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Showing posts with label STUC. Show all posts
Showing posts with label STUC. Show all posts

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Shipbuilding and its politicisation by Iain Davidson and Alistair Carmichael – a media view …

The Dateline London foreign correspondents get to the heart of the shipbuilding jobs decision, recognising that it was Scottish politicians who made it political - and we know which ones - Iain Davidson and Alistair Carmichael, the so-called 'Scottish Secretary ...

 NESRINE MALIK: "It did start out as a non-political decision, but has become politicised - by Scottish politicians. ---- It was the Scottish politicians who said 'If you do vote for independence, we will ensure that shipbuilding stays in the UK ..." (She means rUK!)

I can do no better than quote from Iain Macwhirter''s superb analysis in the Sunday Herald, part of eight pages of insightful coverage of the complexities to the decision-making processes that so cruelly affected Portsmouth, Govan and Scotstoun shipyards.

IAIN MACWHIRTER (Sunday Herald)

"The UK Government relied on the tribalism of Scottish politics and the willingness of anti-nationalist politicians to trash their own nests to create a climate of uncertainty around Scottish shipbuilding at the moment it won the security that eluded the Clyde for decades. There was an inability to recognise Scotland won for a change. Perhaps it is a kind of industrial defeatism Scotland has got so used to industrial closures we expect them.

"There is a parallel here with the Grangemouth petrochemical plant. The dispute there should never have been allowed to become a closure issue, and in allowing it to, the unions involved seemed to follow a 1980s script in which the workers always go down to heroic failure"

But back in March 2012, what were they saying?

Friday, 11 October 2013

The Unions and Scotland’s independence

Last night’s interviews and statements by Len McCluskey are very significant events indeed, and perhaps the media and the strategists of SNP and YES – usually astoundingly naive about industrial relations - will now wake up to their significance for independence at this critical time. I reproduce the interviews here and let them speak for themselves. For those of you with the time and energy to read my previous thoughts on trades unions and independence, proceed below!

I wrote this in 2011, in the context of some very dodgy contracts sealed by Glasgow City Council affecting union members -

BLOG EXTRACT

Labour, especially Glasgow Labour, has systematically betrayed the interests of trades unions, their main party funders. To be more accurate, they have betrayed the interests of trade union members, but advanced the interests and political ambitions of  some trades union officials, who have never doubted where their unswerving loyalty lay - not to their members, but to the Labour Party machine that was going advance their ambitions.

A harsh judgement maybe, but it must be seen in the context of my spending a large part of my life in industrial relations, dealing with union members, union representatives and full time officers across a range of industries in in different areas of the country. I have attended the TUC Conference and have been party to high-level discussion between senior managers and directors and union officials.

As a consistent supporter of the role and function of trades unions (often in career-threatening situations!), despite being on the other side of the table from them most of my life, I think a strong trades union movement is vital to the functioning of an effective democracy and essential to maintaining justice and equity for working people. 

In consequence, I take a keen interest in the dynamics of the Scottish Trades Union movements stance on independence, and the complex interaction between individual unions, the STUC and the Labour Party. This is especially true because the Scottish National Party and the independence campaign, at least up until YES Scotland was launched, showed very little real understanding of trades unions or the left in Scottish politics, especially in Glasgow (comparatively few SNP MSPs have any industrial/trades union experience of any kind at first hand, in marked contrast to Labour) and little awareness of the widening rift between union members on one side and Labour and the official union hierarchy on the other.

However, things have changed, not only in Scotland, but in the UK, with an even wider fissure appearing between Labour and some of the major trades unions and their general secretaries, e.g. Bob Crowe and Len Mc Cluskey.

At the time of the Falkirk.Labour/Unite spat, the false initial instinct of the SNP and the YES Campaign was to take pleasure in Labour and Unite’s difficulties, and I warned against this superficial analysis and reaction at the time. I wrote this on 8th July 2013 at the time of the Falkirk debacle -

THE POWER GAMES BEING PLAYED

N.B. From here on in, I don’t pretend neutrality, and only as much objectivity as I can muster, because I am of the Left in politics and I am also a Scottish nationalist – not a SNP member or member of any party, but wholly committed to a socially democratic independent Scotland.

Labour has a long history of fights with the trades unions. Unions are by far the Labour Party’s principal source of funds through the political levy (optional) that members pay, and unions apply the funds in various ways, including sponsoring specific MPs. In return for this, they not unreasonably expect the MPs and the Party to serve the interests of their millions of members in addition to serving the whole electorate. This has always led to tensions between Party and unions. Exactly the same practices apply on funding to all political parties, with the key difference that the Tory and Liberal Democrat parties, for example, get their funds from organisations and individuals, a very much smaller group of large donors in comparison to the millions of small donors of the trades unions.

The key difference is that these corporate donors and individuals operate to a large extent behind closed doors in pursuing what they expect for their money – and they all expect something – whereas the union interaction tends to occur in a blaze of publicity.

To try and contrast the two systems in a nutshell – the trades unions, an imperfect but functioning democracy representing millions of UK workers interact with a much larger imperfect democracy in the Labour Party, whereas totally undemocratic organisations and individuals in commerce, industry, armaments and interest groups not confined to the UK interact with the imperfect democracies of the Tory and LibDem parties. Ultimately, in both cases, the trades unions interact with the over-arching and highly imperfect democracy of the UK Government.

The problem of the union conflicts with the Labour Party over the last half century (e.g. Clause Four) created  - or were alleged to have created – the problem of electability, and this was specifically what Blair, Brown and Mandelson set out to remedy after  Neil Kinnock had done some of the spadework. They created New Labour and it worked – Labour was elected and re-elected. The results, over 13 years, are now history. Two wars, one illegal, the deaths of hundreds of thousands, terrorism brought to UK by the Iraq War, the gap between rich and poor widened, corruption of Parliamentary institutions, the prosecution and imprisonment of Labour MPs, the resignation of the Labour Speaker of the House of Commons in disgrace, the corruption of the Press and the Metropolitan Police, the banking and financial collapse, cash for access, etc.

Hardly a success, except in one key aspect – Blair, Mandelson, Brown, Labour defence secretaries, Labour ministers and many Labour MPs got very rich indeed, in the case of Blair and Mandelson, egregiously rich.

The revolving door between government ministers, civil servants and industry – especially the defence industry – spun ever faster and more profitably. And the military/industrial complex rejoiced and celebrated New Labour’s achievements.

Meanwhile, the trades unions were marginalised, and the benches of Westminster became increasingly populated by MPs who had never experienced the real, harsh world of Blair’s Britain, MPs who came directly into politics waving their PPE degrees through internships as SPADs, etc.

This great divide, this yawning chasm has widened between the trades union movement and the political machine for enriching politicians and their friends that New Labour has become. After being finally destroyed electorally, Labour was replaced by a Coalition that is almost indistinguishable in its right-wing practices from the right-wing Labour Party. As an opposition, Labour has been feeble and equivocal. The trades unions, having placed brother Ed Miliband at the helm, vanquishing ultra-Blairite brother David Miliband, have been bitterly disappointed in their choice. And now he attacks them, setting the police on Unite.

The Falkirk debacle is symptomatic of this – a war between the Blairites (led by the noble Lord Mandelson, who cannot conceal his visceral distaste for trades unions)and what is left of the Left in the Labour Party, which is mainly the trades unions – some of them at least.

SCOTTISH DIMENSION AND INDEPENDENCE

All of the above has been gone over with a relatively fine tooth comb by the UK/metropolitan media. They see the Falkirk Affair in a UK context, from a UK perspective. The fact that Falkirk is in  Scotland, that Scotland played a major role in the foundation of trades unions and the Labour Party is ancient, and mainly irrelevant history to them. This superficiality and parochialism is what Scotland has come to expect from London media. From time to time, Scotland intrudes rudely on their consciousness, and they are aware that Scottish voters are effectively disenfranchised and don’t get the government they vote for on occasion, but then, Scotland is just another region of England (sorry, Jock – UK!)

What is almost unforgiveable is that the Scottish media has swallowed this narrative whole, and conceives its duty done when they passively regurgitate it to Scottish voters. Consider the following examples -

To listen to this duo, one might think the Falkirk debacle had nothing whatsoever to do with Scotland's independence, and had no significant implications for it.


But these journalists accurately reflect a Scottish press and media that is either so locked in a UK mindset that they are oblivious to them, or are so caught up in editorial policies that don't wish to highlight them that they are hamstrung as professional journalists in telling the truth to the Scottish electorate by fully analysing a political event that is shaking up UK politics and is central in many ways to the great independence debate.

Monday, 8 July 2013

The Scottish media, Falkirk, Labour and Unite – independence excised from coverage?

MY SUMMARY OF THE FALKIRK FACTS

I’ll be as brief – and objective – as I can.

A preliminary summary of events

Eric Joyce was expelled from the Labour Party for multiple instances of bad behaviour. He is still MP, but has stated his intention not to stand at the general election in 2015. (Had he resigned as an MP or been removed, there would have been a by-election.)

Labour and the Falkirk constituency selection committee must choose a candidate for what has historically been a safe Labour seat. The selection of candidates for safe seats is a matter of high significance for any political party – for a party in opposition 22 months from a general election, hoping to win and form the next government of UK, and facing a riven, inept Coalition in disarray, such a selection is crucial.

(N.B. The Labour Party must have concerns for the safety of this seat, not only because of Joyce’s past behaviour, but because, as MP for another 22 months, outside of Labour, not subject to the Labour whip, he is potentially a loose cannon politically.)

Labour policy was to have an all-woman shortlist (AWS), and members of the Constituency Labour Party (CLP) were surveyed on whether an all-woman shortlist should be used. (The survey was paid for by Unite.)

Candidates who had already emerged were Linda Gow, former leader of Falkirk council and Gregor Poynton. Poynton is UK Director of Blue State Digital, adviser to Better Together Campaign and husband of Gemma Doyle MP, who is deputy to Jim Murphy MP, the shadow defence minister.

Then Karie Murphy appeared as a candidate. Karie Murphy, formerly Unison, now Unite Union, is Tom Watson MP’s office manager. Introducing Karie Murphy as a candidate was consistent with Labour’s policy of all-women shortlists (AWC) but Gregor Poynton’s candidacy was not.

A sudden influx of new members was recorded in the Constituency Labour Party (CLP) and it appeared that the Unite Union had recruited as many as 100 members. The CLP choose the Parliamentary candidate for Falkirk, not the total Labour membership. (The idea of holding primaries, elections in which the wider electorate are involved has been mooted before the Falkirk debacle, and is much debated since it commenced.)

Allegation began to appear that irregularities had occurred in the signing up of CLP members by Unite. The Labour Party was in essence created by the Trades Union movement (late 19th, early 20th centuries) to ensure Parliamentary representation for working people. The rules of the Labour Party permit trades unions to encourage members to join the party, and to pay their first year’s subscription. But it was claimed that Unite had signed up members without their knowledge, a very serious allegation if proven. The matter has now been referred to the police by the Labour Party.

THE POWER GAMES BEING PLAYED

N.B. From here on in, I don’t pretend neutrality, and only as much objectivity as I can muster, because I am of the Left in politics and I am also a Scottish nationalist – not a SNP member or member of any party, but wholly committed to a socially democratic independent Scotland.

Labour has a long history of fights with the trades unions. Unions are by far the Labour Party’s principal source of funds through the political levy (optional) that members pay, and unions apply the funds in various ways, including sponsoring specific MPs. In return for this, they not unreasonably expect the MPs and the Party to serve the interests of their millions of members in addition to serving the whole electorate. This has always led to tensions between Party and unions. Exactly the same practices apply on funding to all political parties, with the key difference that the Tory and Liberal Democrat parties, for example, get their funds from organisations and individuals, a very much smaller group of large donors in comparison to the millions of small donors of the trades unions.

The key difference is that these corporate donors and individuals operate to a large extent behind closed doors in pursuing what they expect for their money – and they all expect something – whereas the union interaction tends to occur in a blaze of publicity.

To try and contrast the two systems in a nutshell – the trades unions, an imperfect but functioning democracy representing millions of UK workers interact with a much larger imperfect democracy in the Labour Party, whereas totally undemocratic organisations and individuals in commerce, industry, armaments and interest groups not confined to the UK interact with the imperfect democracies of the Tory and LibDem parties. Ultimately, in both cases, the trades unions interact with the over-arching and highly imperfect democracy of the UK Government.

The problem of the union conflicts with the Labour Party over the last half century (e.g. Clause Four) created  - or were alleged to have created – the problem of electability, and this was specifically what Blair, Brown and Mandelson set out to remedy after  Neil Kinnock had done some of the spadework. They created New Labour and it worked – Labour was elected and re-elected. The results, over 13 years, are now history. Two wars, one illegal, the deaths of hundreds of thousands, terrorism brought to UK by the Iraq War, the gap between rich and poor widened, corruption of Parliamentary institutions, the prosecution and imprisonment of Labour MPs, the resignation of the Labour Speaker of the House of Commons in disgrace, the corruption of the Press and the Metropolitan Police, the banking and financial collapse, cash for access, etc.

Hardly a success, except in one key aspect – Blair, Mandelson, Brown, Labour defence secretaries, Labour ministers and many Labour MPs got very rich indeed, in the case of Blair and Mandelson, egregiously rich.

The revolving door between government ministers, civil servants and industry – especially the defence industry – spun ever faster and more profitably. And the military/industrial complex rejoiced and celebrated New Labour’s achievements.

Meanwhile, the trades unions were marginalised, and the benches of Westminster became increasingly populated by MPs who had never experienced the real, harsh world of Blair’s Britain, MPs who came directly into politics waving their PPE degrees through internships as SPADs, etc.

This great divide, this yawning chasm has widened between the trades union movement and the political machine for enriching politicians and their friends that New Labour has become. After being finally destroyed electorally, Labour was replaced by a Coalition that is almost indistinguishable in its right-wing practices from the right-wing Labour Party. As an opposition, Labour has been feeble and equivocal. The trades unions, having placed brother Ed Miliband at the helm, vanquishing ultra-Blairite brother David Miliband, have been bitterly disappointed in their choice. And now he attacks them, setting the police on Unite.

The Falkirk debacle is symptomatic of this – a war between the Blairites (led by the noble Lord Mandelson, who cannot conceal his visceral distaste for trades unions)and what is left of the Left in the Labour Party, which is mainly the trades unions – some of them at least.

SCOTTISH DIMENSION AND INDEPENDENCE

All of the above has been gone over with a relatively fine tooth comb by the UK/metropolitan media. They see the Falkirk Affair in a UK context, from a UK perspective. The fact that Falkirk is in  Scotland, that Scotland played a major role in the foundation of trades unions and the Labour Party is ancient, and mainly irrelevant history to them. This superficiality and parochialism is what Scotland has come to expect from London media. From time to time, Scotland intrudes rudely on their consciousness, and they are aware that Scottish voters are effectively disenfranchised and don’t get the government they vote for on occasion, but then, Scotland is just another region of England (sorry, Jock – UK!)

What is almost unforgiveable is that the Scottish media has swallowed this narrative whole, and conceives its duty done when they passively regurgitate it to Scottish voters. Consider the following examples -

To listen to this duo, one might think the Falkirk debacle had nothing whatsoever to do with Scotland's independence, and had no significant implications for it.
But these journalists accurately reflect a Scottish press and media that is either so locked in a UK mindset that they are oblivious to them, or are so caught up in editorial policies that don't wish to highlight them that they are hamstrung as professional journalists in telling the truth to the Scottish electorate by fully analysing a political event that is shaking up UK politics and is central in many ways to the great independence debate.

Here we have John Reid, who sure as hell knows what the battle is all about, and it has bugger all to do with Scotland, except incidentally -

John Reid: "a very important moment for the whole Labour Party"

The point at which the poisoned grip of Blairites like Reid could be loosened and the Party returned to the people it was created to serve.

John Reid:"It is at heart an ideological battle - a political battle..."

It sure as hell is - to free Labour from the men enriched and ennobled by Blair and his wars - like John Reid - while the people sink deeper into the slough of poverty and death created by Blair and Brown's ineptitude - widening the gap between rich and poor and bankrupting the nation. Men like Lord(!) Reid who deliberately wrecked the chances of a Rainbow Coalition to defeat the Tories after the 2010 election.

England struggles - and Unite struggles to give working people a real political choice with the forlorn hope that they can reform New Labour. Blue Labour, Lord Sainsbury's Labour, Progress Labour - call the beast by its many names, see its many faces - multi-millionaires Blair's and Mandelson's Labour - at best a centre-right party, but sliding towards something much worse in the global military/industrial complex that is raping the planet.

God help England - this is the only chance they have, but it is a forlorn hope.

But Scotland has a real choice - already exercised in the limited form open to it in 2007 and 2011 and yet to be made fully on 2014 - the choice of saying YES or no to an independent, socially-democratic Scotland.

The Sunday Herald had a major spread on Falkirk – comprehensive, albeit a mirror of London media analysis, despite their pride in having “broken the story …” From its front cover headline Lamont: Unite’s puppet? to its extensive coverage on pages 6, 7, 8 and 9, with Ian Bell on page 10 to its editorial on page 36, it took an almost exclusively UK perspective of the Falkirk issue, despite the reference to Lamont.  Only in the last half of the last paragraph on page 7 could I find any reference to another party that might just have an interest in all this – the Scottish National Party, the party that forms the devolved government of Scotland, elected with a massive landslide majority – the party that has delivered the referendum, the outcome of which will shake the entire UK power structure, perhaps end the 306 year-old union and remove nuclear weapons of mass destruction from Scottish soil, with ramification for Europe, NATO and the transatlantic alliance.

Here was my little exchange with Paul Hutcheon of the Herald/Sunday Herald on 4th of July. Paul was reacting to my criticisms of Scottish media coverage of Falkirk -

Peter Curran@moridura 4 Jul

  • @paulhutcheon It's time for Scottish Unite, Scottish Labour and trades unions to recognise where their real interests lie - in independence

    Paul Hutcheon Paul Hutcheon@paulhutcheon 4 Jul @moridura can't see the independence angle on a story about membership subs

  • Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura 4 Jul

    @paulhutcheon It's painfully obvious that you can't, Paul.

  • And he demonstrated comprehensively his inability to see “the independence angle on a story about membership subs” in the Sunday coverage. Let me help you, Paul - and Tom Gordon and Ian Bell and the Leader Writer - to understand …

    Three political parties in Scotland – all from the left of the political spectrum, plus many other organisations also on the left, are committed to the independence of Scotland from the UK. Additionally, embryonic breakaway organisations exist of disaffected Scottish Labour members and Scottish trades unionists – including Unite members – who support independence. Some support the SNP, others don’t, e.g. Labour for Independence.

    A major think tank, the Jimmy Reid Foundation is active and influential on the left of the political spectrum (where else would it be bearing Jimmy Reid’s name?). At least one major union is not affiliated to the Labour Party, the firemens’ union. All of them are diametrically opposed to Blairism and all that it stands for. They are solidly anti-nuclear and pro-trades union. The STUC is well aware of this growing dynamic within its member unions and their lay members, together with a growing number of shop stewards, worker representatives and a few cautious full-time officers.To say that Johann Lamont is aware of this – despite laughing it off – would be a massive understatement. Effectively elected by the Scottish trades unions, I suspect it keeps her awake at nights.

    To suggest that the Falkirk issue, a frontal attack on a trade union – a civil war between the BlairitesBlue Labour, New Labour, Lord Sainsbury’s Labour, call it what you will – and the soul of the pre-Blair/Brown/Mandelson Scottish Labour Party is irrelevant to independence is, to put it at its lowest, a failure of imagination and good political journalism.

    I hope to attend a meeting of Trades Unionists for Independence this Wednesday in Edinburgh. Reflect on that title, Herald/Sunday Herald (and BBC Scotland) and on the keynote speakers – Dennis Canavan (former MP/MSP), Robin McAlpine (Jimmy Reid Foundation), Cat Boyd (PCS activist) and Sarah Collins (STUC Youth Committee) and think again about the nature of your coverage of Falkirk and Unite.

    Tuesday, 31 January 2012

    Civic Scotland, devo max and politics

    Let’s start with a question - who is pushing devo max?

    If you listen to the unionist parties and commentators, it’s Alex Salmond, who they claim wants it as a fall-back if Scots say NO to independence. Senior SNP figures have repeatedly said their commitment is to independence and a clear, single question on that: individual nats have varying positions on it, but a very vocal group of unknown size is totally hostile to a second question, believing it to be a trap set by unionists, who in spite of repeatedly saying they don’t want it, are somehow engaged in Machiavellian double bluff, and hope that it will win, and can then be denied to the Scots.

    All of this is complicated by assertions that “nobody knows what devo max means” and the various wee and big brothers of Max, including Nae Max at All, Wee Max, Max Plus and Max Minus - this last one espoused by a party of two, Lord Forsyth and Tam Dalzell who wish to return to a pre-devolution state of powerlessness.

    The official SNP position, judging by numberless media statement, interviews and responses to the endless questions is this, at least as I interpret it -

    1. The SNP wants independence and a single, clear cut question, and they have offered their question.

    2. The term devo max is a media term coined to explain full fiscal autonomy, i.e. a devolved Scotland remains part of the UK, and runs everything except defence and foreign policy. The UK Parliament remains sovereign, and the Scotland Act defines what the devolved Scottish Parliament may do. All or part of this can be revoked at any time by Westminster through amendments to the Scotland Act.

    3. The new referendum consultation document says this -

    While the Scottish Government’s preferred policy is independence, it recognises that there is considerable support across Scotland for increased responsibilities for the Scottish Parliament short of independence. One option, full devolution (or “devolution max”) was set out in some detail in the Scottish Government white paper Your Scotland, Your Voice published in 2009.

    The Scottish Government has consistently made it clear in that paper Your Scotland, Your Voice white paper, Nov. 2009and its 2010 consultation paper on a draft referendum Bill that it is willing to include a question on further devolution in the referendum. That remains the Scottish Government’s position. It will listen carefully to the views and arguments put forward on this issue in response to this consultation.

    That was pretty damned clear to me at the time - I gave my response to the consultation in some detail, including my concerns about the wording of the questions, the sequencing of the questions and the ballot paper(s), concerns which I elaborated on in my blog.

    In summary then, the Scottish Government’s preferred policy is independence but it recognises there is considerable support across Scotland for increased powers to the Scottish Parliament, and it will consider these in a nation-wide consultation exercise, then decide of whether such an option should be offered in the referendum in addition to the independence question.

    All the polls before and since have indicated that there is a very substantial percentage of the Scottish electorate who wish for such a settlement. It would be undemocratic of the Scottish Government to ignore such a body of opinion.

    The degree of devolution desired - from zero to full devolution, i.e. everything except defence and foreign policy (devo max) may vary across this body of opinion. The only way to determine what this might be is the consultation process: it is clearly impracticable to put to the electorate every aspect of government, every power of government that may be devolved, except under broad headings, as for example they are defined in the Scotland Act on devolved powers and Westminster reserved powers.

    All of the above should be clear enough for an intelligent 12-year old, but it is not clear enough for the combined unionist parties nor for most of the media - or alternatively, it is abundantly clear to them, but they just don’t want to believe it.

    MY POSITION

    My position, for what it is worth - the view of a single Scottish voter - is that I want independence, I want a single question, but I recognise as a democrat that if a wider choice is demanded by a significant number of my fellow Scots, that choice somehow has to be enabled in the referendum.

    But I warn those who want significantly more devolution under such an option that, if it won the day in a referendum, there is no guarantee that it will be delivered, in part or at all, by the Westminster government, who retain total control. The irony of devo max is that only full independence can guarantee to deliver it.

    THE UNIONIST PARTIES

    The three unionist parties, Tories, Labour and LibDems, now united in a Coalition against the independence of Scotland, are more or less as one on their view of a second question and devo max and their press supporters are also united - devo max is a Salmond-initiated ploy to snatch a kind of victory from a referendum defeat on independence. David Cameron, the Leader of the Labour and LibDem parties (he is also the Leader of the Tory Party) is against a second question and devo max.

    Today’s Telegraph nonsense illustrates the official line -

    By Simon Johnson, Scottish Political Editor

    6:00AM GMT 31 Jan 2012

    A coalition of organisations, including the Church of Scotland and the Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), yesterday announced a campaign to discuss changing the constitution. This was a blow to Alex Salmond, who is keen for a second question appear on the ballot paper. It has been likened to his ‘consolation prize’ in case Scots reject full independence.He is relying on civic groups to agree on the definition of a ‘more powers’ option after all three main opposition parties backed a single, straight question on independence.

    Party leaders last night urged the coalition to resist any pressure from the First Minister to “manipulate the debate” and create a false consensus.

    The LibDems waffle about federalism (some unionist media commentators masquerade as federalists or home rulers these days, in the hope that this will make them seem objective - and hedge their bets if independence wins!) but like most of what the LibDems say, this is meaningless.

    Labour declaims that they have always been the party of Home Rule, and the ghost of Keir Hardie is summoned in evidence, but they too are against a second question and devo max.

    They justify this by a tortuous process of reasoning - listen to any  of Johann Lamont’s comments - that tries to separate the concepts of independence and devolution - in other words “Let’s kill the independence nonsense by a NO vote to a single referendum question, then Labour can consider devolved matters under the Scotland Act, and will influence Westminster to grant any more powers that may be required.

    This maintains the fiction that Labour and Scottish Labour - the tame puppets of the London Party - can somehow influence Westminster and the British Establishment.

    Labour,  while in government for thirteen years, managed to -

    widen the poverty gap, becoming more Tory than the Tories

    launch two wars, one of them illegal, devastating two countries in the process and destabilising the Middle East

    wreck the UK economy while enriching its Scottish politicians - those that weren’t jailed in the process

    protest Labour pacifism and internationalism while wrecking the country of Iraq, killing hundreds of thousands of innocents

    bleed the UK armed services to death by over-extending and under-equipping them (M.O.D. incompetence) in an unwinnable war in Afghanistan

    In the light of this, the Scottish people can be forgiven for dumping them unceremoniously in May 2011 and returning with a massive majority a party committed to the independence of Scotland.

    CIVIC SCOTLAND

    And so we come to Civic Scotland, and its long-awaited launch. Well, this ship ran shakily down the slipway, birled around a few times, and now seems to be pointing exactly nowhere, with rumours that down in its bowels, officers are fighting over the compass.

    One might have thought that Civic Scotland, comprised of unions, churches, think tanks, voluntary organisations, etc. would have learned something from the fiasco over the Scottish CBI’s claims - out of the mouth of Iain McMillan - that Scottish industry consensus existed that Scotland’s independence plans were damaging business confidence.

    The Scottish CBI and the referendum

    This should have demonstrated the dangers of a non-democratic body and its leader claiming to speak on a political matter for all of its members, but no, they’re all at it again under the rather wobbly, leaky umbrella of Civic Scotland.  One body among them can claim a kind of democracy - the STUC - but even that is deeply compromised by its affiliation to a single party, Labour, and the inadequacies of its own consultative and democratic procedures. Another body in Civic Scotland invented itself - the think-tank Reform Scotland.

    Insofar as it is possible to determine any central theme from Civic Scotland, its raison d'etre seems to be something like this -

    The politicians are obsessed by the process of the referendum and no real discussion or debate has taken place over policies, or what government and political parties are trying to do in Scottish society.

    The manifest weakness of this position is that it is only nine months since we had a Scottish Parliamentary election, one which was preceded by an intensive campaign in which the parties produced manifestos, and spoke long and passionately about their policies in the press, in the media in general, and in a series of unprecedented television debates, not to mention by leafleting, and on the doorsteps.

    This had been preceded by four years of a Scottish Parliament, televised intermittently on BBC Channel 81, highlighted weekly by FMQs from Holyrood, and intensively covered in daily television programmes, including Newsnight Scotland and various other Scottish and national media programmes and news bulletins.

    To suggest that none of this was about policy, vision, and the direction and shape of Scotland, economically, socially, fiscally, etc. is the most arrant nonsense.

    It’s called democratic politics - it’s the way the free world is run - more or less - but Civic Scotland, whatever it is, seems uneasy and dissatisfied with this, or at least, the leaders of its component parts are. Just how they consulted their employees, church members, trades union members etc. is unknown to me, but they clearly don’t like the process of consultation that government is currently engaged in, and feel it to be in someway inadequate, narrowing the debate.

    Here are some of the thing various people in civic Scotland have said -

    Rev. Ian Galloway in an interview with Isabel Fraser: “The Church of Scotland does not have a position of devolution, it doesn’t have a position on independence, it doesn’t have a position on the status quo.”

    Reform Scotland - “an independent, non-party think tank that aims to set out a better way to deliver increased economic prosperity and more effective public services based on the traditional Scottish principles of limited government, diversity and personal responsibility”  - in contrast, has very definite views and supports what it calls devo plus.

    Martin Sime 0f the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) in an interview with Isabel Fraser:I think what we’ve heard in the last few weeks is from a whole lot of people, mostly politicians, who seem to know what the answer is, and are trying to restrict the question to get the answer that they want.”

    Elected politicians (elected by us, Martin) either propose or oppose independence: how exactly are they to proceed except by campaigning for the answer they want ? That is how democracies operate.

    As for restricting the question to get the answer they want, this is patently untrue of the Scottish Government, who have offered a single question,  but have made it clear that they are prepared to consider other questions, and the wider views of the Scottish body politic and the Scottish people, and have launched a major exercise to attempt to determine these views by consultation and debate.

    It does appear to be true of the Westminster Government, of the anti-independence coalition of the Westminster unionist parties and of the Scottish unionist party leaders, but not of elder statesmen like Henry McLeish

    Martin Sime:What this new coalition is doing is trying to open out the debate, and we’ve found very widespread support from among non-government organisations of all kinds, including business leaders, faith groups and students to try and take this debate out a bit before we get down to the brass tacks of what options there should be.

    That of course is exactly what the Scottish Government’s consultation process is about, and it is why they declined to be stampeded into an immediate referendum by strident calls from the unionist parties - and the CBI in the apparently unrepresentative voice of Iain McMillan.

    Isabel Fraser:Martin, is it not inevitable that if you’re looking for alternatives that have no already been proposed, that you end up with the devo max issue - and that intensely politicised already. You cannot keep this non-political, can you?”

    Martin Sime:Well, we’re not campaigning for any particular option in this debate ..”

    Reform Scotland are, Martin - devo plus. But carry on …

    Martin Sime: .. and we’re certainly not a ginger group for devo max.

    That’s clear enough.

    Martin Sime: .. we’re quite resolute that the debate needs opened up, rather than closed down, so we’re opposed to the proposition that at this stage there should be a decision to simply go forward with a YES/NO question ..”

    And so is the Scottish Government, Martin, even though that is their favoured position, and that is why they are opening up the debate with a wide-ranging consultation process. In contrast, the Tory/Labour/LibDem anti-Scottish independence coalition is trying to do exactly as you say and close down the debate and “.. simply go forward with a YES/NO question ..”

    This was before the launch. Yesterday, we had the launch of Civic Scotland, and their core message was that other options to a single YES/NO question should be considered. Let me reiterate - that is also exactly the Scottish Government’s position - it has repeatedly said so, even though it has a preferred option of independence, and that is why a major consultation exercise has been launched.

    Ben Thomson - Reform Scotland:We think the most important thing now is for Civic Scotland actually to have a voice and move away from this highly politicised debate …”

    I’ve got news for you, Ben - the independence of a country is probably the most highly politicised debate a country can have - it is initiated by politics - the politics of a sovereign people - and it can only be peacfully resolved by the democratic politics of political debate and the elected representatives of the people.

    Civic Scotland has no such elected representatives - but the leaders of the component organisations of this disparate coalition have a right to be heard, as informed individuals, but not as the voice of every employee, church member, union member etc. of their organisation. They have already spoken through casting their votes on May 5th 2011. The CBI and Iain McMillan have already demonstrated the dangers of such claims.

    Both Sime and Thomson repeatedly claim that the debate, as reflected in the media, has been narrow and has been about process rather than purpose. I don’t believe this to be true, unless you restrict the perception to the debate to the period since Alex Salmond recently launched his consultation document.

    In fact, there has been a very broad, yet very detailed debate going on for the last six years, before that since the establishment of the Scottish Parliament, and before that for decades - a progressive, vital debate that led to devolution, the Scottish Parliament, the first SNP minority government, and the new SNP majority government. The people of Scotland have participated in that debate throughout, it has influenced their democratic voting patterns, and they understand very clearly what it’s all about.

    But among the great and the good, the Westminster Parliament and the metropolitan media, there has been a mixture of denial of reality, and sheer blinkered ignorance. They are now waking up and trying to catch up with the people of Scotland.

    Good luck to you, Civic Scotland - get in on the act belatedly - you are very welcome to offer views. Just don’t get in the way of a sovereign people and its Parliamentary democracy.

    And don’t and try and shift the debate out of the political arena and into the hands of an unelected professional elite - it’s that sort of thing Scotland is trying to escape from.



    Sunday, 24 October 2010

    The March – numbers attending

    Carried away by the euphoria of the STUC March against the Cuts, I reported the numbers as I heard them on the day as 20,000.

    Some newspapers today report the number as 6,500, which is the police estimate.

    I’ll therefore apply the old formula for numbers at demos and marches, especially ones the Establishment doesn’t approve of – take the organisers most optimistic estimate and add it to the police estimate, then divide by two.

    This gives 20,000 + 6,500 +26,500, and an arithmetic mean of 13,250, which is, of course, applying arithmetic to two biased guesses.

    So let’s just say that, on a day that looked like rain, there was still a helluva lot of committed people there, and the sun (but not The Sun) duly shone on the righteous.

     

    Saturday, 23 October 2010

    STUC March against the Cuts–Edinburgh 23rd October 2010

    I had to march – I owe my life to the NHS on at least four occasions in the last eight months, and whatever anybody says, they will feel the impact of this ConLib lunacy. So I marched most of the way under an NHS banner.



    Here’s what my dog Angus – who doesn’t usually look evil - would like to do to the Cameron/Clegg, Osborne/Alexander partnerships – chew them up and spit them out

    Angus with his ball - October 2010

    The organisers expected 10,000 and got 20,000 plus.

    Well-behaved, good-natured, highly committed people, marching for what they believe in, fearful what is being directed against them by the rich and powerful. I was with them because it's also what I believe in, and because of my debt to the NHS.



    But will it be enough?

    The STUC is to be congratulated for a big turnout and a well-disciplined, impeccably stewarded march and demonstration.

    But it won't be enough to halt the doctrinaire Tory assault on public services. We need to take a leaf from the French book.

    And until the unions recognise their betrayal by the Labour Party and end their affiliation to it, it won't come right. Labour did this to us – Labour deliberately destroyed the chance of a rainbow coalition  to escape responsibility for the economic shambles they created.

    The Tories have used it, with the help of the craven, power-hungry LibDems, to fulfil their dream of destruction of the Welfare State and subjection of ordinary people to the will of the rich, powerful and insatiably greedy people who form the core of their financial backers.

    Only full Scottish independence - leaving the rump of the UK to its lost dreams of empire - and utter rejection of the nuclear obscenity will deliver that – and only the SNP can deliver it.

    Vote SNP in 2011 and let’s put this confused, brutal and unfeeling Disunited Kingdom behind us.

    In doing so, we also free the English people to pursue their own fight for economic and social justice, and to re-discover England as a great, independent and proud nation once again.