Author Archives: jester1970

I Find Your Lack of Faith in Plan A Disturbing…

screenshot_20191013-165416~29060987260950446350..pngAnother SNP conference, another self-congratulatory back slapping session where actual debate is verboten. Having done it’s best to keep alternative routes to independence off the agenda, Plan B slipped in anyway, before being led off to a sub room and quietly strangled. It’s the leaders way or no way, end of discussion.
Let’s be brutally honest. The current SNP hierarchy appear more than happy to park independence campaigning in favour of a gradualism which makes the progression of a glacier look like quicksilver in comparison. It seems to me that many are happy to settle for an extended period in government over achieving the ultimate aim of the SNP which if I remember correctly was independence for Scotland.

Nicola Sturgeon let slip on the Andrew Marr show that she hasn’t asked for a Section 30 order, despite previously indicating that she had. With support for the union falling to only 50% she should be chapping on the door of the UK Prime Minister demanding a referendum, not leading us up the garden path. Theresa May indicated she would refuse a referendum, as had Boris Johnson, and that line will be repeated ad infinitum. So assuming that consent is not forthcoming what will she do? She might as well stamp her foot or act like Violet Elizabeth Bott from Just William who threatened to “scream and scream until I’m sick”. It changes nothing.

On the Marr show Nicola Sturgeon said that she was not considering a Plan B as she wanted a process that was legal and showed majority support. She also said that there wasn’t a quicker or easier way to independence. Let’s be perfectly blunt. No one within the independence movement is looking for a way to bypass or cheat the democratic system. We’ve seen in Catalonia how that has panned out and no one wants to see the same here. But making a manifesto commitment in a general election to seek to negotiate for independence on reaching defined thresholds, be that seats or voter percentage is not cheating the system, it is using the system to defeat those who would deny us our democratic vote. Up until the 2012 Edinburgh Agreement that was the accepted route to independence – and it’s no less acceptable today. In fact the only person making it unacceptable is Nicola Sturgeon herself! Who in their right mind would back themselves into a corner and allow your opponent to control the terms of your exit? Even Jo Swinson has cottoned on to this with her commitment to cancel Article 50 if the Lib-Dems win, because even though unlikely it is a democratic route to achieving her aim.

By not committing to such a manifesto pledge The SNP can still campaign in all elections to attract people who would support their continued governance but not independence. That may have been a fairly reasonable tactic at one time, but no longer. We are too far gone down the Brexit path to be playing around with an eye on future election results years down the line. If the SNP continue to prioritise their long term governance goals over independence itself, then don’t be surprised when those most committed grass roots activists go elsewhere.


Just Because It Is Legal Doesn’t Mean It Is Right

Having spent may hours poring over the expenses claims submitted by local unionist politicians to determine whether they were useful in campaigning against them (and often they were) I am both gobsmacked but somehow unsurprised by the Eva Bolander expenses scandal. I’m gobsmacked that there has been no internal oversight from the SNP which has allowed them to pick up on this matter before it became manna from heaven for the British Nationalist parties and the media in Scotland. Every single elected member of the SNP, be it local councillor, MP or MSP should have the need to be restrained with expenses hammered into them from the moment they are elected, but that must be followed up by self-policing from within to ensure that those guidelines are met.

The fact that Ms Bolander’s clothing expenses were underbudget is now irrelevant. They were greater than her predecessors and were extravagant in their content. If Ms Bolander wants to get her hair done, or her nails polished or buy new underwear then she should foot that bill herself. If she wants to purchase formal wear to use when representing the city of Glasgow then she must show good judgement and restraint when doing so; 23 pairs of shoes in two years and designer fashion labels is not a sign of either.

I said I was gobsmacked but why am I unsurprised? Because a close look at the SNP unfortunately reveals that there are too many within their ranks willing to do the same. From MSP’s claiming for a bag of chips to councillors paying parking tickets, there are too many who see the public purse as their own purse, and this has to cease.

The best form of criticism is self-criticism. Unfortunately over the last few days I’ve seen many people who seem normally level-headed and fair-minded circling the wagons and defending what is to me indefensible. The whitabootery needle has gone off the scale in the attempts to deflect and justify something which is patently unjustifiable. We didn’t campaign to get Labour noses out of the trough so that SNP noses could get stuck in; we told people across Scotland that there was a better, cleaner and more open political future ahead- and the SNP should be setting that example. SNP HQ must get a grip on this issue and ensure that this never happens in the future, but the SNP membership must also be pro-active and get stuck not only to their opponents expenses but to their own elected members expenses to ensure that all their hard work, knocking on doors, handing out leaflets and standing on street stalls is not silently undone by greedy or thoughtless individuals within their own ranks. Glasgow could be lost for the price of a few pairs of shoes. Let’s not lose the fight for independence the same way.

Richard Leonard: Tell Me Lies, Tell Me Sweet Little Lies…

I see that the Airdrie & Shotts Labour Party have recently selected List MSP and Scottish branch leader Richard Leonard as their candidate for the next Holyrood election. Mr Leonard is a particularly uninspiring figure and encapsulates Labour’s general lack of vision for Scotland in general.
The grey man of Scottish politics has used his links with the Trade Union movement to latch on to every possible industrial dispute in an effort to attack the Scottish Government, even in disputes which don’t concern them, exploiting grey areas to create distrust and division. One such example is how in his trade union role he played a pivotal role in helping Labour in denying equal pay to women employed by Glasgow City Council, and then attacked the SNP when they settled the claim and paid up- as if it were their mess! Anyone who saw Labour MP Hugh Gaffney taking part in the Glasgow rally and pretending to be just a concerned trade unionist to the cameras can see the kind of games the Labour Party are playing.
Similarly on the subject of Brexit, they try to operate in the muddy political waters, offering everything to everyone. On Thursday 5th September Richard Leonard tweeted that “Scottish Labour will campaign day and night for a Remain victory”. I’m sure that as branch leader Mr Leonard is fully aware that UK Labour policy is to deliver Brexit, but with their deal, not Mr’s May’s.
The Scottish branch of the Labour Party has been slapped down by London before, and will be again. They aren’t allowed to do their own thing, yet it is increasingly obvious that they need to. As it stands UK Labour only offer a sticking plaster to the gaping wound of British politics, a temporary respite between increasing authoritarian and more right wing English Nationalist Tory governments. Scottish Labour is riddled with those who would close Holyrood rather than strengthen it and their lack of backbone and vision is doing serious harm to Scotland, and it really is time that Scottish Labour members realised that they stand a far better chance of delivering their policies and creating a better Scotland if they turn their back on divisive British Nationalism and get behind independence for Scotland. They could create a visible example of a better country which would be a beacon for social change to our friends in England, blazing a trail for them to follow. I only hope that they can be brave enough to realise this and seize the chance while it is still a possibility. The alternatives don’t bear thinking about.

Plan B. Or The Lack Of.

A few days ago I went to hear the SNP’s Ian Blackford and Mhairi Black speaking in Edinburgh in a public Q&A. They were asked a very important question which one audience member then asked again as he felt their answer had been unsatisfactory.

“If Westminster continually refuses to grant a Section 30 order, what then?”

Both Mr Blackford and Ms Black were at great pains to say that an independence referendum legislated for by agreement with Westminster was the “gold standard” and that was what they were aiming for, no ifs, no buts. In other words, no other route will be contemplated. There will be no consideration of a Plan B.

Now, let’s be honest. Section 30 permission was previously granted by David Cameron because he thought they would win, much like the Brexit referendum. This time they won’t be so agreeable. UDI is simply not an option from the get go. So is there another way? For that we need to take our lead from the Labour Party…

Labour’s plan to “stop” Brexit is not via another referendum but via the general election ballot box. Labour have been agitating for the last two years to have a general election where they can put forward their plan for Brexit (and let’s not forget they are commited to Brexit) and hope to take it forward if they win a majority. So, no second referendum, just a mandate gained by putting their manifesto to the people. Win the election, implement the mandate. Sounds simple? It is.

In a Scottish context, pre 1999 that was how it was expected that Scotland would gain its independence. The SNP, campaigning for independence in their manifesto, only had to win a majority of seats in a Westminster election to win the prize. With a focus on referendums that route has been abandoned. When people like Angus MacNeill MSP point to the old road map, critics hastily scribble “here be dragons” on it and deflect attention away from it. But why would they? It’s perfectly sound method of achieving independence. Make it explicit in the manifesto, stand on that manifesto, and win that election. Just like Labour propose with Brexit.

What have they to lose? If they win, they win the ultimate prize. If they lose, so what? As Mr Blackford said in Edinburgh, the SNP are utterly derided at Westminster. They are ignored at Westminster. They are outvoted at Westminster by the collective seats of the city of London alone. So, go for it. Be bold for once.

For me, the problem with the SNP is its habit of hedging its bets. Gaining seats and maintaining a profile, even an ineffective one is the current modus operandi. Which is why everything is aimed at the floating voter, about gradualism at a glacial pace. The problem with glaciers is that at some point they begin to retreat, and there comes a point when you must commit full on if you want to win big.

The SNP’s policy of softly, softly, catchee monkee is winning, slowly, slowly. Clearly they believe that independence can be gaining by demonstrating that Scotland can do things differently and effectively. That’s a slow process and one which to be honest needs accelerated. The SNP need to remember that the greatest catalyst to change is anger. Nothing moves people more than their rage at injustices. Nothing gets people off their backsides quicker than a sense that someone is doing them over. So why aren’t people RAGING that they are in a UK which is taking them outside Europe, where the UK is looking to work ordinary people to death rather than pay them pensions? While London takes to the streets, Scotland barely whimpers. If the SNP are serious about delivering Scotland from a future tied to the mad empirical dreams of Little Englanders then it has to take the gloves off and start rabble rousing, because playing by someone else’s rules just won’t deliver.

Airdrie Library Cuts

DSC_0443.JPGI am utterly disgusted that North Lanarkshire Council are planning to implement cuts to the library services across the area in order to meet their budget. I have been using the library in Airdrie for over forty years now and it has been a fabulous resource. Long before the internet this was the repository of information where school children and students from across the town would troop to as their main source of knowledge to assist with schoolwork; it provided us with (and still does provide) books to fire the imagination and which broaden our general knowledge. It has adapted across the years to include music, video and internet, and still remains a busy part of the community.
Airdrie, and North Lanarkshire in general are not regarded as wealthy areas. We have huge areas of poverty and many people who cannot afford internet access. Our libraries are now, like it or not, a vital part of the system which people are reliant upon to gain access to facilities which are by and large only available online. Benefit and job applications are just a few of these, and I often see the computer terminals in the library busy with people who are managing their lives online in a hub that we, as a community, provide for our common good.
We cannot then reduce that by postcode lottery, to see people in villages put under even more pressure, forcing them perhaps to pay to travel into Airdrie to complete paperwork to ensure they can keep receiving their benefits.
I am lucky that I can afford to go out and buy the books which interest me, but for many that is not an option. As a society we need to ask what type of community we want to live in and then set to building that society. We only need to look to the Nordic countries to see that although they pay greater taxes , they are by and large happier countries. North Lanarkshire Council’s “consultation” is a box ticking exercise in order to have us approve their cuts. Nowhere is there a box saying that actually I don’t want your cuts. Nowhere is there information which says that we can retain all our services, keep our access to our libraries and here’s how much it will cost. What will it cost? How much will have to be added on to our council tax to keep our libraries open; £10 a year? £20? £30? That’s the question we should be asked.
North Lanarkshire Council railed against the council tax freeze and demanded the right to end it to protect local jobs and services. Then when they got the power to do so, they didn’t wan’t to raise it! Tell us HOW MUCH it will cost us personally. We might actually want to pay it, instead of letting petty local politicians indulge themselves playing the blame game.

Two Jobs Gaffney and the Monklands Hospital

I was amused to read that Hugh Gaffney MP is now demanding that the present Monklands Hospital site be included in the evaluation process for the hospital upgrade. This will be the same Hugh Gaffney who stated in June last year that he was “delighted” that Gartcosh had been shortlisted, and highlighted the attributes of the Gartcosh site, one of which included cycle routes, a grreat comfort to those who would rather avoid the circuitous train ride to Glasgow and back. Mr Gaffney has held his two jobs for a while now but surely he cannot also hold two diametrically opposing views at the same time, although that is a trait being displayed more and more by the Labour Party; for and against Brexit. For and against nuclear weapons. For and against a new hospital.

Mr Gaffney is not alone in trying to occupy two positions at once. Richard Leonard also petitioned to keep the hospital on its present site and later, to hedge his bets, was photographed with a sign demanding that the health board keep the hospital in the “Monklands area”.
Labour appear to have more positions on this issue than a Rubik’s cube, and are unable to hold one position on it for any length of time. The cynic in me might think that they are merely trying to find a position contrary to that of the SNP (also to be to keep the Monklands in the Monklands) and are churning out petitions simply to ensure they remain in the papers and at the end of the process may inadvertantly have backed the winning site and can claim victory. Or defeat, depending on their mood at the time. Groucho Marx famously said “those are my principles. If you don’t like them, I have others”. In respect of the Labour Party on the issue of Monklands Hospital, I can think of nothing more apt.

As a final point, with all this arguing and flip-flopping going on no one seems to be asking the most important question: whatever the outcome, wherever it may be built, is the funding to build it available? If not then all the arguments about where it should be are utterly pointless.


/ /irdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser, 07/08/19


Do As We Say- Not As We Do

Response to THIS article in the Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser, 20/06/19

Dear Sir,

I’d like to respond to the article published last week regarding the protests against “Soldier F” facing charges for murder. As a former serviceman I find the attitude displayed in regard to this issue by many in the serving and ex-service community disturbing. This is an emotive issue, and one which we must take a step back from if we are to judge it on principles rather than pre-established positions. On principle I am firmly of the opinion that those who carry out criminal acts while serving in the forces should be punished for those acts. I cast my eyes around the globe and see cases where war criminals are pursued even when they are elderly and infirm, and rightly so. For many years many of my former comrades would have had the same response. For some that view has changed because they now see one of their own under the microscope, and are responding emotionally, their instinct being to protect a former comrade. This manifested itself in a campaign to ensure that ‘Soldier F’ would not face charges for what he did during his time in Northern Ireland. Historically this is not uncommon. After the English Civil War many soldiers petitioned parliament to be pardoned for all and any crimes committed during the war, fearing repercussions afterwards. Similarly, we now have veterans’ groups and MP’s calling for immunity from prosecution for troops past, present and future; and to me this is a dangerous path to follow.

The idea that we should apply standards of behaviour internationally to other countries armies that we don’t apply to our own is utterly wrong. If a member of the British armed forces commits a crime then they should be held accountable, even if that crime does not make it to court for many years. The ability to evade accountability is not a reason to escape prosecution.

The UK government has a long and distasteful track record of covering up that which it thinks may be damaging to it. The cases of the Guildford Four, Birmingham Six, and Maguire Seven are concrete examples of such activity in relation to Northern Ireland. The sinking of the Belgrano, the Hillsborough disaster and the miners’ strike at Orgreave are further examples of where the UK government has been found to have covered up its actions, or the actions of those in organisations working on its behalf, such as the police. It is not unthinkable that the British government have acted in a similar fashion in relation to Bloody Sunday.

In this case I won’t indulge of the whitabootery which has raged for years, over who fired first or who was involved. These are pointless arguments which are designed to generate heat, not light. As an ex-serviceman it is my sincere hope that ‘Soldier F’ is not guilty of murder, for if he is it is a stain on the British army that will never be erased. But as a matter of principle I believe that he must face trial to establish that innocence. The evidence must be presented, and the facts established. That would perhaps go some way to allowing the UK government to regain the trust it has squandered over decades and send out a signal that when it sets a standard of behaviour for its armed forces, its police, or its politicians, that it will uphold those standards, however uncomfortable they may be.