Monthly Archives: May 2021


Fighting On

Just to let you know that, after a week of feeling horribly ill, I am now pretty well recovered and ready for the challenges ahead. I will get the MRI scan results next week, but not particularly apprehensive.

I see yesterday the supposedly irresistible combination of Gordon Brown and the follically challenged Earl Strathearn met secretly to save the union. Which is a good time to remind you of this fact, which the media have wiped from history:

Gordon Brown, 2010 UK General Election: 8,609,527 votes – 29.0%

Jeremy Corbyn, 2019 UK General Election: 10,269.051 votes – 32.1%

By tacking hard to the right, confusing opposition with abstention, and making uncritical support of Israel a condition of membership, Keir Starmer is trying very, very hard to do even worse than the idiot Brown. But it’s a tough bar to get below.

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EU States Combined to Force Down Snowden Flight

The USA, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Austria combined to force down President Evo Morales’ jet in Vienna in 2013 after the CIA falsely reported whistleblower Edward Snowden was on board. The monumental cynicism of these nations in sanctioning Belarus for a directly comparable action is sickening, even by the standards of western hypocrisy. Indeed, to force down a Presidential jet covered by diplomatic immunity is a greater offence to international law than Belarus forcing down the Ryanair flight.

Both actions are wrong. You will excuse me also for pointing out that there is no sanction on Israel for targeting over 30 news organisations in Gaza and bombing them.

Perhaps I might go still further and mention that as I am about to go to jail for dissident blogging, I see the western powers as having limited moral authority to complain of Belarus jailing dissident bloggers? That is even without mentioning the long term persecution and entirely false accusation of my friend and the world’s greatest exposer of war crimes and government corruption, Julian Assange.

Apologies for the very short post. Am not too well and have been confined to bed since yesterday. I have an MRI scan in the morning, but hope and intend to bounce back very soon.

In the event I am put in jail at short notice, I wish to make plain that I am absolutely happy with my family and in fighting form, raring to get to the Supreme Court and there is no chance whatsoever that I will voluntarily commit suicide.

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Forgive me for pointing out that my ability to provide this coverage is entirely dependent on your kind voluntary subscriptions which keep this blog going. This post is free for anybody to reproduce or republish, including in translation. You are still very welcome to read without subscribing.

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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Chilling – Not In a Good Way

Dave Llewellyn sat next to me in the public gallery of the Salmond trial as we witnessed the defence witnesses – largely female – who shredded the prosecution case. A few weeks ago, seven detectives of the Serious Crime Squad raided Dave’s home at 5am, handcuffed him and questioned him over conspiracy to murder – in relation to a public Facebook post. Dave has now been charged with a lesser but still imprisonable offence.

You will recall Mark Hirst, friend of both Dave and I, being charged with threatening communication for using the expression “reap the whirlwind” in a political sense – a charge from the Crown Office so outrageous that it was eventually thrown out by the court as “no case to answer”. Well, the Dave Llewellyn case is extremely similar.

Future poet laureate John Betjeman should have been hung, drawn and quartered, oh at least three times, for writing in his famous poem “Come, friendly bombs, and fall on Slough”, if the standard of pretend literalness and credulity being applied by Police Scotland and the Crown Office had been applied to Betjeman. (And no, Dave’s post does not reference bombs.)

The truth is that in Scotland we now have a police, prosecutorial and justice system which is at the disposal of the Sturgeon clique for the pursuit of their private vendettas against political opponents. The fact that I am set to be jailed for “jigsaw identification”, when I demonstrably and provably did far less of this difficult to define activity than the mainstream media, who have not been prosecuted, is further evidence of that, as were the charges against Mark Hirst, and indeed Jeremy Gilchrist.

Please note that all of these political prosecutions have been based on thought crime. People in a small and definable political group – all people I know – are being prosecuted merely for publishing or saying things which annoy somebody in the Sturgeon clique. This is even before the Hate Crime Act, with its further swingeing restrictions on free speech, comes into effect. These are very dangerous times indeed to be any kind of dissident writer or campaigner in Scotland. The interesting thing, of course, is that the political orthodoxy being enforced is superficially liberal-left; a set of right-on beliefs whose exponents are so convinced of their own morality, they are happy to jail anybody who differs.

My personal crime against this orthodoxy is not to accept the mantra that all men accused of sex crime are automatically guilty, and that the “victim” must always be believed, whatever the evidence to the contrary. I also think people accused of serious crime should have the right to be judged by a jury of their peers. These are seriously unfashionable opinions.

On Tuesday I wrote a different post to this. It actually gave the detail of what David Llewellyn posted, and examined it. My article also revealed who was behind the complaint against him, and referred to some interesting history of Llewellyn’s own investigations.

However I received strong advice that to publish my article might itself be construed contempt of court, and that I ran the risk of being instantly jailed rather than free pending appeal, and further that to publish may attract yet another political prosecution from the Crown Office. I therefore did not publish and cannot give you the detail of the Llewellyn case, at least until after its conclusion.

I find this deeply depressing. I should not, in normal circumstances, have had the slightest hesitation in giving you the detail of what is happening to Dave Llewellyn, and more importantly why, in the same way I did with Mark Hirst. I find the notion that my own journalism is successfully being “chilled” in this way highly worrying, and this adds to the sense of injustice I feel in my own case. In fact anger and perhaps even humiliation at the powerlessness – and fear I am becoming a coward – has pretty well prostrated me for three days. I feel somewhat recovered now, and determined to fight on. But for the first time I find myself seriously considering, after my case is concluded, leaving my beloved Scotland and going to live in a country which does not jail dissident writers.

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Forgive me for pointing out that my ability to provide this coverage is entirely dependent on your kind voluntary subscriptions which keep this blog going. This post is free for anybody to reproduce or republish, including in translation. You are still very welcome to read without subscribing.

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

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What is Left for Palestine?

Western media and politicians are now firmly coalesced around the Israeli government narrative. Israel is unwillingly fighting a war of self-defence in Gaza after hostilities were commenced by aggressive Hamas military attack. The storming of Al Aqsa mosque, the shooting at people in prayer, the right wing mobs attacking East Jerusalem, the Krystallnacht style destruction of Palestinian businesses and lynching of Arab Israelis, none of that ever happened at all. What happened was that Hamas launched a missile war and Israel was obliged, ever so reluctantly, to exercise its right of self defence, with enormous care not to hit civilians, except that, entirely accidentally, the IDF has killed a couple of hundred civilians including scores of children.

Palestinians die in the passive voice in western media. The media always says they “have died”; they were never “killed”, and there is virtually never any attribution of the death. By contrast, Israelis are active voice “killed by Hamas” or “killed by missile strikes”. Look out for this journalistic sophistry – once you see it, you can’t unsee it.

I used to be a firm opponent of missile strikes from Gaza. My view was firstly, that they cannot be militarily targeted so constitute an attack on civilians, secondly that they were a gift to Israeli propaganda, and thirdly that they were militarily ineffective. All of those remain true, and yet my view has changed and I find myself celebrating the fact that Hamas has, against all odds, managed to acquire more and better missiles. Part of that change of view is that I have come to see that there is no such thing as an innocent adult coloniser. But the bigger part is that I cannot see what on earth else the Palestinians are supposed to do.

Western politicians obviously believe that the Palestinians should accept apartheid quietly, and should have the good grace silently to wither away. The ultra-venal leaders of the majority of Arab states also wish the Palestinians would just die and allow them to enjoy the lavish personal benefits of their new alliances with Israel. It is absolutely plain there is no political process of any kind in train to alleviate the Palestinian plight, that even those “liberal” western politicians who floated the idea of a “two state solution” meant, at best, internationally recognised apartheid and bantustans. Joe Biden manages the remarkable feat of being still more zionist than Donald Trump.

Were I a Palestinian, I should undoubtedly have concluded that for an entire nation to turn the other cheek to a power which is seriously intent on genocide, is not a viable policy. Military resistance may seem hopeless, but sometimes to attempt to live with a shout of defiance and an effort to fight is the only dignified option remaining to a human.

It was a beautiful day in Glasgow yesterday for the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Committee demo, and it was great to be able to meet up again with so many magnificent and public-spirited people. It was an especially young crowd, which was excellent, and I was able to meet many Palestinians who drew comfort from the public support at a traumatic time.

Watching Mick Napier very much in charge of events, I was struck by the thought that there are so many really excellent and altruistic people who put their heart and entire lives into good causes for very little credit. Mick has been involved with SPSC as long as I can remember, has won important court victories in Scotland against ridiculous definitions of anti-semitism, and I have seen him at vigils on cold wet nights with a dozen people there. It made me realise how many Mick Napiers I have had the great privilege to know. We must not take the good-hearted for granted.

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Forgive me for pointing out that my ability to provide this coverage is entirely dependent on your kind voluntary subscriptions which keep this blog going. This post is free for anybody to reproduce or republish, including in translation. You are still very welcome to read without subscribing.

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

Choose subscription amount from dropdown box:

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Alternatively by bank transfer or standing order:

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Subscriptions are still preferred to donations as I can’t run the blog without some certainty of future income, but I understand why some people prefer not to commit to that.

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Pollokshields Shows How To Achieve Independence

Kenmure Street stood outside UK law yesterday, as Westminster legislation on immigration, opposed by the people of Scotland, could not physically be enforced by agents of the state. What the people did was gloriously, joyfully illegal. Its illegality must be embraced, not skated over by politicians worried at the precedent of people power.

Scottish cities have a history of social solidarity, and in my lifetime I remember similar scenes over warrant sales and poll tax, and of course roots of popular resistance in Glasgow can be traced back through Tommy Sheridan, Jimmy Reid and John MacLean. But there is, undeniably, an added element of nationalism here. The handmade banners decrying “Team UK” in Kenmure St and the active presence of the SNP’s Roza Salih in a community leadership role, will both be seen as significant in an event which future historians will rightly view as a socially important step on the road to Independence.

There is a strong understanding that this is English oriented immigration law and English racist attitudes towards immigrants, being imposed on a Scotland which feels very differently. Indeed, the contrast between Kenmure Street, and the Labour electoral collapse in Northern England as their voters turn to more open panderers of anti-immigrant snake oil, could not be stronger. It is a part of why Labour in Scotland is doomed until it embraces Independence.

But Kenmure Street is an example in a much wider way. I have repeatedly explained, in detail, that Scotland has the right to self-determination in international law. which specifically states that right cannot be constrained by the domestic legislation of the state from which you are seceding. Otherwise Latvia would still be Soviet and Slovenia would still be Yugoslav. Westminster legislation and its Supreme Court cannot override Scotland’s right to self-determination. It is an inalienable right.

The UK state will never accept the great loss to its resources that would result from Scottish Independence. Scottish territory, seas, military bases, renewable energy, water, minerals, food products, financial institutions, education, and above all “human capital” to exploit, are all viewed as essential to London.

Keeping Scotland is the most vital of all UK national interests. As I have explained till I am blue in the face, David Cameron only agreed the last referendum because at the time Independence stood around 28% in the polls and the UK state apparatus believed the referendum would destroy and humiliate the very idea of Independence. Instead of which, the astonishing Alex Salmond brought it to the brink of achievement.

Where it has hovered ever since.

That is why there will never be another referendum agreed by Whitehall. Even if Johnson wanted to agree (which he doesn’t), the security services, military and other power structures of the UK Establishment would prevent him.

Nor can Scotland, “legally” in terms of UK law, hold a referendum without agreement. The UK Supreme Court has already explicitly held that Westminster is sovereign, in its ruling that the Sewell Convention has no force in law. If, as she suggests, Nicola Sturgeon leaves it to the courts to decide if a referendum without a S30 is legal, I have no doubt whatsoever – not even 0.000001% uncertainty – that one of two things will happen.

(1) Either the Supreme Court will rule that, under the current Scotland Act, an advisory referendum on a reserved matter is illegal without Westminster agreement;
[I think that would very probably be the ruling; ultra vires expenditure]

(2) Or the Tories will simply amend the Scotland Act to specifically outlaw the referendum, which the UK Supreme Court will certainly uphold because of their established doctrine that sovereignty resides in Westminster.

Either way, one thing is absolutely clear. There will never be a “legal” referendum as legality is defined by London. It is just not going to happen. Independence is going to have to be achieved illegally in terms of UK law, but legally in terms of international law.

How do you do that? I am constantly told this is impossible, that the UK state will act to prevent it happening. Well, we saw the answer in Pollokshields yesterday, and very plainly. The British government cannot enforce its law on the streets of Scotland if the people of Scotland reject that UK law and its enforcers. Yesterday there were riot shields, helmets, long batons, horses, and all the panoply of repression on display, and all of that could not take two men out of the community, against the will of the people.

Pollokshields showed how the people of Scotland will eventually take their own Independence. The “illegal” way in British law. The Gandhi way. The Mandela way. The people’s way. You cannot impose UK law on the people of Scotland.

I can’t tell you exactly how it will happen. Kenmure St crowds may be protecting polling stations, may be protecting the parliament. But happen it will. The people of Scotland will take Independence sooner than people realise. We will not just wait on Boris Johnson or the UK Supreme Court for permission. Come it will for a’that.

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Forgive me for pointing out that my ability to provide this coverage is entirely dependent on your kind voluntary subscriptions which keep this blog going. This post is free for anybody to reproduce or republish, including in translation. You are still very welcome to read without subscribing.

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

Choose subscription amount from dropdown box:

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Appeal For Defence Funds 532

UPDATE I today received a prison sentence of eight months for my reporting of the defence case in the Alex Salmond trial. I have a three week stay while we apply to this same court for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court. My appeal will be based on the simple fact that I did not identify anybody. It will also be based on the right to report the defence case being denied by an extraordinary, impossibly strict application of “jigsaw identification”, and on fair process not having been observed.

Should this court refuse permission to appeal, which seems not unlikely, I will in all probability be jailed while we apply direct to the Supreme Court for permission, which will take some months.

I am afraid I find myself once again obliged to ask you for funding for the appeal. We have raised about £70,000 but are likely to need, at the least, double that.

UPDATE The defence fund has received £46,520 in the 24 hours since it was relaunched to fund the appeal to the Supreme Court. That does not get us there, but it is a good start on our way as the appeal continues. Over 2,000 people have donated, with the smallest donation being 82p and the largest £1,000. Every penny is greatly appreciated. I should make plain that despite the astronomical costs, some members of our legal team have been working substantially below their normal rates and with time donated free.

One donation of £500 from a gentleman I know, came with a note that explained that Willie MacRae had lent him £100 shortly before his highly suspect death. He regarded the £500 as repaying that debt, and was sure Willie would approve of the use of his money. That brought tears to my eyes.

UPDATE ENDS

On Friday I shall be sentenced, very possibly to prison, for contempt of court by “jigsaw identification”. While I do not believe anybody has ever been imprisoned for “jigsaw identification” before, my entire prosecution has been so perverse that I cannot imagine why they have done it unless that is the intention.

With enormous diffidence and frankly embarrassment, I find myself yet again obliged to ask people to contribute towards my defence fund before my hearing next Friday, to enable us to move forward with an appeal to the Supreme Court. Legal bills actually paid to date amount to £161,000, with about eight thousand not billed yet. Non-legal costs, including the opinion poll, total around £9,000. The total raised by the defence fund to date is around £143,000 with the balance of around £18,000 paid so far having come from my personal pocket.

The practical result of the judgement against me is that it is virtually impossible to report the defence in any sexual allegation case; as witness the fact that I was ordered by the court to take down every single word of my articles covering the defence case and evidence.

The judges ruled that publishing any information that could theoretically assist not the public, but literally a colleague who worked in the same office, to identify a complainant, would constitute jigsaw identification. They also ruled that jigsaw identification was committed if you gave a piece of information which could identify a complainant in conjunction with information that could be found anywhere else, no matter how obscure. For example, if information from page 19 of the Inverurie Herald six years ago, combined with information from page 178 of a book, combined with something I published could lead to an identification, I am guilty regardless of whether or not anybody did in practice actually piece together these obscure sources of information.

In fact the court heard nothing that would pass as evidence in court that any individual had in fact identified anybody as a result of my articles. There was zero evidence of harm. What has been harmful is the gross censorship of my journalism, with my entire daily account of the defence case removed, and my critique of the Garavelli article removed. In consequence, it is once again virtually impossible for anybody to discover WHY Alex Salmond was acquitted, enabling the massive state and media led campaign to claim he was really guilty – which sadly appears, with the counter-narrative banned, to have acquired great traction.

You will recall that I commissioned a Panelbase opinion poll which proved that a significant 8% of the Scottish population – that is around 400,000 adults – believed they had been able to identify one or more of the complainants in the Salmond case from publication, but when asked stated that the source of this caption was overwhelmingly the mainstream media.

Well I decided to re-run the opinion poll to see if anything had changed. These were the results. 11% of the Scottish adult population – that is half a million adults – by now believe they know an identity. This is how they know:



It is perfectly clear and entirely consistent with the first poll. 54% of people who believe they know an identity got their information from the newspapers. 27% got it from TV and radio (there may be overlap between these groups).

Yet no newspaper or TV journalist or editor is being prosecuted.
Not even Dani Garavelli, who is overwhelmingly named as the source of information – by fifteen different people – is being prosecuted.

So let us be perfectly clear. The three top sources named for identification were

Dani Garavelli – by a country mile
Kirsty Wark
BBC

None of whom is being prosecuted. Garavelli has published an entire series of major articles amplifying the prosecution case against Salmond, in Tortoise media, twice in Scotland on Sunday and in the London Review of Books, plus many other well paid commissions. She has effectively made a fat living out of an entirely one-sided account that claims miscarriage of justice simply by omitting all the defence evidence. In so doing she has plainly been much more credibly guilty of jigsaw identification than I. On the other hand, my long critique of Garavelli’s first Scotland on Sunday article, which interpolated the defence evidence which contradicted her account and proved that the jury was right, has now been banned, censored and desroyed by the court, the 21st century equivalent of burning the manuscript in the public square.

Garavelli has gone on to become media-puppet-in-chief to the Scottish government, producing a stream of adulatory articles about Nicola Sturgeon like this one about what a great constituency MSP Sturgeon is, which is (ahem) somewhat contrary to received wisdom.

Garavelli is protected because she is part of the inner circle, while I am prosecuted, when the mainstream media is not, because I am an opponent of the corrupt nexus of power that governs Scotland today. The official line is that through enthusiasm for Salmond’s cause I revealed information to the public that the mainstream media did not. That is a fiction the Scottish legal system has chosen to adopt, and for which I will be sentenced on Friday.

All the real world evidence shows that is untrue. I revealed far less than the mainstream media revealed. This is a shameless and openly political prosecution of one of the very few platforms of any size which explained the truth about why Alex Salmond was acquitted by the jury. That is my “crime”.

We have to get this out of the foetid corruption of Edinburgh and into Strasbourg. That is only possible via the UK Supreme Court, and my legal team are now working on that appeal. I urge you to subscribe not only because of the particular injustice of my own case, but also because this ruling puts a huge power in the hands of the state by making it next to impossible to report the defence in cases of sexual allegation. As such allegations are the favoured tool of the state against perceived dissident threats (cf Julian Assange), this is very dangerous indeed.

You can contribute to my defence fund here. I am extremely grateful to those who have and I want to stress that I absolutely do not want anybody to contribute if it causes them even the slightest financial difficulty. I am afraid to say that the amounts we need to raise remain ridiculous; this fact is of course all part of the implementation of suppression, by “lawfare”.




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Those Scottish Elections, and What Happens Now

Well, there is no denying an overwhelming SNP victory, with an increased vote, increased seats, increased percentage and double the support of the next largest party. Together with the Greens there is a substantial pro-Independence majority in the Parliament, so that matter is settled. Personally I would welcome an SNP/Green coalition with a guaranteed pro-Independence majority of at least fourteen (depending on who is presiding officer). It would remove the Tory jibe that there is not a majority government. But I suspect the SNP will prefer to go it alone again.

The dominant question is Indyref2. It remains my fear that Nicola does not want to actually move for Independence, and will merely continue to make pretend moves in that direction. In the campaign she continually hedged around with not just after Covid, but after the effects of covid, and then the final resort piece of hedging that a referendum must be “legal”.

Let me spell out my fears. I do not claim I am right, because it is impossible for me to know either Sturgeon’s mind, or the future. But it is my best prognostication based on my own assessment of the public indications, and information from sources including several SNP MPs and MSPs.

I expect no serious steps towards Indyref2 to be taken before 2023, on the excuse of Covid, except possibly some more meaningless “enabling” legislation with no dates, to keep the troops believing.

In 2023 I expect Sturgeon to ask Johnson for a S30 in the full knowledge he will refuse, and I expect an answer to be stalled until 2024. I expect that then Sturgeon will be happy to see the matter go to the courts, at the behest of one side or the other. Sturgeon knows very well that the UK Supreme Court will state that the Westminster parliament is ultimately sovereign, because within the UK it is sovereign. That is why we need to leave this union.

It is very probable that Johnson will amend the Scotland Act specifically to preclude a referendum without Westminster permission. By then we will be at the next Scottish parliamentary elections, and Sturgeon will stand in 2025 or 6 on the basis that a referendum must be legal, we must ask Johnson for a S30, and for him to refuse would be a “democratic outrage”. Which game can go on forever, with no real intention of achieving Independence.

I realise that there are many very good, decent people within the SNP who believe that I am wrong, and that Sturgeon has a genuine commitment to Independence, and has some kind of secret plan which is much more radical than I have outlined.

Well, we shall see who is right.

The worrying thing is that I have been saying this since 2016 and would think five years of inaction have proven me right already. I have a horrible feeling that if we arrive in 2026 after five more years of inaction, Nicola’s followers will still believe her. I see a continuing role for Alba for those who are actually serious about Independence, despite its frankly disastrous electoral debut (the causes of which were largely not Alba’s fault, but that is for another day).

Nicola and the SNP have of course it firmly in their power to prove me horribly wrong. They can prove me a complete fool by using this mandate to take bold and genuine steps and achieving Independence. In which case, not only shall I acknowledge I was a complete fool, I shall be delighted to do so.

I think this is a good time to utilise again one of the few decent things from the Guardian, its daily Covid graphs.

I have broadly supported lockdowns, aside the odd specific illogicality, and strongly advocate vaccination. But the facts are unanswerable – despite some people’s addiction to fear, they have to face it is just about over. Despite politicians’ addiction to the heady combination of increased personal exposure and popularity, plus increased control over the population, it is just about over. Vaccines have licked it in the UK. The risk of death to a non-geriatric healthy person is now as close to zero as makes no difference.

Oxgangs library has been turned into a Covid Testing Centre. I sat on a wall this morning and observed for half an hour as nobody went in and nobody came out, and the young man on the door tried to find ways to relieve his boredom. The time will shortly be with us when the public appetite will fade for daily briefings that say six people feel slightly unwell in Elgin.

England and Wales have enjoyed seven consecutive weeks of negative excess deaths (I can never find the Scottish figures on this). That means this spring is very possibly the least dangerous period you have ever lived through, in terms of the chance of you dying.

As the vaccine programme goes ahead, it gets ever safer. At some stage, the public are going to notice. We have had attempts to boost the fear factor by successive claims that the South African or Indian or Brazilian strain had arrived in Britain and was massively more deadly, massively more transmissible, evaded the vaccine, killed more young people. All of these arrived in the UK and none of the claimed disasters happened.

Of course, there could one day really be that super deadly variant. Equally, there could be an entirely new pandemic disease. But we cannot live our lives locked and cowering against these eventualities. For now, we should come out – vaccinated – into the sunlight again. The emphasis should be on border control and firmly restricting international travel until the rest of the world catches up. It should also be on overseas aid to help the rest of the world catch up. Biden has shamed our Tory government by his support for voiding patents on Covid vaccines, but the Tories have always seen the pandemic as personal profit opportunity.

But meantime, the strongest temporary border controls. As long term readers know, I am very strongly opposed to mass air travel anyway, only made possible because of disgraceful international complicity in not taxing fossil fuel for aircraft. Nobody actually needs a £30 ticket to Ibiza.

There is another issue where I doubt that Sturgeon genuinely believes what she says, or intends to act speedily, and that is trans rights. Here she will be under enormous pressure to deliver GRA reform very quickly, and that from her closest allies.

This is going to be interesting. Trans rights have been a very useful wedge issue for Nicola and extremely effective against her most dangerous internal rival, Joanna Cherry. Broadly similar issues, like gay marriage and abortion, were intensely controversial until carried into law, and then the matter was effectively settled as a matter of public debate. I expect trans rights might be similar and that Nicola has no real interest in settling the matter because she does not want the controversy to die down.

Personally I am extremely frustrated at the extraordinary alignment between

Never-never Independence supporters and trans rights,

versus

Independence Now supporters and trans exclusion

There seems no logical connection between the two, yet these strange alliances have become the most important dominant fact in the politics of Scottish Independence. My own opinion – which upset huge numbers of staunch Independence Now people on twitter – is that Alba’s strong identification with excluding trans women is one reason for its electoral failure.

Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist has become a pejorative term, but it seems to me a precise intellectual description of where an especially vocal section of Alba support was coming from, and voters found it rather weird and bitter.

I was considering founding a party which supports trans people, but at the same time wants Scotland to achieve Independence irrespective of any legal or political efforts at veto from London. But I fear there would only be me in it.

So the trans wedge issue has become so important to Nicola politically, I suspect she has no real interest in ending it. Besides, legislation is difficult. The current proposal is ridiculously over-simplified, as demonstrated by Gordon Dangerfield. I support self-ID and I extremely strongly uphold the principle that people should be who they want to be, and unlike Gordon I really don’t care about their genitalia and don’t see why anybody else should either. Mind your own business. But I can see that in certain rare and specific circumstances, like elite sport or people involved in criminal justice proceedings, there may be a need for some kind of arbitration of genuineness or good faith of a gender change; with good faith being the presumption that has to be overturned.

I might add that I particularly dislike the jibes at “women with beards” and the social media posts making fun of the physical appearance of trans people. There has been far too much cruelty flying around. I count Stuart Campbell and Chris Cairns as friends and allies who genuinely want Independence. But I cannot approve of this kind of cartoon, and I feel obliged to say so. How would it make you feel if you were a trans woman?

[Update I am told it is not Chris Cairns but is signed Stella. I had presumed that was part of the “joke”, but if it is not Chris I of course apologise to him].

It is of course also true that pro-trans activists are far too rude to people who disagree with them, with a small and defined group seriously nasty and out of control, including threatening violence. That group is closely connected to SNP leadership figures. This is all quite appalling. Frankly both sides of the debate need to find tolerance and empathy.

What is my prediction? I think the trans issue will be shelved, and Nicola will seek to placate Ms Blackman and her ilk by the abolition of jury trials in cases of sexual assault, as a first step, to be followed later by the abolition of jury trials in other crimes against women. Why all of that is an appalling idea I shall expand further one day, though I find it rather shocking that anybody would need that explained.

One thing I am sure of; we will see decisive action from Nicola on the abolition of juries long before we see any real movement on Independence. I would bet my life on that.

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The Left Must Take Back Labour

The hundreds of thousands of Corbyn supporters who carried him though multiple leadership challenges have not vanished from the face of the earth, even though many have vanished from the Labour Party.

If you believe that the Starmer project was a genuine belief that a right wing agenda would get Labour back into power, then the Starmer Project has totally failed on those terms.

If you believe that the Starmer project was a scheme to neutralise any threat from Labour to the vast disparity of wealth in the UK and internationally, then it has spectacularly succeeded.

Firstly, it seems to me that anybody who believes the Starmer project was ever the former is a fool. It was at best an insurance policy, so that in the improbable event of a Labour victory nothing radical would happen to discomfit the rich. The Labour victory was in itself seen by Starmer’s backers as an event to be avoided, and Starmer’s job was to mitigate any Labour victory.

Corbyn never returned any election result remotely as bad as Labour suffered on Thursday. At previous council elections, we were told by Blairite after Blairite that Corbyn would have to resign if he achieved a result even 10% better than Starmer just achieved. Does anybody remember all those Guardian front page articles featuring focus groups led by right wing charlatan Professor Rob Ford of Manchester University, at which small groups of denizens of the M4 corridor or Northern England were led to repeat unbecoming things they had read in the papers about Corbyn, and it was claimed disaster loomed were he and his policies not immediately removed?

It was not becoming of Jess Phillips, Ian Austin and others to display openly their delight at Labour defeat in the last general election. But I cannot understand the passivity of the left now. Get off your backsides, you lazy defeatists, and start to lay into Starmer very heavily indeed. You owe him no loyalty – he lied through his teeth in the leadership campaign about willingness to maintain left wing values, then went straight into ditch and purge the left wing, and supercharge the witch-hunt, once he had won.

Starmer is down now. To quote a left winger who did know how to grasp the moment, I beseech you in the bowels of Christ. It is time now to announce a leadership challenge. It has to come from John McDonnell. Get people back into the Labour Party. Give the people of England some hope and inspiration again, and at least a chance to hear about, and vote for, the possibility of a truly fairer society.

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Channel Islands Fisheries and Abuse by Tory Jingoism

Exactly thirty years ago I was Head of Maritime Section at the FCO and negotiating the voisinage agreement on mutual fishing rights in territorial waters between France and the Channel Islands. Memory dims with age, but it is hard to forget the evening in Cherbourg where a meeting with French fishermen became so heated we found ourselves diving into an alley to escape a pursuing group who wished to remonstrate further. In fact, the same fishermen in the same town three years later took hostage, for a day or so, British fisheries enforcement officers, which helped obtain some changes to the agreement in France’s favour in 1994. In 1991, the ire was directed not so much at me, as at the head of the French government delegation, an Enarque from the Quai D’Orsay of superb aristocratic demeanour and French Vietnamese ancestry, who was perhaps not the best choice to explain things to the fleet.

It should be noted that the later British “hostages” said they were fed and wined superbly and had rather a nice time of it.

It is hard to understand whether today the British media or the British government have the worse grasp of the issues at stake in this fisheries dispute. Let me make a few basic points.

Firstly, the Channel Islands were never in the EU and their waters were never part of the Common Fisheries Policy – the more so as both the French and the Channel Islands waters involved are all twelve mile territorial sea and not 200 mile exclusive economic zone. The extent to which this relates to Brexit is therefore much exaggerated.

Secondly, the issue dates back hundreds of years and is concerned with the maintenance of traditional fishing rights within each other’s waters by the French and Channel Islands fishermen. Both sides have always acknowledged these time hallowed rights of access.

Thirdly, the French and Channel Islands fishing communities concerned are inextricably interlinked and indeed intermarried. Certainly thirty years ago French was the first language among the fishermen on both sides (though I am told this is less true now).

To try to explain further, fishermen are taking specific types of catch in specific areas, and their boats are equipped for this. They cannot simply be told to go and catch something different in their state’s “own” area without changing equipment and indeed sometimes boat. To state the obvious, if you are putting down your lobster pots it is not easy to be told to go fish for mackerel somewhere else instead. That is the principle, though I don’t pretend to remember the catches now.

It is not just a technical and financial matter. It is a question of personal identity and survival of communities. Fishing families have been taking the same catch in the same areas for many generations. The boats are inherited, the community set up for the appropriate processing and sales.

In making the voisinage agreement we took care to interact very closely with the fishing communities on each side and learn their stories and history. We heard tales of catches going back centuries, and fishermen viewed access to the sea their fathers had fished as a right that was nothing to do with governments; this was very even. Some Channel Islands fishermen fished certain French waters, and some French fishermen fished certain Channel Island waters. We also heard of bitter disputes between families. Tales of nets cut or pots lifted were recounted with vivid detail, only for it to be subsequently revealed the incident was in 1905 and it was somebody’s great grandfather who did it. These are complex and intermixed communities, and there is rivalry between islands as much as with the French communities. There are cross-cutting community alliances too.

Above all, as in all fishing communities, there was mutual support in the face of the sea, tales of drownings, disasters and long remembered community grief, and of course tales of rescues – of French boats rescuing Channel Island boats, and Channel Island boats rescuing French boats.

These are proud communities. The monumental stupidity of the Tory government in not seeking to understand and talk through the issues, but rather sending in intimidatory gunboats and wildly exacerbating the dispute, is heartbreaking. Of course I understand the Tories don’t actually care about the issue at all and are using anti-French jingoism for electoral purposes, but the poison they have injected will have effects for many decades.

The voisinage agreement that was drawn up and signed off by Exchange of Note between ministers in 1992 (which really did involve me doing stuff with ribbons and sealing wax) was therefore perhaps not what you would expect to see, and bore no relation to the simplistic nostrums being discussed about the dispute this morning. It named specific individual fishing boats, it named individual captains, and detailed exactly where they could exercise their family’s traditional rights to fish. There were “grandfather rights” – inherited, traditional rights that could not be achieved by newcomers. There was the right to replace a boat, but specific and individually tailored limits of the size and type of boat it could be replaced with. There were sunset clauses – I have a recollection many of the rights expired to be renegotiated in 2010, which seemed a long way away in those days. I believe that much of “my” voisinage agreement was replaced by the Granville Bay Agreement of 2000, which sounds to me unwise in decoupling French rights in Channel Island waters from Channel Island rights in French waters, but I was Deputy High Commissioner in Ghana by then and I confess I have not studied the Granville Bay agreement.

The political right today misinterpret this as some kind of English/French territorial dispute. As I hope I have explained, it is nothing of the sort, and none of the fishermen involved would ever call themselves English. The political left must not confuse the fishermen with the beneficiaries of the Channel Islands status as a great international centre for tax evasion and the laundering of illegal money. The beneficiaries of that activity are overwhelmingly not in the Channel Islands at all, but spivs in the lap dancing clubs and penthouses of the City of London. There are few beneficiaries in the Channel Islands beyond the sleazy lawyers who host thousands of paper companies, the political crooks and the token bank facades fronting for London. The fishermen are nothing to do with that world.

I should make very plain that my own negotiations were guided and in reality led by David Anderson, FCO legal adviser and a major influence in the development of the Law of the Sea. But empathy is an essential negotiating skill, and I was much helped by the fact that I grew up myself in an inshore fishing community and from a fishing family. As you may know, my mother was English and I was born in West Runton and grew up in neighbouring Sheringham. My great grandfather John Johnson had been one the last builders of traditional Sheringham fishing boats, and many relatives were still fishing in my childhood. To give you an idea, I have four direct ancestors in this photo of the Augusta lifeboat, including the cox’n at the stern, who is my great, great grandfather John Long. My grandmother had a copy of this postcard and used to tell me we were related to every single man in the photo (which is what is known as NfN, Normal for Norfolk). She could name them all. I believe six generations later my cousin Nick Grice is today still cox of the Sheringham lifeboat.

I shall allow myself to be a bit morbid today. The UK used to have an envied foreign service which valued expertise, diligence and negotiation. It now prizes bluff, jingoism and cheap popularity. We are sending gunboats, not negotiators, to the Channel Islands. Meantime I am being sentenced, probably to prison, this morning for Contempt of Court, for the crime of diligent journalism. O Tempora! O Mores!

You can read something of my case and contribute to my defence fund for an appeal to the Supreme Court here.

UPDATE: The court has been adjourned until Tuesday 11 May at 9:45am, (ostensibly) to enable consideration of mitigating factors submitted this morning. Read Taylor Hudak’s summary of the court hearing here and consult her timeline for a record of her live tweeting as it happened.

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Forgive me for pointing out that my ability to provide this coverage is entirely dependent on your kind voluntary subscriptions which keep this blog going. This post is free for anybody to reproduce or republish, including in translation. You are still very welcome to read without subscribing.

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

Choose subscription amount from dropdown box:

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Account number 3 2 1 5 0 9 6 2
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Subscriptions are still preferred to donations as I can’t run the blog without some certainty of future income, but I understand why some people prefer not to commit to that.

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