Does the SNP and the Independence movement’s ”Scottishness” frighten people in the rest of the UK?

I was following a Twitter conversation the other day and it hit an interesting point.

I’ll explain what I mean but it does involve a bit of a read to get there so be warned…

Barring Labour supporters outside of Scotland angry they’ll never ‘win Scotland back’, there’s a chunk of people in England (and much of this is anecdotal on my part but it supports what others have found) who do look at the SNP (and Plaid Cymru in Wales) as something alien.

I spent 28 years living in England. Until the advent of the internet I could only pick up what was going on in Scotland via visits or more normally, though second, third, fourth, etc hand reports. Upon visiting Scotland in 1999 I was amazed there was any serious support for the SNP as although by this time my eyes were opened to the shitshow that was Tony Blair’s Labour, I’d shuffled over to nominally voting for the Lib Dems. The SNP for me, were ‘Tartan Tories’. Independence was a joke and barring the odd shining star like Margo McDonald the SNP were as much a threat as the Tories or Labour.

At this point I was a nominal supporter for the Union. True, I wanted full devolution, even a form of federalism, but independence seemed divisive as I truly felt the people of the UK worked better together. I had seen the slow destruction of Scotland continue on visits home (the sight of seeing the blue towers of Ravenscraig gone still shock me) but I was seeing the Tory destruction of parts of London, the Midlands and the South West. I thought the only way to fight the Tories was finding a UK alternative to them yet I never really included the SNP as part of that because I saw them as a ”Other’. They didn’t want solidarity, and the idea that cultural identity was as important as beating the Tories meant that had I lived in Scotland at the time, I’d be against the SNP.

For years I’d lived in England and never (bar one time in Staines with a drunken arsehole) had any xenophobic abuse. Yeah, there was banter with mates, but that was what mates do when they’re having a drunken session and it was both ways, not to mention it wasn’t serious. It wasn’t real, actual, xenophobic abuse. Around 2009 I had UKIP supporters in Bristol speak of Scots as a second-class race essentially. Then their bottom-feeders, the English Democrats, produced an election broadcast which was so xenophobic towards Scots that I complained to Ofcom. Everything changed & I blame a lot of that on UKIP. I no longer felt there was a level of equality in the UK, and my eyes were opened that for a section of people in England they clung onto a form of imperialism where Scotland was the property of an Empire. What I found equally extraordinary is that this wasn’t now coming from the right, but friends of mine who I knew were lefties were pushing a similar line.

Then the Scottish independence referendum campaign happened and the concept of even a Scottish identity in the UK was challenged. You didn’t accept a version of the UK where you plead fealty to the UK and suppress any lingering cultural identity of your own. For some on the left in England especially, multiculturalism didn’t extend to people from the UK as your identity as a Scot threatened the UK identity. That was the default as after all, as I’ve said, if you live in England you’re not exposed to the daily routine of Scottish politics and life. Sure, the advent of the internet meant it was easier to catch up with what was going on but you never experienced it first hand.

Last November I returned to Scotland to mainly recuperate from a stroke and deal with cancer. I saw the day-to-day life of Scotland. I saw ‘Scotishness’ first hand and some reactions were initially that some of it felt parochial however this was a relic of my thinking that the default situation for these islands is the UK. The SNP’s inability to conform to the default position and thinking of many in England antagonises people, in the same way some people are antagonised by Muslims wearing veils or speaking Polish in the street. It’s a failure to accept there’s other cultures in the UK and a reluctance to accept that Unionism (because this is what I’m really talking about) naturally involves crushing other cultures to be assimilated like some red, white and blue Borg.

So the SNP could be a right wing party that supported independence and promoted a Scottish identity separate from a Unionist one. They’d be equally despised by some. It’s the independence that rankles them because it challenges their own default identity. Their centre-left platform isn’t that much different from Tony Blair’s early days when he dabbled with social democracy but because they propose that there’s alternatives in these islands to Unionism (and everything that comes with it) they rile people up to the point of blind hatred. I’ve come to see independence as a political solution and a natural state for all countries to have, so although I won’t vote SNP (except in the general election as I think they’re the only way we’ll fight off the Tories in a Westminster election) I don’t see them as scary bogeymen any more.

And that’s where we are in this election campaign. Identity and culture will play a massive part of this election not just in Scotland and Northern Ireland, but across the UK as a whole because this is where we are thanks to Brexit. Corbyn’s Labour haven’t realised this, but Theresa May has hence why she’s called this election when a default position for many is a form of uber-Unionism that sees the UK as the centre of the world.That position may not be popular when the realities of Brexit kick in, so in Scotland I think we get what’s at stake here. Back in England any attempt to fight this solely on policies without dealing with Brexit (and everything that comes with it) hands the Tories an advantage. In this election identity is all, and it’s a straight fight between a hard/far right Unionist one and one Yes supporters offer. Make your choice.

Who to vote for in the 2017 General Election?

Some election thoughts on the cusp of what is going to be a hellish election campaign…

In Scotland it’s simple. Vote SNP, get that second referendum happening and then we go out and win it so we can break free of the Union and hopefully end the ideology of Unionism.I’m not an SNP voter. I’ll be putting the Greens at the top of my preferences for the local elections in a fortnight, but we need to break this cycle we’re in as well as rejoining a more socially democratic Europe than the increasingly far-right British state we’re in.

Wales-Vote for Plaid. Labour have let you down far too often. The Tories will laugh at you if you do and if you vote UKIP then Wales will rue the day you elected a UKIP MP.

Northern Ireland-Vote for the candidate who will beat the Unionist one. If that’s Sinn Fien, Alliance or SDLP, it doesn’t matter. The less Unionists NI return the less Tory enablers there are.

England-Dear god, England, you have issues. Don’t vote Tory but outwith of Brighton and Bristol voting Green won’t work. Voting Lib Dem means voting for Tory enablers as Farron’s rhetoric about creating a ‘soft’ Brexit only makes sense when you realise their unspoken tactic is hoping for a hung parliament and siding with the Tories.

This leaves Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour. There’s an expression in NI-”vote til you boak” and I think in England, you’ll be boaking your guts out as Corbyn’s a Brexiter who’s enabled Theresa May throughout this process but you have no other choice. Voting Tory would be a disaster. I fear though the damage Labour constantly inflicts upon itself is too severe and they’ll take a pounding.

The Tories win this election and Theresa May gains the sort of power no Prime Minister should have. This will be the last cry of Unionism/Imperialism and the sort of ultra-British nationalism once thought to be unelectable but normalised through a media crying out for blood and a Westminster elite that have pandered to the worst for too long. We may have an escape route up here but fucks sake, whatever you do next month don’t vote Tory/UKIP/Lib Dem/Unionist or we’re screwed.

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 courseĀ  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.

A second Scottish independence referendum is on

A second referendum on Scottish independence was announced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon this morning. It has caused Tories to spit out their tea in apoplexy and Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale’s mind to implode.

The line about ‘division’ is bollocks. You can’t sit there a cry about a ”one-party state” and then moan about ‘division’? What do you actually want? 100% of a population to agree with you or is it about denying a choice to people whether they want to remain part of a political union that sees us on the verge of doing a damaging act such as Brexit? Because this is what Dugdale and company are arguing about; stay in the UK and be part of a Tory government’s anti-immigrant, new era of empire building or vote for an independent Scotland that looks to the future rather than constantly look to the past for inspiration.

There’s going to be no ”love-bombing” this time round. It’s also a lot more at stake as when Sturgeon spoke about deciding what kind of country we live in that for me is the important question. What sort of country do we want to live in, die in, and have our friends, family, children, etc do the same in? Do we want a country that hates immigrants and looks to people like Donald Trump or worse for close allies, or do we reach to Europe and beyond to make our allies as well as making our own successes and failures?

Or do we want perpetual Tory governments opposed or supported by a weak Labour Party that shows no sign of gaining power, or even being able to make a better place should they ever somehow win an election again?

I wasn’t in Scotland in 2014. I rightfully didn’t have a say. I live in Scotland now and do have a say and I’ll be voting yes to ensure Scotland becomes independent and breaks free of a political union that’s damaging and backward. I’ll be very firmly campaigning and engaging undecided and soft No voters to make sure as many others join me in trying to make an independent Scotland a better place. It’ll be hard work but it can be done.

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.

heuchan1

heuchan2

heuchan3

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.

barneyfarmerbrexitindy

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.

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.

farageracistposter

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.

dailyrecordbrexiteu

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…