The greatest strength of the independence movement in recent years has been it’s inclusivity and its solidarity. So I was disgusted to see the disgusting and shameful spectacle which unfolded on social media over the weekend as a feminist fundamentalist faction of our movement launched a vicious and uncalled for attack on an event held by Yes East Kilbride on Thursday. The reason for the outpouring of bile was simple: there were no women on the panel. Despite the group having made the best efforts to get a more gender balanced panel this ultimately proved impossible, and the event went ahead with some exceptionally engaging speakers, including David Hooks, otherwise known as the blogger Politics Scot. I had read a tweet from him saying that this was his first public speaking engagement, and after the hail of abuse he received I certainly hope it is not his last.
On seeing the initial tweets I did think that this was merely a number of twitter trolls of a unionist bent who had set out to disrupt a Yes event, but I was utterly astonished to see that I was wrong and the militant women hounding the group included an actual SNP councillor among it’s ranks. I was also disappointed by later less than supportive comments from the likes of Bella Caledonia who continued to do their utmost to insult the very people who keep their website afloat.
The Yes movement is a broad church and these events are run by volunteers and the speakers give up their time generally for no fee. Many groups try to have events that are gender balanced, but with the best will in the world this cannot always be achieved. In fact in the case of Yes East Kilbride their previous event was an all female panel when they hosted WFI. The idea that an event should be cancelled because there are less people of one sex than another on the panel is completely backwards. Sometimes we have things which are a priority for us personally. There are Women for Independence, Pensioners for Independence there’s even a Germans for Independence group. The one thing that units us all is independence! We should be encouraging ANY pro-independence event whether it appeals to our particular area of interest or not.
During the 2014 referendum I was out campaigning on the streets and got speaking to a man, and asked if he would be voting independence. He told me that he agreed with much of what we said, he opposed Trident, he was concerned about poverty and austerity and thought that Scots should control their own affairs. But, he said, we’ll still have the royal family, so I’m voting No. If we as individuals demand independence only on our own personal terms we’ll still be going round in circles a century from now. But hey, we’ll have had a gender balanced debate on the road to nowhere, so every cloud and all that, eh?
We often use the phrase “civic nationalism” to describe Scottish Nationalism to highlight the difference between it and British Nationalism. So it seems odd to me that one area in which we are not making the inroads we need are is “civic” Scotland. On looking at a number of community initiatives in a local newspaper I couldn’t help but notice how many of the “weel kent faces” in community councils were known to me as members of the Labour or Conservative party. Likewise Trade Union groups and community pressure groups have a core of people who are rolling up their sleeves and getting their hands dirty, working for the betterment of their communities. Yet I’m not seeing the Yes movement getting active in those areas and that’s concerning. I fear that we are often so concerned with organising and building a movement and speaking inwardly to each other that we forget that we need to be getting out there and involved in every aspect of community and civic life. Because at present the British Nationalists have it sewn up and have done for years; everything from charities to workplace representation, local environmental issues to parent-teacher groups. We need to change that. Similarly I can’t help but notice that when it comes to making themselves known in the community the SNP lag immeasurably behind Labour and the Tories. In my travels across the country I make a point of checking out community noticeboards, and what I see is disappointing. There are plenty of Tory and Labour representatives making sure they are prominent in the community, advertising surgeries; indeed in Edinburgh it’s as though the Tories in particular have a monopoly on them. So if someone has a problem and is told to go and see “their councillor” is it any wonder they end up with the Tories or Labour as a first point of contact. Ask yourself this: Is my Councillor, MP or MSP visible in the wider community? Are they active in the wider community? By this I don’t just mean turning up for photo opportunities, but actively participating in something locally out a genuine sense of wanting to participate. From what I can see many of them aren’t even active in the Yes community, far less anywhere else. To convince Scotland we have its interests at heart we must be seen at the heart of it, putting our money where our mouth is, not just calling for a better Scotland but building that better Scotland, street by street, community by community, until we can be seen as trusted faces who our fellow Scots are not only happy to follow but inspired to follow. So get out there and be seen as a civic ambassador for the Independence movement!
I went to see a gig by Idlewild frontman Roddy Woomble a few weeks ago in Airdrie Town Hall. Idlwild have a fairly decent following, in fact they have sold out two nights in Glasgow next month, but the crowd was disappointingly small. The sparse crowd was emphasised by the size of the hall, and having seen Midge Ure at the Lesser Town Hall I’d have thought that might have been a more appropriate stage. The small crowd was not only disappointing, it was unsurprising. Looking at that weeks Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser there was absolutely no mention of the gig at all. They don’t have to, but as the local community’s only print media I would say they really should be rooting out what’s going on and highlighting it to make it a success.
Having said that North Lanarkshire Council can’t escape criticism. No local advertising (unless you count a pile of leaflets which are still on display in Airdrie Library) and a solitary tweet is about the extent NLC was willing to go to on this. While Motherwell Concert Hall attracts the bigger acts and the full attention of NLC’s advertising, towns like Airdrie are left to wither on the vine. It’s often argued that smaller community councils are needed to regenerate and improve Scottish society and I have to say in this case that’s bang on. A small community council, having took on an event would work to make it work. It’s success or failure would after all directly reflect on them.
Airdrie Supporters Trust held an evening with Frank Bruno and they noticed similar difficulties in advertising their event. Small groups on low or no budget really struggle to get events advertised. Yet there are groups out there struggling against the tide who are trying to put on events in their community and who could do with the support of the council in doing so. Community billboards and noticeboards are commonplace in many towns. They deliver events to the community, free of charge. You don’t have to buy an ailing and unsupportive local newspaper to find out about what’s happening. You don’t have to go into a small corner of a local shop or go into the library. You should be able to find out what’s happening not only on social media but on the high street of the town. North Lanarkshire Council have the ability to help our community groups grow. So why don’t they? Ask your local councillor…
Since the 2014 referendum campaign many Scots have been using the Russia Today channel to obtain an alternative viewpoint on the news. I don’t think anyone is under any illusions that it exists to counter the news feeds of western governments. Many people have been happy to share the content shared on RT when it suits their particular agenda. Labour politicians have appeared on it on numerous occasions, and in fact when questioned on their use of this platform stated that “Spokespeople appear on a wide range of outlets with a strong emphasis on domestic broadcasters to present our plans to transform Britain.”
The Tories aren’t immune either, with many Tory MP’s also appearing on the channel and taking the Kremlin’s ruble. The SNP are also regular guests, much to the chagrin of Tories like Murdo Fraser.
So, to get this straight, Labour, the Tories and the SNP are all to varying degrees against using RT, except when it suits them to actually appear on it.
Which is why todays Yoonstream meltdown is all the more hypocritical. Former First Minister Alex Salmond has had his chat show optioned by the RT channel and will appear once a week giving his take on the goings on of the day. It’s thought that it will follow in the format of his recent stage show and will be produced by Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh. This has sent unionists into a frenzy, there being much wailing and gnashing of teeth from across the Yoonisphere. One might have thought that this was somehow the end of days and not a chat show. The Herald, the BBC, Ruth Davidson, Batshit Jill, Uncle Tom Cobley and all have united is despair; the hated Alex Salmond has been given a media platform which bypasses their control, to speak to the people. The campaign to make Ruth Davidson appear a cuddly, chummy figure has nothing on the campaign now running to decry RT as a tool of the Kremlin, Alex Salmond as a mouthpiece of the Kremlin, and Scottish viewers as the enemy within.
It seems to me that the British Nationalists in Scotland having worked together to remove Alex Salmond from politics are now demanding the rights to decide when, where and who this currently unemployed former politician can work for, and while they can cry out as much as they like, the fact is that for may of us it is no big deal. We’ve already started watching RT anyway. No media is impartial, it is simply a tool, and it can be used for you or against you. I’d prefer it to be used for us than agin us, and in the absence of an impartial Scottish broadcast media it would be remiss of Alex Salmond NOT to take the opportunity to use it, and to grab it with both hands and smash the British state media over the head with it. Убирайся, Алекс!