Macallan that has been forever tainted, so much so, I should have finished it all ready. That day waiting for the polls to close then the results to come in was quite possible one of the most exciting in my life althoug I was in Pretoria long periods of time were spent talking to friends via skype and then setting up on the sleeper couch in front of the couch with my obliging partner next to me. When the Clackmanacshire result came in. It seemed so signal what the Yesers had all feared, The Vow, that holy disgrace of a promise had worked. The Inverclyde vote was nail biting though essentially worthless as it was only a small part of the whole vote with little or no impact.

The internal grief, pain and anger has taken time to process, not least the scenes the accompanied the Unionist crowds in Glasgow on the following night of the referendum result.

As I put it to a Brazilian friend it's worse than being beaten 7-1 by Germany. However as Big Eck said "The dream will never die" and there is nothing quite like a team of smarmy lying Tories in government to bring that dream into reality.

Now here we are a year on and much has changed; most of Scotland recognise that they have been duped. Tories, Liberals and Labour all lied and have been rightly punished in response and the SNP stand as the representing party of Scotland, while to Tories actively rush any influence that they may try to assert in Westmonster and beyond. It's business as usual here in Scotland regardless of who we voted for, the great unheard voice, that leaves most of use believing that independence is inevitable.

Of course there are still the ignorant that bang on about oil and where would we be now? Or indeed the misogynist that fails to recognise just how canny a woman in power can be. 

What has changed in Rump UK? Northern Ireland is once again in turmoil, the English have against all odds found a true left wing voice to rally behind (though it's still hard to come to terms with the ignorance and heartlessness wielded by the average Tory voter) and Wales seems to bundle along regardless much like Scotland does. The main thing is though the Rump UK has found hope of it's own kind and of it's own making and from London no less.

The Tories continue to spin their vile propaganda and the Liberal voice has become invisible. Yes I miss the Liberals, Charles Kennedy most of all. Lets hope the night of the long sgian dubhs has left us scratched and not maimed. 

Monday 9 June 2014

For The Unionist

Big life changes are scary. In fact they can be very scary and the decision to vote yes for Scotland to become independent is not one to be sniffed at. I don't live in Scotland. However I've been following the referendum debate very closely over the last year. Every day tuning into the debate is a bit of a roller coaster. You never quite know what you are going to wake up to. Yesterday we came to another milestone 100 days to go. We are now in official count down mode, 99 days until we press the big red button that could see us jet off on our own or falter at the starting blocks.

I'm a yes. I'm a yes that doesn't live in Scotland and yet sometimes when I listen to the arguments I'm amazed by the lack of depth and insight that many No voters have. Just this morning on the BBC comments board one person stated they wouldn't vote for independence because an independent Scotland would keep the Queen. Really? That's the some total of the argument? I can only assume this comment came from a republican, who wanted to stay in the UK, a country completely devoted to the monarchy. Is a no vote really his the best choice? Not only that the same person said they are voting no because they wanted full land reform and they didn't think Scotland could deliver it. Talk about asking for the moon? These were two very bizarre statements. Like a child smashing up his toys because he wasn't going to get everything he wanted NOW. This person had clearly never looked over the fence to the other nation states of the UK, to find out there is no land reform. There is no chance of every getting rid of the crown estates. While in Scotland we have already passed laws protecting community land rights and are discussing dismantling the crown estate. Yet this person still wanted to vote no. Other conversations over the last few months have including a guy that wanted to eliminate free higher education, so that everyone had to pay for their own eduction and was happy to pay higher taxes to stay in the UK, without any of the Scottish perks. That's right this man was happy to pay higher taxes and additionally pay for his childrens' higher education in order to stay part of the UK. Others harp on about the referendum being a waste of money and that the money should have been spent on child poverty, as if Westminster austerity didn't exist. Then statements like 'nobody cares about independence'. I'm sorry? So why is it while abroad the first thing that almost everybody asks me about when they realise I'm Scottish is Scottish independence?

In between all these ludicrous arguments it's almost impossible to navigate the propaganda. The BBC are proven to be biased pro-unionists by the University of West Scotland. Only one Scottish newspaper has come our as pro-independence, The Glasgow Herald. While the British media as well as the UK's leading parties, now at a pace are beginning to engage with Scottish issues and perspectives. Three hundred years and now they want to get to know us better, then every so often the institutional racism bounds free. Yet the vigorous campaigns of individual Yes voters has been heralded as cyber-nats, suggesting that being passionate about independence is a bad thing and that Yes voters willing to pass comment must be one person using several hundred separate internet identities. There is also an ongoing campaign of retribution regarding Alec Salmond's character, smug being the word of the moment. I'm sorry, how are we describing David Cameron and George Osborne these days? Nobody would ever consider either of these two individuals smug, now would they? Then the complete misunderstanding of the Scottish National Party as a right wing party. The SNP are a left wing party, more left wing than Labour. I know that we can't always trust everything we read on the internet. However if you don't believe me maybe you might just want to take a quick read of the SNP wikipedia page. More than this Alec Salmond was part of the group that sought to make the SNP a Socialist party rather than a Social-Democratic party. Get that.It's not just the SNP either the Greens are behind a Yes vote too, though UKIP seem to be much higher up the Scottish polictical agenda, than the Greens contribution to our country. Was renewable energies all the SNP? I think not.

In the meantime the media continue to slag off the Yes campaigns and have no idea what to make of the Radical Independence Campaign, a campaign not connected to any leading party, that chooses to engage the most vulnerable populations in Scotland. Despite the official polls, the RIC are frequently posting there own polls from their door to door campaigning. Over the last few months of mass campaigning not once have the RIC posted figures that showed No votes out numbered Yes votes. Leaving it difficult to know who to believe. All the information leaves Scotland's future on a knife's edge.

The media support the No campaign's figures despite a lead professor from London School of Economics formally dismissing Westminster figures stating that they had entirely misrepresented his own work and research. Are we beginning to get a the picture now? We can take this dismission of Scottish financial future even further when we learn that prior to Alec Salmond taking up his political career he actually worked as an Oil Economist. I'll say that again, Alec Salmond prior to being politician was an Oil Economist, it factors that he knows quite a bit about Scotland's oil revenues and finances and might explain why he still lectures at Strathclyde University.

So to the unionist, all ask of you is to think about it? Think about it properly, consider the Union. What it is that you like about it? And of course there is plenty about it to like. Who doesn't like spending time in London? Who doesn't like the feeling of being part of the beating heart of the world? Who doesn't want to embrace the multi-culturalism and diversity that it brings? However it's not going to change, no one is going to take away England from you, nor Wales or Northern Ireland, they will still only be a hop skip and a jump away. You'll still hold a British passport, you're children will still be entitled to British passports. Maybe you experience duality of identity and feel unable to choose being Scottish over British or English? Maybe your experience of life is so intermeshed with being part of the UK you find it difficult to find the line where UK ends and Scotland begins. Maybe you think of the regions? What makes each of them special and Scotland thus not in a unique situation? Maybe you have family living else wear in the UK and feel that opting to live in a independent country from them is some kind of betrayal? Are you worried about immigration? Are you worried we can't make it on our own? Maybe you don't like Alec Salmond? Maybe you've never voted for the SNP? Maybe you're all for nuclear warheads? Are you frightened for rUK without Scotland's guiding political influence? These are not the questions at hand. The question is 'Do you think Scotland should be an independent country?' Just think about that and that alone. You've got 99 days to figure it out.

Sunday 2 March 2014

Not For Export

There are things that I love about being Scottish, and there are things that make me cringe. Watch the above YouTube link and you'll understand why Scots have a reputation for being loud and, let's face it, a wee bit 'shouty'. I'm appalled by the way in which the 'debate' between Nicola Sturgeon and Johann Lamont – Scotland's two most senior female politicians - was conducted. It was a travesty, as anybody who's watched a televised debate will know all to clearly once they've watched this one. It gave 'getting a word in edgeways' a whole new meaning, as there were no words getting in edgeways anywhere. It took me back to many a night in a Glasgow pub,when all many did was scream to be heard. The debate between Sturgeon and Lamont portrayed some of the worst characteristics of Scottish culture, but far from the Scottish pub where it belongs, if anywhere at all. It leads me to imagine that in government boardrooms, for government is business, across Scotland all they do is shout over the top of one another, showing no respect for another's right to speak, or indeed what they have to say, or an audience's right to hear it. Learning how to debate effectively may be one of the few things that an English education could be of benefit for.

Is it just me, or is the debate going a bit stale? Reduced to the mediocrity of shouting over one another? Trident, the pound, the economy. Ok, we get it. Yes, no Trident. Yes, no the pound. Yes, richer. No, poorer. So let's move on to something else shall we? There's plenty to be discussed. Oil, shipbuilding and welfare.

Oil: we've got it. The only thing that concerns me here is that sometime during the Blair years they changed the boundary line of what was Scottish and English sea. It resulted in England ending up with far more of it than it was possibly geographically reasonable to justify. What's going on there? Why is nobody talking about that?

The shipbuilding argument also baffles me. The shipyard debate has risen, fallen away most of my life much like a giant whale floundering on the shore, with the Govan shipyards playing the central role. Every single time that giant whale has patiently waited for an exceptionally high tide to come in so it can swim off into the distant ocean, it only lasts for what seems like a customary few years before ending up back in shallow waters again. I don't know if it's still safe to say that Scotland are world leaders in shipbuilding? The fact that we still get awarded UK government contracts for the construction of British Military ships probably says more than I could. Are we going to loose those contracts post independence? I don't know either, though I'd be willing to guess if we are able to win those contracts now, why wouldn't we win them in the future? Is that incredibly naïve of me? I don't think it is, given the neo-liberal stance of our current UK government and the growing pace with which it's adopting that ideology. Parts of the Ministry of Defence are already sub-contracted to giant multi-national corporations such as SERCO, who have little or no attachment to the British political system and yet are entrusted with a small volume of it's secrets.

So why would Scottish shipbuilding be treated any differently post independence? All in all the loss of UK government shipbuilding contracts is a bizarre line for Scottish Labour to be following, given that they outsourced Scotland's own shipbuilding requirements only a few years ago to Poland.

Welfare: let's get serious. Clearly welfare reform under current UK governance is a disaster. For me personally, I think there should be welfare reform. Not because I think welfare should be cut, but because I think much of the bureaucratic stress it causes it's claimants could be removed. The Scottish government's guarantee to abolish the Bedroom Tax goes a long way to addressing growing inequality across Scotland. Though I still believe that a large scale review of Scotland and the UK's housing needs to made to get the right people into the right housing.

So isn't about time that oil, shipbuilding, and welfare were debated. Then there's education and health.

It has to be said Nicola Sturgeon hit Johann Lamont with a tricky left hook regarding the whole subject of the pensionable age reduction in Scotland, due mainly to the fact that the Scottish die quite significantly younger than the rest of the UK electorate. I think she was right to be astonished; it's a very difficult question. Why? Because to answer it well you have to either deny or confirm that Scottish people do die younger. That's pretty shocking: the fact that Scots die so young (as a result of poor health) that many don't reach the current pensionable age is an abomination. To agree to reduce the pensionable age is to admit that Scotland is being failed by both governments, and entering Scotland into another two tied agreement that separates us further form UK policy. To not agree is to condemn many to life filled only with work; for many, another abomination. To admit to the problem would require a solution, and that could only be drastic changes throughout health care and welfare provision in order to reduce premature death amongst under sixties. There is no funding for such basic human care due to the state of the Union. Also, which was well referenced by Lamont during the debate, Scottish Labour gets their orders from London. She/they can't say much without Ed Milliband and his team's approval.

Welfare reforms bring us to other issues, such as the minimum wage and corporate tax, which although incredibly boring will go a large way to redefine Scotland's future. The Yes campaign seem to be in support of increasing the minimum wage and cutting corporate tax. In a new, richer Scotland I don't see how that is unrealistic with more money in our pockets. What is unrealistic is that we might be offered more powers post an independence no vote. I'm sorry folks, devo-max is off the table. If we were to be given devo-max we would have had it as part of this referendum debate. It's as simple as that. Westminster had the opportunity to provide Scotland with a devo-max option as as part of the independence referendum and failed to. Not only that, we know that the majority would have voted for it. Not many of us were immediate yes'. However the history between Westminster and Scotland for those of us in the know knew that not providing us with a devo-max option was just another attempt to pull the wool over our eyes and not offer the Scots anything at all. Not offering us devo-max was a perfect example of how Westminster continually seeks to undermine Scotland and how out of touch Westminster is with Scottish sentiment.

Why, oh why is nobody debating immigration? Current UK immigration policy is tearing legitimate British families apart and costing the tax payer a fortune. Yet it hasn't been treated as anything other than a bullet point on what the con-dem-nation government is up to. Why isn't it part of the legitimate debate about what's going to happen in Scotland post independence, as much as the bedroom tax? Furthermore, no strategy at all seems to have been addressed to service Scots living out with UK borders despite this being the year of 'homecoming'. I mean, with a South African partner, am I even allowed to come home without having to disown my own family?

Other elements of the debate bemuse me. Like the Yes campaign's insistence that the UK government should be discussing the terms of a break-up before we've voted. Yes it would be nice to be prepared, but it is like asking what you're going to get out of a divorce before you break up. You've got to decide to break up first, haven't you? As far as I'm concerned that's what the two year period is for. The UK have made it perfectly clear that they want this woeful marriage, so it would be a very silly move for them to provide Scotland with any clear indication of how a break-up would commence. The EU takes up far too much of this debate than is necessary, and given that our new role model is Norway, who seems to survive perfectly well without it, just how relevant is it? What is truly worrying is that the SNP seem to continually bang on about there being one Conservative MP in Scotland. Somehow indicating that there is very little Tory support in Scotland, without mentioning the 14 Conservative MSP's. It's very misleading, and I'm not sure why they do that. Scotland will not be Conservative free post independence.

If you look at the Yes or the Better Together campaigns websites, there is little to choose between them. Both declare they are winning in the polls, and both seek to undermine the validity of the other with the essential mud slinging. The problem with the no vote, though, is simply this: it lacks vision. Where is Scotland going as part of the UK? Are we getting a massive tax rebate April 2014? Is the Queen going to host all the foreign dignitaries in Edinburgh from now on? Is proper history education regarding the Union in all British schools to become compulsory? Will all British libraries be required to supplement all published books with additional notes regarding the definitions and usage of UK, Great Britain, Britain, British, Scotland, Scottish, Scots, Northern Ireland, Northern Irish, Wales and Welsh? Never mind the complexities of the Manx, the Channel Islands and Gibraltar, or the near invisibility of minority groups of languages. Maybe yes voters need to come to terms with the fact that there really are some people who are very comfortable being part of the UK, who are both educated and informed as to the consequences of this and are happy to be British. It's naïve to presume that everyone wants the same thing. No voters have reasons, reasons that we are obligated to vigorously question them about but that also need to be respected.

As a Scot living overseas when news of the referendum first came to light I was left scouring the internet for information. It wasn't long before the media bias towards the Union reared it's head; every time a legitimate reasoning for Scottish independence came to the fore it was soon buried under pro-union rhetoric. What's worse it was insulting that most articles regarding Scottish independence were consigned to the Scotland page of the BBC, or each of the British newspapers individual Scotland blog. It completely undermined the issues and led to continual misinforming of the UK electorate about the state of affairs in Scotland. Most people north of the border could have informed you it would have been much closer affair than anybody at Westminster thought. The New Years announcements from the three main political parties was a testament to that. Economy first, Scotland second. If the imminent potential break up of the country isn't on the top of your list as a one of the country's political leaders you've got to wonder, as many of the Scottish frequently do, what's in it for us?

Given the growing gap between the reality of the Scottish independence debate and what was represented in the British media, Yes groups have sprouted up everywhere across social media, while I fear the no brigade are lagging greatly in this department. As a Scot engaged in the independence debate being on Facebook now is like occupying a self fulfilling pro-independence bubble shielded from the naysayers that simply don't seem to be there. What's clear though is the Yes' are passionate and determined and are not necessarily made up either of just SNP or Green voters. The Radical Independence Campaign are bringing both a socially engaged and urgent message to the Scottish electorate, that once the referendum is over we get to choose how our country will be run and, ultimately, they'll be much more choice than anyone ever expected. If enough people vote for independence. They suspect the SNP will disband having achieved their primary purpose and we will be left with a dramatically different Scottish political landscape that incorporates former Westminster MP's and radical political activists that can be represented due to our Scottish Parliament's proportional representation.

Globally the word is finally getting out and it's becoming a regular topic for discussion with strangers. The first few glimmers of international reportage on the Scotland debate were poor, brought to us by terribly misinformed, and possibly disinterested, English journalists. Now it would appear that a large number of international Scottish journalists have been mobilised and are deeply engaged in bringing a true reflection of Scotland's story to the world. Internationally, people seem more willing to accept the genuine possibility of a yes vote when only a few months ago people thought I was playing out some kind of fantasy in my head.

What I love about the debate too, though, is that we are getting a much better idea of what Scotland looks like and who we are. Gordon Brown and Alastair Darling, once distant figures of a Westminster elite, for me at least, appear to be coming home to roost. While celebrity Scots from all over the world, as they come out of the woodwork to hawk their wares via mainstream media, are starting to be asked the question. Some express an opinion, others not.

There are yes voters and no voters radically changing the political landscape of Scotland, and indeed our own understanding of ourselves. We are not all Big Red Clydesiders. We are a diverse and engaging group of varying opinions and backgrounds, with more of us admitting to our shared British roots than ever before. We are no longer a one size fits all stereotype. It's certainly not as clear cut as people might have expected. Many have ties south of the border, and indeed across the world.

One thing we can clearly agree on is that between now and September 18th we are not going to see any form of agreement between the Yes and No campaign.

Sunday 10 November 2013

You want revolution?

This week I watched the interview between Russell Brand and Jeremy Paxman for Newsnight. I took me a while to get round to this as I was experiencing a shit internet connection followed but a house move. Now that I've watched it I must say I'm ashamed that it was even aired and am horrified by the complete ignorance of the two. Listening to Russell Brand call for revolution while asking people not the vote, in the complete ignorance that in the next twelve months that the UK may well be cleaved in half due to a democratic referendum on Scottish independence next year was astounding. In the meantime Jeremy just nodded along like Winston the dog. This was on a global scale a classic example of why Scotland should leave the Union now and forever. It's because the English and I say English specifically here don't care and have hardly noticed what is going on north of the border. No doubt they have tried to shut their eyes over the last 15 years or so; to free higher education, free personal care, free prescriptions and much much more. How could is it be possible that such change was possible? I'll give you a clue. We voted for it. We decided fuck this shit, were given an opportunity to vote for something different and we have. This first started with a vote for devolution back in 1997, and the subsequent elections since, that resulted in the election of the SNP which are now offering us the opportunity to vote for Scottish independence. It's been the biggest revolution in British politics in centuries, not only that the agreement between Westminster and Scotland to allow Scotland to vote for independence is politically ground breaking. The prospect of independence with out one shot fired. And yet despite all this these two numpties sit on the television talking about the disenfranchised not voting to create revolution. When actually what they should be doing it telling everyone and their aunt to vote for Scottish independence. If that doesn't give Westminster government a wake up call, what will? And when the English and I say english specifically here sit back and watch in horror as Scotland rolls out better quality of life, better healthcare, better education, corporate tax, increases minimum wage; will they soon see it is the English system of governance, their shared values and apathetic attitude to both the political system and to voting that has lead them as a nation to moral and political bankruptcy. If that doesn't start a riot or indeed some form of political revolution, nothing will. Yes Russell Brand you want revolution you should be asking, begging, pleading for the sake of the English people that Scotland votes for independence.

Wednesday 2 October 2013

Just Darling.....

It's a very slow clap, but a clap all the same. A couple of weeks ago I found myself in the unusual position of thanking David Cameron, our lovely Prime Minister, for helping halve membership of the Conservative (& Unionist) Party. This week my adulation grows as I find that Mr Cameron might have done all that was needed to seal the independence deal. How so? He's refused to enter into a live television debate about Scottish independence with the First Minister of Scotland, Alec Salmond. Why? Because it would almost certainly signal the end of his political career, although that's not the official line from No 10. Is it true? I'd like to think so. We all knew it was never going to happen but how much would you pay to see that? I'd probably be willing to separate myself with £100 if you made it a stadium event. What an incredible site to see, the rest of the Union would be lefts in rags of shame. Thus offering the rest of the UK a fighting chance to claim what is left of it's socialist ruins.

To be perfectly honest there are very valid reasons why the Prime Minster of the UK shouldn't be debating Scotland's future with the First Minster of Scotland. These reason are largely as Alec Salmond has correctly stated, that Scotland's future should be decided by those who live in Scotland. That being the case, it's true Mr Cameron really doesn't have much to offer on the matter. Though I'm sure he's keeping his fingers crossed that he is able to hold on to some of his Scottish property post independence. The truth is that despite the spectacular furore that such a debate would have caused, the Prime Minster's declination to debate Scottish independence in public also acknowledges and advocates the reasons for Scottish independence. Which is simply: the life of people living in Scotland has very little to do with London, Westminster politics, or, worse than that, current Conservative and Liberal Democrat agendas.

So why are Labour pro Union? That's quite obvious. All 59 Scottish Westminster MP's will be out of a job, of which 41 MP's are Labour. So more importantly why is Scottish Labour pro Union? I suspect that Scottish Labour being pro union is just as much about job security for MSP's as well, combined with a lot of gentle ear tugging from their Labour Westminster counterparts. Though why they all would worry about this is a little bemusing, as there will be more than enough political jobs to go around in Scotland the day they hoist the Saltire high above Edinburgh Castle. They'll be Defence Ministers, Foreign Ministers even Ambassadors, they might not even have to live in Scotland, their internationalist ambitions realised. Should they have become a little more London centric, no doubt they'll be able to sign up to work in the consulate there without fear of loosing any Scottishness at all. We might even end up with a consulate in Manchester, it's certain there will be a lot of Scottish passports to process south of the border. Be in no doubt, though, that the British passport will never hold the word Scottish. You only have to look at the passport of a person who was born in India prior to Indian independence in 1950.

Despite the valid reasons for Mr Cameron not getting involved in the independence debate, it's sad to see the dissolution of the UK developing without much of a fight from Westminster. Would the time for a debate on Scottish independence between Alec and Dave been more timely, though significantly more dull, if they had done it before the signing of the referendum bill? The time when Westminster had to sign over the powers to Scotland to hold the referendum? That was jolly nice of them after all.

Though how different the response might have been if Gordon Brown had still been in number 10? That's a very hard picture to imagine, one Scots man pitted against the other both in positions of power and jostling for control. Would it have painted a very different picture of a Scottish future? Now without a Scots Prime Minister to defend the Union we are left with the lack lustre debate of Alastair Darling, former Chancellor of the Exchequer and now the leader of the No Campaign. Isn't it just darling of Alastair to step into the roll and take the hits for the UK's premier, which the Prime Minister would surely have been unable to answer. Once again bringing the purpose of the Union and our shared British culture totally into question.

So Mr Darling what are we going to do with him? And how do we feel about his right to protest the defence of the United Kingdom with Scotland in it while the leader of the UK won't? It's a poor show isn't it? It can only feel like one thing: that he's been hung out to dry facing the unrivalled debating skills of Mr Salmond. Or will Dave be there front and central at the debate just like he was with Andy Murray? It's like watching someone literally give away the keys to the Kingdom.

Are we not his British citizens too? Are we not important enough to risk public debate over? Do we not as British citizens defend the UK and currently work for it's interests? If our own Prime Minster won't fight for us then there is probably only one person we can turn to. Who is there left? The Queen. Scarily she will have more to offer on the situation than our current political leader.

Wednesday 18 September 2013

What a difference a day makes 24 little hours.....

Well in case you haven't heard yet Scotland is having a referendum on independence exactly one year from today. Currently the polls are pretty much tied with only a few percent difference. Though it's becoming clear the yes vote is slowly creeping up the charts, without to much surprise for those committed to the independence cause.

For the past ten years I've been living in Cornwall (I now live in South Africa). I say Cornwall deliberately here. For many Cornwall is not England and considers itself a completely separate nation, with it's own culture, language and of course the pasty. However the chances of Cornwall getting it's own assembly, never mind independence in the next 50 years are probably similar to the odds for winning the lottery. The Cornish language was only recently officially recognised by the British government despite growing numbers of speakers and it's unique Cornish dialect of English is often overlooked as a valid form of cultural expression, simply being lumped in with all things West Country. Not only this, Cornwall may well be run in the most undemocratic way possible with the outcome of local voters consultations being overturned by local councillors and MP's more than once. Why is any of this relevant to Scotland and it's quest for independence? Because prior to the creation of the new Scottish Parliament in 1998 Scotland faced much of the same issues as Cornwall does now. Not least being short changed by the UK out of it's income. In 2014 we the Scottish people have an obligation to ourselves to demand more and protect our little piece of paradise.

While living in Cornwall the Scotland debate came up frequently. Before the election of the SNP parliamentary expression of Scotland's socialist leaning was treated with bitterness and scorn. “Why should the Scots be entitled to free university education and I'm not when England is paying for it.” For most Scot's who haven't lived in England it's hard to imagine the levels of ignorance the majority have English people have regarding both Scottish economics and culture. Frequently as a Scot I have been asked to speak properly or in fact told you must be very grateful to be here. Can you imagine? Though I would not say that this is the norm my identity is certainly greeted with a degree of ridicule that wouldn't be extended to other nationalities. The Cornish who can be categorised as culturally distinct have a completely different approach. It's clear to decipher the line that separates Scots from the English, though we might not be able to specify exactly what it is. With the Cornish that line becomes almost invisible, though it's there and the Scots and the Cornish stand on the same side.

Since the election of the Scottish National Party in Scotland the Scotland debate has for good reason increased in enormity. I remember being informed of the first SNP win quite clearly, to say that people were surprised south of the border was a bit of an understatement. That surprise within the English populous lead to the belief that Scotland had gone right wing and had become to their dismay entirely anti-english, which was not the case. It's a strange set of affairs when you have to explain that the SNP find them selves in the unusual position of being more left wing than Labour. In the lead up to the Scottish election in 2007 the Scots had now begun to understand that the Scottish Labour Party was nothing more than a mouth piece for Westminster policy, which was not what the Scottish people wanted. The Scottish people wanted a more autonomous national platform that protected their interests which the SNP offered. Not only this due to proportional representation Scotland had a far more fluid way of expressing these views at the ballot box, instead of being stuck with the Westminster first past the post system that primarily leaves Westminster politics in a two horse race. In 2011 once the SNP won majority leadership in Scotland the questions and accusations started flooding in and from complete strangers too uninvited in coffee shops and everything. They simply didn't understand the Scottish agenda and the mainstream media didn't help much. “Do you think Scotland will vote for independence?” “If it wants to, yes.” “You'll never survive on your own.” “New Zealand seems to be doing rather well and it's only got a population of 4 million.” “You're too poor.” “How can a nation be poor when it controls world whisky supply? Oh and we have oil.” It's nice to be able to have conversations that totally alter another persons perspectives. And it's not their fault they don't know, it's to do with propaganda. The Yes Campaign have 365 days to unravel 400 years of propaganda.

For most English people it would be hard for them to understand that Scottish independence finds itself up for discussion in Scottish playgrounds but it does. I have no idea how it got there especially predating the release of Braveheart. I think the stealing of the Stone of Destiny has something to do with it. I mean it's a pretty romantic idea that a stolen ancient stone that belongs to Scotland sits in a foreign country under a another monarchs throne. Education also plays a huge role in this, it wasn't until quite late on that I discovered that the Queen was not the Queen of England but in fact the Queen of the United Kingdom via mutual agreement. That is what we are up against on both sides. It's quite fantastical that one of England's most famous monarch died unmarried and childless and yet few follow the dots to put two and two together.

I have to be honest few in my social circle are voting no. Which leaves me with little understanding of the intricacies of the no campaign. Though I do disagree with the brandishing of the No Campaign as 'Project Fear'. I don't think people involved in the Yes Campaign understand that those voting for the status quo to remain in the UK are scared. The reason they are scared much like other segments of the UK is that they have been exposed to imperialist propaganda all their lives and find it easier to believe the lies and to dismiss the truth. The imperial centre London is not the be all and end all of what is going on in the UK. In England in particular it is obvious that just about all systems are running on the brink of collapse from transport to health services. I think the best remedy for anybody intending to vote no is to put them in the waiting room of an English NHS hospital and then take them to the worst Scottish hospital and see if they can notice the difference. Maybe it's time to start taking the Scots on tours south of the border to expand there cultural knowledge of the UK and we won't be going to London. Take your eyes of the spectacle of Westminster, the monarchy and celebrity life. Adventures into lesser known England might change a few minds completely about the state of the Union, no psychiatric beds, no social housing, whole families living in B & B's; that will make you sit up and pay attention.

For some strange reason when I think about those considering voting no an image creeps into my mind. I see a family picnic on the shores of a loch on the day of independence and a giant mushroom cloud appearing above the mountains on the other side of the loch. Why do I think of this? Well because life without nuclear weapons would clearly mean that the rest of the world would want to bomb us. Does that include the remaining part of the UK? The strange thing is that people really think that we would be threatened. I find it hard to believe that the cold war mentality of nuclear wipe out is still alive and well. Avoiding nuclear wipe out is exactly why you would want to get rid of  nuclear deterrents. My only fear is that the UK will forget to inform the appropriate parties when the time comes. “Oh yeah we don't control that bit any more” and we take the flak anyway. Despite this minor problem I believe that Scotland as a small nation will be able to get on with things quite nicely.

Other things that have cropped up for me in conversation about independence is the prospect of war, border control, passports, the role of the SNP post independence and the lack of experience of Scottish politicians on an international arena. These revelations crack me up as I wonder what the main role of the British Empire has been over the last century. Mainly giving back what was not ours in the first place. Is it not fitting that this should end in returning the sovereignty of the four nations and well cutting the Cornish some slack. Most nations recognise that there is little to gain from preventing states from becoming independent, as neo-colonialism turns quite a good profit these days. Not that I think that would be the case with an independent Scotland, though I wouldn't put it past them. More than this through the procedure of retuning sovereignty the UK has become pretty good at handling the passport issue. For some highly bizarre reason people seem to think that all Scottish people will have their passports revoked on September the 19th 2014 unless they swear allegiance to the UK. This completely overlooks long standing arrangements that the UK has with other nations such as Ireland, that address border control also. Never mind that we issue passports to places like the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands and some residents of Hong Kong. So unless the UK decide to throw an unsightly hissy fit, I doubt passport and border control will be much of an issue. A vote for independence is not a vote for the SNP, should we vote yes in the independence referendum we then get to build a new parliament in 2016. In the new parliament one has to assume that many things will change due to the increased responsibilities of the Scottish nation. In addition many Scottish Westminster politicians who wish to continue their political careers will have to take a place in the newly formed Scottish government. The list of politicians might include Gordon Brown, Alastair Darling, Menzies Campbell and Charles Kennedy providing Scotland with experienced international politicians.

Why am I so interested in all this I've live outside of Scotland for ten years and now live in South Africa? Well it's where I'm from and one day where I hope to return to. Hey and at least somebody is paying attention with one year to go. It's not like the potential break up of the UK in one years time is making the UK headlines as it should. Where is Scotland's official countdown timer aren't we a little more significant than the Olympics?