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Showing posts with label Jimmy Reid Foundation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jimmy Reid Foundation. Show all posts

Saturday, 18 May 2013

The Farage Affair continues to dominate media

Angus Macleod on Good Morning Scotland, wriggling uneasily over the Farage Affair, trying to square his native intelligence with the Times line. Poor Angus!

But Angus' dilemma is as nothing to the dilemma of Better Together and their media shills - to defend Farage or not? Scottish Tories have already fallen into the hole.

Joyce McMillan provides the calm voice of Scottish sanity and Robin McAlpine, of The Jimmy Reid Foundation, talks hard sense.

Angus Macleod more or less celebrates UKIP vote success in his attempts to justify its news value.

Farage Affair: Alex Massie on Good Morning Scotland

Alex Massie: "Left and Right no longer means very much ..." Don't make me laugh, it hurts my ribs, Alex. But I'm sure you wish it so!

Monday, 21 May 2012

Thoughts for Scots–the SNP and the Left

PREAMBLE

A question – to whom am I addressing these thoughts and ideas, and with what objective? The SNP strategists? The independence-supporting Left? The Scottish Parliament? The electorate?

It is at this point that a blogger feels faintly ridiculous. Who gives a damn what I say? If anybody does, are there enough to matter?

A commentator – even a letter writer – in a national newspaper knows that he or she has a potential readership of hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, even though the reality is almost certainly that a minority of readers will actually consume that particular piece. And publication in a newspaper confers a kind of validity – an imprimatur – that a blog doesn’t. Somebody in authority has looked at the piece and decided it was worthy of inclusion. But a blog is a unilateral, highly prejudiced decision to publish – by the author.

In moments like these, I fall back on the old concept of the pamphleteer in the 17th century, and hang on grimly to my positioning of myself as no more – and no less – than a Scottish voter with a voice, and an absolute right to speak – and to be ignored …

THOUGHTS FOR SCOTS

These ideas and observations come in the immediate aftermath of the local elections and at the launch of the official referendum campaign by the SNP. They are aimed at Scottish voters, i.e. those eligible to vote in the referendum, whatever their ethnic and national identity. They are targeted principally at supporters of an independent Scotland of whatever party – or no party – and are focused on the SNP, as the party and the Government and therefore the prime mover and main force for independence.

I have framed them as assertions, without resort to complex argument, although I must take some time to at least set out the background to them at length, and they therefore run the risk of being dismissed as mere opinion, with no underpinning of fact, logic and argument. This is done in the hope of keeping the message clear and not burying it a mass of statistics and justifications, because clear messages are urgently required at this critical time.

It represents what one voter thinks – I claim no constituency or silent majority. It is my opinion, because I have no other. I hope it is nonetheless an informed opinion, not arrived at lightly or without long reflection.

I realise that as the referendum campaign detail unfolds, it may be that the party is way ahead of me in all of this, and I will be delighted if they are.

THE SNP – MOMENTUM AND IDENTITY

The SNP must always remain acutely aware of the danger of losing its momentum and its core identity as a great movement for Scotland’s independence, appealing to both the heart and the head as it attempts to broaden the appeal of the party to secure a YES vote. In its attempts to reassure the doubters, it is runs the risk of alienating some core supporters and reducing their motivation.

In narrowing the perceived difference between the status quo – the Union – and full independence, it runs the even greater risk of converting a mood of Why not go for independence and radical change? to Why bother, if so little will change?

Key aspects in this are the party’s acceptance of a constitutional monarchy, acceptance of the continuation of sterling as the currency and The Bank of England as the central bank, and possible acceptance of NATO membership. (If Professor William Walker has accurate insider information, some in the party hierarchy are actively considering using delaying the removal of Trident as a bargaining chip in the independence negotiations.)

A less fundamental, but still relevant aspect is the emphasis on common identity and traditions as a part of the social union concept.

The monarchy, for many republican nationalists, is acceptable not  on a basis of conviction but on the basis that it is a price worth paying to secure the independence vote – the ‘hold our noses position’ . Those who take this view are divided into those who will reluctantly accept that such a constitutional arrangement, once agreed, must endure for many years, perhaps for the foreseeable future (my position) and those who would speedily call a referendum after independence with the hope of ending the monarchy., which in my view betrays a cynicism and opportunism that is alien.

There is another group of nationalists that believes that the commitment to a constitutional  monarchy must be repudiated by  party policy vote before independence. They believe that the monarchy is the cement that holds the conspiracy of wealth, power, privilege and militarism together, and that any compromise with it is unacceptable. I understand that view, and am wavering a bit on it myself.

The currency and central bank issues are more of an irritant than of hard opposition – the idea of a Scottish currency – or the euro - and a Scottish Central Bank is reluctantly postponed because of the stark reality of current European economic instability and uncertainty make them both ideals for another day.

NATO membership sharply divides the party, but not evenly – the majority are either indifferent or in favour, but the opposition of a minority is deep rooted and a fundamental matter of principles. (I am one of that minority.) For the latter group, a deep suspicion exists that, intentionally or inadvertently, NATO membership could lead to delaying - or even abandoning - the idea of a non-nuclear Scotland and the removal of Trident from Scotland’s waters. Since the NATO and the nuclear deterrent are synonymous, despite the non-nuclear majority in the alliance, and since nuclear weapons have a symbiotic relationship to nuclear power generation -anyone who claims they are not need only look at NATO’s deep concern and suspicions over Iran’s civil nuclear power programme - membership of NATO would weaken Scotland’s opposition to nuclear power. This would strengthen an already highly vocal and organised lobby for nuclear power.

The shared values and culture position is reassuring and realistic to many, but to some romantic nationalists, it is a blurring of Scottish identity, a loss of the concept of a unique national character – the Here’s tae us, wha’s like us? idea.  Among the group that regards it as realistic, given the long shared traditions and links of family, friendship and shared identity, there are some who nevertheless worry that it can be seen as embracing Britishness, an idea will be ruthlessly exploited by defenders of the Union. (I am of this latter group.)

THE NON-SNP LEFT

The non-SNP left in Scottish politics can be divided into the independence-supporting left and the Union-supporting left. Organisationally, that divide is represented by the Greens and the small socialist parties supporting independence and the Labour Party supporting the Union, with the STUC and the trades unions in an increasingly ambivalent position. This is rendered even more complex by the existence of a strong body of support for independence among rank and file Labour Party membership. I have excluded the Tory and LibDem parties from the non-SNP left - the Tories for obvious reasons, and the LibDems because of the lurch to the right in that benighted hybrid party, and because as political parties, both are now almost irrelevant in Scotland.

The SNP Government and the SNP independence campaign strategists rightly see the question of Scotland’s independence as broader than the Scottish National Party – the Government because it must represent all of the people, and the party because of strategic realities – it cannot deliver a YES vote without converting the non-SNP voting electorate to the idea of independence. (In fact there is almost certainly an SNP-voting group not yet committed to independence.) The non-SNP Left are obviously fundamental because, as social democrats in the main, they have the greatest common policy ground with the SNP, and after independence would represent either the main opposition party, perhaps be part of a coalition - or indeed form the government.

The non-SNP Left, whether independence supporting or not, has some heavyweight commentators articulating a vision for Scotland and trenchant criticisms of the SNP. The Scottish Left Review carries much of their work, as does the mainstream press, and they are well represented on television and radio.  The (Jimmy) Reid Foundation after a slow start, is beginning to make its influence felt. Robin McAlpine Many of these commentators, notably Gerry Hassan, have a vision of a social democratic Scotland that differs in fundamental ways from what they see as the economic policy of Alex Salmond and the SNP, and they are not slow to criticise.

The Limits of Modernisation: Blair, Cameron and Salmond, Gerry Hassan’s May 12th article in The Scotsman compares Alex Salmond to Blair and Cameron in what Gerry sees as the SNP’s espousal of the doctrine of ‘modernisation’, and there can be little doubt that, despite the jobs, jobs, jobs rationale - which I support totally - many in and out of the SNP were deeply disturbed by the First Minister’s relationship with Rupert Murdoch – and Donald Trump at an earlier point.

This attitude can all too easily be dismissed as old left academic theorising about the nature of Western capitalism and an instinctive distaste for wealth and power – until one remembers that wealth, global commerce and banking have brought the world to its knees and the edge of the abyss.

The long-forecast crisis of capitalism by the Left has actually arrived, and neither the Left - nor anyone else - foresaw its imminence and the depth of it, nor was anyone prepared for it. It can reasonably argued that old economic and social models have failed, and if there was ever a time for radical new thinking and recasting of old, but never tried ideas, it is now.

THE WILD, WILD WEST

What does the local election result in Glasgow and the west tell us? Maybe not a lot – local elections have different dynamics and different implications from the national, just as by-elections are different from general elections, and general elections are different from Holyrood elections. As for voters sending messages to central government and parties by their votes at by-elections and local elections, I tend to the Samuel Goldwyn position – “If you want to send a message, use Western Union …”

But some things can safely be said. Maintaining the movie analogy, The Way the West will be Won must be a vital element in the referendum campaign strategy, and it won’t be the way that let Glasgow Labour back with an overall majority on May 3rd.

I am not usually one to duck saying the unsayable, but there are aspects of West of Scotland politics that one must tread very carefully in articulating too bluntly, among them the religious aspect, religious extremism allied to football extremism, and the nature of certain organisations that exhibit the volatile mix of partisan politics and religion, and have loyalties that in part go beyond Scotland.

There is a polluted well of extreme – and deeply immature - political/religious views in the West that have forgotten nothing and learned nothing, with little concept of the fundamental values of a liberal social democracy. The Tammany Hall politics of the West have drunk from this poisoned fount for well over a century, and some of our most prominent politicians, past and present -not to mention a few Lords of the Realm - sprang from it.

The SNP have an unenviable task in trying to come to grips with this while retaining their fundamental principles and without a cynical abandonment of them to realpolitik. At least one senior member of the the SNP Government has a deep understanding of this complex culture – the Deputy First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon.

Although she was born in Irvine, Ayrshire, Nicola, an honours graduate in law from Glasgow University, has operated at the sharpest end of Glasgow politics, both as a solicitor for the Drumchapel  Law Centre, and politically in Shettleston and Govan, two constituencies that almost epitomise the city. And at the risk of sounding sexist, perhaps only a woman can truly understand the macho male politics of Glasgow, and see them clearly. (I think Johann Lamont also understands them better than her predecessor, Iain Gray. She would certainly never have sought refuge in a sandwich bar …) And there are others in the Parliamentary Party who have similar depth of understanding, e.g. Derek Mackay.

POSTSCRIPT: A NATIONALIST VOTER’ S VIEW

What I have said in blogs or what I have to say must always be seen against the background that I am a relatively new party member – four years or so – and that I come from a long, Labour/Left tradition. I have made a negligible contribution to my branch, in terms of attendance and active campaigning (stuffed a few local leaflets) and compared to the lifelong dedication of the active members of my branch, I have made a negligible contribution to the party and the independence movement.

I won’t offer reasons or excuses for this, except to say that it probably makes me not untypical of the majority of party members. I could draw similar parallels with trade union membership, or membership of a professional association, and I have been members of both over the years, with varying levels of involvement.

Anything I therefore say has to be seen against this background, and I readily accept that others with a higher level of commitment and activism have a least an equal right to speak, and arguably a greater right.

Monday, 22 August 2011

The Referendum – and a Trojan Horse

The independence referendum is now the defining issue in virtually all Scottish political discussion, and a significant one in UK politics. Political points are made on a range of issues, but with the independence question always explicit or implicit. UK politicians and media commentators have been wrenched on to the Scottish narrative, whether they like it or not – and they clearly don’t.

Michael Moore is reported today as demanding that Holyrood stop being negative about issues and cheer up. While the office of Secretary of State for Scotland still exists, we have something to be negative about, and as for cheering up – why not resign, Michael, and give us all an excuse for a party?

Tuition fees rears its head again as the reality bites for England. Sir Malcolm Rifkind, KCMG says the Scottish Government’s position is unfair. This archetypal Scottish Tory, who served as a minister under Major and Thatcher, a former Secretary of State for Scotland, and a failed Scottish politician - dumped twice by the Scottish voters - found a safe haven as MP for Kensington and Chelsea, which is about as far from the realities of Scotland as one can get. He has nothing of value to say to Scotland. He is exactly the kind of Scottish product of the Union and the British Establishment that Scotland can do without – a decision that Scots have already made, about him and his party.

John Redwood, the man who had trouble with the words of the Welsh national anthem, thinks that the Scottish Government is using the tuition fees issue “to radicalise the English”. They are not, John – they are living up to their manifesto commitment to maintain a key Scottish value – free education for all – and they have used their powers legally and properly in a devolved Parliament to do so. Dare I suggest that, on this issue and many others, it appears to be the Coalition Government – and before them the Labour Government – who are trying to radicalise the English by their disastrous policies, greed, and venality.

But let me comfort you, John,  by saying that I am trying to radicalise the English, at every opportunity I get, to recognise that the root of their problems is not the Scots or the Welsh but the Union – a failed, corrupt political system. I plead guilty as charged.

Radicalise, England – regain your country and your self respect – dump the Union, and with it the Lords, the knights, the barons and the whole corrupt mechanism of patronage, wealth and undemocratic institutions. You have nothing to lose but your Garters!

DEFINING SCOTLAND’S INDEPENDENCE - THE REFERENDUM AND DEBATE

I have requested many times that the Scottish National Party, the Government of Scotland, clarify their position on, what for me, are the fundamental issues on Scotland’s independence – nuclear weapons, nuclear bases, foreign policy and fiscal control. To try and focus the debate on these fundamentals, I wrote my own little credo of two key principles and three core objectives, and offered it for consideration and downloading where appropriate.

The referendum on Scotland's independence

I have no idea how many people share these views, inside or outside the Scottish National Party. I do know that if you are a supporter of the Labour Party, the Tory Party or the Liberal Democrat party that, either you do not support these views – since all three are opposed to Scotland independence, committed to the Union and to the nuclear deterrent – or you are in a state of doublethink, entertaining two or more contradictory beliefs at the same time.

So I feel it is reasonable to ask the Scottish Government to be clear on its stance on these vital issues. But I do not believe that the Scottish Government must – or should – respond to clamorous demands from those diametrically opposed to independence to spell out every detail of policy and procedure and the exact structure of the independence agreement before the referendum and before the detailed negotiations on the terms – assuming a YES vote to independence.

The demand for more detail comes also from other voices and groups, who range from those fully committed in Scotland’s independence, through those as yet undecided trying to evaluate the pros and cons, to business, financial and commercial groups, and the main religious groups. I accept fully the rights of these groups to express their views on what kind of independence they want to see, and to use the media and whatever direct lobbying clout they may have to influence the Scottish Government.

But I do not accept their right to try to force the Scottish Government, a government with a secure and decisive mandate from the Scottish people, to give a blow-by-blow account of their policy debates and the minutiae of policy in every area that could possibly arise, at a time when the date for a referendum has not been set, and may be two or even three years away.

No country seeking its independence has ever behaved in this way. They have either seized their independence by revolution or by velvet means, e.g. America, by a war of independence and Slovenia, by a non-violent secession – a velvet revolution, by a long period of passive resistance – India – or by a longer process of gradualism and evolution.

I reiterate two of the paragraphs from my little downloadable credo -

I am prepared to trust the elected government of Scotland and the team it selects to negotiate all matters relating to these principles and objectives. I expect them to consult with the Scottish people on detailed measures only to the degree that it does not prematurely show their negotiating hand or constrain the necessary flexibility that all negotiators must have.

I do not require a second referendum to ratify the agreement reached on the detailed terms of the independence agreement, providing none of the deal breakers above are compromised.

The reality is that the outcome of the referendum, one that will fundamentally affect Scotland’s future for many years, perhaps decades, and which will have a significant influence on UK and European politics and Western alliances, will be determined, not by politicised interest groups, nor by the chattering classes (of whom I am one) but by ordinary Scottish voters, at all levels of Scottish society, voters who have little knowledge of the detail, but a good grasp of the main arguments and issues. Their decisions, like all decisions, will be influenced in part rationally, to the degree that the media, politicians and commentators give them accurate, unbiased facts, but also by emotional factors.

In a democracy, the people decide, as the Scottish people did on May 5th 2011, in defiance of the distorted information being pumped relentlessly at them by unionist politicians and their media and celebrity mouthpieces. The new media played a vital role in this, as they will in the referendum lead-up. Those in favour of Scotland’s independence need to exercise caution in how they discharge this vital duty and beware of being sucked into the agenda of those diametrically opposed to independence.

And the objective of their communications should be to persuade the voters, and to counter the torrent of misinformation, distortions and just plain lies that emanate from the unionist camp. Trying to influence politicians in the Scottish unionist parties is at best a marginal and probably fruitless endeavour, in my view, especially under the mistaken belief that bridges can be built across party lines. Bridges can be built with ordinary people – the electorate – but the only bridge that unionist politicians can cross is the one that leads from their own failed parties to one that unequivocally supports the independence of Scotland – and there is more than one – e.g. the Green Party - although only one that can deliver independence.

Any attempt to secure a common agenda with unionist politicians runs the obvious risk of a dilution of the very heart of the concept of independence, e.g. Independence Lite, fatal compromises that would keep Scotland in thrall to the UK. Bloodied and confused by their election rout, the unionist parties are making conciliatory noise about independence.

Be careful – I hear the creaking of a large Trojan horse entering the gate in these initiatives.