Friday, 31 July 2015

A second Independence Referendum

Alex Salmond is wrong: a second Independence Referendum is not inevitable.

A second referendum is not assured, certain, destined, fated, ineluctable, inescapable, inexorable, ordained, sure or unavoidable.  Therefore, it is not inevitable.

However, Salmond knew exactly what he was doing when he made his ‘inevitable’ comment last week to the BBC.  It resulted in the British Unionist media having a collective hissy-fit.

Predictably, headlines in right-wing English newspapers (including those claiming to be Scottish when sold in Scotland) screamed about ‘arrogant Nats’ and the SNP ‘making demands’ despite the ‘YES’ side losing the referendum just 10 months ago.  Tory Prime Minister David Cameron responded by stating he would not allow a second referendum.  This, from a man who leads a party with just one MP in Scotland. 

Alex Salmond knows there is nothing inevitable about another referendum on independence.  He knows it will happen only if the people of Scotland vote for political parties offering such a policy.  What the former First Minister was actually setting-out was the likelihood that the SNP will include in its manifesto for next year’s Scottish Parliament Election a commitment to offer Scots a new opportunity to back independence.

It would be very strange indeed if the party of independence, to quote a past SNP slogan, went into an election not supporting a policy that Scotland should become a sovereign state. 

Of course the SNP manifesto will commit the party to holding an independence referendum if sufficient numbers of Scots vote for the party next May.  That is what the SNP exists to deliver – an independent Scotland – so why would the party drop its core policy at a time when it is experiencing unprecedented support?

What Alex Salmond meant by his ‘inevitable’ comment was that it is extremely likely the SNP will offer a second referendum and that the people of Scotland will accept.

The reason for the British Unionist backlash is that they know it is also very likely that the outcome of a second referendum would be a resounding ‘YES’ to independence.

In a new referendum campaign the Brits could not rely on ‘Better Together’ nonsense.  We are currently living the reality of Scotland remaining within the British Union: increased austerity, the poor made even poorer, proposals by Scottish MPs thrown-out by English MPs, 56 of Scotland’s 59 MPs representing the SNP but a party with just one Scottish MP running the country.

The Labour Party was also reduced to having just one MP in Scotland partly because it stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the Tories in the last referendum campaign.  Labour told Scots we could safely remain within the British Union because they would protect us from the Tories.  Last week Labour MPs, including the one from Scotland, failed to oppose Tory welfare cuts that will hit hardest those who are poorest and most vulnerable in communities across the country.

In the ongoing contest to replace Ed Miliband as British Labour Party leader, the one candidate with genuine socialist beliefs is ridiculed and attacked by the right-wing Blairite majority in the parliamentary party.  Labour is simply a pale imitation of the Tories, endorsing further austerity and claiming someone like Jeremy Corbyn would be a disaster as leader because he actually opposes right-wing Tory policies.

The Labour Party offers nothing but another way to vote for Tory policies…and if we have learned anything over the past 50 years, it is that Scotland does not vote Tory.

Labour betrayed Scotland by indulging in scare-stories during the last referendum, and by backing Tory attacks that belittled the ability of Scots to successfully run our own country.  The party paid the price of its actions at the UK Election and can expect to suffer a similar fate at next year’s Scottish Parliament Election.  Political wipe-out is all Labour deserves for embracing Tory ideology and for betraying the trust of the people of Scotland.

With the likelihood of another SNP majority government after May’s election, in a parliament possibly containing other pro-independence MSPs, such as Greens, it is easy to see why Alex Salmond used the word ‘inevitable’ to describe the prospect of a second independence referendum.

Thousands of people who voted ‘No’ last September now realise they were duped.  The reality of UK Government policies proves we are not ‘better together’.  Voting ‘No’ simply handed power to David Cameron and a Tory Party that Scots rejected at the ballot box.  The only reason Cameron, George Osborne and Iain Duncan Smith can impose their austerity on Scotland is because there was a 10% British Unionist majority in the last referendum.

Thousands of people who voted ‘No’ last September have already switched to the pro-independence side.  If that were not the case, the SNP could not have recorded an unprecedented landslide victory at May’s UK Election.

It is now transparently clear that remaining within the British Union means Scotland having governments imposed on us, even when we reject them.  Remaining in the British Union means neo-liberal governments (Tory or Labour) that force the poor to pay the debts of bankers and big business.  This is not an assertion on my part, it is a provable fact.  It is the reality delivered to us by the ‘No’ vote in the last referendum.

The angry, hissy-fit reaction of the English media and politicians to Alex Salmond talking about a second referendum was because they know it is very likely to happen and that Scotland is very likely to grasp the opportunity and re-take our political independence.

The British Unionists used-up their lies and scare-stories in the last referendum: they won’t get away with it next time.

A new independence referendum isn’t inevitable, but if I was a betting man, like Alex Salmond, I’d put money on it.

Friday, 24 July 2015

The Royals and Nazi salutes

It isn’t often I commend the Sun newspaper, but its revelation that the British royal family may have been sympathetic to the Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler in the 1930s is one such case.

The royal family, and the British establishment that keeps them in place, hold so much power there would have been immense pressure on journalists and editors at the Sun to bury the story.  It is to the newspaper's credit that public interest triumphed over the interests of the ruling elite.  Of course, there was also the small matter of commercial interests and the extra sales the Sun could expect from breaking the story.

For anyone who may have missed what the fuss was about, the Sun carried stills from a film, shot around 1933, showing the present Queen, as a 7-year-old, giving a Nazi salute.  Also giving the straight-arm salute in the photos were the Queen’s mother (later to be Queen as the wife of King George VI) and Uncle David (later to be King Edward VIII).

Immediately, pro-monarchy apologists took over the broadcast media to condemn the Sun, and attempt to divert attention from the pro-Nazi issue by claiming we should really be concerned about how the newspaper came to have a copy of a film that must have been the ‘private property’ of the royal family. 

The string of right-wing historians and ‘royal commentators’ interviewed on 24-hour news channels also told us it was ridiculous to claim a 7-year-old Princess Elizabeth would have known the significance of the gesture she made when giving the Nazi salute.  At least on that issue they were correct.

Clearly the young girl in the 80-year-old film would have no idea who Adolf Hitler was or that the straight-arm salute was associated with the far-right Nazi regime in Germany.  The problem for the royal-supporters, though, was that no-one had actually suggested the young future Queen did know what she was doing or that, at 7-years-old, she was endorsing the agenda of the Nazis.

The significance of the film was that the adults – the current Queen’s mother and uncle – did know who Adolf Hitler was, did know the policies advocated by the Nazi Party in Germany (Hitler had set-out his perverted agenda many years before in his book Mien Kampf), and did, repeatedly, give the Nazi salute.  The film showed young Princess Elizabeth look at her mum giving the Nazi salute before copying her.

Uncle David (who became King Edward VIII) is known to have been an avid supporter of the Nazi regime, as was the aristocracy in Germany, many of whom were cousins of the British royals.  It is claimed that when Edward VIII abdicated the throne in 1936, his determination to marry the divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson was just a convenient excuse to get rid of him.  In largely-ignored books (ignored by mainstream media and academia), some historians claim the real reason Edward had to go was his close relationship with the Nazis and the belief he had been in negotiations with them regarding his wish to be the ‘British Fuhrer’ in an all-conquering German Third Reich.  

The reality is that Britain’s royals would ‘support’ any regime that allowed them to retain their exalted social position and life of opulence.  How a far-right Nazi government (or British New Party government under the likes of Oswald Mosely) might have impacted on the ‘subjects of her majesty’ would not have troubled the royals: their only interest, then and now, is retaining their position, power and wealth.

You can be sure that, had the Nazis won the Second World War, the footage revealed by the Sun would have been made available to Herr Hitler to show how the British royal family had actually always supported him and his party.

If it isn’t already clear, let me state for the record that I am a republican.  I despise the elitist idea of monarchy. I believe there can be no place in a democratic society for an unelected, hereditary head of state who owes their position of privilege to nothing more than the fact their ancestors were the biggest murdering rogues of their time.

I cannot begin to imagine why one human being would obsequiously bow or curtsy to another, nor why someone would expect others to kowtow to them in such a manner.

In a country where people’s lives are being devastated by unemployment, poverty and deprivation, I believe it is an obscenity that one family, whose members are already multi-millionaires, continues to live extremely cosseted lives funded from the public purse.

To be honest, I feel no personal ill-will to Mrs Windsor and her family: I don’t know them, so it would be irrational to have any personal animosity towards them, which reminds me of a statement made by Carolyn Leckie, then of the Scottish Socialist Party, while she was being sworn-in as a Member of the Scottish Parliament: Carolyn said, “Why would I swear allegiance to the Queen? I mean, I don’t even know the wummin.”

The Parliament’s swearing-in of MSPs is a classic example of how all-pervading is the influence of the British establishment, and how the monarchy is not the benign entity we’re told it is. Despite being elected to parliament by the people of Scotland, MSPs are required to swear an oath of allegiance to ‘Her Majesty the Queen, her heirs and successors’. Any MSP who holds republican views and declines to swear the oath of allegiance to an unelected monarch is barred from taking their seat in parliament.

In 2003, like other republican MSPs, I prefaced my oath-taking by stating my allegiance is to the people of Scotland, and therefore I took the oath under protest. I basically let them know I didn’t mean a word of the oath I subsequently took.

Think about that: in a supposed democracy, where candidates have been elected by the people, those candidates would be barred from office if they did not swear allegiance to a London-based monarch who considers the people of Scotland to be her subjects. There is no debating the point: no oath of allegiance to the Queen (and her hangers-on), no seat in the Scottish Parliament.

The monarchy and forcing people to swear allegiance to something in which they do not believe, are anachronisms: there is no place for such things in a modern, democratic country.

Having said that, we should be under no illusions about who actually runs Scotland. It isn’t the Westminster Government and it certainly isn’t the Scottish version. Scotland and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland are run and controlled by the British establishment, a small elite group of faceless bureaucrats, civil servants, senior military personnel and members of the royal household.

The Queen is the pinnacle of the British establishment, and what the Sun’s story about Nazi salutes actually revealed was that the establishment would embrace any government or regime that retained and protected the monarchy, irrespective of the potentially disastrous impact on us ‘ordinary’ people.

Friday, 3 July 2015

As English Tories vote-down Scottish proposals, independence is only a matter of time

I don’t agree with social media posts that taunt people who voted ‘No’ in last year’s Independence Referendum.

You will have seen them: every time we have another right-wing Tory policy imposed on Scotland, someone will post – “No voters, are you happy now? This is what you voted for.”

I don’t like such messages because people who voted ‘No’ did so for a number of reasons.  There is no single explanation for why 55% of Scots chose to remain within the British Union.

It is, of course, absolutely correct that the pro-independence campaign warned a ‘No’ vote would mean the Tories continuing to govern Scotland even after we had again rejected them at the ballot box.  Some people voted ‘No’ for that very reason; because they are Tories and the only way they would see a Tory Government is if the votes of Scots were nullified through being outnumbered by votes from England. 

There are others who chose to vote ‘No’ based on bigoted social and quasi-religious beliefs – Queen, Union flag, Rule Britannia, Conservative and Unionist Party, Glasgow Rangers.  Many of those ‘No’ voters turned-out in Glasgow’s George Square on the evening of September 19 to gloat about their triumph and proclaim their perceived dominance over those who favoured Scotland becoming a normal, independent nation.  Their aggression was in marked contrast to ‘YES’ supporters who had been partying in George Square despite defeat in the referendum.

Many Scots voted ‘No’ because they believed the scare-stories of the British Unionist side and feared the sun really would stop rising in the morning if Scotland took control over its own affairs.

The reasons people voted ‘No’ are disparate, but what links them is that the beliefs behind them were genuinely-held, even those of the Union-flag-waving bigots in George Square.  That’s not to say they were valid or correct, just genuinely-held.

Other than Tories and UKIP supporters, I don’t believe anyone voted ‘No’ in order to produce a society that targeted and punished the poor, while cutting taxes for the wealthy.

As stated above, the pro-independence campaign did warn further cuts and austerity would be the result of a ‘No’ vote and a re-elected Tory Government.  The ‘YES’ campaign even produced independently-verified facts to back-up this assertion, but these were ignored by a large section of Scottish society who chose, instead, to believe the scare-mongering propaganda of the British Unionist side and its state broadcaster, the BBC.  Psychologists call it cognitive dissonance – where someone continues to hold beliefs, even when they have been disproved.

However, reality is harder to dismiss, and what we are currently witnessing proves beyond any doubt that the warnings of the ‘YES’ campaign were totally accurate.

The UK Tory Government is about to slash a further £12bn from budgets providing much-needed services to the poorest and most vulnerable people in the country.

Before the referendum, British Unionist parties promised if Scots voted ‘No’, Westminster would deliver to Scotland the most powerful devolved parliament in the world – they even made it a ‘vow’.  Last week, though, while the UK Parliament debated the Scotland Bill, Scots were shown our true position within the British Union.

Scottish MPs backed Full Fiscal Autonomy (where Scotland would be responsible for raising and spending its own money); more control over welfare-spending and reforms (including the power to top-up inadequate benefit-payments and abolish the Bedroom Tax); and remove Westminster’s power to veto any decision taken by the democratically-elected Scottish Parliament.  These proposals were all thrown-out because the Tory Government used its English MPs to out-vote Scotland’s MPs.

To rub salt into the wound, English Tories cheered and waved their Order Papers in the House of Commons as they celebrated their ‘victory’ in defeating the aspirations of Scots. 

The very next day, Tories announced plans to introduce English Votes for English Legislation (EVEL) because, they argued, it would be wrong for Scots to possibly influence the outcome of votes in the UK Parliament that related to legislation affecting England.  Clearly the Tories don’t do irony.

The reality is that the UK Parliament in London is actually the English Parliament.  Some Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish are allowed to sit in the House of Commons in order to give the pretence of a British Union.  However, Westminster is England’s Parliament.

In 1707 when the parliaments of England and Scotland were supposedly united, the reality was that Scotland’s parliament in Edinburgh ceased to exist, while England’s parliament in London continued as normal.  England effectively assumed the ‘right’ to govern Scotland.

The past week has shown that, even with devolution, England still exerts its power to govern Scotland.  With 59 Scottish MPs (56 of whom support an independent Scotland) compared to England’s 533, the reality is that, within the British Union, English MPs will always defeat Scottish MPs in any vote.  Scotland cannot win within the British Union.

The only way for Scots to secure the powers we need to radically transform Scotland and build the better, fairer, more successful society we say we want, is for us to re-take our political independence and join the global community of normal, independent nations.

More and more Scots have realised they were lied-to by the British Unionist side during the Independence Referendum: more and more Scots now recognise we must embrace independence in order to break-free from Tory-imposed austerity.  Remember, the Tory Party imposing its will on us has just one MP in Scotland.

Since the referendum, thousands of people who voted ‘No’ have moved to support pro-independence parties.  If that were not the case, the SNP could not have secured its record-breaking victory at the UK Election in May.

People who voted ‘No’ last September should not be taunted when the Tories impose more brutal cuts or when English MPs laugh and cheer as they vote-down the proposals of Scottish MPs.  It is more beneficial to the cause of independence to simply draw to the attention of ‘No’-voters the undemocratic, anti-Scottish reality playing-out at the UK Parliament in London.

Last September’s ‘No’-voters include people who now know they were duped and who will vote ‘YES’ when they next get the chance.  

English Tories can laugh and gloat all they like when crushing the hopes of Scots but, ultimately, they are powerless to stop Scotland’s movement towards independence.

It’s only a matter of time.