Posted by: rosa alba | April 4, 2016

A Letter to Loki

Dear Loki,

I agree with all you say about the cyclic nature of poverty, of dispossession,of marginalisation. And it is happening here, now, still in Scotland.  In 206. Outrage as a response to your story would not be intensified by any rhetoric nor reference to Knox and universal eduction, the Enlightenment, Burns, whatever emblematic Scots reference invoking our progressive voice as a nation.There are no qualifiers. No justifications. No Modifiers. And no excuses. Your story stands, unchallenged. There is nothing I can add to your story, nor should I, nor lessen the political of the personal by categorising it as one of many.

Evidence, on, to our lack of progression. A hundred years of manifestos, from Maclean to the Miliband/Murphy marriage, yet socialism and pseudo-socialism have failed us: one in four children in our nation lives in poverty, achieves less than their full potential in school, and will, in all likelihood live out their life in a repeat cycle of despair.

 It is to our shame, beyond a doubt, and far from what we came together for in the Yes Movement.

As long as we do have children going to bed hungry,  young people taking on an adult carers role beyond their abilities, elderly dying forgotten, food banks as a constant everyday fact of life, and worse, need, how can we aspire to the more lofty ideals of leading the way amongst other nations, or radically furnish Scottish hospital ships  to patrol the sea to offer succour  and refuge to the needy, as dreamed of by Jim Sillars in his speech at St Thomas, Riddrie during the Independence Referendum?
But,more to the point, how do we move forward, slowly thought it be, to convert into reality the most fundamental aspirations of the Yes movement? 
My emotional response to your story is pointless; any echoes of tragedy in [my own or others] similar or different experiences also add nothing. Nothing can be added to these stories unless it lead us towards an alternative, to realising  the enduring aims of the early Scottish Socialism of MacLean (as poeticised by Hamish Henderson) that every child and adult  have “breid, barley bree and painted room” forbye healthcare, education adults full workers rights, and from this decade’s refinment, if not a citizen’s income, a realistic living wage.

Change can only be effected by action.

And yet…  

We are not, in these islands together, often moved to come together as one, as -topically- the Icelandic, or in their time the French, or Russians, far less with anything close to success, the few isolated occasions that we do. As it is, any mass movement  politics endeavour  or protest is likely to be put down, violently, rather than to overthrow the gunship mentality of the regime at Westminster. The workers rights the people of Glasgow rallied for, reward for  war heroes, were rolled right over by Empire in George Square in January 1919 on Bloody Friday.
And, IF the people of these isles did move together successfully as one as a popular movement which overthrew the incumbent government, any latter-day Cromwell taking the helm, would be in the thrall of  that middle England, “I’m alright, tough on you Jocks, but you are all scroungers anyway”, a misconception made worse by the  likes of the “rivers of blood” piece by Massie père in the Mail On Sunday before the General Election. The fiscal reality of Scotland as a net contributor, has been too successfully silenced as a “lie”..
Without guillotines and tricoteuses, or even just Communes and barricades, or more mildly still, Cameron ceding power to Corbyn… But the mechanisms of a vote of no confidence would entail another General Election:  no coups d’état please, we’re British.
Even in the event of  victory for Labour’s Corbyn and Kezia,  Caped Duo they most decidedly are not to bring instant social justice; (Scottish) Labour, speak fine words  but the parsnips themselves, they abstain from buttering.

And we have an election imminent, already. Five weeks of campaigning remain, and whatever the results, they will not immediately release us from the Union (to create our own forward-thinking socially just egalitarian paradise,as not even fairy tales have so sudden a happy ending); and UDI is on no one’s lips. Nor can we yet expect salvation from urban poverty  by the means of a Scottish Labour majority, even if it were that to happen, whatever the thrice- spent tax increases mooted. A putative Scottish Conservatism majority at Holyrood returns us, doublefold, to the inequities and UN-Conventions-flaunting policies of Cameron and Osborne, without the mitigating safeguards, some already in process at the hands of the SNP Governement.
No, the choices before us are what they are – the menu is fixed:  mince, tatties and two veg. largely Centrist policies, different herbs at best in your gravy, for the Constituency seats.
Few among us, across this nation have the option of  First Vote Green or Rise (or other such radical parties). Fewer seats yet are likely to return a Green or Rise Constituency MSP.
The enduring reality of Scotland, as you well know Darren, is that of returning a left of centre Old Labour (now, SNP) block of MPs Westminster, but being faced with a right of Centre or New Labour government. Governments which have, generation on generation, failed to enact any policies to successfully eradicate the persistent, endemic, urban (and rural) poverty.
It would be hyperbole to state that from the era of Red Clydeside to  the present nothing has changed, for there have been positive policies, at the hands of some post-war Labour Governments: the NHS and Council Housing not least, but the truth of your story is there, at the centre of every scheme, multi or inner city tenement, in every Social Security Bed & Breakfast, in every homeless hostel, on every city centre street at night, repeating itself: poverty,  marginalisation, dispossession. Poverty, marginalistaion, dispossession. Poverty, marginalisation, dispossession: they are daily and terrible realities, across all the nations of these islands, where the vulnerable are targeted, time and again, in an increasingly vicious circle that strips food, healthy, dignity, sense of self, and figures from a variety of DWP Assessments reveal, life from the already terminally, chronically and mentally ill.

The choices before us are what they are. There are no knight in shining armour or cavalry on the ridge options, nor would they be elected, at this point. The priority is, therefore, to elect a Yes majority so that, in the first instance, we can work towards, minimising the excesses of Westminster policiies, hopefully with as large contingency as possible of (in all likelihood) Green List MSPs, to advocate for the more radical options. The longer game remains, as it has since 19th September 2014, that of increasing the Devolved Powers and, finding the quickest route to Independence.
Then, with a grown up electoral system and complete sovereignty, those whom we elect can form us into a progressive country where no child or adult within our borders, wherever they were born, or however they came to reside here, whatever their religion, language or customs, will want for any basic human needs or rights.

First Vote SNP, Second Vote Green or Rise.

Posted by: rosa alba | August 16, 2014

I Care, I vote: iScotland. Weighing the Worth of Humanity

The UN Committee on the Rights of People with Disabilities appears to be launching an inquiry into alleged “grave or systemic violations of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities” by the government of the UK, the first of its kind. .   The article cited suggests that; “the UK had gone from being an international leader in disability rights to risking becoming a “systematic violator of these same rights”, since 2010, onwards.  An artlcle in the same website, published more than two years ago in March 2012, gives mention to an inquiry report by Baroness Campbell on the reviews to Independent Living Fund (which enables the care of the severely disabled to be undertaken in a domestic setting. In her review, Baroness Campbell  calls on the government to act as the rights of People with Disabilities are being put at risk by the coalition government’s cuts to welfare and disibility services and provision.  
The Rights of People with Disabilities to live in the community with choices equal to others, is detailed in  Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  The United Kingdom signed up to this – and other – UN Conventions.

The issues around changes to Independent Living Fund predate the current, and equal worrisome, transition (for those over 16) from Disability Living Allowance, with its “passkey” characteristic of opening entitlement to other benefits, to Personal Independence Payment, with its different criteria for entitlement and different conditions and levels of awards. Many Charitiies and voices of the Third Sector have warned of the impact this will have on people with disabilities and their carers.    People over the age of 65 may be able to claim PIP.  

Nicola Sturgeon has guaranteed that in an Independent Scotland, the provisions for Disability Living Allowance will be restored/maintained (the transition to PIP is a rolling programme for those previously claiming DLA). This safeguards the income and independence of those claiming this benefit as a large component – however meagre – of their income. Speaking on Good Morning Scotland, as reported on the  BBC News website, Ms Sturgeon said:

I want to see an independent Scotland have a welfare system that is fit for purpose but I am deeply concerned about the impact of Westminster cuts on a whole range of people, particularly on disabled people.

We know that these cuts are hitting disabled people disproportionately and what we are publishing today is analysis showing that of the 190,000 disabled people who currently get Disability Living Allowance, as the transition to personal independence payments takes place, more than 100,000 of them will lose either all or some of their entitlement.”

Yes, we need a sustainable welfare system but is anybody really arguing, is the UK government arguing, that 100,000 of the 190,000 long-term disabled people getting help, no longer need it.

One of the benefits  of DLA, at a certain level of award, is that it opens up is the claiming of Carers Allowance for full-time, usually kinship Carers, of those in receipt of DLA; full-time is understood as spending at least 35 hrs a week in caring.  However, at £61.35 per week and with clear restrictions on working outside the home with maximum additional earnings of £102 per week before you are disqualified from its receipt, Carers Allowance is inadequate for purpose, even with DLA (which is for the person being cared for not the carer) and additional  pension credits,  Housing Benefit and the £10 top up from Universal Credit (or JSA), and Tax Credits.

Clarifying entitlement to assorted benefits is a complicated and often requires help from professionals such as Welfare Rights Advisors at Citizens Advice Bureaus or Carers Centres.   What is not understood in that simple statement is the further impact of the exhaustion and stress suffered by many Carers with the constant demands of a needy person, and the frequent interrupted sleep.
The isolation of a Carer is not to be underestimated. 
Years of cutbacks to the statutory provisions and to grants to the Third Sector means we are beyond overdue a the review of provision of adult daycare centres, or in the case of children, adequate childcare for children with Additional Support Needs (ASN) up to the age of 18. Even if children without ASN might manage without childcare from 14 onwards (and I certainly think the current aged 12/end P7  top out is too young to be leaving any minor home all day in the holidays, even if he does not have cogntive impairment or impulse control issues), many mainstream provisions for children up to the age of 12 will not take children with conduct disorders or challenging behaviour, many have no disability access for children with mobility issues and  few if any can cope with children with severe cognitive impairment and/or complex – medical – needs.  Capability Scotland has a scheme called Childcare 4 All that works with childcare centres to address this, but it is nevertheless a work in progress, and places accepting or able to meet the needs of children with ASN remain extremely hard to find. Finding any childcare for children with Additional Support Needs over the age of 12 has proved impossible.  There are around six such places in a  VSA funded initiative in Aberdeen.
Our children deserve better, and our parent-carers deserve better.
For it is not just about kinship or partner carers being able to work in their here and now (nor the implications for future employability, after a period out of the employment market due to caring), it is about stimulus for those we care for, stimulating experiences that promote brain activity, physical activity  and engagement with others that cannot be achieved one to one at home,   Article 19 – choices equal with others for People with Disabilities.

In terms of Children, specifically, The UN (UNICEF) Convention fo the Rights of the Child protects the rights of every child:

to relax, play and join in a wide range of cultural and artistic activities. Article 31

This includes a child with a disability, who

has the right to live a full and decent life in conditions that promote dignity, independence and an active role in the community. Governments must do all they can to provide free care and assistance to children with disability. Article 23

The issues – for Carers – are also no just about respite.  In my case, four years – and two local authorities – in, I am still waiting for occasional overnight/weekend respite for my now almost 12 year old son,  who is once more – as  he has most of his life – sleeping extremely poorly which means awake till 2 or 3 am and, if not “just” ummelling around his room, or jumping on the bed,  trying to ski down the stairs or cook, or..
Equally it is not just about finances or Direct Payments to pay external carers. This is assuming a parent or kinship carer can   can find carers who will provide not just continuity of care but have the skills necessary to care for our loved ones. Once again, personally,  eight adverts and extensive other resourcefulness and local connections  have failed to recruit  any far less adequately experienced carers for my son in two different locations over two years; where I am now, there are eight other families with Direct Payments for Carers but who cannot recruit staff.

What this is about, is the value we ascribe to life.    From an admittedly Catholic point of view, pro-Life is not merely an issue circumscribed by termination of pregnancy or end-of-life care: these stances themselves  imply even require seeing inherent value in every life, in each a beloved Child of God, whom we should love as ourselves. If we adopt or preach a pro-life stance or a humanitarian stance of diversity and inclusion, we have to put our support services where our mouths are.

Admittedly it is not unique to Christianity but is fundamental of humanity to want to care for those we love, as the mother her child, and in the case of Children with Additional Support Needs, parents (or sometimes grandparents) will tend to be and desire to be the principal carers  of these among their children, as they would for all their children. However  to rely solely and exclusively on available kinship care when those care needs and that care role vastly exceeds that of other parents in terms of hours, and energy drain, and when what morphs from parenting to a full-time commitment – a job – is, paid at  lower than subsistance wages, this does not equate the best available or most appropriate care for these vulnerable society members, even if we do not factor in the element of carer exhaustion and burnout.

What it is mediated by is economics and placing a uniform, limited monetary value on the need of and the person of these vulnerable  individuals, and  while aslo undervaluing the long hours and intensity of kinship caring, and the person of the carer, who becomes a commodity.
We exploits the kinship bonds and treats kinship Carers as a means to an end, while defining  the  Children of God, (made in  His image) not as diverse and equal members of society, who happen to have Additional Support Needs and Vulnerabilities, (or even despite their needs and vulnerabilites) but a problems to be addressed with the lowest possible manpower and economical impact. 
A humanitarian position – rather than a Christian point of view – would focus equally on the person and their equal role  and potential contribution to society, rather than on the burden they present.  While animals may leave their sick and wounded to the elements, the sentience of being human, demands more of us than that in modern society.  Having signed up to the two aforementioned Conventions of Human Rights consolidates that moral requirement as a legal right. Unfortunately the current UK has no Constitution, in which the Rights of People with Additional Support Needs can be enshrined.  An independent Scotland will be centred on such a Constitution which codify equality, inclusion and diversity, and prohibit discrimination.

Such a constitution – as with various UN Conventions – will also value the worth of human labour. 

And so, to to return to the practical matter of funds with which to pay external carers: as a mother of a child with severe ADHD, Autisitic Traits and Developmental Coordination Disorder, I am allocated a notional ten hours a week  of Direct Payments with which to pay external carer (in addition to the notional respite and notional holiday package which as with the rest could not be transformed into  appropriate local provision). 
£7,72 an hour for ten hours  a week (admittedly it would be one of many jobs such a person would do), will not secure a single, consistent, adequately trained and resourced carer for a 5′ 5″ soon-to-be twelve year old with significant impulse control issues, a history of flight, self-harm/suicidal intentions and occasional aggressive tendencies.  The (occasional) enhanced rate  of £10. 50 (due to my son’s challenging behaviour) has  also failed to secure anyone. 
A recent “Casualty” television episode showed how inadequately such carers – often young women –  are briefed to the client’s specific needs, far less trained to meet them.  That it was a television drama in this case does not mean it does not echo the reality of the carer who offered my child a *sharp* knife with which to cut pumpkins, inadvertently aroused his – then unmedicated – aggression (a turn of phrase and choice of words).  My son turned on her (and himself) with verbal threats involving the knife, and she fled the house leaving him alone, and the door open. Luckily I was in my then neighbour’s garden and we two managed to de-escalate things swiftly, but the rest of the evening had gone “pear-shaped”.  The carer had not adequate training in terms of de-escalation, nor had she understood the real need for caution over not just sharp implements but certain phrases or words (about which she had been briefed).

I will add that medication has made a significant difference to my child and we no longer have such extreme drama. The issue of how long it took to get accurate diagnosis and appropriate medication is for another blog.

Local Third Sector Agencies (Charities) which provide their own in-house carers for people with ASN  have long waiting lists or no workers at all even in only semi-rural areas, and, cannot guarantee continuity of care – the same person – to work with children and vulnerable adults.  
This, amongst its other negatives, means in having a different, new, carers on a regular basis, you would be contradicting the crucial message of “Stranger Danger” to a child or vulnerable adult  who *might* take into their head the inclination to follow someone who has something of interest to them (not necessarily just the proverbial puppy, but say, a remote control aeroplane or a guitar case with a funny sticker on it), even if they would  not previously trust and engage with the worker they have had twice- weekly for the past twelve weeks (a different – now de-funded – provision when we lived elsewhere).

Once more it is a question of resourcing and budgets: of dealing with an “issue” with minimal manpower and economic impact, although the low-pay of carers of the Elderly, Ill or with Additional Support Needs also exploits the carers themselves: the £7.72 per hourpaid to such carers while more than minimum wage, still reflects a lack of value and worth both of the role of  these workers, in terms of their labour and in terms of the worth of the person they care for. We deploy – rather than employ – the ill-fitted and under-trained  for low recompense in jobs where those who would wish to do their job properly, find the limitations of time with clients – more the elderly, or ill in this case – insufficient to meet the wider array of requirements of the client and the remit of the role.
It is about the value we place on less-than-perfect human life.   

Threatened changes to DLA /PIP and Independent Living Fund, designed meet the speciifc extra needs of those “Disabled” with ASN  but which actually all too often end up in the pot required to make ends meet, given the limitations of Carers Allowance. A related issue is the ATOS assessments of those too ill to work (in receipt of what was Incapacity Benefit, now moving to ESA), assessments which identify the unwell as “able to work” or “having contributed to their illness”,  further devalue the worth we place on human life, and result in benefits sanctions, contributing to the reliance on the growing prevalence of foodbanks in our post-modern, post-industrial society.   It is even more sobering to remember that Baroness Warnock spoke of the impaired elderly in such financially rudimentary terms as “having a duty to die”:

With Workfare and Benefit Sanctions real concerns for many, and regulations or decisions seemingly judged and applied  arbitrarily, we have progressed very little distance from the workhouse  of the Victorian era.  Although it has to be added that historically, the poor or workhouse was not – widely – a component of Scottish society. While the Presbyterian Parish did contribute  to the care of the destitute, the structure and rationale was different: there was a wider ethos of wealth sharing and support, or moral obligation (from religious belief), rather than the concept of the poor, always with us, as a burden.  Catholicism reframes the Jewish mitzvot or tzadakot as Acts of Corporal Mercy: clothing the destitute, feeding the poor, tending to the sick, burying the death. The Gospel of Luke speaks at length of loving all neighbours as ourselves.  That is is charity to be undertaken by choice is erroneous: it is a moral obligation, a moral or humanitarian obligation, I add, that exists on all of us, regardless of adherence to a Judeo-Christian faith.  Tithes were merely early taxes on early Christian worshippers with which to provide the wherewithal to meet these funadmental obligations of social justice and the human rights of the vulnerable.

The issue of Big Society as advocated by Cameron, echoed in the recent statement of “benefits” of foodbanks by a Better Together campaigner who argues that foodbanks enable us to show concern, and caring as brought to light by Stuart Campbell show a need to revisit the quesion of ad hoc personal charitiable provision to care for the vulnerable versus the obligation to meet the fundamental rights of all in our society being overseen by the state, via our tax contributions.  The former opens the potential floodgates of “popular” charities like animal welfare and children’s cancer children receiving all the funding when the less attractive charities that advocate and provide for the homeless, mental health issues, adults with Additional Support Needs and those with hidden disabilities like Autism or ADHD (often “just bad parenting”) receive little. 

Again this is an issue for a different post.

The comments by Baroness Warnock are all together more worrisome.  The naming of the prominent campaign against the erosion of the rights of People with Disabilities “The Black Triangle Campaign” purposefully recalls the Black Triangle of 1930s Germany, and recalls the rounding up of those with mental health issues, and physical or learning disabilities for dispatch to concentration camps, where they would – a burden, less than perfect humans – be exterminated.  Exterminate did not have then the cachet of Dr Who and Daleks – but even that usuage idicates a value placed on such human lives as equivalent to no more than a parisitical insect. 

The fundamental issue, in chosing how to vote in the referendum, is as Alex Salmond pointed out yesterday, the issue of social justice, the value we place on human life in our socieity, and the mark of (hu)man we are ourselves.

I care. I vote for I Scotland.   Are YOU Yes Yet?

Posted by: rosa alba | August 8, 2014

For whom the bugle tolls, as the sun finally goes down.

While it is undoubtedly offensive to equate the experiences of Scotland with the experiences of former overseas colonies, there are degrees of colonisation and Empire; the South American analysis speaks of Internal Colonies. No one doubts that the Scots were the foot soldiers, factors and fiscal administrators for Empire around the world, and that many did, as Hamish Henderson wrote, curse the tune of Scotland the Brave and soldiers marching to the pipes.  It is Scotland’s shameful complicity in Empire, and a wrong which we need to make right, if not  in terms of old wrongs, then by changing our behaviour going forward.
The recent variation of responses by the Scottish Government and the Westminster Government make it clear that Scotland IS willing to take a stance on humanitarian issues and against the financial interests to the Westminster Elite in terms of the Israeli War, Trident, and the persecution of peoples around the world.
I would argue, contrary to the article in this week’s Scotsman,c laiming a colony myth,  that in the aftermath of the Great War, the First War and the abandonment of the Home Rule Bill of 1914, Scotland became increasingly a perceived outpost of the British Empire and many of our best and brightest continued to migrate  to London and beyond: whether they gave predominance to serving Empire or making their own fortune, it persists a variation on a theme of previous centuries where Scots served as the military gurus of much of Europe and Russia.
Many of our best and brightest still travel far for employment and professional progress, so  it is only fair to add, that part of this far flinging of the Scottish people was also emigration, whether economic migrants from the North to the Central Belt, or today to London, or to the Americas, New Zeland or Australia – or further afield to seek opportunity, or whether the devastating, destitute emigration of no choice that followed the Clearances.
As Empire proper diminished so did the diminution of Scotland, Scottishness and the Scots in the public eye – as a public and authentic identity –  for Britishness was needed to coalesce what remained of Great Britain™ into a coherent identity: the final result of the Battenburg recipe of blending individual national identity into British over three centuries, and baked with the experiences of fighting a common enemy under the same banner of the Unionist Flag;  a process of where the identity morphed both as the gazer and gazed upon, to an extent: there always existed the Jock: whether Harry Lauder, the solider in the film Geordie, the See You Jimmy Wig, the mockery on Game Shows, or the very offensive Economist cover of two weeks ago.
BsLmCFNIgAAbrj1.png_large On an fairly immediate level, the Scottish response tends to subversion, satire and self-parody as in the Opening Ceremony of the Commonweath Games,
But to encapsulate this morphing of equal partner in Union into internal colony in anything than an extensive Historical thesis is to be reductionist: factors are many: from (as mentioned) war, television, oil  but do not start to frame this.
Poverty is however a common thread.   The poverty and lack of secure tenancy – as highlighted by  Lesley Riddoch in her book Blossom, seminal as an analysis of how Scotland ended up the filleted sick patient of Europe – of the Highland and Lowland Scots (as also in Ireland) cleared from land by the landed classes does mirror  experiences of colony. Around Bennachie, the mountain on the outskirst of Inverurie, are abandoned settlements, known as The Colony, and from which Inverurie football team got its name.  These were people cleared from the land who took refuge on common land on the North East of the hill, which they worked on a crofting model; wikipedia has the Colony stretching from 1800 to 1859, but there is little to find about the history of this period. 

Dòmhnall Iain Dòmhnallach writes extensively about land ownership and land reform an article on Bella Caledonia in  “Whose Land Is it Anyway? Ray Burnett expands on these issues further in his response to Dòmhnall Iain’s artilce, in a reference to the Woody Guthrie song, This Land is Your Land.
Allthough from the start in this wider internal  colony situation, there was a middle – factorial – class (as Burnett points out) complicit with the endowed landowners, their proclaimed or perceived national identity is moot, their interest alighed with the landowner, against the interests of their community of origin; these men would have been among the more educated of their community – an education in English, though, not Gaelic. As was the Education provided to the inhabitants of the colonies across the Empire, colonies in which I presume that, latterly during the last shouts of overseas Empire, this class of agent – not the Empire building Scots factor but a middle man of the people he was administrating – also served his masters, residing in the hill stations, the country clubs, the capitals of the colonies, and back in Blighty.

A side note might be the colonisation of the Gaels, not just through property dispossession, or in a role as footsoldiers of the Empire, but through language, in the likes of the  Nicholson Institute and its forebears, before the restitution of Gaelic Education; in her poem  Bairnsang, which she reads here, Liz Lochhead speaks of the deliberate eradication of Scots as a legitimate language.  She stops short of the term colonization but mentions poverty.
Poverty in working-class communities – from fisher fowk to fee’d fairm workers to miners to the weavers, winders and oilers or any other worker in the industrialised cities was not unique to Scotland but to the whole United Kingdom and beyond.  It is the common thread of capitalism that winds through connecting.  Experiences of the subjugated and exploited in the overseas colonies of Empire had their own thread. These are spun together as one with the internal colony experience – one of exploitation and enrichment – into the cloth of elitism and capitalism.  A spinning and winding, where the work of so many – from India to Paisley, if we think of cotton alone – benefits not the workers themselves, nor their communities but fills pockets of the few in their  damasked and brocaded waist- or morning coats (or country tweeds), from Kelvingrove to Kensington, from estates at Rannoch to estates in Norfolk.    
This, then, is a point at which Empire and Capitalism become inextricable.
The  talk – the current buzzword – is  of game- changers.  The game-changer in this myth of the myth of Empire and Colonies is oil.  While the food and drinks exports from Scotland to the rest of the UK and to the world are impressive and potentially solely able to sustain an economy,  oil is the thing. 
Again one cannot expect to meaningfully comment on the nexus of Thatcherism, Oil and the (Putative, Post-Industrial) Colonisation of Scotland in an article in The Scotsman, nor in a blog response to that article, but there is a (potential) matrix of the Keynsian capitalism of Thatcher, the de-Industrialisation of the regions, the bubble of de-regulated and speculative Financial Services, and unabashed fiscal self-interest: profiteering, and the underwriter of this that the oil in the furthermost corner of North Britain became.  One visit by a UK PM to Shetland in 34 years is all I need to add as a commentary on hubris and how the hub of power viewed the hub of wealth.  
Clair Ridge or no Clair Ridge, the politicians of Westminster need the corner of their country that produces oil – and whisky too, perhaps –  to remain a player in any international game in which they – rUK – wish to take part. Not as an independent team as Scotland does in FIFA, nor even as identifiably as one of the “home countries” (or nations) in the recent Commonwealth Games (even DevoMax will only go so far, chaps!) but as one in a fully inclusive and incorporated Team GB.
The promises of increased powers and Devo-Whatevah are likely to bear as much fruit as did the similar promises of the Thatcher Adminsitration in 1979.  Just to remind ourselves, no such increased power materialised.  At all. But we did become the test ground for the Poll Tax, and we continue to house the weapons of destruction next to our largest city.
For those Scots who would vote Yes, it is about representation to ensure that we “reap our own harvest and ring our own tills”  in the words of the Corries, and where in doing so we make sure that everyone both plays whatever part they can (with no ATOS, and no Workfare) and that everyone is rewarded, without regard to the size of their contribution,  with a fair share of the resources of their country.  

Posted by: rosa alba | August 8, 2014

London Calling: the name’s Bond, Backwater Bond.

We have received a call to arms, or the bonds of citizenship: the exortation to remain part of the Union, with all our wealth and exports, and convenient parking garage for Trident.  
Before examining the concept of citizen (versus subject) and the concept of a bond, let’s look at the list, though not in detail (there is enough out there).
It includes David Starkey, Will Melling, Cliff Richard, Dan Snow, Bruce Forsyth, Ronnie Corbett, “Victor Meldrew” – admittedly those last two Scots but who have made their name and living in London, perhaps the best and only authentic example of the Best of Both Worlds.
One has to ask did they vet the list thoroughly before going ahead.
Cliff Richard was at least tangentially referenced  in one or two of the early Elm Guest House/Westminster Paedophile articles (in both Scriptonite,  and The Telegraph

While certainly some, if not many, of these characters have previously been less than complimentary about Scotland – David Starkey for one. The information is out there on Wings Over Scotland, Bella CaledoniaWee Ginger Dug, Newsnet Scotland and elsewhere of their belittlement, derisionand lampooning of  Scotland or plain, ill-informed bigotted commentary.  Reference has been made to some of them being tax evaders. Many are significant donors to the Tory Party (Cilla Black and Bruce Forsyth).

More than just the squibbiness of this tactic’s appeal to the average, thrawn but also insightful  Scot with his/her love of Satire,  the failure to produce a list of clean advocates for the Union (clean in past opinion, clean in putative past criminal activities, clean on fiscal probity)  perhaps sums up the amateur, half-cocked nature of the Better Together initiative.
If we add in the recycling the same old arguments (the three-way pole dance at yesterday’s FMQ at Holyrood), the failure to produce a positive argument for the Union that is not based on military glory that exploited other nations or ran fuelled by the blood of fallen twenty-year old men, or when events align, a sense of nationalism born of adulating those who were born with silver spoons in their mouth to inherited position and priviledge, that costs the tax payer a pretty penny: the picture becomes one that no one seems to have answered to my satisfaction, articles on Derek Bateman’s page notwithstanding: whst does it mean to be British.
For me any concept of Britishness involves – and solely – my passport and my theoretical reliance on British Consuls when I travel. It rates no more highly than my travel insurance provider, and putative emergency healthcare, if needed. 
But that is not the whole picture:  for me Britishness means bonds, but not of citizenship:

I looked up the definition of “bond” in Chambers 21st Centurry Dictionary:

Bond, noun1 something used for tying, binding or holding. 2 (usuallybonds) something which restrains or imprisons someone. 3 something that unites or joins people together • a bond of friendship. 4 a binding agreement or promise. 5finance a debenture. 6law a written agreement to pay money or carry out the terms of a contract.

That the definition of unity or junction is the third definition of the word, surrounded on either side by definitions of indebtedness or imprisonment says it all; there are other definitions which involve bricklaying and glue.   I do not want to be in a bond to anyone, under these definitions. 
That there have been moves in the US Congress, as reported in The Telegraph to table a resolution that:

that the House of Representatives believes that a united, secure, and prosperous United Kingdom is important for U.S. national security priorities in Europe and around the world

is something I find worrying, on a level of International Law and the recognised and acknowledge concept of self-determination.   It is also worrisome in terms of who is in the pocket of whom, and what may (or may not) be expected reciprocally for such an endeavour to have been made, albeit by few Representatives.  The irony of a nation that – through violence rather than peaceable ballot-box and civic movement, chose to separate itself and self-determine independent nationhood from the incipient United Kingdom, and its British Empire is obvious, and borders on  self-evident hypocrisy.

It brings us to the concept of citizenship:

citizenship noun1 the status or position of a citizen. 2 the rights and duties of a citizen. 3 a person’s conduct in relation to such duties.

citizen noun1 an inhabitant of a city or town. 2 a native of a country or state, or a naturalized member of it.

The rights and duties of a citizen, a native of a country or state.   If you define Scotland as a country (one of the four “home countries” that make up the United Kingdom) there comes with it an identity of citizen of said country.  Derek Bateman – in discussion with Professor Tomkins of Gasgow University, has discussed this at length, more ably than I, as mentioned above. But perhaps that is the real heart of the debate: self-identity, which flag we chose, which country we cheer for at football, which (of the several) anthems makes our heart swell. 
Or cogently, since the debate HAS shifted from that to both the ability to make significant political decisions (true self-governance) and what the tenor of these decisions would reflect, a place where we are now asking, what recent political decisions (or indecisions) make your heart swell.

Scotland was among the first nations to stand up against the humanitarian abuses in Gaza and offer financial aid,  specialist medical services (from our still fully free and public National Health Services)  and asylum to refugees from Gaza.   I had never been so proud of my wee but honourable Scotland. 

On Wednesday in response to letter from constituents (and emails, and Twitters) a number of Members of the Scottish Parliament , including Dave Thomson, Roseanna Cunnigham, Marco Biagi and Patricia Ferguson debated the plight of adherents of various religious (but to a large extent Christians) around the world, persecuted for their religious believe: and moved to condemn this and called upon the UK Government, with its place on the UN Human Right’s Council, to raise the issue there and effect collaborative action on the part of the world’s nation states.

This debate took place the day before any statement by the  United States of America to get involved in the matter of ther persecution of Iraqi Christians, before the UK Government made its stance and before the issues of the persecution of  Christians burst into high profile media articles on our mainstream media.

On the  same day that the Scottish Government condemned the persecution of Christians and those of other faiths,  the Scottish Government also  voted to remove Trident from Scotland, both of which debates you can read here:
These two decisions filled me with similar pride to the decision on Gaza, a decision and humanitarian stance taken when the UK Government  was still aligning itself with Israel. As a citizen  of the world, an internationalist (which is much spoken of at present) I consider my responsibility to safeguard the Human Rights of others in the world, and to ensure equitable distribution of the world’s resources (including water),  which includes agricultural knowledge and technology, renewable energy knowledge and technology, scientific knowledge and technology,  medical knowledge and technology, pharamceuticals, educational resources,  and shelter.   My responsibility as a citizen of the world is to do this without account to the profits of multinationals or individuals.
My rights as a citizen of the world are to demand that the representatives I elect do this on my behalf (and I have both the responsibility and the right to insist that they do).

Beyond the issue of a  government at Westminster which is not representative of the Scottish people’s voting pattern, beyond even a government at Westminster which is driven, with exceptions, to self-serving profiteering and careerism,  this is the clarification of why I will vote Yes, and why, Bu Choir – You Should: I want my Scotland to be a nation with a place on Councils of the  UN and other Global NGOs – to take its place –  a country where given “the giftie…tae see oorsels as ithers see us”  we are not a louse but a country  which is principled, respectul and honorable, which is conscionable, not because it is about reflected glory or pride, but because it is the right thing to do as a brother (or sister) to citizens around the world. 
Power in the hands of  the people to use for  people everywhere.

This is my Scotland, in which I have pride, in which I believe and in which I place my trust:

Breathes there the man, with soul so dead, 
Who never to himself hath said, 
This is my own, my native land! 
Posted by: rosa alba | August 6, 2014

Do not pass go(ld).

Although I do not have a tv I managed to find a livestream of the debate. I watched it in spurts combined with shepherding a child with ADHD whose medications were wearing off and whose bedtime sat in the middle of the debate.

It was a damp squib with rockets falling short, as I think even the full exposure would have been: perhaps my son dancing round the room with a recorder and emby crisp packets as armbands was the highlight of the evening and did not effect a detour round the best of viewing pleasure.

The debate was unhelpful and ineffectual.

Mr Salmond undoubtedly  missed the boat  by not listing the available options with their pros and cons, before focusing on and singling in on the preferred – best for both worlds –  option of a currency union, (formal or informal), at first before an eventual new currency of our own, and citing other countries using the pound in a pegged format; he did hold fast to his guns on that, but it came across as petulent – but how could it have done otherwise:  what the debate mainly showed was the ineffectual format of oppositional and adversarial debate, where the game is to best your neighbour not share information or work together.

It became a head to head of two near pensioners shouting at each other.  A rammy, stairheid or otherwise, and there were insults traded. I am not interested in their insults: for me, and more so for the undecideds (for whose decision-making the debate was scheduled), it should have been an information gathering opportunity.  It was not.

It was they who lost out – the  undecideds who never had questions answered thoroughly (how could they five or six, biased or completely unfiltred questions thrown at once into the arena, but swept away before answers could be formulated far less deliverd; all that was offered to the Scottish people subject to more of the name-calling, boorish political dialectic of Westminster.

This was not Mr Salmond at his oxymoronic effervescent and measured best. This was neither passion nor lucid talking through of policy.

Of course, for the undecided the main dialect of the debate was always going to be matters fiscal – and to an extent that means same old. But, there is information out there for people who wish to look, and we should all be self-motivated enough to inform ourselves. To many of the middle missing million have become drowsy on the opiates of not so much nanny state, but subjects of Empire, where the Empire was the individualist accruement of wealth of post-Thatcherism, that even the high heidyins of the Labour Party  – the political elite – have adopted as a mantra fitting them as well as the ermine capes on which they have a wee eye cast.   Disempowered for so very long, we have internalised the message of “too wee, too poor, too genetically programmed for backwater” where the highlight of empowerment and egnagement is the Community Council and the polemics of the tombola at the Highland Games.

The great-grandchildren of the Enlightenment,  in the course of 300 years “partnership” have reverted feudal parishoners.

We can be more that that: I am so loathe to reference a quote that seems to relate to the US Army, but we Scots need to “be all we can be”. And all we can be, is so much: from  Hume to Burns to Watt to the Stevensons to Logie Baird and Fleming, to name but half a dozen from a list of scores. This is what we can be: the invenstive people who as factors and regents,  actually ran the Empire for their masters, and we  can surely go one step further and marry administrative and fiscal ability with egalitarian enlightenment and run their own country in a humane way.

For me, however, my rationale in choosing yes is CHANGE – a different way of doing things, driven by the concept of real representation of the people by real people, not Private Schoolboys or Oxbridge graduates, whichever party they belong to: the boy from Fettes is proof that politics is about priviledge and position, not power for the people; it is proven by his success in making millions rather than mediating Middle Eastern peace.  

Rather than watching documentaries about the Great War, we could all do with watching re-runs of Citizen Smith (or perhaps read our Scottish Citizen Smart – google him, and watch his Youtu.bes).
Now IS the hour for all good men to come to the aidof their countrymen.  We the people have the right to vote (brought not vainly but with blood) for real representation, but with that right comes the responsibility for self-informing of the choices, more so than ever in this age of Internet and mulitfarious media.

The debate served to underline the tokenistic of existing political engagement (as did the lack of MP turnout at several recent votes fundamental to the wellbeing of the most dispossessed, or to civil rights of all citizens).

We need to move to a colloquium where each person is given time to speak, uninterrupted and without jeers and boors (we are neither in a pub in Torry, nor in a Gentleman’s Club in London) and where engaging media – videos, powerpoint, whatever – are used to reinforce or exemplify a point.  This is the current standard expectation. 
In public meetings we need to move to a scenario where questions are chosen that have variation of theme and topic, and where these questions are answered, coherently – as part of that engagement, the questioner needs to participate in active listening – two-way, three-way or more-way process – not posing questions for the sake of shoutdown or showdown.  The questions asked last night, in the Salmond-Darling Debate, were either unfiltred, which is unhelpful in theforum of a televised debate (currency got boring for even the most politically engaged), or chosen with a purpose of .. well I am not sure what practical outcome having all the questions on currency was designed to achieve other than hyperaim on what many consider to be the weak underbelly of independence.

I believe politics  in the Scottish Parliament have moved from the adversarial to some degree – this is one of the benefits of Proportional Representation, but also due to  the physical layout of a semi-circle.
We need more of this – solution – focused working together: collloquium of Representatives of the People: not Members of Parliament which holds us in the metaphor of a Gentlreman’s Club with cushy Chesterfield chairs, and the purpose of whiling away an afternoon, not managing the resources of a country for the benefits of all those who live there, however temporarily.

This – the chance for change, the chance for community and communities to identify and resolve issues,  the chance for people to speak and be answered, the chance for needs to be heard and addressed, the chance for all of us to serve and be served, is the motivation; the chance as a Chistian, to live our obligation to be responsible, respectful stewards of God’s very plentiful  resources for the whole community, to shepherd ourselves and be gentle – Samaritan – shepherds of those who cannot yet shepherd themselves: this is why, as a Catholic, especially striving to live by the Gospel, I feel the only moral  option is to chose to vote Yes.

I was never so proud of my Scotland as when I heard the stance the Scottish Government took on offering immediate aid, specialist NHS Scotland Medical resources, and places of asylum to the people of Gaza. Not about blame but about reponsibility to one’s fellow man.  

Voting Yes is not a matter of self-gain or self-interest: it is emphatically not that, it is conscience and moral responsibility.

Lest we forget… The purpose of Remembrance Day, established in the aftermath of the Great War with the aim that we never know such carnage again.  The battlefields of old have gone, of course, and war is fought in very different theatres with very different casualty tolls, often civilians despite the use of pinpoint target weaponry. 

And so because we do forget and war is waged it is meet to remember the lives of those died in war, and expose the myth that it is dulce et decorum pro patria mori, more than already exposed in the poetry of the likes of Wilfred Owen, or the commentry, finally, of the WWI survivor, Harry Patch.    Freedom fighters have their place, certainly but we must remember that nations can be (re)born, forged and sustained through election process, and civic disobedience: in this the Commonwealth may have on occasion sometthing to offer, and  Portugual for one, had a bloodless revolution (though the wars of Independence in Angola and Mozambique were not so bloodless).  The Great War, the Second War, and, it could be argued, the current engagements are not solely or not just about national identity but about Empire and expansionism, about international spheres of influence and often, energy sources.  The Great War was certainly about Empire, in many ways, more than the defence of plucky Belgium.

It is, thereforre,  questionnable to commemorate the start of a war as a celebration; what is particularly unseemly to big up with sabre rattling, drum rolling and pipes blasting, as a source of national pride “just like we did the Jubilee” as we are told David Cameron have it, a very bloody conflict which took away so many of a Generation. We must remember the dead as a salutory roll call that it never happen again – although as Eric Bogle  pointed out in song, it did, again and again and again.
I have seen the graves in France, from both wars.  Unfortunately many of the dead in today’s war have even less respect than an unmarked grave, and have not chosen, even as tragic – and morally unsound – underage volunteers of the Great War or the conflicts in Rwanda, to be a child soldier.  No one disputes women can be combattants, but heavily pregnant women close to term should not be within a battlefield.   And soldiers  not fit to fight emotionally should not just the right to disengage without being shot but their commanding officers, often not themselves at risk of direct injury should be obliged to excuse them.  Not shoot them, as readily as a stag or a grouse on a highland estate.

We are hearing with frequency the cry: not in my name. Not in my name the benefit cuts, the ATOS inquisitons, the selling of public recreation ground, the selling off of utilities and services,  the potential destruction of beauty spots not for energy sources (when have most of Europe’s wave and tidal power resources) but for the gain of poltiicians, the obfuscation of discovery of one of the world’s biggest oil and gas fields (though I reccomend we use it as an ersatz gold reserve), and not in my name not just the covering up of crimes of expenses and worse paedophilia in the corridors of power of Westminster by those elected by us to serve our needs, but the facilitation of such abuses..  And definitely not in my name the selling of weapons of war to a regime engaged in definitie war crimes, probably genocide and putative ethnic cleansing, however much Friends of Israel (Conservative or Labour) have contributed to fund either party. 
This is just Empire on a more insidious level where there is no pretense is of nationa good and national glory to hide the overt benefit to the pockets of the political elite.   This far exceeds Alistair Darling’s pocketing of thousands of pounds  a time to speak for Better Together, or Jim Murphy’s expense claims.   It is a little known fact, however, that Mr Salmond gives half his salary to charity.   A man for a’ that.
In my name, I  want a future where our bonny callants will not march to war when oor braggarts coorsely craw….I do not want Scotland the Brave cursed. I want to feel the pride in my country that I felt with their offer of financial aid, NHS services and refugee asylum to the dispossessed.  In our own quest for freedom, through the ballot box, on 18th September, when I hope there will be a Yes vote, we need to take tent of our own complicity in the crimes of Empire in the past and make amends.  The position of the Scottish Government  regarding Gaza, and the £5m donated at the Commonwealth Games to UNICEF is but a start.

In terms of the celebration of the war and the impending referendum would do well to remember that  the Westminster Government, under Lloyd George, sent tanks to George Square in January 1991 to quash – not so much an Easter 1916 Uprising – but the demand for a 40 hour week and honest wages on the soldiers who had returned to a “home fit for heroes: and their countrymen, workers who had worked out the war in shipyards or the mines of Lanarkshire. This was an event – like the Alien Act of 1705 – that I only found out  about till recently, at least  in terms all its gunship glory, although;  I knew there had been protests, and MacLean had been arrested and imprisoned for agitating. both during and after the War.…/72969-glasgow-remembers-battle-of…/  You can read more about the event here. 

It is this very specific period – of the suppression of popular protest and the imprisonment of Socialists, that both the Freedom Come All-ye and the John MacLean March reference: a period which called for an end to Empire and the the rights of the worker.   It was both a powerful moment when at the opening of the Commonwealth Games, the Freedome Come All-ye was sung by a black girl from Nyanga – Mandela himself was from Nyanga – and a poignant moment for we are still marching to the maisters’ tunes, not least in the BBC coverage of the Games, for all we stand in a parallel time: on the cusp of Independence, and can seize the opportunity to be all that the song embodies.  It remains seen whether the gay kiss sealed that resolve for voters.

The time paralleled a hundred years past – 1914 – when Home Rule had been promised but was put on hold due to the Great War (to end Wars).  It had not re-emerged with the end of the war, although in the light of the Easter Uprising, and with reference to George Square it could be debated as to whether Home Rule or Boshevism was more to be feared, or whether the two could, in fact, have been fully separated. We shall never know.
When the soldiers returned – those that did (for if you have read Vera Britten you realise how much of a generation failed to return, at least the working men) – and the promise of Home Rule eveporated, and athough home-owning women did eventually gain suffrage, the working men, many residually shell shocked or struggling with other ailments, had to pay of the war debts in form of long working hours and low wages.
In September 1921, MacLean suggested that rather than starve, a man should steal food to eat, a sentiment latter know to be echoed by Cardinal Winning in one of his essays at Seminary – justified by the dominant theological precept of preserving life.  MacLean was arrested for “sedition”.   Meanwhile now, in 2014,  we have more fooodbanks in Scotland than ever before while the government sup on champagne and one in five children in the fourteenth wealthiest nation live in food, fuel and other poverty; this is without addressing the issue of how global sustainable farming could actually meet the world’s food needs. 

The profits of the returning workers’ labour, however, continued to line the wallpapered halls of the West End and beyond, and the coffers of the more widely distributed upper class as far as Westminster,  empire at home where the returning heroes slave-labour to pay for the masters’ pleasures in the decadence of the Jazz Age. 

In this atmosphere of imminent Independence – it has come, for a’ that, whaur sense and worth might bear the gree – should we have the courage of our convictions of our worth, rather than kow-towing to the internalised message of imperial oppression that we are “not genetically programmed to make political decisions in Scotland” as claimed by the Leader of the Scottish Leader Party, Johann Lamont, as seen here.   The political decision her masters (whether Labour or Conservative is irrelevant, most are products of elitism and party choice is often arbitrary) fear us making is removing them from their last corner of Empire, and their access to amber and to black gold, as well as the other exports that, contrary to the propaganda of Scots Subsidy Junkies, actually holds up the UK Economy to a differential of 3% in terms of input versus receipt (in favour of what we contribute). We would be a wealthy and sustainable nation without oil.    You can find the figures online, easily I suggest Stephen Paton’s IndyRef Review: here is a link to Number One.

A final note –  although I am “genetically programmed” to support small locally devolved  Police Forces – the George Square event – and similar squashing of uppitiness –  is why I neither oppose the unification of the Police answerable (and we hope loyal) to Holyrood, and while I oppose it, can see rationale behind the increase in arming police, however much i hope I am wrong.

Posted by: rosa alba | July 22, 2014

Salmondella? Demonising the Demagogue

Scottish Labour tweets this morning ran: Salmond versus Scotland. Scotland needs you (with the implication evident that Eck will be the ruin of Scotland).

How a party can both Lionise and Demonise a man simultaneously is bizarre. They, in their demonising, are creating of Mr Salmond a demagogue and investing him with super human powers no man has or wants.
He is one man, one mortal man, one sixty year old mortal man, who has not solely but in tandem with others brought us to this pass (the opportunity to vote for self-determination), with the help  of others across the political  spectrum, not least Donald Dewar.
Salmond  is no God or superlative hero (though worthy of some honour and praise).
The SNP existed before him, and will exist beyond him. He is not immortal. He is probably exhausted and ready to lay down his fight once we have freedom. For his and Nicola Sturgeon’s political skill, ceaseless energy and commitment, considerable respect is due. No more. We have not the power to make this man a Saint  – that is for God, should He see fit.

Salmond’s party  may, even, NOT be elected as the majority Party in a new, independent Scotland in March 2016.  I hope his party has a large influence, and maybe even the majority vote, but that the majority is not too large. I dream of a colloquiam of the broadly left and ecologically minded.

However turning Mr Salmond into an icon of dictatorship and hate shows  a fundamental disrespect of the political savvy and insight of the average Scottish voter – that s/he would not see through the Scottish Labour Party’s agenda and that s/he would not tolerate dictatorship (if Eck ACTUALLY had this in mind). It dumbs them down to political pawns or minions, where the focus is on their vote not their needs. One has to ask if this has, all along, been the rationale of Scottish Labour.

The raising of Salmond to such stature of hate and fear,  also reveals the Scottish Labour Party’s own inherent cronyism.  Not just the question of who is paying the piper for the tune to which they dance, but what is in it for them.

If the Labour Party truly believes in the value of Great Britain, in all its (toothless) Battleship Pomp and Glory,  and is supportive of a position where not just DRIP is passed, where abhorrent abuse of priviledge is covered up (Labour  – Scots or UK-wide – should be screaming for this to be exposed: I can hear not even the most dampened whimper from them), where BBC Bias is so endemic as to require Saltires not appear on-shot at T in the Park, and to avert its eyes from TTIP (which will lead to the privatisation of healthcare across the British Isles, and the involvement of American Healthcare Conglomerates)  it is not the party of the People, and the working man or woman from Land’s End to furth of Lerwick is being disenfranchised by duplicity.

Worse than this the Labour Party at Westminster is wholeheartedly as a body politic behind Israel as they “defend their borders against the rockets of Hammas”.   What the role of the average Gaza inhabitant in this is, would appear to be to serve as cannon fodder, whether through the machinations of Hammas or by the metal-arrow filled artillery of Israel.   There seems little of the values of solidarity, and protecting the voiceless in this, values the Labour Party affects or affected to embody.

The Labour Party, Scottish Labour no less, is become not pawn but Bishop, Knight or Baronet of the Empire. The Empire against which they traditionally stood as a body exploitative of the interests of everyman.

And the answer to “cui bono”, in whose interests does Scottish Labour blow the bugle of the last dances of Empire (before it too is taken over by Multi-Nationals such as Nestle who deny that humans have a right to life-sustaining water), can only be personal political advancement within the Westminster Establishment (and that means peerage, ermine and the Lords). Not “for honest poverty” nor”a man’s a man for a’ that”.   There’s none so blind as those who have reflected back to them a lie of self-importance.

More than that, theis demonising of both Salmond and the SNP (who have done Nae Bad Ava in their governance of Scotland) all this showa a very, very, very worrisome disregard for democracy not political colloquia and concord but diktat of only one option being acceptable (and a thorough nasty vindictive sulk when THEY are not chosen).
These are not people I want elected by anyone for I question their integrity and motivation, and historically well-intentioned and predisposed to benign assessment though I am, I find it quite overwhelmingly wanting.

Posted by: rosa alba | July 11, 2014

Too Wee For Our Own Boots

I am under no misapprehension but that the ill-feted man invoking the name of Jesus on Question Time was a ringer.  A set up. And there to undermine. And I take offence at that on many counts. Firstly I take offence as a Christian and the extremist – and so easy to dismiss – Christian view the man represented.

It is a specious and casualist argument to argue for Self-Determination on the grounds of Free Will, but if you espouse a Christian view point, unless the most entrenched Calvinist or Janseinist  (and even that could spawn many arguments) we do have Free Will and are obliged to exercise it.

We do have the Free Will  and if we espouse any Christian beliefs it becomes a matter not of free wil or choice, per se, but of moral obligation to vote for a structure and foundation that will be built on the principles of the Gospel of Luke, not where the real and convicted prisoner will be set free (the same cannot be said for the metaphorically imprisoned, those without a voice or sitting in benighted darkness),  but where the hungry will be fed, the thirsty given water, and the homeless and naked given shelter and clothes. 
Education was an issue entirely different in Biblical Times in tems of content and application: every Jewish boy was educated to a degree fit for purpose in terms of the culture and society in which he lived  (girls were a different matter, but that is tangential in terms of this arguement).

The Gospel mentions blindness and indeed, with NHS care, the operations of cataracts for an aging population can be carried out: let us take this as a metaphor for healthcare (as well as lack of vision).  I do not know which arms of  NHS England  are more profitable as they are sold off, but I suspect care of geriatrics is not one;   the government at Holyrood, however, has protected care of the elderly. The government at Holyrood thus far has protected and will protect healthcare, where Labour have promised to reintroduce prescription charges, in Scotland.  The Daily Record yesterday featured the viral video by Dr Philippa Whitford which makes alarmingly clear the imperilled future of the NHS under a Westminster Government, its own  separate standing notwithstanding.

As Ricky Ross pointed out, on Question Time last night, we have the opportunity in voting Yes, to secure not just the land but the planning permission to build a new house. We can decided on the foundations and which layout they will support. To do so we need the planning permission of Indpendence.  The links to the parable of the wise man building on solid ground is self-evident.  (Matthew 7: 24-27): to labour the point, we have that chance, while the structures left to Westminster are being dismantled day by day, for the profit of the few.

The stooge on Question Time last night spoke not to the convinced Yes Voter (because the perception there would be one of, largely, reinforcing their reasons for Yes, and the ability to liberate ourselves from extremism), nor to the No Camp who while they might show distaate at the extremism, would largely endorse a distilleed version of God, Queen, Country and Harry (Potter).

The target of the trick of the man with the hat were the undecided voters, those wobbling.  The message that Mr Do and Die underlined is that we are too wee, too stupid (and too poorf not in money – which untruths have been debunked – then in moderation, judgement and spirit) to govern ourselves. A message reinforced by the fact that Ricky Ross and the redoutable Joan Burnie were not allowed to refute the concerns of the very sensible woman in an M&S shirtwaister, who aired concerns about balancing her bank account at the end of the week.   The small picture: that raised the every day concern, and left it to sit festering on a sunlit windowsill.  It was subtle in a fortnight where the sublime has become the out and out completely absurd on many counts, not least the So-Called Socialists calling the socialists, totalitarian fascists (I refuse to use the N word of this debate).

The former soldier with his warcries that fell to amazingly silent hands (I think everyone was too stunned) also spoke to the No Camp and confirmed for them the idea of “too wee, too stupid, too small minded” and the internalised mentality, largely of the War-time and post-Wartime generation  (and this, and this alone, is why the N- word works: terrfiy those who saw the atrocities of the war, to the point of inability to see the real nature of the SNP).  

This generation HAVE internalised the argument of dependence: dependence in the face of Darien in the 18th Century (notwithstanding the force of the Alien Act), dependence in the face of the war and dependence in the face of the financial crashes (mentioned last night); and the message that any prosperity was due to the Union; it is not untrue that the Union benefitted certain aspects of Scots life and prosperity in the 18th and 19th Century but there are many weighty responses to the question, “But at what cost?’). The man with the hat confirmed their worst suspciions.

The too poor that may have held as a fact during the time of the Union, whatever the engineering behind that state of affairs, is subverted to seem to be a too poor that encapsulates the misinterpretation of the “the poor in spirit” of the Beatitudes, but equally repeats again the misrepresentations of Scotland’s actual financial worth and fiscal porpensity.  We are too hooked up on currency as a concept, when currency is (to some degree) just a means and a name, and the world of big finance has been proved to be a construct as dubious and insubstantial as any soap opera trope. 


In terms of the too poor (in intellect) and too stupid: disproportionate to voting numbers and “representation” Scotland has provided more Chancellors and Cabinent Members than other countries.   I would not endorse Gordon Brown or Alistairs Darling, Campbell, or Carmichael, but these are those who have been chosen by their colleagues from among other politicians to rule the United Kingdom: we we are too poor and too stupid to rule ourselves, why were and are Scots in the position of having collaborated to  run the erst-while Empire and the United Kingdom since?  Why were so many singularly important inventions in the development of mankind the work of Scots, from Kirkpatrick MacMillan through Dunlop and Fleming to Logie Baird and beyond,?  Why indeed was it a Scot who founded the Bank of England?  Scotland has always been one of the most highly educated populations on earth,  its Universtities retain a position in the highest rankings worldwide: equally Scotland has always been subject to brain drain.

These are, I concede, largely arguments of that place between head and heart: rousing yes, but of  limited relevance to the debate.  However they may play a part in refuting the whole too wee for our own boots mindset entrenched in the generations preceding mine.  Ricky Ross and Pat Kane, Lesley Riddoch and Karine Polwart speak to the following generation (and more emphatically than Kermit). 

Much has been written in the alnternative press and media of the need for Vision: the hashtag #ayehaveadream.

We cannot (unfortunately) rest on any laurels in terms of eeding to endlessly clarify the fiscal and the legal (as the No team keep recycling these old arguments just as endlessly, to a mouth-piece media). But we also need a vision.  Not just voices that speak to subsections of the electorate, but an overarching vision that encapsulates the concepts of Common Weal (close the front-page) an inspiring vision that persuades the undecideds that we are not too poor or too stupid or too wee: that we are more than clever and caring. We can  – and must – build a better society for our children and our children’s children.
Aye, We Can. We know we can, and must share our dreams.





Posted by: rosa alba | July 4, 2014

Cheapening Atrocity – The CyberBrit/CyberNat Tragedy

I am a Yes voter, I support democracy, believe in the right of self-determination for any small country or political autonomy; in undergraduate and post-graduate research I read extensively about Independence in 19th Century Latin America, and the suppression of regional identity (and democracy) in Franco’s Spain, and the Portuguese Revolution of the early 70s.

I also believe in the economics and structures proposed in the Future document, and the opportunity to rewrite the rule book with the aim of a fair and just society. All Of Us First – Common Weal  – is not a slogan, but a lifestyle that we can take on which can (will) make a real difference to a modern country in which there is a degree of child and more general poverty that defies even terms like disgraceful and appalling, and press silence.

The basic worth, rights and treatment of individuals transcends religious views or poetical sentiments: Beloved Child of God is a image that needs translated into political action and economic reality, beyond the individual citizen’s tithes, mitzvot or other charitable donations: the nature and scope of modern society, not least size but also the isolation of the post-industrial age, means ad hoc, feelgood donations in response to public appeals do not suffice. Humanity does hold  a responsibility of stewardship and to other species, however you wish to consider the metaphor of Adam’s dominion over all animals (Genesis 1:26), but animal charities receive disproportionately to the need of, for example, Mental Health.   It might also be argued that the tzedekot and mitzvot, and the tithes of Judeo-Christian society were de facto taxes for the benefit of the community. They were not optional for those who subscribed to faith.

Man’s inhumanity to man is as old as humanity: where it differs from the brutality of other species is the sentient being that is the definition of human. It is a conscious respone, for the most part: as sentient beings we are aware of our own pain and of the pain of others.  Choosing to inflict pain or suffering on others, for reasons other than immediate and genuine survival of self (and even then that is a closely morally and ethically circumscribed situation) is a definition of inhumane; the Christian might chose to lay down his own life for the sake of another or others as inthe example of Maximilian Kolbe, a priest in Auschwitz. Such examples of selflessness – in the face of immediate and genuine threat to life are rare.

The inhumanity of regimes Franco’s Spain, or  Sá-Lazar’s Portugual (or for a shorter period Mussolini’s Italy),  all feature  suppression of opposition, suppression of regional culture, identity and language, suppression particularly of Communism and intellectualism contrary to the tenets of Fascism, enforced religion, and Blood and Soil National Idenity – the pura sangre (pure blood, without Muslim taint, an ideology of the Spanish Golden Ages which continued to influence popular thinking and identity throughout beyond the 16th Century, Fascism was a perhaps a lesser extremism than that of  the much shorter lived Nazionalsozialismus of 1930s Germany, and the term therefore less coloured.

In terms of Nazionalsozialismus – Nazism – we know the of persecution, not just of the Jews but the rounding up, internment and eventual extermination of gays and lesbians, the Roma (gypsies), those with physical or cognitive Additional Support Needs, the mentally ill, and less well recognised as a fact, of Trade Unionists, Communists and Catholics.  Nazi religious endorsement was of Solstices and paganism focusing on inherenet Germanity. Blood and Soil Nationalism.

The atrocities of Nazionalsozialismus  do not need repeated. The barbarity does not need to be reiterated. The figures do not need to be recounted.  Nor need we enumerate the dictatorial or extremist governments since the 70s, nor the suppression of human rights or the use of torture and disappearing (or even the involvement of foreign powers) in order  to uphold regimes such as Pinochet’s Chile.

What does need to happen is the end of a misappropriation of the term Nazi  – a specific definition of one of the worst and most gencidal regimes in Modern History – to describe (ironically) left wing civic nationalism and grassroots Movement Politics.
To use this term for sensationalist efffect – or even Fascism, which once more has specific political meaning, as well as the cultural connotation of brutal and horrific oppression of opposition, dismisses the point of view writer or speak, invalidates their commentary but most of all cheapens, denies, subverts the realities of Modern History. To do so as an academic and historian is particularly unacceptable. Misappropriation causes the the terms  (Fascism, Nazism especially) to cease to have real meaning both retrospectively and currently (in the case of Fascism as vocabularly  to describe other right wing oppressive and totalitarian regimes).
Worse yet, it demeans and denies the experience of those who lived and sufffered through the atrocities of these regimes as they happened, or continue to happen.   It makes a mockery of their lives and more often than not, their deaths.

Few are called to the freely chosen and selfless  martyrdom of Maximilian Kolbe.

Not much greater was the small number who survived by means or methods or desperation we would not want to know far less experience ourselves, but of which, in the case of Chile (not Nazism nor European Fascism but a dictatorial right wing regime), Isabel Allende has written in both her novels and journalism, for example Of Love and Shadows. 

Many millions starved before  horrific deaths.

An article in today’s Herald questions, if not the helpfulness, then the modus of Movement Politics.  While I disagree with the writer in terms of the role  popular protests play when they highlight, if not issues around  freedom of the traditional or mainstream media, then its blinkered collusion with the Establishment, It is important too that we note and draw attention to those who abuse their position or their voice, insult others inappropriately and/or subvert political or democratic process, especially when these political bodies are failing to monitor and police themselves. We must do so without turning it into a witch hunt which adopts the dialectic of the transgressors – whether the McCarthy-esque making of lists, or the virtual hounding of hapless victims of a broken mechanism (not so much political process but its particular praxis).  Scotland had its share of witch hunts in the 17th Century. We have moved on.

What  is equally imperative is that we that  remember that “[Do you not know] in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” (1 Corinthians 9:24) Our prize is Independence, and the chance to rewrite the agenda for how our country functions. To make sure  “every bairn o Aidam has breid, barley bree and painted room” regardless of racial, social, political or cultural identity: One Scotland.  To run effectively so as to  get this prize, movement politics, grassroots groups and conventional political campaigns must work together, hand in hand, celebrating difference.

Tonight I am in despair of democracy, due process, intellectual debate and political integrity.

The entitlement and the blindness to their own faults of those in Westminster, in power or on the other side of the Foucaultian coin that maintains the hegemony, is distressing.

It is more distressing when it IS those in opposition, those who previously wore the ermine-less mantle of socialism and solidarity. No one likes to watch the stridor of death throes, not least of something in which  you once believed.

An unbridled profiteering and individualism is the unfortunate mark of today’s politcal right in Westminster. Rapaciousness is disagreeable, and unpleasant but to be anticipated. There is after the Thatcher years, a certain expectation of the cult of Mammon.
But with the political left, Labour, we have evidence of  complete breakdown. The other side – the Opposition – even in Foucaultian analyses, should be moving against the dominant side (to define it by comparison) or eventually risk becoming one with the other side of the coin. And Labour has flipped. .
This morphing may have caused the complete breakdown: almost like psychological “decomposition”.

I am not sure that Labour know who or what they are, having offed the heroes that were Benn and Foot, and silenced or quite effectively side-lined the likes of Tatchell and Diane Abbot, and now even poor Dennis Skinner (Canavan jumped, integrity intact). No definition of  Labour  in three words, or 140 characters.
In wanting to be Desired (the gazed upon) to the exclusion of all else, in trying to be what Other was, they have lost Self (and socialist being): you cannot be both Self and Other; you cannot be both Subject and Object; you cannot be both Heads and Tails.

And, with no clear set of ideas or politic-philosophical framework to define them, or to serve as parameters,  with no opposition on the other side of the Chamber to define them (what they are and what they are not: for Labour and ConDem are Same) the breakdown occurs. The lack of structure to define identity means a lack of structure to define behaviours. Stockholm Syndrom.

The Liberal Democrats avoided this, perhaps, through not being in the Opposition of a still, effectively, two-horsed race, rather in becoming one with Conservatives in the coalition; it may be that the LibDems are reflecting back the Gaze, without becoming the Gaze: there may still be in their interactions a relational Self and Other, Subject and Object.

Applied to the Union, while England has assumed at some level that Scotland and Wales reflect back the English Gaze – and it has -there has never been this assumption of Sameness. England, Scotland and Wales retained separate
identities.  Isobel Lindsay spoke of this concept of identities – of the different demographics not of the English and the Scots who hold these separate national identies but of what the identies themselves are (or reflect).

Better Together further complicates Labour’s ability to know who or what it is, and consequently how it is to behave. Better Together  is a broad spectrum – if single issue – political alliance, from UKIP and the Orange Lodge to Labour and Gorgeous George Galloway (whose gallantry is no longer misplaced, just seemingly absent altogether). Even George has adopted the tendency to decry foreigners, in his defence of the Union. That is a simplification of his arguments, but the volte face is quite hard to comprehend. As with Labour his logic seems in disarray.

The worrying focus on hurling accusations of Naziism around seems to be a dissonance and contradiction. Those being identified by Labour’s gaze are the more coalescent and politically consistent grouping of the Yes Campaign. The SNP and its fellows in the flowerbed of Independence are all left of centre: the manifesto promises equal rights for all, including the LGBT community, the Deaf Community and those with Additional Support Needs and Mental Health issues. It promises housing, education, healthcare, a living wage, affordable childcare, renewable energy. Further it promises renationalisation of services and utilities and separation of Church and State, and aspires fuurther  to Land Reform, and Collective, Cooperative and Community initiatives as an ongoing and defining  ideology and praxis. A modern socialist state. The ideals the Left itself once aspired to, from the embryonic incarnations of the Chartists and other such movements, through the Cooperative Movement, the Establishment of the Labour Party, the Red Clydesiders and into the Garden City Movement.

It seems that the name-callers, predominantly the Labour and Scottish Labour contingents of Better Together, although the name itself covers the belying reality of internecine strife, should praise  the proposed  egalitarian structures, the and the socialist ideals of Future and an independent Scotland.

Labour is left sitting shouting in opposition to these ideals  because they oppose Independence; they  also sit in opposition to the Coalition, while simultaneously not just endorsing the policies, tax initiatives, benefit cuts, bedroom tax, privatising de-construction of the NHS and other policies, but stating they would be as if not more draconian in their legislation and policies.

The accusations of Fascism come from, in part the unavoidable association of Nationalism and Nazism – Nazionalsozialismus (which was not, of course, Socialism by any other cognate of another name), and the 20th Century Socialism/Fascism dichotomy. If not Socialism then Facism.

From a Labour Perspective, unbelievably, there must still be retained among the faithful a blind perception of being Socialist (by tradition or through being in opposition politically at Westminster, who knows?) At Holyrood, too, the Labour Party sits (as the second largest group) in opposition to the Scottish Nationalist Party (who espouse uniformly at Holyrood and at Westminster, the same socialist agenda). A confused piggy in the political middle.  With regard to their place in Better Together, the Yes Coalition is “not us” for Labour, therefore Fascism, despite the evidence.

But it is not the 20th Century, far less the 19th C, of the  two-horse oppositional political race. For all there might be less difference between Conservative and New Labour than between Tory and Whig, there are, even at Westminster more horses in the race. The Con-Dem Coalition itself is evideence of that, without the no longer stalking horse of UKIP. At Holyrood there are six parties and the process is multi-party and, ideally, cooperative rather than the confrontational that Labour cut its teeth on, a hundred years ago.

My aim is not to suggest how or if Labour can go through some therapeutic process to rediscover itself, far less what schools of therapy it needs. I am here to reinforce that, come Independence, Scotland can through democratic process redefine  and adopt effective, people-centred, people-driven government that builds on the true principles of socialism: All of us first, and Common Weal.

I am not sure this explains the complete and utter Balls-up by Labour in terms of HR and Management. Not only was there no rigorous vetting of prospective candidates in a decade where people leave clear paper and ethernet trails,
but a glaring absence of a hastily written Social Media Protocol that any half-competent organisation would have produced if not years ago, then 17 days ago, or at the very least by Tuesday this week, in the interests of containment and self-preservation after the Wiles debacle.
I do not know what any rank and file Labour acolyte was doing posting anything other than what they thought of the football, where they were going or what M&S Dine at Home special offers they had for their supper the day before.
The evident lack vetting or of briefing on political ettiquette for the social media-focused 21st Century, where there is no stone under which to hide from the random predating iPhone, is indefensible in an organisation which hopes to have its hands on not just a national budget, but the button of a nuclear weapon.
The see all evil, hear all evil, click-and-capture world of today is good for democratic process and involvement, but bad for indiscretion. Moments of minor indiscretion will happen, of course,, but as 15 minutes of fame really does struggle to stretch beyond 5 days (a week in politics is longer than ever). a quick, no-nonsense but sincere apology is the solution. Obfuscation and deniability of major faux pas is not. And collusion of the press in covering up gross  political malfunction or gross misjudgement is unconscionable in a country, where, unlike Spain in the Franco era, the mainstream press is largely uncensored.

It is obvious that Labour IS in complete, self-combusting disarray, beyond the usual powerplays of politics and jockeying for position, and has no clear vision as to its future.

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