Friday, 30 January 2015

A second chance for Scotland

I had to check the date on this article about Miliband and Murphy performing as an SNP-hating double-act as it could have been from pretty much any UK general election period in the last two or three decades. The message from British Labour in Scotland is always the same. It is never about policy. It is never about the people of Scotland. It is never about aspiration. It is always about the SNP.

British Labour and their Tory allies are desperate to get back to business as usual They are desperate to get back to the cosy duopoly that has served the British parties so handsomely whist serving the people of Scotland so ill.

They are more terrified than ever that Scotland's Yes campaign-inspired break from the British two-party system - with its faux rivalries providing only token cover for a shared neo-liberal agenda - will infect England's politics and threaten to bring down the structures of power and privilege which define the British state.

We should be aware of what is implied by these attacks on the SNP. We should be aware of what it is that is being challenged by the people of Scotland using the SNP as the agents of change. We should be aware of what it is that Miliband, Murphy and the rest are defending when they lash out at their SNP rivals.

It is not Labour principles which are threatened by the increasing rejection of British Labour in Scotland. British Labour has not represented those principles in decades. It is the British establishment which is being challenged. And that challenge comes from the people - the grass-roots masses who found their strength and their voice through engagement with the Yes campaign. The SNP is merely the tool which the people of Scotland will use to break free from the stultifying grip of the old order and the old ways in order that they can build a new politics and a renewed nation.

The British parties are bent on denying this renewal. They are determined to preserve a system which guarantees them patronage, power and privilege in return for unquestioning service to the ruling elites of the British state.

A few months ago, the people of Scotland held in their hands such democratic power as is only vanishingly rarely afforded the people of any nation. We baulked at seizing that power. We chose to relinquish it. We opted to hand that power over to those who had denigrated us and our nation at every opportunity. People who insulted us with ludicrous scaremongering and abused us with lies. We threw ourselves on the mercy of a political machine which knows neither honour nor principle. There was always going to be a price to pay for this folly.

The coming election is our opportunity to make a stand against the destructive grinding of that machine. It is not a second chance at restoring our nation's rightful constitutional status. But it is the best chance we're going to get to make it clear that we are not content to go backwards. That we are determined to move Scotland forward following the torch that was lit by the Yes campaign.

The British parties in Scotland are the obstacle to that progress. Thursday 7 May is our opportunity to sweep that obstacle aside. Let's not screw it up again.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Independence! Nothing less!

Amusing as it is to watch the LibDems try to portray themselves as the heroes in this situation (Smith Commission: Tories tried to dilute proposals), the fact remains that it matters not at all whether their Tory masters actually delivered on proposals which were themselves an incoherent and inadequate follow-up to a vacuous promise made in a moment of pant-wetting panic by British politicians in abject fear of losing their wee bit power and privilege.

Let me make this absolutely clear. Even if the notorious "vow" had been sincere (stop laughing); and even if the Smith Commission had been a genuine attempt to honour that "vow"; and even if "Cameron's Clauses" represented an earnest effort to implement the Smith Commission's recommendations, IT STILL WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN SATISFACTORY.

No settlement will ever be satisfactory which is a product of a process which is primarily concerned with the withholding of powers which should rightly reside with the Scottish Parliament.

Arguments about whether Smith delivered on the "vow" and whether the UK Government has delivered on Smith are a pointless distraction. None of it represented a serious attempt to address the underlying constitutional issue. None of it had anything to do with addressing the priorities and aspirations of Scotland's people. It was entirely about preserving the old order and the old ways. It was about fending off change. It was about buying time in the desperate hope that the demand for reform might evaporate.

There is only one answer to the constitutional question. Independence! Nothing less!

Monday, 19 January 2015

Don't tell me what I think

It's a tricky time for British nationalist drivelbots such as David Torrance (Why small differences are crucial when politicians are fighting for supremacy). Their natural inclination to deride and derogate the largest and most popular political party in Scotland has to be curbed in favour of the hysterical propaganda line that the SNP are a huge threat to democracy owing to fact that lots of people are inclined to vote for them.

But still Torrance tilts in characteristically inaccurate, ill-informed and ineffectual fashion at the caricatures concocted by a British establishment fearful for the future of its power and privilege rather than addressing the reality that is apparent to those less fatally disconnected from Scotland's politics by ideology and intimate association with a media clique bound in service and servility to the ruling elites of the British state.

Thus, Torrance drones on about entirely imagined claims of the moral and attitudinal superiority of people in Scotland from those who advocate independence for Scotland. His assertion that demands for the restoration of Scotland's rightful constitutional status are "premised on irreconcilable differences" in the attitudes and priorities of people is entirely informed by a bitterly prejudiced unionist perspective and owes absolutely nothing to any rational, objective analysis of Scotland's independence movement.

It is undoubtedly significant that Torrance has chosen to write at length about recent polling carried out on behalf of the widely respected alternative media organ, Wings Over Scotland without taking the minimal trouble to contact its editor, Stu Campbell. Not only is Torrance totally uninterested in Campbell's actual reasons for commissioning the survey, or his actual views on the findings, he is arrogantly convinced that he is better qualified to enunciate those reasons and views than Campbell himself.

Similarly, Torrance is not only unconcerned about the reality of Scotland's independence movement, he is arrogantly convinced that the reality is whatever he says it is. He is not being dishonest when he so ludicrously misrepresents the motivations of those who challenge old order and the old ways. He genuinely believes that he knows the content of their minds better than they do. Which probably means that he is more to be pitied and condemned.

Torrance is almost certainly too convinced of his own superiority to read any critical comment on his writings. So it is for the benefit of more open minds that I offer the following explanation from an actual Scottish nationalist.

I would contend that the most important factor in the rise of Scotland's progressive independence movement has been the fact that a distinctive political culture has evolved in Scotland because the democratic processes and institutions native to Scotland have been more effective in translating the attitudes of the electorate into public policy.

This is NOT to say that people in Scotland have different attitudes to people elsewhere in these islands - as per the simplistic pseudo-analysis offered by the likes of David Torrance. It most certainly is NOT to claim that these attitudes are in some sense "superior". It is only to say that the way in which politics works in Scotland - the electoral system, political parties, parliament etc - is better at giving effect to these attitudes. Marginally so, perhaps, but still enough to allow a distinctive political culture to develop over time.

The fact that many of the differences in attitudes and priorities between Scotland and the rest of the UK (rUK) are small is completely irrelevant. Even the tiniest difference can be massively significant if the political culture is such as to allow this difference to be reflected in policy.

Without independence, this distinctive political culture must always be subordinated to the dominant political culture of the British state. A culture which is increasingly divergent from and aggressively opposed to the political culture in Scotland. The subordinate culture must be denied and, at some point systematically, suppressed.

Which is, of course, the objective which David Torrance and his ilk seek and serve.

Meaningful inaction

English: United States Trident II (D-5) missil...
British Labour need to learn the difference between "ineffective" and "meaningless" (Labour MPs to snub SNP's 'meaningless' Trident debate). Action can be ineffective, in that it is unlikely to bring about actual change, but still be meaningful, in that it makes a statement. Over a million people marched in protest against the murderous assault on the sovereign nation and people of Iraq, But the British Labour government led by Tony Blair went ahead with their vicious military adventure regardless. Does anyone who raised their voice against this heinous crime now regret doing so? Do any of those who raised their voices in protest at the inhumane folly of the Iraq invasion think their action was meaningless?

Trident is an obscenity at any cost. Decent people will always object to it. They will naturally seize on any and every opportunity to register their disgust at the criminal profligacy of squandering resources on weapons of mass destruction while children go hungry.

British Labour's decision to boycott a House of Commons debate on the issue, for the pettiest of reasons, is very far from meaningless. It means that they are turning their backs on those decent people. It means that they are snubbing, not just their political rivals, but all of those hungry children.

In the eyes of voters, British Labour's opting out of this debate means that they put small-minded party politicking before their duty to the electorate. It means that they are happy to put that which is politically expedient before that which is morally right.

It means that they are afraid to participate in a debate which would risk exposing the deep divisions within the party on the matter of Trident and the fact that British Labour offers no alternative to the Tories on this key issue, as on so many others.

British Labour dodging this debate is not meaningless at all. We know exactly what it means.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

The inevitability of change

That 66% of people in Scotland expect independence is heartening, but hardly surprising. (Poll: 66% of Scots think independence will happen eventually) This merely reflects the political mood in the country. What is perhaps more surprising is the continued denial of British nationalists who simply refuse to accept the new reality.

What is more interesting is the contrast between the political awareness of respondents in Scotland and the ill-informed analysis offered by pollsters observing from within the London bubble. This is exemplified in the comment about, "the way in which the Scottish National Party have turned the disappointment of the referendum result into a nationalist surge". As any of those 66% could have told Sunder Katwala, the "surge" to which he refers was totally spontaneous. It was neither engineered nor anticipated.

The SNP has, without question, very effectively ridden the wave of that post-referendum surge in support for Scottish - as opposed to British - political parties. But the idea that the SNP somehow created and managed that surge is a fallacy derived entirely from the British nationalist propaganda line that the referendum was all about the SNP and/or Alex Salmond. A little gobbet of idiocy best represented by the inane depiction of the entire independence movement as one man's "vanity project" by some of the less intellectually acute commentators.

The near-total failure to comprehend the true nature of Scotland's independence movement is telling. It is as if a genuine grass-roots political movement is so alien to those immersed in the British political system that they neither know how to deal with it or even recognise it.

But we must must give credit where it is due. At least the report from British Future recognises that voting patterns in Scotland have changed. And that the difference between voting in Holyrood and Westminster elections is diminishing rapidly. Whether there is any awareness of the underlying reason for this isn't clear. Given the excessive focus on the SNP previously noted, it seems likely that this change will also be attributed largely to the one party, thereby missing the crucial point that there has been a fundamental shift in which Holyrood is now regarded as the locus of all Scotland's politics.

Hard as it will undoubtedly be for British nationalists to accept, even in a UK general election Westminster is increasingly regarded in Scotland as peripheral. In the eyes of a growing number of people in Scotland, Westminster is viewed as a largely superfluous entity that is associated with incompetence, corruption, venality and an arrogant disregard for democracy. There is a rising tide of feeling that Westminster does not serve the interests of the people of Scotland. At the very least, it is held to be an obstacle to progress and the realisation of of Scotland's aspirations.

And nobody imagines that will change. Which is why two-thirds expect Scotland to rid itself of the burden of Westminster in the medium to long term. It also explains why, in the short term, voters in Scotland are abandoning the British parties in droves. The British parties in Scotland are no longer trusted to represent the interests of the people of Scotland. At best they are regarded as having failed Scotland. At worst, of having betrayed Scotland.

The people of Scotland have decided that they've had enough. And the Yes campaign has given them the confidence to act.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Depend on democracy

Aberdein Considine partner, Rob Aberdein, said the referendum took up “a lot of internal resources” in financial services in contingency planning for independence, as well as “causing uncertainty” for customers.
He said: “Does the continuing narrative around a referendum and further devolution make this a bad place to do business?”*
Rob Aberdein of Aberdein Considine seems to feel that democracy is OK only so long as it doesn't inconvenience his business in the slightest. Doubtless he would prefer that we do away with the "uncertainty" of elections.

However outlandish it may seem to those of us who adhere to fundamental democratic principles, the idea that democracy should be subordinate to the needs of business is not at all uncommon. There is a widespread belief that all of society should be so ordered as to serve profit rather than people. It is a pernicious dogma which, towards the extreme, denies altogether the very concept of society and holds that all individual suffering is a price worth paying in the service of an economic elite. Like a religion, it demands total subservience to the gods of the neo-liberal economic imperative.

Fortunately, we have not yet totally succumbed to this cult. As has been so magnificently demonstrated by the Yes movement during and after the referendum campaign, the people still have a voice. We still have power, despite the fact that 55% of us decided they would prefer to surrender power to the ruling elites of the British state.

We still have the power that won us the referendum against concerted anti-democratic opposition from the entire British establishment. Nobody voted to relinquish our right of self determination. When the people of Scotland demand another referendum, the British state can no more deny us now than it could before.

So, Kenny MacAskill is perfectly correct. There will be another referendum. We need not concern ourselves with the question of whether a suitable cause will arise. By its very nature, the British state simply cannot avoid providing such cause. We need only concern ourselves with ensuring that, when that cause provides the necessary  momentum, we have the required political voice.

Simply stated, we must choose our elected representatives exclusively from the Scottish parties which will respect the demand for another referendum, rather than the British parties which will surely show the same contempt for democracy and the people of Scotland that they did when they tried to block the last referendum.

Kenny MacAskill is only half right, however, when he says that the political battleground will be “home rule not independence”. It would be more correct to say that home rule has now become part of the political battle for independence - in the same way that the fight for a Scottish Parliament and the fight for a referendum were part of the battle for independence. Home rule is simply the next phase of a gradualist approach which, notwithstanding the whining of absolutists such as Jim Fairlie, has been remarkably successful in advancing the cause of restoring Scotland's rightful constitutional status.

Both independence fundamentalists and (somewhat absurdly) unionists complain that the SNP's support for home rule signals abandonment of the policy of independence. This is nonsense, of course. The SNP has been totally consistent in stating that it would go along with anything that meant more powers for the Scottish Parliament. The party recognised many years ago that all or nothing inevitably meant nothing.

And unionists would have complained even more if the SNP had declined to support the idea of home rule. Blind to their own hypocrisy, unionists would have accused the Scottish Government of reneging on the Edinburgh Agreement. Because, despite the duplicitous efforts of British nationalists to pretend otherwise, home rule is what was promised to the people of Scotland in return for a No vote. At the very least, it is what they were led to believe would be delivered.

Despite the doubts which have subsequently been raised as to the provenance of "The Vow", while the British media was trumpeting it, all of the British parties were content to allow the impression to be given that they were committed to home rule or devo max or something akin to federalism.

With characteristic duplicity, British nationalists are now trying to portray home rule as something that the SNP came up with subsequent to their "defeat" in the referendum (Whose devo max plan?). The truth is that the Scottish Government is doing no more than demanding that the British parties honour the panicky pledge that they gave to the people of Scotland in the last days before the vote.

Let there be no mistake. Whatever support the SNP may give to home rule at the moment, it is not and never can be a substitute for independence. However it is formulated, a home rule settlement will turn out to be no more acceptable or viable in the longer term than any of the other devolution packages that have been cobbled together by British politicians whose overarching imperative is the preservation of the structures of power and privilege which define the British state at whatever cost to the people of Scotland and, for that matter, the people of the rest of the UK.

Whatever else home rule may mean for Scotland, it must mean that it will be easier to hold another independence referendum. For that reason alone, we should embrace it wholeheartedly, confident that our democracy is still working and will continue to serve us on our journey to independence.

Second indyref ‘in a few years’ - Kenny MacAskill

Friday, 16 January 2015

Whose devo max plan?

Hang on a minute! When did it get to be "the SNP's devo max plan"?* It was the British parties and the UK Government, aided and abetted by the British media, who duped people into thinking that devo max was on offer in return for a No vote. If there was a "plan", it was not the SNP's. The SNP's plan was independence.

But, of course, there was no plan to deliver devo max. There was only a clumsy, hastily-contrived plot to persuade people that there was a plan. All the SNP is doing is holding the British parties to account by insisting that they both reveal and act on the plan for devo max/home rule that they led us to believe they had.

And who says that "oil prices have become a central issue in the election fight in Scotland"? The British parties would dearly love to make it so. And the British media is, as ever, cooperating fully. But the rest of us are well able to recognise brazen political opportunism when we see it. Those of us not fatally blinkered by mindless partisan loyalty and/or British nationalist fanaticism are mindful of the sage advice which tells us that when British politicians and the British media combine to focus obsessively on a particular issue it is because they want to divert attention from other issues.

At the very least, sensible people will wonder why the British parties only want to talk about this relatively tiny part of Scotland's economy whilst totally ignoring the other 90% or so.

Oil prices are volatile. That fact alone precludes the price of oil being the "central issue" in an election which will decide the UK Government for the next five years. It cannot be a huge consideration because the price of oil could, quite literally, be anything at all within that five year period. It could, as it historically has done, fluctuate between $2 and $146. There is no more way of knowing what the price will be in 2016 or 2019 than there was a way of predicting the current price in 2012.

When making their decision on 7 May, how are voters to factor in something which cannot possibly be known? And why would they fail to factor in the underlying strength of the Scottish economy without taking oil into account?

The real question facing voters is not some guess as to what the price of oil might be at some time in the future. The question is one of who the people of Scotland can trust to manage an economy in which oil plays a small, if significant part. A glance at the record of successive UK Governments should leave nobody in any doubt that it is long past time to bring Scotland's government home, and with it the management of our nation's resources.