Over the course of the independence referendum there was some pretty strong language used. Many unionists took offence at being branded, among other things, traitors and Quislings, but when it came to the sheer volume of derogatory terminology and language those same unionists had the upper hand. Nazis references were ten a penny with the now terminally declining Scotland on Sunday going as far as to change an iconic picture of the saltire being raised to show a blue and white swastika instead. September 18th has brought no closure on attempts to smear those who support independence. Extremists, Insurgents, and Separatists are the unionist buzzwords now. The language of the war on terror is now being applied at home, helped in great measure by the media wing of the Labour Party (Scottish Branch), otherwise known as BBC Scotland. Watch the London BBC news in the evening and see reports of insurgents in Iraq, extremists in Syria and separatists in Ukraine. Turn to Reporting Scotland and you will hear quotes from various politicians about the Scottish separatists here. A favourite phrase of Johann Lamont and Alistair Darling, it’s also used by Jim Murphy and Margaret Curran, and its use is a deliberate attempt to create a link in the mind of the viewer or reader between a peaceful, through the ballot box movement here in Scotland with the violent actions taking place in Ukraine and the Middle East. This attempt at subliminal association reached a new low this week when a school in New Stevenston issued a North Lanarkshire Council created classroom assignment about ‘separatist terrorists’. This is a disgraceful attempt at brainwashing children, and it illustrates the culture which goes on from the top to the bottom in politics. When leaders use such disgraceful methods it’s no surprise to see them replicated by those who follow that lead. I hope that in future North Lanarkshire Council thinks very carefully about the type of material it issues to schools and that teachers have the good sense to ensure that innapropriate content is challenged long before it reaches the classroom.
I would like to wish Councillor Alan Beveridge all the very best after his resignation from the SNP recently. Anyone who knows Councillor Beveridge will testify that he has been a very active councillor and has been a great help to many families and on many local issues. In December 2014 I contacted all our local elected representatives asking them to give their support to a petition against fracking, to be submitted to North Lanarkshire Council. Councillor Beveridge was one of only two Airdrie councillors to respond to me and indeed was the only SNP councillor to do so. I am sure that had the SNP addressed his concerns he would have had no reason to leave the party, but it would appear that is not the case. It is their loss, as he has been the hardest working and most reliable SNP councillor I have had the pleasure of dealing with in many, many years. I’m sure that he will continue to work just as hard as an independent councillor. We could do with more like him.
An edited verion of this letter appeared in the Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser
Was I alone in spotting the delicious irony displayed in last weeks Advertiser, where on one half of the page Labour MP Pamela Nash was bemoaning the plight of women across the UK suffering due to the gender pay gap, while on the other half of the page it detailed how Labour run North Lanarkshire Council was dodging its responsibilities and trying to diddle women out of money they were due as they had been paying them less than men? Labour MPs and MSPs are on a daily basis appearing to be a parody of the well known Iraqi Gulf War Information Minister Comical Ali, who was well known for making statements completely at odds with facts. Take Pamela Nash (someone PLEASE take Pamela Nash!) for example. Stuck on transmit, she never responds to questions from difficult constituents and has actually closed off the facility to comment from her website. She has in the past claimed that she voted against the bedroom tax (she was in Austria at the time), that she has voted against the Tories austerity (she voted for it) and that she has voted against fracking (she abstained). I honestly am starting to feel embarrassed for her. Every time she takes to social media the public are shooting down her claims within minutes. I’m just waiting for her to state that “there are no claims of impropriety between North Lanarkshire Council and Mears…”
These pronouncements pale into insignificance when you read her website where she has made a statement regarding why she has done her bit to rid the world of nuclear weapons by voting to buy more. Her conscience, last seen many years ago heading off in the opposite direction, would not let her leave the people of Airdrie and Shotts at the mercy of the Russians and the North Koreans. I wasn’t aware that Vladimir Putin had his eyes on Airdrie. Perhaps he’s after the football stadium, while Kim Jong Un is after the John Smith Pool. It certainly can’t be for our heavy industry, our manufacturing base or our rich mineral wealth. As any old military hand can tell you, the threat comes from capability combined with intention. Russia has capability, but no intention. North Korea perhaps has intention, but no capability. Ms Nash is selling us a lie based on the creation of a climate of fear. The retention, and indeed renewal of the UK’s nuclear arsenal is intended to keep the UK at the top table internationally, nothing else. This was at the heart of the Better Together ideal, a nuclear capable UK strutting on the world political stage. If continued austerity is the price they have to pay, then they will happily pay it. And by “they” I mean “us”. Any thoughts of the SNP propping up a Labour government in exchange for their scrapping of Trident can therefore be put to bed now, as I have no doubt that the Labour Party would see a coalition with the Tories a more acceptable venture. Pamela Nash and her colleagues will tell you that they are aiming to win a majority government. I could tell you that I will be crowned Mr Universe. Truth is, neither of them will happen, and the latter looks more feasible. We have a simple choice in May. Vote Labour and get an opposition who repeatedly fail to oppose, or vote SNP and get an opposition who will be speaking up for us at every turn. As for me, I’d best get to work on my abs…
Published in the Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser
I was shocked to hear of the dismissal of Councillor Tommy Morgan from his post on the Audit and Governance Committee within North Lanarkshire Council. It will come as no surprise to many that I am a strong supporter of independence and the SNP, but as someone living in Plains I have often chatted with Tommy and have sought his help on a number of occasions, and have always found him to be very helpful and honest. In my opinion he is a straight shooter and if he says there are irregularities then I would tend to believe him and these should be fully investigated by an outside agency. It’s very sad that his party have seen fit to create a situation where they have had to use what appears to be a trumped up charge to silence him on this subject. It appears that local politics can be a dirty business and I have no doubt that the Labour Party in North Lanarkshire will now be looking at getting rid of Tommy at the next council elections. The fact his opponents have allowed two complainants to vote in a kangaroo court on his future clearly demonstrates how desperate they must be to get him out of the picture, as in any other walk of life those with a personal interest would be barred from such a vote for the sake of fairness and transparency. This will be Airdrie’s loss, as we need councillors, in all parties, who work hard and are willing to stand up and point out wrongdoing or corruption in their own ranks, not ones who stand idly by and let it happen and put their party first. It is a sign of tremendous courage to stand up for what is right when your own party are trying to silence you, and I wish Tommy well in his struggle. The bad old days of the Monklands Mafia with its corruption, where councillors made sure posts went to their family and friends must not be allowed to return. At the time of the original Monklands Mafia scandal Labour MP John Smith refused to acknowledge the dirty goings on in Airdrie in case it affected his chances in national elections. I can only hope that Pamela Nash has the will to do what John Smith did not, and if Ed Miliband gives her permission she should clean up North Lanarkshire Labour.
The glee which Tom Clarke revels in over the latest oil prices was barely concealed in his column in last weeks Advertiser. By his estimate around 35,000 jobs are now under threat of being lost. Yet these are 35,000 jobs which we were told by the likes of Mr Clarke and by his cronies in the Tory Party that would be safer under the “broad shoulders” of the UK. Well here we are, apparently not so Better Together. The crisis is here and those broad shoulders are shrugging and saying it is up to the SNP to come with a solution.
What is even more sickening is when the likes of Labour’s Jackie Baillie try to make capital out of this by demanding that the SNP set up a resilience fund to help cope for times when the oil price slumps. Ms Baillie has spent much of the last two years campaigning against an oil fund. Indeed a mere five months ago she on behalf of the Labour Party was stating that creating such a fund would strip money from essential public services. This clearly demonstrates that the problem with telling lies is that you have to remember which lies you have told, otherwise you end up contradicting yourself.
Since the 1970’s successive Labour and Tory governments have refused to set up any such fund, so why call for one now? The 1974 McCrone Report which was also covered up by successive Labour and Tory governments recommended setting up an oil fund, so again I wonder, why call for one now, and why call for one from a government which doesn’t actually control that revenue stream? The answer is simple. On May 7th Mr Clarke and all his colleagues are facing annihilation at the polls. Labours actual membership figures are so low that they will not release them while the SNP are now the 3rd largest party in the UK. You can almost smell the fear from Mr Clarke and his colleagues because this is a horror movie scenario for them. One by one they wait to be picked off, not knowing who is safe and who is next for the chop, so they run around wildly, panicking and shouting nonsense.
Mr Clarke’s last statement in his column was that the Scottish people aren’t daft. He’s right in that respect. We aren’t daft enough to fall for the flip-flopping lies that the Red Tories are throwing around, we aren’t daft enough to believe that voting Labour will keep the Tories out (which it didn’t in 1979, 1983, 1987, 1992 or 2010) and we won’t be daft enough to vote Labour on May 7th.
I was surprised to read in the article on Wednesday’s National that the referendum was a ‘model for future campaigns’ and that 94% of voters and 98% of postal voters were happy with the process. It was however no surprise to see those figures came from a report commissioned by the Electoral Commission themselves, and I’d be interested to know just what group was polled as it doesn’t quite ring true. At present there is an ongoing criminal investigation into postal voting irregularities. I raised the issue of electoral fraud with the Scottish Government prior to the referendum who at the time were confident in the process. As a polling agent on the day and as a counting agent I was lucky enough to see first hand the count take place in North Lanarkshire. This has given me some insight into the process, certainly enough to discount some of the more ‘tinfoil hat’ variety of claims which were prominent on social media immediately after the referendum. But that is not to say there are no problems. I have submitted letters to Alex Neil MSP asking that the Scottish Government hold an inquiry into voting practices, and I have submitted freedom of information requests to the Electoral Commission at both local and national level. As yet the Scottish Government has no plans to hold any inquiry, but I am pleased to see that the Electoral Commission is looking at introducing the requirement for secondary identification for voters to prevent personification. This is for me too little, too late though. Transportation of uncounted ballot papers, allowing polling agents to also be counting agents, and the many cases of people turning up to vote in person who were told they had already voted by post, all of these point to a system riddled with scope for error and manipulation. Similarly the Commission’s reply to me regarding postal voting, stating that ease of voting was a higher priority than the integrity of the system, is one the Scottish Government should be challenging.
Whether for a local government election, Holyrood, Westminster or a referendum, our electoral system should be transparent, fair and secure. At present, despite the Electoral Commission’s self satisfaction, it clearly is not.
The referendum may not have given us the result that we wanted but a happy by-product is that it has completely reinvigorated Scottish politics. Many people have had their eyes opened to the workings of the political system and I don’t think interest in politics, across the spectrum, has ever been higher. I personally am delighted that such an experienced politician as Alex Salmond is not being lost to Scottish politics, but is instead planning to head to Westminster and “hold their feet to the fire”, and I wish him all the best. With hard work from the Yes Alliance he will hopefully be accompanied by a sizeable contingent ready to do battle to get the best deal for Scotland. While I am sure there may be a few old hands there I am absolutely delighted to see so many new people rising to the challenge and throwing their hat into the ring as candidates for Westminster. Philippa Whitford, who spoke so passionately about the threats to the NHS has announced that she is putting herself forward. Former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan and human rights activist Craig Murray announced that he was interested in standing in Kirkaldy and within a few days Gordon Brown had announced he was standing down. Craig has now said that he is willing to stand in Airdrie and Shotts where another candidate, local man Tommy Montgomery has put himself forward. Tommy is no career politician but has a burning interest in social justice and a desire to see the people of Airdrie and Shotts put first, rather than treated in the traditional Labour manner which has put the interests of the party, the MP and their patrons before the people. If the level of interest and the calibre of candidate is replicated across the country as it is here in Airdrie then the people of Scotland will have an amazing array of talent to choose from in May 2015.