Further breaches in human rights planned by UK Government.

surveillance

Raibeart MacPhàrlain

Following on from current UN investigations into the UK Governments welfare reforms and austerity programme; and their impact on the poor, disabled and most marginalised in our society; libertarians and human rights campaigners now have a new draconian, or should I say Orwellian, legislation staring them in the face – the ‘Surveillance Bill’.

A recent article ‘Snoopers’ charter: Storm of protest over May’s surveillance Bill’, published in ‘The National’ (04.11.15), highlighted very well the protests and implications of the proposed Bill. Alas the outrage shown towards these proposed infringements by the UK Government are being sold to the people of the UK as a noble cause to protect us from paedophiles and terrorism. A rather curious sales pitch from a Government that has done everything it could to subvert, divert, stall, and diminish the investigation into the sexual abuse of children by Westminster parliamentarians.  In February this year, with the help of the Liberal Democrats, it blocked an amendment to the Official Secrets Act presented by Labour MP John Mann, which would have allowed whistleblowers to come forward without fear of prosecution. An issue Simon Danchuk MP (Labour) referred to in one article as so serious that, “parliamentary democracy … (would) … suffer an enormous, near fatal blow” if the truth came out.

It’s also worthy of note that just as the United States is recognising that it has sacrificed too much of its people’s civil liberties to the NSA and are now looking to scale some of this back; on this side of the Atlantic, the UK are pushing forward with this Bill. The very proposals that Edward Snowden referred to via Twitter as “… the most intrusive and least accountable surveillance regime in the west.” But to add irony to injury, he also tweeted “… the UK has secretly engaged in domestic mass surveillance since 1984.” Since 1984? Someone in our security services clearly has a sense of humour.

Also gone seem to be the days where protests by humanitarian and civil liberty groups were restricted to civil wars in parts of Africa or right wing dictatorships in Asia or South America. They have become part and parcel of Westminster Governments in recent years and are particular synonymous with the current UK Government.

The pressure group Liberty described this latest proposal as “a breath-taking attack on (the) internet security” of everyone in Britain, whilst Amnesty International described how it won’t help catch terrorists; it will be used to control what we do; we are being sold “a false choice of safety or freedom”; and the Bill “fundamentally threatens free speech online”.

Even David Davies MP (Conservative) is vehemently against the Bill’s impact on civil liberties when he said that it was “undemocratic, unnecessary and in the long run – intolerable”. However, I would suggest the most appropriate way of summarising the motives behind recent events would be to refer to the prominent Englishman, Thomas Paine, who supported America in the American wars of independence. He suggested that “the greatest tyrannies are always perpetuated in the name of the noblest cause.”

 

I fear the worst.

Roundtable – “What is your opinion of the moratorium on fracking and UCG?”

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This week, we put the topical question of “What is your opinion of the moratorium on fracking and UCG?” to our contributors, but before we get into their responses, a little background is necessary.

In January the SNP government announced a moratorium on the process of fossil fuel extraction known as hydraulic fracturing or fracking, while around ten days ago they announced a similar moratorium on the similarly controversial process of offshore underground goal gasification (UCG).

A moratorium basically means that the processes are illegal in Scotland other than for research purposes until the government is satisfied that they are safe and of benefit to the country.

Earlier this weekend, the SNP conference debated the moratorium and a narrow vote was cast in favour of the current moratorium, which was initially reported as a vote against a full ban, although the truth is a little more complex and well covered here.

Both of these processes are strongly opposed by environmental and community groups because of a history of pollution and seismic instability associated with the practices when used overseas, with the fossil fuel lobby making the case for the legalization of the processes.

Siobhan Tolland: I am going to make this short. It is phenomenal that fracking and UCG can EVER be be portrayed as good for the environment and people unless your sole aim is profit. Pumping Hydrochloric Acid deep into the earth is poisoning it, for instance, pure and simple. Stop fannying around with a Moratorium and ban it. End of story! Anything less is ecological suicide.

Chris Napier: On one hand, having a moratorium on fracking and UCG is a good thing. However, it’s not close to as much of a good thing as an actual ban – as demanded by both public opinion and scientific evidence – would be.

I can’t help but think that the moratorium is essentially a way for the SNP to continue adopting the look of a progressive party which cares about the environment and public opinion until the election in May next year. After that near inevitable victory, I expect they will show their true colours as a pro-business party who are inextricably invested in the fossil fuel industry and announce that fracking & UCG is suddenly OK.

The fact that Ineos have bought up a chunk of North Sea oil, been allowed to start drilling for ‘investigative purposes’ under the moratorium (as if the weight of scientific evidence from overseas wasn’t sufficient) and paid a hefty sum for a stall at the SNP’s conference all indicate that they are investing heavily in the Scottish fossil fuel industry and they wouldn’t be doing this if they hadn’t been given some sign that they’ll get to frack us in the end.

This is another serious crack in the SNP’s image as a progressive party which has me seriously considering whether I can in all conscience vote for them in the constituency ballot in May.

Louise Wilson: Well, well, well. After numerous calls for a total ban, even from many of their own members, the SNP is still sat on the fence on fracking. I can’t help but worry that Chris is right.

The justification for this is that there needs to be full and extensive research into the impacts of fracking (which I’m sure will come out with “as long as it’s done right, THE MONEY”) – and completely ignores that non-Scottish literature out there already.

But aside from all the fracking-specific issues that have been raised (contamination, house prices decreasing, mini-earthquakes), this also completely ignores one blatantly obvious fact: shale gas is a fossil fuel.

Put simply, we cannot afford to allow fracking and UCG to go ahead because, even without the short-term impacts, we cannot keep renewing our reliance on finite resources. Most political parties in the UK accept this already – yet not many seen to actually understand what that means in terms of decisions needed now.

So to come back to the original question, my opinion is this: the moratorium needs to go. Bring on the full ban – and soon.

Alasdair Duke: The issues of climate change and unconventional fossil fuel extraction are too serious to have to compete for space in this piece against political point-scoring. There will be some criticism of the SNP later in this piece, but let’s start with what is wrong with fracking and so-called “unconventional gas extraction”.

Global warming is caused by a variety of gases of which the most significant is carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is created in various ways, but burning stuff, especially stuff with a high carbon content such as fossil fuels, is a leading cause of carbon dioxide emissions and therefore global warming.

We are on course for the world’s temperature to increase by around four degrees celsius by 2100. Consequently, at some point within a few generations, polar ice deposits will melt completely. There will be widespread drought and flooding, sea level rise will obliterate low-lying areas, and food and water supplies will be in a state of total crisis.

So… burning fossil fuels is always bad news.

Fracking and so-called “unconventional gas extraction” are the latest, and among the more desperate, of humanity’s attempts to literally burn the contents of our planet.

Mankind has always burned stuff. Primitive early humans developed the ability to light fires using wood. Our more recent ancestors turned to wax, paraffin and other fuels. The fossil fuel industry took off in the 1800s, at first by extracting what might be called “conventional” fuels; those which were on land and were fairly easy to extract using the technology of the time. In the twentieth century, as the price and our demand for oil increased, less “conventional” fuel extraction methods began to emerge. These included drilling under the sea, paying despot overseas governments for the chance to burn their fossil fuels, and fracking. More recently, there is oil and gas exploration in previously inaccessible or unviable places such as the Arctic regions; perversely, the shrinking of the ice caps has only encouraged Russia, Canada, the USA and others to search for oil in the far North.

As I write this in 2015, we have passed the point where the industrial-scale extraction of fossil fuels should ever be described as “conventional”. I gather from scientific consensus that the only conventional, rational approach that could safeguard the future of humanity is to leave it in the ground.

So it’s fair to say that I am opposed to all fracking and unconventional fossil fuel extraction. I am opposed to it in Scotland and I am opposed to it everywhere. Of course Scotland must set an example and ban fracking. We are an educated and wealthy nation that can set an example on this issue. I would also contend that we should go much further in tackling climate change; tackling topics such as transport, home insulation and seasonal/vegan food consumption.

The SNP appears craven. There are numerous factors that have long pulled the party towards the fossil fuel industry: chiefly, the centrality of oil to their arguments for Scottish independence, and the party’s power base in the North East of Scotland where the oil industry has transformed the local economy. The party has always maintained close connections to the fossil fuel lobby and continues to do so, despite the influx of tens of thousands of younger, more idealistic members since the referendum.

The SNP leadership, and in particular Alex Salmond, have gone to great lengths in recent years to appear “statesmanlike”: unifying, populist, disciplined and yet pragmatic. Something for everyone; a recognisable brand that the whole country could trust. But, faced with a stand-off between their chums in the fossil fuel lobby and those who believe in sustainability, the party came down on the side of short term economic self-interest. To hell with the long term.

There are many SNP members who will be disgusted by their party’s gradual U-turn towards fracking. Maybe they will try to drag their party away from this horrendous mistake. But for the casual voter, and for what remains of the Radical Independence Campaign, the game may be up.
Other political parties are available.

What is your opinion of the moratorium and the prospect of fracking/UCG being legalized or banned in Scotland? Let us know!

The Conservatives have infiltrated Labour

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Liam Muir

Labour’s actions over the past eighteen months have led me to three possible conclusions. (1)They think the only path to a more equal and prosperous society is with a Labour majority Government (2)The party is full of sociopathic careerists, more interested in their own individual gain than the overall well being of the electorate whose votes they beg for every five years or (3)They are unaware UK citizens have internet access. I’m not willing to rule out any of them until Labour give me good reason to.

After the General Election, most Labour voters would probably have deemed the best course of action to be to incase Ed Miliband in concrete and dump him in the river Thames. In the run up to May 5th, political historian Tariq Ali, when asked how much of Ed Miliband’s Prime Ministerial campaign had drawn from his Marxist Father’s works, said, ‘Ralph Miliband would be spinning in his grave’. Some are of the opinion that Ed couldn’t distance himself enough from ‘The Man Who Hated Britain’, as the Daily Mail referred to him in 2013. Others think we needed him to be ‘Red Ed’. The problem was that he never actually seemed to make his own mind up. Corbyn faces a similar dilemma today concerning the division within the party. Stewart Hosie MP put it best recently when he said,

The Labour Party are leading him [Corbyn], he is not leading the Labour Party’.

Miliband tip-toed, tongue tied, stumbling off the Question Time stage as if Nigel Farage had sneakily tied his shoe laces together. A tactical error was made during the campaign when labour continually insisted on campaigning for a majority. It didn’t matter how much more socially progressive the SNP’s manifesto was or how appealing Sturgeon was to the English electorate, Labour hid behind Scotland’s national question with blind faith in the hope that Scotland would vote Labour to avoid the Tories.

When we really break down just what Labour’s campaign tactics in Scotland were, it is really little wonder they lost 40 MPs. We were being asked to put aside the numerous problems we had with Labour’s manifesto, pro Trident, pro austerity etc just so a Conservative Party, bearing a striking resemblance to Labour, could be avoided. After 5 years out of Government, all Labour could muster was a plea to vote for the lesser of two evils. Pathetic.

Osbourne’s failure to hit his target of eliminating the public sector deficit by 2015 and actually increasing our debt was apparently not enough ammunition for Miliband.

So what do we have on offer from Labour today then? That is a frustratingly difficult question to answer at this point. If Jeremy Corbyn’s visit to Scotland in early October did anything, it surely only reaffirmed our fears. Regardless of how progressive his politics are, he is as out of touch with Scottish voters as the rest of his party. Someone should have told him that appearing on the same platform as Kezia Dugdale is the Kiss of Death. Mind you, he probably should have already known that.

In a piece I wrote on Jeremy Corbyn’s visit to Dundee for The Scots Perspective in August(https://thescotsperspective.wordpress.com/2015/08/14/jeremy-corbyn-visits-dundee-2/), I made the point that the SNP need not be the enemy of Labour in the fight against Conservative rule.

They didn’t understand this during the election campaign. The SNP said they were willing to offer some kind of vote by vote agreement with Labour to ‘lock’ the Conservatives out of Downing Street. How did Labour respond? Nothing short of political suicide as Miliband actually said on live television that he would be willing to let Cameron back in to Number 10 rather than form an anti-Tory alliance. I understand they had anxieties about England’s fear of the SNP but if that really were the case, it would have helped if Labour didn’t aid the Tories in their quest to vilify Sturgeon’s party at every turn.

They don’t understand this today either. Corbyn’s factually inaccurate comments on the SNP’s supposed privatisation of Scotrail and Caledonian Macbrayne, did him no favours whatsoever. Whether or not he was uneducated or just uninterested, you wouldn’t blame Scots for taking these comments as more political dirty tactics from a party who has already been written in to Scotland’s bad books in permanent marker.

Even if Corbyn had his facts straight when criticising the SNP, it still comes across as the ‘SNP bad’ mantra Labour have been spouting since the Scottish Parliament became operational in May of 1999. You only have to look at the subsequent election results in Holyrood to know that has never worked. Corbyn should have already known that too. Uneducated or uninterested? Labour’s Failure to grasp that victory in Scotland is unachievable is a set back for the anti-austerity movement.

Most recently, John McDonnell drew more unwanted attention to Labour’s hectic division when he publicly announced at the Labour party conference that they would back George Osbourne’s Fiscal Charter despite telling ‘Scotland’ that the SNP are not anti austerity and that Labour are the ‘true anti-austerity party’. They then made a perplexing U-turn by announcing that they were actually not going to back the charter after all due to “growing reaction” to spending cuts since his announcement. Growing Reaction? No Shit Sherlock! Finally, when 20 Labour MPs abstained from the Commons vote, showing public defiance of their new leader, the bill was passed.

It’s no huge shock.

We knew Corbyn was not representative of the parliamentary Labour party but it is a sizeable task to undo the Conservatives’ infiltration of Labour. It can only be a good thing that Labour did at least ‘change their mind’, but its the flipping and flopping Scotland has largely grown tired of.

Unless things change fairly drastically, a Labour majority in 2020 is unlikely. For the sake of the fight against the Conservatives class warfare (cutting inheritance tax and working tax credit simultaneously and so on), I hope Labour realise that their insistence on a majority Government has to end. Its time they thought about what is more important. Getting as many of their pals elected as possible or getting the Tories out. I fully accept if Corbyn is going to be an advocate for Labour’s transformation, it is going to take time. Cohesion is a necessity for any party, however, it’s like former US president George W Bush once said,

‘If you don’t stand for anything, you don’t stand for anything’.

Scottish Greens Pass Far Reaching LGBTI+ Equality Policies

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Elaine Gallagher

Yesterday, at the annual conference of the Scottish Green Party in the SECC, Glasgow, the SGP made two important and far-reaching policy commitments. The policy motions, on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI+) People and on LGBTI+ Health, passed unanimously in the first case and overwhelmingly in the latter. The policies commit the SGP to strengthening the protections for LGBTI+ people against discrimination in Scotland, and against medical abuses such as surgery without consent and discriminatory practises in blood donation. Continue reading

Thanks! Sharp words to No voters.

 britain isnt eating

Tam Tolland

Did you vote NO at the referendum? If you did thanks for that, you bastards.

As a pensioner, we are next on the Tory hit list. No more winter fuel allowance. No more free bus passes. No more xmas bonus, and various other cuts. So because you voted NO you let loose the “Dogs of War”on your own people. Happy now are you? The unemployed, the disabled, working mothers, people on Tax Credits, low income families,  children. the old,and the sick, all being attacked the Millionaire Morons at Westminster. Because you voted NO. Some people may argue that when you voted against an Independent Scotland, you were not aware of the carnage you would cause, so it is unfair to blame you.

Being subject to these cuts, I am not one of those people. In my mind you are to blame. You caused this, you voted NO because you believed the lies, because you were afraid, because you didn’t give a fuck about anyone but yourselves. So as I said, thanks for that you bastards.

Because you voted NO, you are not immune to these cuts, they will effect you, they will effect your family, they affect your freinds. And when they do, me, and thousands like me, will say “Fuck You” for allowing this to happen.

Maybe next time you will think. I will help send them homeward to think again. I will vote YES.

Lessons in Scotland for Jeremy Corbyn: We are not a region.

corbyn Kezia

Siobhan Tolland

Don’t get me wrong. I love the fact Jeremy Corbyn is mixing it up down south. He is trying to initiate progressive change, and we have to support that, especially against an attempt of the right wing (in and outside of the Labour party) to oust him. We should support any progressive against this scheming. Christ even the Unions stabbed him in the back over Trident. ‘Kill millions with weapons of mass destruction. Must save jobs, must save jobs!’ Continue reading

Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn Compared.

The Oligarch Kings

static2.politico.com

Bernie looking Presidential

Much has been made since Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour Party in Great Britain, of the similarities between him and Bernie Sanders the Presidential hopeful. In that both are left of centre, and are older men with white hair, both with a tendency to be a bit scruffy this is certainly true – beyond that, less so.

Regarding dress sense, Jeremy trumps Bernie here, as “Jezza” (as we affinados are encouraged to call him) has all the sartorial appeal of a geography teacher who does Morris dancing in his spare time.

Basically, Bernie is the fully realised progressive democrat, the real deal, and Corbyn presents more as a washed up old lefty from the old school still banging on about all the old issues we left behind years ago.

Bernie Sanders is a true son of the working class born in 1941, and at 73…

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