This UK Thing Seems a Bit Cult-ish to Me

Like many supporters of Scottish independence I have, for many years, found it perplexing as why so many of my fellow countrymen vote against independence. It just doesn’t make sense. Studies have been done and some suggestion that people voted no in 2014 because they felt that yes supporters were not listening to what the no voters were saying. On the contrary, I personally found it the exact opposite.

When I raised the subject of independence some no voters would profess to being open to persuasion but as soon as I began to put forward my argument they would immediately begin to reel off all the ‘Better Together’ sound-bites/cliché’s as though it was  gospel. Some just simply did not want to hear (like the unruly kid putting their hands over their ears when being told off by an adult) anything said against the UK, but were not prepared to give a reason. Some would say they would think about it and it would be clear that this was an easy cop out because they really did not want to listen. Now this may say something about my own communication skills and not everyone I spoke to fell into these categories. As we know there is a bigger picture which includes for example Brit nats, Tory voters  and so on and there are questions as to whether there was any skulduggery involved  but the core of Scots you would expect to be open to the idea of independence were not. Why?

Well, when you consider the UK set-up, the way it is portrayed and perceived as the London parliament being the all important go to guru dispensing unquestionable justice and wisdom to a grateful kingdom you can begin to see some striking similarities to that of the cult leader and his/her followers. I should say here that I am not given to conspiracy theories and this is not meant as one.

The cult usually involves a central figure head leader with a few hand picked minions who do the dirty work and heavy lifting. Cult leaders use psychological manipulation to sell a message or belief to recruit  members into the cult and keep existing members. ‘Our precious union’ or ‘we are stronger together’ or ‘we are a union of equal partners’ or ‘building a nation that works for everyone’ are some examples (none of which actually mean anything) in a UK context. The leader will strictly decree how the members are to behave (political correctness, work until you are extremely old or drop dead, give up your privacy and freedoms so that you are protected from bad people, all spring to mind) Any deviation from the leader’s instructions are punished.

Becoming a member of the cult usually means divesting yourself of all your wealth and donating it to the leader. Think of North Sea oil, Scottish fishing rights bargained away to benefit London, EU Scottish farm subsidies going straight into the UK Treasury purse, Scotch whisky revenue controlled by London and so on.  Of course the cult members are given just enough to keep them productive i.e. the Barnet formula pocket money in Scotland’s case.

In order for the cult to work, members have to be isolated from outside influence which might bring them to their senses and make them want to leave the cult. The UK does this with the BBC which relentlessly feeds viewers with a diet of Queen, country and establishment narrative and avoids any serious news reporting which might contradict it’s narrow view. The main stream news paper outlets do the same only more blatantly.

Cult leaders tend to become a bit paranoid and afraid that members might be conspiring against them or thinking of leaving. So the main task of the trusted minions is to keep an eye on members and punish anyone who steps out of line. They do this by constantly hovering over members and listening to their conversations etc. and instilling fear or a lot worse. Think of the all encompassing  surveillance state we now live in, and it’s a lot more sophisticated and personally intrusive than people think. The UK’s weapon of choice during the 2014 campaign was ‘project fear’ where pensioners were told they would lose their pensions if they voted yes, Scotland could not be in the EU with a yes vote, say by by to the pound and so on and on and on ad nausea. Brainwashing is a serious business.

My Oxford paperback Dictionary defines the word cult as meaning 1 a system of religious worship  2 devotion to or admiration of a person or thing  3 fashionable. All three seem to be at play in the UK. So the feeling I have when I encounter those who display such blind faith in the union must be similar to that of someone who’s friend or relative has gone off and joined a cult.

All those of us who have our eyes open (and there are more and more) must continue to provide the counter narrative and break the spell holding this nation prisoner in the UK.

Coincidently, the motives and tactics used by cult masters are the same as used by empire builders. That’s another story.

 

A Call to the Cause

Two things before I go any further. Firstly, Scotland is not Canada or any other country with failed referenda histories. Yes, there are always lessons to be had from around the world but no two countries are exactly alike and it does not automatically follow that what didn’t work in one will not work in another. Secondly, it should be made clear, if it hasn’t already become so,  that the Scottish independence movement is here to stay. In the event of a second loss, the movement would pick itself up, dust itself off and start all over again. That is how you win independence, by not ever giving up.

Its a bit rich of Pete Wishart and Jim Sillars to take the stance they now take.  All the talk of favourable conditions is understandable but comes from a party which was quite happy to call a referendum in 2014 when support was only around 35%. I wont go into the mistakes that were made or who made them (we all have our opinions) but the SNP must accept that they may not have all the answers. The waiting game might be good for some political careers but there is a great deal of frustration among yes supporters.

We have the UK power grab and attack on devolution, almost daily revelations raising serious questions about the way the British State conducts itself (home and abroad) and the privileged few scheming to stitch Scotland up forever. How much of a “material change in circumstances” (Nicola Sturgeon) do you need? Is it better to act now at the risk of not getting the right result but, at least knowing that you gave it a shot or, wait and find yourself in a position of regret and wishing you had taken the shot when you had the chance? It is always wise to remember why people voted for you and gave you your mandate.

The waiting game suits the establishment. It gives them more time to be sleekit and invent even more ways to put a stick in our spokes. The nail holding this UK government’s jacket is becoming increasingly shoogly. A handful of self serving  numpties stole our thunder and  managed to throw  Scotland up in the air. Lets make sure that Scotland lands on it’s feet not on it’s knees.

The latest ‘ Wind-rush’ revelations should fill every decent Scot with disgust at a UK Government which seems to lack even basic moral judgement. They are shaming themselves and  dragging us with them. We know what we are up against, do they? The clock is ticking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is Brexit really all about the UK?

Something said by Nigel Farage during the EU ‘campaign’ (for want of a better word) keeps rattling around my head. He said something to the effect that he would take the UK out of the EU and save the union. There is no doubt that Westminster got a sizeable fright during the 2014 Scottish independence referendum which, not only inspired Scots but many in England as well. Now, I don’t pretend to know how Nigel Farage’s head works but if he thought that by reviving British Nationalism and Empire 2.0 Scots would see this as desirable or an opportunity not to be missed, he made a serious miscalculation. As we all know 62% of Scots voted to remain in the EU. This has not changed and a very recent Mori Poll shows that 61% of Scots think that economies of both Scotland and the UK will be damaged as a result of Brexit.

Don’t get me wrong, I have many problems with the EU and fully understand why the Scots who voted to leave did so. It is so frustrating that here we are again in Scotland being treated with contempt and dragged around by a Tory UK government who’s only real interest is in preserving their right (as they see it) to lord it over the rest of the UK. If you ask me, and many haven’t, the thought of loosing this right scares the sh…. out of Westminster. The way they have handled the withdrawal negotiations so far has seen them at their most sleekit. Blatant power grabs with the intent of rolling back devolution is the order of the day. I don’t oppose Tories as people, some of them can be mildly amusing on the rare occasion, I oppose what they stand for.

It is hard to trust those who claim to be building a country that works for everyone whist perpetuating neo-liberal policies of austerity and all the damage this does. (one of the reasons sited for leaving the EU!) Tories are their own worst enemy. How can you accept devolution, talk of equal partnerships and make all sorts of promises with one breath and with the next totally ignore these things in your own self interest?

Tell you what bothers me. The thought of returning to a pre 1972 (correct me if date is wrong) UK. A UK which, once again, has total control of these islands and will throw whoever it deems necessary (i.e.. those nations out with England) under the bus in order to get the biggest bite of the cake. That is the direction we are currently headed in. Potential trade deals with the USA which might see us having to accept bleach washed chicken, GM crop products etc. and London policies which impose fracking, re-branding of Scottish produce, undermining of Scottish renewable energy projects and so on are all bad, very bad. However, these are not my only worries.

In my younger days you could often hear people say, whatever America does, 10 years later the UK does the same. It was true then and still is only, as others have remarked, the time lag seems to have shrunk somewhat. Now it seems to be that whatever America does the UK immediately follows suit. In observing America it seems to me that there is something not quite right about the way it now operates. An article by Chris Hedges describes an America with which, in my opinion, the UK runs a number of striking parallels. He describes a kind of politics and culture which, personally I don’t want to see adopted in these islands.

There is no doubt in my mind that the result of referenda should be honoured. To prejudge the result and make a promise on that prejudged result, in my book, is both extremely foolish and dishonourable. I refer of course to the promise made to Scotland during the 2014 referendum that the only way to be sure of staying in the EU was to vote no. You have to wonder just how dishonourable that promise was when you consider that EU nationals in the UK were not allowed to vote in the Brexit referendum. The very people most likely to vote to stay in. It is of little surprise however, since that is the way the imperialist mind works.

Scotland has been put in a very difficult situation once again. I know that after a lifetime of Westminster at the helm, I for one am pretty sick of it. The interesting thing about all this is that the arguments that it would be too difficult and complicated to unwind Scotland from the UK put forward in the run up to 2014 are now shown to be rubbish. All that’s needed is the political will. If the UK can be unwound from the EU, then Scotland can be unwound from the UK.

There is no easy answer to all this. The easy answer escaped us in 2014 when Scotland voted no. Now Scots need to decide what is best for our future. As I have said I have problems with the EU myself but 62% of my fellow countrymen decided that they wanted to stay in the EU. That’s good enough for me. I am a democrat and on balance I find the picture being painted of a UK outside the EU and the potential damage it will do to Scotland extremely distasteful and unappealing (that’s fancy talk for ‘not on’)

I appeal to all Scots to get behind the Scottish government and send a message to the UK government that they mess with the devolution settlement at their own peril. If they choose to dishonour devolution, they will face a constitutional crisis of their own making.

 

 

Its the Stupid Economy

I was over the moon (maybe that should be Mars these days) when Scotland voted for devolution. Finally, now we have a chance to change Scottish politics for the better I thought. There was no question that the SNP were honorable and had the best interests of Scotland at heart.  Maybe now the two party system of Labour and Tories would move off in a new Scottish orientated direction within Scotland I thought. Alas, too much to hope for.

Both Labour and Tories remain simple mouth pieces for their London masters. Whether its the Tory member for Stirling jumping up at every opportunity in the House of Commons to declare, no matter what the debate is about, that it is all the fault of the SNP ( it was them what done it gov)  or the hapless Labour party employing political manoeuvres during the Scottish budget that everyone could see coming. Obviously nothing has changed.

When considering  Scottish budgets I am inclined to think back to when I first entered the workplace. In those days it was fairly common practice to hand your wages over to your parents. They would deduct their costs (dig money) and hand you back some pocket money. As your wages increased so did your dig money. This worked fine until you got ambitious and set your sights on something that you simply could not afford with your pocket money. You then had to ‘turn on the patter’ and try to convince your parents that they would be doing humanity a great service if they would just let you have more pocket money or something. This got more and more tiresome for both parties and the ambition for both parties became that, the sooner you were old enough and earning enough to move out and look after yourself the better. Well, that’s  Scotland that is.

Scotland runs on a block grant. Money that is used to pay our bills. By necessity  therefore the budget has to balance. We know we will have X amount to spend. There is very little if any room for manoeuvre. Changing spending priorities becomes an exercise in robbing Peter to pay Paul. You can’t grow your economy (fulfil your ambitions) with a balanced budget. I know there are Scottish initiatives to set up an investment bank and so on but you have to wonder, how much of any income these initiatives manage to generate we will be allowed to keep. As long as the UK is pulling the purse strings will our digs keep going up?

When I look around the UK and the rest of the planet I see that It’s the stupid economy which keeps Scotland living in digs way past our leave by date. It’s the stupid economy that puts profit before people. It’s the stupid economy which allows banks to pray on honest hard-working people. It’s the stupid economy which allows individuals to accumulate obscene amounts of personal wealth and yet produce nothing. It’s the stupid economy which leads to military interference in other countries and causes so much suffering. It’s the stupid economy which is destroying the planet.

The Tory mantra that ” a rising tide floats all boats” (Margaret Thatcher) is true. The problem is that a rowing boat is still a rowing boat and a luxury yacht is still a luxury yacht. Do yourself a favour and read, J is for Junk Economics by Michael Hudson. Visit his website. 

 

A good time for some radical thinking

Those paying attention this week will have noticed two major developments in Scottish politics. Yet another UK Government promise broken by failing to address clause 11 of the brexit bill and passing it on to the Lords. This means that the integrity of the devolved settlement is now in the hands of  an unelected body which has no SNP representatives. This despite the fact that the Scottish Parliament is unanimous in it’s insistence that clause 11 is unacceptable.

The other major ( because it is the first time it has happened in the Scottish Parliament) development was the debate: Offensive behaviour at football & threatening communications (repeal ) Bill. The motion was passed at first stage. This law has never been popular (if laws can ever be popular) and raises a whole lot of important questions. It is interesting that part of the argument for it’s repeal was that it was poorly drafted and rushed through when the SNP government held an overwhelming majority in parliament. Also interesting is the fact that now the SNP government does not have an overwhelming majority it is willing to make amendments.

Alex Salmond, who I believe was no fan of the House of Lords and declared that he would not accept an appointment to go there, also expressed a regret that the Scottish Parliament did not have a second chamber.  Considering the latter example above then, there could be great merit in having a Scottish second chamber providing checks and balances to Parliament. Only not one constituted in the same manner as in the former example above. Imagine an independent Scotland free from the archaic Westminster model. Able  to build a real democracy in which it’s people had genuine input. Time for some radical thinking.

There is some very interesting experimental work going on in other countries. Such as that being done in Bolivia by a group called Democracy in Practice. The work involves students in relation to student governments. Elections to student governments are made redundant and instead random selection of students is used to constitute the governing body. A bit like our jury selection process here. Selection is not permanent and is rotated. Again a bit like our jury service. Like everything there are pros and cons and work is ongoing. More information can be found here.

Progress is driven by those who can open up their minds, think radically and think outside the box. We Scots do not have to settle for archaic systems long past their sell by dates and administered by people hingin on tae the gress in case they faw off.

Language and Twisted Logic

The world is populated by nations and each nation has it’s own identity and culture. It therefore follows that each nation has national interests. Why is it then that negative connotations are often  placed on the words national or nationalist? Often when these words are used it is intended to immediately conjure up a picture of extreme right or Nazi like behaviour. Nationalism is not the problem. It’s the way a nation expresses it’s nationalism that can be a problem. There is no doubt that nations who choose to express their nationalism by launching attacks on other nations or exploiting other nations for their own advantage is a very bad form of expression.  I don’t think anyone would disagree that the sort of nationalism expressed by the Nazis was of the worst possible kind but that does not make nationalism in its self  bad. Politicians talk of national interests all the time so, it is good when they express an interest in their national well being etc., yet somehow bad when others do the same.

Nationalists are very often accused of being inward looking and isolationist when nothing could be further from the truth. If you are a trading nation (which Scotland is) then you are by definition  internationalist. Just because a nation does not attempt to interfere in the affairs of another or have ambitions to go off invading other nations does not mean that the same nation does not observe what is going on internationally or hold strong opinions. Some of this twisted logic can be quite baffling. For example, the use of the words ‘ politics of grievance’ which are much beloved by the English Conservatives living in Scotland. They constantly apply this to the SNP. Well hello? Is this not what democracy is all about? Do we not elect political representatives precisely to deal with real or imagined causes of complaint on our behalf? To be honest, I sometimes wonder if  unionist mp’ even know the meaning of the word democracy. There is a huge difference between asking someone to vote a certain way and telling them to vote a certain way. During the 2014 Scottish Independence referendum, the unionist mp A Darling was happily wandering around telling people that, if they were not sure then vote no. How democratic is that? There is little hope if unionist politicians can not even get the simple basics of democracy right.

One of the many reasons I want an independent Scotland is precisely so that we can express our national and international interests accurately for ourselves. I know that the Scottish government is currently looking at foreign affairs and that’s a good thing. It is something which has been left to UK governments to deal with and more often than not Scottish opinion is rather different from the UK opinion. The vision I have for Scotland is that of a fully independent nation striving to do the best for all it’s people. Peacefully co-operating and trading with other nations. Not being afraid to be radical in it’s thinking (I mean really radical) A nation which does not cow tow to the discredited  neo liberal rentier economic system which is doing so much damage throughout the world. A nation which, by it’s actions, can set a good example to the rest of the world.

 

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Have we all stopped living longer and what does that mean for Scotland?

How many times have you heard the words ‘we are all living longer’ in the last few years? We are told that this has become a serious problem with regards to health care and pensions. Part of the solution they say is to raise the retirement age. If we are all living longer then we must all work longer. Simple isn’t it? Well, no it isn’t.
As well as containing lots of numbers (so it must be true right?) statistics also contain many projections, estimates and assumptions. Different countries use differing methodologies and arrive at different conclusions. The wise person does not accept statistical reports at face value without some interrogation. One such person is Professor Danny Dorling of the University of Oxford. In a news item on his website entitled “The latest population projections for Britain suggests a million years of life could disappear by 2058. Why?” suggests that all may not be as we are being sold.
Prof Dorling points out that projections published by the ONS (Office of National Statistics) in October 2017 estimates that, by 2041 life expectancy for men and women will be almost 1 year shorter than expected at 83.1 and 86.2 respectively. Analysis of the ONS report by Prof. Dorling produced some very interesting conclusions. He says, ” This means by 2058 a further 1 million deaths will occur earlier than had been thought. “every year up until at least the year 2084, people across the UK are now expected to die earlier” and that “this is affecting young people too and is all a result of the mortality [death rate] having risen or stalled in recent years”. ” 110 years of steady increase in life expectancy seems to have come to a halt”

Wow!

Obviously when it comes to life expectancy the NHS is a major player. What does this mean then? Has medical ability to intervene (treatments, medicines, surgery) reached some sort of equilibrium with the human body’s natural ability to survive past an average old age? In the absence of any meaningful anti ageing systems (as far as is generally known) such a point must exist. Who knows?
Another major player in life expectancy is Socio economic conditions. Housing, jobs, public services and their availability are all part of the mix and can have a major impact on average life expectancy. Population size (part of the statistical mix) is important, not least for economic activity. A bustling economy with well paid jobs and good housing has a huge effect on people’s well being and health.
Population projections published by the ONS on 22nd June 2017 are very interesting. They show that from 1971 to 2016 the population of England has grown to 55,268,100 whereas Scotland’s population has practically flat lined since 1971 and is now 5,404,700. Tables measuring the time scale mid 2011 to mid 2016 show that for the age group 0 to 15 growth in England is around 5% with the  share going to London at  around 11%.Scotland is shown at 0%. For the same time period but ages from 16 to 64, England is shown with growth around 1.75% again London at 5.5%. Scotland is shown at only just over 0% (Wales is actually shown negative) It may not be so much that we are all living longer in Scotland but rather that we are producing less and less young people to balance the population.

What can be done about this? Well, the obvious thing that springs to mind is to encourage Scottish  people to have more children. This of course will involve a substantial time lag and impact on already stretched services etc. Another solution is to invite inward migrants of suitable age and skill levels. Best idea is to do both. The problem is, the ability to Recruit people from across  Europe to come and build a life in Scotland has become very uncertain. UK Torie government intentions seem to be  to grab powers returning from the EU which belong to Scotland and undermine and roll back devolution. Fortunately Scotland has control of the Scottish NHS but has no control over inward migration which is vital for the Scottish economy. Population size matters when trying to grow your economy (that’s a whole other subject) in order to sustain the viability of your country. There is only so much you can achieve when building the country you want with a half empty toolbox.