What I thought of ‘Outlaw King’

The first thing to get over in David MacKenzie’s Outlaw King is that it’s a de facto Braveheart sequel. It’ll never admit to being so officially and while director and cast alike do refer to Mel Gibson’s film there’s nothing official to say it is, except for the fact that you need to have the knowledge of the story of William Wallace before entering this film.

What the film does do is tell the story of Robert the Bruce who fought the invading English army in the First War of Scottish Independence and in particular the story of the Bruce. Indeed for the first half hour or so it strives for historical accuracy as much as possible, barring a obviously telegraphed Chekov’s gun (well, more of a swordfight) in the first reel that pays off in the end. The first half hour is also tediously slow and dull with some of the only fun being when Chris Pine’s accent (which on the whole is fine) slips into his own, or some hybrid accent with a tough of William Shatner thrown in.

Then about half an hour in, Outlaw King kicks into gear, forgets about being a historical drama and decides to become a gore-soaked exploitation film as Pine’s Bruce starts his bloody war against the English, who also become less nuanced and more like the slaughtering, raping baddies the story needs them to be because we don’t want nuance, just leering baddies who we cheer being sliced graphically in half by a sword. In fact the best way Outlaw King works are the scenes where Robert’s forces are fighting superior numbers and winning because the film isn’t about history, but telling the myth.

Outlaw King also looks astonishing on a reasonably big telly, so it’ll look even better on a cinema screen. It uses the landscape of Scotland so well that it becomes it’s own character as it supports Robert on his struggle which ends here not at Bannockburn as those aware of their history may expect, but at the battle of Louden Hill (I assume just in case there’s enough demand for a sequel) is presented here as a muddy, bloody swamp of death and the aforementioned Chekov’s Sword is brought into play.

Overall Outlaw King isn’t the film it couldn’t have been. It tries hard not to do a Braveheart, but dips liberally from that film, and when it tries to be political (at several times it’s quite clearly speaking to the audience in a 21st century post 2014 context) it doesn’t have that clarity of vision Gibson’s film did which may have been simplistic, but was also effective. What the legacy of Outlaw King may be I don’t know as it’s too early, but as an effective action/adventure/exploitation film flying the Netflix banner it’s a flawed, sometimes dreary bit of entertainment that doesn’t fly til it shrugs loose it’s chains and then it repays your faith in the film in steel and blood.

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Glasgow’s striking women and the Labour Party

Today has seen the first of a two-day strike by women employed by Glasgow City council (GCC) in regards a very long dispute going back to 2006. Back then, the Labour run council implemented the Workforce Pay and Benefit Review (WPBR), though it quickly became apparent women (and in the vast majority of cases it was women, men in similar roles had no issues) were being paid up to £3 p/h less than their male counterparts. What then follows is a story of low-paid workers, mainly female, being advised horribly by unions and attacked by the then Labour run GCC. Fairly recently it became clear just how badly the women suffered and just how the Labour run GCC spent over £2.5 million fighting the women’s case.

In this time the GMB were advising the women, well, badly, but one heard not a peep from other unions or the Labour Party, both pre and post Jeremy Corbyn til May 2017. Two things happened; one is that Labour lost control of GCC for the first time in half a century and secondly before the women won their long fought court case and the incoming SNP run administration promised to settle the case. Negotiations started but earlier this year the GMB promised to strike so we’re here today.

The more astute of you may think ”hang on, why didn’t the GMB go on strike in the 11 years when Labour ran Glasgow?” and that is indeed a reasonable question and can be explained by the symbiotic relationship of both. In fact current Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard was a GMB official during part of this time, and the self-appointed leader of the strike, Rhea Wolfson, is a Labour candidate in the next election. Once you ask that question and discover other councils in Scotland have similar issues, but as they’re Labour run, there’s no threat of striking, then one has to conclude this is a political act that doesn’t have the women’s concerns at the heart of it.

Here for example is a Tweet from Carol Fox, who has been a lawyer representing the women.

Here’s an example of the ‘staggering hypocrisy’ in full gaslighting flow.

Now it is true the SNP led council need to up their game. Their handling of the aftermath of the Mack fire has been, on the whole, fucking dreadful (I live not far from the area affected and can testify as to how bad an aftermath it has been first hand) and their general level of communication is terrible but as this nicely balanced Scotsman article by Dani Garavelli makes clear that for all the faults of the current GCC administration, we can’t forget that a male dominated GMB and the Labour Party got us into this mess in the first place so some humility, and even an apology is forthcoming.

Today has seen Labour indulge in a campaign of stunning political hypocrisy mixed with opportunism as figures who stood against the women now Tweet furiously in favour, and some MP’s wade into the debate in the most cack-handed, tone deaf way.

You read the above Tweet right but in the midst of all this gaslighting there comes honesty from at least one person in Labour.

Realistically, this is probably what will happen as the estimated bill to settle is between £500 million and a billion. GCC can’t afford this without bankrupting Glasgow, and the Scottish Government would have to step in to mitigate this which means because the SG works on a restricted budget, other services in Scotland would be cut which means Labour run with the ‘SNP austerity line’ they’ve decided is their only real contribution to Scottish politics in the age of Brexit.

In effect, what could have been a day where the women’s 12 year old fight (and remember, some of the original women have passed on now) could have finally hit a point where all sides worked together for resolution. The current council could have been more open, and Labour rather than gaslight, lie and bullshit could have been contrite, even apologising and offering sensible solutions. Union leaders on 6-figure salaries who ensured men were paid more because that’s how it always has been could have apologised and we could try to come to a sensible outcome where the women get their backpay (the current council have binned the old pay scheme and employees are all now equally paid) but no, we’ve seen an extraordinary day where the divide has been ripped open.

What can we draw from the day? We should show solidarity with the women. There’s no doubt with that after the contempt these working class women were shown by the then Labour run council.. We should however question the GMB as to what exactly their motives are now after over a decade of, at the very least, not advising the women correctly, and for Labour they need to answer why they fought the women so hard for 11 years and also, what happened to people’s council tax because we’ve got buildings declared unsafe in what seems now like a policy to let some of Glasgow’s buildings fall into ruin.

I’d personally like an inquiry into just exactly went on in the City Chambers for decades and why women are forced to take less than their male counterparts and large parts of the city are left to rot and now we’re having to clean up this mess. That however would uncover some dirty little secrets that some of those gloating today would not like aired in public but realistically this isn’t going to be over til those responsible are contrite and that includes the Labour Party as a whole.

A word about the People’s Vote March

As I write this the People’s Vote march is snaking its very crowded way round London’s streets.

On the whole I support the march and with massive bloody caveats, support the aim of a second vote but here in Scotland I feel we’re being ignored, or at least patronised by a big chunk of the People’s Vote. This is something I’ve said before, and nothing has changed my mind that for a chunk on the ‘progressive’ left in England, Scotland is only useful for votes because deep down they know that realistically England will vote to leave the EU again in a second vote.

The problems are many. Kev McKenna goes through some of them in this article at The Herald, this paragraph being especially damning.

Yet, like their manufactured concerns for the future of Ireland I’ve rarely heard any of the metropolitan elites previously profess to be overly-vexed by the challenges faced by working-class communities in England’s north-west or north-east. Where were they when the fishing fleets on Humberside disappeared, sacrificed to enable the US to spy on Soviet submarines from the Icelandic coast? And beyond some hand-wringing and anti-Thatcher sloganising what did they actually do when the mines all shut and the car factories fell silent? Each time I see Gordon Brown wade into Brexit on his white charger I can still hear him say: “British jobs for British workers”. You also contributed to this, big man.

I rarely heard any concern for Northern Ireland prior to June 2016, and as McKenna says, while traditional working class jobs and communities were being ripped apart many of these folk sat on their hands, and yeah, Gordon Brown massively contributed to where we are today.

But the problem is that there were aspects of the English left that did raise their hands in protest, but today they’re as likely to be supportive of Brexit for vague, outdated ideology which is why there’s no Jeremy Corbyn or any of the Labour leadership near the march today. From here it looks as if the left and right have a common cause (and both rely on some level on nostalgia tinged with xenophobia about ‘foreigners’) to win the Brexit fight so they can install their rose-tinted vision of Albion.

Meanwhile in Scotland although you’ll find plenty like me who support today’s march and would appreciate some reciprocal support  for a second independence referendum, with the caveat that any second EU vote would need all countries of the UK to support it, or if the result mirrors last time  then that triggers a second Scottish referendum and a border poll in Ireland.

It is hard however not to see the march as anything but positive when it shows the weight of support against the what should be now, clearly obvious far-right coup of the UK. When you’ve got various Brexiters, right and left, talking up a ‘civil war’ and wanking on boringly about taking the fight to the streets, they should remember the tens of thousands who are out on the streets now so even though I don’t think it’ll change anything politically it does help in reminding the elites fighting tooth and nail for Brexit there’s a large number of people who will oppose it.

‘The Art of Coorie’ is insulting bullshit

There’s a book called The Art of Coorie by Gabriella Bennett in which the writer tells you how to ‘live life the Scottish way’, and that ‘coorie’ is some long, lost way of life we Scots keep jealously guarded to ourselves. Thanks now to this book and articles like this from the Daily Mail discussing ‘the Scottish wellness trend’ as if it’s an actual real grown-up thing as opposed to taking elements of Scottish life and trying to monertise them to wealthy middle class Southerners who don’t know better but have heavy bank accounts.

In reality there’s no meaning of coorie that has anything to do with ‘wellness’ and the shortbread tin version of Scotland that Bennett, the Mail and all those online who are falling for are actual indulging in a very modern version of colonialism.

Look at this map of Scotland.

The first thing that’s obvious is that there’s not a lot above the central belt, and to the north and east of the country. This never used to be the case til the clearances where vast swathes of Scotland were cleared of people, re-engineered socially and environmentally for the purpose of turning large chunks of these lands into playgrounds for the wealthy elites of the British state then and now in the 21st century.

Today it’s a political issue and one that deeply affects inequality in Scotland as the Green MSP Andy Wrightman makes clear on his blog and it’s Wrightman who has pushed for reform after decades of Labour playing along with the system followed by the SNP’s glacial moves in this regard. Scotland’s most remote areas have hard enough times as it is without the population essentially being priced out by the hordes of middle class sweeping up from London in droves to live a mythical lifestyle.

Indeed, things are bad enough as it is, as it is in parts of the South West in England who have suffered this 21st century version of financial and social cleansing. Bullshit like ‘Coorie’ isn’t going to help, and frankly I don’t want to see my country’s history and country infantilsed for the benefit of the few who can afford to live in once thriving communities now stripped bare.So, land reform is needed and fast before the Highlands are full of Mail and Guardian readers braying loudly at each other about ‘wellness’…

A quick word for Labour in Scotland

Labour’s leader in Scotland, Richard Leonard. is reminding everyone he still exists by coming out with a new policy of not just opposing a second independence referendum (not unusual and it’s entirely their right) but by the act of having this in the UK manifesto would mean a future Westminster Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn would block any second referendum. Of course this comes a few days after Corbyn had said he’d have no problems with a second referendum being held but who expects Westminster politicians to be consistent?

The problem is for Labour is that the Scottish Government has a mandate for a second referendum voted for by the people of Scotland, Holyrood and sitting there waiting to be used once we’re familiar with what Brexit looks like which right now looks like a mess.

So we have a UK Labour leader who will back self-determination anywhere on the planet, except Scotland, and his Scottish team leader blocking not just the will of the Scottish parliament but of the people themselves. Added to Corbyn’s obvious pro-Brexit credentials we have a situation where Labour are fighting on the same ground as The Tories in Scotland, which hasn’t done them any favours in the past but hey, Leonard thinks digging in is a smart idea when polls show Labour in Scotland to be back where they were prior to Corbyn partly because people are tired of them doing shite like this. It also places Labour in a position where they say whatever happens, Scotland is better off under a Tory government, even one as cruel and psychopathic as this one.That won’t wash with former voters, or the younger voter attracted to Corbynism who supports independence and who are now realising that trusting diehard Unionists isn’t a smart idea.

In October we’re told that Nicola Sturgeon will make a statement as to what she’s going to do with this mandate now that Brexit is becoming clearer. The smart money is she’ll be pushing for a Section 30 order (the piece of legislation that makes a second referendum binding) which throws up a can of constitutional worms as the Tories will probably refuse it, so Labour need to be careful as to what side it chooses.

Four years after Scotland fucked up

Four years ago the people of Scotland voted to remain part of the UK based upon a multitude of false promises, and in doing so Scotland lost all power it once had as no longer could it stand on its own but then the UK held the EU referendum where England and Wales voted to leave, while Scotland, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar voted to remain and now the Union stands ready to rip itself apart from its contradictions.

Barring the diehards, nobody pretended in 2014 things would be honey and unicorns upon independence, but the ability to shape Scotland’s future would be in the people of Scotland’s hands as opposed to whatever Tory or Labour PM who would see Scotland as votes and/or resources to exploit when they need to.Few expected a Tory victory in the 2015 General Election which meant few expected an EU referendum in 2016 and nobody expected us to be in the fucking disaster we’re in right now with Brexit looming and jobs, even lives at stake.

In short Scotland fucked up in 2014.

Some things were good. A creation of a genuine socially aware, progressive left wing grassroots movement which wasn’t hijacked by SWP types/snobbish lefties more interested in their own advancement/wankers was fantastic. Discovering the flaws in the media being another highlight. In fact much of the referendum campaign was artfully pinched by Corbyn’s Labour A Tory Party we can’t get rid of tha

But the last four years has been grim. A Tory Party we can’t get rid of and an official opposition too busy with cleansing itself to bother fighting the Tories, and of course Brexit which Corbyn clearly wants anyhow. So we’re left with Theresa May; a totally useless PM who sadly is the last thing standing against the far right of her party gaining control and power. Scotland lies in the middle of this all because four years ago it fucked up.

There is a mandate for a second independence referendum, and Nicola Sturgeon has been wise not to use it when it could have been easy to do so, but at some point this parliament it’ll need to be used and indeed, it could not just give Scotland a route out of the UK, but an end to Brexit itself in the aftermath.

What we have to do next is ensure we don’t fuck up ever again because the fact is Scotland votes to stay in the Union again and independence is over for generations.

Ruth Davidson and mental health

Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson has a book out soon and has been sitting with London-based hacks for a publicity push that involves an interview with the Sunday Times where she states she never wants to be an MP at Westminster, or take a peerage or become Prime Minister in order to preserve her mental health; of which she discusses in the interview as having problems with 20 years ago.

All of this should be good as after all mental health is an issue all of us struggle with, and the more people speak out the better, but in Davidson’s case it smacks of a carefully planned release of information which benefits Davidson. With pundits (mainly in England) speaking of how brave she is to speak out then it shows it’s worked but here in Scotland there’s an air of suspicion because Ruth Davidson hasn’t got where she is today from pushing policies or being the ‘centrist’ politician the likes of Ian Dunt thinks she is.

Davidson won acclaim for her part in the Scottish independence referendum in 2014 where she managed to be questioned by the police about allegations of election fraud, and in the 2015 election lied about ‘burly men’ scaring away voters. She’s also happy to surround herself with extreme far right types, and barely twitches when these people are found out after being elected. It should be also be made clear she’s built up a healthy following from exploiting elements of sectarianism and Unionism and this worked in 2017’s election where she managed to run a campaign based on no policies at all except ‘no to a second referendum’ with Tory campaign leaflets hiding the Tory name under Ruth Davidson’s.

Davidson is a fantastic media construct but unlike recent examples like Nigel Farage or Jacob Rees Mogg, she’s carefully cultivated this herself along with a media in Scotland totally unfit for purpose. Yet some have questioned her, and when pushed on the few occasions she has been, comes over as brittle, angry and totally without substance. Indeed one of her names here in Scotland is ‘Rape Clause Ruth’ due to her open support for the dreadful ‘rape clause‘, and Westminster Tory policies.

And this brings me back to her comments about mental health. She defends policies which drive people to killing themselves. She supports her party imposing economic ruin upon people that drives them to kill themselves. She’s shown no remorse, no compassion and no sense that she empathises with ordinary people, and she’s teamed up with Michael Gove to create a thinktank to push Tory ideas to younger people under the disguise of being a ‘centrist’ and London-based commentators still trip over themselves to praise her and not ask why she’s revealing all this now, let alone push her on her policies or why she’s never available for interview so she can be asked about the ‘dark money‘ allegations hanging over her.

Make no mistake that if a third of what rattles in Davidson’s cupboard were assigned to Nicola Sturgeon or even Jeremy Corbyn, there would be UK wide media coverage and massively sensationalist reporting.  Davidson escapes this and now with this revelation, ensures that few journalists will push her assuming they would anyhow which is a shame as the question I have for Davidson is if she’s so intent on helping people’s mental health then why does she support policies that damages people’s mental health so badly?

But that question will never be asked. She’s carefully positioning herself for the next post-Brexit phase and if you think Davidson doesn’t want to be PM then I suggest looking back at Davidson’s history and see a tirade of lies and manipulation aimed at one thing; the advancement of Ruth Davidson and the Tory ideology.