The Scots Perspective Needs You!

tspnyr2
The Scots Perspective was set up as a grassroots new media platform to allow normal people to become the media and air all sorts of political views, cover all sorts of culture that is often overlooked by the mainstream media and generally become a soapbox for the view of Scots and the Scots diaspora.

To do that properly, we need more contributors. We need you.

So, if you’re passionate about politics, music, computer games, sports, philosophy, history or anything at all and you want to write about it, please get in touch with us at scotsperspective@gmail.com and get involved.

Advertisements

Second House: Replacing the House of Lords

Lords_Chamber_(landscape)

Chris Napier

There are around four hundred actual seats in the House of Lords, yet as David Cameron hands out a batch of new peerages there are now in excess of 800 eligible members. This makes the House of Lords as the second largest parliamentary chamber in the world and the only upper house in a bicameral parliament which is larger than it’s respective lower house, and throws fuel on the fire of the enduring campaign to press for reform of the UK’s upper chamber.

I believe that the House of Lords is a bloated, undemocratic and expensive anachronism which attaches the government of the UK to an age of aristocratic privilege which belongs in the history books and acts as a block on the UK becoming a true democracy.

In this article, I intend to set out a blueprint of an institution to replace the House of Lords (or act as a second house to the Scottish parliament in the event of Scottish independence) which addresses the criticisms that the Lords is expensive, distant and undemocratic while performing a crucial role in acting as a check on the power of Westminster (or Holyrood) as well as further constitutional duties.

A New House

As a direct link to the UK’s feudal past, I believe that the House of Lords should be abolished with the building itself either converted into dormitories for MPs sitting in the Commons (removing the supposed need for ‘second homes’) and/or turned into a museum, which could generate income which could finance some of the costs of running parliament.

The new institution, which I will tentatively call a Senate as this is one of the most common names applied to an upper house around the world* would be a wholly new body, with new powers and a wholly new relationship with the UK parliament, reflecting the changed needs of the country in the 180 or so years since the current parliamentary balance was established.

* In suggesting the name of Senate, I acknowledge this might not be the best title due to the devolved Welsh assembly technically being called a Senate (or Senedd in Welsh) and the republican connotations of the word and widespread usage abroad may make the name distasteful to some.

Role

The House of Lords’ powers have been diminished over the years as it is only able to delay a parliamentary bill for a limited time and cannot interfere with a budget. With the Senate being elected and more directly accountable to the population, I feel it would be prudent to increase it’s powers to make it a meaningful balance to the House of Commons (or Holyrood in the case of an independent Scotland.)

However, the lower house would remain the more powerful house, responsible for initiating legislation and with government ministers expected to be drawn from the ranks of MPs/MSPs.

The role of the Senate would be to approve legislation, while sending unacceptable bills back to the House of Commons with recommendations for amendments. The Senate would also be able to propose legislation to be debated in the House of Commons and also to rule on constitutional* matters, being able to veto bills it deemed to be unconstitutional or against the interests of the country. The Senate would also be able to calla referendum on any issue they deemed to be suitably important and would act as a court of appeal on any issues of parliamentary discipline.

* Of course, this is dependent on there actually being a written constitution for the UK or Scotland, but I would argue that this would be a very desirable thing to have.

Candidacy

As party politics is one of the less appealing parts of the political landscape anywhere, with individual MPs often having more loyalty towards their party and it’s donors rather than their constituents, it would be a refreshing change for the upper house to be devoid of such divisions.

As such, prospective Senators would not be allowed to be a member of a political party or have been politically active (as an office bearer or candidate for a party) for at least a decade prior to their election. Of course, charity workers, union representatives etc. do not count as politically active.

Furthermore, to avoid the potential bias of big business or individually wealthy candidates, prospective Senators would have a strict campaign budget, but would receive a taxpayer funded freepost similar to that which is given to prospective MPs, as well as mandated coverage on regional television via the BBC.

In my mind, the Senate would ideally be composed of people with experience in a wide variety of real world roles, with academics, charity workers, businesspeople and so on all represented but I can’t think of a way to proactively make this happen.

Election

The Senate would be wholly elected with candidates standing in a single electoral region and the top candidates would be elected via single transferable vote (STV.)

The specifics of electoral regions etc. would depend on whether we were talking about a UK or Scottish Senate, so I’ll deal with each example differently.

For the UK, I would use the electoral regions and number of representatives as used for the European elections, giving a total of 73 senators elected from the twelve regions.

For Scotland, I would use the eight electoral regions used for the Scottish parliament elections, each returning three representatives, giving a total of twenty four senators.

Senators would serve for a four year term and being barred from serving more than three terms, with elections offset from the main parliamentary elections to avoid confusion between the elections.

Location

The expense of building a wholly new Senate building and the inevitable bunfight about where to situate it are evident problems with the creation of a new institution. However, this can be countered in a way which also makes the Senate more accessible, inclusive and representative of the nation. Send it on tour.

The Senate would exist as a legislative body composed of its members, not tied to any particular building. The Senate would meet in locations across the country, rotating between electoral regions on a monthly basis, thereby ensuring that the Senate is in your part of the country at least one month a year, with the public able to view debates and so on.

Of course, the expenses accrued in travel and accommodation for senators and staff (both senator’s aides and the administrative staff of the institution) would be considerable, but given the restricted number of senators, this is still likely to be less than the running expenses of the House of Lords as it stands.

In practical terms, this means that the Senate would meet two days a week, while Senators would be expected to work in their home regions three days a week, holding surgeries, meeting constituents and working from their home office.

Remuneration

Being a full-time job which is intended to attract ordinary people, rather than simply the wealthy or a professional politician, I propose that the wage for Senators be fixed as twice the average UK wage – at the moment amounting to a wage of around £55’000. This wage is sufficient to reflect the level of responsibility implicit in the role and discourage corruption (as power without proportional remuneration will inevitably lead to corruption) while not being so generous as to attract those who could earn more as a CEO.

Senators would also receive expenses for travel between their residence and where senate is being held, plus an allowance for an office and staff.

Senators would be barred from holding any other business interest while in office* or from accepting any ‘figurehead’ roles with companies after their term. If they insist on profiteering, they can write a book…

* If they are business owners when elected, they would be allowed to continue as owner but only in a non-executive capacity, handing the running of the company over for the duration.

Accountability

Any senator or prospective Senator found to be claiming fraudulent expenses, favouring business interests or similar will be immediately stripped of their position and a by-election process started.

There would also be a recall procedure similar to the proposed Recall of MPs act, whereby electors would be able to recall a Senator if a sufficient number lodged their name against the motion to do so.

Obviously, many of these suggestions are in very broad strokes and reflect my personal preferences but the purpose of the article is largely to show that the way things are and have been done in British (or Scottish) politics does not have to endure.

By challenging the institutions and forms of our governance and having an open debate about what kind of country we want to live in and how we wish to be governed, positive change can move from seeming an impossible dream to something which seems logical, natural and inevitable.

Groups, Crowds and Cliques

Photo credit: lewishdreamer, Flickr

Photo credit: lewishdreamer, Flickr

Pat Wylie

Where there are groups, there are group dynamics.

After thirty years as a left-wing backbencher, an outrider in parliamentary Labour politics, Jeremy Corbyn recently became Labour leader with the support of an overwhelming 66 per cent of those who voted. I welcome Corbyn’s leadership. Perhaps now Labour will return to being the party that promotes secure employment and universal human rights. Perhaps this symbolises a revival of the left in England and thus a narrowing of the gap between the political cultures at Westminster and at Holyrood. Perhaps not; Corbyn’s support appears to have come from trade unions and ordinary people rather than from many of his fellow Labour MPs. In any case, what does Corbyn’s victory tell us about group dynamics and group thinking?

Corbyn first became an MP in 1983, at the same time as Tony Blair. Many Labour MPs of his generation went on to form protective cliques around Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and each other, hitching their own careers to New Labour. Within a few years, this generation of MPs came to dominate the Labour party, reforming the party from the top and giving the general impression that there was “no going back” to anything resembling left-wing socialism.

Throughout the period 1983 to 2015, Corbyn was given no additional responsibilities within parliament, nor did he gain the media platform or public recognition afforded to other left-wing Labour figures such as Tony Benn, or controversialists such as George Galloway and Dennis Skinner. Corbyn’s hitherto low profile will have played some part in his recent success; he is an untainted outsider, who didn’t compromise and had the strength to resist the charismatic power of New Labour.

And so it goes in work and life. Not everyone will attain a position of great prominence, nor high salary; not everyone’s career ends with a flourishing up-tick as we reach our later years. In contrast to Corbyn, the nondescript recent lives of Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Alastair Campbell illustrate the pitfalls of a career that peaks early. At one point or another, most of us will belong to an “in-crowd”, held in high regard by others and getting away with our mistakes. Most of us have also experienced an “out-crowd”, far from power and not expecting to be thanked for our efforts.

“Group-think” prevails in most white-collar workplaces, not just in government. It happens whenever crucial decisions are made by a number of close colleagues with the same priorities and vested interests. The good news is that these things tend to change over time. To take one example from social work and public services, today’s out-crowds are those who stood by and did nothing while young people were being sexually exploited in Rotherham, Rochdale, near celebrities, and in many other places besides. The tide is still rising and there remain many people who have yet to be held accountable for their negligence or active participation in the sexual abuse of children. But the group-thinkers who said nothing could be done have been undone by their own complacency; a new generation is determined to act to prevent these injustices in future.

I can think of two crumbs of comfort to the phenomenon of in-crowds and out-crowds. Firstly, times change and lots of people get their comeuppance at one time or another. Secondly, there is more to life than winning and leading. The recent flurry of publicity around Alex Ferguson’s new book, Leading, seems to revolve around the premise that life can only really be enjoyed if one spends it in a state of perennial “victory”, leading one’s team to ever greater triumph in perennial competition against others. Suffice to say, life doesn’t work like this and many leaders and winners probably wish that they hadn’t bothered to make the compromises and sacrifices necessary to reach “the top”.

Power should only be held by those who don’t desire it. Good luck, Jeremy.

Roundtable – Can David Cameron survive #piggate

pig_1571615c

This week our contributors had a spirited debate about the motivations behind the allegations that the Prime Minister had carnal relations with a decapitated pig’s head and the possible effect it might have on his political career going forward. Of course, this is one of our less serious and more irreverent roundtables, but we just couldn’t resist. There will be memes.

What do you think about the image of Cameron porking a piggy? Let us know?

Siobhan Tolland – That’s if he lasts till Sunday of course.

Chris Napier – He will. Much of the MSM is refusing to cover the story, there is no corroboration and at the end of the day most people don’t give a fuck if a politician is a bit of a pervert – it’s almost expected.

Alan Stares – I’m going to take the unpopular route and say that while it’s immensely funny it was well in his past, it didn’t hurt anyone (assuming he didn’t get a live pig and kill it himself) and it doesn’t affect his job ability. Mhari Black got slated for things she had done in the past and a lot of folk (including me) defended her so the same rules must apply to old pork scratchings there. He’ll survive because let’s face it, there is no-one for them to answer to and the Daily Mail has already dragged out his dead son for an article about how nice he is.

Chris Napier – Also, the whole act of face fucking a dead pig – if it in fact happened – was part of an upper class club initiation, the purpose of which is so that anyone who breaks ranks can be dragged down with smears by their erstwhile buddies. As Cameron has NOT broken ranks, it’s unlikely that his buddies in the corridors of power, who run the newspapers etc. will be complicit in dragging him down this way. Hence, it will be brushed away and be nothing more than a snarky online joke in a week or two.

Let’s be honest, the cover up of the Westminster pedophile ring, the destruction of the welfare state and the decision to embark on military operations in a sovereign state targeting our own citizens without parliamentary discussion or approval are all better reasons to have a go at Cameron.

It’s also worth thinking that this all came out at the same time that a former general was advocating a military coup should Corbyn win in 2020 and decide to enact his anti-Trident, military-reducing policies. Even a negative story can be useful if it diverts from the true operation of the machine. With that in mind, we’re not talking about how really positive Corbyn is anymore, rather how cartoonishly bad Cameron is and that has never done him any harm before.

Paul Duguid – Agree with all you say here. And if you add the fact that Ashcroft “donated” millions pre 2010 on the premise of a post by Cameron the story makes more sense. The timing, on top of the coup, overshadows the deal with China for the nuclear plant in a part of England already subsiding, which we’ll pay over the odds for (this has already been agreed) he’s either taking one for the team or they’re looking to oust him early. My money would be on Boris… Osbourne is nowhere near clever enough!

Chris Napier – Word is that Boris isn’t nearly as close to the Tory succession as we all supposed before the election. Apparently his incompetence has been exposed at Westminster, when he could get away with it as Mayor. That means Osborne is almost a shoe in as the next leader. Of course, Gideon is in Cameron’s relatively Euro-friendly camp so he’s unlikely to want to rock the boat before the EU ref.

12011122_10153238656562875_7570796020795745293_n

Siobhan Tolland – I am not so sure actually. It doesn’t matter if it is true or not in terms of propaganda, because it is extremely effective. The image is now here in the public. The PR trying to make him look good but this story would never have been told if there weren’t other powers allowing it. This is a strategic maneuver to discredit him, and the question is who did this and why. If this was just Lord Ashcroft and the Daily Mail then it would have been silenced. Other powers are behind this. Chris, I thought about this as a way to silence other issues but for me that just does not make sense. There are a million other ways of moving public opinion away from these issues. Cameron shagging a pig is a poor strategic move that is extremely risky. The coup issue was being managed very well and it actually wasn’t that big a scandal media wise. And it is not as if the PR campaign against Corbyn was flailing. It was actually being quite effective. Unless there is a hidden story somewhere that is a million times more scandalous than this, then it simply does not work as a distraction story. This is much more than that. This is huge! That is came out and managed to get out it huge! This is the PM, petty revenge from someone doesn’t touch him unless it is allowed to. No, in my opinion, this is a strategic manoeuvre to get rid. Nothing else makes sense. This it way beyond what he did or didn’t do. And in terms of PR it is nowhere near anything of Mhairi Black’s past. It is also not about judgement of his actions, it is whether he can survive the sheer force of that image regardless of its truth.

Chris Napier – That’s a good case, although I still think that the biggest damage to Cameron is that his ability to go on about ‘British values’ when he’s widely perceived as having had public carnal relations with a deceased, beheaded pig is significantly compromised.

In any case, he did always say he was stepping down at some point during this parliament, so maybe this just brings that forward by a few years.

That thought leads me to think that maybe there is an element within the Tories that would prefer a less pro-Europe leader to be in place before the EU referendum takes place… or is that TOO tinfoil hat?

Siobhan Tolland – Have you read the Dug, it disna matter what they throw at us, we can just retort back, aye bit your leader shagged a pig! As for the Europe thing, hmm, certainly something up and we seem to have missed it along with the internal wranglings. Caught up in the internal wranglings of Labour no doubt. Can a man plagued with the image of shagging a pig really continue? I have these images of PMQ and everyone just trying to suppress laughs and someone just grunting out in the silence. Its too much….

12006661_1016839041679860_5078332160568144800_o

Louise Wilson – We’re now on day 2 and the Daily Mail has continued its attack on Cameron. I agree there is something strategic going on, because the paper has always been pretty pro-Cameron. Whether it is to push for his removal ahead of the EU referendum, or as punishment for the recent change in the “migrant crisis” narrative, or something else remains unclear. The paper seems set on destabilising him, though given he is not running for PM for a third time I do wonder why.

Or is could just be that the Daily Mail new this would sell papers, and given that he is to start down sometime between now and 2020, why not choose Dave as a victim. I also agree with previous comments that it’s unlikely to be particularly damaging – it’ll all be over in a couple of weeks.

12039223_10208005421199190_8524803930478397222_n

“MAN UP!” – Masculinity in modern society

bitch

Horse

So there I was, about a week into my binge of Western films sat in my lounge with my cowboy hat on, beef jerky at my side, a can of beer in my hand (I don’t like whisky) and chowing down on the cream of the crop starring the man of men (before men started to hit the gym and carrying machine guns with one hand) Mr Clint Eastwood.

I decided to check out some of Mr Eastwood’s more unfamiliar back catalogue and stuck on ‘High Plains Drifter’. All the stereotypical events seemed to run their course smoothly as a lone stranger (Mr Eastwood himself) trots into a small town and enters the saloon for some refreshments, some less than savoury residents take offence to this and proceed to harrass the stranger who predictably ends up shooting them in a stylish and “Fuck yeah!” way without batting an eyelid. Enter the pretty female character, obviously set up as the love interest……….actually no as after a brief exchange of harsh words from the lady the stranger then drags her into a barn and rapes her! Yes, rapes her! The hero, the good guy, the protagonist of the whole film within 10 minutes of the opening credits had committed one of the most heinous crimes known to the human race.

This was no “playing hard to get’ fumble either, this was full on rape with kicking, screaming and all the rest further cemented by the fact the lady in question tried to shoot him for it later in the film while in tears. To add insult to injury the scene was shot to make it look as if the young lady was starting to enjoy it halfway through!

Awkward

Some may say it’s not the worst thing that has ever appeared on screen these days but this was made in 1973 at time where the western genre was still held highly in regard with the good guys always being good guys through and through. I came to the end of what was undoubtedly a great film but also a very awkward watch due to the fact that I was unsure of who exactly to root for as there seemed to be absolutely no reason for the rape or no resolution or turn of character at the end. The Stranger went out exactly the same way he came in, a rapist.

clint

Clint Eastwood has been an icon of masculinity for decades

Having both starred in AND directed the film too there is no doubt that Mr Eastwood was fully in charge of all the decisions made on the film and the rape scene was a definite choice. Having known his work and how he likes to be controversial it struck me as a bold move by Eastwood to show a more realistic side of the old west as gunfighters and strangers, although having the power to help a town with baddies, probably wouldn’t be all morals and manners and rape was a very common thing back then. It also served to change the mindset of the viewer who could have so easily gone into ‘Western’ autopilot and taken the glamorisation of people killing each other as something cool but throw in a horrible scene like that and it brings in the questionable character of someone who can kill so easily.

The other side of the coin is that it perhaps reinforced the age old and quite frankly disgusting notion that all women are objects who simply cannot resist a powerful man and that they are all secretly ‘begging for it’ and all it takes is a little persuasion then they’ll love it once it gets going.

This is unfortunately still quite a common train of thought in this day and age by men and one can simply put it down to being a prick but there are environmental factors at work too with masculine conditioning STILL happening in this day and age.

Bullshit

I learned long ago that being macho was a lot of shite. It’s simply nothing more than insecurity for little boys who are scared of being called gay by their arsehole pals and would in fact go so far as to commit horrible crimes (such as rape) in order not to lose face. Not to sound snobby but these people are more often than not the type of neddy runt that everybody hates. A meth head padawan with a malnutrition frame and shaved baldy head who will not even think twice about taps aff at the slightest fart of sunshine through the clouds and he type of clown that everybody knows would square go his own shadow if his ‘crew’ were around but wouldn’t utter a peep if on his own.

Of course this is generalising, macho bullshit exists everywhere. The corporate world is full of the power ego super freak who see woman as nothing more than just another thing to be dominated over or conquered like some sort of business takeover deal that see’s employee’s wages cut or even fired. Also, the regular guy with 2.4 children in the suburban house who meets his neighbours with a smile at church every Sunday is beating the shit out his wife because she questioned his choice of tie and he couldn’t be seen to lose face over that so he taught her a lesson.

These less than savoury gender roles are often ingrained at a young age by equally clueless parents and often it can be the threat of violence that drives the ignorance message home. Equally are the Christian mentalists who indoctrinate their young into the hate spouting pseudo moral warriors they are while ignoring the rest of their ‘good book’ as they call it and just go out their way to make life difficult for everyone. I understand my views maybe be somewhat harsh and if I have offended anyone then fuck you!

Poofs

So what are men supposed to do these days? is it wrong to look up to gun toting retro idols such as Clint Eastwood or Arnold Schwarzenegger? Is it wrong to chase the image of the buff dude a la Van Damme for yourself? Of course not, it’s fantasy and liking a stereotypically masculine image does not make you a prick, it’s your actions that define you

There is no getting away from the fact that generally (and I use the term loosely here as there are far more gender identities out there than just male and female these days) men and women are different. Equal but different and that should be celebrated. Of course androgyny and any other form of gender identity should also be celebrated too if that is what you are drawn towards, let’s be clear about that as taking the best of both worlds seems like a pretty intelligent way to go.

It’s also rather humorous that with the macho struggle for masculine validation within image it is ironic that the male gay scene often far outdoes it’s straight counterpart yet is usually the main source for insult. Aside from the sport of bodybuilding where else is the male form so wholeheartedly celebrated with facial hair, style, physique all more often than not looking infinitely more masculine and developed than their hetro brothers. In that respect, the bullshit insults of ‘wee bufty’ don’t really stand up to much and really are just a bunch of fat straight guys trying to make themselves feel better by making shit up to call one another because you know, complimenting another man makes you a total bender!

Expectations

It’s sad that even in this day and age the male rubbish meter is still quite high. What man in their life hasn’t heard the terms “just deal with it” or “fucking man up”. House husbands are not a rare thing but they are STILL looked down apon as lazy or work shy by both men AND women as if the standard stereotype of the male breadwinner is still in full effect and the simultaneous message of that is ‘women are crap at providing’.

depession

Depression sufferers are often told to “Man up!”

It hits those suffering from mental issue hardest though. Depression is a terrible, terrible affliction that shows no outward signs but eats away at your confidence like a horrible cancer. Some days you know you just have to get on with it but can’t and you dare not tell anyone for fear of being branded weak or worse if you have a family that you will be accused of letting them down and your reasons labelled as excuses by those who simply don’t understand that illness goes beyond a bandage or a stookie. Confidence is everything in this world, it enables us to do may wonderful things with the utmost creative drive but take that away by conditioning to conform to something that either doesn’t quite fit or harbours unrealistic expectations and we as humans will naturally try to compensate for it, often in the worst ways possible.

Being the dinosaur that I am I’ll still watch my westerns, I’ll still quote the entire script from Commando with my pals, I’ll never wear skinny jeans, carry a man bag or wear eyeliner, I’ll still buy horrible clothes that look like they’re from a trucker’s suitcase in the 70’s and I’ll never be particularly PC either and you know what, that’s ok! Why? Because I’ll also never say it’s not ok to do any of those things, I’ll always support everyone’s right to be who they are and I’ll happily drink in a rock bar, a gay club or anywhere else that there’s no idiots. Admittedly I’m a bit of a grubby old wizard that grew up watching He-Man and Rambo but I like to think of myself as slightly more enlightened than my fellow grunts of that generation.

Of course it works both ways and there are those out there that see even my kind as some sort of obsolete relic and I have actually been questioned, nay accused about my relatively old school attitude by snydey hipsters posing as spokespeople for the gender identity crew sometimes simply for the way I dress which pissed me off more that the genuine people out there were being misrepresented by these conformist wanks.

I think if we all just stepped back and stopped expecting things of each other due to accident of birth or otherwise then the world would be a slightly better place!

“Opinions are like assholes…….everybody has one!”
– Clint Eastwood

Roundtable – “What did the ‪#‎indyref mean to you?”

07_indyref_g_w

This week, near the anniversary of the independence referendum our contributors were asked what the indyref meant to them. As ever, we’d love to hear your reminiscence of the referendum and what it meant to you.

Louise Wilson – I’ve worried about my answer to this question for a while. The truth is the indyref doesn’t sit quite as close to my heart as many of my colleagues and friends. In the end, I voted yes. But I did so on the belief that decisions are best made at the most local level possible (with of course some national oversight to ensure there aren’t massive inequalities), and getting powers to the Scottish Parliament is part of that step.

I didn’t vote yes because I automatically felt Scotland would swing left, nor because I felt our nation would be economically better off. Of course, I hoped this might be the case in the long run – but I was well aware of the risks. So when the No vote echoed across the country on 19th September, I wasn’t totally heartbroken.

Instead, I hoped that the UK could go forward together with the progressive momentum which had been found in Scotland. Looking towards the general election results, maybe that hope was misplaced. Looking towards Labour leadership results, perhaps it wasn’t.

But mostly what I took away from the indyref was the huge levels of engagement. People young and old were taking about something that before had been considered distant, irrelevant. I overheard people on the street, on the train, in the supermarket actually talking about legislation, the constitution, and political parties. This was incredible. And even more amazing, is the effect this had on turnout in Scotland compared to rUK in May.

I hope this can continue. Even if you disagree with the government of the time, it’s important to register that. It’s important to use your voice, vote or campaign to tell those at the top what your want. The indyref wasn’t about becoming passive, letting things roll by and just keeping the status quo. The indyref was about action, fighting for what you believe (whether left, right, unionist, pro-indy or anything else). That is what the indyref meant to me.

Siobhan Tolland – This is a deceptively difficult question. If I was to answer it in one sentence though, it would be it has shifted my perception of power. To my shame I used to see the Scottish Parliament as a bit of a Disney Parliament. Interesting an all but really Westminster was the ACTUAL parliament. In a post-referendum Scotland I realise now that the basis of our power absolutely and completely has to lie in Scotland and Westminster is but a tool to achieve that.

The two great moments of the referendum for me showed me very clearly, once and for all, that Scotland’s path was inevitably set for independence no matter what. As a historian I often see moments as they fit into a long sustained period of time and consider their importance within that context.

The first moment was The Empire strikes back greeting of the labour MPs, as they trooped up from England to persuade us to vote No. Welcome our Imperial Masters! They were humiliated by a guy on a bike with a megaphone and the Star wars theme tune blasting out. It was the funniest, most brilliant and most politically potent moment of the referendum. If you haven’t seen it, you really really should:

It showed the revolution that was happening. For decades Labour was in unquestionable control. Westminster was in unquestionable control. All the debate, the discussion and arguments didn’t even touch this moment. The MPs were left looking absolutely ridiculous as any vestiges of power they had were stripped away under the booming, ‘Bow to your imperial masters’. Robin McAlpine said that this moment was the beginning of the final stages of Empire and that encapsulates it so well. When the powers at be are ridiculed so completely they have no power left.
The other moment was the weekend before the referendum. I am still sad I missed being part of this. I started getting social media reports and videos of thousands of people just gathering in the streets, singing, dancing and partying. The sense of celebration and hope swept across the country. It was happening in Perth, Dundee, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Inverness. All over, thousands just parting across the country on the eve of our most important moment in modern history. I knew there and then Independence would happen.

No to be fair, I did kinda think that might have been last September 18th. But what these moments have done for me was continue my certainty. I had assumed I would have moved into a deep dark depression post-Independence. The fate that we now have even a year on, with a government killing off our citizens without remorse and refusing assistance to vulnerable people generally shows a society more and more bereft of compassion. I find myself using ‘fascist’ more and more often whereas a year ago I would have been reluctant to use that word.

There was a lot to be depressed about. Yet, from the moment I realised we had lost, I just kept thinking and saying, it doesn’t matter. The empire is crumbling. Independence is just a matter of time. Nothing I have seen changes that for me. The massive move into the pro-Independence parties, the dessimation of Scottish Labour and the slow move of public opinion consistently towards Independence all mark the historic inevitability. I genuinely believe that.

The UK government did not win the referendum. They got a stay of execution for their Empire.

For me now, changing society has become my main stay of life. I can’t undo my political awakening and I can’t stand back and watch such ingrained cruelty of our Fascist state. Self-determination is part of this struggle now. Social justice and notions of fairness and compassion are so deeply ingrained together now. I want to help make the final crack that broke the empire.

Anna Crow – Political awakening. Education. Empowerment. Honest discussion and debate. Learning to see through the mainstream media and political spin. Arguments on Facebook. Seeing vast levels of hypocrisy and people putting their own interests before the common good. A new kind of solidarity. Badge-wearing. Green Yes.

Liam Muir – I have learned more over the course of the referendum campaign and in the year since about politics, history and global affairs than I did in all my years beforehand. Seeing the enthusiasm many in Scotland shared for the prospect of self-governance forced me to get to grips with many of the main arguments in favour of and against independence. It was this engagement that formed the foundation of the person I am today and that has given me a new found clarity.

One day when I was helping out at one of the Yes stalls in Edinburgh’s Grassmarket, I had a fascinating exchange with a flamboyant American tourist who went by the name of Marie. She walked up to our stall, camera around her neck and a bemused expression of her face, seeming genuinely perplexed at the idea Great Britain would break up.

‘What would become of the Union Jack?’ She asked.

‘After everything ya’ll been through, you wanna throw it all away? Ah don’t get it!’

To her credit, once her ambivalent attitude had been fully showcased, she did ask me why I thought Yes was the right choice.

I always feel so many emotions whenever faced with this question. I was amazed how superficial her thought process was but also excited she showed enough interest to listen to us. When asking her to contemplate the USA’s history with the British Empire and how she thought the Scottish independence movement had cause to even exist in the first place, she flipped up her Steampunk lenses and listened.

Firstly, I explained to her how strong the political argument is. Scotland’s voting influence being marginal, Westminster implementing cuts to vital services when an already alarming number of people are working to maintain their own poverty and so on.

Just as I was about to approach the taxing issue of Scotland’s financial stability, she interrupted.

‘Ya know I never thought of that! Sounds good guys, can I take a badge?’

She took two badges, one for herself and one for her husband. Now whether she had been wholeheartedly convinced that self determination was definitely the route Scotland should pursue, or was late for the Tattoo and took the badge in an attempt to create the illusion my words had resonated with her, I will never know.

This chance meeting brought me to a an understanding that no matter how important we all consider this debate to be, others give it no such credence.

When the campaign began, I distinctly remember being continually surprised at how much of an impact the pro independence movement was having on this country. For the first time in my lifetime, politics had become mainstream. The environment I was living in during the months leading up to the vote was often one I thrived in. My involvement in local activism saw me expand my knowledge and understanding of how this society functions and more importantly, how much influence our politicians actually have on our lives.

Was the referendum a failure? It really depends on who you ask. To those unwilling to give the vote a second thought, it was probably no more important than it was to Marie, wearing her Yes badge for a lark whilst playing tourist on vacation to Northern Britain. For the people that threw themselves in to the debate, viewing independence as the first step towards UK wide reform, the goal was not achieved. This does not constitute failure in my eyes.

Scotland may not have millions of people marching through the streets demanding their Government grant them their independence as we see Catalans doing in Barcelona. It may be entirely possible that far from being an inevitability, Scotland could have missed the boat and been left behind by other countries that have managed to escape British imperial rule. Whatever the polls say in the years ahead, a country politicised is a country alert and the democratic will of Scotland may never have been stronger.

Chris Napier – For me, the indyref was about a personal political awakening. I’d always been interested in politics but spent most of my 20s (I didn’t vote at all until I was 28) pretty apathetic to the process as New Labour seemed so dominant as to make the act of voting redundant. I’d always been a supporter of independence – as a teenager for wholly vacuous Braveheart reasons and later as a student I discovered the sound economic and sociological case for it.

In any case, the indyref caused me to take a look at all my preconceptions and (by that point, slightly dated) knowledge and reassess them before engaging friends, family and strangers to see what they thought – which proved to be an enlightening experience

By the time it was all over, I knew I couldn’t just sit back and allow the machines of the state to continue twisting information and stifling freedom and democracy – so I became an activist, turned my writing over to politics rather than pop culture and I am not going back in my box. After all, ‘the price of apathy to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.’

More than that – the breadth of the debate and the awakening of popular political engagement in Scotland made my own awakening more meaningful as a part of a greater paradigm shift, rather than the isolated rantings of one individual. As such, I’ve met people over the last year, through being politically active and writing about politics – who have inspired, encouraged and educated me and I’d like to think that this is a process which is ongoing across the country.

The independence referendum was cruel lesson in defeat (all to familiar to a long time follower of Scotland’s sporting endeavours) but also an invigorating and inspiring example of what can happen when people really start trying to change things, start talking and co-operating, even against impossible odds.

As such, it’s not even just about independence but about involvement, analysis and progression.   It’s a few million personal awakenings like the rolling pebbles which start a landslide… a landslide which has not been stopped and hopefully never will be.

 

One year on, still wishing for a better future for Scotland

025023

Anna Crow

If you could have one wish for Scotland’s future, what would it be?

To mark the first anniversary of the Scottish independence referendum, yesterday on Buchanan Street in Glasgow city centre there was a wish tree.  Passers-by of all ages, whether shoppers, those heading home from school or work, or those simply out for a walk enjoying the late afternoon sunshine were invited to write their wishes on a tag to tie onto strings connecting two trees, forming what became a multi-coloured and diverse washing line of people’s hopes and dreams, people’s desires for their own lives, those of others around them, and for our country as a whole.

There were no limitations as to what people could write.  ‘Everyone should be given a puppy!’ read one.  ‘Better weather’ was a desire expressed by several.  ‘Legalisation of cannabis’ another read, with a drawing of a marijuana leaf.  Another said ‘Happiness’, with a big smiley face.  Some were strongly worded, such as one which read ‘FUCK OFF TRIDENT!’ underlined multiple times.  Hope was expressed by one person for Scotland to become a ‘sexy socialist utopia’.  One read ‘For my ex to be lonely for a long time’.

Others included wishes for no child to be born into poverty, for more girls to get involved in science and politics, for an internationally recognised Scottish passport, for exams to be made easier, for Scotland to have an entry in the Eurovision song contest and unsurprisingly, for a second referendum.  Common themes included greater power for Scotland and independence from Westminster rule – one that I saw simply read ‘Freedom’ – and opposition to nuclear weapons in Scotland and the current austerity regime and its consequences.  Another expressed the simple desire to keep the political discussion going.

There were a diverse range of contributors, even including elected members of the UK Parliament such as Philippa Whitford, MP for Central Ayrshire.  Those involved in the event included Common Space’s Michael Gray and Stephen Paton from Left Scotland, who was filming the event.  The main organiser was Aileen McKay, a Glasgow-based activist and student who like numerous others become engaged in politics for the first time in the lead up to last year’s referendum, and whose passion for positive social change in Scotland continues to engage and inspire many.

The spirit of this event was one of openness – where all were welcome, discussion was invited but never forced, and no opinion should be censored.  One person there asked me whether it was okay to write something in Arabic on the card.  ‘Of course!’ I replied.  Others who I had conversations with included those who were visiting Glasgow as tourists, someone who still regarded Scotland as home even after living in Australia for over 40 years, someone who was passionately opposed to the EU as a whole and could see no possibility for EU reform, and an older woman who some minutes into our conversation admitted to being a Conservative party supporter.  Even in that conversation some common ground was found as we discovered we shared a mutual respect for new UK Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Events like this are a clear demonstration of the nature of our new politics in Scotland.  This politics is bold and visible, diverse and creative, even humorous upon occasion.  This politics is about genuine engagement with the people of Scotland; listening to them to speak about the things that affect them, inviting them to express their hopes and dreams, welcoming honest discussion and debate, and politics where at the very heart there is an invitation to work together where there are things we agree on, to work together build a better future for our country.

I feel privileged to count Aileen and others involved in this event as personal friends.  I myself was not engaged in campaigning on the streets or involved with the work of pro-independence groups including Yes Scotland and National Collective in the lead up to the referendum last year, as many of these friends were.  In large part, work commitments at that time limited my involvement in the Yes movement primarily to discussions with friends and family, both in person and over social media platforms such as Facebook.  But in the time since the referendum, my political engagement has increased, both through the Scottish Green Party and involvement in activism that is not specifically party-affiliated, often through people such as these who I have met in social circles in the past year – people who like myself are part of a growing and vibrant activist network in Scotland.

Politics should not be about Oxbridge educated middle-aged white men in suits looking down on the little people and enjoying the power and privilege they hold over them.  Politics should be about all people – people feeling free to ask ‘stupid questions’, to take to the streets standing up for things that matter to them, to laugh together, even to cry together.

From my own perspective, I can attest to the power of this type of politics.  Friendships form because the things we care about have drawn us together.  Friendships grow stronger because we are still fighting.  One year on from the referendum result, our movement is still growing and the political discussion is still going – long may it continue.

034

One Year On

12033070_929266393787118_2953214586067248658_n

Chris Napier

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way. . . .”

So begins A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens’ homage to duality, social justice and resurrection set against the backdrop of the French Revolution and it neatly encapsulates my memory of the period immediately around the independence referendum one year ago.

As I said to one of my best friends just before the referendum, it felt like something special, possibly the first thing to happen in our adult lifetimes that matched the significance of the Moon landings or the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Before the day of the vote itself, it was a time of incredible hope, infused with a sense that genuine progressive change was possible and fuelled by the most widespread political awakening I’ve ever experienced. I spoke about the referendum, wider politics, what it meant to be Scottish or British to strangers and almost as importantly, to friends and family who I’d never have broached such subjects with in the past.

I remember being at the Yes rally in George Square the day before the referendum and feeling that this was the most excited I’d ever been about politics and the atmosphere was how I’d imagine it would be if Scotland won the world cup (or let’s be honest, just managed to qualify for a football finals…)

Of course, it wasn’t all good. There was conflict and I got into some blazing rows with workmates and friends (I have to admit that I didn’t always cover myself in glory in some of these debates) and there was also the fear that a chance at genuine, honest discussion was being stolen by the establishment and the media.

Then the time came to vote and I will always remember walking up to the polling station with my wife and my newborn son, accompanied by my mother in law (who lives in England but wanted to be in Scotland to experience the vote) and her English husband who insisted on winding me up by accepting and wearing a ‘No Thanks’ sticker.

Then some friends and I settled in with a few beers to watch the late night results show and it quickly became apparent as the results came in for each local authority, that it wasn’t going to go our way. Nonetheless, we saw it through to the end, feebly holding on to the usual Scottish sports fan hope that ‘it’s still mathematically possible if Edinburgh goes 80-20 for Yes’ and then we shuffled off to our beds (or got the first train home) as our hangovers and heartsick disappointment got the better of us.

That said, I remain massively proud that the city of my birth (Dundee) and the city I’ve lived in since the age of 18 (Glasgow) were two of the few parts of the country to cast their vote for change.

When I surfaced in the afternoon of the 19th to see the news coverage of the smug and derisory unionist response, with the debate swiftly shifted to being about EVEL and later the awful scenes in George Square, I was more disheartened than I’ve ever been in a long career of having hopes come to naught (Scottish sports fan, remember.)

So I did something I never thought I would do. I joined a political party and got politically active. I also started writing intensively about politics, rather than just arguing with people on social media. I knew that I couldn’t just lapse into the semi-apathetic state I’d occupied before… and neither did the rest of Scotland.

Fast forward to a year later and where are we?

With a majority Conservative government in Westminster who are openly opposed to revisiting the question of Scottish independence and have no intention of granting greater devolution as seemingly promised before the referendum. Five years and more of austerity cuts and warmongering at Westminster seems certain while the mainstream media stokes up fear and prejudice against refugees and benefits claimants.

Nonetheless (or perhaps because of this), support for independence only seems to grow, to the point where the SNP went from avoiding the topic of a second referendum to setting out a potential timeframe for one.

The worrying thing there is the general lack of self-reflection as to the reasons why Yes didn’t get over the line last year. Too many are too willing to assume that a victory is certain in a second independence referendum and the tendency of more than a few to insist blind compliance with the SNP party line is the only way to manifest support for independence or progressive change is concerning.

For me, independence was never about nationalism – I was Scottish when I was born and I will always be Scottish, regardless of the stamp on my passport or which government I pay my taxes to – but rather about making my country a fairer place with a more representative and responsible government.

I don’t think that can be achieved as an effective one party state or without continual self reflection as to why Scotland should be independent and what sort of independent country we’d want to be.

As such, with a year to get over the heartache of the No vote, a year spent raising my boys (now there’s two of them) and being more politically active than ever before, I’m still Yes because the economic, social and democratic reasons have only become more stark.

Now I’m a bit more cynical and very much settling in for the long haul rather than hoping for transformative change in the short term.

This will be the only year that I’ll dwell on this date as something to remember because I don’t believe in enshrining failure, rather in learning lessons and moving on.

The beauty of the Yes campaign was it’s diversity and inclusiveness, with supporters of almost all political hues, classes and ethnicities lending their voice to Yes. For a few sunny days last year, we had a glimpse of how positive, hopeful and dynamic Scotland’s future could be and that’s the memory I want to take forward.

Another Scotland is possible and even if it is delayed, we can still make it a reality, but only if we maintain all the energy, self awareness, diversity and above all, positivity which made last summer so memorable.

The Truth About Tactical Voting

A voter places a ballot paper in the ballot box at the polling station at Market Hall in Swadlincote, Derbyshire, as the General Election got underway across the UK.


Chris Napier

In the past I’ve written quite vociferously against the concept of tactical voting, specifically with reference to the First Past The Post system used in Westminster elections because it endorses a broken system and effectively keeps smaller parties that you might agree with more in their ‘small party’ box.

However, looking at the upcoming Holyrood elections in May, the different system used in Scotland means that the argument for and against tactical voting is quite different so the topic is well worth revisiting. First however, it is prudent to remind ourselves how the elections for Holyrood actually work…

How the Additional Member System Works

The Scottish Parliament is elected using a form of partial proportional representation called the additional member system which is intended to provide a more proportional parliament, giving smaller parties a greater chance of winning representation while still keeping the local link provided by constituency representatives.

It achieves this by using two votes, one to select a local constituency MSP and one to select your regional list MSPs.

The constituency vote uses the First Past the Post system as used in Westminster elections, with the candidate standing in the constituency who receives the most votes winning the seat. This effectively means that many seats are ‘safe’ and unlikely to change hands, while most others will only have one or two plausible winners, effectively robbing many voters of real choice but this is somewhat balanced by the second vote.

Scotland’s 79 constituencies are grouped into eight regions, each with between eight and ten constituencies and the ‘regional list’ votes are counted across a whole region. Each region has seven list seats which are allocated one after the other with every party (or independent candidates) total number of regional votes divided by the number of seats they have already one plus one (as you can’t divide by zero) including constituency seats.

This system allows parties who would have been underrepresented under First Past the Post rules to gain representation and should, in theory lead to a diverse and pluralistic parliament which is unlikely to produce a majority government. However, the wave of support for the SNP since 2011 has shown that a single party majority is still very possible under this system.

For more information you can check out Wikipedia and the Electoral Reform Society.

The Case For Tactical Voting

The nature of the election means that there are separate arguments for voting tactically with either of your two votes, so we’ll deal with them separately.

Constituency Vote
The constituency votes for Holyrood tend to only be contested by major parties or independent candidates (as the regional list is a far happier hunting ground for smaller parties) and with the polls almost universally predicting a near SNP wipeout, the question of tactical voting in the constituencies is very much one of unionist supporters being willing to hold their nose and vote for the party most likely to stop the SNP.

However, following the general election results in May I can’t see many Conservative, Labour or Liberal Democrat voters being willing to vote for their former ‘Better Together’ colleagues, even in the name of stopping the SNP.

Regional List Vote

This is where it gets interesting. The nature of the AMS system and the likelihood that the SNP will dominate the constituency vote means that it becomes relatively difficult for the SNP to win additional members*.

As such, there is an argument that SNP voters could ‘lend’ their second votes to another pro-independence party such as the Scottish Greens, RISE or Solidarity, raising their chances of gaining more/some representation at the probable cost of a unionist MSP, thereby increasing the pro-indy representation in parliament.

* As if the SNP win all the constituency seats in a region, their regional vote will be divided by between nine and eleven before any additional seats are allocated, usually meaning them need at least 54-66% of the regional vote to be in with a chance of an additional list MSP.

However, there are a few problems with this theory.

Firstly, it is not a locked in certainty that the SNP will win all the constituencies – sure, the polls tend to indicate that they will at least come close, but the polls were predicting a hung parliament with Labour in with a shout of being the largest party in May, so you can only rely on polls so much.

Furthermore, in 2011 the SNP also won an additional list MSP in the North East Scotland region despite winning all the constituency seats, so it’s eminently possible that the same could happen again aross the country, especially with a fragmented vote for the other parties.

Secondly, it’s hard to be certain which pro-indy smaller party is best placed to benefit from your tactical vote.

On balance, the Scottish Greens are the obvious choice, already polling in line to win between 8-12 MSPs and another few % on the regional list could easily push that number higher to the point of making them the largest opposition party ahead of Labour and the Conservatives. Wouldn’t that be a thing to see?

That said, RISE are a bit of an x-factor in this equation, with the media profile and momentum of the new alliance making them a more compelling electoral force than the Scottish Socialist Party which is their immediate predecessor. With that in mind, a few tactical votes thrown in their direction might well be enough to push them over the line and win an MSP in a few regions which would be a great thing for the plurality of the Scottish parliament and a massive comeback for the left in Scotland.

Solidarity are of course the vanity project of a misogynist and convicted perjurer who threw his own party – and the whole of the Scottish left – under the bus to have his vainglorious day in court and as such, nobody should vote for them.

Conclusion

All in all, I wouldn’t recommend voting tactically, if only because it’s almost impossible to do so intelligently as the mathematics involved are complex and your calculations will always be based on polls which have been proven to be fallible.

Instead, I would counsel everyone to use their regional list vote to support the party which you most agree with. If you’re an unreserved fan of the SNP government then stick with them and if you’d prefer to see more progressive options represented in Holyrood, then cast your list vote for whichever from the Greens or RISE most appeals to you. The same applies to supporters of Labour, the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, UKIP and the plethora of other parties that might end up on the ballot.

By voting with your true beliefs, you ensure that the results of the election are a true reflection of where the country is at and even if your vote doesn’t result in an extra MSP for your chosen party, a ballot cast in honest support is never truly wasted.

Can a Corbyn Victory touch Scotland?

Red Tories out

Siobhan Tolland

As the sweeping change is formally announced within the Labour Party it feels like we are watching the second political earthquake of the year. The first one,  of course, was the swathes of yellow that swept across the Scottish map during the General Election. In a stark contrast to the Conservative Party’s victory in England, we voted overwhelmingly for social, political and constitutional change.

I recall thinking that we were witnessing a revolution during the referendum. And then again when the General Election occurred: it was merely a continuation of that process. Here in Scotland we felt it. We felt the political earth crumbling beneath us and new ground forming. By the time people were dancing in the streets the weekend before the referendum, we knew the Union’s time had come. The referendum was not an end, just a step forward in the path to self-determination and a direct challenge to the UK state.

But would we have thought, in any way, that less than six months after the General Election that an anti-austerity veteran peace campaigner would overwhelmingly win the leadership of the Labour Party? Could we have predicted that in any way? But then could we have predicted the referendum revolution also?

Now I know, for Scotland, the Labour Party is anathema and it really should be, given how they have operated. And I think we have to be clear of how politics is operating here. In Scotland we still work on the assumption that Labour is dead. Their position on our self-determination is still their death rattle. But an English political structure voting overwhelmingly for a shift away from the extreme right wing agenda is something special, clear and potentially revolutionary.

As a Scot who is a member of SNP, I congratulate the Labour Party in England for their victory. I am genuinely excited and very happy that people are beginning to unpick the right wing neo-liberal politics in a sustained and humane way. But I look on as a neighbour wishing them well. I look on as seeing another direct challenge to the state. One with many similarities to ours here in Scotland, but not the same one.

And it isn’t the same. And to assume it is the same will be Labour’s problem here. Our progressive challenge is deeply ingrained in a movement for self-determination. The Labour Party is not. That is our clear and ‘line drawing’ difference. We can work with Labour at a UK political level. Indeed, the victory for Corbyn makes a working relationship between SNP and Labour much more feasible. We can now mount an opposition to Cameron’s clearly cruel, cold and calculating policies at a UK level.

However, as a word of caution to Corbyn and the Labour Party. This victory to the left will not win over Scotland. A working relationship with Labour in Scotland will not be possible unless their position on self-determination changes drastically.

But as neighbours who have experienced our own revolution I look on with excitement at how this might change English politics. And it is English politics that have changed today. Congratulations to Corbyn and the people of Labour who overwhelmingly voted for change. I hope we develop a great working relationship with this new Party in Westminster. But here in Scotland, our revolution happened a year or so ago and the key is independence. We left the Labour Party behind back the. And, with a pro-Unionist stance, Labour cant even hope to touch our movement up here, despite Corbyn’s victory.