Scotland is Risen Indeed

It is accomplished. The scales have fallen from our eyes. The stone has been rolled away. It is the morning, and we have risen. An Eastertide reflection on the story of Scotland – a people awoken, a nation rising, and this is only the beginning.

Easter Sunday 2017, and I am about to let slip my thoughts and allow them to wade out into a place they have never before been permitted. Pádraig Pearse’s great genius was his ability to reach into the deepest recesses of Ireland’s cultural imagination and fuse the language and symbolism he found there with the highest national aspirations of his country. What he produced was arguably the most powerful form of Irish nationalism in the long history of Ireland’s struggle for freedom from British domination. Until very recently, in my own thinking, I have not been a fan.

Religion and the mythology of nationhood are a volatile combination, creating – as we see in the work of Pearse – an ideology verging on extremism. Unionist efforts in Scotland to present the SNP as a “cult” highlight the fact that unionism – which has always been a quasi-religio-political force – is already betraying its anxieties around Scottish nationalism developing a similar dynamic. Whether we are religious or not, the universal themes of religion are what they are, precisely because of the commonality of the human imagination – and there is certainly nothing wrong with reinterpreting and recycling these themes.

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“Beware of the Risen People.”

Easter is one such theme. Within Christian cultures – including more secular nations such as our own where we have been shaped through history by Christian ideas – we have this story of death and resurrection. This idea is replicated in every religion and tradition. It is a narrative retelling of a human tale embodying the cyclical movement of the seasons; the progress from the death of winter into the rebirth of spring. Pearse retold this story, but he reinterpreted it as a story of the rebirth of Ireland – “the risen people” – overcoming the death that was foreign occupation.

We are free to do the same. Remove the familiar, half-remembered story of the resurrection from all the trappings and baubles – the angels, the rolling stones, the eggs, and bunny rabbits – and what we are left with is a story of complete and utter defeat, of death and rising, and of victorious vindication. Where in its details is this unlike the story of Scotland? We have stood upon the pavement before Pilate and he has washed his hands of us. We have been ignored and neglected. Justice has been denied to us. We have been lashed under the hand of the cohort. We have been stolen from, humiliated, rejected, and despised. We have been nailed to that ignominious gibbet and we too have perished. In Union the placard above us reads: Scocie Mortuus Est, Vivat Rex.

Yes, we too are a risen people. This was not the final end of us. Our story does not end here. We are only at the beginning of our story.

We remember that the story of the crucifixion is set against the backdrop of empire, and its hero a simple man – ecce homo – who would not take up the sword and who taught his followers to turn the other cheek to every humiliation and act of violence. Their every violence has robbed them of their humanity; like wild predators they hunt down and maul the poor, the old, the disabled. Without conscience they take food from the mouths of children, they degrade the degraded, they have become the despoilers of the world and of us. By taking up the sword we become like them. In spite of all this we have risen, and the guards at our tomb have fled away.

It is only a story, but already it is one that has made us evangelical in our zeal to spread the message of our liberation – our rebirth, our resurrection. This is a narrative of national renewal – invested with the language and symbols of our history and traditions – that has made what we are doing an unstoppable force. And look now! We can see it clearly because the night has ended and the morning has broken – the stone is rolling away. Let us arise and be on our way. Scotland has risen. It has risen indeed – Beannuichibh an Tighearn!

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.

Beyond the Headlines

“[I]f there is to be meaningful debate on this issue then the SNP have a lot of work to do to produce best possible data. The last thing they should do is trust that from London.” – Richard Murphy

Tax expert Richard Murphy, who is currently most notable for exposing the UK’s massive £120 billion per year tax gap, has written an article warning of relying on UK economic data to make the case against Scottish independence.

Murphy

Before he gets attacked too badly by hacks telling him that the Scottish economic data is produced by Scottish civil servants (Edit: I may already be too late on that) I thought I’d write a parallel piece pointing out what those civil servants have told me about the limits of some of their stats.

The first thing to remember in all of this is that the UK is not a federation or a confederation, it considers itself to be a unitary state of which Scotland is just one region of twelve (plus the “extra-regio” offshore regions). Therefore there is currently no real obligation to even gather the distinct statistics for Scotland and it really only has become important because of the independence campaign.

Tax Revenue

As I’ve pointed out in my paper Beyond GERS, the issue of apportioning tax revenue is fraught with subtle difficulty. GERS itself has updated its methodologies multiple times over the years (particularly since the SNP took the government in 2007. The GERS of today is no longer very closely related to the GERS created by Ian Lang to discredit Scotland in the early ’90’s). There are still differences in the results presented straight by HMRC and the data eventually “Scottishised” [To use the stats folk’s term] and presented in GERS.

Onshore corporation tax is a good example of this. Where an overall UK stat may simply count the location of the HQ of a company for the purposes of assigning corporation tax and this may make sense from a unitary state perspective (albeit this is becoming less true as globalisation increases the ability for multi-national companies to move resources across borders).

For many companies though, the profits one which corporation tax are paid are not generated at the HQ. This is obvious in the case of, for example, a large retail chain which has stores across the country. To correct for this, HMRC and GERS both use different methodologies to apportion the tax more evenly. Various measures (and the weighting applied to those measures) such as estimating volume of sales, number of employees, amount of capital spent in the region and overall population are all used in different ways to reach slightly different estimates. As a result, HMRC estimates that in 2015-16 Scotland produced 7.1% of the UK’s corporation tax compared to 7.3%% estimated by GERS – a gap of  about £100 million.

One can also see possible limits of these methodologies especially if taken individually. For example if one looks at employees then one could probably consider a company (and, it should be stressed that this is a completely hypothetical company) which employs a dozen people in Scotland to make, say, a high value, highly exportable product with a geographic link (call it a similarly hypothetical product like “Scotch blisky”) and then employs a couple of hundred people in London to market it. It may be very difficult to properly apportion the “value” of that product and its profits based on employees alone. It’s possible, after all, to find a market without marketing but a bit harder to drink an advertising campaign.

VAT is another issue where these figures can differ for similar reasons. The UK doesn’t demand point of sale ID to determine the location of VAT spend (If you nip down the road to Carlisle for your shopping, then that results in VAT paid in England but Tesco neither knows nor cares where you came from to get there). Again, various methodologies are used to try to estimate the proportions paid and the estimates are slowly aligning (HMRC claims Scotland paid 8.4% of the UK’s VAT compared to GERS’ 8.6% – a gap of £110 million). There is also a further complication wherein the results between HMRC and GERS are simply presented in a different manner (HMRC measures the cash receipts, GERS measures the accruals)

A third prominent example is Income Tax, and is going to become pertinent now as IT is largely devolved to Scotland and all Scottish residents are to be assigned a distinct Scottish tax code and especially now that the income tax bands in Scotland will soon start to diverge from the UK bands. However, HMRC has been recently criticised for a series of administration issues which is making it difficult to roll out this tax code. As with the difficulties in rolling out devolved welfare, this won’t be nearly so much of an issue once Scotland is independent but highlights the difficulty in trying to run a devolved situation from a centralised unitary setup. This said, both HMRC and GERS arrive at a proportion of about 7.2% of the UK’s income tax coming from Scotland although this may change as the new systems are launched (even if tax rates are kept the same).

It is not possible to say whether the HMRC or GERS estimate is “better” or “worse” than the other. The Institute of Fiscal Studies has commented saying, especially of corporation tax:

“Neither of these estimates is clearly superior to the other, and both may be some way off. Profits are not necessarily generated in proportion to the number of employees, or their wages. Some employees may be more instrumental in generating profits than others; and profits also arise from capital assets – both physical (such as buildings and equipment) and intangible (such as intellectual property and brand value) – the location and contribution of which may differ from the location and wages of employees. Calculating how much of a company’s profits are attributable to economic activity in different locations is conceptually and practically difficult and is the source of many problems in international corporate taxation”

Balance of Trade

This is the big one that has attracted a lot of shouting in the past few months. Once again, the UK’s status as a unitary state causes much of the furore over the published numbers to be based on false premises and over-massaged numbers. The UK’s balance of trade figures are published here and probably do do a decent job of estimating the UK’s position in the world. What it doesn’t do is show the internal movements of trade within the UK. As a unitary state it simply doesn’t matter to the external balance of trade whether or not Yorkshire is a net exporter to Sussex. The UK does produce figures which try to estimate the trade balance between the regions  with the rest of the world but it only covers goods, not services (hence excludes nearly half of the UK’s total trade) and it does not cover internal trade. For that internal trade, we turn to ESS – Export Statistics Scotland – which surveys exporting companies in Scotland and asks them where they send their goods and services (contrary to a semi-popular belief, these statistics don’t care how the goods reach their destination so it doesn’t matter if they physically leave the UK via an “English port“). There are some limits, again, to this methodology.

First, not all companies know where their goods are going (see the example of Tesco again. If someone from Carlisle buys a crate of beer in Glasgow then goes home then that’s a Scottish export but Tesco wouldn’t be able to record it easily) so they won’t appear in the survey. Goods which are shipped to England then either re-packaged or used as a sub-component before being exported from England to somewhere else (or even back to Scotland) would be counted only as far as their export to England and there may be some cases where service “exports” are caused by, for example, someone in London buying insurance for their house in London from the London branch of a provider who just happens to have a brass plate in Edinburgh. The total proportion of these anomalies in the data is simply unknown at this point and unlikely to be knowable until after independence.

Beyond the Horizon

And this takes us to the most important point in this whole article.  Even if the methodologies above all align and all can capture the full economic picture of Scotland and everyone can agree on the figures produced and everyone agrees that they produce an accurate and complete picture of Scotland’s economy within the Union there is a fact which should be utterly indisputable (and certainly is within the team which put together these stats).

Independence. Changes. Everything.

None of these figures have any validity if you try to use them to project beyond the independence horizon. Corporation tax may change due to the redomiciling of businesses post-independence. Both those seeking to remain within the UK and those seeking to remain within the EU or EEA may shift operations. Trade exports may suddenly become a lot easier to assign (whether there’s a “hard border” or not) and that “extra-regio” oil which is often excluded from stats due to historical and supply chain accounting issues suddenly has to be accounted for. Those tax streams which are simply too embedded to discuss in any terms other than by a population share have to be audited. And all of this is before Scotland starts to make changes to the tax system to optimise it for the Scottish economy or to do things like close the tax gap.

As with everything in science and in economics, statistics are based on models, models are only ever as strong as their underlying assumptions and projections are only ever as strong as the person making the prediction’s understanding of the limits of those assumptions and the models.

IMF GDP Growth

(One day I’ll write an article about the “Porcupine Plots” which get created when inappropriate models are used year after year in spite of reality)

I don’t mind discussing the economy of Scotland within the Union. I don’t even mind speculating on the economy of an independent Scotland. But I sense that the next two years of campaigning will get very frustrating if pundits continue to stretch their own models past the point of credibility in a quest to push their political point. This, I should warn, goes for both sides. We need a more meaningful economic debate than we saw last time. Let’s get beyond the headlines to create one.

You can read more articles from Dr Craig Dalzell at The Common Green

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featured image money grab

Putting Grassroots Activism at the Centre of the Indy Campaign – a call to action

For those struggling to survive on diminishing benefits or otherwise dependent on our ravaged welfare state, Independence can’t come soon enough. There is good reason why welfare has been a recurrent theme at Indy rallies; and the Scottish Unemployed Workers’ Network will be as active in this campaign as we were in the last. But we can’t help being concerned – along, I suspect, with other grassroots activists – that the prospect of an escape from Tory Britain in the not too distant future will distract people from taking on the daily attacks on our welfare state that are destroying lives and families in the here and now. While it might be unfair to claim that a section of Scotland is waiting for the First Minister to ride in with the cavalry and drive our current problems away, the sense of urgency and need for action is certainly blunted. This has serious implications, both for the people feeling the full force of ‘welfare reform’, and for the strength and success of the Independence campaign. Moreover, if we do win this referendum, the focus of our activity now will affect the direction of our newly independent nation.

If we want the new Scotland to be a harbinger of social justice, then issues of social justice must be at the heart of our Independence campaign; not just in our rhetoric, but in our actions too. We really do need to act as though we live in the early days of a better nation in order to ensure that genuine fairness and decency become such a fundamental part of public consciousness that no future Scottish elite can cast this aside without fear of the consequences.

Practical grassroots activism makes tactical sense too. Successful political movements build support by demonstrating their relevance; by showing that they care and can get things done. They get involved in the hard work of helping to unravel the problems that encumber people’s lives. They listen and learn and involve people, and together they develop a greater understanding of the underlying causes of the current condition, and of the political solutions that will stop the problems from happening in the first place.

The political manoeuvrings between Holyrood and Westminster have placed us in a kind of phoney war where many people are not ready for full-on referendum campaigning. But the need for action around welfare issues is growing ever more acute, and when this is combined with analysis, such action can provide the best argument for Independence. Besides giving practical assistance, we need to publicise and protest every draconian rule that comes from Westminster and make it as hard as possible for these to be implemented. And we also need to keep up pressure on our own Scottish Government to make best use of the limited powers they already have – in order to minimise suffering, to show that there can be a fairer way of doing things, and to show why we need the full powers that can only come with Independence.

As people gear up for the Independence campaign proper, many are asking what answers should we give on the doorstep. We can never know in detail how an Independent Scotland WILL be. What we can know, and attempt to demonstrate, is what it COULD be. For this we can’t depend only on abstract argument. We need practical involvement to win trust and raise expectations.

For those of us active in resisting the attack on the unemployed and disabled, this involvement combines different forms of action.  First there is the bread and butter of practical assistance to make people aware of the rights they do still have and to ensure these are respected. We run weekly stalls outside the jobcentre to reach people who won’t make it to office based agencies, or are not aware that they can refuse to accept some of the treatment that is being meted out to them. Then we also publicise the cruelties of the increasingly punitive ‘welfare’ system through all forms of media and public protest, including direct action. And we engage in every opportunity to influence Scottish Government policy through consultations and letters.

At the same time, we need to look beyond protecting past gains from the scythe of austerity, and put forward an alternative programme based on a completely different way of doing things. Independence would leave Scotland free to replace a system that relies on means testing and the policing of people’s lives and actions, with a Universal Basic Income for everyone. A Basic, or Citizen’s, income would open possibilities for involvement in activities that aren’t currently rewarded financially, but are essential for a healthy society. Ideas like that need to be properly worked out and argued over. We need to invest time and thought into building a credible vision for an Independent Scotland that is manifestly worth fighting for.

You can follow the scottishunemployedworkers on facebook  or at the  webpage scottishunemployedworkers.net

 

Canny, No Cannae -Things I won’t be doing in an Independent Scotland

Things I won’t be doing in an Independent Scotland

In an independent Scotland, I won’t stop eating what I used to eat, buying what I used to buy or doing what I used to do.

I’ll still drink Earl Grey tea. Aldi do a very acceptable blend, fairly traded, blended and packed in Edinburgh by John A. Finlayson. It’s that simple to buy something locally produced and fairly traded, all you have to do is read the packaging. Now some things are not traditionally produced in Scotland; things I like – like rum. But before you all jump and say there are Scottish rum producers – I know there are. But my preference is for rum produced elsewhere. And that’s fine. An independent Scotland will come to an amicable trade agreement with the countries that produce the rum I like. I’m sure they like our whisky as much as we like their rum and a trade agreement will be mutually beneficial.

I like a nice bit of sea bass every now and again, not a fish traditionally found in the icy cold dark waters of the North Sea unless it took a serious wrong turn and ended up here by mistake. Fortunately for sea bass lovers like me Scotland has an abundance of lovely Scottish salmon that is coveted the world over. Not to omit all the beautiful pelagic seafood that, with careful management, will continue to flow from our waters.

It’s lovely to visit the local chippy in Harrogate and see the sign proclaiming proudly that they get their fish every day off a lorry from Peterhead and Fraserburgh (Michael Gove might recognise these locations as Peterborough or possibly Fraserhead). The Scottish label gives great confidence to buyers and again, I’m sure, someone with sea bass would love to set up a trade agreement with Scotland, perhaps in exchange for access to some of our incredible langoustines, or maybe a haddie or twa. Perhaps an Arbroath Smokie might be more their desire. Something that can only be called an Arbroath Smokie because of protected source legislation, which we have thanks to the EU.

Now I could go on all day about delicious Scottish foods that are only allowed to be called Scottish because they are sourced and produced in Scotland. And I’d love to blether lyrical about Haggis (only available like Cuban Cigars in the US via clandestine measures), porridge (I like mine with cracked black pepper and Scottish heather honey), Scotch Beef, Scotch Lamb, Scotch Pork, Scottish Cheeses, Scottish Fish… etc etc. But I’d only be repeating myself.

Suffice to say, we have a glut of amazing produce in Scotland’s larder and we’re only to keen to share it with the world (for a reasonable price). In turn, the world has so much to offer Scotland and we want it. I for one will not stop eating Indian, Chinese, Italian, European and all the other countries’ produce. And that goes for English, Welsh and Northern Irish Produce too. I have no intention of stopping buying any of the British Isles produce when Scotland is independent and it’s my firm belief that none of the producers have any genuine intent to stop selling to just shy of 10% of the local custom.

Will all the rUK-owned supermarkets just up sticks and leave their property assets and infrastructure as scorched shells and abandon their refrigerated lorries in lay-bys with sugar filled petrol tanks and punctured tyres? Of course, they won’t. At worst, they’ll set up new regional HQs and call them “(insert store name here) Scotland”.

I like clothes. I’d go so far as to say that they’re my favourite thing to wear. I own two kilts (more on that statistic later) but I wear all sorts of things on a day to day basis. Trousers, jeans, shorts, shirts, t-shirts, jumpers, jackets, underwear, socks, shoes, boots, trainers. Chances are if you can name an item of widely worn clothing I own at least one example of it. Now while it may be possible to wear only clothing made and sourced entirely in Scotland, it’s far from a practical or cost effective endeavour and I’m nowhere near that insular in my thinking.

I try to buy good quality, hard wearing and ethically produced clothing wherever possible. It’s not always easy but the point is that with the best will in the world I couldn’t and wouldn’t want to only wear Scottish produced clothing. Which brings us back to trade. While not everyone in the world wants to buy a kilt, they do want many of our uniquely Scottish clothing goods. Wool, tweed and other fine fabrics are in increasing demand, particularly if it is made in traditional manner using the finest raw materials. As a small country, there is a limit to how much can be produced at any given time. But over two centuries of mechanisation and, at times, neglectful capitalism have seen our once thriving production and processing industries decimated again and again.

Getting back to the two kilts. One is 100% manufactured from start to finish in Scotland, it cost over £600 and is as good today to wear and see as it was over a decade ago when it was handmade bespoke for me. The other is what is known as a ‘beer kilt’. Bought off the peg from a tourist store on the Royal Mile for less than 10% as much, made in China but sold in Scotland. We are buying our own souvenirs from overseas. To the untrained eye, it looks as good as my bespoke piece. And in all honesty, it’s just as comfortable and warm; made of similar materials and at a fraction of the cost it’s far less likely to break my heart or the bank if I get carried away and ruin it. I take as much care as I can of it nonetheless, but there’s no denying it’s easier on my mind when I want to wear a kilt and do something fun at the same time. But deep down I know that I’m buying into the convenience culture of disposable garments made in (probably) less than salubrious conditions a long way away.

Which brings me to my next point. We’ve all heard of the ‘tightfisted Jock,’ the ‘Canny Scot,’ the reputation for frugality that is, perhaps unfairly, foisted on us by other nations (not mentioning any specifically). But in truth is that a bad reputation to have? We’ve been taught by the media and society for so long to believe that not wishing to waste money unnecessarily is somehow a bad thing. Strange then that Scots are actually, according to no less than the Daily Mail ‘the most GENEROUS nation in Britain’ (14/3/2013) donating on average £100 more per year than wealthier Londoners.

This is not a new phenomenon. There’s the story of the tank sent on a fundraising tour of the UK during the First World War which attracted the most donation to the war effort in… drumroll please… Glasgow. And for that generosity they were later repaid with another visit from another tank, and five of its mates, accompanied by 10,000 British Army troops in 1919 for having the temerity to want to only work 40 hours a week. All this at the behest of then Home Secretary and MP for Dundee, future ‘national hero’ Winston Churchill. It was also ordered that the Glasgow City Regiment during ‘Bloody Friday,’ better known but seldom referred to in the sanitised history curriculum as The Battle of George Square, be confined to barracks (for fear that they would join the workers’ struggle for decent treatment).

Since then things have hardly changed in some ways. The language of unionism frequently takes a turn, if not to the actuality, to the perceived threat of violence at the first sign of any unrest from ‘the rebellious Scots.’ Fratricide (ask Ruth Davidson about that one) and worse are just around the corner at every turn of the constitutional page. So, unionist propagandists frantically try to stick the pages together with glue boiled from the bones of an empire long since knackered yet still believed to be a thoroughbred race horse or worse still an armoured destrier.*

If there’s a positive case for the continuation of the union, then I haven’t found it myself. And I’m still waiting to hear it (backed up with evidence and support from people more positive than the champions of Empire 2.0). But given the seismic rumblings of the current political climate of fear and intimidation, I suspect that right now I’m not going to be hearing one any time soon.

In an independent Scotland, I will continue to do what I do for the organisation I work for now. And in an independent Scotland I am confident I will be able to. I’m a community Nurse. I work for NHS Scotland. Tomorrow I might be visiting your granny, your grandad, your mum, dad, auntie, uncle, son, daughter, maybe even you.

Every day people need healthcare. And let’s look at that word, shall we? Healthcare. Break it down. Health and care. In an independent Scotland, I don’t want to be caring for sick people all the time. I don’t want to be caring for sick people at all. What I want to be doing is keeping healthy people healthy. It’s unrealistic to think people will one day never get sick and injured no matter how much we advance, but I’d like to think that the possibility for change exists. For a long time, despite being a part of the UK, one of the most developed and advanced societies in the world, Scotland has held an inheritance that no one would envy. That inheritance is the title of ‘The Sick Man of Europe’ (formerly owned by the UK in its entirety).

Things are improving, in no small part due to differences in things like the way health and social care are handled by the Scottish Government. Our political direction as a nation is skewing (sometimes wildly) in direction from the UK body politic. I’d invite you all to check out the calculator here if you don’t believe me 👉 https://wingsoverscotland.com/the-tory-calculator/

The differences in policy and implementation between the Westminster and Holyrood governments in wholly devolved matters is widening all the time. So much so that the holders of the public purse strings are becoming alarmed that their desire to siphon off that purse’s contents into private pockets is repeatedly being outperformed by the pesky Scots and their persistently providing better public services.

Sure, unionist parties and media can try to derail that by attacking the evil SNP and the archdemonic Nicola Sturgeon*** with claims of a (largely imaginary****) horrendous deficit that would send us back to the dark ages if we left the warm comforting (hah) bosom of Britannia (who will get back to ruling the waves just as soon as she decides how many destroyers she needs to placate those pesky scots and their shipbuilding experts and threaten those pesky Sc… sorry, Spaniards with for keeping our colony in mainland Spain and show the world we still mean are open for business) which is suckling us like some particularly spoiled parasite favoured child and got on with doing things the way that we in Scotland believe is best for Scotland.

And that’s just it, in an independent Scotland, Scots (anyone who chooses to live and make a life in Scotland regardless of where they started life) will carry on doing exactly what we’ve always done, but we’ll do it without a disapproving parent (Mother of Parliaments, ha!) waiting to forbid us to have sleepovers, stay out late, take up a career that they consider a pipe dream (I wanted to be an artist and a chef, mum), hang out with people that they might consider undesirable or maybe occasionally have a bright idea that could change the world or just burn down the garden shed.

It’s not going to be utopia, it’s not going to all be smooth sailing and it’s not going to be perfect. We’re going to make mistakes, but we’ll learn from them. We’re going to get things completely wrong, but we’re also going to get things completely right but most of all, when we do, it’s going to be our own responsibility. And we may be a canny folk, but we’ll never be a cannae folk.

*a destrier is a now lost horse type used by armoured knights in medieval times, around about the time westerners first started trying to steal land off of people in the Middle East back when Jesus was still bigger than the Beatles and oil only came from fish and animal fat**

**And then oil started seeping out the ground in the desert and we found a whole other reason to go and interfere with the Middle East and apparently, it’s ok because… Empire, (insert deity of choice), we’re making their lives better by showing them its bad to live in tents and off the land. What do you mean they invented maths and science and engineering while we were still bashing each other over the heads with pointy sticks? Savages!

***who according to certain elements of the unionist… um… well, they probably consider themselves intelligentsia but are in fact dogfood salesmen[failed] and retired academics [specialising in Nazis and comparing them to the SNP], she, the SNP, Scottish Parliament, Scottish Government, human rights, immigration, humanitarian causes, anything Scottish, accents and not bombing the shit out of other people because you disagree with them are BAD and union jacks, Westminster Government, good old fashioned racism, blood and soil British nationalism, blue passports, pounds and ounces of corporal punishment dished out daily and weekly hangings are GOOD

****Sorry, estimated (ie GERS)

You can follow Brian Falconer on twitter at @FalconerBrian

Special Thanks to Guest Editor Steve Topple you can follow him on twitter at @MrTopple  or at the the canary

All  images provided by Brian Falconer

Tread A Common Path

 

 

 

We’re not independent today because too many people had too many unanswered questions. Let’s not make that mistake again

 

 

This is a personal appeal. Now that it’s confirmed that the new independence campaign will be kicking off and we’ll be having another referendum sometime in the next 18 to 24 months, we need to get cracking with our plans.

Last year I was fortunate enough to get involved with Common Weal and helped them write a paper on Scotland’s currency options. This sparked the inspiration to start the White Paper Project. Our plan for the essential institutions that an independent Scotland would need to become a viable, independent country. It aims to provide all of the answers that you need to take on the questions that you are hearing from the doorsteps, from your friends and from your family.

Now we need your help. We want to raise £25,000 so that we can fund the time, the resources and the people we need to complete the White Paper before the next referendum.
(And yes…this includes feeding a certain laser physicist who’s been writing a good chunk of the work.)

We’ve already published Version 1.0 of the White Paper and a library of research underpinning its claims. So far we’ve published papers on currency options; how to launch our own £Scot; options for debt and asset negotiations; projections of Scotland’s finances which goes Beyond GERS; principles for border and customs control; the demographics of the independence campaign; a proposal for a national investment bank and a proposal for a Citizens’ Assembly to replace the House of Lords.

To add to this we want to produce papers on reform of social security, how to manage our energy grid in a way which benefits a 21st century country, how to manage our government IT systems in a modern, streamlined manner, what Scotland’s defence sector could look like and quite a bit more.

We’re also dedicated to getting out to the campaign groups to present our information to you and our presentations so far have always been met with the highest praise and enthusiasm.

We want to provide the answers you need to help us win our independence. If you’d like to help us do that then please consider a donation if you can, either a one off or a recurring monthly payment. If you can’t then please share this around.

Thank you.

You can read more from Dr Craig Dalzell at The Common Green

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featured image Mark Senior – Landscape with Figures on a Path

Ah Sh*te Ma Breeks!

 

 

 

 

Nigel is thinking about trying out some different looks. He found the monocle* in the ‘Lost and Found Box’, which he renamed ‘Nigel’s Prop Box’. FT 😛

*He’s wearing a monocle because the ink smeared in panel 2. I call that artistic license**

**Artistic license means laziness***

***Laziness means I didn’t feel like redrawing and re-inking it****

****It means the comic 🙂

You can follow The History Twins at @thehistorytwins and at the webpage thehistorytwins.wordpress.com

Independence can’t come too soon -Westminster ‘austerity’ is killing people

 

As last time, the SUWN will be campaigning hard for our right to run our own country AND for the policies that will bring in a fairer system when we have won that right. The change of flag needs to symbolise a complete change of outlook. This is an opportunity to redefine what makes a good society, and we will aim to ensure that social security is central to the Independence debate. An independent Scotland would open a wealth of possibilities. Instead of fighting a rear-guard action against a continuous onslaught from the DWP, we could be looking at the end of sanctions and computer-based assessments, and the future introduction of a Universal Basic Income. But we can’t take any of this for granted. If we want to see real change, we need to demonstrate what is possible now. We need to raise people’s hopes and expectations, so that when we win Independence we can’t be told to go back in the box and be satisfied with minor reforms. We must demand a real difference in Scotland that can also provide a source of hope beyond our borders.

The SNP has chosen to use Brexit as the trigger for a second referendum. We have argued that there was already ample cause  for another vote in the UK Government’s failure to implement the ‘Vow’, and that the Scottish Government’s inability to protect our most vulnerable citizens from the depredations of UK ‘austerity’ should have been a red line issue. But whatever your view on the EU – and we have activists who voted on either side of that referendum for a variety of reasons – we now have an opportunity to make real change here in Scotland.

In 2014, YES won massively in the schemes, but we were beaten by the higher turnout among more prosperous voters who feared that change might impact their comfortable existence. This time we need to ensure that the working-class vote is big enough to win us the freedom to create a better system.

You can find out more about  scottishunemployedworkers.net  by clicking here or you can visit there facebook page

NO to Benefit Sanctions, YES to Independence

30 March was called as a National Day of Action Against Sanctions by Unite the Union. As we fight sanctions outside the buroo every week, we thought this was an opportunity to do something different – so, we set up stall in Dundee City Centre to say loud and clear, with the help of the megaphone, ‘No to benefit sanctions, YES to Independence’ and the freedom to get rid of sanctions altogether.

We generated a good amount of interest (including with a big bunch of school kids), and if we didn’t get out as many leaflets as we had planned it was because people wanted to stop and discuss – to discuss Independence, and to discuss their personal experience with sanctions. We were able to give out advice on fighting sanctions too, including to two separate homeless guys.

I have pasted the wording of our leaflet below.

(Thanks to Chris, Duncan, Dave, Norma, Gordon and Jonathan)

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Today, across the UK, people are protesting against benefit sanctions. The UK Government is turning our welfare state into a system of control and punishment. If people on benefits don’t do everything they are told, then they can have their benefits stopped and be left destitute. Often this happens without them having done anything out of place. And just the fear of sanctions creates constant stress. The stories we hear from the people we help at our stalls outside Dundee Buroo would melt the hardest heart – and raise the gentlest person to indignant anger. Today’s protest says that this system is completely unacceptable.

Sanctions, like most of the benefit system, are reserved to Westminster; and the Tory government shows no signs of letting up on their attack on the welfare state. But we in Scotland have the opportunity to win the freedom to create a better system. With Independence we would no longer have to fight a rear-guard action against a continuous onslaught from the DWP. We could be looking at the end of sanctions and of computer-based disability assessments. We could be looking forward to the future introduction of a Universal Basic Income.

We want to make sure that welfare is at the centre of the Independence debate – to raise people’s expectations, so that when we win we can demand a real difference. We are campaigning for nothing less than a fairer Scotland, which would also provide a source of hope beyond our borders.

You can find out more about  scottishunemployedworkers.net  by clicking here or you can visit there facebook page

 

 

My glass is half empty

How different things could have been.

The day after the independence referendum of 2014, David Cameron could have emerged from 10 Downing Street to announce a root and branch review of the constitutional settlement between England and the other nations. Instead of English votes for English laws he would have announced a consultation on an English parliament and the transformation of Westminster into a true UK parliament, with clear separation of powers and with the permanence of all the national parliaments enshrined in law.

As the constitution started to evolve to formally recognise the UK as a partnership of four equal nations, the very idea of an election campaign against the UK Labour party based on “othering” one of those nations would have been dismissed before it began. After the Scottish people returned 56 out of 59 SNP MPs to Westminster, the British establishment parties would have had the good grace to accept that a party supported by fully half of the Scottish electorate, and the party of government in Scotland, could no longer be treated with contempt as a separatist protest group. The Labour party would have recognised the importance of working with the SNP at UK level to form a truly effective opposition to the Tories.

The SNP already recognise that the first past the post electoral system doesn’t deliver fair representation of the views of the Scottish people. Knowing that the fear of almost permanent Tory rule was a big motivator for many Scots to vote for independence, UK Labour would have also realised that change was essential and they, together with the SNP and the smaller parties, would have begun to seriously campaign for proportional representation in all future Westminster elections.

When the Brexit referendum bill was passed by the UK Parliament, it would have been blatantly obvious that the larger electorate of England could not be allowed to overrule the wishes of the other three nations. The pleas of all the devolved administrations to provide for a “double majority” before the UK could leave the EU would have been accepted without question. And lo and behold, if that small and sensible change had been made, we wouldn’t be facing the looming disaster of Brexit right now.

The BBC would have reviewed their coverage of the 2014 independence referendum and concluded that the metro-centric view is not sustainable. They would have immediately moved to strengthen their coverage of the nations and the English regions. The Scottish Six (and equivalents for the other nations) would have immediately become a reality. UK political programming such as Question Time would now be taking as much care in balancing the national representation on their panels as they currently do with party representation.

See how easy this could have been? A little respect and humility is all it would take for people like me to recommit to the United Kingdom. To this “British at heart” woman, all the above just sounds like common sense. It represents the bare minimum that any of us should expect in a political union of nations, and if events had in any way resembled my hypothetical wish list then I might find myself now supporting its continuation. In fact, if events had unfolded in this way then I doubt we would be even be asking the question again.

Instead what we have now is a United Kingdom with deepening divisions. We have a Prime Minister who has shown herself incapable of joint working and compromise even within her own cabinet. For all her nauseating talk of a “deep and special partnership” with the European Union, the reality is that May’s United Kingdom doesn’t do partnership. The UK feels further away from understanding the concept of partnership with other countries than ever before, so who seriously thinks that a UK based on mutual respect and partnership between the four nations is still even a remote possibility?

We have “English votes for English laws”. We have the convention that the UK government doesn’t “normally” legislate on devolved matters lying in tatters. We have all four nations of the UK being dragged out of the EU on the most extreme terms despite two of those nations voting decisively to stay. We have the leaders of the devolved nations being all but shut out of the Brexit process. What does “taking back control” really mean? I can’t avoid the conclusion that the end game is to take back control over the constituent parts of the UK, and when the reality of that hits it will hit hard, and it will hurt.

Usually a “glass half full” person, my optimism ran out very soon after Theresa May took hold of the reins of power. The Tory government is presumably not forever, although right now it feels like it,  and May’s premiership is most certainly not forever (it may not even stay the course of Brexit). But don’t be fooled into thinking we can sit tight and hope for the return of a fairer United Kingdom in the future. All the evidence is that the future will be too late. If we want to preserve the best of what we have, we must act now to refill our glass.

You can follow Sylvina Tilbury on twitter @caorach or at her blog newscotblog.wordpress.com

Featured image glass half full creative commons

Been up to much?

 

 

It’s been a busy few days up here both personally & politically.

I’ve spent the last two days either wielding a paintbrush or gardening whilst desperately trying to keep up with the news – it’s hard being a politics junkie and having a life at the same time – so tonight I’m squishing two blogs together.

Yesterday May ventured north to Glasgow & East Kilbride (I am aware there’s a difference) She came, she saw and well that was about it to be honest.

She had a captive audience at the Department for International Development whose applause may have looked more spontaneous if their manager hadn’t been caught on camera telling them to applaud ((at 4 mins 30)

She could have visited HMRC also in East Kilbride, but then it’s due to be closed along with the site in Cumbernauld with 2500 to lose their jobs.

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She praised work being undertaken by the University of Glasgow in combating the Zika virus,unfortunate that Anton Muscatelli the university Principle has described Brexit as disastrous. Doubly so as the project she referred to whilst receiving £1 million from the UK Government’s Global Challenges Research Funds also received £10 million from the EU, funding which will dry up after Brexit.

This was part of 12 minutes of soundbites which included gems such as Brexit would bring the UK together (tell that to Northern Ireland), Britain would be an unstoppable force (I bet the colonies felt they had been steamrollered at times) and that the UK is one of the greatest forces for good in the world – second largest arms seller in the world.

As per usual no questions were taken from the press.

Later she met Nicola Sturgeon in Glasgow – not in a secure Scottish Government building but instead a hotel room. (?!) And again it sounds like not a lot of substance was said. The promised powers outed all weekend by the media were non-existent.

And again no questions were taken from the press, in fact she was sneaked out of a backdoor.

This amazes me, if we are to believe the Scottish Conservatives May is only second in popularity to Ruth *most popular Scottish politician* Davidson, so why not go out and meet her adoring public in Glasgow. Let one of the Yes cities show how much they no longer want a referendum, how they have returned to Britannia warm embrace.

So what was yesterday about? Because it seems a pretty pointless exercise. Is it just a UK tour (she did Wales the other week) so she can say she’s spoken to the devolved administrations? If so she’s left it a bit bloody late. It’s not like this referendum hasn’t been sign-posted from the minute Scotland voted to stay in the EU.

Of all the parts of the UK she needed to be in yesterday, Northern Ireland would seem to be the most in need of attention. Something the Irish press are keen to point out.

May is juggling a lot of balls right now, and even with my limited juggling skills (yes I can juggle, just) I know you have to keep your eyes on all of them.

And then we come to today and the Section 30 vote in Holyrood..

So in summary:

  • Tory Amendment to derail the bill defeated: 31 to 97
  • Labour amendment for Federal UK defeated: 28 to 100
    • A non-starter at the best of times
  • Green amendment to include 16-17 year olds and EU citizens in referendum franchise passes: 69 to 59
    • yes that’s right, Tories, Labour & LibDems voted together against those listed above having the right to vote on their future in Scotland
  • Lib Dem amendment fails: 28 to 100
    • something about uncertainty, federal blah, blah,  who knows, who cares
  • Bill as amended passes: 69 to 59.

The Scottish Parliament shall now request a Section 30 order from UK Government.

It then took SEVEN minutes before the Governor General said No. However as he is the monkey and not the organ-grinder I shall wait for Theresa May’s response to a formal notification. She’s been obfuscating all this last week with “Now is not the time.”

We don’t want one now (actually I do, but luckily I’m not in charge.) We want it in 18 months time once we see the results of the Brexit negotiations. An informed choice – which would be a nice change.

Of course, if Westminster does give a flat-out refusal against a democratically elected government, then it might go to court. It could be the European Court of Human Rights which would be worth it just to see the Brexit Bunch foaming.  (Now it’s time for your regular reminder we only have devolved governments thanks to the Council of Europe.)

And if this week wasn’t exciting enough, tomorrow May sends the letter that will start Article 50, so that brand new pound they launched today will probably be worth 90p by the end of the day. I notice she’s picked up the Trump habit of having the document signing recorded.

Have I missed anything? Oh yeah they’ve found another shit-tonne of oil off Shetland.

Featured image from @raiphsays

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