Scotland, get ready to fight

Earlier today, we woke up to the terrible realisation that the UK had narrowly voted to leave the European Union. This was an outcome that I ultimately expected, but facing the stark reality of the situation has still left me feeling numb, and in shock. Opening my eyes to see ‘Nigel Farage declares independence day’ and ‘British Pound drops to a 31 year low’ on my phone’s lock screen is something I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to forget; reminiscent of a dystopian nightmare rather than reality.

To make things worse, the dogged, often proud ignorance of those smugly celebrating victory in the immediate aftermath has been staggering. As I write this, I am overlooking the City of Barcelona, and being here only renders the sadness even more palpable, and even harder to believe. 

However, this is not a drill. This is the real deal. Like it or not, the U.K. Has voted to leave the EU, and the question is what we are going to do about it now.

Many legal commentators have pointed out that the referendum isn’t binding. Whilst technically correct, this ignores the political reality, and does nothing but give a false sense of hope to those who are hurting most at this point. Of course the legal position should be stated, but it must be done holistically, not in a theoretical vacuum. There is no realistic chance of Westminster refusing to honour the outcome, nor should there be. I despise and despair at how the vote went, but the result must be respected. 

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced that she plans to prepare for the possibility of a second Scottish independence referendum, in response to 62% of those who voted choosing to remain. She is right to do. The SNP stood for election to the Scottish Parliament just a few months ago with a clear indication that they would seek another referendum in this precise scenario. There are many who will not like this, but the Scottish people chose to return them to power in Holyrood knowing this. Just as the result of the EU referendum must be respected, so must that be.

We were told during the last referendum that ‘the only way to ensure Scotland’s continued membership of the EU is to vote to remain part of the U.K.’. For those of us who do not wish to see us removed from the EU despite a majority vote to remain, independence is the only possible solution. If that last shred of hope is to be realised, we need to be prepared for the fight of our lives. This is it. There will be no third chance. 

The last time we had a chance to vote on Scotland’s independence, it caught many of us by surprise. I don’t think I’m alone in feeling like even the vote itself couldn’t possibly be actually happening, up until the last few weeks. That is not the case this time around. We have woken up; we know the score, and if we want to have any chance of success we need to start preparing right now. 

Yes, we were told that a vote for Scottish independence would mean economic chaos… Leaving the EU… Cutting off ties with our neighbours… Jumping into the unknown… and yes, all of those arguments seem null given the inevitable Brexit fallout. However, we cannot rely on this alone to make our case. We need to be smarter in how we approach things, and have better, concrete answers for issues like currency. I have faith that Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP will be able to put together a solid case, but it’s up to us to make it compelling. 

Here are some general things that we need to start doing, from this point on:

  • Push for Scottish independence. We cannot rely on Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP alone to call for a second referendum. If we want it, we have to demand it. It’s now or never. Write to your MSP… Tweet them… Sign the SNP’s pledge of support. Do as much as you can to demonstrate the appetite that exists. 
  • Nail your colours to the mast early. In the first referendum, many of us waited far too long to express and articulate our positions, in order to avoid causing problems with friends or family. By the time we did, it was too late. This time, we have to speak up loudly, firmly, but politely. People will value what you think, and this is too important an issue for you not to be heard. Set up your own blog, write letters to newspapers, create music or other art… Just make sure you speak up.
  • Understand your arguments. It’s not enough just to want independence and argue with whoever disagrees. Get informed and understand why you believe what you do, and be able to articulate it. Don’t just reel off platitudes; be smart.
  • Challenge misinformation. Far too often during the EU referendum, we failed to challenge those making sweeping statements, in order to avoid the potential conflict that would come along with engaging. As difficult and frustrating as it may be, that has to change. If somebody says something that you know is wrong, speak up. If you aren’t sure what the answer is, but your gut tells you that something isn’t right, ask for evidence. Challenge others to back up their claims and explain them – firmly, but politely. This applies equally to our own side of the debate as it does to those who disagree with us. 
  • Think critically. Not everything the SNP does is good. Not everything The Tories do are bad. Don’t accept things just because other independence supports do. Don’t jump on the bandwagon. If people are criticising an article on Twitter, read it before commenting. Don’t just swallow what everybody else has, and don’t buy into the self aggrandising myths of the Scottish new media – including Bella Caledonia and the ilk. 
  • Keep the heid. Be kind. Be prepared to accept when you are wrong or someone has a better argument than you. Make concessions and see from the opposite point of view. Challenge misinformation but don’t resort to attacking other people. Do not vilify those who disagree. Independence will never be reached unless we win over hearts and minds. Labelling people and dismissing them will do nothing to aid that. 

Here are some specific challenges I think we have to overcome, and need to keep in mind: 

  • Independence is not in the bag. The big yellow map of Scotland from the EU referendum is undeniably symbolic, and a comfort to those of us who are hurting – but we have to remember that it’s not the full story. 62% voted to remain in the EU, and not all of them will automatically support an independent Scotland. There’s a long way to go, and we have to never forget that. 
  • Explaining why we want to be part of the EU. This is something we have failed to articulate in a way that is easily accessible to those not as invested in this debate. We need to find creative and clear ways of explaining why there is a difference between voting to be a sovereign nation, and being part of the European Union. It isn’t just about not having other people tell you what to to do. This is a challenge that will come up time and time again and we need to have s good response. 
  • Avoiding the echo chamber. Sharing on Facebook is fine, but experience has shown that we primarily end up talking to those who share our views rather than anybody who may oppose them. We need to find ways to have meaningful conversations with those outside of our echo chambers.

I’m tired, and I’ve lost three drafts of this post already trying to type it on my damn phone… But we aren’t going to get another chance at this. We need to be prepared for the fight of our lives, we need to be smarter and kinder than we were before – and we need to do it now. 

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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.

 

Scottish Independence: Why I Am Voting Yes

Scottish Independence

In less than two weeks, the people of Scotland will have voted on whether or not we wish to be a country independent from the existing United Kingdom.

There has been a huge amount of debate, which predictably hasn’t all been the most civilised at the best of times. I’ve tried to resist the urge to get involved in every online discussion, confining my personal views to in-person gatherings of a few friends (and over a lot of whisky). The times I have chosen to delve in, I’ve been attacked (from both sides) in the most bizarre and arbitrary ways. Like many others, I feel like it’s often more hassle than it’s worth to nail your colours to the mast.

All of that said, I passionately believe in Scottish independence. I don’t expect you to agree, but it would be remiss of me not to explain why.

Here’s the main reasons why I am voting yes:

The following is dependent on the understanding that despite the current political union, Scotland, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland are all distinct countries. If you disagree with that premise, then that becomes a whole different set of questions.

Constitutionally, Scotland’s people have no practical say in the government of the United Kingdom.

For me, this is the most important reason of them all.

Even if every eligible Scottish voter was to vote for one single party (and that’s not too far off the truth), it would make no real difference to the outcome of the UK General Election. As a result, there is very little pressure on governments in Westminster to listen to the needs of those in Scotland. How can there be accountability if there is no way for Scottish voters to impact those who get into power?

Scotland has a distinct political identity from other parts of the UK, with different priorities and problems. This is evidenced by the different approaches to issues such as higher education funding, and the detention of families seeking asylum.

If the Scots want to vote for the Tories, or decide to have nuclear weapons on the Clyde, or to ditch the European Convention of Human Rights… then that is fine. Ultimately, whether Scotland votes to the left, right, or middle is irrelevant. Whatever the choices though, let’s make sure that the people who live in Scotland decide for themselves, and have a real say over the government that holds power over them.

I believe that Scottish people need to take responsibility for their own decisions, and not just whinge about ‘the English’, or Thatcher, or ‘that government we didn’t vote for’.

As the result of the makeup of the UK government, Scots currently have the most convenient get out of jail free card in any debate. Sure, it might be awful how immigrants are treated, or that we sent troops to Iraq in pursuit of a war that was later discredited, but hell… we didn’t vote for the government that made those calls anyway.

This is a dangerous situation, which only serves to increase complacency. Things might suck, but that’s not really our responsibility. We’ve been marginalised politically, so they can sort it out.

Scotland has to take responsibility for its role and actions in the world – both the successes and the failings – not just hide behind the current political situation. An independent Scotland will no longer be able to blame all of our flaws on our neighbour south of the border – which can only be a good thing.

Scots have no business voting on issues that only affect English people. The West Lothian question needs resolved once and for all.

This anomaly created by devolution remains unresolved. Funny how nobody really likes to bring that up now though, eh? Political parties (mostly Labour) have cynically abused the fact that Scottish MPs can push through their own selfish policies against the wishes of local people. This has to stop, and independence is the logical resolution. Leave decisions that affect people in a particular area to those that are elected to represent the people that live there.

Here’s what I’m not concerned about:

There’s a whole host of common issues that are brought up in the course of almost any discussion about independence, despite their basis being shaky at best. Most of these are addresses in the pro-independence publication the ‘wee blue book‘. Here’s a few in particular that I hear often, and that I’m not concerned about.

Division

Denying self determination on the basis that we should seek to avoid disagreement is fundamentally flawed. We do not live in one state-less, unified world; determining the limits and practicalities of political power is something that is perfectly normal.

Asserting that your own people should make their own decisions is not about encouraging conflict but about taking self-responsibility. Voting for independence isn’t a statement against any neighbour, but an insistence that you have the right to control the decisions that affect your future. We support this in plenty of other situations, so let’s not reverse that because it doesn’t suit us with regards to Scottish independence.

Giving up your right to have a real say in your life in order to avoid conflict is neither a healthy, nor sustainable option – and a bad argument for rejecting independence.

Currency and Borders

The contention that an independent Scotland would not be allowed to use the Pound is sheer fantasy. There are plenty of examples throughout the world where currencies are used with no formal approval from the originating country. Anybody who takes this position is simply playing a card to try and put pressure on people to vote no. “Well, if you vote yes then you can’t have our money!!” – it’s pish, pure and simple.

I almost can’t quite believe that the question of borders is even realistically being pursued as an issue. We already have a prime example of where a ‘foreign’ country has open borders with the UK in our neighbours across the water in the Republic of Ireland. There are specific agreements that regulate the movement of people across these borders, and the idea that this couldn’t be extended to Scotland is nonsense. Like currency, it may well require negotiation, but to use as a weapon to dismiss independence is either ignorant of wilfully misleading.

Europe

Want to talk about conflict? The UK government consistently leads us into conflict with our closest of allies in Europe. Specifically, the current CON-DEM coalition is seeking to have us withdraw from many of the international agreements and unions that bind us together – including those that assure the protection of basic human rights. That isn’t just about being able to chuck some terrorist with a hook out of the country when we feel like it by the way – but the formal rescindment of our commitment to the end of capital punishment, and the use of torture.

With regards to Scotland’s membership of the European Union, the European Commission has said that they would give a definitive answer to the question if asked. So why don’t we have that yet? Because only the UK Government can formally request them to do so. They won’t.

That aside, this situation is without precedent in the EU. There are countless people in Scotland who have been European citizens by dint of the UK’s membership for decades. If independence nullified that overnight, there would be a far bigger headache than any administration would be able to handle – including those who are currently in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland through the rights of their partners. The European Community was not designed to allow for countries exiting, but to reduce barriers, harmonise laws, and further entrench members. It’s in nobody’s interests to exclude Scotland from the EU.

Whatever you decide, if you can vote, make sure that you do. This isn’t just some drop in the ocean like so many other elections, but one where what you vote can really make a difference. Demonstrate just how important this is, and whether the ultimate choice is to affirm the union, or declare independence, don’t let Scotland be dismissed.