Friday, 26 September 2014

The Referendum

That was the referendum, then, and a majority of Scots voted to remain subjects of the United Kingdom rather than citizens of an independent Scotland.

I’ve campaigned for independence all of my adult life, so the result was not what I wanted.  Friends have said I must have been “disappointed” with the outcome, but disappointment wasn’t what I felt last Friday morning when British Unionists secured victory.  I was, and remain, angry.

I’m a democrat, so I accept the will of the people as expressed through the ballot box.  My anger doesn’t stem from people not voting ‘YES’, but from the demographics of the vote and the reasons many Scots decided to vote ‘No’.

A post-referendum poll, carried out by the company owned by British Union supporter Lord Oakshot, revealed that 73% of pensioners voted for Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom.  In contrast, 71% of first-time voters aged 16 and 17 voted ‘YES’.

Areas with high levels of unemployment, poverty and deprivation tended to vote for independence, while more affluent communities where residents, in the main, enjoy a high standard of living, supported continued membership of the British Union.

The young and the poor had the courage to vote for a new country with all the powers necessary to radically transform Scottish society.  The young and the poor had a vision of a better, fairer country where hope and opportunity are available to everyone.  The young and poor wanted change and were prepared to see a different approach to government, one where meeting the needs and aspirations of ordinary men, women and children are the primary consideration.  Broadly speaking, the old and the wealthy said ‘No’, you can’t have it.  That is why I was, and remain, angry.

The ‘No’ campaign’s ‘Project Fear’ served its purpose: it scared thousands into thinking that Scotland becoming a normal independent country was fraught with danger, despite the contrary evidence of every other normal independent country in the world.  Because of their role in the deception, the BBC will never again be trusted by thousands of Scots. 

Many pensioners voted ‘No’ because they believed the British Unionist lie that their pension would not be guaranteed in an independent Scotland, even though the UK Government had already confirmed there was no danger to pensions if Scotland voted ‘YES’.  In fact, the statement from the Westminster Department for Work & Pensions could not have been clearer, saying: “If Scotland does become independent this will have no effect on your State Pension, you will continue to receive it just as you do at present.”

British Unionists continued to lie about State Pensions, including as pensioners were entering Polling Places to cast their vote.  To their shame, Labour Party activists were heard telling senior citizens they would lose their pension if they voted for independence.

It’s a very hollow victory that had to rely on frightening old people, particularly when there was nothing to fear.  The reality is that an independent Scotland, with a social democratic government almost guaranteed, is more likely to offer higher pensions and better welfare provision for our senior citizens.  Meanwhile, the State Pension within the UK is currently one of the lowest in Europe.

Another core lie from ‘Project Fear’ was aimed at people who are currently doing relatively well in terms of employment and income.  According to the British Unionist campaign, hard-working couples and families would see their taxes and mortgages rise if we voted ‘YES’.  This was based on the totally false premise that an independent Scotland would have to raise tax levels to pay for outgoings, and would have to pay more to borrow money on the international markets.  In fact, massive savings on national spending could be made in an independent Scotland – not least the billions-of-pounds currently committed to upgrading and maintaining the UK’s Trident nuclear weapons system. 

It is also the case that an independent Scotland would have a diverse and successful industry-base, including food and drink with a turnover of more than £13bn every year; life sciences - £960m in 2011; creative industries - £5bn; manufacturing with annual exports of £15.4bn; tourism, employing 200,000 people and contributing £3.1bn every year to the economy.  Then, of course, there is Scotland’s oil reserves – the largest in the European Union – which are projected to generate £34.3bn over the next five years (and that is without the new massive field identified west of Shetland).  Given such a vibrant situation, the likelihood is that an independent Scotland could trade on the international markets from a much stronger position than the UK.  However, sufficient numbers of hard-working couples and families were conned into believing their standard of living would be damaged if they voted ‘YES’.

There is, of course, another section of the British Unionist campaign that would have voted ‘No’ irrespective of any evidence showing independence would actually have led to an improved standard of living for them and their families.  The Orange Order and its offshoots believed they were voting to defend a culture and a Union with England that they perceive gives the Protestant faith supremacy over others, particularly Roman Catholics.

It is a very hollow victory that had to rely on the scum who brought violence and sectarian bigotry to George Square and surrounding Glasgow streets last Friday.

The bottom line is that the British Unionist victory in the Independence Referendum was secured on lies, fear and sectarianism.  As polls showed the ‘YES’ campaign ahead just days before the referendum, the three main British Unionist political parties panicked and promised increased powers for the devolved Scottish Parliament, if we rejected independence.

The offers from the Tories, Labour and Liberal Democrats were different – they couldn’t even agree on what to bribe Scots with ahead of the vote.  However, once the referendum result was announced, the London-based parties quickly united to renege on their ‘more powers’ vow.  We now know there will be no significant additional powers for the devolved Scottish Parliament.  In addition, some English MPs have publicly spoken in terms of ‘punishing’ the Scots for having the temerity to even contemplate re-taking our political independence.  One English Labour MP went as far as suggesting any further referendum on Scottish independence should be made illegal.

Many Scots believed the leaders of the London-based political parties when they made their vow promising increased devolution for Scotland within the United Kingdom.  Those Scots were conned.

Since the referendum result was announced just over a week ago, membership of the SNP has soared to over 60,000 and is still rising, that’s an increase of 40,000 in a matter of days.  Other pro-independence parties – the Greens and Scottish Socialists – have also seen large increases to membership. 

I am not alone in my anger over how the British Unionists secured victory in the referendum.  There are thousands of Scots determined to maintain the pro-independence momentum that saw almost half the country vote ‘YES’.  Huge sections of Scottish society have become politically aware and engaged because of the independence campaign and are determined to continue the fight to restore to Scotland the status of a normal independent nation.

British Unionists will find their victory of last week was built on very shaky foundations.  The ‘YES’ campaign, the biggest, most-motivated grass-roots movement Scotland has ever seen is not going away.  People are already organising local groups across the country to keep the momentum going. 

Scotland will be an independent country.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Independence - it's the real thing

Scotland is within days of re-taking our independence.

My old friend Jim Sillars brilliantly summed-up what will happen on Thursday (September 18th), saying, “The referendum is about power.  Between the hours of 7am and 10pm, absolute sovereign power will lie in the hands of the Scottish people.  They have to decide whether to keep it or give it away to where their minority status makes them permanently powerless and vulnerable.”

It is for us – those registered to vote in Scotland – to decide who is best-placed to run our country.  That is the only thing we will decide in the referendum.  We have two choices: a ‘YES’ vote means we believe the people of Scotland are best-placed to govern our own country; a ‘No’ vote hands that power to London and whichever government the people of England decide to elect.

Jim’s statement reflects the fact that, for the 15 hours the polls are open on Thursday, absolute power is in our hands: we are free to decide our future.  For the first time ever, ordinary Scots will be the sovereign power in the land: for the first time ever, we are being asked our opinion on whether or not we want to restore our national independence or remain part of a British Union.  For those 15 hours the people of Scotland are powerful.  If we vote ‘YES’ we retain that power.  Voting ‘No’ hands the power back to London-based politicians like David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband.

Despite the best efforts of the anti-independence campaign to convince us otherwise, the referendum is not about Alex Salmond or the SNP.  Personally, I think Salmond is by far the most effective and astute politician in Europe, not just Scotland.  His deputy, Nicola Sturgeon, isn’t far behind.  However, we will not be voting for Salmond, Sturgeon or the SNP on Thursday.

The referendum asks just one question: ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’  The question could just as easily have been: ‘Should Scotland be a normal country?’  That is what independence means – Scotland becoming a normal country.

Independence is the normal status held by nations around the world.  It is not normal for one country to be governed by and from another, even when that relationship is erroneously described as a ‘union’, even where the ruling country allows the other some limited power through devolution.  Have you ever heard of a country celebrating ‘Devolution Day’?  Countries celebrate ‘Independence Day’. 

No fewer than 60 countries have re-taken their independence from the UK, and not one of them has ever subsequently wanted to give up their independence and return to control from London.  Ask our near neighbours and fellow Celts in the Republic of Ireland if they would like to end their independence and rejoin the British Union: the response could be as short as two words, with the second being “off”.

London-based British political parties, working together under the ‘Better Together’ campaign, have previously referred to their role as ‘Project Fear’: they admit to having tried to frighten Scots into rejecting the normal powers of independence, powers that others countries take for granted.  Incredibly they have even portrayed Scotland’s vast oil resources – worth around £1trillion – as being some kind of burden.  Only Scotland, it seems, would be afflicted with a plague of oil.

Over the past few days, ‘Project Fear’ has used the phrase ‘shock and awe’ to describe its campaigning as we near the referendum.  ‘Shock and awe’ was, of course, the phrase used to describe American and UK bombing of Iraq in the illegal war of 2003.

The new version of ‘shock and awe’ is designed to blitz pro-independence Scots into submission and accept rule from London.  The British Unionist plan is to regurgitate every scare-story they’ve ever come up with – everyone from banks to bra manufacturers are going to run away to England if Scots re-take control of their own country; the oil is going to run out by October, if not before; there will be border guards at Gretna and they’ll shoot you if you have red hair; you won’t be able to watch the Only Way Is Essex (is that actually a threat); your auntie living in Blackpool will become a foreigner (even if that were true, which it isn’t – what is wrong with foreign people?); and supermarkets will hike up their prices (except the ones who say they won’t hike up their prices, and the ones who say prices could actually come down after we re-take our independence).

There is no positive case for Scotland remaining within the British Union, which is why the anti-independence campaign has resorted to scare-stories and lies in an attempt to frighten Scots into accepting continued control of our country by London-based politicians and political parties.

As ‘official’ polls have shown ‘YES’ and ‘No’ running neck-and-neck, the British Unionist parties have promised ‘more powers’ for Scotland if we reject independence.  Except that the promise quickly fell apart when the leader of the Better Together campaign, Alistair Darling, confirmed what was offered is not, in fact, more powers.  It’s simply the very limited devolution proposals they had already set-out months ago.

Only independence gives us full powers over all aspects of our lives – powers over taxation, the economy, employment, welfare, foreign policy and defence – all of which are currently administered by a London-based government Scotland rejected at the ballot box, and all of which would remain administered by that London-based government if we reject independence on Thursday.

The referendum is about who is best-paced to govern Scotland.  A ‘YES’ vote delivers independence and we, the people of Scotland, then elect governments of our choosing.  With independence we will always get the government for which we vote.  A ‘No’ vote hands power back to London and retains the position where, at Westminster elections, Scotland has voted Labour for the past 50 years, but for the majority of that time we have had Tory governments imposed on us by the electorate of England.  Currently, we have a Tory-Lib Dem UK Government running our country, despite the fact those parties finished third and fourth in Scotland at the last UK election in 2010.

I’ve campaigned for independence all of my adult life.  I will be very proud to place my ‘X’ for ‘YES’ in response to the question: ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’  Of course Scotland should be a normal country.

We took the first step towards home rule in 1997 when we voted for a devolved Scottish Parliament: independence completes that journey by returning to Scotland the full powers of a normal independent country.

Independence – it’s the real thing!  Let’s make it happen for Scotland.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

The voice of Scotland

Scotland is going to be an independent country. It’s happening!

Today (September 10), we’ve got London-based politicians visiting for the day to tell us we should vote against taking control of our own country and our own lives -  but their contributions, so far, have shown just how out of touch they are with the people of Scotland.

Tory David Cameron said it shouldn’t be about Scots “giving the effing Tories a kicking”.  Apparently, the man who claims to be ‘our’ Prime Minister thinks we are shallow, short-sighted, foul-mouthed individuals.

In reality, independence isn’t about Cameron or the Tories – other than the fact that, with independence, there would never again be a Tory Government in Scotland – it is about returning to Scots the full powers we need to build a better, fairer country; powers that only come with independence, which is the status held by virtually every nation in the world.

Lib Dem Nick Clegg – the man who promised no increase to student tuition fees in England...before joining with the Tories to increase student tuition fees in England – has promised Scotland that if we reject the full powers of independence, he will allow us some extra powers. So that’s the British Unionist offer – refuse ALL the powers and we will give you just some of them.

Ed Miliband has just said “independence drives you away from social justice”.  This, from the man whose party introduced the Bedroom Tax, which backs the Tories’ austerity programme that is punishing ordinary people and forcing thousands of children into poverty.  It is his party that proposes to remove benefits from unemployed people under the age of 21.  If that’s your idea of social justice, Mr Miliband, you can keep it.  An independent Scotland can do much better by putting the interests of the people before the profit margins of multi-national corporations and the bonuses of bankers in the City of London.

Former Labour Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott (now Lord Prescott) has delivered what he calls a revolutionary thought.  He thinks there should be a UK football team rather than Scotland and England competing in their own right.  Prescott said, “Maybe if Scotland and England played together in the same team, we could finally beat the Germans.”  Apparently, the noble Lord Prescott believes Scots don’t particularly care about our national football team, and believes that we share an English animosity towards Germany.

These English politicians are visiting Scotland for the day, not because they actually want the people of Scotland to remain in the British Union – they don’t really love us - but because they don’t want Westminster (i.e. them) to lose control of Scotland’s vast wealth; the very same wealth that, with independence, will be used by the Scottish Government to meet the needs and aspirations of the people of Scotland.

Residents of Scotland are no longer listening to the scare-stories of the British Unionists: we know we can manage our own affairs better than London-based political parties and politicians.

Yesterday, on the bus home, I happened to sit behind two students – a young man and a young woman – both, it transpired, will be voting for the first time next week.  The young man asked, “How are you voting next Thursday?”  The woman replied that she wasn’t sure.  The man said, “I’m voting ‘YES’.”

The woman said, “That’s probably how I’m going to vote.  Why are you voting ‘YES’?”

The young man replied, “I don’t want to see the NHS privatised like they’re doing in England.”

Today on the bus I found myself behind two female pensioners.  From my experience in politics and campaigning, I would have put them down as traditional Labour voters.

The first pensioner asked her friend, “What about this referendum?”

“I’m going to vote ‘YES’,” her pal replied.

“So am I,” the first woman said.

The second pensioner explained, “You know what’s made me decide to vote ‘YES’?  They [Cameron, Miliband, Clegg] are all up here telling us we need to vote against independence.  They are desperate for us to stay in the UK.  They are desperate for us not to go independent.  That makes me think we must have something they want.  Why are they so desperate to keep us?  If we were a burden they would be desperate to get rid of us, but they’re desperate not to lose us.”

Her pal said, “They’ve been robbing us for years.  Where did all the oil money go for the past 30 or 40 years?  We certainly haven’t seen it.  Look at the unemployment in Scotland and the foodbanks.”

Today, we have been visited by London-based politicians who want to keep control of Scotland’s wealth, and who want to deny us the right to run our own country, in our own interests – but the young students and the pensioners on the bus are the voice of Scotland, and Scotland is going to say ‘YES’.

Scotland is going to be an independent country.  It’s happening!

Friday, 5 September 2014

Why Labour supporters are voting 'YES'

Thousands of people who have traditionally supported the Labour Party over many years will vote ‘YES’ for independence at the referendum on September 18th.

There is even a very active and growing organisation called ‘Labour for Independence’ (LFI), which is comprised mainly of Labour Party members and activists.  On its website, LFI explains, “We exist because the Labour hierarchy rejects independence and is in bed with the Tories.”

Last week I came across an anti-independence ‘Better Together’ street stall in North Ayrshire.  Standing behind it were three men – the district’s only Tory councillor, a former Tory councillor and, between them, a Labour councillor.  I assume the Labour man can justify to himself why he was helping the Tories, but I really cannot believe he was initially motivated to get involved in politics so that he could campaign shoulder-to-shoulder with the party of Margaret Thatcher, the party that is hammering working class people by imposing devastating cuts to public spending, social security and the benefits needed to support society’s most vulnerable.

The incredible position of the Labour Party is that it would rather see the Tories continue to govern Scotland from London than have a Labour Government in an independent Scotland.  That is the party’s official position, but more and more members and supporters are rejecting the leadership’s stupid argument that it is better to leave Scotland in the hands of David Cameron and his posh-boy Tories rather than restore full sovereign power to the people of Scotland and allow us to govern our own country.

Of course, the pro-British Union official position of the Labour Party has been dictated from London.  Despite campaigning at elections in Scotland under the name ‘Scottish Labour Party’, no such political party exists.  Every political party has to be registered with the Electoral Commission in order to contest elections.  The ‘Scottish Labour Party’ is not registered with the Commission.

The London-based Labour Party has registered ‘Scottish Labour Party’ as a ‘description’, which allows it to call itself ‘Scottish Labour’ when fielding candidates in Scotland.  We are told that Johann Lamont MSP is the leader of Scottish Labour, making her the leader of a ‘description’ owned by the Labour Party, which gives its address on the Electoral Commission register as “One Brewer’s Green, Buckingham Gate, London SW1H 0RH”.

Last week the real leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband MP, visited Scotland for the day to tell us we should reject independence.  Mr Miliband said, “Frankly it is an SNP con,” adding, “They [the SNP] are going to continue Tory policies if they have independence.”

It would appear, therefore, that the leader of the Labour Party believes the people of Scotland are very, very stupid.

In government, the SNP has delivered free personal care for the elderly, a living wage for all public sector workers, increased childcare provision, abolished tuition fees for students, scrapped prescription charges and introduced free bus travel for the over-60s, to name just a few of the social democratic policies the right-wing Tory Party wouldn’t touch with a bargepole.  In fact, it is Ed Miliband’s Labour Party that has promised to continue with the Tories’ austerity and cuts programme if it were to win the 2015 UK Election.

Under the last Labour Government, in which Ed Miliband served as a Minister, the rich got richer while the poor got poorer.  One of Tony Blair’s close political allies, Peter Mandelson, infamously declared that Labour was now “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich”.

While erroneously linking SNP policies with those of the Tories, it appears to have escaped Ed Miliband’s notice that, actually, it is his Labour Party that is campaigning shoulder-to-shoulder with the Tories against Scottish independence.  It is Ed Miliband’s Labour Party that is telling Scots we should stay within the British Union, even though that would mean Scotland having future Tory Governments imposed on us by the voters of England.  It is Ed Miliband’s Labour Party that defends the ‘right’ of the Tories to run Scotland from London, even after we have rejected them at the ballot box.

It is for these reasons, and more, that thousands of ordinary Scottish members and supporters of the Labour Party are turning their back on the party’s British Unionist position and will vote ‘YES’ for independence in the referendum.

Those grassroots Labour supporters know that independence will lead to the creation of a real Scottish Labour Party, returned to the left-wing policies favoured by Scots.  They also know the SNP is not guaranteed to form the government in an independent Scotland: it is for us, the people of Scotland, to decide which party we want to run the country – and with independence, we will always get the government for which we vote.

Independence can be the catalyst to create a new and vibrant Labour Party in Scotland.  A real campaigning political party, not simply a ‘description’ owned by an organisation based in London, and not a sub-section of a Tory-clone party led by someone who ‘visits’ Scotland.

The referendum and independence isn’t about the SNP or Alex Salmond: it’s about delivering to the people of Scotland the full powers we need to radically transform Scottish society and build a better, fairer, more prosperous country.

Ironically, one of the organisations that can benefit most from independence is the Scottish Labour Party, and it will have its rank-and-file members and supporters to thank for it - those who voted ‘YES’ in the referendum while the party’s MPs, MSPs and councillors were campaigning with the Tories and voting ‘No’.