Monday, 31 August 2015

The Unionists have already defined the date of Indyref2

There has been great discussion about the date of a possible second referendum on removing Scotland from the clutches of the Tory state.

Some of the more zealous nationalists want a referendum in the next parliament.

The Unionists are outraged (as is their wont) about any discussion of a future referendum. The people have spoken, screech our loyal chums, and thus the question must never be revisited. Of course, should the Unionists contest any Nationalist seats in May, or at any subsequent Westminster or Holyrood, or council, election, this position will be null and void.

Nicola Sturgeon and her National party, who will have most influence on the timing, are non-commital. They say a second referendum is not planned, and that this position would change only in the event of a material change in circumstances.

The Unionists - the world's angriest winners of anything - have various other positions. 

One is that there will be no referendum, ever. This position is void. The British regime has conceded the right of the people to choose the nation's constitutional position. This precedent will not be easily overturned, enshrined, as it is, in international law.

They also point to the words of former First Minister Alex Salmond, who in a personal opinion said that he believed the first referendum was a once-in-a-lifetime chance for independence. Having spent the quarter century since he became leader of the National party furiously denouncing everything he says as lies, it is interesting that now, on this point, his personal opinion must be taken as gospel, and indeed as legally binding not just on him but on all of his successors in perpetuity, regardless of either their opinion, public opinion, or any change in circumstances.

Nicola Sturgeon herself has said that her feeling is that an independence referendum would be a once in a political generation event. This has been interpreted by the Unionists to be once in an actual generation, and further interpreted as being 90 years, because an old woman down their granny's bit lived till she was 90.

But there is a legal document, voted for by all of the main Scottish Unionist parties - Labour, the Conservatives, and the Liberal Democrat - and ratified by a referendum, which does specify precisely what a political generation is. It was passed in the House of Commons almost unanimously.

The Northern Ireland (1998) Act, which governs the British occupation of much of north-eastern Ireland, states that if a border poll is held, the question cannot be revisited until a political generation has expired - seven years. 

This encompasses at least one full term in both Westminster and Stormont and also takes into account massive demographic flux taking place during that period.

A seven-year plan for Scotland would mean a second referendum taking place after September 2021. Not in this Westminster parliament, and not in the National party's manifesto for May's upcoming general election.

A manifesto in the 2021 election campaign for a referendum in the first half of the parliament would meet the seven year criterion, and come shortly after the election of another Tory government Scotland rejected, on top of the sixteen years of illegitimate rule over Scotland they'd enjoyed to that point.

It would meet the seven-year criterion agreed by every Unionist party, be sufficiently after the first referendum as to be not democratically indecent. In seven years time, many of those citizens who comprise the majority of the Unionists vote will have been removed from the electoral roll, to be replaced with citizens who have known nothing but government from Holyrood.

This is why the Unionists are such angry winners: they know the only thing they won in September was time. Time and shame.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Tactical voting in an AMS system

There has been some debate recently about whether tactical voting is possible to influence the list vote in May's general election. It isn't.


If you want a Yes MSP, you should vote for the National party on your first vote, except in Glasgow, Kelvin where you have a choice between the National and Green parties.


On the List, you should vote for the party of your choice. If you want an SNP government, you ought to vote for your top-up MSPs to come as far as possible from the Nationalists. If you want a pro-independence majority, but are loath to give the SNP another majority, you might lend your second vote to the Greens or any other pro-independence party.


This, of course, carries the risk that your vote doesn't count in the final reckoning of seats.


A foolproof way to ensure that an SNP which wins almost every constituency can maximise the number of pro-Independence MSPs returned from the List would be for them to stand down from the List and recommend a vote for the Greens. This would ensure the Yes vote is not split, but also would vastly reduce the effect of the SNP's victory in constituencies by sharply reducing the applicable divisor in each round.


For my own part, I will be voting National at constituency level (with quite a heavy heart, as I am registered to vote in a constituency with an able and dedicated Scottish Labour MSP who I feel should be a loss to our politics if she was out of Parliament, and I would not be at all upset if she retained her seat. However, my vote for the National party in my constituency will be conditional on the candidate supporting the repeal of the Offensive Behaviour &c. Act in the V. Parliament) and I will be voting Green on the List in the hope that a victorious National party will not have an outright majority, and will be unable to promulgate poor legislation of the type regrettably passed without proper scrutiny by the IV. Parliament.


Majority government inevitably produces arrogant government without the need to seek consensus, and produces bad law. I will discuss this in greater depth as the campaign progresses. However, in the meantime, be in no doubt: unless the unlikely happens and the SNP pulls out of the List, it is fundamentally impossible to game an AMS system in which the list votes are cast before constituency results are known.


If you want an SNP government, you won't get it by voting Green, or Lolidarity, or for the Transcendal Meditation Goat Party.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Trials and retribution

A consensus has emerged in society that senior figures from the British regime must face trial over their actions in the illegal invasion and occupation, and subsequent mass slaughter in Iraq.

It seems inevitable that at least the reviled former prime minister, Tony Blair, will at some stage be tried formally for Crimes Against Peace, Crimes Against Humanity, and Genocide. The favourite to become Britain's main opposition leader, Jeremy Corbyn, views the aggression as illegal, and is on record as supporting a war crimes suit against Blair. Mr Corbyn has further promised to make an official apology on behalf of Labour, and it would not be a huge stretch of the imagination to see him apologising to the United Nations and the Republic of Iraq on behalf of the United Kingdom should he become prime minister.

It is no great surprise that screeches of outrage are being heard from the British army. Retired colonel Richard Kemp whined" [Corbyn] would not only be telling those troops and their families their sacrifice was for nothing, but also that their actions were illegal, immoral and dishonourable".

Mr Kemp should cop himself on. The sacrifice was indeed for nothing save the aggrandisement of Tony Blair. The reason given for the war at the time was that the Iraqi government, like the British, oossessed weapons of mass destruction. Ultimately, this was shown not only to be untrue, but that the British regime knew it to be untrue even whilst using it as their casus belli. 

Some irascibilem deniers have chosen to try to justify the attack in retrospect by pointing out that it ended the rule of Saddam Hussein. And whilst it is true that the only secular Arab leader was toppled and then murdered, it led directly to a power vacuum, a sectarian civil war with factions enthusiastically armed by the British, and political instability. But at the time, it was expressly denied that the removal of Saddam Hussein for refusing to use the US Dollar in international financial oil transactions having nuclear bombs which could hit London with just fifteen minutes' notice was the purpose of the war.

These war crimes trials against senior regime figures should include the most important surviving military and political figures of the regime. This trial should take place within the territory of Iraq, under international law.

But what to do with those who actually fired the bullets and slaughtered civilians; who knew of torture and murder and by whose silence were complicit in crimes against humanity?

Since 1945, the precedent in international law is that Befehl ist Befehl is no longer an exculpatory defence, but merely one which would lessen the punishment of those who committed crimes against peace.

It wouldn't be right, though, to subject British soldiers to similar punishment to those who caused the war, those who lied to ensure they could have a war, and those who carefully planned the overthrow of a sovereign government and its replacement with a Western puppet regime.

Instead, wouldn't it be much better to hold internal trials in the United Kingdom of those British troops who engaged in action they knew or suspected to be contrary to international law, and to fully express our national desire to atone in a tangible way by sentencing them to a community service-style reconstruction work, building roads, railways and other infrastructure they destroyed? A sentence of one day for each week they took any part in the war would seem fair. Restorative justice, directly benefiting the society they destroyed is a suitable way to atone.

_________________

Several BBC Scotland journalists are piling into the Nick "Dick" Robinson bandwagon this week, wailing piteously that people just don't understand them.

Robinson, infamously, was caught telling an outright lie about then-First Minister Alex Salmond in an desperate attempt by the BBC political editor and former Conservative and Unionist party member to influence the result of the independence referendum in the desperate last few days.

It had its desired effect, with hundreds of simple-minded zoomers descending on BBC Scotland's headquarters on the final Saturday of the campaign, causing Unionsists to celebrate in amazed disbelief that over a thousand pro-independence activists were abandoning the campaign on the day where by far the most voter contacts would be made, in the city whose vote and turnout would decide the vote.

In the event, Glasgow's disappointing turnout contributed massively to the pro-democracy side's defeat. The lower estimate of the number of loons who decided to spend the last Saturday of the campaign standing in a Govan car park screeching hysterically at the bemused janny of an empty building while the rest of us (and all the Unionists) were chapping doors, staffing 'phone banks and running street stalls was two thousand.

On that Saturday, the momentum had turned. The result of the referendum was now dependent on whether we could push the momentum hard and fast enough. At a low rate of voter contact of one every three minutes, four hours worth of canvassing by two thousands people would have reached 160.000 voters. We lost by 380.000.  If we had inspired 160.000 voters on that Saturday- and people were wanting to be persuaded at that stage - we would have been just 220.000 behind. Could we have got 110.000 switchers in the last week with that momentum behind us instead of taking activists off the campaign to shout at a glass box? I think so.

The most frustrating thing is that the moon units were right about the BBC. It was biased. But it would still have been biased on the Saturday after the referendum. They should have gone to shout at it then.

The BBC was biased in many ways. Mostly insidious sneakery, but often openly biased. 

The most egregious example of the latter, of course, was Nick Robinson's outright lie about Alex Salmond. But other things, such as having panels on political shows with three or four Unionists against one democrat; giving Gordon Brown unfettered, on-demand access to its TV network with no Yes right of reply; and piping ostensibly non-political shows onto BBC Scotland which mocked the idea of independence with no right of reply. The BBC also, deliberately, refused to recognise the fundamentally non-party, mass-movement nature of the Yes campaign, presenting it almost invariably as the SNP, when by the middle of August, the National party had become a complete bystander in the campaign outside the TV studios.

If we want to win next time, the BBC must be dealt with. It is the British State's in-house broadcaster, reliant on the British State for its existence, reach and income. It is always in the interest of the BBC for the British State to be as strong and healthy as possible. 

Monday, 17 August 2015

More questions than answers as Left Project provides high farce

The Soon-To-Be-Renamed Scottish Left Project farce is lurching from tragedy to comedy. But those in our society who need Left-wing voices in our Parliament to improve their lives aren’t laughing.
 
There are now only eight full months of campaigning until the Holyrood general election, and having engulfed Scotland’s largest and most successful-ever Left-wing party, the Scottish Socialist party, one might imagine that the Soon-To-Be-Renamed Scottish Left Project would be busily engaged in writing its manifesto and selecting candidates.
 
It’s not. There remain major questions about the viability and purpose of the project.
 
And whilst time ticks by, whilst Scottish Labour selects this month’s “leader”, and the National party busily deselects underperforming MSPs and replaces them with new blood; whilst the Green party gets its fundraising underway with a candidate in place for its only winnable constituency, and the Tories  shuffle the pack to try and sneak their leader back into Holyrood despite her being rebuffed by the voters, the Scottish Left Project appears instead to be spending its time gathering endorsements by international luminaries.
 
Now, I’m not saying that the support for the Scottish Left of the Deputy Mayor for Litter-Picking Services of the Municipal Council of Cluj-Napoca is not important. I welcome it. Nor do I presume to say that the endorsement of the Assistant Secretary General of the Federation of Printworkers (Wuppertal North branch) should not be the guiding ambition of our movement.
 
However, perhaps it might be just the tiniest bit more important to receive the endorsement of voters in Glasgow, and Motherwell, and Paisley, and the working-class central belt comprising voters who have lost a Labour party but have never been truly comfortable with its National party alternative; and who are actively seeking a home.
 
The engulfing of the Scottish Socialist party was done in the most sleekit, underhand manner imaginable. Rather than approaching the SSP with an offer of a merger, the Soon-To-Be-Renamed Scottish Left Project leadership approached individual – often very young and inexperienced – SSP members to ask them to sign a declaration of support for the STBRSLP. This was then presented to the SSP’s Executive Committee as a fait accomplit, with the EC invited to endorse the membership’s “decision” to dissolve into the STBRSLP.
 
Throughout the previous year, STBRSLP supporters had carefully inveigled themselves into positions of leadership within the SSP, purging the EC, and engaging in systematic bullying of anyone who did not now show sufficiently unquestioning loyalty to the STBRSLP. This meant that when the merger was put to SSP members at Conference, the leadership of the SSP (who were, of course, selecting speakers for and against the motion, writing the agenda, and composing the rules) was composed almost entirely of STBRSLP supporters, despite the membership being split pretty much evenly 50:50. It was the most perfectly-executed hostile takeover of a political party in years. I have to take my hat off to them for it.
 
(One might ask why, if the STBRSLP was to be a pro-independence coalition of Left and progressive forces, only one political party was ever earmarked for takeover. One might ask why the Green party were never approached, or even the likes of Socialist Party Scotland, or Left Unity Scotland. No approach, presumably, to the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition. However, this is Trolling. And Trolling is A Bad Thing.)
 
Worse than Trolling, however, is asking questions in public. This is Undermining The Movement. This, also, is A Bad Thing.
 
It is Undermining The Movement to ask about the structure of the STBRSLP.
 
Who will be writing the manifesto? The organisation it replaced, Radical Independence Campaign, is unlikely ever to be written about in European modern history textbooks as a worked example of a successful internal democracy. There were never votes taken – only decisions handed down by a self-selected handful of people at the top. Even the enormously-successful – in terms of attendance – RIC conference immediately after the referendum, was more of a rally than a conference. Delegates were invited to admire people, and applaud speeches. There were no votes taken. No shows of hands. No decision by RIC supporters to transform the organisation into a political party. No opportunity for them to object.
 
A conference is an opportunity for dissenting voices to be heard, and a forum for debate to take place. A rally is the opposite. The non-applauding hands amongst the applauding hands are easy to ignore.
 
So with this in mind, it’s hard to see a massive sea-change in approach from the organisers of the STBRSLP, and a sudden, Damascene conversion to internal democracy. The launch of the STBRSLP will be held this month. Tickets are on sale now. It is likely to be a parade of the few, rather than a space for engagement of the many. Delegates will likely be spoken at by a carefully-selected group of speakers, not on stage giving their views on what STBRSLP MSPs should be arguing for in Holyrood to replace Council Tax.
 
It is Undermining The Movement to ask about the selection process of the STBRSLP.
 
When asked what form candidate selection will take, there is little reply from the STBRSLP. Only one personal opinion has been ventured from its leadership; namely open primaries.
 
The deadline for nominations for the election is March 30th. This gives just 226 days until all candidates have to be selected. I’m going to include bank holidays and weekends in that.
 
So in 226 days, the STBRSLP has to devise (or at least, divulge) a system for elections.
 
Will it be a show of hands at another special conference in Glasgow at a tenner a ticket (that’s 17% of a young person’s JSA for the week)?
 
Will it be postal voting? The Tories’ open primary experiment in Devon cost £38.000. Even assuming that open primaries to every constituency and region being contested could somehow be folded into one single vote, and that the Tories’ costs could be halved (presumably the Tories used very expensive ballot papers made from the skin of peasants, or something), twenty grand is a lot of cash to come up with for an organisation with no income other than donations, no membership fee, and no business or Trade Union backing. It’s about double the SSP’s budget for deposits and campaigning materials for a whole national election.
 
And who decides which regions or constituencies to contest? Is the STBRSLP really going to throw a monkey down the drain by contesting, say, Eastwood? Are they going to come up with some arrangements with the parties the secretive leadership has excluded from this broad front of the Left? Who decides whether TUSC’s offer to stand down in, say, Pollok in return for a free run for the STBRSLP in Shettleston is acceptable? Whether the STBRSLP should stand down in constituencies where there’s a sufficiently Left-wing SNP or Green candidate? Whether the STBRSLP should contest constituencies at all?  This hasn’t yet been decided (or communicated, at least…). With 226 days to go, shouldn’t that be something being decided democratically at a conference of supporters rather than squealing excitedly that the Sub-Postmistress at the Alma-Ata General Post Office has announced she would be voting for the STBRSLP if only she had a vote?
 
Who gets a vote in the open primaries? Is anyone eligible to stand? Does the SSP have a veto on nominations to the primary list? Does anyone have a veto?
 
If it’s an open, open primary in which anyone is eligible to stand and vote, then what’s to stop a scenario in which Tommy Sheridan submits his name as a candidate. Sheridan would win a landslide victory in an open primary and be the Number 1 candidate on the STBRSLP’s Glasgow List. The immediate upshot of that would be that the SSP would immediately walk – and it’d be far too late for them to get their shit together to stand independently. So Scots would be deprived of the opportunity to vote for the most electorally-successful Left force we’ve ever had, and its replacement would be offering Tommy Sheridan as its best candidate – a washed-up, washed-out criminal whose skin tone looks like he’s eschewed his fortnight in Benidorm for all-inclusive on the planet Venus.
 
That’s a ludicrous scenario. It certainly won’t come to pass. But exactly what checks and balances are in place to stop it?
 
If the SSP has a veto on Sheridan standing, do they have a veto on anyone else? If the SSP has a veto, is there a reciprocal veto? Maybe RIC could have a veto so that those insufficiently supportive of their organisation would be banned from standing? But it’s a non-membership organisation, so who exercises the veto?
 
Will anyone be able to submit their name to be a candidate? Or will there be a vetting procedure? Who does the vetting? Is it going to be balanced between RIC people and SSP people? What about people who’re members of both? How does the STBRSLP select the vetters? A public vote? A vote at a special conference at a hotel in Glasgow (tickets £10, available at all good newsagents)? Open primaries to select the vetters? But who vets the names of the people who go forward as vetters?
 
Who gets to vote in the open primaries? Everyone? Just registered supporters? What’s to stop people registering as supporters just to get a vote, and voting for a comedy candidate to cripple the credibility – such as it is – of the STBRSLP? Imagine how much Labour is spending on their phone banks verifying the identities of those who’ve signed up to do just that in their leadership contest now.
 
But, then, asking questions is Undermining The Movement.
 
And meanwhile, that 226 days is ticking down – with no idea of how the STBRSLP works out who goes on a ballot paper for the internal elections, how the election is conducted, who is eligible to vote, and under which system such an election is conducted.
 
(If I was a cynic, I’d ponder the possibility of the STBRSLP conference this month coming to the conclusion that it’s a whole lot of work to go to and maybe it’d be really good to do next time when there’s a bit more space to do it and sure haven’t we got a load of well-known folk and shouldn’t we just put them forward and applaud if you agree and motion carried well done comrades. Just as well I’m not a cynic.)
 
Oh yeah, and after all that’s done, there’s an actual general election campaign to run. Posters to be printed, leaflets to go out, an election broadcast to be filmed (it’s going to be a pretty anodyne film given the STBRSLP has not a single policy yet, nor a manifesto agreed).
 
So no candidates, no mechanism to select candidates, no internal democracy to speak of (and its largest component – the SSP – in a state of civil war with members resigning, entire branches on the verge of leaving the party en masse, and senior elected members walking off the EC), no membership structure, no secure income stream, no manifesto, no Trade Union support. And just eight full months until Scotland goes to the polls.
 
It’s not looking good.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Business as usual not an option for troubled Police Scotland

It is fair to say that on any metric, Stephen House’s tenure in charge of Scotland’s policing has been an unmitigated disaster. With a controversial reform abolishing local policing and imposing a national force, the Scottish government desperately needed a calm, trusted hand on the tiller to guide the national police through the tempestuous early days.

Instead, it chose a deeply controversial and widely distrusted figure in Strathclyde Chief Constable, Stephen House – appointing, without, apparently, any consultation at any stage, the man who policed Glasgow in the hope that this would assuage concerns in the country that the rest of the country would be subjected to his particular American-style brand of policing.

From even before Day 1, everything House touched started going wrong. He demanded a shiny new logo, which was duly delivered – and then scrapped at a cost to the public of over £100.000.

Under House’s control, Scotland’s police – against the will of Parliament – have begun arming themselves against the population, carrying rifles to operations where not only are there no firearms involved, but often no reports or threats of violence. Many who grew up in Scotland will have gone our whole lives without ever seeing a gun. Now, heavily-armed, armoured men swathed in black are a regular sight in our airports, railway stations, and even our supermarkets. And this change, completely against the will of the people of Scotland, our government, and our elected parliament, carried out simply because Stephen House woke up one morning and decided to have an armed police force.

His regime has been characterised from moving away from Scottish the Scottish model of policing by consent to an American model of paramilitary policing, ruling over the population using high-powered weaponry, and fear. One of the lowest moments in his tenure was the brutally violent attack on a crowd of youngsters whose crime was to walk to a soccer match in Glasgow without the permission of House’s thugs. In any other police force in the United Kingdom, an attack by armed, armoured men on a group of youths doing nothing other than walking in the street would have led instantly to the dismissal of the person responsible.

Not, however, in Scotland, where the police force operates at the behest of one man, elected by nobody, and accountable to nobody other than a weak, secretive, shadowy police board.
Catastrophe after catastrophe has been caused on his watch, and more often than not this secretive man and his secretive organisation have continued to squirrel away information which in any normal European country would be the subject of public knowledge.

We still don’t know why the Police Scotland helicopter plunged into a busy city-centre pub which lay within metres of flat, empty land, killing seven people in the bar.

We still don’t know how the police managed to kill Sheku Bayou in their custody. We do know that subsequent to that incident, House gathered every officer involved in the killing together for a debriefing, against all logic, and presenting nothing more than an image that the police were “getting their story straight”. It comes as little surprise that this arrogant and aloof man has continued to meet the family of Sheku Bayou.

We still don’t know why, when Police Scotland were told of a car crash off the M9 motorway, they didn’t bother to respond for three days. By the time they managed to put the doughnuts down and do their job, the victim’s injuries were too severe, and the neglect of medical treatment too much, for her to survive.

Individually, these are each grounds on which the Chief Constable ought to be relieved of his duties. There are people for whose safety he was ultimately responsible, and whose deaths have been caused by the actions or inaction of the people of whom he is in charge.

But collectively, it is clear that the House era represents a systemic collapse of policing in Scotland. It is clear that someone with House’s personality ought never to have been in charge of policing the nation, with the decision he should taken with zero public consultation (or, as far as anyone is aware, any consultation with the police rank and file).

It cannot be acceptable that his successor is simply a House-era senior officer, promoted to impose the same ideological policing on Scotland.
Given that the Chief Constable of the PSS has more power than pretty much any individual in the land, and given the disastrous tenure of the first holder of the office, there can be no doubt that a second failure on the scale of House would undermine the entire concept of a national police.

Were House’s replacement to fail as badly as he has, the people would be unlikely to tolerate the continued existence of the force. It would be manna from heaven for the Unionist parties, all of whom opposed the establishment of the national police, and each of whom would politicise the issue in their usual charming fashion.

The Chief Constable has to be accountable to the public. Either the next one must be elected, or the body to whom s/he is responsible – the Scottish Police Authority – must have a majority of its members directly elected by the public, and have its powers to hold the Chief Constable to account beefed up.

Scottish policing under Stephen House became violent, aggressive, and secretive. It must be made transparent and accountable, and the principle of unarmed policing, by consent, re-established. It is not good enough for the SNP government to whine (correctly) about the democratic outrage of an unelected House of Lords whilst imposing a police force upon Scotland which serves quite without accountability, and quite without public support.