Category Archives: Political witterings

The burd’s views on the hot potatoes of the day/week/month

Audrey Birt: A letter to undecided voters

Dear undecided voter

I began this referendum campaign as a natural no voter. But in the last few months I’ve decided to vote Yes to independence.  Let me explain why.

We have done a great job in Scotland on health and education, making the choices that are right for us in our own country, in our own communities.. But think how much more we could do with those choices in all aspects of our life. I’m ashamed to live in what could be a wealthy country and see our most vulnerable pay for the mistakes of the most powerful. To see food banks be an absolute necessity for far too many. To see ill health result in poverty for those who have run out of options. I want to live in a country that reaches out to others, not in one that turns its back.Those aren’t the values I grew up with and they won’t be yours either, I’m sure.

We have had our spirit damaged as a nation by the loss of our industrial base and our subsequent slide into being a country of poor health and self confidence. All my working life as a nurse, then in charities I have supported people to believe in themselves, to find their own strength to make the changes they need to for their health and wellbeing. To recognise too that they have choices, that they are able to take them and that decisions will be life changing at any stage in life.

Like many of you, I have much of my family in England. This decision is not about leaving them behind, it’s about being on an equal footing as confident friends and partners. I have a daughter in Ireland, a step daughter and granddaughters in England and a son in Scotland and I’m proud of that interconnection. Independence will not harm that in any way.

Someone asked me the other week, what the game changer will be in this last few weeks to make this crucial decision. It’s about the confidence to know we can do it in my opinion. I know we can. We can build a better, more confident country where we all can thrive, not just the lucky few. Where we can be proud of our achievements, our nation’s health, our creative talents, our entrepreneurial spirit all of which we have excelled in, in the past. I know we can do it, I feel we will and it starts with that tick in the YES box. I will be proud to vote yes, I hope you will too.

Yours faithfully

Audrey Birt


Audrey is a former nurse and was until last year, Director of Breakthrough Breast Cancer charity in Scotland


Andy Myles: Claiming my right to reply to Shock and Awe

I have listened to the “shock-and awe” interventions of the last week from the Westminster, Whitehall, ‘Fleet Street’ and the ‘City of London’ elite into the great Referendum debate. I don’t question their right to their say – but I do claim my right to reply.  As far as I can tell, what they are saying falls into roughly three carguments, and this is, in short, is what the message and tone seems to me to be.

(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.

Andy Myles is former Chief Executive of the Scottish Liberal Democrats – and is voting Yes.

Scotland’s quiet revolution needs you

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.

WFI cavalcade photo

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 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)


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