Why I will be voting SNP on May 7th 2015


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To put things in perspective I work a lot in England, for an English client.

I love that client and I have no intention of undermining them in any way.

Now, that, to me, is a pretty good comparison to how the SNP has to carry itself.

OK, England is not the client, but it IS the paymaster.  And so the SNP has to respect that (as part of this Union).

The Mail/Telegraph axis of madness that paints the SNP as some sort of border rieving marauders intent on bringing down the “English” is simply nonsense.

In Scotland we had our chance at Independence in September 2014 and we categorically voted no in one of the biggest electoral turnouts in recent UK political history.

We argued black and blue on both sides and the SNP lost.

Fair do’s.

We lost.

Fact.

We’ve dried our eyes mate.

But only 9 months later here we are again at the ballot box with a monumental SNP wave of popular support; only this time that support appears to be polling at over 50%.

Why?

The fact is the SNP campaign has reeled in No voter after No voter.  Not because they have changed their minds about Independence  (they’ll still vote No and I suspect some, maybe many, Yes voters would now vote No too) but because they have bought into the impassioned argument for progressive left wing politics.  Call it socialist if you like.  I call it inclusive as opposed to the Tory exclusive politic which is about me, not we.

There is much global and wise economic theory that suggests austerity has been a bad call and that slightly more expansive public spending grows economies. (And let’s be clear about this; the SNP’s anti austerity policy isn’t about bravado it’s about modest expansionist fiscal policy.  TBH I don’t know if that’s the right word but it’s the right sentiment.)

At the end of the day though, what a vote for SNP is, is a vote for a socialist Britain.  A fairer, more progressive way of tackling policy that Labour need their arse kicked over.

I have despised Labour since Tony Blair took the reigns.  I DO NOT despise Ed Milliband I just feel he is caught up in the Westminster rhetoric and the inability to escape neoliberalism because he is too busty playing chess with Cameron.

The SNP can free him from these horrible shackles.  It will be like therapy.  A wee spa break for the next five years when he , as PM, can get back to what made him proud to be Labour in the first place.

Tomorrow the game changes and I do not believe it changes with a need for a vote for Scottish independence.

It changes with the escape from neo-liberalism.

Scotland will benefit from that, not at the expense of, but to the benefit of, the entire UK.

Unless money is all that matters to you.

If it does?

Sorry.

I am talking shit.

Purgatory


Definition: A place between Heaven and Hell, where the soul is not bad enough to be sent to an eternity of damnation in Hell, but not good enough to go to Heaven, so it is sent there temporarily where the person suffers, and is purified so that it can be sent to Heaven.

My definition: In my childhood I thought purgatory was actually a kind of Guantanamo Bay where we were all held in a pending area before deciding who went upstairs and who went down.  Of course the good guys (i.e me) knew it was inevitable that the green light was waiting and the bad guys (i.e. Charlie White the wee shite with ginger hair and a childhood phd in sad masochism were destined for red and the fiery furnace.)

Why the laborious and tortuous metaphorical introduction?  Well it’s important that my skewed take on purgatory is understood before I reveal my brilliant analogy in full.

And it is this.

Sturgeon, Miliband, Cameron, Clegg and Farage are sitting in that purgatory RIGHT NOW.  Have been for weeks and I can exclusively reveal the outcome.

Right here.

Right now.

Of one thing there is no doubt.  Quick decision time.  One of them has his name in RED lights.

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The other absolute certainty is a yellow tinted Nirvana for St Nicola of Irvine.

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But what of the three amigos, the erstwhile jokers.  The clowns that may not have MEANT to be bad boys, but just were?

Their outcome is far less clear.

On that front there can only be one way to decide.

Stay where you are boys while we go ask St Nicola of Irvine.

She’ll decide your fate.

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Britain’s most credible politician. Nicola Sturgeon, is about to recalibrate political possibility.


Nicola Sturgeon

This article in today’s Guardian really hit me.  It’s not a Scottish newspaper but Ian Jack clearly knows his facts and has done a ton of research to make the piece credible, not puff..

Admittedly it’s a big read, but an intoxicating one, because its author is both objective and balanced in his critique of Nicola. What most impressed me was the fact that she lost 8 elections across 15 years in unwinable seats as she learned her trade (whilst holding down a legal day job). By contrast The unholy neoliberal triptych of Cameron/milliband/Clegg lost one between them as they ponied their way from Oxbridge into career politician safe seats.

This article makes Nicola seem unprecedented. But I can think of a comparison. And she was female. And she was formidable. And she was brilliant.

The trouble is her Iron politics stank.

On May 7th I hope Scotland takes this remarkable article to heart and universally announces its utter disdain for Neoliberalism and the Westminster sham that we are paying for.

This is real politics from a woman that “gets” what matters to people in Scotland and really everywhere else in Britain where self interest isn’t the priority.

History can be made if we hold our nerve (and Independence is not even in the manifesto). So you can chill about that.

The Westminster Leaders Debate 2nd April 2015


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In truth the format didn’t really work.  There were too many protagonists for it to ever really become a proper debate.  The conclusion was a series of Party Political Broadcasts that some handled better, and seemingly more genuinely, than others.  In particular Ed Miliband looked like he was reading from an autocued manifesto.

But of one thing there can be no doubt at all.  The arrival of Nicola Sturgeon as a serious politician on the national stage.

Here is the result of The Guardian’s Poll of (snap) polls showing the average of all four polls released after the debate.

Cameron: 22%

Miliband: 22%

Farage: 21%

Sturgeon: 20%

Clegg: 9%

Bennett: 4%

Wood: 3%

Here is You Gov’s snap poll that shows Sturgeon actually WINNING the debate.  (How is that possible?)

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Here’s the result according to Twitter which puts her level with Clegg.

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This simply should not happen.

Personally, I thought Leanne Wood had an exemplary performance but she and Natalie Bennet (less good, but certainly commendable) did not convert their performances into rating points.

What I take from this then is that although I did not rate his performance Miliband actually emerged with some prime ministerial credibility.  Cameron didn’t blow it and Farage is becoming a loveable buffoon (along the lines of Boris Johnstone – but without his brains).  It seems the British public like his tomfoolery and are prepared to ignore statements (ar actually agree with them) like “We have to build a new house every 7 minutes to cope with migrants.”

Leanne Wood clearly played a too overt Welsh card to garner widespread support, but Sturgeon batted from a wider perspective allaying all those hideous Daily Mail/Torygraph slanderous headlines about the SNP trying to sabotage Westminster and only interested in one thing – the dissolution of the Union.

Instead what she demonstrated was a progressive Social Democratic agenda as opposed to a 20th/19th century socialist or, worse, a 21st century neoliberal politic.

Nicola Sturgeon has emerged unquestionably as the face of modern politics and has gained outrageous respect.  Hail Hail.

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The SNP. Britain’s most succesful political party.


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I’m not a member of the Scottish National Party, and I never have been.

But I was a vociferous supporter of Scottish Independence.  As a result of the campaign I joined Scottish CND to help fund the lobbying of the removal of Trident from Scotland and I completely support removal from the UK resolving the whole austerity issue at a single stroke.  This was a backbone of the SNP manifesto and one I was totally in support of.

(But that’s for another post.)

The effect of the campaign and its impact on party membership interests me.  Far from suffering a backlash the SNP (like Scottish CND) has seen a surge in membership as we gear up for round two.

Published figures show party membership in the UK thus;

Labour                190,000

Conservative     134,000

SNP                     86,000

Lib Dems           44,000

UKIP                  39,000

Green                 20,000

This is remarkable.  Every single major party apart from the SNP(not Greens as Thom points out) is national and yet the SNP sits third in membership and closing in on second.

Now, to put this into perspective, let’s look at this extrapolated to a UK level.

With Scotland having only 8.3% of the UK population this would mean the SNP, were it a UK party, would have 713,800 members – 4 x that of the labour party, 5 x the Tories, 16 x the Lib Dems and a bit more for UKIP.

But get this… if you extrapolate back to Scotland.  i.e. take Labour, Tory etc vote back to the Scottish population this is what you find.

SNP                    86,000

Labour               15,770        SNP 5.4 x bigger

Conservative     11,122        SNP 7.7 x bigger

Lib Dems           3,652         SNP 23.5 x bigger

UKIP                  3,237         SNP 26.6 x bigger

Greens               1,660         SNP 51.8 x bigger

And what’s even more interesting is that these are the published figures.  Unpublished reports suggest SNP has broken 100,000 members in recent weeks.

That makes (again by extrapolation) the SNP 6 x the size of Labour in Scotland.

Now, Labour is probably over-represented in Scotland and the Tories under-represented (but not necessarily in Party membership).

What we are looking at here is therefore a political phenomenon.

I, for one, although not a member, am looking forward, with great enthusiasm, to the SNP massacre of Scottish Labour in May next year. (The Tories and Liberals no longer count here – fringe parties for toffs, bastards, dreamers and the disengaged).

I  fully expect to see the pummelling of the UK establishment in Scotland.  The SNP may even emerge as holding some sort of balance of power in Westminster (a coalition perhaps).

Alex Salmond will finally lay claim to being arguably the greatest UK party leader since Churchill.

But I’m still not joining.

 

 

Why I think you should vote SNP in the European elections on Thursday 22nd May.  


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You are going to vote, right?

As these much-maligned elections approach it is of vital importance that Scotland states its position on Europe.  Britain is expected to vote UKIP in vast swathes of England.  Here, at least, it seems the Scots have no truck with the odious and vile politics propagated by Mr Farage and his barmy army of separatists.

Farage drops the odd clanger about not wanting “the Romanians” to move in next door.  This is exactly the sort of talk that fed the gags of Jack Smethurst in 1970’s sitcom, Love thy Neighbour, in which a diet of nig nog, Sooty, and fuzzy wuzzy gags about his Afro-Caribbean neighbor were deemed acceptable family viewing.

Do we really want to return to that?  I hope not.

UKIP is an extreme blot on the UK’s culture and the sooner Mr Farage is hounded out of town the better.

Witness, by contrast, the response of Scotland to his visits.

We, it seems, value our blend of multicultural neighbours.  We, it seems, extend the hand of welcome to a multi-ethnic population.  We, it seems, take pride in being European not just British.

If we vote No on September 18th we run the risk of being drawn into a Farage induced farrago over Europe that could lead to our (The Union’s) exit from the EU.

If we vote Yes it’s in our hands.

A strong vote for the SNP on Thursday will show the European Union that as a country we are pro-Europe, so that when it comes the time to sit down and negotiate our place at the EU table we can do so with a spirit of positivity, while Farage and his Tory chums vent their ugly spleen, vitriol and xenophobia in the background.

Vote SNP on May 22nd.

Vote Yes on September 18th.

That’s all I have to say on the matter.

 

Scotland’s White paper on Independence


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It’s not difficult folks.  Here’s the argument in a nutshell.

(Taken from Salmond’s opening remarks in the White Paper published this morning.)

“At its heart independence is not about this Government or any political party. (THIS IS A FUNDAMENTAL AND VERY IMPORTANT POINT) It is about a fundamental democratic choice for the people of Scotland. It is about the power to choose who we should be governed by and the power to build a country that reflects our priorities as a society and our values as a people.

I believe in independence because I believe it will be better for all of us if decisions about Scotland are taken by the people who care most about Scotland – the people who live and work here. It is my absolute conviction that Scotland’s future should be in Scotland’s hands.”  (Alex Salmond)

Read it here.

Please.

And before you get all angsty about the SNP, consider this.

Post Independence it’s perfectly conceivable that there won’t even BE an SNP.  They may become, let’s say, the Social Democrats.  Right of Labour (which would be a good thing in my view.  ie Proper Liberals)

Why I feel I’m now prepared to vote for an independent Scotland.


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At no point in my adult life have I ever felt the compulsion to break free from the union of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England.  My naive view has always been “what isn’t broken doesn’t need fixed”.

Even when the SNP smashed their way through an electoral voting system that was designed to favour coalitions over overall majorities (with my support – but check out the alternatives, both at the time and now, if you like) I was not even remotely interested in an independence vote.

Since their announcement that an independence referendum would be held at around the time that nationalism could be at an all time modern high (Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup in close succession) I’ve failed, until recently, to have my fire ignited.

The reason for this disinterest, apathy actually, has been the quality of debate.  I’d heard little in the way of compulsive argument in the mainstream media and little more than rhetoric and, frankly, slightly xenophobic, pro support and ill-informed anti- counter-arguments.

The whole thing has been slightly embarrassing if I’m honest.  “Aye”  “Naw” “Aye” “Naw” has more or less summed up the discourse.

However, bubbling under the surface has been a steady stream of well thought out pro- arguments, mainly from the arts community to which I am close.  Again I largely ignored these because my gut feeling was that artists are by their very nature often anti-establishment and more in touch with the cultural DNA of a community than the average man or woman.  Their creativity can be inspired by an almost preternatural attachment to the environment in which they live rather than a rational assessment of the facts

The ‘No’ vote (Better Together) is well funded and has the massive advantage of being able to prey on the human instinct that eschews change and is fundamentally risk averse (If you don’t believe me do some reading on behavioural economics and, in particular, enjoy reading the seminal book on the subject Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness’ by Thaler and Sunstein). 

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In comparison the ‘Yes’ vote seems slow, maybe deliberately so, in getting out of the blocks.  And when I say slow, I mean glacier-like.

And so, I’ve been unmoved by the whole sorry process; until recently.

What caused me to change my view was actually a deep-seated nervousness that this whole, potentially life changing, chapter in my life and my nation’s history was in danger of passing me by.  That I, like most of my family, friends and colleagues, would assume a position (most of us anti-Independence) based on gut feel.  “We’re part of the UK; a nation that punches way, way above its weight, so we must be OK.”  That I, like most of my family, friends and colleagues would vote no because I’d heard nothing substantive to reinform my media-addled opinion.  For “Aye” “Naw” “Aye” “Naw” read “Whatever”.  And like most of us my default position (risk averse) would be “Naw”.

I felt deeply uncomfortable about this.

So I set out to have an opinion.

First stop.  The ‘No’ vote.

What interesting pro-union essays, manifestos or informed publications should I read?  Well, you tell me, I haven’t found one yet.

I have heard interesting sound bites in the news, such as we’d have to switch our mobile phones to roaming if we crossed the English border (following border checks of course) post independence.  Now that’s not helpful.  It’s not true, it’s not credible and it’s silly.

Last week Theresa May dropped an unsubtle and purely scaremongering threat that Scotland would be dropped from the protective embrace of the big 5 English speaking nations and the intelligence pooling .  Oh come on.

And so to the ‘Yes’ vote.

I’m not a Nationalist, never have been. But as I said earlier I’d voted for the SNP at the last election because the quality of political argument from the alternatives (50 shades of Iain Gray) was so bad it actually made me wince.  Salmond, love the cheeky wee monkey or hate him, kicked arse so hard that the entire field of opposition leaders resigned post election, only to be replaced with slightly less inept Westminster stooges.

So, you might argue that I was already subconsciously nudging my way towards the Yes box.  Not that I thought so.

I am now though and the reason for this is that I read the recently departed Stephen Maxwell’s astounding extended essay on the what’s, whys and wherefore’s of Independence.  Warts and all called Arguing for Independence: Evidence, Risks and the Wicked Issues.

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Stephen Maxwell is a lifelong SNP voter so you’d expect him to be pro independence (although actually he would argue strongly for Devo Max too) and so it transpires.  But it’s the quality of his argument that makes this book essential reading.  And by argument I mean just that.  This is no Malcolm X style hustings sermon, it’s an all things considered, and shared, evaluation of the pro’s and con’s of crossing the ‘Yes’ box – and the Rubicon as a result.

It draws on precedence widely (Ireland, Iceland, Scandinavia in particular – because these are the economies that most readily reflect the Scottish ecology) and considers the many, many what if scenarios that could change Scotland, post-independence, for better or worse.

What if;

  • We run out of oil? (quicker than expected)
  • There’s war?
  • Europe rejects us (the Spanish hold pretty strong fishing gripes)?
  • The banks collapse (again)?
  • Alex Salmond pisses everyone off (again)?

I hear these arguments regularly from the “aye but” No camp.  No, actually all I hear from the ‘official’ no camp is uncompromising stonewalling.  Not debate, no weighed up arguments.

Just no.

Oh, and that Alex Salmond pisses them off.

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And sadly, most of what I hear from  the ‘official’ yes camp is the same.  (Apart from the Alex Salmond bit of course.)

But I digress, back to Maxwell.  He rightly tempers his argument with these negative ‘what ifs’ because these need aired and intelligently valued so that the more positive ‘what ifs’ can be reasonably contextualized.

You can read it yourself for the detail but I’d summarise them, without referring to notes, thus;

  • Would you rather your country was run from your country or from another country by a coalition you didn’t vote for and that even the majority of the rest of its own country didn’t vote for. (I won’t go into the demographics of this mob as Maxwell does it better than I can – but I’m sure you can work it out for yourselves.)
  • The recent history of Westminster interventions on exclusively Scottish issues (in particular) fisheries policy has been, at best, indifferent, or worse, inept.
  • The economic balancing act of tax raising/distribution has long favoured Westminster; Barnett Formula or no Barnett Formula – yes, yes I am referring to our oil.

And speaking of our oil;

  • If, like Norway, we’d have set up an oil fund in the late 1960’s we too might have a £300bn war chest – not to mention widespread investment in de-risking the Klondyke.  It’s not too late.
  • It’s only half exhausted (and that’s before we explore deeper waters)
  • It can fund R&D into renewable energy technologies which, if proven (and yes risky), will put Scotland on the front foot across Europe – like Norway.

But back to the argument;

  • If you, like me, favour a Social Democracy you ain’t gonna find it any time soon in Westminster.  But consider the SNP’s track record in this area.
  • If you were planning a nuclear attack where exactly in the UK would you aim your sights – London and Faslane I’d argue.
  • Trident costs Scotland £1bn a year.  Few of us want it.
  • HS2 anyone?  Doesn’t come to Scotland.  But we’d be paying for it.
  • Would an independent Scotland have invaded Afghanistan or Iraq (and all that it cost).  That’s a big fat no!
  • The quality of our politicians would rise (the brain drain [sic] reversing).

Yes there are risks.  The oil price might fall (do you think?), renewable energy may prove economically unviable, large corporates may walk (they did in the Irish case –in their droves INTO Ireland), we’d save money on Trident but we’d lose thousands of defence jobs at both Faslane and Rosyth (but we’d get our army back),

I am not a zealous pro-independent now.  I recognise the risks but I do feel I am now better informed and that I at least have an opinion that I can now shape over the coming year.

Hand on heart; do you?

‘Mon the Salmond


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Salmond’s challenging of the SNP’s right to be in the leadership debate is at the very least entertaining and at best an interesting constitutional call.  I’m in favour of him winning the court case I have to say.

He has two reasons for justifying his claim;

  • He has managed a coalition with little fuss for three years
  • He governs 10% of the country

Earthquake in Scotland


Gor blimey. What's gonna go wrang next?

Gor blimey. What's gonna go wrang next?

So, as predicted, Alex Salmond has delivered a further body blow to what is appearing to be an increasingly inept Brown government. But it’s hardly a surprise is it. After all Alex was crawling all over Glasgow East on a regular basis wooing the electorate whilst Brown just shuffled about apologetically in an unapologetic way.

OK, it’s a protest vote and not likely to be repeated in a general election, but you cannot argue with Salmond and his very able deputies (Swinney in a role he is far better suited to than leading the party) and Nicola Sturgeon, an articulate and likeable deputy to Salmond.

At this rate he could actually convince the country to vote for independence.

glasgow east, by-election


So.

Labour call an unnecessarily quick by-election for one of the safest seats in the UK.

But.

They can’t find a candidate.

They don’t have a leader.  In Scotland.

They don’t have a leader.  Overall.  Well, not really.

Tsss.

Doesn’t look good, does it?

Even Annabel Goldie was smiling…