Category Archives: Scotland’s Future

Another Book For You

This one though, is different.  It is The Wee Black Book.  Eighteen months ago the people of Scotland decided that remaining as part of the UK was the route to a better future for our children and grandchildren, on the basis of the promises made as voting day drew near.  Today, 24 March 2016, is the day that had been earmarked for Scotland to begin to run her own affairs.  The WBB charts the move from the promises then to the reality now.

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In the past 18 months politics in Scotland has been very much off topic on this forum, though thrashed to bits elsewhere.  So for the readers who have been spared the WBB is a quick run through, and it really is an essential read.  It is of course the work of the inimitable Stuart Campbell, of Wings Over Scotland, and you can download it from this link.  Let’s see how it’s all panning out so far shall we.

Elsewhere I see that the citizens of New Zealand have also bottled it, opting not to change their flag.

NZ flag

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Countdown Conundrum

Having spared you political comment on this forum these past eight months or so, events have overtaken us; comment is coming.

What has become absolutely clear is:

  1. Scotland wants to remain in the Union
  2. England wants a right-wing conservative government
  3. Scotland doesn’t.

 

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These ideals may be mutually exclusive.  The political landscape has undergone massive upheaval  as the voting across these lands on Thursday proved.

The Lib Dems were decimated, both north and south of the border, perhaps for different reasons.  Scotland could not forgive their role in bringing Cameron and his policies to ravage her communities.  England could not forgive the impoverishment of her students; the breaking of a vow.  And perhaps England could not forgive a hand that may have restrained the tories, wanting more of what they offered.

And more they will have, more austerity, and the need for more food banks; more shame, on them.  But Labour are not without blame, having rejected the hand of friendship; rejected the fight against austerity whilst voting for more of the same.  Much has, and is, being said, in our weekend columns and on our airwaves.  The best I have heard came yesterday, the words of Andy Kerr, former Labour Finance Minister at Holyrood.  There problems began, he posited, quarter of a century ago.  I may shorten that by a couple of years, but certainly giving the reins to the Blair/Brown axis was the start of the end.

In Scotland they had been in denial for years, suffering defeat in 2007, annihilation in 2011, and finally, after not listening again, suffering humiliation.  Let’s get the gags out the way first.  Scotland, as well all know, now hosts more nuclear-armed submarines than nuclear arms supporting MPs; and the old one about the pandas now applies equally to all three unionist parties.  And there are probably more visitors to the zoo than members of said parties.

Very quickly after the results began to emerge on Friday morning Robin McAlpine, he of the Common Weal and one of my real hopes for the future, grasped the meaning of the underlying numbers.  The demise in the unionist vote was far less then the rise in the nationalist vote.  That is crucial to appreciate.

Across these lands turnout rose from 2010; but in Scotland the rise was significantly higher, to more than 70% on average, exceeding 80% in hotspots, against 65% elsewhere.  For Scotland had been mightily engaged in politics in recent years, and the legacy of the Indy Ref was a massive rise in participation, through membership of the losing parties, to activism on the streets.  They came out to vote, and they all voted SNP.  Thus the swings were enormous, unprecedented, and we witnessed history unfolding on our screens as a result of which Portillo will now be best remembered for fingering his guide book on the trains.  His moment was surpassed, with every declaration, as the big Scottish beasties fell, some with more grace than others.

Our local campaign was wonderful.  We faced one of those contemptuous career politicians, all suits and family on the payroll, with more than 52% of the last vote and a massive majority.  But Dr Lisa Cameron rose from the campaign of the previous years, joined the party and was given the nomination.  And she is now our MP, over 55% of the vote and a whopping majority which her opponent tried hard not to hear, leaving the count before being dragged back on protocol and publicly flogged.  That, for our small team of dedicated and hard-working supporters, was a moment of sheer joy, and a just reward.  I salute you all.

Labour’s problems will not go away.  They appointed the wrong brother, (though the choice it seems may have been the wrong family) and he was too far to the left for England, too far to the right for Scotland.  He epitomises the problem Cameron now faces.  For it’s not nation v nation, but left v right.  Miliband chose to follow Blair, seeking votes in Middle-England, from the same grounds that Cameron and Farage made their pitch, ignoring everywhere else.  More than 50% of England voted to the right; but in Scotland the majority voted against it.

There is now talk of what should have happened post 2007, if not before – an independent Labour party in Scotland, fast to the ideal of the long-forgotten founders.  That party should then have campaigned for in independent Scotland, and retained power therein for decades.  But they had not the foresight, and now they suffer, buried by their own ineptitude and disdain for the people.

Cameron’s dilemma is deep.  He promises to deliver Smith’s proposals.  But they are a fudge, molten and inedible, the dregs of The Vow.  And he has promised to be Evel, which surely he will be.  So wherein lies cross-border consensus amongst that?  Well Smith is far too little, and 56 voices will forever protest, long and hard.  More powers.  We were promised close to federalism.  And I suspect that is where we are now going.

Which brings me to that House of Lords, where some of the fallen may find themselves as Keir Hardie rolls restlessly below.  Labour and Lords, that home for the bishopric, for the benefactors, and for long-service.  It surely must become an elected upper chamber, casting an eye over four federal states, bringing a common hand to rest on each shoulder.

And the SNP?  Well as by far the third largest party in the union, this party must change.  For it now will take a seat on each and every Westminster committee, and the chair of a fair number of them.  Its members will even be asked to speak in debates, and the Speaker’s whims will have to change.  And from the running costs of the parliament it will receive the funding that went to the Lib Dems, the Short Money, and a couple of million a year is a massive boost for all the parliamentarians and for those hundred thousand plus members.  It’s a game changer.

The Conundrum is yours Mr Cameron, and the Countdown has begun.

 

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Move over Neil Oliver

This is just brilliant; so good I’ve watched it twice.  Go on, full screen.  Enjoy.

 

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Watch and listen

No, I’m not going to give you my tribute to the outgoing party leader, or a fine welcome to the new one, for there are plenty of those elsewhere, and the links on the sidebar are a good place to start.  Instead let’s look further afield.

First up we have Common Weal’s utterly brilliant and inspirational Robin McAlpine, speaking at a fringe meeting at the SNP conference:

Looking forward to that daily news service coming to my screen.

And have you seen the SNP’s latest Party Political Broadcast?  Yeah I know that’s when we all head for the kitchen and put the kettle on, but watch this one:

At another fringe meeting at the weekend, here we have Craig Murray, who always has something to say, sometimes controversial.  Stirring stuff as usual.  I hear he’s after a nomination for the Westminster election, having just moved to Edinburgh.

On Craig’s left there I see young Mhairi Black, who addressed the George Square gathering a few weeks back.  She spoke to the full conference in one of the debates on Friday.  Remember her name and face, for you’ll be hearing more of this young lass, I’m sure.

One interesting announcement at the weekend was the possibility of non-party members standing at elections.  The Yes Alliance is becoming a real possibility.  Interesting times ahead, more so as we hear of Labour in Scotland lurching from crisis to shambles, and back to crisis again, on a daily basis.  Of which more another day, including the moveable feast that seems to be utterances on Trident.  Should’ve voted Yes, shouldn’t you?

And to finish, some audio – Derek Bateman in discussion with Paul Holleran of the NUJ at the BBC; and then Ivan McKee of Business for Scotland.  Ivan is another who has recently joined the SNP and is considering the best route to continue his massive input of the last couple of years – it could be a Parliamentary route, either 2015 or 2016.  Such are the changes many are now facing.

http://batemanbroadcasting.com/episode-22/

 

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Is the dust settling?

Seems a long time ago now, 18th September, doesn’t it?  The day Scotland said No.  It’s not a day I’ll forget.

But it’s been a fast-moving environment since then.  We’ll have a new First Minister in a week or two.  The outgoing Alex Salmond is relishing his last few weeks in office, and his final FMQs this coming Thursday will be one not to miss, if this week’s warm up is anything to go by.  On a whimper he will not be going out.  Then we’ll have Salmond Unleashed; unshackled from the chains of office.  That could be fun.

Meantime The Vow is coming under scrutiny, with the Daily Record on the defensive, (you could read the previous posts on Wings on the same subject too), and watching sales plummet.  The Smith Commission are holding meetings, and presumably sifting through 14,000 submissions.  Those submissions will range from simple emails of a few paragraphs, like mine, to a superb document from Common Weal and others, to name just a few, from the Scottish Police Federation and Yes Clydesdale.

But my expectations are low.  Whatever Smith proposes is perhaps unlikely to reach the statute book, requiring as it does a government to be elected in the first instance, and then approval from both their houses.  Remote.

Meanwhile Labour are imploding.  As I type there is pressure on Miliband it seems.  And locally the Scottish scene has been lurching to the left.  JoLa’s left; Darlings’s left; Sarwar’s left; in fact there’s nothing left, as was said elsewhere.  And they’re trying to elect new leaders.  Murphy has benefited from enormous publicity, having had his Westminster career put on hold.  But the unions aren’t happy at his right wing leanings, and lust for war and weaponry.

I’ll leave comment on Labour’s Scottish ills to Robin McAlpine, he of the Common Weal, and an excellent summary piece in Bella Caledonia.  But it might change again, if the Westminster leader goes too.

Our media has been organising.  New on my daily reading list is the Scottish Statesman.  Here’s a fine recent article, originally for Danish press, which gives you the flavour of the changes in recent weeks.  And I see the Statesman is going to produce a monthly magazine, an addition to the web-based paper. I’ll be very interested in seeing how that develops.

There’s been more polling too, you may have noticed.  It’s all about to change.  Westminster voting intentions are shifting, significantly.  No longer will Scotland send red-rosetted lobby-fodder south, at least not in the quantity of past years.  The signs for Labour are very ominous indeed, no matter what Murphy, Miliband or whoever yanks the strings might like to say.  Those days are well and truly gone.

And so the possible shape of the new Westminster government is something for intense speculation.  How many seats will UKIP take, and who from?  And many will the SNP occupy, possibly to coalesce with no one, and vote on an issue by issue basis?  Speculation, speculation.

There’s another poll about to announce.  You can’t keep Stu Campbell down; he’s now teasing us with releasing findings from his latest Panelbase poll.  Wings Over Scotland is still the number one online source for the growing Yes movement.  And it is growing.  Polls suggest if the vote were held again today the result would be different.  I’m hearing the same in discussions with a variety of people.  In short Cameron’s statement on the morning of the 19th shifted the goalposts.

So the losers battle on; and the winners collapse.  The media are under real pressure – the Daily Record from spiralling sales; the BBC from realisations.  When the time comes again, as it will, we will all be older, and a good bit wiser.  Interesting times.  And then there’s Europe…

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Decisions, Decisions

In a few weeks time Scotland will have a new First Minister; Alex Salmond will step down as leader of his party, and as FM. The only candidate to take over as leader of the SNP is the redoubtable Nicola Sturgeon – whose jaiket I once held, such is my high standing in The Party.  Actually it was on a certain day in Edinburgh, a memory from the campaign.  So Nicola will be our FM, subject to ratification by Holyrood, and unless a chunk of the SNP contingent happen all to be waylaid on the same day.

The party conference is next month, and what an occasion that will be, with Alex Salmond receiving what will be a very fond farewell, and massive appreciation for what he done, so far.  Much as I’d like to be, I won’t be there.

Between now and then those of us who are members of the party will receive voting papers to fill the vacancy for Deputy Leader.  A month or so ago, in the light of the resignation statement, around 25,000 papers would have been being planned.  But now they will need to send out significantly more,such has been the staggering response to the decision of Scotland’s people.  That said perhaps less than half of the newly expanded 84,000 strong membership may be eligible to vote this time round.

We have three candidates.  One is an MSP, a member of the Holyrood front benches; one an MP, one of the six; and the other, also an MSP stands on the basis that whilst she wants to be deputy to Nicola in the party, she doesn’t want to be Deputy First Minister, which is interesting.

The Smith Commission is deliberating, trying to turn this into something positive:

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I expect little meaningful, and certainly not what we seemed to be proposed in the much vaunted Vow.  They have to find a way to improve on this:

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So the next stage in this game is the Westminster election in May 2015.  The SNP have six members at present.  They could well have a much louder voice from May, and quite conceivably be a significant player as coalition talks take shape.  No doubt the BBC will maximise the role that UKIP may have to play in the months ahead.

Incidentally did you see that M. Farage has reached an agreement with an ultra right wing holocaust denier in order to rescue his party’s funding for the EU parliament?  I digress.

So a Deputy Leader standing at Westminster could be an important role.  Angus Robertson’s been a fine leader of the Westminster group for some time.  And speculation bounces round that our retiring FM could himself have a last stand down London way, rattling sabres and more beyond.

So do we appoint an MP or an MSP?  We could even have one MSP as Deputy Leader, and another as DFM.  Or an MP as DL, and an MSP as DFM.  Who to choose; how to vote?

Well all three candidates have been on the hustings.  The Sunday papers have given column inches for each to set out their stall.  So too has Lallands Peat Worrier  for whom each so far, the two male candidates have written a guest post.  I certainly got more from those than I gleaned from the press articles.  Whether you have a vote or not you might wish to consider the vision of each of the three candidates, in these very important times for the future of our nation, for whoever is elected; whoever becomes Nicola’s deputy in the party, and whoever becomes Scotland’s Deputy First Minister, he, she or they will have important roles in shaping Scotland’s future:

Firstly Keith Brown MSP.

Next up Stewart Hosie MP.

Finally Angela Constance MSP.  (link in due course, hopefully)

In the aftermath of our nation’s cowardice, and at many gatherings since, the desire for a Yes Alliance  has been much discussed.  We have momentum, cross party; and the need for a significant presence at Westminster, and then a second ‘impossible’ majority government at Holyrood the following year, has never been greater.  Stewart Hosie has that Alliance in his sights.  The Branches will need policy direction.  Candidates need to be selected, very soon.

It’s going to be an interesting conference.  Decisions , decisions.

 

 

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Community Singing

The clip that follows is the final fifteen minutes of a wee gathering of friends recently.  Enjoy.  The young lad singing is Gerry Cinnamon.  He sings himself to tears, then sings it again.  By then you’ll know the words, so join in:

Now you might be forgiven for thinking that could have been a scene from those days leading up to 18 September; it took place last Sunday, 12 October, in Glasgow’s George Square.  It was supposed to finish at 5.00.  After seven hours we had to disperse.  Scotland has not been put back in her box.  And white-washing over the much-vaunted Vow; excluding the Scottish voice from the next round of debates, will serve only to increase the numbers attending these events.

Sunday was a pretty special day.  We were treated to songs from fifteen bands and singers.  Aside from Gerry I’d recommend Dorec-a-Belle – a four girl outfit from Inverness with the unusual combination of acoustic guitar, sax, cello and box; and I’m sure there was a bearded one at the back plucking away on a double bass; that and a drum deep in the back, out of sight.  The Stumblers cranked the pace up towards the end, a couple of acoustic guitars, with a banjo and an acoustic bass, tunes belted out.  You Tube will turn up something.

But the speakers, we need to mention some of them, just a few of the two dozen or so who addressed the masses.  Mhairi Black, just turned twenty.  Here she is here:

We are the Hope, for the future, for the people having to use the foodbanks.  And as with most of these gatherings the foodbanks are important.  Dennis Curran, from Loaves & Fishes, drew the tears from many.  Just a handful of miles from where I sit a wee boy had to explain to his teacher why he wanted a pair of shoes from Santa.  I’m fed up wearing my mother’s shoes and five pairs of socks to school, miss.  Dennis took three vans of groceries back with him.

The gasps of the crowd came when Craig Murray addressed us.  That purring from the monarch was, he reckoned, more the death rattle of the monarchy in Scotland.  Wild stuff, even by Craig’s standards.  The full transcript is up on his own blog.  I’d always viewed the monarchy as another subject for another day, possibly with another monarch.  But Cameron telling the world about that purring.  Well it does make you think.

There were more tears; on stage young Gabrielle Sheridan gave us her thoughts, a nine year old maybe, speaking from the heart, without notes.  Wonder where she got that from?  Tommy and Gail were visibly moved.

There were others too; too many to mention.  Speaking from wheelchairs, or aided with oxygen – remember the Indy Climber, Lindsey Jarrett, who put the Yes sign on the Castle Rock?  She’s still with us, more determined than ever.

So we are still here; watching the progress of those ‘extensive new powers’; waiting on the Smith Commission.  Westminster prepares for an election on 7 May.  No one expects a majority government of any colour.  But Scotland will not be sending 40 Red Tories south, that is for sure.  It is not impossible that a large nationalist group, possibly the majority of the Scottish seats, could hold the balance of power, as Lesley Riddoch posited last night.

But the BBC will focus on UKIP.  One day they might wake up.  Perhaps when there’s another gathering at Pacific Quay, on 26 October.  More community singing perhaps.

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