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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. 

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Things Can Only Get Better

I have been back in Scotland now for a couple of months. I love Glasgow, it is my home and I was born here. I am a Glaswegian. I was forced to go in search of work and I really objected to having to leave my home and country to do so. However, since my return it has been quite a culture shock and I have come to the conclusion that Scotland is a crazy place because its electorate keep voting for more of the same. It’s like mass self-harming. England where I lived is much more prosperous, vibrant and cleaner than here. It is a nice place to live and in general England favours well out of being part of the union. The thing is, what struck me about England is that you would never know they were part of a United Kingdom. For many, it is just them and the ‘also rans’. Scotland is never reported positively. In English news, unless it’s a murder or bad weather it’s easy to lose touch. Scots may hear news every day about high politics in Westminster but I can tell you it is not reciprocal. In England, Scotland does not register as being remotely important or relevant.
 On my return, what struck me most is how poor and dilapidated Glasgow is. The roads are a complete mess with potholes and faded road markings. Pavements are just as bad. Dog fouling is atrocious. The fabric of buildings, especially public ones are decaying and shabby. It might be a time of recession but a lick of paint is nothing in the broad scheme of things. Indeed it should be compulsory that all buildings are kept and maintained to a tolerable standard. It looks to me that Glasgow is being run into the ground by the Council, whose Leader has a bigger salary than the Prime Minister of the UK.
 We have politicians in Scotland who are not earning their publicly paid wages yet a Government which is actually balancing the books is being attacked from all quarters of the media and unionist politicians for not doing enough!
 Good news is never reported in Scotland either. Invariably if its not a murder, job losses or some scare story about how bad Scotland will be, come independence,  then it just does not  pass the censors approval. Good news when it does arrive is usually reported akin to the Marvin the Manic depressive robot style of. ‘it’s a beautiful day, but it won’t last’. The bias of the MSM, BBC & STV is stark. It is no surprise that people have a jaundiced view of Scottish life, given the diet of doom they are fed each day.
 Having a walk through Partick, West End, Govanhill and attending Blochairn and Polmadie car boot sales, the resigned, downtrodden plight of people is evident on their faces. I have never seen so many miserable people. The shops are cutting prices to the bone yet not enough to stop hordes of Glasgwegians resorting to car boot sales to pick up goods at next to nothing prices. There seems to be a race to the lowest price In Glasgow and that will never work in anyone’s favour buyer or seller. The long term decline of value, of worth, of cost comes at a price of resentment of those more fortunate, lowering of expectation and almost certainly of aspiration. Or economy depends on people spending but somebody has to make a profit. That’s how the world operates.
 What has happened to the once great Scotland? Where has it gone? Where is the fight, the passion? I am not imagining it, it was once like that. There is no rage or anger about how things are and it is so painful to see so many people prepared to settle for less. It is a tragedy. It reminds me of Poland in 1986. Subdued, disgruntled people, scurrying round and doing the best they could to make ends meet. Grey, broken buildings, clapped out buses, infrastructure ignored or patched up. Worst of all, is the absence of hope.  I hope that people will say “enough” and start to fight back.  The next generation is depending on this one to make it better for them. Surely, there is enough self-respect left for that.
  If, like the Better Together supporters, you believe that this is the best that Scotland can do then it might be suggested that your aspiration levels are wanting. If you believe that Scotland, as a stand-alone nation cannot do better for itself than its current situation then by all means vote NO.
 You could also not bother voting at all. This would hammer home the charge of low aspiration and hopelessness I have just mentioned. As Bob Dylan once wrote, ‘a loser knows no success like failure, and losing is no success at all’
 Alternatively, VOTE YES for an attempt at standing on our own two feet and being accountable for ourselves and responsible for the welfare of the people who live here. It is incredible to me and to almost every foreigner I have spoken to about being an independent nation, that there are some people who need to be convinced that their country can be successful on its own. Countries around the world are doing it every day. It is normal. We might not be certain of our future in an independent Scotland, but it has to be better than what is here now.
Written by Frank Wilson.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

The Inadequacies of Western Politics

I am struck by the constant struggle for power of the so called ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ in western politics and have come to realise that these terms are largely meaningless, so tied up in the bias of their respective proponents that they are simply reduced to terms of abuse. ‘The Left’ has become associated with the excesses of powerful ideologues such as Stalin, Mao Zedong and Pol Potwhereas ‘The Right’ has been associated with Hitler, Mussolini and Juan and Eva PĂ©ron. These individuals, their philosophies and forms of government are more alike than they are different. They have at their root a kind of Social Darwinism and reliance on a totalitarian state. Both were reactions to the failure of Nation States to protect their populations from poverty. Both claimed to be the answer to the failures of capitalism (and serfdom ) whereas there roots lay in a struggle between the haves and the have-nots at times when hunger, poverty and want overcame the fear of the military and police used by the rich and powerful elite. Many in the west proclaimed the victory of capitalism over communism when the U.S.S.R. imploded yet this is simple propaganda, the failure of communism was due to a powerful elite oppressing the rest of society. It was not capitalism that the victor it was the failure of communism to provide for the needs and wants of its peoples.
Today we are experiencing the collapse of capitalism, it is failing to provide for the needs and wants of the majority, the powerful and rich elites that benefit from the laissez faire policies promulgated by Ronald Regan and Margaret Thatcher are still at work protecting their ill-gotten gains to the detriment of the wider public, but there is one crucial difference. The main stream media, long a supporter of the wealthy and the powerful, are losing their readership to the web; blogs, twitter and other social media tools are opening the doors to the widespread dissemination of views and values that directly challenge that of the ruling elites. Large sections of the media in the UK have been shown to be acting against the interests of the public as demonstrated by the revelations of the Leveson enquiry. At the beginning of the Arab Spring Western governments, led by the USA, lauded the developments as a democratic revolution made possible by social media and encouraged the overthrow of governments that they disapproved of. They failed to foresee the rise of extremist groups equally as dangerous as those who caused the Second World War who seem willing to exterminate, torture and imprison any who disagree with their views. Think tanks funded by the corporate elite promote policies to compliant governments, members of whom are also on the boards of those self-same corporate bodies and who benefit from investments in them.  George Monbiot points out how these think tanks operate and subvert democracy. This is not a battle between right and left, it is a battle for profits and power at the expense of the majority to the benefit of elites.
Extremism from any source must be resisted, if we have learned anything from the Second World War, it is that inflicting poverty on masses of the public leads to extremism. The human costs of that war led to the post war consensus on full employment. “There were good reasons to seek security. The British people had just emerged from a war that had shown that, regardless of how high they were on the social ladder, they could fall to the bottom in an instant. The death and destruction of war were not the only threats; a serious illness could blight a family’s prospects. People wanted to be sure that they would not be on their own if disaster struck, and they were prepared to ensure this through taxes and insurance contributions. They were, literally, “all in it together,” accepting rationing of food and fuel to guarantee that in the face of austerity, everyone had access to the essentials.” The profits from enterprise were shared out across society with the creation of the welfare state in the UK and its glowing beacon, the NHS. The post war consensus and the West fully embraced this doctrine at the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944 which largely accepted the work of John Maynard Keynes, but western governments were concerned about the ideological challenge posed to them by communism as practiced by the USSR and China (the two largest state proponents). Thus began the “cold war” a battle for not only hearts and minds but a battle for resources. It is my opinion that the west worried too much about the ideological battle, communism (as practiced by those countries, not the true form) failed because central planning was not adequate to provide for the needs and the wants of its populace. It was the people of those countries, striving for a better life and putting pressure on their political masters that caused communism to fail. The price mechanism of the market has been proven to be a much better tool to improve the lot of people and yet that has also failed us. The seeds of that failure lay in Richard Nixon’s abandonment of the fixed exchange rate between gold and the dollar. That single act caused the breakdown of the Bretton Woods Agreement and was the result of the rising costs of the Vietnam War. In effect, because the dollar was the reserve currency of the world financial system, by breaking its link from gold and printing more money, he financed the Vietnam War by exporting inflation to the rest of the western world.
The inflation caused by this act caused great pressure on the old and the working classes in the UK and caused much of the industrial strife of the 1970’s as people strived to maintain their economic wellbeing by using the only weapon available to them, the withholding of their labour. Because of near full employment and the unionised nature of industrial Britain this tool was particularly effective but we could not ignore the world events out-with our control which meant that we were losing competitiveness to other countries. Capital and investment flowed out of the country to low wage economies that became more efficient because of better tooling and lower labour costs.  The public in the UK saw this as the fault of the trade unions as the media began a concerted attack on them using the tools of the think tanks that had started to embrace the thoughts of Hayek and Milton Freidman of the Chicago School of Economics. Ronald Regan and Margaret Thatcher took the convenient parts of the academic thinking of these economists and allowed the market to let rip with a massive move towards laissez faire.
It is that move to laissez faire economics, the freeing of the market from regulation and constraints that had led us the present economic collapse. The market has been proven to be a good thing but not the FREE market. The market must be regulated to prevent its excesses. We cannot insulate ourselves from the rest of the world but we can seek to build a better society, the threat of war is real as populations around the world seek to improve their lot whilst increasing strains from the exponential rise in world population place more and more strain on the worlds resources and the capitalists who own the means of production seek to retain and increase their wealth. The evidence from history is clear; wealth must be shared equitably if strife is to be avoided. More than this there is overwhelming academic evidence that inequality is bad for all of us, the rich and the poor. The work of Richard Wilson and Kate Picket as published in The Spirit Level examines inequality in countries around the world and indisputable proves that more equal societies fair better and benefit all in society.
It is my experience that both Tory and Labour governments have abandoned the poor. Labour by abandoning the attempt at full employment and a living wage by seeking to redistribute the profits from the big banks through benefits. The Tories by removing benefits altogether from the neediest in society. It is only with the SNP that I see a drive to increase the employment opportunities available to our citizens by investing in our infrastructure which simultaneously creates assets for the future (which are more valuable than the costs incurred in creating them) and provides employment for our citizens who pay taxes, spent their wages in the community and thus create more jobs as demand increases. They seek to use our wealth of energy and natural resources to benefit the people of Scotland by investing its profits for the future growth of our economy. Both Labour and Tory governments have been proven to act against the interests of Scotland people when they buried theMcCrone report. The latest incarnation of these policies is the astonishing abandonment of universal benefits by Joanne Lamont of the Labour Party.
I support the SNP because they are a truly social democratic party, it is to my regret that the Labour Party seems to be abandoning its core principles and moving to the right. I suspect that they seek power more than they seek to improve the lot of the nation’s citizens. That is the route to political oblivion and I earnestly hope that they will turn back from this course.
It is for these reasons among many more that I support the Yes campaign for an independent Scotland. I see hope in the message that we can better target our resources to benefit our people, if we have the tools to do so. We need to be in control of our own destiny to improve our lot we should not abandon that responsibility to others that do not have our best interests at heart.
Vote YES for the opportunity for a better future.

Written by Bill Fraser. To see more of Bill's work, visit http://ofmenandmarkets.wordpress.com/author/ofmenandmarkets/

Monday, 7 January 2013

Tide Power; The power of nuclear, without the deadly legacy.

If Scotland becomes an independent nation in the future, it cannot rely on dwindling oil and gas reserves, as a means of maintaining a healthy trade surplus. Oil itself will of course still flow from the existing and planned fields in Scotland's territorial waters. 

However, oil will be less important as a source of energy, as clean electric transport develops. Emissions targets will limit burning of fossil fuels and eventually, we will abandon oil and coal forever. 

In the overlapping years, as renewable hydro and offshore wind power generation matures, tide power will be waiting to produce perhaps double the output of the renewable arrays already in service. 

With 816 times the energy per cubic metre than wind power, smaller tidal turbines generate enormous quantities of electricity. Not only that, but unlike wind, this electricity will be produced every day, four times a day! 

Tides are predictable on a daily basis and by placing tidal turbines in various inlets, sea lochs and channels all around our coastline, the power may flow constantly. Just a grid management system is needed to switch in turbine arrays as they power up and to switch off machines which are finished their cycle. Arrays can be added to balance peaks at mid winter and pump water into hydro reservoirs to be released when extra base load power is needed (when wind turbines are stationary, for example). 

These undersea "Windmills" are similar to wind turbines, but only need to face in one direction, as the water flows in or out with the gravity of Sun and Moon pulling the ocean water around the Earth. 

Machines like these are currently being tested off the North coast right now, and with the Scottish Government funding, plus massive investment by utility firms, tidal energy will be the motive power for the "Mighty Atom" which Scotland is striving to become. If all this work is to be worthwhile, we as a people need to get behind our Government at Holyrood. We need also, to shake free from the vested interests in the UK oil/gas industry, as we'll as the nuclear lobby. To do this, we need independence and politicians with vision. I think you know who I mean!

Gordon J Ross