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.

A vote for the Tories is a vote for their cruel policies

That’s the simple fact in the elections coming up, both local and UK wide. Vote Tory, and you vote for their policies. You may think Ruth Davidson is all jolly hockey sticks and not like other Tories, or that Theresa May is a ‘strong’ leader.or if you want to ‘send a message’ about a second independence referendum, or block a second EU referendum so voting Tory becomes an option then remember what you’re voting for.

You’re voting for the party of food banks. You’re voting for the party that cuts PIP payments. You’re voting for the party of the bedroom tax. For the party of austerity.For the party that’s driving people to kill themselves rather than live in a country where the government makes their lives hell.

That’s what you’re voting for. You’re voting for a party with no sense of human decency. Consider that in the local elections in May and in the general election. Do you really want to give Theresa May the mandate to run riot with worker’s and human rights?

So, a simple choice. Vote for a party who’ll beat a Tory candidate or for a Tory who’ll back people’s lives being made intolerable. Make your choice.

The first Scottish independence referendum was held and lost two years ago today

Two years ago today the people of Scotland went to the polls to answer the question ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’. They said no, voting 55% to 45% to stay part of the United Kingdom and I’d imagine a lot of people went through that first weekend thinking that was it. Scottish independence was dead and Scotland would take whatever’s coming down from Westminster.

Then the day after, the celebrations started…

Looking at the video above is a fascinating glimpse into what spurred independence back on the agenda that weekend. The violence from No supporters that day remains something defenders of the Union have never, ever addressed mainly because they can’t. If they accept that then they accept the violent nature of the some Unionist supporters.

But within hours of the No vote the debate shifted from Scotland to England, and the likes of Nigel Farage decided to kick Scotland down to the ground in the early hours of the 19th September.

It’s interesting to see two years later hearing Farage’s comments as they paved the way for the debate from the more staunch defenders of the UK. ”Scottish MPs should shut up’ being one of many frequent mantras, as is the idea the independence campaign was violent and thuggish on the Yes side. Again, here’s Nigel Farage showing the way..

I’m an subjective commentator, but if you’re objective there’s no way to listen to Farage’s words without noticing the rather obvious dislike of Scotland and the hypocrisy of his own criticisms, but what’s depressing is how quickly these comments became assimilated into the anti-independence mantra.

Of course even on the weekend of the result people didn’t give up and for some the fight continued..

Fact is independence should have died that weekend. It should have resulted in people giving up, but it didn’t. The promises made to gain a No vote crumbled in the weeks, months and years after the result, benefiting not just the SNP who had seen Alex Salmond stand down and replaced by Nicola Sturgeon as leader, but the Greens to such an extent that right now in the Scottish Parliament there is a majority of MSP’s who support independence.

One of the last big promises made to keep Scotland in the Union was its membership of the EU, something now under threat thanks to the oncoming storm that is Brexit, the key Nigel Farage policy outwith of xenophobia and racism.

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In the wake of the EU referendum polls showed an increase of support for an independent Scotland with even the staunchly Unionist Daily Record suggesting they’d back Sturgeon if she went for a second referendum.

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There’s now a situation where a second referendum is on the cards with timing being the issue as after all, although polls now three months on from the EU referendum show support for independence to be fairly static, the polls in the few weeks after show that in the right circumstances and with the right arguments enough people will support independence. That’s something I imagine not lost upon Unionists or indeed, Brexit supporters who realise that next time the status quo is going to be whatever half-arsed cobbled together deal Theresa May will have gotten from the EU, and just how bad Brexit has spun out. There’s no way that the status quo won’t be a Tory one.

Before though anybody says ‘what about Jeremy Corbyn and Labour’? Well, what about them? Corbyn’s not impressed at all in regards to Scotland showing himself to simply have picked up exactly the same rhetoric Ed Milliband used but we have now a Labour leader who supports Irish unity, is a left winger and would tell you the history of the left and the current political state of various countries in Central or South America but is without a clue in regards a country a few hundred miles from where he lives. I’m more than sympathetic to how he’s being attacked by the media, but he’s not the messiah many on the English left think he is to revive Labour in Scotland.

As for Labour, they’re considering going into partnership with the Tories to help them retain Glasgow council next year, something which would kill off any remaining credibility the party clings to in Scotland.

There’s no sign Brexit will start this year. Theresa May’s said invoking the mechanism to start that process, Article 50, isn’t going to happen til 2017. Rumour is that may well be early in 2017, though the EU themselves are getting itchy and want the UK gone and countries like Japan and the US have made it clear they’re not going to hang around waiting for the UK to sort themselves out so are carrying on business with the EU without us. Any deal May might get looks set to be vetoed unless the UK grants free movement which won’t please racists like Nigel Farage, so Scotland faces a choice; stay in the UK and be dragged into whatever grim resurgent imperialistically xenophobic future awaits, or leaving the UK to make it’s own future.

That future won’t be won by aping the actions or rhetoric of Unionists, it’ll only happen if Yes voters channel that excitement, positivity, intelligence and drive towards speaking to No voters or undecided voters. That’s something happening today in Glasgow as the Yes Movement starts gearing up for what will be a very different campaign to that which was lost in September 2014. That time saw a 30-35% lead whittled down to 10%. This time sees the Union side with a 5-10% lead and a volatile situation out of their control with Brexit showing that the ‘stable status quo’ may well not be what people want.

Two years on a second referendum looks winnable if things slot into place right, or it could be lost ending any hope of independence in my lifetime, probably of the lifetime of the generation after me. The stakes next time are far too high to rush into a referendum where if lost, leaves Scotland at the mercy of people who like think Nigel Farage for generations and we won’t have the EU or human rights legislation to temper their worst excesses.

So today, two years on there’s hope. This could be the start of something amazing…

What the Great British Haggis tells us about the UK

This is the Great British Haggis.

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Now, you may wonder why this is a ‘British’ haggis, not a Scottish haggis seeing as haggis is so intertwined with Scotland as part of its culture, even identity?

Of course the first thing I did upon seeing this in my social media feed was,as a Scot, to ask ‘what the fuck is this?’. After all it is only two years since the Scottish independence referendum, and the United Kingdom has been desperately stamping it’s identity over everything it can in the years since.

But after a wee cup of tea I had a think. What if this is just a branding exercise? After all this picture was taken in an airport from the account on social media, and whether we like it or not, Scotland’s still part of the UK, even if it looks exceptionally odd. So I checked out if this is being done to other foodstuffs, in this case the Melton Mowbray pork pie. It is.

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I then thought to look at another traditionally English dish, the humble faggot.

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There’s lots of examples of dishes with their cultural heritage based in Scotland, England, Wales or Northern Ireland being branded not with the flag of their own country, but of the UK. Now I’m not saying there’s a sinister plot by Unionists to brand all food with the Union Jack, but there isn’t. Yeah, it looks weird, and in an opaque way it is roughly branding part of Scottish culture with a Union brand, but that’s happening elsewhere in the UK too.

Now there is an issue with those people who use the term UK or Britain to refer to England only, but seeing as they tend to be dicks we’ll move on. What I’m saying is lets not get our knickers in a twist about this when there’s far more important things to kick off about with Brexit coming up at some point in the future. It is annoying, but I’m sure there’s people in deepest Leicestershire pissed off their pork pies don’t have an English flag slapped on them.

This is a bigger point that just Scotland, this is the Union imposing a blanket branding on anything ‘British’, even if like haggis or pork pies it’s not associated with British, but Scotland and England. It is however making waves online but this is a point in time when politics is essentially in a phoney war til we find the braincell in Theresa May’s cabinet that knows what ‘Brexit’ is, so this type of story does the rounds over and over.

Brexit Breakdown-Fear and Loathing

As I speak in the UK we have no stable Westminster government. Jeremy Corbyn is seeing his Shadow Cabinet fall apart around him and looks increasingly like he won’t last the week so we have no stable opposition in Westminster. The EU want us gone, but Nicola Sturgeon is speaking to EU officials and leaders this week as a poll puts support for Scottish independence at a staggering 59%. Reports of racist attacks across England specifically are seemingly too many to take in as they all seem to be in the wake of the Brexit vote. There are worries when the world markets open in the morning with the Tokyo Stock Exchange who saw an 8% fall on Friday. The Cornish Pasty is also under threat which you may laugh at, but this is serious.

Corbyn’s position is the big story of today though. He’s under siege and frankly, I’ll be astonished if he’s seen as a credible leader by the electorate after this. Sure, his followers will support him and he may cling onto being defeated in a general election but Corbyn’s had an appalling referendum campaign as this splendid article outlines. I watched his Sky News EU Referendum debate and it’s worth looking back at it now in hindsight only six days later. He’s very good at speaking to his core, but he’s lost when he’s not. However I don’t lay all the blame at Corbyn’s feet for the failure of Labour to keep the working class outwith of big English cities onside. That blame can be traced back to Neil Kinnock who started splitting the party, but the real blame lies squarely at Tony Blair’s feet and while Corbyn’s just crap, Blair changed things for the former industrial working class to the point where their voice wasn’t heard by Labour. They took them for granted.

This Guardian article on Leave voters is very good. It’s worth reading and paying attention to. These aren’t racists or ‘chavs’ (the pejorative its fine for the English middle class left to use against the English working class) but ordinary people who have been ignored. And yet, this weekend friends of mine are sharing this petition to have a second referendum which if ever recognised (it won’t be, but stick with me a second) means the middle class voice is treated with more weight than the working class voice. Now there’s already racists on the street beating people up. They were always going to be empowered but if you anger the working classes who have been ignored, insulted and patronised and there isn’t a progressive party coming into to fill the void as there was with the SNP in Scotland and to a vastly lesser extent Plaid Cymru in Wales, where do you think these people will end up being forced towards as a further protest vote?

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So I get the anger, but I’m done with a vast chunk of the English left who are spending today ripping themselves apart instead of leading. You should be reaching towards the people who voted leave who are concerned about jobs, housing and yes, immigration. Make the case, go speak to them, not on Twitter, but face-to-face. Arrange food bank drives. Show you actually give a fuck. Don’t sit there sneering. Do something productive with all that energy.

Yet, all I see today is sneering, recriminations, fear and loathing. This is not going to be solved with sneering and frankly, insultingly undemocratic petitions and people adopting moral superiority when if Remain had won and Leave had done this they’d be mocking them for it.

England is split. It is now a darker place not just for immigrants outwith the UK, but outwith of England and that includes me, a Scot who has lived in England for 28 years. I can of course go back to Scotland where at worst, there’s at least a lair of insulation and as regular readers of this blog know, this is happening but is on hold due to me currently having cancer. But nothing is going to be solved by making people often ignored even more marginalised and rightfully dismissive of a great swathe of the middle class left in England. Your only choice is to get out there and make the alternative argument or you hand the dominant politics in England to the right, even the far right, for a generation at least and you know what, you’ll be partly to blame.

The Wee Bleu Book-The EU Referendum staggers on

weebleubookWith the news that the Brexit campaign has taken a small lead after focusing on immigration after losing the economic and social argument, there’s now a real danger that the UK is voting to become a more racist, xenophobic, closed minded country looking back and making it clear it doesn’t want diversity. It’s be horrendous not for just the UK if a Brexit was achieved on the back of what has been an extraordinarily racist line of rhetoric from many in Vote Leave and the UKIP campaigns. It’d also give the far right the ammunition it’s been looking for and I genuinely fear for people should this happen.

See, Nigel Farage is a bigot and a racist. He’s tainted this debate before it even started and Boris Johnson has gladly picked up Farage’s lines about the likes of Turkey joining the EU (never going to happen unless there’s a massive change in how Turkey is run) and has made it so the Turks are going to join the EU tomorrow and we’ll be ‘flooded’ with rapists, terrorists and other criminals in what is a horrible line of debate.

So some facts need to enter into the debate and those of us who want to stay in the EU (this doesn’t make me a huge fan of the EU’s many flaws) need to step up the game in the last couple of weeks otherwise we’ll lose it and hand control over to a bunch of imperialistic xenophobes who’ll make life hell for most people in the UK.

The Wee Bleu Book is clearly inspired by Wings Over Scotland’s Wee Blue Book which played a big part of the Scottish Independence Referendum. Created by members of the SNP it is obviously focused on Scotland, but it’s information is relevant to the UK too. Before you cast your vote have a look at it because it’s far, far clearer than anything the Leave campaign has come up with as they seem to be too busy talking about immigrants, bananas and Hitler.

A few words about the EU Referendum

It’s just under a month til the UK has a referendum to decide whether we stay or leave the EU, and as a campaign it’s been the most dismal, depressing bag of shite I’ve heard in some time and that’s saying something. Last night’s debate on the BBC had signs that the non Tory voices in the Remain camp should be heard more of, but the Brexit campaign still leaves itself struggling to emerge from at best, a British nationalism that’s also rooted in imperialism. That could end up being their undoing as it’s 2016. Many of us don’t think in those terms.

I’m a sceptical Remain voter. There’s massive issues with the EU but at the same time, there’s benefits to the EU, plus in a 21st century globalised society the idea that the UK (or whatever’s left of it, but I’ll get to that) could return to an almost imperial power is insane. During the Scottish Independence Referendum I did what I could from afar to join in and hoped for a Yes vote, not to mention the informed, intellectual debate from all walks of life, not just the middle class voices we always hear, was fantastic. The legacy of that still remains to be seen but it’s left a vibrant democratic discussion in Scotland.

The same isn’t and won’t be the case of the EU Referendum. Throw a stone into Twitter and you’ll hit a Brexiter being scarily mental.

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So some points:

  • If the Brexit campaign had any sense they’d have united to present a detailed, fact-based manifesto of how the UK would be after a Brexit along the lines of the SNP’s White Paper they produced during the Independence Referendum, or the Greens plans they produced, or indeed any of the dozens of proposals from people and groups. Instead we’ve got Boris Johnson talking about Hitler and bananas.
  • Once Hitler is dragged into a debate it’s rendered entirely worthless unless you’re talking of the history or WW2 or who neo-Nazis worship. If you’re repeating decades old bullshit about the EU and bananas you’ve hit the bottom and you struggle to retain credibility with the undecided who are more interested in how roaming charges will be affected, or their ability to go on holiday to Spain or France, or what rights to holiday will remain after a Brexit.
  • Replacing thought out debate with lines like ‘WE WANT OUR COUNTRY BACK’ isn’t going to win over the undecided either because that line drips with racism. Especially when the likes of Nigel Farage constantly used it in relation to making it clear that for him and a number of Brexiters this is all about immigration and getting the ‘right type’ of people that have a ‘shared culture’. Well, that’s dogwhistle racist bullshit if ever I’ve heard it and again, drips with a 19th century/early 20th century British imperialism that doesn’t belong in 2016.
  • The Tory Remain campaign isn’t much better seeing as it’s essentially using the exact same tactics as Better Together did in the Indyref. Scaring pensioners isn’t a positive tactic whoever does it and there is a positive argument to remain in the EU, yet the Tories that want to stay barely mention in instead talking in the same sort of hyperbolic tone as most of the Brexiters.
  • This really is the last roll of the dice for those that think Britain as a concept means something. Fact is, it doesn’t. If you’re campaigning to get the UK (and the UK and Britain are different things in this debate) out of the EU because of reasons of sovereignty and self-determination and you support things like the House of Lords or Westminster democracy then you’re a hypocrite. If you rail against ‘unelected EU officials’ then think the Lords is a great British institution your argument is void. I can elect MEP’s who elect these officials on my behalf. I may not like who they elect but it’s democratic. The Lords, and indeed much of the UK’s democracy isn’t and is two centuries out of date at least.
  • Britain and the UK are being used to mean different things to different people, and when people say ‘Britain’ they’re generally using that to mean ‘England’ and even then, only parts of England. This so far is a very Anglocentric debate that’s excluded Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland from the bulk of debate and there’s probable good reason for that as Scotland and Northern Ireland will be voting fairly conclusively to remain. These are parts of the UK that benefit greatly from EU membership so they’d be mad to vote to leave and therefore give a Westminster government full control of spending which means it’ll be spent in the Tory heartlands, not remote parts of the UK to there where there’s no votes for Tories.
  • Labour have been useless so far. Corbyn may as well have stood aside for this referendum because it’s obvious his heart isn’t fully in it even though he seems to have finally realised a Brexit means giving the Tories free range to do what they want to worker’s rights, human rights and everything. He’s an old socialist and they want out the EU too so he’s clearly been conflicted and it’s a bit depressing he’s taken so long to suss out the big threat here.
  • No Tory cabinet minister can no longer quote things like the IFS. Regardless of the result they’re left themselves lacking in any sort of credibility as a government minister and that includes Boris Johnson who has exposed himself to more people as the crushingly inane fool he is.
  • Lastly, a Brexit means the UK as we know it is probably over. A second independence referendum in Scotland will be triggered and there’s talk of Northern Ireland and Ireland holding a referendum for reunification. Wales and England could well be all that’s left with Wales becoming increasingly bitter over a settlement that will leave them without EU funding that’s helped parts of the country develop itself. Most Brexiters however couldn’t care less it seems as long as they get ‘their’ country back.

This isn’t like the Indyref. Nobody is being energised over what started and still is a Tory Party split. Few are indulging in informed, intelligent debate. It is frankly, a quagmire of bullshit and although there are signs of a better debate from some on the Remain side the Brexit campaign is the very worst of English/British ethnic nationalism and imperialism or just lunacy that makes Donald Trump’s campaign in the US seem sane and calm.

And there’s just under a month to go of this, but it’s important people do vote on the 23rd of June and they vote to stay because the EU for all it’s many, many flaws gives us a layer of protection against Westminster and in particular, the Tory Party with the psychopaths like Iain Duncan Smith who are part of that party. This may be a miserable campaign but this decides on the future of us all.

How to hack an election

There’s a fantastic piece on Bloomberg about Andrés Sepúlveda, who is going to be utterly unknown to 99.9% of people because what Sepúlveda did was to use his computing skills to help rig elections in Mexico. The way he did so is a fascinating read, as well as being utterly terrifying in that anyone can do what Sepúlveda did if they’ve got the ability and the equipment.and there’s one part of this great article that should get the hairs prickling on the back of people’s necks here in the UK.

As for Sepúlveda, his insight was to understand that voters trusted what they thought were spontaneous expressions of real people on social media more than they did experts on television and in newspapers. He knew that accounts could be faked and social media trends fabricated, all relatively cheaply. He wrote a software program, now called Social Media Predator, to manage and direct a virtual army of fake Twitter accounts. The software let him quickly change names, profile pictures, and biographies to fit any need. Eventually, he discovered, he could manipulate the public debate as easily as moving pieces on a chessboard—or, as he puts it, “When I realized that people believe what the Internet says more than reality, I discovered that I had the power to make people believe almost anything.”

Anyone with experience of the Scottish independence referendum campaign with the horde of Better Together Twitter accounts that sounded the same, or have delved into the quagmire of UKIP/Britain First or the far right will recognise the scourge of the fake Twitter account. Of course there’s genuine people out there, but there’s also a number of obviously fake accounts any activist or protester has to deal with. It means you develop a bit of paranoia when dealing with political activism be it on social media on on message forums.

The fact is it’s getting harder to spot some of the online dark arts political parties and powerful groups engineer, and this isn’t the sort of thing you generally consider grassroots activists doing as this takes not just expertise, but serious money and resources.

So the lesson is, trust no one.

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Wings Over Scotland have produced a Wee Black Book and it’s brilliant

During the Scottish Independence referendum, Wings Over Scotland produced the Wee Blue Book, a handy guide to some of the arguments for independence which helped change many a person’s mind in the course of the campaign. Of course as we’re constantly reminded by the British establishment, Scotland voted no which is fine. That’s the democratic decision of the people.

However today, the 24th March 2016 is the proposed day of independence, and the media is swamped by articles explaining how Scotland had a ‘near miss’ and is safe in the arms of a Union that really takes care of people, honest. Scotland made the right choice to let the likes of George Osborne decide what to do, and the influence of Nigel Farage and his beige fascists are as benign as the tumour in my neck.

Today Wings Over Scotland released the Wee Black Book, a handy guide to the last 18 months or so of failed promises, shattered lies and bullshit that the people of Scotland have had to deal with. With elections in Scotland for Holyrood less than two months away it’s a handy way to remind the likes of Labour, Tories and Lib Dems that in fact their fight to save Scotland from it’s own self-determination has resulted in the most brutal, savage government in my memory (and it’s got plenty of competition) to ravage the people of Scotland and indeed, the UK for the wealthy arseholes they do business for.

So remember the gloating, schadenfreude and mockery today. There’s elections soon and then the next few months could bring enormous change after the EU Referendum which so far, is dominated by fact-free bumbling cretins like Boris Johnson or racists like Nigel Farage.

And then realise that there’s a new generation coming that aren’t inhibited by a fondness for the Union, and they’re not going to believe the lies of Unionists desperate to save their own necks.

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One morning at some point in my lifetime (and I fully intent to be around to see this) they’ll be an independent Scotland, They’ll be a hard future ahead but it’ll be free of the psychopathic Tories, and the supine Scottish Labour Party. Then it might actually move forward and provide an example for the remaining countries of the UK to finally kick back against the agenda that’s wrecked so much, and so many people’s lives over the last 37 years.