Don’t juggle jobbies!

brian_wilsonCarolyn Leckie writes in The National about one of the British ruling elite’s most dutiful servants. I haven’t read any of Brian Wilson’s bilious outpourings for at least a year or two – possibly more. I do, however, recall the shrill nastiness of columns pulsing with a hatred so visceral one could almost taste and smell it. The animus oozing out of the page like a noxious miasma rising from some putrid bog made even Alan Cochrane’s demented diatribes seem like light reading. I remember thinking that, if even a tenth part of Wilson’s snarling, spittle-flecked rage was genuine, this was someone in urgent need of counselling. And an individual in even more pressing need of being avoided.

This is what I determined to do. I simply stopped reading that stuff. It’s not as if it was informative about anything other than the workings of a mind afflicted by virulent British Nationalist fanaticism. One doesn’t go to the likes of Brian Wilson looking for insightful analysis or thoughtful commentary. The only reason for consuming such bitter fare is to replenish stocks of dumb prejudice and recharge the batteries of bigotry.

I am better off without it. Because that kind of obnoxiousness is pernicious. It contaminates all who come into contact with it. Wilson and his odious ilk write purposefully to provoke an extreme reaction. The mindless hate rubs off on you as you read. You may be tempted to respond in kind. But even if you simply turn away from the vitriol in disgust, you will be tainted by it. The stench of it will cling to to you. The poison will seep into your mind.

I have lately learned the benefits of ignoring British Nationalist propaganda. Being aware of its methods arms one against its manipulative power. Disregarding it completely renders one immune to its effects. I don’t read Brian Wilson’s column any more. I used to take some satisfaction from writing acerbic below-the-line ripostes to the likes of Wilson and Cochrane. Then I realised that this was clever in the same way that juggling jobbies is clever. The skill may be impressive. But the stink lingers.

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Something fishy

iscot_promoBritish Nationalists make a big fuss about getting out of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). What we don’t hear from the likes of David Mundell is any detail on what is to replace the EU quota system. We know that there will have to be a quota system. We know that this new quota system will continue to involve negotiation with the EU. The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea requires countries sharing maritime borders to jointly manage shared fish stocks. The EU and the UK share more than 100 fish stocks.

We know that existing independent coastal states such as Greenland and Norway continue to be effectively bound by the CFP. The latter negotiates annually a quota swap just as EU member states do under the CFP. The former institutionalises the CFP quota system in exchange for various concessions.

All the evidence, then, suggests that the new UK quota system is unlikely to represent a dramatic departure from the CFP. Which leads one to wonder why Mundell and other British Nationalists attach so much importance to getting out of the CFP. They certainly aren’t explaining their reasoning. We can be certain that it has nothing to do with what might best serve Scotland’s economic interests. Mundell has made it abundantly clear that his overriding priority is the preservation of the Union at whatever cost to Scotland and its people.

This being the British state, and Mundell being a Tory, might we find a clue to their motives in a recent Greenpeace investigation which found, among other things, that –

Five families on the Sunday Times Rich List own or control a third (33%) of all Scottish quota. When taking into account minority stakes, companies wholly or partly owned by these families hold close to half (45%) of all Scottish quota.

Not for the first time, we find something very fishy about Mundell’s attitude. Ask yourself, how easy is it to believe that this man and the regime he represents are looking after Scotland’s interests? Or that they are concerned with the welfare of ‘fishing communities’? How much easier is it to believe that their sole concern is to preserve the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state. How easy is it to believe that, whatever replaces the CFP afer Brexit, it will be part of the corrupt British political and economic system which serves the few at untold cost to the many?

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By their own words shall ye know them!

back_in_boxWe really should encourage David Mundell to speak more. It seems that every time he opens his mouth he unwittingly allows us another telling insight into his repulsive British Nationalist ideology.

As we are all surely aware by now, British Nationalists have an attitude to democracy which we might describe as ‘quaint’, were it not for the fact that this term does not adequately convey just how dangerous that attitude is when combined with real political power. Look at how Mundell responds when Mhairi Black points out that, “Sixty-four per cent of Scottish voters now want to see immigration policy devolved to the Scottish Parliament.” It is clear that he genuinely supposes a massive majority of the the Scottish people can be outweighed by an organisation representing a few businesses operating in Scotland. What nearly two-thirds of Scotland’s voters want is of absolutely no consequence. The demands of big business must always take precedence.

This is British democracy. Or should we better call it ‘demockracy’? Because it bears no resemblance whatever to what I’m sure most of us would think of as true democracy. It is this ‘demockracy’ that the British political elite intends to impose on Scotland as they sweep away the distinctive, progressive political culture which we have begun to develop since the Scottish Parliament was reconvened.

But it is in those rare moments of honesty that British Nationalists inadvertently give away most about the true nature of their ‘One Nation’ project. David Mundell really means it when he says that he wants to protect Scotland’s place in UK. He really does want to preserve Scotland’s subordinate status within an archaic, dysfunctional, anti-democratic political union. He is being perfectly sincere when he states his desire and ambition to lock Scotland into a Union which is, in essence, no more than a constitutional device by which the people of Scotland are denied the full and proper exercise of their sovereignty.

Does Mundell declare a commitment to Scotland? No! Does he promise to serve Scotland’s interests? No! Does he undertake to honour the democratic wishes of Scotland’s people? No! Does he state that he will respect the authority of the Scottish Parliament – the only Parliament with democratic legitimacy in Scotland? No!

His oath is only this, “I will defend our United Kingdom until my last breath.”

Perhaps the most honest thing that David Mundell has ever said is a declaration of his undying devotion to the British state and his contempt for the needs, priorities and aspirations of Scotland’s people. Rarely do we hear so explicitly expressed the mindless British Nationalist dogma of ‘The Union At Any Cost!’.

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The most dangerous man in Scotland

mundell-bulldogIs David Mundell the most dangerous man in Scotland? You may be accustomed to thinking of him as the comically disgusting character, Baron Snackbeard, absently nibbling chunks picked out of his whiskers as he lounges on the lush green leather benches of his Westminster club. Or perhaps you’re more inclined to see him simply as Theresa May’s yapping wee lapdog. Or maybe as Ruth Davidson’s sidekick – the bumbling Laurel to her bumptious Hardy. But it might be wiser to regard Mundell as the British establishment’s obedient bulldog set on Scotland to seize it and hold it and shake it into submission.

I have written previously about how we should attend well to the words spoken by politicians. How we should be wary of too readily accepting their utterances at face value. How we must “be mindful of the wider political context as well as being attentive to the precise form of words used”. What, then, should we make of the following comment from David Mundell.

So I want to use this opportunity to say to Sturgeon, it is time to end the constitutional uncertainty that we have lived with for the past four years.

It is time for Scotland’s two governments to work together in the best interests of the Scottish people. It is time to move on.

Let’s gloss over the discourteous manner in which Mundell refers to Scotland’s First Minister. Although we should recognise, in passing, that this disrespect is purposeful and part of the ongoing effort to diminish and delegitimise Scotland’s democratic institutions, we can hardly dwell on every such instance. The next phrase, however, warrants closer attention. It is an illustrative example of a remark which may seem totally innocuous or even quite sensible, but which may take on a darker meaning when viewed in the light of current political reality. Surely ‘uncertainty’ is a ‘bad thing’. Surely ending uncertainty is a ‘good thing’. Surely it is perfectly reasonable to state that “it is time to end the constitutional uncertainty that we have lived with for the past four years”. But, as always, the key to rewarding analysis is to ask the right questions.

Is constitutional uncertainty necessarily a bad thing? Given that it is fundamental to our democracy, shouldn’t the constitutional settlement always be subject to scrutiny? Given that the constitution is about political power and where it lies, shouldn’t we heed Tony Benn’s urging and constantly interrogate the powerful demanding to know what power they have; how they obtained that power; in whose interests they use that power; to whom are they accountable for the the exercise of that power; and how they can be deprived of that power?

What constitutional uncertainty is Mundell referring to? Whose uncertainty is he talking about? Is he referring to the precariousness of the British state? Is he talking about the unease felt by by those whose purpose is to lock Scotland into a ‘One Nation’ British state? Does his remark reflect only the fears of a British Nationalist ideologue?

We can, I think, safely assume that Mundell is not referring to the constitutional uncertainty occasioned by Scotland being dragged out of the EU against the democratically expressed wishes of the people. He’s not talking about the distress caused to EU nationals living in Scotland. He’s not talking about the concerns of those who are being forcibly stripped of their EU citizenship with no satisfactory explanation as to what status is to be imposed in its stead.

It is not Mundell’s intention to draw attention to the uncertainty caused by Brexit. When he refers to constitutional uncertainty he is talking only about the fact that, while the 2014 independence referendum provided an indisputable result, it did not produce a decision. It did not resolve the constitutional issue. And the blame for that rests, once again, with the British political elite.

While it was perfectly clear that a Yes vote meant independence by way of a reasonably well described process, there was no indication whatever of what a No vote meant. Initially, it was said to be a vote for the status quo. As the referendum campaign progressed, however, all manner of stuff was hooked onto the No vote – up to and including ‘The Vow’.

In practice, a No vote meant whatever the British establishment wanted it to mean. This turned out to be pretty much the opposite of everything that had been promised. And something very, very far from the status quo that was originally offered. Thus, the referendum produced an indisputable result, but no decision. Because the No option was effectively undefined, a No vote in the referendum could not settle the issue. There was nothing to settle on.

How does Mundell propose to end the constitutional uncertainty which does trouble him? How does he intend to prevent us asking those five questions? How does he plan on fixing Scotland’s constitutional settlement so that he and his fellow British Nationalists can feel secure in their status and power?

We know the answer to this. We know, because the likes of Mundell and Davidson have been unabashedly explicit about their anti-democratic intentions. We know that their malign ambition is to deny Scotland’s right of self-determination. We know, because they’ve come right out and told us, that they mean to deprive the people of Scotland of the right to choose the form of government best suits our needs.

When David Mundell speaks of ending constitutional uncertainty he is talking about nothing less than stilling the beating heart of Scotland’s democracy.

Mundell also says he wants “Scotland’s two governments to work together”. Fine words! Until we juxtapose the expressed sentiment with the actual behaviour of the British state towards the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament. But first let’s ask some more questions.

Does Scotland actually have two governments? That rather depends on how one defines the term ‘government’. If democratic legitimacy is a criterion, then we have only one government. The term ‘government’ is generally understood to mean the group of people with the authority to govern a country. But if we stipulate rightful authority, then that must rule out people who obtained power against the wishes of Scotland’s voters;  who use that power against the interests of Scotland’s people; who are not answerable to Scotland’s electorate; and who cannot be removed from power by Scotland’s democratic processes.

Democratic legitimacy derives solely and exclusively from the consent of the people. Only the Scottish Government enjoys the consent of Scotland’s people. That consent has been consistently and decisively denied to the people David Mundell represents. Those people cannot claim rightful authority. In terms of our definition, therefore, they cannot be regarded as a government. For want of a better term, we might justifiably call them a ‘regime’.

What does Mundell mean when he says “work together”? What does recent history tell us of cooperation between the Scottish Government and the British regime? Is such cooperation likely, or even possible?

When answering these questions people will probably tend to reflect on the way in which the Scottish Government has been excluded from the Brexit negotiations. But we see the British regime’s contempt for Scotland’s elected representatives very plainly in EVEL. And in their insistence that there is ‘no demand’ for a new independence referendum despite electoral and parliamentary mandates. And in the Brexit power-grab. And in the UK Supreme Court action against the Continuity Bill. And in David Mundell referring to our First Minister as ‘Sturgeon’.

In fact, we see in pretty much every aspect of the Scottish Government’s dealings with the British regime a lack of respect which ranges from the thoughtlessly casual to the mindlessly hateful. There is no basis on which to “work together”. The British regime will not allow it.

Mundell isn’t asking for cooperation, he’s demanding compliance. As a British Nationalist, he is absolutely committed to concept of parliamentary sovereignty. He is intellectually incapable of doubting the supremacy of Westminster. He cannot question the British ‘right to rule’. He is the loyal servant of established power.

When Mundell talks of “the best interests of the Scottish people” we have to ask what definition of those interests he has in mind. Who decides what Scotland’s best interests are? Who is entitled to decide? Who speaks for Scotland? Is it the Scottish Parliament, with its democratic legitimacy? Is it the Scottish Government, with its rightful authority? Is it the First Minister, with her mandate to speak and act for the people of Scotland?

Or is it the corrupt and incompetent British political elite at Westminster? Is it the chaotic cliques and fractious factions and puffed-up personalities of the British regime? Is it the likes of David Mundell, who presumes to govern without consent?

Mundell has no doubt. He is unshakably persuaded of the righteousness of his ‘mission’. He is implacably opposed to anything which threatens the established order. And that is what makes him so dangerous. Mundell represents authority without consent. He represents power without accountability. He represents a British regime which is resolutely determined to destroy Scotland’s democracy and install a shadow administration that is neither elected by nor answerable to Scotland’s people.

Davidson is a distraction. She is the British media’s poodle. Mundell is the one to watch. He is the British state’s bulldog.

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Past shame and present pride

chris_mcelenyRoughly enough years ago to be called half a century without fearing accusations of glib exaggeration, there occurred one of the more shameful episodes of a youth not notably lacking in moments that seem cruelly immune to the blessed relief of deteriorating memory. It was late summer and I’d been tipped-off about the possibility of a job with an outside contractor at Rosyth Dockyard. It was construction work – general labouring – and paid reasonably well. I was young and fit, well-accustomed to hard work, with wits and experience enough to be confident that I could dodge the more onerous and arduous aspects of such employment.

Most importantly, it was short-term. The last thing I was looking for was a career and a pension. I just wanted to make enough cash to survive on for a month or two. And by ‘survive’ I mean drink, dance and treat young women in a manner that the older me recalls with shudder. It was the 1960s. I was a teenager. The future was the weekend. Anything much beyond that was a mystery and a matter of almost total indifference.

So, I duly roll up at the gates of HM Dockyard in Rosyth ready for a job interview which, if things went true to form, would amount to little more than providing evidence of life and a National Insurance number. It was an era of full employment and jobs of this menial nature were fairly easy to come by. Which meant that employers tended to treat workers with something which, to the inexperienced eye, might have been mistaken for respect, but which was in reality no more than moderate caution born of a desire to put off as long as possible the trouble and inconvenience of having to find a replacement minion.

Arriving at the timber and glass cubicle of the security checkpoint, I was confronted by an MoD polis with a hat, a badge and a degree in supercilious officiousness who informed me I’d need a pass then slapped a sheet of paper and a pen on the counter in front of me in a manner which managed to imply that he doubted my ability to deal with a task that involved reading and writing. As I set about proving him wrong, he rattled off a stentorian monologue which I seem to recall made repeated mention of the Official Secrets Act, as well as something about penalties – which may have included transportation to Van Diemen’s Land and/or being hanged by the neck until dead. Or it may just have been the way he said it. I really didn’t care. It was Monday morning. My greatest fear was, not antipodean banishment or the gibbet, but that the gaffer might ask me to start right away and thus deny me the opportunity to spend the day in the pub getting used to the idea of not being able to spend my days in the pub for a while.

I duly filled in the form and handed it to this staunch guardian of all that Her Britannic Majesty might take a fancy to. He glanced at it only briefly before tearing it in two and discarding the pieces with a choreographed precision which suggested a practised performance akin to a military salute. In what seemed part of the same manoeuvre, he placed a fresh copy of the form before me declaring, “Ye cannae pit Scoattish!”

“Eh?”, I enquired with all the respectful courtesy I was able to muster in what were rapidly degenerating into trying circumstances.

“Ye cannae pit Scoattish!”, he responded, rather unhelpfully reiterating the point that I was not permitted to enter my nationality as ‘Scottish’ – such as had always been my habit. No more helpfully, the officer went on to state that it was also forbidden to enter ‘Welsh’ or ‘Irish’ in the space reserved for indicating ones nationality. Before I could finish wondering why on Earth I might wish to claim either of these nationalities, my interlocutor (for I did not yet regard him as my tormentor) finally got to the nub of the matter.

“Ye cannae pit Scoattish, Welsh or Irish,” he intoned with the demeanour of a man weary of explaining something which he considered too much part of the natural order to warrant any explanation at all. “Ye huv tae pit British or English.”

I baulked at this. “But I’m Scottish!”, I protested in a voice which may have been less proud than I’d like to think and more plaintive than than I’d like to admit. Let’s blame the hangover.

“No if ye want a pass, yer no!”, responded the man who had by now graduated to the full status of tormentor. “If ye want a pass, ye huv tae pit British or English!”, he insisted.

I was in a quandary. I needed the job. But, as a lifelong Scottish nationalist, how could I deny my true Scottish identity? How could I betray my deeply held political convictions? How could I subordinate my principles to the imperious demands of the British state?

Quite readily, as it turned out. Under pressure, I caved in. I folded like the proverbial cheap suit. I made a choice that I have been deeply ashamed of ever since. I wrote ‘British’.

This episode has haunted me for decades. But it was brought vividly to mind as I read about recent developments in Chris McEleny’s discrimination case against the MoD. The manner in which he has been treated by his employers is ample evidence that attitudes have changed little in the 50 years since I was told I had to renounce my Scottish identity if I wanted to work in a British state facility.

David Mundell almost said something truthful when he controversially claimed that Scotland is not a partner in the UK, but is merely a part of the UK. In reality, Scotland is neither. We are not regarded by the British political elite as partners in a political union. Neither are we seen as part of a British state which this elite holds to be its exclusive province. We are perceived to be, and treated as, part of an owned periphery.

Britain is not a country. It is the structures of power, privilege and patronage which serve the ruling elites at the expense of the rest. It is not a place, but a system. It is not geographically defined. It is primarily defined by what is excluded. Faithful servants of the British state who belong to this excluded periphery, such as David Mundell, exist in a grey area of more or less grudging tolerance. The centre is England. But only in a very vague way. Less uncertain is the periphery’s status as ‘Greater England’.

To be Scottish (or Welsh, or Irish, or Cornish etc.) within the British state is to be a second-class citizen – at best. For a long time, this has not been explicit. It has become more overt particularly as Scotland has developed a distinctive political culture, an increasingly assertiveness and a form of democratic dissent which challenges the structures of the British state.

The response of the British establishment is a crude effort to re-impose control and a fearful defensiveness which has engendered and empowered a truly nasty ‘One Nation’ British Nationalist ideology.

Half a century ago, I was confronted by the precursor of this ideology. I failed to take a stand then. For that reason, if no other, I heartily applaud the stand being taken by Chris McEleny. Never again should anyone who calls themselves Scottish be forced by the apparatus of the British state to chose between their identity and their livelihood. Never again should anyone in Scotland have to suffer dislocation and intimidation at the hands of the British state on account of their pursuit by democratic means of political and constitutional reform.

It is time to put a stop to this. It is time to dissolve the Union.

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Spot the coup!

filthy_handsNews that the Home Office will no longer speak to MSPs about their constituents on immigration matters comes little more than a week after we learned that MSPs are being obstructed from helping constituents with problems claiming benefits. New procedures instituted by the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) mean that MSPs may no longer contact Job Centre staff directly in an effort to resolve constituents’ problems. Regardless of how urgent the situation, they are now required to submit an enquiry by email and await a written response. Now it has been revealed that the Home Office is refusing to engage with MSPs wishing to discuss immigration issues affecting individuals and families in their constituencies.

In both cases, these new arrangements apply only to MSPs. MPs will not be similarly impeded in their efforts to help members of the public. It is difficult not to see a pattern emerging here. Especially when these recent developments are placed alongside other evidence of the British establishment’s increasing antipathy towards the Scottish Parliament. Take, for example, Ruth Davidson’s endlessly repeated insistence that there is ‘no demand. for a new independence referendum in brazen contempt of a decision taken by the Scottish Parliament.

Or the UK Government’s wilful failure to engage with the Scottish Government over the Brexit process.

Or the high-handed, imperious manner in which the UK government swept away the fundamental principle that powers not specifically reserved to Westminster are devolved.

This goes beyond mere ignorance of or disdain for the devolution settlement. What we are seeing is a purposeful and concerted effort to undermine and delegitimise the Scottish Parliament.

This is not new. Devolved powers over income tax and welfare are little more than a clumsily contrived collection of fiscal and political traps and pitfalls that have only been substantially avoided thanks partly to the artlessness of their construction but mainly to the skill and determination of people such as John Swinney, Derek Mackay and Jeane Freeman. Devolution was never more than a device by which to placate democratic dissent whilst continuing to withhold powers from the Scottish Parliament. Latterly, it was transformed into a political weapon deployed against the SNP, the Scottish Government and now the Scottish Parliament itself.

What is different now is that all pretence has been dropped. The attacks on Scotland’s democratic institutions have become as open and unsubtle as the attacks on Scotland’s public services. The effort to diminish and denigrate the Scottish Parliament is being ratcheted up at the same time as the British state’s presence in Scotland is being enhanced and promoted. There is nether accident nor coincidence in the fact that MSPs are being hampered in the performance of their duties whilst the British state pours resources into building up the ‘UK Government in Scotland’. It is not mere happenstance that the British media is redoubling its efforts to raise the profile of British Nationalist politicians like Ruth Davidson whilst shielding them from proper scrutiny.

This is an assault on Scotland’s democracy. This is an effort aimed at eradicating Scotland’s distinctive political culture. This is the British Nationalist ‘One Nation’ project in action. This is a political coup in progress.

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Scotland’s champion

james_wolffeIt is interesting that James Wolffe QC “wants the case thrown out right at the start”. Does this indicate at last the sense of urgency that many of us have been seeking from the SNP administration? It would be gratifying to think so.

Be that as it may, we can certainly welcome the tone of the Lord Advocate’s submission to the UK Supreme Court. It represents an explicit and forceful challenge to the arrogantly assumed supremacy of Westminster and the idea that the British ruling elites can dispose of Scotland as they please. It may be seen as asserting on behalf of the Scottish Parliament a democratic legitimacy which Westminster lacks. Behind the legalese lies the simple claim that the Scottish Parliament truly speaks for Scotland in a way that Westminster never can.

This is important. This is crucial. Our Parliament is the foundation on which our democracy is built. It is the soil from which has grown Scotland’s distinctive political culture. It is the guardian of our precious public services. It is the guarantor of our right of self-determination. The facilitator of our capacity to choose the form of government which best serves the needs, priorities and aspirations of Scotland’s people.

The people of Scotland are sovereign. The Scottish Parliament gives agency to that sovereignty. It is the alternative – and the antidote – to the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state. It is what stands between us and the anti-democratic British Nationalist ‘One Nation’ project. It must be defended by every means available to us. It must be defended in the courts. If necessary, it must be defended on the streets.

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