Scottish Politics and the silly season

Here we are, folks. We’ve entered the twilight zone. We’ve hit the warp drive. We’ve dove head first down the rabbit hole. We’re well and truly unplugged from the Matrix and the world doesn’t seem to be what we thought it was. It’s a little bit grim.

Yes! It can only mean summertime in Scottish politics! The time of year where our media outlets surpass themselves in their ability to cobble together news stories from shoelaces, tin cans, half-a-packet of Wotsits and old bits of plastic that were used to baby-proof the kitchen back in 1997. “The kitchen is baby-proof now? STURGEON MUST RESIGN!”

After the much-hyped storming of Westminster by the 56 newly-elected SNP MPs, seemingly the entirety of the Scottish political social media bubble seems to have had every ounce of humour and fun ripped from its grubby little cybernat hands (claws, probably).

It’s no surprise really. Looking at the forthcoming five years of Tory government would make even the heartiest of the optimistic slink down against the wall and start sobbing uncontrollably. The sheer level of violence this government will inflict on the poorest and most vulnerable in our society via their ideological war on the ‘undeserving poor’ would put the Galactic Empire and Darth Vader to shame. Couple this with the seemingly never-ending screed of hate-filled attacks by the mainstream press against the cybernats/SNP/Scotland/Sturgeon and is it any surprise we’ve all turned a tad bitter?

I imagine Frodo Baggins, nervous but heart filled with hope, embarking on his quest to Mordor to destroy the Dark Lord Sauron. Every day he’s shouted at by a town cryer that follows him everywhere, loudly announcing the headlines from the Daily Mordor Express:

“VILE HOBBITS IN HATE-FILLED QUEST TO DESTROY PROUD AND PATRIOTIC MORDORIANS!”

“IS SAMWISE’S WEIGHT A SIGN THAT THE SHIRE IS SUBSIDISED BY BARAD-DUR?”

“IS THE SHIRE FILLED TO THE BRINK WITH ANTI-MORDOR SENTIMENT? WILL GANDALF CONDEMN?”

Now it’s a long walk to Mordor. Faced with such overwhelming negativity every day for months on end would make even Frodo want to tuck tail and go home – not to mention the increasing weight of the sinister presence of the Daily Mail…sorry…I mean ‘the One Ring’.

“I’m not doing it Sam! I’m not doing it! I’m going home! I’m going home!”

Now as ludicrous as this analogy is, I also think it hits the nail very much on the head. Despite having a Tory majority in the House of Commons (as fragile as it is) that can almost nullify the SNP’s presence at every opportunity, the British establishment is still utterly terrified of the alternative vision the SNP offers to the rUK. They fear that if the SNP is seen as competent and working for the people that elected them (oh, how novel an idea that is!) then the people in England and Wales might start to get some ideas.

Hence the demonisation in the right-(and even left) wing press.

It’s a bitter pill to swallow at times especially when we have Scotland’s very own state broadcaster asking stupid god-damned questions like ‘Was David Starkey right to call the SNP Nazis?’ – as if that’s a perfectly reasonable question and not loaded with inherently unionist bias from the off-set.

(Yes I said the ‘b’ word, sue me. I try not to use it often but it is suitable on appropriate occasions of utter contemptible pish.) So where do we got from here? How do we stop ourselves from descending into the bitter pit of despair and profanity?

It’s tough. There’s legitimate anger and the constant double-standards in reporting ‘online abuse’ – even amongst otherwise sensible journalists -leaves an acid taste on the tongue and a weariness in the heart. When you kick a dog often enough it’ll start to think it’s done something wrong or bite you. When you constantly tarnish one section of the population as nothing more than vile online abusive bastards, then these people will either settle down and do as you want them to (this is political motivated after all) or they’ll bite and tell you, in no uncertain terms, that you’re talking out yer arse.

Don’t like being told you’re talking pish? Then stop typing pish. Dislike you’re very heavily-slanted articles being called out for being very heavily-slanted? Then maybe you should take on some of the criticism – not abuse – that folk are giving you.

I condemn all homophobic, sexist and racist abuse from anyone of any party. I don’t care who you are -nat, unionist, Green, SNP, Labour – don’t do it. I don’t want that crap in my politics. That isn’t the Scotland I want my family, friends and kids (if I ever have them) growing up in.

But when you deliberately misconstrue some innocuous comments online, or blow-up abuse from some numpty on social media as ‘representative of the SNP’, then expect people to call you out on it. You’re not immune from criticism so stop conflating ‘criticism’ and ‘abuse’ as a get-out clause. It does a disservice to the genuine cases of online abuse and the people who have to suffer it. My advice? Keep up the good works folk. Continue to criticise, condemn and call-out shoddy journalism and hodge-podge news, but do it in a civil -if stern – manner.

We shoudn’t be afraid to speak up. We shouldn’t be afraid to criticise and go against the grain. Yet this current media narrative of ‘bad cybernats’ is intended to make us afraid, to silence us.

We’re marching to Mordor, one step at a time. Every day brings us closer to dropping that bloody ring into Mount Doom and freeing ourselves of the Dark Powers of corruption and greed.We may only be small, cybernat-hobbits, and the road may be taking us longer than we first thought, but we’ll get there if we just hold true to the beliefs that’ve stayed with us this far.

“Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.”

Stay the course folks. Sing a song. Have a laugh. Let’s bring back some of damned excitement and joy, eh?

T’is a long road…one hairy footstep at a time.

You can read more of Shaun Milne at light of the North

or on twitter at @shiny02

Featured image created by Brian Falconer

 

 

Scotland’s Yearning for a Fairer Society

Anyone with any understanding of social justice will be aware of the cruel and unjustifiable extent that George Osborne’s cuts have had on our society. The poorest in our society have been losing their income steadily over the past 5 years and with the Conservative’s shocking return to power in last month’s election; this trend looks set to continue and increase in speed. The most vulnerable people in the land are being asked to take a much higher burden of cuts than any other social class, with Osborne’s pals reaping the rewards.

We’ve heard these stories before, this feudalistic type of economics goes against the evidence of WW2 Europe which suggests that investment in the public sector helps to pull the economy kicking and screaming from its slumber. In the 21st century our ‘betters’ (I must stress, I use that word very loosely) are still pulling the strings of their market pals to benefit themselves, with everyone else being told ‘we’re all in this together’. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? How can society move on from this monarchic style of economics? If last year’s referendum on Scottish Independence proved anything it is that the swelling of people power as actually growing; the influence of the everyday people in Scotland has increased. The rest of the UK may have towed the establishment line by voting Tory (as they do out of tradition) but Scotland struck a very different tone, one of hope and optimism.

Saturday’s anti-austerity rally in Glasgow portrayed Scotland’s sense of grievance loud and clear; we’re sick of Tory barons attempting to squeeze the most vulnerable even further, something has got to give! The atmosphere was friendly, passionate and gave the impression of genuine hope for Scotland. Hope? You must be wondering where I am getting this sense of optimism from. Please, do not despair. I realise that it must be difficult to imagine where any hope for Scotland’s poor may come from in these times of needless and cruel austerity, but Glasgow’s display of defiance against poverty last Saturday gives cause for optimism.

The passion of Cat Boyd, the heroine of trade unions, mixed with the intensity of Glasgow’s fire brand punters would be easy to make anyone get carried away. Great speeches and powerful ballads, of course, do not decrease poverty nor create jobs. What they do is display Scotland’s growing and ever more enthusiastic support to end austerity and finally embark on a new course towards a more equal society.

This seemingly unstoppable force of Scottish egalitarianism is in stark contrast to the ever more powerful voice of right-wing British Nationalism down south and parts of Northern Ireland. This, as with many issues of late, calls into question the right for Scotland to determine her own course by way of independence. We’ve heard all the arguments against it and are not convinced; if last month election proved anything, it is that Scotland’s numerical disadvantage cannot be overcome by quasi-democratic elections in the way that the UK government is formed. The Conservative Party will never change the electoral system as long as it suits them, and as a result, Scotland will remain perpetually at the whims of an unelected government that does not have the Scottish people’s interests at heart. Austerity is the perfect example of this undemocratic, backwards and painful confusion in UK politics. Scotland voted against it by an enormous majority (Indeed, the greatest majority of any party Scotland has ever seen) and yet we are lumbered with the Tories.

The hope for Scotland lies in the progress of the cause for independence. Glasgow’s finest blessed George Square (Freedom Square, if you like) this Saturday and I fully expect to see their number’s continue to grow. I will be with them all the way.

The rally was full of  sexy socialism
The rally was full of sexy socialism

Donning my Sexy-Socialism hat with another supporter of the cause against austerity.

You can follow Scott Herd on twitter at @ScotticusE

Pictures provided by Scott Herd

Waste of a Nurse

where do I start, looks like the government has pulled another ace out of the bag. Under new rules it seems that nurses who have been employed from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) must be earning £35,000 a year after being in U.K for six years or face being asked to leave the good old Great Britain. According to Royal College of Nurses (RCN) we could be set to lose over 3,000 nurse and the effects of these rules will start being felt by 2017. Now you might be one of these people who believe our nurses are on good pay but the average nurses pay is between £22,000 and £23,000 a year and to be earning the magic number of £35,000 you have to be at the top of the tree such as a senior nurse /team leader and even that depends where about in the U.K you work.

Royal College of Nurses (RCN) we could be set to lose over 3,000 nurse
Royal College of Nurses (RCN) we could be set to lose over 3,000 nurse

Now if you are one of these people that think we’ll keep the good ones after 6 years send back the minor ones you are very much wrong. These nurses changing bed pans tending to patients dressing, running around the wards attending to our ever need are the foundations that our NHS is built upon and they are under paid over worked visit any hospital open your eyes and you will see this to be true.

This change in law brought in by the old coalition of the Conservatives and LibDems will have seen the NHS waste 20million recruiting and training these same nurses we are about to tell thanks for the help but bye bye. 20 million wasted but do we have the nurses to replace them well the media is constant telling us waiting times rising , lack of hospital beds and nurses having to work every hour under the sun so I guess no.

David Cameron defended the government’s position on Sky news by saying the Migration Advisory Committee (which advises the government on which occupations are on the shortage occupations list) had advised them, meaning they tell the Government which skill shortage could occur with the changes to the law. They believe nurses shouldn’t be on the list and to quote Cameron on Sky news “I think we should listen to their advice above all”. Well no actually I believe we should listen to the doctors and nurses who are on the front line or at least the RCN who oppose this law, I know who’s advice I would be listening too.

It just doesn’t make any sense that a nurse say from Thailand could move her family to Britain, tend to our sick, save lives , contribute to our tax system then after six years if they didn’t have a British passport get told see you later its madness . We are told immigrants are filling our hospitals for free care well that’s partly true it’s just they are filling the gaps in our staffing of the NHS not sponging our care and how do we treat them by saying we don’t care.

Dr Peter Carter, chief Executive & General Secretary of the RCN said ” Due to cuts to nurse training places, trusts are being forced into relying on overseas recruitment, as well as temporary staff, just to provide safe staffing. A cap on agency spending will make one of these options more difficult, and these immigration rules will limit the other” he went on to add The only way for the UK to regain control over its own health service workforce is by training more nurses. 37,000 potential nursing students were turned away last year so there are people out there who want to embark on a nursing career. There are clear signs of a global nursing shortage, meaning an ongoing reliance on overseas recruitment is not just unreliable but unsustainable. Unless we expand training and have enough nurses in this country, we will also be at the mercy of global trends which we can’t control”.

So what next well the RCN believe Spending vast amounts of money on recruiting overseas nurses who will only be in the health system for a short period of time is a waste of valuable NHS time and resources. While Trusts are forced into relying on international recruitment to make up staffing numbers, the RCN calls on the Government to add nursing to the list of shortage occupations and to reconsider the £35k salary threshold”.

The Government must take urgent steps to increase the number of UK nurse training places. This will reduce the over reliance on overseas recruitment in the longer term. So will this happen will the Migration Advisory Committee take heed well not according to Dr.Carter “The RCN submitted detailed, extensive and unambiguous evidence to the Migration Advisory Committee. Unfortunately, this advice was not heeded, despite the clear evidence of a serious shortage of staff in the nursing profession, and the impact this is having on patients. The RCN is now repeating its call to add nursing to the shortage occupation list.” So it seems as usual the Government will do what it wants against all good advice and put a further squeeze on our NHS don’t it just make you proud.

Special thanks to the RCN for there support in this article

nurse picture link

featured image created by Brian Falconer

A New Low For Wales

This week, Carwyn Jones was, yet again, in the Siambr of the Senedd at First Minister’s Questions. Week after week we see him give poor answers, avoiding the questions and as ever, comparing his little Wales to mighty England (tiresome as it has now become).

But this week, he has descended to an all new low.

After the opening questions, the highlight of First Minister’s Questions arose where the Party leaders have a chance to question Carwyn and his tired Labour Government poor performance as, what seems to me, a party desperately fighting quietly to keep control for 5 more years.

After the comical turn of the Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies had passed, where the two took it in turn to play the blame game, like children in a playground, attention then turned to Leanne Wood, the formidable leader of Plaid Cymru (the sister Party of the SNP).

Her question was of a much more serious matter. Poverty in Wales. Without any winding up to the question, she went straight for the kill with her first question:

“First Minister, how many children in Wales live in poverty?”

The First Minister looked back at her with some glee and twinkle in his eye and said the most pathetic response imaginable.

“Too many.”

No figure, no explanation, just “too many” was his response. This is unacceptable for a response as a First Minister to such a serious question which is plaguing so many in our Nation.

To have the gall to come out with such a phrase is simply astonishing! If that has been David Cameron in the House of Commons or Nicola Sturgeon in Holyrood, there would have been absolute uproar from the opposition benches and not least, from the public.

After a look of bewilderment to the question, Leanne Wood gathered her composure and spat the answer out, clear for all the chamber to hear. One third.

I agree with Carwyn in the fact that this level of poverty is “too much”. Not one percent of children should be in poverty in Wales. But his simple failure to respond correctly to the question given just shows he simply doesn’t care anymore.

It is under his Party’s government since the creation of devolution that Wales is now the poorest nation in the UK and one of the poorest in Europe! So much for a legacy…

We can’t have this in Wales. The First Minister of Wales must be always on the move with the people of Wales at the forefront of their mind. And that is exactly what Leanne Wood and Plaid Cymru have. Us, the people of Wales in her mind.

We can clearly see this in Nicola Sturgeon, whose recent visit to the United States of America was regarded as a triumph for the people of Scotland and was documentary greatly in the media.

Now don’t get me wrong. Carwyn Jones has also been to the USA but instead of going there to meet officials at the White House and appear on the Jon Stewart Show, which was televised right across the United States and the UK, Carwyn went there to ring a bell on Wall Street. Not quite the same, is it?

But there are also events closer to home where Carwyn simply doesn’t represent the people of Wales well anymore.

At the 24th British-Irish Council Summit, held at Dublin Castle, the summit was reported widely in Scotland and Ireland, but what about in Wales?

Nothing.

a third of people are believed to be living in poverty
a third of people are believed to be living in poverty

Even the Welsh Government neglected to issue a press release about the summit – unlike the Scottish Government.

The only hint that he was there, were 8 tweets on his account. Four in English. Four in Welsh. That is how far Carwyn Jones, and to a further extent, the Welsh Labour Party are prepared to go to promote Wales’ interests.

And this coming from a Party which claims to be “Standing up for Wales” as well as the “True Party of Wales”.

It’s time we in Wales got rid of this tired Party with painful excuses as to the failure of their government. If we want to be recognised on the world stage, we should take a leaf out of Scotland’s book and put us, the people of Wales, at the forefront of our political life.

And the only party who will put us first, is a party that isn’t a branch office of Westminster. Plaid Cymru. The Party of Wales for the people of Wales.

Now is our chance to let the Labour Party rest, and let the real Party of Wales get on with the job of cleaning up after this exhausted Party and getting Wales back on track.

picture of cardiff city centre link

featured picture from Geograph

Death and Debt

Not far from where I live, in a small corner of Liverpool, there is a “paupers grave” that has been there for over 104 years Not very unusual in those days , you may think to yourself and you would be right.

Unfortunately ,the rise of “paupers burials ” or “welfare burials” are becoming increasingly widespread. Recession, austerity, low wages , all playing their part in contributing to funeral poverty.
The cost of dying is now a real concern for many and is causing immense problems at a  time that is a stressful enough
already.This was brought home to me quite recently when I saw first hand how close those on low wages ,benefits etc
are increasingly more likely to have to rely on the council to bury their loved ones.
A relative of mine was recently diagnosed with cancer and passed away within 3 weeks . His family were devastated and left in total shock. But their problems were about to get worse. Because his partner has a job (albeit a low paid one ) she and her 2 children were not entitled to any help with the cost of his funeral.
a death in the family can now potentialy bankrupt the remaining members
a death in the family can now potentialy bankrupt the remaining members

She had no savings and and the High Street funeral directors ( many hiding behind “caring family named firms ” ) wanted at least £2.500 to £3,000 for a simple funeral ,with a large deposit paid up front (not unlike buying a holiday ). So at her wits end with , with her partner lying in a hospital mortuary. she had to turn to her bank for an emergency loan. Although the bank was very helpful and agreed the loan ,she now has to repay it over 5 years with the ‘sword of damocles’ unemployment, dangling above her head. Not to mention the struggle she faces every month to make the payments.”

But she was so relieved that she could pay for it herself because she was terrified for her children that their dad would have  to have a “paupers funeral “.
I myself have no such qualms. In this day and age where everybody is out to make a ‘killing’ even the funeral business
I don’t intend to add to their wealth by putting my family in debt. As for preparing for that day and paying for it myself by buying one of those insurance policies just like those other silverhaired responsible oldies in the many tv adverts ,I
would I would if I could. Unfortunately I can’t afford to live properly now never mind die in luxury later .
By the way. That paupers grave  in Liverpool I mentioned earlier ? That is Robert Tressells final resting place along with 10 others.
you can follow Angie Ewart on twitter @AngieEwart

funeral picture link    featured image picture paupers graves  link

Trident No More

A couple of years ago, on a very wet afternoon, I attended an anti-Trident demo. Many people marching, including as part of the SNP contingent, had been active in the anti-Trident movement for decades, and I’ve been on many similar marches since joining the SNP 14 years ago.

I’d taken my own wee boy along – CND demos normally have a great family atmosphere and he and a couple of the other kids were busy stamping in puddles in George Square. But it did make me reflect on what the point of marching is, if so many people had done it for such a long time, and wonder if my son would be attending rallies as a student.

Marches tend to be quite an “outsider” action. While insider groups get to access to decision makers, their concerns at least partially addressed, rallies can be a last resort when those holding power have refused to listen.

One of the reasons I was particularly gutted by the “no” vote was the fact that it closed the fast track to Scotland removing nuclear weapons from our soil. However, the election of 56 anti-Trident SNP MPs shows us that opposition to Trident remains strong, even if we might have to keep working for independence.

people have protesting against wmd for decades
people have protesting against wmd for decades

With the issue of nuclear weapons, we can’t accept Westminster’s insistence on renewing Trident, and until Scotland is a nuke free zone, we need to keep doing everything we can to highlight why Trident is unjustifiable.

Trident renewal will cost £100bn, a massive sum when people struggle to get by, and when local authorities are considering swingeing cuts on schools and libraries.

The moral case for ridding ourselves of Trident has been much discussed, but the grim presence of weapons of mass destruction a few miles away from Glasgow is completely at odds with the sort of society many people living in the West of Scotland want to be part of.

It’s also worth reminding ourselves that there’s nothing inevitable about hosting nuclear weapons. The vast majority of countries around the world do not have nuclear weapons.

Small countries can also make a big difference – since the 1980s, nuclear weapons have been illegal in New Zealand, and the country has resisted pressure from the US to repeal the legislation.

Although rallies can’t force themselves to change the UK Government’s mind on Trident, I am proud to live in a country where the First Minister often speaks up against nuclear weapons and also addresses anti-nuclear rallies.

So, although we might be marching for longer than we hoped for, it is vital to keep the pressure up, both on the streets and in the House of Commons, on this important issue. I firmly believe our children will, one day, thank us for it.

You can follow Jen Dunn on twitter @Jen4Indy

1960s cnd march picture and featured image  link

you can check out more at the Scotland CND website

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The War Against Us All

This Tory war on Scotland is not the end; it is the beginning of wars to come, all around the country, at the whim of the neo-cons in the Westminster. This is the Blair Doctrine come to life: war, war, and more war. War brought to you by the big corporate masters who run the show.

The Tory plan for Scotland is, in reality, a war against the nation’s workers and the poor who are getting less and less while the big banks and corporations are making a killing — literally.

What is next?

During the Scottish referendum campaign, we have already seen the corporate media playing along to the Westminster parties, to build and promote a fear among the Scottish population based on lies. War is utilized by the imperialists, first and foremost, to crush internal enemies.

We are seeing the truth of its insight when we see the sad state of British immigration system. The people behind Dungavel’s walls, who have escaped persecution by their own governments in their home countries are then treated like prisoners in here by the UK government. This isn’t just a war on Syrians or Afghanis or Nigerians, or even migrants. It is ultimately a war on us all.

The threat of privatisation of National Health Service and the wave of repression that comes with an increasing militarisation of our police. That’s because the billions and billions of pounds that are being spent on this war — the cost of Trident, tanks, rockets, bullets, and even salaries for the troops — is money that will never be spent on education, on health care, on the reconstruction of crumbling public housing, or to train and place the millions of workers who have lost manufacturing jobs in the past five years alone.

The oppressed status of homeless people in this country is undeniable
The oppressed status of homeless people in this country is undeniable

The oppressed status of homeless people in this country is undeniable, starting with the rate of incarceration and running through layoffs and unemployment, income, personal debt, housing foreclosures and evictions, life expectancy, maternal and infant mortality, and illness and early death. Now Osbourne’s austerity, which has dashed the dreams of so many millions, is hitting people on the streets the hardest, widening the social gap again.

This is a war on all of us, and the struggle against austerity and war is really a struggle for a better life for the millions of folks who are in need here in this country. The fight against the war is really to fight for your own interests, not the false interests of the defence of corporate industries, corporate media or the Westminster.

As Mahatma Gandhi, said, “The future depends on what you do today.”

picture of homeless man link

featured image link

Follow Fuad Alakbarov on twitter @Alakbarov_

Turning Oppression into Opportunity

Last Thursday night was not your typical Thursday night for me as I was attending the second of two discussion events titled “This is Glasgow: Turning oppression into opportunity for refugees.” The first of these events took place on Monday 15th June at Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art. Thursday’s talk not only allowed me to take part in such an interesting and important talk, but also gave me the opportunity to make my first visit to Woodside Library, the largest Carnegie library in the city.

The talk takes place during the Refugee Festival Scotland and was set up by Fuad Alakbarov and Davy Irvin. If you’re thinking “shouldn’t that be Refugee Week?” you’d almost be right as there are now so many events, that they couldn’t all be squeezed into a single week. The Festival now runs between 3rd – 21st June, and this year includes the Scottish Refugee Council’s 30th anniversary.

The theme for this year’s Festival was ‘celebrate’; not only intended as a celebration of the contribution that refugees make to our cultural life and local communities, but also that Scotland is a place that offers protection to those people who come here to rebuild their lives away from persecution and conflict.

The celebration is more poignant this year as the Scottish Refugee Council continues to call on the UK government to do more to help save the lives of migrants trying to enter Europe via the Mediterranean. As it was recently reported, Germany is resettling 30,000 Syrian refugees, Norway 8,000 and Canada 10,000. The UK scheme will not exceed 1,000.

In addition, the recent deportation and subsequent disappearance – presumed death – of Majid Ali, a student at City of Glasgow College, has highlighted the change in Home Office policies. Mr Ali had applied for asylum in the UK in 2011 after accusing the Pakistani authorities of raiding his family home in Balochistan, and killing his uncle and cousin because of their political beliefs. His case was turned down, after which he was moved to Dungavel. After his appeals had failed, Majid was transported back to Pakistan on a non-commercial flight. As yet, his friends and lecturers have been unable to contact him.

This meeting’s attendance was smaller than the previous one, but had the advantage of being live streamed, by the now ubiquitous Independence Live. A link to the discussion can be found at the end of this article. I have to say, it was lovely to finally meet Ali Hendrick and her very able stand-in camerawoman Linda Anderson.

The talk itself started with Amal Azzudin, the human rights activist, who came to prominence as a part of the “Glasgow Girls”. She outlined her own story and that of the Glasgow Girls and how they and their local community worked together to support asylum seekers and refugees. Personally, I was shocked to find that since Nick Clegg’s announcement in 2010 that children would no longer be held in detention centres, such as Dungavel, that 664 children still have been. However, the reintroduction of Home Office dawn raids was not a surprise, as both David Cameron & Teresa May have both seem to take pleasure in taking part in a photo ops that took place after one such raid.

Faud Alakbarov , Liam O'Hare, Ali Hendrick and Amal Azzudin
Faud Alakbarov , Liam O’Hare, Ali Hendrick and Amal Azzudin

The positive side of Amal’s talk was how she said that many people, especially young people, have been engaged by the Glasgow Girls musical and documentary. She believes that by stepping up campaigning strategies and increasing awareness with the public, pressure groups can help devise more humane policies.

The second speaker was Ali Hendrick, artist and human rights activist, on “Art and migration”. She aims to create spaces through which refugees and asylum seekers can tell their stories, and also become aware of their human rights. She is another who became politically active during the referendum last year, and was even in George Square on 19th September with Hope over Fear posters.

Linda Anderson and Ali Hendrick from Independance Live
Linda Anderson and Ali Hendrick from Independance Live

As “The 45 Storm” Ali has set up a “tweetstorm” every week for different campaigns. She said “When one person speaks out, it encourages others to do so”. (I have real life friends on Twitter, who do not tweet much but are quite happy to join in the tweetstorm each week.)

She has a great deal of enthusiasm for the new media and its ability for individuals and groups to forge links and support one another, in addition to its ability to educate and activate engagement.

The CommonSpace journalist, Liam O’Hare, spoke on “Refugees from perspective of the media”. He was the only journalist to cover the hunger strikes taking place in Dungavel, and regularly reports on the conditions there. He said his drive comes from anger at the lack of coverage from the mainstream media, who accept Home Office statements rather than investigating the situation themselves. He added that, as the Home Office has a policy of not commenting on individual cases – and that every case is individual – they have a get out for never commenting.

He had praise for the SNP’s rhetoric on asylum and hoped that the increased number of MPs would be able to apply pressure on the UK government. Fuad Alakbarov, human rights activist and talk organiser, raised the “Impact of refugees in Scotland”. I found his very first comment was striking “migration is not a crime”, in that it is something that humanity has been undertaking throughout its history. He then explained his own story of how he came to Scotland, and the changes that have happened within Azerbaijan since 1993, resulting in 1 million refugees.

Despite all the negativity and the growth of anti-semitism, islamophobia and sectarianism, Fuad still voices a positive message of unity, and that we should “be more tolerant, that all lives matter”.

Scotland, as a nation, needs more immigration, going against the general UK media narrative. Many of the post-industrial countries, with their ageing demographics, require more young people and families to rebalance their populations. Asylum seekers face a varied number of psychological pressures; from the fear of being deported, racism in their day-to-day lives, to frustration with the system, sometimes to such a degree that they end up requesting to go home despite the risks there.

Scotland may not be the perfect welcoming place that we would like it to be, but the vast majority of refugees have integrated into Scottish society and have added a rich diversity to our communities, culture and food.

I for one hopes it continues.

 

 

Link to Independence Live video of discussion http://livestream.com/IndependenceLive/events/4133031

Amal Azzudin: @AmalAzzudin

Ali Hendrick: @The45Storm

Liam O’Hare: @Liam_O_Hare

Fuad Alakbarov: @Alakbarov_

you can also follow Simone Charlesworth on twitter at @cee4cat

Simone Charlesworth
Simone Charlesworth

Talking to the Enemy

Who’d have imagined such a day would come? Stomach-churning angst amongst Yes supporters and celebratory congas throughout Bastardville. Nicola Sturgeon’s fallen from grace with an almighty splat, and nothing will ever be the same again. Why, oh why, couldn’t she have given her firm support to the macaroni pie, instead of signing up to the campaign only because it’s what her Dad wanted?

No, wait a minute, that’s not it. It’s unspeakably, horrifically worse than that, worse even than ripping the head off the new Partick Thistle mascot and finding Kaye Adams underneath. She’s… she’s… (adjusts straitjacket)… written a piece for the Daily Mail!

Gee, thanks, Nicola! Here I am trying to write a knockabout comedy blog that secretly depends on me never saying anything too controversial, and suddenly I’ve got a hugely divisive issue bang in front of me, as unavoidable as a skateboarding hippopotamus singing Moon River. I don’t know if there’s a section of the humour spectrum between “hardline Cybernat” and “apologist sell-out”, but, with a pile of Setlers on the desk and an unimpeded route to the bathroom, it’s time to find out…

Let’s begin with the known facts, at least in this universe, rather than the parallel one where Katie Hopkins runs a humanitarian NGO. The Daily Mail is a poisonous, bile-ridden, hate-mongering, rancid, mendacious piece of gut-rot that Satan wouldn’t use as bog-roll for fear of getting a nasty rash. If I were down to my last tin of Heinz Ravioli, with my wife threatening to change the locks if I didn’t earn some dosh, I still wouldn’t accept money to write for it. Even if its editor promised to print my piece verbatim, without comment, and let me call it Famous Unionist Wankers.

But what if one of the Mail’s minions doorstepped me before my first coffee of the day, to ask searching questions about my disreputable blog, that time I swore on Twitter and whether I’d ever uttered the merest squeak of pleasure at England losing on penalties, then stuck a camera in my face as I forcefully encouraged them to leave? And if the paper then printed an exposé entitled Unshaven Racist Potty-Mouth Can Dish It Out But Not Take It, featuring a photo of me as a wild-eyed, aggressive loon with disastrous bridgework? Wouldn’t I be looking for, and very much entitled to, a Right of Reply?

That’s not quite Nicola’s position, of course, since she’s much too savvy to open the door to anyone before she’s fully explored the coffee-making possibilities of That Awfy Expensive Machine She’s Got. But I’d say she was certainly entitled to a right of reply, having been monstered the previous day for following people on Twitter and graciously acknowledging their personal Tweets without setting up a full-time monitoring unit to analyse everything else they’d spouted on the Internet before or since. The smug claptrap merchants at the Mail leapt on it as an “exclusive”, which in one sense it was: by stating her case plainly in her own words, with a backup copy on the SNP web site, Nicola neatly excluded the possibility of some treacherous hack indulging in a bit of textual jiggery-pokery.

Does exercising a right of reply constitute endorsement of the Mail and all its evil machinations? Well, some say it does, and I’m happy to respect the bojangles out of that viewpoint, but I beg to differ. I suppose it does recognise it as an organ of influence, rather than something that should be cordoned off until the emergency services destroy it in a controlled explosion, but sadly that’s exactly what it is. Mail readers may not be inclined to put Nicola on a pedestal, unless they’re allowed to stand menacingly around it with firebrands, but that doesn’t mean she shouldn’t at least try to insert whatever sense she can into their craniums.

But is she simply dancing to the Mail’s militaristic tune?  That’s a harder question, but it exists independently of her foray into print. Realpolitik dictates that if a complaint is publicly put to her, and it has any sort of truth in it, she has to be seen to take action.

Some miscreants – and, so you can start setting up the gunk tank above my head, I’d include in this anyone bad-mouthing Charles Kennedy for his drink problem – deserve all they get, plus the additional sanction of being attached to an arse-kicking machine for a week. Others – and please excuse the stench of moral relativism, purists, but I’d place Neil Hay of “Paco McSheepie” infamy in this category – have been chucked under the bus on charges that, upon examination, look shakier than a unicyclist juggling a drinks tray.

I’m not comfortable with that broad-brush splurge, and having to watch, of all scandal-sheets, the DAILY F…F…FESTERING MAIL strut around as the arbiter of what is and isn’t acceptable is like being force-fed a powdered glass smoothie, but I can understand why it happens.

Incidentally, in case any hypocrisy-sniffers at the Mail feel the urge to trawl through my own Twitter history, I don’t regard following someone as approval of everything they Tweet, I don’t do guilt by association and I’ll make my own grown-up decisions about whom I follow, thanks awfully. Nicola, alas, doesn’t have that luxury.

In that context, writing the piece she did could be defended as a decent attempt to set out some principles rather than simply getting railroaded every time some numpty from the Mail lobs a “dossier” at her. Even with my curmudgeonly dungarees and bunnet on, I couldn’t find fault with anything she wrote.

She wholeheartedly condemned Twitter abuse, as we should all do loudly and consistently. She welcomed properly-conducted debate. She distinguished threats, misogyny, homophobia, racism and other types of vileness from impassioned industrial language. She made it clear she can’t police Twitter single-handedly, but took responsibility for dealing with line-crossers within the SNP and laid down a challenge to other parties to follow suit.

That’s the grindingly obvious point, which it’s tedious watching agenda-driven puffballs constantly body-swerve: Internet abuse is a matter for all of us, not simply a partisan plaything. It ain’t restricted to the SNP, to Scotland or even to politics. Start a blog about the joys of flower arranging, and before you can hum a chorus of In the Hall of the Mountain King you’ll have a bunch of trolls jostling you, telling you into which graphically-described part of your anatomy to stick your delphiniums. As a species we haven’t yet worked out how to use pen and ink without spewing venom, so now that we’ve stumbled on a technology that can instantly transmit eye-popping filth anywhere on the planet, what hope have we got?

So we’ve established that Nicola’s statement wasn’t a forelock-tug to the forces of darkness, that it was a reasonable response to “damned-either-way” circumstances, and that its content was just about spot on. Was it nevertheless a mistake, opening the floodgates for all sorts of trumped-up Sturgeon-must-condemn tomfoolery? The immediate aftermath may not look terribly encouraging, but remember: the Mail’s dung-beetles have been piling up their evidence for years, so an avalanche of poop was always in the offing.
And here’s another possibility. Could this, in the longer term, be a masterstroke, in that it motivates us Yes folk not only to tidy up our own behaviour, where that’s needed, but to redouble our efforts to call out the disgraceful slurs incessantly promulgated elsewhere? And that, self-proclaimed moral guardians of the press, includes not only the Bizarro-world of Twitter, but your own comments sections, and in many cases your very articles.

In the end (the “end” in question being my bahookey, which has several skelfs in it) it’s far too soon to make a judgement on whether Nicola’s intervention was wise or woeful. I genuinely don’t have a scooby how things will pan out, especially since the Scottish public are no longer passive observers and will have a big say in what happens next. But, even if it does ultimately prove to be a mistake, come on, guys! If anyone deserves to be cut some slack, surely Nicola does.

I don’t possess an SNP membership card, but, if I did, the last thing I’d be considering right now is feeding it into the nearest shredder. I know that some are mulling over that very course of action, but, without wishing to trample over their inalienable right to feel gutted, may I respectfully suggest to them: gonny no’ dae that?

Political engagement surely means hanging tough in the difficult times as well as cheering ecstatically at 12,000-seater jamborees. Doesn’t it?

read more from William Duguid at his blog To September and Beyond

or follow him on twitter @WilliamDuguid1

Featured image created by Brian Falconer

Tales from the South Side part 4

 

 

 

Just a short piece today as it’s Father’s Day; so, unsurprisingly, a children’s craft session was not on the cards for our regular customers. Which, after the glorious chaos of our first ever birthday party held in the Creation Space, was actually a slight relief. We seem to have had a lot on recently, and I am looking forward to the next couple of days off.

 

The Creation Space is intended not only to be the exhibition space & workshop
The Creation Space is intended not only to be the exhibition space & workshop

So after a spot of work, there was myself, Juliane, our three university students and our student trainee. We started with a discussion on international and home politics. How politicians can say young people aren’t interested amazes me, as these young women had an amazing grasp of a variety of issues. And what a talented bunch they are. It turns out that there is a huge number of languages spoken in the group, some excellent artists and talented musicians. It resulted in a very relaxing but instructive and productive few hours that I believe we all enjoyed.

 

The Creation Space is intended not only to be the exhibition space & workshop, but also a meeting room, and this afternoon showed to me just how effective and inspiring it has the potential to be. We’ve been open to artists and have had a number come in to work here, but it can also be a place for people to do work, study or just hang out.

 

I am hoping to get something set up soon, so if you’re interested just get in touch.

Pictures from the Art Village

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You can contact Simone Charlesworth on twitter at @cee4cat

Simone Charlesworth
Simone Charlesworth