Tag Archives: The National

The Father Dougal McGuire School of Politics

In the Westminster elections on June 8th the SNP lost 21 seats. That doesn’t sound like much if you say it quickly, and it could have been worse. Much worse. Stephen Gethins in Fife was elected with a majority of just TWO. Neil Gray in Airdrie went from a 9596 majority to a mere 195. Overall the SNP lost 476,867 votes. almost half a million people who previously voted SNP in 2015 either switched to other parties or failed to turn out. Examination of the figures shows that Labour gained almost 10,000 votes on their 2015 showing, yet the Tories gained a whopping 323,852 votes more than their last time out. Long Term Goals vs Short Term Aims

Last week RISE co-founder Cat Boyd revealed that she had voted for Labour in the 2017 Westminster elections to show her support for Jeremy Corbyn. The revelation that a well kent face of the Indy movement had gone back on her word and voted Labour (she previously stated she would “never” vote Labour again) was siezed upon by many, with some claiming it showed that Labour were winning back voters from the SNP. In all likelihood they were in a roundabout way. Many people wanted to show solidarity with Jeremy Corbyn in England and voted for “him”. In reality they were voting to endorse an anti independence manifesto and in some cases (like Ian Murray) anti-Corbyn candidates. Someone as well versed in politics as Cat Boyd, who has a weekly column in The National should have known this. Voting for a party is an endorsement of their manifesto. If you want to change that manifesto then you join the party and change it.

Putting that detail aside though, Cat, like many others looked at Labours UK manifesto and swung on behind, no doubt hoping to sweep the Tories out in the process. Even though they supported independence and as Cat herself said, she still does, they voted for a party which was offering something they felt was immediately achievable, even though it contradicted their long term goal. Why? That is simple; their long term goal wasn’t on offer. Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP were intent on playing down talk of a second referendum to such an extent that not only did some of their core vote slip away to Labour, but many, many more just didn’t turn out at all. They weren’t fired up. They weren’t inspired. The message they received was clear: This election isn’t about independence. Their response? We’ll come back when it is.

Overall Labour gained only 9860 more votes than 2017. That’s a fraction more than the total votes lost by Neil Gray alone! So while the SNP were failing to motivate their supporters they were also losing votes to Labour. Labour’s problem was of course that they were losing voters in even bigger numbers to the Tories. The Tories had set themselves out as defenders of the union and employed the same tactic they had employed in the council elections: treat every election as a mini-referendum, motivate the voters and get them out. Which they did, pulling in an extra 323,852 votes on 2015, in an election where the turnout was down overall by over a quarter of a million votes.

That was never more evident than in the SNP’s vote, and if there’s a lesson they need to learn it’s that they too have to treat every election as a referendum, because every defeat will be used to hammer away at not only the SNP but at the cause of independence. Because although supporting independence doesn’t mean you automatically support the SNP, we need to recognise that every defeat for the SNP, any deficiency in their policy as a party is, by unionist logic, reason against independence. If the SNP are poor on education then an independent Scotland by default would also be poor. Repeat ad nauseum.

In the last 12 months Cat Boyd has revealed that despite her strong opinions on the subject she didn’t vote in the EU referendum and then followed this with her revealing she voted Labour has left many to ask why she is given a political column at all and if there’s anything they can learn (or indeed want to learn) from her, and there is. It’s this: If you give people something to vote for or against, and make your case, then they will turn out and vote. If you don’t motivate them, then forget about it. Because they won’t show.

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Kevin McKenna’s Attack on the Territorial Army (and Ruth Davidson)

They always say you should write about what you know. What a pity Kevin McKenna failed to heed this basic guideline when writing his attack on Ruth Davidson for taking up the post of Honorary Colonel of 32 Sigs regiment, as clearly he knows little or nothing about the Territorial Army and fell back on the much worn stereotypes of it being a Dad’s Army type organisation, wandering aimlessly around the Campsies playing dress up. As someone who spent a total of 17 years in the TA let me try and put Kevin straight on the “part-time professionals”. When the regular soldiers were going off duty on a Friday night many TA soldiers were finishing shifts at their normal Monday to Friday jobs, they would then spend a weekend training, often on exercise with little or no sleep in all conditions, before returning to work on Monday. The training we would carry out was virtually the same as that carried out by regular soldiers, so much so that on the occasions where we were trained or deployed alongside regular soldiers you would be hard pushed to tell the difference. I attended many training courses where I and other TA soldiers not only equalled but outperformed our regular counterparts, and the TA soldiers I served with included some of the finest soldiers I know, regular or otherwise. TA soldiers have been deployed alongside their regular colleagues more and more in recent years, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan. The idea that they are somehow all in the Private Pike mould couldn’t be further from the truth, and perhaps Kevin McKenna should take the time to visit a TA deployment and maybe he’d learn something.

As for the real subject of his article, I as an ex-serviceman was left slack jawed at the appointment of Ruth Davidson as Honorary Colonel to her former regiment, as it showed a complete lack of tact from the MOD for offering the role and from her in accepting it. Once upon a time for an ex-serviceman to become an Honorary Colonel was a sign of your contribution to your regiment, a reward for perhaps long and distinguished service; as far as I am aware Ruth Davidson only spent some two years as an officer cadet before leaving through injury, and was never actually commissioned. Nowadays the role of Honorary Colonel is dished out to all and sundry and is perhaps on par with those gaudily attired Regimental Goats that are wheeled out for ceremonial occasions.

These are however the least of my concerns. Davidson has spent the last few years rallying the forces of unionism to rebuild the Conservative Party. She’s wrapped herself in the union flag and banged on about “no divisive second referendum” above all else. She has successfully managed to convince hard core British Nationalists that her party will protect the union and by exploiting Jeremy Corbyn’s apparent support for the IRA has also seen the Orange Order come back to the fold en-masse, with many abandoning Labour and any pretence of concerns over policies as they do so.

I was told recently of a soldier who decided to run in the council elections, who was told that if he was successful he would have to leave the military. The military is supposed to be impartial, to represent all of us equally, but this appointment blurs the lines of impartiality, and instead subliminally invites us to draw a line between supporting the union, the military and the Orange Order/ the far right and the Conservatives.   Army regulations clearly forbid the wearing of uniform where it may infer some sort of support by the MOD. The fact that Ruth Davidson is not actually a serving soldier means the rules don’t actually apply in this case, however the spirit of the rules should be adhered to as they exist for good reason and their minutiae is not known to the average person. Most people will simply see the Tory leader being endorsed by the Army, nothing less.

Someone, somewhere has played up to Ruth Davidsons vanity, allowing her to extend her repertoire from prancing around on a tank to actually playing dress up as Colonel Gadaftie. If Davidson had any sense she’d have politely refused the offer until she had left politics, instead she has grabbed it and will milk it for all its worth, and as we see from Kevin’s article, will taint the armed forces reputation in the process.

Letter to The National: When You Are In A Hole, Why Not Ask A Friend To Grab A Shovel…

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Letter to The National (27/02/17)
Dear Sir,
As someone who had tweeted my support to Sadiq Khan when he was enduring racist attitudes in his bid to become Mayor of London, I was utterly sickened by his ignorant attack on supporters of Scottish independence, branding them as no better than racists. He can’t claim to have been misquoted as his office no doubt supplied the text of his speech to the Daily Record in advance. His attempt to play down the row was utterly sickening too, where he stated that he was a proud Brit and a proud Londoner. This was reinforced by the increasingly desperate Kezia Dugdale who tried to play down his xenophobic comments by trying to compare racist hatred with having a different view on political policies. Here’s news for you Kezia: politics is divisive by its very nature. It requires you to pick a side. If you think that division is wrong, and that once defeated you should meekly accept that your opponent was right all along, then what on earth are you still doing in your job? You lost the last election and by your own ill thought out logic should have walked away, or joined the SNP because they won. Instead you are pocketing the cash while twisting this way and that, taking doublethink to previously unheard of levels.
Kezia is one of the worst type of Scot. She is the type who will not only talk Scotland down whenever she can, but will defend anyone outwith Scotland who does likewise, no matter how vile their comments. If she truly stood up for Scotland she would never have allowed Sadiq Khan to be fed such a bile laden script to read, but as it was no doubt created with her approval all it reveals is how much of a British nationalist she really is, and that’s where the doublethink kicks in. Because being a proud Brit is good and that’s where it ends. She’ll accept borders, if they are British borders, she’ll accept division, if it’s British division, and she’ll accept pride in one’s country, so long as that country is Britain. The one thing that she won’t accept is that Scots can take pride in their country, want it do well and have the balls to stand up, be counted and work to make that happen. Just because she and her cronies lack the vision and the self-belief to see that an independent Scotland could thrive doesn’t mean we should succumb to her petty, spirit sapping ideal of a neutered Scotland.
Yours Sincerely,
James Cassidywp-1488306322362.jpg

Letter to The National: Labour Party Doublethink

Letter to The National (23/02/17)

Dear National,

Last weekend The Labour party (Scotland Branch) took to the streets of Airdrie to campaign against the recent rises in council tax which were imposed by the Scottish Government. Labour have been demanding an end to the council tax freeze since the SNP introduced it, except in the immediate run up to elections when they have flip-flopped and supported it just in case it cost them the election. In 2008 they helped to scupper the SNP minority governments Local Income Tax plan; now almost ten years later they are making the SNP’s failure to scrap the council tax a major thrust of their attack for the 2017 council elections, despite being instrumental in ensuring that didn’t happen.

The 2008 defeat for the SNP was a solid one and as we have come to expect, the unionist parties were strongly backed by the press and other media, meaning that any attempt to reintroduce a Local Income Tax would receive a hostile reception. The SNP in an attempt either at testing the waters for change or simply trying to be seen to do something formed the cross-party (sans Conservatives, who declined to contribute) Commission on Local Tax Reform in 2015, which was tasked to explore alternatives to the council tax. Part of their recommendations were to end the present system of council tax and to explore introducing an income based element alongside a property based element, however there were no hard and fast recommendations, and the report acknowledged that each party was liable to have a different answer to the problem. In the meantime, it recommended a transitional approach and acknowledged that a long term solution would not be done overnight. The recent end to the council tax freeze has possibly seen the first move towards that, with the higher rated bands (E-H) seeing rises of between £2 and £10 a week. That’s between 28p and £1.42 a day. Or if you are Labour that can be summarised as a 22% hike which will cost you £517 a year. Because what they are concentrating on is that top figure. Some council tax payers WILL pay an extra 22%, but I’m concerned that this is the only figure they’ll be using. Telling people on the doorstep that their council tax will rise by 28p a day doesn’t make people’s blood boil. Telling them that the Scottish Government is hiking their “council tax” by 22% (or £517) possibly will, even more so when you aren’t ascertaining if they are affected or not. According to Scottish Government statistics from 2011, 1% of householders in Scotland are in Band H homes which are valued (at 1991 rates) at over £212,001. For North Lanarkshire that was 120 homes, and unless there has been any great change, a spate of lottery wins for example, that figure isn’t going to be radically different, perhaps (and I’m being generous here) there are around 200 homes valued at over £212,001. That’s the reality. 1% of what may be broadly viewed as the wealthiest households will see a rise of £10 a week. Yet Labour are saying this figure so often that one might be mistaken for thinking that everyone is being hit with a 22% rise.

From the reconvening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999 until 2007, Labour ran the Scottish Parliament. At the same time Labour were in charge at Westminster and controlled the majority of Scotland’s local authorities. In that time council tax rose year on year. In 2007 the average Band D council tax payer, on average income in a middle of the table house was paying 30% more council tax than they had in 1999, while some of the higher bands apparently saw as much as a 60% hike! We aren’t talking 120 homes here, we are talking about every council tax payer across the board, paying more every year to keep Labour local authorities in the manner to which they had become accustomed to. Had Labour remained in power that pattern of continual tax rises would have no doubt continued, hitting everyone, across the board, rich and poor alike. I’d say that a 22% rise after 10 years to 1% of council tax payers is pretty good going in comparison, and I wonder how Labour can complain about such a rise to the top rate, considering they spent years stating that the freeze only benefited the richest in society!

The term Doublethink was coined by George Orwell in his novel 1984, and it refers to the ability to hold and espouse two contradictory views at the same time. Scottish Labour are demanding that the general rate of income tax be raised for everyone in Scotland by 1p, while simultaneously complaining that the four highest council tax bands will see a rise of between 7.5% and 22%. So someone on a salary of about £30,000 a year would pay around than £4 a week (£208 a year) extra under its plan, and someone on the same wage as the First Minister would pay an extra £28 a week (£1,447 a year). So Labour are comfortable taking an extra £208 off someone earning about £30,000 a year, but are outraged if that same person has to pay an extra £2 on council tax? Or that someone earning £140,000 a year is paying an extra £10 a week council tax yet fail to mention that they would pay an extra £28 in income tax if Labour were in government? I wonder if their outrage is more at the fact that they see people not being squeezed for every last drop of cash they can get or if their outrage is because they simply aren’t in power and can’t effect change to the extent they would like.

Since losing power in Scotland, then in the UK, Labour have become the most petty of oppositions. While in Westminster they will happily support the Tories on many issues, or abstain when not wanting to appear to be openly supportive, they have no such trouble in Scotland. If the SNP propose it, we’ll oppose it is their mantra. Opposition for opposition’s sake is as bad as unrestrained majority government, and their opposition in 2008 to council tax reform killed off what was a real chance to radically change the system. Their hubris is a major stumbling block to reform, and if they could overcome that then it’s possible that we could see a more progressive and radical form of taxation introduced in Scotland. Unfortunately there appears to be no sign of that day coming any time soon, and it looks as though decoding Labour doublethink will be a necessity for some time to come.

Yours Sincerely,

James Cassidy

National Memorial to the Highland Clearances

wp-1478309225900.jpgLetter to The National, 02/11/16

Dear Sir,

I recently visited the battlefield at Culloden and was impressed both by the visitor centre and the memorial cairn and clan stones. It is an interesting presentation of the eight month campaign by the Jacobites to restore the Stuart monarchy and of the battle itself, which lasted just under an hour, and it is right that such a significant event is commemorated. What surprised me was when I discovered that there is no National Memorial to the Highland Clearances, an even more significant event the effects of which were far reaching and went on for years afterwards, being felt to the present day. John Sadler’s excellent book on the Battle of Culloden touches on the campaign of violence and rape and ethnic cleansing which was waged across Scotland, particularly in the Highlands and Islands, land reading left me aghast at some of the incidents which took place. To read of the Royal Navy sailing from one Scottish island to another, raping the women, killing indiscriminately and plundering what little these folk had made my blood boil. When we hear of “The Clearances” we think of people being moved on, and we have been presented a sanitised version of events, where excuses are made such as that the Clearances were brought about by a change from mixed farming to sheep farming, and this leaves us with no real picture of the horrors inflicted on these poor souls.
While there are a few monuments across the country to those who suffered transportation or forced emigration, nowhere do we have a have a single centre which remembers those murdered, raped, tortured, exiled and transported; which presents a full and frank account of why these people were treated as they were and just how vile that treatment was. Such a national memorial is long overdue and the Scottish Government must surely take the lead in creating what would be an important focal point in understanding Scotland’s history, both for people in Scotland and the international diaspora.

Yours Sincerely,

James Cassidy

EHCR Exemption for British Troops

Letter to The National, 06/10/16

Dear Sir,
The news that British Soldiers will be made exempt from the European Convention on Human Rights was met by cheers from many quarters, but as a former serviceman I am disturbed at the message that this sends out. British troops will still be subject to the Geneva Conventions but I have seen much over the last few years which suggests that many, and worryingly many among serving personnel, feel that British troops should not be held accountable for what are by any reasonable standards, war crimes. The case of Sgt Blackman RM who shot and killed a wounded Afghan enemy combatant is particularly notable. A petition submitted to the UK parliament gained almost 35,000 signatures. Championed by the Daily Mail, almost a million pounds was raised in a matter of weeks to fund a legal challenge, and this had a high profile launch in the Daily Mail who described the events as ‘Dignified and Defiant”. I can barely believe that so many people would rally round to support a convicted war criminal. The “Our Boys” Sun mentality which has elevated all our soldiers to heroes vastly oversimplifies the fact that they do an extremely stressful job, often in a lethal environment, and that sometimes they get it wrong or worse deliberately breach the law. For a country that once claimed to be a beacon of law and democracy to the world, the attitudes displayed during this “phoney-Brexit” period are anything but. The UK Government is sending a new message to the world and it’s a message which discredits British troops before they even set foot on the ground. They are telling people around the world that the British Army can operate without impunity to a certain extent and that their complaints, which if we look to Iraq where millions of pounds was rightly awarded in compensation, will henceforth be treated as vexatious. If they are trying to tell British troops that illegal detention and torture of suspects is unacceptable they are going the wrong way about it.
Yours Sincerely,
James Cassidy

Davidson, Mundell & Cleese: That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore…

Letter to The National, 03/10/16

Dear National,

I’m old enough to remember when John Cleese was funny and I had perhaps thought that his tweet about the obsequious behaviour of some Scots was the product of some new character he was trying out. Unfortunately the character was his own and while he clarified his feelings about Scots in general and displayed a broader ignorance of Scottish affairs, in the process he touched on an interesting trait which is prevalent among the more senior British unionists in Scotland; where they try to demonstrate their loyalty by trying to “out-anglicise” their London masters. David Mundell is one such “Union Jock” who would be best starting his sentences with “Theresa says you can do…” as he is no more than her messenger boy. Powerless and pitied to such an extent that his nickname ‘Fluffy’ displays how inconsequential he is, that Toom-Tabard would be more fitting. Ruth Davidson on the other hand is more venomous. Her recent comments that ‘Scots were usually placed where nothing could be stolen or broken’ were a new low for her. This is the woman who wants to be First Minister for goodness sake! If she want’s to be seen as an actual alternative government rather than a Quisling style puppet government then she has to stop behaving in this manner. She has to stop demeaning Scotland at every turn so that she can get a pat on the head from London. She evokes an image of some Union Flag bedecked Mr Punch puppet who says to the puppetmaster “No, don’t you get your pretty hands dirty, I’m so compliant I’ll stick my own hand up my own rear end and work it for you- and still have a hand free to beat the Scotch with my austerity stick!”
What shocks me more than anything is how a compliant media which explodes at the slightest gaffe or verbal slip from anyone of a pro-indy bent suddenly becomes deaf, dumb and blind to this. Had Salmond or Sturgeon made such a remark I’d expect at the very least a large swathe of the front pages and a Call Kaye specially extended edition! In Ruth’s case, it’s “Look, squirrel” and the headlines once again focussed on those nasty immigrants and how bet “we British” can identify them, marginalise them and get rid of them, and Ruth, being a proud British nationalist surely has no problem with that.

Yours,

James Cassidy