Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Who Are The Antis?

In the battle for Scotland to revert to its normal state, and join the nations of the world, it appears to be generally accepted that the electorate is split reasonably evenly in three:

1. those who are pro-independence
2. those who are anti-independence
3. those who are undecided

By all accounts, these three segments of the electorate are reasonably evenly split. Sure, there are fluctuations: when the Tory government puts on a show of flags and guns, the Antis gain ground (but only from the undecideds). When one of our sports teams win a match (and I'm almost into the realms of fantasy here, given the soccer and rugby teams' showing this year), the pro-democracy side shows an advance (again, against the undecideds).

The pro-independence side is fine. These are people - of an overwhelmingly progressive bent, as shown by the weekend's Radical Independence Conference, the support of the Green Party, the Socialist Party, SCND, and - perhaps more tellingly of all, the refusal of STUC to affiliate to the anti-Scotland campaign.

STUC - part and parcel of the Labour Party - refusing to affiliate to the NO side? The reason one knows it's telling is the refusal of the Scottish media to report on it. 

But make no mistake: this is a disaster for the anti-Scotland campaign. The STUC refusing to affiliate to a Labour campaign is roughly equivalent to Jackie Baillie refusing to affiliate to a large doner. It's equivalent to the Petrograd Soviet refusing to affiliate to the Supreme Soviet. It's equivalent to Walmart running a campaign and Asda saying "naw". In short, it's big, big news.

It is, for the first, time, a major part of the Labour Party looking at the facts, and saying "hold on, we're allying with the BNP and Tories for this?". 

Like many decent Labour people - former MPs John McAllion and Dennis Canavan included -  like Labour For Independence, people have looked at Labour and said "hold on, we'd rather support Labour values than loyalist values. We'd rather stand with Keir Hardie than Nick Griffin".

We know that the Unionist campaign is falling apart. We know that the money is coming from London's Tories (the Tory pro-Union fundraiser this year is being held in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, home of Malcolm Rifkind, so vehemently defenestated by his Scots electorate), we know that the only thing Labour provides is the jackboots on the ground. 

And looking at the Tory/BNP/Labour campaign photos, all I see is young guys, caught up in the excitement of hatred, and never stopping to think. 

But we've examined the types of voter.

A YES voter is someone who has examined the issues, and believes Scotland is better off being run by people who have Scotland at heart.

An undecided is just that. Perhaps they'll be swayed by Nick Griffin, Johann Lamont and Norman Tebbit. Or perhaps, they'll realise that Colin Fox, Pat Harvie and Margo MacDonald speak for Scotland more than a gaggle of hate-filled loyalist extremists.

I want to talk about those in the NO camp, though.

For too long, we've spoken about pro-Scotland, undecideds, and Antis.

I want to break the Antis down, as George Best once said.

My reading of the situation is that, much like Agatha Christie, we have three Antis:

1. The ignorant. Watches Reporting Scotland and reads the Daily Record. Believes that Scotland is subsidised by our southern neighbour, and that we're too wee, too poor, and too stupid to survive alone. Couldn't tell you the southernmost city of Norway (it's Bergen, Euan, if you're looking in), and believes our competitor is England (which capital city has twice the size of the population of Scotland) and not Sweden. They've been told by the Daily Record that they dislike England (hi, Shuggie! Hi, Duggie!), but that's because they're better than us. 

About half of those people can be turned around, by the simple use of facts. Show them dispassionate, neutral facts, and they'll go either YES or undecided. 

2. The Welsh (may God bless their rugby team and their magnificent national anthem) do this one better than us. They call them Dic Sion Dafydd. People who were born and bred in Wales, but affect to have forgotten how to sing, forgotten how to speak Welsh, and who pretend to be from a different culture entirely. 

In Scotland, we all know one of them. An "aw, an independent Scotland would be like Oor Wullie, and the Broons. The SNP? Kilts and shortbread tins. Teuchters. Pathetic. Brigadoon, and Braveheart and a' that? Rabbie Burns? Naw, I'm a 21st Century person". Or the type that give it "It's an absolute disgrace that Scottish Railways are putting Gaelic signs up. Do I look like I shag sheep here in Castlemilk?".

We all know the type.

A Dic Sion Dafydd will never change.

They realised, early on, that affecting to despise Scotland would get them advancement in life. 

Hi Johann! Hi Maggie!

3. The apparatchik.

There are some people who have grown up, being part of a particular political party. That party is tribal. 

Like supporting Barcelona, Liverpool or Celtic, they've supported their party. 

They support it because it's progressive and left-wing. 

As it set about destroying the working-class by abolishing the £0,10 tax rate, they shrugged and said "the rest of our policy is left-wing".

As it slaughtered quarter of a million Muslim children because its leader wanted to impress George Bush, they said "ah well, it happens. Our domestic policy is left-wing".

As Britain became the fourth most unequal society on the face of the earth, they said "we're still left-wing".

And now, as Scotland seeks to break from a fanatically right-wing Tory government, they have gathered, with Tories, with the BNP, with the Orange Order and National Front, and they look around them and say "Labour say VOTE NO, so I say VOTE NO".

But they don't really believe it.

They know that only with independence can progressive politics come. They know only with independence can socialism win in Scotland.

And that's why a lot of them - loyal to the Labour Party - will be vociferous in joining Labour and the BNP to campaign for a NO vote.

But when it comes to it, there's many of them who'll surprise themselves by voting YES.

Some of them will put Scotland ahead of the Labour Party.

I know one Labour MSP who is campaigning for a NO vote because the harder they campaign for a Tory government, the more chance there is of advancement in the Labour Party. But they'll be voting YES.

The most extreme of the NO campaigners will be those who win for Scotland a progressive socialist republic in the end.

Because they know in their hearts that they have to put Scotland ahead of the Labour Party for Labour values to win.

Scotland will win in 2014. We will be a socialist republic. And we will be so because of the "secret" YES voters.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Our Responsibility For Israel's War Crimes

Today, the fourth strongest military power in the world is launching air, sea and rocket attacks on refugees it has launched on a ghetto described as "Hell on earth".

Collective Punishment

It seems to have been the case some time ago that in western administrations the incompatibility between Israel's right to exist and Palestinian right to their land was recognised and the decision taken that to deny the Palestinians their rights was preferable to denying Israel its. 

In order to facilitate this, the western world, led in both diplomatic and financial terms by the United States and the United Kingdom, have fought a rearguard action in defence of the State of Israel. 

The two allies have sold Israel weapons, and have given it carte blanche to collectively punish the Gazan people. It is unacceptable for Hamas to fire missiles into civilian buildings in Israel - but it is equally unacceptable for Israel to respond by firing missiles into civilian buildings in Gaza. 

The Gazan people are not, on the whole, massive fans of Hamas. While they won the last Legislative election, they achieved a vote of 44,45% on a turnout of 75%. Extrapolating that, it could be said that for every three civilians Israel kills, only one (roughly )would be a Hamas supporter. 

I cannot imagine a better way of turning moderate Palestinians into Hamas supporters by punishing the people of Gaza collectively for the actions of Hamas - killing civilians who on the whole don't even support Hamas. 

Israel Shielded From International Consequences 

The problem with Israel, however, is that they just don't see that their behaviour is completely disproportionate to what Hamas is doing. They are so used to any criticism of their actions being vetoed at the United Nations by their allies in the US and UK - permanently on the Security Council - that they have become inured to criticism. Criticism without consequences is barely criticism at all. 

Iraq broke two UNSC resolutions. It was promply invaded by the UK and US, at a cost of - at a conservative estimate - some quarter of a million lives. 

Israel has broken - at the last count - 69 resolutions. It has been punished by receiving thousands of millions of euro in aid and weaponry from the US and UK, as well as availing of the full battery of diplomatic resources afforded by the two western allies.

No wonder, that Israel feels it can commit war crimes with impunity. 

Scottish Unionism: Friends of Israel

For some reason, the British establishment is particularly supportive of Israel. It doesn't matter which party is in power (and all three London parties have been part of the British regime over the past three years), the British regime always supports Israel. 

Channel Four's Dispatches programme reports that around 80% of Conservative MPs are members of the corresponding Conservative Friends of Israel - and that at least half of the Cabinet are or were members. David Cameron, the British premier, is a member, as were former Conservative leaders Iain Duncan Smith, William Hague and Michael Howard. 

Other Tory grandees to have been members of the group include former defence ministers Liam Fox and Malcolm Rifkind. Both Scottish, both rejected from Scottish seats, both important members of the anti-Scotland Better Together campaign.

Both recent Labour Party prime ministers, Gordon Brown and Tony Blair, have been members of the internal party grouping Labour Friends of Israel. It also includes the disgraced former MSP, George Foulkes, and disgraced former minister Denis MacShane, now the subject of a police investigation for a large-scale theft of public money.

Former STV chairman, and current Labour peer, Gus MacDonald is also a member, as is Jim Murphy, yet another Unionist MP involved in the defence industry (and also, and probably not unrelated, a man who benefited from living in South Africa during the Apartheid years before fleeing his national service. Happy to send our young men to die in illegal foreign wars; not so happy to fight himself).

John Reid, who you will be flabbergasted to read is another former defence minister, is also a member of LFI. 

Scotland's Voice in Israel's Crimes

The British foreign minister, William Hague, says that Scotland's voice is much stronger in the world as long as we are attached to the UK.

David Cameron says that his "belief in Israel is unbreakable and commitment to Israel's security is non-negotiable".

So, where is the Scottish voice in the international stage? In Edinburgh yesterday, a march organised at short notice by Stop the War, Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the Scottish Trades Unions Congress went from Bute House to Parliament, and was backed by hundreds of demonstrators. 

Scotland's belief in Israel clearly isn't unbreakable. But where is that voice on the international stage? The Scottish government says that it's wrong to collectively punish the people of Gaza for the actions of Hamas. The Scottish people agree. The Scottish Unionist establishment doesn't.

But it's the British government who speak for Scotland at the United Nations. And the British government are saying that it's right for Israel to collectively punish the people of Gaza for the actions of Hamas. 

Is that really Scotland's voice being heard on the global stage? Do the people of Scotland really want to be complicit in the genocide being perpetrated in Gaza today? 

Unionists tell us we are stronger together when a foreign government speaks for us. 

Given that most of the Better Together campaign's leaders seem to be up to their ears in support for Israel and the defence industry, why would we trust them to speak out and do the right thing? 

It's scaremongered that a consequence of our regaining independence would be Britain losing its permanent seat on the Security Council. 

When that voice doesn't deal with the facts or issues, and its commitment to Israel is "unbreakable and non-negotiable", then surely it's time to remove that voice. 

Scotland needs to speak to the world. We need to tell the world that Israel is behaving wrongly. We don't need vested interests, and we don't need blind fanaticism. 

The dismantling of the United Kingdom will be a major step towards peace in our time.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Wednesday Night* is Champions League Night (for some)!

* - not available in Scotland.

On Wednesday night, I'm going to sit on my sofa and watch Scotland's soccer champions, Celtic, take on the best team in the world, the Catalan icons of Barcelona in the Champions League. I'll pad to the kettle in my slippers to get another cup of tea as the greatest-ever player, Lionel Messi, struts his stuff. I'll dash to the freezer to grab an ice pole as Giorgios Samaras leaves the Argentine watching in open-mouthed jealousy at his panache, his skill, and his lustrous hair and beard.

And because the match is live on RTÉ Two, I won't have to either pay heaps of money (the cheapest Sky Sports subscription here is €46,50/month, or €558 per year - plus I'd have to get Éircom to install a phone line, so there's a line rental charge too of €20,96/month, bringing my grand total €809,52 per annum to watch Celtic's Champions League games) to Rupert Murdoch, or nip out to the pub (I'd probably be as cheap actually going to the match, Heaven forbid!).

If you're in Scotland, however, the nation which enters Celtic into the Champions League (Celtic is the only Scottish club in existence which has ever qualified for the Champions League: Motherwell and Hearts have both lost in qualifiers) you can't do that, because STV isn't allowed to broadcast the match.

Because the UEFA only sells its Champions League packages in terms of geographical states, STV cannot opt out and show another game from ITV, despite being independently (or separately, if you're the despicable liar Margaret Curran) owned, serving an entirely different nation, serving an entirely different soccer structure, not broadcasting outside Scotland (or in much of it), and the Scottish club's game clearly being of more interest to its audience. 

ITV has the right to broadcast a match on Tuesday (and as long as there are English teams in the competition, they'll naturally, and quite appropriately, show them ahead of a Scottish team), and not a Wednesday. That's Sky's night. 

But here, TV3 has tonight's game between Manchester and Ajax, while RTÉ will broadcast the Celtic game tomorrow. Why can't STV do the same?

Because Uefa only sell packages to states, STV wouldn't be competing against Scottish broadcasters to show games within Scotland, they have to compete against UK broadcasters - with far more revenue. 

It's completely unfair, and they haven't a chance of succeeding.

You're either paying money to Rupert and the lads, or you're down to the pub. If you can't afford Sky, or you can't afford to go to the pub, well, piss off, peasant, the Champions League isn't for you. This is Britain, you know. We can't have some sort of something for nothing society, can we, Johann?

Now, STV serves 3.849.000 people. RTÉ serves slightly fewer than 4.588.000 people. These two broadcaster, which serve very similar cultures and audiences, are entirely different from ITV1, which serves many millions of people in England, Wales and the Borders. 

ITV1 will never show a Scottish team live ahead of an English team. Why would they? They're an English broadcaster. They cater to their audience. 

But it's only with independence that STV can cater to their audience. 

Scotland - like England, like Germany, like the Netherlands, like Greece and Turkey, like Denmark and Italy - deserves to see its Champion club represent our country on our own television screens. Maybe not every game live in glorious technicolour, but to have a complete ban on our country's Champions League games is an atrocious reminder of the inequalities of the Union. 

A puppy, yesterday. It has nothing to do with this post, I just thought it was nice
It's these little inequalities which seem into the minds of the man on the street - the breadline pensioner who won't be able to see his team playing the world's greatest; the children who won't be inspired by seeing Scotland's champions taking on Barcelona because they can't go to the pub, can they? - which will make people think "hold on, how can we be Better Together when we get nothing from it?".

They'll ask themselves why, almost unique amongst the nations of Europe, they can almost never watch their national team play (the BBC seemed to find a great deal of money, however, to show England matches for a generation or more; every Ireland match is live on RTÉ, every Germany match on ARD or ZDF). 

They'll perhaps ask themselves why their national broadcaster, the BBC, almost entirely ignored the Scottish governing party's conference, but gave hours to American politics. 

Maybe they'll even ask themselves why Scotland is forbidden to take part in the Eurovision song contest, when STV is a part of the European Broadcasting Union.

This evening, two major political events occurred. The Americans finished the last day of campaigning before this bloody interminable election happens; and there was a major debate - indeed, a Big Debate - involving master debater Willie Rennie, on the constitutional future of Scotland. One of those was available online. 

It wasn't Scotland that Scotland's state broadcaster was interested in.

Not being able to watch Celtic take on Barcelona won't in itself swing any votes - but it's another little thing, another little story, another nagging doubt in the mind of the undecided voter.

Broadcasting is one of the many little nagging issues in which Scotsmen and Scotswomen know instinctively they are unfairly treated by dint of being part of this unequal, intolerable Union, which is no longer fit for purpose