Saturday, 27 October 2012

The truth behind allegations that Salmond lied

Friday, 19 October 2012

We are the Scots who can make history

Last Monday (October 15) was an historic day for Scotland, and not just because the sun shone in October.

An agreement signed by Alex Salmond and David Cameron means that, for the first time, Scots will be asked their opinion on Scotland’s future. What actually happened as a result of the UK Prime Minister and Scotland’s First Minister appending their names to the ‘Edinburgh accord’ was that powers under Section 30 of the Scotland Act 1998 were transferred from Westminster to the Scottish Parliament. Those powers remove legal barriers that prevented the Scottish Parliament organising and holding a referendum on the constitutional future of Scotland. All of which means there will be an Independence Referendum in 2014.

I’ve campaigned all of my adult life for Scotland to retake the status, powers and responsibilities of a normal, independent nation – and now, at last, I will get the chance to vote on that proposition.

The fact we have reached this historic stage on our nation’s journey marks a remarkable achievement for the independence movement and, in particular, the Scottish National Party. It is not so very long ago that the SNP was considered a fringe party in Scottish politics, but now it forms our country’s government and one with an overall majority in the Scottish Parliament. To have made such a transformation speaks volumes for the party, particularly when we consider that not one of the ‘national’ newspapers sold in Scotland supports independence.

At the last Scottish Parliament Election, in 2011, some newspapers reluctantly gave support to the SNP, mainly on the basis that Alex Salmond was considered the best candidate for First Minister, and the principle party of opposition, Labour, offered no positive vision for Scotland. However, while backing the SNP/Salmond ticket to form the devolved administration at Holyrood, the same newspapers stopped short of supporting independence.

Media support – even in some cases just a lack of hostility – certainly helped propel the SNP to its great victory in May 2011, but now most newspapers will take-up a strongly anti-independence position, which will make all the more difficult the fight to restore to Scotland the status of a normal, independent nation.

Our so-called ‘national’ newspapers are mainly owned by companies based in England and take their editorial positions from head-office. Like the pro-British Union political parties – Tory, Labour, Liberal Democrat – these pro-British Union newspapers support independence and the right to self-determination for every nation on the planet...except Scotland. This opposition to Scottish independence is couched in paternalistic language - the benevolent English nation is saving us Jocks from ourselves.

The British Unionist line is that Scotland without English financial support would be an economic basket case, and such indoctrination has been very successful, which is why you will hear Scots of all ages repeat the mantra that we couldn’t stand on our own two-feet, we are too poor. Of course, if we really were such a weak and poor country, that would actually be an argument for independence, given our economy has been run by British Unionist governments for the past 300 years.

The reality, though, is that if Scotland was an economic drain on England they would have parted with us long ago. Scotland, with our abundant natural resources, is the cash-cow that keeps the entire British economy from bankruptcy. Anyone who doubts this proposition should Google the ‘McCrone Report’, the 1970s document that looked at the potential economic future of an independent Scotland. Needless to say, the report was classified ‘Top Secret’ by the British government and locked away in Whitehall’s files until it recently came to light as part of a Freedom of Information request.

More contemporary figures show an independent Scotland, with control of our North Sea oil reserves, would be the 6th wealthiest nation in the world. The standard of living enjoyed by Scots would be far superior to that currently experienced as part of the British Union, where 1-in-4 children live in poverty and over 2,000 pensioners die every winter because they are poor and can’t afford to pay gas and electricity prices charged by private companies.

The figures showing an independent Scotland would be the 6th wealthiest country in the world – the UK is currently 16th – come from the Annual International GDP per capita data produced by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Estimates of annual Scottish GDP levels produced as part of the Scottish National Accounts Project (SNAP), Annual Scottish population estimates produced by the General Register Office for Scotland (GROS), and Annual GDP and population figures for the UK produced by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Norway, with a population smaller than Scotland, also discovered oil in its sector of the North Sea in the 1970s but, as an independent country in full control of its own affairs, it has built-up a ‘Futures Fund’ that now stands at over £300bn and which is used to the benefit of the Norwegian people. Norway is currently the second most-wealthy nation in the world, while Scotland – a devolved region within the British Union and without control over our own affairs – has some of the highest unemployment and worst deprivation in Western Europe.

Ah but, the oil is running out, the British Unionists tell us. In fact, they’ve been telling us that for forty years, while the true position shows that, today, around 40% of the total oil reserves in the Scottish sector of the North Sea remain to be exploited, which represents a wholesale financial value in the region of £1trillion – and that is the main reason UK governments of all persuasions want to keep Scotland in the British Union.

Currently, Scotland contributes 9.6% of total UK taxation but receives back in public expenditure just 9.3%, which means we are paying £1,000 extra for every Scottish man, woman and child – yet the British Unionists have the cheek to tell us we are ‘subsidy junkies’ and that we are too poor to stand on our own two-feet as an independent nation.

Back in 1707, Scotland was sold into a political union with England. More accurately, England took control of Scotland and has governed us ever since. The ordinary people of Scotland rioted in the streets in opposition to the formation of the British Union, but their opinion was ignored and, in the intervening 305 years, not once have Scots been asked whether or not they wished to remain within that British Union. The Independence Referendum in 2014 is our first opportunity to have our say.

Over the next two years, British Unionists – political parties and the media – will bombard us with every imaginable lie, distortion and dirty trick in their efforts to keep control of Scotland and our wealth. For our part, we must overcome the Scottish cringe, the inferiority complex that has seen so many Scots meekly accept that, alone amongst the peoples of the world, it is only us who are ‘too wee, too poor, and too stupid’ to govern our own country.

We have nothing to fear from once-again becoming a normal, independent nation. We owe it to our children, our grandchildren and future generations of Scots to get off our knees and build a better, fairer Scotland.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Some things never change

There are few things in life that don’t change. We all get older, our children grow up, we move house, we change jobs and careers, but throughout the ever-changing landscape of our lives, the Conservative & Unionist Party remains nasty.

You can rely on the Tories to advance policies geared towards making the rich even richer, usually by grinding the poor ever further into the dirt.

At the Tory conference over the past week, we have seen and heard Government Ministers roll-out a raft of new initiatives designed to appeal to the out-of-touch, right-wing party faithful, such as the plan to slash the welfare budget by a further £10bn (on top of already-announced cuts totalling £18bn). In addition, under-25s are to be stripped of their entitlement to Housing Benefit.

To excited applause, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne repeated the lie that we are all in this together, only to then rule out forcing the rich to pay their fair share. According to the Chancellor, “It's an economic delusion to think you can balance the budget only on the wallets of the rich”. So, instead, the poor are to continue paying for the economic crisis caused by super-rich spivs and speculators in the City of London.

Slipped-out under the radar while the Tories were meeting in Birmingham was a change to sanctions that can be applied to an unemployed person who fails to meet the requirements placed on them by their Jobseekers agreement. A breach of the agreement includes: failing to take part in a mandatory work activity programme, failing to take a ‘suitable’ employment opportunity, and refusing or failing to apply for a job notified to them by an employment advisor. From October 22, failure to comply with any of these ‘requirements’ could see someone having their Jobseekers Allowance removed for 3 months, 6 months or 3 years.

Of course, supporters of the Nasty Party believe that everyone who is unemployed is a work-shy freeloader, so, to them, leaving someone without an income for 3 years will sound like a fair sanction if the Jobseeker refuses a position. The reality, though, is that because of the crippled economy created by the collapse of the corrupt capitalist system, more and more people are finding themselves without work, a situation exploited by unscrupulous employers who advertise vacancies offering no wages.

Have a look at the Jobcentreplus website and you’ll find hundreds of ‘commission only’ jobs where the employers get round minimum wage legislation by stating that it is possible to make its equivalent, but there is no guarantee. There is even at least one vacancy paying commission only but where a monthly ‘administration fee’ of £125 has to be paid to the employer, so a worker could end up owing money to the company. If a Jobseeker declines such a position, is it fair they would then have their benefit stopped for anything up to 3 years? Members of the Tory Party think it is perfectly fair.

As if all of that wasn’t bad enough, the leader of the Conservative & Unionist Party in Scotland, Ruth Davidson MSP, took the opportunity of her address to the mainly English audience in Birmingham to attack her fellow Scots. Pandering to Tory prejudices, Ms Davidson announced that only 12% of Scots contribute to the nation’s wealth. The rest, apparently, are spongers, receiving more from the state than they contribute.

The idea of the Scots ‘subsidy junkies’ was debunked in the 1980s – official House of Commons figures showed Scotland contributes more to the Westminster exchequer than we receive back through public expenditure – but Ruth Davidson was prepared to tarnish the name of Scotland in order to ingratiate herself with her London-based party bosses.

To reach the conclusion that 88% of Scots are dependent on the state, Ms Davidson included everyone who actually works for the public sector. According to the Tories, these workers are nothing more than state-spongers: that includes civil servants, council staff, police officers, nurses, doctors, ambulance crew, fire-fighters, teachers and members of the armed services. Also included in the Tory list of spongers are pensioners, most of whom paid taxes throughout their working lives.

In reality, Scots more than pay their way. Ruth Davidson also chose to ignore corporation tax and business rates raised in Scotland, not to mention the two biggest annual contributors to the Westminster exchequer – revenue from North Sea oil and from the Scotch Whisky industry.

Ms Davidson is relatively new to politics: she was only elected to the Scottish Parliament in May 2011 and, because of the extreme lack of talent in the Tory Party, found herself leader of the North British sub-section just six-months later. However, she has been quick to show that while she may present a new, young face, the party she leads has not changed.

The Tories are still the Nasty Party, and with the willful connivance of their ‘tame Jocks’ they remain an entirely anti-Scottish party.

We should bear in mind it is with these people that the Labour Party is standing shoulder-to-shoulder in the campaign to prevent Scotland from re-taking the status of a normal, independent nation.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Today's Labour Party

Two things stood-out from the Labour Party conference, held last week in Manchester.

The first was the speech delivered by party leader, and would-be prime minister, Ed Miliband: the second was the address to conference delivered by the leader of the British Labour Party’s Scottish sub-section, Johann Lamont.

In general, the media portrayed Miliband’s speech as a personal triumph, one the party hoped would change the public’s perception of the man: currently, few believe he has the abilities required to lead the UK. However, closer examination showed the triumph of the leader’s speech was actually one of style over substance.

Miliband showed he can deliver a speech in the style of Tony Blair – if you haven’t already noticed, watch closely the next time he is on TV. In both intonation and mannerisms, Miliband is copying the style of the ‘great communicator’ Blair. Even the Party Political Broadcast that accompanied the conference chose to focus on what a ‘regular sort of guy’ Ed Miliband is...just like Tony ‘pretty regular sort of guy’ Blair portrayed himself, just before he showed the world he was actually a pretty regular sort of war criminal by standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the war-mongering American administration of George W Bush.

Worryingly, the fact mainly English newspapers thought Miliband’s speech was a triumph shows how much they still hold Blair in awe, despite his many faults and failures. Almost everyone now accepts that Tony Blair lied to the people of Britain in order to build the case for the illegal invasion of Iraq. Most people now recognise the damage done to the UK economy under the governments led by Tony Blair and his Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown. The true nature of Tony Blair is there for everyone to see in the way he has conducted himself since leaving office – unashamedly using contacts and the prestige of his former position to make himself a multi-millionaire. Yet, despite all of that, if Blair was to make a return to frontline politics, and was to lead the Labour Party again, chances are he’d take them back into government.

With such a scenario extremely unlikely, it is clear Ed Miliband has been told to use the Blair technique in an attempt to attract the middle-England voters who backed New Labour in three General Elections. Blair is personable, articulate and, if you don’t actually listen to what he says, comes across well, particularly in the broadcast media. Miliband is attempting to ‘do a Blair’, and much of the press was fooled last week.

Look at what Ed Miliband actually said in his speech to the Labour conference and it is clear there is to be no change of direction from the party that was originally formed to give a parliamentary voice to the working class. Today’s Labour Party remains closer to the bosses than the workers. Today’s Labour Party fully embraces the capitalist system that has brought national economies to their knees. Today’s Labour Party remains, in the words of former Cabinet Secretary Peter Mandelson, “extremely relaxed about people becoming filthy rich”. Today’s Labour Party has abandoned all pretence of being a socialist organisation. Today’s Labour Party refuses to support industrial action by workers who face unrelenting cuts to jobs, wages and pensions. Today’s Labour Party supports young British soldiers being sent to kill or be killed in illegal, immoral, imperialist wars fought in the interests of global capitalism. Today’s Labour Party is committed to spending billions-of-pounds on upgrading Britain’s nuclear weapons of mass destruction while, at home, 1-in-4 children live in poverty and thousands of our senior citizens will die over the next few months for no other reason than they are poor and can’t afford to put on their heating.

In the conference speech by Ed Miliband – supposedly a triumph – he made clear the Labour Party would continue to embrace Tory policies and ideology. He also had the cheek to tell us here in Scotland that we are better allowing his party, the Tories and Liberal Democrats to govern us from London rather than electing our own government in an independent country.

Which brings us to the contribution of Johann Lamont MSP. Ms Lamont styles herself as the ‘Leader of the Scottish Labour Party’, but such a political organisation does not exist as an independent body. There is no such thing as the English Labour Party because that remit is carried out by the British Labour Party, and the organisation Johann Lamont leads is the Scottish regional sub-section of the English/British Labour Party. Johann Lamont and Scottish Labour, for all their protestations to the contrary, are very much controlled by party bosses in London, which was why, in her conference speech, she whole-heartedly embraced the British Unionist line that seeks to keep Scotland as merely a devolved region within the UK.

In a classic example of total hypocrisy, Johann Lamont said she was “someone who campaigned for a Scottish Parliament to protect Scotland from future Tory Governments”. This is the very same Johann Lamont who now leads a ‘Scottish’ Labour Party that is standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the Tories, sharing public platforms with Tory politicians, taking part in campaigns part-funded by Tory donors, and all to prevent Scots from re-taking the status of a normal, independent nation.

Johann Lamont and ‘Scottish’ Labour are part of the pro-British Union campaign that wants us to vote against independence in the 2014 referendum. If we do what Johann Lamont and ‘Scottish’ Labour want, we will be sticking with devolution, which means the Tories will continue to impose their policies on Scotland even when we reject them at the ballot box, as we did in 2010. It is, in fact, only independence that will give us the power to elect our own government and forever end Tory rule in Scotland.

In reality, what Johann Lamont and her Blair-clone leader Ed Miliband are saying – although they won’t use these words – is that they would rather see Scotland continue to be governed by Tories from London than have a Labour First Minister in an independent Scotland.