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Tuesday, 7 May 2013

My 36 Questions For The 'No' Campaign.

The Better Together campaign has recently released its ‘500 questions’; an attempt to try and show us that an independent Scotland would be a terrifying place where people burst into tears after being overcome by the horrendous ‘uncertainty’ of it all. The questions range from obvious fear-mongering to sheer pedanticism as we see in question 466:

“What will Scotland’s international dialling code be?”

That’s right. Don’t vote for self-determination because people in other countries might have to suffer the mild hassle of looking up Scotland’s dialling code. How is the ‘Yes’ campaign even supposed to answer that? ‘+224562’?

We’re constantly told that Scotland becoming an independent state would create uncertainty but I’d argue that there is just as much uncertainty within the UK. I’m going to try and illustrate by coming up with my own ‘500 questions’* for the Better Together campaign.

*N.B. I am far too lazy/dim-witted to come up with 500 questions. I have 36 so far.

Exactly which powers will be devolved to Scotland in the case of a ‘no’ vote?

Exactly when will the powers be devolved?

What safeguards will be put in place to ensure that further powers are devolved to Scotland?

Isn’t it important that all unionist party leaders explain exactly which powers they would like to see devolved BEFORE the referendum? This ensures that the Scottish people will know what they are voting for.

Will the UK’s credit rating ever be restored to its AAA rating?

‘Better Together’ warned us that an independent Scotland wouldn’t be able to retain the AAA credit rating but the UK has failed to do so. Why is the UK’s credit rating suddenly so unimportant?

The United Kingdom shares a great deal of culture with nations such as the USA. Why couldn’t an independent Scotland and the UK do the same?

Will Westminster respect the Scottish peoples will and remove Trident nuclear weapons from Scotland?

Would Westminster respect the outcome of a Scottish referendum on Trident?

‘Better Together’ argues that Scotland should remain part of the UK to enjoy the ‘prosperity’, yet unemployment is high, the national deficit has still not been cut and food banks are on the rise in Scotland. How will the UK ensure prosperity?

If Scotland is too poor and the Scots too stupid to run our own country why are the London elite so anxious for us to stay?

Can ‘Better Together’ confirm I won't need to work till I'm 70?

Can ‘Better Together’ give a guarantee UK will play an integral part in Europe or even just remain in Europe?

Will there be a referendum on EU membership if the Labour Party form a Government after the next General Election?

The same question applies to all other unionist parties.

Better Together’ claims that Scotland has influence in the EU as part of the United Kingdom but Scotland has far less MEPs than other similarly sized nations.  Wouldn’t an independent Scotland have more influence as an independent nation with more MEPs?

Is there anything on the ‘Better Together’ website, other than empty rhetoric?

Is the ‘Better Together’ campaign aware that Alex Salmond won’t be the eternal leader of Scotland for the rest of eternity and that there is a possibility of a party, other than the SNP, forming a Government?

Does the ‘Better Together’ think it is right to accept donations from Ian Taylor; a man linked to tax avoidance and dodgy business deals in Libya?

Does the ‘Better Together’ campaign think that it is in the interest of the Scottish public for groups such as ‘National Collective’ and ‘Wings Over Scotland’ to be censored?

Will air passenger duty be devolved to Scotland?

Will Scotland’s subsidisation of the rest of the UK continue?

How many more Scottish men & women will have to die in illegal wars?

When will Scottish troops be allowed to leave Afghanistan?

Will the UK intervene in the Syrian civil war?

Will the UK engage in military action against Iran?

Will the UK continue to sell weapons and provide diplomatic support to Israel and its war crimes?

Would Bevan (“No amount of cajolery, and no attempts at ethical or social seduction, can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred for the Tory Party. So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin.”) approve of Johann Lamont becoming best pals with Ruth Davidson?

Do the unionist parties have a plan in place for their role in an independent Scotland? Isn’t it in the interest of the Scottish people to know exactly what their plans and policies are for an independent Scotland so that people can make a totally informed decision?

Can ‘Better Together’ give an indication of what else will be cut by this Government?

How will Westminster take steps to tackle climate change?

 One in four Scottish children live in poverty. How will the United Kingdom put an end to this?
Inequality is continually rising in the United Kingdom. How will this unpopular and unfair pattern be reversed?

Will Scottish currency continue to be rejected south of the border?

Why aren't Alistair Darling's eyebrows the same colour as his hair?

Isn’t the rise of UKIP in England yet another example of Scotland and the rest of the UK wanting to go in different political directions?

On the ‘Better Together’ website there is a section called ‘realscotstogether’. Isn’t this just a case of the flag-waving that you are so quick to accuse ‘Yes Scotland’ of engaging in?

Why did ‘Better Together’ remove the video of Ryan, the student, from youtube? Was it because a man’s ramblings about “sausage rolls” and “dugs” have absolutely nothing to do with Scottish independence and is just a means of them trying to play their very own nationalist card? *(The video can be found here; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=asD_fBJeEg4)

A united left; the only way forward.

With now less than 500 days to go till the Independence Referendum of 2014, the magnitude and importance of this decision becomes greater with each passing day. We have the chance to transform our nation, not only for us, but for future generations. I, like many others, see 2014 as the start of the path-way to a Scotland with social justice and equality at its core. However, that doesn’t just suddenly  become reality with a Yes vote in the referendum, 2014 is the starting block, but this isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon.
As a member of the Scottish Socialist Party, it pains me to say this, but we have become a shadow of our former self and are on the verge of becoming an irrelevance. From 6 MSP’s in the 2003 elections, to a loss of all deposits in 2011. In the period of 2003-2011, the economy has collapsed, the greed and failures of the capitalist system have been laid bare for all to see and demand for a fairer and more prosperous Scotland has increased. But yet, we as a movement have collapsed electorally. Why? It is the answer to that question that is the true tragedy of Left-wing politics in Scotland.
The right wing media, right wing parties, the establishment, ourselves.  Only one of those 4 groups before mentioned are to blame for the collapse of not only the SSP, but left-wing politics in Scotland, and it’s sadly the last one. We on the left are the main contributors to our downfall. Whether you believe that it was one man’s sheer stupidity and egotistical attitude, or one man’s sheer determination and fight for justice that brought about the split of the SSP and the subsequent shattering of the most successful Socialist movement in Europe at the time is in my opinion irrelevant. The only thing we do know for sure is the devastating effect that those years have had on the socialist movement as a whole and how we have failed the base of support that we had once worked so hard to build support from. The true tragedy of the left is indeed that, no matter how much of a blow our enemy strikes, we deliver a self-inflicted blow which harms ourselves even more. This country needs a united left which puts the needs of the people above old personal and political score-settling.
With each passing day we see the difference in Scottish Politics and the rest of the UK becoming clearer and clearer. The rise of the UK Independence Party in the English council elections is not only surprising, but equally as terrifying.  British politics is being dragged ever more to the right with the only “alternative” being a Labour party which has abandoned the Socialist ideology and promises only austerity. The prospect of a possible UKIP and Tory coalition government should be enough for any Scot to tick the yes box in 2014, however many are caught in the illusion that Labour still represent themselves and their communities and are a viable and realistic alternative, and even more are sadly disengaged with politics as a whole. So how do we enthuse, how do we bring people out of their homes and get them politically active, how do we fulfil people with the knowledge required to see for themselves what the future as part as the United Kingdom holds and how a Yes vote in 2014 can be the catalyst for real social change? 
The answer lies in a united left. A left wing party which stands defiantly behind the working class people of Scotland. A left wing party which supports the unions in their fight for workers’ rights. A left wing party which promises an end to illegal wars overseas and an end to the bloodshed which see’s working class men like the 3 members of the Royal Highland Fusiliers killed last week whilst serving in Afghanistan return home draped in a Union Flag . A left wing party which promises to restore economic growth not through austerity and welfare cuts, but through the introduction of a living wage and a commitment to housing. Most importantly however, a left wing party which listens to its people and answers their questions directly. A return to honest politics and an end to the out of touch nature of politics at present.

Only through offering real change and not merely the changing of a flag can we win the referendum in 2014. But as I have already said, 2014 is not the end of our struggle, it is only the beginning. And only through a strong and united outlook can we realistically bring about the changes which benefit the many and not the few. 

Liam McLaughlan

Monday, 11 March 2013

It is a simple question but the reasons have developed over a number of years through personal and life experiences that shape us all for better or worse. Some people may agree with my reasons and others may disagree, but isn't that what a decent debate is about in a civilised country, followed by our say in the ballot box. I grew up in the time of Thatcher and saw her destroy the industries in Scotland and forced me to leave my country of birth at 17 years and 8 months old for London to seek employment, at this time I believed Labour would one day come to power and the injustices of the right wing would be turned back and a fairer society would emerge. I could not have been more wrong, it is now clear to me that Labour, Conservative and the Liberal Democrats are all from the same neoliberal pot, who have lost touch with the world the majority of us have to live in. The only future I can now see is an Independent future where we have the right to follow our own path, make our own mistakes, manage our own economy and most importantly give us back our future.
Those are some of the reasons I hope for Independence in the referendum in Autumn 2014 and I will go through each one.
 NHSThe preservation of the NHS is one of the most important things that this country has implemented. I believe that if you look after the health of society then that society will in turn be more productive, without the need to horde medications and money in the event that we require urgent medical attention. In the past I have experienced the choice of either choosing food or the cost of prescriptions, I dread to think how I would have fared if I had to pay for treatment as well. It is blatantly obvious that the conservatives and the current government in Westminster want to dismantle the NHS, and they are getting away with it in England and Wales with privatisation through the back door. This is all being done under the guise of David Cameron saying "The NHS is safe in his hands" and "No top down reorganisation of the NHS", I personally find these blatant lies from political campaigning disgusting. If you think because health is devolved to the Scottish Parliament then it is safe, think again, it will not be long before the government starve holyrood of funds in the name of austerity, it will be inevitable that the NHS comes under scrutiny and attack. If you wish to save the NHS in Scotland then VOTE YES in 2014.
PensionsThe nation needs the youth to be in employment not people aged 65+, the state pension age will increase year on year and if you are born today in the current estimates you will not receive any state pension until you are 75+. This is bringing us back decades and instead of working people enjoying a retirement they will be working until they drop, do we really want retirement to be for the elite or rich in society? Surely we can all enjoy to relax after years of hard work and dedication. If you wish to save the retirement for ALL people in Scotland then VOTE YES in 2014.
WelfareThe current journalism in the UK is really lurching further and further to the right, if you would believe the crap they say about welfare in the UK then you would believe everyone on Job Seekers allowances is living the life of Reilly. In fact it is just a blatant lie and nobody seems capable of calling out the press or the government. Here is some information for you - Job Seekers allowance pays out 5% of the welfare budget in the UK, the amount of unclaimed benefit is MORE than the amount lost via error and fraud, the majority of people who claim housing benefit are WORKING!!!!! While the MP's seem hell bent on demonising the people who need help from society they are flipping their houses and the taxpayer is paying the bill. If you want a fair society where we look after the less fortunate then VOTE YES in 2014.
TridentThe amount of money spent on a nuclear arsenal is shocking, these weapons of mass destruction are not very far from our heartland. I also believe it is more than Trident, this is about Nuclear fuel also, our country must ban all nuclear energy plants. It is only 2 years since the tsunami in Japan almost set off another nuclear disaster in the middle of the natural disaster they faced. If you want to see Scotland free of nuclear weapons and power then VOTE YES in 2014.
SocietyI believe in a fair society where everyone has a stake, where a person can achieve their dreams or wishes and not be unlucky because they couldn't go to the school for the elite. I believe in a society where we all look after our neighbours and one another, where we can welcome people from all over the world with open arms and help them escape tyranny and persecution if required. I want a society that has a stake in Europe, where we can work together to solve problems for the benefit on all. I want a society where we are all educated under one system and that system is free of charge to the students. I want a society where the people who drive the economy, the workers, receive fair compensation for a fair days wage and all the profits made by the workers is not kept by the 1%. If this sounds like a society you would like then VOTE YES in 2014.

- Frankie Tervit - PCS rep in East Kilbride.

George Galloway Doesn't Believe In 'Countries'

....Even though he would quite like Palestine to be recognised as one.

If ever there was a man who you'd think would support Scottish independence, it would be George Galloway. He supports self-determination for nations across the globe, is deeply dissatisfied with the current political order and opposes Britain's excessive spending on WMDs and illegal wars. But for some reason, Galloway just doesn't seem to 'get it' as is shown in one of his latest tweets:

"To Scottish nationalists: I don't think "countries". I am an internationalist and socialist. Nationality means nothing to me. Get over it."

The first thing that strikes me is the way Galloway describes every person who supports independence as a "nationalist". I find it difficult to believe that an educated man like Galloway could actually see a constitutional issue like independence in such black and white terms. Supporting independence does not make you a nationalist. Yes, it is true that Scottish nationalists do exist and identify themselves as such, but it is also true that there is a significant movement that supports independence and abhors nationalism. I see myself as belonging to the latter. I don't care about flag-waving or William Wallace. I care about Scottish people getting the Government that they voted for. As a Green, I see independence as a direct means of achieving localism; putting power back into local communities and reinvigorating our failing democracy. I don't care about any nationality any more than any other. I care about my family in England, my socialist comrades in Spain, the Zapatista movement in Mexico and Kurdish self-determination movement just as much as I care about the 20% of Scottish children who live in poverty.

This brings me on to my next point. Galloway has no problem backing the 'independence' and 'self-determination' of nations like Cuba or Venezuela but seems to despise the idea of Scots running their own affairs. George says that the "world is my country" and yet, somehow, I don't think he'd be particularly happy with the suggestion that the Palestinians give up on statehood and become citizens of the world. Now, of course, I am not comparing the plight of the Palestinians to the Scottish people's dialogue on independence. Palestinians face drone attacks, political repression and apartheid in their own land. What I'm trying to do is show that George's black and white rhetoric can be used against him. If Galloway wants to give his two cents on the independence debate then he'll need to learn to do a lot more than isolate and divide the Scottish people along 'nationalist' and 'progressive internationalist who's happy to stay within the union' lines.

The quote shown above also seems to suggest that socialism and independence are incompatible. This, of course, is utter nonsense. Scotland's socialist movement has been intertwined with the independence movement for over a century now. Keir Hardie supported home rule, John Maclean supported independence and, most recently, the late Jimmy Reid stated his support for an independent worker's Scotland. Both the Scottish Socialist Party and the breakaway Solidarity party have identified the British path to socialism as a failure and independence as a means of tackling capitalism. Socialism can't be achieved with one large swipe across the world. Scotland has the opportunity to turn it's back on the neo-liberal consensus and become a beacon for social justice, sustainability, peace and democracy. Neither side of the independence debate owns socialism and it would be ridiculous to pretend that is the case. 

-Scott Lumsden, Scottish Green Party member.  

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Why I Support Scottish Independence

I first realised that something was wrong with the union in the May of 2010. I was only 14 at the time but I recall feeling a sense of injustice whilst watching the votes of the General Election being counted across the UK. In Scotland only one conservative was deemed worthy to represent a Scottish constituency yet, somehow, we would be ruled by a conservative government.
To me, this is not democratic. Scotland did not vote for this Government. Nor did we vote for the bedroom tax, the savage cuts imposed on our social services or the privatisation of public institutions that will, once again, put wealth and power in to the hands of the few. It seems that the only viable way of escaping the brutal cuts inflicted on our communities is to vote for independence.
As we have seen in the 2010 General Elections, 2011 Scottish Parliamentary elections, the emergence of UKIP & opinions on EU membership: Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom are going in different political directions. I'm not saying that one is superior to the other, just that they are differing. Why should the rest of the UK be forced to stay in the EU on account of Scotland or why should Scotland be forced to leave it against it's will?
Independence isn't about separating ourselves from the rest of the world so that we can learn gaelic and watch braveheart all day. It's simply about having the power to make our own decisions. That is why I reject the label 'nationalist'. I am not a nationalist. I do not believe that Scotland is any better than any other nation. In fact, I would like Scotland to be far more involved on the international stage. But this vision of an internationally active Scotland differs to that offered by the neo-liberal unionist parties. When Johann Lamont and Ruth Davidson talk about 'influence' they are really talking about having the military power to oppress and to butcher other nations. I want Scotland to be influential like Norway which is holding peace talks between FARC and the Colombian government. Rather than spending billions on trident and illegal wars, Scotland would be better spending it's money on untied aid for developing countries, as well as dealing with it's own economic deprivation issues which has left around 1 in 5 Scottish children living in poverty. You must ask yourself: "Do I really see Westminster changing?". I would hazard a guess that most of you, like me, will answer "No.".
What I believe will be the main downfall of the UK is the unionist's refusal to acknowledge that anything is wrong with the current state of affairs. They ask why Scotland would want to leave the economic stability of the UK whilst Westminster is stripped of it's triple A credit rating, people across the UK face high unemployment and the gap between rich and poor continues to grow. Why would Scotland want to give up the flourishing democracy of the UK with it's unelected head of state, unelected house of lords and unrepresentative voting system? After all, look at how well they've treated us Scots. We've been blessed with the 'job-creating' nuclear submarine that was deemed too hazardous to be kept in England whilst RAF Leuchers is shut down.
Yes, there is uncertainty with Scottish independence. There always is uncertainty with any radical constitutional change but I believe this change is necessary if Scotland is to escape the undemocratic, war-mongering British state and create a more just, prosperous, peaceful Scotland that protects the most vulnerable in society.

-Scott Lumsden, Scottish Green Party member.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

I would vote 'No' if...

A few tweets that I have seen recently under #indyref and #voteYes have been about #BetterTogether supporters deciding to support Independence. A question was raised by a user “How many Yes voters have changed to No voters?”, which I thought was a really good question. I asked myself would I ever be persuaded to vote No in the Independence referendum. I gave it some serious thought.

The Scottish government, who so happen to be presently the SNP, are asking the people of Scotland “Should Scotland be independent?”. (Which, by the way, is the official question now, I personally thought “Do you agree…” version was acceptable as it was the government asking the people if they agreed with them but that’s by the by.) They are promoting the possibilities of Scotland if we regain independence. These possibilities have yet to be ironed out legally, but still real potential actualities.

What if it was Westminster telling us how good Scotland is, how much we contribute to the UK economy. Telling us how valued we are as a people and culture. Reciting positive possibilities for the future of Scotland under a continued union, telling us about how Westminster is going to invest in us. Alas this is not the case, there are no positives of remaining in the union as all the arguments coming from the No camp are based on the uncertainty of some post-indy issues or reciting credentials that an independent Scotland could also have. They seem to be promoting fear and they themselves seem uncertain. But it really shouldn’t be them and us, as I have said before, it is all of us Scottish folk wanting the best for Scotland.

When I am presented with an article or report that suggests remaining in the UK is more beneficial than independence, I give it serious consideration. I will read the document and see what it is conveying. Most of the time it is in relation to statistics based on Scotland’s current fiscal status, e.g.: we cannot afford to run ourselves. However such statistics and figures become null and void after independence. Scotland currently has no borrowing powers, therefore we cannot have a deficit. This was pointed out to me recently by a fellow twitterer..er (?!), and I have yet to find a suggestion of otherwise. Also often with these reports presented to me, oil and gas revenue is not included as there is a potential that due to UK contracts there would only be a population ratio share rather than a geographical share. But yet again there is no such international law that would support England having a share of Scotland’s coastline and oil. I must also add that in no way do I think oil revenue alone will secure Scotland’s future, however it is a key fund that can help with the development of renewable energies and other industries.

So…would I ever vote no? Potentially, if the UK government was asking a referendum on “Should Scotland remain in the UK?” I would still vote for independence. For I truly believe that it is only the 5,254,800+ people of Scotland who should decide the future of Scotland not the 610 Ministers of Parliament representing England, Wales and Northern Ireland in Westminster, and the 775* unelected Lords appointed by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons.

*figures vary due to lifelong peerage and salary

- Debra Torrance.

Friday, 1 February 2013

There are worse things to admit to.

I recently read a brilliant article about the journey of one woman becoming more comfortable with her nationalistic tendencies. However the one thing that made me almost cringe was her seemingly ashamedness of wanting her own country to become self-determined.

I am unashamed. I also didn’t like the suggestion that a writer, or artist cannot be affiliated with a political party. I am a Scottish National Party member. The reason I support them is because of what they have so far achieved for this country. Free prescriptions, free university education, free bus passes for the elderly, care in the community, frozen council tax….I could continue but I feel these things are what affects most of us most of the time. You need some antibiotics, you don’t have to pay. You want to finish that degree, you will be financially assisted. You want your Granny to come visit next week, she can get a bus for free. You slip after a night out and need some physiotherapy, you don’t have to wait too long. You want to pay less council tax, so do I. The point is that so far the SNP have done very well for Scotland, more so than the Westminster Government.

This is why I will be voting Yes in the independence referendum. Also contributing to my deep rooted searing passion is the fact that when I meet folk, the worse thing I can say even to a staunch unionist isn’t that I support independence, but rather that when they ask “What do you do for a living?”, my response is usually sheepishly “Nothing. I am an unemployed, disabled artist.”  The artist part is debateable though. What is un-debateable is the stigma that has now been caused by being “unfit” to work. The sheer despicableness that David Cameron and his Government has shown to folk like me is without doubt an attack on the most needy in the community. While all my friends continue to work and gain pay rises that reflect inflation, I am stuck forever more, being poor. I can’t even move out from my mothers as I could now be taxed on a spare bedroom that I would need for my carer. Don’t think for a wee minute that I am one of the many children of benefit culture, I had a 3 bedroom flat on the South side of Glasgow, studying in my third year for University and my partner worked extremely hard to pay the mortgage. I was lucky though as I was funded by the SNP to get my degree, what was unlucky was falling ill. This could happen to you or anyone you know at any time. Nothing is certain. That is why all the questions relating to the uncertainty of an independent country doesn’t phase me. The union of Great Britain doesn’t seem too certain just now. Independence is a glimmer of hope in an otherwise gloomy London outlook.

I have had many debates with friends and strangers regarding independence. The overall consensus seems to be that everyone wants better for Scotland, just that some folk have different opinions on how this can be achieved. Its not us “Nats” and they “unionists”, it is all of us Scottish brethren. We have to come together to appreciate what is happening in Scotland right now and how we have been ignored for too long by the Tory government, that’s one thing we can all agree on….we don’t like Dave and his cronies. With an independent Scotland we can control 99% of Scotland’s revenue, right now we only control 15%. With an independent Scotland we can get rid of Nuclear weapons from outside our most populous city. With an independent Scotland WE can decide what is best for our country.

- Debra Torrance.