Monthly Archives: August 2015


Forget Faslane

With this country’s massive needs in housing and renewable energy, it is typical that the only public spending announcement the Tories wish to make is on more potential for death and destruction at Faslane. The politics of the ludicrous claims on employment creation are risibly transparent. Don’t vote SNP! Don’t Vote Corbyn! This is not an industrial or a services economy, its the WMD economy.

I was frustrated during the referendum campaign by the mealy-mouthed response to the unionists constant carping on about job losses at Faslane. Chucking out Trident will cause job losses. Good. Doing evil should not be sustained as a job creation scheme.

It is like arguing to keep the Spanish Inquisition going because of the workers it employs. Woodcutters gather the material for the burning alive of heretics. Skilled workers lay the faggots and construct the bonfires. Blacksmiths forge fetters and implements of torture. Then the torturers themselves have good steady jobs, and what of the clerks who write down the confessions? Ending the Spanish Inquisition would cause economic disruption.

I think that pushes the parallel far enough, but it is a sad comment on our moral relativism that anyone is allowed to talk of employment at Faslane as a bonus without being roundly ridiculed and socially shamed. As usual Osborne’s numbers are a trick of mostly totaling existing plans over a lengthy period. But even if this was genuine investment, he should be told where to stuff it. Scotland must not be a WMD based economy.

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Serial Reject

I have just been rejected at vetting (again) by the SNP and therefore cannot put myself forward to fellow members as a potential parliamentary candidate. This time they added the somewhat gratuitous comment that I would not only be “unbecoming” as a parliamentary candidate, but as a member. They also suggested, in writing, that I owe a public apology to senior figures in the party. I have written back to ask to whom and why (I really have no idea). I have not received any reply to that yet. I have received a reply to a second query, and am told that the “unbecoming” comment does not indicate any desire or expectation that I should resign membership. Indeed they say they hope my contribution will continue, but as my sole contribution appears to be as a whipping-boy I can’t quite see why I should share that hope.

You will forgive my posting some videos which I think explain the case for my defence:

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Obviously this all causes me to think long and hard about my future political effort. My key focus is ensuring that neither excessive caution nor that most insidious temptation, managerialism and the comfort of power and office, prevents an early second referendum. It is very easy to convince yourself that you are doing good in your taxpayer-paid job. Status is seductive. The SNP is full of siren voices arguing that they should enjoy their spoils for a decade or two while maintaining a steady trudge towards independence. They whisper that we have to await a 60% Yes lead in the opinion polls before we try again as another defeat would be disastrous.

But the greater danger is that the momentum fades. You would have to be the greatest optimist in the World to imagine a more favourable conjunction of circumstances for Independence than an extremist Tory government at Westminster, a Labour Party in meltdown, the Liberals almost eliminated and the SNP supreme in Scotland. Plus the residue of the huge momentum of the IndyI campaign, which put on 14 points in 12 months.

This dream conjunction will not last forever. The great danger is letting the moment slip through our fingers. If pro-Indy candidates sweep Holyrood, having already swept Westminster, we would be quite entitled to declare independence without a referendum. As I repeat till I am blue in the face, the majority of countries in the world have become independent states in my own lifetime, and the vast majority of those without a referendum. There is no legal requirement for one, and it is essential that we retain the threat of UDI in case Cameron tries to refuse a referendum; otherwise we are accepting a Westminster veto on the will of the Scottish people.

A referendum in 2018 must be the goal, with the threat of UDI should Cameron refuse. That is what I want to work for. I am only an individual, actively disowned by the party of Scottish government. But nonetheless I shall dedicate my energies to this goal.

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Beware of Chilcot

I am worried that the continued delay in the publication of Chilcot’s report is giving rise to expectations that it will be forthright and damning of Blair and his supporters. Nothing could be further from the truth. Even though Blair plunged us into an illegal war with dreadful long-term consequences, the report has always been designed to be a typical Whitehall fudge. Mistakes made – errors of judgement – all in good faith – lessons learned. You don’t have to wait for it, that is it.

The Chilcot team was handpicked by Gordon Brown – himself up to his neck in guilt for the illegal invasion – and three of the five had been aggressive proponents of the war. The remaining two, Chilcot and Baroness Prasad, are “sound” for the Establishment. Let me remind you of my analysis of the committee members in 2009. Sir Lawrence Freedman was an active propagandist for the invasion while Sir Martin Gilbert (died while contributing to the committee) was so enamoured of the invasion he compared Bush and Blair to Roosevelt and Churchill. Rod Lyne was actively involved in selling the WMD lies and arguably in danger of war crime accusation himself.

None of the committee members had ever expressed the slightest doubt about the Iraq War while 60% had actively promoted it. Of Chilcot himself the eminent international lawyer Phillippe Sands noted:

“Sir John’s spoonfed questions give every impression of being designed to elicit a response from the attorney general that would demonstrate the reasonableness of his actions and those of the government.”

The point of the delay is to give the impression Chilcot has been absolutely painstaking and therefore the bucket of whitewash he will throw cannot be hiding anything.

Do not be fooled.

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Down From the Mountain

It is hard to describe why I find DTRH such an uplifting experience. To quote this year’s Herald review “you’d have to be half-mad to dream up Doune the Rabbit Hole. Since 2010, the family-friendly Stirlingshire festival has appeared to shirk any nod to corporate sponsorship or commercialism, in favour of a home-grown hillside hoopla.” The “appeared to” hides nothing – it most definitely does shirk all sponsorship and commercialism, and that is a little it of its charm. Another element is, as Festival Director Jamie Murray put it “It’s only a pop-up community, but it’s a community nonetheless.” Great way with words, that man. Wonder where he gets it from?

It really is a community, and one in which former strangers talk to each other readily and sometimes profoundly. Add to that a delight in the skills of music creation of highly eclectic kinds, and you achieve this happy mix between the cider fair in Far From the Madding Crowd, a hippy sixties commune, and a very peculiar Glasgow night club. Throw in hundreds of very happy children and beautiful tranquil countryside, and you start to get the idea. I always return envigorated and somehow washed clean of the pollution of the corrupt abuses of power I analyse in the other 51 weeks of the year. I don’t pretend this makes sense. It’s magic.

Could partly just be exhaustion of course – I put in one 20 hour shift organising and running the bar, and at one stage had 13 hours sleep in 96 hours. Many readers of this blog were there as volunteers or just soaking it in, and a special shout out to Clark, Nevermind and Bill who all put in an astonishing amount of unpaid labour. It is worth pointing out that none of the directors, organisers or volunteers is paid or remunerated. The bands are.

This nice little video from Stirling Council gives some idea of the daytime atmosphere

While there is a lovely gallery here from the same source.

I love this video, which briefly features a head shaking Nadira and gives a broader perspective:

Finally this little snippet gives an idea of the audience experience in the evening:

The challenge now is to keep its special atmosphere and amateur community nature as the festival gets bigger every year. Part of this is eschewing plastic commercial music acts. The continued involvement of the readers of this blog is another part. Planning for next year has already started. I have just about come down from the experience now, but feel buoyed amidst a sea of troubles.

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The UK Hits Moral Rock Bottom

I return from summer break with a shock as the UK hits moral rock bottom. On the day that it is revealed that 2,380 people in three years died within 14 days of being declared fit to work by an ATOS assessment and having benefit stopped, we also have 45 of the most appalling members of the political class elevated to trough it for life in the House of Lords, at a possible cost to the taxpayer of 67,500 pounds per week in attendance allowances alone.

It is worth remembering that it was the Red Tories who brought in ATOS, and Yvette Cooper, to be precise, who ordered the extreme tightening of the unfit to work assessment which has resulted in death for thousands and dreadful stress and misery for hundreds of thousands. Ian Duncan Smith may have also gleefully implemented it, but this particular horror was entirely inherited from the Guardian’s favourite leadership candidate.

The House of Lords appointments are so horrible it is difficult to comment. The most utterly objectionable of all is one of the least known to the public. Stuart Polak becomes a Lord for services to the Conservative Friends of Israel. That you can, unelected, become a legislator of the UK based on your loyalty and service to another state is appalling.

Others are more obviously dreadful. Lord Hogg now has a title that befits the moat of his home, which he had cleaned by the taxpayer prompting much rage in the expenses scandal. Tessa Jowell benefited from hundreds of thousands of pounds of corrupt money from the sordid Berlusconi, claiming she did not read the mortgage documents in which his cash paid off her house, before she signed them, and going through an entirely risible pretence of temporary separation from her husband, David Mills, who escaped a corrupt Italian justice system. David Willetts was rejected by his constituents because of extreme expenses scamming, and walks grinning back into the Lords.

Michelle Mone is rewarded for her opposition to Scottish independence. The woman sold out the workforce who made her fortune by expensively covering her crotch and now comes out as a Tory knicker saleswoman. Darling also is ennobled for services to the union, after being too cowardly to face the electorate in May. The Lib Dems get more legislators today than they could manage at the general election. That is simply astonishing.

The conduct of the political class is utterly shameless. Meantime they indulge their fantasies of stripping workers of all protection and of stopping aid to the needy, and while the politicians gorge and gorge, the poor are quietly being slipped away to die.

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Kezia Dugdale Got Just 5,217 Votes

The Labour Party is being remarkably coy about releasing the actual result of its Scottish accounting unit leadership election, giving only a percentage. The entirely complacent unionist media is complicit in what amounts to a deception. The stunning truth is that in a one person, one vote election among the entire membership of the Labour Party in Scotland plus trades union supporters, Dugdale won with 5,217 votes (out of a claimed electorate of 21,000, many of whom do not exist or could not be arsed to choose between two right wing numpties).

UPDATE: A second Labour figure just rang me to assure me my information – which was from a good source – is wrong. She would not give the actual figure and only said it was “higher”. I offered to take down the post and publish an accurate figure if she would give it, but this was declined.

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Jeremy Corbyn and the SNP

Today on my first full day back in Scotland (and only my fourth day in the UK in the past 8 weeks) I went to Jeremy Corbyn’s rally in Edinburgh. I have shared platforms with Jeremy, particularly for Stop the War, fairly frequently and had a number of conversations and email exchanges, but I would not claim to be a friend. I have the impression he is quite a private man.

I was impressed by Jeremy’s talk and by the energy in the room. Jeremy was at his strongest when referring to the need for basic human decency and respect in our treatment of those in need for aid from the state, including the homeless and refugees. His basic human empathy and compassion really shone through. He was contemptuous of austerity, marketisation and the neoliberal consensus. His denunciation of Iraq and of Trident galvanised the room. He can talk with a genuine moral authority. He is certainly not a great orator, but sincere and fluent.

All that you already know. But what to me was really interesting was the lack of focus on Scotland. Many (including I think Iain MacWhirter from a brief conversation afterwards) interpreted this as lack of interest in Scotland. I read it very differently.

Despite being surrounded by the most tribal of Labour cliques (including Katie Clark and Neil Findlay on the platform) Jeremy Corbyn said not one word – not one word – in favour of the union. His only mention of the SNP (not by name) was complimentary, in reference to their opposition to Osborne’s welfare cuts. He contrasted this with strong condemnation of the Labour establishment’s failure to oppose the welfare cuts. He then went on to call for united opposition across parties at Westminster, and suggested it would be great if working with other parties and a few Tory rebels, the first act of a reinvigorated opposition would be to halt the benefit cuts which would so damage the vulnerable. In short, Corbyn was plainly taking the hand proffered by Mhairi Black.

In looking for votes from Scottish Labour, I am not surprised nor concerned that Corbyn did not refer by name to cooperation with the SNP, but he could have meant nothing else.

Jeremy has for his political life been a strong advocate of a united Ireland and a doughty campaigner against the injustices heaped upon Republicans by the state. He is in no sense a unionist. He is certainly not a British nationalist. Doubtless he would prefer a left wing Scotland to help forge a socialist state within the United Kingdom, but I have no doubt whatsoever that he respects those of us who see Scottish independence as the same anti-Imperial struggle that motivates Irish republicanism.

In short, I am hopeful that a Corbyn leadership will moderate the tribal hatred between Labour and SNP which poisons Scottish politics. Whatever else you may think of Jeremy, he certainly is not a Red Tory. Whether he will be able to clear out the Red Tories who control Scottish Labour is a fascinating question. But I must say, that I am deeply saddened by some of the partisan attacks on Jeremy by fellow SNP members which I see online. Jeremy Corbyn is a good man. In the fight to end the obscenity of the extreme and burgeoning gap between rich and poor, to counter the dwindling of public provision and public ownership, Corbyn is on the side of the angels. As we would put it when I was young, we are on the same side of the barricade.

I still believe Scottish independence remains the key to social regeneration, and indeed had not the SNP shown you can defeat the neo-liberal consensus electorally, then the Corbyn phenomenon would never have happened. But I still claim Jeremy as my comrade, and am proud to do so.

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In Safe Hands

I am in Tbilisi at the moment, where I spent this early morning drinking tea with some of the 2,000 strong Yazidi community. They see their religion as much more closely descended from Zoroastrianism than appears in most accounts I have read.

I very much enjoyed a visit to Tsinandali which was most useful for gaining a Russian perspective of the Great Game. I don’t have my books with me and am suffering a mental block as to whether it was Connoly, Abbott or Malcolm who visited Tsinandali. I had not realised that Griboyedov was married to a daughter of the house, Nina Chavchavadze. The murder of Griboyedov, Russian Ambassador in Tehran, by a mob rates little more than a footnote in British accounts of the Great Game, even though the British had bribed the religious authority to stir up the riots. What revisionist history there has been, has come from the Iranian side and falsely tried to obscure the fact that the refugees Griboyedov was sheltering were runaway slaves from harems.

This is a neglected recurring theme. When Shuja agreed the treaty already negotiated between Macnaghten and Ranjit Singh, the main stipulation he sought to add was that the British would return to him any runaway slave girls. The immediate motive for the ringleader of the attack on Alexander Burnes was that Burnes had refused to intervene to return a runaway slave girl who had sought the protection of another British officer. My fellow anti-imperialist historians have in general been guilty of emphasising rapaciousness by the British in these incidents and overlooking or excusing the slave status of the girls. Both aspects need to be faced squarely to write honestly the full facts of history. Tellingly, it is generally impossible to recover names of the girls involved.

Griboyedov deserves to be remembered for much more than his murder. An accomplished playwright and poet, he was a friend of Pushkin and had links to the dissident groups who attempted revolution in 1825. His murder left Nina a widow at either 17 or 19 by different accounts, and pregnant. She lost the child on hearing of her husband’s death, and never remarried. It is a tragic story which came alive to me in visiting the family home.

Griboyedov had fought Napoleon in the 1812 campaign, but had helped those Napoleonic adventurers Allard and Ventura evade a British blockade and go into service with Ranjit Singh. Griboyedov’s successor as Russian Ambassador to Tehran, Simonicz, had actually fought on the Napoleonic side against Russia, presumably in the Polish Legion. Nina’s sister was to marry a Murad nephew of Napoleon. The political elites of Europe melded quickly after the convulsion.

With which clumsy segue I shall note that the battle against the entrenched political elites of the UK appears to be going extremely well without me. I cannot express without a welling up of real emotion how happy I am that all I have been saying about the stultifying neo-liberal consensus and exclusion of dissent, and appalling burgeoning wealth gap between rich and poor, has found such massive traction between Jeremy Corbyn in England and the SNP in Scotland. I may have gone AWOL for a few days, but the cause of social justice appears in extremely safe hands.

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