Is Anti-Scottish Racism a Thing?

Scotland’s not a race… is it koz I is ginger?” The funny thing about racial difference is that it is neither genetic nor biological. Race based on colour is an arbitrary construct, used to fabricate social difference in relation to power.


Yesterday in the post ‘Why Don’t You Fuck Off Back to Scotland’ this blog examined the incident in a Somerset school where a Conservative MP, James Heappey, told a sixth form girl to go back to her own country. It was an open display of a growing sentiment in England towards Scots who refuse to tow the unionist political line, but it is interesting that we don’t have a more precise language for this class of prejudice. Sure, it is prejudice, as it is intolerance, bigotry, and xenophobia, but these terms lack the precision conveyed by words like ‘Anglophobia’ when the discrimination and abuse is in the other direction. This very issue was touched on in the comments section of the Butterfly Rebellion Facebook page. So we ask: Is anti-Scottish racism a thing?

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All too often we hear criticism of the charge of racism on the grounds that the group being targeted “isn’t a race.” Apparently Islamophobia and Anglophobia are not racisms because Islam and Englishness are not racial categories. Yet the assumption that these groups cannot be thought of as racial signifiers rests on the acceptance of race as a biological fact, and this is problematic for a number of reasons. Moreover, the United Nations rejects racial biology in the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination:

In this Convention, the term “racial discrimination” shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.
Article 1, §1 (21 December 1965)

While it is the case that in the main we identify racial difference in terms of colour, there exists no scientific basis for racial difference in biology or genetics – leading UNESCO to affirm, “All human beings belong to a single species and are descended from a common stock (Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudice, 27 November 1978, Art.1 §1).” In effect, what this means is that race – rather than being a natural and inherent difference between human populations – is a social construct, an artificial means of differentiating between people to serve some purpose – power.

Enter Stuart Hall, cultural theorist, and his idea of race as a “floating signifier.” He presents the idea of race – something we imagine to see while failing to see so many other arbitrary differences – as a shifting meaning dependant on changing social and political relations. Whether or not one is racialised depends, at any given time, on one’s relationship to power. His argument certainly holds when we think of Jewishness or Irishness as racial signifiers. Even Albert Einstein picked up on this when he famously quipped:

If I am proved correct, the Germans will call me a German, the Swiss will call me Swiss, and the French will call me a great scientist. If relativity is proved wrong, the French will call me Swiss, the Swiss will call me a German, and the Germans will call me a Jew.

Racial categorisation, then, when we accept that it is without a genetic or biological basis, must have a sociological origin. Race is an idea imposed on people by people, and this implies a power relation. We are familiar with the Scots, the Welsh, and the Northern Irish being called British at the Olympics when they win, and Scottish, Welsh, or Northern Irish when they lose. This too is a categorisation imposed by power. Britishness, as a notional superlative, is synonymous with and an extension of Englishness. England is the power holder, and it is those who speak for this dominant culture who grant the honour of Britishness to those British-ish people only when they deserve it. This is a clear type of cultural and national racialisation.

So we may be somewhat uncomfortable identifying anti-Scottish bigotry as racism, but this is only because we have uncritically accepted race as a real thing. Race is a social fabrication used by people in power to establish the parameters of the dominant group. Yes, we can’t deny that black people have black skin, brown people have brown skin, and white people have white skin, but this observation is as arbitrary as differences in other physical characteristics we routinely ignore; like eye colour, height, hair colour and such.

When Scottish people are subjected to any kind of abuse on the basis of their national origin it is perfectly legitimate and reasonable to speak of this as racism. Our discomfort with this idea, however, might possibly be explained by our historical self-identification as a member of the British racialised in-group; that we – like the English – are “white.” But what we are discovering now is that, as we continue to test the patience of the power holders, we are not as white as them. “White” is not a colour, as we are discovering. Whiteness is a social measure of one’s acceptability to power, and it is in precisely this way that Barack Obama was referred to as “an honorary white man.” We Scots are fast losing that privilege in the eyes of British power.

 


The Science Of Racism


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.

Former active IRA member serving as Tory Party councillor

A former active member of the IRA is now an active member of the Tory Party despite admitting she once celebrated the deaths of British soldiers and even civilians killed in terrorist acts:

Maria Gatland – once known as Maria McGuire – is now a Conservative Party councillor in Croydon after being reelected in 2014.

Ms Gatland was briefly suspended by the Tories in 2008 once her past was revealed but after an “internal investigation” she was then openly readmitted into the party.

Unsurprisingly, there is no mention of the fact she was an active IRA member on the Croydon Conservatives webpage:

I need hardly point out how this fact highlights the extreme hypocrisy on show by both the Tory Party and the UK press during this election.

You can follow Tom on twitter at @ThomasPride    and at his webpage Prides Purge

featured image IRA

 

The Unionist Protestant Orange Order Helped Create the Labour Party In Scotland and It Has Now Destroyed It – Kezia There is Still Time to Create an Independence Alliance With the SNP

Political Fun and Games

Much has been made in the Unionist press and media of a resurgence in the fortunes of the Tory Party in the local Council elections.

Some political pundits attribute the change to a transfer of allegiance by the Protestant Orange Order away from the Labour Party to the Tory Party which recently changed its name from The Conservative Party back to The Conservative and Unionist Party. A minor change garnering a major result.

If affirmed the Labour Party voter base might deteriorate further in the General Election but  this will probably manifest in Labour voter apathy and it is unlikely any party will benefit in the short term.

The polarisation of Scottish politics is now well established.

The Conservative and Unionist Party has claimed the right to defend the Union.

The influence and role of the Labour Party and the Liberal Democratic Party is reduced that of political spoilers.

In the local council elections the Conservative and Unionist party recruited, marshalled and deployed their activists much more effectively than any other party and reaped the benefits. Lessons are there to be learned.

The SNP stand alone promoting the case for independence and it is imperative that every effort should be made to get supporters of independence to the voting booths on the day of the General Election.

The article that follows provides a detailed history of the Orange Order in Scotland and its capacity for disruption.

 

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The Orange Order in Scotland

The Orange Order first surfaced in the north of Ireland in 1795.

It’s constitution commits members to the defence of Protestantism and the British Crown.

It provides a focus for Protestant ethnic groups in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Although it’s promoted activities are focused on social and religious matters the political dimension has always been considered to be of prime importance and the Order has provided a number of political activists and leaders at many levels of Scottish political society.

The Order is not exclusively an Irish import to Scotland since the politics of native Scots in the West of Scotland was historically sectarian in nature but apathetic towards the problems of Ireland.

This ensured the political growth of the Irish-Protestant working class in Scotland would be influenced by native Scots who were more inclined to embrace socialist ideology as opposed to confrontation.

The loss of many thousands of young Scots soldiers and the depression after WW1 changed the mindset of Irish immigrants and their descendants who became more reliant on the Order to ensure their place in Scottish society.

This brought with it a significant increase in membership and a much enhanced Order presence in the politics of Scotland in the 1920-1939 period.

At the end of WW2 and up to the late 1950’s the Order was influential in ensuring the political direction of the Protestant working class vote in the Central belt of Scotland.

The industrial downturn and slum clearance programmes in Scotland, brought about the establishment of overspill areas, such as Easterhouse and Castlemilk.

Expansion of town and village living; Coatbridge, Airdrie, Motherwell, Hamilton and the new town of Cumbernauld.

Similar programmes were completed in Edinburgh and the East of Scotland forming overspill areas such as Muirhouse, Sighthill and the new-towns of Glenrothes and Livingston.

The impact of the changes on the Order was significant. Membership fell sharply as the population of the Central belt of Scotland became more dispersed and the influence of the Order was lessened markedly.

But although much reduced in numbers the Order in Scotland is still influential in Protestant communities.

Membership has remained consistent in the West of Scotland (in or around Glasgow) and North Lanarkshire

West Lothian, in the East of Scotland is an Order stronghold and there are a significant number of lodges in Renfrewshire, Wigtownshire and Ayrshire.

Conversely there are few lodges in Edinburgh, Dundee, Aberdeen and the Highlands and Borders regions.

 

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Male membership of the Order

The highest ever male concentration of the Order in Scotland was recorded at 10% in Govan and Rutherglen, but overall Scottish male membership density rarely exceeded two percent.

At 2017 the figure is reduced to less than 1%.

For comparison male membership of the Order in Belfast routinely peaks at around 20%

 

 

 

 

Membership Patterns

In Glasgow, at Ward level, pockets of the Order are to be found in; Govan (Kingston), Ibrox, Kinning Park, Fairfield, Kingston, Rutherglen, Cowcaddens, Drumchapel, Maryhill, Possil, Cowlairs, Baillieston and Bridgeton.

 

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Causes of Membership Change

Order membership improved following the introduction of licensed social clubs coupled with an ever increasing appeal of soccer and para-military activity in Northern Ireland.

Spikes and fluctuations in membership are also attributed to a number of factors:

1) Threats to Protestantism: Marked decrease in Scottish Protestant church membership and increasing secularisation resulting in declining church attendance and Pastoral influence.

2) Threats to the Union: e.g.. A visit of the Pope

 

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The Northern Ireland Troubles of 1969-90

In the 1960’s and throughout the troubles the policies of the Order in Scotland became ever more militant answering the perceived threat to the Union by Nationalists.

“Scottish” Lodges and their bands travelled to Northern Ireland in increasing numbers in the “Marching” season.

Over time the distinct “Scottishness” of marching lodge members was replaced with “Ulsterness”.

Pipe bands stopped travelling and Scottish Saltires were replaced with the Red hand of Ulster.

The retention of the Union Jack proved to be significant.

Later surveys identified that Order members claimed their identity to be “British” and it was the protection of the “Union” that drove them to go to Ulster each year.

The Grand Lodge of Scotland which supported financial contributions to Ulster, was also heavily involved politically, without success throughout the period with the many differing factions in Ulster and UK governments.

Nevertheless the Order benefited from the troubles achieving the highest ever level of membership in many years.

 

 

 

 

The Sea Change

The 1982 visit of the Pope proved to be the turning point for the Order and it’s steady decline in membership and influence.

Hard-line “Ulsterised” rank and file members demanded militant action preventing the visit but were not supported by senior Order officers or the Grand Lodge.

A number of small groups ignored instructions and went ahead with protests causing an amount of disruption.

The failure of the Grand Lodge to establish control encouraged lodges to ignore instructions forbidding it introducing Sunday opening, the sale of alcohol and singing and dancing.

An added impact was the increasing militancy and unruly behaviour of marching bands and their supporters.

Bands had evolved from the Scottish pipe bands of the 1960’s, first to the accordion, then to “blood and guts” flute bands whose average age was under 30y.

Despite suspensions the bands continued to perform at many “Orange Walks” in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

 

 

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Influence

The Order in Scotland can be credited with the establishment of a working class Unionist Tory base through the lodge system and it’s influence over political events in Glasgow up to the start of WW2, was substantial resulting in a number of Tory Orange Order MP’s being elected to Westminster.

The Order had little purchase however in the rest of Scotland since there were no other significant Orange Order clusters.

The Scottish Unionists successful political recruitment and retention strategy up to the early 1960’s was centred on cultivating the votes of the Order membership without compromising it’s aims and ideals.

But the party alienated many members of the Order when it turned away from Unionism retaining only “Conservative” in it’s title.

Many Order members drifted away to the Labour party.

Thatcher’s agreement to support the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement proved to be the catalyst that severed any links between the Order and the Tory Party in Scotland.

Disillusioned Order members, supported by the Grand Lodge formed a political block to the Tory Party using their votes tactically making claim to a reduction in the number of Tory MP’s in Scotland.

Political observers are inclined to the view that the withdrawal of their support had less impact on the fortunes of the Tory party in Scotland blaming other Thatcher actions against Scotland.

 

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Freemasonry in Scotland

The Scottish Protestant tradition of Masonry stretches back to the middle ages and  the organisation of Freemasons in Scotland is broadly similar to that of the Orange Order.

Indeed there is a school of thought that supports the view that the Order first adopted the rules of Scottish Freemasonry and amended them to suit their own needs.

It is of no surprise that the Orange Order has done so well among Scottish Protestants.

Scotland’s total of around 170,000 Masons is the largest Masonic membership rate worldwide making it a Protestant institution guaranteed it’s place in Scottish society.

The stability of Scottish Freemasonry is attributed to its “articles of association” which require members to be strictly apolitical and non-religious, unlike the Orange order, (with 70% of its Scottish membership clustered in Central Scotland.)

It is also important to draw attention to class differences in the two groups of Protestants in Scotland.

In Glasgow, Masonic Lodge halls are primarily located in the more affluent West of the City and in the satellite villages and small towns on the city’s outskirts.

Major concentrations of Masonic lodges are also to be found in the Borders, Highlands and the North-east.

Other lodges are located, in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Perth.

Conversely Orange Order Lodge Halls are located in working class areas of Glasgow and similar locations in other Towns in the West of Scotland.

 

 

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Spread of Freemason Lodges

 

 

 

Conclusions

In the last 30 years Scottish Protestant church membership and attendance has fallen significantly and the Grand Lodge is increasingly impotent in the control of younger, often more militant members who challenge it’s right to dictate policy in regards to the support of Ulster Orange-men.

The continued presence of the Order is directly attributed to the past influx of Irish-Protestant immigrants and their descendants and it’s power is only retained in areas of historic Irish-Protestant immigration such as Larkhall, Airdrie and parts of West Lothian. Overall however the strength of the Order, (even in the West of Scotland) is relatively weak.

 

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You can follow Calton Jock at his webpage CaltonJock

Tories BOW to wealthy antiques dealers and DROP ban on elephant ivory in manifesto

Foxes, badgers, robins and now ELEPHANTS: hidden manifesto plan by Tories to allow ivory trade

Under David Cameron the Conservatives had pledged – along with other UK political parties – to put into place a ban on ivory trading. This follows bans by China, the US and other important ivory trading countries to end domestic trades in ivory by the end of 2017.

But there is no mention of the ban in Theresa May’s Tory 2017 manifesto. Sneakily, the Tories have decided to DROP their previous commitment to introducing a total ban on ivory trade in Britain. This comes after heavy pressure from wealthy antiques traders who have been lobbying Teresa May hard to drop the ban on ivory.

The most powerful UK antique traders association is the British Antique Dealers’ Association – whose president is Tory MP and pal of Theresa May, Lady Victoria Borwick.

On average, an elephant is killed every 15 minutes for its ivory and their population has fallen by almost a third in Africa since 2007.

Interestingly, this policy puts the Tories in direct conflict with Prince William, who has been a vocal supporter of a total ban on ivory sales.

Will we see the Duke of Cambridge campaigning for Labour – which has pledged to introduce the total ban the Prince has been lobbying for?

featured image ivory

You can follow Tom on twitter at @ThomasPride    and at his webpage Prides Purge

Social care: the devil in the manifesto?

Tory plans have a habit of unwinding. Think of the budgets that have failed on things like pasties, caravans and broken promises on national insurance changes. In themselves each seemed a minor issue. What they collectively did was remind people that far from being infallible, strong and stable, Tory government’s and chancellors in question were the purveyors of fragile thinking from which they were willing to retreat at the first sign of dissent.

Of course I am speculating, but Theresa May’s decisions not to continue a Tory commitment to cap social care costs, and to change winter fuel allowance payments to pay for social care, have the feeling of being in the same camp. In themselves the policies can be defended. But the reality is that they alienate key elements in the Tory electoral base.

The cap on social care costs will hit all those of around my age with parents needing care who feel it is their absolute right to inherit the family home for which they have waited a lifetime. This absurd and wholly unjustified sense of entitlement is deeply embedded amongst many and any interference with it, whether from inheritance tax or to fund social care, is considered utterly unacceptable. May has trampled on angry toes there.

The winter fuel allowance is another shibboleth. Of course many recipients do not need it. But take it away and they will feel that they have had a very specific tax increase. For many involved they might be able to afford that. This is not the point. Few doubted most could afford the pasty tax but it upset a great many people.

So I wonder whether Theresa May has made two pretty fundamental mistakes that knock the sheen off her image with a great many people and tarnish the last weeks of her election campaign? Something had to go wrong. Most election mistakes are self inflicted. Are these amongst them?

You can follow Richard  J Murphy on twitter at @RichardJMurphy and at his webpage Tax Research UK

featured image Protests by  Roger Blackwell

 

What’s The Past Got to Do With It? | TURN LEFT and Make June the End of May

According to Theresa May, and much of the broadcast and print media that support her, Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party have in the last three weeks or so (through the policies they have announced and the much discussed leaked and actual Manifesto) ‘taken us back 40 years’ to the 1970’s. As many people have pointed out there was much about the seventies to applaud. In addition to many cultural references on which there will likely be much difference of opinion #GreatThingsFromThe1970s has prompted much political discussion. Here are just a few I found:

Nationalised transport. Bus fare was 5p, then 9p, then privatised and went up to 32p almost overnight #GreatThingsFromThe1970s

We had secure jobs + free education. Our NHS was in good shape. Work life balance was much better.We could breathe #GreatThingsFromThe1970s

#GreatThingsFromThe1970s Universities were places of learning and research not simply businesses

#GreatThingsFromThe1970s People could afford houses. People looked forward to careers not the gig market

Given that the focus of Labour’s policies is on making things better for the 95%, not least in terms of our health, education, security and income, the critique is clearly yet another attempt to smear and to scare. Not everyone is taken in. See for example this series of letters in The Guardian – ‘Finally, a Labour Manifesto to Really Get Behind’ – https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/may/11/finally-a-labour-manifesto-to-really-get-behind. Just a couple of snippets, do read the letters in full:

. . . .predicable claims from the right that Jeremy Corbyn wants to take the country back to the 1970s, forgetting to mention that this was a time when corporations and high earners contributed a fairer share to the public purse and we had a functioning welfare state and regulated public utilities providing essential services.

For traditional Labour voters like me – someone who has not voted Labour since the Iraq war – this suddenly sounds like why I joined the Labour party, became a Labour councillor and voted Labour in the first place.

And although the BBC manages daily to find anti-Corbyn, lifelong Labour voters lamenting the fact that they can’t vote Labour anymore, there is much evidence on social media of longtime Tories turning left and others who have never voted before being energised by what Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour are offering.

The criticism of Labour as taking us backwards is ironic from a Prime Minister and a party that has a record of doing just this both in terms of attitudes and actions. It was after all Margaret Thatcher (PM 1979-1990) and her government who wanted us to return to ‘Victorian Values’ (a time notorious for poverty, disease, domestic abuse and other hugely significant inequalities). Thatcher’s legacy continues in that there remains a powerful misconception that the ‘have nots’ are to blame for their own misfortunes and that there are those that ‘deserve’ help and those that do not. Thus, the blame lies with the individual and not the unjust society in which they/we live. And the woman who would continue as Prime Minister for another five years, and who assures us that only under her is the country safe, herself has attitudes that many would consider outdated, divisive and cruel (from her support of grammar schools to fox hunting), and furthermore presides over a government with a sorry record. An example or two. First,in terms of health and illness:

Second, the economy (unbelievably an area the Conservatives claim as a particular strength of theirs):

And so:

With all of this in mind. Read the Labour Party Manifesto at:

http://www.labour.org.uk/page/-/Images/manifesto-2017/Labour%20Manifesto%202017.pdf

OR view the policies in brief here (provided by Eoin Clarke @LabourEoin)

If all of this is indeed ‘taking us back’ to the 1970’s: BRING IT ON for what we need right now is change.

Changes David Bowie (released 1971) https://www.google.ca/search?q=Youtube+Changes+Bowie&oq=Youtube+Changes+Bowie&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l5.12097j0j4&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

Perhaps I’ll pass on the yellow loons this time around though.

SO: What’s History Got to Do With It?

Answer: A LOT

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

Why Don’t You F*^k Off Back to Scotland?

What do we learn about Tory England and its Englishness when Conservative MPs are roaring at little girls to get back to their own country? Not much. We just get to see the whole thing for what it really is: Pathetic aggressive thuggery.


Verbal abuse is violence, and can often be every bit as harmful as physical violence. It is important that we are clear on this point before we proceed. James Heappey, MP for Wells in Somerset, made the headlines for telling a Scottish schoolgirl to “fuck off back to Scotland” when he visited her class because she said she would vote for independence if she was given the chance. Not a single report on this incident called this an act of violence. It is time that we set the record straight.

This sixth form pupil at Millfield School in Somerset is Scottish. She lives in England with her family. Her friends are English, and she is perhaps the only Scots student in the class – maybe even in the whole school. As a foreigner she stands out, making her a little more vulnerable to being socially isolated and bullied. We hope that this was not the case for her, but the last thing in the world she needed was an adult in authority telling her to get back to her own country in front of her classmates. Imagine the outrage had she been Polish or Pakistani.

Yet this is exactly what happened to her. What is more shocking is that the adult authority figure who verbally assaulted her wasn’t simply a janitor or a teacher from her school, but her local member of parliament. James Heappey, a Conservative Party MP, is a 36 year old man with a formidable build – certainly for a school child. Heappey served as a British soldier in Afghanistan at a time in that conflict when LiveLeak and the Guardian were reporting on the vile behaviour of British squaddies towards schoolgirls and girls as young as six.

James Heappey

@JSHeappey

Have Afghanistan & Iraq swung public opinion too far away from intervention in Syria? Stuck between rock & hard place but chemical weapons!?

 


In what appears to have been in the context of political education, in which middle class English kids were being taught how to speak on Scotland’s behalf, this thug asked the class how they would vote if they were in Scotland during another independence referendum. Little did Heappey know that one brave wee Scots lass was there listening to his pish. She said that she would vote for independence, but instead of praising her for her political engagement – what one would have thought was the purpose of the class – he set upon her. This wasn’t about education. This was political indoctrination.

Of course she went home and informed her parents of the attack, and we discover that her father is a member of the Scottish National Party. In England the public are being informed that men like her father are violent ‘Cyber Nat’ extremists, but we have to hand it to him – many a father would have taken a wee stroll to the Tory constituency office to sort the matter out man to man.

Here is where we have come to in the politics of this island. England’s ruling establishment knows that its goose is cooked. It has finally dawned on people that Brexit is not a good thing. The Union is quaking and coming apart. It really is last throw of the dice stuff when you have MPs venting their frustrations on children, and this is far from an isolated incident. In a week we have had a House of Commons Defence Committee staffer pontificate about the inferiority of Gàidhlig in the Scotsman, another Tory telling Ireland to keep its “Gypsies,” Ruth Davidson describing the efforts to make peace in Northern Ireland as “offensive,” and this. England has only one real lesson to learn from all this: Its tea’s oot.

 


BBC Planning its Unionist Strategy on Scottish Independence


 

What happened to ” Never again”?

Do you remember those momentous words….” Never again will the elderly….”. Well ‘never’ has arrived and how!

Triple lock goes, Winter Payments to be means tested ( which incidentally costs more than they save), but then it does mean more money for the boys! And last but by no means least the biggest shocker for Pensioners who own their own home, particularly those who have bought their own Council houses or Sheltered Housing, which in Scotland is quite high. Do read up about what is being dubbed as The Death Tax.

This from the Party who said during the Scottish Referendum, vote NO to secure your future.

I am so tempted to say…….’ don’t blame me I voted YES’

Today’s Pensioners both in the North and the South must be saying to themselves, ‘what the hell’. Theresa May is so confident of a landslide win she knows she can do anything, and she will do it. She knows voting numbers will be quite low because people are fed up of voting and getting nowhere. Then there are the Boundary changes further re-enforcing the Tory hold on the country.

Of course we in Scotland are just waiting for Ruth to say, ‘ you can mitigate these changes by putting up taxes’!  How about us mitigating them by just doing what the PM is planning to do with Brexit…….just walk away.

A sunny but sad day for Politics.

featured image robbing the OAPs

You can follow Joan McDowall on twitter at @JoanFlitcroft and at her webpage Joan Flitcroft

Truth Is Good

What an interesting morning, yesterday, with a lot of political content!

Watching the Victoria Derbyshire programme on BBC was definitely different, for a start.  We do not get to hear a lot around what and how debates are going in England in respect of the General Election, so yesterday morning was really just to catch up.

The main reason for carrying out this research, actually, was because of the Question Time programme on Thursday 11 May, broadcast from Edinburgh which did not really reflect the arguments I thought were being debated on the ground in Scotland and that disturbed me quite a bit.

I am disturbed because it would appear that realities facing the country are not being debated in any great depth.  There appears to be some real confusion, especially among young people, about the whole political system, the different colours and outlooks of each party, misconception and misunderstanding about what historically happened and a general lack of understanding around why voting for what you believe is right is essential if you wish to get the best out of the governance of the country you live in.

Why do I mention governance?  I have found myself on the largest learning curve of my life over the last ten years and a lot of what I have had to learn has been about structure and governance of everything from community groups, charities, social enterprises, educational structures, the list goes on.

The simple truth is although we all should have our say and take part in the running of our countries, the most effective and constructive way of ensuring the job gets done properly is to have a committee that will apply their management skills to taking what is being said and delegate action on behalf of everyone.  Debates in parliament are meant to decide the best way forward for each action giving equal opportunity to as many points of view that are shared as possible.

That is what our government is supposed to do.  They are not there to act independent of those voting for action etc., but to carry out what the majority decision is.

It is a serious bit of mis-communication that puts individuals, families, communities, living within a country at a lesser level and insists that action is being taken on behalf of everyone without consultation of everyone.

My intention, therefore, during the coming days, is to put forward what is actually being stated by each party’s manifesto in a way, hopefully, that will be plain speech to everyone.  I will not only put forward the manifesto points (not the whole manifesto – too long),  but I will also record what has been achieved by each party to date in terms of benefit, or non-benefit to the people of the UK as a whole from recent (2010 onwards), previous manifesto promises.  Please note that I cannot eliminate my viewpoint totally from what I write, however, I will put both sides of the argument as clearly as I can.

The reason I am doing this is not to benefit any particular party but to inform the younger generation properly because they need to make their minds up on real facts, not disinformation or un-clear communication.

I would urge anyone who has a question to comment or get in touch if they think I can answer or someone else reading can answer.  I also welcome all feedback because, it keeps everything real, up-front, accountable and honest.

To start with, some points that came up during my research yesterday:

There was a lot of discussion around the Conservative sound-bite about preserving worker’s rights, in fact making them stronger, one point put across several times was the fact that the Conservative Government are introducing a right for carers to take unpaid leave to care for family members etc.

I have to say, from my own personal viewpoint, this is a sound-bite because:

  • In 2010 the Conservatives wanted to re-write the Human Rights Act from a UK perspective, partly because they did not understand the European Convention on Human Rights. This party is now planning to make sure the European Convention is complied with fully, which shows that they did not originally understand the European Convention.
  • Why would a Conservative Government seek to scrap paternity leave because, in their words, it was not required, then decide that unpaid leave would be given to those caring for a family member. Is there any sense there?
  • Why unpaid leave?  Are family members worth less? What is the difference between caring for a child and caring for an older family member.  You get child benefit for caring for a child.  This job is to be unpaid, need I say more?
  • If the Conservatives truly believe in strong workers’ rights, why have they been working against this as a party since 2010?
  • The Conservative Government have, I have been told, been advised that their Government has actually breached the UN Convention on Human Rights, never mind the EU Convention on Human Rights which came after the UN Convention, with their actions in this country.

I  have found, throughout my 33 years’ voting experience, that political parties of every persuasion will create sound-bites in order to get votes.  The sad thing is that politicians don’t realise that not everybody follows politics, and this type of electioneering  tradition can cause total confusion. At a time where it is essential that as many as possible vote, it is probably extremely unhelpful to any political case to enter into this type of electioneering.

One more point, every government, since I was a young girl, have kept salaries and budgets in public services including police, education and health service low compared with their spending on war and weapons!!

Lastly, one thing we all do from time to time we and our governments blame others for the course we choose. That is not going to solve anything is it!

Don’t we all have to take responsibility for making our communities, the places we live in the best they can be responsibly?

AFTER ALL THE PEOPLE ARE THE GOVERNMENT!!

You can follow Sandra Marshall on twitter at @leithunique and at her webpage leithunique.wordpress

‘My Day In The Council Chambers’

Today was a massive day. Today was of significant importance to myself because I had helped these councillors in all types of weather. Leafleting , canvassing and even had the occasional coffee and a bite to eat. I put my family commitments on hold. My Girlfriend and kids saw less of me each night. Today meant more to me than anything. Today at 2pm I attended the statutory meeting for the council to decide who would be leader, provost, deputy provost and most importantly, who would be in power. I felt nervous and anxious at the same time. Knowing that SNP had 11 councillors and labour 11 also. It was neck and neck. I worked out all the probabilities in my head the night before and when I sat in the car in the car park outside the council building. If we get a couple of the independents on our side and the Tories abstain. If we form the best case for a minority administration. If it goes down to a deck of cards and we get the ace in the pack. These were all hypothetical but they kept racing through my mind. My heart was pounding.
For the past few months I have become really close to the SNP group in North Ayrshire. They’re a lovely bunch of people. They share an amazing vision that will help everyone in our area. They set out to help others. These people more than me deserve to get a good result today. I was praying for them. I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best outcome possible. When I read in the paper last week that Marie Burns – our leader of the group and Councillor in Irvine said that she reached out to Joe Cullinane (Labour Leader) to form a coalition.

Her proposal was simple, lets form administration together because that is what the people of North Ayrshire want. Now for me, that is one of a remarkable leader. Someone who despite their differences can put all of that aside to put the people first. When I first read it I was in my Dads. I shouted him over and told him to read it. You could see in his face as he read it that he was proud to have voted for her. He never knew Marie but I had spoken about her often. She’s wonderful, smart and very welcoming. This topped everything.

She was realistic enough to know that both parties had 11 each and she could quite easily of decided to form a minority administration. She chose to put the people first. I will always admire her for that. Unsurprisingly, Joe declined her offer. He refused to negotiate a coalition offer with SNP and try his hand at other negotiations. He would try and get the independents on board, that was a given. Negotiations went on all week and nobody really knew much else on the outside. I tried to ask a few questions here and there but didn’t want to pester anyone.
As I sat in my car outside the council building one and a half hours early. I went through everything in my head. I took the day off work for this and I was ready. I went inside and was the first person to be in the waiting area. I was greeted by the receptionist and was told I was “a little early”. So I decided to wait. Others started tricking in. A couple of labour members who were talking about tuition fees and how it was labours idea came in. A frequent narrative of theirs. I remained tight lipped and focused on the day ahead.

After half an hour Jim Tudhope and John Ferguson came in. I was relieved to see them as they were ‘one of us’. I stood and chatted to them for about ten more minutes when we saw Cllr Christina Larsen making her way into the chambers. This was it. It was finally here. The receptionist told us that we could now follow them in. We trickled in via a side door open to the public. The councillors were all seated in a curved seating pattern. They all had laptops and microphones. The chief executive of NAC Elma Murray took to the panel in front of them.

She announced who she was and asked the councillors if they would mind being filmed live on Facebook. They agreed that it was ok so they went on. A lady came round and handed us an agenda for today’s meeting. It was like a big book with lots of pages. Jim and I had a look through it while Elma was talking and introducing the councillors. The local press were over in the corner, taking notes and pressing play on their recorders. 11 labour councillors on the right of the room, 7 Tories in the middle, 4 independents just behind them and 11 SNP councillors on the left. If the Tories sat with labour it would be earmarked for a perfect political system of right vs left.
One of the first things on the agenda was nominating and voting for a provost and deputy provost. I had never seen this before so I was unsure about what it entailed. Everyone voted for the nominees and it was said that Cllr Ian Clarkson would be provost and Cllr Robert Barr would be deputy provost. The meeting went into a 5 minute recess so that the provost and his deputy could got for a picture and receive their chains. At this point in my mind I was trying to work out if a deal had been made. Pure speculation but my mind was running overtime. ‘So both of them are labour, does that mean we got in because we gave them provost roles’. Every hypothetical scenario was running through my mind.
Elma took to the microphone again and asked the question loud and clear. “Who do you vote for to me the leader and deputy leader of NAC?” The nominations were Cllr Marie Burns (SNP) and Deputy Cllr Alan Hill (SNP) or Cllr Joe Cullinane (Labour) and Deputy John Easdale (Labour). Elma asked for a vote of raising hands. The nominated leader and deputy leader with the most votes wins. She called out Marie and Alan first. All the SNP hands went up. That was 11 to them. I thought to myself at this stage that the Tories would abstain on both because they wouldn’t want to vote Labour in. Elma asked who votes for Joe and John. All of the Labour Councillors put their hands up so that made 11 also.

Then as I look over to the middle of the room I saw Cllr Angela Stephen, Cllr Scott Gallagher, Cllr Todd Ferguson and Cllr Timothy Billings raise their hands. Along with a former Tory councillor who is now an independent. It shouldn’t of shocked me, it shouldn’t of made me mad or upset. But it did. I shook my head in disdain. I had saw on the news just two hours before Kezia Dugdale saying she would suspend any Labour members going into coalition with the Tories. Now this was not the case. This was not a coalition between Labour and Tories. It may have well been though. This was a minority administration propped up by the Tories. It was deceiving, conniving and a massive faux pas from both of them.

It will come back to haunt them. I hope sooner rather than later. I turned to look at Jim and we both never said a word. We had a look of disbelief. It was now evident that Joe and his colleagues had infiltrated ranks with the Tories and they had put local issues aside to stop the SNP at every turn and to stop independence. A very transparent move but a move that sneakily got them to power. When the Chief executive confirmed that Joe Cullinane was now leader and that Labour had formed a minority administration by being propped up from the austerity ridden Tories. I looked over at him. He had a massive grin on his face. This man knows no bounds. He is an opportunistic, careerist. He will fling anyone under his municipal bus just to be the leader of the council. It doesn’t matter how he gets there or what route he has to take. As long as his career is first then the people of North Ayrshire will always come second.
As the meeting drew to a close. Elma was giving councillors opportunities to nominate for posts and duties. I saw Tory councillors reject nominations at every opportunity. It made me realise that they just didn’t care. They had no interest in today other than to stop SNP and effectively stop independence. But I have news for them. They won’t stop The SNP and they won’t stop independence. Because we don’t lie down to opportunistic careerists or part time councillors that just do enough to get by. We’re in this for the long run, we’re resilient in our vision for a fairer, more prosperous society for all. We will close the attainment gap for our kids.

We will shout from the rooftops that we will double childcare and oppose Tory cuts to our elderly and disabled. We got the most votes out of all the parties sitting in that chamber today. That is what keeps me going. We have amazing councillors in place to hold this Labour administration to account at every turn. We will keep going against the hatred towards us. We are SNP and this is our time!

featured image Red Raiph

You can follow David Patterson on twitter at @DavidPee29 or at his webpage davesworld