Stewart Lee talks to Alan Moore about Brexit, Scottish Independence and dead cats

Stewart Lee has a new book out titled Content Provider, a collection of his columns for the Observer and Guardian over the last five or so years. In this interview with writer Alan Moore, he discusses what he’s doing with these columns, the ridiculously inane phrase ‘content provider’, Brexit, his regret over a column he did during the Scottish independence campaign, and a dead cat.

It’s a cracking quarter of an hour or so. Have a look.

In another universe this is the last Burns Night before Scottish Independence

Tonight is Burns Night, the annual celebration of Scotland’s most famous poet, Rabbie Burns, not that you’ll see the name ”Rabbie” being used by much of the media as that’s a bit too Scottish so it’s Robert Burns to avoid the cringe some have in hearing the Scots language being used and since the Scottish independence referendum so many in the mainstream media have done their best to avoid anything too overtly Scottish. I have spoken about how Burns Night is being culturally appropriated before, but since the Indyref it’s went into overdrive.

But if the idea of the multiverse is true somewhere out there in infinity there’s a universe where the people of Scotland didn’t shite themselves on September the 18th 2014 and decided not to be ruled over by a bunch of lying, corrupt, paedophile enablers that suck up to the likes of Saudi Arabia while they crucify people. Instead things have moved forward and the people of Scotland look forward to independence in March of 2016 rather than fighting over what money it can receive, or whether it has a better idea of what welfare its people need or simply want to not be dragged into yet another war in the Middle East.

In the endless majesty of the multiverse there’s a Scotland not fighting for itself against the Tories and their enablers in other parties and the media. Somewhere out there the cringe isn’t being tolerated and we’re happy to say ‘Rabbie’ without looking over our shoulder to ensure we get approval.

But that’s my wee rant. Frankie Boyle sums it up better….

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I think Rabbie Burns would appreciate that…

How not to convince No voters to vote for Scottish independence

yesglasgowLast week the Hope Over Fear rally was held in Glasgow’s George Square on the first anniversary of the Unionist riots that marred the days after the Scottish referendum result. I watched a lot of it thanks to the splendid Independence Live streaming service (for those unfamiliar with my previous blogs, I’m a Scot living in Bristol) and it was a nice afternoon of people listing to anti-Tory, pro-Indy songs, speeches from political and social activists and someone from the Scottish Resistance.

What? The? Fuck?

The Scottish Resistance are an extremist group of frankly, the sort of nutter that made me avoid voting SNP  when I lived in Scotland as these people are nuts, not to mention they drip with the sort of anti-English bigotry that isn’t helpful one tiny bit. Here’s what they spoke about according to the Vice article reporting on the rally.

I arrived a couple of hours into the rally. Thankfully, this was just in time to catch James Scott, the leader of the Scottish Resistance group, whose speech angled in on what are surely the most pressing concerns of Scotland’s electorate: being proud of the facts we “repelled the Vikings, the Danes and the Anglo-Saxons” in centuries gone by, casting out “traitors”, and stopping the “robbery” of “water, whisky revenue and oil” that’s flowing over the border to England. It was like a parody of everything people say to discredit the independence movement, except it was really happening. This kind of dodgy pseudo-ethnic nationalism was never given any prominence ahead of the referendum, and certainly never given a platform, so it was alarming to see it being cheered along on the fringes of the Yes movement.

The blame for inviting the Scottish Resistance can be plaid at the feet of organiser Tommy Sheridan, an exceptionally controversial figure in Scotland who’s past is fairly well known so I’m not going to dive into that swamp. But surely even Sheridan can see the damage inviting ethnic extremists living in the past does to the Yes movement? Does Hope Over Fear help the movement?

This is the question posed in this Common Space article by Gary Elliott but I’m not going to dwell on the Tommy Sheridan/Hope Over Fear issue as that’s been done to death this week. Once I’m back in Scotland next year I’ll probably attend them, and I’ll be glad to criticise the parts that are dubious and praise the bits that aren’t, but with a second referendum a looming probability as soon as 2017 thanks to the possible result of the EU referendum, but certainly before the end of the next UK parliament the question has to be asked as to how to get No voters to change their minds. This is something Elliott mentions and suggest a solution:

Another welcome development was Colin Fox’s appeal for a new Yes Campaign. Not to call for another referendum, or to carry the same intensity, but to start preparations for the next referendum by establishing a Yes Convention to “discuss the lessons to be learned from our defeat last time and to prepare for victory next time”.

I agree. Looking into Scotland from outside it’s clear there is a shift towards acceptance that independence is coming. When is the issue. If there is an opportunity in 2017 then the arguments have to be fought now and not in two years time when I presume the SNP will push for a second referendum if results go a certain way.

What won’t win over No voters is having the Scottish Resistance given equal footing with serious social activists. Neither will voters be convinced by being called ‘nawbags’, or abused, or pulled apart online by a tiny majority of people who put the conspiracy theory and abuse ahead of debate and conversation, and it’ll be debate and conversation that wins Scotland its independence, not someone ranting about William Wallace at someone that thinks the Indyref was fixed.

Rather that sit in an echo chamber hearing what makes us feel good (and that has a place to energise people to get out), or confirms our bias or worst prejudices, it’s better to listen to why No voters did so, understand why and make sure that next time they vote Yes because one thing is certain that carrying on as a small minority do isn’t helpful in the slightest. So a new Yes Campaign needs to be revived to win the moral, economic and intellectual arguments and get people over to the side of independence and we have to do it sooner rather than later because if the likes of the Scottish Resistance shout loudly over the saner more rational voices, then independence isn’t going to come.

The girls that stood up to Unionist thugs in George Square are an inspiration

On the morning of September the 19th 2014 like many people wanting Scottish independence it was a morning of gloom and depression. All the months, years even, of coming round to the idea of independence and then firmly believing that Scotland freeing itself of Westminster’s grasp would enable it to show the remainder of the UK an example of running a country free of neoliberal capitalism died. Instead the people of Scotland decided to stay in the UK, a decision in retrospect many regret in the light of the ‘Vow’ and the horrible mess that is the results of the Smith Commission.

Sitting here in Bristol for me it was devastating. The last months of the referendum campaign were profoundly energising to me as I engaged in politics in a way I’d not done in years, but sadly I still felt removed from the cauldron of Scottish debate as social media can only do so much. That said, I can’t describe the feelings of contempt and disgust as I heard of riots in Glasgow city centre in George Square (a space used by Yes campaigners all throughout the campaign for such a positive effect) by Unionists/SDL/Rangers fans and reports of them beating up people they didn’t like the look of, and that mean Asians, gays and of course, Yes supporters. See, I’d gone out here in Bristol that afternoon and got deeply, deeply drunk as that really was the most useful thing I think I could do, and hearing reports in the pub of riots I felt that all had been lost. The bastards won and not content with winning they were wiping our noses in shit for all the world to see, so I was angry but entirely impotent to do anything productive apart from pathetically sit alone at home drinking gin and weeping about a lost opportunity as Glasgow saw thugs tear up it’s streets.

The next morning I dragged myself out of bed, turned on my laptop and scrolled down the reports from various news sites, friends who live in Glasgow and were stunned by it all, and the Yes groups on social media couldn’t quite take this happening after the result of the referendum, but looking through all this one image stood out. That of a couple of young girls looking to be no more than late teens, early 20’s, defiantly standing against the thugs holding a Saltire.

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Nobody knew who these girls were but it didn’t matter. The image of these girls holding a Saltire and standing against the people gloating about the defeat of everything they had possibly spent months, if not years fighting for was a wake up call as after all, if these girls could get themselves to George Square after the result and still stand defiant fighting for their beliefs then I, and others, could too. So after a bit of soul searching I decided to join the Green Party (still living in England means there’s not a lot of point joining the SNP) and that the idea to move back to Glasgow (an idea I’d been toying casually with and considering for reasons unrelated to the referendum) was going to happen sooner rather than later.

They gave me a visual kick up the arse and helped inspire me by standing up for themselves. Imagine then the shock when it was revealed these two girls were arrested by the police and were facing charges for something, though nobody really seems to give a good answer as to why the police decided to detain these girls using their right to peacefully protest against what were violent protesters.

Thankfully they won’t be going to trial, and they’ve been interviewed for the site, Common Space and it’s an interview worth reading. These girls were not prepared to let the vision of a better Scotland die that day at the hands of thugs and they were prepared to peacefully protest while making a stand that stands as an inspiration not only to auld bastards like myself, but to possibly the entire country as that image, that vision they stood for hasn’t died and they inspired me to stop feeling bloody sorry for myself, get up off my arse and do something. I know others did the same for similar reasons.

Cheers girls, I hope you realise the good you’ve done and just how brave and inspiring you were on that dark day last September. You’ll get your wish in your and my lifetime.

The first edition of The National came out today

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The first of the new Scottish paper supporting independence, The National, came out today. As I’m still a Scot living in Bristol I can only go off reports online and on social media but from all accounts it’s selling well, though I will say the online subscription service is awful and should it last beyond it’s initial five day pilot run that needs to get ironed out sooner rather than later.

As for the paper itself it looks fine as you’d expect, plus it’s nice to read a leftish newspaper again as all the other former leftish newspapers are now firmly centre-right (The Independent) or playing with this sort of authoritarian liberalism that’s crept in from the US that ends up with endless articles about identity politics (The Guardian). This in itself is a good excuse to say it’s a good day for democratic debate not just in Scotland, but across the UK as people like me will help spread the readership of the paper, assuming it maintains a level of quality, and doesn’t fall into being an echo chamber for the SNP.

It is remarkable that over two months from the referendum we’re seeing the pro-independence side conduct itself as if it won, which of course it didn’t but it certainly won the moral high ground as it’s very, very hard to tell people in Scotland to lie down and take it which is what some on the Unionist side would like. As for the Better Together side they’re falling to pieces with the man who said he’d ‘personally see The Vow through Parliament’ announcing that he’s running away, sorry, standing down in May’s general election.

Gordon Brown is a fascinating figure to me as I’ve pointed out when discussing his use in the horror comic Crossed: Badlands this summer. He should have been a giant of politics and a man who led the Labour Party to glories (this Newsnet Scotland article sums him up perfectly) instead of someone who probably helped oversee it’s demise in Scotland at least, but this hasn’t stopped some mythmaking about him in the media, but it’s symbolic he quits on the weekend thousands of people engage in politics in Glasgow, and a day or so before The National was launched.  It’s as if one door is closing and new ones are opening.

I do hope The National becomes a permanent fixture. Yes, it has things it needs to sort out but it’s a start of hopefully a reshaping of Scottish media that will, hopefully, help the country to independence.

A vote for UKIP will drag this country into the dirt

I loved The The when I was younger, and I’ve been finding myself listening to a lot of Matt Johnson’s songs again recently because a lot of them are still astonishingly relevant today. In particular the song Heartland could have easily been written today, and in particular about the rise of UKIP.

After UKIP’s by-elections successes the media are all over UKIP like a drunk is over a bridesmaid at a wedding, while Labour are talking about going even further to the right which would leave people in the centre and of the left in a bit of a lurch. This is not especially going to matter in Scotland where people can vote for the likes of the SNP, but across the rest of the UK the Greens are the only option left.

Sadly UKIP are very successful on providing an avenue for disaffected voters and/or racists to vent and protest. They’ve also gamified politics so it’s not about politics, ethics or even what they believe in, rather than obtaining power at all costs and then clinging onto it. There’s not a shred of social conscience in UKIP but they don’t care about the working classes or those who have been forgotten about as they’re just a means to an end, and that end is to get into power and drag the UK down to it’s level. They effectively want to rip up the last 70 years and start again while making the UK a backward looking country.

This is course is fuel for the fire of campaigners of Scottish Independence who did predict this before the referendum, and it does offer another possible opportunity for another referendum as soon as 2017 if the rest of the UK votes to leave the EU and Scotland decides to stay in the EU. If the rest of the drags itself into UKIP’s snakepit and falls into the grasp of UKIP’s far-right policies which drags us further into austerity then there’s going to be a backlash at some point.See, the one thing UKIP haven’t actually thought about is what to do when they have power, or can influence power. They’ve ran on ‘being different’ even though they aren’t but it has worked. However if they do enter a coalition with the Tories next year and are the party of power as the Lib Dems are, then they don’t have anywhere left to hide. When they fail (and they will fail) then the backlash against them will be enormous.

Until then though UKIP stand to cause a lot of damage with their scorched earth policies. Until then people have to protest against UKIP because UKIP aren’t for anything as this wonderful exchange on LBC shows the thought process of a UKIP supporter. UKIP are easily burst but it involves taking them on, not deciding to outdo them and that isn’t happening with Labour.

Sadly I think we’re in for the dark times predicted in Heartland but there’s always light at the end of the tunnel, though this looks to be a very, very long tunnel.

What was the point of the Scottish Referendum and Gordon Brown anyhow?

Gordon Brown has made another speech. I’m sure people are erect with excitement at the thought of Auld Pa Broon wittering on aimlessly for hours on end, but this is actually important in the wake of the Scottish Referendum where 1.6 million people voted for independence, and a large number of the 2 million who voted no did so based upon ‘The Vow‘ and the promise of more devolved powers for Scotland. So unless you’re one of those racist bigots who rioted in George Square in Glasgow the day after the vote, most people want more powers for Scotland at the very,very least.

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Now the clever folk out there will have noticed that the timetable process didn’t start in the 19th September, and in fact it turned into a debate about English powers and attempts to block democratically elected Scottish MP’s from voting on ‘English laws’, something that when things are reversed (English MP’s voting on Scotland only issues) hasn’t gained one word of dissent for the decades that it’s been happening.

This of course is the sticky constitutional issues many on the Yes Campaign were saying hadn’t been thought out and would cause many of the problems we’re seeing now, and that came after a two year debate where all of this could have been discussed, planned and organised rather than hastily scribbled down on a fag packet outside the Daily Record building.

Today’s speech though was in regards the commission headed up by Lord Smith of Kelvin which is to deliver the ‘more powers’ promised to the people of Scotland only a few weeks ago. Today in this speech Brown said this:

So I will support the petition that is now being circulated on the importance of keeping promises, and I would urge all Scots to sign it.

 

What petition you may ask? Well, strap yourself in and get ready for this because Brown has called on 100,000 Scots to sign a petition to demand Westminster keeps it’s promises. Unless he missed it, millions of people cast a vote only 12 days ago. Nicola Sturgeon sums it up well in this Tweet.

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‘The Vow’ is falling apart and with Ruth Davison saying that ‘Devo Max’ is ruled out, it’s becoming painfully obvious where all this is going and this time he can’t blame Tony Blair, or indeed, anyone else.

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It is frankly, a fucking pathetic joke. A sad twisted joke being played upon the millions of people who voted whose votes are now being suggested to be supplemented by a fucking petition! The sheer desperation from Brown smacks of a man caught with his fingers in the till trying to suggest he didn’t do it because it was the bad boy next door. It’s like all of the last two years has led to this point where Westminster has wiped it’s collective arse with the ‘Vow’ and now Brown is having to try to ‘save’ it, when in fact the only fucking thing he’s trying to save is his job.

I know Yes campaigners know ‘The Vow’ was a lie and will be angry about it regardless, but it’s those who voted No based upon this ‘vow’ that I imagine are going to be angry, or if they’re not then they should bloody well be because right now you should realise that Brown had no power or authority to promise anything and ‘the Vow’ is only useful for wrapping up chips in. Why on earth would a supposed cross party agreement which was the basis of many people voting No need further confirmation from the people unless of course, it was shite in the first place?

It is all a bloody sad, sick joke.