Worthy winners

Ian Blackford had a hard act to follow in Angus Robertson and it would not be contentious to say that, for many in the SNP, his background in the financial industry made him a controversial choice to lead the SNP group at Westminster. I think we can safely say that all such doubts have been dispelled by Blackford’s performance in the role.

It might be argued that Jeremy Corbyn’s all but total abdication of his duty as leader of the official opposition in the British parliament provided Blackford with a relatively easy opportunity to shine. It could equally be said that he had exceptional responsibility thrust upon him and that he has acquitted himself admirably in the face of growing hostility towards SNP MP’s and increasingly bitter contempt for Scotland at the heart of the British political system.

Mike Russell’s appointment as Scotland’s Brexit Minister also raised a few eyebrows. Not that anybody doubted his abilities. You don’t survive five years as Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning without being an adroit politician and tough operator. But there was a certain feeling that Mike Russell’s political career had peaked and that, in selecting someone in the “twilight stage of his political career”, Nicola Sturgeon may have been underestimating just how demanding the Brexit brief was going to be.

As it turned out, Ms Sturgeon’s judgement has been fully vindicated. The Brexit brief has even more demanding than anyone could have imagined. And Mike Russell has been more than up to the task. It is no exaggeration to say that he has been outstanding in the role and totally worthy of the confidence the First Minister had in him.

Given the way SNP MPs are treated by the British political elite, and the manner in which the British establishment has sought to exclude the Scottish Government from the Brexit process, it might be tempting to cast Ian Blackford and Mike Russell in the role of underdogs. I prefer to think of them as unlikely heroes. Unquestionably, they are deserving joint winners of The National’s politician of the year accolade.


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Keep it stupid, simple!

Disclaimer: Resemblance to any British politician in Scotland is purely coincidental.

I am not going to offer a commentary on Brian Whittle MSP’s interview in Holyrood Magazine. The one in which he notoriously denies the very existence of the British government’s ‘rape clause’. Wings Over Scotland has already published a review which does some justice to Whittle’s truly monumental stupidity. I recommend that you read Stu Campbell’s elegant evisceration of the fool before continuing.

Now that you have the measure of Whittle’s intellect, I shall make my point. Which is that Brian Whittle is far from being exceptional in his profound dimness. Stu Campbell may have awarded him the title of ‘Thickest Politician In Scotland’ in recognition of his achievement in reaching a “truly Olympian level of stupid “, but Whittle took the prize against a strong field of contenders which includes stars such as Jamie Greene, Annie Wells, Alex Cole-Hamilton and Kirstene Hair. Each of whom now has to doff their dunce’s cap to the new king of the village dung-heap.

All of the British parties in Scotland have the same problem. They just don’t have the talent. At every level of government, they simply can’t get capable people. Sane, sober and sensible individuals are shunning the British parties to such an extent that, over the past decade, debating chambers across the country have seen a statistically significant fall in IQ.

In part, this is explained by the British parties putting up ‘paper candidates’. People who are totally unqualified for the duties and responsibilities of elected office and who are certainly not expected to win, but whose names are placed on the ballot simply in order to soak up the votes that might otherwise go to a candidate from a Scottish party. This dubious practice has long been a feature of local government elections. But it is spreading.

The real problem begins when one of these paper candidates actually wins due to things like tactical voting. All of a sudden, the local MP’s drunken halfwit cousin with the comedy hairpiece and weapons-grade body odour is a Councillor! Those unintended consequences can be vicious wee bum-biters!

The bar has been lowered on the British parties’ candidate selection processes to the point where forms filled in using crayon aren’t necessarily filtered out. Being able to name three things that might be found in a farmyard could be enough to get you through. If you’ve turned up to the interview wearing matching socks and a winning smile, they may even stretch a point and allow ‘crocodile’. Or ‘Tardis’.

How else are we to explain the phenomenon of fuckwittey that is Brian Whittle?

There is a serious aspect to all of this, of course. While we may laugh uproariously at Richard Leonard’s antics in the chamber during First Minister’s Question and mercilessly mock the demented drivel committed to Twitter by the likes of Murdo Fraser, we should not forget that these people are bringing our politics into disrepute. Nor should we lose sight of the fact that they purport to be poised ready to govern Scotland. I don’t mean to give you nightmares, but consider for a moment the notion of Annie Wells as Justice Secretary. Or James Kelly in charge of the nation’s finances. Or Brian Whittle in any job which demands mastery of anything more complicated than a mop.

These bollards and bladders are being foisted on us by the British parties without a care for how they embarrass Scotland. Or for the harm that they might do if allowed any real power. Already we have Councils in Scotland controlled by people you wouldn’t rely on to run a whelk stall if it involved real whelks. And a real stall. We have British politicians squatting on the opposition benches in Holyrood who are not only pathologically stupid but pathologically eager to flaunt their stupidity in the media.

Surely Scotland deserves better.


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A question of balance

The term “equality” can be problematic as it is too often and too easily taken to imply lack of difference. It really needs to be qualified in some way – such as ‘equality of opportunity’ – in order to avoid an excessively literal interpretation. Ideally, we could use the word “equality” in a socioeconomic context confident that people would make the appropriate semantic adjustment. But, regrettably, this can never be a safe assumption.

Of course there can never be absolute and total equality across all of society. Variations in the capacities and abilities and attributes among individuals militates irresistibly against equality in the sense of homogeneity. One would think this a truth too glaringly, blindingly, eyeball-searingly obvious to require frquent restatement. And yet, there are those who feel the need to remind us of this eternal and immutable fact at every instance of the word “equality” being deployed. I cannot explain this urge.

Whatever meaning is implied by or inferred from the term “equality” when used in reference to social dynamics and/or economic processes, I would maintain that “fairness” is a markedly different thing. Where “equality” relates to the policies and actions of authority, “fairness” relates to the effect – actual or perceived – of those policies and actions on individuals or groups.

To put it rather crudely, “equality” is about the mechanics of minimising relative disadvantage while “fairness” is about the way people feel they’ve been treated by ‘the system’.

The impossibility of impeccable equality means that there will always be winners and losers. Fairness is achieved when even the losers feel they have been treated with justice and respect.

Due to the seeming inevitability of the concept of “equality” being poorly understood, even in a context that should be powerfully defining, my preference is to avoid it in favour of the concept of balance. Rather than talk in terms of inequality, I speak of social or economic imbalance,

Social imbalance exist wherever conditions depart from the tolerance range of fairness. We are evolved, as social animals, to tolerate a certain degree of social imbalance. We accept that some social imbalance is ‘natural’, But we have developed social and economic systems which generate ‘unnaturally’ excessive imbalance.

The objective of progressive politics – or socialism – is the elimination of artificial social imbalance and the restoration of fairness.


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Women against democracy!

There is a powerful and disturbing irony in the fact that, women having fought so hard for so long and at such great cost to secure the right to vote, it is now women who are leading the clamour to have this right curtailed or denied.

Ruth “Queen of the BritNats” Davidson long since established herself as the leading anti-democracy campaigner in Scotland with her shrill, demagogic demands that the Scottish people be denied the right to choose the constitutional status of their nation and the form of government which best suits their needs.

Now, Davidson’s boss – Theresa May – is proving equally strident in her insistence that people across the UK should not have the opportunity to make an informed choice about leaving the EU. Or, at least, a marginally better informed choice than they were presented with in 2016.

The anti-democratic nature of British Nationalism was strikingly revealed last week when disgraced MSP and total bollard, Annie Wells, responded on behalf of the British Conservative & Unionist Party in Scotland (BCUPS) to the launch of the Scottish Government’s public consultation on prisoner voting. In a Tweet seething with self-righteous rage, Wells boasted that “we [BCUPS] are the only party that oppose prisoners having the right to vote”.

I don’t know if this boast is true. What I do know is that Wells doesn’t much care about such niceties as truth and accuracy. But the remark is illuminating anyway. Note how Wells acknowledges that voting is a right. And how ready she is to deny that right with all the vehemence she has left over from supporting her boss’s anti-democratic campaign against a new independence referendum.

Set aside, for a moment, the fact that this relates to persons incarcerated for criminal acts. A right is a right – as Wells’s boss’s boss might put it. While talking of voting as a right, Wells treats it as a privilege. Something that is in the gift of established power; to be gracious granted or spitefully withheld according to the whim of those who wield that power.

In a true democracy, the right to vote is absolute and inalienable. It is a necessary and ineluctable function of citizenship or qualifying residency. Any working definition of democracy must start from the assumption that everybody has the right to vote. The right to vote is not granted and does not need to be claimed or won. It is as much part of the individual born into a truly democratic society as their skin.

From the default assumption that all persons own the right to vote, an argument must be made, under rules set out in the constitution, for withholding this right from defined groups or specified individuals. It is trivial to argue that the right to vote must be rendered functionally inoperative in the case of infants. Nonetheless, the argument must be made. Qualifying as a true democracy demands that the right to vote is in no circumstances withheld lightly.

It is less and less easy to argue that the right to vote should be withheld from individuals as they get older. Strong counter-arguments can be made in the case of persons aged twelve. There are no rational and persuasive arguments for withholding the right to vote from persons aged sixteen.

Once an individual has reached the constitutionally established age at which their right to vote ceases to be withheld, any argument for withholding that right must apply to the specific individual. Any blanket withholding of voting rights across a group is a breach of individual human rights and definitively undemocratic.

Annie Wells expresses pride in being part of a campaign to impose just such a blanket ban. Her attitude, and the attitude generally evinced by British Nationalists, is that voting is a privilege. More ominously, she espouses the principle of denying this ‘privilege’ to groups delineated, not by any human universal such as age, but by criteria determined by the state or its agencies. Groups such as that labelled ‘prisoners’.

Labels are cheap. I’m sure Annie Wells has an abundant supply of them. You might even find that you are already wearing one or more of them. Just such a discovery was made in the wake of the 2014 referendum by a group which the British establishment labelled ‘Scottish MPs’.

Annie Wells. Ruth Davidson. Theresa May. They shame the memory of such as Flora Drummond, Emily Wilding Davison and Emmeline Pankhurst.


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Monday morning

As I listen to the First Minister announce the latest deferment of action to resolve the constitutional issue I feel like I’m travelling towards a tiny but piercingly bright pinpoint of light at the end of a long dark tunnel. It is impossible to tell how long the tunnel is or how fast I’m travelling as there are no points of reference. Sometimes, the light seems to be getting closer. But either it recedes again or this was merely an illusion. Recently, I’d swear the light was growing dimmer. But that too may be just my imagination.

The times when the light appears closer are such as when I read that a substantial majority of people now regard it as inevitable that Scotland’s independence will be restored. Most, it seems, believe we will reach the end of this tunnel eventually. Only a few think the journey will be so long that it’s not worth giving any thought to getting there.

Then I read that even the optimistic people are thinking in terms of journey times stretching from 5 to 15 years, and the light retreats again.

It occurs to me that, on those occasions when I suppose the light to be brightening, I am deceived by the fact that the claustrophobic blackness of the tunnel is becoming more ominously intense.

In my gloomy imagining, this darkness has substance. It is thick and viscous and travelling through it is like struggling through an increasingly glutinous. cloying mess. A mess that threatens to defeat and engulf me before I get to the end of the tunnel.

I know with absolute certainty that the destination is attainable. But the tunnel is an ever more hostile environment. The walls are closing in. The darkness is suffocating. The urgency of the need to escape grows even as the possibility of doing so is pushed frustratingly further from me.


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A third force?

Leaving aside for a moment the whole Brexit fiasco – doubtless to everyone’s great relief – it is worth noting that there is something rather interesting happening here as what in another time would have been referred to as the ‘minor parties’ at Westminster challenge, not only the government, but also the official opposition.

From a Scottish perspective, much of what has been happening in politics over the past three decades can be viewed as an increasingly desperate effort on the part of the British establishment to get back to ‘business as usual’. The British media, even more than British politicians, has evinced an almost frantic desire to return to the simplicities and certainties of the old British two-party politics that prevailed until the upstart SNP came along and made things complicated.

And now Westminster has been infected. The efforts to stifle, suppress and sideline the SNP contingent in the British Parliament have been to no avail. They’ve tried everything from EVEL to drowning out SNP MP’s contributions in the chamber with a cacophony of babble and barnyard noises. They’ve denied the SNP group at Westminster the opportunity to debate issues that have profound implications for Scotland. They’ve all but entirely excluded the SNP administration in Edinburgh from Brexit (sorry!) negotiations. They’ve worked assiduously to keep SNP politicians off our TV screens.

Despite all this, those pestilential ‘Nats’ persist in conducting themselves as if a clear and incontrovertible mandate from the electorate entitled them to a significant participatory role in the British political system. What the hell is wrong with these people!? They act as if being the third largest group at Westminster could possibly compensate for their appalling Scottishness.

Why can’t they just accept that their party, like their piffling little country and its pretendy wee parliament, is entirely peripheral to the ‘real’ politics of the British state? Why can’t they settle for the privilege of being allowed to sit on the glorious green benches in the divinely ordained ‘Mother of Parliaments’? Why do they insist on interfering in important matters best left to the British political elite?

The fact that the ‘smaller parties’ are uniting to confront the two ‘main parties’ is a highly significant development. It may not yet be an all-out revolt against the old order, but it sows the seeds. If the British establishment’s customary tactics of divide-and-rule can be overcome once, then this opens the way for further challenges to established power.

British politics is not evolved to cope with a third force. It has historically survived by eliminating potential threats early in the game; either by crushing them or by assimilating them. While being large enough and effective enough to have an impact at its heart, the SNP is sufficiently alien to the British political system to be quite indigestible. It cannot simply be absorbed. And it has proved remarkably resistant to being crushed. It is thus placed to be the core around which other elements of the political and geographical periphery might coalesce to form a third force capable of challenging, not only the old Tory/Labour duopoly, but the very structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state.


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Good Tory! Bad Tory!

David Mundell

The notion of David Mundell being concerned about treating the people of Scotland with fairness is, of course, risible. While he can hardly be held personally responsible for the preceding three centuries, there can be be no bout that Mundell has played a key role in the British Nationalist ‘One Nation’ project in recent years.

Maybe he had no part in actually creating the Union which ensures that the people of Scotland are denied, in perpetuity, full and effective exercise of their sovereignty, but he has certainly taken full advantage of the fact that the Union enshrines democratic injustice in what passes for constitutional law in the British state.

The perverse logic of the British Nationalist fanatic never loses its power to stun. According to Mundell, it would be “unfair” to the people of Scotland if anything should be allowed to interfere with them getting something they voted decisively against. Mundell actually believes we should be grateful to beneficent Britannia for relieving us of the onerous task of making crucial decisions about our future. To Mundell, it is an obvious and unchallengeable fact that such decisions are better made by the British political elite, of which he likes to consider himself part.

Mundell is tasked by his masters in London with overseeing the subversion of Scotland’s democratic institutions, the eradication of Scotland’s distinctive political culture and the obliteration of Scotland’s identity as a nation. A task to which he seems unshakably committed. Let none doubt this man’s utter conviction that, if Scotland wasn’t entirely ‘extinguished’ by the Union, then it damned well should have been. Mundell seeks his place in history as the man who finally completed the ‘Greater England’ project.

When I was a boy, around sixty years ago, it was considered fairly normal for working class people in Scotland to vote for the Scottish Conservative & Unionist Party, which was then a quite distinct party. It was acceptable to vote for what I now call ‘traditional’ Scottish Tories because, for all that they were Unionists, they were also perceived as trusted custodians of ‘Scottishness’. They were content that Scotland should be part of the UK, but sought to further Scotland’s particular interests – as they saw them – within the Union.

Traditional Scottish Tories of that period would be appalled and disgusted by what David Mundell and his cronies are doing. They would despise his ‘One Nation’ British Nationalism. They would be outraged that, while bearing the once honourable title of Secretary of State for Scotland, he was a leading player in an ideologically-driven effort to destroy the very things that they were dedicated to preserving.

My suspicion is that tradition Scottish Toryism still survives. I reckon many present-day Scottish Tories are distinctly uncomfortable – at the very least – with what is being done in their name. All that prevents them revolting against the odious ideologues who have taken over is residual partisan loyalty and a vague hope that the values which once made their party respectable and respected in Scotland might somehow be restored.

The great irony, of course, is that the only way this can happen is if Scotland’s independence is restored. Traditional Scottish Tories face a stark choice between the values they espouse and the Union which denies their right to have those values inform public policy.


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