Saturday, 7 January 2012
Sunday, 20 November 2011
Last night, STV, to their credit, provided a live feed from the Glasgow University Union debate on the motion that This House believes in an independent Scotland. Unfortunately, I missed John Nicolson's and Frank McKirgan’s opening speeches for the motion and Kevin Sneader opening for the opposition. (The sound quality of the STV feed was OK but the video was appallingly poor. Quite why it should be so hard to transmit an adequate image across – in my case - miles or so, when we can transmit perfect images across the globe is not clear to me. Still …)
The motion was defeated, and that says nothing about the likelihood of Scotland achieving its independence, any more than the notorious Oxford Union debate motion of 1933, “That this House will in no circumstances fight for its King and Country", passed by 275 votes to 153, said about Britain going to war in 1939.
The general atmosphere of the debate was that of a self-congratulatory, complacent establishment elite, well lubricated by the national beverage, having a re-union with auld acquaintances, kilted, sporraned, privileged and utterly remote from the brutal realities of life for many Scots in 2011.
The underlying atmosphere, however, was a very different one, that of a complacent elite who had done very nicely, thank you, out of the United Kingdom, uneasily aware that they were fast becoming irrelevant to their country -if indeed they regarded that as Scotland - and that they were on the wrong side of history.
This was pointed up by the composition of the teams. The team for the motion included a journalist, two lawyers and a politician, and the opposing team a vice-president of Proctor & Gamble, two directors of management consulting firms and the MD of a venture capital company: three out of four of the opposing team were not resident in Scotland and not eligible to vote in the referendum.
I would like to give more time to analysis of this debate, not because it in any way predicts the outcome of the referendum – nor would it had the vote gone the other way – but because it was very revealing as to core elements of the unionist argument, and the kinds of people who are advancing it. Unfortunately, I cannot do this in full because of the speakers I missed. I hope for a repeat of the recording, or a transcript being made available.
But I will offer my impressions, based on what I did hear.
One of the opposition speakers, Gordon Peterson, former rugby internationalist and now ‘innovation consultant’, after announcing that his wife and mother were in the audience, then opened with an anecdote of a pre-marital sexual adventure with a transexual that involved “heavy pechin’” and closed with a reference to a wet dream. However hilarious this kind of content might be at all-male rugby dinners and ‘innovation consulting’ engagements, it seemed to me not only inappropriate for a mixed audience, one containing his wife and mother, but also deeply irrelevant to the debate. But it seemed to go down well enough with the GUU audience. Perhaps standards have changed …
But let me come to a more significant point. Austin Lally, the second speaker opposing the motion made the following remarkable statement as his core argument for retaining the Scotland in the UK.
“Scotland has a purpose in this world that transcends her borders … If we choose to leave the UK, we will leave behind a conservative, Atlanticist, eurosceptic, intolerant, permanently conservative rump, which will change the balance of power in England, which will change the balance of power in Europe, which will be a bad force in the world. My argument is that Scotland can lead the UK, the UK can lead in Europe, and we can make the world a better place, and fairer place, in line with our destiny.”
Austn Lally, advancing this extraordinary argument was clearly of a Labour persuasion. Leaving aside the fact that it is probably deeply insulting to the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, it in fact contains the central reasons why Scotland should get out of the 1707 Union as fast as possible.
A few figures -
Out of 650 seat in Westminster, Scotland has 59 – just over 9%. The 2013 review proposes 600 seats, of which Scotland will have 52 – just under 8.7%
It doesn’t take an Einsteinian grasp of mathematics to assess just what influence that represents if the UK had a truly representative democracy, with proportional representation. But we don’t, thanks to the Tories and a significant block of Labour MPs and Lords, including our very own Lord Reid, who mounted a virulent campaign to protect the first past the post system. (Of course, this same group installed a form of proportional representation for Holyrood that would neuter the SNP. Didnae work, did it?)
As a result of this, we had a Labour Government dominated by Scots for 13 years, whose contribution making the world “a better and fairer place, in line with our destiny” was to increase the gap between rich and poor, increase child poverty and launch two destructive wars – one illegal – and wreak death and destruction on innocent men, women and children of two other countries, while killing a significant number of British soldiers in the process. So much for the morality of Labour, which may be summed up in two words – Blair and Iraq. As for the morality of Westminster, the expenses scandal that rocked the nation revealed a greedy, amoral, unscrupulous political class feathering their own nests, one in which criminal Scottish MPs and Lords featured.
It therefore comes as no surprise that the latest YouGov poll is summed up in a Scotland on Sunday headline today as English move away from being British. They have every reason to – being British - i.e. being part of the corrupt conspiracy undemocratic of wealth and power called the UK - has delivered them into the hands of unrepresentative Scottish carpetbaggers called the Labour Party for 13 years, and now an unhappy and incompetent Coalition of rich and privileged men and women who are busy destroying the jobs and the fragile economic base of the most vulnerable, while protecting the rich and their own narrow circle of friends and financial backers.
Professor Murray Pittock, closing for the proposers of the motion – the pro-independence team – summed up the debate perfectly. He observed that in the 28 years since he had first stood at the lectern in such debates, nothing in the arguments of those opposing the independence of their country had changed. “Then the argument were about devolution: now they are about independence – and they are the same arguments the same objections. The same tittle tattle of fear, bad jokes, insults and shouting …”
That about summed it up. I hope this will be re-broadcast – Scotland should hear it and judge.
Monday, 26 September 2011
Kenneth Farquarson – now there’s a resounding Scottish name. Kenneth, a Pictish forename (Cinoid) linked to the Goidelic Cináed, meaning firehead or born of fire. And Farquarson – son of Farquar, the dear one.
The Farquarson clan were Jacobites, staunch supporters of the Stuarts, and fought in many battles against the British state, including Culloden.
One might expect that those bearing this great name might put Scotland first, but strange things happened after the Union, especially among the High Heid Yins of the clans.
The present chieftain of the Clan Farquarson is Alwyne Farquharson of Invercauld, and sports a nice coat of arms with heraldic lions, a couple of daggers and two coniferous trees. But where is his seat – the seat of the clan chief? Why, it’s Valley Farm, Norfolk!
But he has a nice little business in Invercauld, one that the family have owned since before 1432 – a sporting estate in the Cairngorms, with all the huntin’, shootin’ and fishin’ and holiday cottages and properties for sale and rent. Chief Alwyne was educated at Eton and Magdalen College Oxford, served in the Royal Scots Greys. He has been around a long time, born in 1919. He is on Person page 8051 of Burke’s Peerage.
With that pedigree, my guess is that he is not a supporter of Scotland’s independence, but it’s only a guess …
Coming right up to date, our very own Kenneth Farquarson, Deputy Editor of Scotland on Sunday is not a supporter of independence either. He is a Unionist, and here, I don’t have to guess, since Kenny amiably and articulately argues his case for the Union in trenchant articles in SoS, and on Twitter. He is the kind of unionist one can have a rational debate with, one without acrimony, but vigorous nonetheless. I think, despite our political difference, that the New Scotland needs people like Kenny – so there …
I’m sure Kenny did not become a Unionist because of his clan chief – he is not fond of all that old emotional history stuff, and neither am I. If Scots followed their clan chiefs’ politics these days, the Tories, not the SNP would be in power, and Annabel Goldie would be well on her way to being a Baroness, or maybe a Dame – there is nothin’ like a dame!
Why do I cover this ground before coming to Kenny’s article in SoS last Sunday – Why Union’s fate depends on Fraser ?
Because the opposition to Scotland’s independence can only be understood when one looks squarely at that powerful, entrenched bastion of privilege, unelected and undemocratic – the British Establishment – and the Scottish dimension to it, to fully appreciate the forces that have everything to lose and nothing to gain from independence.
The Scotland on Sunday article
Kenny proposes that the fate of the Union hinges on whether Murdo Fraser gets elected as the new ‘Tory’ leader or not, a proposition that he recognises will be greeted with scepticism, if not derision, by many. Well, not by me …
I think that Murdo’s decision to face facts about the Tory Party and the future of the centre right in Scottish politics was brave and principled. A politician who does not take big risks when the game demands it is no politician at all. I hope he wins, because I think it is unhealthy for the centre right not to have a significant voice in Scotland, because without that voice, we head for the extreme right and neo-fascism.
I also understand and agree with most of Kenny’s analysis of the situation, with qualifications. The unionist parties are moving inexorably towards devo max – greater autonomy from the UK, both in constitutional and party terms, with a greater focus on Scotland and Scottishness. Labour, of course, is moving more slowly than the Murdo camp, but if we listen to Tom Harris, they’re pretty well there too.
Kenny says that the election of Murdo Fraser would recalibrate Scottish politics, a phrase that exactly captures what the consequences would be. The LibDems don’t really matter much, but to the degree that they do, they are a federalist party, so they are basically devo max as well.
KF says that his friends in the SNP (by that I assume he means MSPs or party insiders) assure him that Alex Salmond is still determined to offer voters three options – independence, devo max or status quo. Since I have no insider information (the party are wary of independent bloggers) I can only take what he says at face value.
So it seems assured that Scotland will – at the very least – get devolution max, with the enthusiastic cooperation of all parties. What is devolution max and how does it differ from full independence?
These are easy questions to answer for a supporter of full independence, or for a supporter of the Union, but not only do unionists not answer it, they carefully avoid the question. Home Rule, an ancient phrase from my childhood, now is in vogue again, to deflect attention from this real, crucial difference.
And Kenny is no different – nowhere in his article does he say just what it is he and other unionists are trying to preserve after devo max, not because he doesn’t know, but because it starkly exposes what the Great Game is all about.
It’s essentially defence and foreign policy – the ability to send Scots to war and to die without the consent of their devo max Parliament, or their first Minister, or Scottish voters, or Scottish mothers and fathers.
It’s the ability to make war with weapons of mass destruction called the ‘independent’ nuclear deterrent, one that is patently not independent, since we need the instruction and consent of the US to launch it.
It’s the ability to continue with a Ministry of Defence where incompetence often cloaks corruption, one that enriches favoured politicians and armaments manufacturers, the merchants of death, a Ministry with a revolving door to lucrative directorships and advisory consulting posts for some of its salaried officials.
It’s the ability to allow political mediocrities to strut on a global stage, to interfere in the affairs of nations far from the UK, and to become obscenely rich in the process, while the democracy that elected them goes to the dogs.
This is the unionist vision, masked by sentimental nonsense about Britishness and shared values. This is the ugly, lethal, venal, inhuman heart of the Union that’s left after devo max. This is what those who profit from it will defend to the death – someone else’s death, preferably a Scottish soldier.
I want no part of it – I want to live in a truly independent Scotland, one where the SNP, the Scottish Labour Party, the Murdo Centre Right Party, the Scottish Greens, and the Scottish minority parties are all Scottish parties, with only the interests of the Scottish people as their primary focus, but a Scotland that cooperates in fully and intimately with its newly free neighbours, the great nations of England, Wales and Ireland, and exercises its international responsibilities through free association with the free nations of Europe and the world.
That’s the Scotland I want to see – that’s the Scotland I will vote for. I hope enough of my fellow Scots agree with me to make it happen.
Wednesday, 14 September 2011
The latest offering in the cold chicken franchise known as What Labour Must Do! is served up today in The Scotsman by John McTernan, the doyen of the genre. I take my hat off to John for the ingenuity with which he has varied the title theme over his seemingly endless series of articles – today it’s Labour has to face up to its failings. article
Scottish Labour facing up to its failings must be like Dorian Gray facing up to his portrait in the attic, but are they quite ready to slash the portrait, running the risk of the horror of what they have become being made visible in their public face? Well, Murdo Fraser has shown the way, but Jim Murphy and Tom Harris don’t quite have the cojones for such a radical approach, and the less said about Iain Gray’s cojones the better.
But John is in nostalgic mood, invoking men of principle from Labour’s distant past, calling up the ghosts of Tom Johnston and Willie Ross. He calls them transformative figures, and Tom Johnston richly deserves such an appellation: the less said about Willie Ross, the better. But where else would John McTernan go but the distant past? For a Blairite such as he, the temptation to invoke his former boss and idol, Tony Blair, was overpowering, in spite of the fact that the disastrous transformation that Blair inflicted on the Labour Party, the UK and the people of Afghanistan and Iraq is now so notorious, especially since the BBC’s Question Time Special last week on Iraq, Afghanistan and the War on Terror.
But Blair slips in his symbolic abandonment of Clause 4 and nationalisation, and John’s new heroes of Labour, Jim Murphy and Sarah Boyack have given Scottish Labour “an equally powerful symbol”. It’s not entirely clear what this symbol is.
And so the symbols crash and the drums fail to roll – the saltire, Scottishness – everything but a tartan doll around the neck of whoever the new, transformative Leader is going to be – none of it will work.
But as John ruefully observes in his final sentence, Scottish Labour has nothing left to lose. They could maybe do volunteer work in a tartan-tack shop in the Royal Mile, with Iain Gray and John McTernan in ersatz Jacobite shirts with plastic thongs, and have stale haggis for lunch …
Tuesday, 30 August 2011
Given all the things I have said about the Labour Party and Labour politicians, it is unsurprising that I have few amicable dialogues with the party. I am also a Labour apostate, which compounds the problem. But I have always tried to make a sharp distinction between the Labour Party and its politicians and the people they have so comprehensively betrayed. This distinction is especially vital in the case of Labour supporters in England, who, unlike the Scots, the Welsh and the Northern Irish, are faced with limited choices if they wish to shift their allegiance
It has been especially welcome for me therefore to have Twitter exchanges with a Labour supporter that I have unqualified respect for, including for the generous way he has responded to my regrettable tendency to shoot from the hip occasionally on Twitter – a kind of Ready, Fire, Aim approach.
Miljenko Williams tweets @eiohel and his online site is 21stcenturyfix.org
He recently was prompted to reflect on the nature of localism and nationalism, asking the question On sliding between localism and nationalism - when does one become the other?
After misunderstanding his initial tweet, and without following the link, I fired off in typical fashion, but then was politely directed back to source by Miljenko. I have his permission to repeat my comments on his fascinating article, but you really should read the original and what prompted it.
Getting over my shock at the real Extremadura intruding on my consciousness, (I wrote a book set in Extremadura - 'The Ancient Order of Moridura' - without ever having visited the region) let me offer a few thoughts -
The concept of a nation clearly is a much more complex one than that of a region, one bound up with geography, language, culture and identity built over centuries. It is not just a grouping of localities, and cannot be seen as just a series of economic and technological initiatives. Interdependence is the key factor that leads to communities, then localities, then nations, but national independence does not exclude localism nor does it deny cooperation across national boundaries.
But in organising itself to survive and achieve those eternal freedoms to to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, mankind has fallen repeatedly into the seductive trap of 'big is better', and the idea of economies of scale.
This has undoubtedly delivered benefits for some, but usually at the expense of others, and significantly at the expense of our common humanity. It has led to brutal oppressive empires, world religions, global banking, global companies, and most sinisterly of all, to the military/industrial complex – Eisenhower’s nightmare scenario, now a fact.
What we need now is democratic nationalism on a human scale, with maximum decentralisation of power to regions and localities, and free cooperation with other nations on economic, technological and scientific matters - and yes, on defence - but with the emphasis always being on serving the needs of the people, not the people serving the needs of a privileged and amoral minority.
If our 21st century society has only given us the iPad, the iPhone and mp3 players, it has failed. In fact, it is failing, right now, globally. Sophisticated communications systems alone will not deliver happiness, or even economic and social benefit. There is prima facie evidence that they can be inimical to it, dependent on who controls the systems and the information flow.
Spain is a nation, and short of trying to establish Iberia as a nation, it will always be a nation. Extremadura is a fascinating region, with a wonderful history and identity, one that must be preserved and celebrated, but it is not, and cannot be a nation.
But I know that this raises other issues of regional identity in Spain, ones beyond my knowledge and competence to comment on.
Wednesday, 27 April 2011
An article today by John McTernan in The Scotsman epitomises what the Scottish Labour Party is all about. I quote -
Playing the nasty card might get results
by John McTernan (The Scotsman 27April 2011)
“Everyone who aspire to political office has to be, at least in part, an intellectual thug.”
“How do you become First Minister of Scotland? Simple. Malcolm X was right. “By any means necessary.” If you’re not prepared to follow his advice, you should avoid politics as a career.”
I spent some time earlier today in an exchange with John McTernan on Twitter about what the thing that now calls itself the Labour party now stands for. At that point, I hadn’t read the article, but I have now. It is the politics of the gutter, the worst kind of right-wing Tory ‘Laura Norder’ populism, appealing to fear, ignoring statistics and the views of the professionals who actually have to maintain law and order. We have heard it recently from Goldie, Gray and Kerr in all its intellectual poverty and innumeracy.
It is the politics of desperation, employed by every right-wing party when they see power slipping away to real democracy and the power of argument and the spirit of a people as their national consciousness awakens after a long somnolence - a fevered nightmare. And the thing that is now the Labour Party machine is a right-wing party, by any definition.
It is interesting that John McTernan chooses to quote Malcolm X, rather than John Paul Sartre, the author of the phrase. Malcolm X was a convicted criminal at age 21, some years before before he embarked on a career of violence with the Nation of Islam, a violent extremist organisation: a man who advocated openly the use of violence and weapons to achieve his ends, and who despised the way of democracy and peace, the way of Martin Luther King. Malcolm X came to see the error of at least some of his political philosophy, broke with the nation of Islam, and was then murdered by those he had antagonised.
I think I can say with some certainty that John McTernan’s answer to his own question “How do you become First Minister of Scotland?” - “By any means necessary” is not the answer that would have been given by Donald Dewar, Henry McLeish or Jack McConnell, nor would they have regarded themselves “at least in part as an intellectual thug”. It is certainly not the answer that would be given by the present First Minister, Alex Salmond, nor has it ever been a political approach that he has ever employed.
It is, quite simply, a contemptible philosophy, one that I would say the Labour Party should be ashamed of, but for the fact that they are now incapable of shame or remorse, as the tragedy of Iraq continues to show (McTernan defended Blair’s folly today on Twitter), and their inability to acknowledge their fundamental role in causing the UK’s present economic nightmare.
Saturday, 5 February 2011
Margaret Jaconelli faces eviction after 16th February unless she gets help - legal, political and media help
moridura Peter Curran
#MargaretJaconelli Celtic in the Community has failed MJ. Why? Ask John Reid, Chairman, former Labour Minister. He used to care about people.
moridura Peter Curran
#MargaretJaconelli Celtic in the Community has failed MJ. What community are they in? The one of wealth, celebrity & huge developer profits?
moridura Peter Curran
#MargaretJaconelli Where are the human values of Glasgow's Valuations Department? How do they value the life of a Glasgow grandmother?
moridura Peter Curran
#MargaretJaconelli One developer alone made profit of £5.5m on a plot 200 yards from her home. Mactaggart & Mickel will profit from building
moridura Peter Curran
#MargaretJaconelli Lived in her home since 1976 - her home, her neighbourhood, her finances destroyed by GCC. All she wants is a fair price
moridura Peter Curran
Compulsory purchase law - a legal maze of conflicting, outmoded legislation. Ordinary Glaswegians destroyed by it, developers make millions
moridura Peter Curran
#MargaretJaconelli She's not refusing to move, nor to negotiate - she only wants a fair price. The developers have made millions from GCC.
moridura Peter Curran
#MargaretJaconelli Predictably failed by Labour, ConLibs, The Herald, The Record - failed by Glasgow City Councillors. But surely not deserted by SNP???
moridura Peter Curran
#MargaretJaconelli If ever there was a case for MEDIATION, this is it. Can someone act NOW before 16th Feb court eviction appearance?
moridura Peter Curran
@David_Mc_Donald Thanks for that David - the family are alone, vulnerable, without legal representation. They need help now from their party
moridura Peter Curran
#SNP Margaret Jaconelli faces eviction in 11 days. Labour, LibDems and Tories predictably silent. But the SNP? John Mason? Alison Thewliss?