Tag Archives: Nicola Sturgeon

Radical Independence Campaign, 20/06/17: Less Is More

I attended the Radical Independence Campaign meeting in Edinburgh’s Augustine Reformed Church last night. It was my first time at one of their meetings and with eight speakers given 10 minutes each over a two hour time slot, it was more akin to political speed dating than an in depth exploration of ideas. The discussion was supposed to be on Independence, Corbyn and the Future, and on two of those it hit the mark. Former SNP MP George Kerevan appeared to be on fast forward for his 10 minutes trying to pack so much in to so little time; so much so that it became difficult to follow. In broad brush strokes he felt that the SNP had retracted from the Yes movement and had focussed too much on its parliamentary profile, to the detriment of both Yes and the SNP. He said that he accepted that the SNP had suffered a setback in the election with the loss of so many seats, with the loss of votes being attributed to people moving to Corbyn Labour. He finished off by stating we needed to mobilise and radicalise, but unfortunately this wasn’t explored, which is a great pity, because this was an area where I know the SNP was (at least in Airdrie and Coatbridge) light on bodies.

Rory Scothorne of Roch Winds was of the opinion that that Kezia Dugdale’s main aim in the election was to return Ian Murray as an MP and anything else was a bonus, and that the additional seats gained by Labour were gained by Corbyn’s policies. That’s an over simplification; to use the Coatbridge seat for example, Hugh Gaffney increased Labours vote by 2000 votes, while Phil Boswell, representing a split SNP who have been suspended by the party dropped 11,000 votes. Had there been no such split, with an effective campaign the SNP could have retained that, and Labours vaunted magnificent seven would have been a less impressive six. Rory seemed to be of the opinion that the radical left should shift to backing Corbyn, to put the short term aim of getting the Tories out over independence. I did make a contribution which related to this in the discussion; that grabbing the short term achievable aim of putting Corbyn in power only gave us a potential stay of five years on being gifted another Tory government.

Pete Connell of RISE observed that the debates which took place in England around housing, immigration and austerity didn’t take place to the same extent in Scotland, overshadowed by the unionist parties combined focus on constitutional matters. He also said that without extra parliamentary groups keeping the pressure on parliament there would be no progress in many areas and where aims coincided, RISE would work with Momentum (which we really should acknowledge as a Labour party internal pressure group), and that’s laudable, so long as we bear in mind that what Momentum is doing is to advance the Labour Party and by extension, British Nationalism. Pete in fact mentioned that he was surprised to see that there was little acknowledgment of the concept of British Nationalism in UK discussion, nationalism of course being a quirky Scottish thing. He should know by now that Britons are of course patriots, not nationalists…
Hilary Horrocks of the Edinburgh TUC spoke for time about the Grenfell Tower fire and how the TUC was putting members of the community in touch with help from the Trade Unions to help with a number of housing and community issues: she pointed out that in Edinburgh alone there are 4000 high rise homes with no sprinklers fitted. Lynn McCabe, a local anti-evictions activist also spoke of housing problems, in Edinburgh social housing accounts for only 13% of the total stock, well below the 24% national average. She made the point that Tory ideology is that social housing is a short term solution, not a long term one, demonstrated by the selling off of council housing stock and not replacing it with similar levels of new housing.
Peter McCall of the Greens spoke about how across many parties there was an acceptance of capitalism but also a broad agreement that certain areas should be excluded from free market exploitation and influence: social housing and health being notable examples.
I found Jonathon Shafi to be one of the most relevant speakers as regards the debate title, pointing out the similarities between the Yes campaign in 2014 and Corbyn’s campaign in 2017, the role played by the media in both cases against Independence and Corbyn and how both appeared to grow organically from the ground up. His observation that Jeremy Corbyn and Angus Robertson were better at understanding such movements than Nicola Sturgeon rang true, and his view that Sturgeon’s response to such a movement was to ask how she could control it was spot on. Had there been time I would have added a further point, that there was an element who neither understood it or wanted to control it but actively deterred it. I also agreed with him that both Yes (as it loosely exists) and the SNP are not radical enough.

The resulting Q&A session was as scattergun as the debate itself, and a combination of a shortage of time and a few blawhards who clearly weren’t allowed to talk at home meant no exploration of anything in detail. One questioner asked how we could have a more democratic system of government, Peter McCall of the Greens summed it up perfectly: democratise the political parties, with the over centralised SNP a prime example. The evening concluded with Holly Rigby of London Momentum speaking about how her inspiration for campaigning came from the RIC during the 2014 independence campaign, and that with the media against them they relied on the enthusiasm and effort of activists to beat the media and the opposition, a lesson sadly lost on the SNP at present.

The Sound of Silence: Advertiser Embargo On McMafia Mentions Continues

A few weeks ago I wrote about the lack of any in depth analysis of the Monklands McMafia affair in the Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser. I was expecting a flood of letters of support from tame party hacks, along with an update on the protest which had been cobbled together. I thought it may be nice if the Advertiser had a letter with a differing viewpoint to balance things up. I was mystified to find no mention of it at all, anywhere in the pages of the paper, not even in their summary of social media comments. My letter is reproduced below.

With nominations closing on 29th March 2017 at 4pm, I’m fairly sure that this will drag on for a few weeks yet. By that time we’ll know if SNP HQ has stuck to their guns or have capitulated. If the former, it’ll be interesting to see if the deselected councillors stand as independents against the SNP, or swing behind the new candidates. were I at SNP HQ I’d certainly be looking to bring in candidates from outside the branch as it may be difficult to gain volunteers from a branch which has saw kind of treatment which lead to the resignation of Councillor Alan Beveridge and candidate Tommy Montgomery.

With rumours of more scandal to come involving the branch, an impending court case with Councillor Alan O’Brien, senior SNP figures trying to bring former SNP Councillors back into the fold and the little matter of an election for which the local party has no candidates, no strategy and increasingly no chance of winning, things are looking more interesting by the minute. Will the Advertiser cover it though? There’s the $50,000 question!

Dear Sir,
The article in last week’s Advertiser regarding the deselection of the husband and wife team of Councillors Michael and Agnes Coyle made no mention of why this situation came about, and from reading it one may have got the impression that this came out of the blue, which clearly isn’t the case. Two years of political infighting, with many allegations made to SNP HQ of bullying, cronyism and nepotism across Airdrie, Coatbridge and Bellshill were summed up in a mere 29 words. The article made no mention of the numerous complaints made about the Westminster selection process which saw Neil Gray installed as SNP candidate for MP and saw Councillor Alan Beveridge resign in disgust. I am aware that there have been other complaints from many other now ex-members and the vetting process which led to the deselection of these councillors no doubt considered all these factors plus much more which obviously I am not privy to.
It was interesting to note that it was left to Graham Russell, the president of the constituency group, to speak on their behalf and that their council group leader David Stocks was silent on the matter. Another point which perhaps went unnoticed was that the emergency meeting of the branch mustered a mere 60 members out of a claimed membership of over 1100 people.  That’s only around 5% of their members. I’d imagine that I could probably get more disaffected members to sign a petition supporting headquarters decision than actually attended the branch meeting itself!
I’m glad that SNP HQ has finally addressed the issues raised by myself and others. It’s unfortunate that to have action taken many members had to resign, and they had to take their grievances to the press rather than have the SNP deal with them fairly and honestly. For my part, I have to say that I am utterly disappointed in Nicola Sturgeon as a leader. I contacted many people at SNP HQ regularly during and after the Westminster selection process debacle, and Nicola Sturgeon was copied into emails where possible and mailed by hand, directly to SNP HQ. My attempts to have this issue acknowledged on Twitter saw me blocked by her and for me this action in deselecting a few councillors is in some ways too little, too late, and she must share a huge portion of the blame for the shambles in North Lanarkshire. If she is to go any way towards redeeming herself she must take a far quicker, fairer and firmer grip on rogue branches. The demotion of Alex Neil, Michael Coyle and Agnes Coyle is a positive step in the right direction. I now hope that those decent members remaining in the Airdrie branch have the spirit to seize the day and show everyone that they want a fresh start, though they will need to rid themselves of the remnants of the old guard to do so. They can still salvage something from the wreckage if they have the will to, although this may be difficult as there is always the possibility that these deselected councillors will stand against the SNP themselves, as many Labour councillors are now doing against their own party in retribution for being deselected.
This begs the question: if councillors are deselected by their party and immediately stand against that party, where was their loyalty all along; to themselves or to their constituents?
Yours Sincerely,
James Cassidy

Airdrie SNP: An Omnishambles Wrapped In A Disaster, Tied Up In A Debacle

wp-1487169002404.jpgThe relatively tame article in today’s Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser regarding the deselection of the husband and wife team of Councillors Michael and Agnes Coyle is enough to make you despair of proper journalism. This being the first Advertiser article on their deselection, one might have expected a mention of why this situation came about. From reading this one may have got the impression that this came out of the blue. Some time back I contacted the Advertiser to ask why it appeared to be difficult, if not impossible to find any mention of what I felt was the biggest political story in Monklands since the original Monklands Mafia story many years ago, and the response was not promising. In November 2015 Councillor Sophia Coyle was in the news over an interview in which she vociferously opposed gay marriage. Ms Coyle refused to respond to The Advertiser, yet only a few weeks later was again appearing in the newspaper promoting some local initiative she was involved in. You might think that the paper might have asked her views when they finally did contact her, but that wasn’t the case. So to see around two years of political infighting summarised in 29 words was no surprise.

wp-1487169382461.jpg

One glaring point (and there are so many) which has been missed is this: how can a branch with a claimed membership of almost 1100 people only muster around 60 people to attend an emergency meeting? I’d imagine that I could get more disaffected members to sign a petition SUPPORTING headquarters decision than actually attended the branch meeting!

The big question is how long can Michael Coyle hang on to his jobs with Alex Neil and Neil Gray? Again, no mention of this in the “in-depth” analysis.

Over the weekend I saw that Labour candidates were out canvassing around Airdrie. Bless them, they are poor deluded fools, but I’ll say this for them: they are organised. With only around 10 weeks to the 2017 Council elections the SNP don’t even have candidates.

This appears set to run and run, just don’t expect the details in the local press…

 

Deselection Day: The Monklands McMafia Row Rumbles On

On Saturday The Herald and The National both printed articles, (the Herald also printed an editorial by senior political editor Tom Gordon) regarding the deselection of four SNP councillors, including two in the Airdrie branch; Michael and Agnes Coyle. The release of this news came a week later than I expected, however the timing was exactly as I anticipated. A late Friday release for such news means it will escape the attention of most of the papers, Reporting Scotland and Newsdrive, so there’s no embarrassing TV or radio coverage to contend with.

On reading the Herald article I was struck by the following passage:

The ‘McMafia’ councillors who failed vetting were husband and wife Michael and Agnes Coyle and Dr Imtiaz Majid, while the councillor close to Mr Boswell was David Baird.

Nicknamed “Don Coyleone”, Mr Coyle last year denied being linked to organised crime after a former SNP member’s car was destroyed in a fire, and claimed the police had exonerated him.

He said: “I’ve been accused of gangsterism and having links to organised crime. It’s outrageous. The police conducted a thorough investigation then sent me a letter saying the allegations are not true.”

I’m concerned that this is being presented as one of the major reasons for the decision which has been made to deselect these councillors, and it could be seen to overshadow the many allegations made to HQ of bullying, cronyism and nepotism across Airdrie, Coatbridge and Bellshill. The article makes no mention of the numerous complaints made about the Westminster selection process which saw Neil Gray installed as candidate for MP and saw Councillor Alan Beveridge resign in disgust. There have been other complaints from many other now ex-members and the vetting process which led to the deselection of these councillors no doubt considered all these factors plus much more which I am not privy to.

In regards to the attack on my car, I have nothing to add to this letter which I wrote last year, and as I said to  in response to a post I made on Facebook, the only person to link the damage to my car with Councillor Michael Coyle was Councillor Coyle himself in an article in the Scottish Sun.

I’m glad that SNP HQ has finally addressed the issues raised by myself and others. It’s unfortunate that to have action taken many members had to resign, and they had to take their grievances to the press rather than have the SNP deal with them fairly and honestly. For my part, I have to say that I am utterly disappointed in Nicola Sturgeon as a leader. I contacted many people at SNP HQ regularly during and after the Westminster selection process debacle, and Nicola Sturgeon was copied into emails where possible and mailed by hand, directly to SNP HQ. My attempts to have this issue acknowledged on Twitter saw me blocked by her, and for me this action in deselecting a few councillors is in some ways too little, too late, and she must share a huge portion of the blame for the shambles in North Lanarkshire. If she is to go any way towards redeeming herself she must take a far quicker, fairer and firmer grip on rogue branches. The removal of Alex Neil, Michael Coyle and Agnes Coyle is a positive step in the right direction. I now hope that those decent members remaining in the Airdrie branch have the balls to step up to the mark, seize the day and show everyone that they want a fresh start, though they will need to rid themselves of the remnants of the old guard such as Councillor David Stocks to do so. They can still salvage something from the wreckage if they have the will to.

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

 

Ruth Davidson: A New Hope…

Tank Girl

Watching the news and analysis of Thursday’s election coming it would be easy to think that Ruth Davidson of the Ruth Davidson Novelty Photo-shoots and Fun (No, we aren’t Tories, honest!) Party had won a resounding victory over the SNP, and that that Scotland was back in the unionist fold. There’s only so much I can take from the BBC, luckily Russia Today reassured me that Ms Davidson’s party hadn’t actually won, and that the world was still spinning on it’s axis as before. What did happen was that the Unionist vote shifted within itself, with one faction merely taking votes from another faction. Hardly sensational stuff, and to be honest everyone but Kezia Dugdale saw it coming. Labour have now been punished by both sides of the electorate for their treachery; by Yes voters for siding with the Tories, and by unionists angry that she wobbled in her unionism by appearing to allow a free vote in a future referendum. On close analysis the unionist FPTP vote is pitiful. Of 73 FPTP constituencies the Tories won only 7, the Lib-Dems 4 and the Labour Party an embarrassing 3. Hardly a ringing endorsement of the union, is it?
Ruth Davidson is the new poster girl of the Unionist media, be it in print, television or indeed on BBC Radio Scotland, where Kaye Adams accidentally stated that “we’re up 8 point…” before remembering where she was and correcting herself by saying that the Conservatives were up 8.1%. Tank Girl, with the aid of her chums in the media, will call on Nicola Sturgeon to forever rule out another referendum, a call she will repeat every week, day and hour for the next five years. Davidson realised that there are people who value the union flag more than social justice, more than equality, more than the NHS, more than the welfare state, and who will endorse the Tories wholeheartedly to protect the union. Never mind the policies, look at the pretty flag. For many voters Thatcher is someone from the history books, and they do not share most right thinking Scots contempt of the woman and her policies. When Margaret Curran was asked if she would prefer a Tory run Scotland to an independent one she squirmed and twisted and struggled to answer. With the death of the Scottish branch of the Labour Party she may one day have the chance to see that scenario in action.
But to spend so much time talking about the unionist situation means that we ignore the failings or successes of the Yes side, if we can still refer to them in such a manner. While most of the Yes support has gone to the SNP, those supporters must remember where they came from. Tribalism within Yes will keep us down and divided, and we must get smarter if we are to have a Yes parliament, not simply an SNP dominated one. Reaffirmation of the Yes movement is needed and agreements should be made for the mutual benefit of the independence movement. Clearly the decision by the Greens to stand against Ruth Davidson cost the SNP that seat and allowed Davidson to claim victory as an endorsed constituency candidate. In some areas such as Glasgow or Central Scotland where polling showed it very likely that the SNP would sweep the board an official SNP 1, Green 2 campaign would have had a significant effect on reducing the unionist bloc. This would mean the Greens would have to agree not to stand in the constituencies and the SNP agreeing not standing on the list. Of course where this falls down is that this would mean some people putting the good of the cause of independence before their personal ambitions.
As for the minority parties such as Solidarity and Rise, I think that we need to accept that for now they are a diversion and despite some of their fine ideals are not a realistic proposal for the pro Indy voter on the national stage. Over exposure in the National and to some extent The Herald skewed the perception of RISE, and if the don’t completely fall then perhaps the council elections next year may be a more realistic platform for them, where they can help deliver real benefits at a local level.

The Leadership Debate: No More Please!

Letter to The National, 02/05/16

Dear National,

Am I the only person who thinks that the Leaders Debates have become tired, repetitive and uninformative? The same lines, delivered in the same fashion to the same response are beyond dull. Monday’s debate was a case in point. If we look beyond the BBC using the daughter of a former Labour Party leader as a presenter and an audience which clearly didn’t reflect recent voting or polling we are left with an otherwise predictable event. Kezia Dugdale pleads that we should put the referendum behind us, as that’s the only way that people will stop bringing up her toxic Bitter Together alliance with the Tories. Ruth Davidson won’t let us forget about the referendum, while Willie Rennie just wishes people would remember who he is. Nicola Sturgeon repeats the “will of the Scottish people” line without expanding on it and rolls her eyes when another leader tells a porky, and Patrick Harvie was memorable when given a chance to speak at length, but left on the sidelines by the presenter on more than one occasion when he tried to counter an argument.
While Kezia is almost crying when she says her party isn’t toxic, she shows that she has failed to recognise that, like it or not, Scotland is broadly still in two camps and that so long as she maintains her opposition to any further referendum at any time, then a very large portion of the electorate will not vote for her under any circumstances. Ruth Davidson on the other hand has grasped the situation far better, whipping up talk of further referendums and waving the union flag at every turn. She knows full well that she can’t convert people from the Yes side but can take votes from traditional Labour voters who now value the union above all else. In the Blair years Labour espoused Tory policies, Tory values, so it’s not a great jump for these people to throw the rest of their values out the window and unite behind the flag. Dugdales Labour have not realised this and until they adopt full on Neil Oliver unionist mode shall not recover. Even then they are drinking from the same trough as the Tories and the Fib-Dems, and 3 into 55% is always going to be second prize at best.
For me Patrick Harvie made the best point of the night. Yes, we lost the referendum but our values hold true. Because we lost doesn’t mean we abandon our principles and crawl away. For the unionists to continually cry out for us to do so is utterly wrong. Our arguments were not nullified by a No vote, all those problems remain, in some cases more so. So why would any sane person abandon those principles? That may be the unionist way, but not ours. It’s about time the Three Amigos faced up to that fact and stopped their whining.
Yours Sincerely,

James Cassidy