Category Archives: Political witterings
The burd’s views on the hot potatoes of the day/week/month
(1) We really love you and want you to stay in the UK as it currently is. Yes, we’ve had second thoughts at the last, desperate moment, about exactly what the “status quo” is going to be, and at one minute to midnight, we have decided you can have more control over your pocket money and, perhaps, you can have complete decision making power over the train set and a few other toys. We have also decided we will rabbit on inconsequentially about “this family of nations” and “federalism” – but none of us are prepared to say the blindingly obvious and admit that the only way we could have a federation and a fair solution to the British question is to set up an English Parliament as an equivalent of the Scottish Parliament and the Assemblies in Wales and Northern Ireland. That’s because we believe that British democracy is already the best in the world – even if we will admit that the elections are permanently rigged and that we retain the power to stuff half of Parliament full of our lifelong cronies, But forget all of that negative stuff. Nothing more than a spot of tinkering is required.
(2) We really think that you are threatening to upset the way that power is distributed at the moment – and that is a bad thing, because we are so good at wielding that power on your behalf. Look! We’ve given you nuclear weapons. We’re building the biggest warships ever – even if we don’t have the cash to put the aircraft on them yet. We’ve held on to the remains of the Empire and turned it into tax havens. We’ve bullied that Junker chappy into giving us a corporatist agenda in Europe so we might not have to leave the EU after all. Why on earth do you Scots want to upset the apple cart that has allowed us to make the dominant ideology of our day one where economic and political power is concentrated in the hands of a tiny corporate, largely public school, not-quite-hereditary elite for the 364 days of the year when we are not having an election or a referendum?
(3) We really think it would be stupid of you Scots to take all the risks of Home rule and make the prices in Tesco’s and at the petrol pumps go up. And what about your pensions? And your currency? You do realise that we are not going to be at all reasonable when it comes to negotiations, despite the fact that we will still want to hoover up your share of the common wealth? No. If you have been naughty, you will have to be punished! And you will be poorer! Don’t you realise that greed is the only real motivation we humans have? But then, of course, we KNOW that you are not that stupid.
Well, do you know what? These arguments, and your methods of disseminating them, disgust me. My decision will be about how to assure the best form of government we can have as a community. And if nothing else persuaded me that our British elite, and their international corporatist cronies are unfit to govern, and should have their power and wealth dramatically redistributed, it has been the pantomime of panic we have witnessed over the last few days. I hope your “media grid” manipulation of what, I accept, you see as the truth, is seen for what it really is – the desperate desire to hold onto and increase all the power you already have.
And I am still waiting, patiently, for you to tell me one, single way in which you intend to make the UK better than the tawdry polity you have created whilst paying lip-service to the principles of democracy, liberty and self-determination.
Today’s wee greet came early. With the morning cup of industrial strength coffee which is needed to make me barely human at the moment.
Sitting in the quiet of the back garden, contemplating yesterday’s events. An amazing day in Muirhouse and Drylaw. I’d made up nearly 200 supporter packs for people to take away with them to decorate their windows, their cars and themselves – all gone. Materials disappearing off our four street stalls like the proverbial snaw aff a dyke. A cavalcade by Women for Independence with over 30 women in it, at least 10 cars leading Elaine C Smith across the city through working class areas, between two speaking engagements with undecided women voters. Over 50 local activists out chapping doors at various points through the day.
And our wee extravaganza was repeated all over the city, studiously avoiding and ignoring the less happy events going on in the centre. Our day was spent celebrating hope, empowering people to believe that yes, they can. I’m not quite sure what the point of the other shebang was. Oh, don’t get me wrong – in a free society that values freedom of expression, they absolutely had a right to march, to bus in their brethren from all over the UK to make their point, to openly state their beliefs. But the images tell their own story. Marching in file, formally dressed, overwhelmingly male, pale and stale. Starchy, organised, stilted. The difference could not be more stark. They represent the old Scotland: the outpourings, organised by social media and word of mouth and some of it spontaneous, in cities and towns all over Scotland, represents the new. Colourful, joyous, vibrant, with our rich tapestry of nationhood – young, old, male, female, white, black and every colour in between.
Yes supporters filled Buchanan Street in Glasgow from top to bottom. They massed in Inverness. In Aberdeen and even in douce Perth. And still there were enough to allow the work of engaging voters on their doorsteps and in their communities to continue – in far more numbers than the No campaign could muster.
Yesterday, across Scotland we painted a rainbow of hope, of belief and of confidence.
And it wasn’t just here at home. A mass Yes rally in Cardiff. The Saltire being woven through the gathering of 1.8 million in Barcelona to support Catalan aspirations for independence. There’s nothing narrow or insular about any of this outpouring of international solidarity. Even writing it all down makes the tears flow again. Because putting it down here and out there crystallises the enormity of what Scotland is engaged in. The world is indeed watching.
Last week, what appeared to be news was 100 politicians getting on a train and heading for Scotland to save the Union. That’s MPs paid for by taxpayers the length and breadth of the land to represent the interests of their constituents. The housing, benefit and planning issues in communities down south must be all solved then, if the most important thing these folk could find to do in a day was to come up here and speak to Scottish voters. I hope they don’t have the audacity to claim their train tickets on expenses.
The comparison the gulf in approach between the two campaigns. As the political scientists have discerned, this is pyramid versus swarm. Twentieth century versus twenty first. But it’s deeper than that.
All over Scotland and indeed, around the world, people are coming out to support this quiet revolution. Despite the forces of the establishment throwing everything they have in their arsenal at us, still the referendum is on a knife edge. And boy is it being flung: all manner of threats and bluster, misusing the powers of the offices of state to twist arms and lean heavily on old allies to do the dirty. All the while, aided and abetted by media outlets – 100 MPs head north to save the Union! – suppressing and misreporting and misrepresenting the scale of what is going on here.
But only the UK and Scottish ones. Scotland’s quiet revolution has attracted the attention of international media. On Friday, I collected a bewildered Brazilian journalist from my cafe focus group of women in Muirhouse – “haw Yes hen – this wan’s looking for you” – and took her to join the rest of the campaign team for lunch. Yesterday, we had the Berlin correspondent from the New York Times, filming and interviewing “what was going on on the ground”. I’ve done interviews with and pieces to camera for journalists of at least a dozen nationalities now, some of them regional press, others national, and many international agencies commissioned by broadcasters all around the world to file packages.
They don’t go to the staged media conferences, like the one that John Harris called out. They come and find us. What is of interest to them is not what the politicians have to say about what is going on in Scotland but what is actually going on, on the ground in Scotland. Why are we in these communities? What are we doing? They are interested in the real story, not the narrative the No campaign want people to be reading.
The UK, and the Scottish media (with a few honourable exceptions like Peter Ross and Paul Mason) should be ashamed of themselves. For years, I’ve defended them here on this blog – many of them I know personally and I know how tough their environment is right now. But few of them have bothered to leave the safety of the official news agenda to write the story of this referendum. Fifty per cent of the population – give or take the odd percentage point in recent polls – is pledging to vote Yes on Thursday, to vote for change, to dissolve a political union of over 300 years’ standing. To overthrow the British establishment and the British state, actually. To claim power and control for themselves. To say no to always having people make decisions for them, to say no to the wealth of their country and their people being squandered by others, to say no to never being allowed a say or a stake. They are intending to vote to take responsibility for themselves, their families, their communities and their future.
And the reaction of the fourth estate in this land? “Whatever”.
There is a quiet revolution going on under their very noses and they are oblivious. Or worse, pretending it isn’t happening.
Well, the world is documenting it. And keen to observe it unfold. And in certain quarters, showing solidarity and supporting it.
But if we are to complete the pass, we need more people. These last five days of the campaign are vital. The momentum is all with a Yes vote but those with their hands currently holding power are doing their damnedest to stem the flow, to slow down the shift, to prevent it crossing the finishing line.
We have no money and no mouthpieces. We have ourselves, our resilience and our shoe leather.
Every person extra who turns out to campaign means more of those crucial undecided voters reached. It means we can visit more of the soft no’s. It means we can make sure those who were nudging towards voting Yes – the Yes but’s – get there in the end.
If you live here, there and indeed, anywhere and support Scotland’s right to self-determination, or want to see the quiet revolution take hold here so you can create one in your own backyard, then come.
Come to Scotland in these last five days of the campaign. Get on a train or a bus and come. We can’t pay you (unlike the No campaign), but you will be welcomed with open arms. We’ll find you somewhere to stay and feed you and entertain you and walk the legs off you. Email me at email@example.com and I will put you in touch with a campaign team that can involve and include you. If you’re a Yes group and want more volunteers, email me at the same address.
And if you are an ex-pat Scot and wish you could have been here to vote Yes, do the next best thing and help those who can vote Yes, get out there and vote. Book a bed or a floor at your relatives or friends and come. And if you are involved in this Yes campaign and know you have friends and relatives elsewhere on these islands – or even further afield – who support us, contact them and ask them to come.
This one’s going to the wire. On Thursday, we could change not just Scotland, not just the UK, but the world. But we need your help to do so.
It’s people versus politicians. Bottom up as opposed to top down. A new dawn versus the old guard.
Scotland’s quiet revolution needs you. Come.
(Image by Robb Mccrae)
The easy thing to do would be to give in and give up.
The full weight of the British establishment is being brought to bear on our conversation with ourselves. Having realised that we don’t speak in tongues, that our words might well be matched with deeds, that we might just be serious, our debate has been taken off us and given to others’ more worthy.
Having spent months refusing to engage, suddenly every meeting is a Yes-No with, more often than not, proper politicians being wheeled out to keep us in our place. I’ve been on three panels in the last two days stuffed with Labour folks. Fine people, often for whom I have lots of respect. The nonsense that is being spouted would be funny, if this wasn’t so serious.
Put the radio or TV on, open the pages of a newspaper, and everywhere there are portents of doom, warning of catastrophe if Scotland votes yes.
We have entered the Chicken Licken stage of the campaign.
For those of you who don’t know the story, Chicken Licken is sitting under a tree when an acorn falls on his head. He looks up through the branches and can see nothing but green. The sky has fallen in, he thinks, I must go tell the King. And on the way, Chicken Licken meets some of his friends, who are heading to the woods. He warns Henny Penny, who turns back. Henny Penny then meets Cocky Locky and Henny Penny tells him that the sky had fallen on Chicken Licken’s head, warning him off from going to the woods too. They meet lots of animals, the last being Turkey Lurkey. who is also off to the woods. “Oh, Turkey Lurky, don’t go. On my way there, I met Goosey-loosey, and Goosey-loosey met Draky-laky, and Draky-laky met Ducky-lucky, and Ducky-lucky met Cocky-locky, and Cocky-locky met Henny-penny, and Henny-penny met Chicken-licken, and Chicken-licken had been at the woods, and the sky had fallen on his head, and we are going to tell the king.”
So they all turn back together, only to bump into Fox-lox. They explain what has happened and Fox-lox offers to show them the way. But Fox-lox tricks them, takes them to his lair and eats them. So they never do get to see the King to tell him that the sky has fallen in.
And thus in trying to stave off events of catastrophic proportions by listening to well-intended but misguided and plainly wrong advice, the animals put themselves in much more bother. So panicked are they, that they do not stop to consider who is helping them and whether Fox Lox can be trusted.
Over the last few days, with warnings of what will happen if Scotland votes Yes emanating from all sources, I’m hearing this tale in my head. And wondering if everyone else in Scotland is too. I have sat in rooms and watched as people have visibly shrunk in stature, the more the hyperbole is cranked up. The confidence which brought them into that room to ask searching questions, who want to vote Yes but they have a few well, “buts”, evaporates. Their brows furrow, their arms fold. They leave without uttering a word. Job done, the other lot might conclude.
And then there’s Fox Lox. Aren’t we lucky to have more than one? Offering us a timetable for devo something or other if we just vote no. Our lair is a place of safety, trust us.
But I’m not sure it’s working. Why?
Well there’s another childhood story that’s come to mind regularly during this campaign (yes, I know, my mind can be a very scary place).
The Wind and the Sun could never agree who was more powerful, with the Wind boasting of his strength and the Sun advocating gentleness. So they set a competition to find out whose might was greatest. A young boy was walking up the road, wearing a heavy coat. Whoever could get the boy to remove his coat would be the winner. The Wind went first, and huffed and puffed with all his might: “the Wind blew so hard, the birds clung to the trees. The world was filled with dust and leaves. But the harder the wind blew down the road, the tighter the shivering man clung to his coat.” He could not be parted from it.
Then the Sun tried. He appeared from behind the clouds, warming the air. Soon the boy became hot and opened his coat. The Sun kept on shining until eventually the boy had to take his coat off.
Like all of Aesop’s fables, this one has a moral which amounts to positivity will win out against negativity, that persuasion is more powerful than force and that you win nothing with threats.
So, as I and all the other Yes supporters set out in this final week of the campaign, to persuade Scottish voters where their future lies, it’s worth us all recalling both these stories. And to keep on talking hope and opportunity. We’ll leave the cauld blasting to the other side, the doom-mongering to those with the most to lose if Scotland decides to take control and have power, rather than wait for a little more of it to be given.
Call me a hopeless idealist but I rather like it when the story ends where they all live happily ever after.