Spot the difference

Apparently non British, Irish, or Commonwealth citizens will not be allowed to vote in the upcoming EU referendum in the UK.

I haven’t read into the actual law on this, just the media coverage, so caveat emptor, but:

More than 1million foreigners living in Britain will be banned from voting in the EU referendum, the Conservatives have announced, in a significant boost to Eurosceptic campaigners.

It comes after Eurosceptic MPs confronted ministers over the issue amid concerns that pro-Europeans could effectively rig the result by giving EU citizens the decisive vote.

(source)

The language we use is important.

Isn’t it interesting that here we see people living in the UK described as ‘foreigners’ – setting up an instant division – whilst the Scottish Government during the independence referendum process spoke not of ‘foreigners’, but of ‘the Scottish people’, irrespective of where they were from originally?

Isn’t it interesting that the result of the independence referendum was based precisely on the votes of the people who lived there, and not some ethnic idea of what Scottishness is supposed to be? Isn’t it interesting that this wasn’t seen as ‘rigging the result’, but as an integral part of it?

I don’t believe in ethnic politics. I believe in civic politics. Great Britain is a fundamentally racist construct that needs to be dissolved. The sooner the better.

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The Smith Commission Report

Today saw the release of the report from the ‘Smith Commission’, which was set up in the aftermath of the Scottish independence referendum to discuss the devolving of greater powers to Scotland.

This was the result of last minute promises (or ‘the vow’) from the main party leaders in Westminster, in the face of polls that showed a majority of support for Scottish independence.

The vow, and the Commission itself is shrouded in politics and controversy, but I’ve taken a look through the decisions in the report to see for myself what stands out. I’ve tried to take them at face value with my lawyer hat on, rather than look at any of them from an ideological standpoint that supports independence.

Here’s what I’ve found:

The Scottish Parliament

Screen Shot 2014-11-27 at 13.37.37This is a bit of a strange one. Designed to assuage fears that Westminster would dissolve the Scottish Parliament at a whim, it’s nothing more than a symbolic statement. Whilst it’s true that Westminster could theoretically disband the Scottish Parliament (as it is nothing more than a creature of statute), its existence was already guaranteed as much as it could be by constitutional convention. Even with new UK legislation to state the supposed permanence, the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty dictates that the decisions of one parliament are unable to bind any other – so it doesn’t bring much to the table that wasn’t already there.

Elections

Screen Shot 2014-11-27 at 13.49.06

This is good news, with the parties looking to bring these changes in in time to allow 16 and 17 year olds to vote in the 2016 Scottish Parliamentary elections. Note that whilst this is a great progressive step that corrects some inconsistencies with our approach to the age of consent in Scotland, the same 16 and 17 year olds will not be able to vote in Westminster elections until they reach 18.

Screen Shot 2014-11-27 at 13.48.45

Foreign Policy

Foreign policy remains reserved to Westminster, which isn’t a great shock really. What’s more interesting is the weak approach to the UK’s involvement with the European Union. When a matter relates to Scotland, the Scottish Ministers views should be ‘taken into account’. We all know what that really means.

Screen Shot 2014-11-27 at 13.55.42The BBC

Screen Shot 2014-11-27 at 13.58.38

Interesting, but nothing to write home about. No mention of the license fee, or any other substantive elements of broadcasting in Scotland. Pretty weak, and something that should have really always been the case.

Pensions

Screen Shot 2014-11-27 at 14.00.28

Remain with Westminster.

Benefits

Elements of some benefits payments – such as the creation of new benefits – is being given to Scotland. However, a large number of these remain reserved to Westminster. It’s an area that’s relatively long, and not one I claim to have any great knowledge over, so I’ll defer to others for analysis here.

Minimum Wage

Screen Shot 2014-11-27 at 14.09.02

Stays under the control of Westminster. Can’t have Scotland paying a higher minimum wage than the rest of the UK after all, that would be scandalous. Worth noting that Labour were against giving the Scottish Parliament the power to introduce a living wage. Party of the people, indeed.

Equality Act 2010

Screen Shot 2014-11-27 at 14.11.49

Reserved to Westminster. Whilst it’s important to ensure that Scotland wouldn’t slip below the standards set out in the Equality Act 2010, that seems less of a plausible threat than future Tory governments in London doing the same thing. On balance, I don’t see why this should remain a reserved matter.

Transport

Nothing all that notable here, with the exception of one massive devolution of power to the Scottish Parliament of course:

Screen Shot 2014-11-27 at 14.15.45

Ahem.

Fracking

Screen Shot 2014-11-27 at 14.17.17

A bit of a surprise one, given the economic importance of fracking. The powers relating to this will now lie with the Scottish Government. I suspect we’ll be hearing more about this though. Watch this space.

Misc.

Screen Shot 2014-11-27 at 14.18.58

Good, but… bizarre.

Income Tax

Screen Shot 2014-11-27 at 14.20.33
This one has received a lot of press attention, but it seems to be a case of wilful blindness to what the powers actually entail.

  • Income tax will continue to exist across the UK
  • The Scottish Parliament will have powers to vary the rate of income tax
  • Any income tax received as the result of an adjustment by the Scottish Parliament will go to the Scottish Parliament

BUT, note the point at the end of 78: that any increase in the amount of money collected through income tax will be met by a ‘corresponding adjustment’ to the amount of money that Scotland receives through the UK. That means that changes to the income tax levels won’t have any real effect on the actual amount of money Scotland gets. This is a clever way to give the impression of the Scottish Parliament getting more powers, whilst making sure they are toothless with regards to delivering any change.

Other Tax

Screen Shot 2014-11-27 at 14.25.40

Pretty much all reserved to Westminster, with the exception of Air Passenger Duty. Note that this includes oil and gas revenues. No big shocker there.

Screen Shot 2014-11-27 at 14.26.41

The costs of implementation of a separate system would have to be passed back to Westminster, making it a fairly unattractive power to implement.

There are also some changes to VAT, where Scotland will apparently generate income from the first part of any collection, but again this corresponds to a reduction in the amount received from the UK block grant, so it’s not worth even paying any attention to.

Fuel

Screen Shot 2014-11-27 at 14.28.34

You guessed it!

Summary

I felt pretty good about the results of the Smith Commission when I read the brief reports coming from elsewhere. I dismissed the cynicism I saw from other pro-independence campaigners as inevitable. However, reading through the report for myself is pretty disappointing.

  • No real new powers devolved to the Scottish Parliament
  • A couple of minor victories with regards to 16 and 17 year olds voting in Scottish Parliamentary elections
  • Some symbolic language, which doesn’t give any further legal status to the devolved organs
  • Headline suitable devolutions of certain taxes, which won’t result in any increase in the Scottish Parliament’s budget

The last one is the most galling of all. It means that even if they make use of the powers to modify the rate of income tax, the Scottish Parliament won’t actually receive any more money. Rather, it’s the source of the money that will change, rather than any powers over the level. This is a sham designed to deliver good headlines.

Of course, none of this is binding. Westminster still needs to accept the recommendations, which could be another interesting battle.

You can download the report for yourself here. It’s not too long – only 28 pages. Worth a read for yourself.

 

The ‘Scottish Independence Party’ Are Dangerous Idiots.

Tonight I became aware of the existence of the so called ‘Scottish Independence Party’. No, not the Scottish National Party, but the Scottish Independence Party – apparently set up by Martin Keatings and Deane Syme.

EDIT: I have received a legal threat from Martin Keane, claiming that he and Deane Syme had nothing to do with the ‘party’ except for its initial creation. At his request, I have clarified the above sentence, and added this notice. Read more about that here. 

Haven’t heard of them before now? Nah, me neither. Although going by their Facebook page, it appears that over 34,000 people have liked them previously – presumably for some of the messages they shared during the independence referendum in months gone past. Below is an image taken from their site, describing their mission in a typically self aggrandising manner.

Scottish Independence Party

There have been a whole number of groups springing up recently that are claiming to be stepping in to the void where Labour once stood; to be ‘for the people’ like no other organisation has; to ’empower local communities’ and so forth, so this isn’t really a big surprise. On the face of it, the Scottish Independence Party seems like just another group with big ideals who got a decent recognition for sharing some positive messages via social media. Idealistic, naive, and ultimately doomed to failure.

Tonight however, they revealed their real intentions.

In a post on Facebook, they set out a list of policy positions that they seemed to be considering as part of their push towards some sort of post-referendum step to formal establishment as a party.

The post itself seems to have disappeared from their timeline, but is still accessible here (since been removed).

Have a read for yourselves what they have in mind for a future independent Scotland.

These are IDEAS for POLICIES which our members have been debating on our website. In no way are these set in stone. We need YOUR help to decide which ideas are good and bad. If we’ve missed anything or if you’ve got an idea you’d like added to the list then please fire away!

1. Allow teenagers to get jobs at 15 as opposed to 16.

2. Lower the age to 16 to purchase beer & cider in pubs. (ID required) This will get the youngsters used to drinking so that when they come of age to purchase HARD alcohol from the shops/pubs & nightclubs etc, they won’t obliterate their insides.

3. All officers will be trained in the use of firearms. They will be required to carry them and will subsequently be armed officers who will the be protecting this country on the frontline.

4. Remove Police Community Support Officers as they’re a waste of money & require police backup whenever things go south.

5. Remove the TV licensing fee or lower it as it’s a nuisance and some people struggle to pay it each year.

6. Lower the retirement age. (Self explanatory really.)

7. Death Penalties for Murderers & Convicted Paedophiles. (We don’t need them clogging up the prisons.)

8. Improve the education system despite it being excellent already. (Hands on education/REAL life skills education) – Our education system needs an overhaul. Instead of kids sat looking at a board and being told what to learn and then repeat it in several exams. Learning should be more about on going assessment, asking questions, critical thinking etc and politics should be a part of the curriculum. That way we can take the power from the elite who baffle everyone with jargon and give it to the future generations. Employers are coming out in their droves to complain that kids are coming out of school with no real work place applicable skills. This drastically needs to change.

9. Get rid of speed cameras & bring in a minimum speed limit, not a maximum speed limit.

10. Legalise prostitution. This would be done from registered facilities which pay tax. It would allow girls far more protection and could lower disease rates and drug issues linked to the “profession”.

11. Legalise Cannabis. This includes growing cannabis however DRUG DEALING will still be considered a criminal offence & may get you some time in jail. Honestly, smoking a plant without any added chemicals is considered illegal whereas cigarettes which are known to contain carcinogens are legal. In an ideal world, we’d ban cigarettes but obviously a lot of people would disagree with this. Weed is healthy and has been known to cure things. There have been no deaths from weed EVER yet we see people dying from smoking cigarettes each year.

12.The prison system needs toughened up. They ain’t in there as a reward so they should stop being treated as such. Strip out the pool tables, games consoles, tv’s etc. This would hopefully stop people reoffending & getting thrown back in jail as it’s an easier ride than everyday life. If we removed all the gear then they would be dreading going back to prison.

13. Voting for 16 year olds.

14. Set up an oil fund.

15. A number/licence plate system for cyclists as well as an insurance system for bike riders. We can identify all other vehicles on the road but there is no way of knowing who is riding a bike if they happen to do something they shouldn’t.

16. Allow terminally ill patients to have euthanasia as an option. It’s rather condescending that those without any conditions or terminal illness are the ones who make the decisions regarding those living in severe pain etc. Just as life is a human right then choosing to end your own should be a right also.

This would not be for those suffering depression or having a bad day at work. It would be for people medically diagnosed with terminal, progressive and/or debilitating diseases.

17. Publicly owned services. Public railway,public water, public energy, public oil etc.

18. A nationalised central bank with our own currency. (Suggested by someone in the comments below.)

19. All workers should get a single minimum wage. An 18 year old pays the exact same prices as a 30 year old so why should they not earn the same amount for the same job. Just as females should be paid the exact same as men for the same job. (Suggested by someone in the comments below.)

20. Reduce poverty with the eventual aim of no more food banks. ( Suggested by someone in the comments below.)

21. Legalise handguns, rifles etc. (Not semi-auto or fully auto rifles, only bolt action)

22. Possibly bring back National Service in the event of an Indy Scotland. (Have to serve between 6-12months in either the Army, Marines or Navy etc.)

23. Child benefit and all associated money capped at 2 children for people who ARE NOT working. (Families earning tens of thousands a year just for having several kids is not fair on working families or the system as a whole.)

24. Mandatory driving re-test for old age pensioners (Free of charge by the government) so that they understand all the current driving laws and don’t possess a risk to other motorists or themselves.

25. Segregated schools – What this means is that any pupil who is out of line or unwilling to learn gets three chances to show that they’ve been good in class. If they continue to disrupted then they’ll be placed into a completely different section of the School with the rest of the idiots and kids who think they can disrupt the learning of others. Basically, this would mean that the people who want to learn are able to do that in a controlled environment and those who wish to muck around can be sectioned off elsewhere. Once the kids who have been disruptive or not engaging in class work have improved their overall attitude to school & class work, they can be placed back in their previous class.

26. No Nuclear Weapons on Scottish Soil.

27. Protection for the sick, weak & vulnerable.

28. Better pension & state benefits.

29. No lords that govern Scotland.

30. Make sure that all school children are able to play a musical instrument for free as well as helping students with grants etc.

More policies are likely to be added & some will be improved on. This is just a very basic list of CONCEPT IDEAS for POLICIES so bear in mind that everything is subject to change.

That’s right. Should this bunch of lunatics ever manage to drag themselves up from the mud long enough to actually form some sort of coherent political force, it’s reassuring to note that they would primarily be fighting for those extremely important causes to the ‘needs of the people’ such as eh, bringing back the death penalty, enforcing a minimum speed limit, and who could forget… legalising rifles. (Not semi-automatic or automatics though; that would just be silly.)

The complete lunacy of what is contained above is so far beyond the grasp of any sane person that it’s not worth even considering in any further detail. Whilst one or two of these might seem controversial, yet acceptable, in isolation, the cumulative total of even a portion of the ‘concepts’ to be found within are enough to give fundamentalists on all sides of the political spectrum wet dreams and nervous glances.

So what’s the problem? They’re muppets. Big deal.

The real danger of the Scottish Independence Party is that they have managed to garner such a prima facie establishment of credibility through the high numbers that have ‘liked’ or ‘followed’ their page. On my own friend list there was about ten people who, upon seeing the list published above, immediately removed their connection – embarrassed at the association. Some of them didn’t even realise they had inadvertently liked the page at some point in the past, probably having done so after seeing a passing post related to the #indyref, and an overall positive surface message with which they could relate.

The Scottish Independence Party will tell you that the policies above are merely suggestions by members to be discussed, and that they are giving an open platform for people to get involved in politics, rather than to have ideas shot down at the first hurdle based on ideology or controversy (Indeed, they have edited their statements multiple times to – at least attempt – to make this clearer). However, what they won’t tell you is that they are actively moderating the comments on their post to ensure that dissenting voices are not heard. If you wish to question why the suggestion that homosexuality should be re-criminalised won’t be added, for example, you would find yourself blocked, and the criticisms removed.

Everyone has the right to hold and express extreme ideas. That’s not the issue here. What’s dangerous about the Scottish Independence Party is that they are operating under a false veneer of credibility to peddle selectively chosen, ill-informed, non-sensical and fundamentalist positions; censoring those who call this into question; and doing so whilst claiming to give a voice to the voiceless.

Scottish Independence Party

and eh, who are these chumps? Some sort of edgy upstarts threatening to up-end the Scottish political apple cart? This comment on Reddit sums it up:

Scottish Independence Party

Check the list of pages you like. You might be surprised.

You can see which of your friends likes them by following this link:

https://www.facebook.com/browse/friended_fans_of/?page_id=292488674289406

You may wish to give them a heads up.

Ditch the dangerous idiots that are the Scottish Independence Party.

 

The End of Poll Tax – and Scottish Labour

It’s been tough to keep up with the developments in the past week, and even tougher to get time to sit and write about them. It’s as if politicians who advocated for a No vote in the independence referendum have seen things not only as a relief, but an active endorsement to pursue even further controversial measures. Hopefully time will prove this to be a mistake on their part.

Labour Councils to Pursue Poll Tax Debts

Firstly, we watched with incredulity as Labour-led councils announced that they would be using the increase in voter registrations prior to the independence referendum to check for those who may owe money from a refusal to pay the unfair Community Charge (aka poll tax) that was levied by the Conservative Thatcher government over 20+ years ago. (#) (#)

It’s almost unbelievable that this was even floated in Scotland, let alone accepted by the Labour party, who have repeatedly used the issue as a reminder of unjust governance. The strength of feeling about this particular issue is one of the reasons why the Tories have been effectively wiped out in terms of Scottish votes ever since. (To be clear, Conservative council leaders in Aberdeen were some of the first that floated this particular idea, but to accuse them of idiocy seems like a moot point. The hypocrisy of Labour is what is particularly galling.)

Poll Tax Limitation, and Writing Off Debt

Thankfully, the outgoing First Minister Alex Salmond announced that legislation would be brought forward to prevent this from happening:

Screen Shot 2014-10-02 at 23.26.12

I’ve seen references online from those who seem to think that this was unnecessary, as councils would be unable to pursue debts of this age under Scots law anyway – something that isn’t strictly true. Whilst  Salmond’s assertion that it would be illegal for councils to start new proceedings against people they have never previously had interactions with (as evidenced in this devastating exchange with the Aberdeen Tory Councillor) is correct, the Prescription and Limitation (Scotland) Act 1973 allows for a significant length of time past the original 20 years to collect poll tax owed. This is dependant on a variety of factors – including whether or not the obligation itself has been acknowledged. (s.7(1)(a)-(b)) In other words, the period of prescription is not fixed, and it is therefore possible that councils could manage to claw back some income in certain limited situations. Whilst important to note the slim chance involved (and hence the need to legislate), the likelihood of any income being generated from this route seems to be mostly fantasy.

‘Tax Dodgers’ Charter’

Others have decried this move as a ‘tax dodgers’ charter’, seeing it as a potential loss of hundreds of millions of pounds to local councils at a time when budgets are increasingly being squeezed.

This is ludicrous.

The money in question should never have been levied as a tax in the first place. Those who had the courage to refuse to pay at the time were an integral part of the reason that the disastrous experiment was abandoned just a few years later. The idea that they would now somehow have a change of heart after a couple of decades is preposterous – presuming, of course, that they are even still alive.

You can’t lose something that you never had in the first place.

This, by the way, is what the Scottish Conservatives (that titan of a political force) had to say:

The Scottish Conservatives said effectively cancelling poll tax debt raised “many unanswered questions” and claimed many people in Scotland would be “astonished” to have a government “which is basically advocating not paying tax”.

(source)

It’s worth noting that unpaid poll tax debts have been effectively written off in England, due to the differing laws regarding prescription and collection. To suggest that Scots should have to pay back unfair debts that have already ceased to be collectible in England and Wales is clearly nonsense. It’s exactly this sort of uninformed attitude that increases the tension and calls for independence in the first place.

Tax and the Electoral Roll

The right to vote should not come along with an obligation to pay the state for the privilege. This is something that has already been well fought and established. It is true that councils have an obligation to pursue tax that is owed, as a creature of statute. However, to go after voters who have been freshly re-engaged in politics because of the independence referendum, in order to attempt to collect a tax that is all but dead is despicable. Rather than choosing to highlight the issue to the Scottish Government and attempt to have the law changed, Labour have instead attacked the very people that they are meant to stand up for.

Their relevance in Scotland is rapidly coming to an end.

Scotland: Fighting for a fairer nation doesn’t stop here.

Loss

It’s difficult to find the words to explain how I felt on Friday the 19th of September.

Partially as the result of getting caught up in the passion of the movement, I hadn’t quite prepared myself for how deeply emotional a No vote would be, or quite how hard it would knock me sideways. Somewhere deep down, my heart and soul simply refused to accept that the Scots would vote against their own independence when given the chance. It was unlike anything I have ever felt before, and left me feeling completely adrift; seriously questioning whether the things I had always believed about my country were true. The only way I can think to describe it is like discovering that a friend you have always looked up to has betrayed you right at the point you placed the most faith in them, and that any sneaking suspicions you had about the flaws in their character were proven to be true.

It’s difficult to articulate this in a way that won’t sound either contrived or naive to those looking in on this from the outside. It’s easy to see this as the sore response of someone on the losing side, but that would be a gross simplification.

I cried alone, but also alongside my fellow Scots, not just for the nation that we could have had, but because it felt like the nation which we believed in might never have existed at all. For the first time, it was our own people that had stood against us, and that was the hardest thing to accept of all.

What was the point now? With our rejection of independence, what were we meant to do to hold those in power to account? Did we even deserve anything, given that we rejected our chance to have real say or control? Was this really the country and people that I had grown up to believe were stoic and courageous? Seeing British nationalist neo-nazis with Union Flags causing chaos in Glasgow wasn’t shocking or new by any means, but felt like the final nail in the coffin. The image of those thugs ripping the Saltire from the hands of a broken lassie on the ground will stay with me forever. We were once again just voiceless subjects, and we had done it to ourselves.

I went to bed battered and dejected, and I know I’m not the only one who shed more than a few tears – not because my political views had been rejected, but because the image I had of my country had been shattered. Picking up my crumpled kilt, I hung my Saltire over the chest of drawers at the end of the room. I was unsure about what these symbols even meant anymore. I didn’t know if the Scotland I believed in was simply fantasy, or if I wanted to be associated with what had happened. This simple act felt like I was giving one last chance for them to develop meaning again.

Recovery

Waking up on the 20th, things felt different. The unexpected, crushing feelings of loss from yesterday were still there, but the sharp pain had been removed.

I thought back to what I had read and felt over the previous days, and how some of my friends had responded with such admirable resilience in the face of adversity. Despite longing to resonate with the virtues expressed in the likes of ‘Wipe your eyes. On your feet‘, I just didn’t. It was too early, and seemed far too militant. I had expected more, and needed time to grieve. For the first time I had felt loss I couldn’t rationalise away, and this wasn’t going to be as easy to just pick myself up from defiantly.

Beautiful and inspiring things were said by many people, and in the clear light of day they began to take on new clarity. Through the fog, I could feel the fire begin to return to my heart. See here for just one example.

The vision of the independence campaign had made me forget that Scotland is often a damaged, and impoverished place, marred by sectarianism and shameful violence. I was far from an activist, but felt like we had almost achieved what we hoped and dreamed about. Seeing so many people passionate about social justice was a victory in itself. To those who decried the entire debate itself, I contest that it has been one of the most engaging events in Scottish political history. The turnout speaks for itself.

For me, this referendum was about the chance to make real and fundamental changes to the country we lived in: to scrap nuclear weapons, to make a commitment to free education, and to ensure political accountability for and to the Scottish people. Whilst I, and 45% of the country believed the best way to achieve this was through independence, the values expressed are those articulated and shared by those from both sides.

The Scotland all of us envisaged might not exist yet, but that’s even more the reason for all of us to fight for it.

Independence

Let’s be clear: the Scottish people had the chance to vote for independence, and they said no.

I may be heartbroken about this, but that is what has happened. Those questioning the validity of the process, or pushing for some elusive recount are doing no good for any of us. Either way, the people have spoken; Salmond has resigned; and the decision has been made.

That said, this does not mean that we have to accept that the current situation is the best option for Scotland, and I don’t.

The question about Scottish independence may well be resolved for a generation, but the fight for Scotland’s future has just begun.

In recent years there has often been talk about younger Scots being opposed to Thatcher merely because of historical precedent, rather than through actual understanding or experience. Well now we have experienced first hand the full mechanisms of the British establishment in action. Whatever side of the vote we came down on, the debate was filled with empty promises and misinformation from those we have come to trust. Never has the duplicitous agenda of those in power been so obvious, and this is coming from somebody who always believed such espousals to be mere biased paranoia. The media and political parties rallied together for their own benefit, rather than a desire to seek what was best for Scotland.

Whilst I believe I will see Scottish independence in my lifetime, that is not the question for today, or even tomorrow. Now, more than ever, we have to stand together to fight for our common values – irrespective of our differing views on self determination.

What has been, and what lies ahead

For weeks, the atmosphere in Scotland was electric; the country felt alive.

The majority of people in Glasgow, the UK’s third biggest city… my city… voted to leave the UK.

Reservations have been expressed about the seeming redundancy of our national anthem Flower of Scotland, particularly over the line ‘we can still rise now, and be a nation again’.

Know what? I’ve never felt more like a nation than in the past few weeks. The real disgrace isn’t voting no; it’s to let go of the dynamic and push for real transformative justice – across party political divides.

From the article in Bella Caledonia mentioned earlier, these words hit home for me:

‘Armed with little more than social media, blogs, and DIY creativity, we tried to take on the might of the British state and the vast power and wealth of the British establishment. And for a few weeks we had them terrified. Hold on to that feeling and be proud of it.’

Finding those common bonds that united us over the previous weeks is vital. For me, the momentum still exists for change… possibly even stronger now that it is not tied to a single ideological question.

Whilst these are my own views, those that have conspired to influence the Scottish people for their own agenda should count their days numbered. We are slow to forget, and just as we have reduced the Tories to insignificance in Scotland, so too will we reject the complicity and hollow vows of the BBC, Labour party, and Liberal Democrats. You’ve shown your hand, and now we are going to come after you.

I love Glasgow, and I love Scotland. Today I am proud to be Scottish, but perhaps for different reasons than I was before. I am proud of us dreaming and debating what a better future might look like – whether that is together or independent. Now that the majority has spoken, it’s time to ensure that the shared values that rose to the surface are pursued.

Let’s keep asking the difficult questions and challenging the status quo.

Fighting for a fairer nation doesn’t stop here.

Scotland’s loss of hope.

1400393_808275689214652_5521735033759455503_o
photo by my friend Neil Slorance. http://www.neilslorance.com

 

I truly believed that Scotland would vote for independence.

For the past few weeks, we had dared to dream about what sort of country Scotland should be. It felt like we had found the beginnings of a new identity based on our shared values. The atmosphere was electric; the hope intoxicating.

Today, I feel lost.

We had the chance to do something brave, and amazing. We had the chance to rid our country of nuclear weapons; to declare our commitment to human rights; to challenge the political establishment, and to finally have a real say in our future. Instead, Scotland voted to remain part of the UK.

Watching the results come in, I found tears streaming down my face.

That hope. Those dreams. The ones that my fellow Scots had articulated so passionately, along with the common bond that we had felt… all of it was crushed.

I fear that the Scotland that I have always believed in, might really be nothing more than a fantasy. Rather than the fiercely proud, open minded, and liberal nation, we have shown that we are actually the far more conservative version that rarely gets talked about. The one that we desperately don’t want to believe in. The one that chooses the safe option. The one that breeds Sectarianism.

Tonight I sit and watch the scenes that are unfolding in Glasgow. The sea of blue flags replaced by Union Jacks emblazoned with ‘No Surrender’. The nazi salutes. The gangs of thugs violently attacking people who have Saltires and Scotland tops.

Rightly or wrongly, I feel like I’ve lost my country.

I wish I could take comfort in the good that was expressed during this whole debate; vowing to double efforts to fight for a better future, against inequality… but I can’t. I feel defeated.

The spirit of the people around me made me feel intensely proud to be Scottish. Now, I’m not sure what that even means.

Scotland Will Vote Yes

As far back as I can remember, I have had an innate longing for the independence of Scotland. When the unthinkable happened, with the SNP gaining a majority in the Scottish Parliament (despite all explicit designs to the contrary), I was sure that the (small c) conservatism in Scotland would mean that it would inevitably be a ‘no’ vote. We might have big baws in some areas, but we’re actually incredibly feart of taking steps into the unknown in practical terms; independence was just some inconceivable notion, an ideal that may be achieved in 30 or so years… if ever.

It may well be my own bias that is driving my perspective on this, but for the first time in my life, Scottish people seem to have a purpose greater than just our own immediate concerns. Rather than spouting pish about inconsequential events that are local to only us Glaswegians, the city is on fire with debate. Instead of small talk about ‘how our night has been’, the conversation of club patriots, taxi drivers, and bystanders alike has been alive with discussions about the fallacies and promises of the so-called ‘Better Together’ campaign. Anecdotal though it may be, my experience has been that of Scots passionate about asserting their own voice in the future of the country in which they live.

Despite all of the odds, I believe that we are going to vote for independence.

It’s not been a straightforward journey. The debate has been fraught with mediocrity and nonsense. Up until recently, I have dismissed out of hand any claims about supposed bias from the BBC. As far as I’m concerned, impartiality from an institution is not demonstrated by their failure to give substantial time to your particular political view. Often, despite being pro independence, I would despair over such cries, vehemently defending the broadcaster’s reputation and stance. However, in the past week I have witnessed, with disgust, the blatant spin of desperate claims dug up by those who are in opposition to independence. To me, the BBC’s Political Editor Nick Robinson has never been a particularly likeable fellow, but is one who I’ve always had the utmost respect. Despite wanting to root for his defence, I couldn’t quite believe that he would have the audacity to give a bare-faced lie about the supposed failure of the First Minister to answer a question when the contrary was so clear. (Context here.) I am genuinely stunned at how clear the attempted manipulation of people has been displayed in general.

Anecdotal though it may be, the overwhelming majority of people that I have contact with are in favour of a vote for yes vote for independence. This isn’t about nationalism – something that people outside of the effects of the debate find hard to realise. This isn’t about some (yawn) Braveheart notion of Bannockburn and Scottish identity. Scots (adopted or otherwise) easily see through the token gestures offered by a desperate political elite. We easily dismiss the duplicity of career journalists like Nick Robinson, or the hypocrisy and cynicism of the tactical deployment of Gordon Brown in a failed campaign to stick with the status quo. We know that there are larger forces at play that twist news stories to confuse and manipulate feelings about everyday costs and job creation or maintenance such as that in the case of Asda, Standard Life, or RBS.

As was noted at the time of the SNP landslide in the Scottish Parliament a number of years ago – the Scots have proven to be amongst the most sophisticated, and unpredictable of voters in Europe (if not the world). I do not believe in polls, or the false comparisons between those with differing methodologies. I believe that the Scottish people are going to vote yes. Why? Because for once, Scotland feels alive.

I believe Scotland is going to do it. We are going to vote yes, and take responsibility for our own decisions, rather than blame successive Tory Westminster governments that we can easily claim not to have voted for.

As tough as it might have been at times, I just hope that we retain the same level of peaceful physical decorum and respect as we have afforded each other so far. We don’t need to look too far across the water to see how different it could well have ended up. I am proud to be Scottish, and excited to be part of this part of our history. All that said, I’m sticking my neck out to say: Aye, it’s going to be a Yes. I’m fascinated to see what happens next.