Should there be a second Scottish independence referendum?

Brexit is coming and a second Scottish independence referendum is on the cards, assuming of course UK Prime Minister Theresa May doesn’t block it, though that opens up a massive constitutional crisis as effectively that would be a UK PM denying the right of Holyrood to make democratic decisions. It effectively destroys the principle of devolution and that may well be something the Tories want to avoid as that would drive people to supporting independence based upon the principle of self-determination.

Yet there’s a hardening of attitudes from some Unionists. Here’s a quite astonishing interview between a Labour activist, Jon Proctor (opposing independence) and David Jamieson, a journalist who supports independence.

Watching Proctor steam furiously is entertaining but the fact is this is the level of debate. One side says they have a mandate (and they do), while the other goes on about ‘division’ which in itself seems extraordinary for people involved in politics to complain about division when the entire idea of democratic political debate is division. It’s about opposing views. Those places with a singular point of view tend to be run by people with moustaches or bad haircuts.

But the point is whether we in Scotland should have a second referendum to decide not just whether to be an independent country, but whether we support whatever deal is proposed for Brexit? Yes we should.It’s clear from May’s actions and lack of transparency that the intention is to ram things through with as little democratic accountability as possible. That should be deeply concerning to any democrat regardless of where you stand in the independence/Brexit debate. The fact so many are intent on ignoring that worries the hell out of me and here we are on the verge of the biggest thing a UK government has done outwith of a war and there’s little democratic accountability.

So yes, let’s have a second referendum. Let the people of Scotland at least have a say in their future rather than be railroaded into something we don’t want.

Refusing to grant a Scottish independence referendum is undemocratic

Theresa May is saying that she’ll block any attempt to hold a second Scottish independence referendum before Brexit is done. May’s reason is she wants the ‘UK to work together’ and says it wouldn’t be fair to make an ‘informed choice’ while there’s so much uncertainty. Yes, that’s coming from the person who since taking over the job has said ”Brexit means Brexit” for months when asked for clarity.

So we’re in a fucked up situation. A democratically elected party (SNP) who forms the Scottish Government has been told it can’t hold a referendum when it wants (before the Brexit talks end to provide a lifeboat for Scotland) and Holyrood (which has a pro-independence majority with the SNP and Greens combined) has been told it doesn’t matter by a Tory PM who is running a set of policies nobody voted for and didn’t even have an election herself to become leader.

Next week Holyrood has a vote on whether to ask Westminster for the powers to hold a referendum. It seems that power will be refused. From there is anyone’s guess, but I hope May’s government is taken to court as I suspect this isn’t just about using Scotland and it’s assets as a bargaining chip in Brexit negotiations (especially with Spain who want at least joint sovereignty of Gibraltar) as well as ensuring that if Scotland does have a referendum after Brexit that she gets full control of it. As we should know by now, May is a harsh authoritarian and is listening to fuckwits like Liam Fox but this is such a hypocritically cloth-eared piece of politics that she clearly thinks she can hold the UK together via threats.

Of course  second referendum isn’t actually blocked by May yet. The vote in Holyrood isn’t til next week and we’ll find out then if May’s this much of an undemocratic authoritarian, or if she’s just a reboot of Margaret Thatcher.

If this clash brings about the end of the UK then bring it on.

Hope lies in the proles

crowdThe Northern Ireland elections are normally something people in the wider UK totally ignore as after all, there’s no spectacular shots of violence for editors to run, but this one this year has been of special interest in the wake of Brexit. Unionist parties have taken a kicking while other parties have been united in their opposition of Brexit which has paid dividends at the ballot box. Effectively people from the various communities put old divisions behind them for a united cause.

In the meantime Theresa May comes to Glasgow for the Scottish Tory Party conference talking of ‘our precious Union’ after last week where Labour came to Scotland to call former voters ‘racists’. So we’re not in an official Independence referendum campaign but we’re certainly in the warm-up phase where lines are being drawn though this time Northern Ireland is lurking offstage to the left waving and throwing paper planes at the back of Theresa May’s head.

At the heart of this there’s a fear from the Unionist side that perhaps the ordinary people (the same they pretend to speak for) are turning from the old myths of a United Kingdom that works for all and instead, are looking at alternatives. In the case of the Northern Irish election and the prospect of a second referendum it’s about people tired of an outdated Unionist ideology trying to make a better future that isn’t steeped in myths of British unity that really, is about a British state that serves a few and makes serfs of many.

For Northern Ireland to move forward to whatever future lies ahead and for Scotland to have a second referendum that’s won it will be people from all backgrounds, race, religions and nationalities that will give birth to hopefully a better future. In the midst of all of what’s going on we’re seeing little glimmers of a better possible world forming that stands aside from the hate and bile of blood and soil nationalists like Theresa May.

Calling Scottish independence supporters ‘racist’ is depressing and pathetic

The last few days has seen some serious ramping up of rhetoric in the debate over Scottish independence with Saddiq Khan’s comments about Scottish independence supporters being racists. As has been pointed out, Labour don’t get to occupy the moral high ground here and yesterday saw a remarkable article published in the Guardian written by Clare Heuchan which stated that there was clear links between Scottish independence and racism who has flounced off Twitter after ‘fearing for her safety’.

Truth is she was exposed online as a Better Together supporter and a very devout British nationalist.

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Now if Heuchan is being abused that’s to be condemned and those who fire racist and sexist abuse need to be prosecuted, but that’s a different thing from the article which she wrote which isn’t objective, plays into Khan’s frankly cowardly rhetoric (and he should know better) and seems to clearly be part of how bad things have got where at least people who supported independence were love-bombed rather than called ‘racists’ for wanting self-determination and a better place to live.

Heuchan is however right to say Scotland has a history of racism. Scots of Irish descent over the centuries have had to deal with that (not that Heuchan even touches on that as you’d expect from someone defending the British state) but as Paul Kavanagh points out here, Scots come from a position of coloniser and colonised. It was not just morally dishonest for the Guardian not to divulge her political intelligences but it makes it clear that the ‘Nats are racist’ angle is being played up now in an attempt to not just alienate potential independence supporters, but in the case independence is actually won it’s an attempt to leave social divisions that future Scottish governments may have to face.

Yet here we are. It is clear a positive case for the Union will not be delivered and people like me will be painted as drooling English-hating racists who want some sort of Rhineland of Northern Europe. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I never used to think Scottish independence viable, or desirable. I thought that although the UK was a corrupt state with a terrible imperial past, the union was the best way to protect the most vulnerable. Upon closer study of what was happening in Scotland while I was still living in Bristol showed me that independence wasn’t about ‘flag-waving nationalists hating the English’ but something else more akin to a movement for self-determination and gaining political power for people in Scotland. The fact it’d land a mortal blow on the British state which, hopefully, change things for people across the UK. Independence for Scotland for me is about a political solution to people’s problems as well as ending something I think is broken and that serves nobody but the few. I remain of the opinion the independence movement is a rich and diverse one.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t bigots and arseholes there who do hate the English. As in any movement there are extremes, but it seems the extremes of the independence movement are generally people likes the Scottish Resistance; a loopy fringe. The extremes of Unionism are the Orange Order, the EDL/SDL, Britain First and every blood and soil nationalist fit to wave a Union Jack. The latter is barely reported in the Scottish or UK media in terms of the abuse they fire out in this argument. People like Alex Salmond, Nicola Sturgeon and various other figures in the independence movement (while the Claire Heauchan story broke an SNP councillor has been talking about the abuse her and her children have been receiving) and SNP are regularly abused and threatened with rape and death but there’s a lack in equivocal reporting.

Of course many people outwith Scotland do look past the bullshit and make their own minds up. Here’s and example from Barney Farmer, the writer of The Drunken Bakers in Viz Comic.

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The EU referendum saw an MP murdered by a member of the far right. The Scottish independence referendum saw isolated incidents ranging from the egg thrown at Jim Murphy to far right thugs rioting in George Square on the 19/9/14.

Last November I moved back to Glasgow after 28 years of living in England to recover from a stroke and finish my fight against cancer, so I’m here in Glasgow recuperating for a few months. I’ve fine-tuned my opinions on Scottish independence to the extent where I firmly believe it offers a final last chance to save the people of Scotland from the insanity of Brexit, but at the same time I’m going to pull up any Indy supporters being racist or sexist arseholes. I also don’t have time for those wanting UDI as that isn’t going to convince those reluctant to become independent that we’re democratic and I refuse to believe every Unionist is a flag-waving lunatic spitting out hate as that’s just as bad as what we’re accused of as Indy supporters. I just want a better Scotland for people living here and I don’t care where you’re from or what race or religion you are.

As we get nearer Brexit actually happening the stakes are ramping up. Unionists will be using every single dirty tactic under the sun and those firing out accusations of ‘racist’ while they themselves can’t recognise what they are is a depressing development as it diminishes actual victims of racism, and indeed, skims over the real issues Scotland has to deal with in regards religious bigotry and the racism that sadly lives everywhere.

We’re at a crucial phase in history. Brexit takes the UK down a hard right path where human rights become a thing of the past and the most vulnerable (and for now, that includes people like me) are having their lives threatened by a cruel Tory government and there won’t be a left wing paradise coming from Corbyn’s Labour who seems to glory more in ‘The Struggle‘ than actually wanting things to be done. I want a better world, and for that to happen we have to start small and convince other countries it can be done and for me, the only way to do that in these islands is Scottish independence breaking the British state and not just providing Scotland with self-determination but hopefully people across the UK realise the issue and themselves demand real change rather than a soundbite.

However calling people who believe in a better world ‘racist’ for wanting where they live to be better is a pathetically low, not to mention, cowardly, tactic. It’s a tactic designed to provoke as we’re at the stage where the British state will quite literally do anything to preserve it, which with no campaign actually started as yet is worrying as to how low this will go.Independence supporters need to not take the bait and remain above this, but at the same time we shouldn’t let it pass without comment and this for me is about putting this into my own personal context. I’m not a racist. I want Scottish independence. I find those equating both to be cowards and liars but I want to speak to people either unconvinced, undecided and even Unionists in debate rather than sit there spitting out hate which solves nothing apart from giving these diehard extremists exactly what they want. We need to rise above that and carry on positively or we’ll not get that glimmer of a better Scotland for all of us living here.

Some truths about the ‘cancer survival gap’ in Scotland

Macmillan have released figures which show there’s a cancer survival gap between poorer and wealthier parts of Scotland. That’s a pretty damning statistic and one that any government has to work to solve because a person shouldn’t be at risk of dying because they live in a poor area or are poor themselves.

I’ve just been told I’m in remission after discovering I had cancer last year when I was still living in Bristol. I now live in Dennistoun in the East End of Glasgow as I spend some time recovering and recuperating. Dennistoun is by no means a desperately poor area, but it wasn’t as wealthy as where I lived in Bristol on the Gloucester Road or even Stokes Croft. It’s an area going through gentrification due to it’s close vicinity to Strathclyde University and the city centre (five minutes car/bus, 15-20 minutes walk) and a pretty cheap rental market (a 2-bed flat is as cheap as £500 p/m), relatively cheap houses/flats to buy in an area increasingly becoming full of Hipsters, young professionals and students. What though has this to do with Macmillan’s findings?

There’s a quote from the article linked at the start of this blog and I’ll highlight it here.

Health inequality is closely linked to income inequality

I’ve had a few physio sessions to help with my stroke recovery (its been a year since I had a stroke) in Shettleston health centre. This is Shettleston.

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It is a poor area that’s been left to rot. It’s also ‘famous’ for having a desperately low life expectancy  but it is slowly improving. It isn’t ‘poor and edgy’ in a contrived way that say, Stokes Croft in Bristol is, but it’s just poor and edgy.

So here’s a couple of truths that’s dawned on me since returning last year and undergoing cancer treatment and stroke recovery.Poverty kills people. Having to deal with a potentially life-threatening illness is a full time job in itself, and if your support structure is weak, or you simply live in a poor area that hasn’t got a good local butcher or fishmonger, and you can’t work anyhow, then it becomes an additional struggle on top of your daily struggle. I’ve seen the sort of poverty in the East End of Glasgow that I thought no longer existed in the UK and it should shame us all that people live in such conditions but we’re also very good at screening this sort of poverty out.

Here’s the big one though; if you’ve suffered generational poverty and never seen your life get better and your basic human self-respect has been whittled down to nothing then you won’t put in the same fight as say, I did. I’ve lived in a nice wealthy city for 17 years. I’ve been lucky enough to have my life saved by some brilliant doctors and nurses at the Bristol Royal Infirmary, and I’ve got enough to live for, to fight for, to make me want to go through what has been an awful year. But what if I was say, living in a poor area resigned to my fate? You may think people don’t fight and won’t give up but I’ve seen it since returning to Glasgow. It shocked me into a realisation of just how lucky I’ve been in life that I can still walk with some pride in me. I’ve seen people crushed by the weight of their lives so they’re giving up before the fight has started.

That quote, Health inequality is closely linked to income inequality is important. If people don’t have the same chances in life, then they won’t get the same chances when they’re fighting for that life, and if you’re used to losing then what’s the point? This shouldn’t be a party political issue and I don’t care for the SNP and Labour throwing jibes at each other. I do think independence is something that may, and should help, but the fact is people have to be taught how to live. They need chances. You shouldn’t have a larger chance of dying because you’ve got a postcode in an area where poverty is rife? We need to make a better world for all, and whether or not we agree on how to get there, there’s an urgency here. I said this is generational and it is. Children born just over a mile from where I’m typing this now won’t live as long as I have because of where they were born. That isn’t right and to make things better it means people from all sides have to confront hard facts and that won’t be easy.

A word of appreciatiation for Culloden

No, I’m not cheering on the actual historical atrocity, I’m talking about the excellent 1964 film, Culloden, made by Peter Watkins who made one of my top ten ever films, Punishment Park.

Made 53 years ago for the BBC, looking at it now it looks as if it could have been made today as in style, as well as tone, it seems fresh and at the time was hugely adventurous in presenting the battle of Culloden in a docudrama style which at the time wasn’t even a genre of film-making. As a film, Culloden is a flawless gem. As a piece of history it follows the account of the battle by the historian John Prebble making it as accurate (though Prebble is accused of himself missing out facts to support his point of view) as possible which when talking about a battle which even today is shrouded in myth and lies, is some achievement.

So, here’s 70 minutes of groundbreaking television.

How does the Supreme Court Brexit ruling affect the campaign for Scottish Independence?

Today the  UK Supreme Court ruled that the UK parliament has to vote to approve Article 50 (the legislation which triggers the UK’s two year long divorce from the EU) which effectively means the government has to put forward a bill and MP’s vote on it. So will unelected peers in the House of Lords but the UK’s creaking constitution allows this. There’s also the trifling matter that the devolved countries of the UK (Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales) saw their court cases that Article 50 can’t be invoked without votes approving it in Cardiff, Belfast and Edinburgh thrown out.

At this point it’s best to read this splendid Iain McWhirter piece which explains this in detail but contains such information of importance I’m quoting a big chunk of it…

LEGISLATIVE consent may sound like another of those tiresome lawyer’s phrases; it’s anything but. Lack of it could stall Brexit, trigger an independence referendum or even break up the Union.

Legislative consent is what used to be called the Sewel Convention, under which the Scottish Parliament has a right to vote on actions of Westminster that impinge on its powers. Today, the UK Supreme Court will address whether or not Holyrood has a right of consent on Article 50, triggering Brexit.

The UK Government is adamant that it should not, and that the Scottish Parliament has no right to interfere. Anyway, the constitution is reserved to Westminster. Advocates of legislative consent, including the Scottish Government, argue that Holyrood certainly should have a say because Brexit will massively affect Holyrood’s powers. Under the Scotland Act 1998, Scottish legislation has to be in accordance with EU law, and this will end when the European Communities Act is repealed.

Moreover, in the Scotland Act 2016, the Sewel Convention was supposedly put on a “statutory basis”, as part of the post referendum “vow” on entrenching Holyrood’s powers. Most people believed this meant that there was now a legal obligation for Holyrood to give its assent to changes to its powers. But no.

The UK Government had inserted a weasel word into the Act. It says that “Westminster will not NORMALLY legislate with regard to devolved matters without the consent of the Scottish Parliament” Since Brexit is not “normal” then legislative consent doesn’t apply

Effectively this means this: The centre of political power in the UK is Westminster. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are essentially regions with glorified councils calling themselves ‘parliaments’ and ‘assemblies’. These can be swept aside because as McWhirter points out;

Under the Scotland Act 1998, Scottish legislation has to be in accordance with EU law, and this will end when the European Communities Act is repealed.

The Great Repeal Bill the Tories talk about will bring all EU legislation into UK law to be then kept or dumped depending upon whatever Westminster says. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that the devolved countries could find their own powers being taken back, or indeed, scrapped for central rule, and yes, the Northern Powerhouse plans to devolve power to big northern English areas is window dressing. Legal political power in the UK is at the discretion of Westminster who are not obliged to do anything the devolved governments (though really, they’re not governments) say which means all those solemn vows of 2014 meant nothing, or as McWhirter puts it;

Moreover, in the Scotland Act 2016, the Sewel Convention was supposedly put on a “statutory basis”, as part of the post referendum “vow” on entrenching Holyrood’s powers. Most people believed this meant that there was now a legal obligation for Holyrood to give its assent to changes to its powers. But no.

The UK Government had inserted a weasel word into the Act. It says that “Westminster will not NORMALLY legislate with regard to devolved matters without the consent of the Scottish Parliament” Since Brexit is not “normal” then legislative consent doesn’t apply. Ha, ha – Scots should have read the act more carefully.

Scotland had the chance to make it’s own successes and failures. It had the chance to make a future of its own. It didn’t, choosing instead to stay in the Union, yet that Union which promised ‘Scotland’s voice will be heard louder than ever before’ lied. It sold you a stinky kipper when you were expecting fresh salmon.

Essentially we’re at this stage…

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So what do we do about it? Well, some MPs are going to vote against invoking Article 50 but there won’t be enough thanks to the sheer lunacy of Jeremy Corbyn telling his MP’s to vote it through which hands the Tories a massive advantage because anyone who thinks they’ll be able to influence the Tories once Article 50 is invoked is a fool, or is someone who wants to leave the EU themselves. Forget that leaving will drive those people Labour say they speak for into virtual serfdom as the Brexiters vision of a tax haven emerges from the wreckage of Brexit. Outdated ideology is Corbyn’s mantra it seems which brings us to this point…

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There’s not a lot of options on the table now. The ball is in Westminster’s court as to whether they take into account the Scottish Government’s Brexit proposals (hint: they won’t) but with elections in Northern Ireland looming the United Kingdom is under threat.

See, the thing is in 2014 there was a culmination of years of debate and argument which was won partly based upon Scotland’s EU membership with articles like this ensuring enough scares were given to coax people to vote for the safer, more secure option as after all, Westminster wouldn’t lie or disregard Scotland would they?

Guess where we are now?

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I asked the question what the Supreme Court ruling means for Scottish independence and for me, it’s very simple; it makes it essential. The ruling makes federalism impossible as after all, if federalism is to happen not only would England need broken up to deal with the inequalities in size (won’t happen) then Westminster would need to permanently give powers away so they can never be seized back and that isn’t going to happen. Essentially devolution is a scam. It’s like going on Poundland’s website and realising everything isn’t a pound.

A second referendum is essential not just for the democracy of Scotland, but for all the four countries of the UK. Forget the angry independence supporters talking of UDI or worse, as we win independence peacefully and legally or we forget it. We have to convince both people that voted no and people on the fence that Scotland as a country needs to make it’s own democratic decisions. My hope is if/when Scotland achieves independence it pulls the last block out of the entire broken British state which comes down crumbling like a giant game of Jenga. When it does, then something new and better can be created for the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, assuming of course we’ve not seen Irish unification by then.

Scotland is at a crossroads now. Patience is needed. There are diehard Unionists spitting flecks of rage and anger online as they know today is a turning point. They know that promises are meaningless as after all, the Supreme Court has shown this, so here’s the thing. Take today not as a day to get angry, but channel that anger into something useful. Do you know someone who voted No in 2014? Great, now talk to them rationally and ask them what they think of the ruling? Ask them if they’re happy their kids, or the generations after them, will be growing up with social justice and equality as things they read about in books? Know someone not sure what to do or showing no understanding of the connotations of today? Great, sit them down and go through it with them. Point out the issues. Ask them what they think.

Because if independence supporters don’t sell independence to no voters or those undecided (there will be those 25% or so who’ll never,ever vote for independence and they can be ignored or avoided) this is going to happen to the next generation, and the next and the next and the next. You get the idea.

There will never be a greater weapon in the armoury for independence than today. We can use it wisely. I suggest we do because we’re going to need it when a second referendum does happen, and it will. For now though, be patient and be calm. This is a long game and if it’s lost next time, it’s lost for generations.