Search topics on this blog

Google+ Badge

Showing posts with label Scottish Labour. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Scottish Labour. Show all posts

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Salmond on Marr, Soubry on Salmond, Murphy in meltdown – just another day in Scotland-dominated UK politics!

SNP membership hits 100,000, polls couldn’t be better or more consistent – and Scottish politics seem so human, vibrant, cutting edge - and Westminster politics so tired, so contemptibly predictable, locked in the past.

Anna Soubry MP   does a fine archetypal Tory woman impression of Ann Widdecombe in full expostulating, "end-of-Britain-as-we-know-it" mode.

I must give Anna full credit - she does synthetic indignation body language better than anyone littering the Tory benches today.

 

Stuffed full of John McTernan soundbytes, Jim Murphy falls apart under Andrew Neil's relentless professionalism - and the cold, hard facts of the polls.

Defensive, misjudging speed of delivery, lurching in typical fashion from Scottish Labour backroom brawler mode to cloying attempts to ingratiate - all in all, Murphy's painful swansong.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Don’t get fooled again, Springburn – look at Labour’s record and weep…

I wrote this in 2009 after Michael Martin, Labour MP for Glasgow North East and the Speaker of the House of Commons had announced his decision on the 19th of May to resign, to forestall the imminent historic humiliation of being the first Speaker in history to be forced out by a vote of no confidence. I really believed that the electors of Springburn, a district I had known well all my life, would awaken from their fantasy that Labour was on their side.

Not only was I wrong in November 2009 at the by-election, but wrong again at the 2010 General election in May 2010.

Despite all that has since happened, including the ignominious defeat of the hapless Gordon Brown Government, leaving us with the nightmare of the Coalition, the Ashcroft poll shows that Springburn is still set to do it again, lemming-like.

Glasgow North East

But the SNP has a strong candidate in Anne McLaughlin this time, and perhaps the electors will finally learn the lesson that the rest  of Glasgow has – Labour is no longer the people’s party.

Don't get fooled again, Springburn!

 

The 2009  Moridura blog

FRIDAY, 22 MAY 2009 

I wondered just how long it would take for Alf Young of the Herald to decide that a general election would be a bad thing right now, and here he is on cue today saying just that.

For those of you unfamiliar with Alf's deeply coded messages, let me translate - if a general election was announced swiftly, Labour would be wiped out at the polls, the Tories would win  in England, and the rickety United Kingdom would have a Tory government, making it completely unrepresentative of the will of the Scottish people.

The new Westminster government could not then deny the Scottish people a referendum on independence, which would happen around the time of the Scottish Parliamentary election in 2011, with the SNP being returned with a decisive working majority. The likely outcome would be a decisive vote for the freedom of Scotland.

This must not be allowed to happen. In the fantasy world of the Herald, the Scotsman and the Scottish Unionist, the general election must be deferred as long as possible, giving Gordon Brown's corrupt, incompetent, indecisive and rotten administration time - time to recover credibility over the next few months, aided by the full weight of the Scottish unionist press, more defence jobs bribery, more judicious patronage, as many distorted scare stories as can be mustered, and ideally a nice popular, winnable war against some far off country - the Falklands Factor.

But there's a worm in Alf and Labour's apple - it's called Glasgow North East, better known as Springburn, and a by-election is imminent. How imminent?

Well, it could be July, but if Alf's logic is applied, it could be deferred till September or October, and this would sit well with Gordon Brown's electoral cowardice and reflex procrastination instincts.

A recent Channel Four News report covered Springburn and Labour, gained great moral force by being presented by Sarah Smith, the daughter of Labour's lost Leader, John Smith.

Here are a few facts.

Under Labour for generations, and in recent times while its Labour MP, Michael Martin was one of the most powerful politicians in the land, Springburn has

about two and a half times the national rate of unemployment.

life expectancy 12 years lower than more prosperous parts of Scotland.

almost 12% more smokers, and 5% more deaths from smoking than the Scottish average

widespread deprivation and urban decline

The Channel Four documentary quoted an old Springburn joke - "You can't join the Labour Party in Springburn - it's already full!"

But most of the Labour voters questioned said bluntly that that old reflex loyalty could no longer be relied upon.

What Sarah Smith devastatingly stated as "the breach of trust between the party that is supposed to fight for the underprivileged and the people who need it the most" will be in the forefront of Springburn voters minds when they go to the polling stations.

Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University caught the echoes of the questions from last year's Glasgow East campaign - "What has the Labour Party ever done for this constituency? It's still as impoverished as it ever was ..." Glasgow North East is even more impoverished.

What was Michael Martin doing? He was living in a palatial palace as Speaker, and he was implicated in an expenses system where MPs were making claims related to luxury items of home furnishing when people in Glasgow North East were struggling to get basic, essential items, such as cookers and fridges.

Don't get fooled again, Springburn.

Don't be fooled by politicians who make snap appearances at old ladies's lunch clubs, smile and twinkle, then disappear in a chauffeur-driven hired limousine to grand civic functions and expensive dinners.

Don't be fooled by little successful interventions into small grievances when the main structural decline of your community and your life is accelerating unchecked.

This is not the Labour you knew for so many years, in opposition, fighting against the evil Tories, who could be blamed for everything - this is Labour who have been in government for 12 years, yet have frittered away the resources of the nation and the lives of Scottish servicemen and women in foreign wars, the party that is cutting the Scottish budget for essential services by £500 million pounds while spending fifty times that - £25 billion pounds - on outmoded. irrelevant weapons of mass destruction.

Don't get fooled again Springburn!

Vote for the party of your ain folk, the Scottish National Party.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Labour’s crime – the Iraq War – and my March 2003 fears on the eve of war

I wrote this letter to the Herald on 17th of March 2003. I was then, at least still nominally a supporter of the Labour Party, as I had been all my life and as my family had been.

The war against Iraq began three days later on March 20th 2003 with the U.S. launch of the bombing raid on Baghdad - Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Never in my life have I more wanted to be wrong in a prediction, but what followed unleashed unimaginable death and devastation that lasted from 2003 –2011, beyond my worst imaginings - and, in a very real sense, is not over yet.

The long slow death of Scottish Labour began in March 2003, in significant part due to their moral cowardice at that pivotal moment in history. New Labour – the creation of Blair, Brown and Mandelson seemed to die in 2010, but the rough  beast is stirring again, slouching towards Westminster.

child1child 2

My letter, published in The Herald, 17th of March 2003.

Seventeen and a half per cent of the UK population are children of 15 years of age or younger. (Source of data – CIA website)

41% of the Iraqi population are children o 15 years of age or younger. (Source - CIA website)

Therefore in any “collateral damage” to innocent civilians, 41 children will die or be maimed in every 100. (My source for these statistics - CIA website).

To add to the misery of the Iraqi children already hurt by Saddam Hussein and our sanctions will be an international crime.

Much has been made of Tony Blair’s “sincere conviction” over his stance on Iraq. If sincerity of conviction was the touchstone, the actions of any misguided politician in history could be justified. I hesitate to offer a list of those who pursued policies destructive to justice and life who were “sincere” in their conviction, but produced horrific consequences by their actions.

This coming war is profoundly misconceived and unjust, and Tony Blair is profoundly mistaken to pursue it.

He has wrecked our relationship with our European allies, damaged our international status, weakened our democratic and parliamentary traditions, has perhaps delivered a damaging blow to the Labour Party, and will undoubtedly damage our economy and our security.

As for Scotland’s MSPs supporting Blair's action by their contemptible inaction – don’t look for my vote (Labour for more than four decades) in the May elections.

I now know where the politicians of principle are – a tiny minority in the Scottish Labour group, and a majority in the SSP and the SNP. My advice to the few MSPs of principle left in the Scottish Parliament is to cross the floor now.

Iraq has become the defining political issue of our time, and the question that will be asked of politicians (and all of us) is – where were you when there was still time to stop it?

Peter Curran

Iraq

Friday, 30 January 2015

SNP/Green/Plaid bloc has to buttress Miliband against the Blairites after May 7th

SNP/Green/Plaid bloc has to buttress Miliband against the Blairites after May 7th NHS, Labour and privatisation -Labour, deeply divided into two camps on NHS - and many other key issues.

We already know what camp Murphy is in - the one inhabited by all his Blairite pals.
Scots have to choose between Labour and Tories/LibDems after May 7th, and we have to trust Labour, or least that Miliband wing of Labour that is halfway rational about the NHS, the economy, welfare and Trident. An SNP/Green/Plaid bloc has to buttress Miliband against the Blairites in his own party, and they include Jim Murphy.

Conditional trust only - for a price - in a confidence and supply arrangement, with a series of key conditions set by Nicola and Cabinet in Scotland through her team in Westminster. That's the new game ...

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

The Trident Renewal Debate – 20th Jan 2015

#Trident The moral and intellectual, not to mention the strategic and economic bankruptcy of the pro-nuclear case is staggeringly evident.

 #Trident Trident Debate 20 Jan 2015: Dame Joan Ruddock - Part 2  "Nuclear weapons have no utility..."

#Trident Trident Debate 20 Jan 2015: Dame Joan Ruddock - Part 1 “A unilateralist is a multilateralist who means it!"

#Trident #WMD God help us - look who's in the Deputy Speaker's chair - Eleanor Laing MP! -

#Trident #WMD Trident debate, 20 Jan 2015: Angus Robertson - Part Two

#Trident My least favourite Scottish MP, Rory Stewart (Jim Murphy close second) is on his feet

#Trident I take my hat off to Labour MPs attending who spoke for the motion. As for the Scottish ones who didn't attend - my utter contempt

#Trident Some of the arguments for retaining WMD sound like those that might be advanced by not very bright, morally deficient adolescents.

#Trident #indy #WMD Trident debate 20 Jan 2015: Angus Robertson - Part One. Angus Robertson on superb form ..

JOAN RUDDOCK: Nuclear weapons have no utility.They cannot be used to advance any cause or to secure any territory without devastating effects”

#Trident There's a grinning ghost missing from Labour benches - Jim Murphy, arch-Blairite, Henry Jackson nuclear hawk. Will he vote tonight?

#Trident I continue to marvel at what prats some English Tories are, e.g. Julian Fellows.

#indy George Osborne effectively confirmed today that he wants to see English Votes for English Laws (EVEL) applied to parts of the Budget

#Trident The argument for having nuclear weapons is identical to the NRA's case for every American family to keep an arsenal in their homes

#Trident Thanks God Labour has a tiny number of principled MPs left. Dame Joan Ruddock is one. Currently on her principled feet ...

#Trident Michael Fallon, in between defending WMD as a job creation scheme, attacks Labour's alleged equivalence on at sea nuclear deterrent

#Trident If ever we needed evidence that Labour and Tories are unfit to govern a civilised society, Trident debate offers it in abundance.

#indy Which is the more contemptible - Labour's loss of values and principles, or its attempt to hide the loss from the electorate by lies?

#indy Labour MPs absence from Trident debate says that they support WMD but are afraid to be seen to be doing so, afraid to debate. Feart.

#indy Survation poll this morning shows a majority of those who expressed a view are opposed to the renewal of the Trident nuclear weapons.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Tweets on Murphyism–a new New Labour sect

Peter Curran @moridura 

Murphy seems close to adopting a heretical YES creed. But NO voters wink and tap their noses: he's brought in the Witchfinder General!

Murphy says Scottish Labour is open to indy supporters. How exactly does he plan to deliver it? By referendum? By recanting? By Irn-Bru?

The Scotsman does its best to explain Murphyism with a straight face

Jim Murphy inspires me - to throw-up, then laugh. He reaches the depths of expediency other politicians cannot reach - not even Nigel!

Even non-believers in Henry Jackson may join Murphy's New Labour. Anti-NATO? We have a place for you too! George Robertson is a donor!

Murphyism - the new health food for disenchanted Labour YES supporters. It's bland, non-nutritious, cooked up by our new chef McTernan

Enough of politics - an indy crossword clue! Politician with no beliefs and forked tongue. No entries required - no prizes offered.

New Murphy Labour - open to all! We'll adjust to anybody's beliefs because our new party has only one - believe in Jim Murphy's career

Jim Murphy - why not invite unilateral WMD disarmers to join your new creed? And flat-earthers, creationists, perpetual motion fans?

To say that Murphyism is a confused, contradictory, opportunistic creed is not to do it full justice. Anyone who swallows this is nuts

SCOTSMAN on Murphyism: "referendum has resulted in the party being overwhelmingly characterised as unionist" Fancy that! 100 towns? Irn-Bru?

Murphy says Scottish Labour is open to indy supporters. How exactly does he plan to deliver it? By referendum? By recanting? By Irn-Bru?

Monday, 3 March 2014

The “More powers after a No vote”con trick – recognise it for what it is …

Questions that every journalist with any regard for political realities and objective reporting should be asking the Holyrood Labour, Tory and LibDem leaders and their Scottish Westminster MP claque, e.g. Jim Murphy, Margaret Curran, Alistair Carmichael, Douglas Alexander and David Mundell when the question of more powers is raised.

In the highly unlikely event of the three Scottish unionist parties ever reaching a core consensus on more powers after a No vote on September 18th -

1) How do they intend to persuade the Prime Minister of an already fragmenting Tory/LibDem Coalition (which may not hold until 2015), the Leader of the Labour Opposition, and whichever politician is currently at the head of UKIP to agree to incorporate their recommendations in their 2015 manifestos to the UK electorate, given that there is highly vocal opposition to more powers for Scotland among senior figures in all of them?

2) How do they intend to persuade them to make a definitive promises to do this to the Scottish electorate during the remaining months of the referendum campaign?

3) How do they think such a commitment would be received by an English electorate already groaning under austerity, assuming their homes are not under water because of a complete failure of their government to manage their flood defences?

4) How do they intend to persuade the MPs, the peers and the institutions who have expressed their adamant opposition to more powers for Scotland to support them?

5) And finally, how do they explain to the large group - at one point a majority – within the Scottish electorate and the institutions comprising Civic Scotland - why they denied them a second question in the referendum that would have recognised their wish for  such powers, if not for the obvious reason that UK and Westminster has no intention whatsoever of granting them?

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Marr and Mandelson on Miliband: trades unions, Iraq and the Chilcot Inquiry

MANDELSON

"Ed Miliband faces a big test of his leadership in relation to the trade unions - he's got to win the fight that he started - and, quite rightly, to reform the relationship."

"He's got to navigate his way through what could be a very difficult minefield - that is, The Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq War"

Chilcot Report expected "somewhere in mid-year"

Just in time to bury Blair, Brown, Mandelson and the reputation of Scottish Labour before Scotland's Referendum on September 18th - unless Chilcot is a whitewash, which is unlikely but possible, given the high stakes for UK involved.

Ed Miliband is not up to any of these challenges.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

How Westminster views Scots and Scotland at a crucial point in their history

Unionist MPs laughing at a Scottish Labour MP, Ian Davidson, clowning, gesticulating wildly, and jeering at the aspirations of Scots and Scotland in an historic referendum.

This is about the intentions of UK to implement £2bn draconian cuts to the Barnett Formula after a No vote, in a Scotland already experiencing child poverty and deprivation from UK's austerity and the lunacies of the Bedroom Tax.

Ian Davidson exhibits complacent self-satisfaction at the reception his clowning receives - at the expense of his fellow Scots - from a claque of Unionist MPs, with the so-called 'Scottish' Secretary, Alistair Carmichael, girning and guffawing  and endorsing Davidson's pantomime.

This is how Scottish Labour MPs who take the UK shilling behave. This is how they regard a crucial time in their county's history. These are the servants of a failed Empire, sneering and jeering their way to redundancy as Scotland secures its independence.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Independence, Grangemouth – and facing economic realities for YES

Grangemouth – and I mean the town, not just the plant – is saved. Can anyone not celebrate that? The answer unfortunately is yes – there are those who welcomed the good news with less whole-hearted enthusiasm. I am not among them – I am wholly in tune with the mood of the returning workers – ranging from infinite relief to ecstatic joy - at least as captured by this clip, which of course some will argue has been manipulated by the ever-Machiavellian BBC – the Union’s not-so-secret weapon. etcetera, etcetera.

The  Sunday Herald (27th Oct 2013) offered excellent coverage of the events leading up to the closure crisis and the subsequent deal, and Iain Macwhirter wrote an objective analysis that doesn’t duck the patent facts that many other commentators have avoided – that Unite the Union (aided by a chorus of ill-informed Labour and left-wing politicians and alternative media commentators) made an ass of itself and endangered, not only the livelihoods of their members, but the entire Grangemouth community and the Scottish economy. The management don’t smell of roses either …

I’d plan to say a lot more than this, but decided that, after the resignations of Stephen Deans, it would be counter-productive.

QUESTIONS

Was the management blameless?

Clearly, no.

Is it a good thing that the fate of hundreds of workers and a key part of the Scottish economy is in the hands of a global company with one dominant shareholder?

Again clearly, no.

Have trades unions - and specifically Unite the Union - a vital role to play in Scotland and in an independent Scotland?

Absolutely and unequivocally YES

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

The Question and No Answers session – Nicola Sturgeon to Anas Sarwar – Scotland Tonight

Nicola question: "Give me three specific examples of welfare cuts that Ed Miliband will reverse?"

Anas answer: No answer

Nicola question: "Will you reverse the £250m cut to disabled benefits?"

Anas answer: No answer.

Nicola question: "What's Labour's policy on the savings credit for low income pensioners?"

Anas answer: No answer.

Nicola: "The fact is - you won't reverse ANY of these Tory welfare cuts."

Nicola question: "What universal benefits will be protected by Labour?"

Anas answer: No answer.

Nicola question: "Free prescriptions - Yes or No?"

Anas answer: No answer.

Nicola question: "Tuition fees - Yes or No?"

Anas answer: No answer

Nicola question: "Free personal care - Yes or No?"

Anas answer: No answer

Nicola Question: "I'll give you another chance- free prescriptions, Yes or No?"

Anas answer: No answer

Nicola: "Free tuition - Yes or No?"

Anas answer: No answer, but effectively a no.

Nicola: "I don't understand how you came here tonight defending the right of the Tories to impose welfare cuts on Scotland ... You haven't answered a single question you've been asked."

Well, Anas Sarwar earlier in the programme had rather rashly - and unilaterally - committed UK Labour to reversing the Bedroom Tax, something his leader, Ed Miliband, has so far refused to do, and something that Johann Lamont, Scottish 'leader' has also avoided to date.

Doubtless he's had his arse kicked on that by London Labour and the hapless, beleaguered Ed Miliband …

Friday, 19 April 2013

A fiscal vacuum exists between Anas Sarwar's ears on rationale for tax powers

Is this intellectual vacuity what Scottish Labour has to offer? A great Brewer wind blew through the space between Anas Sarwar's ears, the echoing space where his economic policy brain is supposed to be, on Scottish devolved tax powers.

The Brewer Rottweiler grip forced him into a repetitive loop of meaningless stock phrases, devoid of anything remotely resembling economic grasp or content. The economics of cash and carry don't translate to a nation, Anas.

Still, he should be grateful that there was no Swinney or Hosie to have him for a late night snack. This man is Deputy Scottish Labour Leader and an MP in the raddled old Mother of Parliaments, Westminster - the one that he and his Tory/LibDem allies want us to remain dependent on.

No, INDEPENDENT and independence are the words Scots will settle for in just over 500 days, Anas.

There is also the little matter that Scottish Labour can produce papers for more powers to Johann’s wee hearts’ content, but they can’t deliver them unless Labour is in Government after 2015, and almost certainly not even if they were after a NO vote. Devo Zilch will be the dominant theme in that horrific eventuality, perhaps even Devo Minus.

POSTSCRIPT - The Johann Lamont Radio Scotland interview

Saturday, 24 November 2012

David Miliband - Iraq War supporter and enemy of Scottish independence - in Danish television interview

The recent Danish political dram Borgen, a fine example of Scandinavian noir, was followed avidly by many Scottish viewers, notably the politicians, and I certainly found it riveting, with many parallels to Scotland’s present politics.

O, wad some Power the giftie gie us tae see oorsels as ithers see us! It wad frae monie a blunder free us, an' foolish notion … ROBERT BURNS

Danes take a keen interest in Scotland’s progress towards independence, and among the most influential television journalism in Denmark is the DR2 channel and Deadline 22:30 

(search  DR2/deadline 22:30 on Google and click the translate option. It is also on YouTube.)

Here’s what the programme says about itself on its website -

About Deadline 22.30

The program sent every day at. 22.30 on DR2. Deadline serves today's latest news, and with experienced and well-prepared hosts the program sets the perspective on current and future key issues.

In particular, the program focuses on analysis, discussion and criticism of 'power', that is, decisions and decision-makers in economics and politics. This is achieved through four weekly activities.

The “experienced and well-prepared hosts” (BBC take note!) do exactly what it says on the tin, and a recent edition featured an interview with David Miliband. Thanks to my invaluable Danish friend Troels Just, I have the link and a translation of the interviewer’s subsequent analysis of Miliband’s ideas and performance.

Here’s the edition that contained the Miliband interview  - the interview is about 40% of the way in, after the Commons scene with Speaker Bercow. Miliband speaks in English. (It’s a glimpse of the real life Borgen of Danish politics!)

My Danish correspondent, Troels Just, to whom I am indebted for all of this, plus much more in the past, sets the context thus -

David Miliband was on Danish TV tonight (12 Nov 2012), our equivalent of the BBC (Danmarks Radio or "DR" for short) have a program called Deadline 22:30, which I think is sort of like Newsnight Scotland or similar, news and debate basically. He was basically invited to speak about the euroskeptic attitude of the UK as a whole. During this interview he mentions Scotland, of course in this "separating" language that seems like a religious mantra for the Labour party.

The interview with David Miliband is roughly in the middle of the program, they show one part, and then talk about what he said, and then show another part and talk about it with a professor of European studies here in Denmark. The commentary is of course in Danish, the interview itself is in English.

I thought you might be interested in a translated transcript of the commentary on the interview with David Miliband, so I spent some time making one for you.  Troels Just

(My heartfelt thanks, Troels!)

I have tried capturing the Danish "tone" or assumptions made in this commentary, to give an idea of how we on the continent speak about the UK and Europe. This commentary shows this notion of "politics of necessity", which I personally think is a bag of nonsense, since there really is no such thing as "this and only THIS being totally and absolutely necessary" as one can always do something different if one is willing to break with the status quo (Think of Trident, for instance), but having said that, this does represent the sort of light mockery that the UK is, deservedly, subjected to in continental media.

TROELS JUST’S NOTES AND TRANSLATION

Presenter: Yes, another EU country that provides a headache in Brussels is Great Britain; the British government rejects any talk of letting the EU's budget grow and Prime Minister Cameron is pressured on the home front with a growing EU skepticism in the parliament.

*footage from the House of Commons*

The 31st of October was yet another notable day in Great Britain's long history of being skeptical towards the EU.

*Speaker of the House of Commons announces the results*

That was how it sounded when the the British lower house voted in favour of cuts to the upcoming EU budget and thereby against the British Prime Minister Cameron's policy of a freeze. Even though Cameron is not obligated to follow the parliament, the decision was noticeable a week later when Cameron had to formulate the British position after a meeting with Germany's Chancellor Merkel. As opposed to Great Britain, Merkel wishes for more European integration, which would mean more power and more money for the EU.

*Cameron speaking*

Presenter: Yes, welcome Marlene Wind, EU expert, your assessment, is there a realistic chance, one could say on the one side, or risk or whatever, of the the British actually leaving the EU within the next five years?

Marlene Wind: I am not sure about five years, but a lot of things at the moment would indicate that that they are moving towards the exit of the European Community*, because Cameron have almost promised a referendum and all polls show that if it comes it will be a "No".

Presenter: Okay, we will speak more in a little bit, now we will first listen to how Great Britain's former foreign minister and Labour politician, David Miliband, explains the British stance on the EU.

*archive footage of Milliband*

Presenter: Miliband was foreign minister from 2007 and, until Labour's electoral defeat in 2010, he was a candidate to succeed Labour's party chairman**, Gordon Brown, but then he was defeated by his brother, Ed Miliband. I asked David Miliband what the problem actually is with Great Britain and the EU.

*interview part 1*

Presenter: Yes, Marlene Wind – Miliband a Labour politician, of course, giving the competitor, Cameron, a real run here, but what do you take note of in what he says?

Marlene Wind: I take note of that he paddles a bit, that is to say he slides on several of your questions, but he apparently also imagines that the Europe we will have in 10 years is, on the whole, looks like that which we have now, albeit there will be a eurozone, he says, that that might be getting more federal elements in it, but otherwise all of us will probably be there, and then it will be as it always was.

But that is exactly the problem, that it is not as it always was! And everything seems to indicate that it will be a completely different union we will have within just a few years, not out of desire and great visions, but out of need.

If one wants to rescue the euro and get the euro back on track, then you just have to build more union on top, and at the moment there are those talking about - and here I am talking about high profile officials such as van Rompuy, the Chairman** of the European Council - who says that it could be necessary to divide up the European Parliament, and only let the countries who are members of the eurozone make decisions on behalf of the eurozone.

People also suggest that Commission perhaps should not divided up, but that there should be a special secretariat for the eurozone. We are seeing more and more a separation of non-euro countries and euro countries, and therefore it is naive of Miliband not to address that very real problem that exists for the British - and by the way, also for the Danes, but especially for the British - because they crawled that far up in a tree, and are finding it difficult to try to come up with some constructive proposals.

On that we, after all, are a bit better, but it is quite difficult when one is caught a bit with one's pants down that the British have been.

Presenter: Yes, but now Miliband here wants to appear as clearly more pro-European than Cameron, but is he at base really almost as critical, or is he forced to be so?

Marlene Wind: I think he, personally, is very pro-European as a person, but it is very, very difficult in Great Britain at the moment to be pro-European...

Presenter: So it does not matter just changing governments - or what one could say?

Marlene Wind: It does not matter, because Labour is also pressured into a very anti-European rhetoric, and I read an article as recently as today in Financial Times where it said that only the Liberal Democrats are left, but not even they dare say anything - in the public debate - that has anything positive at all as a message about the European Community. One could say that makes the domestic policy agenda dominate the policy on Europe so much in Great Britain that one has almost tied the political leaders' hands - and feet - despite of being like Miliband in reality: probably somewhat more pro-European than he is allowed to be.

Presenter: We will speak further in a moment, but we will just go back to the interview with David Miliband, because I also asked him whether he is worried about the EU being separated into a euro and non-euro part.

*interview part 2*

Presenter: Yes, Marlene Wind, before it called it naive that one could find way back to ... sort of "the old EU", but could one not imagine that Merkel and Hollande, would want the British to stay in, and therefore one could find some solution where one has a core of euro countries that integrate on fiscal policy and that sort of thing, but while on the broader scale is more loosely integrated nation states?

Marlene Wind: The problem is whether one can keep the institutions together, the Commission, the court and the parliament and the supranational institutions and whether that is possible.

Presenter: Put simply, why could one not do that?

Marlene Wind: Well there are those, whom I mentioned before, who are of the opinion that the European Parliament does not represent all 27 countries anymore, because there are some that are outside the eurozone, therefore it is not "democratically okay" for countries outside the eurozone to have influence - through the European Parliament - on those things to be decided for the eurozone.

One can easily therefore imagine that the EU can break into two - and people are also quite worried about the internal market – which the British are actually very very fond of - and there isn’t actually anybody wanting the British to leave the EU.

One would prefer them to be there, but an elimination race will be done into sheeps and bucks, where countries like Denmark and the Central and Eastern European countries will, most likely, be those which David Milliband called "pre-ins", who will say "We do want, we try all we can to stay on and adapt our policy to that which goes on in the eurozone to the extent that it is possible", but Great Britain just cannot do that, because they tripped themselves up over this.

They have adopted this very anti-European rhetoric that makes it very, very difficult to any political leader, also for Ed and David Milliband - if they came to power again - to play the European card. I was sitting and thinking that it would be really wonderful if David Miliband had given this speech to the British people at home in Great Britain on the BBC - but he does not do that!

Presenter: One could say that if  you are pro-European on that - but if one is an EU skeptic in Denmark, could one not imagine that if England (****) pulls -  almost out, or all the way out - then one would get a stable platform to relate to if one does not wish for this close integration with Europe?

Marlene Wind: Absolutely, and that would be the perspective the British actually would want for themselves. They would probably do the same as Norway, namely, join the looser EEA cooperation...

Presenter: Could it pull Denmark along?

Marlene Wind: Well there are also many in Denmark –or some at least - that are of the opinion that it would be attractive: but we should take note that the Norwegians actually pay more per capita towards the EU budget than the British do.

I saw an account of it recently, and the Norwegians have to accept all internal market legislation - and copy it into their own legislation - without having any influence on that which is adopted. So the question is how attractive it is in reality is to be outside, wanting to sell one's goods into the internal market, yet having to accept all the legislation, or whether it is better to be on the inside?

It is exactly the dilemma the British are dealing with, and it is that struggle they are having with themselves at the moment. In other words where do their real interests lie?

Presenter: You say that Merkel and Hollande, they would like to have the British on board, but then we are seeing this budget fight, could there come a time when they will say, okay ...

Marlene Wind: Yes, we actually saw it with the fiscal pact - which David Miliband himself mentioned - where David Cameron had hoped that because he he said no to it, then everything would come to a halt, and then people would have said – OK then, we will wait or drop this fiscal pact. What did the EU countries do? They said - Not on your nelly, we will go outside the treaties and we will make the agreement outside! That was the blow to the British. At that point they realized that it is not everyone waiting for them, so now they have a few things to think about themselves.

Presenter: They sure do, and I think we do as well after this programme tonight! Thank you. That was all for Deadline, we will be back tomorrow, first time at 17, thanks for now.

TRANSLATOR’S NOTES

*) In Danish we use the term "det europæiske fællesskab" (Lit. "the European Community") to refer to "the commons", ie. that which Europe has in common, of the EU, it does not refer to the former name of the EU, "the European Communities".

**) In Danish we use the term "Chairman" (I almost feel as if we're Maoists, haha) every time the rest of Europe uses the term "President", I guess we are such butt-level royalists that the word "president" scares us.

***) In Danish we call it the "internal" market, and not the "common" market, I have no idea why.

****) Translator's note, yes, he did indeed say England!

 

Thursday, 8 March 2012

The Union – is there any case for it?

We’ve been in it for 305 years, it’s nice to be British – and we’re stronger together weaker apart. That appears to be about the sum total of the case for the Union so far – that, and a torrent of threats as to what rUK will do (the r in rUK stands for either rest or rump, dependent on how polite you are) if Scotland votes for independence. And if it’s not a threat as to what they will do, it’s a threat of what others will do, e.g. the EU, the UN, the rest of the world, etc.

As far as I’ve been able, I’ve captured this farrago of factoids in YouTube clips. It doesn’t just emanate from unionist politicians, it also keeps coming back like a very bad old song from the press and the media. Today, we have Michael Kelly at it again in the Scotsman. Where else, you may ask, since Michael’s glittering prose would be hard pushed to find a home anywhere else that values concise, elegant prose and coherent arguments.

His big insight today is in the title of his piece – Without the ability to change – Labour’s lost. Fancy that! Perhaps he’s been re-reading John McTernan’s back catalogue of What Labour Must Do articles, a theme with infinite tedious variations.

Michael Kelly article - Scotsman

Michael is confident that the SNP will lose any “fairly conducted single question referendum”, but clearly entertains the fear that the referendum might not be fairly conducted and might contain more than one question. Michael also believed that devolution would kill the SNP stone dead, that the SNP would never form a government and that the SNP would never gain an overall majority in Holyrood. Bookies eagerly await Michael Kelly’s forecasts so they can shorten the odds on the other alternative – there are advantages in always being wrong ...

He thinks the arguments for ‘separation’ are either threadbare or wrong. I would love to be able to counter by saying that the arguments of the Union are likewise, except there aren’t any so far. He selects three aspects – the oil fund, the currency and Nicola Sturgeon’s statement that “the Union is a bad for the NHS”.

The oil fund and currency questions have been comprehensively answered by the First Minister, but Michael shares the inability to hear what he chooses not to, in common with most unionists. Nicola’s criticism was in fact much wider than the NHS – she said the Union was bad for the welfare state, which must be starkly evident to the unemployed, poor, sick and vulnerable in Britain – but Michael was particularly cack-handed in focusing on the NHS, since virtually every professional body in England and Wales agrees with Nicola, and looks with envy to Scotland, which thanks to this aspect of devolution, is not facing destruction.

He goes on to what has now become the favourite ploy of the unionist – to define what independence (he actually calls it independence for this purpose) ought to mean, i.e, the narrow, separatist, anti-English, economically unrealistic caricature that unionists present – one that ignores the realities of inter-dependence in the modern world for all independent countries, and is the exact reverse of the SNP vision.

I think Michael also doesn’t really understand what realpolitik means in accusing Nicola of a “shocking lack” of it in her plans.

realpolitik: politics based on realities and material needs, rather than morals and ideals.

The essence of the SNP’s appeal to the voters is that their policies are not based on realpolitik, but on realities, material needs and morals and ideals. The reason that Scottish Labour – and UK Labour – has so comprehensively lost the confidence of the people is the fact that for over half a century, they have lost their morals and ideals, and embraced realpolitik as their core philosophy. Perhaps the last Labour minister to recognise this was the late Robin Cook, who propounded an ethical foreign policy, and resigned over the ethical collapse of the Blair Government over Iraq.

The nuclear deterrence policy of Labour, together with all three major UK parties, is realpolitik incarnate. It is one of the prime aspects of the UK that Scotland wants to break away from. The policy of privatisation of the NHS is realpolitik: the attempt to make the poorest and most vulnerable in our society pay for the economic vandalism of the bankers and the last Labour Government is realpolitik. Remaining in Afghanistan rather than lose face, when it is patently obvious that the project has failed is realpolitik.

I am not shocked by the lack of realpolitik behind the Deputy First Minister’s plan, i.e. the existence of a plan informed by the very morals and ideals that civilised societies are supposed to espouse, I am delighted by it, applaud it, and would have been horrified if Scotland’s approach to its welfare state had been dictated by realpolitik. In fact, there would have been no welfare state at all if the Attlee Government had pursued a realpolitik policy in 1945. But their morals and ideals are now an embarrassment to the the thing now known as the Labour Party, and a standing reproach to their lack of vision.

Without the ability to change, Michael, Scottish Labour is indeed lost. What you fail to understand is that the change they must make is to embrace the independence of their country, Scotland.


Saturday, 11 February 2012

The Holyrood Budget - Labour arithmetic 2+2=5

John Swinney responds to Tory and Labour demands for budget changes demanded without their offering any idea about where the money could come from - except for Jackie Baillie's ludicrous suggestion that the cost of the referendum (£10m) could pay for them.

The Finance Minister has plaudits for Willie Rennie's responsible approach, and brickbats for Labour and the Tories. The Scottish Labour Party has learned nothing from their repetition of their blind opposition during the 2007/2011 Holyrood term. Then they managed - in conjunction with the LibDems and the Tories - to block major items of legislation that would have benefited Scotland, e.g. minimum pricing for alcohol.

As a result of that, the Scottish electorate gave a resounding and historic mandate to the SNP, an outcome that Scottish Labour has still failed to understand. But they can no longer mindlessly block budgets, or anything else.  If only the Scottish Tories and Scottish Labour could have been big enough to grasp the olive branch held out to them by the SNP - the manifest willingness of the Scottish Government to work for consensus in the Parliament, despite their majority.

But that would have required a political approach from Labour and Tories that rose above political expediency - and a grasp of basic arithmetic ...


Thursday, 6 October 2011

Sectarianism, religion and politics

I had hoped to stay out of this debate, since almost anything anybody say makes things worse. But it won’t go away, and in the hope that most of Scottish population are rational and fair-minded, whatever their background and beliefs, and still display the healthy scepticism and willingness to question the hidden agendas of those who seek to persuade them that characterised Scots for most of my life, here is how I see it.

You can skip the next section (800 words) if you like, and jump straight to my views on the sectarian debate, but reading it may help you understand my position. To any religious bigots about to consider my views I would suggest that it will save you a lot of trouble later. Some of you won’t get beyond the first paragraph, perhaps even the first sentence. To others, it will induce a misplaced confidence that I am about to endorse your prejudices. I’m not ..



WHAT I AM AND WHERE I STAND

My background is that of a Glasgow East End Scot from a devoutly Catholic family with their roots in the Republic of Ireland. My mother was born in Glasgow, but my father and all my grandparents were Irish. I was educated in a cradle of Irish Catholicism in Glasgow, St.Mary’s Primary School in the Calton, fondly know by its historical name of St. Mary’s Ragged , with the church just round the corner in Abercrombie Street, the old South Witch Lone, renamed in 1802. St.Mary’s Church was built 40 years later in 1842. I attended its centenary celebrations in 1942 as a seven year old, the year of my first Communion. St. Mary’s was the cradle of Celtic Football club, founded by a Marist Brother, Andrew Kerins, known as Brother Walfrid. All of the males in my family were keen Celtic supporters.

I followed the natural progression for many St.Mary’s boys and went to St. Mungo’s Academy in early 1948, where I remained until 1950 when I left.

From the age of seven I had serious doubts and questions about religion, and at the point I left school, I was simply going through the motions of church observance for the sake of my mother and family. When I started my National Service in 1953, I was an atheist, and more than that, formed the belief that has stayed with me ever since, that organised religion, together with inequality, racism and greed was the root of much of Glasgow and Scotland’s problems and most of the world’s problems. I also believe that secret societies, organisations and clubs that include or exclude based on religious belief, ethnic origin, gender, or sexual orientation are inimical to democracy and a free society. I believe that totalitarian states and dictatorships are almost always structured on principles similar to those of organised religion, even when they are nominally secular, and are equally destructive to human values.

I was a Labour supporter and internationalist in my political beliefs for most of my life, but the progressive failure of the party in the post-war period to address Glasgow’s problems and the needs of the poor, the deprived and the under-privileged, eventually led me late in life to the Scottish National Party. I am totally opposed to nuclear weapons, but I am not a pacifist. I believe in defence and the concept of a just war, even though such a thing is an extreme rarity historically. I saw the Second World War as a just war, and one that had to be fought, but was appalled at the use of nuclear weapons to end the war with Japan.

My friends and social contacts cross religious, ethnic, sexual orientation, political and social boundaries, and such distinctions have never mattered to me in choosing friends nor in selecting employees when I was engaged in recruitment in industry, either as their boss or on behalf of another. In my recruitment and managerial roles over the years, in common with all who hire people, I have been accused of every kind of discrimination imaginable, the range of alleged discriminations effectively cancelling each other out.

I have never been interested in spectator sports, and support no football club, although like all Scots of my generation, I played street football, played school football and rugby, albeit  under duress. For a brief period in the late 1950s I was involved in judo and the old Osaka Club in Glasgow.

All of the above – especially the lack of interest in football - should be enough to make me an object of suspicion and instinctive distrust by both sides of the sectarian divide in Scotland, and to cause them to dismiss anything I have to say out of hand.

But all my old Glasgow street experience - and experience of more subtle sectarian bigotry in industry - tells me that it is better to get it all up front than leave it to the kind of sordid speculation and nose-tapping that otherwise ensues. The old Belfast question can, of course, still be asked - “You say you’re an atheist, but are you a Protestant or a Catholic atheist?”

FACTS AND BELIEFS – SHARED AND PERSONAL

Let’s start with a few facts, ones that are accepted as fact – I hope – across the range of opinions on the subject.

1. Sectarianism is a significant problem in Scottish life.

2. No government, national or devolved, passed any legislation to combat it until the Scottish Government’s 2011 legislation.

3. The Scottish police believe there is a need for such legislation, and have welcomed the new powers it gives them to deal with sectarian behaviour.

4. The most egregious examples of sectarian behaviour have been at football matches, especially Old Firm matches, or have been directly related to football, e.g. the bombs sent to Neil Lennon and others. That is not to say that they are the only manifestations of sectarian behaviour, nor to say that other, less visible instances of such behaviour may be damaging Scottish life in even more fundamental ways, e.g sectarian behaviour in employment, in the Police and in the Law.

If you don’t accept all of the above as facts, then little that I have to say will impress you, and vice versa. To misquote Sydney Smith – “We will never agree, we are arguing from separate premises (sic)”

Here are a six additional things that I believe - in addition to beliefs set out in my preamble - and I don’t expect general agreement on these, because there is abundant evidence that many religious believers and their spokesperson don’t accept them, or pay only lip service to them, and indeed the UK Government and the Scottish Government do not accept all of them.

The state and the apparatus of government should be secular and not religious-based, and should not favour any religious group over another, or over people of no faith.

The government of a country should permit all faiths to worship and believe as they choose, and should protect that right by law, except where the behaviour of any group seeks to impose a belief, or belief system, or practice by law on those who do not share it, or restrict their freedom within the law.

Individual and groups who are not elected by the democratic will of the people may be consulted about their views, providing they do not seek to bypass the democratic will of the people as expressed by the government they have elected.

There should be no such thing as an established church in a country or state, e.g. The Church of England.

A state or country should not be described as, or present itself as, or see itself as one specially linked to a specific religion, or indeed to religious belief, e.g. “The UK is a Christian country” etc..

There should be no such thing as faith schools or schools segregated on a religious basis or on the absence of belief, e.g “Only atheists children will be admitted to this school, and we will inculcate atheist values.”

But I start from the assumption that the Scottish Government accepts at least the first three as principles of government, tries to govern by such principles, and has consistently adhered to them throughout the debate on sectarianism, and will continue to do so.

 

HOW WE GOT HERE – RELIGION AND HISTORY

Certainly since Henry VIII, the history and politics of Britain and its monarchy have been inextricably bound up with, and distorted by religion, and the history of Scotland has been even more influenced by it. Central to all of this was the Holy Roman Empire and the Papacy, which claimed supremacy over all secular authorities and all nations. After the Reformation, the Papal worldwide influence progressively declined, but it still bulked large in relations between Scotland and England, and between England and Ireland. Monarchs and politicians ruthlessly exploited religion for their own ends, and organised religion reciprocated with enthusiasm, and exploited monarchs and politicians, in an unholy – in the truest sense of the word – set of alliances.

The effect of the Reformation and the ideas of Martin Luther were adopted with energy in Scotland, especially by those attempting to shift power to the people from prelates and priests, and there is no doubt that we owe much of our democracy to this great religious and intellectual movement, but with dreary inevitability it produced another kind of undemocratic autocracy of the mind, with the Kirk becoming the thought police, and proving themselves just as capable of the torture, hangings and burnings as the previous Catholic hegemony. On the credit side, the Kirk undoubtedly was also a binding force in Scottish society, vital in education and poor relief, and in defending the rights of ordinary people, up to a point. Such are the contradictions inherent in religion when it supplants democratic politics. But democratic politics as we know them are a comparatively recent thing, with for example, the full vote for women coming as late as 1928 in Britain.

But the fatal flaw of deference infected the Kirk too, and some of the writings of Scottish Presbyterian ministers on the fate of their flocks during the Clearances make depressing reading, with expressions of sanctimonious concern mixed with nauseating obsequiousness to landlords and clan chiefs and fatalism in the face of a gross injustice masquerading as faith in the Lord. During the Enlightenment, this fog of almost medieval superstition began to lift, but even a great thinker – and atheist – such as David Hume had to be circumspect: the Kirk still had people hanged for questioning religion, including a teenage boy.

In the late 17th century the Irish dimension began to exert the baleful influence it has had on Scottish politics and Scottish life ever since, and it is a sad fact of life that generations of Scottish children have grown to adulthood able to name only a couple of dates in British history – the Battle of the Boyne, or the Easter Rising,  and have a greater identification with, and knowledge of Irish politics than the 21st century politics of their native country. Football clubs founded in the 19th century – Glasgow Celtic and Glasgow Rangers - with predominantly working class roots, admirable intentions and the wish to play a great game are now international money-making machines – or were up until recently – with players and managers who are often entirely unrepresentative of their native city, Scotland or indeed the UK. They are now the focal point for religious tribal loyalties based on ancient history that is largely irrelevant to modern Scottish life.

Since I do not aspire to be the poor man’s Tom Devine, I must move on …

 

THE SECTARIAN SITUATION – SCOTLAND IN 2011

sect: a body of people subscribing to religious doctrine different from others within the same religion, a group deviating from orthodox tradition, heretical, body separated from an orthodox church, nonconformistConcise Oxford dictionary.

The definition also covers philosophy and politics, but we can confine ourselves to the religious dimensions, although there is an irony in the fact the sectarianism is now being used in a thoroughly contemptible way by unionist politicians in Holyrood as a tool of opposition, just as they used minimum pricing for alcohol in the last Parliament.

sectarian: bigoted or narrow-minded in following the doctrine’s of one’s sect. COD

(In these definitions one might argue that Roman Catholicism and Protestantism are sects of the Christian religion, and Protestantism undoubtedly has sects within its total body.)

Here is an unpalatable fact for the Scottish churches – there would be no religious sectarianism without religion. Sectarianism is a product of the religious mind, just as pogroms, persecution, burning of heretics, torture, the auto da fé, the suppression of scientific discovery, the suppression of free expression and free speech, homophobia and almost all of the key conflicts in our tortured world are a product of the religious mind.

In that, religion has its mirror image in totalitarian creeds such a Nazism and the Stalinist regimes of Soviet Russia, and their up-to-date versions around the world, which displayed and display all the characteristics of religious dogma – the Great Leader whose word must not be challenged, the acolytes who are uniquely gifted with the power of interpreting it, the sacred texts, the censorship, the intolerance of any alternative political view or religious challenge, and the whole apparatus of punishing the deviant.

The Scottish National Government is committed to governing a country, Scotland, that has many religions, historically Christian religions, but in the 21st century, other faiths as well, and also has many who claim no specific faith, but profess to believe in a God, and some who do not believe in a God.  (If regular churchgoing and active participation in a church are the measures, Scotland is not a Christian society. If highly visible interventions into the ordered life of Scotland by religious groups and their spokespersons, either by violent or disruptive and sometime criminal behaviour, or statements by senior clerics to the media and to government are the measure, it is a Christian society.)

The SNP government tries, as any Scottish government of whatever political colour must, to balance these groups within Scottish society, firstly to protect their rights to believe and act -and worship where appropriate - in accordance with their beliefs, to ensure that they are not discriminated against for these beliefs, whether of faith or no faith, and to protect their rights to free assembly and free speech. They must also recognise de facto, the power of these groups, but also the limitations of that power, because in the case of organised religions, they are not representative of a majority of the population or anything like it, and they are, in their own organisation and structure, only partially democratic or completely undemocratic in the selection and appointment of the leaders. Where a form of election does takes place, it is by a small and unrepresentative group.

Let’s look at the dynamics of the situation that led to this legislation. Prominent Catholics had been calling attention to what they perceived as discrimination and actual violence directed against them as a minority group in Scottish society for some time. The behaviour of a minority of football supporters, notoriously those supporting the two Old Firm clubs, Celtic and Rangers,  before, during and after games, on the streets, in the pubs and on the terracing had become increasingly inimical to public order, criminal and eventually lethal to a young man wearing a Celtic strip, who was stabbed to death for no other reason than his dress, an act that led to the establishment of Nil by Mouth, an organisation campaigning against sectarian violence, and its two close companions, alcohol abuse and domestic abuse.

The attacks on Neil Lennon, the Celtic manager, and the explosive devices sent to his home and that of others associated with Celtic, including an MSP and a prominent lawyer, led to a major police investigation and prosecutions.

On acts of violence that came with the definition of breach of the peace legislation, the police were and are adamant that the existing breach of the piece legislation is inadequate to combat such behaviour, especially the singing of  partisan songs with with unacceptable religious and violent associations, offensive banners and chanting  and deliberately provocative gesture calculated to inflame violence. (In this regard, there is a conflict with the Human Rights Act, and it has now become central to the dispute.) The flying of flags also presented certain difficulties, with no easy answers. Leaving aside the question of the violence itself, the cost of policing these games, cradles of violence, threatened the game itself, and the reputation of Scotland internationally.

Other political parties had talked about doing something – the SNP Government decided something must be done, but on the basis of cross-party consensus. After initially supporting the legislation, the other parties had second thoughts, and claimed that the legislation was being rushed through Parliament without proper debate: it was certainly being expedited with some urgency, in the hope of avoiding even worse scenes in the new football season than those that had disgraced the previous one.

THE REASONS FOR THE OPPOSITION TO THE LEGISLATION

There are two ways of viewing the opposition to the legislation. One is to say that it is soundly rooted in fears about the adequacy and the clarity of the legislation, and genuine concerns over its legality under the Human Rights Act and freedom of speech and expression.

The second perspective is mine, and I offer it as a personal viewpoint. Others may share aspects of it, but I doubt that any consensus supports my view. It does not represent an SNP view, since I can only judge the party and the Government’s view from their public statements.

I believe that the opposition to the legislation - leaving aside legitimate points on the drafting and implementation in practice, points that will be addressed in the review stages – is rooted in the same destructive opposition politics that lost the unionist parties the last election, namely, oppose blindly any legislation or initiative by the SNP Government that might actually succeed in addressing long-term problems in Scottish society, e.g. alcohol abuse and violence, on the basis that the SNP cannot be seen to succeed where unionist parties have failed for generations.

I believe it is also rooted in wish of small, innately undemocratic and violent minorities on both side of the religious divide, under the guise of football support, to retain their right to behave appallingly and illegally, to foment hatred and violence and perpetuate ancient and irrelevant feuds that feed their perverted sense of identity and tribal loyalty.

I believe that these groups are being exploited by both political and religious forces in Scotland, and perhaps beyond Scotland, in a manner that is at best short-sighted and misguided, and at worse, calculated and extremely dangerous.

I believe that a wider range of bodies have been sucked unwittingly and naively into this agenda, and with the best of motives, e.g. freedom of speech and human rights, are being manipulated.

I believe that the Catholic church hierarchy, having called repeatedly and forcefully for action against sectarian behaviour, discrimination and violence directed against them as a minority religious group in Scotland, are now behaving extremely unwisely in attacking the legislation and the Government, and run a grave risk in so doing of exacerbating religious tension and violence.

I find it extraordinary, to the point of being deeply sceptical, that two groups of supporters should suddenly, in what was virtually a synchronised protest, display elaborately crafted banners with closely similar core messages attacking the SNP Government’s anti-sectarian legislation.

I believe that the religious divide in the West of Scotland has been exploited for well over a century by political parties, especially the Labour Party, and that sectarian divisions have been used in complex and arcane ways to maintain the power of certain groups, especially in local government. (This is an open secret in Glasgow, and has been for all of my lifetime – in American cities run on similar lines, it isn’t even a secret, it is open and blatant, and an accepted fact of political life.) These political groups know which buttons to press, and are determined not to surrender the sordid apparatus of football loyalties mixed with tribal and religious loyalties and its associated provocative and polarised behaviour that underpins their power.

THE RELIGIOUS BIGOTS CREDO

I am loyal to my traditions and my faith – the other side is bigoted, discriminatory, and is determined to destroy all that I believe in. I want Government, the Law and the police to control and act against the behaviour of the other side. Since I never behave badly, such actions should never impinge upon my rights to proclaim my beliefs.

Democratic government is all very well, but I am answerable to a Higher Power. That higher power speaks uniquely to me, and through me, and other faiths and creeds claiming to interpret the Higher Power are mistaken if their interpretation conflicts with mine. I claim the right to demand that the secular, democratically elected government ignore the mandate of the people where I deem it necessary, and respond to my undemocratic and unelected religious principles and precepts. When the chips are down, I will use my undemocratic power to influence the democratic process.

PRACTICAL REALITIES

The beliefs outlined above were taken to their profoundly destructive and violent conclusions in Northern Ireland for generations, distorting the democratic political process that tried to address the real inequalities and grievances. But the bitter experience of what such tribal religious divides, exploited by unscrupulous politicians, actually resulted in has led the Northern Irish people, painfully and agonisingly, into true democratic politics – the bullet and the bomb have begun to lose their lethal potency and rational debate, negotiation and compromise – and above all the ballot box – have gradually brought the Province back to sanity.

But the Scottish sectarian groups who have identified with one side or another in that long conflict, and who got their kicks vicariously from the agony of another people without actually having to experience the pain, are frozen in time, and politically and emotionally immature, unlike the Northern Irish people, who have achieve political maturity by actual hard experience. Of course, at the extremes, there are those on both sides of the religious divide who have been and still are actively involved in the old destructive ways, and they represent an ever-present danger not only to Scotland but to the stability of Northern Ireland’s new democracy.

The phrase moral equivalence is much bandied about at the moment in the sectarian debate. The spokesperson for the Catholic Church and the Catholic community feel that there is a conspiracy by government and the forces of law and order to conceal the fact that the statistics on acts of sectarian violence do not show a balance of illegality – acts of violence against Catholics are far more prevalent than sectarian actions against Protestants.

Michael Kelly, in an article in The ScotsmanSNP will pay a heavy price ... claims that over an 18-month period, 64% of acts of violence were against Catholics and 36% against others, and draws two conclusions from this – one, that since Catholics only form 16% of the population, the ratio is much higher than 2:1, and that “any anti-sectarian campaign must focus on stopping attacks on Catholics …”

Whatever the validity of these statistics, the reality is that the new legislation can only focus on sectarian attacks and unacceptable and inflammatory behaviour wherever it occurs and on those who break the law. Any other approach would be the religious equivalent of racial profiling, i.e. targeting police action on Protestants.

I believe that Michael Kelly’s article is profoundly damaging to the debate and to the cause that he espouses, namely the Roman Catholic cause, because he conflated it with Labour Party and Unionist politics and an attack on the SNP. At all times when listening to a West of Scotland Labour apologist commenting on sectarian behaviour, we must remember that such behaviour has always been concentrated in the West of Scotland under a Labour fiefdom that goes back for over half a century, and Labour-dominated local government, of which Michael Kelly is a former leading light.

 

RELIGIOUS MATTERS

I also question the moral priorities of senior religious figures in Scotland. At a time when the world is a more unstable place than it has been for a long time, when our economy is in a state of near collapse, the poor, the sick, the underprivileged face an attack on the very fabric of their lives, while weapons of mass destruction are based in our country, draining our limited finances and posing a threat to millions and to the environment, the Scottish churches are obsessed with gay marriage, alleged discrimination and the right to bawl out sectarian songs and fly the flag of the UK and the Irish Republic at football matches in the name of freedom of speech. This is a strange sense of values, and if moral equivalence must be trotted out, there is a distorted sense of morality at work.

I have a last word for the Catholic hierarchy. I found this news report disquieting – if anybody else did, I have not yet come across their comments. Cardinal O'Brien present papal knighthood at Red Mass

The Papal Knighthood is an award by the Vatican – a legally constituted foreign state – to prominent Catholics who have distinguished themselves in their field of endeavour. (I am not aware that it is ever conferred on non-Catholics, but am happy to be corrected on this point.)

This award was made at a special mass to Lord Gill, the Lord Justice Clerk of Scotland by Cardinal O’Brien representing Pope  Benedict XVI. Present at the mass were the Lord Advocate, the Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, and the vice president of the Law Society of Scotland. (I do not know the religious affiliations of those attending.)

The report from The Catholic Observer quotes Cardinal O’Brien as follows -

“In his homily at Sunday’s Mass, Cardinal O’Brien urged Catholic lawyers in Scotland to remain strong and true to their religious beliefs.

“There is no doubt that one of the biggest challenges facing Catholic lawyers in Scotland today is a challenge which has faced many people and different groups in society down the ages: how do you live and act out your professional lives while at the same time remaining true to the teachings and doctrine of the Church?” Cardinal O’Brien said. “Specifically for lawyers the challenge must be how can you represent your clients’ interests to the best of your abilities while applying the law of the land, when at times these two pressures may be in conflict with your own Catholic Faith.”

I can only say that I am deeply uncomfortable with such an award and such statements at a time when religious divides in Scottish society are problematical and legislation to combat excesses produced by them is being attacked by prominent religious leaders, including Cardinal O’Brien. I can only speculate about how such an event and such statements are interpreted by extremists in Scottish society.

I do not believe they serve the interest of the Catholic community in Scotland well, nor do they accord with my ideas of how the relationship between religious groups and a secular democracy should work. At worst, they can exacerbate religious tension.

I have to say that the award, and the status and roles of those attending does not suggest a Catholic professional population being discriminated against, at least in the legal profession. I can only express the wish that lawyers in Scotland, of whatever religious persuasion, remain true to the principle of the rule of law and the secular state of which they are a part.