Monday, 30 June 2014

The arrogance of a British Unionist.

The image below demonstrates the attitude of many unionist campaigners. A lot of the noise coming from those who seek to convince us we're better together is infused with similar levels of disdain.

Jim Murphy cannot accept anyone supporting the idea of an independent nation might have something - anything - substantive to say; so he does what comes naturally.

In the absence of anything persuasive or constructive: he pours on the scorn.

Jim might say he was making a wee joke, but there are two things wrong with that idea. Firstly, he's still stifling the hopes & aspirations of millions and secondly, its about as funny as a pod of beached whales.

Its not like the anti-BBC bias protesters at Pacific Quay...

 ...didn't have a point.

Often, its not what the Yes Campaign are saying that behooves* people to vote yes  - its more about the demeanour of the No camp. Jim Murphy's sneering attitude will have many people wondering just what it is we're supposed to be better together with. The campaign for the maintenance of the union seems to be creating a self-defeating subliminal message with their campaign slogans.

Vote no and like Jim Murphy, you too can hang from the shoogly unionist peg while dismissing the roiling masses below.

Better Together? No thanks.

* Yeah, that's right - behooves!

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Murdo Fraser.

He's in the news today, the political equivalent - in terms of news output -  of a royal baby farting.

He's going to give a lecture today suggesting the yes/no indy question was bound to polarise support and that a federalised UK could form a useful middle ground. Hold on though, no bugger knows who Murdo Fraser is do they?

This is him:

Murdo Fraser is Conservative MSP for the mid-Scotland and Fife region since 2001. In his time he's been deputy leader of the Scottish Tories and currently holds the position of convener of the Economy, Energy, and Tourism Committee. He also contested the last leadership election and probably would have won had Ruth Davidson not been parachuted in by David Cameron. Davidson only entered Holyrood in 2011, Fraser on the other hand had been in harness for ten years but had been making noises about further devolution during his leadership campaign, some time later, Ruth made public her 'line in the sand' promise - make of that what you will.

Now though, its all change. Unionist parties are tripping over themselves to make noises about maybe offering more powers possibly at some point not specified in a future which may or may not transpire on this plane of existence.

And that is what Murdo will be talking about during his lecture at Glasgow University.

The relevance of this image will become clear soon enough, unfortunately.
Going back a bit though, because its still a bit of a mire most people probably aren't clear about. When the referendum question was being formulated, much noise was made about it being a straight yes/no to independence or whether a third devo-something option should be included.

The SNP offered the opportunity for a third question but made it clear they'd be campaigning only for a yes. Unionist parties accused - I know, can you believe it? - Salmond of wanting a safety net for when is heinous plans for full autonomy went awry and said they would only campaign for a no vote and the status quo.

To clarify, nobody wanted to campaign for any sort of further devo option -so it didn't go on the ballot.

Now though, with the Yes campaign gaining ground and - please excuse this analogy - unionist sphincters twitching like rabbit's noses: devo-something is firmly back in the picture. We need to remember - if it had been on the ballot and we voted for it - Westminster would have been compelled to deliver it. Now though, all unionist parties need do is offer some ill-defined ill-thought out options then distract voters so they don't look too closely and realise its all unworkable flim flam.

I'm going to say something boring now, but its important. With that in mind, as a reward I'm placing a cute picture after two very short paragraphs.

Its about the Barnett Formula and further tax raising powers for Holyrood. Holyrood has had tax raising powers since its inception but never used them - why? Put simply, because the Barnett Formula - which is used to calculate the Scottish Parliament's block grant...

The block grant pays for all of the above. (This isn't the picture by the way.)
... is based solely on expenditure in England and takes no notice what-so-ever of income in the devolved 'regions'. Unionist parties are now ALL offering significant tax varying responsibilities in their manifold yet fuzzy devo-further offerings. But they're also telling us the Barnett Formula - which we do well out of but still don't get anything like as much as we pay in - will remain; it will not be scrapped. However, if Scotland uses any of these tax varying responsibilities - in order for it to benefit - Barnett would have to be replaced because it only looks at spending in England - not tax receipts in Scotland.


There now, that wasn't so bad was it? And, you'd have to agree - important too?

At first glance, you might think these devo-options aren't that bad - I mean - its more power isn't it? Well no, in terms of the income tax varying part for example - it means more responsibility & bureaucracy with no gain. In other areas, its not anything like enough. Its all just a sop to make you vote no.

These devo-options seem fine if you don't think too hard about it. But - a wee bit like having a new puppy in the house - its only when you start finding dog shit behind the settee you begin to equate the aspiration with the reality.

While you can train that out of a puppy, you can't train the mendacity out of a Scottish unionist politician with a strong vested interest in the status quo.

If you doubt that, you could do an internet search with the words 'Westminster gravy train' or 'Scottish Referendum 1979' or 'McCrone report' or 'Gordon Campbell Secretary of state for Scotland 1970 to 1974' or 'MOD job losses in Scotland under the union' or 'Shipbuilding job losses under the union' or 'Westminster expenses scan-

Well, the list goes on and will continue to grow until we vote yes.

Monday, 23 June 2014

HS2... Again...

Not wishing to go over old ground, but sometimes it is a good idea to refresh memories and today, George Osborne is all over the news on the topic of HS2.

Even at this early stage with an election expected in the first half of next year, Osborne is currently doing the rounds in the north of England, (otherwise known as; The North) telling inhabitants that they should have a high speed rail link between Leeds and Manchester. That key constituencies exists in that part of 'The North' for both the Tories and Labour (but not the Lib Dems because they are - how can I put this - fucked) means the sitting government is splashing the cash - or I should say, your cash in order to buy votes.

Ignore the green lines beyond Leeds and Manchester, bats will fly out of my ears before they appear in reality.
The map above comes from the HS2 website and without going in to great detail, the sections from London to Manchester & Leeds are expected to cost something in the region of £50 billion of which Scottish taxpayers will be paying a ~9% per capita share, the east-west link up (or HS3 as its being affectionately called by no one really) between Manchester and Leeds (which is what George is talking about today) will/could/might cost another £7 billion, off which Scottish tax payers will pay a share.

Transport is a devolved matter, the current transport minister for Scotland is MSP Keith Brown, his entire budget amounts to around £2 billion (para 5) for 2014-2015 - a fraction of the cost of Osborne's plan to link two cities in the North of England. It goes without saying, if Keith decided to put in place any sort of rail link between - say -  Fort William and Inverness; guess who would and wouldn't be paying for it?

(Scottish taxpayers would, English taxpayers would not - because it 'wouldn't benefit all of the United Kingdom'.)

Mr Osborne wants to assuage London's economic and intellectual domination of the UK by creating a 'Northern Powerhouse', unfortunately it won't be in the north of the UK, it'll be in the north of England. London already siphons off oceans of talent & cash from points north - Osborne now wants to create a second drain even closer to Scotland sucking yet more talent & money out of its economy.

And he's making these overtures in the hope it'll buy Labour votes for the Tory party.

Lets have a recap: a Tory Chancellor of the exchequer is using the tax receipts of voters who continually reject him and his party to buy votes in the North of England - and - if he goes through with his promises, the cost to Scotland (besides the cash we've already stumped up) will be an even more diminished economy and intellectual infrastructure.

If you're going to vote no in September then vote Labour in 2015 in the hope of ousting the Tories...

I haven't put this picture here because it makes Ed look like a chump, (although it does.) I've put it up because generally - whatever the Tories promise - Labour are never far behind and they'll still be using your money to buy those English votes. Be in no doubt: unionist parties at Westminster would turn Scotland into an economic wasteland if it meant getting the keys to Downing Street.

And that readers is just one example of the terms of the United Kingdom and Scotland's place in it.

We're getting close, voters in Scotland are being made to pay for their - our - own economic hardship by Westminster politics.

You cannot afford to vote no in September.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

A wee picture to tide you over.

I think we can agree, my skills with MS Paint are second to most other people's, although, in a recent poll by The Scotsman 'newspaper' - everyone thought they were fucking brilliant.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

In Golspie

So this is Golspie. I'm sitting at a picnic table looking toward Tarbat Ness Lighthouse whose two red stripes I can just about make out. The wind is blowing and I have to tell you; I'm fucking freezing. Be that as it may, the sun is still shining (its half past seven) and rain isn't pouring out of the sky for a change.

Golspie sits right on the A9, we've gone past the land of bypasses, the main road to the north follows the coast at this point with Golspie's 1650-odd residents clustered along it, if memory serves, it is what a geographer would call a linear settlement as opposed to a nucleated settlement - which is about all I can remember from modern studies.

I came here by way of Dornoch, Embo, Loch Fleet and The Mound, avoiding most of the A9 completely. Dornoch is a nice looking town with access to the beach - although you have to navigate past a caravan site and golf course. Further along is Embo, a tiny village which is home to Grannie's Heilan' Hame Holiday Park, which is only accurate if your Gran lived in a static caravan. It's heavily sign posted from the A9 on the way to Dornoch. I was expecting a museum, if it was my Gran - depending on which one we're talking about: it would either be filled with doilies, digestive biscuits and floral curtains or fag reek, snooker on the telly at full blast and the howl of hearing aids. Its not a museum though, I couldn't find my way to the beach because of the static caravan park which all but blocked the sea view. I did venture in a bit but was dissuaded from going further by an OAP joylessly washing her knickers in the launderette.

Embo has a twin...
Oh my, its the palm trees isn't it...
Leaving Embo, which sits at the end of its own private driveway of sorts, I turned north toward Loch Fleet. The road looks attractive on the map and proves to be so in reality. It eventually finds its way to the loch's edge where you can park up and enjoy the tranquil views. Three ducks (two drakes and a mallard if you must know) were guarding the information board. They seemed to be unfazed by my presence so I give the lead duck a swift kick up the arse hoping the others would take the hint - I made that up, no really, I did - ducks aren't that clever. I had to kick the others out of the way too.

Anyway, Loch Fleet is home to many wading birds and although it looks like a barren mud flat when the tide is out, it teems with life. Worms, larvae and other tiny sea creatures left by the receding tide abound - and when the tide is in; all manner of aquatic life supports a veritable plethora of bird life. If you become stranded here over night, I recommend the duck, they're much easier to catch and tastier than worms.

Incidentally, there is more to Loch Fleet. The Mound cuts off the upper part of the loch from the lower, a system of sluice gates stops sea water travelling up beyond this man-made barrier, not wishing to go into too much detail, the fresh water part of Loch Fleet is verdant and lovely.

Sitting as I am in Golspie looking out to sea, there is something of a shadow over my shoulder, perched a-top Ben Bhraggie above the village is the statue of George Leveson-Gower, Marquess of Stafford and First Duke of Sutherland, also known as the notorious bastard responsible for the highland clearances.

Its a typical story, a British Member of Parliament (for Newcastle Under Lyme and later for Staffordshire). He got around, at one point ambassador to France (having no diplomatic experience) then Joint Postmaster General (having never been a postman.) He was also a member of the House of Lords, mostly a Tory but laterally a Whig. The rest of his CV is just as you'd expect, honours from the British Establishment thrown at him like shit at the wall in a lunatic asylum; twice a lord lieutenant, a privy counselor, a Night of the Garter and a Duke.

He married the Countess Elizabeth Sutherland in 1785, part of that arrangement was that he'd gain control but not ownership of the Sutherland estates, after buying more land and extending the scope of the estate, they came to own between them two thirds of Sutherland and George in his own right was said to be the richest man alive in the 19th century, still  being a bit of a Tory though, it wasn't enough.

Between 1811 and 1820, the clearances took place. Subsistence farmers were moved from their inland farms to the coast where it was thought they'd take up fishing. These were poor farmers already struggling, it was no highland idyll but they survived. Instead though, the land they farmed in the glens could be more profitably used to farm sheep. Hence, the farmers were moved onto much smaller much less fertile plots close to the sea. While some were offered jobs on these new super-sheep farms at jaw-droppingly low rates of pay, others were expected to farm what they could and fish for the rest on rocky coastal plots not even sheep could graze. These clearances were not unique to the highlands of Scotland, as far south as the Isle of Arran, tenant farmers were forced off their land and to the coast to make way for sheep farming - this was said to be an 'improvement' by the rich land owning classes. In truth, they just didn't understand how people lived in the Scottish Glens.

This was enforced with ruthless disregard for life, one of Sutherland's factors was acquitted of murder - a croft was set alight while it contained Margaret MacKay who'd refused to leave. As you would expect, the factor (one Patrick Sellar) took over a huge sheep farm created by the clearances he'd helped carry out, you can well imagine the resentment in the area.

In 1837 - a statue in honour of the Duke of Sutherland was erected in his memory (he died in 1833) on Ben Bhraggie and there it still stands above Golspie, despite locals wanting it removed to this day.

I am going to try my absolute best to go some where tomorrow that doesn't have some evidence of the British Establishment being disgustingly unfair and cruel to people living in Scotland. You would think Yes Scotland's job would be easier with all these memorials to how terrible Scotland and its people have been treated over the years by the union. Yet, it is a curious thing that we manage to ignore these monuments to the cruelty & subterfuge perpetrated against our fore-bearers over the years - some of which, as the Bridge at Bonar incidentally commemorates - wasn't that long ago.

 In the meantime, you can print this image off and chuck darts at it.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

In Bonar Bridge

Tonight I'm sitting in The Bridge Hotel in Bonar Bridge, mostly because a comment was made by 'Quaichmaker' on the last article telling us Ivan McKee of Business for Scotland would be in the village this coming Saturday (the 7th of June at 7pm in the community hall.) I'll be away home for the weekend so will miss it, but if you're in the area, I urge you to go. I've seen Ivan McKee on the telly handing some hapless unionist their arse in debate - he makes many compelling points, but then, I would say that wouldn't I.

Before coming into the hotel I took a drive up the hill behind Bonar Bridge to Loch Migdale which I can confirm is more than picturesque, (Ivan should probably have a look.) The Loch was the subject of an investigation by the BBC's Time Team in which a crannog was probed, and its not often you get to say that. The notion Tony Robinson might have driven these same roads and taken in these views I have to tell you sends a frisson of excitement up my spine. I'm lying of course, I couldn't give a shit. Still, people have been living in this area for a long time as evidenced by the preponderance of ancient hut circles and cairns, Tony and his team would have been in their element.

The Loch Migdale crannog, try to contain yourselves.
I also read on one of the information boards that have become a target of my interest recently that something called the Migdale Hoard was discovered in the area in 1900 - a priceless cache of early bronze-age trinkets, not your Elizabeth Duke Argos crap, this was top-notch gear. Workmen blasting a granite knoll on a local hill found it - for the remainder of that afternoon, burly workmen could be seen prancing through the heather wearing priceless bangles, anklets and other bronze age accessories. 

Oh dear, there I go again making things up... Do you think in 2000 years time archaeologists will dig up Claire's Accessories with the similar enthusiasm tinged with awe? 

No, me either.

I have to confess, I did something I haven't done for a long time while out & about in the country side - namely - driven along what I thought was a country road but what actually turned out to be someone's driveway. Pulling up in front of a bungalow - kids playing in the garden while dad peers with interest from behind a garden implement and mum glares from the bay window - is an awkward experience. There is simply no way to behave as if its what you meant to do. As we know, for a man to admit he got lost is not easy. Indeed, all you can do is look bewildered then pretend to give the really short person in the passenger seat a row for being a crap navigator.

The bridge at Bonar spans the Kyle of the rivers Oykel, Cassley, Shin and Carron. (In case you're interested and/or weren't sure, a Kyle is the Scottish name for a narrow or strait; usually filled with water - sometimes navigable.) The water course separates Ross & Cromarty to the south with Sutherland to the north and empties into the Dornoch Firth. The current bridge spanning the Kyle of Sutherland was opened in 1973, it replaced among others a bridge designed by Thomas Telford that was swept away in a flood in 1892. Apparently the Brahan Seer (also prosaically known as Kenneth Mackenzie) foresaw this, he was a 'predictor of the future' who lived in the 1700's - he also predicted that a slightly bloated man (after having consumed a Classic Bridge Burger) would waffle on about him in 2014. (I might be making things up again; if he did, it isn't recorded anywhere.)

Topically, and I think Ivan should make something of this. The bridge that was built by Thomas Telford in 1812 and subsequently swept away in 1893 came with the following inscription:

The Right Honourable Nicholas Vansittart (for example) was an English politician who went on to become chancellor of the Exchequer while the RH Charles Abbot (1st Baron of Tenterden) was a Tory in the House of Lords and an interim chancellor for a spell. They also appear to be a pair of grasping needy bastards.

I suppose you could read the sign in several ways, but I think we can all agree, it sets the tone. In 1815 and as now, it was not and is not a union of equals. We pay over the top for what they deign to give us, but its never enough for the British Establishment - we should be grateful for what we do get.

After Telford's bridge was swept away, the new bridge erected bore this tablet:

Which is more factual and less demanding of gratitude.

Then in 1973, with the current bridge, this engraving was erected.

An all together more business-like affair, Scottish Tory Gordon Campbell lost his seat in 1974 to the SNP. From his wiki entry: (usual caveats apply.)

"He was Secretary of State for Scotland during the whole of Edward Heath's government. During his term in office the issues of fishing and oil led to him losing his Moray coastal seat to the SNP. Government papers released under the 30 year rule reveal an attitude that may explain that loss. Papers from 1970 revealed how the Scottish Office was prepared to have a "weaker and less efficient national fleet"[1] to enable the UK to sign up to the controversial Common Fisheries Policy. On oil in 1972 Campbell was against any move to pump oil revenues directly into the Scottish economy despite Heath asking government departments to explore such an arrangements to help revive Scotland's economy with "its own resources".[2] Further papers from 1974 revealed how he proposed "exceptional measures" to force Shetland Islands Council to accept an oil terminal without financial benefit to the islands."
My bolding there, a member of parliament representing a Scottish constituency, in the highest office - and look at that record - just look at it. 

We've come full circle, starting off with an irreverent travelogue around & about the Dornoch Firth, it seems the negativity & lies, the sheer hypocrisy and dishonesty of the unionist politician is unavoidable.

We need to finish on a positive note though: Ivan, if you're finished before 8:30 on Saturday (you shouldn't be, but if you are) nip along to The Bridge Hotel and have one of their Classic Bridge Burgers, it was only £8.80 but for any price - it was the best plate of food I've had for a long time. 

I stopped needing it long before I stopped wanting it.

Monday, 2 June 2014

In Tain.

Rest easy readers, this article has little to do with Scottish independence. Hardcore supporters of independence may move along.

I'm working in Tain for two weeks which is why I'm sitting beneath Tarbat Ness Lighthouse, Britain's second tallest at forty metres and sporting two red stripes, I'm not sure why I'm adding the information about the stripes except to say, its on the information board and I'm an unselfish soul. More accurately, I'm sitting among the rocks down by the water looking north through sunshine and showers toward Dornoch, Golspie and the hills of East Sutherland beyond.

Tarbat Ness Lighthouse. Can you guess where I'm sitting? I've given you a clue.
Tarbat lighthouse is automated and the lighthouse buildings are now private dwellings - I rather suspect of a holiday home nature. Polite signs tell you the grounds are private gardens and not to be entered, someone has adorned one sign with a 'Scotland 2014/Vote Yes' sticker which the owners will either agree with or put up another polite notice about. The location is undoubtedly attractive for holidays and short breaks but I couldn't live here, I'd be bored shitless within minutes. I mean I'd try to convince myself I wouldn't - but I know I would for I am afflicted with the Me-Now Bug, symptoms include not being able to tell the difference between what you want and what you need.

The rocky shore currently giving me backache and a developing case of piles is where the geological fault responsible for The Great Glen meets the sea. I've sat on some of the rocks along the Great Glen Way and can confirm they are as hard as the rocks here, so it must be true. I genuinely don't know why I'm going to tell you this because I'm positive you already know, but The Great Glen sits in a Strike-slip or transcurrant fault. It extends south west toward Ireland (through Lough Foyle, Donegal Bay and Clew Bay) and to the north east toward the Shetlands where it becomes indistinct due to pesky mesozoic rifting. On land though, it gives us The Great Glen, which I think is underrated. We drive, walk or cycle along it, look for the Loch Ness monster in it and drink wine in Fort William or Inverness at either end of it. Rarely do we look up and realise that we are doing those things in or around an impressively large - if you'll excuse the term - gash in Scotland's landscape.

In any case, I'm sitting at the point where it enters the sea, which is nice. Or it would be were it not for the smell of sewage in the air. I tell you, nothing ruins a Coop Cheese & Ham sandwich like the stench of human waste, I'm not even sure where its coming from, there are no outflows here but it still smells fucking awful.

Squalls have been chasing up and down the Dornoch Firth for most of the day, at one point the weather closed in completely consigning the noisy jet planes roaring hither & thither to their various bases. Today they seemed to be engaged in an exercise of showing off, lets be honest, they don't need to do all those loops and sharp climbs do they - they can release their smart bombs and rockets from miles away and guide them in with lasers and magic. These pilots are just showing off. I think - and again, you'll have to excuse the metaphor - its just the RAF metaphorically nobbing Scotland with one of its many winged penis shaped objects - "Yeah, look at us in our planes, fancy a drink later ladies?"

Anyway, I'm babbling, I think because of the discomfort from sitting for so long on these rocks - I've had a Twix but it hasn't help. As I sit here, from the texture of the rock (I can feel every ridge and nodule in exquisite detail through my back and what turns out to be a not-so-well padded backside) I cannot decide if these rocks belong to the metamorphic Moine supergroup or the metamorphic Dalradian supergroup - I'll be up all night mulling that one over...

I should say, except for the smell, it really is quite lovely here, as I type, a seal just bobbed up for some fresh air, (hard luck there chum.) At least I assume it was a seal, there are a lot of things bobbing about in the water, most of which I guess are attached to lobster pots. Lovely though it is, I'm going to have to stand up, seriously, I have problems if I sit at my desk for an hour without moving, I've been here for at least forty five minutes and I've lost contact with my legs... Give me a minute...

... OK, much better now. To add to the idyll, I can hear lambs bleating in the distance, I can just see them gamboling cheerfully over by - trying gamely to keep up as their mothers are chased by randy locals - I'm joking, they seem to be from McSweans...

I think the only thing that could improve this location is a nice pub... with a beer garden... and comely bar staff... and winsome clientele.

Realistically I know this is out of the question (and so it should be.) So I'll settle for a cushion.

I won't be able to do my usual pithy blogs about the daftness of Better Together or the slick & slimy Vote No Borders rabble, I won't have the time to do the extensive research that is a hallmark of my articles...


What do you mean?

OK, at least stop laughing now...