Monthly Archives: June 2016

Oh Ma Heid…Unionism and Cognitive Dissonace

On Thursday night I went to bed comforted by the sight of Nigel Farage conceding defeat  in the European referendum. I awoke on Friday to find that Nigel had been a tad hasty and that the Leave campaign had indeed snatched victory. Within a few hours David Cameron had announced that he wouldn’t be staying to clear up the mess he had created. Shortly after that Nicola Sturgeon had announced that a second Scottish independence referendum was now very much on the table.

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Welcome to Britain. Still proud to be British?

Previously I had noted that the EU referendum had never really got off the ground in Scotland. I myself saw it as England’s referendum; England’s arguments about by and large England’s problems. Front and centre was the immigration debate. The polite argument about being able to control borders, about being able to plan for services and housing was a fig leaf for an undercurrent of racism, and that fig leaf dropped off on Friday when a Leave victory was announced. In the days that have followed the racism and hatred that was hidden spewed forth. Messages posted on doors and lamp posts that “Polish Vermin should go home”. T-shirts worn proudly calling to “SEND THEM BACK”. A gathering of right wing English patriots in Newcastle waved a banner calling for an end to immigration and for the start of repatriation. The message was clear. Migrants, immigrants, Muslims, foreigners, call them what you will, aren’t welcome.

The message given out in Scotland was, like the vote itself, completely different to the vote in England and Wales. Scotland is your home, and you are welcome. Personal experience and the experiences of other Scots in England shows that in many quarters the Scots are viewed in the same light as any other foreigner. We are as unwelcome and as hated as the Poles and the Romanians. More so if the Daily Mail comments section is anything to go by.

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Sunday Herald 260616

The links between the hard line unionists in Scotland and the right wing in England are strong. The sharing of Britain First imagery, the emphasis on the union flag, the poppy, “our boys”, and the monarchy, these are common links, strong common bonds. So it’s no surprise to see that some of the most vehement opposition to the EU in Scotland has come from this quarter. I’ve heard the arguments about how undemocratic it is to have another country ruling over us, about how undemocratic it is being ruled over by an unelected elite, and about how undemocratic it is to have an unelected EU President.

Yet these same individuals will see no wrong in being ruled over by an unelected monarch. They will see no wrong in our political system now comprising more unelected Lords than elected MP’s. They see no wrong in having a Parliament in another country set the laws in this country. In fact not only will they see no wrong in these things but they will actively argue for these principles, while failing to recognise that principles cannot be dropped when they don’t suit. In the words of Groucho Marx “Those are my principles. If you don’t like them, I have others”.

If democracy is your principle, defend it.

If unelected politicians are an affront to democracy, stand up against them.

If unelected heads of state are incompatible with democracy then campaign to have an elected head of state.

If you agree that the people best placed to make the laws in a country are the people who live there, then fight for their right to do so.

And if you think that all those things should apply across the globe except in Scotland then you are neither principled nor democratic. You are British, you are a hypocrite, and you aren’t a Scot.

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The End is Nigh (Thank God)

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In but a few short hours the polls will open to Herald voting in what has been a turgid, uninspiring and quite frankly (c) David Coburn vile campaign of hate, fear and lies from both Remain and Leave.

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As the final debates have blundered on we have learned little and the arguments have not advanced our knowledge of the EU. The same faces, giving the same lines to the same response. In brief the racism and hate of Leave finally broke free over the last few weeks of the campaign, while on the Leave side the best positive thing they could say about the EU could be summarised as that it’s shit, but it could be worse.

I’ve been on the fence about the EU for a while. There are positives and negatives, and I fear a remain vote would be seen as an acceptance of the status quo within the EU, while a leave vote would be to support the Little Englanders.

If I vote Remain it will be tactically, with the prayer that England votes Leave. Time will tell.

The EU Referendum: England Decides

Making Plans For NigelFrom what I have seen the EU referendum has not caught the Scottish imagination in the same way that the 2014 independence referendum did. Yes, there’s been debate online, on television and on radio, and there news coverage aplenty, but the street activity just hasn’t been there. I kind of expected to see it ramp up in the final weeks, to see people out on the streets making the case to Leave or Remain, but I’m just not seeing it. In Edinburgh I have seen the Scottish Socialists occupy their usual spot; on the Royal Mile I’ve seen referendum activity once. Two years ago you wouldn’t have had to go far to find someone from the Yes or No camp trying to sell their argument to you. This appears to be a far cry from what is happening in England, where news coverage seems to show a considerable amount of engagement. From the big hitters of government pressing the flesh, to faded rock stars on flotillas on the Thames, there has been enough to keep everyone busy. But the difference in campaign styles in Scotland and in England has shown that there is no common Leave/Remain narrative. There are two campaigns running parallel to each other and what they reveal is striking.

In Scotland the argument that we are being “swamped” with immigrants has not become one of the main topics, simply due to the fact that immigration levels in Scotland aren’t on par with those in the south of England. During the independence referendum the likes of Alistair Darling liked to give the impression that Scottish Nationalism was not a civic one but a “blood and soil” nationalism. In this he was likening it to the arguments which were used to bring the Nazi Party to power in Germany in the 1930’s; a dislike of immigrants, the fear that the Jews were taking the jobs and homes of good German people, that their race was somehow being diminished, underpinned by a belief that were superior to foreigners. This was a charge which never stuck, given the make up of the Yes movement and the fact it embraced so many nationalities and cultures. But it is a charge that can be leveled at the Leave camp, and is exemplified with the latest ill-timed UKIP poster campaign which is straight out of the Joseph Goebbels bumper book of propaganda, showing an endless line of refugees heading towards us with the caption “Breaking Point” writ large. Only last week one member of the Question Time audience gave her reasons for leaving, to some applause: “It’s about our English culture… we are being invaded… we are being diluted…”. Blood and soil encapsulated. Reading discussions in newspapers or online you’ll find those arguments there, but they are way below such things as the economy, sovereignty and the likelihood of a Brexit triggering a second Scottish referendum. The latter topic is used persistently to quell other discussion with it being generally accepted that a strong Remain vote in Scotland will only highlight the difference in Scottish and English thinking. Even if England votes Remain, which is now looking less likely, it is likely that there will be a significant difference between the Scottish and English vote, confirming that Scotland is not only a different beast, but one that is becoming more different by the day.

This is by and large an English referendum to deal with problems in England, for which there was no other mechanism to deal with them. As such we are bit players, invited by default but it’s clear that it’s not our fight. This is something for England to decide.

The scenario which most excites many in the Independence camp is where Scotland votes Remain while England votes Leave. It’s not unthinkable. Indeed I’d be inclined to think that such is the engagement in England that the level of Leave victory could dwarf the entire Scottish vote. If this happens the Scottish campaign will have been both mute and moot. The other contentious outcome is where the gap is smaller and the Scottish vote is enough to claw a Remain win. In this case it is felt that a furious English electorate will cast us off as punishment so that they can pursue their own agenda.

As we approach the end of this campaign we can be certain of a few things. It has been conducted at a level way below that of Indyref, where the worst things thrown were insults and an egg. What is certain is that EUref, like Indyref is not the end of the argument but the beginning. English nationalism has been awakened and will not simply crawl off if it is beaten, and should it win we are in for an interesting time.

The ITV Debate and Brexit: Deja-Vu All Over Again

Letter to The National

Dear Sir,

I watched the most recent ITV debate with a mixture of deja-vu and disgust. During the independence referendum we had all the scare stories thrown at us; that jobs would be at risk, investment would be at risk, that trade and immigration barriers would be erected, that freedom of movement would be lost or restricted, and that old favourite; the uncertainty. I heard all of those arguments aired again, and sadly Nicola Sturgeon stooped to the level where even she was using them. Were it not for the possibility that a Scottish Remain vote might trigger a new independence referendum then I am convinced that Scottish Remain support would be far less than it currently is.
Likewise I heard all the opposing views rehashed; No clear plan, that assertions and aspirations can’t be guaranteed. All that was missing was the currency and the oil. It galls me to see the likes of Boris Johnson speaking about the unfairness of seeing our money go out to receive crumbs back, about unelected politicians ruling over us and about controlling our own destiny. To him these AREN’T principles, for if they were they would have surely have championed them when Scotland sought them!

Two things about the ITV debate grated with me more than anything else. The first is the idea which was floated that by staying in the EU we can somehow reform it. That, I’m afraid is Vow grade nonsense. We are voting to either remain or leave an evolving project, where we can be constantly outvoted on any issue, much like Scottish MP’s at Westminster. Reforming the EU is simply not on the table.

The second issue which I took extreme issue with was the view made by Angela Eagle MP: that we need to immigrants to do the jobs we won’t. Previously the argument for immigration was that we needed to bring in skilled workers to fill the “skills gap”. Clearly this gap has been filled now that Ms Eagle’s argument is the most oft used nowadays. How utterly crushing must it be for unemployed people who would desperately take a job, any job, to be told by some MP on a fat salary plus expenses that they don’t want to work? I’ve recently met a French woman stacking shelves in a supermarket, a Spaniard serving coffee and a Polish man working in a bar serving beer. Are we to seriously believe that unemployed Scots don’t want these jobs? Of course they do! But when employers switch from employing a local workforce to an immigrant workforce you can be damn sure it isn’t because the locals no longer want to work. Businesses do so because they have found a new pool of people they view as easily exploited; less knowledgeable of their rights, less likely to become trade unionised and more easily coerced to accept poorer terms and conditions.
Immigration isn’t a bad thing, and within the EU it works both ways, but often it is simply exploited by big business. That’s to be expected. Few business people make money by being nice or fair or generous. But for politicians to paint our need for immigration as a result of our unwillingness to work, that just isn’t on.

Yours Sincerely,

James Cassidy