Karen Martin – Nurse – A Response To The Nurse Who Cried Foodbank



Right well the Leaders Debate same old same old SNP bad, no getting a referendum, SNP bad but as hard as Ruth Davidson, Kezia and co tired they couldn’t land a blow on Nicola Sturgeon then it changed. You see in the audience waiting like a tiger prowling it’s pray was Claire Austin a nurse with a question, it was her second appearance on BBC in weeks after being on Question Time but at the time didn’t get to ask her question so she had been invited back to ask it this time fair enough no problem.

This was a passionate question one which she delivered with great vigour and one that she would demanded a answer, deserved an answer More Pay For Nurses. Fair point I thought our NHS staff deserve all the money we can give them then the she delivered the Kicker she has to get her food from a foodbank.

What wow no way foodbanks wow I never realised our NHS was that seriously in trouble , I knew about the cuts , I knew about the threat of privatisation but our nurses starving now I might be an Indy supporter and have a soft spot for the SNP ( ok a huge soft spot) but nurses starving that’s not on, these are the people who save our lives it’s just not on. I spent the rest of the show wondering how could we live in a society where our nurses are having to visit foodbanks wow.

Now as anyone reading this must know by now the following morning social media was awash with stories Claire Austin was a councillors wife then daughter visits to New York and the list went on BBC plant, Tory Plant, egg plant the list went on. To be honest it made me turn off my phone and social media to let it sink in when a sudden thought crossed my mind its doesn’t matter who that woman is related too or what she eats for dinner do our Nurses really need to use foodbanks because of what we pay them. I had heard we pay them more than England but there Jnr Doctors have been striking could this woman be telling the truth. This is when I came across Nurse Karen Martin.

Now who is Karen Martin to talk about this subject well Karen has worked as a Nurse for 38 years and is a Band 7 nursing sister in a kids hospital and is in charge of a huge theatre/ recovery department with staff of all grades and remember a band 5 nurse in Dundee will get paid the same as a Band 5 in Paisley, as will a Band 7 in Glasgow  will get paid the same as a Band 7 in Edinburgh ok. So at this point I will pass you over to the words of Karen Martin who with the breaking of this story feels and wants to put the public straight on this subject.

This is what Karen had to say
“Just to dispel the rapidly growing myths around this nurse and her salary I’d like to spell out exactly what she lied about in terms of that salary and why so many nurses are up in arms about it!
She works for the NHS as a staff nurse, (although she herself claims to be a charge nurse in a busy A&E), however for the sake of this exercise I’ll place her on the lowest band for staff nurses in Scotland. That’s the whole of Scotland because no matter where you work in the NHS the salary structure is identical. The least a newly qualified staff nurse would earn on a Band 5 is just shy of £22, 000. This rises year on year incrimentally for 6yrs to the Band maximum of £28,180.

She herself states that she has been working for many years so she cannot be stuck on the starting scale, it doesn’t work that way. Anyone working for 6yrs will have reached their Band max. If indeed she is a charge nurse as she claims on her LinkedIn then that would be Band 6 which starts at £26,041 and again incrimentally rises to £34,876. So you see there’s no way for a qualified registered nurse to be stuck at £22,000 as she claims. Furthermore she also works with RMR an agency I myself have done shifts for in the past and the pay is very lucrative compared to NHS payscales, so much so that most hospitals are now forbidden to use this agency.

So no matter how you look at this then that woman is not as skint as she claims to be! She blatantly lied about her pay and anything else that followed also has to be suspect. She lied knowing full well that nurses salaries are published and in the public domain, and also knowing there were bound to be nurses watching who would know instantly she was lying, clearly she didn’t care about that either. That I find both particularly perplexing and shameful.

The fact this attack on the Scottish government was allowed to take place during a debate for the GE is beyond the pale and highly questionable especially given the Scottish government have honoured the Pay Review Body recommendations, whilst Westminster has not is even more disgusting. It means that we in Scotland are paid more than our colleagues in England and Wales, albeit only by 1% per annum, but over the past few years that has mounted to a fairly sizeable gap.

Can I also say I agree with those who have said that the SNP government need to stop being so mealy mouthed and polite, and start being more aggressively assertive. They need to start attacking more, as this should be about highlighting their successes but more importantly Westminsters failings. This is not about the Scottish government and should never have been allowed to happen during a debate about a Westminster election, but then again it is the BBC so they will take any opportunity to divert attention away from where it’s supposed to be…..on the failings of Westminster!”

So there you go the nice lady on the leaders debate might not be related to a councillor and all her trips might have been paid by her friends and family but her statement about Nurses having to feed themselves at foodbanks is a blatant lie unless they are terrible with her money.

I would like to thank Karen Martin for coming forward and telling us like it is and giving us the truth on the subject, why Claire Austin spun it the way she did you would have to ask her and chances are we will never know so thanks again to Karen for letting me print this, I tip my hat to you and all who work in our NHS.

image NHS Scotland  foodbank donations  Nurses  featured image  food cans


Don’t let the Tories steal your underpants, Wales.

It’s time to decide, Wales. It’s time to decide if we still have a detectable pulse, or if the beating heart of what was once a distinct Welsh political spirit within the sorry mess we still refer to as the ‘United’ Kingdom, has finally flat-lined.

Are you going to vote on June the 8th? And are you going to make your decision based on the best interests of Wales, or are you going to let yourself believe that your vote will have any bearing at all on the overall outcome?

What’s it going to be?

We can either decide to sit up and demand to speak to the anaesthetist (we were awake all along and we have felt every single damn thing you were doing to us) or we can just quietly slip away, and let them wheel us to the morgue.

Because we have a few ways we can play this. One way I would summarise as ‘everyone for themselves’, and the other, more interesting way, I would suggest, is more along the lines of ‘let’s play this as a team, Wales’.

Because there’s a way we can play this election that will be better for Wales, no matter what the outcome overall. We need to vote tactically, but not the way you think.

Because is it just me, or does nothing about politics in the UK make sense anymore? Apart from the obvious stuff, like a prime minister who is terrified to meet with her electorate, and has no policies just soundbites (I’ve started following the Conservatives on twitter, but it took me a while to work out whether I was following a spoof account… check it out, it’s beyond parody). They are (sorry, she is) Strong. And Stable. Genuinely.

And not just because we are living in a topsy-turvy world where the villains have inherited the adulation of the masses, and the would-be heroes of the show are so busy getting tomatoes pelted at them, we can no longer even hear their lines.

Jeremy Corbyn was interviewed on Radio 4 earlier – he talked sense, of course, but unfortunately it’s too late for that. Old fashioned stuff like common sense, fairness, social justice etc just don’t sell anymore. And in UK Politics PLC, where everything is up for sale, you can have sound, fair, re-distributive policies until they are coming out of your proverbial, but they won’t get you very far (even if you attach them to a Brexit flag in an attempt to make them more visible).

So what are we going to do in Wales? Its a pretty dire position in which to find ourselves. The prospects are bleak for the UK project, which is clearly sliding faster and faster down into a slippery, right-wing abyss. In Wales we appear to be greasing ourselves up to slide on down with the giddy, gleeful Ukippers, dressed more respectfully as they now are of course, in their Tory pearls.

But is it too late, or is there still time to re-assess whether we make the jump?

Ambling around aimlessly as so many people in Wales have been for so long, in the land known as ‘complacent, lifelong labour supporter’, has left us as a country it seems, prone to being easily hoodwinked by anything resembling an idea.

Suddenly, last year, the aimless amongst us stumbled over a dressing up box. It would have gone unnoticed probably, except that it was sitting under a big neon sign saying ‘kick the establishment here’ (the other side  of course, said ‘Brexit – screw yourselves over good and proper’).

Inside the dressing-up box were some unseemly costumes, not at all flattering compared to our usual attire, but we have been getting them out and trying them on none-the-less. We have discovered, in some cases, that we had something similar at home, but we’d just never thought it was suitable to wear in public.

And with this new look, comes a new attitude. A change of heart, with a change of clothes. We have tried on the Ukippers’ jaunty flat cap, the cheeky ‘salt of the Earth millionaire’ look, and the kitten-heel with leather trouser look of the Tory fetishist.

Some people, it seems, have looked in the mirror and thought, hm, this is a good look for us.

Really, Wales?

There are a range of accessories in the box too, which we are busily playing dress-up with. Many of them sparkle but they are all fake. We might think we look all that, but if only we had a mirror, we would see what a dog’s dinner we are really making of this.

Because none of this suits us, and actually, a lot of what’s in this box is bad for us. We’re not behaving very well now that we’ve tarted ourselves up either, we’re being a bit racist and fighting amongst ourselves, if we are honest about it.

And where do we think we are going, with all this fake jewellery on? Who do we think we are kidding with all this bling? At the end of the day, none of what’s in this box is real. We can keep sharing out the cheap feather boas, and laughing because it tickles, but at the end of the day, those feathers are all dropping out.

And, shit. While we were trying this stuff on, someone has run off with all our clothes.

All of our clothes.

Like, everything, even your pants. Because you may have thought they were your pants, like, your underwear, and even though you just wore them everyday, and you didn’t appreciate them because they were just there (they were quite new as well, you had only had them since, you know like 1999) now that they are gone, you kind of miss them.

Maybe you should have changed them once in a while, looking back.

So, shit. What are we going to do?

Don’t worry. I have a proposal.

It’s very simple. It requires us collectively, to just get a grip of ourselves, and vote as a team. Team Wales. Because there are several things we just need to accept.

1.The Tories are going to win the election.

2. They are going to do so with a landslide.

3. This is going to be very, very bad for people in general. How bad will be on a sliding scale, but unless you are a millionaire (quick where’s that jaunty flat cap?) basically a Tory Government for the next 5 years on a massive majority is horrifically bad for anyone who relies on things like wages and public services to get by, rather than say, offshore bonds and the interest on their inheritance.

4. A Tory Government is going to be very, very bad for keeping the powers that Wales has, in Wales.

5. The way we vote in Wales will not influence the overall outcome (it never does).

I really, really wish that none of the above were true. But given that we all know that the above is the case (if you aren’t sure about number 3, then you need to put that feather boa back in the box, and accept that kitten heels don’t suit you, then go and google ‘wage stagnation’, ‘in-work poverty’, ‘the rape clause’, ‘mental health care’ and the ‘Great Repeal Bill’ to name but a few things).

If you are in ill-health, or disabled, or on a low income, or studying, or if you have elderly parents, or children or grandchildren who are in school, and you still want to put that feather boa on, then you need to look in the mirror when you do it.

Look yourself in the eye.

Can you do it? Or do you blink?

Because I think you know, deep down…

So. Given all of these things, we need a plan.

The most plausible approach at this point feels like either running around in a panic, gorging on alt-left news media sites (or alt-right I guess, but if you hang that way you probably aren’t here reading this), and repeatedly checking tactical voting sites and the latest polls to see if you can make any sense of how to vote in ‘the farce generally known as a UK General election’.

If it’s any comfort, this will no doubt be the last one, because once Scotland leaves, it’ll be known as a ‘rUK General Election’. Or an ‘England and Wales General Election’ if Ireland unifies.

Hell, that’s unwieldy, we’ll just call it an ‘English Election’ for short shall we?

Anyway, none of these strategies are the best one, I would suggest.

I would suggest instead that what we need is to elect some MPs, as many as possible ideally, who actually give a shit about Wales.

Now, this has long been the territory of Plaid Cymru, no surprises there. They have been banging this old drum for so long, we’ve practically got bored of hearing about how they are going to stick up for Wales, and the interests of people who live here.

Thing is though, they do.

Jeez, they are just so predictable like that. Change the record already. Showing up for votes on issues that effect Wales. Voting for devolving more powers to Wales when they are offered. Working hard for Wales.


Voting against Article 50 because, you know, it was all based on lies.

Opposing Tory welfare ‘reforms’ and cuts.

It does sound like sticking up for Wales’ interests, I’ll admit, but it’s just so boring.

It would be much more interesting if they spiced things up a bit. Said one thing and then did another. Threw a bit of ant-immigration rhetoric into the mix, just to appeal to, someone, somewhere (probably in Skegness).

Sticking up for Wales is just so Plaid Cymru, no one wants to hear about it.

Although this week, someone else has decided that this story is quite a good one. Good old Carwyn has finally, after 107 years as First Minister, pushed back his chair, and #stoodupforwales.

But, oops!

It’s too late Carwyn. Despite the fact that the UK picture is so dire that even I, momentarily, wanted to give you a hug (just for effort) or at least help you out of your chair when you #stoodupforwales on Monday. Unfortunately Welsh Labour haven’t got a good track record on this.

It doesn’t take more than five minutes on they work for you, to come up with a long list of examples of times when Welsh Labour MPs have not #stoodupforwales. Or, actually, when they have stood up, but then they have also unzipped, and relieved themselves all over Wales and the constituents they are supposed to serve. If we are being completely honest. And you started this standing up analogy, Carwyn.

To be fair, Plaid had already nabbed ‘defending Wales’ (Tarian Cymru, is way cooler). While Carwyn is still getting to his feet (it takes a while when you haven’t exercised in this long, the joints are achy, and you are easily distracted brushing the crumbs from your lap) Plaid are off. They are in battle, they’ve been there all along.

There are only three of them, at the moment, but they are plucky. And I know who I would rather if it came down to it in a showdown between Theresa May and Wales, Voldemort style. Who do you want, Liz Saville Roberts, Jonathan Edwards and Hywel Williams (think passion, articulate conviction and showing up) or Stephen Kinnock, Christina Rees (who?) and Chris Bryant (think, um, not actually there).

Apparently, when Liz Saville Roberts speaks in Parliament, a hush descends and people listen.

Which is not common, in the Commons.

Would you like people to listen to Wales?

So. My proposal is that we think about this from a Wales angle. Rather than a UK angle. And from this angle, from this side of Offa’s Dyke, there is only one sensible way to vote.

There’s only one way to make sure of two things:

  1. That anyone ever notices us again, ever. Because if we roll over and vote like England (i.e. getting our knickers in a knot, listening to the mainstream media and believing that there are only really two options – HA DID WE SAY TWO?!! One of them is an idiot…. Left wingers are unelectable…. Vote Tory… Mmm, you look just exquisite in those pearls darling).
  2.  When we are headed for hell in a handcart, under a Tory UK Government, we have people in Westminster, with an honest heart and a genuine passion for Wales and a desire to see the best done for those who live here.

Because as much as I do actually want to hug Carwyn Jones this week (despite all the times I have compared him to various forms of rice-based puddings, I do think he has good intentions, deep down) unfortunately he’s not the boss.

He may have done a very good job of not mentioning you know who this week, but when it comes to Westminster, we aren’t voting for Carwyn. I genuinely appreciate Welsh Labour’s efforts to make this about Wales, it makes a change, but there are two major holes in their plan.

The first, is that despite the parlous state of the media in Wales, some of us here have actually noticed that things like health, education and housing are devolved. So when you make promises like ‘no grammar schools in Wales’ in the context of a General Election, that’s just an itsy bit patronising to your electorate.

Don’t you think?

I know that Mayhem and Jezzer don’t know what’s devolved (they make this embarassingly clear every time they visit Wales). Theresa May was at it again this week talking about plans for education in EnglandandWales, poorly briefed, or Freudian slip?

But I think (hope) that you have a better handle on the ins and outs of devolution at this stage Carwyn.

So, cut it out, please? I think you can do better than promising that Labour in Westminster will do things that Labour in Wales already have the power to do. Or are you proposing that we give devolved powers back to Westminster? Because at best, your election launch is confusing, and at worst it’s down-right disingenous.

Sort it out.

The second fly in the ointment with this approach is that Labour MPs from Wales do not answer to Carwyn. He is not the boss of them. He may have Wales’ best interests at heart (if we believe that from deep down under the duvet, he is trying to do the best for Wales) but the evidence suggests that Welsh Labour MPs do not share that aim. They serve their UK masters. They have proved that with every time they have failed to show up for debates about Wales. Every time they abstained on votes to devolve more powers to Wales. Every time they have voted with the Tory Government on policies that will hurt people in Wales, or damage our public services by supporting the politics of austerity, taken us into illegal wars (looking at you, Anne Clwyd, Chris Bryant and David Hanson) or given away our money to pay for Nuclear weapons we will never use.

It’s too late to stand up now, Labour.

You had your chance to stand up for Wales, and you chose not to, so we are going to vote instead for those who have a track record of defending Wales.

So. Let’s think like we want to win. Let’s play this one like a team. Hell, if for no reason other than it will be the only way to make sure that Wales is ever mentioned, ever, ever again.

If you want to make sure that your vote counts for something, vote for the only party that doesn’t answer to UK masters, and that consistently show up and vote in our interest, rather than their own.  Do this wherever you are in Wales, but especially if you are somewhere that you quite like, with people that you care about and public services that you would like to keep.

If you live in a country called Wales, rather than EnglandandWales, and you’d quite like to keep it that way, it’s time to vote as a team.

#voteplaid, #defendwales, #tariancymru

UN Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights to Investigate Welfare Reforms

The United Nation’s Committee on the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) announced on Wednesday there will be an inquiry regarding  how the UK government has “ensured austerity measures … do not disproportionately affect, in particular, disadvantaged and marginalised individuals and groups”.

This inquiry will address more than 30 topics on a very broad remit and include questions on the gender pay gap, youth unemployment, migrant workers and asylum seekers and trade union rights, with a focus on establishing whether the reforms have had a disproportional impact on lone parents, children and disabled people and also, whether the tax credit cuts will leave people without an adequate standard of living.

The Committee will also investigate what steps are being taken to cut the number using food banks and whether mental health services are adequate in the light of the cuts.

Last year, Olivier De Schutter (a United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food) pointed to increases in the number of food banks in developed countries such as the UK as an indicator that Governments are “in danger of failing in their duty to protect citizens under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,” (IESCR), which states that all citizens should have access to adequate diet without having to compromise other basic needs.

He said: “Food banks should not be seen as a “normal” part of national safety nets. They are not like cash transfers or food vouchers, to which people in need have a right under developed social security systems. Food banks depend on donations, and they are often run by volunteers: they are charity-based, not rights-based, and they should not be seen as a substitute for the robust social safety nets to which each individual has a right.”

Developed and developing countries alike have a responsibility to dedicate the “maximum available resources” to fighting poverty to fulfil the human rights they have promised their citizens by signing up to treaties, and it is here that the United Nations believes Britain is failing in its duties.

Iain Duncan Smith told the Work and Pensions Select Committee yesterday that he intends to place job advisors in food banks, indicating that the government considers charitable food banks are now a compensatory and integral part of welfare provision to indemnify against the inefficiencies and inadequacies of the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), and to plug the gaps in increasingly woefully inadequate provision due to the punitive Tory cuts to benefits and harsh “reforms” of the welfare state.

It’s a retrogressive leap back to the patchy and discriminatory poor relief administered by a voluntary private nineteenth-century welfare system of charitable and voluntary organizations, which were a Conservative response to their sensitivity towards the wealthy, and ever-present fear of burdening rate payers with the costs of the stigmatised “undeserving, dependent” able-bodied pauper. But history has taught us that the socio-economic system which makes some people wealthy creates casualities also – it invariably creates situations of insolvency for others.

Iain Duncan Smith also presents a late recognition and tacit admission of a clear link between Conservative welfare policy, benefit sanctions, benefit delays, and the rise in food bank use, which was previously denied by the government. The rise in food banks is a direct result of punitive welfare cuts on social groups that are most in need of support.

The inquiry is part of a periodic review of all the countries that have signed up to the covenant, and a UN delegation of independent experts from several countries is set to hold public six-hour talks with government officials next summer.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) submitted a report to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights this month, presenting its assessment of the implementation of socio-economic rights in the UK, which flagged up areas of concern, these include:

  • Adequate standard of living, including: fair financial decision-making; impact of social security reforms on people with disabilities, women, and children; and income, child and food poverty;
  • Access to healthcare, including: people with disabilities; older people; other vulnerable groups; and adults and children with mental health problems;
  • Access to education, including: access to further and higher education;
  • Access to civil law justice, including: the impact of reforms introduced through the Legal aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012; and the proposed residence test;
  • Violence against women and girls;
  • Just and favorable working conditions, including: low pay, migrant workers and overseas domestic workers;
  • Equal pay gaps, including: the gender, race and disability pay gaps.
  • Cumulative impact assessments of government policies

A United Nations spokesperson has said that although the review was launched because it was due, rather than in response to a particular concern, representatives from Just Fair, a consortium of 70 UK charities and NGOs, met with the CESCR in Geneva a fortnight ago to discuss concerns about the erosion of rights to food and housing and the economic and social rights of disabled people.

Jamie Burton, the chair of Just Fair, said: “The decision of the committee to investigate these issues is timely and welcome. We and many others are concerned about the adverse impact austerity policies have had on the least well-off and already marginalised in society, including those in work.

And breathe…

I’ve now mostly worked through my “What the actual FUCK” reaction to Tory gains in the council elections.

It’s understandable though, I mean there’s a Tory in Ravenscraig now. The last impact they made there looked like this:


So seeing as the BBC can’t work out that 425 to 431 is a gain of 6 not a loss of 7, I’m going with the results reported by  Scotland Elects.

2012 2017
SNP 425 (+62) 431 (+6)
Labour 394 (+46) 262 (-132)
Conservative 115 (-28) 276 (+161)
LibDem 71 (-95) 67 (-4)
Green 14 (+6) 19 (+5)
Other 196 172 (-24)

(If I get time tomorrow I am going to satisfy my inner nerd and collate the actual votes)

The last Scottish Council elections were 2 years into the Tory/LibDem coalition, and it looks like the LibDems in Scotland lost seats for that (as they did UK wide) Their much vaunted “fight-back” still does not seem to have materialised.

Since then we’ve had IndyRef and Labour went into coalition with the Tories (along with the LibDems, UKIP, Orange Order, NF etc), now I don’t know about you but I’m seeing a pattern here. You work with the Tories and they vacuum up your votes.

In the meanwhile someone needs to take Kezia’s drugs away from her. I’m not sure what she’s smoking but the woman is delusional.

She lost 30% of her councillors and says there’s a backlash against the SNP!

The Tories have had an increase, but still are a distant second, 155 seats behind the SNP. Yet listening to the media spin you’d think Ruth Davidson was about to be crowned Queen of Scots….oh.


The Greens got an increase. I would have hoped for more; for them to have taken more progressive voters from Labour but maybe there aren’t that many left.

So an increase in seats and also increase in the number of “largest party” for the SNP. Not bad for a party 10 years in government and under the Single Transferable Vote system, which unlike First Past The Post makes it difficult to get an overall majority.

Yet the media is portraying this as a bad day for the SNP. Honestly I think the party leadership will be quite happy with this level of “failure.”

It’s amazing how coming second in Scotland is seen as amazing, but first meh – not so much.

We won’t know who gets to run the councils for the next few days, there’s bargaining to be done.  SNP have said categorically that they won’t work with the Tories and I’m hoping for our sake (and theirs to be frank) that Labour will do the same.

It appears that the trend in Scotland has been for Tory gains to come from Labour voters, which is strange because in England it was UKIP that was absorbed. I suppose it’s served its purpose down there, normalising extreme policies that the Tories couldn’t risk pushing themselves. Farage has swanned off, Nuttal will be the fall guy and eventually all the sheep will return to their Tory fold to be rewarded.

So, who are some of these shites reptiles Tories who have been voted in? (Hat tip to David Aitchison who did an excellent – if scary – thread highlighting these now elected councillors.)

Firstly there’s Kathleen Leslie from Fife, who works with children with special needs (no I don’t understand how someone in that field could be a Tory either) She called the First Minister a “drooling hag” so presumably is okay with similar “banter” in return. (That doesn’t mean you should do it – higher moral ground etc)

Then there’s Ron McKail who posted Britain First & Islamaphobic posts. Lovely chap.


Ian James in Perthshire praised Enoch Powell and called the First Minister a “poison dwarf” He also thinks “African-American” is a “stupid politically correct euphemism”.

I found a picture of him – he’s the looker on the left.


Next up is Neill Graham, he called Nelson Mandela a terrorist and was named in a BNP members list, which could happen to anybody I suppose. O.o

Todd Ferguson doesn’t appear to think EU nationals should have an opinion or be candidates. Maybe this is Tory policy? Ex-MSP Christian Allard faced “casual racism” after querying Alexander Burnett MSP financial interests.

Following him is David Wilson who asked gay councillors to ‘out’ themselves during a debate to  consider a £500 donation supporting the local LGBT group for International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia. He believed that flying a flag on an annual basis was ‘plenty’.

Then there is ex-Ukipper Donald Gatt, in Moray, said that poor people shouldn’t have kids. He especially didn’t like the policy of free school meals for P1 – 3.

And finally another ex-Kipper Euan Blockley who only moved to the Tories because UKIP wouldn’t put him top of their regional list for Holyrood. Well, that’s mature.

Lovely people each and every one, I’m sure they’ll be great representatives in their respective local areas. In fact I hope their constituents visit them with every problem they get.

You can follow Simone Charlesworth on twitter @cee4cat and at Mewsing Out Loud

UK Drugs Policy: A Better Way?

For over fifty years now the UK has been losing a war that should have never been declared in the first place. A war in which countless lives have been turned upside down and thousands of people across the world have had to suffer. A war that not only could never be won but also indirectly hands control of one of the biggest and most profitable markets on the planet to violent criminals.

The war on drugs costs around $100 billion a year to fight and yet sadly, that money only seems to add to the problem. This is a global issue and the only way to solve it would be to tackle it head on.

Now, some may argue that this is a war that needs to be fought, that in order to keep our children safe we need to fight towards a drug-free world where addicts are incarcerated so as to learn the error of their ways. To most people who consider themselves progressive, this is a ludicrous and cruel opinion. There will always be opposition to the liberalisation of any existing drug laws, however, as our NHS trembles under the weight of overuse and underfunding, such acts could turn out to be a step in the right direction

Evidence suggests that the Portuguese model of drug policy, treating drug addiction as a public health issue rather than a criminal issue has in fact improved their situation and they also have vastly more people in treatment than over here in the UK. You could argue that this is not conclusive evidence that decriminalisation of controlled substances would prove to be a better way of dealing with the harmful effects of drugs, but I would ask “What is the alternative?”. We know prohibition does not work and that the legality of these substances does in no way affect the demand for them. Just look at alcohol prohibition in the US in the 1920’s and early 30’s.

The vast sums of money generated by the illegal drugs trade would surely be more beneficial going towards civil services than it would be going straight into the pockets of criminal cartels, wouldn’t it? I am certainly not an expert in either drug policy or drug science, but I find it hard to believe that the coalition government is not doing more in order to solve this drug problem. So, I decided I needed to speak to someone who was an expert. Enter Professor David Nutt.

A while back I managed to interrupt Professor Nutt’s busy schedule and ask a few questions in order to provide young people with information about drugs and drug policy that comes from a reliable and “in-the-know” source. Something that seems to be becoming increasingly rare in the war on drugs debate. After being controversially sacked from his position as chairman of the government’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs for claiming that horse riding is just as dangerous than taking MDMA, or (3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine).

Prof D. NuttProfessor Nutt has gone on to become part of the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs and has also worked with fellow psychedelic researchers at The Beckley Foundation. Professor Nutt is also the author of Drugs – Without the Hot Air: Minimising the Harms of Legal and Illegal Drugs.

In your opinion, what would be the most effective method for reducing the harm done to young people by illegal drug use?

DN: Effective, evidence-based education is crucial, teaching young people about relative risk and empowering them to make informed choices as well as information about individual drugs. Drug policy that reflects the evidence on harm would also help. We need to recognise that drug use

doesn’t happen in a vacuum – there’s evidence that communities have more drug use and more drug harms.

Should schools should provide more information on drugs so that young people are better equipped to make the right decision for themselves as to whether to take drugs or not?

DN: Absolutely, as I outlined earlier, education on drug harms must include alcohol and tobacco. Alcohol is a major public health problem, and a growing one to young people, mostly from the increase in binge drinking. The drinks industry targets young people with advertising campaign approaches through email, text messaging and social media outlets, however, direct scare tactics have been ineffective and possibly counterproductive. A successful teaching module was piloted in East Sussex enabling students to critically evaluate the way young people are targeted to buy alcohol. The myths surrounding alcohol are discussed and the students are asked to make up their own mind about the issues.

Given that prohibition does not seem to have much of an effect on whether people take drugs or not, would you say legalisation could, in fact, be a more beneficial method in terms of regulating an industry so far controlled by criminals?

DN: The Dutch initiation of the coffee shop model regulated the access of cannabis for users, which reduced the need to go to dealers. It minimised the exposure to dealers whose main goal is to get their clients onto more addictive substances.

Do you think tougher regulation of legal drugs such as alcohol and tobacco would help reduce the harm they cause and if so could such regulations be used to help reduce the harm done by drugs such as Cannabis, LSD, Psylocibin etc?

DN: We need to look at the evidence on drug regulation. What is clear from our regulation of alcohol is that free market availability of a drug that is as addictive and potentially harmful has been a catastrophe – alcohol-related harm will soon be the number one cause of death amongst men in the UK. What we can see from the increasingly strong regulation of tobacco is that it is possible to reduce use without banning or criminalising users. If that is the case, then why do we lock up users of other drugs? Regardless of how we handle dealers and smugglers, drug use should be dealt with as a public health issue, not a criminal one.

In your opinion, has the war on drugs worked?

DN: Approaches that focus on incarceration and criminalisation continue to fail, at huge financial and human cost. The war on drugs has also meant it is very difficult for scientists and doctors to access different controlled drugs to allow legitimate use for research and medicine. People are being harmed because they are losing out on the possible medicinal benefits of drug research. There could be harms that we’ll never be aware of because drugs are not able to be researched in terms of possible medical use.

Why is it that when you measure the harm done by various illegal drugs, there seems to be no relationship between that and their classification under the misuse of drugs act?

DN: For the first 30 years the government generally worked with the spirit of the Misuse of Drugs Act, with even Margaret Thatcher accepting logical recommendations guided by experts for the requirement of needle-exchange programmes, but for unknown reasons in 2004, Tony Blair and his government decided to ignore the Misuse of Drugs Act and make decisions on drugs without consulting the experts on ACMD. The first casualty was legal magic mushrooms, classifying them as a Class A drug without consultation, in an assault at head-shops. This easy battle and rewarding win fuelled the next campaign against cannabis, with which absurd claims Gordon Brown continued and oversaw the Home Office policy of increasing convictions of cannabis.

This unfortunately extended to those using cannabis for medicinal purposes. The government’s decisions undermine the scientific integrity of the MDAct. We should be able to trust legislation but unfortunately, some of our politicians seem less concerned and would rather symbolise their tough vales of its engineering.

In a speech you gave to the University of Otago in Wellington, New Zealand, you stated that in the wake of the mephedrone epidemic, the government should have created a new Class D. If this were to happen, what drugs would you like to see reclassified into this new class?

DN: Back during my time with the ACMD, we urged the Government to overhaul the classification system, specifically to take control of the new breed of synthetic recreational substances. We suggested this in response to the growing use of ‘spice’ and BZP, but the Home Office rejected this idea and both were made class C, a possible consequence for young people turning to mephedrone.

The ‘waiting room’ category D, where sales are limited to over-18s; the product is quality-controlled so users know what they are getting, in limited doses and with health education messages. Society can limit sales and collect data on use, manufacturers and shops that disobey these regulations are punished, and the young are protected, but not criminalised.

New Zealand operates such a system very effectively, judging how widely any substance was used and how dangerous it was and ultimately whether it should be banned.

The EU’s proposed regulations will allow for a graduated approach where substances posing a moderate risk will be subject to consumer market restrictions and those posing a high risk to full market restrictions. Only the most harmful substances, posing a severe risk to consumers’ health, will be submitted to criminal law provisions, as in the case of illegal drugs. This also argues that many new psychoactive substances may, or may have, various uses in industry which are hindered by market restrictions.

Here, the class D category has emerged, however, in the form of the Home Office’s Temporary Class Drug Order (TCDO), whereas the sales (not possession) of a drug is controlled for up to 12 months whilst the ACMD research the risks associated and decides whether it should be permanently controlled.

Unfortunately, these TCDOs are failing; the ACMD does not have the time, money or resources to independently research each and every new synthetic drug which appears on the market. Along with as soon as something is ‘banned’, manufacturers ‘tweak’ the product, steering themselves clear of the ban and continue to sell to the public. We need a proportionate response.

One of the chapters in your book asks the question “Should scientists try LSD?”. Due to prohibition this and other psychedelics must be difficult to obtain in order to study, do you think that psychedelics, in particular, have a medical potential that is being hampered by prohibition?

DN: The lesser known Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 details how different drugs are controlled to allow legitimate use for research and medical advances; unfortunately these regulations on using controlled drugs are not evidence based. Schedule 1 contains the most tightly controlled drugs, not deemed to have any medical value at the time of writing the laws, and with political movement trumping evidence, in went LSD, magic mushrooms, cannabis and ecstasy, each of which have considerable therapeutic potential. The outcomes of the controls make research into their mechanisms of action and potential therapeutic uses – for example, in depression and post- traumatic stress disorder – difficult and in many cases impossible.

There is evidence to suggest that psilocybin gives relief to people suffering from chronic cluster headaches – one of the most painful conditions that exists. Additionally, the use of psilocybin alongside psychotherapy is increasingly investigated for the treatment of some psychiatric problems, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression.

Evidence of how a drug works and what therapeutic use it might have would be of real value to society and so as drug scientists, we must aim to find it. To not do so would be nothing less than a dereliction of duty.

You can follow Ryan Morwood  at the News Leak website  or at his twitter @RyanMorwood   

Dangerous Scottish Subversives

It would be silly to think that Scotland has escaped the creepy watchful eyes of Britain’s dirty-tricksters in the secret service. We know what they are capable of and what they have done in the past. We have to keep our eyes and ears open.

As the prospect of Scottish independence poses a real threat to the integrity of the United Kingdom as a state entity, it stands to reason that the security apparatus of the British state is taking an active interest in our independence movement. Regardless of the rhetoric concerning its value and reliability, Scotland’s North Sea oil continues to be Britain’s most important strategic resource – and maintaining control over this cannot be anything but at the top of the Westminster government’s priorities. It was the wealth generated from Scotland’s oil that transformed the City of London into a global financial centre, and, with the British economy now on the Brexit chopping block, oil has to be considered one of the UK’s last reliable security


Unit of Labour @UnitOfLabour

MI5 and GCHQ subversion of the 1984-5 miners’ strike is where we begin to consider UK deep state activity in Scotland now.


Scotland’s North Sea oil and London’s control over it is nothing short of a matter of national security, and it is this fact that explicates the need of the British state to deploy its secret state security machinery against the Scottish National Party and the wider independence movement in this country. Without succumbing to paranoia – which is of course a desirable by-product as far as the British administration is concerned – we must familiarise ourselves with the UK security services, its known tactics and prior operations in similar contexts.

Not to be too alarmist, it must be borne in mind that when it comes to the murder of its own citizens and agents these organisations have form. In Scotland there is enough evidence to implicate MI5 and others in the 1985 death – in suspicious circumstances – of the Scottish nationalist and anti-nuclear activist Willie MacRae; enough at least to warrant a full inquiry. Much the same can be said for the 1984 death of Hilda Murrell, that of Dr David Kelly – the “sexed up dossier” whistle-blower – in 2003, and the murder of known MI6 operative Gareth Williams in 2010.

Thanks to the formery MI5 Intelligence Officer and whistle-blower Annie Machon we know the British secret service funded al-Qaeda in Libya, aided in the false conviction of Palestinian Solidarity activists in London, and deliberately ignored coded messages from the Provisional IRA – effectively creating false-flag attacks and letting British citizens die. We are not talking about people with the best moral and ethical standards, and it is unimaginable that they are not operating in Scotland.

Officially, MI5 and GCHQ – the domestic intelligence agencies – rescinded their political brief at the end of the Cold War; giving the secret police – or “special branch” – the task of deep intelligence gathering and the infiltration of “political subversives” – small left-wing and Trotskyist groups, the Militant Tendency, the Socialist Workers Party, and such like. From her experience within MI5 in the mid-1990s Machon is able to confirm that these operations continued unofficially, with the surveillance and wire-tapping of Labour government ministers.

If it true that members of the British government and small, fringe political groups were deemed enough of a security concern to merit the attention of the secret services, then it can be safely assumed Scotland’s political subversives are under active clandestine investigation. Those of us involved in pro-independence politics and activism in Scotland have to be aware that the reach of this unofficial and secretive scrutiny is full-spectrum – reaching from the highest offices of the SNP, Green Party, and Scottish Socialist Party to small local, pro-independence groups. Paranoia will not serve us well, but there are Reds under our beds.


Inside MI5 – The Real Spooks (State Propaganda Video)

You can follow Jason Michael at his twitter page @Jeggit or at his webpage The Random Public Journal
Jason Michael is a  Scottish journalist and blogger based in Dublin. Writing on politics and society. Columnist for iScot Magazine and author of the Random Public Journal.

Elections: Taking it Personally | A Prequel to What’s Auto/Biography (and history and society) Got to Do With It | TURN LEFT and Make June the End of May

I have spent quite a bit of time this weekend writing a piece for this Blog entitled What’s Auto/Biography (and history and society) Got To Do With It?  | TURN LEFT and Make June the End of May.

It’s the second in a series: the first – What’s Propaganda Got to Do With It? | Turn LEFT and Make June the End of May – I posted on the 26th April. I intend to write more in the next few weeks leading up the General Election. So far I’ve got notes on the following:

-What have Women Got to Do With It? | TURN LEFT and Make June the End of May -What’s Crime and Punishment Got to Do With it? | TURN LEFT and Make June the End of May -What’s Age Got to Do With it? | TURN LEFT and Make June the End of May -What’s Life (and Death) Got to Do With it? | TURN LEFT and Make June the End of May 

And I’m planning more. This morning whilst putting the final touches to my piece I also dipped in and out of social media. Two particular issues upset me greatly both of which relate to my writing which focuses on how thinking sociologically about the relationship between people (in terms of their auto/biographies) and time and place is relevant to an argument for political change.

The first was the news about the Prime Minister’s visit to Helston in Cornwall. I live in Cornwall. My mum lived in Helston for many years. It’s a quiet market town famous for its Floral Dance. I wonder if twitter has ever given the town as much attention as it has today. Apparently, not only was Theresa May’s speech this morning, given to the faithful few, as has been the norm so far in this campaign, but local journalists were not allowed to speak to her or film her. There are even reports that some were locked in a room so as not to bother her. Read a report from the Falmouth Packet here:


(As an autobiographical aside when my mum and dad and I moved to Falmouth in the early 1970’s my mum got a job in the local newsagents (a five minute walk from where I live now). The first few times she was asked:  ‘I’d like a Packet please, she replied: ‘a packet of what?).

I rarely watch the BBC News anymore as the anti-Corbyn/Labour Party and pro-Tory bias has become for me, like many others I know, unbearable. BUT, this lunchtime given this local issue I thought I would – BIG MISTAKE. Although the main news and BBC Spotlight South West both mentioned the visit to Cornwall there was no mention of the unbelievable security and secrecy surrounding the stage-managed visit. Instead the lead story was Dianne Abbott’s verbal slip-up in her seventh interview of the morning. Insisting that this would overshadow Labour’s vow to employ 10,000 more police officers the BBC did just that, talking little about the policy and all about the radio interview. Distressing indeed and it’s likely that things will only get worse given that:

Journalists in the UK are less free to hold power to account than those working in South Africa, Chile or Lithuania, according to an index of press freedom around the world.

Laws permitting generalised surveillance, as well as a proposal for a new espionage act that could criminalise journalists and whistleblowers as spies, were cited by Reporters Without Borders as it knocked the UK down two places from last year, to 40th out of 180 countries in its World Press Freedom Index.

In the past five years, the UK has slipped 12 places down the index.


As Jeremy Corbyn continues to challenge the ‘rigged system’ which includes the ownership and control of the mainstream media such bias is likely to continue. All respect to those that continue to challenge it:






Whilst this first issue brought angry tears to my eyes the second cruelly prodded a constant sore spot in my personal autobiography. In an article about the French Election Martine Le Pen, is reported to have described her rival Emmanuel Macron as psychologically unstable, adding that he was in no position to talk of the future because he has no children.


I am an (involuntarily) childless women but through my work and in my personal life I have much contact with children and young adults. I care about children and young (and older) people. I care about the world. A very big part of my increased political activity (on ‘paper’, online and on the street) is because I am so concerned about the education, health, security and overall life experience of those that come after me. Today has made me even more determined to carry on doing my small bit.

You can follow Gayle on twitter at @GayleLetherby or at her webpage Arwenack Creatives | Gayle Letherby’s Blog  

What’s Propaganda Got To Do With It? | Turn LEFT and Make June the End of May

Over the last few days the misrepresentations of and attacks on Jeremy Corbyn have escalated. Whilst Labour continue, day-on-day to publicise and attempt to widely promote new policies on health, housing, Brexit, pensions, education and so on all we hear from the Conservatives (aside from juvenile insults and made up smears) is how ‘strong and stable’ they are. Their claims are twofold in terms of a ‘strong and stable leadership’ and ‘a proud record’ as opposed to ‘a coalition of chaos with Jeremy Corbyn’. There is no talk of how the Tories might tackle poverty, homelessness, the health and social care crisis and so on and in their attempt to distract us from election fraud, their dubious allies (at home and abroad), the poor state of the economy, rising child hunger and the rest they continue with their their two pronged campaign of a) smearing the Leader of the Opposition and b) the cracked record like messages. In this they are largely supported by the mainstream media (MSM). No need to take my word for it; check out these two recent articles by Steve Topple:

The Tories have been caught using fake news to smear Corbyn

We need to talk about the mainstream media and the Election. Because a disaster is looming 

In the few ‘closed’ speeches she has given in the last week (in contrast to the very public presence of Corbyn, other members of the shadow cabinet and politicians from other parties), and in the final Prime Ministers Questions before the General Election, Theresa May repeated her key phrases, most especially ‘strong and stable leadership’, and popped in other references to ‘strong’ and ‘stable’ innumerable times. To save you having to look I can also confirm that there are short clips of her repeating this mantra on her twitter feed also. There is a precedent for this type of campaign as the constant repetition of  ‘strong leadership’, a ‘clear economic plan’ and ‘a brighter, more secure future’ helped the Conservatives to gain power in 2015. Well that worked out well, didn’t it.

We have to hope this time that the simultaneously teeth grindingly annoying and comical repetition of ‘strong and stable’, (rather than, as many have noted, the more accurate ‘weak and wobbly’) by Theresa May, and anyone near her, has less of an hypnotic effect on the many. Anyone who parrots it needs to be reminded of this; a ‘proud record’ indeed.

I have written before of my gratitude to the alternative news sources (and to various bloggers and vloggers) for the challenge to and corrections of the MSM. If like me you lament the election coverage on the BBC and many other outlets and in much of the newsstand coverage have a look at The Canary, The Morning Star, The Word, The Prole Star (all available online) or written and video posts by people such as Peter Stefanovic, Harry Leslie Smith, Lindsey German, Rachael Swindon (and others) and look at some of my previous posts here.

Yesterday I was cheered also by a tweet from @MirrorPolitics. By way of introducing an article focusing on the foolish posturing of Boris Johnson MP (there’s no need for me to go into detail given the MSMs preoccupation with this non-story but read the article if you want to here http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/jeremy-corbyn-blasts-boris-johnson-10306382) they wrote:

      Labour leader vows not to use Tory’s ‘personal’ tactics (and gets on with campaigning about               housing instead). 

As a further example of the current MSM spin on the messages from and behaviour of Jeremy Corbyn the BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg @bbcclaurak tweeted: Corbyn says ‘I don’t do personal attacks’ but says disappointing the tories are doing negative campaigning. As at least one person has pointed out why BUT and not AND here. . .

Recent political events (in the USA as well as closer to home), and the media coverage of them, have led some to reflect on the significance of George Orwell’s work. I see the point. Returning to Animal Farm (1945) recently myself I was struck, as others have been, by the rewriting of the agreed seven commandments of Animalism, by the ruling elite (the pigs). The seventh commandment which begins All animals are equal and becomes All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others is relevant not least in that: All British people are equal but some are more equal than others (and just as in Animal Farm it is the many rather than the few that are other/less equal. And it is the 1%/more equal whose privilege can even protect them from both the laws of the land and the demands of the tax office that the rest of us are subject to).

And then there’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949). Any cursory dip into mainstream or social media gives us much fuel for comparison between our most powerful media and the propaganda machine at the heart of the novel: the infamous ‘Ministry of Truth’. Additionally, we know that Big Brother is not only watching but silencing us as the new surveillance law, or as it has been termed ‘The Snoopers Charter’, requires web and phone companies to store everyone’s browsing histories for 12 months and gives the police, security services and official agencies unprecedented access to the data. There are implications here for all of us, not least in terms of the investigative journalism that we have left.

I wonder what’s in your Room 101?  As a researcher of both patient and healthcare professional experience; as a daughter and wife of individuals who suffered cancer and heart disease; as a friend of people who care for young children and others who care for elderly parents; as a mid-life woman who already accesses screening services (and will likely access more in the future) and who has a health condition that will need monitoring and treatment for as long as I live the death of the NHS is high up on my list. Take a look at this Alan B’stard YouTube clip which is doing the rounds at the moment: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LVltOSC0JMQ Sadly and frighteningly if it wasn’t for the laughter it would be easy to think this wasn’t a comedy sketch.

Staying with Orwell for a moment, anyone reading Down and Out in Paris and London (1933) or The Road to Wigan Pier (1937) and comparing the injustices and inequalities so evidence today to those described by Orwell in the 1930’s must surely ask themselves, as Orwell did ‘Why are we not all socialists?’ 

So as I said I see the point of these references but I’d like to suggest there were warnings in other iconic books. Just a brief review of a couple from my own childhood and youth.

John Wyndham’s 1957 novel The Midwich Cuckoos tells the story of an alien invasion of children born on the same day across the world; children who protect themselves as much as possible using a form of mind control. When the people in the village that is the focus of the book begin to understand what is going on they attempt to resist but to no avail as ‘the Children’ make the villagers attack each other. Sound familiar?

Ira Levin’s novel The Stepford Wives, published in 1972 focuses on the town of Stepford where ‘Diz’ (a previous Disney employee) is the ominous leader of

the Stepford Men’s Association and the power behind the Stepford phenomenon of the gynodisation of the women of the town. The popularity of The Stepford Wives is reflected not least in the classification of Stepford as an adjective: 
‘Relating to a person who has an unthinking. conformist, and uncritical attitude.’ 
www.wordspy.com/words/Stepford.asp Take note everyone.


SO: What’s propaganda got to do with it?
Answer: A LOT.

It is, I believe, the responsibility of all of us to keep challenging the dominant messages we are hearing and seeing and to keep offering the alternative. With this in mind  I watched a vlog by Giles Fraser this morning:

 ‘Maybe that;s why I am a fan of Jeremy Corbyn’ says @giles_fraser ‘…he seems like an 
        ordinary bloke, concerned with ordinary people’. #bbctw 

Please go to his twitter page and watch it too. Have a look as well at  #publicduty, the hashtag being used by individuals across health, education and beyond, warning us all of the consequences of five more years of the Conservatives: https://www.indy100.com/article/general-election-2017-tories-hashtag-publicduty-7703846

Turn LEFT and Make June the End of May.

You can follow Gayle on twitter at @GayleLetherby or at her webpage Arwenack Creatives | Gayle Letherby’s Blog

featured image by by Dave Brown political cartoonist
NB: with my friend and colleague Deborah Davidson I have previously used the Stepford analogy to reflect on the increasing corporatism of higher education: Davidson, Deborah and Letherby, Gayle ‘Heroes of Higher Education?: Stepford Wives, Non/Mothers and Academics’ Auto/Biography Study Group Conference, BSA, Reading University (July 2012) 

‘Scotland – The Conservative Country’

The results of the Holyrood election are announced and three scenarios are represented. The first being the SNP obtaining the lion share of the seats with the Greens replacing Labour as the main opposition with up to 20 seats. This may not be so far fetched given the power of SNP likely voters in not only choosing their party in government but their own opposition. A more likely scenario though is an SNP triumph followed by a rump of opposition parties led by the Labour Party who survive of the back of their remnant support and that of the rare creatures of the political landscape, the Scottish Tory. The Greens do well almost emulating their tallied achievements in the so called ‘Rainbow Parliament’ elections but Labour maintains it double digit haul. The third scene would be the wiping out of Labour into single digits resulting in a stronger Tory block in Holyrood. Not a far fetched notion as recent by-election polling has indicated such a shift could occur either way. The ink spilt over the unholy alliance of Labour and Conservative voters which enabled Ian Murray to save his Edinburgh seat has been plentiful. But nobody talks about the Borders or the South West, these hinterlands of Scotland that go as non-ventured as unspoken.

Certainly as an outsider my views of Scotland before moving and before interacting were shaped hugely by an idea of distinct difference. It is the Highlands and the Central belt even the West Coast that is so prominent in the mind of the traveller or settler to Scotland. On a personal level this may have something to do with history and imagery. The Highlands are vast and peaked so unlikely anything in England as even the Pennies or Lake District are poor comparisons. There is also the cultural markers of Gaelic history, clan feuds an all the cliche garbage that ignores nuance when observing Scottish culture from the outside. Scotland was and is still magical and alien and therefore my experience with the Borders was shaped by an absence of difference. One of my latest excursions has been on the Border’s Abbey Way walking from St Boswells to Kelso and then on to Jedburgh. Last week I found myself in Wigtown for the famous book festival.
The overwhelming feeling I always got from the South of Scotland as a whole was its familiarity. It’s dare I say Englishness. Risking the wrath of many a good Galloway farmer it should be said it’s not such a surprise given the closeness to England. Often borders tend to be struck with historic and ethnic tensions but the South is a place of seeming eternal calm. Those long lost feuds of reiver families gave way during the industrial revolution to trade and cooperation that rarely exists between the North East, Cumbria and other English regions. In this part of the world can be found a solid base of conservative support drawn from farming, generally small town communities that hold a version of liberty close to their breast. David Mundell along with other conservatives have perhaps always had an advantage in this region given the connection land owning and farming have. The Tories utilising economic and psychological feudalism in one reap the favours of communities in the other.
In the referendum 64.7% voted No in Dumfries and Galloway making it one the regions with the biggest anti-indepedance majority in Scotland. This seems consistent with the strength of Unionism in the region but it would be a mistake to conflate it with the rabid, active unionism found on the West Coast or in sections of Glasgow. Talking at the book fair to a few natives who hail from farming communities there is a general attitude of wanting to be left alone. These are strong small communities with some individuals economical active on their own and isolated. A message of collective hope emanating from the Central Belt would hardly appeal to a group of people whose forbearing tends towards self help, choice, sustainability and the practicality of making sure the produce is tended and in on time. Where many middle aged women create and run small businesses based on craft or countryside goods.
It is argued that the forces amenable to Independence can take other regions with ease given the right time, strategy and coordination. Yet how can an independent Scotland come to terms with this individualistic and conservative block that isn’t rabid by any means but is cynical of a vision which doesn’t seem to include it or its values. If the Scottish political landscapes transforms into one where the Conservatives are not a viable opposition but a significant party to be parlayed with how does Scotland come to terms with it’s understanding of itself as a whole? Scotland can’t be just the winning side and can’t just be the Glasgow or Dundee crowds high on the octane of collective joy. Even before this, if the independence camp wishes to make any inroads on the constitutional question in the South it has to respect the political culture of the south.
Any agenda has to start from the premise that getting power to the people of Scotland means power all the way down. Every region, local authority, city, town, village needs to be empowered in way that hasn’t happened even around discussions with independence. For the whole of the South the issue for me has to be broadband and transportation on a massive scale of investment and speed. The celebrations and my excitement about the small extension and reopening of the Borders Railways is stunted by the shocking standard of transport around Dumfries and Galloway. My general rule is if you have to contemplate hiring a couple of steeds and a wagon to get to a book festival then you have a serious problem. Yes one can drive or get a mammoth series of buses and trains part way. But it should not be this way. The South needs to feel loved and connected to the rest of the country in a way that can make an independent Scotland not only viable from their point of view but desirable. Two locals told me that Carlisle is their capital and a city far more relevant when it comes to shopping and business.
The reopening and the creation of train lines running to the farthest points in Dumfries and Galloway may not make Yessers of many or transform the areas unique form of conservatism. However it would connect the country and reconcile so many who feel stranded in the South and have no way of making their voices heard and therefore must lapse back into a resentful form of cynicism. More and more my mind has switched from the joy of the dream to the responsibility of the dream. If people are to feel more invested in the vision we have then you need to take them with you by gaining an insight in to what makes them tick. Decentralisation, transportation and rural empowerment can do wonders to bind the South closer to the rest of Scotland.
You can follow Robert J Somynne  on twitter at @RobertJSomynne  and at his blog robertsomynne.blogspot.co.uk

Pure Racism: UKIP’s “Integration” Agenda

UKIP has unveiled a policy statement on integration in the United Kingdom, a document that is unparalleled in its flagrant Islamophobic and racist rhetoric in modern British politics. This is where the lurch to the right in the UK is taking us.

Integration is a deeply problematic concept for any multicultural society. It implies, and is often used by policymakers to force, the assimilation of minority cultures into “our” – or the dominant or hegemonic – culture. Defenders of integration will argue, as they do, that multiculturalism – the racial, religious, ethnic and cultural expression of difference – is intrinsically bad for Britain, for our way of life; suggesting that it poses a challenge to our values, and may even pose a threat to our national security. It does nothing of the sort. This insistence on cultural assimilation is nothing more than a slightly more nuanced form of racism and discrimination.

It is important to recognise that when the proponents of this integration use the term “multicultural,” they are referring only to the culture of non-white foreign communities. UKIP’s Integration Agenda, launched earlier today, could not make this clearer. Germany, France, and the United States, for example, have their own distinct national and regional cultures, but no one demands that German, French, and US citizens living in the United Kingdom compromise their cultural values to accommodate us. There is no expectation that people from white majority nations assimilate to our way of life and our social and cultural values. Their whiteness gives them a free pass.

This document also, and more interestingly, ignores the fact that the UK is – by definition – multicultural. As its name suggests, the United Kingdom is a composite state polity, a political union of nations as opposed to being itself a nation. Each of its component parts is home to distinct ethnic and national cultures and local and regional cultural variations – all of which are host to other minority communities.

Moreover, integration – as a cure for “dangerous” multiculturalism does not work. Research into antisemitism in Europe and North America has shown that assimilation actually aggravates racism. Where people have expressed anti-Semitic opinions, those opinions are more intense when they are directed towards Jews who “look and act like us.” Ask an Islamophobic racist who he or she hates the most – a Muslim in “traditional” Islamic attire, speaking Arabic, or a well-paid religious Muslim professional speaking with an educated British accent?

The problem is not difference or diversity. The problem – as it has always been – is racism, and racists will be racist no matter how the target of their hatred dresses or speaks. It is that simple.


UKIP Leader Paul Nuttall

Today Paul Nuttall, the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party, with his deputy Peter Whittle, UKIP’s Education spokesperson David Kurten, and its Women’s and Equality spokesperson Margot Parker, launched his party’s “Integration Agenda” in London. This document – 297 words of pure unmitigated racist bile – singles out only the British Muslim communities; claiming that it “addresses a wide range of cultural issues that have worked against communities coming together.” We shall briefly examine each of its eight paragraphs below.

Pass a law against the wearing of face coverings in public places. Face coverings are a deliberate barrier to integration and, in many contexts, a security risk too. The time has come to outlaw them. People should show their face in a public place.

No fear, this is not the proposal of a law against motorcycle helmets, wedding veils, or sun glasses. This is about religious face coverings – specifically the niqāb worn by a tiny minority of Muslim women in the UK. Like everything else in this rancid policy proposal, it is thinly veiled racism – intended to target Muslim women.

Abolish postal voting on demand and return to a higher threshold of demonstrable need before a postal vote is granted. Postal votes on demand have led to a boom in electoral fraud and vote-stealing, especially among minority communities.

Only minority communities, according to UKIP, are guilty of electoral fraud. Again we find that this is a pointed reference to Muslim communities – namely the Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities accused of defrauding the postal voting system by Eric Pickles in 2016. While such a claim does need to be investigated by the authorities, as all electoral fraud should, it is far from representative of how the overwhelming majority of British Muslims behave during elections. Yet it has become a trope of Islamophobic racist ill-opinion in far-right discourse across the UK, and so has been taken up by UKIP in its appeal to the racist sentiment of its supporters.

Explicitly ban sharia – which is intended as a rival legal system and which undermines women’s rights – from being applied in the UK and establish a legal commission to draw up proposals to disband sharia courts.

Okay. In no sense is Islamic sharia law a “rival legal system” to British law. Sharia is a customary religious law derived from the Quran and the Hadith, and as such it is not entirely dissimilar to the Jewish religious law of halakha and Christian canon law, and its courts not unlike the Jewish beth din or a Christian ecclesiastical court.

Yes, law derived from the Quran – an ancient religious text – can be pretty barbaric, but, as is the case in Judaism and Christianity with their laws derived from a 2,500 year old religious text, reason and modernity trump strict adherence to the letter of the law. Just as it is in Christianity and Judaism, interpretation is what it’s all about, but – playing on people’s ignorance of Islamic theology and practice – UKIP is again whipping up racist opinion.

Implement school-based medical checks on girls from groups at high risk of suffering FGM. These should take place annually and whenever they return from trips overseas.

Mr Nuttall, concerned as he is for the wellbeing of little Muslim girls, would like to see their vaginas every time they have wandered out of his inspectorial sight. Female genital mutilation (FGM) or female circumcision is a custom stemming from pre-Islamic central-north Africa and – while it is not mentioned in either the Bible or the Quran – has been practiced by some African and Middle Eastern Christian, Muslim, and Jewish groups. In the main all three religions have condemned the practice, with the Islamic al-Azhar Supreme Council in Cairo ruling in 2007 that the practice has “no basis in core Islamic law or any of its partial provisions.”

That’s not good enough for Paul Nuttall, because – obviously – what Muslims do and say in the absence of good white men has to be inspected. Like little girls’ nether regions. In 1997 the World Health Organisation, UNICEF, and UNFPA defined FGM as the “partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” In this respect it is no different to MGM or male circumcision, still practiced by both Muslims and Jews – even in the UK. One gets the impression that had this practice been abandoned by Judaism – a far more well-established and, in some places, well-connected, minority community – Paul Nuttall would be down on this too.

Of course FGM is abhorrent – like MGM – and should be challenged by the law. But UKIP’s reasons for being on this bandwagon have precious little to do with the health and wellbeing of girls and women, and everything to do with finding yet another excuse to single out and victimise Muslims.

Make failure to report an instance of FGM by someone who has knowledge that it has taken place a criminal offence itself. The CPS to operate under a presumption of prosecution of any parent whose daughter has undergone FGM.

See above.

In cases where the victims of grooming gangs are of a different racial or religious group than the offenders, the CPS should cite this as an aggravating feature of the offence when prosecuting, opening the way to a longer sentence.

“Paki Grooming Gangs,” à la the coverage of a series of arrests of Pakistani men in Bradford in 2012 by the far-right’s favourite online forum Vanguard News Network, is another favourite trope in the mythological canon of racism in the UK. Making a reference to this incident is a real vote winner for UKIP, but it bears no resemblance to the morality of most Muslims in Britain or anywhere else. But this is Brexit Britain – the right-wing media has made it impossible for a great many people to differentiate Islam from child rape and predatory grooming. Nuttall is merely capitalising on another moral panic surrounding a tiny criminal element. It just so happens that the bad guys in this case were Muslims.

Knowing what we know of the culture of silence in the BBC pertaining to the behaviour of Jimmy Savile – where even Esther Rantzen knew what he was doing and said nothing – we have to ask why UKIP hasn’t asked that such grooming in contexts where the perpetrators belong to a different social class from their victims or who are media celebrities also be considered “an aggravating feature of the offence.” We know why – they’re not Muslims.

Immediate closure of schools where there is evidence of Islamist ideology being taught or imposed on children. A moratorium on new Islamic faith schools until substantial progress has been demonstrated in integrating Muslims into mainstream British society.

Muslims in the UK make up a meagre 4.4% of the population, but somehow it is Muslim faith schools and Muslim children that we should be most concerned about. Nuttall isn’t at all worried about the millions of other faith schools teaching children that it is a sin to be homosexual, that God made the world in six days, or that the world will soon be ending when the Jewish people take back their land in Palestine. There are far more biblical fundamentalist Christian faith schools in the UK, and what they are teaching their children is dangerous and has real world, geopolitical consequences. But they are white, or at least they’re not Muslim. UKIP isn’t interested in them.

Fundamentalism, fanaticism, and extremism exist in all religions, but this is only a tiny percentage of the religious expression of Islam and Christianity in Britain. Where it does exist, yes, we must have safeguards and laws in place. But by singling out Muslim schools UKIP is deliberately playing on the popular fears of Islam that have been manufactured by the British tabloid media. It is all directed to the ends of racism and intolerance.

CPS and police to be instructed to treat a so-called “honour” dimension of any act of violence as an aggravating factor, leading to it being accorded a higher priority for investigation and prosecution and not a lower one.

“Honour killings” and acts of violence with an “honour” dimension are only ever committed by Muslims and dark skinned people, have you noticed that? Good Christian white men are only ever charged and convicted of domestic violence in which they assault and sometimes kill their spouses or female relatives. “Honour” sounds that little bit more savage – so that’s what brown and Muslim men do. But, in reality, these are the same things, and – regardless of the term UKIP is using – we should all be in favour of protecting women and girls from abusive people; people like Paul Nuttall who want to peek beneath their underwear and people like Nigel Farage who has been reported to have given his wife a good ol’ British thrashing on a few occasions.

UKIP’s new policy agenda is nothing short of Islamophobic racism and an incitement to violence; cynically pointing out spurious charges against obscure Islamic teachings, and against individual and small groups of Muslims to create a general impression of the faith – and Muslim communities – as dangerous.


UKIP’s Paul Nuttall Wants Burka Ban | Good Morning Britain

You can follow Jason Michael at his twitter page @Jeggit or at his webpage The Random Public Journal
Jason Michael is a  Scottish journalist and blogger based in Dublin. Writing on politics and society. Columnist for iScot Magazine and author of the Random Public Journal.