Sunday, 19 October 2014

The Sunday Posts 2014/ The King's English

 I take it you already know
Of tough and bough and cough and dough?
Others may stumble, but not you,
On hiccough, thorough, slough and through.

Beware of heard, a dreadful word,
That looks like beard but sounds like bird.
And dead: It’s said like bed, not bead --
For goodness’ sake, don’t call it deed!

Watch out for meat and great and threat…
They rhyme with suite and straight and debt.
A moth is not the moth in mother,
Nor both in bother, nor broth in brother.

And here is not a match for there,
Nor dear and fear for bear and pear,
And then there’s dose and rose and lose --
Just look them up -- and goose and choose.

And cork and work and card and ward,
And font and front and word and sword.
And do and go, then thwart and cart,
Come, come, I’ve hardly made a start!
A dreadful language? Why, sakes alive!
I’d learned to speak it when I was five.
And yet, to write it, the more I tried,
I hadn’t learned it at fifty-five.

Photo by Alistair.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

What A State to Get Yourself Into.

Let's just take it as read that I was heartbroken by Scotland's NO vote to independence in the referendum last week. Take it as read because it's true and it's taken me till now to sit down and write even a few lines without wanting to slip into tears or throw my computer at the nearest wall.  Now, having wallowed in as much disbelief and despair as I can take, maybe - just maybe - it's time to try and take some positives from a ten point defeat. 55% to 45% in favour of staying part of the UK, a union that has existed since 1707.

Ten points eh? That might sound like a lot but it's not really. Just two hundred and forty thousand votes from a voting population of 4.5 million would have changed it. Careful Alistair, don't start greetin'** already laddie!

I keep thinking of the British national anthem. Few people know the second verse. It's not considered politically correct to sing it any more - officially at least. To be fair it was written in the aftermath of an armed uprising.

'May he sedition crush, and like a torrent rush,
Rebellious Scots to crush
God save the king!'

No change there then.

The political, media and business establishments threw everything - and I do mean everything - at us in the last week of the referendum campaign, triggered by just one poll that showed that the YES side might have taken the narrowest of leads. There had been two years of patronising, dismissive complacency as Westminster, or the three main UK political parties, had previously disdained any thought of getting involved or even talking about potential independence as 'an issue just for the  Scots people alone' so far was it from even the merest possibility in their minds. Perhaps they were entitled to that opinion because the referendum started with a poll that showed those in favour of independence as around 27% of the population and anyway, voter apathy would be in their favour as those most likely to vote - the older generations - would be against it. And - they had played it smart in refusing the Scottish Government's demand for a question on the ballot papers asking if voters would simply want more power devolved instead of full independence. So in their minds they had it well sown up from the start: No obvious voter appetite, the most-likely-to-be-favoured-option denied and the starkest of questions to make all but the most fervent nationalist baulk at the ballot box. Simply: Should Scotland be an independent country? YES or NO. Finally a defence campaign called 'Better Together' led by the most prominent of the three main Westminster parties in Scotland: The Scottish Labour party who had dominated Scottish voting for generations until a majority government for the Scottish National Party just in 2011 - and that must have been a minor blip, an aberration mustn't it?

A done deal. They could ignore it as an irrelevance while they got on with all that important stuff that goes on in London and the South East and once those nippy Scots had played in the corner for a while it would all be 'Rule Britannia' and 'Land Of Hope and Glory' break out the champers all round and those nasty splittists could be put firmly back in their box again for the foreseeable future.

So it started. There was two years of campaigning ahead before the voting date. That's a long time. Long enough perhaps for voters to weary, become disenchanted. Politics can be heavy stuff and as Johanne Lamont, leader of the Labour Party in Scotland and a key figure in the NO campaign said,  'Scots are not genetically programmed to make political decisions'. Yes really. That's what she said - ON CAMERA. Ruth Davidson, Leader of the Conservative Party in Scotland and another key figure in the NO campaign, has previously stated in a speech to the Conservative UK conference in 2012, that '9 out of 10 Scots are a burden on the state' It puts into perspective  some of the opinions of the political class and the high regard they have for the electorate they want to represent doesn't it?

It's often said that Westminster has been captured by a professional political class. This Scottish campaign has shown how amateurish these professionals can be, so badly did they misjudge us. Many people seemed keen to reduce yes voters in Scotland to bitter caricatures, motivated by a hatred of the English. A tiny minority of the country is indeed this crude, atavistic, small‑minded and prejudiced. But for the most part, our frustration is not directed at “the English” but at London, which dominates the UK so comprehensively, so complacently and so carelessly.

What started a so unlikely a proposition walked on slowly: talking, explaining, challenging. It was a collaborative coalition of groups across a wide political spectrum who shared many common aspects in wanting a fairer, more equal society and who saw that could not or would not be delivered by a political class who were not invested in change. The largest of these groups and who would become the focus of the anti-independence campaign, was the Scottish National Party which also had a majority in The Scottish Government. Their leader, Alex Salmond, Scotland's First Minister would become a focal point for interviewing and especially for targeting of attacks against the wider movement. It is far easier to demonise one person than a whole movement, Shamefully he -  oddly more popular in polls than any other UK party leader - would be demonised as a 'dictator' a 'Hitler', a 'Robert Mugabe', a 'charlatan' amongst other things by mainstream politicians and newspapers.

  It was obvious from the start that  Scottish newspapers were against independence. The disparity between positive and negative leaning articles was starkly in favour of The Union. Articles led and closed with pro-union statements leaving the YES campaign as a defensive centre segment Ultimately every Scottish daily newspaper came out against independence but that was obvious long before any statements were issued. The English press remained silent and probably unaware for at least the first year, slowly gaining awareness over the course of the second year of the campaign but also were overwhelmingly pro-union, although a few lone journalistic, usually left-leaning, voices spoke out, seeing something unexpected happening, hearing something worthwhile that could cause potential for a revisioning of wider UK politics. Those who watched, saw a burgeoning political awakening across the breadth of Scots society. People were talking politics - at home, at work, in bars, clubs and in public meetings people came together to discuss the kind of society we are and the kind of society we could be. This spread like wildfire into social media as groups without any representation of their voice in print or broadcast found ways to get their message and views out there. Pro-independence media outlets sprang up in radio and in broadcasting podcasts etc. A few Scottish journalists were avidly for independence and voices like Leslie Riddoch and Derek Bateman began to be heard as they used their professional background to lever points of view out. A left wing movement called 'The Common Weal' became a platform for many other groups. Bloggers too were important and influential. Sites like ' Wings over Scotland', Bella Caledonia' and others grew in popularity. 'Women for Independence' appeared and proved to be a fantastically energised, vocal and thought provoking group of campaigners. While mainstream media stuck firmly to establishment messages and refused wider  access other groups set up 'Newsnetscotland' to try and provide access to opinions opposing establishment viewpoints. A group of more than 3000 business people became 'Business for Scotland' and tried to represent business views other than large conglomerates and to clarify some of the confusing and downright deceitful messages that were being put about. The BBC became the focus of anger by campaigners who felt that the organisation - with some exceptions -had lost its ability to distinguish between what was a Public Service and State Broadcaster.

Southern and world journalists slowly awoke to the massive energy of what was happening up here in Scotland but many English scribblers simply appeared not to grasp the implication or political reality of anything of magnitude happening so far away from Westminster.

Despite the poor starting point the YES campaign had slowly reduced the lead of the 'Better Together' campaign. They had a positive view of a possible future while their opposition focussed almost exclusively on negatives. Many people were uneasy that all three UK parties had banded together despite huge ideological differences and didn't believe this was for anything other than purely self-seeking motives. Many found that constantly being told that they couldn't do something made them feel  even more determined to do just that. Polls narrowed and the gap slowly got closer and closer. The closer they got the more desperate became the negatives, more dire the warnings. Despite this YES still grew in popularity as again and again the establishment, business and media interests were blatantly shown to collude against democracy.

And then. That bloody poll!

One poll showed YES had taken the lead 51% to 49%.

Suddenly - no longer 'an issue just for the Scots people alone'.

'May he sedition crush, and like a torrent rush,
Rebellious Scots to crush
God save the Queen!'

The three UK party leaders absented themselves from Prime Ministers Questions - a key Westminster sitting - to come to Scotland the very next day, a whole train load of MP's a couple of days after that. The 'Better Together campaign was effectively told to step aside, they would take it from here. Speeches were made in safe locations, amply covered by every media medium around. A desperate, pleading, disbelieving tone showed they could not believe it had come to this point where a potential majority of Scots wanted out of the UK. Desperate times require desperate solutions and so the PM went back home and held meetings with business leaders and banks who then obediently trotted to the media and pronounced doom and gloom for all above the Tweed should there be a YES vote. Prices up, pensions already guaranteed suddenly no longer affordable, collapse of the National Health Service, finance industry headquarters leaving en-mass {including one already based in London for more than 30 years!}The oil industry came out against independence {for tax purposes}, An army General was quoted in all mainstream media that voting for independence would 'shame the memory of Scots servicemen who gave their lives for Queen and Country' On and on and on. The Queen stated discretely but tellingly {against protocol} she 'hoped people would think very carefully'. It could almost have been funny - if it hadn't worked. And last gasp a couple of days before the vote a renewed, energised, cast-iron guaranteed promise of ' Even more 'more powers for the Scottish Parliament' {Remember those extra devolution powers originally refused to be on the ballot paper way back at the start of all this?} A vow of 'significantly more powers, almost federalism'  absolutely guaranteed again and again {and again} Every newspaper, every TV station, every radio news bulletin. Faster, better, safer change.......

But what was in the promise? We have never been told precisely – because they didn’t have time to work it out in any detail fast enough to save their skins – and now in the warm afterglow of victory they are jostling to turn it into something to suit their own petty party agendas and particularly to protect themselves from the wrath of English MP's and public opinion, especially as UK elections loom large ahead.

I wanted rid of the British state for this very reason – you simply  can’t trust them. Not ever. We are now their mouse to be toyed with, allowed to escape for a moment, then trapped and reeled in again. What fun.

It was all so depressingly predictable.

It is all so predictably depressing.


Come on Alistair this was supposed to be looking for positives!

The independence movement is still there. It's growing in multiple ways .
SNP membership has trebled since the referendum result.
Scottish Labour look likely to fall apart at the seams and are being predicted to be wiped out at the elections next year.

We have the most politically educated and aware population in the world right now.
We turned out to vote en-masse. 85% of us.
A politically aware and energised electorate who are going to vote?
Now that's any politicians worst nightmare.

Politically energised certainly, but to do what? Win 20 seats in the 650-seat Commons in a few months time? Haud me back. There will be ferocious campaigns to come but the harder we all work the larger will loom the question:

Why didn’t we take all the power when we had the chance and get rid of this bastard chimps’ tea party that is British politics?

This huge YES vote ensures that Scotland will remain central on the UK agenda. I believe the union is on death row and the no vote  has simply earned it a stay of execution.The establishment parties are now in the process of organising their appeal. That has to involve real decentralisation of power and an end to regional inequities. They never wanted this. It was the very last thing they expected to have to offer. They will grudge every inch, every ounce of power given to The Scottish Government with every fibre of their unionist bodies no matter how positive a spin they put on it. Do the political classes have the stomach and the spine for this?

A devo max that gives Scotland the power to raise taxes to pay for welfare programmes, but not reduce them by opting out of Trident and other defence spending, while maintaining the oil flow south of the border, without even an investment or poverty alleviation fund, is a sham, especially as it was denied at the ballot box. It may be perceived as setting up the Scottish parliament to fail, and undermining devolution. That is a huge risk to store up for the future.

However, it's probably the case that anything more than that would be unlikely to be palatable to the major parties or the broader UK electorate. The biggest problem for the Westminster elites now is not just to decide what to do about Scotland but, crucially, how to do it without antagonising English people – who might feel even more that the tail of 10% is now starting to wag the dog of the rest of the UK. The sentiment has come quickly to the front of some politicians arguments. Getting any agreed powers through English dominated Westminster and into law is far from certain

Many (including quite a few in the no camp) became uneasy by the negative, desperate campaign orchestrated from Westminster, and if the yes campaign excited us to the possibilities of people power, the opposition one showed the political classes, their establishment masters and metropolitan groupies in the most cynical, opportunistic light. From the empty, manipulative celebrity "love-bombing" to the crass threats and smears issued by the press, around half of Scotland might now justifiably feel classified as the "enemy within", that stock designation for all those who resist the dictates of the elites' centralised power.

The YES movement hit such heights because the UK state is widely seen here as failed; elitist, antiquated, hierarchical, centralist, discriminatory, out of touch and acting against the people. This referendum has done nothing to diminish that impression. Against this shabbiness the Scots struck a blow for democracy, with an unprecedented 97% voter registration for an election the establishment had wearily declared nobody wanted. It turns out that it was the only one people wanted. Whether this Scottish assertiveness kick-starts an unlikely UK-wide reform, or, through the ballot box at general elections, we decide to go the whole hog of our own accord; the old imperialist-based union is bust.

Us Scots, so often a regarded as a thrawn** tribe with their best years behind them, have shown the western world that the corporate-led, neo-liberal model for the development of this planet, through G7 'sphere of influence' states on bloated military budgets, has a limited appeal.

Any politician or party who disregards the 45 per cent {and rising} or tries to manoeuvre it into a flimsy deal will truly create huge political waves in Scotland. There is a passion that could easily organise into civil disobedience if its aspiration is flouted through hasty promises being recanted or redacted at leisure. 

I hope it doesn't come to that. That would be a shameful end to the wonderful democratic process that put Scotland on the world's lips and in their minds.

In 1707 English gold sweetened the deal when offered to those privileged few aristocrats who had the power of the vote on a Union. It carried the day. Robert Burns wrote,

" We are bought and sold for English Gold,
   Such a parcel of rogues in a nation."

With this promise we were bribed to stay in The Union. Ironically, shamefully, since they merely 'vowed' us more control of our own taxes and own resources, they bribed us with our own gold.

Alex Salmond, leader of the SNP and Scotland's First Minister resigned, stating "We lost the referendum vote but Scotland can still carry the political initiative. For me as leader my time is nearly over but for Scotland the campaign continues and the dream shall never die."

It's time to wipe our eyes, get back on our feet and start again.

** To 'greet' - lowland Scots 'to cry'
** 'Thrawn' - stubborn

Sunday, 28 September 2014

The Sunday Posts 2014/ He Wishes For The Cloths of Heaven

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

WB Yeats
Photo of The Cathar Memorial, Minerve, by Alistair

Sunday, 21 September 2014

The Sunday Posts 2014/A Parcel o' Rogues

A lament for the loss of independence in 1707 due to the power, influence and financial weight of England. It seems tho' much changes, much abides across the centuries. Now it's time to wipe our eyes, lift our heads and start again

Fareweel to a' our Scottish fame,
Fareweel our ancient glory;
Fareweel ev'n to the Scottish name,
Sae fam'd in martial story.
Now Sark rins over Solway sands,
An' Tweed rins to the ocean,
To mark where England's province stands-
Such a parcel of rogues in a nation!

What force or guile could not subdue,
Thro' many warlike ages,
Is wrought now by a coward few,
For hireling traitor's wages.
The English steel we could disdain,
Secure in valour's station;
But English gold has been our bane -
Such a parcel of rogues in a nation!

O would, ere I had seen the day
That Treason thus could sell us,
My auld grey head had lien in clay,
Wi' Bruce and loyal Wallace!
But pith and power, till my last hour,
I'll mak this declaration;
We're bought and sold for English gold-
Such a parcel of rogues in a nation!

Robert Burns
Photo of Linlithgow Palace by Alistair.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Why I will vote Yes with a passion

 This is in part effectively a response to a newspaper article by an English journalist based in London called 'Why I'd Vote NO With A Passion'. You can read it here.

I would rather be a good neighbour, reaching out a hand in friendship as an equal to a true friend than a surly lodger who feels ignored, neglected and constrained, forced to conform to the choices of a rapacious and absent aristocratic landlord.

I am fervently for inclusion, multiculturalism and multi-nationalism but our political system increasingly denies and demeans the reality of those things. Lip service to these values, to social justice, economic equality and to a progressive, inclusive society isn't enough. It's not good enough for me and it's not good enough for those generations to come. You deny my culture and nationality when you deny me the political, social and economic means to express it and to fulfil the dreams it carries. Now you make a minor gesture of more power but retain control and in a conceited lack of understanding expect me to conform to your limited concept of who I am and be grateful, docile and amenable while I do so. How dare you equate my nationalism with the extremes of the 20th century. You shame yourself in promulgating such absolute deceit.

You acknowledge we're different but don't understand why. That's why you cannot grasp why we recoil from a political system insistent on treating us like a fiefdom. If you lived here, far from London-centric economics,  with its political establishment and inherently superior 'Westminster village' mentality you might feel different too. Few journalists or politicians really understand what this feels like. Those who do speak out find a London dominated media and political system that struggles to hear anything not spoken in a London accent or in big business interest. We feel demeaned and sneered at for being welfare junkies, benefit dependants who spend more - £1200 more per person per annum - on our public services than the UK average while you are ignorant of the reason for this in delivering even limited services across Scotland's scattered communities.

Because of this we are 'taking more than our fair share' and face increasing demands that spend is cut to the UK average. You do not recognise that we pay heavily for this, contributing £1700 per person per annum more in tax than you do and therefore it is we who subsidise you.. Perhaps the more affluent South should contribute the same amount as we do to our union in this unequal society instead. While thousands live in poverty and depend on food banks, in our grotesquely unequal society our taxes  - that should be working for us - subsidise highland estates to encourage the worlds rich to come and shoot birds and maintain their workers on poverty pay. 60% of all private land in Scotland is owned by less than 1000 landowners. Our millionaire Prime Minister likes to come and shoot things on his mother-in-laws 90,000 acres of the island of Jura.

 Meanwhile you, the decision making political class - actually 'elite' is truly the right description -cannot represent an electorate you don't hear or understand as you tread the path of self perpetuation and blatant self interest. Only now, faced with a threat and reality brought on by complacency, conceit and neglect do you actually begin to do what you should be doing every day.  But you're not working your socks off for anything else other than the status quo.  You professional politicians, too often the privileged and privately educated sons of inherited wealth, display a staggering belief in your entitlement to dictate our lives, set us in thrall to the power, influence and demands of global corporations and show a complete disconnect from the reality of everyday life of the vast majority. You make promises and arguments couched in deliberately complex, convoluted language so they can be denied, qualified, redacted and reduced when convenient or challenged. No matter how we vote we are outnumbered ten to one in this fair land and our voices are heard only in a rare chime with English partners. You treat our demands for financial and social independence like the petulant whine of a misguided adolescent, reject and deny legitimate claims with impunity and threaten to withhold our pocket money while you already prescribe how much of our own money we get and what it can be spent on

 You are still that same establishment who, when oil was found in the 1970s,  buried a report for ministers by the senior civil servant Gavin McCrone that predicted an independent Scotland would be richer than Switzerland because you were afraid that an informed, burgeoning Scottish nationalism would split the union and result in a wealthy independent neighbour. You just couldn't have that could you? That was kept secret for 30 years and allowed you to needlessly squander £300 billion in oil revenues without setting up an oil fund to benefit UK society. There are only two oil producing countries that have never set up an oil fund. The other one is Iran. How's that for a comforting comparison?

Scotland is the only country to have produced oil and got poorer. The UK has nothing to show for it and you have the audacity to tell us we couldn't possibly do a better job on our own.. Now we're told the oil will soon be gone and estimates of  remaining value are vastly exaggerated. Our economy will collapse our pensioners will starve. Exactly the same fear mongering you worked to prevent the establishment of limited devolution in 1979. Shame on you for trying that again. Shame on us if we believe you have only our best interests at heart when billions of pounds of investment are being poured into existing oil fields and new ones are about to be opened up.

Now we have the bribe of more powers but, even this last minute offer of as yet undecided amounts of limited power reluctantly given - once it's been diluted, nipped and tucked by Messrs Cameron, Clegg and Miliband in the comfortable afterglow of a 'NO' vote - will be ripped to shreds to get it through a parliament stuffed with English MP's. It won't be fit for purpose for real change and the wish to be responsible for ourselves. It is beyond meaningless and beyond too late. You smile and tell us to be reasonable, you need us, we're better together, you care, ask us to think about our shared history, our heritage. You cajole us and tell us we're too small, too weak, too poor and too dependent on you to go it alone. You threaten us, scaremonger the elderly about our pensions, our economy, our health service and encourage your friends in big business to roll up and tell us in droves they will leave, will hike prices, reduce jobs, cancel investments, that oil and gas will run out. You say the world is safer if we are strong together while you park your nukes next to our largest city.

You don't deserve us any more.

Devolution has made significant positive changes, for example the emphasis on early years provision, early intervention and prevention which the Scottish Government has driven and invested in, the protection of free higher education, free personal care for the elderly and free prescription medicines for all. These all have the potential to make major differences to many lives, immediately and into the future but only barely scratch the surface of our hopes and ambitions. These are the things I value. With limited devolution whoever ultimately holds the purse strings wields the highest power. When it comes to making decisions that affect Scotland, that control should be by the people of Scotland. I believe independence, with complete control over our budget –  both income and expenditure, how we raise it and how we spend it – is the only way we will ever be sure that our priorities are our focus for

This is about a positive vote for our future and is not about voting for any particular political party – that comes later. None of us will get everything we want – but we will certainly be better able to influence a positive future, relevant to Scotland’s specific aspirations and priorities when we decide what we can do rather than being told what we can’t.

In an independent Scotland we can together identify the fundamental principles that will address what we care about and believe in - our aspirations for our country. I believe the way to assure a positive future for Scotland is to be a country that values, nurtures and protects all of its people and its future generations, something they have a right to expect from us. I am not naïve enough to think it will all be plain sailing but how we resolve difficulties will be our decision and for me that is important enough to live with the challenges along the way. We can take a few years of hardship to have control of our destiny. I doubt we will have the kind of hardship you describe though.

There will be no borders, no lack of regard or respect for shared history and heritage from this side at least. But it will be as equals. I believe you will always find Scotland to be your firmest friend and staunchest ally. I will always have friends and relatives living in England. It will never be a foreign country to me. Part of me will always be British but win or lose this referendum I will never choose to be governed from outside my country.

That is why I will vote YES with a passion on Thursday.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

It's Not About The Money, Money, Money.

My name is Alistair Robertson. I am a Scot, born and raised in a small and poor working class community in the coal fields of South-West Scotland. I am not an academic or intellectual but that's probably not important. I am a Scot and today my homeland is on the threshold of one of the most critical points in out history for generations.  A decision must be made on if Scotland should become independent and break a 300 year old political union with the United Kingdom or should we stay. This decision will be taken on 18th September, just a few short days away. Not one of us has a crystal ball. None of us can accurately forecast the future regardless of whether that's as an independent country or continuing as part of the UK.. I am a nationalist. I am not anti-English. I am not nationalist in the way that determined a National Socialist Germany seventy or eighty years ago and nor am I nationalist in the way that would determine a member of the British National Party today. I do not define my nationalism by race or ethnicity. I am nationalist because I believe in our right to self determination and in our ability to take responsibility for our own future and that that future should be significantly different to the society we live in today where the poorest in society are shouldering an unfair and unequal burden by being subject to increased taxes and reduced welfare and being stigmatised as workshy or benefit dependent while the gap between poor and wealthy grows at an ever increasing rate.

At  the moment Scotland has a devolved parliament within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland with fiscal responsibility for about 7% of our national expenditure and restricted responsibility and policy freedom in areas of taxation, welfare, monetary policy and a raft of other areas affecting the kind of society we are.  Politically speaking, Scots have voted for parliamentary representation that, due to the country's size, has been unable to credibly influence the direction taken by a Westminster based UK Government elected by significantly different political agendas to our own for more than 40 years. With Scotland having only 8.4% of the UK population and MP numbers to match, that is a situation that is unlikely to change without radical action.

We are a nation rich in natural resources, with a diverse economy and the kind of potential in renewable energy that puts us near the top of future green energy producers per capita in the Western world. We will most likely be able to export green energy within a generation. We have abundant - but finite - hydrocarbon reserves of oil and gas that will last conservatively, at current production levels, for thirty plus years, even without further discoveries {which may be considerable} - easily long enough to bring on-stream technologically advanced streams of green energy. The Scottish economy currently produces more Gross Domestic Product {GDP} per head than the rest of the UK which means we pay into UK finances more than we get back. Even without oil revenues Scotland is acknowledged to be comfortably placed within a table of the world's wealthiest nations. {and many of the top ten wealthiest are small countries of about Scotland's population} Despite that we are part of one of the world's most unequal societies; a situation that has consistently worsened since the world economic recession of 2008. The Conservative Government, in coalition with Liberal Democrat MP's has led an austerity driven agenda which many feel has stigmatised the unemployed as workshy, penalised the disabled and most vulnerable with benefit cuts while the richest have thrived with tax breaks and a protective attitude displayed towards them as 'wealth creators'. This is a system in which all major UK political parties are complicit, which offers no obvious exit from a model that privileges neoliberal economics over all other aspirations. It treats the natural world, civic life, equality, public health and effective public services as dispensable luxuries,treats workers as no more than commodities and supports the freedom of the rich to exploit the poor as non-negotiable.

The Scottish Government is led by the Scottish National Party {SNP,} who have always aimed for an independent Scotland, but the current independence movement is a  much wider grass-roots movement which spans the gamut of political parties to a greater or lesser degree and is also densely populated with individuals of no party affiliation whatsoever. This movement believes Scotland can only be the kind of society it desires by gaining full control of income and spending, making different choices on welfare, taxation and economic investment and development. Most tellingly of all perhaps, it believes that a smaller unit will be able to hold its politicians to account and make them more responsive to the electorate in comparison to the current situation.

Some of you reading that will no doubt be screaming " So what are you waiting for?"


Things are not so simple as the information above would indicate.

Scotland has been in a political and economic union with the rest of the UK since 1707.  There have been many generations who have lived under the union. Scotland -  often by political design but also by circumstance - has a huge history of delivering its manpower into military and administrative service of Britain's empire. We have shed blood and given our creativity to build an industrial, economic and social entity that has worked for most of those generations. The ties are long and they are strong for many people. While older generations may wait in hope for the Labour Party to rediscover its working class mojo, others are fine with the status quo or scared of the scale of the change - and challenge - we may inflict upon ourselves. Many others, I included, feel there is only one choice. The opinion polls are showing a 50-50 split at the weekend.

As far as the future of the country is concerned it is all still to play for.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

The Sunday Posts 2013/ Oppression

Now dreams
Are not available
To the dreamers,
Nor songs
To the singers.

In some lands
Dark night
And cold steel
But the dream
Will come back,
And the song
Its jail.      

Langston Hughes.
Photo by Alistair.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

The Sunday Posts 2014/Warning

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people's gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.       

Jenny Joseph.
Photo By Alistair.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

The Sunday Posts2014/ Aye. Believe

Vote Yes

Somebody said that it couldn’t be done,
But, he with a chuckle replied
That "maybe it couldn’t," but he would be one
Who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.
So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
On his face. If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

Somebody scoffed: "Oh, you’ll never do that;
At least no one has done it";
But he took off his coat and he took off his hat,
And the first thing we knew he’d begun it.
With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,
Without any doubting or quiddit,
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
There are thousands to prophesy failure;
There are thousands to point out to you one by one,
The dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle it in with a bit of a grin,
Just take off your coat and go to it;
Just start to sing as you tackle the thing
That "couldn’t be done," and you’ll do it.

Poem: Edgar A Guest