Return to lockdown…

Midnight tonight the city of Glasgow goes back into lockdown, except for me who have now been classed by my employer as an ‘esssential worker’ so I get to larp as Charlton Heston in the Omega Man going through deserted streets for the next fortnight.

Truth is I expect the lockdown to last longer as frankly, too many arseholes are ignoring the rules but they tend to be the first complaining loudly, but here we are again but in the cold, damp darkness that is a Glasgow winter as opposed to spring/summer. This time it could push people over the edge as after all, we were never designed to be this antisocial as a species and as Covid-19 loves people, it means Christmas could be cancelled for a lot of people this year. It could be bleak this winter indeed.

But I’m somehow promoted to a ‘key worker’ so clap for me…

It’s not bad being Scottish

For 22 years Scotland’s mens team have failed to qualify for any international competition. It has been agony. Last night it stopped thanks to a stupedous performance in Serbia and now, we’re going to the delated finals of Euro 2020 causing this reaction in Sky TV’s studio.

And this is fairly representative of living rooms across the country, mine included.

So it is no longer shite being Scottish. It’ actually quite fun.

Scottish independence support hits an all time high

A new poll for STV puts support for Scottish independence at 58%, the highest ever since probably there was an Act of Union 300 years ago. There’s a number of reasons for this ranging to the forthcoming horror of Brexit, to how the British state has failed over how it’s handling the Covid crisis through to Boris fucking Johnson and his cabinet of clowns but in reality the fact is people is people are fucked off with the British state, how it’s run and the failure of that state to live up to the promises of the 2014 independence referendum that won them the vote six years ago.

This of course is a great starting point for a second referendum campaign whenever that may be because it realistically ain’t happening this side of 2022, however there’s a real sense of panic from the Unionist side as they know the game is up. Their plan now seems to be to obstruct as long as possible or strip Scotland of powers and bring it back under central control which is a crap idea but this is the government of Boris Johnson.

So we shall see but we’ve hit a landmark. Where to go next is down to us.

Scotland’s proposed hate crime laws are an illiberal mess.

There’s a lot bout Scotland to praise from how the NHS is still free to its arts to attempts to make us more akin to a liberal Scandinavian democracy than whatever the UK is turning into. On the whole, the governing party of Scotland, the SNP, have guided Scotland in right directions over the last decade but they have a problem with well meaning, but legally troubling laws. The ‘Named Person’ idea was, and is, a great one but was badly put together legally as was The Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act was an actual attempt to deal with sectarian abuse in Scottish football but again, it fell apart because it was well meaning but legally a mess.

The latest bill to come down the line in such a way is the proposed new hate crimes law which finally gets rid of blasphemy in Scottish law but replaces it with new types of blasphemies which a progressive 21st century democracy should not have. To quote from this piece

Offences are currently aggravated by prejudice against a victim’s race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or their transgender identity.

Hate crime can take many forms including verbal abuse or insults, assault and damage to property, but also online abuse on sites like Facebook or Twitter.

When a criminal is convicted of a hate crime, an ‘aggravation’ can be added to their sentence, meaning that if, for example, someone attacks an individual based on their race, then a racial aggravation can be added to the crime of assault.

The Scottish Government’s proposed legislation would incorporate the existing aggravating factors but also add the characteristic of age, with the potential to include sex at a later date so misogynistic harassment can become a standalone offence.

If passed by parliament, the Hate Crime Bill, will also make “stirring up of hatred” extend to all the characteristics, rather than just against race, which has been an offence in Scots law for decades.

The characteristics aimed to be protected under the bill are listed below.

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Race, colour, nationality (including citizenship), or ethnic or national origins
  • Religion
  • Sexual orientation
  • Transgender identity
  • Variations in sex characteristics

So far, so relatively uncontroversial though one has to ask why sex is not included in the list (it may be added at a later date) when we live in a time when misogyny is rife and other, more vague criteria is included.The issue rises when we hit what makes an offence which is the offence of ‘stirring up hatred’ which under these proposals would make it an offence for a person to behave in a threatening, abusive or insulting manner, or to communicate threatening, abusive or insulting material to another person where in doing so, the person intends to stir up hatred against a group of people by reference to race, colour, nationality (including citizenship), or ethnic or national origin. The problem comes when the offence is that someone is ‘likely’ to result in hatred.

This opens up the bills from one supposedly designed to update hate crime laws to one which suddenly closes down free speech and freedom of expression while opening up a Pandora’s Box where any group could easily abuse the act to suppress an opposing opinion. Imagine a group of highly organised people organising a campaign to get someone prosecuted because they don’t like what they’ve said? Removing religious blasphemy for secular blasphemy is not progress.

What marks criticism of this out from other bills is the level in which Scotland’s legal organisations themselves are providing warning and lead the opposition to parts of the bill which will limit freedom of expression and will criminalise people who may well be unpopular among a section of people, but offering a different opinion may offend but if as a society we limit offence then we’re heading towards a very controlling, bland society. So to take just comedy, this bill could criminalise Frankie Boyle, Billy Connolly, The Life of Brian and much of the rest of Monty Python’s output, the works of Chris Morris and pretty much any important work of comedy of the last century.

Juries will have to decide if a statement, or a work of art, or just a Tweet, is designed ‘to stir up hatred and as the bill excludes protecting “expressions of antipathy, dislike, ridicule, insult or abuse” it seems as said, designed for small, powerful groups to target individuals especially, If we’ve hit a point where society is so weak, and arguments are so thin that they need to game the system then we are basically fucked.

So I hope the SNP listen, take the bill back and change it otherwise it’ll become law and a few high profile cases will show it to be a mockery, and the Scottish Government will have to rethink something which will not do what it may set out to do. We need a society where dissent is tolerated.

The strange world of George Galloway

Galloway is an odd figure. A once-respected (well, from some)  firebrand of the left managed to destroy his reputation and image by a succession of increasingly unpleasant steps into politics that involved him becoming the sort of person he’d once rally against. His latest stunt is to ally with Tories and Unionists to oppose Scottish independence as a talking head for the Alliance For Unity party, who are a motley mix of hard/far right types and Unionists desperate for anything to fight the rise in support for independence.

He’s somehow managed to become a figurehead for these people as he goes full Farage as he too becomes Steve Bannon and Michael Gove’s latest glove puppet. The thinking seems to be that Galloway is left-wing (which is dubious), and most folk in Scotland are leftish so the people will flock behind him and chase the Nasty Nats out of town.  The problem is Galloway has an image problem and not just related to this insanity from Big Brother.

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Galloway is the act of a desperate foe. An attempt to unify the Unionist cause behind a Farageist figure who they think will win. but many soft Unionists or genuine undecideds, or simply No votes from 2014 will be horrified at his suggestion only born Scots should vote in a second referendum, and that Scottish born immigrants in the rest of the UK should have the vote. Essentially full-blown ethnic nationalism, something the Unionists accuse Indy supporters of.

The fact is the only way it should be decided is by those living in Scotland eligible to vote. Galloway is a desperate sad act who exists only for the furtherment of Galloway and this is purely his latest grift. Remember this in the months ahead as a small minority pretend he’s some sort of giant killer.

Scottish independence is now supported by a majority

The latest polls for Scottish independence put 55% of people for, 45% against which is the latest poll which shows an increase in support since the start of 2020. This of course is good news, but if you’re a Unionist then the panic is setting in, and setting in hard because simply put if Boris Johnson is the voice of the Union then fuck the Union.

Of course it is just a poll, and the other problem is the SNP are seriously dragging their feet but the fact is people are on a clear path to independence, barring the diehard Unionists of course.

Alex Salmond’s retrial by television

On Monday night the BBC broadcast The Trial of Alex Salmond, a documentary of Salmond’s sexual offences trial of early 2020 presented by Kirsty Wark and made by her production company. It is an extraordinary film in that it was clearly made to put Salmond through a retrial by television as he was found not guilty by a jury back in March.

Salmond is a controversial figure at best. I’m drawn to respect some of the things he did (there is no chance in hell we’d be having this conversation about Scottish independence and it being so close without him) but I’ve always been wary of him which is maybe a throwback to my former Labour past. He’s what’s called a ‘Marmite figure’, but that said he’s still amazingly popular among a section of SNP supporters, even the wider independence movement. He is also incredibly unpopular with a large section of the Scottish establishment which brings me to last night’s programme.

Wark clearly assumed Salmond would be found guilty as indeed, much of Scotland’s media class did but his not guilty verdict threw a wobbly for her, so she just ended up making the programme she would have anyhow giving minor lip service to the case against Salmond being thrown out.  And here’s the thing, you and I may mot like Salmond. We might find him a bit old school but he was found to do nothing criminal but Wark ensured the viewing public was retried in public.

The reaction was hard, even from people not especially on Salmond’s side. Here’s Gerry Hassan as an example.

hassan

I’ve never known a programme to go after a person found not guilty like this without an inch of new evidence and if we see the media go after a powerful figure like Salmond, what’s to stop them doing the same to anyone? Now there is a documentary to be made about the case, the #metto connection and how the Scottish establishment reacted to it but this isn’t it. This was a personal attack borne out of frustration that the law didn’t do what it wanted them to do so they lashed back in a way which smeared someone without the fairness of a trial.

And this is the point. If the media contains people who are able to conduct personal attacks on mainstream television thanks to the BBC then we have a justice system under attack from the powerful who don’t get what they want, and it doesn’t take a genius to work out the terrible consequences of that for a supposed free and fair society.

The Tories want you to die for the economy

This morning’s newspaper front pages are full of Boris Johnson’s plans to slacken up the Covid-19 lockdown so that by the end of May, start of June the UK is going to be open for business. As of yesterday, the UK has the highest death toll in Europe by any way you’d like to measure it, and the infection rate remains high while the death toll has actually risen for the last three days rather than fall which is where we should be right now.

Yet with all this happening all around us the UK papers are all about Monday being a day where freedom will come even though the science hasn’t changed, but what has changed is that newspapers are dying and they need the lockdown lifted so their millionaire owners can continue to make money and keep their influence. Tory backers are also itchy that they too will lose money so the narrative this week has changed from staying at home, and staying safe to the chancellor more or less calling furloughed workers scroungers.

Of course, the media in the UK is failing to hold the UK government to account which means with the highest death rate in Europe it can sail through this with barely a blow landed on it. There was no ‘leak’ to the press but a badly managed release of information which has now been dialled back as the devolved countries have no intention of letting anything slacken up til the end of May at least. Fact is the Tories want us to die for the economy. We’re facing a virus we’re finding more and more about every day but for Johnson and company, this doesn’t matter. It is all about getting us back to work, hope not too many people die and move on while waving flags and invoking a wartime spirit pulled right out of 1960’s war comics.

Basically, we’re at this point.

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And we all know how well that went after that…

Just what is wrong with Scottish journalism?

The other day during the Covid19 daily briefing this question was asked of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. That’s right, Vivienne Aitken of the Daily Record basically asked about Christmas. In April. During a pandemic where we’re discovering new things about Covid19 every week. Where people literally lie dead mourned only from a distance because their very corpse is infectious our media is asking about Christmas being closed, or when the borders whould close or any sort of nonsense that comes pouring from their narrow brains.

This isn’t to say Sturgeon and the Scottish Government won’t have questions to answer. They were painfully slow in acting to put measures in place to combat the virus, choosing instead to follow the UK government and the insane herd immunity idea but they’ve managed things better than their UK counterparts which isn’t exactly setting a high benchmark but this is a time of crisis. Once the lockdown kicked in, the briefings have been clear, much clearer than the UK governments, but they’ve been clogged down with these inane questions which are designed to get a specific headline the next day, not to hold the Scottish government to account.

Now there are some good journalists out there, but on the whole the vast amount of the Scottish media is useless. Since returning to Scotland three years ago I’ve been amazed at how poor it is with such a low level of competence being seen as acceptable that one wonders how on earth some people can live with themselves. They’ve forgotten how to hold power to account instead punching down and sideways, but only occasionally up, then there’s the trend of giving failed politicians a voice when rejected by the public.

Right now all the papers are asking for us to buy them to save them, well frankly, I’d prefer to let some of Scotland’s papers die and rebuild new ones with actual proper journalism, real ethics and a promise to hold everyone in power to account not just their political enemies.

Marvel’s tone deaf entry into UK politics this week is…

IT is 2020. Brexit is happening and the UK is out the EU, while Scotland and Northern Ireland pontificate about independence and unification respectfully. Things are simply, fucked at best and it is safe to say things are a tad delicate at the moment, so here’s Marvel Comics coming smashing into the room like Lewis Capaldi swigging from a bottle of Buckfast.

Here’s Marvel’s latest super-team, The Union.

theunion

I mean, really??

Then there are the new characters, like Kelpie. the Scottish, McScottish, shortbread, Nessie, och aye the noo member!

union1

And Snakes, the Northern Irish character probably made of snakes, potatoes and Guinness because that’s all Marvel editors know about Northern Ireland.

union2

What is a pity is that the hugely talented Paul Grist is writing this, and Union Jack the character that sort of inspired his Jack Staff creation.

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Grist himself has said he’s pointed issues out with editorial to deaf ears, and I do hope Grist makes a success of this but I can’t help thinking this is tomorrow’s 50p comics today because the lack of understanding of UK politics is not going to help drives sales on this side of the Atlantic, while I can’t see folk caring on the other side.

Ah well, they might make a film of it I suppose…