An edited version of my For Scotland letter appeared in yesterday’s National. It can be found online at:
I was genuinely moved to read the column written by former Daily Record editor in which he wrote of his conversion from supporting the union to supporting independence for Scotland. As the man responsible for the infamous Daily Record “Vow” front page that is an amazing turn around. The reasons that he gave for his change of heart go to the very core of what our desire for independence means; that on principle Scotland should have the same right to run its own affairs for the benefit of its citizens as any other country. The right to decide what’s best for Scotlands environment, its health, education, defence, trade, in fact every aspect of life here should be taken by a parliament we elect as a reflection of our society, and not by a parliament hundreds of miles away, which treats us with contempt and which appoints a mouthpiece to talk down to us; a mouthpiece who tells us our country was extinguished and that we are are not the valued partners they led us to believe, in fact they see as not even partners at all, just an insignificant part, to sit down, shut up, do as we are told and just be thankful for the benevolent charity they bestow upon us.
Mr Foote must have hung his head a thousand times as the Vow he crafted suffered the death of a thousand cuts. All the sentiment pured out by the three signatories before the vote in 2014 was revealed as false, until there was nothing left but a trail of broken promises, and I am sure that Mr Foote is not alone in his realisation that it was time to stand up and say that enough is enough.
Mr Foote is clearly not a British Nationalist and voted No on the basis that at the time he thought he was acting in Scotlands best interest. Four years later he has looked at what was promised against what has been delivered and has made a reasoned decision that the best way to protect our country is to make it independent. This goes to the very heart of our campaign and it is one that we must grasp; that many of our fellow Scots weighed up the information and voted No because they thought they were standing up for Scotland in doing so. Instead they have have come to realise that remaining in this union is damaging Scotland and is actually against Scotland’s interests. These are though, by and large, people who have over the last few years, and indeed probably all their life, not supported the SNP, and perhaps never will. People who support traditional Labour values and followed their leadership when it told them that they were Better Together perhaps now see that we are not, but haven’t changed their mind on other issues and who have realised that perhaps the best way to see those values implemented is in an independent Scotland. There are also people out there who are Conservative but not unionist, who will still believe in their ideals but see that Britain isn’t working for Scotland and will carry those ideals forward independently of the UK.
There are many people who are committed to the UK and will support it no matter how damaging it is to Scotland. They will never be swayed by any reason, even the evidence of their own eyes. People like Mr Foote however have crossed the tipping point. Others like him have yet to do so and we need to help them to think again afresh, and I feel that we need to reshape our argument to win those people over. The very existense of Scotland is under threat from the Westminster. They attack our language, our culture, our people and our parliament. Those facts are undisputable. We now need to ask people not if they are Yes or No to independence, but if they are For or Against Scotland. We need to rip out the anti-Tory, anti-Labour rhetoric from our repertoire and instead make a place for them beside us. People who once opposed us are now close to being convinced that being a normal, self-determining country is now best for Scotland, and that it’s a place where they have every chance of contributing and thriving. So let’s welcome them, not isolate them based on what their views were four years ago. After all, we all want what’s best for Scotland, don’t we?
At his first candidacy hustings back in 2015 when Neil Gray promised to deliver a new hospital to replace Monklands Hospital we all laughed. We’re not laughing now. The news which broke over the weekend that Gartcosh was the preferred site for a replacement hospital has gone down like a cup of cold sick and no wonder. Looking about the town, seeing one closed shop after another, and then seeing another major employer about to leave could prove to be the death knell for Airdrie.
Glenmavis as an alternative is not ideal, but at least it retains the Health Service footprint in roughly the same area, primarily serving Airdrie, Coatbridge and Cumbernauld, even if the public transport links are pitiful. Can anyone explain to us the logic in moving the hospital from the centre of North Lanarkshire to the western border, where in all likelihood it will become the A&E hospital of choice for the residents of the east of Glasgow? The current site is centrally located, has a rail link, bus links and is within walking distance for many people from Airdrie and Coatbridge. Moving it to Gartcosh will put it in walking distance for people from Gartcosh, and that’s about it. At a time when we are trying to reduce reliance on cars and move people to public transport this makes absolutely no sense! I checked the Traveline Scotland website journey planner and a trip to Gartcosh from Airdrie either involves an expensive series of bus journeys using multiple companies with incompatible ticketing systems or getting a train to Bellgrove in Glasgow then another back to Gartcosh! How does that help the poorest in our society who are less likely to own a car? There is a direct rail line which runs from Coatbridge to Gartcosh with a mere 5 minute journey time, but there are no passenger trains running on it, so either way our local hospital will now be over an hour away by public transport and this is simply unacceptable. Unfortunately it seems it is now health board policy to build new facilities where they aren’t within walking distance to deter use.
Having lived in Edinburgh for a time I know that there is nothing unusual with a health board spreading its services across multiple locations. The difference is that they have a cheap and integrated transport infrastructure to support that. North Lanarkshire’s shambolic, haphazard system doesn’t, and it’s one of the prime reasons why Monklands Hospital must stay in it’s present location or at worst Glenmavis.
Our town is on life support, and this would finally pull the plug. Our elected representatives, Neil Gray MP in particular, who opened this can of worms, must now stand up for Airdrie not only to retain our hospital, but to give us a joined up local transport system so it accessible by all the residents of Lanarkshire who rely on it, not just car owners.
Trying to have some reasoned debate on the subject of the alleged Syrian chemical attacks seems to me akin to trying to quietly asking for calm in a room full of people shouting ‘fire’ at the top of their voices. In the rush for the door, no one is asking for detail, and those that do are being shouted down anyway.
I am a former instructor in Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) defence, trained only a few miles from Porton Down. Every serviceman and woman is trained in NBC defence as part of their basic training. As such they are taught to recognise the symptoms of nerve agent poisoning, which include difficulty in breathing, pinpointing of the pupil and muscle spasms. Footage shown of an alleged Sarin attack on Douma does not show these symptoms, and instead appears to show the victims of the attack choking, coughing, with redness around the eyes; this is more in common with the use of a riot control agent such as tear gas, or with a choking agent such as chlorine. It should be pretty apparent to any sevice person engaged in Britains latest military misadventure that if they are being told they are being sent in response to Sarin attacks, it is highly likely they are being led up the garden path.
It is however highly likely that Chlorine may have been the cause of any such symptoms, and this creates a dilemma in that there are many reasons why chlorine may be present. Chlorine has a number of legitimite uses, water purification being the main one. Stockpiles of chlorine which are stored in an environment where they can be damaged by shell or missile fire can be accidentally released, and its presence is not in itself proof of one side or the others use of it as a chemical agent.
Since Tony Blair took us into the highly controversial Iraq War it has been an accepted convention that Prime Ministers make their case to engage in military action to parliament before taking any action. Theresa May has now blown that convention out of the water. This was mainly due to the Tony Blairs case for war being made on the back of flimsy or indeed utterly wrong “intelligence”. In this case there was no immediate threat to the UK. Had there been, Theresa May could have been said to have acted correctly when using the “royal perogative” to order an attack. But that was not the case, and this attack, coordinated with the French and the Americans could and should have waited until the case for air strikes had been made and won in parliament. Instead, clearly fearing she might not win, Theresa May has clearly overstepped her authority and launched an attack on the timings laid down by the United States, doing so specifically to bypass parliament.
It may well be that these were genuine chemical attacks and it may well be that the Assad government is responsible, but the British response has been premature. On occasions when the United Nations has deemed that Syria has been responsible for chemical attacks, Britain has done nothing. Now, with no such investigations Theresa May has acted, and cut the UK parliament out of the loop in the process. I feel that in part her actions are to send a message to the Russians, who she also holds responsible for the Salisbury incident. Indeed Ruth Davidson, no doubt dressed up in her Honorary Colonels uniform while excitedly watching news reports of British military action tweeted that “chemical weapons cannot be used with impunity”. So why no action against Russia? Why instead are we bombing a country who does not have the ability to strike back directly? It seems to me that what the Theresa May has demonstrated is that some countries can act with impunity. By cutting out the UK parliament, being going beyond her authority, our weak and wobbly Prime Minister has demonstrated, if it wasn’t apparent already, that she is not fit to hold the office, and must now resign.
Common Space, like Bella Caledonia is one of those niche independence sites which seems to garner more attention from the press than it deserved. In recent weeks its output had caused some ripples within the independence movement- for all the wrong reasons.
Just a few weeks ago Common Space trumpeted the arrival of a new Scottish Labour website, Red Robin. When challenged about this on social media the site editor, Angela Haggerty defended their article and claimed it was posted to raise awareness of site, not to promote it. I’ve read the article and it looks to me very much like a PR job for Red Robin. You can read the article for yourself HERE. She then went on to make a rather snide, in fact an utterly bizarre attack on the blogger GA Ponsonby, claiming he was “crazily-obsessed” with her. She provided no evidence to back that up. If anything Mr Ponsonby is meticulous and tenacious in his arguments, and almost always provides references for his claims. The article which provoked her ire can be found HERE.
Yesterday Angela Haggerty posted an article on Common Space explaining why they had closed down their comments section. It certainly wasn’t through volume of traffic, as comments were, as far as I could see on the occasions I visited the site, few and far between. Could it be anything to do with the recent Red Robin article (amongst others)?
45 minutes after posting notice that comment was no longer permitted, Common Space then published an opinion piece from British nationalist Labour MSP James Kelly, the face of the campaign to remove the anti bigotry laws which were introduced by the SNP a number of years back. For me, that is the last straw. There have been one or two vehemently anti SNP columnists within Common Space and I can understand and accept that. The independence movement isn’t all about the SNP, and for one reason or another many of us have left them, while retaining support for independence. But this is something else. This isn’t constructive criticism from inside the movement, it’s now an open group of fifth columnists who are pushing a pro-Corbyn, Labour agenda. It seems to me that having hitched their wagon to the Indy movement in 2014, some of those who have carved out a space in the media have now decided to head for pastures new, in Jeremy Corbyn’s British Nationalist Labour camp.
When the next fundraiser goes out for Common Space they will be raking around in their collection tin to find some old bottle caps and a couple of Euros. Meanwhile their editor has announced she is departing the formerly strongly pro-indy Common Space to take up a the editorship of the formerly strongly pro-indy Sunday Herald. Will the Sunday Herald now fully suit and go full Corbyn? Time will tell.
Letter to The Metro, 11/02/18
As a serviceman in Germany almost 30 years I was often embarrassed by the actions of some drunken English Squaddies who demanded they jump queues and receive preferential treatment, usually accompanied by the cry of “Who won the effing war anyway?” So I was disgusted to see this attitude being expressed openly by Lyn of Strathclyde in Fridays Metro in relation to Britain’s inept efforts to extricate itself from the European Union. Sentiment such as this displays the worst attributes of small minded Nationalism.
I generally found the Germans to be warm, fair, level headed and welcoming. In fact our welcome was usually warmer when, having been asked if we were English, we replied “nein, ich bin Schottisch”.
Scotlands relationship to Europe has always been more cordial. With independence we can renew and strengthen those relationships, rather than trashing them.