Monday, 31 October 2016

Scotland in both the Common Market and the UK won't happen

No English-based international business based north of about Birmingham would resist the opportunity to move a few kilometres up the road, have a similarly-skilled workforce, still conduct their business in the English language, but keep their access to the EU's Common Market. 

The pooling and sharing of resources in the United Kingdom is a two-way activity. We pool our oil and our gas and our booming economy, and the British share with us their wars and their debts. 

Anyone who believes for an instant that any British government will ever allow jobs to go from an English city to a Scottish one is deluded. The immediate consequence of allowing jobs to go from Sunderland to Glasgow or from Liverpool to Paisley will be the replacement of the local MP with a Ukip one at the subsequent general election. 

Perhaps if the Scottish Parliament spoke with one voice on the matter, we could pressurise the British into following the Danish example.

But the Opposition are now in favour of a Hard Brexit, including Scotland. And the Dugdale-led Scottish Labour will always support any British government of whichever party to the hilt. Even the "pro-European" Liberal party is lining up to ditch its commitment to Scotland's place in Europe in favour of our place in Little Britain. 

There can be no compromises. The realpolitik is clear. 

It is a choice: Scotland in the United Kingdom, or Scotland in Europe. We won't be allowed both. And even if we were, the problem still remains - the UK parliament is sovereign in all matters and cannot bind its successors. There is nothing stopping a future British government (and the May Regime does not look as though it will last too long) from reneging on any commitments a predecessor made to Scotland. 

And when they do renege, Little Miss Union will be up on her hind legs, standing shoulder to shoulder with her Tory buddies as always.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Union, union, über alles

Scottish Labour types like to imagine themselves as the defenders of European social democracy, standing fast and firm against the Conservatives and nationalists who seek to tear the country apart.

It is, of course, gash. And no more ably has this been demonstrated by the breathtaking speed in which Scottish Labour changed from being a pro-EU party to an anti-EU party in a matter of days - without any input from the remaining members or, seemingly, any consultation even with its little handful of parliamentarians.

Scottish Labour, of course, long since ceased to exist for any practical political purposes. It now serves as a support group for loyalist sewer rat and lonely MP Ian Murray who, as Kezia Dugdale's political hero, positions the party to face whatever way benefits him at any particular moment. 

Nobody joins the Scottish Labour party because they want to fight for socialism. That battle was lost in 1994 when Tony Blair ditched the last remnants of socialism from the party's constitution. 

And nobody joins Scottish Labour to maintain global peace. 

The sight of Margaret Curran shrieking in delight as she voted to incinerate Iraqi babies in their nurseries and cots, with every single Scottish Labour MSP (except John McAllion who subsequently walked out of the party in disgust) voting with the Tories for the illegal, genocidal assault on the children of Iraq put paid to that. 

Why do people join Scottish Labour, then?

From 2003-2016 it was career-seeking Unionists. People like Dugdale who are motivated first, last and always, by maintaining the Union (and not the trade Unions: not a single Thatcher-era anti-trade Union law was changed in 13 years of New Labour rule) flocked to Scottish Labour because the party's talent puddle combined with the then-extant structure sending dozens of party members to councils and various parliaments meant that they were all but guaranteed a job for life sucking at the teat of public cash.

People like this, of course, will now join the Tories. There is no point in joining Scottish Labour because there are no jobs to be had with them. Brylcreemed, besuited young Unionists who seek a political career will switch seamlessly to the other cheek of Better Together.

Of course, Scottish Labour did have an opportunity to demonstrate that it wasn't all about the Union; that the first thing they thought of when they woke in the morning, and the last thing they thought of at night, wasn't the Union and how best they could continue to be ruled by Theresa May. 

And with the deft political touch that Dugdale is famed for, she...er, made an arse of it. 

The discrepancy in the Scottish and British votes in the European Union referendum gave Scottish Labour a final chance to try and survive as a credible political party. They could have taken the position that the Scottish vote to Remain was so overwhelming that them mandate had to be respected as quite distinct from the UK vote to Leave. 

They could have argued for special status for Scotland along Danish lines - of the three constituent countries of the Kingdom of Denmark, two are non-EU states and one is an EU member. 

It is unlikely that the May regime would have entertained such a call. But it would have demonstrated that Scottish Labour was a party trying its best to marry together Scotland's No and Remain votes in the best interests of Scotland. 

However, such a plan would necessitate Home Rule for Scotland, along the same lines as the Faroe Islands and Greenland already enjoy, and Scottish Labour's milquetoast leader would never be able to get such a plan through her ultra-Unionist party leadership. 

Scottish Labour promised Scots if we voted No, we'd have Home Rule in a federal United Kingdom within the European Union. They have betrayed that promise. And they don't get to demand that we Yessers lie back and accept the result of the independence referendum as long as the Unionists and the British regime are betraying the promises they made to achieve it. Until Home Rule within the European Union is granted, the independence referendum result ought to be considered provisional. 

The speed of Scottish Labour's u-turn on Europe - one week touring the country campaigning for a Remain vote, the next, demanding with almost hysterical panic that Scotland leaves the EU despite voting to Remain - shows that Scotland's place in Europe was never a principle for them; merely a tactic.

There is palpable panic in the rather less than serried ranks of Scottish Labour footsoldiers. They know that they have been comprehensively outmanoeuvred by the Yes campaign, and stabbed in the back by their erstwhile partners in Better Together. 

It is beyond doubt that Scotland has scored a democratic mandate to Remain in the European Union, and all the evidence is that chancelleries across Europe are keen for us to stay. 

When the next referendum campaign starts - and I expect the vote to come next summer - the British regime is not going to be able to issue threats to Scotland as openly as in the previous campaign: for if they did, and they lost, they would find that instead of a friendly neighbour, they had an implacable enemy - and one which would have a veto in the European Council on any positive deal for the British. 

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Only two things have changed since Indyref1

1. Everything we said has turned out to be true.

2. Everything the Unionists promised turned out to be a lie, and everything they didn't lie about, they were betrayed by the British anyway. 

The British and their familiars promised us that by now, we'd have the most powerful Home Rule parliament in the history of mankind - in a federal United Kingdom of four equal nations - within the European Union. 

They lied. 

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Brexit: the consequences for Scotland

It's now quite clear that the British prime minister is now determined to push on with a hard Brexit, entirely regardless of the lack of a mandate to do so, and equally heedless of the protestations of the Scottish government, which rules a constituent nation that voted overwhelmingly to remain in the European Union. 

The extent of the contempt in which Scotland is held in Whitehall, and the speed with which the lie that we are a valued, equal partner in the Union unraveled is breathtaking. It's almost as breathtaking as the brazen-ness of Kezia Dugdale's u-turn on the importance of Scotland's place in Europe. Two years ago, Dugdale was touring the country, earnestly telling anyone who'd listen that Scotland's place in the EU was too important to be put at risk by leaving the United Kingdom. Today, her position is that Scotland's place in the EU is of little importance, and that Scots don't in any case have the right to decide whether or not we remain. 

The British regime's policy shift from "leaving the EU" to "hard Brexit" has gone almost unremarked. But here's what it means. It means that the guaranteed right of Europeans to live and work in the United Kingdom will vanish. It will be replaced with a policy by the present British regime which extends to them the permission to live and work in the UK, but which can be ended at the stroke of a pen by a subsequent British regime. It is not hard to imagine - not too far in the future - a British general election campaign in which parties try to out-racist each other, with immigration restrictions being the inevitable outcome. 

This will not go unreciprocated by the remaining member states of the EU. Any and all restrictions on the rights of EU citizens to settle, study and work in the UK will be mirrored in restrictions on the rights of Scots. 

In 2014, Scottish Labour stole our right to live and to work; to love and to learn in the rest of Europe. They stole those rights from Scots, and sold them for the opportunity to be ruled by Theresa May. 

May's decision to trigger Article 50 in March means that the French presidential (April) and parliamentary (June) elections, the German federal election (likely September), and parliamentary elections in Czechia (before October) and the Netherlands (March) will become contests between the parties offering the most punitive sanctions against the British (and therefore Scotland), with anti-British governments likely to be in position in Paris, Berlin, Prague and Amsterdam. 

Romania goes to the polls in Parliamentary elections in December this year, and it may be considered unlikely that a party offering to accept a ban on Romanian immigration to the UK whilst simultaneously offering the UK a sweetheart deal would be tremendously successful. 

And remember - any single member state has the right to veto a "good Brexit" for the UK if it feels its own interests are not properly served. 

My own view is that the British have far too high an opinion of their own importance and far too complacent a view of their position. The British ministries responsible for Brexit are full of bellicose rhetoric. They talk of withdrawing from the single market with no concomitant sanctions. 

The British see themselves as a global power, and the powerhouse of Europe. They are not. They are a third-rate power which can't even fire their weapons without the say-so of the United States (it is noteworthy that the hard-Right campaigners which led the campaign to leave the EU don't similarly wish to "take back control" from NATO). They are a country with few natural resources other than oil and gas from Scotland. Their financial services industry - the backbone of their entire economy - is entirely dependent on the goodwill of European financial houses and regulators. A euro-free UK financial services industry was tolerated. An EU-free one will not be. Hands will be being rubbed with gleeful anticipation in Dublin and Valletta - euro-using EU states with highly-educated, English-speaking populations.

Their export industry, such as it is, is utterly reliant on major non-British manufacturers (for there are no major British manufacturers any longer) taking advantage of the country's tariff-free regime, coupled with its absurdly low wages. If the EU slaps tariffs on British car, say, exports, Nissan and BMW will simply up sticks and go to Poland or Slovakia. Assembling a vehicle is no more difficult in Siauliai or Szeged than it is in Sunderland. 

The British simply have zero bargaining position other than the position of EU nationals coming to live and work in the UK. And a country with more of its citizens resident in other EU states than any other member state does not exactly have its opponents over a barrel in that regard. 

So what will happen with a hard Brexit is that it will be an acrimonious Brexit. From Bucharest and Warsaw to Riga and Budapest, governments and peoples will feel insulted and slighted that their presence is not welcome in the UK, and will seek to react accordingly. In Bonn and in Paris, and in Brussels and in Vienna, men and women will meet in chancelleries to do their damndest to ensure that the British experience of abandoning the EU is so miserable that no other country will contemplate experiencing it for themselves. 

To keep the European Union intact, it is necessary pour encourager les autres that the United Kingdom and her people do not experience an upturn in their fortunes after abandoning the Common Market. There is nothing whatsoever to be gained for the EU27 in offering a soft landing for the British. They do not, regardless of what myopic, 1950s-nostalgic Conservatives, "need us more than we need them". 

Scotland now has two options and one timeframe. 

The timeframe is this: By April Fools' Day 2019 the United Kingdom will have left the European Union. It may have done so on punitive World Trade Organisation terms. Its students will no longer be being accepted to EU universities. Its pensioners in Spain (now no longer entitled to public medical care) will be returning, putting increasing pressure on its creaking public services. Its banks and financial services industries will likely have fled in anticipation of the fiscal holocaust to come. The value of the Pound Sterling will have fallen through the floor (and the traditional upside of a stronger export industry will not materialise as foreign manufacturers will have closed their businesses and fled, putting tens of thousands on the dole) and capital controls will likely have to be imposed. 

And the options are these: Scotland - which voted to stay in the EU - can sit back, wrap ourselves in the Union Jack and be collateral damage in the financial blitz which is about to be unleashed on our neighbours.

Or we could use the two years to achieve independence (whether from a referendum, or a new government being elected on a manifesto commitment of independence). There is no doubt whatsoever that the Yes side would win a second referendum. Only five points from victory last time before the Unionists and the British betrayed and reneged on every single commitment they made to Scotland during the campaign, a majority of Scots voted Yes. The No vote was swung by two main groups: EU nationals concerned that an independent Scotland would not remain in the EU and would, therefore, be an existential threat to their right to live and work there, and British people who had moved to Scotland and wished for their country to continue to possess it. 

There is little that can be done about the second group (although it is to be hoped that some will move from No to Yes, if only on the basis that people who move to other countries tend by definition to be more outward-looking), but in terms of the first group, not only has the reason for their block vote for No disappeared, it has actually become the opposite: without an independent Scotland, EU nationals will definitely have their rights to live and work here stripped from them. 

We were right to extend the franchise in the first referendum to those EU nationals. Those who choose to live and work amongst us deserve their chance to shape the future of the country every bit as much as someone who happens to have been born there. And although it militated against us, it was the right thing to do. It is also the right thing to do in the new referendum, and we must strongly oppose what will be the inevitable attempts by the Unionists to prevent our friends, colleagues and neighbours from the franchise. 

The constitutional crisis which gives us our excuse to strike will come when the British attempt to railroad their Great Repeal Bill through, legislating for Scotland without the consent of our devolved institutions (it could, ironically, give Scottish Labour a tiny shred of hope of one day recovering if they stand against attempts to legislate for Scotland against our will. Of course, they will stand shoulder to shoulder with the Conservatives against Scotland, and diminish just a little further) and our government. Immediately this occurs, the Government must immediately bring a Referendum Bill before Parliament. And if the British regime attempts to veto it, so much the better: the Government will be able to say with complete justification that they have attempted to work within the devolved framework, been rejected by the British, collapse the Holyrood Parliament, and seek a mandate at the subsequent general election to begin negotiations for independence in Europe. 

The fact that the Unionists' "concern" for our EU place has - as with so many other things - now been exposed as a tactic rather than a principle, will certainly help our chances of winning any referendum too. 


It's coming yet, for a' that.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Lies, damned lies, and autonomy

The streets of Scotland from Hamnavoe to Hawick were full of rejoicing citizens today as news emerged that "Kez" Dugdale had reached an agreement with her bosses to make what remains of Scottish Labour "autonomous", an agreement which will kick in a scant seven years after the crumbling loyalist party last managed to have more than one MP elected to the Westminster parliament. 

(Such autonomy, of course, does not extend to the bankrupt Unionist party funding itself, nor being responsible for its own membership, both of which will still be controlled by the Big Party in London).

It was something of a surprise, however, given that "Kez"'s former boss Jim Murphy claimed last year - and how long ago it seems now - that Scottish Labour was entirely autonomous. 

And, just two weeks ago, "Kez" claimed in one of her typically bleating, self-regarding spam mails to the First Minister that Scottish Labour was entirely autonomous. 


Now, clearly nobody is accusing Jim Murphy of being a liar (he's far too busy spending his life profiting from South Africa's apartheid policy of the 1980s and slaughtering babies in their beds in Iraq), and as "Kez" never tires of telling us, she's as honest as the day as long. 

But it does rather beg the question: if Scottish Labour was entirely autonomous last year, and Scottish Labour was entirely autonomous this month, then how on earth can even the unparalleled (if unappreciated, given her humiliation in this year's General Election in which she was roundly rejected by her constituents and had to cheat her way into Parliament on the List) genius of "Kez" have struck a deal to give her little party what it already had?

A footnote to "Kez" being an awful fibber: the governing NEC of the Big Party is currently finely-balanced between pro- and anti-Jeremy Corbyn delegates. One of the artefacts of Kez's Big Autonomy Agreement is that the "leader" of what's left of Scottish Labour is entitled to nominate her Very Own Delegate to the NEC. That delegate must be a frontbench MSP.

Given the expected victory of Corbyn on Saturday in a Big Party leadership election in which "Kez", bless her, furiously and bitterly (in an extraordinary departure from adverbs normally used to describe her behaviour..) opposed him, one is left wondering whether it will be acceptable to the Big Leadership for the "leader" of Scottish Labour's little group of MSPs to continue to be "Kez". 

"Kez" has made the autonomy of the remnants of Scottish Labour the central plank of her failed stint as "leader". It would be fittingly hilarious if the result of her achieving it was the end of her "leadership" because she can't be trusted to nominate the right person to serve the actual leader. 

Monday, 29 August 2016

The Poison Pen

Almost everyone I know who knows, or has met, "Kez" Dugdale reports that the common perception of her as a fundamentally decent person who's in politics for all the right reasons, but has, through no fault of her own, found herself in a position she is intellectually and emotionally unequipped for, is wrong.

"Spiteful","unpleasant" and "bitter" are but a few of the adjectives I've heard. One Slabber remarked that the more one gets to know "Kez", the less likeable she becomes. It is well-known that she begged a senior Nationalist MSP for a job with the National party, and has nurtured a well-stoked jealous rage ever since being rejected.

One always takes these reports with a pinch of salt. Some of them are from people on the opposite side of politics (Dugdale is an extreme-Right wing Loyalist; most people I know would be on the nationalist Left); some on the rival wing of her party (a rivalry almost more bitter than the inter-party one). 

But the latest slither in her descent came today when she appointed the political editor of the extreme Right-wing Daily Mail newspaper as her new communications chief. 

The editor in question, one Alan Roden, has carved himself out a spot as the most hysterically SNPbad voice in the Scottish media - quite an allocade in a Scottish press corps not entirely short of anti-"Nat" voices. 

Now, it's up to "Kez" to appoint her team. One cannot help but wonder, however, the thought processes that led to Scottish Labour being prodded into its state of near extinction by the perception that it is indistinguishable from orthodox hard-line Conservatism, and come to the conclusion that the best way to combat that is to hire arguably the furthest-Right parliamentary correspondent in Scotland, from a newspaper which has sung the praise of the Conservative party in Scotland since time immemorial (like, apart from the time it supporter your actual fucking Hitler), recommending a Tory vote in May's election. 

(It is an ironic twist that Roden's vocal support of the Conservatives in his piss-poor editorial shriekings would almost certainly leave him barred from membership of the Scottish Labour party - their membership is dealt with in London and they have no say in the matter - for which he now works).

The Mail has long been associated with stridently racist editorialising, with its Scottish edition being only slightly weaker fare. It is, of course, a matter for what is left of Scottish Labour to select its own staff, and one mustn't interrupt one's enemy (and make no mistake, despite its weakened position, the Scottish Labour party remains the most virulent and implacable enemy of Scotland) when they are making a mistake, but to imagine that an individual who had a fit of hysterics at even the milksop social democracy that a barely-embarrassed Dugdale tried to punt in May can be seen as credible when he, in turn, tries to spin it, is so far fetched as to imagine that Dugdale might one day be a minister. 

But catastrophic staffing appointments are hardly new for Scottish Labour, and are - in the main - to be welcomed. 

However, the appointment of the repulsive Roden to the top of Scottish Labour is an exception to the rule. 

His violently homophobic editorials and articles are not just sickening and wrong - they are dangerous. 

Roden's new-found fans in Scottish Labour were at pains today to point out that Roden himself isn't a homophobe, or a racist, but that he only wrote all of those homophobic and racist articles because it's the Daily Mail that's bad (as if a newspaper is some sort of sentient being, and not the sum of its journalists). 

In a way, that's worse. To know that racism and homophobia is dangerous and wrong, but to do it anyway is more vile, on an exponential scale, than to rant bigotry in ignorance. To use the dog whistle to sell papers and increase your profile, heedless of the expense of human suffering, is disgusting. 

When people like Alan Roden write dog-whistle gay-bashing articles, gay people get hurt. Gay kids at school get bullied. They get beaten up.

Mr Roden, when you write your gay-bashing articles, they embolden the bigots. The thugs think (perhaps, in fact, they realise that they're backed up by the great and good in life), and the result of your articles are that gay people die in homophobic attacks. 

Kezia Dugdale is soon due to take advantage of the Scottish government's welcome, if overdue, legislation giving gay people full equality in every sphere of public life to marry her partner. I wish them every happiness.

Her communications chief campaigned against her right to do so. He ran a hate-filled homophobic campaign in a top-selling newspaper in the hope of curtailing people's rights on the ground of their sexual orientation. 

Perhaps it would be a fine sign that Scottish Labour isn't the emotionless, rudderless Right-wing husk people believe it is if Dugdale's new communications chief made it a priority in his first days in the job to acknowledge the evil, discriminatory agenda of the Daily Mail, acknowledge and apologise for his part in it, and make it his life's work to reposition Scottish Labour as a defender of those who are discriminated against on the grounds of class, gender, sexual orientation, race or religion. 

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Young People and Scottish Labour

For some time, what's left of the Scottish Labour party has been bitter, old, white, middle-class men. Scots have deserted the party in their droves, with a humiliating third-place finish in May the latest sign of the moribundity of the once-mighty party. 

The main problem for Scottish Labour is that they aren't attracting anyone new. Old men don't tend to be energetic activists. It's young people who they need to pound the streets and deliver leaflets and chap doors. 

And in Scotland, young people aren't looking at Labour any more. Ambitious careerist types gravitate towards the National party. The enthusiastic lefties look towards the Greens. Scottish Labour can't even rely on its traditional constituency of racists and Ulster loyalists any more, with the rise of Ukip leaving them fighting for a share of the former, and the Ruth Davidson List firmly planting its fleg in the latter. 

And the lack of young people is what will kill Scottish Labour (my guess is that the party will fight the 2021 Holyrood election, be reduced to single-figures, and dissolve during that Parliament). The struggling party has fewer than a hundred activists left in Glasgow and were consequently unable to canvass the city effectively in May's election, during which they lost all of their elected MSPs. 

In any event, I always found the sight of young people canvassing for Scottish Labour rather bizarre, and pity-inducing. 

One was always unable to understand the thought processes of someone who looked at the carnage of Iraq:

The million corpses. 

The children dying of cancer caused by the depleted Uranium shells fired at them. 

The destroyed hospitals and devastated cities and towns. 

The sectarian civil war. The complete collapse of the country's economic and industrial output.

The savagery of Isis, glorying in the blood-drenched butchery of men, women and children, moving into the power vacuum and controlling large parts of what was once a secular republic. 

The pain and misery, economic and societal collapse. Bombings - unheard of until 2003 - regularly killing hundreds of innocents in the street. 

Suicide bombings. Bus bombings. Beheadings, mutiliation and torture. 

And their first thought was: "I like this. I want to join the party that did this. I want to join Scottish Labour". 

Baffling.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Anatomy of a smear

1. Flag up that a nationalist [sic] newspaper (there are no Unionist newspapers - only nationalist newspapers and studiously neutral newspapers) has "named" the partner of a prominent, notably greeting-faced politician. 

2. Express concern the the culture of "abuse" in Scottish politics means that this is A Bad Idea.

3. Hope that said partner is "abused".

4. Presto! You can now run a whining story about "abuse" (no evidence needs be provided, nor must the "abuse" even take place).

Probably best, right enough, not to make a howling arse of carefully laying your ground for the smear at the very first hurdle.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

How Unionism works

1. We must privatise the National Health Service because choice is A Good Thing and leads to a better service. 

2. We must privatise and deregulate the transport network because choice is A Good Thing and leads to a better service. 

3. We must privatise our school and hospital buildings because choice is A Good Thing and leads to a better service. 

4. If there is a choice of businesses to patronise when you are considering purchasing a particular service, you must use the Unionist business or you are a fascist. 

Monday, 1 August 2016

Accepting the result

1. 1 March 1979. A devolution referendum takes place in Scotland. Scots narrowly vote for a measure of internal self-government. The result is overturned by the Scottish Labour party, which refuses to accept the result.

2. 7 March 1979. The Scottish National party officially launches a campaign for the result of the referendum to be accepted by the British parliament. Scottish Labour continues its refusal to accept the result, even to the extent of sacrificing its government to Margaret Thatcher. 

3. 11 September 1997. The new British government promises devolution in its manifesto. Scottish Labour refuses to accept the result of the general election and demands a referendum is held instead. Fearful that it may have to accept the result, it demands an unprecedented secondary referendum to try to prevent devolution including tax-varying fiscal powers. 

4. 3 May 2007. Scottish Labour loses the general election. Its leader, Jack McConnell, refuses to accept the result. It attempts to overturn the results in Cunninghame North and in Glasgow. McConnell refuses to accept the result of the election for ten days before resigning.

4. 6 May 2010. Labour loses the general election and is swept from power. Its leader, Scottish Labour's Gordon Brown, refuses to accept the result for almost a week, squatting in 10 Downing Street. 

5. 18 September 2014. There is an independence referendum. Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond campaign in favour of a Yes vote. In the face of the most sustained terror campaign in British political history, with the entire forces of the British state, big business, and the entire broadcast and newspaper media (with the exception of one low-circulation, Scotland-only, newspaper) ranged against the Yes campaign, Scots narrowly vote No. Scottish Labour swings the referendum by promising a federal United Kingdom, with complete, Irish Free State-style, Home Rule, and by promising that a No vote would protect Scotland's place in the European Union.

6. 19 September 2014. Alex Salmond interprets the result as a no confidence vote, and resigns. On 20th November, Nicola Sturgeon succeeds him as First Minister. The Scottish Government accepts the result of the referendum and does not declare independence. 

7. 27 November 2014. The Smith Commission reports. The cast-iron commitment to full federalism is gone. Scottish Labour opposes devolution of almost every legislative competency with the exception of the design of road signs. 

8. 23 June 2016. Scotland overwhelmingly votes in favour of remaining in the European Union as promised by Scottish Labour 21 months previously. The Remain vote was 12 points higher than the No vote. 

Scottish Labour refused to accept the result, and has demanded that Scotland leave the European Union despite the settled will of the people being made clear in the referendum.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Scottish Labour should apologise for the violence in Scottish politics

Since the tragic events of last week, there has been the most unseemly, grubby rush to the gutter by Unionist activists in Scotland. 

STV's "digital political editor", an extreme-right wing shock jock, seems to have immediately considered how he could use i) the murder of a young mother; and ii) his position at STV to attack the SNP. 

Others have chosen to compare the Yes campaign to the fascist terrorist who murdered Jo Cox in cold blood.

The Unionists have whined incessantly about how "divisive" the independence referendum was (of course, Unionist-held referendums in 1979 and 1997 were in no way divisive, and were instead celebrations of British democracy). 

(If readers will forgive me for wandering off on an unrelated tangent, I would also point out that the 2014 referendum, in which the Unionists scored 55% to the Nationalists' 45% was presented as "an overwhelming defeat for ra nats", whilst the 1979 equivalent, where the Unionists scored 48% to the Devolutionists' 52%, was taken by the British to be a win for the Unionists.)

Perhaps we might examine how this "division" came to be. There was certainly no hate speech or violence from the Yes side during the referendum. 

Violence and hate was introduced into Scottish politics by the Scottish Labour party (along with other Unionist fellow-travellers; although Scottish Labour hold the primary responsibility for it) during the 2014 referendum. 

While they had perpetrated a shameless, personalised hate campaign against Alex Salmond for many years previously, it took on a sinister new turn during the referendum. 

Scottish Labour's leader in Westminster at the time, Margaret Curran, even laughed and joked in an interview about the possibility of Alex Salmond MSP being killed, going as far as to say that should Salmond meet his death, she would "not ask who" was responsible. 

Later in the campaign, Curran said she would be "uncomfortable" if there were to be a foreigner in her family, using precisely the same phraseology later employed by Ukip fuhrer Nigel Farage, where he said he, too, was "uncomfortable" with foreigners on his train. 

Ukip, trying to whip its core voters a certain way, saying they'd be "uncomfortable" sharing a train with foreigners; Scottish Labour, trying to whip its core voters a certain way, saying they'd be "uncomfortable" sharing a family with foreigners. 

One of the grubbier legacies of the referendum was the constant, inexcusable effort by the Unionists to harness the far-Right. They pulled the genie out of the bottle to help save the Union, and struggle now to stuff it back in. Nobody will forget the wild celebrations of Scottish Labour when Scotland elected a fascist, David Coburn, to be its final MEP ahead of the SNP and the Green party.

Scottish Labour's hatred of the Yes campaign - and, increasingly, of Scotland itself - was so ferocious and so unyielding that they preferred a boost to fascism than a fillip for independence. 

Scottish Labour weren't alone in the Unionist side in excusing, enabling, and condoning fascism to try to hurt the Yes campaign: the repulsive William Rennie, leader of some Liberals (fresh from publishing racist, anti-Arab caricatures on his social media account in a lowbrow attempt to bait Alex Salmond), leapt to the defence of Nigel Farage, the leader of Britain's fascists, when he was confronted by Left-wing pro-independence protesters in Edinburgh.

Whilst the rest of the civilised world opposes fascists, with people in the United Kingdom, including Scotland, having a particularly proud record in vocal rejection of fascism, Rennie chose to back fascism rather than be seen to stand with pro-independence people, demanding, with crushing inevitability, that "Salmond must condemn" people who were neither members of, nor - in the main - supporters of his party for refusing to give a fascist house room. If that wasn't enough, Liberal UK Cabinet minister (at the time) Danny Alexander also campaigned along with fascist MEP David Coburn.

However, it was Scottish Labour whose choice to stand with fascists against working-class Scots would resound the most. Whether it was Aberdeen Labour MP Anne Begg campaigning alongside the leader of the National Front, a Labour council diverting taxpayers' funds to fund a fascist group's intimidatory parade, or their Better Together campaign sharing the BNP's social media output, every single time they had to make a choice between standing with fascists and standing with pro-independence campaigners, they cooried right in with the Nazis. 

As sickening as their cavorting with actual fascists to save their Union was the hate speech. Mentioned above was Margaret Curran's unconscious echoing of Nigel Farage's "discomfort" of foreigners, and the laughing about the prospect of Alex Salmond's death.

But, as Alex Massie pointed out after the horrendous tragedy in Yorkshire, if one continually screams "breaking point", one mustn't be surprised if a follower eventually breaks. And like night follows day, after Scottish Labour said that if Alex Salmond was to be killed, there would be no questions asked (imagine the levels of hate required for an actual Shadow Secretary of State to make a comment like that), the death threats and intimidation started. 

The awful stories in the newspaper about the threats of violence, and worse, being sent to female MPs didn't come out of nowhere: Scottish Labour circled the wagons around their then-MP Ian Davidson, when he threatened to violently assault a SNP MP (the same Scottish Labour MP - chillingly, in light of last week's horrors - subsequently went on to discuss stabbing "wounded" Yes supporters to death), refused to remove the party whip from him, and conducted a campaign against the female victim of his threat.

One Unionist from Glasgow mused that he "might assassinate Alex Salmond", whilst an Aberdonian fellow-traveller threatened to "slit Salmond's throat right open". The dénoument of the dehumanisation of the then-First Minister by Scottish Labour, and the death threats - all of which went uncondemned by the struggling pro-Union party - was an actual attack on Salmond, where an enraged (is there any other sort?) Unionist tried to run the First Minister's official car off the road.

If he had been killed, I wonder if Margaret Curran would have "asked who was driving" the vehicle?

The outcome, of course, was the violence from Unionists during the referendum campaign. A Labour MP battered a woman handing out Yes leaflets at a polling station. A Unionist battered an octogenarian Yes campaigner with such ferocity that he was hospitalised. Yet another Unionist threw a chair at an eight-year-old child for daring to attend a Yes event. And a pro-independence MSP was throttled by still another Unionist. And, worst of all, a Unionist kicked a pregnant woman the stomach. 

The day after the referendum, Unionists rioted in Glasgow, attacking and beating Yes supporters; during which they firebombed the Sunday Herald - then the only Yes-supporting newspaper in the country. 

Firebombing newspapers, death threats to and assaults on the First Minister, full-scale rioting, and vicious assaults on their opponents: and on not a single occasion did Scottish Labour condemn the violence, the intimidation, the threats and the abuse, nor did it ever call off its supporters. 

Scottish Labour collaborated with fascists during the referendum and cannot reasonably express surprise that those same fascists are now emboldened. They used violence and hate as a political tactic. They should apologise now, and they should repent. 

The take-home message is this:

When the Left and Yes campaigners came onto the streets to oppose fascism, the Unionists either sat on their hands, or came out to support the fascists. They put the Union ahead of anti-fascism. 

They legitimised fascism.

They hold, and they know it, no little responsibility for the fascists being emboldened. 

Shame, shame, shame on them.

In the interests of balance, I feel I also must, in response to the partial list of violence and aggression by Scottish Labour above, give a full account of violence from the Yes side to the Unionists, which follows below. 

1. Someone hit a man on the shoulder with an egg. His shirt got dirty. It came out in the wash.

2. That's it

Monday, 13 June 2016

We need to talk about Scottish homophobia

and I don't mean pursing our lips and tutting about secondary school children calling bands they don't like "gay". 

We need to talk about entrenched, institutionalised homophobia. Not old grannies on buses wishing that "they'd do it, but not talk about it in public", but homophobia on a scale of government. 

This week, we witnessed the largest-scale massacre of gay people because they were gay in the West since the Holocaust. Regardless of how the media may try and deny the homophobia inherent in the Orlando massacre; regardless of how they try to spin this as Muslims attacking the Western way of life, it has a simple explanation: a Western man who hated gay people attacked a gay bar with a submachine gun with the aim of killing gay people. 

Hours after the attack, the First Minister tweeted her condolences, showing a photograph of the rainbow flag flying at half-staff over Government Buildings. She said "Scotland stands in solidarity with the people of Orlando, and with LGBTI communities around the world".

Ruth Davidson, the Unionist leader who has done so much - so quietly, and with such dignity - to bring gay people into the mainstream of Scottish society, traveled to London to stand watch at a vigil for the victims. 

But aren't these just mealy-mouthed platitudes in the face of the reality? Omar Mateen was inspired to commit his massacre by his belief that gay people did not deserve the full civil and human rights enjoyed by the rest of society.

Yet Nicola Sturgeon, who claims to stand in solidarity with the gay community, not only tolerates people who shares Mateen's beliefs, but shelters them in her Cabinet. 

Not just a random MSP, not just a junior minister, but two actual Cabinet Ministers share Mateen's views that gay people should not be extended the full civil rights the rest of society have.

Can one possibly marry the First Minister's kind, and no doubt heartfelt words, with her actions in which she chose to make homophobic bigot Roseanna Cunningham her Environment Secretary? When she speaks of "solidarity" with the gay community, are we supposed to put to one side her homophobic Rural Secretary, Fergus Ewing, who has consistently and volubly sought to extend to gay people fewer civil rights than heterosexual people?

How can her "solidarity" be viewed with anything other than contempt when considered alongside a government which contains homophobic bigots like Cunningham, Ewing, and Europe Minister Alasdair Allan, who shares with the above, and with Mateen, a view that gay people do not deserve full civil rights, and has spent much of his political career attempting to block civil rights for gay people?

When, in her group of MSPs, she shelters homophobes like deputies Lyle, MacDonald, Thompson and Mason, who have fought to prevent gay people being extended the full panopoly of rights and privileges afforded their heterosexual compatriots (one of whom votes in such a fashion with the greatest of hypocrisy)?

And as for Ruth Davidson, the self-styled "Opposition Leader"? At least our First Minister has the excuse that she, not being gay, cannot feel the pain felt by the gay community at her continued promotion and tolerance of those who believe that civil rights should not be availed of by gay people. 

Davidson does not have that excuse, and yet she has tolerated and promoted Murdo Fraser, Gavin Brown, Liz Smith and Margaret Mitchell.

It is not often that this blog makes anything other than a moue of distaste and occasional disgust towards the secondary Unionist leader, Kezia Dugdale. But of the three Mateenite bigots in her parliamentary party in the last term, she - deliberately or not - saw to it that two of them, MacMahons Siobhan and Michael, did not return to Holyrood, and that the third was defeated in her bid to be our Presiding Officer. 

Dugdale alone comes out of this with credit. 

Sturgeon, and to a lesser extent, Davidson, emerge from this most appalling tragedy increasingly looking like they are content to shelter fellow-travelers of the Orlando murderer. 

We don't need your sympathy or your solidarity. We need you to act. 

And your first action must be to remove from your front-bench team, and then from your party, those who do not believe that gay people should be granted basic civil rights to match the heterosexual majority. 


Monday, 16 May 2016

Where now for the Left in the post-Rise Scotland?

Firstly - let's be quite clear about what happened this month. Rise didn't "make a breakthrough", or "get off to a good start". It didn't "create waves" or "run a campaign to be proud of". 

Its activists can find no solace in "missing out by a whisker", nor in "winning the argument, if not the vote". Its leaders, certainly, have nothing to be proud of in running the most aggressive, paranoid, self-entitled campaign ever seen in Scottish politics. 

This general election was an unmitigated disaster for Rise. It scored just under one half of one per cent of the national vote on the List, finishing with just 10.911 votes. It was beaten into ninth place behind Tommy Sheridan's Solidarity party (which scored half as many votes again as Rise), and the frankly bonkers Scottish Christian Party - Proclaiming Christ's Lordship.

On the List, it managed to defeat just the new Womens' Equality party (for whom I voted), the equally bonkers Libertarian party, an Independent, the National Front, and the Communist party. 

It was, one might say, not a vintage result. 

Results (you can scroll past this bit)

Despite unprecedented saturation coverage in the newspapers, universally positive, the Hyndland Soviet did not connect at all with its target working class voters, who rejected the Rise message - and, more to the point, messengers - in their tens of thousands. 

In Central Scotland, just 1.636 citizens voted for Rise - a province where the SSP scored 20.000 votes previously.

In Glasgow, Rise managed to finish a solitary vote ahead of A Better Britain - Unionist Party and lost to Solidarity. Just 1% of - 2.454 - Glaswegian voters thought Rise best represented them, in a province where the SSP used to get 30.000 votes and regularly beat the Tories, Liberals, Greens, and Ukip. 

In Highland and Islands, they fared even worse. A ticket with an actual sitting MSP (albeit elected as a National party member) saw them fail to reach the four-figure mark, gathering an astonishingly bad 889 votes - just less than half of one per cent. 

There was another disastrous result in Lothian where SSP leader Colin Fox topped the Rise ticket, failing to regain his seat. He came second-bottom, losing to the Womens' Equality party and getting about a fifth of Ukip's vote as again half of one per cent voted for Rise. The Greens had 35 times the Rise vote. The SSP once got over 14.000 votes in this province. Rise? 1.641.

In Mid-Scotland and Fife, the awful Jenny "Nasti" Gunn was brought down to earth with an humiliating clatter, scoring just over a thousand votes on the way to an embarrassing half of one per cent of the vote, losing to the Greens, Liberals and Ukip, and holding off Solidarity by just 24 votes. The SSP only once scored such a poor result in MSF, and also at one point got ten times as many voters as Gunn attracted. 

The story of anguish continued in North East Scotland, where they reached the top ten by less than 50 votes from the Libertarian party. They were beaten by such political luminaries as Solidarity (who got half as many votes again as the Riesling Revolutionaries), the National Front, and the Christians. The paltry 599 (less than 0,2% of the vote) votes was just half of the SSP's worst electoral performance in the province - and substantially less than the 5-figure votes the SSP used to score there. 

Southern Scotland was no better, with Rise coming rock bottom, the most unpopular political party there. Scoring a derisory 0,3% of the vote, it finished behind an Independent, and - again - behind Solidarity. The SSP never managed such a poor score there, and previously returned an MSP with a five-figure vote. 

1.522 votes was the damage in Western Scotland, ironic because demented has-been Frances Curran, when trying to persuade SSP members to suicide the party had promised an influx of "3.000 new members from Ayrshire alone". Perhaps half of them were on their holidays. Whatever happened to them, Rise came second-bottom again, thrashed by both Solidarity and the Christians, scoring just half of one per cent in a region which used to return SSP MSPs. 

Conclusion

The suicide of the SSP, forced on unwilling members by a desperate, jaded leadership, was a huge mistake. In most seats, the Rise "haul" of votes didn't manage to equal the SSP's worst-ever score. 

Yes supporters in working class seats which in the past returned SSP MSPs to Holyrood took a look at the motley collections of middle-class weirdos, creeps, student militants, bigots, and social misfits who were aggressively demanding their second votes and screeching in their faces in fast-food shops, and turned overwhelmingly to the SNP and Greens, the latter which the SSP was regularly defeating in by-elections in the halcyon period between the referendum and the hostile takeover of the party.

The leadership has turned a party which once returned MSPs from diverse regions, which once defeated Ukip, the Liberals and the Greens (and in Glasgow, the Tories), into a laughing stock party barely reaching three figures. 

Many people in the leadership of the SSP must consider their position, and it's surely unarguable that those who were the prime drivers in the suicide of the party from a position of immense strength after the referendum should not continue in positions of influence in the party. Those on the party's Executive Committee who backed Rise should resign, and let people who are genuinely loyal to the SSP and whose political careers lie in the 21st, not the 20th, Century, try and recover the party from the wreckage of Rise. 

Going Forward

Clearly, Rise will not carry on. Already, its star candidate in Glasgow has announced that she will refuse to represent the "alliance" in next year's Council elections, having spent the last six months promoting herself. It looks likely the SSP membership will vote at the conference next month to disaffiliate from Rise (most SSP members opposed the suicide of the party, but a gerrymandered conference last year coupled with a concerted infiltration of the party led to them having their party stolen from them in an hostile takeover), which will remove most of the funding and experience from Rise. 

The awful performance in this election by Rise will render the threat made by those who thought they were too good to join the SSP but wanted to infest and occupy its structures and finances - "if the SSP doesn't join us, we'll stand against the SSP" - impotent. With Rise dead, and socialism in Scotland now in a post-Rise position, the SSP is the only show in town for the Left - if it itself can recover from the civil war which has engulfed the party and led to half of its best and most experienced members walking out. 

If the SSP can't recover, though, - and if it is hamstrung by an inept and discredited leadership it's difficult to see where that recovery comes from - where does the Left go? Clearly, there's no appetite to set up a new movement. So should socialists join the National party or the Greens with the intention of pulling it to the Left?

Or - how is this for an idea. With the radical Left now in control of the Labour party at a UK level but a hard-Right administration in Scotland, why should we not seek to infiltrate and take control of Scottish Labour, drag it to the Left, and transform it into a vehicle for socialist independence?

The membership of Scottish Labour is now so low, and morale so dented, that a concerted attempt at infiltration now would almost certainly succeed. It would take little more than half a dozen activists joining each Glasgow, Central Scotland and Western Scotland constituency party to be able to take it over, deselect existing councillors, and nominate radical socialist, pro-independence candidates. 

A Leftist takeover of Scottish Labour would surely have the tacit support of the southern leadership, and would enable us to take over a party which already exists and has an electoral structure capable of winning swathes of seats in local elections. 

The post-Rise landscape of Scottish socialist politics necessitates a radical change of thought, tactics and approach. We ought at least to consider a campaign of entryism similar to the 1980s but with one huge difference in our favour: we would not be opposed with any enthusiasm or energy by a UK leadership, nor by a UK party establishment which is concentrating on its own anti-Corbyn coup. 


Friday, 6 May 2016

Where now for Scottish Labour (including Why Rise Failed)

The Westminster election last year could have been a blip, but the evisceration of Scottish Labour in yesterday's General Election shows a pattern. 

Nine years into an SNP government, the Nationalists routed Scottish Labour in their heartlands. Every seat in Glasgow lost. Former leaders and elder statesmen rejected by the electorate (but, of course, rammed in to Parliament against the will of the voters by a party which remains suffused with arrogance). 

Where 20% of the vote would, a mere half-decade ago, have been an unmitigated disaster for Scottish Labour, it is now an aspiration. It now looks like an unreachable aspiration. Scottish Labour, toxic in a way even the Tories of the 1990s didn't quite manage to reach, are despised, dismissed, and defeated. 

With every fresh electoral blow, the structures and power-bases of the party weaken further. Losing all but one of their MPs cost the party millions of pounds in funding, and lost them thousands of hours in researchers' time - people who once would have been paid activists during elections now have day jobs. The destruction of their bases in local authorities has weakened them immensely. 

Their manifesto was, arguably, the most left-wing of any major party in this election. But nobody was listening. They are now anathema to voters in Glasgow, and western Scotland, and central Scotland. Most Scots under the age of 30 would no more consider voting for Scottish Labour than they would for Ukip - a party which now, sickeningly, boasts more parliamentarians than the disintegrating Scottish Labour party.

Sure, Kezia Dugdale will have to resign. A "leader" who takes a party to its worst-ever defeat can't carry on. But replacing a worn-out party apparatchik with another didn't wash with voters when Apartheid fan and war criminal Jim Murphy was forced out, and nor will it wash now. 

Changing the toilet roll doesn't stop the stench when the u-bend is blocked. 

Scottish Labour has never gained a seat in a Scottish Parliament election. Some citizens voted in this election who were 18 months old when Scottish Labour last emerged as the largest party in Holyrood. 

They are becoming, very rapidly, a party of the past. A party your granda voted for, and your mum used to vote for, but for whom you would never consider voting for. 

It's not exactly new to comment that the referendum destroyed Scottish Labour. A generation of voters who only know Scottish Labour as the party which spent years campaigning with the Tories for the right of the Tories to rule Scotland, and whose go-to mental images of Scottish Labour are those photographs of Scottish Labour activists dancing delightedly with Tories across Scotland, are lost to them. 

When Ruth Davidson beat Murdo Fraser for the Tory leadership what seems like a million years ago, Fraser's big idea was to detoxify the Conservatives by budding off from the unpopular British party, and ditching the still-redolent Conservative name. 

Perhaps it's Scottish Labour which needs to do that. 

Now the second-biggest Unionist party, they'll see their voters who regard the Union as their main priority desert them for their Tory friends at subsequent elections. They have abrogated any hope of Yes voters reconnecting with them. They do not appeal to the under-30s with their campaign of imposing tuition fees and charging, at the point of use, for health care. 

The only way Scottish Labour can survive is a new name, a new structure, and a new attitude. 

____________________

Another party which needs a serious look at its attitude is Rise, the SWP front which engulfed the Scottish Socialist party and took the Left to a disastrous result, scoring zero MSPs and barely more votes. 

The tone was all wrong. It came across as aggressive and entitled, arrogant and intolerant. Its activists launched streams of abuse at those who didn't join the cult, smearing those who raised concerns about is as misogynist and/or racist. 

It demanded respect, whilst refusing to take action against activists who systematically abused members and supporters of other parties and ordinary voters, and its online engagement seemed almost designed to turn people away from it.

Rise came across as a motley collection of social misfits, thugs and bigots. Its candidates ranged from those who called for the murder of journalists who didn't support the party with sufficient enthusiasm to those who called for gender-based violence, and included middle-class owners of West End pieds á terre with little record of activism or public service. 

Its supporters, mainly found online, were intolerant, thuggish and hypocritical, and put far more voters off than it attracted. The behaviour of the self-described "Young Team" alienated people. It was unprofessional. 

Much of this could be excused by the youth and inexperience of many activists, some of whom were barely out of school (and at least one of whom had their mother write to people who criticised her to demand voters showed more sensitivity to mummy's special little foul-mouthed flower). But this should have been reigned in early by a party hierarchy which often seemed utterly paralysed in the face of crisis. 

Those in the Scottish Socialist party leadership who lied and cheated to drag Scotland's most successful Left-wing party into this doomed political nursery have blown the Left's best chance in a generation to gain parliamentary representation. 

They should now resign, and allow those who remained loyal to the SSP and warned of the inevitable, crushing failure of Rise, to try and salvage something from the wreckage.