Moron of the Day 7

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Moron of the Day 6

Not the best use of a canvassing day.

Not the best use of a canvassing day.

We return with our occasional series ‘Moron of the Day’. Now to be honest we have not blogged much recently due to a shortage of time and to an extent a shortage of suitable material that hasn’t already been well covered elsewhere. But we couldn’t resist today’s subject, John Lamont MSP (Conservative, Ettrick, Roxburgh & Berwickshire). Regular readers will know that Mr Lamont won our first two Moron of the Day awards so to return so soon is a real feather in his cap.

The reason he returns is to do with the picture on the right. Chap canvassing in the months before he is up for re-election is hardly unusual you may say and you’d be right except that isn’t what young John is up to. No, he and his little Tory chums are collecting signatures for a petition against…….. another independence referendum. Rest assured dear readers there has not been a shock announcement from the First Minister which you missed when you were out at the shops.

No referendum has been announced. It will likely be years before there is another one which makes it very peculiar to be promoting a petition against something which doesn’t exist. As has been stated ad nauseum another referendum on Scottish independence will not take place until the Scottish people signal that they want one. Referenda of course are the very bedrock of democracy. The one instrument where every vote really does count. It doesn’t bode well for democracy that anyone would petition to prevent the people having their say.

I trust the voters of Ettrick, Roxburgh & Berwickshire are taking note that only some four months before the election their MSP is devoting himself to this nonsense rather than laying before them, for their consideration, the admirable policies of the Conservative & Unionist Party.

May I once again remind you that you pay this fool £57,521pa plus expenses.

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Methinks they doth protest too much


Delusional liar A Carmichael

The furore over Alistair Carmichael’s non-resignation this week has served to underline the complete lack of moral compass in either our national politicians or our national press. Their repeated attempts to justify the former Secretary of State for Scotland’s behaviour and apply convoluted logic to convince the public, and indeed themselves, that he has commited no more than a minor offence, has been illuminating if not edifying.

Much has been made of his ‘mistake’ not being so much the deed itself but in seeking to deny he was involved, thereby breaking the cardinal rule of politics. Lying through your teeth is acceptable, getting caught is the sin. You have to wonder how these politicians would react if a burglar was apprehended exiting their premises with a swag sack full of their possessions. Forget it’s a fair cop guv. ‘Sorry officer I appear to have made a mistake, an error of judgement if you will. A momentary aberration which I deeply regret. I’m a first time offender (as far as you know)’. ‘Perfectly understandable my son, carry on, may the force be with you.’

Let us remind ourselves of what he actually did and more importantly why he did it. He authorised the leaking of a memo describing a private meeting between the First Minister of Scotland and France’s Ambassador to the Court of St James. The memo itself, as admitted by Carmichael was untrue.
It suggests that the First Minister would prefer that David Cameron was returned to Downing Street rather than Ed Milliband who she believes is not up to the job. This all in complete contrast to her public position. It is leaked within a day of the First Ministers acclaimed performance on the televised leaders debate.

So far, so bad. This leak also embroils France’s most senior diplomat in the controversy. The ambassador of one of the UK’s closest and most important allies and trading partners. An unpardonable, and believe me the French won’t pardon it, diplomatic folly.

But the really damning part of this episode is why he did it. He did it not not just to smear a political opponent, which is bad enough, he did it to smear the First Minister of Scotland, the country’s most senior elected official which is even worse. And most damningly of all he did it to try and affect the outcome of a UK general election, to usurp democracy itself. The fact he failed in no way lessens the crime. In my opinion such behaviour should quite literally be a crime.

Carmichael’s apologists, and there are many, would have you believe the indignation that has followed these events is a gross over reaction whipped up by an all powerful SNP on a mission to crush all opposition in Scotland. As if the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties weren’t perfectly capable of organising their own demise. An unholy host that must be resisted at all costs. We are of course used to politicians reacting with faux indignation of the righteous kind over mere ripples in a teacup. This is not one of those occasions.

You could fill a book with the articles and comments emanating from unionist politicians and press so I’ll mention but a few.

Sir Menzies Campbell tells us Carmichael made a ‘mistake’ which he has apologised for. An apology assuming it is sincere may express regret but it doesn’t right a wrong and it doesn’t excuse the behaviour. Willie Rennie says it was an ‘aberration’ and everybody deserves a ‘second chance’. Naw, they don’t. The airhead that is Sir Malcolm Bruce tells us that all MPs lie. So that’s ok then. The other night on the BBCs Question Time programme Ruth Davidson complained of an ‘unsavoury witch hunt’ and Alex Salmond ‘smearing’ David Mundell over the affair. Trying to deflect from the facts of the case. We’ll come back to Mr Mundell shortly.

As for the press let’s take just two examples. The first is the paper that published the leak in the first place, the Tory supporting unionist Daily Telegraph. Both the journalist and the editor stand accused of a complete lack of professional integrity. In their eagerness to publish the SNP damning report they made no attempt to verify the veracity of the information. They made no attempt to contact the First Minister or the French Ambassador nor their respective offices. Publish and be damned seems to be there motto. And damned they should be.

The Guardian provides us with our other example in the form of political journalist Michael White. This looney has become famous on social media following his appearence on Scotland Tonight with his stern countenance and unusual facial appendage. Indeed his moustache has even had a song written about it. Doesn’t do to upset the crazy Nats you know. Carmichael’s pursuit by an ‘SNP inspired lynch mob’ has convinced White that ‘Alistair Carmichael’s political survival has become a matter of principle’. That’s the headline on his article. This inpires two thoughts. Firstly that this deranged fellow has no sense of irony and secondly that he has damn few principles himself.

And what of fellow travellers? Who else knew about this leak? There has been speculation that David Mundell who worked closely with Carmichael and shared office accomodation must have known about it. There was a period of around 6 weeks between the writing of the memo and the Scottish Office deciding the moment was right to release it. Ruth Davidson thinks Alex Salmond is smearing Mundell by bringing it up (actually plenty others have as well). This isn’t a smear it is an attempt to get at the truth which so far Mundell has side stepped. On television the other night he was asked if knew about the affair. Now this is a pretty straight forward question requiring a straight forward answer which is either ‘yes I did know’ or ‘no I didn’t know’. He was asked straight out if he knew about it. Mundell said, ‘the inquiry made it absolutely clear that no one else was involved’. When asked again he gave the same peculiar answer. Returning to my burglar analogy that’s a bit like the polis saying they haven’t caught a burglar, doesn’t mean there hasn’t been a break in.

Any person of normal intelligence with a reasonable grasp of the English language would conclude that he did indeed know about it. And if he knew who else knew? No 10 perhaps? The whole affair stinks and has a long way to run. I hope those pursuing this do not bow to pressure or allow themselves to be deflected.

What we do know is that Carmichael was deeply involved in a personal attack on the First Minister, based on a report he admits was wrong, in a covert attempt to influence the general election result. He subsequently lied about his involvement. We should never accept the cynical view that this kind of behaviour is inevitable or excusable. It is reprehensible. Carmichael should go and go now.

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Renton Was Right



It is too early to analysis the referendum defeat and be able to see rational reasons to explain the failure. But expressing the immediate feelings and looking at what may come next is also valid while the emotions are still raw.

Of many memories of this campaign one that stands out for me was a woman I met when we were on the street handing out flyers for an upcoming debate we had organised. A well dressed middle aged woman was walking down the street, I stepped forward to hand her a flyer. At first, as was often the case in those days, she eyed me suspiciously then read the flyer. With a hard glint in her eye and a real fire in her voice she said, ‘I would be ashamed, ashamed, if Scotland voted no’. I wonder how she’s feeling this morning.

For me it is a mixture of pride, of shame, of fear for the future but also understanding.

I’m proud of my city of Glasgow and Dundee too, going their own way and sticking up two figures to the political elite. I’m proud of the Yes campaign and particularly my local campaign, who have worked so hard, given so much of their time and sacrificed a great deal.

Ashamed? Last night my son wrote on his facebook page, ‘Proud to be Glaswegian, embarrassed to be Scottish’. I too am proud of Glasgow but I’m not embarrassed or ashamed but I do think Scotland should be. Be in absolutely no doubt that Scotland stands diminished today in the eyes of the world. And there are peoples all over Europe who looked to us for a lead and for inspiration. We’ve let them down too. We have given in to fear and in some cases self interest. Those aren’t conciliatory words and they are not meant to be. The truth is there will be a reckoning and those responsible should be held to account.

So what of understanding? We have allowed ourselves to be brow beaten, we have taken the easy path but one that will prove very costly. It is beyond doubt that the main stream media and the BBC was wholly biased against independence and if not for the internet and social media it is doubtful if this campaign would ever have got off the ground. If the MSM had been neutral and fair I believe we would have won easily. It was too early for independence to win. If devo max had been on the ballot it is likely that option would have won and been the last step before full independence. But 300 years of domination, decades of propaganda and two generations of deindustrialisation and the accompanying poverty and loss of self confidence could not be overcome in one go.

As for the future that is what we must turn our attention to now. We will be subject to endless discussion and debate about new powers but the likelihood of any meaningful power being devolved is slight. The political establishment, both Tory and Labour, will be cock a hoop with this victory. Snouts will remain in troughs and the illusion of imperial power continues for a little longer.

As we have already seen they are not in the mood for concessions and Cameron in particular faces great problems in enacting anything without significant constitutional change for England. Expect much of the coverage in the next few months to be about the rest of the UK not Scotland.The timetable laid down will either produce flawed legislation or will have to be delayed and probably produce flawed legislation anyway.

What is likely to emerge for Scotland will be a raft of minor powers and control over income tax. Control over income tax will be the central component. This will be sold as devo max or significant powers. It is far far away from devo max and will be a poisoned chalice. The block grant will be cut to reflect the new power. The Barnett formula will either disappear or be greatly diluted. What Scotland needs is the power to expand and grow its economy. Income tax cannot do that. It is a tax that is primarily designed to either put money in people’s pockets or remove it. It is the biggest revenue collector which is why the UK government will be able to present it as significant.

With large austerity cuts still to come a future Scottish government will be left with difficult choices. Ironically those choices are the ones the No campaign warned of in an independent Scotland. We will have to raise taxes if we want to maintain public spending, never mind expand it, or we will have to cut services and/or borrow. With further irony those wealthier Scots who voted no partly because they were afraid of tax rises are the ones who will bear the brunt. If Labour get in at the 2015 UK general election they will raise top rate tax back to 50%. It is unlikely an SNP government in an independent Scotland would have done so. If the Scottish government decides it needs more revenue it will be all of us who are hit but the highest earners will be hit the hardest.

There will be no escaping those realities. Will Scotlands new found political engagement, particularly among the young, flourish or will the turgid, stifling, reactionary politics of the established parties suppress that enthusiasm? Time will tell. I believe one day and maybe a generation away, when the reality of what we have unleashed onto ourselves becomes too onerous to bear, a new generation will find the courage to take back our independence. The damage that will have been done to our country by then may take decades to repair and a great deal of wealth will have been lost in the meantime.

Until then face the truth, Renton was right.

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Now’s the day an now’s the hour

William Wallace

As I sit down to write this last article before the referendum vote I’ve been looking back on what I wrote in my first article for Newsnetscotland. That was just after the SNP victory in the 2011 election(Keep calm and carry on, 9/5/2011).

I was surprised that so much of what I wrote then had come to pass. I was right that as people became more educated in the subject they would turn to Yes. It also came to pass that the No vote was soft and it wasn’t just a battle for the undecideds. Depressingly I was right that the electorate would be subject to propaganda and media bias.

I wrote too that this was a referendum for the people, not politicians and I’m pleased that was increasingly reflected in the debate. Near the end of the article I wrote, ‘The appeal has to be directly to the people. If I was in independence HQ tonight that is what I would be thinking about, how do I get it to the people’. I didn’t foresee then how the campaign would be a grassroots explosion of activism. A glorious collection of people from all backgrounds forming their own groups, artists, lawyers, health workers, farmers, far too many to list. As many have observed, this surge of people power, the idea that people organised can bring about real change, is here to stay.

A last chance now then to convert the undecided, to bolster the nervous and get out the vote.

For some independence is a practical choice, for others an emotional one and for many of us a mixture of both. The practical case is irrefutable. On the day that Scotland becomes independent we will be wealthier even before we implement the powers to grow our economy. We are in the top 20 of the world’s wealthiest countries.

We will be free of a corrupt and deeply undemocratic system of parliament and government. At last able to elect a parliament and government that is 100% reflective of our views, 100% of the time. We will have the power to pursue and develop renewable energy without the dead hand of Westminster to hold us back or to push a nuclear agenda. We can redirect our resources creating jobs, protecting our health and social services and providing a decent standard of living for our elderly. We can seriously tackle the issues that poverty brings decoupling ourselves from the 4th most unequal country in the world. We can banish nuclear weapons, properly defend our interests and not be dragged into imperial or illegal wars.

We can at last regain our place in the pantheon of independent nations and play our part in the great international organisations. This country is blessed with abundant natural resources and the best educated workforce in Europe. No country in history has been better prepared to be independent.

The emotional case is equally strong. Too often we shy away from expressing that case for fear of being branded bravehearts. Rather a braveheart than a faint heart. Ironically it is the No Thanks campaign that has relied heavily on images of British nationalism, the evocation of Team GB, defeating nazism and many other nationalistic references.

I’ve always felt more Scottish than British and that is a feeling that has grown since devolution established a separate political identity for Scotland. That is coupled with a feeling that Britain is not just politically different but increasingly socially different too, it is a different society difficult to identify with. Unionists would have you believe that Scotland will become insular, cut off by narrow nationalism. The truth is the exact opposite. It is society in the south that is becoming more insular, less welcoming, more xenophobic. Scotland by contrast seeks to engage with Europe and the rest of the world, it holds its identity open to any from anywhere who want to embrace it.

I’ve believed in Scottish independence from the day I could understand a history book. Long before a drop of North Sea oil reached the shore and when the SNP were considered a fringe group. As I’ve grown older and understood the modern day economic and political arguments that belief has only grown stronger.

One of the advantages of being a Scot is that even if you have little knowledge of your immediate family history you belong to a clan and that history is written down. My clan was present at many of the defining moments in our history. They fought at the battle of Largs when the Viking hold on Scotland was broken. They took the field with Bruce at Bannockburn and secured this nations independence. They fought for the Jacobites at Killiecrankie and Sheriffmuir and supported the ’45. After the Union they were involved in some of the famous battles of the British Empire. The clan chief was killed beside General Wolf storming the heights of Abraham to take Quebec. Another commanded a regiment at Waterloo. In modern times my grandfather fought in France in WWI and my father and his brothers in every theatre in WWII.

That’s an awful lot of fighting. We’re in a fight of a different sort today but the stakes are just as high. We have the opportunity to achieve more with two strokes of a pencil than our ancestors could achieve with the all the strokes of their swords. We don’t have to face the terrifying sight of Edward’s cavalry but the tactic from the No campaign remains fear. It has been the same throughout the campaign and has intensified to a peak of ferocity in the last few days. It is the tactic of the bully. And like all bullies they are secretly afraid. They bully, they misrepresent and they lie because they have no arguments to put forward. It is one of the more astonishing aspects of this referendum that after 300 years they cannot articulate any argument for the continuation of the UK.

We can’t change history, even if we wanted to, but we can make history. Let’s protect our fellow citizens who are still fearful. Let us give them heart. You can curl up in a corner and say please don’t hurt me but the bully will hurt you anyway. Or you can stand up and say no more, I will make my own destiny. You won’t stand alone, you’ll stand with our thousands, our tens of thousands, our hundreds of thousands, our millions.

We have an opportunity we may never have again. On Thursday between 7am and 10pm the people of Scotland will once again be sovereign. In those few hours we bear the responsibility for the future of our nation. It is a great responsibility but is is an even greater opportunity.

My mind was made up long ago. When I enter that polling booth I’ll be thinking of those forebears and voting with my heart. Whatever your motivation I hope you’ll join me and vote for a more prosperous country, a fairer more peaceful society and start to build a land that our children, our grandchildren and all those to come after will be proud to inherit.

Now’s the day an now’s the hour

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Moron of the Day 5

Laurence Robertson MP for Tewkesbury

Laurence Robertson MP for Tewkesbury

We return with our occassional series, Moron of the Day, with a topical example as the World Cup in Brazil approaches its climax. Footie fans among you will be aware that after a lacklustre performance, from which they garnered only one point, England made an early exit (no sniggering at the back).

As is the norm after such a debacle solutions are sought to the nations footballing woes. The obvious one, which escaped everybody elses attention, was to create a UK team. Step forward today’s genius Laurence Robertson, Conservative (inevitably) MP for Tewkesbury. Mr Robertson put forward the idea for the UK team in an early day motion before Parliament. He says that “no other nation fields more than one national team” and calls on the football authorities in each of the home countries to “come together and form one national football team covering the UK”.

Well there are one or two things wrong with this. Firstly the UK isn’t a nation, it’s a political state. So the ‘nation’ isn’t fielding more than one team. The Scots, the Irish, the Welsh and the English are nations and have one team each. Actually the Irish have two but the UK is responsible for that as well. That he can’t tell the difference is somewhat worrying as between 2005-2010 Mr Robertson was shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Probably just as well he never became the actual Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

It seems something of a colonial throwback to suggest the best way to improve England’s football performance is to take over other countries and press their nationals into service. The Russians of course did this successfully via the Soviet Union but it didn’t end well. Of course the UK is used to taking over other countries and exploiting their resources including their peoples. The Japanese did something similiar in the Pacific although I have yet to hear it suggested that the Japanese Empire be reinstated to boost the chances of the national Sumo team.

I know I may be showing signs of mild skepticism but I doubt that Mr Robertson would have laid this motion before parliament to aid the footballing fortunes of N.Ireland, Wales or Scotland should they have suffered an early exit from a World Cup. Come to think of it we have suffered many an early exit from a World Cup. Where were you then Robertson?

Of course we did have a UK team at the London Olympics. A move condemned and unsupported by the FA’s of Scotland, Wales and N.Ireland and the supporters associations of all four home nations. It was supported only by the English FA which is an extension of the British state. The resulting team, which didn’t do very well, contained only English and Welsh players. The Welsh players were attacked by the English/British press for failing to sing the national anthem with sufficient gusto before each match.

Of course we could follow the golfers example. As the gulf in the respective golfing might of GB&I and the US grew ever wider someone hit on the bright idea that a European team might be more of a match for the Americans. And so it has proved and the format is very popular. The difference of course is the passions the game raises. Golf is generally an individual sport whilst football is the modern embodiement of international warfare. This is another reason football fans across the UK want to keep their own identities.

The rest of Europe might not be keen on the idea. As I write Holland are in the World Cup semi finals and Germany have just gubbed Brazil 7-1 to make the final. We may need their help but it appears they don’t need ours.

I fear Mr Robertson’s early day motion will garner little support. Though it will be interesting to see who actually does support it. A sadly typical attitude from a little Englander who thinks the rest of the UK is greater England. Here only to serve them. In case you’ve forgotten you pay morons like this £67,000pa plus expenses.

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It’s O.K. We’re Normal, It’s Them That’s Weird

Normal Country

Normal Country

Freak Country

Freak Country

Just over a year ago the Yes campaign in East Dunbartonshire kicked off with our first public meeting in Lenzie. Must have had about 30 folk there including a load of Yes East Dunbartonshire volunteers. Bit of a contrast to the 250 odd we had at our Yes/No debate in Kirky last week. Last year we started with personal statements from our panel followed by a question and answer session. I said then that the Union was our reality but it wasn’t normality. Take a look at the map below. What’s the difference between the countries in blue and the countries in red?


There’s two main differences. The countries in blue are independent, the countries in red are not. The countries in blue have written constitutions defining the rights, protections and responsibilities of their citizens the countries in red do not. The countries in blue are normal.

It’s a theme I return to today. Too often in the independence debate we get involved in the narrow arguments and never see the bigger picture. But to truly understand Scotland’s place in the world, how she stacks up as a nation versus the UK and the rest of the world we have to look at ourselves from the outside.

So I’m indebted to an article I read recently that shows some of the contrasts and underlines that it’s us that are normal, we’re like the rest of Europe, it is the UK that is out of step. Here’s some of the reasons why.

Democracy: The UK is the most undemocratic country in Europe with its combination of first past the post elected lower house and unelected upper house. Scotland’s parliament is elected by proportional representation

Education: Free in Germany and the Nordic countries, cheap in many other countries like Holland and France. Free in Scotland. £9,000pa in the UK

Renewable energy: Despite having more potential than nearly every country in Europe the UK uses less renewable energy than every country in Europe except the Benelux countries and Cyprus. Scotland generated more than 30% 0f its energy from renewables last year.

Public ownership: Public ownership of major services and utilities is normal in Europe. UK has flogged off everything. Scotland holds on to water, a devolved issue, as the last big publicly owned service.

Childcare provision: UK has some of the worst provision. Number of women in work is 56%. In Norway it is 79% and in the mid seventies in the rest of the Nordic countries and Germany. Care costs are far higher in the UK than most European countries.

Equality: The UK is the 4th most unequal country in the world. Pay has fallen faster in recent years than in all but 3 EU countries. The UK works the 3rd longest hours in Europe for the second lowest wages in the OECD. We have the 3rd highest housing costs, highest train fares and the 2nd worst level of fuel poverty.

Pensions: The UK has the fourth poorest pensioners in Europe

Children: Child poverty is among the worst in Europe, more than double the rate in Norway for example. We have the highest rate of infant mortality in Western Europe.

Wealth gap: Our wealth gap is twice as wide as any other European country.Productivity is 16% below the average. We have the greatest regional inequality.

Remember these facts when Cameron et al are banging the drum and telling you how great Great Britain is. Remember these facts when they tell you this is as good as it gets. Remember these facts when they tell you you’re too poor, too weak to stand on your own two feet. Remember this when they tell you we’re better together and remember this when you go into that polling booth in September. Those things which Scotland has, those aspirations you have for yourselves and for your country are normal. You’re normal, independence is normal. If you’ll settle for less than normal vote No but if you want what is normal, beyond normal, if you have the vision to see a Scotland that is truly great, a country others look up to not down on then vote Yes. Don’t be abnormal, don’t be weird, try normality + , you’ll like it.

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