Thursday, 30 May 2013

Margaret Curran, Dennis Healey & John Boothman

Normally I don't like to repeat what other bloggers have already blogged, the chances are, they'll have done a better job of it and anything I might add would be irreverent and superfluous. However, I understand different people read different blogs, so for those who don't read Bella Caledonia, here is a wee story for you.

Firstly, who are these people, we'll start with Margaret Curran.

I'm so sorry, that was quite puerile, of course I meant to upload this photo.

Margaret is Labour MP for Glasgow East and Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland.

Next up is Dennis Healey, who's he I hear you ask? Well, I'll tell you, here he is...

Oh dear, not exactly a very statesman-like pose, not for Baron Healey of Riddlesden CH MBE PC - in any case - here is a more suitable image.

Dennis was Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer between 1974 and 1979, while in that job he presided over many things not limited to the beginning of the Scottish oil boom years. Recently he said the following in an interview with Holyrood Magazine

"I think we did underplay the value of the oil to the country because of the threat of nationalism but that was mainly down to Thatcher.
"We didn't actually see the rewards from oil in my period in office because we were investing in the infrastructure rather than getting the returns and, really, Thatcher wouldn't have been able to carry out any of her policies without that additional five per cent on GDP from oil. Incredible good luck she had from that."
He went on to say:
"I think they are concerned about Scotland taking the oil. I think they are worried stiff about it.
"I think we would suffer enormously if the income from Scottish oil stopped but if the Scots want it, they should have it and we would just need to adjust. But I would think Scotland could survive perfectly well, economically, if it was independent."
So, what does the former have to do with the latter?

Margaret Curran was asked about Healey's Holyrood Magazine interview by Derek Bateman of BBC Radio Scotland, it went like this:

"DEREK BATEMAN ( BBC Radio Scotland): What do we make of Denis Healey admitting that when [North Sea] oil was discovered, Labour – a Labour government, ahead of a referendum, interestingly, on the constitution of Scotland – misled, deliberately misled the Scots about the value of oil?
MARGARET CURRAN MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland) : Well, Derek, I don’t know anything about that, those times, I don’t know the basis on which Denis Healey said that, I don’t know the argument, I don’t know the papers around that.
DEREK BATEMAN ( BBC Radio Scotland): But you’re the shadow Secretary of State for Scotland! You’re a senior Labour figure, I mean, he was a Labour chancellor.
MARGARET CURRAN MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland) : I know I’m getting on a bit, but I wasn't around in Denis Healey’s days."
Remember, this is Labour's alternative to Michael Moore, the current Secretary of State for Scotland, while he's not up to much himself, for the Labour Secretary of State for Scotland to utter the things above is hard to accept. I mean, you might say she looks young enough not to remember the 1970's (although perhaps not in the first photo) but the McCrone Report which was made secret back in the late 1970's has been doing the rounds for at least five years now, has Margaret been living in a cave? (Don't answer that.) In short, its her job to be aware of this kind of thing, however inconvenient it might be.
The thing is though, as Jimmy Nail said in his 1992 hit; 'Ain't no doubt' - She's lying. (If the reference is before your time, click here for elucidation.)
Citizen Smart (real name Alan Smart -  not to be confused with bat-brained Labour activist Ian Smart who is his brother) in his piece on Bella and his own blog confirms that Curran was around and politically active in the 70's - in 1978 she was Secretary of Glasgow University Labour Club (the biggest of its kind in the UK at the time) smack in the middle of Healey's time in office as Chancellor. At the time, Curran was screeching for Healey's head on a stick because she was a prominent supporter of the Labour Left Opposition (back when Labour had a 'left'.)
Her claim - not to be aware of McCrone, Healey and what Callaghan's Labour Government were saying about the potential value of Scottish Oil - is a lie.
Now, you would expect some form of reaction if an ex-chancellor of the Exchequer turned up and said the Government he represented lied profusely and energetically to stifle the democratic wishes of the Scottish people only 30 years ago. You might remember reading about the referendum in 1979 on the inception of a Scottish Assembly, which many say would have led to Scottish Independence much sooner than has otherwise been the case. It was shot down by Labour MP George Cunningham's 40% rule and in no small measure by the misinformation being ejaculated by the Government of the day which even now is still being blerted out by Maggrit "stairheid rammy" Curran and her cronies.
So why isn't it then? Well, that brings us to John Boothman; who's he then?

Shit - that's John Barrowman...
This is John Boothman:

Currently, he's the Head of News & Current Affairs for the BBC in Scotland. In 1979 he was the Chairperson of Strathclyde University Labour Club, Chairperson Scottish Organisation of Labour Students in 1980 and Chairperson of the National (UK) Organisation of Labour Students 1981.
Although Derek Bateman works for the BBC and should be commended for skewering Curran, when his interview with Margaret Curran ended, as far as the BBC was concerned; so did the entire issue.

I'm sure its not related though...

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Mrs Howden in The Heart of Midlothian

What's he mithering on about now you're probably asking. Well I'll tell you, if the argument for Scottish Independence can be encapsulated in one quote; it is this.

"I dinna ken muckle about the law," answered Mrs Howden; "but I ken, when we had a king, and a chancellor, and parliament-men o' our ain, we could aye peeble them wi' stanes when they werena gude bairns - Bit naebody's nails can reach the length o' Lunnon."

From Sir Walter Scott's book The Heart of Midlothian, uttered by a Mrs Howden as she was helped back down to the hill to the Lawnmarket by a Mr Plumdumas - a somewhat unfortunate choice of name.

I read this quote months ago on another blog, I made a special point of remembering the blog name and article title then promptly forgot. Fortunately it cropped up again at Lalland's (linked in the text above) so I was able to find the book from which it came and put it into some context.

The point is as compelling now as it was then; London is far away geographically but even further away in spirit, aspiration and motivation. I want patronise you with any further elaboration; the words speak for themselves.

I'd really like to witter on about something else but I'll save it for another post - this one deserves to basque in its own glory unsullied by other more mundane topics.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

'A stepping stone to SOMETHING EVEN FURTHER!'

My emphasis there.

Moving away from Scottish politics for a moment, the words above were blerted out by Tory ex-Defence minister Sir Gerald Howarth during parliamentary amendments on the Gay Marriage Bill going through parliament. More fully, he suggested there were plenty "in the aggressive homosexual community who see this as but a stepping stone to something even further".

How incredibly sinister, lets explore this for a second - 'something even further' - what exactly does he think will transpire on the back of this legislation? Will heterosexual people be forced into same sex marriage? Will women be forced to cut their hair short and wear dungarees? Perhaps in the new gay dystopia men will be forced to wear tight tee shirts & hot pants and hold hands with other men while women will have no choice but to like Ellen Degeneres and hog the pool table in bars, (which would all be gay in this nightmare homosexual world.)

As far as I understand, the detractors - in an attempt to undermine gay marriage legislation - wanted to allow hetero couples access to civil partnerships, (which are currently only available to same sex couples.) Now, there are plans to look at civil partnerships for hetero couples in 2019 but there seems to be some financial implications (presumably in terms of tax breaks) if those different sex couples who'd normally marry; decide on a civil partnership instead. To be honest, I don't see what the problem is with that, I think it has more to do with David Cameron not backing down against a backbench revolt than anything else.

The irony is, those tub-thumping Christians who don't want to allow gay marriage also don't want to water down the idea of a good God-fearing marriage with civil partnerships.

I want to go back to this idea of 'something even further' though because its an oft repeated meme among those who would not allow gays any religious reference in their wedding vows, which is a part of what this is about.

I mean, would our big gay overlord be a benevolent ruler? Will religion be banned? Would the lyrics from 'I will survive' replace The Lord's Prayer? Will K.D. Lang be revered in this brave new world? Will 'bum fun' be compulsory and will Gay Pride Day be every day in this camp new world? We need answers to these important questions.

If I can paraphrase Kent Brockman, the news reader from The Simpsons. When you read the next couple of lines, if you can substitute in your mind's eye his image for that of Jeremy Paxman:

"I, for one, welcome our new homosexual overlords. I'd like to remind them that as a trusted TV personality I could be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their underground saunas and nightclubs!"

Friday, 17 May 2013

Nigel Farage

Oh dear, that didn't work out well... Or it went perfectly to plan if you believe what some people are saying...

Nigel Farage visited Edinburgh (curiously) to promote the UKIP candidate for the Aberdeen Donside by-election taking place 160 miles away, it seems their candidate for the Aberdeen constituency - lives in Edinburgh - that'll be handy for surgeries, perhaps they'll Skype?

Some commentators think this was an agent provocateur-inspired move, Farage must have known the reaction would be less than welcoming in a predominantly luvvy-lefty Edinburgh, or perhaps not. Perhaps in their hubris on the back of gains in the English council elections, they thought it could be translated to gains in Scotland? (If so, boy did they get that wrong.)

I mean, no one up here is at all bothered about Scotland being dragged back to Thatcherite times, or of having an even less representative government at Westminster looking after our interests, or should that be our interests on their behalf. I'm not suggesting UKIP are a shower of racist thugs, they're not even close to being on the same page as the BNP -  they do have some pretty regressive policies though, not limited to:

Increasing defence spending by 40%

Tripling Border Agency staff (so up to 1 million people can be deported annually)

Scrapping Human Rights legislation

Workfare for all benefit claimants (inc those on council tax benefit, so including the infirm and disabled.)

MSP's, Welsh AM's and (in time) Northern Irish MLA's to be replaced with the sitting Westminster MP's.

They would also like to withdraw completely from the EU and have a relationship based on trade only which on the surface makes sense but as usual, isn't as simple as it sounds, (these things never are...)

The group which met Nigel on Edinburgh's High Street, forcing him to take shelter in a pub (The Cannon's Gait, its really quite nice) was from Radical Independence Scotland -  a pro-independence Socialist group. They had  a quick whip round on Facebook and as many as 20 (I know!) chanted various words like 'scum' or 'you can stick your Union Jack (sic) up your arse'.

That last suggestions had Nigel particularly exercised, he was heard saying some time later this was racist and anti-English. However, the Union Flag (or Jack if you prefer) isn't England's flag, its the flag of the United Kingdom of Great Britain - of which Scotland is a part - so its our flag too; were the protesters also anti-Scottish? I suppose they might have been because there is nothing to suggest those doing the shouting were all Scottish anyway, let alone Indy supporters or SNP voters. Radical Independence is a socialist group and while my political acumen is ropey, anyone in the British Isles hoping to have a government with even the merest sensation of a socialist agenda isn't going to get it from Westminster.

Nigel also suggested that if this was the face of Scottish nationalism then; '... it is a pretty ugly nation.' He then branded the mob 'fascist scum'. Other right-wing UKIP flavoured people on Twitter (which is still a foreign land to me) tweeted comments in a similar vein. Many went on to lament the death of free speech, naively forgetting that if you're in the minority - which Farage was in this case - a mob tends to trump free speech. It is also a deeply ironic point to make since Scottish voters have been in the minority at Westminster for 300 years and it never seemed to matter. Although Farage doesn't sit in Westminster (yet,) if he ever managed it - Scotland's voice would be diminished to a point where it would be invisible to the naked eye. Of course, that doesn't occur to those for which the union has worked all these years.

Of course its all bullshit, this isn't about Yes versus No, its about Right versus Left. Scotland sits slightly to the left of the rest of the UK (which is why the Tories are hated and UKIP shunned north of the border.) The group which harangued the hapless Farage are a Socialist group which happens to support Scottish self-determination, there the link ends. Despite what the mainstream media might say, this wasn't some top secret mission by Yes Scotland to defame English political intent, I mean why would they knowing the reaction it would get in the press?

A lot of people are displeased about the welcome Nigel got in Edinburgh, while its not my cup of tea, I can't help but be secretly amused (although not so secretly so now.) There was no violence (despite press reports and hysterical tweets from UKIP personnel) and no arrests were made, it seems to me, a large part of the 'Edinburgh Mob' consisted of photographers.

As far as free speech goes, I feel certain if George Monbiot turned up in a right wing stronghold he'd find himself taking shelter in a pub (or possibly an organic farm shop if one was available) and being taken away in police van - such arguments about free speech are rendered moot.

In the meantime, it'll be interesting to see how Edinburgh Businessman Otto Inglis does for UKIP in the Aberdeen Donside By-election - something tells me they'd have been better off going to the pub with their deposit...

Oh, hold on...

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

500 Questions from Better Together.

So its 500 days till Scotland has a vote that actually counts for its future, since your vote at a Westminster election is worth something South of absolutely nothing at all. Finally we'll get the chance to change the status quo so when we do vote - we get the government we, not the rest of the UK, asked for.

Better Together have marked the occasion by publishing 500 question (pdf) which simply must be answered. Now, I've provided a link because I wouldn't want anyone to think I was making stuff up, the thing is; its utter nonsense. At best its an exercise in pure trollery - at worse? It's just a massive waste of every one's time.

Put simply, they can all be answered as follows:

By filling the application form out.


By doing what every other country on the planet does and negotiating.

Better Together have actually excelled this time, if anyone was in any doubt about how stupid they think we all are; here is the proof. I would give an example but I don't want to dignify any of it with a response. Alistair Darling who's lent his name to the document clearly thinks we in Scotland are uniquely - out of all other countries on the planet - unable to conduct relations with other nations and the institutions to which they belong; we need Westminster and England to do it for us.

This is a compelling argument, but not in the way Darling and Better Together think.

Beyond that? I cannot express just how much disdain I have for this execrable document and the opinions it represents. If you want to vote No then fair enough, but at least do it for reasons which exists in this reality - not some fevered construct from Better Together - staffed and driven as it is by people who stand to lose out substantially if we vote Yes.

An apt response to the entire exercise can be found here. 

Friday, 3 May 2013

Susan Calman

First of all; who-she?

Susan Calman is a comedienne who was on the radio last weekend, a radio 4 topical news quiz as it happens. Of course I wasn't listening because I'm far to young for BBC Radio 4. Radio 2 is more my speed, although not when jazz is being played - if ever a form of music had its head up its arse - its jazz.

Susan is a Scottish lass, some think she's quite funny, some not so much so but then that goes with the territory. What's all the fuss? On the news show she said this:

"Initially Alex Salmond said, ‘It is definitely the euro. It is going to be totally the euro.’ And then Europe said ‘naw’ and then he said, ‘It is totally the pound. It is going to be the pound.’ But this wee Osborne and Danny Alexander – flying in like a ginger Supergran – said, ‘Naw, you’re not getting the pound.’ And Alex was like: ‘Haud on, what if we want the pound?’.”
“The problem is that whenever Conservative ministers tell us about independence, to some Scottish people it sounds like the teacher in Charlie Brown – just going wah…wah…wah.”
“It is really difficult because with things getting a bit closer, we kind of need to know what’s happening if people do vote for independence. At the moment, it is just two people shouting, ‘Aye, we will have it’ and someone going ‘No, we won’t’.”

So far so funny? It's entirely subjective. The comments above have attracted a fair amount of media attention, not in-and-of themselves but because of the alleged reaction from cybernats who roam the internet like unruly coyotes looking for a unionist out after dark. Susan tells us in her blog:

"Turns out a lot of people got really angry about what I said. Turns out I’m edgier than I thought I was.
“I’ve been told that someone has written a blog which is pretty abusive towards me after my performance.
“I haven’t looked for it, and won’t. It’s not worth it. Sadly for those abusing me I’ve had much worse in my time. Try growing up gay in Glasgow in the 1980s.
“Scottish people are meant to have a tremendous sense of humour. We do. Except when it comes to the referendum it seems. I learnt so much about politics through comedy when I was growing up, and I think it’s crucial that comedy plays it’s part in the process that’s happening now.
“No-one ever says that English comedians shouldn’t be negative about English politicians. There would be little comedy left if that was the case.
“Why should there be a reverence towards any politicians in Scotland? Labour, SNP, Tory, Green whoever. All should be open to lampoon. That’s what satire does. And when satire is done well it’s because there’s something there to laugh at.
“I will keep talking about Scottish Politics. I’ll keep laughing about Scottish Politics. I’m not going to pretend that I’m not disappointed that people are being horrific towards me. Of course I am. But I’m also pretty convinced it means I’m doing the right thing.”

The thing is, what she said would have been funny if the premise was accurate. When the Euro looked good the SNP wanted to adopt it as the currency in an independent Scotland, that changed when it bombed in 2007-8. At that point, they reasonably said, they'd stick with Sterling - it's our currency after all so why not?

For clarity, the EU never said no to Scotland adopting the Euro, I don't think any one from the Scottish government asked and frankly, if they did; the head of the European Bank would probably fall of his chair. George Osborne never said no to Scotland using Sterling either for the very simple reason - he can't. He said it would be complicated, something tells me though, those complications would wither with a Yes vote in 2014 - the rest of the UK desperately needs the Scottish economy to maintain UK Balance of Payments and Scotland needs the stability of staying in a currency union until we find our feet.

The Scotsman reports:

"COMIC Susan Calman has called for the end of “name-calling, swearing and death threats” marring the independence debate after her satirical contribution to a radio show triggered an onslaught of online abuse."

One thing you have to understand about the Scotsman is; it is rabidly anti-independence. Like any newspaper it also likes to paraphrase and extrapolate; no one can find any death threats leveled at Susan Calman and the abuse doesn't seem to go beyond the normal hurly burly of online political discourse. Prominent bloggers across the internet spent entire days trying to find these death threats to no avail, all there is is the Scotsman telling us they exist; not even they can source them.

Here's the thing though, this is a common ploy used by media, you'll notice - 'name-calling, swearing and death threats' are in 'quotes'. The Scotsman, Herald etc do this almost every day; a headline appears which alleges and activity, it's then quietly pulled because actually - it never happened at all - they were just paraphrasing but the meme has started. Other papers repeat it, TV latches on then the usual litany of MP's & MSP's get on the band wagon (Douglas Alexander is up today telling us to be nice online.)

Meanwhile, the sum total of fuck all actually happened. Undoubtedly there will have been some name calling (boo hoo) - I dare say someone may actually have sworn, (fuck me!) As for the death threat? No, I don't think Susan said there were death threats. I suspect she got a hard time for what she said, cybernats can be overly sensitive to inaccuracy aimed at the indyref argument. But listen, they do it because there is no - repeat absolutely no - redress anywhere else.

Susan Calman is human, so prone to making the odd mistake. I doubt any one will make their mind up in Sept 2014 based on her comedy. The real villain here is emphatically not her - it's the main stream press. Ever keen to sell copy (The Scotsman has been in terminal decline for years now - this blog has a higher reader ship than does The Scotsman.) The Scotsman and others will stoop lower than a snakes belly to do down the Independence cause because they're part of the establishment that will be changed radically after a Yes vote in 2014.

Beyond that, main stream commentators bemoan the existence of the cybernat. If the mainstream press was balanced, if the BBC gave as much air to the mistakes and infractions of Better Together as it did to those imagined into existence for the Yes side; we would have no need for the cybernat. They don't though so the cybernats will keep on highlighting then debunking the wilder imaginings that appear in the media on behalf of the Union.

For what its worth? I am a cybernat, I'll continue to be so until we get our Yes vote in Sept 2014 or the media start behaving in a balanced manner.