If the 7.52 train from Aberdeen to London King's Cross were anything to go by, you would be almost oblivious to the fact that Christmas is almost upon us. Carriage C is barely half-full, and there is little by way of extra luggage to suggest people are carrying gifts for whomever it is they are off to see over the coming weekend. There is also, thankfully, an absence of excited, obnoxious, shrill children, though I fear there is time for that yet.
Looking out the window, the sun shines strongly in the bright, blue sky, bringing alive all the glorious colours of the Scottish countryside. If there is to be tempestuous weather, there is little evidence of it thus far- the few clouds there are resemble cotton wool balls, without even a hint darkness or foreboding.
As the train trundled over the Forth Bridge, I found myself admiring the feat of engineering that is the Queensferry Crossing, whilst acknowledging that it, like the Forth Road Bridge, would never be an icon in the way that the Forth (Rail) Bridge is. Even so, it isn't often, that we get to witness the building of a crossing of this size and scale in Scotland.
A little further on, we approach Edinburgh, possibly my favourite city, and I muse that we are passing through one capital city, on the way to another. This got me thinking. Other than living in Aberdeen, I've spent time in Dundee and Edinburgh this year.
Having previously lived in Edinburgh for six years, the place is as comforting and familiar to me as an old pair of slippers. Dundee on the other hand, was new to me, despite having travelled through it, by bus, car and train, countless times (and discounting a long forgotten brief visit to the University of Dundee in 1994). To my surprise, I found Dundee much to my liking- most certainly not the much maligned city many had led me to expect.
Dundee is similar to Glasgow in that there is an earthiness, a warmth to it, quite distinct from Aberdeen and Edinburgh, where the people can be a little aloof, bordering on arrogant. All four cities, Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow, are unmistakably Scottish, which brings me nicely to my point.
In addition to these Scottish cities, this year, I've spent time in Amsterdam, Belfast, London and New York. And it must be said, I find London no less foreign than any of the others outwith Scotland. In fact, if anything, Amsterdam and especially Belfast seemed less alien to me. That it not to say that I don't love London, it's a great city. But it's an English city, and it is their capital and not ours.
I find myself wondering again, why it is we choose to be governed by and from the capital of another country. I struggle to think of another nation, broadly equivalent to Scotland, where this is the case.
How on earth is it that only Scotland, among small, Western nations, is uniquely too wee, too poor and too stupid to govern ourselves? Why is it that we think it better to leave our fate in the hands of the effete, inbred, imbecilic "elite" of another country. It makes no sense, less so by the day, with England's feeble imitation of Angela Merkel and her clueless "Carry On" Cabinet bound for a cliff edge, determined to take Scotland with them.
Money. There never seems to be enough of it, does there? At least not for the right things, at any rate. Money, as we have seen, can be conjured (printed, in actual fact) from thin air, to rennovate royal palaces and bail out banks that have gone bust and to fight wars that we probably ought not to be fighting. None, though, can be found for the destitute or the disabled, for schools or hospitals, for those whose need is greatest. Today, at PMQ’s, Theresa May talked of a “sustainable” social care system. Coming from a Tory, that almost certainly means on a shoestring and substandard.
No-one ever seems to have enough money, the poor actually don't, the rich think that they don't. You might even say, that the more money people have, the more they seem to want. I strongly suspect, if more of us accepted there is only so much money one individual or family or group of individuals needs, there would be an awful lot more of it available to do the things that are truly important.
Scotland doesn’t have enough money, so we’re told. Without the United Kingdom, Scotland would be skint, on the bones of its arse. How often have we heard the self-loathing Scot, or the BritNat tell us that without England and the United Kingdom there would be no-one to pay the bills. Without England and the United Kingdom, the workshy would receive no dole money, the hypochondriacs no ESA or PIP, the coffin dodgers no pension. Without England and the United Kingdom, they insist, all those not gainfully employed would freeze and starve and die. And without England and the United Kingdom there would be no jobs, none, so everyone would freeze and starve and die. Without England and the United Kingdom, there would be no Scotland. Right wing rot, all of it. And people believe this nonsense.
England, and therefore the United Kingdom, we are to believe, have more than enough money, which is why Scotland’s bills are paid. Only they don’t have enough money and the bills aren’t paid, which is why there are the deficit and the national debt. I can already hear the self-loathing Scots and the BritNats shrieking, with perverse delight, that an independent Scotland’s deficit and debt would be greater, so much greater in fact, that everyone who lived there would spontaneously combust. Meanwhile, it’s perfectly okay for the UK to self-immolate by way of Brexit.
Only the other day, I had a crazed zombie-slave to the cult of Windsor telling me that public spending per head of population was higher in Scotland than in England, as if I did not know this (how could I not- they never shut up about it) and as though this would somehow make me see sense, or as I prefer to say, buy me off, as it had her. When I gently suggested that this was at best a cheap trick to ensure the continued servility of a majority of Scots, the lunatic told me, without a trace of irony, that I was “barking”.
Sod self-respect, to hell with hope, let’s stick with backward Britain, a kingdom united by way of a bribe. Assuming Scotland is still a millstone around England’s neck when the UK finally makes it through the EU exit door, what happens when they realize that there’s no gold waiting for them at the end of the Brexit rainbow? Who will they blame in the absence of the EU? I’ll wager they’ll blame the “subsidy junkies” and then the Barnett formula will be on the bonfire before you can say Guy Fawkes. What then for the zombie-slave Windsor worshipers and their credit card balances?
If the Scottish economy is underperforming, it is because the government at Holyrood is hamstrung by devolution, whilst the government at Westminster couldn’t care less. Don’t get me started on Broonite-Dugdalian federalism. There is every indication that inequality and elitism, filth and sleaze will continue to hold sway in the UK for what might as well be forever. Independence is the only way to escape it. Scotland has everything and more that we need to make a success of it. Meanwhile, Tory England has everything and more than it takes to make a backside of Brexit. It’s a no-brainer, surely?
Twenty-one years ago, aged 19, I took the decision to up sticks and leave home. Up to that point, I had lived all my life in Falkirk, and had never been abroad. Not that I was moving 'abroad' in the strict sense of the word, but I was moving "down to England", Plymouth to be precise.
The choice of Plymouth had to do with the fact that my Grandmother's youngest sibling, and her husband, who was Plymouth born and bred, lived there. So whilst I was moving 500 miles from home, I wasn't leaving the family bosom altogether.
I lived there, quite content, though conflicted for very personal reasons- not relevant here, for two years. It certainly helped that it was a warmer, if no less wet climate. I made some wonderful friends and acquaintances, one in particular, who's friendship endures to this day, and I very much enjoyed the company of my Aunt, Uncle, and cousins.
There is every likelihood I would have stayed for longer- might still be there, had the university offered a course that was more suited to my strengths. In the end, I returned to Scotland and to Stirling to study History and Politics (Plymouth offered Politics and Economics, the mathematical element of which is simply beyond me).
This is to illustrate that to suggest simply because I strongly believe in Scottish independence, I somehow, therefore, hate England and all things English, is as stupid as it is offensive. It is interesting, that the charge of anti-Englishness, as often as not, comes from the self-loathing Scots, who it seems to me, hate Scotland and all things Scottish.
I must confess, I used to be, and am still to some degree, slightly embarrassed by excessive patriotism. For example, I am inclined to cringe every time I hear Flower of Scotland, though not quite so much as when I hear God Save the Queen or The Star-Spangled Banner. But then, I am uncomfortable with any sort of tribalism, be it in football, sport in general- just about any walk of life you care to name. For reasons I can't adequately explain, I've always found it exclusive, intimidating and occasionally threatening.
That being said, whilst I full of admiration for Chris Froome’s achievements in cycling, I am full of pride for those of Chris Hoy. Whilst I may have gotten behind Tim Henman’s efforts at Wimbledon, I was never willing him on in quite the same way as with Andy Murray. I confess, I was rooting for Rosberg, rather than Hamilton, though that had to do with personalities, not nationalities. Whilst we can acknowledge English achievements, sporting or otherwise, we can't share them- they are not ours, nor ours theirs.
To come back to my university days in Stirling, most of my friends, by accident and certainly not design, were English, a few Irish, one or two Americans, French, Finnish, German, Greek and others besides. The Scots were in the minority. Though there were undoubtedly distinctive national characteristics and idiosyncrasies, they were often subtle, rarely an issue, and far outweighed by our common humanity.
Interestingly, despite the fact that we share the same island, I found the differences in national character between we Scots and the English, every bit as apparent as between any of the other nationalities. None of this had any impact, nor influenced in any way, the strength and depth of our friendships.
Despite subtle and sustained efforts over centuries, to have Scottishness subsumed by Englishness- under the veil of Britishness, the unique Scottish character remains alive and well. And it is the very fact that we Scots and our English cousins are not quite the same, that in this modern, global community, we are growing further apart, not closer together.
The English, or British, are a medium sized country, who have never gotten over that by way of empire, they were, for a time, a "big country"- the preeminent global power, in fact. As such, they are still under the illusion that they are "one of the big boys" and this heavily influences their attitudes and behavior.
Scotland, on the other hand, is a small country, like Denmark and Ireland and Finland and Norway and Sweden. And, I would suggest, are quite comfortable with that. It is a virtue we don't, and can't make enough off whilst shackled to a dead empire that is still desperately trying to rekindle her glory days.
The Tories are arguably the natural party of power in England, and as such, the United Kingdom. They are not the party of Scotland, indeed, all the evidence is that they despise us. England, under the Tories, seems determined to move ever further to the right, encouraged by Brexit and all that entails, in search of status and standing, long since gone, and never coming back. Britain, I feel, is going backward.
Scotland, in contrast, is naturally to the left. If not socialist, then social democratic- we are more egalitarian and believe in social justice. We want to move forward. To achieve this, we would stand a far better chance, unencumbered by England and her perpetual post-imperial hangover.
So, I am not for independence because I hate England and all things English. I am for independence, because for all that we share, we are, crucially, that bit different. We have a different outlook from one another.
Whilst we may both want a bright and prosperous future, Scotland and England have very different ideas about how best to achieve this. It is only right then, that we accept that the Union has run its course, and is doing more to hinder than to help us. It is high time we parted company and made our own ways in the world. The days of master and servant are over, it is time to be friends and neighbours.
Devolution, the antidote to independence. At least it was supposed to be. George Robertson, who famously declared that “Devolution will kill Nationalism stone dead” certainly thought so. There were others, perhaps most prominently Tam Dalyell who disagreed. Mr Dalyell was of the opinion that devolution is a “motorway to independence without any exits”. In 2014 he was very nearly proved right. He may yet be.
Here we are, some twenty years after Robertson made his arrogant and naive remark, and support for independence is stronger than at any time in living memory. The unionists need a new antidote, and Kezia Dugdale, leader of the Scottish branch office of the Labour Party, believes they have found the very thing: Federalism.
Before I go any further, it must be said that what the Scottish Labour leader had to say, betrayed the low regard she and her party have for this country. Scotland it seems, is just another “component part” of the UK, to be grouped in with the “English regions” rather than an equal partner with the English nation. Similarly, she subscribes to the view that Scotland is dependent on our larger neighbour to get by, though she dresses this up as “redistribution of wealth” so that we might think of it as sharing rather than subsidy.
Because the Labour Party clearly sees Scotland as a mere region of the United Kingdom, rather than a nation like England or Norway or Cuba, there is no ambition to see the term “family of nations” become more than meaningless words. In Labour’s “new political settlement” the largest partner-England, will continue to dominate. The three smaller partners would remain subservient.
As is the way with Labour’s approach to constitutional reform, the proposals do not go far enough and lack coherence. They fail, for example, to include any measures to reform the House of Lords as was suggested by Broon the Bampot. It could be the case that fearful for their futures, Labour MSP’s wish to retain the possibility of joining Dodgy Darling and other failed, rejected and retired colleagues in the House of Turds, should the need arise.
Nor do the proposals address the “English Question” in any meaningful way. The UK can never be considered truly federal so long as Westminster has to double up as both the Parliament of the United Kingdom and of England. As we have seen, ill-conceived spiteful stupid measures like EVEL are inadequate and unworkable. The two functions need to be separated. It is all fine and well to talk of devolving power to the English regions, but that should come from an English Parliament as distinct from Westminster.
Where was the written constitution and proportional representation, or the disestablishment of the Church of England and the scaling back or scrapping of the Monarchy? Nowhere, because the establishment won't have it and the people have been conditioned to believe they don't want it.
So-called Scottish Labour had an opportunity to show imagination, to be true to their radical roots, to inspire and lead. Instead, they’ve offered up more timid tinkering around the edges. Enough they hope, to buy off the Scots but no so much as to frighten off the English. You will have noticed too, that the purse strings in Labour’s federal United Kingdom remain very much in the hands of Westminster. The unionists can’t afford too much by way of fiscal autonomy for Scotland, lest she make a success of it.
What we heard today wan't federalism, it was a fudge. None of it is likely to win back many of the voters who deserted Labour in their droves. Nor is it going to convince those of us who are committed to independence to give it all up. As I predicted, Kezia Dugdale's "major constitutional speech" was a third-rate effort from a third rate politician.
In the immediate aftermath of the EU referendum result, we were told that "Brexit means Brexit. No one could tell us what it actually meant other than that the UK would absolutely, definitely be leaving the EU. They could not tell us because they did not know. Now, nearly six months later, the Prime Minister tells us she wants a "red, white and blue Brexit" the meaning of which she will apparently allude to before triggering Article 50.
There can be no doubt that the Brexit negotiations will be a bruising affair, so a black and blue Brexit is maybe what we should expect.
Red, white and blue is not the only new Brexit language to emerge from the Prime Minister. Who else has noticed that these past few days, there has been less talk of getting "the best deal for Britain" and more of "the right deal for the UK"?
Perhaps I am seeing things that are not there, but I cannot help but wonder if supplanting "British" with "the UK" is intended to convey subliminal reassurance to the colonies that the Westminster Government has all our interests at heart. If that is the case, it really is not very reassuring at all, because the Tories are doing their level best to ensure that it is they who decide just what Scotland's interests are so far as Brexit is concerned.
The ongoing case before the Supreme Court has taken on a surprising, and altogether more interesting dimension, in that it will determine whether or not Scotland has a legal right to be consulted on Brexit. The Advocate General for Scotland, earlier rightly said that power over foreign affairs were reserved to Westminster. But since we remain a member of the EU and we are, all of us, still EU citizens, can our relationship with the EU be considered a "foreign affair" at all before we actually part ways?
Wouldn't it be great if the Supreme Court were to rule that The Scottish Parliament must be consulted over Brexit. What, I wonder, would the self-loathing Scots and the BritNats make of that? Where would our so-called family of nations be then? Headed for the divorce courts I imagine, probably at England's behest. Unfortunately, this is all most likely the stuff of fantasy.
Speaking of which, there are signs that the UK Government is beginning to realise that to expect a better deal outside of the EU than that which you get when you are in, is probably ever so slightly unrealistic. They do however, seem to be holding on to the delusion that post Brexit, Britain will occupy the world stage on equal terms with the the USA, the EU, China and Russia. The Eton Mess and his fellow Brexiteers mistakenly view Brexit as an opportunity for Britain to rediscover her former glory when in fact, it is likely to see her status diminished further still.
There it is again- the British craving for status, the need to have a seat at the top table, so powerful that they are willing to spend just about whatever it takes to renew Trident (nuclear viagra for a dead empire) which is likely to become obsolete, leaving Britain impotent again, before it has even been completed.
The best thing for Scotland would be for Theresa May's "red, white and blue Brexit" to leave out the blue. But we know there is next to no chance of that happening whilst we are still shackled to the UK and continue to choose to be so.
Give me strength. It was all I could do, not to throw my cup at the television when Ragin’ Ruth: Warrior Unionist appeared on screen, talking about “bringing people back together”.
The more I hear from Tories like Ruth and Murdo the Mentalist, the more I become convinced that they live in a bubble, where everything that ever goes wrong anywhere in the world is the fault of the SNP. They, and their colleagues, seem oblivious to the staggering ineptitude of their own government in London. Even the irrelevance who led her party to third place in May’s election, understands that every now and again when something is shit, it is down to the Conservatives.
Since she seems not to have noticed, someone needs to tell the Warrior Unionist that Scotland has not been “together” with her party for quite some years. The division Ragin’ Ruth erroneously attributes to the SNP exists because all but half of Scot’s are sick and tired of being maligned, marginalized and maltreated by Westminster, whilst a slight majority are happy to put up with it- and even think it is good for them.
If Ragin’ Ruth really is concerned about healing divisions over the result of the EU referendum, she would do well to caution her own government as to the perils of their appalling, arrogant approach to the Brexit process. Efforts by the Conservative government to circumvent Parliament, to disdainfully disregard the interests of Scotland and of Northern Ireland and the concerns of every one of the sixteen million souls who voted remain is only going to drive people further apart.
Perhaps, if the Warrior Unionist, the Irrelevance, the other one, and the parties they lead tried putting Scotland first, instead of after the Union, the United Kingdom, England, the Moon and Mars, folk might begin to feel a bit more “together”. Do that, and they would realize that we will never address the real causes of division- poverty and inequality, whilst chained to a nation where they cherish class and crave status.
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As is the way of social media, I have had my fair share of disagreements and detractors, been denigrated and had my poor Mother, who has nothing to do with any of it, disrespected.
Today, however, was the first time I can say with certainty, that I have been "trolled". I have to say, the experience was in turn vaguely amusing, mildly irritating and finally plain boring.
It all began when the "troll" in question, whom I had no prior experience of, took exception to the question asked in a poll I had generated on Twitter. His reply made it quite clear that we were poles apart on the issue in question. It was also entirely unoriginal and not a little stupid.
My retort was succinct and straightforward and, I have to admit, designed to provoke a response. I was not disappointed. When it came, the response was accompanied by a link to a article which was intended to back up his assertion.
Again, his response was weak, in that what he said could just as easily be applied to that which he sought to defend, as that which he was criticising. And I said as much.
By way of rebuttal, he totally disregarded what I had just said, choosing instead to tweet an entirely different and unrelated example of how he was right and I was wrong. Needless to say, there was yet another attachment offered up as supporting evidence.
Then the tweets, each with an accompanying article, came in thick and fast. It was then that the penny dropped. There was no reasoning with this individual. His were simply a series of well rehearsed diatribes on the subject in question. It was at this point that it was brought to my attention, by someone in the loop, that my troll had form.
Despite informing said troll that the biased, right-wing, unionist-imperialist propaganda he had been sending my way, was a waste his time, and mine, still the tweets came. When I told him I was not buying what he was selling, still they came.
In the end, I simply stopped replying. You may ask why I did not just block him. And my answer would be that I get the feeling these people believe being blocked is something of an achievement.
The whole experience was nothing more than an exercise in futility. Once I had twigged as to what was going on, it was clear that my troll was never going to be brought round to my way of thinking. Apart from anything else, once beyond the tweet that had set him off, he had not paid the blindest bit of attention to anything I had said. Even so, it must have been clear to him, that I was never going to convert to his cause.
I have never quite understood people who listen to, read or watch something or someone that they know full well they do not like, nor agree with and are infuriated by, and then go on to hurl abuse and personal insults. Turn the page or change the channel if it upsets you that much.
It is an entirely different matter when we wish to educate and inform ourselves about something which we do not know a great deal about. In those circumstances, we will not know what we agree or disagree with, nor adore or deeply dislike, until we have engaged fully with the subject matter in hand.
Come the second independence referendum, it is to those who are looking to be educated, informed and persuaded that we need to focus our efforts. We ourselves, must not abuse, berate and bludgeon the undecided into submission. By all means, call out, disprove and expose misinformation wherever it is found, forcefully if needs be. But, only credible, reasonable, rational but impassioned persuasion will right the wrong of 2014.
I do not recall exactly, when it was that I made my Damascene conversion, from No, to Yes, but I can be certain that May of 2014 was a pivotal moment. When Austerity Osborne told the Scottish affairs select committee, "We have all made it clear that there will be no currency union if Scotland becomes independent, no ifs, no buts.”, I became incandescent with rage, How dare this effete, mincing, public school ponce hold Scotland to ransom.
Back then, I subscribed to the view that there was, realistically, nothing the rest of the UK (rUK) could do, to prevent Scotland from continuing to use the pound, in the event of independence. This being the case, I reasoned that it would be in the best interests of both Scotland and the rUK, to enter into a currency union.
Though no economist, I understood enough to know that a currency union, would mean that Scottish businesses would not be exposed to the additional costs incurred, by doing business in a foreign currency, with what would become our largest export market.
More than that, in the same way that I had been a ‘zombie unionist’, I had an irrational, inexplicable attachment to the pound sterling. This, I can trace back to my misspent youth as a eurosceptic, vehemently opposed to the very idea, that Britain should adopt the proposed European single currency.
Now, a little older, and ostensibly wiser, my attachment to the pound sterling, has gone the same way of my belief in the United Kingdom. My only concern, for the notes and coins in my pocket, are that there are enough of them to pay for the things that I need. It is of no particular importance to me, what those notes and coins are called, nor who’s face adorns them and what colour they are.
In retrospect, it was probably a mistake, however understandable, for the SNP to go down the route of seeking a currency union in 2014. It is an error they can ill afford to repeat. That being said, if a recent poll for the Herald is to be believed, some two-thirds of Scots believe Scotland should retain the pound. Understanding why this is the case, might be an idea, as it could point to how best to ween people off their miniature security blankets.
We know that ‘Growth Commission’ is, amongst other things, looking at what “monetary policy arrangements” might be best for an independent Scotland. You would hope, that they will draw on our brightest and best, to come up with a credible, attractive alternative to the pound.
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