I’d like to respond to the regular tag-team contributors Keith Linton and Councillor Scott Arthur who jointly attacked the SNP’s recent party political broadcast which apparently lampooned a political columnist. I say apparently as many of the complaints which have been voiced can’t actually decide who the supposed butt of the joke is. Being a boring, tweedy, beardy politically obsessed bore, the character “Davey” could be almost anyone. In fact I’m surprised there aren’t more people lining up to claim that they are “Davey”.
Published in The Herald, 20/01/18
Is Scotland the only country in the world where the Transport Minister is required to resign if there is snow? As far as I can see from an internet search the answer is yes. It really shows how desperate British Nationalist politicians are, calling for Humza Yousaf to be sacked when they are reliant on the plight reckless drivers who ignored warnings not to travel in severe weather as an excuse. In December 2017 many drivers were stranded on the M25 in London and I can recall no calls for for Chris Grayling to be sacked. Mr Yousaf also regularly takes criticism for the cost and performance of the Scotrail franchise, which figures released by the RMT show is the third cheapest per passenger mile in the entire UK and is consistently one of the better performers in terms of punctuality. So why is there no clamour for the failing Westminster Transport Minister to be sacked? The hypocrisy is staggering.
Published in The Herald, 18/01/18
The economic impact of Brexit is now estimated to mean a cut in income for each and every Scot of £2,300 a year. That’s the real cost of Brexit, previously obscured by a slogan on a bus, and now exposed for all to see. How many Scots would now wind back the clock to September 2014 and think again about their decision to stick with the UK? The same UK that told them that they’d be £500 a year worse off outside of the UK and also that they would be thrown out of the EU. Unfortunately for us there is no going back, but If given the chance to vote again on Scotland’s future, Scots have to be braver than last time and rather than cower under London’s threat and fear campaign must rise to the occasion and show the world that we have learned from our mistake and are ready, willing and able to take our place amongs the nations of the world as equals.
Letter published in The National, 07/01/18
Last Wednesday I was handed a leaflet by a Labour Party activist at Edinburgh Waverly Station entitled “the Great SNP Train Robbery: An SNP Party Production starring Humza Yousaf- Nicola Sturgeon”. The leaflet stated that:
- Rail fares rise again in 2018
- Since 2012 rail fares up by 12%
- Fares rising faster than wages
- The SNP are failing to stand up for millions of passengers
While number 1 is undoubtedly true, there’s no facts to back up point 2 or 3. Furthermore it’s my understanding that although rail franchising is devolved in Scotland, ticket pricing is not, and rises in fares are set by the UK government, not Holyrood.
The leaflet being handed out by the Labour Party was clearly printed in advance to tie in with the implementation of the annual fare changes and tied in with similar sentiment printed in columns by Labour members such as Tom Harris. Richard Leonard has been in the past accused of confusing the responsibilities of the two parliaments, and this is another example of the grey man of Scottish politics operating in the grey areas between London and Edinburgh.
Their propaganda fails to stand up to scrutiny, indeed when I pressed the Labour Party activist who gave me the leaflet on the accuracy of the leaflet he tried to back it by reaching for proof, and produced from his bag a crushed copy of the free Metro newspaper!
Isn’t it time that the Scottish Government raised awareness of who exactly is responsible for what on our rail network? Perhaps if they did Labou could finally be shunted off into a sidings somewhere.
I received the Scottish Governments response to my petition to make the Scottish parliament electoral system more democratic and accountable. It was, as I had long expected, a confirmation that the Scottish Government has no plans to act in this area in any meaningful fashion.
In their response they cited various reports from countries around the world which operate on a list system or variants thereof. One quote from a report produced in New Zealand encapsulated the reason why the SNP, nor to be fair, the other parties, wish to change the system:
The report states that there is “considerable advantage in allowing parties to both protect a limited number of their more valuable MPs in marginal seats and reward superior candidates in unwinnable seats”.
That’s right. The evidence the Scottish Government cites in defence of the status quo basically says that the political establishment has the right to protect itself from the judgement of the electorate! In the recent UK election there was the slightest of chances that Prime Minister Theresa May could have lost her seat. From the lowliest backbencher to the occupier of No10 Downing Street, every seat was up for grabs and the people had the right to decide who gets to stay and who is to be shown the door. That’s the essence of democratic government. Yet the same party who rail against the undemocratic House of Lords are quite comfortable with a system which sees the political parties manipulate pre-determined lists to ensure that some of them are immune to the judgement of the electorate.
In the process of creating and submiting my petition I’ve become convinced that the party list system must be consigned to the bin and that the Single Transferrable Vote system should be adopted, putting the decision as to who makes it into government into the hands of the people, not the cliques who run a tight circle of control within political parties.
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!