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Unicef Must Break Ties With Child Slavery Supporters Barcelona FC

Kudos to for an excellent article on the disgusting decision by Barcelona FC to accept sackloads of cash to promote Islam Karimov, the world’s most vicious dictator.

Pitch invasion were building on an article in the Observer by Kevin O’Flynn, who is almost the only sports journalist who ever tackles the seamy underside of the beautiful game.

Kevin O’Flynn’s reckoning of salaries in Uzbekistan as £25 a week is an official statistic. Some urban folk get that. Most of the population live on much, much less. For this poor and terrorised state to be spending hundreds of millions of pounds of money stolen from the Uzbek people on building a glamour football club to glorify the President’s daughter, is obscene in the extreme.

High among the many horrors of the Karimov regime is the mass use of child slavery to pick the State – ie Karimov family – owned cotton crop. Hundreds of thousands of children are forced into the cotton fields for weeks in conditions that mirror those of black slaves in the USA in the 19th century. Uzbekistan is the second largest exporter of cotton in the world.

The situation is so appalling that even Walmart and Tesco have joined a voluntary private sector boycott in the US and UK of all items containing Uzbek cotton.

Barcelona should be ashamed of the collaboration with Karimov. They carry the Unicef logo on their shirts. The irony of Unicef being advertised on a team that is paid to glorify the leader of the world’s largest system of child slavery, is staggering.

Unicef must break their ties with Barcelona. Now.

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What Have We Become?

My friend and mentor the much-missed Gordon Wilson used to run Radio Free Scotland, a pirate radio station supporting Independence. It was broadcast entirely illegally, a crime the state took very seriously in the 1950’s. Some of the others involved were of the group that liberated the Stone of Scone temporarily from Westminster Abbey. That was a serious crime too. One of the most enjoyable evenings of my life, one I remember 40 years later, was a boozy dinner with this whole group at Gordon and Edith’s home in Broughty Ferry.

At the time, the state’s arguments against “pirate radio” included national security and interference with emergency services. The entirely illegal Radio Free Scotland actually gave its address as SNP HQ!

This criminal tendency did not prevent Gordon from becoming leader of the SNP and a very respectable solicitor. So how did the SNP morph from being a party that had a very elastic attitude to obeying the laws which suppressed Scotland, to being a party whose leadership cheerleaders are today, in their scores, defending on social media the imprisonment of a working class, ethnic minority Independence activist for organising an entirely peaceful and successful pro-Independence demonstration that passed off entirely without incident?

A party in government naturally has a different perspective to a party of protest. But how those in authority deal with protest, and particularly protest which does not conform to the neat template authorities may wish to confine it to, is a fascinating study. It is the difference between authoritarian government and liberal government, on a continuum. But broadly speaking deprivation of liberty for peaceful protest is acknowledged as the hallmark of a very authoritarian government.

Thus the Extinction Rebellion protests, which deliberately made no effort to conform to regulation around protests and which were deliberately designed to cause maximum disruption to ordinary traffic in London, resulted so far in no prosecutions pushing for imprisonment for protesting or blocking streets unless criminal damage was involved, and even then I am struggling to find examples of imprisonment. Friends of mine who deliberately participated in avowedly illegal Extinction Rebellion protests have been tried and received small fines.

Similarly, a great number of the Black Lives Matters protests, in the UK and elsewhere, were illegal in the sense of not being pre-planned and following police and council regulation. Some caused deliberate damage to statues etc. Again, I am not aware of any cases of people being imprisoned for organising Black Lives Matters demonstrations.

As a young man, I took part in the Occupation of the site of the Torness nuclear power station which disrupted its build substantially. Again, nobody was imprisoned. Looking at my own history, I gave speeches to illegal gatherings at Occupy London, both at St Paul’s and at Parliament square. When the Occupy movement took over universities to protest against tuition fees, I spoke to an illegal occupation at Cambridge university. The university hired security staff to prevent my speech, so the students gathered and sat in the foyer and I gave my talk from the public pavement outside the building, over the heads of a row of security staff, projecting through the double doors of the foyer. Again, nobody got imprisoned.

People do however get imprisoned for organising “illegal” demonstrations. Not in western democracies so much, and I think I have demonstrated until now not normally in Scotland nor England in recent times. But I have witnessed people get imprisoned for “illegal” political demonstration, in Uzbekistan and in then dictatorship Nigeria. It happens quite often in China. Alexei Navalny himself has been imprisoned before in Russia for organising demonstrations without a permit, as have many other opposition groups. Bureaucratic violation is the entirely common tactic against the opposition in Russia, where demonstrations are allowed but there is often some “hitch” with the paperwork.

The imprisonment of Manni Singh is inexcusable. The demonstration he organised was joyous, massive and caused zero damage and zero violence. Over 100,000 people took part coming from all over Scotland in an absolutely determined effort to express their desire for Scottish Independence. The large majority, however, were Glaswegians and represented a significant chunk of the population of the city. It was very much a family occasion.

I spoke at the event, as at the identical demonstration the previous year, and was in touch with Manni throughout the organisational period. Manni is very much an auto-didact in politics. There are aspects of his eclectic beliefs, including for example a fondness for the work of Douglas Murray, which are pretty well the opposite of my own beliefs. But Manni is a good man and, as I have frequently explained on these pages, I have never chosen my friends on the grounds they agree with me about everything. It is also true that Manni has since fallen out with All Under One Banner and its current leadership. Personally I like, as in actively enjoy the company of, all of those involved and have been saddened at my inability to bring them back together. None of which should bear any relation to jailing Manni for organising a political demonstration, but all of which has been thrown up as chaff on social media to obscure the issue.

The 2018 AUOB march was massively successful. I was the first speaker, and I have never had such an exhilarating political experience, not even when addressing the massive Stop the War rallies in London. The 2018 Glasgow march introduced AUOB as a massive political force in Scotland, and particularly in Glasgow.

Tens of thousands of SNP members take part in AUOB demonstrations. I have marched on them beside Joanna Cherry, Chris Law, Ivan McKee, and other SNP worthies. But behind the scenes, all is not the harmony that it may seem. Peter Murrell and Nicola Sturgeon are extremely wary of any part of the Yes Movement they do not control. Nicola Sturgeon has been invited again and again to speak at AUOB demonstrations, and has always refused. Even when promised by AUOB that she could choose the other speakers, and ne’er-do-wells like Tommy Sheridan and myself would be rigorously kept away (to which I had agreed).

The official explanation is that as First Minister, Nicola has to represent the entire nation so may not take part in partisan political events. Yet strangely, that did not stop her attending and speaking to either anti-Brexit demonstrations or gay rights events. That an SNP leader can speak at political events but not for Scottish Independence is, ahem, counter-intuitive.

I suspect Nicola finds the company at anti-Brexit demonstrations more to her taste than she would the company at an AUOB march.

What happened with Manni is that Glasgow City Council looked to try to change the start date of the demonstration and bring it forward from 1.30pm to 11am. This was explicitly to reduce the size of the demonstration – there is no doubt about this, they directly said so, and Manni was keeping me informed in real time. And this is the simple truth – the move to hamper the demonstration and limit its size was absolutely initiated, led and followed through by the SNP group on Glasgow City Council. The SNP Glasgow city councillors are very much directed by the Sturgeon inner coterie, particularly commissars Mhairi Hunter and Rhiannon Spear. The SNP was looking to hamper the impact of AUOB in Glasgow, for its own political reasons.

The AUOB marches attract Independence supporters from all over Scotland. People come down by ferry and coach from the Highlands and Islands. I have met people on them who travelled all through the night. At the time Glasgow Council decided to bring forward the start time, it was already too late; coaches, ferries and advance train and bus tickets were already booked. We are talking about a march that took nearly three hours to pass any one spot. The chaos and disorder from trying to change the starting time would be greater than the disciplined march proceeding as planned by the organisers. That is the decision Manni took. He started the demo 150 minutes after the Council approved time.

I knew of all these problems in real time, and I made a point of speaking with the senior policeman in charge of the march. Amusingly, I recall they really were “Gold Command” or some such TV thriller designation. “Gold Command” was entirely happy and had no complaints. It had been a peaceful, orderly and very good humoured event. I was told directly.

It was the SNP group on Glasgow City Council who insisted that council officers report Manni Singh to the police and demand action against him. It was not an initiative by the Police, who had been quite happy with the demonstration.

This is a photo of an “illegal” demo in Minsk:

This is a photo of an “illegal” demo in Russia

This is a photo of an “illegal” demo in Hong Kong

This is a photo of an “illegal” demo in Barcelona

and here is a photo of the “illegal” demo in Glasgow organised by Manni Singh:

Have we seen protests from the SNP leadership about the jailing of Manni Singh? No. Yet we have seen vociferous protests from them about the restriction of demos in Russia, Belarus and Hong Kong. What we have seen, throughout Twitter and Facebook and below the line at every Scottish newspaper and pro-Independence website, is dozens and dozens of SNP Sturgeon loyalists lining up to justify the jailing of Manni Singh, indeed in some instances to salivate over the jailing of Manni Singh.

I am not going to post individual examples, but you can find them very easily if you Google search for Manni Singh on Twitter, look through the replies to this tweet from Angus Brendan McNeil, or look through this thread in the National.

It is a simple fact that, on Twitter in particular, the SNP loyalists who are tweeting that Manni Singh should be jailed for “breaking the law” are exactly the same accounts that massively retweeted Dani Garavelli’s articles denying the innocence of Alex Salmond. They also bear an extremely high correlation with those whose primary focus is on issues of sexual or gender identity, in which I include the broad range of feminism, sexual identity and gender rights.

What has happened to the SNP? It has become very comfortable with authoritarianism. It has a claque which operates both on social media and at party conference, which pursues Clinton style identity politics allied to neo-con policy. They have adopted a focus on foreign policy which accords entirely with the NATO agenda. You hear a very great deal from the party leadership about the rights of people in Belarus, Russia and Hong Kong. Yemen, not so much, and Palestine is entirely off the agenda. In fact, among the claque, enthusiastic support for the Israeli Defence Force appears to be a badge of honour.

If you look through the Twitter replies to Angus Brendan MacNeil above, you will see a prominent member of the online claque call Angus Brendan a “Tory” for opposing Glasgow City Council over the jailing of Manni. These are precisely the same people who are ardently pushing for the Hate Crime Bill and criminal enforcement of politically correct speech in Scotland. I have seen them attack great Independence supporters like Brian Cox and Elaine C Smith for pointing out the dangers of the Hate Speech Bill for the arts.

Those who cannot see the jailing of Manni, the Hate Crime Bill, and dare I say the prosecution of me for reporting the defence evidence in the Salmond trial, as symptoms of a serious underlying problem with civil liberties in Scotland today, are closing their eyes. There is a nasty intolerance about the claque running the SNP.

The reasons for jailing Manni being put forward by loyalists all over social media – he started the demo late, he didn’t have insurance, there were not enough licensed bouncers as stewards, he didn’t fill the right road closure form – are PRECISELY the reasons authorities and their loyalists put forward for banning all the protests pictured above. It is what Putin’s supporters say about Navalny.

The vast majority, 99.5%, of SNP members remain very decent and humane people who just want to see Scotland a normal free country. A very great number are realising that something is badly wrong in the party, even if opinion polls are great. Power is not an end in itself. It is only of value if you do good with it.

At the moment, power in Scotland is being abused.


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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Violence and the State

The state rests its power on a monopoly of violence. Indeed, in the final analysis a state is nothing but a monopoly of violence. Even when a state does good things, like tax to provide healthcare, it ultimately depends on its ability to employ violence to enforce the collection of the tax. Arrest and imprisonment is, absolutely, violence. We may not recognise it as violence, but if you try to resist arrest and imprisonment you will quickly see that it is violence. Whether or not blows are struck or arms twisted to get someone there, or they go quietly under threat, confining somebody behind concrete and steel is violence.

I use the case of tax evasion and healthcare to show that I am merely analysing that the state rests on violence deliberately. I am not claiming that the violence of the state is a bad thing in itself. I just want you to recognise that the state rests on violence. Try not paying your taxes for a few years, and try refusing to be arrested and go to court. You will, ultimately, encounter real violence on your person.

John Pilger gave a harrowing account of the everyday application of state violence at the Free the Truth meeting at which I spoke last week. Here is an extract from his speech describing his visit to Julian Assange:

I joined a queue of sad, anxious people, mostly poor women and children, and grandmothers. At the first desk, I was fingerprinted, if that is still the word for biometric testing.

“Both hands, press down!” I was told. A file on me appeared on the screen.

I could now cross to the main gate, which is set in the walls of the prison. The last time I was at Belmarsh to see Julian, it was raining hard. My umbrella wasn’t allowed beyond the visitors centre. I had the choice of getting drenched, or running like hell. Grandmothers have the same choice.

At the second desk, an official behind the wire, said, “What’s that?”

“My watch,” I replied guiltily.

“Take it back,” she said.

So I ran back through the rain, returning just in time to be biometrically tested again. This was followed by a full body scan and a full body search. Soles of feet; mouth open.

At each stop, our silent, obedient group shuffled into what is known as a sealed space, squeezed behind a yellow line. Pity the claustrophobic; one woman squeezed her eyes shut.

We were then ordered into another holding area, again with iron doors shutting loudly in front of us and behind us.

“Stand behind the yellow line!” said a disembodied voice.

Another electronic door slid partly open; we hesitated wisely. It shuddered and shut and opened again. Another holding area, another desk, another chorus of, “Show your finger!”

Then we were in a long room with squares on the floor where we were told to stand, one at a time. Two men with sniffer dogs arrived and worked us, front and back.

The dogs sniffed our arses and slobbered on my hand. Then more doors opened, with a new order to “hold out your wrist!”

A laser branding was our ticket into a large room, where the prisoners sat waiting in silence, opposite empty chairs. On the far side of the room was Julian, wearing a yellow arm band over his prison clothes.

As a remand prisoner he is entitled to wear his own clothes, but when the thugs dragged him out of the Ecuadorean embassy last April, they prevented him bringing a small bag of belongings. His clothes would follow, they said, but like his reading glasses, they were mysteriously lost.

For 22 hours a day, Julian is confined in “healthcare”. It’s not really a prison hospital, but a place where he can be isolated, medicated and spied on. They spy on him every 30 minutes: eyes through the door. They would call this “suicide watch”.

In the adjoining cells are convicted murderers, and further along is a mentally ill man who screams through the night. “This is my One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” he said.

When we greet each other, I can feel his ribs. His arm has no muscle. He has lost perhaps 10 to 15 kilos since April. When I first saw him here in May, what was most shocking was how much older he looked.

We chat with his hand over his mouth so as not to be overheard. There are cameras above us. In the Ecuadorean embassy, we used to chat by writing notes to each other and shielding them from the cameras above us. Wherever Big Brother is, he is clearly frightened.

On the walls are happy-clappy slogans exhorting the prisoners to “keep on keeping on” and “be happy, be hopeful and laugh often”.

The only exercise he has is on a small bitumen patch, overlooked by high walls with more happy-clappy advice to enjoy ‘the blades of grass beneath your feet’. There is no grass.

He is still denied a laptop and software with which to prepare his case against extradition. He still cannot call his American lawyer, or his family in Australia.

The incessant pettiness of Belmarsh sticks to you like sweat.

You can see John give the speech here:

Assange’s “crime”, of course, is to reveal the illegal use of force by the state in Iraq and Afghanistan. That the state feels the need to employ such violence against somebody who has never practised violence, is a striking illustration that violence constitutes the very fabric of the state.

Just as we are not conditioned to recognise the violence of the state as violence, we do not always recognise resistance to the state as violence. If you bodily blockade a road, a tube station or a building with the intention to prevent somebody else from physically passing through that space, that is an act of physical force, of violence. It may be a low level of violence, but violence it is. Extinction Rebellion represents a challenge to the state’s claim to monopolise violence, which is why the Metropolitan Police – a major instrument of state domestic violence – were so anxious to declare the activity illegal on a wide scale.

Ultimately civil resistance represents a denial of the state’s right to enforce its monopoly of violence. The Hong Kong protests represent a striking demonstration of the fact that rejecting the state’s monopoly of violence can entail marching without permission, occupying a space, blockading and ultimately replying to bullets with firebombs, and that these actions are a continuum. It is the initial rejection of the state’s power over your body which is the decision point.

Just as I used the example of tax evasion and healthcare to demonstrate that the state’s use of violence is not always bad, I use the example of Extinction Rebellion to demonstrate that the assertion of physical force, against the state’s claim to monopoly of it, is not always bad either.

We are moving into an era of politics where the foundations of consent which underpin western states are becoming less stable. The massive growth in wealth inequality has led to an alienation of large sections of the population from the political system. The political economy works within a framework which is entirely an artificial construct of states, and ultimately is imposed by the states’ monopoly of force. For the last four decades, that framework has been deliberately fine-tuned to enable the massive accumulation of wealth by a very small minority and to reduce the access to share of economic resource by the broad mass of the people.

The inevitable consequence is widespread economic discontent and a resultant loss of respect for the political class. The political class are tasked with the management of the state apparatus, and popular discontent is easily personalised – it concentrates on the visible people rather than the institutions. But if the extraordinary wealth imbalance of society continues to worsen, it is only a matter of time before that discontent undermines respect for political institutions. In the UK, once it becomes plain that leaving the EU has not improved the lot of those whose socio-economic standing has been radically undercut, the discontent will switch to other institutions of government.

In Scotland, we shall have an early test of the state’s right to the monopoly of force if the Westminster government insists on attempting to block a new referendum on Independence, against the will of the Scottish people. In Catalonia, the use of violence against those simply trying to vote in a referendum was truly shocking.

This has been followed up by the extreme state violence of vicious jail sentences against the leaders of the entirely nonviolent Catalan independence movement. As I stated we do not always recognise state violence. But locking you up in a small cell for years is a worse act of violence on your body even than the shocking but comparatively brief treatment of the woman voter in the photo. It is a case of chronic or acute state violence.

Where the use of violence by a state is fundamentally unjust, there is every moral right to employ violence against the state. Whether or not to do so becomes a tactical, not a moral, question. There is a great deal of evidence that non-violent protest, or protest using the real but low levels of physical force employed by Extinction Rebellion, can be in the long term the most effective. But opinions differ legitimately. Gandhi took one view, and Nelson Mandela another. The media has sanitised the image of Mandela, but it is worth remembering that he was jailed not for non-violent protest, but for taking up violent resistance to white rule, in which I would say he was entirely justified at the time.

To date, the Catalan people and their leaders appear firmly wedded to the tactic of non-violence. That is their choice and their right, and I support them in that choice. But having suffered so much violence, and with no democratic route available for their right of self-determination, the Catalans have the moral right, should they so choose, to resist, by violence, the violence of the Spanish state. I should however clarify that does not extend to indiscriminate attack on entirely innocent people, which in my view is not a moral choice.

All of which of course has obvious implications should a Westminster government seek to block the Scottish people from expressing their inalienable right of self-determination following the election. Which fascinating subject I shall return to once again in January. Be assured meantime I am not presently close to advocating a tactic of violence in Scotland. But nor will I ever say the Scottish people do not ultimately have that right if denied democratic self-expression. To say otherwise would be to renounce the Declaration of Arbroath, a founding document of European political thought.

As western states face popular discontent and are losing consent of the governed, one of the state’s reactions is to free up its use of force. Conservative election promises to give members of the UK armed forces effective immunity from prosecution for war crimes or for illegal use of force, should be seen in this light. So also, of course, should the use of agents not primarily employed by the state to impose extreme violence on behalf of the state. The enforcers of the vicious system John Pilger encountered were employed by Serco, G4S or a similar group, to remove the state one step from any control upon their actions (and of course to allow yet more private profit to the wealthy). Similar contractors regularly visit strong violence on immigrants selected for deportation. The ultimate expression of this was the disgusting employment by the British and American governments of mercenary forces, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan, to deploy brutal and uncontrolled violence on the local population.

The pettiness of the election campaign, its failure to address fundamental issues due to the ability of the mainstream media to determine and manipulate the political agenda, has led me to think about the nature of the state at a much more basic level. I do not claim we are beyond the early stages of a breakdown in social consent to be ruled; and I expect the immediate response of the system will be a lurch towards right wing authoritarianism, which ultimately will make the system still less stable.


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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The Destruction of Central Edinburgh Communities

Of the three flats on the corridor where I rent my current Edinburgh home, just off the Canongate, two were lived in and one a holiday let. As of this month, only we are resident and there are two holiday lets. Before this I lived in the Holyrood Park apartment block. Of the 14 flats on the stair we lived on, only 3 were inhabited. Eleven were holiday lets and holiday homes. Our rent was raised every six months until eventually we we were forced out by rent reaching over £1500 a month. A taxi driver taking me home once told me he had never taken an actual resident there before, only holidaymakers; he did not know there were residents.

One Edinburgh website alone boasts that over 2,000 Edinburgh apartment owners use its short term letting service – and presumably a significant percentage of those 2,000 own multiple apartments. The authorities simply cannot know how many Edinburgh flats are holiday lets. It is a huge black market, avoiding income tax, fire, safety and other regulations and very often involving illegal sub-letting. Certainly in the apartment block I now inhabit there are flats used for holiday lets which are supposed to be social housing. The extent of it may be gauged by the fact that, with parking in great demand in Central Edinburgh, we have an underground car park with just one narrow space per flat, but that outwith the festival I have never seen the car park more than 20% full.

It is partly, but not just, an airbnb phenomenon. There are many other websites. A search for “apartments only” in Edinburgh from for 6-8 November shows an astonishing 877 apartments available – in addition to those already let, or available from a plethora of other sites and agents. There must be a minimum of 3,000 housing units not designed as holiday accommodation, taken out of Edinburgh’s housing stock and put to that purpose. Of these, I know from direct observation most are simply empty for the vast majority of the year, but from just Hogmanay and the Festival an owner can make more money than a working family could pay for rent in the year. The result is, of course, to force rents up across the city for ordinary people.

The impact on the city centre community has been devastating, and the process is by no means ended, with estate agents I have spoken with saying that most city centre properties now sold are still going to investors for this purpose.

Cities like Edinburgh and Barcelona, which are quite rightly huge tourist attractions, need to take urgent planning decisions to prevent the organic life of the city becoming extinct, and their being reduced to Disneyland parks. I have sympathy with those who argue that greedy overcharging in the hotel sector is part of the problem. But having lived as a resident in hollowed-out empty buildings, surrounded by homeless people sleeping rough next to empty homes, it is plain something is very wrong. That is without mentioning the unpleasantness of the stag and hen party culture which forms a significant part of the Edinburgh trade, and amongst which even the most liberal person has trouble living with small children in the family.

State regulation is out of fashion, but I would advocate tackling this through planning consent and simply designating which properties are for residential purpose only, and which for holiday accommodation if a permit is obtained. The latter might then be easily taxed as commercial properties, overcrowding and fire regulation addressed, and the income tax more easily pursued. The alternative is for the community of Central Edinburgh to vanish. I live a short walk from my father’s birthplace in a tenement on Johnstone Terrace. It is now a holiday let.

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Time to End Cheap Flights

African cities generally use less electricity than their European equivalents, as people own fewer appliances and have greater need for thrift. Jet engines are essentially the same as turbines used for electricity generation, and the engines on a single jumbo would power a small African city had they generators attached. Remember that next time you fly.

Worldwide aviation emissions pump slightly more pollution into the atmosphere than the entire United Kingdom economy, and aviation emissions continue relentlessly to increase year after year. Air transport is simply far too cheap for the damage it causes and the resources it consumes. You cannot cause more damage to the Earth’s atmosphere with £30 worth of resources, than by buying a £30 Ryanair ticket to Barcelona. If you spend that £30 on fuel for your diesel car, or on coal and burn it in your garden, you will not come close to the damage caused by your share of emissions on that Ryanair flight.

The fundamental reason air travel has expanded to be so harmful is the international understanding that tax and duty is not charged on aviation fuel – unlike vehicle, train or maritime fuel. Even citizens of Saudi Arabia or Venezuela no longer can access fuel as cheaply as you do in effect when you fly.

The notion that it is impossible to tax aviation fuel, as a plane could fly off and fill up elsewhere, is nonsense. There would be a cost to that flight scheduling, and in any event countries could tax planes on untaxed fuel landed in their fuel tanks, not to mention the scope for international agreement on enforcing fuel levies.

The fact that aviation fuel is not taxed is indeed not the sole reason why it is, ludicrously, cheaper for me to fly from Edinburgh to Bristol or London than get the extremely more fuel-efficient train – for which fuel is taxed. The farce and greed of rail privatisation is also a large part of it. But the fuel tax question undoubtedly is a very major factor, and the sole reason you can fly to Barcelona for £30.

The question has become mixed with notions of democratisation of leisure. This should be tackled head on. There is no human right to go by air and have a sun soaked holiday on the Med dirt cheap. The Earth cannot afford to indulge the pollution caused by massive air tourism. The unpopularity of saying this means that few people in politics ever do, but it is nonetheless true. In view of climate change, for the public to expect Ryanair fare levels is obscene.

Mass air travel for leisure needs to be stopped. Maritime, rail and other more eco-friendly means of international communication need to be encouraged. As mankind has not even the political will to tackle these most straightforward of measures on climate change, I really do begin to despair for the future.

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Spain is Operating Way Beyond Democratic Legitimacy

In imprisoning Catalan leaders for peaceful campaigning for Independence, and in choosing both in rhetoric and in court to treat support for Independence as “sedition”, the Spanish government is acting way beyond the limits of a democratic society. It is ignoring the basic human rights of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. It is also undertaking massive blocking of communication and censorship of the internet in a manner never seen before in a “Western” state.

To move now to suspend the democratically elected Catalan administration, which is explicitly offering dialogue as an alternative to UDI, is to escalate the crisis in an unreasonable fashion, in the true meaning of the word unreasonable. All of this is truly dreadful, without even mentioning the violence inflicted on voters taking part in the peaceful Independence referendum.

As regular readers know, the EU reaction to the peaceful movement for Catalan independence has caused me to rethink my entire position on that institution. The failure to condemn the violence and human rights abuse has been bad enough, but the EU has gone still further and offered unqualified support to Spain, with the Commission specifically declaring Spain has a right to use violence, and Juncker saying straight out that the EU opposes Catalan Independence.

What has become more clear to me is that the modern state is simply an engine to enable the elite to control and direct its economic resources to their own benefit, those economic resources including the people. Loss of resources to the ruling elite is therefore a catastrophe. A state is not a collaborative construct voluntarily formed for mutual convenience and protection by its people. If it were, then it would be a matter of indifference to the ruling elite which particular state units people choose to form, and how these morph and form.

The idea, endorsed by the EU, that a state is an economic construct of control, in which it is legitimate to constrain entire peoples by force against their will, is surely abhorrent. The EU is become simply a cartel of power, a club to promote the sectional interest of the controlling elites of European states.

Catalonia will have a few days to decide how to react to Spanish imposition of direct rule, as that has to go through legislative bodies in Madrid. Catalonia has very little capacity militarily to defend itself against Spain. But it is difficult to see how it can be serious about Independence if it makes no effort to that purpose. Some effort at physical, if non-lethal, resistance to Spanish takeover must surely be under discussion.

More importantly, however brief the lifespan of Independent Catalonia at this stage, it must during its existence delegitimise Spanish – by which I mean pre-Independence – institutions and specifically the courts. Within Catalonia, all officers of State, and particularly judges, prosecutors and law enforcement officers, must be suspended immediately from all duties. They should then be instantly administered an oath of loyalty to the Catalan state and a specific abjuring of loyalty to the Spanish state. Those who do not take the oath would remain suspended, and after a week become dismissed.

The alternative will be an undermining of the legitimacy of the Catalan state by its own courts, and the many corrupt pro-Madrid judges and prosecutors they contain. This will be used to counteract the Independence narrative internationally and domestically.

Spain and the EU are hiding behind “the rule of law”. The violence of the Guardia Civil was validated as enforcing the ruling of Francoist judges. The censorship of the internet, the imprisonment of dissidents, all is in accordance with the “rule of law” in Spain.

I dealt with imprisonment of political prisoners all round the world when I was in the FCO. Very few of them were extra-judicially detained. Uzbekistan’s 8,000 political prisoners have almost all been tried and condemned under Uzbek law. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Ken Saro Wiwa, Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, all were imprisoned by judges. The “rule of law”, where it ignores human rights, is not enough. That is the line the EU, to its great shame, has crossed.

As a footnote, I am researching my biography of George Murray. In 1710, following the death of George’s eldest brother John with the British army at the Battle of Malplaquet, his next eldest brother William was summoned home from India. The first available vessel was bound for Barcelona. William spent some time there waiting for a ship in the middle of a war. The interesting point is that the family letters refer repeatedly to William being in Catalonia and events in Catalonia. The word Spain does not appear in the correspondence at all.

I mention this purely as illustrative – and one of many thousands of examples that might be given – that the Catalans are a people and have been acknowledged as such in Europe for centuries. The right of self-determination in Article 2 of the UN Charter is given not to geographic regions but exclusively to “Peoples”. The Catalans, like the Scots, undoubtedly qualify as a “People”, something the EU has still failed to address.

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The Freedom of Courage

Hundreds of thousands of people are already gathered outside and inside polling stations across Catalonia, defending them from the squads of paramilitary police who are fanning out from Barcelona port. The atmosphere is currently festive and the determination to vote of ordinary, decent vote is inspirational.

When a people permanently withdraws its consent to be governed, and finds the courage to defy the agents of authorised state force, there is no way that the government can reimpose itself unless it is prepared to spill quite serious quantities of blood. I do not refer only to today’s referendum, which hopefully will go ahead peacefully but could not be stopped without physical force. In the long term, having eschewed the democratic route in favour of force, Spain will not be able to repress Catalonia without plunging still deeper in to the kind of tactics which reveal the very real Francoist political roots of its Prime Minister and many of its ruling party.

The ironic point, of course, is that had Spain agreed to a referendum process, they had a fair chance of winning it. It worked for continuing Westminster control of Scotland, although the Spanish government do not have the mainstream media monopoly in Catalonia which the unionists enjoyed in Scotland. It will be astonishing if the contempt for the views of the Catalonian people shown by Spain over the last month, has not instead propelled a large number of Catalans into the Independence camp, the more so given Rajoy’s blundering insistence on changing things today into a physical confrontation.

The British and other western governments have painted themselves into the most embarrassing position. As paramilitary forces are looking today to prevent crowds of solid and peaceful citizens from voting, the entire political Establishment across the European Union has declared on the side of the paramilitaries. The Guardian editorial states that in the UK only a few Scottish nationalists support the Catalans. Yet again, the Establishment promotes its own opinion as that of the people. I am quite certain that the view of the average British person is not one of support for the Spanish government in suppressing the vote.

The most extraordinary thing of all is the falling in line of the entire political Establishment, right across the EU, and all of its mainstream media, with the mantra that the Catalonian referendum is illegal. The right in international law of a people to self-determination cannot be constrained by the domestic legislation of the larger state from which that people is seeking to secede. NATO itself went to war ostensibly to enforce the right to self-determination of the Kosovans, which Kosovan secession was claimed as illegal by Serbia in precisely the same terms the Spanish claim. The hypocrisy of NATO governments is breathtaking (as always).

Nor can the Catalan people be bound in perpetuity to any arrangement they agreed immediately after the demise of Franco. The right of self-determination of peoples is inalienable, and the Catalan situation is a perfect illustration of the meaning of inalienable in this sense. In fact, by arguing that Catalonia specifically signed up to the current Spanish constitution, all the Spanish government and its supporters are doing is offering conclusive evidence that the Catalans are indeed a people with the right of self-determination.

In 2015 Rajoy’s right wing extremists in power enacted a law making it illegal to film Spanish police, with a fine of up to 30,000 euros. So those getting out footage of police attempts to disrupt voting will be breaking that law. I am not sure to what extent that explains the coyness of BBC coverage so far, or to what extent it is just part of their normal BBC propaganda effort. It is worth noting that the British government is planning to privatise the power of arrest to companies like G4S and Serco, giving them a whole new range of people they can beat up, rather than just prisoners and illegal detainees.

The Establishment all round the world seeks to enforce its will, and to protect the vast wealth a tiny minority have been allowed to rob through manipulating the institutions of society. When you see the right wing Establishment worldwide, pus the entire mainstream media, united against the ordinary people as we see today in Catalonia, it is a no-brainer which side you should be on.

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Francoist Clampdown in Catalonia

I have received an email appeal from the Candidaturas de Unidad Popular in Barcelona to say that their party HQ is under siege by the Guardia Civil and that its leaders are resisting arrest.

There is a peculiar reluctance in the British and other European mainstream media to state the truth about the very real Francoist origins of the Spanish government. The current government of Spain are the direct political heirs of Franco and that many of their ministers have personal and family connections to his rule. Rajoy, Spain’s current Prime Minister, started his political career in 1981 by joining the People’s Alliance, a party founded in 1979 and led by 7 of Franco’s ministers to carry on the Francoist legacy. The People’s Alliance became the major component in the now governing People’s Party. It is a directly Francoist party.

The fascist instincts of the Madrid government when faced with the entirely legitimate desire for a democratic vote on Catalonian Independence are therefore part of the very political DNA of the ruling party. It is a truth which it is more convenient for the Establishment to avoid, particularly in Britain where it is feared Catalan Independence might encourage Scottish Independence.

The European Commission has shown commendable rectitude in warning both Poland and Hungary in strong terms of the consequences of their right wing lurches away fro democracy. It would be good to see the Commission and European governments warning Spain now, for actions which are a bigger threat to democracy than the Polish or Hungarian right have so far dared. But that would not suit the agenda of the neo-liberal ruling Establishment, so do not hold your breath.


I continue urgently to need contributions to my defence in the libel action against me by Jake Wallis Simons, Associate Editor of Daily Mail online. You can see the court documents outlining the case here. I am threatened with bankruptcy and the end of this blog (not to mention a terrible effect on my young family). Support is greatly appreciated. An astonishing 4,000 people have now contributed a total of over £75,000. But that is still only halfway towards the £140,000 target. I realise it is astonishing that so much money can be needed, but that is the pernicious effect of England’s draconian libel laws, as explained here.

On a practical point, a number of people have said they are not members of Paypal so could not donate. After clicking on “Donate”, just below and left of the “Log In” button is a small “continue” link which enables you to donate by card without logging in.

For those who prefer not to pay online, you can send a cheque made out to me to Craig Murray, 89/14 Holyrood Road, Edinburgh, EH8 8BA. As regular readers know, it is a matter of pride to me that I never hide my address.

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Where Are Sting and Bill Clinton When You Need Them?

Is Gulnara Karimova dead? The source of today’s reports is Galima Burkabaeva, who is a first class journalist. She personally spoke with the Uzbek security service (SNB) source who told her Gulnara was killed by poisoning on 5 November. Galima does not vouch for the story’s truth, but she believes the source had credibility, and she is well placed to make that call.

Gulnara was once the wealthiest female oligarch in Moscow society. She had amazing friends. Unfortunately she failed to notice that the kind of friends who do not care if you made your money out of child forced labour in the cotton fields, are the same kind of friends who will not care if you are chained to an iron bedstead in an ex-Soviet mental institution being pumped full of lobotomising chemicals with only a tin potty for company.





You see, it is not only the “celebrities” who just want someone to quietly disappear once their supply of the readies to splash around dries up. Not one western government has inquired of the new President of Uzbekistan, Shavrat Mirziayev, what he has done with his predecessor’s daughter, not to mention her children, who have also vanished.

A lot of people in the West would be most happy if she is dead. Especially in Sweden, where the massive Telesonera scandal over payments to Gulnara for mobile phone contracts implicates an important swathe of Sweden’s tight-knit business and political elite. While the Swedish police are very anxious to interview Gulnara, Swedish politicians are very anxious she never stands up in a witness box. The same is true in France, and in Switzerland, in both of which the police want her. In the United States, where $550 million of her assets have been frozen, there are some major Texas families anxious she is permanently silent. Weirdly enough the UK is the only country where she had a house and major assets but is not wanted by police, because no matter how immoral and twisted your activity, it is probably not illegal in the City of London.

In short, the 1% in the West would very much rather Gulnara were dead than speaking out from witness boxes. That is something she has in common with Osama Bin Laden and with Muammar Gadaffi. Bin Laden could have given fascinating information about his long term relationship with the CIA and the involvement of major Saudi Royals in funding Al-Qaeda and 9/11. Gadaffi would have been very interesting on, among other subjects, his deals with Tony Blair and BP, extraordinary rendition and Lockerbie. Much better for the Western 1% that these people just die. That is why no Western Embassy will ever ask the Uzbek government where Gulnara is.

But there is more than that. It is true that Gulnara joins many thousands who have simply “disappeared” and probably been killed in the Uzbek dictatorship. It is true there are thousands of more deserving political prisoners. But Galima Burkabaeva, who is in exile for bravely opposing everything Gulnara and her family stood for, is genuinely concerned for Gulnara’s safety and that of her children – because Gulnara is a human being. That is true of other Uzbek human rights activists too, and the same networks are now being put into operation, feelers being put into the system, that swing into action when it is a human rights activist, journalist, poet or imam who has been “disappeared”.

There are no phone calls going in to the Presidential Palace in Tashkent from the Clinton Foundation, from Sting or from her former (ahem) close associate, tycoon Joan Laporta, who disgraced Barcelona football club by its links to the Uzbek dictatorship.

Because when it comes down to it, the only people who actually care about Gulnara as a person are the human rights activists she despised, and who her rich “friends” would never deign to notice.


Signed First Editions of Sikunder Burnes are now available direct from this blog! You can leave a message naming the dedication you want. Sold at cover price of £25 including p&p for UK delivery or £29 for overseas delivery. Ideal Christmas presents!!


Signing Instructions

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The 3.2 Million Euro Lardon

lardon and witch

The 41 year old “starlet” in this picture is Gulnara Karimova, “the most hated woman in Uzbekistan” according to leaked US diplomatic cables, which are understated. She has had business rivals killed, forcibly taken over the assets of Uzbek and foreign entrepreneurs as well as Uzbek state concerns, been involved in trafficking girls into prostitution in Dubai, a partner of Gafur Rakhimov in the narcotics trade and she benefits financially from the open forced labour of millions of small children picking cotton in the state farms.

On the plus side she is a Professor of International Relations, International Singing Star, World Renowned Fashion Designer, Ambassador to Spain and to the United Nations, Poet, Scriptwriter and Jeweller. She is worth about 4 billion dollars. None of which “career” has been hurt by the fact that her father is the world’s most vicious dictator.

Gulnara also likes to enhance her image for domestic consumption by hobnobbing with the Soviet oligarch’s idea of important westerners. Thus she is close to Joan Laporta, until recently President of Barcelona FC, and has arranged visits and plater exchanges from that club. She has dueted with Julio Iglesias, been serenaded by Sting, and is a friend of Nat Rothschild, Oleg Deripaska and other of the Peter Mandelson holiday set.

That the 41 year old deputy dictatress likes to wear pigtails and cakes of cosmetics and pose as a young ingenue with old has-been stars is a hobby which costs the exploited Uzbeks dear. Depardieu is getting 3.2 million euros for appearing in a film officially scripted by Karimova, but in truth ghosted by Professor Akbar Hakimov of the Uzbek State Academy of Literature (I can hear Bulgakov having wild fits of laughter in his grave).

Depardieu has become an amporphous blob of animal fat; it is difficult to tell where he ends and where air starts, possibly because he is exuding a lot of gas. He looks like a particularly cheap and ill-conceived monster from a 1970’s Dr Who episode.

For someone my age, who was thrilled by Les Valseuses and still cries at Jean De Florette, what Depardieu is now, is just horrible. We tried to overlook his urinating in plane aisles or attacking fans, as evidence of wild charm. But recently his tax exile to Belgium, friendship with the Putin inner circle, adoption of Russian citizenship and now pussy-licking of old Gulnara are beyond horrible.

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How Did You Get Here?

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Two Aspects Of Barca Colours

As Manchester United prepare to face Barcelona in the Champions League Final, here are two aspects of the Barca colours.


Thierry Henry in Barca Colours


Muzaffar Avazov in Barca colours

Muzaffar Avazov is one of two dissidents who were boiled alive by the Uzbek dictator Islam Karimov. I investigated the case as British Ambassador with the assistance of the now chief pathologist of the UK. There is no doubt that death was caused by immersion in boiling liquid, while Avazov was a prisoner in Karimov’s notorious Jaslyk gulag. Karimov has over 10,000 political prisoners.

Uzbekistan is perhaps the most brutal dictaotrship in the world, but Barcelona receive $10 million a year to promote the Karimov regime and the propaganda “Show club” owned by the President’s daughter.

Anyone supporting Barcelona next week is supporting fascism.

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Spanish Fascists Barca Through to Final

Barcelona are through to the Champions League final tonight after beating Chelsea. They were pretty fortunate, with Chelse having four very good penalty shouts, at least two of which looked 100% certain (and I am neither a Chelsea fan, nor English). That outweighed Barca being hard done by in the sending off.

But what is really disgusting is Barcelona’s relationship with the Karimov regime of Uzbekistan, one of the world’s most vicious dictatorships.

For selling itself as a propaganda tool for a fascist regime founded on child slavery, Barca has disgraced itself and football.

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