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 academic or intellectual but that's 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 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 My political leaning is to the left. I'm a nationalist but would not define that 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 while 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 historically right leaning 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.

The Sunday Posts 2017/Mince and Tatties.

Mince and Tatties I dinna like hail tatties Pit on my plate o mince For when I tak my denner I eat them baith at yince. Sae mash ...